Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Not for Christmas

I went to the grocery store on my way home from work today. Christmas songs were shuffling on the sound system, and I was enjoying that, even singing along in secluded areas of dairy products and canned goods. Then a song came into the mix that gave me pause; it was Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

I've noticed lately that this song creeps into some Christmas settings. I guess because it contains the word "hallelujah" people think it's a Christmas song. Well, I'm here to say that it's not. It's a beautiful song; it's just not a Christmas song.

Here are just a few of the reasons I hold this opinion:

1. The word "hallelujah" is not an automatic Christmas reference.

The word derives from the Hebrew and basically means "Praise the Lord."

Even the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah—often heard at this time of year—was not written to celebrate Christmas. The oratorio Messiah is an overview of the whole story of Christ. There are sections of it that are about the Nativity, but the Hallelujah chorus is not one of them. The Hallelujah chorus celebrates the post-Resurrection and -Ascension lordship of Christ. The words come from the book of Revelation.

The two biblical narratives about Christ's birth do not contain the word "hallelujah." Look for yourself at Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-20.

2. The lyrics of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" have nothing to do with Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Winter morning in my back yard

We had snow last week, and the temperature has stayed so cold that it hasn't melted. This kind of cold weather happens from time to time in the Pacific Northwest—not every year, by any means, but on the average of every few years.

Here's the creek, looking brown against the snow. Some ice has formed around twigs and branches that dangle into the water.

I love how this tree trunk leans out over the creek then grows upward.

And the red-twig dogwood lives up to its name. I boosted the color a bit in this photo, hoping you can see it.

My dad planted this. The landscaping purpose of a red-twig dogwood is to provide some color during the winter. During the summer, it's covered with leaves, which is fine, too. It gets some tiny blooms and berries.

Here are a holly and some ivy growing up in the shelter of a rosa grotendorst (Dutch for "great thirst"). Whenever I pay attention to this clump of plants, I start singing "The Holly and the Ivy" in my head.

My dad and I always have called the big plant a "groote dorster," but when I searched the name online I couldn't find it; I did find a reference to the rosa grotendorst, so I guess that's the correct name. Whatever its name, or the level of its thirst, it is the prickliest plant in my domain. When I'm driving my lawnmower in the summer, I don't like to get too close because it reaches out and grabs and stabs me. That's why a holly and an ivy are growing under it—because I'm afraid to confront it.

At the southwest corner of the yard, you've got to love this mossy old tree. It's a weeping willow.

Willows have notoriously water-seeking roots. They're good to plant by a water way, but dangerous near your water supply or sewer pipes. This willow is nicely secluded.

And here's an icicle hanging from the rain gutter.

Again, having weather cold enough to create an icicle is newsworthy where I live.

In my opinion—which is so rarely solicited on questions of importance—we've had sufficient ice and snow for this winter, but I see the forecast is for snow on Sunday. However, after that, temperature is supposed to rise well above freezing and rain should fall. Sometimes when we have substantial snow followed by rain, the creek overflows its banks. My back yard is a floodplain. So far the water has never reached my house. The snow on the ground right now is persistent but not deep. I don't think it's enough to flood the creek, but with more snow added in on Sunday that may change. Interesting times.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Serenity now

Today I went to two meetings with hospice nurses, one for each of my parents. My mom is now on hospice; the meeting about my dad was in preparation for when he needs to go on hospice. Starting hospice does not mean death is imminent. It means that death may be expected within six months, and also that the care will focus on comfort, not on prolonging life. But it's a significant step.

Last night and this morning were particularly cold here in Lynden, and the northeast wind—the coldest we know in this region—blew. I woke up and began sneezing uncontrollably. I told my sister-in-law later that it's as though cold has a smell, and that smell makes me sneeze—I smelled it and I could feel the reaction in one particular spot inside my sinuses.† (Later in the day I did discover that a window in the room where I slept was not closed properly, so I had had a stream of freezing outdoor air coming in to my environment all night.)

Once started, the sneezing—as is the wont of my allergies—would not stop. I sneezed and blew my nose through the two hospice meetings. By the time I was headed home, my nose, on the side where I could feel the reaction in my sinuses, was dripping. I had to hold a tissue (napkin, paper towel, whatever) up to my nose to catch it.

I know from bitter experience that when my allergies are out of control the only thing that will stop them is for me to fall asleep. Only then does my system relax enough to stop the madness. Fortunately, I was feeling tired out by the day's experience, so when I got home I found the cracked window and shut it, took some diphenhydramine, covered myself with a quilt, and took a nap, probably for about two hours.

Allergies are aggravated by stress, and I think that mine were extra bad today because I had these two hospice meetings. Those meetings were signposts for a difficult part of the journey. I think my poor, confused body realized something was wrong and sprang to the defense by pushing my immune system into overdrive. There, there, poor body. I know you mean well, but that really didn't help. What you need to do is calm down.

Francis of Assisi called his body "Brother Ass." I guess I could call mine "Sister Stupid." Just now I looked that up in the Catholic Encyclopedia, and it said that, after he wore out his body with mortification, Saint Francis asked pardon of Brother Ass for treating him so harshly. So I also ask pardon of Sister Stupid for my inattentiveness to her needs and again ask that she remain calm.

This is the kind of explanation of my system that gains me laughing disbelief, strange looks, or shakes of the head.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Waiting for the sun

I woke up this morning before 7:00 and it was dark out. By 8:00 it was still dark. Now, at 8:30 it's starting to get light.

Part of the darkness is the heavy cloud cover. I have not looked outside at the sky yet, but I've been hearing the dripping from the eaves that means a consistent, substantial rainfall.

The other part of the darkness is the season. There are three months between fall equinox and winter solstice, and we're about halfway through that period. We're getting to the dark time of the year.

A third factor in the darkness is the clock. Tonight will finally, finally, finally end Daylight Saving Time. We will "fall back" an hour, which means that today's 7:00 a.m. will be tomorrow's 6:00 a.m. When my windows lighten up with tomorrow's morning sun, it will be 7:30 instead of 8:30.

I know I've said before how much I dislike Daylight Saving Time. I hate to "spring ahead" and have to get up and pretend it's 7:00 a.m. when it's really 6:00 a.m. Daylight Saving Time is a fake time. In some ways, time is one of those imaginary things that we all pretend is real, like money. It's a useful tool. But there is a certain physical reality to it in that "noon" is when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. But Daylight Saving Time calls it "noon" one hour before the sun is at its highest point. By what right does our government mandate a change of "noon"? And they really can't. They can call it "noon" an hour before "the sun transits the celestial meridian" (got that from Wikipedia), but they can't make the sun reach its zenith an hour earlier. Under Daylight Saving Time, we all say "noon," and then an hour later noon occurs. Frankly, this is government overreach. Indeed it is Orwellian.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The mind's scenery

So I was sitting at my kitchen table, minding my own business, reading on my Kindle, when I heard a buzzing noise. I hoped it was someone running a weed whacker in the neighborhood, but I soon saw what I most feared: a wasp. It was buzzing around a light fixture in my living room, sometimes bumping on the glass cover.

I fear stinging insects a great deal.

It seemed attracted by the light, so I closed the blinds on all the windows, opened my door, leaving the screen door closed, then turned off the lights. I stood near the light fixture to monitor the wasp's whereabouts because if it disappeared in the house and I didn't know where, I would live in fear.

After a little while it dropped to the floor, then flew to the screen door. I slammed the big door behind it, so it was trapped between the solid door and the screen door. I cautiously re-opened the big door a little bit to see if I dared stick my arm into the space to open the screen door. The wasp had dropped again, this time to the threshold. I opened the screen door, and it flew off.

Hooray. Insect problem solved without my suffering a sting or getting grossed out by having to squish it.

Earlier, I had brought some little decorative items inside from my deck. We're expecting a big windstorm this afternoon and evening, so I cleared up stuff that might blow around this morning. I suspect the wasp was hiding in something I brought it. It probably had gone dormant in the cool fall weather then woke up inside my warm house.

I felt glad to get my deck cleared up for the winter. This spring and summer I never really got it looking even presentable. I tried a couple times--I cleaned out the pond, I bought a few plants--but I never followed through. I never refilled the pond with water (the rain is starting to fill it now) and never re-potted the plants (they've died in the plastic pots they came in). Even plants that survived last winter died of neglect this summer.

The mess and disarray somehow symbolized my emotions this year, as my parents' health has declined. My mom moved from assisted living to a skilled nursing facility, and my dad moved from independent living to assisted living. They are both frail, and it hurts to see them lose their strength. My sadness and anxiety about them, and the time spent responding to their needs, took up my energy and I had none left for nurturing plants. All summer the disorder and ugliness of my deck was a visual reminder of how I felt.

Now, the deck is plain, but it is orderly. It's just like it is any other winter, hibernating until spring. I hope that next spring I will be able to return to my old ways of growing flowers and making a beautiful space out there. And clearing it up, putting away tools I had left out, marking it "finished for this year," is a relief. All I have left is probably a couple more times mowing, when the weather is dry, just to mulch the leaves that are falling and neaten it up before leaving the outdoors to its own devices.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Brush up your Shakespeare

The amount I've been blogging this year has been rather dismal. I have some family matters occupying my time and energy, so I tend to be just too pooped to post.

However, I'll just mention that I went to Ashland, Oregon, last week, to their Shakespeare Festival. I saw, in the following order:

Richard II
Twelfth Night
Timon of Athens
The Winter's Tale.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Not just a city in Rhode Island

I was driving home from work this evening, and I thought of a young man I knew when I was a young woman, and I wondered, What if we had married? Perhaps God brought him into my life to be my husband, but I passed him up. If I had not, I would probably not be living here in Lynden, close to my folks as they deal with their aging issues. ("These golden years suck," was a remark in a recent e-mail from my dad.) I might have children who would be adults by now. When I tried to think of them, I thought, I don't know these strangers. Whoever they might have been, they are not my family right now. Meanwhile, the dear boy who first crossed my mind married someone else long ago and had one or more children. Those children exist, and it is part of God's plan for them to exist, so presumably it could not have been his plan for me to marry their father.

But I remembered Solomon. The only reason he was born was because his parents committed adultery. It was not God's will for David to cheat with Uriah's wife and have Uriah killed. Yet because David sinned, the greatest king in Israel's history was born and became a forebear of our Lord. Every time we screw up, God starts again from that point to work out his purpose.

The grandma who taught me how to cast on and knit.
She also passed along her faith in God.
I think I once heard this idea illustrated as similar to the way a skilled knitter, if she drops a stitch, can pick it up on the next row and weave it into the pattern. I don't know how to do that with knitting. But here are two other knitting examples that I did do.

First, last year I knitted a scarf for my niece for Christmas. At a certain point, I messed up the pattern but didn't realize it until I was further along to a point where I didn't want to unravel so much work. So I completed the scarf with that messed-up section, and, meanwhile, I bought a little loom on which I made some yarn daisies. I sewed the daisies to the scarf to cover the messed-up section and they looked mighty cute. My niece said when she opened her present she thought the scarf came from a store specifically because of the daisies.

More recently I went to a yarn store with a remnant of red yarn from a previous project. I wanted to knit another accessory to match it. But, wouldn't you know it, the red yarn I wanted had been discontinued. So, instead, I bought some charcoal yarn that I thought would look good with the red and planned to use the red remnant for a border and charcoal for the main section. I said to the lady who was ringing up my purchase, "Maybe it will turn out even better because of the new color."

So, no matter whether the choices I've made in the past have been good, bad, or indifferent, wise, foolish, or unthinking, yet from that point on God makes the whole of my life into something better because of it. "He has made everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Or better yet: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.... all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13, 16).

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Shepherd's Pie

My niece is ill and receiving treatment. She is likely to recover. Meanwhile, during the weeks she receives treatment, friends bring dinners for her and her family. Tonight I got to bring something. I was excited to do this, so a couple days ago I googled for a recipe I thought her family would enjoy: Shepherd's Pie. They all like potatoes.

I put it together last night. I made it from scratch. Peeled and cut up five pounds of potatoes, mashed them by hand with a masher, added butter, sour cream, milk—but forgot to season with salt and pepper. And I cooked the meat; I cut up the onions and carrots very tiny in the hopes that my niece's children would not even notice them. (Only one great-niece noticed and picked out one little piece of carrot.) I did remember to season the meat.

I made two pans full. In one, I put peas on top of the meat before adding the potatoes, and in the other I put corn. I divided the mashed potatoes between the two pans and smoothly spread them out. I sprinkled some kernels of corn on top of the pan that had corn under the potatoes, so I would know which was which. Then I covered them with foil and put them in the fridge.

Tonight I brought them over, along with some salad and rolls. I added grated cheese to the top and heated them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. I stayed for supper because I wanted to find out if my recipe had been good. I liked it.

It was een beetje flauw because I had forgotten to season the potatoes, but with a little salt and pepper I enjoyed it. I had intentionally made it mild—not adding garlic powder or onion powder or rosemary—because I did not want my niece's children to reject it for having strange flavors. If I were to make it for adults, I would add more things such as garlic and rosemary. But even so, it was pretty good.

This is a picture of the one with peas:

The recipe I worked from said to use the whole 5-pound batch of potatoes on one pie, but I divided it between two. It turned out to be quite enough, in my opinion.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A couple of good ones

I've been trying lately to limit my book selection to the Kindle Unlimited library. That's the e-book version of Netflix. You pay $9-something a month, and you can download any book in the library for no other fee, but you can keep just 9 of them at a time. So at this point whenever I choose a new one, I have to give back another.

The Kindle Unlimited algorithm, contrary to the name of the service, is limited in its skill. Once I read some mystery novels, that's almost all it shows me when I select "Recommended for You." Murder in the This, Murder in the That. I can browse categories, or popular titles, or new titles, or series titles, or just the whole thing at random. So I browse through a lot that I'm not interested in. Or I search the library for a particular author or title and find it is not part of the Kindle Unlimited library--not so unlimited after all. On the other hand, I've happened across some authors there that I've been glad to find. In some cases, after reading their books in the Unlimited area, I am willing to pay for their other titles. I'm pretty sure that's how I first discovered Elizabeth Goudge. The other two authors I've found there that I like are Angela Thirkell and Edmund Crispin.

For Angela Thirkell, the KU book I read was a non-fiction memoir called Three Houses, which, as the title suggests, was about three houses where she lived and/or visited when she was a girl. It's a well-written, good read. An interesting tidbit is a part where she interacts with a relative called "Cousin Ruddy," or maybe it was "Uncle Ruddy." Anyway, he was Rudyard Kipling.

I've only read a couple of her novels, as they are not in the KU selection and I've had to buy them. A great many of them are labeled "Barsetshire Series." Now, of course, Barsetshire was the setting of the Victorian author Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire Chronicles: The Warden, Barchester Towers, Doctor Thorne, Framley Parsonage, The Small House at Allington, and The Last Chronicle of Barset. Angela Thirkell has made that imaginary area the setting for her modern novels, taking place in the same era that she wrote them, the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. I have read only two. The first one, High Rising, and a later one, Summer Half. They are quite entertaining, and the allusions to Trollope's novels are minor. For instance, there is mention of a Dean Crawley, whose grandfather was a clergyman in Hogglestock. That grandfather is of course Josiah Crawley, who is an influential minor character in Framley Parsonage and the central character of The Last Chronicle of Barset. Another time, a couple attends an event at Courcy Castle, and the de Courcys of that castle are not very likable characters in several of Trollope's novels, figuring especially largely in Doctor Thorne and The Small House at Allington. But Thirkell's novels are not "fan fiction," where they take the characters of a novel and continue the story (like the many attempts floating around to portray Elizabeth's married life with Mr. Darcy). They're just novels that occasionally have fun with the place names and characters in a small way. So far, no major characters or settings have been immediately derived from Trollope's work, just fringe elements.

High Rising is a story about a woman who after being widowed has established a good living for herself and been able to raise and educate her sons by writing middling novels--good but not great literature. One of the funniest threads of the stories is her youngest son, the only one still in school. She loves him dearly yet when he comes home from school he drives her nuts by constantly babbling about trains, his model trains, his friend's model trains, and the like. That boy reappears in Summer Half, some years older, now in his last years at school, where his interest has developed into a serious study of engineering and mechanics. That novel is about a young man who teaches a term at the school.

Edmund Crispin is the pseudonym of the author of a series of mystery novels featuring the character Gervase Fen, who is a professor of English at Oxford. The plots are kind of crazy and almost irrelevant to enjoying the story. I read in an online article that the TV series "Dr. Who" (which I've never seen) is influenced by the Crispin novel The Moving Toy Shop. In one book, there's a funny scene where Fen and a policeman talk to a man whose life seems to embody the Edgar Allan Poe poem "The Raven." He has a pet raven and a bust of Pallas in his study, tree branches tap at the windows, and his wife's name is Lenore, but he's completely ignorant of Poe's work. Fen and his companion are trying to conceal their laughter while they talk to him and each new similarity appears, and they also will make remarks that allude to the poems, sending themselves into more fits of compressed laughter. The characters will sometimes acknowledge that they are characters in a novel. In a chase scene in The Moving Toy Shop, Fen says words to the effect of, "Let's go down this street, after all Gollancz is publishing this novel." Another time, Fen is coming up with phrases like "Fen Comes Through" or "Fen to the Rescue," and then says that he's trying to help Crispin come up with a title. In Glimpses of the Moon, someone asks Fen if he knows who the murderer is and, when he says no, says, "But it's almost the end of the book." I've read all of the Gervase Fen novels already, both the KU and the ones I had to buy. There are only 9 of them. The author, whose real name was Robert Montgomery, published 8 of them in the 1940s and 50s, then there was a 15-year gap when he didn't produce a novel because of alcoholism, and then shortly before he died he finally published the last one, Glimpses of the Moon. In an early scene, Fen looks in a mirror and the narrative voice says that after 15 years Fen still looked the same--giving the standard description of Fen from the earlier novels--and then Fen wonders if novelists will ever come up with a better way of describing a character than by having him look in a mirror.

Good stuff.

Thursday, June 2, 2016


On Facebook, I joined a local page called Lynden's Thrift Store Buy & Sell. It's for selling stuff, and when you join you agree that what you sell can be picked up in Lynden, which, of course, is where I live. So after looking at the stuff other people sell, I thought, I have stuff at least that good around my  house. I pulled some rarely and never-worn clothes out of my closet, took pictures of them and posted them for sale at $5 each. A week later I lowered them to $3 and $2. Well, someone wanted to buy a blouse for $3! Am I a thrifty penny-pincher or what? So I set up to meet her at Village Books in Lynden.

Perhaps you can guess where this story is headed.

Yes, before meeting my buyer, I browsed the bookstore and bought Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke for about $14 before selling my blouse for $3. That's kind of like getting the book for $11, right? 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Rash action

Yesterday the back of my knee felt itchy. Then it got red and bumpy. My calves, ankles, and the tops of my feet got bumpy and itchy. The back of my hands became first itchy then bumpy.

Why? What's it all about? I don't know.

I googled "oatmeal" to see how to use oatmeal to soothe rashes. You can put it in a bath, put a sock full of it in a bath, and follow more or less complicated recipes to make it into a poultice. I went for the simplest and mixed some oats and water in a bowl and bathed my hands in it. It helped short term.

While I was browsing the oatmeal world wide web, I came across some no-bake cookie recipes, so this evening I made some. Perhaps taken internally with a lot of sugar and butter, peanut butter and cocoa, the oats will be good medicine. I made them more like bars than cookies. Instead of dropping spoonfuls onto the wax paper-covered cookie sheet, I just glopped the whole thing onto it and spread it around. After refrigerating it for half an hour I cut some edges off, and ate the pieces. It may or may not help with my rash, but it did gratify my sweet tooth.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

I gotta be me

Every morning and evening, during the times of year when the light is long, I walk my dog around my back yard. As I walk along and stand waiting while he takes care of business, I picture to myself all that needs to be done. In my imagination, I pull weeds, trim branches, weed-whack along retaining walls, spray weed killer on weeds in graveled or paved areas, have tree stumps ground out, and eradicate blackberries. Then I go back inside.

So really I have have two gardens, the clean, trim, well-tended garden of my imagination, and the weedy, overgrown, messy garden of reality.

When I went to the Festival of Faith & Writing last month, one of the speakers I heard was Nadia Bolz-Weber. She talked about the difference between the you you think you are, the you you pretend to be and the real you. She says God loves the real you, so you might was well, too.

Good advice for my garden and my self.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

In the garden

Busy weekend. In addition to time with family, I dug the weeds out of a flower bed on Saturday, and today, Sunday, I planted flowers in the bed and also mowed the lawn.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Just a quick note, late at night. I'm back in Lynden. Spring has indeed sprung and the grass has riz. No need to wonder where the birdies is, because I hear them chirping all day.

We had freakishly hot weather last week and I, for one, welcome the cooler, more seasonable temperatures we've been enjoying this week. Next week will be warmer again, but not freakishly so.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Here in Ontario, winter is loosening its grip sloooooooowly. Although my sister-in-law has crocus blooms and daffodil shoots in the yard, we also have had snow flurries most of the days I've been here. A few flakes were in the air just a few minutes ago, but they are gone now. The snow hasn't "stuck" except for a while on Monday morning.

In Lynden, just before I left, we were having unseasonably warm weather--near, at, and over 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). Looking online at Lynden's weather, I see it's cooler and rainy again.

Yesterday, sitting near the patio door into my hosts' backyard, I saw a couple robins bob-bob-bobbin' along. Also a squirrel or two. My sister-in-law tells me she has tried putting up a bird feeder, but the squirrels knock it down and eat the contents.

I also saw a black cat in the yard, and that reminded me of my own dear (departed) cat Bagheera. He was so lovable.

This part of my vacation, at my brother's, is intentionally quiet and uneventful. I wanted down time. I have made progress on completing my needlepoint eyeglass case--I'm finishing off the interior--and I also have knitting along.

My brother and his wife have their jobs to do, but when they're available, we sit and visit. Tomorrow, my sister-in-law and I will drive to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was just going to look at my previous post to see if I've said all this already, but my computer seems to be confused by being in Canada and wants to redirect to blogspot.ca instead of blogspot.com. So if I repeat myself, I repeat myself. (See what I did there?)

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Good evening. Tonight this blog comes to you from the great city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I am visiting my dear brother and his good and gentle wife, who live and work here. They are almost empty-nesters; they have a son in college who is still coming home for this summer, but their daughters are out earning their own livings.

They are gone to bed, sleeping the sleep of the just. I am awake. I guess jet lag still makes me feel like it's early evening instead of time to go to sleep. Plus, I slept for an hour or two this afternoon.

I did attend church this morning. My brother is the pastor of Willowdale Christian Reformed Church, so I was able to enjoy his excellent sermon on Revelation 5. I also appreciated the music, especially hearing the organ well-played. A little later in the morning, the three of us attended a Bible study where Professor Calvin Seerveld led is in a discussion of Psalm 73.

Later this week, my sister-in-law and I will drive to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we will attend the Festival of Faith & Writing at our alma mater, Calvin College. I just went and looked at their English department faculty, and none of the professors who taught me are there anymore. That's because of my age. My great English profs at Calvin were Richard Tiemersma, Henrietta Ten Harmsel, William Vande Kopple, Ed Ericson, Stanley Wiersma, Ken Kuiper, and Henry Baron,

For the next couple days, it's relaxation time for me.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

And another

Okay, here's one more. Whenever we mentioned our shoes, my dad said, "Put your shoes on, Lucy, don't you know you're in the city?"


In my family we have some ... jokes, I guess we can call them for lack of a better word. Or just reaction-sayings. If someone says X, we say Y. (X and Y are variables, not something we really say--except if someone says "Why?" we might very well say, "Because Y has a tail on it.")

Most of these sayings come from my dad. In passing them on to her children, my sister called them "Grandpa Lou-isms." Most of my dad's sayings come from radio programs and songs of the 1930s and 40s that he and his brothers heard in the barn. Out of context, they make no sense, but we say them anyway because that's how we were brought up.

One of these reaction-sayings is that if anyone mentions a bone, especially at the dinner table, my dad will say, "Save the bones for Henry Jones!" and all his brothers say the same. Sometimes my dad adds, "Cause Henry don't eat no meat," and, less often, a third line, "He's a vegetarian." I've heard that all my life and never thought much about where it came from.

Today I saw something online that was a list of song titles, and one was, "Save the bones for Henry Jones." So I googled it, and I found a video of Nat King Cole and Johnny Mercy singing that very song!

I thought, I wonder how many other of my dad's sayings are out there with some sort of background that helps them make sense? So I googled, "Spit in your shoe, give it to the teacher at half past two." That was something my dad said if anyone said, "What should I do?" But there was no sense to be found, at least via google. I found one or two mentions by people whose own parent said it, but never any explanation of why. (Because Y has a tail on it.)

But I did find this one. It so happens I like bananas, and if I ever said so, my dad said, "Because they have no bones." Voila.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Today is February 28. Normally that would be the last day of February, but this is a Leap Year, so tomorrow is the date that happens only once every four years. It seems like we shouldn't have to work on a day that appears once and then disappears for three years. It's hardly a real day. It's an imaginary day, perhaps even a magic day. Now you see it, now you don't. It shouldn't be a Monday; it should be a none-day.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Old Spinning Wheel

My siblings and I remember that sometimes our mom, while working around the house, would sing:

There's an old spinning wheel in the parlor,
Spinning dreams of the long, long ago.

That was as much of the song as she ever sang, so it's as much as I ever knew. I think she said her mom used to sing it. Tonight it occurred to me to look the song up, both the lyrics and someone singing it. I listened at youtube to a number of big band versions recorded in the 1930s, when my mom was a child, but they either had so much orchestration that they were overblown or they were so jazzy that they did not have that poignancy that I associate with the song. I liked best this very simple version sung by characters on the TV show "The Waltons."

The words are:

There's an old spinning wheel in the parlor,
Spinning dreams of the long, long ago,
Spinning dreams of an old-fashioned garden,
And a maid with her old-fashioned beau.

Sometimes it seems that I can hear her in the twilight,
At the organ softly singing "Old Black Joe."
There's an old spinning wheel in the parlor,
Spinning dreams of the long, long ago.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Joy's grape

Here is a picture of a pair of ducks in the creek behind my house. I took the picture a couple weeks ago.

I see these ducks fairly often when I walk my dog down by the creek, especially on weekends, when I walk him later in the morning. This morning, I saw them again. They were standing on a branch that extends from the opposite bank down into the water. They were just like a textbook illustration, standing side-by-side, out of the water so you could see their orange feet and all. I wished I had brought my camera, but I hadn't.

I've read a blogger who doesn't like to see people reaching for their cameras all the time instead of just living in and enjoying the moment. I think it's a natural impulse, now that we have the ability, to try to instantly retain what we are happy or excited or moved to see. We know that the moments are fleeting and we wish we could keep them a little longer. The camera is a way to try to fulfill this wish.

John Keats' poem Ode on Melancholy attributed melancholy to the fact that life's pleasures pass quickly, and he advised being conscious and mindful of beauty, to get the most out of it, while acknowledging its brevity. Keats was probably living with the knowledge, or at least the suspicion, that he himself would die young, so it was a strong feeling for him. The final stanza is particularly beautiful:

She [Melancholy] dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

I remember my English professor, Dr. Tiemersma, admiring the lines "him whose strenuous tongue / Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine," and also his recommendation that we never pronounce "Proserpine" to rhyme with "poisonous wine" except when Keats demanded it of us.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 31

Today is the last day of January. By the end of January the holidays seem a long, long time ago.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday evening

Well, it's that rainy time of year in Northwest Washington. Today we had some sun, and I was glad to see it. Friday evening, driving home from work, I encountered a heavy downpour. Sometimes the rain plus the splashing from other cars plus the time of day when the light was fading made it hard to see. I was glad to get home. I had a quiet weekend, my normal kind. I have some family visitors coming soon, and I'm looking forward to that.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Watch in the night

I am having another "middle of the night" evening. When I got home from work, I took my dog outside, then came back in and fed him. He was so happy to be with me. I was feeling bright but not hungry, so instead of fixing dinner I sat in the recliner and snuggled with my affectionate dog, intending afterwards to try a new knitting pattern. It was so cozy and warm to cuddle with him that I quickly became drowsy and then fell asleep. I woke up about four hours later and have been awake now for a couple of hours.

This has become a pattern for me lately. I usually do eat dinner before falling asleep, but I sleep through the early evening, then wake up for a while late at night, then sleep again till morning. Neither good nor bad, I guess, as long as it all adds up to sufficient sleep.

Bimodal sleep.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Books, trees, and sneezes

I'm reading Elizabeth Goudge's memoir Joy of the Snow

I think I like her books so much because I have a similar temperament to hers. She wrote early on in the book that she has tended to love places more than people. And, though of course I love many people dearly, I love Lynden as a place and I love my house as a place to live and especially my deck, where I grow flowers, and the back yard.

Later in the book she wrote about the gift of singleness and said one doesn't appreciate it until one is older because at first it's so disappointing to be childless, and this also was my experience. I fretted a lot about never finding the right person to marry until I was into my 40s. When it was too late for me to have children, then I lost my desire to find a husband. Elizabeth Goudge mentions in this paragraph that one can always find children to love, and that is true for me. I have received great joy from my nieces and nephews, and now my great-nieces and great-nephew. They're all sweethearts.

Miss Goudge is very introverted and mentions the challenge of social occasions. I am nearly off the scale introverted.

She had a nervous breakdown after her father died, and I have struggled with depression.

She writes of the development of her Christian faith in terms I can relate to.

One quality she possessed, which I do not share, was a certain level of sixth sense, or extra-sensory perception, which ran in her mother's family. But I don't think I would want that.

Meanwhile, I have been having distressing sinus symptoms today. I did have a few stray sneezes last night at my church's New Year's Eve service and this morning. This afternoon, with my kind sister-in-law's kind help, I took down my Christmas tree, and I think the close contact with the tree and the shaking it around that the process entailed triggered an allergy attack. I have been trying various remedies from Flonase nasal spray to decongestant pills to sitting over a steaming bowl of hot water with my head and the bowl covered by a towel. I really want it to be allergies and not a cold because on Monday I have to assist my elderly mother to go to and from a surgical procedure and I don't want to be infectious with a respiratory complaint that would be harder on her than it is on my if she catches it. So I'm praying my symptoms clear up overnight when my immune system has a chance to chill out and get grip while I sleep.

Now, readers, whoever and wherever you may be, a truly happy and blessed new year to you.