Inner Lights, Outer Heart

Clump #18:  Take down the outdoor Christmas lights.

Rereading the last post about my cursed-Mr. Magoo-like process of sending out our annual card and letter, I had to ask myself … Why? Sure, 2012 was a very sad year to look back at and try to summarize, but I think a hidden cause for the almost-endless delay was that I mentioned this blog in our newsletter. The Christmas card address list represented a wider circle of family and friends, and possible readers, than the small group to whom I’d previously been confessing my shortcomings.  Everyone complains about poor organizational skills, but I’m providing graphic — and humiliating — proof.  Too much exposure!

My older daughter has been giving me moral support lately by comparing learning how to blog with learning how to drive a stick-shift car … a very good analogy.  Indeed, with practice and help from many patient souls, the times I work on this blog and feel the urge to throw myself on the floor and cry are becoming less and less frequent.

To continue the analogy, I was stalled-out and in need of a jump-start!   Then I began to receive messages: a bottle cap (Honest Tea) with the quote: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily.  Not to dare is to lose oneself.” by Soren Kierkegaard, closely followed by a Chinese cookie fortune: “Progress always involves risk.”


And also closely followed by a friend returning the book: Daring Greatly, By Brene Brown.  Well O.K., jumper cables sparking!


I was visiting my mom in Lancaster County on an unseasonably warm day this week, enjoying the drive through beautiful Amish farmland.  At one point, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a herd of black cows crowded on a small, covered farmhouse porch.  Huh??  It was actually a laundry-load of black Amish clothing hung up to try to dry under the awning, moving in the breeze and just barely out of the drizzly-rain.

Something about the determination of that Amish farmwife, getting the job done no matter the difficulty or reasonable excuse, inspired me to get our Christmas lights taken down.


The rain came down harder as I untangled the lights, but I didn’t mind.


I was putting up a Valentine’s wreath, after all, and the two holidays were colliding.


Now I have a heart on my door, representing the metaphorical heart on my sleeve for all to see, warts and all.  (Mixing metaphors … hearts don’t have warts, but you know what I mean, right?)

Free at Last, Free at Last

Clump #17: Send out Christmas/New Year/MLK Day cards.

Apologies to Dr. King for the title of this post, but Thank God Almighty, the card of 2012/13 finally got into the mailbox.  In keeping with a series of unfortunate events at every stage, I tried to take a photo of the cards entering the mailbox, but realized the camera battery was charging at home.  I tried again with my cell phone, not aware it was set on video. I will not subject you to that scintillating footage!  Here is a visual approximation, below, a print I’ve always loved (artist unknown).  It captures the exhilaration of sending something out into the world.  And what a great hat!


Even this photo of the photo card is bad.  It reads, “Have a SPARKTACULAR 2012! with a fireworks graphic surround.  I got it printed at Target, typed our names below the greeting, and completely missed the fact that I was making a wish for last year!  Target!!  Reformat your machine!  To be fair, when the problem was pointed out, Target printed the correct year on a new set of cards without charge.  Also, to be fair, this was one of many instances when I had to admit I need to resharpen my editing skills.  Our kids were in Caterpillar Party (one of my son’s bands) tee shirts.  If the tradition of having them together in the same photo continues, we might be sending more New Year cards in the future.  Occasions when they are all together have become precious and few.


This sweet and innocent-looking paper was an item I pounded the pavement to find at holiday time.  The idea was to print the newsletter on the front and a poem written by a dear brother-in-law, who passed away last spring, on the other side, with a photo above it.  The photo would not print at Staples; at Kinkos, the paper got stuck in the machine; a photo-copy of the paper, photo-copied, was headache-inducing to read (just as trying to describe it is).  I’m really leaving out many other obstacles having to do with group-editing and wrong computer-file type.  Blah, blah, blah, boo-hoo.


I would have sent out the headache-inducing version of the letter (trying Very hard not to be a perfectionista), but I discovered that in all the reformatting, a portion of the poem had been cut out.  D’oh!!  Unacceptable.  I have a great respect for people who can capture an essence in poetry,  which was one benefit of this almost never-ending project (reading and re-reading the poem).  Consequently, I was much more open to the beautiful poem written for Inauguration Day by Richard Blanco.  “Pencil-yellow school buses…” what an apt connection I had never noticed.  Here is the text, if you missed it, or wish to revisit it.

The first sentence of our newsletter explained that our Christmas card had turned into a New Year card, and, if we weren’t careful, would be a/an MLK day card.  Ha-ha, funny–until it actually was MLK day.  Another editing change (to Valentine’s Day).  This quote was part of a full-page Macy’s ad on January 21.


Happily, I noticed these Lunar New Year stamps at the post office.  I don’t know (but have been wondering a lot) what the shelf-life for wishing someone a Happy New Year is, but Lunar New Year is not until February 10!  It will be the year of the Snake.


The fire crackers went with our SPARKTACULAR theme!  According to the US Postal Service, “Firecrackers such as those depicted in the stamp art are used to scare off evil spirits and welcome this time of renewed hope for the future.”  Amen.


Here are stamps that weren’t appropriate at this late date, stored in a ceramic container that makes me smile when I think of its origin.  Several years ago we were shopping while on vacation at the shore.  I scooped this up with a book on Clutter Busting.  My husband saw what I was buying and gave me a stern, raised eyebrow look.  I hadn’t noticed the irony: oh yeah, how to get rid of clutter, and a piece of clutter to go with it.  I made the purchase anyway and now the dish is our dedicated stamp place; a sea creature living under the kitchen wall phone.  It has saved us from our old fretfully-scouring-around-for-stamps routine.  Also, it reminds me of the beach and is a delight to handle (reflexology for the fingers?).  Lesson learned: not all pieces of clutter are created equal, unlike people.


Clump #15:  Clean out purse.

Today I wish I could write about sending out our New Year cards.  At this point I have to laugh or I’ll crack.  With all the things that have gone wrong with them, I was reminded of the children’s book,  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst, a wonderful rendering of a negative spiral.  I opened today’s paper and saw that the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia is performing a live show based on the story.  I love synchronicity!


In the spirit of Alexander, I somehow turned my purse completely upside down with the clasp open, so that all its contents went pinging and clattering every which way.  It seemed  a good time to clean the thing out.  Another paper pile to toss and shred.


Clump #16: Watch and send back The French Connection.

This is really embarrassing.  Last night my younger daughter and I finally saw the movie The French Connection.  The people at Netflix must really be wondering what our problem is.  Although we (our kids) have been accessing Netflix movies online, etc., we have held on to this one movie for an unbelievably long time.  Our younger daughter started a goal of watching every one of the Academy Award Best Picture winners.  The awards began in 1928.  She had watched 65 with 19 left to go … but got stuck on this one.  For some reason we were never in the mood to see The French Connection.


I would put a picture here with Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, the stars of the film, but that same movie-watching, also computer-guru, daughter went back to college today.  Poor Me!  The good news is, we got the darn thing out in the mail, plus a lost disk from the big pile in yesterday’s post.  At loooong last, out you go!  You’ll be home in no time!!


A little pleasure to brighten the gloom.  The remains of a berry flavored tea.


The color matched the mug it was in.  The pattern on the cup reminds me of a children’s book illustration … and here we go again.  All three kids are now gone after being here for the holidays.  I’m pining for days cuddled up with them and good books.  Another cup, please; make it a double.


Wait one minute … I did figure out how to import this picture!!  All by myself!!  Hope lives!


Anatomy of a Pile

Clump #14:  Clear away another pile of paper.

Miles of piles!  Here is another ugly mess of paper.


Most of it is easy to dispose of, especially when so much is clearly out-of-date.  No Sweat.


But the devil is in the details: the piles within the pile.  This one isn’t too bad: the shred pile.  Easy to spot and eliminate.  More for the recycling bag!


Papers to file.  Some need new file folders.  This Geek Squad contract, upon closer inspection, could be shredded and recycled.  Out of there!


A disk of photos given to me by a friend, stepped on and ruined.  The pile itself is not bad enough, but this adds a soupcon of deeper self-recrimination. How difficult would it be to ask for another copy?  Let’s be reasonable … it’s not the end of the world.


Cards bought, but not sent.  More guilt.  O.K., put those with other cards — at least now they can be found when needed — resolve to send out quickly at the next occasion.


My sentimental streak acts up.  I am not a purist.  A few cards sent to us and some programs from special shows will go into a container in the basement.  When I have cleared all the major clumps from my life (imagine that!) (Please don’t laugh!) I will consider putting them in albums, or finally toss them out.


Then there are little paper clippings.  I cut them out for a reason.  Some can be filed.  Others discarded.  The little ones can be written out or taped in a small notebook I keep for writing down ideas.  Here’s one example: a “miracle fix” for the glass on toaster ovens (and regular ones), is the heavy-duty Mr. Clean Eraser sponge, according to Karen Azriel, who wrote in to the Philadelphia Inquirer.


This is the book.  It easily fits in my purse.  That’s me in the distance, in my dreams!


Below, a sample page with little pearls of wisdom stuck inside.  From the daily Cryptoquote puzzle:  “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.”  –Oscar Wilde   (See unsent greeting cards, above.)


This was a magazine I bought for the article: “America’s Secret Beaches, 25 Secluded Sun Spots,” a USA TODAY magazine, Summer 2012.


If I was to cut out and file the article, it would be six pages.  Instead, I could list the 25 beaches in my notebook, or I could just list them here … and google the name if I happen to be searching out one or another.  Here they are:

1. Gasprilla Island State Park, Little Gasparilla Island, Fla.;  2. Petroglyph Beach, Wrangell, Alaska; 3. Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach, Hana, Hawaii;  4. Headlands Beach State Park, Mentor, Ohio;  5. Rockaway Beach, New York City;  6. Roger Wheeler State Beach, Narragansett, R.I.;  7. Higbee Beach, Cape May, N.J.;  8.  Horseneck Beach, Westport, Mass.;  9.  Playalinda Beach, Titusville, Fla.;  10.  Wrightsville Beach, Wrightsville, Beach, N.C.;  11.  Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes, Del;  12. Boneyard Beach, Bulls Island, S.C.;  13. Manzanita Beach, Manzanita, Ore.;  14. West Ship Island, Gulfport, Miss.;  15. Jetty Island, Everett, Wash.;  16. Sand Harbor, Incline Village, Nev.;  17. Sand Bar State Park, Milton, VT;  18. Cayo Aurora, Guanica, Puerto Rico;  19. Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach, Calif.;  20. First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, VA;  21. Schoolhouse Beach, Washington Island, Wis.;  22. Nanny Goat Beach, Sapelo Island, GA;  23. North Beach, Ponderosa State Park, McCall, Idaho;  24. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, Mich.;  25. Pemaquid Beach Park, Bristol, Maine.


I think this pile is trying to tell me something.  The magazine and the fishing line were together in the stack!  Maybe I should be writing a blog called Beach A Day!


Piles within the pile vanquished!

Vehicle of Change

Clump #12:  Get car ready for son to drive back to school.

The number of clumps lumped together for this one event are almost too numerous, and certainly too tedious, to list.  My dearly departed father’s car was sitting out, neglected for far too long.  Our son was the designated recipient.  So many steps, and every time we thought we had it covered, another one or three would rear up.  Many forms, lost keys, parts needed to pass inspection, the new battery installed by battery experts that was deemed too small for the car….  But yesterday it was finally ready for the road to college.


My dad loved this sticker.  Elon University is the alma mater of two of my nieces.  I expected my son to want to take it off, or stick one of his band’s stickers over it. He said he wanted to keep it; he thought it would be kind of funny.  -Love-


And off he goes … into his other life. (Sniff–Sniff), signature orange hat in place.  Another way to think of dearly departed.


Clump #13:  Write New Year letter, formerly Christmas letter, soon to be MLK Day letter.

No picture for this one.  2012 was a sad year, losing my dad and many other special people in our lives.  It was tough to look back.  I’ve sent late Christmas cards out before, but this is a record in lateness.

I really have to lighten up this post, so here is something I found incredible.  During the Miss America pageant the other night, cohost Chris Harrison gestured to the group of “losers,” (not chosen to be semifinalists) stuck on stage watching the “winners,” (semifinalists) with smiles pasted on.  He offered them a treat because “they haven’t eaten carbs in about six years.”  So big platters of doughnuts were brought out for them to eat!!  The other cohost, Brooke Burke said, “You have no idea how deprived these ladies have been.”  Someone could probably write a book about women in our culture based upon this one gesture, the message being,”Go ahead, honey, it’s all over, you might as well get fat.”  (My words)

Screen shot 2013-01-14 at 3.10.48 PM

I would not have been able to put this photo here without the help of my computer guru younger daughter.  Now I’ll have another cry at the thought that she’ll soon be leaving for school, too.

Socks Rock

Clump #11:  Finish knitting long-neglected sock.

IMG_3597Writing about The Cob Studio in the previous post made me think of how I got to know Cara Graver.  About a year ago she was at a farmer’s market displaying her wonderful pottery.  I picked up one of her brochures, learned that she taught sock-knitting, and to sweeten the deal, tea and scones were included.  My kind of class!

IMG_0072I’ve been wanting to knit socks for a long time.  I belong to a loosely formed, but very loyal, group of women from our Quaker Meeting called Sewing Group.  Companionship, news of the day, problem solving, and laughter knit us together (sorry, pun intended).  Sewing is not required, but there are some serious needlework mavens in the group who churn out socks like nobody’s business.  Intimidating.  One such maven accidentally dropped her sewing scissors on the floor the other day.  This is how they landed.  Sewing Ninja?

IMG_3786Cara gave our class wooden dowels she had cut into needle lengths.  We sanded them until they were sharpened and smooth.  Then she taught us the joys of sock knitting in the warmth of her wood stove, tea and scones at hand.  “If you can knit socks, you can knit anything,” she exhorted.  Wow.  I finished one sock in the class, got a good start on the other one at home, and then ……  Procrastination set in, mixed with bad memory (how did I do that?), fear, perfectionism (Cara would say, “It’s only a sock!  It will be mostly under your pants and shoes.”), and basic insecurity.

IMG_3776 But yesterday, inspired by the post on The Cob Studio, and with the calm, cool, help of my younger daughter, I got the orphaned sock out and finished it — I actually finished it!  This might not seem like much to the average person, or sewing maven, but to me it’s a miracle clump!  It only took a year!

IMG_3781I put the pair in my sock drawer, and was shocked and delighted this morning at the sight of something I had made sitting sweetly there.

IMG_3783Amazing!  Maybe because I had that light teal color on the brain, I realized I was already wearing a top of the same shade.  I tried to take a photo containing both, but the front of me at that angle was pretty horrifying — delete, delete!!  You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Small but Weighty

Clump #10:  Make repairs to Christmas ornaments.

This is a story about very small clumps that, when tended to, made a big difference.  These ornaments were part of an inexpensive set my husband and I bought when we were first married.  Some are falling apart.  Every year I say I’ll fix them, but they are not a big priority.  Today is the day.


With the help of my trusty glue gun, they can now, again, decorate our tree, and marital bliss is restored (only kidding, that never broke).


The second part of this story is even stickier.  When I inherited our creche from my parents, it was in not-so-great shape.  My mom didn’t know why I wanted it.  It was a cheap set, and she and my dad had gotten a new one.  I loved it because it had been there for all our Christmases … I was thrilled to have it.  One real problem with it was (I’m sorry if this sounds sacrilegious) the body of Christ was missing.  We only had the head.  We cushioned it in shredded paper (to represent straw) so that you couldn’t tell.  Then came last year.  Not even the head of baby Jesus was to be found.  It really bothered me, but I knew where to go.  The Cob Studio.


The Cob Studio and Cara Graver.  Here is the studio Cara built using the Cob method.  You can read about it on the studio website, above.


Cara is a potter, and an all-around amazing person.  This is the book she used to build her studio.  She took seriously the subtitle which says, “You can hand-sculpt your own home.”


Here she is sculpting a baby Jesus for me.


And placing the baby in his manger, with Mary, Joseph, a shepherd and a sheep looking on.


The project caused me to think about Jesus much more than I might have this Christmas season.  Less about presents, more present.  Cara hadn’t painted or fired the figure yet in this photo, and, as she told me, pottery shrinks a bit in the process. How do you adequately thank someone for a favor such as this?


While Cara worked, I snapped pictures of her magical studio.  It is a woodland wonder.  Did you ever want to live in a fairy house?  I did, and I felt like I had arrived the first time I came here.











At home I took some more pictures.  The blurring on this one created a cool wing-like effect.


Cara painted a little halo on top of the baby Jesus figure’s head.  With the best intentions, I ran the little figure under some water.  I had handled it so much it had gotten a little smudged … and I inadvertently washed off the halo!  Good Lord!  I am not even going to think of the implications.

I finally ran to the craft store today and bought some gold wire in the jewelry-making section.


And made this halo.  If anyone needs to make a halo, please let me know … I have plenty of material.


And all was right with the world again.