Putting the Tree Up


Dearest John,

Just a note that I should have written several days ago. I’m busy as a bee and still a lot is going undone. I can’t remember what we decided about your folks’ gifts. I got the things off for Washington (her relatives) and Wheaton (his relatives) and sent a check to Harold’s.

Mrs. Grif. told me that Gertrude was operated on and they found a malignant tumor and just had to sew her up again, and in their tests they also found that she has Hodgkin’s disease. She doesn’t know all this. I took time to write her a letter.

We got our tree and put and lights on this a.m. Changed furniture around some. Danny is so happy — children will put other decorations on tonight.

Don’t stop to buy groceries on the way home. I bought considerable to stock up and we’ll need the money. I’ve been paying bills and getting gifts—goes so quickly. Afraid the Lord will not get His rightful share of this Christmas.

Now I must close. The mailman comes early. What shall we get David? He wants a horn or a watch. I have got most of the other children’s gifts. Clothes from us and trucks, etc. from what Grandma gave us.

Lovingly, Nellie

P.S. I’m busy but want to tell you again how much I enjoyed the banquet and appreciated you bringing me home. Hope you get back O.K. and get ready for Monday’s classes. The banquet was such a treat – from beginning to end.


New Wardrobe for the Walls

DSC_0954Our home is the kind where nail holes in the wall are sacred. I normally change a picture—or even a paint color—about once a score. Score, you’ll recall, is the second word in the Gettysburg address.

And now, in the space of one month, I have three new views. This shocks me…and confuses friends for whom a total room makeover occurs with every new season. The kind of interior decorators who develop a facial twitch if everything in their house is the same for six months.

The Courage, dear heart is eye level next to the mirror in the bathroom. Befitting, eh?  I love looking at this while I prepare for the day ahead. My husband uses this phrase to gently tease me. As in, (me–>) “I can’t figure out how to get the gray scuff marks out of the sink.” (him–>) “Courage, dear heart.”

DSC_0164I saw these colorful creatures at The Potter’s House, a local store that sells hand-thrown bowls and plates and mugs. A store perched on the other end of the spectrum from WalMart. My go-to store for gifts. I couldn’t resist the whimsy. Curt calls it, “Till We Have Faces.” I wake up with the birds every morning; they make me sing.

DSC_0206My friend Faith gave me Bind my wandering heart to thee knowing the phrase came from my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I propped this on top of my piano, testing the location before I pounded a (sacred) nail in the wall. This week I was in the midst of a talkfest in the aisle of a store when Tune my heart leaned into my peripheral vision. And now they both sing to me in my kitchen while I make dinners or type on the computer. I love the pairing.

Beauty and serendipity washed and rinsed me again. ♫♪♫ Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow ♫♪♫.

Clean Grief

It’s been a one-two punch week.

I reconnected with an old friend after 25 years of silence.  We talked on the phone this week.  At one time we were very close, a mutual love of the Lord Jesus bonding us together.  Since then she has rejected what we once shared and switched to a different, wider path, enlightened thought and new allegiances.

The next day brought news that our friend’s son had taken his life.  There are no words.

These are times of trouble; it’s time to read Ecclesiastes.

Sorrow can be such a complicated thing.  It easily gets muddied with regrets, splattered with the wrong actions of the deceased, splotched with omissions, and speckled with questions.  More than one friend has found evidence of gross immorality on his father’s computer after his death.

One of the gifts we can give to those we leave behind is the gift of clean grief.  The difference between clean and mucked-up grief is the difference between the cut of a surgeon’s sterilized knife and the  puncture of a rusty nail.   Both are incredibly painful, both require a time of healing, and both leave scars; but the puncture requires much cleansing in order to heal.

What brings clean grief?  Clean living – living by the law of God.  Regular confession, repentance, courage to confront the secret sins, honest evaluation, transparent friendships, the fear of God, trusting in Christ alone to cleanse.  

What about when things go south?  When there is a murky mess left?  The first response should be, “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.  Look for instruction, what can I learn from this?  Be silent. Finally, there is no viable option but to trust our Creator and leave it in His hands.  Read Ecclesiastes.

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is:
fear God and keep His commandments,
because this applies to every person.
Because God will bring every act to judgment,
everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to thy cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress,
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the Fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

  from Rock of Ages,
Augustus Toplady

Rules of the Game

The man I love is an expert in many things; playing ping pong is one of them.   I recently gave him a ping pong table for his (50th) birthday.   Since it’s warmed up enough that we can play comfortably in the garage, we’ve been playing many games.  It’s everybody’s goal to beat Dad/Curt.  Only one person has accomplished this in recent history, Jessie’s 16-year old brother Adam. 

Curt, who is left-handed, starts off playing right handed.  He can win 90% of the games this way. If his opponent threatens, he switches to left-handed play and swiftly finishes the game. 

A new life goal: to beat my husband in a game of ping pong while he plays right-handed.  I am starting by just trying to improve my personal best record.  Last night I reached 15 points against him.  I think know he’s being easy on me, but he’s too much of a competitor, and has too much respect for me to “let me win”.  He was born a coach with good observation and diagnostic skills.  Along the way, he gives me pointers to help me improve my game.

In a Teaching Company tape about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Professor Bonnie Wheeler said this about what makes a game (ludus in Latin) a game:

1.  It is played between unequal partners.
2.  A game has rules.
3.  The play is repetitive (my turn, your turn).
4.  The playground is well marked, has boundaries.
5.  The game itself must be uncertain in its outcome.
6.  The players are expected to be deadly serious about their commitment to the game.

I love a little competition in my life. 

It’s going to take a while to make #5 a reality, but it’s sure fun working while I play! 

When is the last time you played a game of ping pong?

What I’m Learning This Week

Whenever, WHEN-EV-AH, my  brother and lovely sister-in-law come for a visit we learn something new. 

How to make sausage.
How to make upscale, gourmet homemade pizza.
How to make a killer green salad.
How to make bread dough in a food processor. (That was then; we don’t do that one anymore.)
How to make Esther Cunningham’s Orange Marmalade Cake.
How to make prime rib that sits in the fridge for three days unwrapped and forms a crust.
How to make healthy mushroom soup.
How to grill red peppers and skin them.

I used to think my brother was a genius.

Then he gave me a decade of Cook’s Illustrated yearbooks.  As I browsed through them, I recognized familiar recipes and procedures.  Ha!!  He’s just a good reader – always has been.  Naw, seriously, he’d make a great baker if he wasn’t busy earning a living singing.

But this year, my friend……this year he’s outdone himself.  Loaf after loaf after loaf.  Hungry sons scoop it up!

Elegant simplicity.
Outrageously easy. 
Incredible presentation. 
Melt in your mouth taste. 

No-Knead Bread

You need:
A cast-iron Dutch Oven
SAF Instant Yeast
12-18 hours

You don’t need:
To knead

Recipe is here.



Music in the Morning

For the virtuoso, musical works are in fact nothing but tragic and moving materializations of his emotions: he is called upon to make them speak, weep, sing and sigh; to recreate them in accordance with his own consciousness.  In this way he, like the composer, is a creator, for he must have within himself those passions that he wishes to bring so intensely to life.               ~ Franz Liszt

You see, playing the piano is a combination of Brain, Heart and Means.  And all three should be even.  If one falls short of the others, the music suffers.  Without Brains, you are a fiasco.  Without Means, you are an amateur.  Without Heart, you are a machine.  It has its dangers, this occupation.    ~Vladimir Horowitz

After we have completed our morning routine of Psalm, prayer, poetry, and catechism, we listen to music that can accompany our educational pursuits. Music with lyrics competes with the studies, so it is not part of our morning repertoire.  My son leans towards Lord of the Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks and often pops one in the CD player.  However, we both enjoy Bach, George Winston, Phil Coulter, Yo-Yo Ma, Celtic anything, etc.  The Adagio series are also lovely soundtracks for study.

The Great Synthesis:  After reading My Life with the Great Pianists by Franz Mohr, I began collecting music by some of the great pianists referenced in the book.  Saturday, this peaceful, contemplative Horowitz CD arrived in the mail.  As I type this I’m listening to Robert Schumann’s Träumerei, the piece that Noah Adams wrote about playing in his book Piano Lessons, a journal of his year of piano lessons begun at age 51.  Horowitz plays to perfection Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata, a lovely adagio one of my piano students is beginning.

There you have it – music for both my vocation and avocation.  Vita é bella!

Detoxing the Soul

This verse (I Peter 1:22) from yesterday’s sermon:

Seeing that you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.

Here it is again in a paraphrase:

Now you can have real love for everybody because your souls have been cleansed from selfishness and hatred when you trusted Christ to save you; so see to it that you really do love each other warmly, with all your hearts.

                                                       ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Saturday we had a garage sale at/with Curt’s folks.  There were about 15 sales in one neighborhood.  During a lull Curt and his dad walked around to see what bargains might be found.  Eureka!  Three CD’s for $4 each, all in the original shrinkwrap: Gordon Lightfoot and two YoYo Ma CDs.  Gordon Lightfoot was someone we listened to in the early years of our marriage.  The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is a beautiful ballad.  Does anyone remember Gordon Lightfoot?

On Track!

It’s the little things that count.  That’s my mantra this week.  It’s amazing how little changes accumulate until they become noticeable changes. 

We have had three days of school with doing ab.so.lute.ly. everything on the schedule.  That’s a September and a January thing.  But it is encouraging.  Keep plugging away. Today Collin and I discussed the rise and fall of nations in recent world history. 

In my discipline of diet with WW, I’m finding the same thing.  Drinking plenty (3 qts) of water is a small thing, but it adds up and helps.  I’m struggling with taming the BLTs (bites, licks and tastes).  The little things, again.

Have you seen changes from little things in your life?