Thursday, April 26, 2012

Surprise Blessing

It was one of those times that makes you want to cry and smile at the same time you're scratching your head.

Let me back up and say why .

All this year I've been a volunteer art teacher in my son's school. (But not in his class; that could spell disaster.)  The little Christian upstart school has had no money in the budget to pay me, so it's my volunteer parent job. (Every parent has one.)  If you're a teacher of any subject, you know how easy it is to spend--or to want to spend--extra money for things that will enrich your students' learning experience. Or bring "oohs" and "aahs" and smiles that are worth every penny.

However, my husband asked me to please not volunteer both my time AND money this year for the nine kids in my middle school art class.  Our four children are costing enough to educate. I said okay. I would behave. I would honor his wishes and also the wishes of my principal to teach "the grammar of art."  Concepts and skills, linked with their history and/or science whenever possible to make it a classical education.  No problem.  I was up to the challenge. 

The only thing I might have to spend money for is the Mother's Day project if I wanted something 3D. And I did NOT want to make flower pots again. Cute as they were a couple years ago at my other school, I am not the kind of person to do the same project twice. There's just too much art out there to be explored to repeat the same thing, right???

But I managed to not spend one penny on supplies except for...

In October I found 16x20 canvas on sale.  Perfect for late in the year when the students could handle doing a "big" project.   That was $30.  Not bad when divided by 9.

Then just recently I had to invest in some medium flat brushes and more acrylics. The supply of the primary colors was nearly gone  So brushes and paint, $24.  Again, not bad when divided by 9.

Of course every beautiful present deserves beautiful presentation, so that'd be another $6 for wrapping paper. I could donate that.

So I was up to $60 and figured that was okay to ask. for.  Well, ask I did, and the answer was no. There was no money in the budget for it.  I'm telling you, "tight" doesn't begin to describe the art department budget.

When I got upset about it, I told my husband. And for a change, he was not upset about spent money. It wasn't worth it to get upset, he said. Write it off. Live and learn. Be clear next time about who will pay for it.  But sixty bucks is no big deal in the whole scheme of things. Wow, was my husband really saying those words? 

But then, two days ago, he got some rattling news at work. News that rattled me, too. News that no wife wants to think about. News that makes you think "Sixty bucks when you have a good job is not a big deal. Sixty bucks when you don't is rice and beans and beans and rice."

So imagine my shock, my delight, my dancing feet (even the one that's possibly fractured), when...
this morning
at school
 I found,
 in my mailbox,
an envelope marked
 "Art Supplies."
 No note or anything
 with it.
No name.
No identifiable handwriting.

 Just sixty bucks.


Three crisp,  twenty-dollar bills.

 I blinked.

Who knew this is what I spent on Mother's Day gifts for the moms? Only three people: the secretary, the other art teacher, and the principal.

I asked the secretary
Don't know, she said.

I asked the other art teacher.
Nope, no idea, she said.

I asked the principal.
She had no clue what I was talking about.

"It must be from the Lord," was all she said.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hodgepodge: Shakespeare, Sleep, and Sadness

I haven't fallen victim of a tragedy--Shakespeare's or otherwise,  but if you've wondered wherefore art I've been, read the post below this one.  It's had something do with "art," actually.

This delightful meme called the Hodgepodge comes with a complete set of eight prompts every week, and all you have to do is supply the answers.  It's not hard if you're familiar with yourself.
Thanks, Joyce (From This Side of the Pond) ,for being the brains behind this brawny exercise.  I could be wrong., but I do believe we've collectively written more volumes than the Bard himself.

1. William Shakespeare's birthday is celebrated on April 23rd...when did you last read Shakespeare? What's your favorite Shakespeare play? Last time I read Shakespeare was probably was several years ago when I was asked to consider teaching high school literature at our homeschool co-op. After all, I was an English major, right? Right. And because I was, I was forced in college (by the desire to get to A's) to read a whole expanse of literature I didn't especially like. Don't get me wrong; Shakespeare was a genius and I love his poetry. His sonnets are hard to beat. I also appreciate the comedies and can quote things like, "whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or ( ...yada yada about taking up arms...) and by opposing, end them?" I enjoy Shakespeare on stage when it's well done. I've seen A Midsummer Night's Dream, Taming of the Shrew -- (my fave), Hamlet, and MacBeth. Actually my hubby and I saw Christopher Plummer on stage at the Lyric in Baltimore for our first wedding anniversary. Suprise tickets from  him. I still remember Lady MacBeth's hem getting caught on and ripped by a nail in the stage riser. She stayed right in character when she heard the rip. "Oh, FYE on it!" she yelled, the funniest line of the whole play, ad libbed. But to sit down and read Shakespeare? No thanks. To discuss him with a class? Bigger no thanks.

2. What food(s) would you recommend a foreign visitor try when they visit your home country? Well, the United States certainly could offer at least 50 different yummables to a foreigner, couldn't she? Since I'm partial to Maryland and her cuisine, I would say you gotta try the crabs. I enjoy showing "foreigners" (from as nearby as Kansas and as far away as Birobidzhan) how to use a crab mallet to crack the claws open, how to remove the apron and the yucky yellow guts and lungs, and pick all the jumbo lump crab meat out that's just absolutely fantabulous with Old Bay. Folks who think Red Lobster has tasty crabs need a real education. Only Maryland's blue crabs with Old Bay seasoning are worth trying in America. If you just really couldn't stomach eating a crab after peeling its legs and shell off, then do try a crabcake. In my own little town is Baltimore's best. If you're ever in the area, I'll join you for lunch.

3. What's a lie you often tell yourself? I'll be thin again without contracting a disease.

4. What's something you're good at that might surprise us? Remember this is a family friendly blog! Oh, Joyce, you had to add that last part. Too funny. You might not know I can do ventriloquism. And I can do magic; my husband says he has never seen anyone who can make money disappear as fast as I can.

5. Who is your favorite animal character from a book? So many to choose from. But just the other day something made me think of Wilbur, the talking pig, from Charlotte's Web. Oh, I remember what made me think of it. A discussion on the sale of Mark Zuckerberg's "baby"--Facebook. I thought "Zuckerberg's Famous Pig: F-A-C-E-B-O-O-K." Talk about bringing home the blue ribbon AND the bacon!!

6. April showers bring May you have a green thumb? I used to be better about keeping things growing. Now I can't even get my thumbNAILS to grow. But as for flowers--I keep buying them and keep getting reminded they need at least water to live.

7. Speaking of rainy days...which one of the following activities would you most want to spend time doing on a rainy day- sort photos and create albums bake cookies read a good book hold an all-day movie marathon organize closets, cupboards, or bookshelves try a new recipe fix something that needs fixing Hmmm, I scanned the list for the one missing--napping. Nothing I like better. Rain zaps my energy, so the organize thing would not even make the cut. Sometimes I'm inspired by cold rain to heat up the kitchen with a new recipe. Or tweaking an old one. But the other things would induce sleep on a rainy day, so I still stay my favorite activity would involve a whole of inactivity.

8. Insert your own random thought here. Sadly, my sister lost the baby over the weekend, so I won't be an aunt this Thanksgiving after all.

Dropped Out

One huge mistake I made was checking out a complete stranger's blog in the challenge on the letter I. It was about ice being bad for dogs. Incredulous or informative?? ? I don't know what I clicked, but POOF! A major virus WIPED out so much data on my son's desktop. You know, like I thought whole school projects in his COMPUTER SCIENCE major classes were GONE FOREVER? Well, he is too smart to not back stuff up, so we were okay. But oh, wow. my stomach and heart were SICK!! Many times this month I've considered dropping out of the A to Z Challenge when it was taking so much time and mental energy--with few visits from others to make me sense I had an audience. But I don't like to quit. I kept going with my tributes. Then, my laptop quit for me. It just wouldn't charge well. Actually, the adaptor cord got too frayed to be safe anymore, so we pulled the plug on it--literally. In the middle of my S post. I was okay with that decision. A corny thought, of course, crossed my mind. "You're s'post to be getting other stuff done anyway." I know, I can't help myself when it comes to corn. Rather than being upset about my handicap, I'm relieved. I've gotten quite a bit accomplished in my unplugged state and got busy with an A to Z list of the real life variety: A--appliances--cleaned the microwave and stove and made ART B--brushed the dog's teeth )I kid you not. I did that for the first time with him, and he was really good about it.) C--curtains--washed my family room curtains )oh, the dust on them!) D--dishes--planned which ones to use for upcoming Mother-Daughter Tea E--Entryway--a work in progress I have a ton of work to do around the house and much to do at school in preparation for our upcoming art show and Mother's Day projects. I am so excited, but stressed, too. It's always a LOT of work to put up a display for only minimal viewing time. Still, children's art thrills me to pieces, so I am up to that kind of challenge. Why isn't blogger publishing my paragraph breaks? They show up in the draft but disappear in the final version. It is driving me crazy. I hate huge paragraphs. Who wants to read big chunks of text without white space???

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for R

For the sake of my friend's privacy, I won't use her real name. I will substitute the letter R and not give any details that would tell a story that isn't mine to tell. R is leaving a legacy of forgiveness. Vile offenses have been done against her, yet she has forgiven the offender, and she lives a life a of peace and joy and freedom. When I asked her how--how could she forgive him??--she told me she was only able to forgive through the power of Christ, and because she knows she has been forgiven by our holy God. It wasn't easy. It took time. But the result has been life-changing. Having thought about legacies all month, I think people who are quick to forgive have had the greatest impact on me. It's not their talent, their looks, their personalities, their intellect, their giftings, or anything they were born with. Rather, forgiveness is something that is a learned act of the will. No one is born with a will to forgive. Granted, some people are not easily offended, and others are. But regardless, whatever one's tolerance for offense might be, everyone has to forgive many people many times in a day, a week, a year, a lifetime. Some of us have a real hard time forgiving. We need people like R in our lives to keep showing us how it's done. Sure, Jesus showed us ultimately at the cross how it's done, but I admit that I have said, "But He's God. Of course He could forgive. You can do anything when you're God. How about the ordinary human being like me?" How do I forgive? How do we free ourselves from bondage? By letting people off OUR hook. Not "THE" hook; I used to think that they would be off the hook if I forgave them, but she has reminded me that God will deal them. No one gets off His hook unless He releases them. He deals with everyone; vengeance is His. There was a time I wished people like R's offender (and a couple of mine) would rot in hell. Then I learned what the Bible says about hell, and I could no longer think that. Would I want to go to hell for MY sins? Have I committed murder in my heart through anger? Many, many, many times! Should I be sent to hell for a murderous heart? Absolutely! But have I been forgiven by Jesus and set free from that sin? Yes, indeed. But too often I still hold onto the hurts. One look at R and I think, "If she can forgive someone for _________, I can forgive them for this." What kind of love and strength is takes to let go of bitterness. I have told her once, but I must tell her again before it's too late. Her legacy of forgiveness speaks volumes to me. Mega volumes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Q is for Quite Sure Dem Bones Dem Bones Gonna Need a Doc

I already blogged a long time ago about my friend Sandy who shares an inside joke about her being quintessential. Her legacy is enthusiasm.

I have a stuffed panda named Quincy, but I'd be accused of anthropomorphism if I actually said he is leaving a legacy of unconditional acceptance. So I won't write about Quincy, either, although he knows I have loved him since third grade and will never part with him no matter how old and grey and unstitched he becomes.

Speaking of coming unstitched, I am in pain right now. The only thing I'm inclined to do is keep my ankle inclined. I have it propped up on a pillow with a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a dish cloth. I believe it's a stress fracture because it's been gradually getting worse for the past month. It wasn't a traumatic injury, nothing heroic to blog about. Yet I blog about it anyway, of course. (Although, this is the same ankle I broke while playing volleyball during March Madness 1995. If you recall a recent Hodgepodge story about said ankle, that injury is forever linked to the words "Can it wait till halftime?")

In the mornings I can barely walk. In fact, a couple days ago I crawled to the bathroom. Do you have any idea how ridiculous it feels to crawl across your bedroom floor with a full bladder? Trust me, it's enough to make a grown man laugh.

As I type this, I am on the sofa. I have crutches next to me, plus a cell phone, a blanket, and water.

I was fine during the day, with a few minor give-ways of the left ankle. I always hold onto the railing when I take stairs, but it's absolutely critical now because I had it go out on me while descending with a load of laundry. In a few seconds, it was fine. I even had an okay time getting my house ready to host care group as a last-minute change of venues. But after everyone left and I sat down to get my head together to teach art tomorrow, my ankle began to throb. I couldn't flex it one bit without pain. I was able to crawl to the steps to get my son's attention for assistance with the aforementioned therapies. Steve, what a guy. He's good to his momma.

I then proceeded to email my boss to let her know I think it's wiser not to teach tomorrow. Teaching art requires quick movements to set up for a 9:20 class. And standing for an hour. And taking trips up the stairs for supplies. I am afraid of falling; did I mention that? I need to get an appointment with the orthopedist.

If you've been around this blog for any length of time, you will know that between my sons and me, we have probably put at least five orthopedists' kids through college and quite possibly grad school.

Talk about lousy timing. We have an art show coming up on May 4th following the spring concert. You know, the biggest deal of the year for this class??? And oh, yes, Mother's Day. We are supposed to be doing a special paint project (acrylic on canvas) . I can't afford to miss a day. Nor can I afford to fall.

Quick, for the letter Q, please offer a quiet prayer for me, for grace of healing and peace about the timing of this supposedly fractured foot.

P is for Pauline

We're coffee buddies. That's what we call each other. Pauline invites me in for coffee once a week while her talented daughter (a high school senior) teaches my youngest son to play piano.

She is a military wife, and that means a few things: she jumps in fast to the active life wherever she goes, she makes friends quickly, and she will be moving soon. That last part is hard for me to write, but it's true. We're not sure when, but the Navy does, and they're not telling. Yet.

(Her sweet and spoiled Westie named Teddy isn't telling either. A good belly rub and mum's the word with that little terrier.)

So we do what we do best to make the most of the time: talk. Talk, talk, talk. Pauline is one of those people who asks great questions and isn't afraid to be gut-level honest about herself. She also gets my jokes, which helps keep the friendship going. I don't think I could be good friends with someone who didn't have a sense of humor. I don't know how to act around chronically serious people. Pauline can make me laugh with just a look. She has the most expressive face. Norman Rockwell would've hired her for her eyebrow movements alone.

Pauline's screened-in back porch has been the platform for her special brand of hospitality. She homeschools her four kids, as did I for many moons, so we understand each other on that level without saying a word, so we don't talk home schooling much. We both have high standards in education. We both have husbands who are driven to succeed and want the same for their kids. Academics hit the conversation chopping block as soon as we step past the kitchen.

We both love the Lord, the free enterprise system, and lots and lots of creamer in our coffee. She has a Jewish father who served in World War II and a Buddhist mother who makes killer sushi. You can imagine the stories she can tell about growing up. And I thought I had eclectic religious roots! Too bad her mom lives out of state, or I know where'd I'd be going when I get the craving for Japanese food.

Oh, and we both are obsessed with our hair. (This picture betrays our obsession.) She told me once she thought she had missed her calling; she has always wanted to be a hairdresser. So I said I had also missed my calling--to sit in a hairdresser's chair week after week, and not for curls and color either! I'd pay $10 just to have someone play with it. No talent required. One of these days I am going to go over to Pauline's house with all my hair product and we will answer our "conference calling" for a half hour while my son tickles the ivories. Chopin or This Old Man, it doesn't matter the background music; when someone wants to style your hair, it is just uber relaxing. I would love to have hair as thick as hers; she would love to hair as soft as mine. We swap compliments like drug dealers on a street corner. Maybe that's why we get along so well!

Or maybe it's because she lent me her blue coat the day I thought the spring would stick around past noon. I told her I love the patriotic look, so she gave me a matching cup as a prop. Just kidding. That was happenstance, much like our friendship. I like this "mug" shot of us.

Pauline is a good mom. She is raising her children well. I appreciate that. They are mannerly and know how to carry on conversations with adults. I used to teach art to two of them. But Pauline craves one-on-one time with her friends, so when I'm over there, she shoos them away so we can talk. It'd be different if we had three or four hours to chat.

Pauline and I are savoring what precious little time we have left together before she moves. I think if people viewed all of their relationships like we do, the world would be a happier place. We haven't known each other long, but she is leaving a legacy of friendship I will treasure forever.

Hodgepodge: Pinions, Pride, and Patches

Both my Hodgepodge answers and my A to Z Challenge post above are brought to you today by the letter P. I will try to be brief for this post, but don't hold me to it. Brevity is not my forte. Call me the poster child for prolific posting.

The rules are simple for the Hodgepodge at my lodge: Drink up some tea or coffee while you read my answers, then think up, and then link up with Joyce, our happy Hodgepodge hostess.

Let me know if you play along--or just let me know in my comment box. Me and about 59 other Hodgepodge addicts, that is.

1. Spring is in the air (at least in my neck of the woods) and the birds are singing...what's your favorite bird?

Once upon a time it was Cal Ripken, AKA a world-renowned Baltimore Orioles baseball player from (very close to) my hometown. But I couldn't name one O's player now if you paid me. The Ravens are the beloved "birds" in these parts.

But I suppose you meant real birds. The kind that are hatched from eggs. I love hummingbirds, cardinals, robins, American goldfinches , nuthatches, and chickadees. That's my short list. I adore any songbird, really. But I will say that cardinals have a spiritual effect on me because one was an answer to prayer a few years ago when I was despairing. I've shared that story before somewhere on this blog.

So let me tell you a different bird story that my mother once told me of a lady she knew. This one's a comedy-thriller. Or a thriller-comedy, take your pick:

Once upon a time, there was a certain middle-aged woman who was very familiar with the Bible. One day, when the woman was in her mid-40's or so (when the memory comes and goes like a sneeze), this woman was abducted on the sidewalk and forced into a strange man's car.

Scared to death of what this man might do, the lady "took her thoughts captive"; her mind flew to the King James Version of one scripture about God's protection. It says, "He shall cover thee with his pinions."

Pinions are the outer part of a birds' rear wings that contain most of the feathers. In her terrified state, the woman could not remember the word "pinions." She could only picture in her mind what they were: feathers.

She spread out her arms and started flapping them like wings in the passenger seat, trembling and shaking wildly, and began yelling, "Feathers! Feathers! Feathers!" The man yelled back at her to shut up, but that only made her cry and yell all the more. "Feathers! Feathers! Feathers!" Flap, flap, flap, cry, cry, cry.

Certain the woman was more psycho than himself, the abductor forced her back out of the car at the next stoplight, and that was the end of that.

2. Speaking of you tweet? If so tell us your screen name and we'll come flocking to your Twitter site. Even if you don't let's all pretend here that we do-in 140 characters or less, sum up your week so far.

I don't tweet. My week: Sunday lunch w/ youngest sons and hubby. Monday made 4 quiches. Today cleaned kitchen, bathrooms;laundry. Viewed professional's wedding pics of son and bride!

3. Its been reported recently that employers are not only viewing the facebook pages of potential hires but they're also requesting your facebook password to have a look at what you've kept from public view. What say you?

Butt out.

4. It's April and you know what that means-Major League Baseball is back in action. What's your favorite baseball movie? If that's too hard, what's your favorite sports themed movie?

I can only think of one baseball movie at the moment. Field of Dreams. It was so-so. You know, sad and predictable and triumphant. Favorite sports-themed movie: Remember the Titans.

5. Something else this season brings-asparagus. Yes please or no thanks? If it's yes please what's your favorite way to have it prepared?

Yes, please, but only if it's pencil-thin. I love it simply grilled or roasted with a little salt, pepper, and butter. But if you want to lather it with cheese or toss in some herbs and bacon and more veggies, I won't complain. Or if you're thinking asparagus-crab dip, I'll be right over.

6. What drives you? (Don't you love how I sandwiched that one in between asparagus and jugglers???)

My own selfish desires drive me, more often than not. Whether I am driven to eat, clean, shop, nap, organize, write, decorate, paint, play with the dog, watch TV, snuggle with my hubby, or pray with my youngest child, I usually am driven by desire. Sometimes guilt or compassion or duty will drive me. Also knowing people are coming over will drive me to notice and take care of many things I've neglected. (That's pride shrouded in embarrassment if things are in disarray.) I've almost never been driven by money. As I always say, good thing my husband is. I would make a poor breadwinner.

7. April 18th is International Jugglers Day...can you juggle?

Literally or figuratively? Figuratively, yes. Most women are efficient in juggling all sorts of things simultaneously. Literally, no. I stay entertained by my hubby who can juggle.

Funny story, bless his heart: A few weeks ago my husband came home from the library all excited to show our son a few new hobby books he picked up for him. He had forgotten one little detail ,though: son's arm was in a sling from a broken collarbone. What was the topic of said hobby books? Juggling!! You have never seen a father laugh so hard while trying to apologize.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

My mom had a cornea transplant and cataract surgery on one eye last week. She is doing quite well. Colors are so much brighter. Whites are white, not brownish white. The only problem was that she told the nurses and doctors three or four different times that she's allergic to latex. And yet someone wasn't listening.

Imagine her dismay when she woke up from anesthesia with an itchy ring around her eye. Not on the eye, but a large circle of itchiness above her brow, on her nose and cheekbone. She asked the nurse to please take the patch off immediately to find out the problem. Lo and behold, what was the plastic patch adhered with? Latex tape. Thankfully the nurse was able to sooth her skin with something and reapply the patch with non-allergenic surgical tape.

All in all, my mother is very grateful for her new cornea. When I took a loaded veggie quiche to her yesterday, I do believe it was a sight for sore eyes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"One More Thing"

In my best Colombo voice, "One more thing, madam..." as if I haven't posted enough for today.
My friend and fellow blogger, Rachel, has opened an Etsy shop that features her delightful art.
Check it out, and better yet--buy something!

Rachel, I'm proud of you! You inspire me with your talents.

Rachel: Art & Home

O is for Obsequious

I don't have enough to say about the people I've met whose names (or nicknames) begin with the letter O. Not enough to write a whole post on any of them, I should say. My memories of a woman named Ona can be summed up in the word "disciplined" while memories of someone else's Dutch grandparents ("Oma" and "Opa") could be summed up with "faithfulness."

Therefore I will omit a tribute today.

What I really need to do is to omit blogging from my daily life for a while. In fact, I am pretty sure I will be doing a reverse sort of challenge in May. For April the challenge is to blog every day except Sunday (with the exception of April 1 which happened to be the kickoff Sunday). Essentially that's four days off of blogging in April.

In May, I'll try the opposite--ONLY blogging four days. While writing these legacy posts is a wonderful exercise for expressing my heart to the world (and to the individuals I've honored), I must confess it's not easy to keep up this pace. Outrageous. Obsequious. Ostentacious. (I don't recall the meaning of obsequious, but it's fun to say.)

I'm overwhelmed and overcome sometimes by the grace of God in my life through the influence of dozens and dozens of people. I've also been off-the-charts curious (call it overactively intropsective) about what legacy I am leaving. The conclusions are obviously negative to me.

"She was ordinarily online."
"Her obliques were obsolete."
"She was overchatty and overweight."
"She was overtly obsessed with grammar, spelling, and punctuation. OCD."Bold"She opted out of organizing and cleaning too often."
"She had a lot of personal power outages."

Lately I've been oscillating between condemnation and conviction.

Condemnation says, "You're old, obese, and obstinate. What good are you? Might as well give up on impacting anyone for good. No one really cares that much anyway. You'll be forgotten soon enough. Gain weight, lose weight, what does it matter? Serve people and they might or might not say thanks. Is it worth the effort to serve ungrateful people? Might as well do what YOU enjoy. You only go around once. Eat, drink, and be merry!"

Conviction says:

1. "Teach us to number our days, that we may may gain a heart of wisdom."
2. "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; now glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are His.
3. "Serve one another and do not grow weary in doing good."
4. "For the Son of God came not to be served, but to serve."
5. "I have loved you with an everlasting love."
6. "Freely you have been given; freely give."
7. "To whom much is given, much is required."
8. "My grace is sufficient for you."
9. "If you chase after worthless idols, you forfeit the grace that could be yours."
10. "Offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, for this is your reasonable service." (I tend to think that my duties are just unreasonable. Au contraire. (Oh, contrare.)
11. "To obey is better than sacrifice."

Pardon my omission of biblical references. The eleven quotes above are taken from scripture--God's holy oracle-- and are memorized, sans reference.

I intend to finish up my April A to Z challenge because there's half-an-alphabet's worth of people that I want to say a few (or more) words about. Then I plan to operate in other ways--more organization in the home, to be sure, but what's the highest priority? Returning to my First Love, God ,the Alpha and Omega. I've neglected time with Him. I used to so enjoy having coffee and scripture reading first thing in the morning. It was like taking a long, hot bath in grace. It's been months since I experienced that. (And going months without a bath? OY! There is a "distinkt" odor about even a servant who doesn't bathe regularly!)

Also, I want to be "visiting orphans and widows in their distress." How? By writing letters to our sponsor children, having coffee with a widowed friend of mine and glean wisdom on good marriage from her, encouraging my friend Bonnie in Africa (see link in my sidebar) as she ministers to orphans, praying more actively for our pastor and his wife who are in the process of adopting four orphaned brothers from Brazil). Orphans abandoned by father, mother, or both, because of drugs, disease, dysfunction, divorce, or death. (Obnoxious alliteration? My ap-ologies.) As the pastor pointed out, there are over 150 million orphans worldwide. Reread that sentence 150,000,000 times and see if you aren't moved. We have the privilege and onus of caring for them somehow, some way.

Oh, the overabundance that is life! Opportunities overflow. And so, fellow bloggers whom I delight in "seeing" and "hearing" daily, I am setting a different course in the upcoming month. It won't be easy. We all know that the "spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." By omitting blogging except for four days in May (on which days I might go on wild outbursts posting things I've pent up inside), I hope to leave a legacy of obedience motivated by love for the One who loves me with an everlasting love, who doesn't love me less if I never raise another finger, or doesn't love me more if I obey him with everything that is in me. If there's one thing I've learned from writing these legacies, it's this: a legacy is formed by whatever a person does over and over. I really need God's help to obey Him over and over, so that I don't forfeit the grace that could be mine.

PS. I went back and looked up the word "obsequious." It means "eager to please or obey." God has a sense of humor, doesn't He?

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Nan

Everyone needs a spiritual mother. Sometimes she is your biological mother and sometimes, especially when you're a teenager, she isn't. I was a typical teen who didn't put much credence in my parents' wisdom. And where is a girl to go with her full, angry, confused heart that wants to do right but keeps finding herself off the "straight and narrow" path that she knows deep down she wants to be back on?

To Nan's, that's where.

Nan always made time for me. Our youth group used to have special events at her house because she had a sprawling place. Big rooms, lots of land. But mostly love, love, love!

I say Nan "made" time for me; I don't say she "had" time, because she was far from idle. Not that she was a workaholic; she wasn't. She was a woman devoted to prayer. Her home was neat and tidy, and to my knowledge there was no housekeeper, so she must've kept house herself. But she was never "fussing" about it or drawing attention to it. The focus was always on God and what He was doing in people's lives.

She had been widowed and left with three children when they were teens. Long since graduated from high school, her children had left the nest--her son became a missionary in Ivory Coast-- but Nan always seemed to have people in her home. For a time her daughter returned with her infant son who had something like severe epilepsy. Grand mal seizures many times a day, and toward the end of his 10-month life, seizures several times an hour. Nan shared the night shift taking care of him; his monitor beeped for every breathing stoppage or gagging reflex. At the same time, her mother was bedridden and mute after a stroke. Nan fixed up the sunroom with a bed and comfy furniture and lamps and curtains that she opened every morning to introduce the sunshine to her mother. Her mom's name was Sarah, and above her bed was a plaque that said, "Sarah: Mother of Many Nations." Little did I know that someday my future husband would want to name our daughter Sarah. I pictured our girl being a mother to many children of her own . (I didn't envision then all the lives --"nations" she'd touch as an elementary school teacher.)

If there was no one else in human form at Nan's house for company, there was Jesus. That's one thing that stands out to me more than anything. No doubt about it, Jesus and Nan were close friends. She confided everything in Him over the kitchen table. One time when I was about 18, I drove to her house on a whim (not very thoughtful--just self-focused on my problems) and needed comfort and prayer. I drove to her stately old house which is nestled deep in the woods like a secret mansion. As I got out of my Chevy Chevette, horses neighed in the pasture, a kitty cat rubbed up against my leg, and the smell of boxwood scented the air like familiar cologne. All my senses were heightened and soothed at Nan's.

And then she opened the door. Her smile and open arms and contageous laugh melted me every time.

"Well, look who it is! Zo.Ann.A." She punctuated people's names as if giving them a good, long thought. She hugged me tight and said "Come on in! I was just having a cup of coffee with Jesus. It's just the two of us and I was asking Him what this verse means," she said, taking my hand and leading me to her open Bible on the table. "Darlin,' maybe He brought you here to explain it?" And then she would laugh with infectious joy. It was as if she cracked herself up thinking how great her life was to include impromptu visitors. And the humility! Goodness, why on earth would a 50-something lady be asking a teenager to explain something from the Bible! Now THAT was funny!

Nan didn't waste time on small talk. She got down to the nitty-gritty with ease and grace and amazing quickness. "Tell me what's going on, darlin.' Why did the Lord put it on your heart to come see this old woman in the woods today?" And somehow I let all my defenses down and spilled my proverbial guts. I felt safe and warm. She loved me, my parents, my friends. There was nothing I could say that would make her think less of me OR them. She always gave people the benefit of the doubt while listening to one side of the story. That's wisdom.

She treated her help well. In fact, I didn't even realize they were paid help on her farm. I thought they were young, strong men who found Nan's hospitality as irresistible as I did, and they were simply stopping by to feed the horses, muck the stalls, check the propane tank, cut back the shrubs, or what-have-you.

When I wanted to move back home after my second year away at college, I asked Nan if I could rent the apartment that was annexed to her main living area. (It was formerly the west end of the house where the youth group once made memories.) She gently explained that she didn't rent it out; she reserved it for missionaries on furlough or people who needed a sabbatical in the Lord's work.

Years later my daughter grew up and began visiting a house church when she was going through a spiritual growth spurt, with coinciding questions about her faith. She would go our church on Sundays, but one night a week she visited a house church. And guess who was there? She came home and said, "Mom, I met a woman who knows you from way back when. Do you remember someone named Nan? She is so loving."

That's Nan's legacy. Love. The ultimate legacy, wouldn't you agree?

Favorite Song?

Putting my youngest son to bed recently, I asked him a string of questions about his favorite things.
Me: What's your favorite color?
Him: Gold, purple, black, red. Purple mostly.
Me: What's your favorite day of the week?
Him: Saturday. Well, no. Friday night because I still have all Saturday and Sunday left.
Me: What's your favorite song?
Him: Song? I don't know if I have a favorite song. I guess I'll say the Song of Solomon.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

M is for Marcella

Marcella would have been my mother-in-law. Here are five other things about her.

1. Marcella was a writer and a poet. I have a letter that she wrote at age 55 to YWAM to ask if they would allow her the privilege to be part of their team. She wanted to invest her empty nest years in a meaningful way that wasn't possible while raising five sons. She also wrote poems for her oldest son, Tony, while he was in Vietnam.

2. Marcella had quite a sense of humor, and knew how to embarrass her sons with it. I loved that about her, because I think it's kind of spunky and fun to not be so uptight about certain things.For example, when her son David and his young wife went to the mall with her in the early 1980's, they all wandered into a waterbed store. Marcella plopped down on one, and remarked something to the effect, "This would be a great bed to have s-- on!" Another time she said something I thought humorous (but it mortified Paul who doesn't comment on women's bodies-- and he easily blushes). We were dating and he was living at his Mom's. I happened to get up from the sofa where Marcella and I were chatting about a writing desk in the far corner. As I crossed the room, she said to Paul, "Zoanna's got a nice rear-end, doesn't she, Paul?" (I was 21; things have changed.) Can you imagine the shades of red he turned when his mother said that? I might even have turned pink. But the funny thing is, I can still make him blush by flirting with him. He never knows what to expect out of me. That's one of the secrets to a long marriage--keep them guessing!

3. Marcella was a fun grandma. I remember watching her play Flea Market with the grandkids. Everything had a price and she was always haggling. "How about this sock, Matthew? Will ya take a dime for it?" She also played Army Men with the boys. Her only granddaughters were out of state and I don't recall what she played with them, but I know she did.

4. Marcella had compassion for the homeless. When she was attending a Presbyterian church in the city, she would bring them to fellowship in the church basement. She made sure they got a hot meal and something to drink, and respite from the elements for a short while. And she genuinely enjoyed sitting with them and getting to know them. She could talk to anyone. The main problem was, they smelled bad, and the church members didn't want them upstairs in the sanctuary. It was fine for them to be in the basement, but not upstairs where everything was clean and people were showered and dressed up for church. As I write this, I remember the time my husband was sharing this with a church group 12 years ago; he almost never cries, but he couldn't hold back the tears.

5. Marcella died of a ruptured aorta only 20 days before our late December wedding. She had had similar symptoms and pains as her son ,Gary, who had passed away 13 months earlier the same way. I had no idea the night we visited her in the hospital would be her last. Through agonizing pain and labored breath, she asked me what color dress my mom would be wearing. "Burgundy," I told her. She was happy because she had chosen a long, emerald green one with lace. It sounded beautiful and she was so excited at the thought of Paul getting married. It was beautiful. We buried her in it. I just couldn't grasp the sorrow and joy that co-mingled as we were planning a wedding and going through a funeral just weeks before Christmas.

I wish I'd known Marcella better ,and I certainly wish she had known our children ,and vice versa. Good thing there's eternity. Marcella and her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren -- and a lot of grateful homeless people to whom she showed God's kind of love--will be united in heaven. Maybe playing Flea Market?

Meal Plan for Two Weeks

I've been intending to be a bit more creative in the kitchen, and so I'm taking time over the next two weeks to try a few new things. I wish all my children would be here every night. The upside to a nest getting emptier is that the food budget is stretching farther. The downside? Too many to list, including that it was more exciting to feed six than three or four.

Anyway, I am attempting some recipes I found in Food Network magazine (Jan/Feb 2012), Cooking Light (March 2012), Facebook Friends, and adding some classic standby favorites of ours.

Monday -- Lowfat Veggie Quiche
Tuesday-- Spaghetti and Meatballs w/ Foccacia Bread
Wednesday-- Guy Fieri's Ginger-Carrot Soup, artichoke & pea salad, whole grain bread
Thursday--Chicken Marsala, flat spiral pasta, garlicky roasted green beans
Saturday- Stuffed Peppers w/ Long Grain Rice
Sunday--Pisolo Rojo
Monday--Fish and Yukon Golds
Tuesday-- date night?? :)O
Weds--Ground Beef Curly Noodles (Beth, per Fb)
Thursday--Cranberry Pork Tenderloin in crock pot

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for a Melange of M Words

Today is getting away from me. I have a legacy post in my head for my mother-in-law Marcella (God rest her soul) but am not sure I can do it justice with the mushy membrane--a mysterious malaise I have--between my ears today. Maybe by the morrow I can manage.

I have miles to go before I return to blogland, but this is my M post for today, just in case, because I like to play by the rules. I prefer to make up my own rules (most mere mortals do), but it just might be that I have to make room for other matters in the next several hours, including picking up a matching pair of end tables I bought for the main room this morning for only half the moolah the merchant was asking. Merry moments mean moving miscellany and, I hope, not matrimonial mayhem!

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Linda

My aunt Linda is my mother's only sister, and she's always had a special place in my heart. She was always the cool aunt, the fun aunt ,the wild aunt.

The first memory I have of Aunt Linda is from 1972 or '73. I was seven or eight. I will call the memory "The Cigarette and the Seminary." My aunt had come from Kansas to Missouri to visit us when we lived at the Baptist seminary where my parents were taking courses. Our apartment was about the size of a hopscotch board with the airport closer than the grocery store. I remember having to stop mid-sentence while a jet flew over, about every third minute of the day. I think that's when I learned to talk fast. It's also the first time I ever flicked the ash off of a cigarette, and it thrilled me. My aunt would hold the cigarette while she talked, and I just sat there watching the thing burn till I could flick it. Funny how things stick in a kid's mind. Aunt Linda smoked and she was cool; I concluded that I wanted to smoke when I grew up.

By the time I was in the seventh grade, Aunt Linda had moved to Ohio and we to Maryland. My mom took us three girls out to visit her. Aunt Linda was a product of the 60's, so she had this groovy, hippie style about her clothes, her house, and her music. It was all so foreign to this little dyed-in-the-wool Christian school girl of a niece. Her dark house was full of character, antiques, and quilts. She seemed to know everything there was to know about quilts and had her own shop. I couldn't fathom paying that much money for a blanket even if I had it. (I understand now, of course.) Her bed was a high, old, antique wooden bed with a feather mattress and comfy American quilts. We loved to take turns sleeping in it with her because we could stay up late talking. She seemed to really enjoy our company. It was probably hilarious because we were so doggone naive.

Aunt Linda was, and is, a gourmet chef. I won't even say "cook." She exceeds everyone I know in culinary skill, and I know a lot of great cooks. Nothing came out of a box or a can that I remember. Everything was fresh. She chopped onions, tomatoes, avocadoes, cucumbers, lettuce. She grilled fish and chicken and beef long before it was popular. The best homemade I've ever had in my life was at her house on Spring Break in 1993. That's how good it was. I went to her place for the week instead of going home. She served orange roughy with fresh lemon, steamed artichokes with butter, and a tossed salad. The thick oak table was always set with brown cloth napkins and stoneware. No delicate china like my mom used. Aunt Linda's style was 100 percent earthy.

*As an aside, I had three smoking experiences growing up, all of which were quick and non-habit-forming. One was in third grade in the loft of a barn. Not smart at all. One was right after high school when I worked as a Woolworth waitress and everyone smoked. And one was in the college dorm/former convent in my freshman year when my roommate and I wanted to see if we could smoke a whole pack or eat a whole bag of Combos first. We got so sick trying that neither cigarettes nor Combos has ever appealed to us again, so that's the last word on the cool charm of smoking for me. )

Back to Aunt Linda...

Twenty-one years ago she adopted a darling girl who now has a daughter of her own. My young, cool, hippie aunt became a grandmother. It seemed weird that the same woman who loved Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and marijuana and beads hanging in the doorways was now rocking a grandbaby, but to every thing there is a season. (Turn, turn, turn.)

Aunt Linda and I stayed up late talking about all kinds of stuff. Geriatrics was a favorite topic, believe it or not. I don't know if she or my parents (or all three) helped me develop a love for old people, but I learned much from my aunt. She was the director of a nursing home in Ohio and loved it so much that she moved to Santa Fe to build a home that became an adult daycare facility in the 80s and 90s. When it was no longer financially profitable for her, Aunt Linda converted it into a bed and breakfast called Casa Pacifica. Once again, her signature style of quilts and antiques and rustic, earthy decor filled the rooms. And once again, she used her gift of hospitality to welcome and nourish hungry travelers. Her business acumen (learned from her mother) helped her make a living at what she loved to do. She named one of the rooms in my grandmother's honor. It's called Tola's Favorite. If you're ever in Santa Fe, please stay at Casa Pacifica B&B and ask for Linda. Tell her Zoanna sent you. (She might double your rate, but oh well.)

There is so much more I could say about Aunt Linda. Her love of language, puppies, Kansas skies, and the Rolling Stones are just a few of the things that endear her to me. (Well, I could take or leave the Stones.) Her quick wit, great questions, hearty laugh, and affection have wrapped me up like a warm quilt in my reminiscence of our brief visits together.

I will always love my Aunt Linda, and I'm certain it's mutual. She is leaving a legacy of hospitality, and true hospitality is love.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kathy

Some people just never seem to be grouchy. No hint of a foul mood, no inkling of emotional ungluing going on in the midst of chaos and bedlam. No sarcasm, snide remarks, or sighing that might intimate irritation.

It would be one thing if that person lived alone without a job, health issues, or financial concerns. It's quite another if that person is a grandmother, the mother of six children, (two of whom have Muscular Dystrophy) in a smallish old house, and who directs a homeschool co-op of over 150 people every Thursday for 24 weeks a year plus at least another eight weeks of planning each year. It's beyond amazing that she has done this for many years (I'm not sure how many) and I've never once heard Kathy complain.

In the seven years that I've known Kathy, I have never heard her complain about her aching back, the logistical difficulties of getting from point A to point B with two wheelchairs in her van, or the hassles that inevitably come with an organization comprised of about 40 women and their 124 children (with 12 on the way at any given time, or so it seems). Take away the children and that's still a crazy lot of estrogen to be around for three hours a week! It would be my undoing but Kathy smiles and answers questions and flexes and tends to people and tasks almost acrobatically with what looks like "the greatest of ease." Administration and serving are only two of her gifts and she does them both with affable cheer.

One of the things I have appreciated about Kathy as a teacher in her co-op is that she manages but doesn't micromanage. When I've asked her what I should focus on in my art classes, she leaves it open ended and says, "As long as they are learning and having a good time, do what you want!"

I am not in Kathy's close circle of friends (wish I was) so I can only speak to what I've witnessed in her life in co-0p for several years. Her typical morning consists of getting out the door a little after 7 a.m. in order to get to the church, open it, and set things up before the hurricane of homeschoolers roll in and assault her senses at 8:30ish. Of course she wouldn't use the word "assault" because she thrives in a hectic environment which she has worked hard to pre-organize. Some organized people let you know full well if you're messing up "their system" but not Kathy. She very much conveys the feeling that "this is OUR system. WE are in this together." And yes ,the moms and dad who teach and assist in every capacity certainly do make up the co-op system, but many of them (us) are not nearly as organized and not nearly as cheerful when "our" system gets messed with. (Can I get an "amen"?)

Not only does Kathy direct the co-op, she also directs its spring and Christmas musicals. Do you realize what a feat that is when you have only 12 weeks, one hour a week, to work with (plus several more hours of rehearsal near the end, outside of normal co-op hours)? The grace of God is all over her, as some would put it. It's evident that Kathy spends a lot of time in prayer, calling on God to supply all she needs. Physical strength. Emotional fortitude. Mental clarity. Logistical organization. Money. Patience. Joy.

Her joy is borne of much suffering. Watching her son go into surgery for a spinal fusion at age 13 and come out of it a paraplegic. Watching her daughter, many years later, go in for a similar surgery, wondering, praying, hoping against hope that paralysis would not result for her youngest child. (With much thanks to God, that girl did not suffer the same consequences.)

All the while, every week, each year that I taught, Kathy would come around to each classroom to lock up, and thank each teacher for coming and teaching and doing an "amazing" job. (Her word, not mine. She is effervescent; I am only average as an art teacher.) She complimented my students' work and my creativity and never made me feel like a bother for asking where so-and-so was or if I could spend such-and-such on needed art supplies.

On days when I just didn't feel like getting myself and my able-bodied son out the door on Thursday because it was raining or cold to go teach my two little classes and help with another, I would think of Kathy and all she had to go through to get there. I didn't want to let her down. If she could be faithful in the large things, I could be faithful in the small. If she could be cheerful while responsible for the logistics of 150 people, surely I could handle my 25.


Thank you, Kathy, if you are reading this. Thank you for showing me what genuine joy looks like. Thank you for leaving a legacy of cheerful service to all who know you. And thank you for encouraging me many years ago to step out in faith to do what I never dreamed I would be doing--teaching art and loving it. You are one of my heroes and I love you.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jason

I am too tired after our trip to write a long post on the letter J, but the person I would write more about if I had the energy would be Jason.
He was one of the best pastors my husband and I have ever had. For Jason's compassion, leadership, wisdom, faith, and friendship, we have been deeply thankful. Although he moved away several years ago, his legacy of caring remains. He was the one who would call when he heard one of us (usually my oldest son) was in the ER or facing surgery. He would inquire of our marriage and give us hope during the rough times. He befriended my husband over many breakfasts at Panera talking about the Lord and football. (Not necessarily in that order.) Jason took a keen interest in our children's lives. He prayed often and specifically with us and for us. His sermons came from his heart and he illustrated his point with humility and humor from his own life.
Jason has modeled the heart of a pastor over and over. Our family misses him and his wife Laurie, who are now in another city pastoring a different church, but as the saying goes, "better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." His counsel always pointed me to Jesus and His power to change hearts. Working with a hardhead like me takes a lot of patience, but Jason excelled in talking me "down from the ledge" quite often, and I will be forever grateful.

Hodgepodge: Putting, Primping, and Pinkeye

This week Joyce brings us another octet of questions for us to ponder and answer. Here's my Hodgepodge of asnwers. (Please ignore the fact that some questions are in red and others aren't. The text color button is playing favorites.)

1. Have you ever played golf? Just miniature golf. Any interest in playing? Not really. Walking all over creation hitting and tracking a little ball that would probably end up in the water or sand is not a pastime that beckons me. If I want water and sand, I will go to the beach. Do you have a significant other who loves to play? My husband likes to play--doesn't love it, and I've asked him if he'd like me to learn so we can have a hobby together in our empty nest years. He is about as interested in having me learn as I am. He's got a long stride and doesn't like to converse much. I have a short stride and would totally turn the game into a chit-chat session. You know, talking is "par for the course" when you're with me. Did you watch The Masters this past weekend? No, but I saw a clip of the winner when they put the coveted green jacket on him and he got all emotional about it. I'm sure I'd cry, too, if I won, considering I've never played.

2. Hats are back in fashion this do you feel about wearing a
hat? (fyi-I'm not talking baseball caps) When was the last time you wore one?

I like hats and wish they didn't look ridiculous on me. I would love to wear one. I keep saying one of these days I will get all pretentious and dress up for the Preakness like I'm "all that."

3. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 meaning proficient and 1 meaning
"I'd starve", how adept are you at using chopsticks?

Maybe a 2 or 3.

4. Has technology taken over? Pretty much. I wish it would take over my household duties.

5. In the course of a day how often do you look in a mirror?

What a question. Hmm, let's see, every time I'm in the bathroom which is probably 10x/day, and
I look in the vanity mirror of the car to put on lipstick and check my teeth and hair twice a day. So at least a dozen if I'm doing the math right.

6. Tulip or Daffodil?

Which blooms first? Grows taller? Is my favorite? Daffodils remind me of the birth of my first child, so they're sentimental, but for looks I prefer tulips.

7. I am proud of myself for... not doing too much barking about my husband's driving on our trip to Ohio and back. It can be scary, which is probably why I sleep a lot. The man has to be multitasking to be happy, so he not only drives, he sight-sees, messes with the GPS, fetches a drink out of the cooler, eats sunflower seeds, and pops a CD in. Once in a while he looks at the road and cars ahead of him.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Bad news: I got pinkeye the night before our trip out to Ohio to visit my brother-in-law and his family.

Good news: We had a great time. anyway. I just didn't touch him.

Bad news: I wasn't as much help as I intended to be. Ever realize how often you need your hands for things????

Good news: My hands will get to get to hold a miracle in November, Lord willing. My sister Jill is expecting her first baby! Yay! She and her hubby are "over the moon" about it. And so am I !! I get to be the aunt of a "little little" niece or nephew again. It's been 12 years since I knew what that felt like. And that was only for a few days in Texas. This little one will be only 15 miles away, and you can bet I will be finding excuses to just be "in the neighborhood." Good practice for grandmotherhood, I'd say, without rushing the newlyweds.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is For I Can't Write Another Word

Folks, this A to Z Challenge is really whoopin' me! The theme of legacy which I've chosen is quite thought-provoking, and sometimes I think, "Oh, I should've just chosen 'random' as my topic so I could talk about insomnia or insurrection or immaturity today. I do have plenty of stories of immaturity from real life this week from a boy who may be leaving a legacy of exasperation to his teacher, principal, and parents, but I will save that for another day. You know things to be funnier later anyway; he'd better hope so because methinks his marshmallow mayhem was no laughing matter.

The truth is, I am actually writing this post at 12:48 EST on Thursday, April 6, and have already written my E post from Wednesday, my F post for today, my G post for Saturday, and will be taking Sunday off with the rest of you while visiting family for Easter. On Monday when the H post is coming due, I plan to be making memories with relatives. Tuesday we'll be driving for eight hours and that's my "I" post day. Perhaps I will wax eloquent about my husband's legacy. It would be titled "I is for I Don't Know Why My Wife Drinks Coffee To Stay Awake but then Falls Asleep Until Her Bladder Wakes Her Up in the Middle of I-Don't-Know-Where-We-Are but There's Not Another Rest Area for 832 more Miles."

You don't want to know the subtitle.

All that to say this: if you don't see a post on Monday or Tuesday, it's because I had to pack and not write another word. Suitcases don't pack themselves, sorry to say. But what I'm not sorry to say is I'll be out leaving my own legacy somewhere, somehow, for good or for ill, doing something I love to do: Zojourning. With coffee and lots of rest stops.


PS There was one woman named Inez who left a legacy of love in me when I was in preschool. I wrote about her a while back. If you want to read (or reread) that post, click here. I can't think of another person whose name started with the letter I who has left a legacy like Miss Inie.

Monday, April 09, 2012

H is for Helen

Helen was the organist who played beautifully at the church where my dad was the choir director in the late 70s. Not only that, Helen let me be her page-turner during the Easter cantata when I was in seventh grade. I'm not sure which impressed me more, her playing or her allowing me to sit next to her on the organ bench.

I do remember almost every word to the cantata. Especially these lines:

"Man of Sorrows, what a name
For the Son of God! He came,
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!"

Those words have the power to lift my spirits heavenward in one breath, and put me on an organ bench in the next. Both are priceless feelings.

I could read music and, for the most part, I thought I was a helpful page-turner. (She made me think so anyway.) But there were plenty of times I didn't turn the page soon enough, and she'd be playing something from memory till I caught up. Or I'd turn it too early and she wouldn't miss a beat. Most of the time I figured the book was in front of her just for show. She didn't really need it, did she? Nor did she need me, for that matter. She probably could've directed the choir herself, but she sat submissively waiting for direction from Daddy.

Helen made ceramic figurines as a hobby. As a thank-you after the cantata, she gave me a beautiful little ceramic deer. I named the deer Faline. The poor thing has lost its two front feet, but since it's lying down, hasn't really missed them any more than Helen missed the notes that I failed to put in front of her .

Helen left a legacy of inclusion (for lack of a better word) in my seventh-grade heart, a heart that craved to be included, to belong somewhere. Long after we left that church, I missed her. Such was the lasting impression of Helen that I wanted to include her in my wedding many years later. Her music was every bit as beautiful as I remembered, and that feeling of belonging has stayed with me.


The photo is the only picture I have with Helen in it. Look closely. You can almost see her at the organ.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

G is for Gary

He was only 33 when he died, and I never knew him. Gary was my husband Paul's brother, the second of five boys. What I learned of him I gleaned first at the viewing two days before his funeral. Never in my life had I seen so many people at a funeral home to pay respects to one person. Three rooms had to be opened up to receive all the mourners. Three large, high-ceilinged, flower-filled rooms, teeming with all kinds of people.

His wife. His two young boys.
His mother and father.
His four brothers, three with wives.
Professionals in suits and ties.
Biker chicks.
People wearing guitar T-shirts.
People wearing flip-flops in cold weather.
Gold-toothed, jean-clad, tattooed brutes.
College students (of which I was one).
People who smelled like Old Spice.
People who smelled like Old Lice.
Slobs and snobs.
Lots and lots and lots of musicians.

Gary had talent, brains, charisma, and a well-trained ear. He recorded music and always had a basement full of people. In his life before he met the Lord, his friends were not the kind you'd want your children to hang out with, I'm pretty sure. But he had a lot of friends. When Gary became a Christian, he remained every bit as influential, but with the power and love of Christ. Zeal without temperance at times, from what I've been told, but zeal nonetheless.

He loved the down-and-outers. No one was beneath him.

My husband's family remembers that Gary liked to stir up--what shall we call it--controversy?
Or maybe we'll call it a lively discussion of diverse opinions? They say he would ask a clearly "hot button" topic of someone in the room, get another person to "take the bait," and perhaps a third person to take sides. Then Gary would slip out of the room and leave the debaters to duke it out verbally. Pretty clever, huh?

He was also a big giver. My husband says, with a smile (now, not way back when), that Gary was so generous in his giving that he'd give away things that didn't even belong to him. I assure Paul that there will plenty of guitars in heaven; he need not get "high strung" over the one that got away anymore.

Gary's death came suddenly. Everyone thought it was a heart attack on the job, in his truck. When Paul called to tell me, he and I had only known each other for a month or so. I remember talking to Paul on the phone in utter shock and disbelief, and I felt so sad for him. Sadness and infatuation mingled in my heart and, whaddya-know?, out slipped words I couldn't take back as we ended our conversation. "I love you, bye!"

And before I hung up, he said a quick, "I love you, too."

I hung up and said to myself, "Did I just say what I think I said? And did he say it back?" From there it was full-steam ahead in our relationship. (Gary, if you're reading this in heaven, thank you for expediting those three little words that led to 25 years of marriage and four beautiful children with Paul.)

I remember wearing my one and only suit to the viewing, not knowing anyone, meeting his family for the first time. And that, as they say, is a whole 'nother blog post.

Gary's legacy, I would say, was a legacy of evangelism. Once he met Jesus, Gary told everyone he knew his life had changed. He told people who wanted to hear. He told people who didn't want to hear. He told his wife, his two boys (who were 7 and 5 when he died). He told me without words that his life had purpose and meaning, though cut short by a sovereign and merciful God. Yes, merciful, because Gary was in a lot of pain. He was suffering with something that made his whole body hurt, and yet no one knew the severity. A quick death came for Gary and then I think he heard music. Lots and lots of music, with Jesus there to greet him with open arms and that "great cloud of witnesses" clapping in heaven as those of us on earth began to appreciate Gary's legacy of evangelism.

Friday, April 06, 2012

F is for Flo

Flo was the pastor's wife at one of our old churches. She was kind, witty, caring, gracious, humble,
hard-working, and inquisitive. Inquisitive with a capital I.

If you've ever been in the company of someone who really wants to know you, to hear your thoughts, your dreams, your ideas, your jokes, your tears, your concerns, and even what you had for breakfast because she really cares about the details in your life, then you probably felt honored and perhaps even loved. Most people fill a conversation either talking small talk or about themselves (often one and the same). I am guilty of that, but it's usually when I'm graced by an inquisitive person like Flo.

A typical "flow" to Flo's dialogue might go like so (say that three times fast!).

(on the church grounds or in her yard next door to the church...)

"Zoanna, it's so good to see you. What brings you my way today?"
"Oh, I had to pick up a crock pot I accidentally left at the church."
"Was that the beef burgundy everyone was raving about?"
"Well, I made it, but I'm not sure about the raving part."
"Could I get the recipe?
"Sure. It's really pretty simple."
"I'll bet you are just one of those people who thinks all cooking is simple, aren't you?"
"Me? If it's not simple, I don't cook it."
"Your children probably look forward to mealtime, don't they? Are they good eaters?"
"They are good eaters, yes. We make them try three bites of everything once, and they can't say they don't like it until they've tried it."
"That's good. Was your mom a good cook?"

Do you see how her questions were focused on me instead of on herself? Can you count how many questions she asked? Did you get the sense that her side of the conversation was rapid-fire questioning, or that she really wanted to know the answers? Are you like me in loving this kind of person who seems to have the knack for interviewing people? Do the people Flo talks to realize they are doing most of the talking on the spot, or does that thought not occur to them until they walk away? Do people like me wish they'd have asked more questions of her? What observations have you made about her questions? How about this paragraph? Is it getting on your nerves yet? Or are you are nodding along saying, "I know someone like Flo!" or "I am a Flo!"?

Inquiring minds want to know: Are you more of a Zo than a Flo?

Flo left a legacy of inquisitiveness in me. Her questions made me the object of her care for the many years I was privileged to be in the same church. She was more interested in asking what I thought or felt than in telling me what she thought and felt. I really try to emulate her in that way, but often fail. Ya know?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

E is for Eva

Eva was my great aunt, my dad's uncle's wife. Aunt Eva and Uncle Frank had eight children. Seven sons and finally a daughter. They named her Joyce, but I think it's because they were RE-joicing that, at last, they had a girl. I want to say she was "Eva's Diva," but I don't really remember that Joyce was spoiled. Probably was, but I didn't really get to know her until she was in college, and she was a lovely, admirable girl with high moral standards without being a snob.

Aunt Eva and Uncle Frank Nickel travelled often with their whole family in a hearse, which is I guess the closest thing to a limo or van they could get back then without appearing to be materialistic Baptists or wayward hippies. They were a singing group, and their music took them all over the United States. They could turn four-part part harmony into ten-part harmony by simply opening their mouths. I remember when they came from Illinois and pulled into our long, gravel driveway one hot, summer day. As they emerged from the hearse, I believe there were only four kids. There weren't ten Nickels left (or, as Uncle Frank said, "fifty cents") by the time Joyce was in grade school touring with them, but as I recall, at least a sextet from the Nickel Family Singers' Hearse/Limo.

Every meal started with prayer and/or a sung prayer. Every after-dinner conversation seemed to make its way to the piano for a hymn-sing. Every farewell was set to beautiful music. You would think you'd been transplanted onto the Austrian Alps alongside Julie Andrews and those drapery-clad Von Trapp kids. The hub of this family wheel was Aunt Eva, smiling at Uncle Frank and the almost-all-male brood with them while they sang, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again."

What a sweet memory. Aunt Eva left a legacy of music in me. And she also left an unforgettable image of a singing hearse parked at our house in Maryland countryside.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

D is for Diana

I wish I had a picture of Diana. Indeed, I wish I could remember exactly what she looked like, but the more I think upon this theme of legacy , which I've devoted my A-Z April Challenge to, the more I realize the truth that our bodies are but shells of our souls. A person's legacy is not physical at all, like an inheritance of cash, real estate, or jewelry is physical or tangible, and therefore a photo is but a thin and fleeting reminder of one who left us a legacy.

As my pastor said (and I don't know where the quote originated), "A legacy is not something you leave to someone, but something you leave in someone."

Diana left a legacy of vision in me. Her philosophy, her vision, was that every child, every person, is an artist to some degree, and that by being taught and practicing, everyone can improve in their artistry. At the time she said it, I was dubious. For twenty-some years, it was entrenched in my being that only some people are artists and the rest of us were destined to be jealous onlookers, wannabes, or--at best-- simple readers of art history. That sort of inculcation was hard to overcome, but Diana began to envision me with a seed of artistic passion that would take years to germinate. And a few more years to bear fruit.

I was part of a homeschool co-op in the 1990s when I first met Diana. Normally a co-op consists of parents who exchange their teaching expertise in a group of many families. This co-op chose science, geography, and art. One of the moms taught science, and I taught a geography station (cuisine). Diana, however, had no children in the co-op. She had grown kids and was teaching there of her own volition.

Her passion was art, and she had been an elementary art teacher in both public and private schools. I doubt we paid her because we were all struggling financially. Yet she faithfully came to co-op every Thursday morning at 9:00, smelling of cigarette smoke, heavy perfume that filled the whole church in a good way, and coffee breath covered with mints. Every finger of hers wore a ring of sentimental value, and every fingernail was perfectly manicured and painted a bold color. To me, those were an artist's hands! Her hands were a canvas, as was her hair, face, and body. Diana had flair. Spunk. Pizazz. She made it fun for me to see how she'd be dressed every Thursday. Never dull. Always a vision, or at least an attraction.

She loved children and was passionate and gifted at helping them learn not only skills, but how to associate artists with their great works. I hadn't heard of Raphael until college, and couldn't have told you then what he was remembered for, but Diana taught kindergarteners that he was best known for his angels. My Sarah can still get than factoid correct when she plays a game of Masterpiece. Moms of kindergarteners, who sat on the mat and listened during our free time, also learned that Raphael and angels go together. Diana would have them march around, flapping their arms like wings, and chant "We're Raphael's angels. We're Raphael's Renaissance angels!"

She showed them books and told them stories about Raphael, the great Renaissance painter, as if she had just hung out with him at a family reunion over the weekend. (One child, bless her heart, raised her hand and asked, "Miss Diana, do you KNOW Raphael?")

Then Diana would set big, thick sheets of paper in front of them (on large--very large--dropcloths) and hand them brushes. They would "go to town" painting angels, or some of them painting whatever their minds drifted to, which was okay. Diana always encouraged their creativity and praised their efforts.

I remember that she had the gumption to take a bunch of little homeschooling families (or in some cases, BIG families of 8 or 9 kids--I kid you not--) to the National Gallery of Art in Washington ,DC. I sat on the bus right behind her because I enjoyed her company richly and wanted to "pick her brain" about my children's capabilities.

"How do you spot a true artist when they're young, Diana? I mean, are there signs that perhaps a child is really gifted instead of just able?"

Diana thought carefully and nodded, adding her signature "whenever" instead of "when" (a western-Pennsylvania and southern grammatical error).

She said, "Yes. Look to see whenever they close a circle. That's one sign. If they close it, they are aware of shape, they pay attention to detail, and they might have patience. "

Of course I remember this advice whenever I am observing the youngest kids at school or church.
I always have my eyes open whenever I hand them a pencil or crayon. You just never know whenever a God-given artist will walk into your life wearing a Pull-up. Whenever.

Diana's physical presence in my kids' education lasted only two years and they barely remember her except for her heavy perfume, heavy breathing, and heavy encouragement. But I remember her for having not just vision for her own art and her students' art, but for leaving a legacy of vision in me that has encouraged me to do the work of an artist and art teacher with as much enthusiasm as she had.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

C is for Corrie

Words elude me whenever I try to speak of the impact that Corrie ten Boom has had on my life.
I had the rare privilege of hearing her speak to a packed-out crowd assembled in a huge auditorium when I about 12 or 13 years old.

In her heavy Dutch accent, Corrie spoke beautiful English. Her voice was low and soft, but commanding. I sat there listening to her recount the blessing her father was to her and to a handful of Jews he hid in his home during Hitler's regime. I heard her voice swell and then crack as she remembered the love she and her sister Betsie shared.

But the main thing I remember is this story, as told in her book , The Hiding Place:

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’

“The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.]

“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’


If I had the time, I would write a far better post than this to honor the memory of a woman whose example in life and death have ministered to me time and time again.
Corrie ten Boom's legacy of forgiveness has given me a perspective that the vilest offender in my mind is no better than me. In fact, we are the same.