Encyclopedia of Me Monday: K is for…

An inordinate amount of time is spent in my kitchen, certainly not because of its charm or efficacy, or because I have such stellar skills to practice there. In fact, the kitchen here is cramped and slightly dark, designed poorly with a door to the backyard right in the middle which takes up much needed space. It’s barely big enough for two people to sit down and eat together, and preparing any kind of complex meal is a challenge with about 12 inches of bare counter space.

But it’s the place we seem to end up most often, whether to make coffee, grab a handful of cookies, let the dogs in or out (that ridiculous door), or just lean against the counter talking.

I harbor dreams about bright, spacious kitchens, with one of those cooking islands in the middle, copper pots hanging overhead. I imagine people gathered around, sipping wine, sneaking bites of whatever gourmet feast I’m preparing for them.

But whenever I’m tempted to blame my lack of culinary prowess on the size of my kitchen, I recall a television special a few years ago with Julia Child and Wolfgang Puck, cooking together in Julia’s home kitchen. These two world reknowned chefs prepared a five course meal in a kitchen no bigger than a breadbox – a galley kitchen with not more than a square foot of empty counterspace anywhere. They were literally bumping into each other at every turn, and by the time they were done, not an inch of space wasn’t occupied by a dirty bowl, pot, or dish.

Yet, they laughed, and talked, and sampled, and finally served a glorious meal.

So no excuses in my kitchen, which is grandiose by those standards.

Then again, I’m not Julia Child.

The kitchen is often called the “heart of the home,” and for all it’s shortcomings, I have to admit my little kitchen often serves that purpose.

Wedded Bliss

I’m a sucker for weddings, and always get teary eyed when the groom catches his first glimpse of the bride as she appears in all her glory at the foot of the aisle.

Yesterday was certainly no exception, since the groom in this case happened to be one of my son’s best high school buddies, a boy who spent a good deal of time lolling on my couch watching TV and eating pizza, his ever larger tennis shoes parked at my doorstep where he always (politely) kicked them off when he came in. Of course, seeing my son standing at the altar beside his friend, looking so handsome in his tuxedo, certainly added fuel to my emotional fires.

The longer I’m married, the more meaningful weddings are. Seeing a couple just starting out on their journey together, the world in front of them with its wide array of choices and opportunities, knowing the kinds of joys and sorrows they will face, I can only smile in wonder at their blissful innocence. Marriage is such a mixed bag~some days you’re so in love you can’t bear to be apart for a minute, others you’d like nothing better than to send your mate on the next one way shuttle to outer space.

But for the lucky ones (of which I’d count myself) days like the former far outweigh the latter. Sharing life with a partner, a companion, a best friend, only makes the good days far sweeter, and eases the pain when the inevitable bad days come around.

So, I offer this traditional blessing to Jon and Corey, and this reminder to Brian and Nantana, and this thank you to my own Jamey, for the ways he has fulfilled these words in my life…

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years.
May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

photo ~ Jon and Corey Foster; Nantana and Brian Rowan

Friday’s Feast

Name a great website you would recommend to others.

Very difficult assignment, since the prompt clearly states “a” (meaning singular) website. Hmmm. I may have to come back to this.

On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 as highest), how often do you dream at night?

Technically, we always dream every night, we simply don’t always remember the dreams. (I’m being a bit peevish with today’s entree’s, aren’t I?) However, I recall my dreams about most every day, or about an 8 on the scale. Last night, I was living in a huge, beautiful home, and continually yelling at people who kept coming in and messing it up.

Did you have a pet as a child? If so, what kind and what was its name?

Dogs – always. The first dog I remember was a cocker spaniel mix named Ginger. She was a patient and willing participant in my favorite game (playing school), in which she was forced to sit on the couch and listen to me expound the days lesson at my miniature blackboard. When I was 10 we got Honey, a cocker spaniel puppy, and then my heart was broken when my severe allergies forced us to give her up. Happily, she went to live with an elderly couple who treated her like royalty for the rest of her days.

Main Course
If you had the chance to star in a commercial, what would you choose to advertise?

Cars,~hopefully gorgeous, exotic, very fast ones. Zoom, zoom.

What is your favorite kind of hard candy?

I am an obssessive mint eater. I have a package of hard mints in every purse. Back in the days when I was “on the road” with my handbell group, I joked about living on Altoids – it wasn’t far from the truth.

to enjoy more feasts, go here

Writer’s Island-The Stranger

Once it had been Anna’s favorite time of day, this hour just after supper when the sun was settling in behind the stand of pine trees in the western fields, the length of the front porch cast in cool shadow. She would come outside after helping Mama wipe the dishes, pour pitchers of water over the huge ferns swinging gently from the rafters, and settle into the rocking chair, book in hand, ready to read until dusk overtook her page.

Yet ever since Clayton had been gone, Anna’s restful evenings on the porch had been spoiled. She felt anxious sitting there, the long dirt road leading from town staring her in the face, the road that might bring an ominous stranger bearing the worst of all possible news.

Eleven months, fourteen days since Clayton left with Harrisburg’s First Militia and sailed across the Atlantic to France. Anna smiled sadly, thinking of the dreams she had once harbored about France, her imagination filled with ideas of love and romance. And now, it could be the place where her beloved Clayton lost his life, fighting in this horrible World War that made no sense to her or anyone else in their small town.

Anna glanced nervously at the dusty road, squinting for a moment against the sun’s glare. Her imagination was now preoccupied with tales she’d heard of smartly clad soldiers in dress uniform, black armbands adorning their sleeves, soldiers that always came in pairs, politely knocking on your door, hat in hand, to deliver news that would shatter your life forever.

Turning quickly away, Anna grabbed up the heavy glass pitcher that served as a makeshift watering can and hurried down the steps toward the back yard pump.”There’s no use in thinking about such awful things,” she firmly lectured herself. “I just have to believe with all my heart and soul that Clayton will come home safely.”

And so it was that Anna remained busy refilling her pitcher, pouring fresh water into each ferns dusty bed, while the sun eased itself lower into the evening sky ~ so busy that she almost didn’t see the lonely figure trudging toward her, dressed in the unmistakable khaki colored puttee’s that looked so odd on boys barely out of knickers and more accustomed to overalls.

Catching sight of this stranger, Anna literally felt her heart sink, powerless to stop the pitcher as it slipped from her hand, shattering in a million shards of glass on the wooden floorboards. The seconds passed like hours, her gaze fixed on this solitary man coming ever nearer, until the first glimmer of recognition began to dawn.

This lonely figure, thin and long legged, one arm swinging familiarly at his side, the other – wait, the other caught up in a sling!-but there, definitely there, and yes, the shock of blond hair catching the last flicker of sunlight. This was no stranger, she realized. Impossible as it seemed, it was Clayton.

He stopped abruptly when he caught sight of her slender body come flying off the porch, and he continued to stand stock still while she raced over the yard and down the road to meet him, heedless of any rules of grace or propriety, her dark hair unloosened from its pins and streaming in the breeze behind her.

“My God in heaven!” Anna cried, throwing her arms around him, almost pulling back in surprise at the frailty of his body, aware that she could feel every rib as she pressed her own sturdy torso against him, and then pulling him even tighter into her chest, willing him to take strength and sustenance from her.

Clayton’s one good arm enfolded her and he buried his face in the fragrant smell of her clean, sun warmed hair. Anna felt a deep shudder pass through him, and she pulled back, raising her eyes to meet his.

And then her heart sank once again.

Staring off into the horizon beyond her were not the bright blue eyes of the boy she had loved and sent sailing off to war, determined to lead the victory charge for freedom. These eyes were empty and dim, filled with nothing at all like hope or pride.

They were the eyes of a stranger after all.

for more stories of strangers, go here

Cafe Writing- Timed Writing

Written for Option Three at Cafe Writing:

Take seven minutes (you have to use all seven, you can’t go over), and write about class. Any format (fiction, essay, verse) is acceptable.

Perhaps it’s the perpetual student in me, but my first interpretation of the word had to do with a “class” in which you learn something. So, that’s what I wrote about.

If Carol hadn’t been so close behind her, Sarah would have turned around and gone right back out the door. The minute she opened it, she felt faint, overcome by the moist heat, the powerful aroma of garlic and olive oil, the festive clinking of glasses, the eager chatter of women’s voices.

A cooking class. Why had she ever thought this would be a good idea?

Sarah pulled her jacket protectively around her neck, tucking her head inward, turtle-like, even as she felt Carol insistently pulling her forward into the room. She hadn’t cooked anything substantial for months – why bother to cook without Scott there to eat? Scott was the one who appreciated cooking.

“Mother, this meal is a work of art!” he would exclaim, holding his plate up to the light, as if making an offering to the gods, while she smiled shyly, inwardly pleased that she could offer this one thing to the wondrous man who was her son.

How she had loved to watch him arrange the food on his plate just so, settle into his chair, gracefully placing the napkin (always linen) across his bony knees, as if he were laying an altar cloth. He would insert his fork gently for the first bite, and raise it slowly to his lips, savoring the ritual perhaps more than the taste.

Sarah’s eyes closed, inadvertently taking her back in time to her own elegant kitchen, where she had lovingly prepared hundreds of meals for her son. How could it be that he would never eat from her table again?

Grief rushed over her, its power by now familiar to her, literally rocking her body and threatening to send her tumbling to the floor in a dead faint. Why was she here in a room filled with people who were happy, whose lives were normal and secure, when her world had been shattered forever in that one momen when her son had chosen to fling his own life away?

“Come, Sarah,” Carol urged. “Let’s grab a good place to sit before class gets started.”

Encyclopedia of Me Monday: J is for…


Through hoops.

“How high can I jump” season has begun, with concerts, work ramping up, and, NaNoWriMo beginning in just 10 days. Pressure begins to build, and I went to bed last night with the heavy weight of obligation bearing down on me.

Women’s live are filled with this kind of jumping, aren’t they? We are multi-taskers extraordinaire, flitting from one responsibility to the next, caring for children, parents, homes, careers, paying bills, maintaining social obligations, scheduling doctor appointments…the list goes on and on.

Close your eyes and imagine this mental picture: women throughout the world, jumping through all the hoops necesssary to function in modern life.

You would think none of us would have a minute’s worry about weight, with all that jumping going on.

How about you? How high are you jumping?

I’m Dreaming of A Home Office…

My house has turned into one big office this week. My son is visiting, and he works from home all the time, while Jim and I both work at home at least 50% of the time, so my little house is bursting with business.

This has set me dreaming about setting up a real home office, as opposed to the dining room table, kitchen table, and small desk shoved in the corner of the guest room. So, in between writing my medical reports, I cyber trekked over to Furniture From Home office department. Within two seconds I had picked out the perfect credenza desk for Jim, one I would love to prop my feet up on as well.

Of course I couldn’t resist shopping for some living room and bedroom furniture on this site, which offers a world of lovely pieces organized in nicely appointed virtual rooms.

Now, if I could only get a raise…

A Day of Rest

Once upon a time, Sundays were simple. Perhaps you rose early and went to church, spending a quiet hour in worship and reflection, or perhaps you slept late, waking to savor the newspaper and ponder crossword puzzle clues. In the afternoon, you might take a nap or prepare a special dinner, visit with family or take a drive in the country. There were very few stores open, so shopping was not an option. Nearly all places of business were closed, employees expected to spend the day resting and enjoying time with their families.

Does that sound too idyllic to be true? It really wasn’t – that was how I spent Sundays as a child.

Not anymore. Too often, my Sunday’s are a marathon of activity, leaving me to face another work week exhausted, irritable, and unsatisfied.

Today, for instance. It’s a concert day for Jim and his men’s chorus, a bigger than usual concert involving three other choirs. His call time was 1:00, so after church (from which we snuck out early since the service ran over the allotted 60 minutes we Presbyterians can tolerate) we dashed home and I whipped up an omelet and some strong coffee while he changed into his concert attire. While he ate, I packed dinner for him, since their dinner break between rehearsal and performance is expected to be minimal.

When he was safely out the door, I drove to my mother’s where Brian and Nantana were joining her for brunch. I downed another cup of coffee, and then the four of us (plus dogs) drove over to visit my aunt and uncle. Not an uplifting visit (as their health continues to decline and it’s difficult to watch) but certainly one that was required. After an hour with them (which feels much longer) I dropped the dogs at home and made a quick run to the grocery.

It’s now nearly 4:30. Since I promised Jim I would attend his concert tonight, I have about 90 minutes to prepare some dinner, change clothes, and drive 30 miles to Eastern Michigan University in time for a 7:00 program.


I’ve just been sitting on my back porch, stealing a moment to admire a brilliant blue sky, and trees absolutely ablaze with scarlet and gold, feeling a warm sun on my face and a brisk wind in my hair. Breathing deeply, slowing myself down just a bit, allowing my heart to return to that restful state Sunday’s should be about. In all honesty, I would love nothing more than to pour a glass of wine, prop my feet up on the table and take a nap in the sun.

I would especially love to do that without feeling guilty about it.

We need one day a week, I think, to throttle back, rein in, take foot firmly off the gas pedal. A day when we’re not only allowed to slow down life’s pace, but expected and encouraged to.

A day of rest.

What a novel idea.

Book Blocked

There’s something a bit off in one of my most treasured relationships. I can’t describe it, but lately we haven’t been connecting at all. We sit down together as we always have, but somehow don’t engage. My mind wanders, and before long I’m thinking about my “to do” list, or the grocery shopping, or worrying over a tough passage in a Mozart Sonata. Several times, I’ve been forced to simply walk away.

Books and I aren’t getting along well.

Don’t laugh- reading is a relationship with me. I count on the fictional world to help me escape from the dreary real world and entertain me with the antics of interesting characters. I expect poetry to elevate my senses, soothe my spirit, ignite my intellect. I come to non-fiction to inspire my muse and feed my creativity. Lately, none of this has been happening with any of my books. My book journal for the month of October is completely bare ~I’ve finished nothing.

However, here’s what I’ve started and put aside in the last two weeks~The Lay of the Land, Still Summer, Keeping the World Away, Body Surfing, and The Jane Austen Book Club. These may be perfectly fine books, but every time I sat down to read I kept losing my place in the middle of a page, or going back to re-read the last three paragraphs because my mind hadn’t registered a thing. Finally, disappointed in the book (and in myself) I placed each one back in the “to be returned” pile of my library stack.

I don’t take my relationships lightly, and the one I have with books is no exception. Giving up on one is hard. There was a point in my reading life when I refused to do it, and would struggle through most anything until the end. Now, though, there really are simply too many books and too little time. If a book and I aren’t enjoying one another after about 50 pages, we part company.

But it doesn’t happen often, certainly not with five books in a row as it has this month.

I suppose reading relationships go throught difficult periods like human relationships. Sometimes we simply fail to give each other what is needed. For whatever reason, we don’t find the sustenance, the comfort, the insight that’s required. But during those strained times, there is definitely something missing from life, and I feel bereft and lonely.

Today, I’m off to the library to bring home a new collection of possibilites.

Wish me luck.

How about you? How are things in your reading life?

Friday Feast

If you were a dog, what breed would you be, and why?

Probably a border collie, because I always seem to be running around trying to keep all my sheep in line!

What does the color purple make you think of?

Royalty. The majestic purple of velvet robes worn by queens and monarchs. Also eggplant, which I love to eat deep fried or baked in marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Approximately how long does it take you to get ready each morning?

About 45 minutes. It takes longest to blow dry my hair and try and tame those natural waves into the smooth page boy I prefer.

Main Course
How many cousins do you have, and are you close to them?

I have more cousins than I can count, oddly enough. Most of them are of the second, third, and otherwise “removed” variety and are scattered all over the country. I do have three or four first cousins that I grew up with here in Detroit, and we were close as children. But as it the way of the world, now that we’re grown up we never see each other.

Take your initials (first, middle, last) and come up with something else those letters could stand for. (Example: SFO = Sweet Funny Otter)


here are more feasts