Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Baby Dedication for Violet

     This story about gifts can be found in the “Streams in the Desert” devotional on January 7, but I thought that it would be appropriate for the dedication of baby Violet.
     A story is told of a king who went to his garden one morning, only to find everything withered and dying.  He asked the oak tree that stood near the gate what the trouble was. The oak said it was tired of life because it was not tall and beautiful like the pine tree. The pine was troubled because it could not bear grapes like the grapevine. The grapevine was determined to throw its life away because it could not stand erect and produce fruit as large as peaches. The geranium was fretting because it was not tall and fragrant like the lilac.
     And so it went throughout the garden. Yet coming to a violet, the king found it’s face as bright and happy as ever and said, “Well, Violet, I’m glad to find one brave little flower in the midst of this discouragement. You don’t seem to be the least disheartened.” The violet responded, “No, I’m not. I know I’m small, yet I thought if you wanted an oak or a pine or a peach tree or even a lilac, you would have planted one. Since I knew you wanted a violet, I’m determined to be the best little violet I can be.
     People who are God’s without reservation “have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  God’s will becomes their will, and they desire to do for Him whatever He desires them to do. They strip themselves of everything, and in their nakedness find everything restored a hundredfold.
     A few months ago, baby Violet played the part of Jesus in the manger in our Night at Bethlehem Event.  Her tiny hands and feet represented the hands and feet of Jesus.  May that be said of her all the days of her life.  Violet, was created by God to be just who she is.  A daughter, a little sister, a granddaughter, and a child of the King.  May she always walk with Jesus and seek to do His will.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. ~ Ephesians 2:10

Friday, March 28, 2014

What I Learned in March

    I don't think that I have been warm since September.  March has been a long and cold month.  We have had snow, snow, and then more snow.  The temperatures have been in the teens and single digits with a few days where it got above freezing.  Brrrrrr.
     On St. Patrick's Day, I celebrated the five year anniversary of my breast cancer surgery.  Five years ago while other people were going to parades, drinking green beer, and eating corned beef and cabbage with Irish soda bread I was praying for healing.  A routine yearly mammogram saved my life.  If you would like to read more about my cancer journey look here.
      Here is what I learned in March in no particular order.

  1. It takes a l-o-n-g time for two feet of snow to melt.  Those lumps in the snow are the tops of our metal chairs around our fire pit.  There is still snow on the ground near them.
  2.  I can take a picture of a Great Blue Heron if I don't scare him away by getting out of my car.  This heron practically posed for me.
  3. "Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up."  Brene Brown,  Daring Greatly.   I recently read The Gifts of Imperfection and am listening to Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.   Both are inspiring books with so much to think about.  Dr. Brene  Brown is a researcher who studies vulnerability, shame, courage, and worthiness.  Brown's 2010 TEDxHouston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top ten most viewed TED talks on  Today it is listed as #3.
     In addition to Brown's books, I have also read:  
  • Wild, (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) by Cheryl Strayed
  • Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand,  I loved this!  Book Review here.
  • Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay,  Jane Austen lovers, this is for you.
  • Irish Eyes, by Mary Kay Andrews
  • Wrecked:  When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, by Jeff Goins,  Wrecked is an inspiring book that will "wreck" your life.  A wonderful read. 
  • Winners, by Danielle Steel
  1. This is how Let It Go would sound if it were sung by Jack Sparrow, Mike Wazowski, Tigger, Goofy, and many other favorite characters.   Very fun.  (Not sure why this is numbered 1.  It is 4,  I guess I have to learn how to fix that in April!)
     Linking with Emily at Chatting at the Sky.  Stop by and see what others have learned!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Great Blue Heron

     There is a tiny pond not far from where we live.  When I drove by,  I was very excited to catch a glimpse of a blue heron.  I rushed home to grab my camera.  All of my previous attempts to capture them on film have gone awry.  See Exhibit A.
Exhibit A
     But this heron stayed absolutely still.  He never moved.  I have a million pictures of him just - like -this. 
   He stood like a great gray sentinel while the mallards splashed around him.  There was even a woodchuck swimming near him.
      How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?  I hadn't realized that woodchucks were such good swimmers.  This little fellow was enjoying the sunshine and the water.
      The pond is right below a huge parking lot.  The water is surprisingly clean.  I took an environmental class a few years ago and tested the water here for oils.  The water was clear and the ph,  neutral.  The wildlife sure do seem to appreciate it.  We have seen turtles and frogs on the banks, but none were visible this day.
      Mrs. Mallard standing on the ice.  Look at those orange feet.
      Mr. and Mrs. Mallard off for a swim.
      Bottoms up!
     He is so beautiful.  I hope that he stays for awhile so we can get used to each other.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Maple Pecan Muffins

     These muffins have a hint of maple sweetness and the crunch of pecans.  They are a favorite at our house.  Friends asked for the recipe when I brought them to a church brunch.

Maple Pecan Muffins

  • 1  3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup of chopped pecans

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
How to:

  1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Spray muffin pan with a nonstick cooking spray or use cupcake liners.
  3. In a small bowl combine the dry ingredients.
  4. In a large mixing bowl beat the softened butter until smooth.  Stir in the maple syrup, sour cream, and the egg.
  5. Add the dry ingredients.  Stir until combined.  Do not over mix.
  6. Add batter to the prepared muffin pan.  This recipe makes 18 large muffins.
  7. Bake for 16-18 minutes.
  8. Enjoy!
The recipe also tastes wonderful as a savory muffin.  Just substitute 1 cup of cooked and crumbled breakfast sausage for the pecans.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Oh, Riley!

 Our dog is an Australian Shepherd named Riley.  Aussies are known for their intelligence and herding abilities. Riley has longish hair and a short stubby tail.  She is smart and funny. Riley loves to run in circles rather like a furry boom-a-rang.
     Riley is a good dog.  She barks only when someone is in our driveway or at the door.  She knows how to find her way home.  She loves to be pet and listens with her ears perked up when we talk to her, as if she understands every word.  It doesn’t matter if we have been gone for ten days or ten minutes, Riley wags that stubby little tail in delight as soon as she sees us. 

   Riley is even pretty good with our cat, Luna.  Together, they have devised an ingenious door opening system.  When they want to enter a closed room, Riley pushes the door with her head until it swings open.  If they want to exit, Luna pulls the bottom of the door toward her.  Riley then nudges it the remainder of the way open.  Luna and Riley are great friends, as long as it isn’t meal time.  When we eat dinner, Riley assumes her spot under her master’s table and chases the cat from the room until scraps have been served.

     Riley loves our children, but her absolute favorite person is my husband.  Who can blame her?  Riley follows Pat around the house and can usually be found sleeping near or on his feet.
     Pat and Riley have been having a bit of a disagreement lately.  Pat has a grey bean bag thing that he rests his wrist on when he works at the computer.  It’s supposed to prevent carpal tunnel.  Riley insists on stealing the bean bag from his desk.  This happens every time Pat leaves the bean bag unattended. Pat tries to remember to pull the door firmly shut each time he leaves the office, but if it doesn’t quite catch, Riley uses her Houdini-like skills, opens the door, and snatches the bean bag.  She then leaves it on the floor in a fairly obvious place.     We know immediately that Riley has stolen the bean bag as soon as we see her, because she slinks over to Pat wagging her stubby tail and looking very guilty.  Clearly, she knows that she is not supposed to take the bean bag.  It doesn’t matter if she has taken the bean bag moments ago - like if Pat left the room to make tea, or hours before, like if we just came back from church.  Riley looks guilty and we know that she has stolen the bean bag.  Her apology would be more believable if she would leave the bean bag alone, but the next time it is left unguarded, Riley strikes again.  To her credit, she has not ripped the bean bag open.  She just takes it and leaves it someplace, undamaged, but slightly soggy.  This has been going on for a l-o-n-g time.  

     Pat decided that our dog was not going to continue to outsmart him.  So the other day, Pat changed the hinges on the office door so that the door swings shut automatically.  The hinges are just tight enough that the cat can’t help her, even if they should be in the room together.  Now when Riley goes in to the office to steal the bean bag, she cannot get back out again. To Pat’s great excitement, the trap has been sprung three times so far.
     Pat and I knew that this bit of silliness had to be shared with you, but as I kept asking him, what is the point?  What great scriptural premise can be learned from this story?  We talked about how we keep returning to some sins even when we know that they are wrong.  Like in Proverbs 26:11  “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”  But who wants to hear that on a Sunday morning?  
     Then Pat suggested that guilt can eat a person up and make it difficult for them to approach a loving God.  He taking the role of God here to our dog.  Possibly.  But then I noted that it isn’t likely that God would have changed the hinges on the door to trap us.
     So there really isn’t much of a message here, except that God loves us and when needed, gently rebukes us.  He sets the lonely in families.  He gives us laughter and joy, and even victory.  
     There really is a scripture for every occasion.  This one seems to very loosely fit.

      Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
      To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, ...   ~Revelations 3:19-22
     Have you ever had to pit your strength of will and intelligence against a pet?

PS:  Thank you to Create With Joy who featured this post!
Inspire Me Monday

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day Trip: Harney and Sons Tea House

“What kind of tea do you want?"
"There´s more than one kind of tea?...What do you have?"
"Let´s see... Blueberry, Raspberry, Ginseng, Sleepytime, Green Tea, Green Tea with Lemon, Green Tea with Lemon and Honey, Liver Disaster, Ginger with Honey, Ginger Without Honey, Vanilla Almond, White Truffle Coconut, Chamomile, Blueberry Chamomile, Decaf Vanilla Walnut, Constant Comment and Earl Grey."
-"I.. Uh...What are you having?... Did you make some of those up?”
~ Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

      We re-visited Harney's Tea House last week when our son, Brian was home.  It is a wonderful place.
      Pat was like a kid in a candy store.  He asked about so many different teas, that the very helpful and patient young lady who worked there had pulled down all of these different teas for him.  There were just as many teas out on the other counter, too.
      We left with four new teas and a few of our favorites.  Our bags held Paris, Soho, Peach Fruit "Tea", Tower of London, and Hot Cinnamon Spice.  Brian picked up three flavors to take home.   His choices were Malachi McCormick,  Hot Cinnamon Spice, and African Autumn.
     Now, we have tea for every occasion.  Heading home to brew!  
     What are your favorite teas?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review: Unbroken

     When I was in high school, I had a math teacher who had survived the attack at Pearl Harbor.  I remember him telling us about that awful day with tears streaming down his face.  He shared with us the sorrowful loss of friends, the terrible shock, and the overwhelming confusion.  As a self absorbed teen, I did not understand what a gift he gave us.  I could not imagine anything like that ever happening in my lifetime.  Now, of course, I can.
     The amazing story of the life of Louis Zamperini is expertly shared in the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.   Zamperini was a boy with a knack for trouble.  He led a life of juvenile delinquency, frequently stealing anything that could be eaten.  He played elaborate pranks and was well known by the local police.
     Louis’ brother introduced him to running.  He could run like the wind.  Louis competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  Incredibly, he met Hitler and stole a German flag off of the Reich Chancellery.
     When World War 2 began, Louis gave up preparing for the 1940 Olympics and enlisted in the Army Air Corp, becoming a bombardier.  On a May afternoon in 1943, Louis was on a routine search mission for a lost plane when his plane went down into the Pacific.  What happens over the next years, would require every skill that Louis has to survive.
     I read this incredible story with our library book club.  The members all agreed, and believe me that does not always happen, that Unbroken was wonderfully written, meticulously researched, and inspiring.  Unbroken draws you in and won’t let you go.
     It is soon to be released as a movie.
     Have you read Unbroken?

PS:  I did not receive payment to review Unbroken.  I purchased it on Amazon.  If you should click from my page to Amazon to purchase it, you will not pay more.  I might make a small amount through your purchase.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Five Years Ago

     For most survivors and family members, cancer is a life-changing event.  Our family is no exception.  The surgery to remove the cancer from my left breast was five years ago today.  Other people would be going to parades, drinking green beer, and eating corned beef and cabbage with Irish soda bread.  Ahhh, the luck of the Irish.  On that morning, I reported to the Cancer Center conveniently attached to the hospital.
     My cancer was discovered by a routine yearly mammogram.  If you haven't made your appointment, please do so now.  My yearly mammogram saved my life.
     You can read about my journey on my I Wear Pink page.
     To mark this day, I am re-posting something I wrote a few years ago, edited only by the number of years..

Dear Breast Cancer,
     You were an unwelcome guest.  I didn’t even know that you were there, growing, changing, threatening.   My first hint of your existence an ominous walnut shaped spot where no spot should be.
     I recall when I learned your ugly secret, the way my heart skipped a beat, and my stomach clenched.  The way my eyes filled and puddled over in fear and shock.  I never thought you would come to me.
    You crept silently into my left breast.  Don’t you know that my infants nursed at that very breast?  I held my babies in my left arm,  their little heads pillowed against my breast, echoing its soft curves.  They could hear my heart beat, thump-thump, thump-thump.  You would have extinguished that forever.
     You stole something from me.  You are always on my mind.  I wish that I could forget you.
     You changed my life.  You showed me that I am more delicate than I know.  You labeled me as sick, different, damaged.
    You touched my children.  They were frightened that they would have to grow up and grow old without a mother.  You took part of their childhood away.  They should not have had to deal with adult worries.  You would have silenced my voice in their future.
     You touched my marriage.  I am no longer the smooth skinned bride that my husband touched with joy.  You marked me.  My scars reflect my determination to be rid of you.
    Breast Cancer, I can not believe that it has been five years since we were introduced.  Some days it seems as if it were just yesterday.  And then there are times when I feel that I have known you forever.
     Breast Cancer, I would not have chosen you, but, I have learned these things from our dance together.
    You do not define me.  I am who I always have been, but more so.
     I am not alone.  My friends stood beside me with home baked meals and encouragement.  More friends then I knew I had.  They were the tangible hands and feet of Jesus to me.
     You have given me sisters who have fought the same battle.  I want to serve as an encouragement for them.
     Our family was strengthened by your visit.  They covered me with love and prayers.  Crayoned cards and gentle kisses.  Quiet times and boisterous parties with enough squabbles and mess to let me know that I am needed and wanted.  Our family works harder to be there for each other then before you reared your ugliness.
     I have learned to love unconditionally, to forgive completely,  to live in hope, and to enjoy every moment I've been given.
      My marriage is sweeter.  My husband touches me with new found joy and appreciation.  We whisper our love quietly heads together and argue loudly about nothing of consequence.  We defer to each other and support each other.  My husband is my treasure.

      Breast Cancer, I did not fight you like a girl, I fought you as a Warrior.  The battle for me was already won on Calvary’s cross.  I know that God loves me.  I have seen His goodness in the land of the living.
     Breast Cancer, you forcefully pointed out that narrow gate through which we all must pass.  But I have learned this, the One who has led me all my life will not desert me. When the time comes for me to pass through the narrow gate,  it will be just wide enough for me and my Savior together.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Perfect Day

     Our son, Brian, came to visit us this week.   He lives and works in Utica.  Brian stopped in briefly the Friday before last, joined us for dinner, then went to New York City to visit some friends for a few days.  He came back to us on Wednesday.  We went to lunch, visited Harney’s Tea Shop, lingered over dinners, and celebrated his birthday a month early, before he left last night.  My mother’s heart misses him already.
     Brian was to take the train out of Grand Central on Wednesday morning.  He boarded the northbound train, which left around 9:40.  The train stopped two minutes later and then reversed back into the station.  There had been a terrible gas explosion near the tracks about ten minutes earlier.  All traffic to Grand Central was shut down.  No trains were able to go in or out.  Brian called Pat to let him know that he was delayed.  Eventually, Brian found a round-a-bout route to catch a train beyond the blast site.
     Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, I was at school.  I could tell that it was going to be a good day.  It wasn’t snowing.  We had all made it out the door on time.  I had remembered all the things that I needed for school, including my lunch, my tea, and my glasses. Best of all, I was looking forward to seeing Brian when I got home.  But first, I had a busy day ahead of me with annual meetings with parents.  These meetings are important, because we are planning for the children’s program for next school year.  Our day was well underway, when a parent came in shaking her head.  She said, “Isn’t it just terrible?  There was a big explosion at Grand Central Station.  So sad.”
     I flew out of my chair.  “My son!  My son is at Grand Central!”  I frantically left the meeting.  Memories of a beautiful morning one September and more recently, black backpacks in Boston filled my mind.  My prayers for Brian weren’t even words, but more like a breath and a hope.  I did what i always do when I am in trouble; I called Pat.  Pat quickly reassured me that he had just spoken to Brian and that he was fine.  Brian’s biggest problem would be finding a way to get home.  I suggested we drive down and pick him up.  Pat calmed me down and we hung up the phone.  I allowed myself a few grateful tears of relief, whispered a prayer for those who were involved in the explosion,waited for my heart to slow, and then went back to my meeting.  When I arrived home at the end of the day, Brian was there to greet me.  My son had come home.
     Some days we wake up to the perfect day and God’s loving presence can be seen and felt in every little moment.  We sing praises of anticipation as we move through our day.  But sometimes, a perfect day explodes with the unanticipated and we are thrown from the path we are traveling.   Sometimes God backs us up and sends us off in a different direction.  Sometimes we are misinformed, but God shows us that He is truth.  I am so thankful for the reminder that God loves my children even more than I do.    Whether my day is going my way or is far from perfect, Jesus is my constant companion.  He is at work in all my situations.  In fact, He goes through them with me. And had the unthinkable happened, God is still God and He loves me. His precious Holy Spirit whispers words of comfort and encouragement at those moments when I need them most. He helps me to sing songs of praise as joy flows freely from my lips, and to speak words of thanksgiving when I am frightened.  Our God is a God of refuge.  He is a place of rest.  He is a place of trust.  He is my hope all the day long.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.   ~Psalm 73:25-26

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Good Land

     Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills;  a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey;  ~Deuteronomy  8:6-8

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Say What?

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  ~Proverbs 25:11 

     Pat told me that this is a story that I must share with you.  If you know my husband, and his sense of humor, you know that I did something incredibly not smart or I put my foot in my mouth.  In this case, it was both.
     First, let me say that I love all our music ministers.  They are fabulous.  Their songs minister to my heart.  They are talented people and I appreciate them very much.  There are several people involved, but in this story I will only mention Pastor Mike, Eric, and Dan.
     A few weeks ago, as we were leaving church, I stopped to talk to Eric about a song that I thought would be a great church song.  The song is by Ellie Holcomb and is called Anchor of Hope.  It is linked below.
     And because it is always more run to be humiliated in front of several people, Pastor Mike and Dan were also present - so half of our church's worship team.
     “What kind of song is it, Donna?”  Eric asked.
     “Well, it has great lyrics and I think it would be good for church.”  Realizing that my description was remarkably unspecific,  I continued with complete sincerity, ”Eric, I love when you sing.  When you sing, you make everyone else sound better.”  Everyone, but Captain Obvious here, laughed.
     Did my husband leave my statement alone?  No!  He jumped in and stirred the pot.  “Wow, Eric, I think she just said that you must be pretty bad if when you sing you make everyone else sound better.”  The guys roared, and always the fast thinker, I realized that my statement could possibly be taken as an insult, which it completely was not in my mind.
     I desperately tried to explain myself.  “No, Eric, it’s just that your voice is so good that it helps to make even someone like me sound better.”  Yup, I was digging the hole deeper.  While everyone else was laughing at the great compliment I had given Eric, I quickly told him that I would email him a link to the song and hurried off, hoping that Eric had understood.  Of course, he didn’t.  Eric went home and asked his lovely wife, Katie, “I know Donna meant it to be nice, but exactly how could that be a good thing?”
     I have the privilege of working in the same school as Eric, so on Monday morning, I found Eric in his classroom.  The poor man is never safe from me.
     I apologized and tried again to explain.  So here is what I meant and I hope it isn’t insulting again.  Eric has a beautiful voice that is easy to listen to and easy to follow.  There are lots of musicians that I enjoy listening to, but I would never attempt to sing with them, like Pavorati. Eric’s voice fills in the squeaks and squeals of even my singing.  I think that Eric’s voice holds the group together somehow and compliments it.  His voice is like grace poured out.    
     Katie explained to me that Eric sings tenor. unmusical self looked that up on Wikepedia - so you know that it has to be true.  “The name "tenor" derives from the Latin word tenere, which means "to hold".  The tenor is the structurally fundamental (or 'holding') vocal. All other voices are normally calculated in relation to the tenor...”  
     Which goes to prove my point...Eric does have a voice that makes everyone else sound better.

“The LORD your God is with you, 
he is mighty to save. 
He will take great delight in you, 
he will quiet you with his love, 
he will rejoice over you with singing." Zeph.3:17 (NIV)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Patty's Snickerdoodle Cookies

     This is a delicious cookie that my daughter Patty makes.  It is a favorite in our house.  Anthony was bragging about them in school and his teacher requested that he bring some in for everyone to sample.  I'm sure that you will enjoy them as much as his classmates did!

Patty’s Snickerdoodle Cookies

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cinnamon Sugar:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

How to:
  1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Stir in the eggs and the vanilla. 
  3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon.  Stir into the creamed mixture until it is well blended.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the 2 tablespoons of sugar and remaining cinnamon to make the cinnamon sugar.
  5. Roll the dough into balls about the size of a walnut.  Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar.  Place them about two inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes.  Edges should be slightly brown when cooked.
  7. Remove from cookie sheet to cool on wire rack.
  8. Enjoy!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day Trip: Adams Fairacre Farms Garden Show

    Adams Fairacre Farms hosted a Lawn and Garden Show at it's store near us.  If you live in the Hudson Valley area of New York, I encourage you to go. There are garden displays in their Poughkeepsie, Wappingers, and Newburgh stores.  It was heaven to wander through the gorgeous fragrant flowers on a cold winter day. I took these pictures on the same day that Pat and I walked along the Poughkeepsie Riverfront to see the ice.  What an amazing contrast!
     Tulips are my favorite flower.  There were gorgeous tulips in every color.
     These primroses were such an unusual color.  Really spectacular.

     These orchids were in the greenhouse.

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