Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

You can also find me on Facebook at Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers.

I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The important stuff

  There are two fire-trucks, one boat, one barn, one dump truck and a playground of sorts, all parked haphazardly in the middle of my living room.  Yes, little M (our second grandchild at 13 months) has come to stay a few days.  He is full of smiles and boundless energy.
  However, he is FAR more interested in stereo buttons, the door knob, grandma's cupboard, and everything else he can find that I didn't even imagine he might be interested in!
  In the middle of all of this, I had a stress test today.  It is an interestingly named test; one could stress out about it before ever being tested FOR stress... of course I was trying to avoid the stressing out part, and hoping I would "pass" better than the last time, and I am happy to say I got a good grade.
  Although they remind you it is not about grades at all, but taking care of yourself, and according to the doctor, I was doing pretty good in that department!  So I was thankful.
  I've had a lot to be thankful for this week, and I am convinced that God sometimes plants people right in your path to encourage you when you need it most.
  I have been challenged by all the medications I have had to take post-heart-attack, and this week was contacted by my local pharmacist, who helped me through each one, and how they worked with the vitamins and supplements as well.  And it was FREE!!  And when I thanked her, she told me I was doing well... those words rang in my ears for the rest of the day.
  Others in my life - my classmates on the internet, a helpful person in the store, a friend... all gave to me the gift of encouragement this week - I am grateful for each one!
  And as I think about our little grandsons who delight us deeply, I think about all the physical treasures I have all around me... but what is really important is the love of my family, the deep friendships I hold, being part of the human race where sometimes we interact through a smile or word, and don't even realize the impact of that moment.  I'm thankful just knowing I am loved by God, for each breath, for the gift of life, and health, and the joy I feel when I exchange love with the little ones in my life.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Savoring the moment

I just came back from a quiet walk around my neighbourhood.

It is a beautiful sunny July morning, and all was quiet; well, perhaps I was quiet and it was good.  The sun reflected off the lake, the air smelled fresh, my sunflowers waved their happy good-mornings to me as I walked by, content to let the ants have their breakfast for now.

In spite of an aching leg (little ankle sprain), it felt good to walk and stretch, and just to breathe and to savor being alive.

I love Ecclesiastes where it says there is a time for everything... it is good to have quiet, it was also good to have children here all week and we celebrated their aliveness and their zest for all things.  I learned a few things too, from my four year old nephew which I found quite helpful.

I had to confess to him that I had trouble with my hula hoop, and just hadn't mastered the art of it.   "Auntie Grace, he says, it is easy; just 5 simple steps!"  He then demonstrated clearly what I had missed... Step 1, you step into the hula hoop (it was on the ground).  Step two, you lift it up.  Step three, you twist and position it to go, Step four, you start it twirling - step five YOU twirl!  He made it look so EASY!

He also informed me that he had discovered what the moon was made of... it was so good to learn this, because I would have never guessed.
Not cheese!  (sorry to disappoint).
Not peanut butter!
You'll never believe it - it is made of chocolate chip cookies!  So if you see a bite out of it tonight, you'll know why...

I am learning to savor.  It seems easier in summer, I must admit.  Nothing like fresh raspberries every morning for breakfast, and our first garden quiche made with fresh zucchini and swiss chard. Yum.
Or just being out on our deck, with the sound of our little fountain music to my ears, and reading in the fresh summer air.

This spring, in our Spiritual Formation Class, one of our exercises was to learn to savor.  We were each given a grape, which we first had to examine closely.  Then we were finally allowed to take a bite - but not swallow - and just experience the taste, the juices... and finally we ate slowly - in at least three bites.  It felt silly in a way, but it has stayed with me.  Do I really savor what I eat?  Do I take time to just enjoy the moment?  The noise and laughter and energy of children?  And then the quiet and reflection when they are gone?

I am thankful for the lessons... from my nephew and my professor!

Zucchini Quiche
2-3 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet onion (I like walla walla), finely chopped
Saute the above in a little olive oil mixed with a couple Tablespoons of real butter
Stir in:
app. 3 cups of swiss chard (you can substitute spinach), chopped, and the big veins removed
some fresh parsley and basil to taste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (or you can use fresh with the onion)
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

3 beaten eggs
1 cup of shredded cheese of your choice (I usually use cheddar - mozza works too)

On prepared pie crust spread 1 tsp. mustard
sprinkle a little cornmeal over if desired (just helps with sogginess if you are lucky to have leftovers)

Blend cheese mixture together with zucchini mixture, pour into crust.
Top with sliced tomatoes if desired.
Bake at 375 for 1/2 hour, let stand for a few minutes before serving.

One of our summer favourites!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Being a Grandma

Two years ago tomorrow, I had the wonderful privilege and delight of becoming a grandma.

I had heard previously that the role brought endless pleasure, and that life would not be the same.  So instead of counting my gray hair, I began to count all the wonderful treasures that this role brings to my life.

One of the treasures is the connection with a little child.  Just looking into their eyes and loving them and knowing that you are connected is a lovely thing.  The other day our littlest grandson looked right into my eyes and gave me such a beaming smile, I believe I melted.  (doesn't take much!)...

I learn so much from these little people.  They are not concerned or worried about tomorrow - just the daily trust that they will be fed and loved and their needs met.   Each moment is lived to its fullest measure.  A deep belly laugh at the silliest thing, a peek a boo, a tickle, a smile meeting smile. And they certainly let you know when things are not well in their world too!

One of the first words of E was wow!  I started calling it the wow factor.  Hearing him express it with wonder and amazement, I started looking at the world differently.  The lamp that lit up with the flick of a switch - wow!  The fan that turned round and round - wow!  The airplane that flew overhead - wow!  The butterfly that flitted by - wow!  The world took on a sense of newness as I began to view it with a child's eyes and his new discoveries of all created things.

Although my own life has had huge challenges this past year, it has been a wonderful diversion to have little people in our lives.  No matter what was going on, their lives brought joy and a sense of normalcy to our world.  As I saw the world from their little viewpoint I also saw again the amazing trust of a child.  To trust like they do is a gift.

And life is simply fun!  Today with four little boys in tow (two grandsons and two precious nephews), we enjoyed a morning at Davison Orchard - playing on the tractors, feeding the goats,  flying down the slides.  It was great fun just to play and to revel in their pleasure.  Having fun can sometimes be a lost art and it is good to borrow a child or two, just to learn to play all over again!

Before I got sick, I had E one day a week, and those days were set aside to play.  One of his favorite games has been to stick our little coasters on our heads and dump them off.  We then burst into gales of laughter.  Who needs toys?

So happy birthday, darling E, and thank you for the joy you have brought into my life, and all the other little boys who bring me such delight - I am thankful!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

for the love of raspberries (recipe included!)

I love raspberries and I love July.

Every morning we have fresh raspberries for breakfast.  They are yummy in homemade parfaits with yogurt and granola.  We have a few bushes in our back yard and it brings a lot of pleasure to pick them fresh and eat them every day.  The bushes were actually a gift - cuttings past on to me a few years ago, and the gift keeps giving - it is wonderful.

Thinking about raspberries also bring a lot of memories.  My earliest memories are picking them with my maternal Grandma Siemens, first on Jackson Street in Abbotsford where they had their old farm house with a huge garden and several raspberry rows.  Later, Grandma taught me to pick in Agassiz, where as a young child I  had my first job, and she made sure I picked those bushes clean!

As a teen, we went back to Abbotsford each summer and picked raspberries for 4-5 weeks.  I have good memories of staying in raspberry pickers houses with my sister Val, cooking our own meals, and working in the fields from early morning to late afternoon.  It was a great competition who could pick the most.  I can still smell the musty fields, feel the hot summer sun, the scratches of those raspberry leaves and the aroma of fresh and sometimes fermenting fruit.

Every year we would happily cash in our savings in August and go on the great back-to-school spree, using our wonderful new pile of cash.

Years later, I was dredging up these memories and decided to take my three kids back to the raspberry patch. We got hired on at a farm in Abbotsford and I was so excited.   I was so surprised when they were not as enchanted as I seemed to have remembered I was!  Too hot, days too long, too sticky, and a few other complaints were heard - and groans from the children when I told them how wonderful my memories were!  I don't know now if they have changed their mind about that summer experience; perhaps time changes our perceptions of the past?

When my kids were young and I had a little newspaper column, I ran a contest one summer for recipes for garden produce, and received this raspberry pie recipe which won the prize for that week.  We have used it in our family every since.  I'll print it here, with my modifications - isn't that what cooking is all about?

1 9" baked pie shell (I use a graham crust usually)
5 cups fresh raspberries
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp. corn starch
1/8 tsp. salt
whipping cream

Place 4 cups of berries in pie shell.  Crush 1 cup of berries in a saucepan - add water - simmer 3-4 minutes - strain berries - retain liquid and add water if needed to make up 1 cup of water.  (I actually skip this step now, and just buy raspberry juice - works too, and a lot less work!)
Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt, add to juice - boil 3 minutes stirring constantly until thick and clear.  Let cool a little, then spoon over berries.  Refrigerate - enjoy with whipping cream if desired.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

All about bugs

   Save the planet, save the bugs, has been a theme running around my head as I've been studying the impact of bugs and the huge role they play on our planet.  I'm currently writing a paper on Creation so might share more on that topic in another blog; it is quite fascinating.

  It became much more personal this week though, when my beloved sunflowers were attacked by a mountain of aphids.  I wasn't sure what it was at first, but through the help of facebook friends and google searches, I have come to the conclusion that it is a combination of ants and aphids.  A gal at our local garden center confirmed for me yesterday that the wet spring and summer we are having also attracts a large aphid population.

Here is the lowdown from
Insects About Com
Where there's sugar, there's bound to be ants.  Some ants are so hungry for the honeydew, they'll actually "milk" the aphids to make them excrete it.  The ants use their antennae to stroke the aphids, stimulating them to release the honeydew.  Some aphid species have lost the ability to poop on their own, and now depend on their caretaker ants to milk them.
Aphids suck the sugar rich fluids from their host plants.  Because these liquids are low in nitrogen, the aphids must consume large quantities of them to gain adequate nutrition.  The aphids then excrete equally large quantities of waste, called honeydew, which is high in sugar content.

 There are ants aplenty in my garden and I have seen them crawling all over my sunflowers.  While I mean them no harm, an attack on the garden I have lovingly tended seems rather threatening!  And  I do love sunflowers - they are so cheerful in the yard and mine have self-seeded themselves and line my walkway down to the garden area.  Each year they bring color to our house and attract the most lovely birds. It seems like planted sunshine!

My dear husband suggested we pull them out but I was not willing to part with them just yet.  While the war is on, I am refusing to use pesticides this year.  For the sake of our grandchildren, and for our health and for the good of the earth.  So I have been finding some interesting remedies!  Yesterday I learned (thanks google!) that both ants and aphids hate peppermint so I took the peppermint extract from my kitchen and planted drops on all my affected plants.  I'm considering buying big peppermint plants and planting them strategically around all affected areas. (Peppermint tea, anyone?)   I also had been washing them down with soapy water - my mom suggested Murphy's Oil Soap, so they got a taste of that too.  I also had heard cornmeal is good for ridding ants of a certain area, so I sprinkled it everywhere!

Then it rained!  So I will try again today... Yesterday it seemed like the ants fled and the ladybugs had arrived, and since I know ladybugs love to eat aphids, I thought perhaps we were getting somewhere!

The whole realm of nature is so fascinating, I can see why biologists and gardeners and entomologists (a new word I've learned means an expert on bugs!), spend a lifetime trying to understand it.  For me it all points to a Creator who is mysterious and mighty and creative and beyond our understanding.  Amazing, really!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fleeting Moments

  It was a hot summer day in July, probably in the late 60's.  I sat on the grass of our little yard, with the Harrison Lake breeze not far off, and the smell of summer in the air.  I remember pondering - I am alive this moment - will I remember it?  It will never be this moment again.  I don't know if it was a new awareness of the passing of time, or savoring the moment, but I do remember it well.  I was 9 or 10 years old; that is one part I do NOT remember!
  I had that same awareness when I held our babies in my arms, especially as infants.  I could stare at them for hours, and wanted to capture the moment, to deeply imprint it on my brain, so I would never forget their looks, their smell, the preciousness of new life.  And it is a cliche but where did the time go?  My daughter now holds her second little one in her arms, and just yesterday my sister and I oohed and awed over the precious features, the little faces he made, the brilliant smiles he shared with us, and I wished I could hold it in my mind forever.
  Do you ever want to capture time, and hold it still, just for a while?  It seems we rush through life, catapulting through events without even stopping to really be aware.  Perhaps it takes a heart attack to really stop and listen, although I would not recommend it!  But I find that I am paying more attention again, really noticing and savoring, and trying to listen.
  I especially love summer - next to spring it has always been a favourite season to just enjoy nature, family, warmth, light.  I especially love light and want to cling to each fragment, each ray, before the night steals it away and the dark of winter comes again.  Warm summer evenings are lovely - to be outside and smell the summer smells of neighbourhood barbeques and the scents of the garden.  I often pinch my basil or dill or lavender and smell deeply - lovely!    I learn from my little grandson who loves to smell the flowers - he smells deeply and is delighted.  It is a good thing.
"How short you have made my life!  In your sight my lifetime seems nothing.  Indeed every living being is no more than a puff of wind", so says the Psalmist in Psalm 35 (Good News Version).  And yet the Creator God whom I love is one who is everlasting, who breathes life into us and holds all these moments in the palm of His hand.  Thoughts to ponder this lovely Sunday summer day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Living in the Perfect Storm

I was told by my specialist this week that I was experiencing the perfect storm.  A combination of circumstances, health, strong medications all contributing to that storm.
It was an interesting analogy, and left me wondering what the not so perfect storm would look like?

And I often think of others, many others who are experiencing their own "storms", so to speak; it seems like many of our friends and family have extra big challenges this past while.  I certainly don't feel unique in this way, and am aware that others might be experiencing troubles much bigger than I.

But perhaps it is good to validate what is difficult.  I have suspected and my doctor confirmed that likely I am experiencing post-traumatic stress.  My good friend and spiritual adviser encouraged me to list all the challenges I had faced in the last year and a half, and while I don't want to dwell on that, it was a very helpful exercise in validating why some days are just a struggle. It is not easy to admit one is depressed, or angry, and yet sometimes (not always) that is the truth.

That being said, I have often quoted "Better to be Better, than Bitter", and talked about turning "Lemons into Lemonade"... that would be the goal.  It is preferred to be positive over being negative.

But the doctor reminded me that as I fight to get better and healthy again, sometimes "fighting" can be more detrimental than helpful.  Rather it is good to learn to relax into the current situation.  We don't have to like it.  He said that was much better for healing.  Accepting the difficulty can sometimes be the challenge.

I've often thought lately about that storm in the bible where Jesus speaks to the waves (or perhaps he is really speaking to his 12 terrified disciples?). " Peace" , he says.  "Be Still."  I've pondered those words a great deal.  There are times where peace seems quite illusive.  "Be Still" leads to peace, I think.  It happens when I can truly stop, and relax, and breathe deeply.  To still the mind, to savor the moment, to be thankful I'm alive, and let that completely, quietly wash over me.  That is peace, even in the midst of a storm.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

First Blog - July 3, 2011

I've been thinking of creating a blog for a while - I've been inspired by other's blogs including that of my brother Randy: Be the Best, and sister Cathy, who blogs at kateaj.blogspot.com, called Desert Rose.

So I'm taking the plunge and starting a blog.  A therapeutic exercise perhaps, a place to share my thoughts, hopes and significant happenings.  It is also a time in my life where I want to record the journey - which is one of hope, faith, and love.  As with any journey, there have been bumps in the road, and significant challenges, as well as rich experiences.

A number of years ago,  I published my little book "A Journey of Hope", which chronicled not only my journey so far, but also told the story of my grandmother Annie, and of my first husband Andy and his battle with cancer.  It was healing for me to share my story of grief and loss, and the rich gifts that were gained as I grew from that deep experience.

This past year has been more of a journey of faith - and sometimes faith is putting one foot in front of the other - when you can't see the way clearly.  It is radical trust in a God who has been faithful in the past and whom you trust will never leave you.  It is about knowing in the dark that which you remembered in the light, and hanging on to that truth. I had actually thought of giving this blog a "heart" name - "thoughts from the heart", "the heart of the matter", or something of that nature, but that seemed a little too corny and overused.  But the fact is that since my surprise heart attack on March 13, of this year, it has been on my mind... how language of the heart and our actual hearts seem to be connected.

The pain of emotional heartache and physical heartache are really not that different, in my experience.   I'd love to do a study of heart words and phrases as they relate to life and the human experience, and to faith and belief.  But I'll leave that for another time.

The purpose of this blog is to simply share the journey - because it is not about what I have learned, but what I am learning.  It is more about the questions than the answers.  It is about searching after the heart of God and finding Him in surprising places.  It is about being fully human and honest.  It is about discovery and finding joy wherever it can be found.