·         Sunday, 30 December 2007

A Belated Christmas Gift from my Nephew, Family and Friends

The other day I sat down with my usual cup of coffee to read my e-mail and found a wonderful and unexpected gift.   My oldest nephew sent me a query, which reached out and grabbed my heart. 


I stared at the screen, tears welling in my eyes, and read his gentle note.   I could describe it, but I will just paste it here.  My nephew's note follows:


Hi Aunt V.

I have an thought. (I have to be careful not to spook it -- it's in an unusual place. My head.) Michelle S. and I were thinking of sending this out to Caleb's family and friends, but we thought we'd ask you first... What do you think? (I have a donation page set up already, and Michelle will do the same on her blog as well.)

Hi everyone.

I stumbled on something kinda neat... In Ohio there's a "Bikers' Memorial Wall," and I thought it would be nice to have Caleb's name added. It costs $150 to have a name added, but all proceeds go to a scholarship fund. I'm hoping if we can get fifteen people to donate ten bucks each, we can get Caleb's name etched on the wall...

You can learn more and donate a few dollars if you wish at http://www.radloffs.net/memorialwall

Northwest Iowa  ALR Vice Prez
Member PGR, VROC #6441, IRCC


Keeping alive the sweet spirit of our son, Caleb J. Pulver (Feb 1976-Feb 2002),…now that is truly a Christmas gift.


There are no words.  Even now, days after the initial e-mail, I find myself teary eyed and unable to find words for this gentle act.   


I can only say thank you…and it is a prayer of thanks.


·         Saturday, 29 December 2007

What do I want, what do I Really, Really, Really Want?

The lyrics to Wannabe (Spice Girls) keep playing in my head.  Of course they only want to know "…what I really, really want…", while Elizabeth Gilbert (see yesterday's post) wants to know "…what I really, really, really want..."   


Yes, Spice Girls are raging in my head: 


Yo, I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really
really really wanna…


Of course their lusty song lyrics suggests a number of ideas that are not pertinent to what I really, really, really want at this point in my life.  


Now that I have tried (unsuccessfully) to exorcize the Spice Girls from inside my head, I realize I have merely distracted myself from the issue of what I really, really, really want.   And, sadly, there really, really, really is no time left to meander and ramble here trying to get it all out…so I bid you adieu and move on to the next item on my agenda…


Hmmmm, maybe what I really, really, really want is time and autonomy…gotta go now…


And yes, the Spice Girls are singing loudly inside my head and I fear I may start singing aloud!


·         Friday, 28 December 2007

Journaling and Happiness…

I have not read "Eat, Pray, Love" and may not ever read it.  Reading about people going around the world seeking out their identity does not appeal to me. Traveling and reflecting does, but not reading about other's travel.   It is hard to explain, and I am not going to explore that topic just now. 


I did read an interview Oprah Winfrey conducted with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the book  .  I may "play" with the ideas she shared and which I posted below. 


  • Start a journal and answer this question every morning: What do I really, really, really want? "You have to say really, really, really three times or else you don't believe it. And answer it truthfully and do it again the next day and the next and the next," she says. "Because you can't set your journey if you don't know what you're for."
  • Write down the happiest moment of every day in a happiness journal. "It's a way of reminding myself what really makes me happy and what doesn't," she says, "and learn and study and look back and see what is it consistently."
  • Refine your mantra. "I say refine, not choose, because we all actually already have a mantra. We just might not realize that we do. Whatever you repeat constantly in your head is your mantra whether you know it or not, and that is leading you on your way," she says. "So if you're repeating, 'I'm a moron, I'm an idiot, I'm a failure, I'm a jerk, I'm a loser,' it's your mantra. So decide whether that's working for you. … Maybe it's not and then maybe you might want to choose a different thing to try to say whenever you remember that you're thinking what you're always doing."


Much of my own journaling comes about when I sit down early each day and begin to tap away on my keyboard.   It is extemporaneous (or improvisational) and takes me to uncharted places, spilling ideas and thoughts randomly. 


Once on paper, I seldom return to read them or tweak them up.  But often the thoughts continue to grow and develop and guide my day.   My days are better when I have time to begin in this way.  (Since our return from Ukraine, I have struggled sometimes with the rhythms of our life.)  


So as the New Year begins (oh no, is this a New Years Resolution?), I may try to incorporate the first two items on the list into my daily journaling regime.   And I guess I may also find myself exploring the idea of mantra on these pages too…


What do I really, really, really want?  I wonder if I will be inclined to write the same thing each day?   Will I think globally or will what I really, really, really want be small things?  Doable things, like a long, hot shower before I climb between clean, fragrant sheets to linger over a novel before losing myself to my unconscious dreams.  


I wonder if what I really, really, really want will coincide with what brings me most happiness each day.  


Will what I WANT bring me happiness?


Often in my experience, it is what I do not even know that I want which surprises me, seduces me into primitive joy.  


A classic example is eating apple slices.  I seldom have the urge to eat an apple, but frequently my dear spouse will wield his pocketknife and carve delicate slices of apple.   He will put them to my lips and I will bite down.  There is a moment of awakening – I always forget how wonderful a crisp, fresh apple tastes.   (I almost slap my head like they do in that old V-8 commercial…how is it I never remember just how amazing an apple tastes?)


This is not an isolated incident.  I frequently find great surprise and unexpected pleasure when the world hands me something NOT on my personal checklist or my radar.


Maybe logging my daily happiness peak will give me an insight into who I really am.  


It is akin to counting blessings or keeping a gratitude journal, which I do mentally each night as I drift off to sleep or when I waken in the night.   My mantra, is my daily prayer (THE Daly Prayer, if you are a Christian Scientist).  It is like a rosary or a touchstone.   I climb inside it and let it absorb me.  I lean back and float in it like water.


So there – it is time to stop.  There is so much more to think about, more to explore…most if it will remain inside my graying head I guess.   But tomorrow is another day.


·         Thursday, 27 December 2007

Snowflakes dance in the windows overlooking the fishpond outside. 

These are flakes are made of printer paper and hung on threads.   Granddaughter and I made them several days ago.  She, Grandson, Son-in-law and my own baby girl are all safe and warm in their Phoenix home now.


The paper flakes are a sweet reminder of a wonderful holiday together.


Outside, the snow is almost gone.  I sip my coffee and wish I did not have to go to work.  


Suddenly, across the yard, I see a large bird and I forget about my schedule and my regrets.   I blink and look again.  I reach for the binoculars and find myself gazing at a bird of prey.  We have a hawk (or maybe a falcon) preening himself on the rocks above the waterfall.   In the morning sun he is almost golden.  He is a beautiful creature. 


I add this sighting to a mental list of the best holiday gifts ever - right below the paper snowflakes that remind me of my kids and grandkids and how wonderful the circle of life is.


·         Wednesday 26 December 2007

The Best Gift Under our Christmas Tree This Year

My grand daughter (age 10) got what she wanted for Christmas and so did I.   She is so much like me in many ways and in many other ways we differ.  It is our similarities that make me smile when I reflect on our time spent together.  


But I am ahead of the story.  What did she want for Christmas?   Well, let me tell you what she got, because you may not believe it is what she wanted.  She was doubly blessed because Santa tucked the requested items into her stocking among more traditional holiday gifts and several of her doting relatives also gifted her with her heart's desire.


Frankly, I was not surprised to see the look of pure happiness on her pale little face when she pulled out rolls and rolls and more rolls of tape.  


Yes, tape.


I am not kidding.


Last summer on a routine run to a big-box store for something, we walked past a display of tape.   Granddaughter pointed at the piles of tape and informed me that tape is what she wanted for Christmas.  And, maybe a package of flexible drinking straws too.


Now some people may have been caught off guard by what they may think of as an odd holiday request.   I simply filed that information away for future reference and smiled as I looked down at her.


I have fond memories of days spent at my aunt's house.  This particular aunt had reams of typing paper, wonderful staplers, enticing tape-dispensers, Elmer's brand glue (with the cute cow family), shining scissors, paper fasteners, and other office supplies.   And, I was allowed to use them in any way I wished.  No rules! 


At home such supplies were generally only available on a need to have basis and then I was usually supervised to keep me from being too extravagant.   Dad was a bookkeeper (and a military man).  He encouraged the idea of "supply discipline" at work and at home.   We re-used paper and used just enough tape, etc. 


But at my aunt's house, I could simply wallow in the pleasure of abundance.   I spent hours and hours happily cutting, taping pasting.  I made paper chains, cut out snowflakes, created newspapers and greeting cards, drew pieces of art and hosted art shows, played office or school (slashing red checkmarks and "Fs" at the top of my student's test papers.  


So, when Granddaughter (and she is grand!) requested rolls of tape, I felt a kinship with her creative lust.


So, on Christmas morning amid the sophisticated and carefully chosen expensive toys, the best-received gift of the day was tape.   (Oh, and the flexible straws, which my aunt also kept in large supply!)



There were rolls of plain old Scotch-brand invisible tape, double-sided tape, packing tape and every color of Duck-brand duct tape imaginable.   (Wonder what the clerk thought when Daddy purchased all that colorful duct tape…she was probably afraid to ask what he planned to do with it all!)


What was in MY stocking?  A can of red spray paint.  


But that is another story.


Following is another excerpt from a favorite blog:

"37days" - 1 new article

 Live ever in a new day. ??? Ralph Waldo Emerson

In 2008, I’m going to live each day as if I only had 37 days left.

Really. I’m going to wake up every morning and ask myself this question before I drink my lavender earl grey tea or brush my teeth or check my email or finally write that Tony award winning play: What would I be doing today if I only had thirty-seven days to live? Then I’m going to do that (as much as humanly possible) as a test, a challenge, a life’s requirement.

At some point in your life, you’ll only have thirty-seven days to live. Maybe that day is today. Maybe not. Each of us will come to that day, sooner or later. All of us. I wonder if I am prepared.

Such a day arrived on October 24, 2003, for a 6-foot, 4-inch tall man with a southern accent, a golfer's tan, and a forest green Lincoln Town Car. On that beautiful autumn day, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, dying just thirty-seven days later.

That man was my stepfather, Boyce. I helped him live (and die) in those brief days between diagnosis and death, a process that prompted me to ask, “What would I be doing today if I only had thirty-seven days to live?” That story is here, if you’re new to 37days.

If I had thirty-seven days left, would I spend my time cleaning the attic, purging computer files, or attending committee meetings? Would I have passed on my stories to my children and friends or would I spend those days regretting not having time to do so? Am I living fully now, or am I waiting until after the kids leave for college or until Billy Collins calls back or the Colts move back to Baltimore? It will be too late then.

Ten years before, one of my favorite college professors died when he was only forty-six. A brilliant physicist, Sheridan Simon was a man with considerable charm and humor; we had stayed in touch since my graduation over a decade earlier.

Sheridan's doctors told him he had a year to live. “Do whatever you want in that year,” they said. And so he did.

His friend and fellow professor, Jonathan Malino, eulogized Sheridan at his death:  “He continued to live the very life he had been leading before his illness. This was his life. His account of his days, his heart of wisdom, lay in the very passions and commitments which he embodied daily. Day by day, this determination not to run away from his life took more and more courage. The pain increased. The exhaustion mounted. And yet, just three nights before his death, Sheridan was still in the classroom, still reaching out to others, still using every bit of his energy to make the lives of others better.”

Sheridan knew the point of his life.

I got a last letter from Sheridan just eight days before he died; he closed it with these words: “Be in touch, OK? Love, Sheridan."

Sheridan taught me we must live daily the lives we most want, our heart of wisdom, rather than realizing on our deathbed we didn’t. Our lives should be the embodiment of our passions and commitments, knowing death can come at any time, as the lovely and talented Billy Collins reminds us in “Picnic, Lightning” It is possible to be struck by a meteor or a single-engine plane while reading in a chair at home.”

Journalist Marjorie Williams died of liver cancer three days after turning forty-seven. As an “act of mourning,” her husband compiled her final essays in a book entitled The Woman at the Washington Zoo:Having found myself faced with that old bull-session question (What would you do if you found out you had a year to live?), I learned that a woman with children has the privilege or duty of bypassing the existential. What you do, if you have little kids, is lead as normal a life as possible, only with more pancakes."

Like Sheridan Simon and Marjorie Williams, my answer to that bull-session question wasn’t about uprooting my family to take a world tour. It wasn’t about climbing Mt. Everest or learning Urdu once and for all or seeking enlightenment in a far away land. Instead, it was about living each individual, glorious day with more intention. It was simply about saying yes, being generous, speaking up, loving more, trusting myself, and slowing down. It was about more fully inhabiting the life I have, not creating a new one. It was about leading a normal life with a lot more (chocolate chip) pancakes.

One thing did become clear as I pondered my last thirty-seven days: I needed to leave some greater part of myself behind for my two young daughters. Without a doubt, I knew if today were Day One of my last thirty-seven days, I would write like hell, leave as much of myself behind for Emma and Tess as I could; let them know and see me as a real person, not just a mother; leave with them for safe-keeping my thoughts and memories, fears and dreams, the histories of what I am and who my people are. Leave behind my thoughts about living that "one wild and precious life" of which poet Mary Oliver speaks.

As Isaac Asimov said, “If my doctor told me I had only six months to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”

I would explore what living means and leave them with a notebook of challenges, an instruction manual to guide them as they live their lives without me. Not where to get their hair cut or how to steam artichokes or combat static cling or change a tire or book the cheapest airfare, but the deeper things???how to know what to care about, how to treat others around them (and themselves), what to question, how to love, what to stand up for, and why they should tell stories and listen to the stories of others. This blog is that guidebook.

Writing my stories for them, teaching my daughters to live fully???and learning how to live fully myself in the process that’s what I'd do with my thirty-seven days. As Annie Dillard said, “Write as if you are dying.”

I'm beginning here. Again.

Be in touch, OK?



Intentions: What does living with the end in mind look like on a daily basis? It looks a lot like not complaining, whining, and gossiping. It looks like spending time with people you absolutely adore and not spending time with people you don’t love. It looks like saying no to every possible task force and committee meeting. It looks like not reading People magazine or watching hours of television. It looks like squeezing in arm to arm with someone. It looks like giving away your treasures to others. It looks like walking in the rain instead of waiting for the sun to come back out. It looks like singing in the shower. It looks like dropping everything to play Bingo with a child. It looks a lot like telling people you love them, leaving no doubt. It looks like savoring the taste of a slice of Nittany apple or a strip of red pepper. It looks like holding hands more often. It looks like living out loud. It looks like watching every sunset and sunrise. It looks a lot like showing up more fully. It looks like telling yourself the truth about your life. How would doing that every day change our lives?

This poem, erroneously (and widely) attributed to the amazing writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez and later acknowledged as the work of ventriloquist Johnny Welch (a turn of events that makes me smile), sums up some of what it means to live as if you are dying:

The Puppet

If for a moment God would forget that I am a rag doll and give me a scrap of life, possibly I would not say everything that I think, but I would definitely think everything that I say.

I would value things not for how much they are worth but rather for what they mean.

I would sleep little, dream more. I know that for each minute that we close our eyes we lose sixty seconds of light.

I would walk when the others loiter; I would awaken when the others sleep.

I would listen when the others speak, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream.

If God would bestow on me a scrap of life, I would dress simply, I would throw myself flat under the sun, exposing not only my body but also my soul.

My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hatred on ice and wait for the sun to come out. With a dream of Van Gogh I would paint on the stars a poem by Benedetti, and a song by Serrat would be my serenade to the moon.

With my tears I would water the roses, to feel the pain of their thorns and the incarnated kiss of their petals...My God, if I only had a scrap of life...

I wouldn't let a single day go by without saying to people I love, that I love them.

I would convince each woman or man that they are my favourites and I would live in love with love.

I would prove to the men how mistaken they are in thinking that they no longer fall in love when they grow old--not knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love. To a child I would give wings, but I would let him learn how to fly by himself. To the old I would teach that death comes not with old age but with forgetting. I have learned so much from you men....

I have learned that everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain without realizing that true happiness lies in the way we climb the slope.

I have learned that when a newborn first squeezes his father's finger in his tiny fist, he has caught him forever.

I have learned that a man only has the right to look down on another man when it is to help him to stand up. I have learned so many things from you, but in the end most of it will be no use because when they put me inside that suitcase, unfortunately I will be dying.

translated by Matthew Taylor and Rosa Arelis Taylor

What would you do if you only had 37 days to live? Really, what would you do? Why not do it?

From last alphabet challenge: T is for Them, U is for Us


·         Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Enjoying a Moment of Peace

The house is nicely quiet now.  Not the usual Christmas morning experience.   But, I like it.


Soon Sonny, our canine house-guest, will roll and remind us of what puppies are really like – fur and exuberance.   Miss Zia is a bit more mature (her age is a mystery as is the story behind her missing hind leg…).


There was "no room at the inn" when Sonny’s owner called to make a last minute reservation at the doggie B&B.   So, Sonny will stay with us for a few days.


The grandkids are packed into the back of their parent's Mustang, wedged between holiday gifts and focused on electronic toys, whiling away the miles enroute to warmer climes.   They enjoyed the White Christmas, even the trek up and down magical Canyon Road on Christmas Eve.  


Funny how much space and energy kids demand.  Funny how quiet it is when they are gone.   But, soon the puppy will arrive and he will fill the void. 

The house was empty and quiet for a couple hours midday.  It was pleasant after the craziness of having kids and grandkids filling all the space. 


E-Mail Extracts from this AM

From a game of e-mail tag:


Two things you did last night:

1. Walked through the wonderland of luminarias and farolitas that line Canyon Road on Christmas Eve - sipped hot cider and sang holiday songs around the fire with crowds of happy Santa Feans...It was coooooold!


2.  Made a huge bowl of egg nog and sipped it by the fire with my favorite son-in-law and my delightful daughter...yes, we put a little rum in it.  Ho, ho, ho!


Two things you ate today (Christmas morning)

1. So far, I have only sipped coffee but (see #2)

2.  Mark is at the stove making breakfast burritos - they smell wonderful!


From a later e-mail:

I love the blog below (37 days).  This morning the topic has to do with being the magic in someone's life...Isn't it great when someone makes the magic for you?  Holiday magic often falls to the mothers (or wives or other women) in our lives.  When you are the one that routinely makes the magic in other people's lives, it is a joyful experience.  But there are times when it seems like it would be nice to have someone else orchestrate all the behind the scenes things that make the magic happen.  When someone steps in and makes things happen, it may be hard to not critique the operation, but if one has the good sense to sit back and just be grateful, this is REAL magic.


This holiday season, I am grateful for my spouse who knows when to step in and make the magic happen.  Saving the world is about small things...the day by day small things are what make a real difference in lives.  Being there, watching, taking action.


We've had a great holiday - hope yours is too!  As usual, life is good...


Well, read the blog below...Merry Christmas..



In Sunny Santa Fe

Enjoying the Holidays


"37days" - 1 new article  S is for show up like magic

 In 2008, I'm going to Show Up. Like magic.

There are a handful of blogs I go to first when I see they've been updated in my bloglines reader. One is Dave Pollard's "How to Save the World." This week, he pointed his readers to a blog entry by Jan Lemen called "Show Up Like Magic," a phrase that immediately resonated with me. Her beautiful words:

"There are moments when you absolutely need someone to show up like magic, not because you need something nice, but because you need your world view transformed. You need some hope to be born in you. You need to know in one moment that someone believes in you. You need a kindness midwife to hold the space so you can show up like magic for someone else the next time around..."

What a wonderful thought: we need to show up like magic. Even if with a light touch. Even if they never know. And maybe, just maybe, we need to also show up like magic for ourselves.

Intentions: There are so many times in life when we feel too weary to show up. In 2008, let's show up like magic for someone every day. That could mean showing up in a funny hat, a phone call, a small gift, a handmade card, playing Candyland with children instead of checking email, the lighting of a candle in someone's name and holding them in your thoughts, a sweet letter, a thoughtful note, a reaching out, taking them handmade soap or one of the most fabulous candles in the world. Show up like magic in your own life. What would that look like for you?

From the last alphabet challenge: S is for Short :: Significant

Blog Name: “37 Days”…Google it!  8-)


·         Monday, 24 December 2007


·         Sunday 23 December 2007

We’ve arranged for Santa to arrive a day early. 


The household sleeps.  Stockings are stuffed and the lights on the tree have been turned off.  Kids are sleeping.  Santa’s cookies (fudge) and his drink (vodka – Saint Nicholas is from Russia) have disappeared.  Only I am awake.  Only I am not cozied up under warm blankets, winging my way through dreams to dawn.


Santa is arriving a day early.  This allows children from Phoenix to enjoy their Santa Fe holiday with grandparents and to travel on Christmas Day as they make their way back to the rituals of their suburban life.


Outside, the setting is idyllic – full moon, white Christmas with snow blanketing the world.


Life is good.


There are moments when the thought arises: “I’m not worthy”…but almost right away, I replace that lie with enthusiastic gratitude for the Truth: that life is good; that life is a joy; that we should cherish this and be joyful.  My doubts are baseless,,,,


I am off o bed.  In the morning, I will open gifts.  I will be reminded of love and joy and laughter and the happiness of just being me…


Not so hard…but important.


·         Monday 23 December 2007

There are those times when everything is handed to us on a silver platter and we just have to deal with it.


Thank goodness this is not the routine everyday procedure.  There is pressure when life hands you “perfect”. 


Responding always looks so easy.


Who knew all the responsibility that comes with that gift?


Humble acceptance of life the way it is…accepting with good grace and seeing the beauty and joy in the way things unfold is (or can be like) a roller-coaster-ride that we just may not understand.  We laugh hysterically.  Things unfold.  We respond. 


If you outline ore have a little fear about how it may go…you may have to deal with humility challenges.


But, it is all good….that is, IF you DEAL with the humility challenges.


No, it is NOT about you.


My advice?  Just watch.  Participate.  Encourage.  And, if dancing is involved, dance.  Or sing.  Or, at least laugh and encourage others.


Life is not about things, not about stuff, and not about money.  It is about participating.  It is about watching others - helping them to share joy and gratitude. 


It is about finding authenticity and being real.


Life may not come out as you have planned, but roll with it, improvise.  Be in the moment.  Enjoy…and help others to enjoy.


  • Wednesday, 19 December 2007

There is a certain amount of ambiguity at the start of any new job.   There is a log period of researching, learning, watching, listening, formulating and other related behaviors that leave one drained, but somehow do not make one feel productive. 


In some lines of work, direct service positions, for example, one can take simple pleasure in providing a defined service.


I am not recruiting.  I am orchestrating recruiting.   And that is nit really true either.  It is more about establishing some standards and processes and materials…providing tools for those who do this work.  


There are days when I long for a routine, a measurable output, "a factory job" as I sometimes call it.   There is a need for something relatively mechanical and mindless.  These free up the mind and ideas coalesce.  I channel that energy into small projects like preparing mailings or inputting data for a contact database.


There are more days when I am grateful for the opportunity this autonomy provides.   I can channel my creative spirit and energies in innovative ways.  I can draw on my experiences and provide examples and insight to those who have had more narrow focus or more focused vistas.


As this year progresses, my role n the organization will become more defined. When I have proven myself in more tangible ways.


How does a painter feel when confronted with a canvas?  I imagine those first tentative brush strokes.  




·         Monday, 17 December 2007

I Would Love to Run a B&B…

I trust the Universe with my dreams. 


Recently it occurred to me that my spouse and I may be excellent candidates for running a B&B.  I spent the morning dog-walk pondering this idea, imagining life living in a tiny casita in the South of Capital area and caring for guests staying in the main house. 


I easily imagine making the main house comfortable and inviting.  I consider the delights of preparing the daily breakfast and maybe a picnic basket for our guests to relish later in the day.  I consider the day-to-day tasks – making the beds with fresh linens, dusting the furniture, sweeping the floors, cleaning commodes, arranging flowers, caring for the resident cat…


Caring for guests, making arrangements…making their visit pleasant.  I like the creative aspects (decorating, planning, marketing, etc) and the challenges that are associated with such a life…


How does Mark fit in this picture?  Very well.  His warmth and caring, his joy in preparing simple meals and his attention to details…


This vision seems right.  It feels right.   It suits me.  My heart beats faster when I think about this idea.


I have thought about running a B&B before, but in the past the idea did not engage me in the way I feel now.  Is the time right or perhaps it is this location that makes this dream seem a possibility?


I wonder how we can make this happen – or will all the logistics just unfold as the best things in life often do?


Like a rich stew, the idea will simmer away and we shall see what comes of it.  The savory scents tease me as I prepare for my day at the office.


·         Sunday, 16 December 2007

An E-Mail Excerpt from Me…

Brrrrrrr.... it is in the single digits and it is after 9AM...need to take the pup out for a real walk, but I am lingering over coffee and listening to NPR as I peruse the morning e-mail. 


My cousin Cleo (in Chicago) wrote about making holiday cookies with the kids and grandkids!  That is one of my favorite memories around Christmas - making iced cookies.  Mom used to make spritz cookies too, but I thoroughly enjoyed making those messy iced sugar cookies. 


We shared that tradition with many of our friends over the years and the recipes of choice morphed a bit.  Another cookie tradition at our house is the green wreath cookies with cinnamon imperials as holly berries.  (These are just rice crispy cookies made with corn flakes and green food coloring ... everyone who eats them gets a green tongue!)  We also usually make wonderfully rich 5-minute fudge (back of the Eagle-Brand condensed milk can) and coconut macaroons (white bread "fingers" dipped in Eagle-Band condensed milk, rolled in coconut and toasted till golden brown).  The other thing I like to make at Christmas is caramel popcorn balls.  I used to make peanut brittle, but have misplaced the recipe. 


Next week, our kids/grandkids will be here and we will do some bonding over baking...the kitchen in this house is bright and a pleasant to linger in.  The Christmas tree is there by the fire place and the dog is curled next to the fire...very nice...  There is a bench and a cozy afghan draped on it and I have piled a stack of kids Christmas books there...I look forward to snuggling and reading there next week too.


Here in Santa Fe, there is a tradition of lighting luminarias and farolitos and watching the posada - Mary and Joseph wander from inn to inn looking for a place to stay...afterwards there is hot chocolate and singing and maybe a piñata...very nice.  There are also Native American Christmas dances in many local pueblos...so many cultures here and so many great traditions...


Book Talk…

My cousin Maralyn (in Rhode Island) wrote me about her recent reading and so did my niece Jen (in Colorado)...such wonderful, rich reading.  In a recent "Oprah Magazine" there was an article about the book "Mrs. Mike" which I mentioned earlier...Mark dug my dog eared copy out of a box we had in storage.  (I have tried NOT to get out everything I own since we are just house sitting here!)  Anyway, there were hundreds of my old friend books...it felt better than Christmas to open that box which I packed up about three years ago..soooo many wonderful books all calling to me.  I will have an intimidating stack on my bedside table in the months ahead! 


Truck Troubles!

Ohhhh...did I mention that our left truck door fell off the lower hinges last night?  Yep!!!  Kind of exciting when the door swings open as you pull out onto the road...not to mention cold this time of year! 


Old Dakota Jack (my red pickup truck) has been a faithful friend for a dozen years...we replaced his clutch last month and then the Jeep (the Black Knight) unexpectedly needed 4 new tires so I guess DJ decided it was his turn again. 


Soooo on this frigid day, Mark gets to go out and rig the door so we an make it through the next few days of finding a junkyard replacement and finding a body shop we can trust and afford! 


Days like this I have flashbacks to our early years of marriage when such car adventures were the norm...this car-door incident is a good reminder of all we have to be grateful for! 


So, I am off to walk that dog...and Mark will soon venture out to work some temporary magic on Dakota Jack so we can enjoy the other events on our Sunday agenda...


Well, I REALLY do need to walk Miss Zia...she may turn into a "pup-cickle" since it is so frigid!  We will try to do our morning miles - the reward is the wonderful mountain views and the undisturbed snow-covered high desert...soo beautiful....




A Wonderful Article from the CS Monitor

from the December 14, 2007 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1214/p18s02-hfcs.html

Navigating slippery slopes

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

While traversing glaciers, alpine climbers carry an ice ax in their uphill hand while holding the rope in the other. The ax is a tool not just for climbing but also for stopping or "arresting" a climber should he or she begin to fall. The first time I climbed at altitude, we spent a day practicing ice ax arrests by sliding down a small glacier on our backs, head first, then feet first. When the guide called out, we were to flip into arrest position and hold on really tight.

This training is a prerequisite to climbing higher on the mountain where terrain is more difficult and crevasses abound.

I once read in a mountaineering book that after you've fallen 10 feet, you weigh twice as much as when you first fall, and after falling 20 feet, it's as if you weigh 1,000 pounds. So stopping oneself quickly is very important.

I've thought of this several times when I find myself falling – mentally, that is – with the feeling that God is not in control. With years of experience, I now recognize the wisdom of stopping the fall as quickly as possible.

This image helped me immensely over the holidays last year. Holidays are a wonderful time, but they can also be challenging. Gathering with family and friends is a joy, but the blending of traditions, opinions, and expectations can be demanding. Last year at this time I found myself on the slippery slope of self-pity. The pressure of caring for everyone seemed a bit much.

I'd been on this slope before, and many other slopes of "self" – self-will, self-love, self-righteousness. I've learned that they never lead to healing.

In this case, experience and discipline prevailed, and my train of thought was quickly arrested with this biblical promise: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem" (Isa. 66:13). In the midst of all the demands, I felt the comfort of divine Love, my Mother who cares for all my own and everyone else's needs.

I like to begin each day understanding in a fresh way God's control of my life and the lives of those around me. To do this, I read from the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. These books help me understand that there is more to our true being than meets the eye. God fashions His creation out of His own beautiful qualities of goodness, and His creation consists of spiritual substance. I use the laws of God's unfailing goodness to stop my thought when it's spiraling downward. This seems easy in the quiet of the morning before the sun comes up. But then as the day begins, news on TV and things in my life or family will argue otherwise.

A case in point over Christmas: a relative was coming to visit, whom I've never had a relaxed relationship with. While we've always been polite, for a number of all too familiar reasons, it's never been easy having her around.

Standing on another one of those slippery slopes – this time, self-justification – this sentence from Science and Health kept me looking toward God and His government. It says, "Divine Science, the Word of God, saith to the darkness upon the face of error, 'God is All-in-all,' and the light of ever-present Love illumines the universe" (p. 503). To me, "the face of error" meant whatever error I was facing. Mrs. Eddy described "error" in part as "that which seemeth to be and is not" (p. 472). I also read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. This tuned and toned my thought to see more of spiritual creation rather than to see mortals in conflict.

It turned out to be a delightful visit with genuine love expressed by both of us. Letting God's word, instead of error, speak to me freed us from tension and friction.

When we turn to God, Love does illumine our path. When we let His wisdom guide us, we stay off the slippery slopes. But even if you feel your thought slipping downward, His love is present to arrest your fall and set you on your way.

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·         Saturday, 15 December 2007

I Want Time to Enjoy Life…

I love just being at home with a day of putzing around ahead of me; a day with no events outside what pop into my head at any given moment.  I go from happy task to happy task, moving randomly from basic gratifying household chores to small creative projects and back again.  I may stop, sip a cup of tea and read a bit.


I relish such days.  Even the shadow of having to get in the car to run an errand or an evening activity on the schedule seems to take away from the quality of the experience.


Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) speaks of “sharpening the saw” as an essential element of living well.  Such days have that effect on me.  It is like I am re-charging my internal battery. 


In some ways, it is simply about living my life. 


We clutter our lives with too many activities, too many goals.  We leave no time for reflecting n life and all the blessings that are ours. 


So many people scramble around like hamsters in a wheel, going nowhere really fast.


What do I miss about Ukraine?  I miss the lazy days when I could hole-up in our cozy flat and just be me.  Of course that is not about Ukraine, it is about the circumstances.


Can I replicate it here?  Perhaps.


I wonder how my brother’s life would be if he were transplanted back to the USA after all his happy, years on his mountaintop in Malawi.  His peaceful routines there would likely disappear in a culture-clash.


It is not that I am a recluse, but I value my time and my autonomy.  I am happy, content, not complacent…I want to spend time reflecting on what I do each day and exploring the spiritual aspects of it.  I want to experience the simple joys of living – the joys that get trampled on in the day-to-day routines.


  • Thursday, 13 December 2007

I sit at my desk pondering how it is that the daily CS lesson can be so relevant and applicable to my daily life.  Almost every time I read through the lesson, I find words and phrases that seem directed directly at the situation at hand. 


Everything from thoughts conjured up by films, weather concerns, issues at work, personal dreams, and more take on a life of their own as I read through the lesson. 


Sometimes the message is profound or inspiring, and at other times, amusing!  I am so grateful to have Christian Science in my life. I am also grateful for family and friend who share this gift and live it.  (My thoughts wander off to memories of Aunt Gladys, who left this earthly realm recently…she was my practitioner and helped me through many rough patches.  She still helps me.) 


The extract below is from the CedarS Camp newsletter with its weekly Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson.  This week (10-16 Dec 2007) the subject is "God the Preserver of Man" .  The application ideas this week are prepared by Katherine Fitzer, C.S. of St. Louis, MO.   


To keep us from stumbling into ‘Taking Offense," Mrs. Eddy encourages us to live: "with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful...;" with a friction-free temper; with a settled sense of "equanimity" (level-headed composure; self-control; poise); with a charity broad and sweet enough to neutralize bitterness and "determined not to be offended."  Miscellaneous Writings 223:20)  Which of these aspects of peace can you model better this week?]


This thought has such healing potential for a world that seems rife with individuals who react, rather than act.  People who find reasons for seemingly righteous anger and even use those feelings to justify less than peaceful responses and choices.  What strength of character is reflected in gentleness, kindness, humility?  


We must practice what we have learned and lead calm, composed lives, trusting completely in the God of Love, Peace, and Power.


·         Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Snow Comes Tumbling Down

I emerge from the back door and step out into a Narnia-like world of white and green and that eerie quiet that comes with a heavy snowfall.  Zia, prances around like one of Santa’s reindeer and tugs at her leash, eager to be off walking the morning miles.


We break trail as we head up the snow-covered dirt road to the empty acres where we take our mo ring constitutional.  The mountains are obscured by the falling flakes.


When we return, I am snow-covered and my red truck is white once again, even though I brushed it off thoroughly before the morning walk.


Zia is staying close to the kitchen hearth.  I hear her settling down to clean her paws.  Soon she will be asleep by the fire and I will be getting dressed for a day at the office.  It’s a dog’s life takes on a new meaning.


·         Monday 10 December 2007

Snow, Beautifully Blankets the Yard.

Just two weeks and it will be Christmas Eve.


"Eat, Pray, Love"...read it?  I've heard the name, bit have not read any reviews.


I am winding down on "Saving Fish from Drowning" (Amy Tan).  Good read...


Next I am asking my sweet spouse to read aloud to me from “Mrs. Mike”.  I recommend this book (based on my memory of the tale.).  I enjoy having my spouse read me a bedtime tale....it has been a while, but on occasion we try this lovely ritual.  I highly recommend the book and the ritual.


Outside, under the night sky, my Santa Fe world is white.  A blanket of snow is so lovely.


Inside, my holiday tree looks festive.  A fire snaps in the fireplace.  Miss Zia-Maria is curled in a dog-ball in her cozy nest-of-a-bed near my desk.  All is tranquil here.

A Zia-sigh reaches my ears...dog contentment.


I am off to soap my face and splash it with hot water, brush my teeth and crawl into my own comfy nest.  In a few hours I will be up, watching the sun rise on the human end of the leash...life is so good...I feel so lucky.

Photos of the snowy fish pond and waterfall…and the snow-covered trees at the kitchen entrance to the cozy dome-home where I am recovering (by the fireplace) after a frigid dogwalk before heading off to the office!





·         Friday, 7 December 2007 – Pearl Harbor Day

My Routine Needs an Over-haul

I miss my morning routine.  I seldom get more than a few minutes with my laptop these mornings.  I may have to rise an hour earlier to fit in my-time. 


For many years, I managed to juggle kids, work and school and I wrote regular letters, the old fashioned way, to family and friends all those years.  WE also participated in community events and traveled.



·         Tuesday, 4 December 2007 – Chanukah Begins!

Last December, we celebrated Chanukah among the faithful in Kerch (Crimea).  We are not Jewish so celebrating Chanukah anywhere would be unusual. 


Bu, it was Christmas Eve and we were far from home, in a former Soviet country.  Christmas is still not celebrated widely in eastern and southern Ukraine.  Their non-secular, annual holiday revel is New Year’s Eve, a huge party involving masquerades, Yule trees, friends, family, food (always food, and more and more food) dancing, fireworks, and more. Shampansky and Ukrainian water flow generously. 


But, no real Christmas celebrations.


On this occasion, Chanukah and Christmas celebrations fell on the same day.  I am not sure how it happened, but I am glad it did.  Somehow on our Christmas Eve, and their holy first night of Chanukah, we found ourselves, a pair of lonely American Christians, among a crowd of joyful Ukrainian Jewish families.  We laughed and watched the spirited dancing and enthusiastic singing.  There was all kinds of holiday food.  We shared our stash of juicy, bright oranges and tangerines with the women and children.  We were embraced and happy to be included in their celebration.


This year, our first Christmas in Santa Fe, we will learn about the special Mexican and Spanish traditions and we will discover some sacred Native American holiday customs. 


But today, the first night of Chanukah, we will pause, light a candle, and remember last year and our holiday among the Jews of Kerch.






FYI: If you want to read about our

Peace Corps Ukraine adventures,

start with January 2005 - May 2007.


Now we are in AmeriCorps/VISTA adventures

Right here in Santa Fe, in the USA!

Life is good!