Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lucubrating Planned for the New Year

Okay, I am ready now.            

I am ready to say goodbye to 2011 and to greet the new year. Frankly, it looks a lot like the old one. But there is always hope that I can actually make the changes I want to see happen in my life, to find energy and passion and smarts and financial gain with a thin profile to boot. Then again, I might flounder like some trout thrown up on a grassy bank under a hot sun! Who knows?

My first thrill of the year is this great new word, lucubrate. It means to work and write laboriously, esp. at night. I think that is a number one plan for me. I want to see words race across the page, see characters sit up and challenge me to make them sparkle, to feel the relief of finishing a well-told and crafted story. I have given up on it being a paying gig; I just want the satisfaction of a job well done.

Vocabulary has always been fun for me, like a game. I was always thrilled and tested to do the Reader Digest vocabulary quiz. I read new words better than I could use them. I never said them quite right, always hearing them in my head a certain way that wasn’t always correct. Friends and co-workers have teased me when I used new words. One son when he was a child accused me of trying to speak in a foreign language just because I used words he didn’t know. I love words.

Today the wind blows rather fiercely, but the temps are in the mid 60’s and that is on the threshold of January! It isn’t often you can stand on the borders of December and January to photograph any flowers on the deck, but today I could not help snapping the winter pansies. They are just as vibrant as a spring flower. The sky was also a message from Heaven I think. It was perfectly cloudless and blazing in a shade of blue topaz. Even the moon didn’t want to miss this day!

Happy with today’s serendipity, I made sandwiches and grabbed granola bars. We went to the city lake, despite the brisk wind,  to soak up sun with a quick picnic. There the ducks and geese floated on water warmed by sun rays and let the wind bluster them into a flotilla of fowl. Man and bird alike could not ignore the good luck of the fair day!

So, starting off 2012 right, I intend to lucubrate tonight with books and paper and pen and keyboard. I want some poetry, some fiction, some blogging, some letters, some journaling, some…..

How about you, do you like new words?

Saturday Centus/Meeting of the Minds

It is New Year's Eve. I for one am ready to wrap the year in a tea towel, box it up, and store it in the garage. There have been worse, there have been better, but a new year is in the wings. Time to move on no matter what. No big resolutions for me; I just want to be more accepting of who I am and where I am at in the moment! 

Happy New Year with Peace and Happiness to all my friends and readers!

It is the last Saturday of 2011 and Jenny still finding time for a Centus! Today Resolution Schmezolution is the prompt. Below is my used of the two words and a scene of 100 words using them. For more Centus and the rules, check out Jenny's blog at:

                                      Meeting of the Minds

“I can’t believe you have not started a list of changes for 2012 yet,” he said.

“I’m not doing it this year."

“Why not?" he pressed.

“Because nothing changes anyway. I’m just going to float my boat in the same murky waters of the last few years. Lucky for you, I’m still here helping paddle yours!”

“How about shrinking the muffin top?” he pushed.” Or cleaning the hall closet? Learning to cast a straighter fly line? Keeping supplies of toilet paper ready?”

Resolution, Schmezolution!” I exploded. “Why make NewYear’s resolutions when I am already PERFECT!”

Silence can be deafening.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Winter Solstice!

Today is the Winter Solstice. Some might find it too pagan to discuss. But truly we all came from the same source, and it is very interesting what things we practice now that came down to us from folks we now consider undesirable. We drag in Christmas trees and light them up when pagans took in greenery to remind themselves that spring will come again after the dark winter. In the spring we decorate with eggs that were the pagan symbol for fertility.

The fact is the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of winter and is worth acknowledging. Ponder Stonehenge in England, Ballynahattin in Ireland, the cliff dwelling rooms of the Southwest where the Anasazi seemed to have lined up doorways for the seasons of light. This day is the shortest of our year, making it the longest night too. How people have longed for the return of light to their days during the dark winter months! The fact that we celebrate Christmas about the same time, a coming of a different kind of Light, was no accident. Think how brightly that star must have shown in the dark winter sky!

So as you continue to cook and clean, and get merry for Christmas, take time to notice the Winter Solstice. Think of ALL the people before us that have stopped, looked at the night sky with wonder, and waited for the bright days of spring to return.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas, a Stone's Throw Away

While most holiday planning was finished, I was ready yesterday to start the week simply enjoying the coming festivities. The morning was to start with a breakfast and then I had company coming for an evening meal. The traditional Christmas dinner had been reduced in size to a Christmas soup supper and fewer people. Most of us were making the effort to see one younger gal who lives alone, who we wanted to visit with for the evening as our Christmas.

I had a small agenda for before the breakfast and was nearly dressed when I knew DH was in trouble shortly after dawn. He had danced around with kidney stones on one side for the last week, but this morning he was in great pain on the opposite side! No doubt about it, a trip to the hospital was in order. He said he could drive himself; what a joke! I called and gave my regrets at the breakfast, headed us for Urgent Care who sent us on the hospital. Not familiar with the temporary St. John’s, I drove to Freemans. DH was giving instructions on how to drive, where to turn (wrong!) and was delusional with pain. It began to rain complicating vision and nerves. I could have left him on a curbside without too much prompting!

A few hours and a couple of vials of morphine later (how I wished I had a share of that narcotic myself!), we eased out of the ER door into a pouring rain. My toes were like ice (why do they keep hospitals so cold?) and I was hungry. Meanwhile, DH’s pain had been replaced with morphine nausea and disorientation. Then we faced the pharmacy for a fistful of scripts. That stop was a story that I will spare you.

I was home in time to start the soup and to get the call from the young friend who needed the party the most. She was so sick she could not make it. She had missed work that day and was waiting on a doctor’s office to return her call for meds. (She thought she might die before the staff remembered her.) The others came and we had a simple supper of potato cheese soup, fruit cups with lemon yogurt sauce, crackers with a new Irish cheddar cheese (wonderful!), and cheesecake with strawberry sauce. After the meal, pots of Tulsi tea with orange and ginger and a pot of blueberry tea were a relaxing touch. The presentation was pretty though the meal was simple. The camera was loaded but my mind wasn’t functioning. We ate before a picture could be snapped!

One gal had to leave early for the Layman’s Service in town, and the party was over shortly afterwards. I was grateful the evening was fleeting as I was exhausted. Still I was grateful to have some of my friends gathered if only for a short while. Everyone was spent from the bustle of shopping, wrapping, and baking. We have promised ourselves a reprise of the evening in January when things are calmer!

DH is fine today; I could use one of those “dark winter’s naps” myself!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Thinking

When I was a child in a small town red brick school house, every Christmas meant that the town folks gathered in the school gym to hear a Christmas program put on by the vocal music department, grades 1-12. The vocal music director was a harsh woman with a permanent frown, never pleased with our performance no matter what we did. We did “heaven and nature sing” until it had just the right sound to her ears; we could tell no difference one time to the next. The evening included violin duets with her husband, both instruments squeaking and squealing like a little shoat removed from its mother. My dad hated those nights, hated the Christmas music, hated the overly warm gym, and hated leaving his easy chair on a week night. For weeks we faced cranky Mrs. S in music and then that one night  before the holidays we stepped easily around a disgruntled dad.

The year I was in second grade, a senior named Sonja Swift stole the show with her voice. When it came time for her solo, the lights dimmed, a star shined brilliantly over a cardboard Bethlehem, and the crystal clear notes of O Holy Night filled the gym while tears filled my eyes. Already I knew the joy of a “weary earth rejoicing” and was filled with the true meaning of Christmas.

Tonight when I heard the song at a Christmas program in the MSSU auditorium, again the tears flowed like a lawn sprinkler on an arid summer’s day. The years fell away, and I heard Sonja Swift sing once more. I was attending a Christmas concert where five church choirs of Joplin joined together to present a community program free of charge. One of the ministers said the churches had dug out bodies, cleaned up ruble, and rebuilt homes together these last few months; it seemed fitting they sing of the Christmas story together…and they did it beautifully.

The program was many traditional Christmas carols, some solos, a retelling of the Christmas story in song. There were 140 voices and a 30 piece orchestra. Oh, and there were two beautiful violins, with bows warbling out sweet notes over the strings. The audience was filled with many families bringing small children to hear the music.

In a welcome and a prayer to start the concert, one of the local ministers said he hoped the music would help us with our Christmas Thinking. That is in today’s world we have shopping, cooking and partying until on Christmas Day we are exhausted and no longer have sight of the true meaning of Christmas. He urged us all to start our Christmas Thinking early, that is taking a few minutes to ponder why are we celebrating in the first place? What is the meaning of this season anyway? How do it?

Tonight for a little over an hour, I stopped my rushing and worked on my Christmas Thinking. The coming week will spool by faster than a runaway bobbin with each day filled and having no quiet moments. The moments for Christmas Thinking will be few and far between, but I will try to find some here and there. Tonight was a good start on my Christmas Thinking; how about you? Got your Christmas Thinking done for this year?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Centus/Foodie Lament

The days are slipping by and this is the last weekend before Christmas. The day dawns bright and crisp. Most things are finished since we don't do much buying and wrapping anymore. My friends and I agreed a couple of years ago that we have all we need and no place left to put the more things we might want. Many gof us give of to a charity instead. It doesn't mean we don't still think of one another or that we have ceased gathering for a cup of tea or a moment of just being together in an extra special way during a busy time. I use these last days to walk among the things I have received in the past and think fondly of those who have given me pretty things on other years. Or I make an unexpected phone call for visiting or write a memory-laden note while a candle flickers nearby.                                    
In the bustle of things, I forgot today is Saturday and Centus Day! But when I saw Jenny's prompt today, I groaned. I want to play, but she keeps tossing me these mind-twisting prompts! I groaned with only 50 words and what I saw as a horrid picture today. But with my waistband pinching, I found what I hope is a humorous response, one other folks will relate to as well. If you want to see more responses and the rules, visit Jenny at

Foodie Lament
Little Christmas tree of mine

                                    Made with treasures of the vine,

                                    Candies, salami chunks galore,

                                     I can’t eat much more.

                                     I want a smaller self

                                     To show that Jolly Old Elf,

                                      But your abundant riches

                                     Make zippers tug on my britches!

                                     So I’ll look away

                                    And eat after Christmas Day!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Few Bargains

It was holiday luck I guess, but I had a festive day full of good things happening a couple of days ago. A friend had told me of seeing a Blue Willow pot of some kind at our flea market. I thought from his description it would be a coffee pot, but I checked it out anyway. Yes, high on the shelf was a Churchill coffee pot in Blue Willow pattern which was nice but not for me. Then I saw a whole shelf of Blue Willow that had not been there when he was there.

The dandiest tea pot with a terrific price! Oh, I loved the shape and it was old because the color was the rich cobalt shades. The tag said Churchill for $20 which was a good price. I took it up to the register and continued to look around a bit. I found this darling maple table for $3. I figured enough for the day and took a trip by the original booth. A man was there putting new things on the shelves,  and I told him I had just bought his Blue Willow tea pot and was so happy to get it!

He had actually mis-marked the pot in that it was not Churchill of England. The mark had a crown and vaguely said House of Blue Willow 1899, Japan.

When I got back up to the register, the man had told the girl to mark it down another  $5. What a deal! I never asked for a discount and he already had it sold. I guess he was feeling a little like Santa and I sure was pleased myself.

Then when they rang up the table, the booth was having a sale. I got the table for a mere $1.50! How nice was that!

Then I came home to a mailbox with two copies Voices, Volume IV where I have a story called Sledge Hammer Summer. What fun on any day, but that day the joys seemed so abundant. I could see some tea and reading for the cold afternoon.

At our house we have a rule: One thing in, two things out. I am not sure yet what goes out to make room for these new bargains. Some clothes that are a might tight (aren't they all?) or maybe a shelf of books (what will be sacrificed)? Oh mercy, decisions. But I will do it--after the holidays.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Book Blurb/Life's Stairwell

It is Book Blurb Friday again over at Lisa's. This week she offers a very intriguing picture, a sure fire story starter. Using the picture below and 150 words, writers can write a book jacket blurb for a potential new book. For more blurbs and complete rules to write, go to

                                           Life's Stairwell
When she was young, each step of Mona’s life was wide open with possibilities. She had a wide avenue of options and opportunity, but she was a bit cowardly about trying new things, of taking a chance. Now at 50, she saw life’s stairwell narrowing, growing steeper and darker. If she was to leave her mark on the world, it had to be soon. Fearful of the next step, Mona girded up her courage making herself ready to pounce forward. Would it land her in a dark dead end or project her into a world of light and freedom? She didn’t know, but she placed each foot carefully before her, ready to face the rest of her life.

The Coziness of Quilts

My friend is St. Louis is a quilter. She does lovely creative endeavors with fabric, needle and thread. She has a closet full of wonderful quilts ready for grandchildren when they are old enough. Right now she is working on a piece for me.

While cleaning out the family farm, we found a small pieced quilt top in browns. It is less than a twin bed size, maybe slightly more than a lap robe. I love quilts but do not have the patience to sew them. I grew up under a ton of quilts. I remember being so small that when I would wake from a childhood nap and before I got up, tracing the shapes of the piece work. I especially remember a quilt with faceless little girls wearing sun bonnets. I also recall recognizing certain fabrics that I had worn once in handmade dresses or seen in garments my grandmother wore. I felt wrapped in love under those quilts.

Years ago, I acquired a flower garden quilt top pieced by my great-grandmother in Oklahoma. A local woman quilted the work for me, and while it was expensive, I thought the results worth it. The lady said she had always wanted to quilt a flower garden, but she would never do it again due to the work involved. The quilt was not perfect. My great-grandmother left one place irregular because she believed bad spirits would be trapped in a perfect work. So an irregular place was left to let the bad spirits go free.

I read how quilt patterns were used in the Underground Railroad to direct escaping slaves to freedom. Quilts would be hung on porch rails or fences with certain patterns like flying geese pointing in a certain direction for the slaves to traqvel. Other patterns warned of unsafe situations so slaves could tell from a distance whether to hide or advance. What a wonderful piece of folklore.

Many people hang quilts or fold them on shelves while never considering actually using them. What a waste, although using them will eventually wear them out I suppose. But somehow the warmth of those covers, being cradled in hand sewn stitches, is somehow just more soothing than dreaming under microfibers!

Do you sleep under quilts or blankets?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gathering Is The Gift

Ever notice how many storage units there are sitting around across the America landscape? What does that say about our excess? When you have so much “stuff” that one house, one garage, and one yard unit won’t hold it all, do you think maybe you have too much?

Over the past couple of years most of us have given up exchanging gifts for birthdays and Christmas. There used to be a time when we “wanted” or even “needed” for Christmas. Now most of us have all we need and then some. Sadly when we needed a huge crock pot, three kinds of ovens, and a 12 place setting of sturdy plates to feed a family, we couldn't afford it. By the time we can get what we need and want, we are home figuring out how to make spaghetti sauce that won’t last for a week after the first serving!

No, we are warm, fed, clothed and have an abundance of pretty things sitting around. To buy more creates a space problem and is just greedy, so now we give to charities and/or make time for each other. The Joplin tornado is still fresh in our minds. Driving through the corner of 15th Street and Main means facing an abrupt halt to the city we once knew. We drive into a curtain of light—bare land where homes and families once were. Even though the debris is gone in many cases, the bareness itself is a real reminder of life altered, piles of possessions blown away.

We are reminded that all that is really ours to own and keep in this life is breath and memories. So instead of gifts, now we make memories. We take the time to share a meal, a pot of tea, a chat around a Christmas tree. Never have I had a calendar so full of serene meals and time shared. Never have I enjoyed such rich gifts!

Friends around Julie's table.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Storm Country Book Launch

This afternoon I attended the local book launch for the Storm Country Anthology.  We were able to present the Joplin School Librarians with a check for the first $3000 today! There is more coming as the books are selling well. The entire proceeds will be donated to the Joplin School Libraries to replace books and furniture blown away by the May tornado. There are many good things being done by good people in the Joplin area. This anthology is just one example of the giving. The entire works of stories, poems, editing, book cover, publishing, web site support, and the work to draw it all together were donated. Thanks to everyone who helped and to each person who buys a book!

                                    Two Librarians from Joplin Elementary Schools

Geoffrey who was missing in the tornado and his friend Lynn who wrote about her joy at finding him again!

Rose reads from her poems in the Storm         Country Anthology.
                                  Deborah Marshall, President of Missouri Writers' Guild

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday Centus, Sixteen

It has been a long while since I have been able to attempt Centus, but this Saturday morning, I get up early and without a huge agenda. Jenny helped out by giving us a short assignment for writing: only 16 words. Those words should be about ourselves when we were 16. The first thing that comes to mind is how innocent and fresh I was so long ago! I think I will go with my first impression today, and if you want more shorties to read go to Jenny's blog at

Sixteen: fresh, undaunted, smooth and unwrinkled as new foil, ready to wrap myself around life.                                                         

Friday, December 2, 2011

Let December Begin!

Yesterday was December first and the month started off with a bang. It was a 17 hour day for me and most of it was good things. First of all, a lab report came back as non-cancerous for me! Yeah, that was a blessing for sure. Since the day before I had gotten the news of a cracked tooth needing a $1000 repair, I had enough on my mind. The rest of the day was a list of errands and social visits with people celebrating the holiday season.

My book club always chooses a lighter book for December because everyone is busy. Then we opt to meet for a nice lunch somewhere to hold our discussions. We had agreed years ago not to deal with food, drink and possessing for our book club. The emphasis is on the book discussion, and the group has worked well with this plan. But it is fun a couple of times a year to break out for something different, and a Christmas luncheon is one built into the yearly schedule.

This year’s book choice was so poor I am not even going to give its name. It was chic lit, but that is no excuse for empty writing. I rated it zero which I have never given a book before. In fact, I never finished it! I think the highest rating given was a 6, generous believe me! But with the superb books of autumn (Empire of the Summer Moon, Unbroken, and Sarah’s Key) to be followed by Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms in the new year, I guess one bummer can be tolerated.

A long visit with a worried friend in the afternoon and then a fund-raising auction in the evening brought me home late. I found in the mail a super sweet thought from my sister. She sent me an angel with changing colored lights for my desk. She works by being plugged in a USB port for a way to have a Christmas angel on the desk. What a fun and appropriate way to end the first day of December!