Tuesday, October 31, 2006

nice mommies

I am partaking in an extremely excellent cuppa coffee: "Cherries Jubilee", compliments of my mom. She sent a half-pound package over, along with a generous pan of moussaka (family nickname for this thing: "M") this weekend. That was after she surprised me by showing up at my Friday night gig at Hosmer Hall. I argued that it was a long drive for her, but as she put it,
"I want to do what I want to do." Huh.
To gild the lily, she brought along my sixteen-year-old nephew, Djibo. We haven't seen Djibo since Hector was a pup (I don't know the origin of that figure of speech, but you can figure out the intent from the context.) so we snagged him for the entire weekend. We rigged him up with borrowed pyjamas, a sleeping bag, and a new toothbrush. Then we dragged him all over town and subjected him to a large gathering of youth from church, an energetic Sunday morning meeting, and a socially frantic afternoon full of company and House History presentations. In the Hull family tradition, we fed him well. (Okay, with the possible exception of that "duck-stomache" that the Chinese guests left us... see my flickr.) Then because our Watertown contingent (and his ride home) was scared off by an impending snowstorm on Sunday afternoon, #1 Daughter and I delivered him to Watertown High on Monday morning. (Yeah, he was quite late. But it is a 65 mile drive!)

What a weekend. After hosting around 50 friends and family on Sunday, we were exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. After the snacks were put away, the candles snuffed, and furniture moved back, Hubby shuttled some teens home. #1 Daughter made it all worth the work when she exclaimed,
"That was AWESOME. I wish we could do it again!"
Words that surely warmed my soul. I'm posting that quote in order to dredge it up next semester, when we share what we've learned about the Middle East. Sometimes we all need a little push or even a loving shove to accomplish worthwhile stuff.

It's one of the things that nice mommies do.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

tending to myself

"Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation

Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation."

Isaiah 12:2-3

This morning is reserved for drawing from the well.
Myriads of activity and the demands of life tend to pry me away from abiding. One can only feast on yesterday's bread for so long, and then bingo: the crusts are stale, the squeaky wheel needs the oil which only comes from heaven, and the tank is dry. (I'm sure I pulled into God's driveway on mere fumes this morning.) Running on empty is a precarious venture and one I don't recommend, based on personal experience.
At last I was able to review Sunday's message on "Abiding in the Vine", and it was well worth revisiting! As I type, my eyes drift to our soggy grape vines in the side yard. As a novice in growing grapes, I experimented with pruning last season. Two-thirds of our vines were given significant hair-cuts. One-third was left to run wild. Guess which section bore fruit this fall? (See my flick for rows of golden grape jelly....) This visual illustration, more vivid than the Sunday School flannel-graphs from my childhood, is the view from my kitchen window. The Gospel of John, chapter 15, is a lovely meditation, and one that turns dirty dishes into gold. I invite you to try this experiment (at my house) anytime.
There are many more things to say about wells and vines. But someone else can say them (or write them) today. I've got a bucket and I've got pruning shears. Hauling and snipping are my lot this morning, and I will whistle while I work.

Monday, October 23, 2006

car talk

overheard from the driver's seat on the trip home from Potsdam:

daughter: is $30 an hour good pay?

son: not if you are a plumber. plumbers in New York City get $60 an hour.

daughter: how much do plumbers get an hour here?

son: twenty, if they're lucky.

daughter: why so much more in NYC?

son: because of all the building codes. AND all the grumpy people.

daughter: aren't there the same amount of grumpy people here?

son: no way. see, say there are 100 people here, and 10 of them are grumpy. That's not so bad. But in NYC, they have a million people. that's 100,000 grumpy people. that's ALOT of grumpy people. and that's why plumbers get paid so much more there.

daughter: oohhhhhh....

Saturday, October 21, 2006

opera-lovers, rejoice!

Having a student living in our home, coupled with our connections to college life and my work on campus, explains why I still think in semesters.

This semester, I was inclined to curb my per-diem accompanying at the music school in order to focus on hearth & home. So far, my plan has worked brilliantly. Mom has daily wielded her school-marm stick, efficiently filled the chalkboard every morning with academic goals, and has generally felt unstressed. Mid-terms were held this past week though, so I was called in to ply my trade a few times. It was fun. When not under time-constraints, I thoroughly enjoy performing with the students.
The one event in which I regretted not being a part was this semester's opera production. Crane is debuting a new opera by composer Paul Siskind, The Sailor Boy and the Falcon, and the guest performer will be opera star (and Crane grad) Stephanie Blythe. When I played for the auditions this August I felt that twinge of "I'm gonna miss out on all the fun."
Well, thankfully, I'm not. (Not altogether, anyway!) The director called me last minute to fill a few "holes" in their schedule. She was much relieved when I acquiesced, and I am thrilled to enjoy the "gravy" of a well-rehearsed production without sitting through the lonnnnggg process of repitive rehearsing.
My husband intones regularly, "You are so spoiled."
"Yeah," I reply charmingly. "But not a spoiled brat."

Spoiled brats aren't grateful, you see.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

profiles in courage

courage: 1. (n) the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc, without fear; bravery.
synonyms: fearlessness, dauntlessness, intrepidity, pluck, spirit.

Sunday afternoon brought me to the annual Concerto Program at Crane. I sat with a dear friend and settled in to enjoy some well-prepared music. My interest was mainly focused on a young pianist that I know to be quite musical and talented. She did not dissappoint. Her Rachmaninoff concerto was elegant, energetic, expressive, full of verve and technically dazzling. Backstage after the performance, we craned our necks to spot her face in the congratulation line, but to no avail. After inquiring about her, we were informed how ill she was. Food poisoning. And she came from the hospital just in time to go onstage. As we were taking in this amazing and sorry piece of news, she limped through the sympathetic crowd with her professor at her side, looking wan and totally spent. They were on their way back to the hospital to fend off dehydration. Despite her teacher's recommendation and the very real chance of fainting (or worse) on stage, she was resolute that the show went on. I could hardly imagine the inner strength it took to play that demanding piece so flawlessly! But now her triumph was behind her, and all she wanted was to lie down.

Yesterday, I received a happy phone call. A healthy baby boy was born to our friends the Boyles. Way to go, Cathy! According to prayers on her behalf, labor was short. (Of course, any mom will testify that "short" is a relative term!) I don't have all the baby-details yet, but this I know: a very plucky mom endured months of sickness and bed-rest to bring forth this little prize. This nine-month long endurance test came as no surprise, as every one of her pregnancies was a nausea marathon.
I salute a mom like that. And I can hardly wait to hold her hard-won laurel wreath, look into his dark eyes and tell him he was so worth the journey.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

food power

Last weekend, I dined in Albany at a trendy cafe, Peaches & Cream in Stuyvestant Plaza. My mom and I were both drawn to the same menu item: Grilled Vegetable Sandwich on 12-Grain Bread. Portabello mushroom, red pepper and fresh tomato were marinated in balsamic vinegrette, grilled to perfection, and served warm with organic lettuce between slices of chewy bread. We actually moaned while consuming this. My dear Hubby ate his dinner more normally, and minded his manners. But I still think we had the better experience.

Just the other day, I discovered four very ripe pears in the fruit drawer of the fridge. Inspiration hit me like a sunbeam. To the sliced pears and black seedless grapes, I added honey, poppy seeds, plain yoghurt, and a dash of allspice. I dubbed my concoction "Cleopatra's Fruit Salad". In the middle of winter, a dessert such as this will give a shy person the strength to do what's gotta be done. I am a huge believer in the power of food.

-In case you couldn't tell.

Monday, October 16, 2006

inductive becomes productive

Recently I have been learning all I can about a man who lived a long time ago. Toward the end of his adventurous and turbulent life, he was thrown in a squalid prison where he lanquished in the damp and cold. Because of the prevailing hatred of his cause, he had no assurance of release. Ever. His body must have reacted to his pitiful surroundings; malnutrition, neglect, arthritis and loneliness were surely his only companions. The painful memories of men whom he had trusted yet who had deserted him sometimes crowded his thoughts.
While in that hopeless pit, he was able to write a letter. It was addressed to a younger man; one whom he called son. Actually, beloved son.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

If only I had found this letter at the bottom of an old dresser drawer! Perhaps then I could read it afresh. The years of hearing it intoned from pulpits, coupled with scores of bleary-eyed early morning devotions have dulled my inner ear, my spiritual hearing. Somewhere from the hidden loops of my brain a little voice chimes along as I read. "yah-dah, yah-dah, yah-dah." The nerve of that little voice! My mission (should I choose to accept it) is to rewind that annoying tape, erase it, and with God's help, push record. Herein is the goal of Inductive Bible Study: to approach the Word freshly and without presupposition. Take it from a novice: it's harder than I thought it would be.
But in my attempts, certain words are becoming clearer, akin to the archeologist approaching a precious new find with a gentle brush and his own light breath. I blew away the two-thousand year-old dust to uncover this for myself: a poignant appeal from a man who knows his life is fast coming to a close. He is lastly preparing his spiritual son for the gale-force winds of persecution. Listen closely and you may hear the ring of emotion and passion in his words:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

So I read this and stop to soak it in. Paul's fatherly commands shake the rafters of my heart, as if he spoke them aloud. It is almost like I don't know the end of the story; like watching a favorite suspense-movie for the nth time. It really has gripped me, and that's encouraging.

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12 NASB)

Saturday, October 14, 2006


A spare moment early this morning brought my thoughts to Friends #5a and #5b. I punched in their phone number, complete with the Wisconsin area code. After following up on a health issue of #5a's, (keep praying for his eye) I enjoyed an animated conversation with #5b. We talked excitedly about sharing our (now-annual) Thanksgiving Dinner together. This melding of kindred families is truly a labor of love, since it takes 17 hours to drive to their front door. But what a beloved front door it is to us, knowing what dear hearts lie beyond it!

Friend #5b related yesterday's events to me involving her hubby's birthday and the surprise homecoming of their two oldest from college for the weekend. This is a family which has sacrificed comfort and convenience to follow God's leading, so it warms my heart to hear them reveling in each other's presence. My latest musings on legacy and its import on my life were summed up in this mom's words to me:

"Nothing is dearer to me than my kids, my family. All we have poured into them has been so worth it. And to have them all home is so precious."

So, yeah.
What she said.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Our travels around the North Country brought us to the church parking lot an hour early. (We were there for Sergi's pizza and our annual Missions Night.) #1 Son had slide-shows to cue up, and #1 Daughter begged to visit the local library. Oh yeah, she loves books and all, but the real draw was the knowledge that three of her best friends were hanging out there. About library-visits, my kids know this: no begging necessary. Never mind that we had just spent a few hours in the local museum and their archive center; books lure me. Anytime, anywhere.

I hoisted a few old volumes over to an oak table. The thickest, most monastary-ish one was full of musty brittle pages and contained entry after entry of biographical sketches. Their dates spanned from 1870 to 1900, and these entries spouted the accomplishments of esteemed North Country men and their families. This one was a statesman, this one was a successful farmer. Their surnames were researched, their real estate holdings and names of spouses and children were listed, and even their church attendance noted. Occasionally, a character trait was pointed out: honest, chaste, compassionate, fair in business, devoted to family, or hard-working. Some of the items were very personal. This one saved two children from drowning. This one lost all his children to infuenza. Another fought bravely in the Civil War. I wondered about all these good folk -are they remembered at all? Or are the traces of their lives hidden only in forgotten books and in tumble-down cemeteries?

This musing inevitably led me down that neglected path....the one we ponder usually only at funerals or memorial services: What will I leave behind? What will be my legacy? Hmmm.

Can I chew on that for a day or so, and get back to y'all?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

this week

What events are a part of our week?

-Today's riding lesson was cancelled, so that's one trip to Canton erased from the chalkboard. Today we are studying math & science. Our morning started with a DVD from Walking the Bible. The little darlings are organizing information for our history project, too. I am vacuuming lady bugs, baking, making phone calls, attempting to post on my blog, practicing the piano, and running errands. After I correct math.

-Wednesday is Friend #12's birthday. We will wedge in a birthday cake in between Missions Night and bedtime. Oh yeah...Missions Night: our church's annual evening of pizza, dessert, and sharing of all the teams that were sent out this past year. My family will share about their trip to the D.R. (And as I type this, it just occurred to me: I went on a trip this year, too. I wonder if I will be asked to share about Spain. Huh.) The presentations have gone quite techno, with Power Point and sound clips and all, so they advertised it this year as a Dinner and a Movie. Fun. Our church that has a big heart for the world, and I love that fact.

-I also accompany a voice class at Crane tomorrow. The beginnings of a stack of "to be learned" music is on the piano.

-Thursday morning is a violin lesson. This reminds me of our violin teacher's upcoming wedding, taking place this Saturday. #1 Son is doing the photography and #1 Daughter and myself are in charge of the cookie & punch reception. How many cookies will 100 people eat? We will know the answer by late afternoon on Saturday.

-Thursday evening is Jameson Dunphey's Baby Shower. His lovely mom was smart enough (and patient enough) to request it be held after the baby's birth. We will shower them both with love, advice, and brightly wrapped gifts.

-#1 Daughter raked in five new pairs of jeans this week; some are dressier than others, all were absolutely needed. All have to be hemmed. Wahhhh. But our Home Economics class includes hemming, so I'm not too stressed. (What Home Economics class, you ask? Well, the one I just declared we are taking.)

-TGIF, I think. Friday School is in full swing now. We meet with over 180 other home-schooled children, their parents, and helpers to "do school". Gym, Art, Choir, Band, Apologetics, and a sprinkling of other subjects keep us busy. I play the piano for the choirs and in my free time, catch up with numerous friends, all of which are too busy to chat on the phone during the week.

-Saturday: wedding doings. Hey, maybe I'll have a relaxing cup of coffee with my dear Hubby, who arrives home from his out-of-town job. For the next few months, he will work locally. Yay!

Now that I have mentally lined up my week, I hope to post some amazingly intropective and inspiring thoughts. Manana.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

but that ain't us.

We have a special treat today, friends. Brought to you, in part, by Writer's Block.
Enjoy this excerpt from one of my favorite collections "Parables of a Country Parson" by William E. Barton (written circa 1920).

Rising Above the Clouds

I rode upon a railway train; and we were in the Rocky Mountains. And we awoke in the morning, and the Train was climbing, with two Engines pulling us, and one pushing behind. And we were nigh unto Twelve Furlongs above the sea.
And it came to pass as we ascended, that there were clouds below us, and Clouds upon the sides of Mountains, but there were no Clouds above us, but the clear shining of the Morning Sun.
And there came unto me a small Girl, and her younger Brother, who were riding upon the Train, and we talked about the Clouds. For so did John Ruskin, and Aristophenes, and the little lad was very happy, and he said,
I have never been above the Clouds before.
And his sister was Wordly-wise. And she said, A Cloud ain't nothing but just fog.
And he said, Nay, but this is more. And behold now, how then is a Cloud just under us, and we ride upon the top of it?
And she said, We are on the Rails, just as we always have been; and there can't nobody ride on a cloud.
And the boy said, Jesus can ride upon a Cloud; for I saw a Picture of Him.
And the little girl said, Yes, but that ain't us.

Now the little girl may have been right; but I thought within myself that this world hath too many people who look out on Life through her windows. For they see no sunlit Clouds, but only Fog; and they have little faith in rising above Clouds, but have confidence only in the Rails.
And I do not despise Rails, nor advise people to discard them and ride upon Clouds. Nevertheless, I have seen people rise above Clouds, and live in the sunlight of God. And I have known others who, whenever it is said unto them, Thus have others done, or thus did the good Lord Jesus, make reply, Yes, but that ain't us.
And if it is spoken concerning the House of God, Thus did the Synagogue in Jonesville, and thus it was done by the church in Smithville, they answer, Yes, but that ain't us.
And if be be said, Thou shouldest be a better person; for others have risen above thy Clouds and thine Infirmities, they say, Yes, but that ain't us.
And when it is said, Thus hath the grace of God abounded in other lives, they say, Yes, but that ain't us.
But if it ain't, why ain't it?
For this cause did God dwell in human flesh that we should never count any good thing impossible through the dear Lord Jesus.
For he is our peace, who hath broken down all the middle walks, that we should no longer say, But that ain't us.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

jiggety jig

Home again, home again.

With no time to announce my travel plans, I farmed out children and traveled to the Capital District over the weekend. I met up with my mom to visit 87-year-old Great Aunt Albie. Lotsa great pics to share & stories to relate, but not tonight.
Tonight I climb under my comforter and sleep with my own pillow. I'll make a mental note to dream in color tonight; specifically all the riotous reds and yellows that blazed my trail home through the Adirondacks.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

a jog around the educational block

Although we (the kids and I) are daily researching local history, we are also gearing up for our study of the Middle East. We are reading through the book of Genesis very slowly, noting ancient cities and migration routes on modern-day maps, and learning a lot about Abraham's life. We are reading Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler. I recommend anything written by Mr. Feiler, as he is just a regular guy with honest questions about faith. Last evening, we watched part one of his PBS series Walking the Bible ( A Journey by Land through the Five Books of Moses). Hands down, we loved it. Grandma Jean joined us halfway through our viewing and enjoyed it, too.
Even though my darlings are teenagers, I still regularly read aloud to them. (What big babies.) When Hubby is home, he listens along. We have been dipping into The Tales of One Thousand and One Nights. Wrapping myself in a nubby blanket, I peel off stories with drama of which Scheherezade herself would be proud. Last year we read the whole Chronicles of Narnia series. Aloud. Goodness, that's alotta reading.
In between our learning at home, my busy students hop in the car and learn in other places. #1 Son had a violin lesson yesterday. He is also training for a "half-marathon" this weekend, in which his dad and a few other friends will run. #1 Daughter has a horse-riding lesson tomorrow, followed by her very first voice lesson.
As I rinse pots and pans at the sink, I survey our shaggy lawns and hope for one more mowing before the snow flies. Somewhere in all our busy-ness, a few lawnmowers need to be revved up.
At least I know of one place where the grass won't grow around here:

under our feet. For sure.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Work Day

The school-marm and superindendant (of the Hull Homeschool Academy) declared a Work Day on Monday. Dad was home, the skies were clear, and the air was begging to be filled with work-a-day noises. We shoveled black mulch for a while in the morning sun. Hubby and #1 Son started constructing our little porch. # 1 Daughter worked in the barns and with her horses. I applied elbow grease to an old door. We took advantage of the golden autumn weather and accomplished a lot, much to mom's great pleasure.

More pics on my flickr, for those who just can't get enough of watching other people work.