my faith – solc #11

Because my faith is very important to me, I look to the Bible for wisdom and guidance on a daily basis. One of my favorite passages is Ephesians 3:16-19. We have such small hearts and minds, compared to God’s, that it is very difficult for us to understand the depth of His love. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is a good one for us – that little by little we can come to understand how tremendous God’s love is for us.

At one point in my life I was a bit afraid to pray for God’s will. What if it wouldn’t be a good outcome, I wondered? What if God wanted to teach me a lesson that I needed to learn the hard way? A friend’s  words of advice have always remained with me – that when we pray to the Lord for His will to be done, we can rest assured that it will always be in our best interest. We can know this because God loves us so very, very much that He always wants the best for us. Therefore we can earnestly seek His will in our lives with confidence and hope.

night light – solc #10

The homes in our neighborhood recently received an email alerting them that someone’s car had been broken into one night. We have noticed that several neighbors have been leaving on their outside lights in response to this news. Our neighborhood is small, with only one entrance/exit road, and we all look after each other without being in each other’s business. For many reasons, it is a great place to live.

Last night I noticed what looked like a bright spotlight shining in our front window. Its full force was muted by the tree branches it was shining through. My first thought was that someone had added a new eave light that was directed right onto our house, or worse, that someone else had been robbed and the police were investigating.

The Gladys Kravitz in me went straight to the window to check things out. As I peered through the glass and on through the branches with their tiny leaf buds I was pleased to see how wrong I had been. The full moon was shining its restful light on me – and on our entire quiet neighborhood. I had to go outside to soak it all in.

How different the moon’s light is from the sun’s! I don’t keep up with the almanac calendars, so I am always pleasantly surprised when the moon is full. It quietly rises without birdsong or crisp shadows announcing its arrival. It spreads over the landscape and softens rough edges with its dreamlike light. The cool glow warms your heart in a way that the sun’s heat can never do. Its place in the sky  is ever changing and shifting, giving you the feeling that it’s now or never, grab its glow while you can, it is moving on. Sometimes it feels like you can actually see it sliding across the sky.

No wonder our ancestors depended so much on that almanac and knew every detail of the moon’s coming and going. Without all the electric and neon light we have today, the moon’s light guided much of their activity. Cynthia Rylant’s book, Long Night Moon, explains the changing names for the moons each month and describes of the persona of each of these night lights.

The moon was there at the back of our house this morning and I was sad to see it go. But I’ll be looking for it again tonight, soaking up its magic. And I know it won’t be too long until it brings another glimpse of its character to shine in full next month. I could check the almanac and know exactly when to expect it. But that would ruin the surprise.

where do you get a book like that? – solc #9

Have you read the picture book, The Raft, by Jim LaMarche? If so, don’t you love it? If not, then you must.

I love this book for so many reasons. The wanna-be artist in me is dazzled by the illustrations which are so realistic and so dreamlike at the same time. The aspiring writer in me is captivated by the story line of too-good-to-be-true turns in the tale as well as the vivid, realistic descriptions of place and time that make me feel like I am right there. The people-person in me loves the characters as if they were real friends that I know. If I ever have grandchildren, I have a role model in this book to follow.

I fell in love with this book all over again when our family purchased a small cabin by a lake. For a while I would imagine a raft floating to our dock just like in the book. I have a copy of the book there to read to those once and future grandchildren, too – just in case I ever get the chance.

Meanwhile, I chose this book for a read aloud to a fourth grade class at the beginning of the year. I used an anchor chart with it and we worked on the strategy of inferring. It was a well-received and successful lesson, but I felt a bit like the use of it in class took some of the magical quality away from it for me.

Then as I was leaving the room, one of those students that we all know and love came up to me. You know the type – the one in whom you see so much potential and yet you just can’t find the key to help him unlock what he has inside. The one who spends so much of his time avoiding work that you know if he would just do it he could excel in so many things. So he walks up to me with a new light in his eye and says, “Where do you get a book like that?”

And I knew that all the magic – and more – was still there.

The Raft



from now on – solc #8

Our daughter Beth decided she wanted her new phone to call her by name.

“I can set that for you,” said our son Mark. “Let me see it.” When she handed it to him he quickly tapped here and there and said, “Call me ‘T-Bone’ from now on.”

“No, no, no!” squealed Beth. “Gimme that back.”

“Let’s listen,” said Mark with a smirk. And the phone said, “Alright, I’ll call you ‘T-Bone From Now On’.” Mark laughed, “Even better than I planned!”

“Oh good grief,” said Beth. She grabbed the phone back and tapped for a while. Then she spoke into it: “Call me ‘Beth’.”

“I’m sorry, T-Bone From Now On,” replied the phone. “I can’t do that. From now on I will call you ‘T-Bone From Now On’.”

“Oh good grief,” Beth repeated.

a happy coincidence – solc #7

I saw one of my former small group students in the hall one morning. She always had a story to tell (sometimes too many stories…), and sure enough, that morning did not disappoint. “My backpack was stolen last night,” she announced. When she saw my skeptical look she continued, “My dad’s car was broken into when we were at a ball game and they took my backpack.”  

“I am sorry,” I replied, thinking surely the thieves were looking for something more valuable than this. “Maybe you will get it back somehow. I hope so.”

“Me, too!” she said as she continued down the hall to her classroom.

An hour later the school phone rang in my office. “This is Peggy at the Symphony. We have your student’s backpack.” Incredulous, I asked her to repeat what she said. “I guess she left it in the commons area outside,” said Peggy. “Fortunately there was a note with your name and number on it. Please tell her she can come and get it anytime.”

I informed Peggy that I was not this student’s teacher, but I had seen her for reading in a small group for a while. Then it was my turn to tell an incredulous Peggy about the robbery. I explained how I had gotten the scoop in the hallway that morning so I knew what she was talking about. I promised I would give this information to the student, and I thanked Peggy for letting us know.

When I gave the student this good news, she smiled and said, “Good thing I saw you in the hall this morning!”  Yes, indeed. And maybe it is a good thing she always has a story to tell.

rescue dog – solc #6

My name (now) is Maggie and I am what you people call a rescue dog. My first home was with a man and three other dog friends and we were all happy together until I noticed my owner started acting strange. He didn’t pay much attention to me anymore. I heard him telling people he was sick, and then one day he told me I had to go live with someone else. I looked at him with my big brown eyes and he started to cry. So I wagged my tail and licked him and tried to make him happy again.

He took me to a stranger’s house and he cried when he left me there. I ran to the corner of a bedroom and wouldn’t come out, I was so scared. This house was very different from my home.  It was always busy, and nobody noticed me much, which was OK with me. I liked having the other dogs there around though because it reminded me of my real home. I wondered when I could go back there.

One night two more strangers came to the house. They looked at me and wanted to pet me but I wouldn’t let them. I barked at them when they came near. They kept talking to me and put me on a leash and led me to the door. I pulled back but they were too strong. They put me in their car and took me away. Then I was so sad because I was getting used to that house and I had to leave it, too.

The house they took me to was quiet. There were only two people, no kids, and they just sat and looked at me. I couldn’t sit down, I was so nervous. I paced and paced, and finally wore myself out. I sat down, and then I lay down, and I finally went to sleep. I don’t remember a lot about those first days there. They kept trying to pet me and they called me a funny name, one I wasn’t used to. I don’t remember eating much. I felt so alone with nothing and no one familiar around me at all.

I have had to think really hard to remember all this because things are so different now. My new home is the best place ever. My family loves me so much and we do everything together. They think I am beautiful and smart and they take me with them on trips and they sing songs to me. They let me sleep on their bed in the daytime when they are at work. They make me go to get baths and get shots sometimes but I am always happy inside.

I am still not sure what a rescue dog really is, but I sure do like being one.

M dogs – solc #5

All of our dogs have had names starting with M. First there was Muffin, a black terrier mix we got from the pound. She was our baby until our first child was born, but she weathered being replaced pretty well and was a good dog. Then we had Magnolia, a chow mix, whom we got from a friend. They had a litter of new puppies, and when we went to see them, she followed us out the driveway. We had to take her home! Her best friend was our border collie neighbor Boomer, who would come and sit at our house when we got home until “Maggie” could come out to play.

There was an unfortunate time with a dog we called Molly, who was just not right. We couldn’t manage her, and so took her back to the people we got her from. Hopefully it turned out well.

Then we got Megan. We got her as a puppy, and she and our two children grew up together. She was large (about 125 pounds) but very gentle, and she would wag her tail in time to the music as my husband would sing songs about her.

The neighbor’s dog Annie was old when we got Megan, but having a puppy around seemed to give her new life. I give Annie full credit for all of Megan’s good habits – she learned them from the patient teacher who seemed to treat Megan like one of her own.

Megan’s retriever instinct caused her to bring home many interesting things – a construction worker’s lunch, an assortment of neighbors’ shoes that they had left in their open garages, and various critters from her hunts (or someone else’s). We would put the shoes on top of our brick mailbox and when the neighbors spotted something they recognized, they would stop and pick it up. Once the college student next door was home for the holidays and she questioned her mother why we would put a cowboy boot on our mailbox. “What kind of decoration is that?” she asked.  Her mom explained, and then the next day it was the same college student who came to retrieve that boot – and now its mate –  when she realized it belonged to her.

But Megan really did have the best manners (thanks, Annie), and she never demanded much. She knew how to play and also how to be still, and she loved us with all her good, sweet heart. She was the best, best dog.

Like many large dogs, she had arthritis and in time she was unable to walk. She did the best she could for as long as she could, but eventually she couldn’t even stand. She gave us all she had and we had to let her go. We still miss her to this day.

There’s another dog after Megan – another M name, in fact, another Maggie. But that’s a story for another day.

yada yada solc #4

Somehow we ended up going different directions so I kept meeting her on every aisle of the grocery store. Her young son had not stopped talking as far as I could tell. He was sitting facing her in the seat of the buggy, and she was gathering boxes and cans of food without much response to him at all.

I thought of our son when he was about that age. He narrated everything he did. “I am playing with my cars, see? I am rolling them across the floor. Now I am zooming up the hill and around the curve. I am getting up and going across the room. Ooops I fell down, whoops!  I am OK, I am not hurt.  I can get up and keep going. Vrroomm, vrroomm! Round and round, up and down. See me mommy? Here I go.”

That voice echoed in my mind as I thought of how lucky we were these days to get a grunt or a one syllable word from our high school aged son. How I longed for him to once again share the minute details of his life. Maybe he would start talking to us again one day…

Another aisle, another pass, more talking from the little boy. On the next aisle I couldn’t help myself. “Your son is precious! He loves to talk, doesn’t he?” She looked at me dumbfounded. Whether she couldn’t believe I found this cute or she couldn’t believe there was someone else trying to talk to her, I am not sure. But I went on. “I know you don’t believe this, but one day you will miss all this chatter! Our son was just like this when he was young, but now he is a typical teenager who doesn’t want you to know his business, even though it is usually all good things. He just keeps to himself. You’ll miss this one day.”

I don’t remember her saying one word to me in response, but maybe she thought about it later when she had the energy to play it back through her mind. It still makes me smile to think about that little boy’s verbal energy. And it makes me look forward to the days when our son finds his voice again.

spirea – solc #3

Spirea is one of my favorite shrubs. There are many different kinds – we have at least four varieties of them in our yard. The nine dwarfs with their open leaf work add a wonderful texture to our plantings in front of the house. The flowers amaze me. Not only do they continue throughout the summer, but they come in a variety of colors on the same plant – hues of pink, lilac, and white, so light and delicate.  The leafless winter branches are also perfect for holding the white twinkle lights we decorate with at Christmas.

Out by the mailbox we have five spireas with lime green leaves and just the hint of a flower every now and then. I love these because they are the only plants that have survived (and thrived) in that spot.

When I first started my quest to add spirea to our yard, we bought the one that is now out by the side gate that separates the front and back parts of our lawn. It has balled-up white flowers that look like teeny tiny roses. There are hundreds of them on each branch. This bush is always stretching for the sun, and consequently it has grown into an odd comma shape. It may need to be relocated, because I am tired of pruning it and ending up with the same sad form.  It is very ambitious and determined though, so I can’t get rid of it altogether.

My favorite spirea is in the rear, growing beside the stone column that sits beside the back sidewalk. This is the one I was looking for all along. Its cascading branches spread graciously to welcome the close friends and family that always come to the back door. It survived a severe clipping by our daughter’s dog, who nipped at it repeatedly when she was staked out in the back yard and didn’t like being there one little bit. It was probably a good thing, though, because this spirea can grow to be quite large. I keep it trimmed each year, and now it drapes itself over the column and along the sidewalk and sways in the gentle breezes that chance to blow there.

I decided we had to have a spirea because I remember the one in my family’s yard when I was young. I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen – from afar it was like a flower waterfall and up close it was even more magical. This variety that I love most is called a bridal wreath spirea, with circles of small white flowers that look like a miniature bridal bouquet. The return of its blooms each spring renews my faith and gives me hope for the growing season to come.

a ray of sunshine – solc #2

A rainy day. Burning the candle at both ends, I slipped away from work to check on the set-up for a silent auction I was co-chairing as a volunteer. All was well there so I scurried back to school and slipped in the back door by the cafeteria. Wet shoes, fast feet, slick floor, and down I went. Hoping to be unnoticed, I looked up into the face of a seven year old boy. 

Suddenly I heard my own voice through the years giggling and laughing at those unfortunate folks I had seen stumble – or trip – or lunge onto the ground. Yes, I had ridiculed countless souls as they experienced an accidental fall. I deserved the teasing that was sure to come from this little fellow. So I raised my eyebrows and smiled at him, waiting…

And then, rays of bright sunshine on a dreary day, accompanied by a brilliant smile. “That must be a wet floor,” he said. “Are you alright? I hope you’re not hurt.”

No, I am not hurt at all.

Seeing Clearly – Slice of Life Challenge (solc) #1

The water has been shut off and the curtains are all closed. We have been through the checklist twice already – icemaker off, coffee pot unplugged, doors locked, lights off, thermostat set. We have closed up the cabin until our next visit, and all seems safe and secure. Time to go.

Then we see the shaft of sunlight streaming in through the tall uncovered window. The rays of light warm the room and catch the stillness of the air and the almost motionless dust motes suspended in the room. So soothing. Almost dreamlike, definitely filled with calmness and peace.

“Look! Let’s remember this,” I said to my husband. “When we get back to the routine and get knotted up with things to do and missions to accomplish, let’s look at the clock every day at this time and remember what it looks and feels like right here. This spot is here even when the cobwebs fill our minds and we run out of steam to clean them. We can find our way back and find our true selves here again next time.”