Welcome to Joywriting! (New posts are below)

Jan at Puget SoundWhether you’re family, or a regular reader, or just stumbled on this blog while searching for a “paintball” or “termite” image, I’m glad you are here.

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Thanks for reading,

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Putting Down Roots

One downside of moving to a new house, no matter how much you like it, is Starting Over With Your Landscaping. In our old backyard we left a mature Chinese tallow tree, taller than the house. It looks like this in the fall:chinese-tallow-fall
tallow-treeLast spring we saved a few of the tallow tree’s seedlings. Here’s the current specimen, with the Pomeranian mutt for scale:

Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t see the tree. Its branches make Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree look downright ample, and not a leaf in sight.

Besides, there’s a really cute dog in the picture.

I’ve always saved extra seeds from our bluebonnets. So I planted some of those at the new place, hoping they’d germinate. I’m happy to report that now we’ve got sprouts.bluebonnet-sprout

Ditto with the cilantro: cilantro-sprout
Some things I decided not to move, like the June-bearing strawberries. Instead I bought a couple of Everbearing plants. Maybe this year we’ll get two berries from each plant more than once! I see a ladybug has already made itself at home here.strawberry-w-ladybug
The scariest move for me was the apricot-colored daylily bulbs that had grown in my flower bed since 2008. One of my professors at UT Arlington gave them to me, so I really, really hoped they would survive. I dug into the new flower beds and poked the lumpy brown things into the holes, leaving only wilted leaves above the mulch.

It sure didn’t look very promising in November… the leaves simply lay down on the ground and turned grey. But lookie what I found last week, right in the middle of those grey ribbon-like leaves:daylily

See, once more life springs from death. Didn’t Jesus say something about that?

I’m thankful for roots and new life.

Thanks for reading,

Posted in A Page From My Journal, I Remember When... (my OWN stories) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kitchen(Aid) Mixup

slappyAfter years getting along with just a hand-held mixer for all my baking, I finally bought a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. One great thing about my old Oster stand mixer–it had that turntable thing that lets the bowl spin around so you can scrape down the sides with a spatula while the double beaters do their job off to one side. I’m still getting used to the fixed-position bowl and the wacky single “tilt-a-whirl” beater that pirouettes around, slapping against the ingredients. And as you may know, I’ve become rather suspicious of my appliances anyway.

So when the time came to bake cookies for friends who were coming over, I plugged in the mixer with some anxiety. Creaming the butter and sugars went well, however.

So of course I got cocky.

I decided I could crack the eggs into the bowl while the mixer was running…

I did okay with the first egg, but managed to drop half the second one’s shell into the dough. Before I could react, Slappy the Beater had twirled through half a dozen revolutions, shoving ever-smaller pieces of eggshell into the soft dough.

News Flash: There is no way on earth to find all the fragments of eggshell in a bowl of slippery butter-and-sugar mix.

Ever the optimist, Brent said, “You got most of it, though, didn’t you?”
“How would I know?” I said, up to my wrists in dough. “Aaack–there’s another piece. I can’t serve crunchy chocolate chip cookies! I’ll have to start over!”

And so I did. This time, before cracking each egg, I cut the motor and propped that beater up out of the way.

The cookies were delicious.

And I am now on guard against Slappy the Beater.

Thanks for reading,

Posted in I Remember When... (my OWN stories) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Symphony Stretch

It all started when I got a postcard advertising the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s concert featuring The Pines of Rome, which I thought I remembered Brent mentioning. So I texted him: Isn’t “Pines of Rome” your favorite piece?

He answered right away. Yes!

I wasn’t familiar with the piece and couldn’t even pronounce the name of the composer (Respighi), let alone recognize it. Besides, the word “Rome” suggested a heavily militaristic piece about conquering the ancient world. But this was a symphony, after all, not a gladiator movie. How bad could it be?

Here we are with the Meyerson Symphony Center in background

Here we are, the Meyerson in background

For Brent, I could stretch my musical tolerance. I suggested a date.

He bought tickets AND made dinner reservations. Already, a bonus for venturing outside my comfort zone a little.

The big date was last Friday.

We had a fabulous dinner at Mesa Maya. Still drooling over the salsa and the brisket enchiladas.

I love the bare trees softening those tall buildings.

I love the bare trees softening those tall buildings.

We got downtown in time to sit and admire the city lights from the Meyerson’s courtyard, then went in for the concert.
The imposing concert hall as the orchestra began to assemble

The imposing concert hall as the orchestra began to assemble

First the orchestra played a modern piece that I couldn’t get into. Then a Beethoven, much of which sounded familiar.

At last, the centerpiece of the concert. According to the program notes, the first movement represented children playing under the pines on a sunny day, the second a funeral at a mausoleum, the third a “nocturne” (think “lullaby”) and the fourth, the army marching (told ya!) along the Appian way at dawn.

To my surprise, I enjoyed every bit of the Respighi. The first sunshiny movement especially fit its description, with lots of loud brass and twinkly chimes that almost seemed to brighten the physical light in the concert hall.

I’m not sure whether I’d yet call “Pines of Rome” my favorite, but it sure was fun getting to know Brent’s favorite. I’m glad we went.

Your turn: How have you taken a little risk to stretch your horizons? Were you glad, or sorry? Do tell in the “Leave a Reply” box below!

Thanks for reading,

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Spinning My Wheels

disco-ballI grew up loving bicycles. From my first hand-me-down with solid rubber tires (ouch!) to road riding, I learned to deal with progressively greater challenges, like balancing. And traffic.

And “toe clips” (later cleats) to keep my feet on the pedals, where they belong. This is great for pedaling efficiency, but adds a layer of complexity to other basic maneuvers such as, say, stopping.

Early in our marriage, Brent got a pair of “rollers,” an 18-inch-wide treadmill-ish arrangement for indoor riding. Trying not to fall made the experience so harrowing that nothing but lousy weather induced me to use them. Thankfully we now have resistance trainers, which hold your bike upright so even the klutziest among us can hardly fall over.

By the time the new local gym opened, I had decades of experience with all kinds of riding. So it was with an abundance of confidence that I signed up for a 5:05 AM spin class. They use stationary bikes. What could go wrong?

Note to self: Quit asking that.

I showed up at 5:00, as the gym opened. It took two minutes to stash my bag and get to the spin room, leaving three minutes to adjust a bike to my size.

It wasn’t enough.

I was just jacking the saddle up to accommodate my long legs when the instructor came in. “Let’s get started!” At that, the room plunged into Stygian darkness. (I have no idea what “Stygian” means, but it sounds literary–and really, really dark.)

Well, not completely dark. Colorful disco lights started spinning and flashing in my eyes, further blinding me.

I hopped on, only to find the toe straps (which I hadn’t used in 20-plus years) were threaded wrong. I couldn’t pull them tight enough to secure my feet. Also, my seat was too far forward. I climbed off and tried to adjust both, using the Braille method.

The instructor yelled something I couldn’t hear over the loud music. Rather, I could hear but not understand her. Probably because of too much youthful exposure to lawn mowers and Aerosmith. Anyway, everyone else stood out of the saddle, so I got on the bike and followed suit despite the clunky feel of not having my feet attached firmly to the pedals.

My right knee started to twinge.

Back off the bike to lower the saddle slightly, again using Braille.

Of course, there’s no “slightly.” The notches are nearly an inch apart.

“Dog attack!” the instructor yelled. This turned out to be an intense interval, standing and pedaling all-out. Finally we sat back down. Then, “Dog attack!” Sprint. Rest. “Dog attack!”

Gasping, I turned to my neighbor. “How many dogs does the guy have?”

At last we got away from the imaginary dogs and climbed some long imaginary hill. My right knee twinged louder.

Maybe moving the saddle farther back would help. I stopped to adjust it.

Everyone else was following some undecipherable prompts from the instructor. I gave up and just got my workout from wrestling the spin bike.

Road riding has its downsides: trucks on narrow roads, headwinds, hills, real dogs, and potholes.

On the whole, though, I’ll take my chances on the road.
At least I’m not just spinning my wheels.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Thoughts on Two Wheels | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

For the “Season of Love”

be-my-valentineI recently re-read a familiar little story that seems to fit this “season of love.” You can read it here, in the Gospel of Luke. It tells about that time Jesus stopped by the home of his friends–three siblings–in the village of Bethany.

Martha, the older sister, invited Jesus to their home. While he was sitting around talking to the family and maybe some other friends, Martha rushed around getting things ready for dinner. I don’t know whether she was washing dishes so there’d be enough clean plates, pulverizing garbanzo beans for hummus, grilling lamb chops, or what. Maybe all three at once.

No matter. The point is, Martha was pretty doggone busy. But her sister, Mary, didn’t turn a hand. She just sat listening, engrossed in Jesus’ words. Fed up, Martha complained to Jesus that her slacker sis was leaving all the work to her.

But instead of putting Mary to work, Jesus defended Mary’s choice.

See, Martha wanted to give Jesus her best. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that–more than once Jesus honored people who served Him with acts of devotion.

But, on this particular day and in this particular place, what Jesus wanted His friends to do was receive from Him. This was “the better part” that Mary chose, just listening to Him and receiving what He had to teach them all.

Giving expresses love, and receiving expresses trust.

It’s easy to get busy, wrapped up in doing stuff for the Lord. And since He’s prepared good works for each of us (see the Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 2, v. 10), you gotta think He intends for us to do them.

But if we want to serve God, the very most important thing we can do to is to believe Jesus. In fact, you have to believe first before you even get to the “good works” part.

And how can you believe somebody if you haven’t listened to (or read) what they have to say?

As for me, my prayer is that the Lord would show me when it’s time to sit at His feet and receive, and mobilize me when it’s time to get busy and give.

And speaking of giving,
Happy (early) Valentine’s Day!

Thanks for reading,

Posted in A Page From My Journal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Family History, Part 3

As I mentioned last time, having my ancestors’ pictures and household items around me helps me feel connected to them. It would be even better if I had more memories of them.

I had the chance, you know. I could have listened to my elders, the ones I can remember. I could have gotten to know them better. Much as I loved my grandparents, my interest in our visits generally consisted of watching TV, playing outside, and wangling extra desserts. Also I’d help with chores, but lacked enthusiasm.

I wish I’d spent more time, for instance, with my Great-Grandpa. I could have asked him for his stories. He must have had some interesting ones to tell; after all, he lived to age 105 and celebrated his one hundredth birthday while I was in high school. He was nearly deaf, but once he started talking he wouldn’t have had to worry about trying to hear my wispy little voice.

My mom told me some of her own stories of growing up. For instance, I have one quilt my Nana made when Mom was only five. While she was piecing it, she let Mom select the next little cotton hexagon from the basket. Mom could point out any bit of calico and tell me whose dress or apron it came from. She also knew the story of every quilt–who made it, and roughly when. Fortunately, I took photos and notes.

I’m glad I had that personal connection with Mom, but I can’t go back and build one with those who are gone.

What I can do is document the photos and display some of the coolest ones. I can enjoy using Great-Grandma’s cream pitcher and the delicate hand-painted fruit bowl from Germany. But what if they break? Well, at least they will have been part of my life first instead of just being stuck in a box forever.

And as for the kids, my wise friend Shelley tells me, “I value what was my grandparents’ and great grandparents’ and know that one day some of my descendants will value all these things and will be glad I preserved them. One day yours will be glad you have done the same.”

Yay for leaving a legacy of connection and good memories for my own kids, and for their kids.

Thanks for reading!

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Family History, Part 2

Last time, I confessed to being unable to throw away much of the Ancestral Stuff that now lives at my house. I have brought myself to donate some household items, especially those I don’t associate with anyone. Also I’ve tossed some things that are completely useless to anyone, like the mixer with the frayed cord.

But that leaves a lot of Stuff that I’m just keeping stashed in boxes. This raises the logical question, “Who am I keeping these things for?”

At first, I said it was for my kids. Yet I know perfectly well the younger generation doesn’t want silver that they’d have to polish–not that I ever polish it, but then, the guilt kind of hangs over my head. The afghans won’t work with their decor, and they most certainly do not want handkerchiefs. The rationale for holding onto stuff is getting mighty thin here.

But I may have figured out what’s behind this Keep-It-In-The-Family obsession.

I believe what I’m really after is connection.

Connection with my history, my roots.

pictureI’m terribly impressed with my great-grandparents who raised Missouri mules, and their forebears who served in the Civil War, and my grandparents who worked in banking, and my high-school-shop-student Dad who never quit making useful (if excessively heavy) things from wood.

My sentiment runs along the lines of “Lookie, one of your ancestors, a real person, used this very {pen, goblet, quilt} over a hundred years ago.” That sort of thing.

I love my life now, but don’t want to forget the generations before.

After all, everybody has a story.

Your Turn: Have your family mementos taken over your world, or at least your house? Or have you left the past behind, content to live in the present? Do you remember any good stories from your grandparents?

Next time: If connection is important to you, how can you create it?

Thanks for reading,

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