Tuesday, May 29, 2012


It's funny how certain themes continuously come up in various areas of our lives.

The last two months I've sadly witnessed the beginnings of someone's marriage fall-out and its aftermath. I've repetitively gone to I Corinthians 13 and thought through its practicality and how when practiced daily it makes a marriage stronger instead of weaker. And in the midst of all this, several devotions and books I've been reading have been bringing out some of these same principles, but with friendship. And it made me stop and think about the fact that while we as Christians always think of I Corinthians 13 in terms of marriage, the reality is, it was written for the church and the interaction of fellow believers. Sadly, I often struggle with applying these principles to other believers and friends. My thoughts/interactions/feelings toward others (and not just my spouse, should have these qualities:
  • patience...that friend who doesn't catch on to life principles as quickly as I'd like for her to...this applies
  • kind ... when I dislike a friend's opinion, or color choice, or idea
  • not jealous...when yet another friend gets the good news a child is on the way
  • does not brag...struggle with the difference between sharing good news and bragging; definitely a fine line!
  • is not arrogant...do I come across as knowing more or being superior to others?
  • acts appropriately...a definite struggle for this social misfit
  • rejoices with truth and not unrighteousness
  • bears all things...
  • believes all things...do you ever find yourself questioning in your head what a friend tells you instead of believing them? Do I doubt a friend can truly change/overcome a struggle or weakness?
  • hopes all things...when did I become such a cynic?
  • Endures all things...how many times have I wanted to just end a friendship rather than push through the unpleasantness of reality? How many times should I listen to the same old lament that is a deep hurt to a friend?
  • never fails...
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."
I long for that day when I can love the same way Christ has loved me.

Friday, May 25, 2012

and time flies on...

It seems like we made this photo yesterday. The parents of these kids are my cousins/siblings, and we played in this very yard growing up every summer and during holidays. The little boy on the end was the ring bearer in our wedding (though he was a year older at that point.) The blonde girl in the back on the far row, she gets married Saturday. The blond sitting next to her is my niece, and she graduates from high school  next weekend.  The brown-headed girl next to her is finishing community college. The others? Rising juniors in high school.

And on the Bryan side of thing, we received word this week that Lord willing, by the end of the year we'll add two more to the great- niece/nephew total.

Times like this make me feel like I'm stuck in a time warp while the rest of the world marches on.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

an exciting day

Last week I excitedly and nervously took a quilt top to a quilting store in Cary. Last month I took an hour long lesson so I could rent their quilting machine frame. I was so nervous I actually had dreams about messing up the quilt. I arrived ten minutes before the store opened (don't want to be late and loose time I've paid for!), and was greeted with this peaceful scene:

I've always loved water fountains, and as I was staring at this one, I realized what made it so awe-inspiring is the outward flow of water back into the fountain. The upward spout and drains of the side are cool, but it wouldn't look quite as impressive without the water pouring back in on itself. I find such trivial details interesting.

And inside? It took an hour to fix the backing (I had measured incorrectly, but thankfully had way more than we needed so it could be trimmed!), attach the batting, and smooth the quilt top onto the frame, but once quilting it took a tad over 3 hours to quilt the whole thing. THREE HOURS!!!  Last year the twin size quilt on my machine took 5-6 days, and my neck, back, arms and machine paid for it dearly. I still have to bind the quilt, and there's a ton of stitches and things I don't know, both about machine quilting and this machine itself, but I'm looking forward to learning. Hopefully next week I'll be able to post pics of the finished project, along with the new stitches I've learned on the quilt I'm doing today and next week. Fun times ahead! :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

flowers and farming

 This year I purchased "dwarf" sugar snaps; supposedly the grow in a small bush and not the trailing vines. Well, they don't, and I've waited too long to give them a trellis. They are producing, but it's just a big, jumbled mess. Next year I think I'll stick with traditional snow peas and simply get someone to help me put up something for them to grow up on.
 And above is my only cabbage that's getting close to an edible size. Of the five things I planted in March, the cabbage and snow peas are the only ones that survived.

 Since I worked early voting, the rest of my garden became a hopeless mess. In desperation, I finally took the lawn mower to it, and put it on the lowest setting possible. The "farmer" who bought hay for the church kids hay ride last fall had still not emptied the straw from the trailer, so it's been out in the elements all winter. In other words, it's not good for eating nor bedding animals. BUT, it is good for bale farming. Bobby had read up on it online, and he decided it was worth a try and would be faster and easier than trying to get my tiller to work and prepping the garden again (especially since we had tomato plants given to us that were in need of immediate planting). 

 According to the instructions, you take either a weathered bale of straw (or you weather it by soaking it every day for 2 weeks, then fertilizing it for 3 days and giving it one day of rest), spread 2" of potting soil on top of it, then plant your seeds/seedlings. For tomato plants, you can place 2 plants per bale. For beans or peas, 10-12 seeds a bale. Squash or cucumbers, 2-4 seeds a bale. So I've planted a variety of peas/beans and some squash, as well as the tomato seedlings. They're supposed to be fertilized once a week, but three of the bales I used Miracle Grow soil which has a fertilizer included. I'm curious to see how this works. And as my brother-in-law said, if it doesn't work, I've added compost to my garden area for next year.

 As for the seedlings we planted along the property line...the seedlings on our line have done well. I think only 2-3 haven't made it. The back row of magnolia seedlings for the property fence...they've not made it. Our little magnolia in front of the house is blooming and growing, and every time I see these flowers I'm reminded that I need to get some replacements. It's satisfying to see the growth in all the trees we planted 10 years ago. It's startling to realize anything I plant now won't see substantial growth until I'm 50. Yes, I've aged.
The crazy in me wonders if I took these pods not yet flowered and planted them, would I get a magnolia seedling?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


The stump of an iris (it looks like a miniature, wrinkled potato) is called a rizhome. It is "planted" (placed is probably a better word) where the top of it is even with the soil. Any attached roots should be facing downward. Bulbs, rizhomes, whatever you want to call them, should be planted about 12-14 inches apart. If you want excessive flowering, lightly fertilize in the spring. Otherwise, they just sit there until 4 years later when you need to thin them out. The long green leaves are left alone, even after the flowering stops, until the tops start turning brown (in Sept or Oct). Then you can cut them down to about 6". That's it.
They're actually very easy yard plants.

And our topic tomorrow? Straw bale gardening. With pictures!

Monday, May 21, 2012

flowers and feathers

 Iris plants - one of many sets that will need to be divided this fall. Anyone interested in some?

 amaryllis...these normally bloom around Mother's day, but because of our exceptionally warm weather, they bloomed two weeks early

and we were quite surprised to see two Canadian geese show up in the middle of the yard with five fluffy goslings in tow. They came for two mornings in a row. We're hoping they're back in their nest since it's been raining so much. We've lost 6 biddies in the last 2 weeks to a hawk, so I fear between the snapping turtles and the hawk these fluffballs may not have made it. :(

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

a tough row to hoe

We take so much for granted.

The last few years we've heard a lot about teenagers, kids actually, who have faced so much more than any child should have to face by the time they reach 18.

Some of them are in foster care. Others are in group homes. Either way, at age 18, state funding stops. A few of the lucky ones are allowed to stay on with their foster parents, but most either don't or can't.

Can you imagine graduating from high school and suddenly facing life with no finances, no car, and becoming responsible for everything - a place to live, a vehicle, food, living expenses - on a high school diploma? Most of them attempt to attend a community college, but the completion rate for such students is very low.

There's no loving Mom & Dad to send a care package when the semester gets tough. No card with a check in the mail from a concerned person in your home church. When that car breaks down? There's no Dad to come fix it while you drive his to your part-time job.  And when illness strikes 4 months into your first semester? There's no Mom to bring you home to see your family's general practitioner, nor help you make a decision about sitting out the next semester or hanging tough. School loan? There's no one to co-sign or back you up.

Every year as I hear these stories, my heart breaks for kids like this.

I had the privilege of attending a private, Christian college. One of the girls I worked with in the cafeteria was from a children's home. She was one of the sweetest, hard-working, and devout believers I met during my four years. Had it not been for the South Carolina churches and women's group helping out, there's no way she could have made it through. But for me, one of the saddest things to witness was watching her search for "home" during the holidays. The directors of her home allowed her to stay in their personal house with them since she was no longer eligible to stay in home dorms. I know how difficult it was for me for my parents to move while I was overseas and come home to a strange place, but I cannot imagine the void of wanting to go home for spring break or winter holidays and there simply be no definite place or people to go home to.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:26-27

Not sure what the answers are, but we're praying for a young man who is desperately praying for scholarships so he can attend a pharmacy program at a state university. He's being realistic and has applied and been accepted at a local community college in case the funds don't come through for his dream. He's also working and saving money now for the months ahead when he's on his own. If he doesn't receive positive word in the next month, I may ask you to join me in praying about how you can sacrificially help this young man who has a dream, but no parents to help him fulfill it. Some days it seems everywhere you turn someone is asking for money. Wouldn't it seem worthwhile to help someone who's NOT asking for it but clearly needs it?

Monday, May 14, 2012

What's that noise?

If I've heard it once from our little visitor, I've answered it a thousand times in the last 24 hours.

So what IS that noise?
the fish tank's filter
the dishwasher
the sound of Mr. Bobby scratching his head (and she was most disappointed to scratch her head today and find it didn't make the same sound)
a bird
the rooster (who has been told to "shhh!" repeatedly, though he doesn't listen)
the kitchen table's creak as Mr. Bobby leans on it (or leans away from it)
a car on the road
an airplane
the washing machine
the microwave
a clucking chicken
a honking goose
a wooden slat under the bed
the beep of a finished dryer
the scrunch of wet shoes on hardwood floors
the clang of pots and pans
the beep of Mr. Bobby's wheelchair as it turns on or off
the scrunch of Mr. Bobby's tires on the floor
the lift on his van
my sewing machine
and last, but certainly not least, and always asked with excessive laughter...Mira's burps.

I guess we live in a very noisy house. But at least all the pins in my pincushion are now organized by color and size...a girl after my own heart!

Friday, May 11, 2012

all things spring

Last night Bobby's coworkers and their families came over for a cook-out. I grilled hamburgers and hotdogs (Disclaimer: the above photo is not my hamburgers; the lines on my patties only went one direction, but I did have flame-seared burgers like above!) and I think everyone had a very good time. I was still tired and hot from working at bedtime last night, so I didn't close all the windows. I think someone froze last night, and I must admit I'm a bit chilled this morning myself. It's a bit crazy to be wearing 3/4 sleeves and have cold toes when this time last week we were donning no sleeves and begging BOE to bring fans to the non-airconditioned gym that was hosting an early voting site on our two 90 degree days. Someone remarked that in the south we don't have seasons; we have days. I think that's just another phrase for spring.

And in the midst of all the happy chaos, my little garden which I was going to keep small and in check this year, is out of control. I pulled some weeds yesterday, but it's in desperate need of an overhaul (as in I'm contemplating whether or not to bring out the weed eater before I try to crank the tiller again).

And I resorted to terrorism while cleaning the back porch yesterday. I used gas chemicals on the homes of several wasp nests, and using a weapon of mass destruction (a straw broom) knocked down a barn swallow's bird's nest and several spider webs. I felt a tad guilty about the bird's nest, but what little twinge was there disappeared when I saw she hadn't laid any eggs yet. Hopefully there'll be no poop mounds to sweep up this year!

And the broody hen is still broody, though she briefly abandoned the eggs for a day before resorting back. She's insane. And we've lost two teenagers and two biddies. We know one of each was hit by a hawk; not sure about the other two. Hawks normally don't leave a pile of feathers behind, so that makes me wonder if the others faced a different predator.

Now if I can convince my sore muscles that there is nothing wrong with them, today might not seem quite so difficult.

Monday, May 7, 2012

oh, no I don't!

The bad thing about the blog world is the abounding creativity and designs. Yes, I recognize that is actually a GOOD thing, but for people like me who love the thrill of starting a new project, it can also be detrimental.

For example, I have one completed quilt top that needs to be quilted by the end of July, and a quilt top that I've just started assembling that needs to be completed and quilted by the end of May. Gasp! Yes, as in this month. (How did it get to be MAY already?) 3 weeks to work, which also involve an election, hosting Bobby's work party, babysitting, serving at a wedding reception, and a trip to Alabama for a wedding. Yes, my adrenaline is pumping this morning (and that's a good thing!)

So I'm off to my sewing room to put back together all the little fabric squares and triangles I cut up last week. (A quilter friend's husband says that's the essence of insanity.) And I'm just going to keep in the back of my mind that next week when all these cool patterns start showing up on Moda's website for placemats and linen napkins and aprons and such that I am going to DOWNLOAD ONLY! That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

one more day

Working at early voting...It's been great. I've been blessed with awesome supervisors and great co-workers this week and that makes all the difference in the world. We finish up tomorrow, then Sunday afternoon I switch into normal election day mode.

I am thankful for people who work with the elderly/mentally handicapped who truly care about the individuals, their wants, and desires. Yes, there are one or two who attempt to take advantage of them and their votes, but thankfully they are the exception to the rule. It makes me appreciate the others even more.

I am aghast at our college generation. So many of them are not registered voters, are ignorant of their addresses, what county they live in, and how our democracy works period.  But at the same time, it's neat to see those who come in prepared, are patient with the lines, and who have that fear and trepidation in their eyes as they try to figure out this "adults only" thing we have called voting. We sometimes smile. You can often spot the first time voters easily. They follow the floor lines exactly; they grip their ballots with both hands, and they stare at the scanner with all the arrows and are unable to figure out where the ballot goes, then when they are finished stare at the machine as if they should be awarded a prize. But their faces light up when they get their I voted sticker. And dudes...pull up your pants! After one experience yesterday I am so thankful every time a baggy britches boy comes in and is wearing boxers. Trust me, you don't want to see them sit down if they're not.

And the funniest story from today..."No thank you; I don't want a sticker. If I wear it my neighbors might see it and go vote, and they won't vote the same way I do. I live in North Raleigh, you see." and watching the facial expression of the pollworker passing out stickers who happens to LIVE in North Raleigh. I lost it on that one; I just outright laughed.

Four more days, and primary 2012, I'll kiss you goodbye. :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

14 years ago

This week, 14 years ago, was our first date. It lasted ten days.

On the way to the hotel from the Beijing airport. Bobby's first taxi ride.

The train ride to Yinchuan, Ningxia where I taught. We took the "express train".  It took 23 hours instead of 26. :)
Outside the apartment where Bobby, his sister Susan, and brother-in-law David stayed (it belonged to a teacher on home leave). Here we were having a picnic lunch outside in the courtyard (so we didn't have to haul him up 2 flights of stairs for just an hour) that three of my students helped prepare.

And having a yogurt snack at Wu Bo's side street yogurt stand. WB was one of my students and friends. Beside me is his nephew.

Later we would talk and discover we were both a little worried that he would arrive and we wouldn't get along or really like each other in person. (We had been e-mailing for 8 months.)  Instead, it was as if we had known each other all our lives, and it was REALLY hard to say goodbye. It almost seems like a lifetime ago.