Thursday, January 29, 2009

one word, many meanings

I have heard that there are dozens of words for "snow" in the Iroquois language. Around these here parts, we aren't that exacting or flowery. Glancing out the window on a January afternoon, the peeps in my house merely say, "It's snowing again."

Snow can be icy, fluffy, flaky, grainy, or powdery. It can dust your nose like a feather of lightest down. It can beat your brow like a hundred tiny knives. It can filter down your collar, stick to your boots, morph into ice, gum up your shovel, and snarl traffic.

Snow transforms the landscape. It delights little children. It makes the top of the news. It starts conversations at the grocery store and the bank. It makes a first date romantic. It cancels meetings.

Shouldn't we invent a few more words for snow?

Monday, January 26, 2009

a week in the life

If this blog truly "requires thought", then it's no wonder I haven't had much to say recently. Here are my highlights of a gray, snowy, freezy week in January:

1. I talked to my sister for 71 minutes on the phone. She lives in North Carolina. She is getting married in April.

2. I snagged an entire box of bananas for only three dollars at Save-a-Lot. I then proceeded to share them with a friend and her large family, as we couldn't possibly eat them all in a timely fashion!

3. A trip to Lake Placid gave me a chance to hang out with Friend #32. We strolled through town awhile before lunching at The Cottage on the lake. One doesn't "eat lunch" there. One lunches. From our window-table, we watched a team of sled dogs circle the lake. We declined to dine al fresco, as we preferred watching other people freeze their tails off while we ate spinach-artichoke dip .

4. The Orchestra of Northern New York's Concerto competition was on Saturday, and the student whom I accompanied won third place.

5. I bought a groovy dress for the sheer fun of it. It is very retro and has droopy bell-sleeves. When the temperature goes above 30 degrees, I may consider actually wearing it. Paired with tights and beads, I will look like a throwback from the 60's.

I apologize for this drivel, but it's the best I could come up with.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

human ipod

The following tunes were hummed by Friend #7 tonight at the kitchen table while we played Scrabble:

1. Haydn's Surprise Symphony
2. Hail to the Chief
3. Begin the Beguine
4. Seventy-Six Trombones
5. O Christmas Tree

I am not making this up.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

praise song

Here is the poem that was composed for yesterday's inauguration.
I like it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

properties of light

Through the deep dark of a winter's night, muted shafts of light shot into the skies -a curious and rare phenomena born of a tincture of extreme chill, moisture, and and pitch black. From each country homestead, each light pole lining the highway, each gas station, each porch lamp, a spectral beam unleashed itself from its usual circle of influence and sailed straight on to the heavens. As beacons light a path through the savage jungle, these ghostly torches burst through the inky arms of night, emblazoning an enigmatic trail.

These rare cones of light have entranced me before, beckoning my car off the main road and down country lanes to seek their origins. Always late at night, always in the lion's heart of winter. But like my search for gold at the foot of rainbows, I reasoned away their magic before I ventured too closely.

"an optical illusion."
"false Northern Lights."
"a figment of my imagination."
"an atmospheric quirk."

-I say to myself, while I count the reasons I need to be in hurry to get home. Home, where light behaves dependably.

Earlier in the day, the memory of those magical wedges of light had come to me -whereas I hadn't thought of them in a long while. I have only seen them twice in my life. But while beseeching heaven on behalf of a friend, I saw them in my mind's eye, the wild eye of imagination. The sharp image of my intercession blazing a path to heaven was impressed upon me.

I interrupted my prayer to recall the properties of light: its speed, its constancy, its unerring qualities. Those mysterious and elusive beams which only seem to appear in the blackest night seemed a perfect picture of intercession, splaying and dispersing their energies towards the gaping mouth of heaven. Will heaven hear? Can the One who sits on the throne see? Won't the blackness swallow up my offering? What else can I do but lift up my voice and let it roar upwards?

Yes, heaven will hear.
Yes, the One who sits on the throne sees.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:5)
We wrestle when we pray (Col 4:12). We wrestle in the dark much of the time, with not even
a speck of light to guide us. Except for the implanted conviction in our heart that He said to pray and that He promised to hear, we would fear spending our energies for naught.

I smiled widely on my drive home last night as I marveled at the properties of light. I think God was smiling too, as a parent does when a child "gets it".

Monday, January 19, 2009

#1 Son eats breakfast

Here is a person who delights in perfection -at least when it comes to his food.

Cheerios. Honey. (AND sugar? I'm not sure...)
One uniformly-sliced banana, ripened to his discerning taste. (Not too green, not too spotted.)

-arranged with infinite care. He actually picks up pieces of the banana and moves them to suit himself.

Mind the geometric balance, please. Keep on eye out for design. This is not mere food, people.

Some techniques are chef's secrets. He won't allow them to be captured in film.

I missed the traditional pouring of the soy milk. (I think the phone rang or something.) It is the last addition before the mixing of the elements. He actually gently folds the cereal, honey, sugar, and bananas into the liquid until it is evenly distributed.

This is a breakfast fit for a king.

Don't even ask me to get started on how he likes his pancakes done.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


My afternoons have been filled with reading this week. Sometimes also my evenings. Almost never my mornings, unless you count late morning as really "morning." Then, I guess you could say, I have been on a crazy reading-spree.

A brutal cold snap that drove us all to semi-hibernation has also contributed to this literary spurt. I have taken up residence on the couch in the front room and, swaddled in a quilt and accompanied by a strong cup o' tea, there I wallow in books. Besides my trusty Bible (NIV as of late)- I have been reading The Blithesdale Romance (Hawthorne), John Adams (McCullough), Build Your Own Earth Oven (some hippie-guy), and The Prodigal God (Piper).

I perused other things, but I don't think that the latest Pottery Barn catalog counts as "reading".

The month of January is a stellar month for literary endeavors for a number of reasons. One, until the local college semester starts up, I don't have to practice the piano or attend rehearsals. Two, my other hobbies (long walks, kayaking, and gardening) are impossible or impractical. Three, with the holidays behind me, I feel a certain license to indulge myself with such indolence as reading for hours on end.

Three cheers for reading!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

cold? you betcha.

How cold is it?

-Our thermometer read minus 24 this morning.
-When #1 Son drove to Norfolk at 7:30 am, the car- thermometer shivered out a reading of minus 30. His eyelashes froze together when he dashed out to start the car.
-The eight 0'clock NCPR news reported minus thirty-two in Massena.

I am thankful for the cheery sunshine that streams in the windows. It hints of the promise of another season, which we won't mention -as it only makes people mad on a day like today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

the gamut

gamut \ˈga-mət\
Function: noun
Etymology: Medieval Latin gamma, lowest note of a medieval scale (from Late Latin, 3d letter of the Greek alphabet) + ut ut
Date: 15th century
1 : the whole series of recognized musical notes 2 : an entire range or series gamut from praise to contempt>

My emotions ran the gamut today. They rumbled from the bottom to the top, and then back and forth a few times, just for good measure. Early this morning, my husband changed from his pajamas and reluctantly drove himself to the hospital. I stood at the window and whispered a desperate prayer: "Lord, please let these heart palpitations be nothing serious..."

A few hours and a few prayers later, he informed me via cell phone that they were not. Probably stress-related. The doctor ordered him to take a daily dose of beta blocker, and put his running shoes back on. Those who know Hubby will understand the wisdom in this last order, as nothing dissolves stress for him like a good run.

The other stress-reliever was the news from the billing department of the local hospital. "Let the doctors take all the tests they require, as THERE IS COMPLETELY NO CHARGE for you."
How is this possible for someone who (unfortunately) has no insurance? It seems that #1 Daughter's emergency appendectomy last year, along with our lack of insurance to pay for it, qualified us for complete coverage for an entire year. We had no idea.

I relate these things, not to tout the praises of living without insurance-(not a recommended practice) -but rather to humbly declare what a wonderful provider God is to us. The gamut was fully employed this morning.

After teaching a little Bible and history, I worked with #1 Son on paperwork for his college application to St. Lawrence University. The deadline was fast approaching -not only for the application itself, but for two scholarships that required resumes and essays. By early afternoon, everything was in order, the envelopes sealed, and online chores finished. Whew. A 25 minute drive to the admissions office completed his task, and by mid-afternoon, all was behind us. Another moment of committing the results to God and the swift and blessed relief that follows. Another running of the gamut, up and down.

As dinner was being prepared, Hubby (looking much more rejuvenated after his hospital trip) returns a phone call to our realtor. Yes, the price they set on our house is very, very agreeable. Yes, the man who is a potential buyer will see the house tomorrow. Yes, she thinks he will be very interested and ready to buy.

Up and down the scale I sing, filling my lungs with fresh air to reach the height of emotion. The plain act of living can be a stretch some days. I stand tip-toe and stir the potatoes. I kiss my husband's warm ruddy face. I throw off my apron and yell upstairs, "Dinner-time!"

Running the gamut can be put on hold. I've got a dinner to serve.

Friday, January 09, 2009

my culture-fix

In the bleak mid-winter when frosty winds make moan, it behooves me to snap up a bit of culture. With #1 Daughter and Friend #12 in sunny Mexico, #1 Son either working or scrambling to apply to college, and Hubby hard at work on our taxes in his office, I have been left to my own devices this week.

My own devices have consisted of some hard-core reading on the couch.

Okay, I have been more productive than that, but there has been my fair share of reading on the couch. My vacation will be over soon (Monday morning!), but I still have the weekend to live a life of leisure.

Tonight: A double-billing at the Roxy, courtesy of the North Country Film Festival. Free. I like free! The locally-produced films feature some people I know, too. Maybe I could get their autographs.

Tomorrow morning: Blanchard's Auction. #1 Son will join me. We like rifling though other people's stuff. The last time we attended an auction, we brought home a grandfather clock. Maybe I should bring the truck?

Tomorrow afternoon: Back to the Roxy for the MET live broadcast of Puccini's "La Rondine" with a few friends. Maybe out for coffee after the show.

Sunday morning: our usual AMAZING Sunday service with the best people in the world. Also, a huge welcome home to the Mexico team!

Sunday afternoon: a viewing of the first installment of "John Adams"(the award-winning PBS series) with fellow lovers of history. Well, if some of the younger set doesn't yet love history, they at least like to watch movies together. And eat dinner and dessert together.

I don't usually post my social schedule on-line. This might be a bad idea, seeing that it would give the impression that I have this kind of varied, non-productive schedule EVERY weekend. Rather, the list of exciting events all in weekend is so remarkable, that I decided upon it.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

new blog

Sending out a shout to everyone/anyone interested in our latest purchase, the old stone home in Madrid NY. I promise to reserve my house-obsessions and remodeling-rantings for this new site.

You can find it at:

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

sticky notes

While performing the humble task of cleaning the downstairs bathroom this morning. I found a yellow post-it note on the floor. It said, "NO".

I reached for it, scratched my proverbial head, and finally remembered what precipitated such a note. Last month we had a septic emergency which dictated a "no water" policy for the day. Hubby had thoughtfully affixed notes around the house: one on each faucet, one the the handle of each toilet. "NO", the note said.

Each time someone automatically reached to use the sink or (ahem) "the facilities", they were met with this timely reminder. No. Stop. Don't. As I crumpled this little outdated scrap, I considered the injustice I felt at having to obey it for just that one day, even though there was good reason for its message.

"Why can't we post little notes around the house that proclaim YES", thought I.

YES, you may hug your sibling.
YES, you may praise your spouse.
YES, all that fruit in the fruit-bowl is available for consumption.
YES, go ahead and read the Bible that was left open on the table.
YES. what a great idea. YES, YES, go for it!

Last Sunday, our dear pastor spoke powerful words which resonated YES to us. Instead of serving listlessly, awaiting the hot-line from heaven to ring us up with minute instructions, why not come up with a plan? -one which we know would please the Father's heart?

Can I reach out to a hurting person? YES.
How about I make a special meal for someone who has had a rough week? YES.
I am not sure what to pray, but shall I pray anyway? YES.
How about reviewing the fruit of the spirit in my life? YES.

A first-time father was chatting with me as we were admiring his 4-month old baby.
"I'm not going to teach her the word NO," he insisted when the topic of discipline came up.
I balked. "I don't know about that. NO is a pretty handy word, all things considered, for a toddler."
"I hear you," he countered. "But I grew up around my mom's day-care kids and all day long, it was NO, NO, NO. I think there is a better way."
My eyes shined with understanding and admiration. "I get it," I said. "If anyone can figure out a better way, you can, Caleb".

He's thinking out of the box, for sure. And I won't stand in his way if he is willing to give it a try. Don't worry about that baby. Caleb has a wife whose input he treasures; they will figure it out and it will be just right.

I think of the surge of possibility I feel whenever I read "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Suess.
When my kids were little, I would pray for them before bed, and in parting, grab on to their chubby little feet and proclaim, "Oh, the places these feet will go!"

YES, feet! Go!
YES, hands, serve!
YES. I officially post it all over the place: YES.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


The house is quiet.

I hear the drip of leaky kitchen faucet which, under normal noise-levels in this establishment, cannot be detected. The heater hums, the woodstove ruffles companionably in the depths of its fiery belly. In a little while, my freshly-tuned piano will ripple with Beethoven and perhaps Barber.

#1 Daughter is in Mexico with a team from the church. Friend #12 is there, too. I hope they eat pineapple for lunch. I hope that the distribution of the Epiphany gifts goes off without a hitch or glitch, and that they make a deep connection with the children there. I hope everyone remembers not to drink the water or eat unpeeled fruit. Their well-being is in my prayers.

#1 Son is on a roof with Hubby. They are replacing a roof that was badly damaged in last month's wind storm. Truth be told, January is not a prime time to tear off and replace a roof. But as they gratefully tucked into a hot dinner last evening, they assured me that their day's work was far preferable to one in the heat of August.

Friend #7 is close to my heart, even if she is not squirreled away into a corner of our upstairs bedroom. After the big push of moving into her new digs, the reality of her constant exhaustion
finally led her to a local clinic where they said the word "mononucleosis". The cure is lots and lots of rest. (I submit that one can rest WHILE playing scrabble.)

And so the house is quiet- a good day for reflection, prayerful planning, and maybe scrubbing the kitchen floor.

Monday, January 05, 2009

peps go bye-bye

Since I am vainly fishing for things to say these days, allow another email-exchange between myself and my brother to fill in the gap. (Background: he planted 24 habenero pepper plants last summer. I was the hapless soul who attempted to CAN these scorchers. Mercy.)


Sorry, I dumped the peppers. I've spent too much time looking for takers. I've kept one jar. I washed the jars and tops. Let me know when someone's passing by so I can place them somewhere for pick-up. No rush, obviously.
The other day, I defied my own level of stupidity: I set myself on fire and super-glued two of my fingers together. Both accidental, but nevertheless, very sottish.

let's hope the fire-incident was not a 911 call.

as for the fingers, way to go.
did these things happen AFTER you dumped the peppers?
perhaps the habenero god is miffed at you.

Incident 1:
I tape my recipes to a cabinet door above the burner I'm using. I was jotting refinements to the green curry dish on the page as I was cooking. When I leaned back from making a note, I smelled smoke. My shirt had caught fire. I swatted at it while doing a fire dance. Undaunted, I continued cooking.
Incident 2:
After I cleaned up, I noticed the label on the palm sugar jar came off. When I tried to apply super glue, nothing came out. I unscrewed the cap and saw I was working with an unopened tube. When I punctured the foil seal, glue oozed all over my hand. Two sets of fingers became instantly attached. The upside was I could easily make the Vulcan hand greeting the rest of the night.
The Habanero God is a fiery god.

not to be too disparaging, but isn't superglue a bit overqualified to affix a paper label?
just saying, is all.

Wanted that sucker on PER-MA-NENT-LY.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

a book a week

I am not being a lazy blogger. Rather, I prefer to call myself a devoted reader.

Only 80 pages left, and I can claim to have read (and thoroughly enjoyed) The Great American Novel, Moby Dick. Owing to the serious brain-drain that this hefty tome has inflicted upon me, I will refer my devoted readers to this inspiring article and call it a day.

Go forth and read, people.

headlines spawn strange thoughts

CNN headline catches my eye, as it was created to do:

"Woman, 114, is in line to be named world's oldest"

Wait. She's in line?

They are making a 114-year old woman wait IN LINE for a prize?
Are other geriatric patients in this line, too? Are people assigned to help them as they wait?
Are wheelchairs allowed? What about walkers/canes/rolling cots?
If they leave to use the bathroom, are they disqualified?
Exactly how long have they been standing in this line?
And once the winner is declared, do they come right out and say,

"Congratulations, you are the World's Oldest Human Being. You may hold this title until the day you die and then the NEXT oldest person (standing right behind you) gets to have it. Enjoy!"

Friday, January 02, 2009

a visit to Friend #7

One last parting repartee and I shut the door behind me. (The apartment door with the faded berry wreath, rescued from the trash bin at my house.)

I like her new place. Familiar things are everywhere, including her books-which have been packed away for a long time. I see postcards that she has collected, art prints, a blown-glass ornament, a tablecloth I love. Unfamiliar things are scattered around, too: a striking ceramic dish, a lamp, a shabby-chic dresser, a pair of curtains fashioned from a thrift-shop sheet.

"Does it feel like home yet?" I asked as an aside as two other girls cleared the table.
"No. Not yet."
"It will. Soon."

After leaving, I tip-tapped alone down the wooden stairs, barged reluctantly through the apartment building door, and entered into the bracingly fresh snowy air of downtown Potsdam.

Friend #7 doesn't live with us anymore; not much. She spent her first night in her new apartment already, calling me yesterday afternoon while the last whiteness of the day was being covered with the heavy quilt of a winter's eve.

"I was thinking of sleeping home tonight," she ventured.
"You can. You'll have to sleep on the couch though, as you TOOK your BED with you."
"Yeah. Huh."

We don't have to say much, we two -although I usually spoil the silence by throwing in some inane chatter just to get a rise out of her. I didn't say much last night.

"I'll come and visit you," said I. "-k?"

" -k."

-and I did.