Monday, June 30, 2014


A person's point of view (POV, as writer's magazines call it), truly and totally dictates almost everything in their life.

During my mid-twenties I had the opportunity to teach English overseas. The organization I taught with had many single people (okay, at the time was MOSTLY single people) and I really learned a lot from my older teammates. Some of the lessons I'm not sure I fully grasped until much later, but they put the foundational thought blocks in place for me.

All my life it was wrongly emphasized that the role of a woman was to grow up and be a Mom. Not by my parents, but by many around me. At school, like at home, I was taught to grow up and use whatever talents/skill sets I had to the best of my ability (with certain limitations, of course, but I won't go into the insanity of small town Alabama).

At my college graduation, one of the professors commented on how our class was unusual, that over half the class wasn't engaged or seriously dating anyone...not common for a conservative, evangelical school.

And then I spent three years with singles much older than me...who were totally content and happy with life.

It was life changing. I asked many of them questions I probably shouldn't have asked. But I learned that life is not to be lived in view of what we don't have, but we DO have.

I can't say I've totally mastered that concept, but I have tremendously improved. For different reasons, that's been on my mind quite a bit the last few weeks. Then this morning, an internet friend posted something almost along the same lines.

It would be a stretch to join the apostle Paul in saying "I have learned to be content, whatever condition I'm in" but I can rejoice and say I'm a lot closer to that goal than I was 20 years ago. (Has it really been that long?)

I still don't have pictures to post yet, but today I'll spend my semi-retired, kid free day in the garden, the laundry room (sadly that doesn't go away no matter what your station in life is) and my sewing room.

And all is well. :)

Friday, June 27, 2014

a Christian principle from childhood

There's certain fundamental, childhood Christian truths my Mom and my Sunday school teachers impounded into my brain:
  • Be kind (Eph. 4:32)
  • Treat Others the Way you WANT to be treated (Luke 6:31)
  • Tell the truth to everyone. (Rom.17:11)
  • Be thankful. (I Thess.5:18)
  • Don't complain (Philippians 2:14)
  • Don't retaliate (Prov. 25:21-22, Matt 5:38-40, Rom 12:19)
Sometimes I forget that not everyone had those principles drilled into their heads.
Complaining? Oh, that's just what teenagers/adults do. We call it venting, and it's good for you. Kindness? Every man for himself!  It's all about ME!
The Golden Rule? No way! He/she wouldn't do that for me!
Gratefulness? Say what? I DESERVE that! Why should I say thank you? You OWE me!
Revenge? If I don't stand up for myself, no one else will. Eat or be eaten!

And those things seem small, and minor, and not all that important. But the older I get, the more I realize how dysfunctional our society is as we remove ourselves from the core priniciples that God intended for us to follow in our interactions with others.

Yesterday I read this article about America's use of torture for POWs from the War on Terror (and I use that term because so many of the detainees at Guatanamo Bay were from so many different countries that you can't say it's just from the Afghanistan or Iraqi wars). And I was absolutely sickened. Some of it I already knew. But some of it made me sick at heart and soul.

I've had so many friends and family serve in the military or government positions over the years later make comments like "If Americans knew what our country really does...." or "I almost dropped out of ABCXYZ  training because I found out some truths about country and its history and didn't know if I could hold my head up in this profession..." and deep down I question and remind myself that no country is perfect, and without the standards I listed above, even a democratic country can and does go awry.

The reality is, our young soldiers who serve as guards in military prisons, who are the same age as college students across America, are not a whole lot different from the college students who rape, assault, beat up, harrass, haze, or torment their classmates. Actually, in same ways it's even worse because there's no hatred against an enemy, just drugs, alcohol, or sheer hedonism is at play. On the other hand, it's worse because these young adults are representatives of our country to the rest of the world.

I'm reminded of the two people I know who've served as POWs: one in Germany, and the other in Canada (as a German soldier). Both had very different experiences, though one would tell you that the German guards didn't have a whole lot more to eat than the prisoners did. People here make a very big deal about how starved our American POWs were when they came home, but in my adult years as I've met people from Germany, they talk about how starved the average population in Germany was during that time period. Why would you feed a POW three meals a day when your own children only get two on good days? 

When we lose our guidepost that everyone is created in the image of God and is worth something, we lose our bearings on how to treat our enemies, and sometimes even our neighbors. I'm sad for our country. I fear we've strayed, even the church people, much further than anyone has realised.

Monday, June 23, 2014


It never fails. Anytime I help a person move, I feel like I need to go home and immediately start cleaning/purging the house. Or I start thinking about an unknown time in the future when for some unknown reason we might need/want to move, and where we might go and what that would look like.
I know that most likely, if we ever move, we will be down-sizing considerably, and this time I actually walked through the house and pondered what we would keep/get rid off.

I don't know if this train of thoughts come about from moving some growing up, or being a semi-vagabond during my young adult years, or if anyone who's never moved ever thinks these kind of thoughts.

But since these thoughts started last fall (when my friend Mary moved), I've been even more adamant that I read the books we have instead of checking out any from the library, and if it's not a book that I'll read again or share with someone, then it has to go. In January I actually took a box of books to the thrift store, and I have five more on my dresser that I'm debating whether to swap at a used store (which defeats the whole purpose of purging) or to simply donate them to the thrift store again.

But in the midst of all these thoughts, life (nor the clock) doesn't stop. There's grass to cut and a garden and animals to tend and projects to work on. So maybe by the year 2020 I'll have read a good chunk of the books in our house (provided I don't restock every year at the library sale).

Considering that when I helped my sister move (about five moves ago), she had as many books as I do now and I saw very few boxes of book when I helped her move last week, there may be hope for me.

When the time does come for us to downsize, I do think we'll have one huge consolation (or two so we can each have one): kindles. :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

garden fences

When Bobby and I would visit his aunts, one of the topics of conversation was her garden. Sometimes I asked her questions; sometimes she would talk and ask me questions (aka interrogate). But I must say I learned from her that there's no shame in trying something and it not working, or trying something that didn't work a second time.

One year we were both having problems with deer. 1/3 of my garden was peas that year and the plants were doing the best of anything I had ever planted. Pea pods (they look like little sticks) were coming out and I was starting to get excited. Until the next morning when half the row was nothing but leafless flowers, no leaves, no pea pods...nothing. The next morning, the rest of my peas were in the same shape. Turns out the deer climbed my little 3 ft fence, enjoyed their free buffet, and my plants never recovered. Many farmers and gardners in the area complained about deer and resorted to all sorts methods to deter them.  After that summer, Aunt Betty Jean told me she had discovered a way to keep them out. She was going to build a fence that deer could get through. I thought she was crazy, as I've seen deer jump 5 ft fences.

That was several years ago. It wasn't many summers after that Aunt Anne got sick and required constant care, and Aunt Betty Jean didn't have a garden as she was tending her sister instead. Then her own health declined.

This week we visited with a cousin for a tour of the homeplace, and one of the things I got to see was Aunt Betty Jean's garden site. It literally took my breath away and made my jaw drop a little.

I think she succeeded. I don't think a deer could jump this fence. And I was also shocked at the scope of the garden site. It makes mine look so tiny, but then she planted for the whole year and they seldom ate out.

This was a surprise. A pleasant one. It's just so her. It made me laugh, and made me thankful that she had a place where she could spend her time doing what she loved.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

never ending

We've not seen a lot of our newest neighbors, which surprised us. When they were preparing the house and working towards their moving date, they always honked their horn when they went by, waved, or stopped to talk. Then they moved in, and it all stopped. Bobby tried to call their cellphones, only to find they had been disconnected.

Yesterday we walked up the hill to say hello, and found out that his wife was diagnosed with cancer right before they moved, is now taking treatments through Duke, and is not doing well. I cannot imagine moving to a new place without knowing anyone (although her daughter does live in Raleigh) and facing a life-threatening illness at the same time. I thought he'd lost a lot of weight since this time last year, and he admitted the heat is killing him this year. (They're from Michigan.) Last summer he shocked me by how long he'd stay outside and work in the yard (he'd come and work for a week at a time), even on the hottest days. He laughingly said that this year he's gladly retreating from the heat. And I don't blame him one bit.

Sometimes we choose areas of service. Othertimes they quietly present themselves to us. And I think those are often the greatest needs.

Monday, June 16, 2014

a little creepy

A few weeks ago I went out to check an area of porch railings that I had painted, and was shocked to see a patch of green on a post. Upon closer examination, I realized it was a tree frog, which I had never seen at our house before.

Since then, he's showed up on our bedroom window
and during the middle of the thunderstorm the other night, he appeared during a lightning flash on the bathroom window. That was downright creepy. Nothing like walking into a dark room, seeing the lightning flash  and there being an outline of a frog sprawled out on the window. I must have startled it as much it startled me, for it quickly jumped away.

Does anyone else have these frogs around their house?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

a new project :)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know one of my goals for 2014 was to finish two projects for every one I started. But that was six months ago. 
Every month one of the quilt shops in Raleigh has a block of the month class (you pay for the first month, then bring your completed block in to the store and attend a 15-20 minute lecture on how to piece the next month's block for free, of $5 if you don't finish your block), followed by a guild-like group ($3.50 a month) where you learn a new quilting technique or about a new gadget and have show and tell of whatever projects you're working (except my group seldom has a lot to to show). This month's Bernina Club demonstrated a way to "dye" fabric using fresh plants, fabric, tape, and a hammer. I wasn't expecting to be overly impressed as fabric dying is NOT my thing, and I came away with my mind whirling and a multitude of project ideas.
Step one: Choose your leaf, flower, or grass. (Check out the internet on this, as different cholorophyll colors last and dye differently, and I found tree leaves don't pound out too well and tomato leaves have TOO much chlorophyll.) Here I'm using a sprig from our pecan tree on fabric prepared for dying (but you can use any fabric, but will need to "set" it with a white vinegar/water solution).

Tape the leaf flat onto the fabric with masking tape, covering every part.
(I didn't ask, but I think this helps hold the chlorphyll (aka plant blood) in place on the fabric.)
Flip the fabric over. You should be able to see the plant/tape through the fabric. Put it on a cutting board, or other flat, hard surface.
 Begin pounding with a hammer (mallets don't work well). As you crush the plant, the chlorophyll seeps into the fabric (our instructor has also used watercolor paper), essentially dying it.

Once finished, tear the tape/plant residue off. Allow to dry in a dark place. (Sunlight makes the color fade). 

I've not researched this to see whether or not fabric prepared for dying still needs to be "set" or not, but I do have a few blocks of plants that grow around our house finished. We did get to see samples of fabric that had been placed in water (city, well, and bottled) solutions to help them set, and were shocked at the differences from the original to the "set" versions. Bottled water faded/removed the color the worst. Well water did the best...go figure!  Our instructor recommended dry cleaning any products (pillows, quilts) unless we wanted a dull brown that slowly washed out of the finished product.

Regardless of whether this is a fabric or paper item, I think it's a very cool craft idea!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


My husband is usually an excellent gift giver. There's only one area where he's failed, and it's become something of Bryan family folklore. My husband, like me, loves to read. When he was about my age, he realized there was no one to pass on his favorite childhood books to (which were quickly becoming antiques) so he started gifting them to his nieces and nephews as birthday or Christmas presents. The problem? Most of them don't like to read.
His family, like my father's family, has generational layers within each generational branch (cousins getting married while other cousins are just being born, creating subgroups within the grandchildren and great-grandchildren).  The third set of nieces and nephews are now reaching their teen years. A few years ago, we were at a loss what to give Glory for her birthday, so we simply asked. Her answer? "Not a book."  We laughed, and ever since then we've been on a search for a book that Glory would actually read. As a joke, we wrapped her present in one of those empty decorative books. Here's her facial expression before she realized it wasn't really a book. :)

Who says you can't have fun giving presents?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

around the homefronts

Ever seen geese fight?  Well, now you have. These two started at a VERY young age. One we lost to Buster (how do you convince a dog this is not his personal squeaky toy?) and the other now very closely resembles the geese.

Whenever we make the 12 hr drive to my hometown/county, we cheer with every state line and when the hills start showing up. Nothing screams North Alabama like the hills that house the coal mines.

And the stray that showed up last week between our trips...after a trip to the vet today checking fo ra microchip and scouring Craigslist and the pound listings...he's now officially ours. The pressing item now (besides putting his rabies tag and collar on) is deciding whether to continue calling him "Little Dog" or give him a real name.

And Buster, who is VERY jealous of his new friend, though he does somewhat like having a playmate.

And another photo from county away from "home", a site and sound that it SOOO familiar...the clickety clack of the railroad tracks. :)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday, Monday

The last two weeks have been quite crazy, though not necessarily in a bad way.

We had the opportunity to go to Alabama and spend time with family. While there, we visited with family, got to visit a WWII museum (Did you know Alabama was the home of two German POW camps? I didn't until this past year.) with my husband, parents, and aunt, and had a small opportunity to discuss medical issues with my Mom.  There's a strong possibility we'll head back there in the fall (to my parents, not the museum), even if Mom overrides the doctors and says no to surgery.  Watching parents age isn't fun. I briefly flipped through some old pictures one night, and found a picture (which I remember being made) of my Mom and most of her siblings when they were my age. It was kind of strange seeing it. It was like looking at my younger sister and a few cousins dressed in 80's clothes and hairstyles.

We made it home, exhausted, to deal with the fact that a strange, starving dog (now at the pound) had showed up while we were gone and killed the little rooster (not a huge loss), and that in all the excitement of people trying to get that dog for us, our dog wanted in on the action and killed a gosling. It's bad enough that we have to deal with such insanities, but I hate it when someone else has to.

And then another dog showed up two days later. We were headed to Ocean Isle to join Bobby's Mom and sister's family for a day. He's tiny, about 1/4 the size of Buster, and totally ignores the chickens. Buster has about driven him crazy wanting to play.  I'll probably take him to the vet this week (yes, he's still here) to see if he has a microchip. Meanwhile, Buster has become insanely the point if we pay attention to ANYTHING (including geese or chickens) and not him, he wants said "squeaky toys" to play with. And of course, you can imagine what happens if a 60 lb dog has a 2 lb bird to play with. I think I managed to salvage one of the leghorn biddies this morning, but time will tell.

Right now, as I'm very tired, I would gladly get rid of all our animals and move to a smaller house with a tiny yard.

But we did have some quality and memory-building time with nieces and nephews the last two weeks (I actually gave two driving lessons to a 15 year old...who would have dreamed THAT?) and yesterday we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday. She doesn't like for us to mention her age, though we seem to think it's all quite impressive, especially since she doesn't act her age most of the time (thankfully in a good way!).

Oh, and in the midst of all that was the normal Bernina Club/Saturday Sampler that happens every month. And this month was so cool I might even blog about it! :) But not today...I spent way too much time chasing a dog and a soaking wet biddie.  Sigh...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

no time for pics

today is yard work and laundry and housework and one more quilt square to finish day, so there's not time  to post pictures.

But you can imagine:

crow scarecrows

a tiny dog 1/4 the size of Buster, but full grown, hanging out at our house

a small garden (yeah, the one I wasn't going to have)

a clean van (on the inside anyway!)

a messy quilting room (that one I cleaned out a few weeks ago)

and a bricked house across the street

Until then, the summer sun is hot and the month is already ticking away! :)