Wrapped in scrumptious

October 27, 2008 at 5:53 pm | Posted in art, baby, country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, gifts, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, travel | 12 Comments
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The trees in Western New York continue to be wrapped in the scrumptious colors of fall. Although it is nearly the end of October some of the maples are still glowing with deep red leaves on the outside powered by golden leaves beneath, enriched by green leaves deeper in toward the trunk. The visual effect is stunning, and we are blessed to have one such tree just across the road north of our place on our neighbor’s property. I see it each morning outside the living room window as I knit with my morning coffee and Blu in my lap.

Last evening we had a beautiful storm come through with gusting winds blowing swirling leaves past our windows dramatically as rain and a bit of hail pounded the windows, lighting struck nearby and thunder rumbled all around us. It was just a bit before dark, so we were able to fully see the storm in the many windows of our farm house … a perfect mood for the last week of October.

You may have noticed I have not posted an entry since the 13th of October–if you came looking and I was not here, I apologize. This month has been especially busy for us, as my husband and I were organizing a very special evening event for our church, which just occurred this past Saturday (the 25th). Oh, what a time we all had.

When my husband and I met online back at the beginning of 2006, we both mentioned Mark Twain as being a favorite author. I was intrigued to learn that he had kept a Mark Twain anthology on his bedside table for years, because I too had kept at least one book of Mark Twain’s short stories on my bedside table for years. That was one of many little and sometimes strange things we discovered to have in common … little things that were like bread crumbs leading us each through the forest of life until finally our paths joined and became one.

Soon after we were married his brother-in-law (now my treasured brother-in-law as well) asked if we would like to attend a showing of Mark Twain Live! performed by a gentleman by the name of Mike Randall. Unfortunately, we were not able to get tickets to any show of his in 2006. However, last December we were able to attend a performance by Mr. Randall of a Charles Dickens reading of “A Christmas Carol”. It was fantastic; he seemed to be Charles Dickens himself as he performed the monologue in full make-up and costume, fashioned after an actual tour Dickens made in America in the late 1800’s.

Earlier this year the thought came into my mind that I wished Mr. Randall would come to one of our local villages to perform Mark Twain Live!, and my husband and I started coming up with all kinds of ideas of how that might be possible and what we might be able to do in order to instigate such an event. Realistically though, every idea we came up with seemed to require quite a bit of time-consuming work and coordination which we knew would be very difficult to fit into our lives because of all of our other responsibilities and commitments.

One day as I was knitting and letting my mind and imagination wander (something I am quite apt to do) a thought suddenly occurred to me: why not have him perform at our church as a fund raising event. The church is accustomed to putting on fund raising events routinely, we have the space and facilities, my husband is most often in charge of the fund raising dinners anyway, and we could replace a dinner event with an entertainment event so it would actually fit with our current responsibilities and commitments. The idea seemed so good it sort of hurt my head to think of it and not be able to utter it instantaneously … do you know that feeling?

The first chance I had, I ran it by my husband and he liked it. So, he ran it by whichever appropriate board at the church, and they all liked it. We got in touch with Mr. Randall, set a date, got a contract, signed it and got to work.

The past couple of weeks I had quite a lot of work to do personally to make sure we had all of the collateral materials needed to make the event extra special. I designed a large lobby playbill, a program, bookmarks with Mark Twain quotes, bake sale menus, tickets, posters, and flyers. The tickets, posters, and flyers were actually done back in the summer and all of then I designed and we printed the remaining materials over the past couple of weeks. For the bookmarks, I used 12 different quotes from Mark Twain. At each place setting, guests found the bookmark as a take-home favor and each guest at each table had a different quote. I imagined they might read the quotes to each other, much like sharing fortune cookie quotes with one another–and they did.

We also packaged all of our bake sale items professionally in clear boxes, with labels matching the graphics of the other event-specific items.

The tables in our fellowship hall were decorated with pumpkins, apples, leaves, milk weed pods, nuts, holly cuttings, teasels, dried flowers and candles. Our tables looked wonderful, and the cool thing was that the only item in our centerpieces that we had to pay for was the votive candles. The pumpkins and apples were donated by local farmers, my husband and I gathered the milk weed pods, nuts, and teasels which I then cleaned and dried. Our friend Dorothy gathered the leaves from her own yard, and trimmed the holy cuttings from the church grounds.

The performance was outstanding, professional and quite funny. Afterwards we served a gourmet dessert bar with items such as carrot cake, raisin spice cake, cream puffs, fruit salads, and more all prepared by one man from our congregation.

You can gauge the true success of an event like this from the energy in the room and the kind of smiles you see as you make your way around amongst the guests. Everywhere I looked I felt tremendous energy and saw broad, engaging, genuine smiles of happiness and fellowship. There were people from our congregation there, but we also had many people who had never been to our church before. Everyone was positive and happy — it was all so wonderful. There has not ever been this kind of high quality evening of entertainment offered out here in these farming communities (well, not in the memory of the folks who attended this event). Those who expressed gratitude for the event were not only happy about the event itself, but were genuinely grateful for that such an event was brought right here to their own backyard, so to speak.

In the midst of preparing for and pulling of our wonderful Mark Twain event, I have completed a baby blanket and a matching “block”. I’m not sure when I will be able to release this pattern, because it is going to include some baby washcloths as well as the knitted building block, and the washcloths are yet to be designed and worked up. I love the blanket though; it was fun to knit and just looks so precious with the purple border and decorative flowers I added. It is soft and ready to wrap some sweet baby up in scrumptious love.

At the end of September I was completing two new oil paintings for the art trail event I participated in on October 5th. You see here a photo of the 20″ x 24″ sunflower I painted in oil on wood. I must say, it is striking. If you would like to see the other new painting, I have posted it along with the sunflower on my painting blog.

In closing today, I would like to mention one more thing. I love America. I don’t love America exclusively, because I am a loving person and do love my fellow man and the many and varied countries and communities around the world that we all hail from. Being an American, I have a special love for my own country which is a positive and beautiful way to feel. No matter what is going on “out there” — no matter what images and thoughts and negative energy is being directed at us all via the whatever sources — no matter all of that, here we are. You and I, two people connecting up via this new publishing medium called a blog. You might also be an American, or perhaps you are Australian, German, Chinese, Swedish, South African, Estonian or from some other place on Earth.

Here we are, you and I. Two people connecting up sharing thoughts, goodwill, beauty, future plans, love, life, spirituality, hope, dreams.

I love that we have the freedom to do so–isn’t that freedom something.

God Bless America, and God bless your country as well, whichever country it might be.

God Bless us all, the everyday average people of Earth. We are the footsteps and the beauty and the light of tomorrow. We are of such power, grace, love, and brotherhood that we can create a tomorrow worth dreaming of. I want to be officially on the record as stating that I have tremendous, unwavering faith in you and I.


A lesson on spills and other messes

October 13, 2008 at 4:15 pm | Posted in art, country life, faith, family, knitting, Life, love, pets, photography, relationships | 13 Comments
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Life has a way of teaching lessons when it is least expected. Learning that, and knowing it is perhaps one of the best lessons I have grasped so far in my own life.

Look, listen, watch, observe, take note.

Perhaps one of the greatest errors a person can make in life is to be too involved, so very involved and wrapped up in what is going on at a given moment that you fail to step back and really look at what is going on and see it for what it is rather than for what it feels like it is.

When I was in my twenties and my children were children (as opposed to the young adults they have grown to be) I worked for a short time at a Montessori school where they were enrolled. Living in Los Angeles and not having faith in the public school system there, I chose to enroll my children in private school and the Montessori method was my choice at the time.

It was strange, the path that led to my working there. You see, I had a problem with houseplants. I struggled with my love of them and my inability to care for them properly. I cannot even count the number of times I have had to apologize to shriveled, choking houseplants during the course of my life so far. I love them, I love having them in my home, but life would get the better of me and I would forget to care for them, then I would remember, and give the poor dehydrated remains of one or more a drink of precious water and utter yet another apology.

I decided one day that if I were to get some education under my belt on the subject of houseplants and how to care for them, I would become more conscious and more responsible and therefore more trustworthy with their care. So, I went to the bookstore and bought a few books and also to the library for even a few more.

I read and I absorbed and then invested in a few more plants to care for. Just as I was poised to care more deeply for the few plants in our home, I found out the Montessori school my kids were going to lost the person who was caring for their many plants. In a conversation with the owner and director of the school I mentioned my quest to become a better house plant caretaker and the next thing I knew I had a part time job caring for the school many plants.

What a boon. I could earn a bit of extra cash while expanding my knowledge and responsibility in an area I needed so much to improve. That was kind of a cool opportunity.

As I began caring for the plants, some of the children at the school started following me around and chatting with me. It was nice at first, but then it became sort of embarrassing, because whenever I would enter a classroom to care for plants the kids would jump up like a bunch of hungry kittens, leaving whatever they had just been doing and circle around me as I made my way from plant to plant.

One day the director approached me again and said that I was creating too much of a distraction for the kids and that she would have to make a change. Drat, my heart sank because I knew I was about to lose my sweet little part time job. No, actually what she had in mind was to hire me as a teacher.

What? Wow, what an idea. I had no training, but she said it wasn’t a problem. She would personally train me and she felt the kids would love having me there.

So, I went for it.

I loved learning more about the specifics of the Montessori method. I was working with the littlest kids and learning all of the lessons they were to learn. Folding napkins and towels, tying shoes, learning to “host” or “hostess” their very own little parties. It was beautiful and made quite a bit of sense to me. My favorite lesson had to do with spilled water.

You know how people tend to freak out when a child spills something. As a clumsy child who used to drop and spill things and felt awful for it, I could identify with the problem quite easily.

The purpose of the spilled water lesson was to demonstrate to a child through the teacher’s response to spilled water that really, spilled water is not a big deal. You just clean it up and move on.

In this lesson the child fills up a pitcher with water which will then be carried to a little table. Inevitably, the water is bound to spill at some point. When it happens, the teacher does not react at all. Instead she/he just graciously and peacefully demonstrates how to wipe it up with a towel and proceed from there. The lesson is: It’s not a big deal, not a problem at all.

If you do this with a child, they will actually spill less frequently because they won’t be nervous about spilling — or making other mistakes if you carry it far enough.

I loved that lesson and found it to be extraordinarily profound, something that could be applied throughout life. I didn’t just learn how to apply that lesson to a child in a classroom, I learned the lesson myself and saw how it could permeate every corner of my life and how I could use it to try to permeate that concept into the lives of others who I meet along the way.

The thing is, life is sloppy. Stuff happens. Let’s not, everybody, freak out.

If you have been following my blog all along, perhaps you recall a post in which I shared an experience I had driving on a freeway in Southern California. One driver made a sloppy, dangerous move and I held my breath wondering if someone else would react and cause a chain of reactions that would result in an accident. When no reaction occurred, no accident followed, and I had one of my favorite epiphanies of all time … “it is our reactions to the events in life that cause all the havoc, not the events themselves.

This weekend I witnessed a mom who, while brushing out her five-year-old’s daughter’s hair, discovered a tick on the little girl’s neck. Understandably, the mom was very upset. Unfortunately, she freaked out that led to more freak out from other quarters. Her little girl became very upset and confused, crying, screaming, wriggling, pleading to be let go and more. Before long the little girl was surrounded by adults doing various things to get the tick out of her neck. Of course, the adults were all well-meaning and wanted to save the little girl from something worthy of being saved from.

The reactions of the various adults to the fact of the tick created a great deal of havoc, and ultimately trauma for a little girl who only moments before had been quite content and enjoying life. I don’t mean to criticize her mom, because I do understand why the tick upset her so. If, however, she had remained calm when she saw the tick — just like in the lesson of the spilled water — the tick could have been peacefully and gently removed and a little girl would have been saved quite a bit of overwhelming fear and confusion.

Spills are important, and should be dealt with. Ticks are important and should be dealt with. Household, business, national, and world economics are important and should be dealt with.

But, let’s not everybody freak out. Freaking out and reacting creates havoc.

Perhaps if we all step back, look and listen we will be able to see beyond the headlines and the reactions of others. Doing so would yield more understanding and increase our ability to make informed decisions rather than reactive judgments.

Many politicians and members of the press right now are praying on the emotions and reactions of decent, humble people who just want to live a good life and find a bit of something here and there to enjoy. The politicians seek power that and are willing to foment turmoil in you and I in order to achieve their ends. The press wants to sell advertising and are willing to stir up and fan the fires of controversy and anguish in order to keep people stirred up and needing more news so that there is more advertising to sell.

Regardless of their games, deceit, shenanigans, and self-serving interests leading to self-serving actions … you and I have quite a bit of control over our own lives. We don’t have to react when stirred. Members of the press would love to get us all stirred up and in a panic and making bad decisions with our money and finances right now out of fear. That would be great for the headlines so they could sell more papers, get more clicks, and gain more viewers. Panic and mistakes and loss and suffering are much more interesting to report on than peace, tranquility, balance, making-do, earning a living, supporting one another, etc. To them, at least.

But you and I, we are in this together. We are the common woman, the ordinary man. We are out here living our lives, cooking our food, knitting our socks and sweaters, planning our holiday meals, bringing home pay checks, balancing our personal budgets, and making do with less if we have to but continuing to carve out our own pretty little pieces of life.

We laugh together, we hire each other, we buy each other’s goods and services, we share those things we have an abundance of freely, we celebrate little things together, gather for potluck dinners, help our children clean up spilled milk, and we gracious share the road with one another in hopes of getting to our various destinations together and separately, safely.

Our lives are inexorably intertwined with one another because we are out here in LIFE, interacting with one another and most of us are doing so without trying to upset or manipulate one another for any kind of personal gain. When one of us is in trouble, another of us comes to our aid. We baby sit for each other when time is running short, we make sacrifices for each other because we are mostly decent and good. I do so love us, we the people — not just we the people of America, but we the people of Planet Earth. We are all children of God, brothers and sisters to each other. Most of us do have an ability to get along with one another and cherish opportunities to exhibit goodwill, friendship and generosity.

From these and other life lessons, I have learned to stay level headed when things get rough; spend more time observing and less time reacting. I do my best to stay calm, stay true to the course, and remember to look for the big sign posts as well as the little lessons in my life, they help me find my way.

I will do my part for you, dear reader, by continuing to share photographs, thoughts, sightings, patterns, recipes, and my genuine love of life in all its moments, great and small, good and bad.

~ firefly

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