Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Remembering Anna

Long, long ago we lived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country around Lancaster. We rented a house in farm country, surrounded by gentle rolling knolls and an endless sky. I never tired of watching the wide skies, knolls and tree lines - so far a stretch from the close ridges of my West Virginia home. It was a very happy time for our young family.

We moved to Pennsylvania when our first son was but three months old, and the other three were born there. Four children in five years make for busy days - and we loved it all. We soon formed ties with our church family and they were so good at caring for us and filling the gaps for relatives far away. There were two families in particular whose ties remain, and today I'm remembering Anna especially.

Anna and Clyde served very well as surrogate family for so many. When we first met, Anna was about my age, I guess. (Funny how "over 65" seemed older then). She and her dear daughter Olive planned a housewarming/welcome party for us not long after we came from Florida. An adorable donkey cookie jar given to us at that gathering remains a Teelside fixture. The beginning of many kindnesses showered upon us over the years.

Anna taught me a lot about a lot of things. Hospitality, benevolence, nurturing. Clyde would drive me to doctor's appointments while Anna watched the kiddos. They were likely to knock on the door any day some need was perceived. They knew how to visit the sick and were not afraid to do so. Once, when hubby was down with mono and missed a couple weeks' pay, they came bearing canned goods --"just things that had set on the shelves long enough and needed to be used." Canned gravy ... I would never have thought to buy that, but it was tasty. It takes special knack to treat the needy without making them feel pitiful, and they were good at caring, tending with grace.

Anna would tell funny stories about blowing sulfur back into her mama's face when she was trying to shake it from a paper funnel into the back of Anna's throat. [(Early antibiotic therapy?) I was in stitches with that one - and new surgical stitches had me begging for no more funny tales until I was home from the hospital.] Or the time she was sick and Clyde made a big pot of vegetable soup - he figured anything and everything from the pantry should go into it and tossed in a couple cans of beets. It looked funny, but was all eaten. Oh, I can just see her eyes sparkling and her shoulders shaking. She could giggle like any little girl. Clyde's eyes sparkled too; and though a thin man, he had plump rosy cheeks that gave him the look of a sweet little elf.

So many fond memories. In their home, I knew the meaning of warmth, ease and comfort. There was a front closet with toys - the children made a bee line for that as soon as they arrived and played contentedly for the duration of the visit. The coffee pot was always on. Lunch was simple and delicious - Lebanon bologna and white cheese (from a local butcher shop) for sandwiches spread with butter (instead of mayo) and garnished with radishes. Yummy!

Before we moved from Pennsylvania, Clyde taught me how to drive. And again, Anna was babysitter. I said nothing to my dear hubby about the scheme (he started to teach me but it was too taxing on both our nerves, if you know what I mean). So off Clyde and I go to the police headquarters to take the driver's test. There I was, a 29 year-old mama of four, driving a Volkswagen Campmobile with a 72-year old instructor at my side. The officer likely passed me either for spunk or out of pity (for Clyde). Just imagine hubby's surprise when I picked up the car keys and headed for the grocery store leaving him as babysitter later that week.

And one more thing I must consider - a continuing and immeasurable treasure. Anna took the time and effort to teach me how to knit and crochet. I recently renewed my acquaintance with yarn and hook, using the hook she gave me starting out. What joy to think of Anna with every stitch and row. She was an excellent teacher. I will never knit socks on the porch in the dark of evening, needles clicking and flying as Anna said her mother once did; but oh, the practical, creative pleasure this gift of learning brought me. Dear hubby says every skill you learn you can keep for future benefit. Some skills come more dearly and last a lifetime.

What a blessing it becomes, remembering Anna -  for the sweet person she was, for all the difference she made in a young woman's life and all the ways her example and influence has continued to enrich my life since first we met.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Leaves Are Turning...

The changing colors of autumn are beauty to behold. The hues are not as vibrant as are sometime seen on these West Virginia hills, due to dry weather and warmer temperatures. They are lovely nonetheless. Yesterday a dear friend and I sat on an outdoor bench and watched as brown birch and sycamore leaves settled on soft breezes all around us. Soaking up the atmosphere of His creation, especially in this season, restores one's soul by varied senses. The fleeting lilts of birdsong scattering through the dawn, the splash of Indian Summer across the canvas of the hillside, the gentle rustle of landing leaves, the rich scent of the woodland's russet carpet; the blue-lit sky of afternoon sunshine, the rhythmic tunes of twilight insects. No way to hurry through all that beauty. No way at all.

Leaves are changing  -- turning color day by day, twisting in the wind as they flutter to the ground. Life is changing - moving in a cadence each its own. If there be some tinge of sadness in the tumbling, turning leaves, there is also hope - for their journey nourishes tomorrows as they settle down to sleep. And like the song says, "I don't know about tomorrow ... ... ... but I know Who holds tomorrow in His hand."

Leaving changes -- and takes a turn at all things familiar. It's October. It has been over thirty years since the tides of autumn brought the passing of a mother. Each October since brings back to heart the changes that her leaving has made in daily patterns. These days the memories are comforting, sweet and gentle; the time for thought a blessing of vibrant memory and closely held love - hers for all her family and yes, for me. It was so difficult in the beginning, but now it seems October was the perfect month for her leaving and the changes that ensued.

Leaves are turning, sands are sifting, songs are drifting. Take time for shifting seasons through October. Souls of faith sustained upon the gentle winds of autumn, will yet turn and settle softly in His reassuring arms of Grace and Beauty.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


In the general scheme of quilty things, a quilt top is completed before another is made from the remnants/bone pile. But, in this topsy-turvy week I put the cart before the horse and made this baby quilt from the leftovers of a larger incomplete top.

The other top? Twelve 16-inch blocks are faithfully sewn from a combination of the birthday gift fabric from my twin sis and hand-dyed fabrics from her late husband's stash. The pieces blended very sweetly, so I will call it the Brady-Leighton Two-Step. Slight delay in assembly comes from Mama not making up her mind. I an undecided about sashing between the large blocks and/or the size of the outer border(s). It needs to grow a bit to become a queen or double; and that will mean finding additional fabric to blend the whole. Off to the back burner it goes.

As for the baby quilt, since it is the cart before the horse and has little wheels in each corner, I think, for whimsy sake, we ought to name it: "The Pink Pony Cart-Wheel."

Meanwhile, my Lord knows how to keep all things in perfect order...He provides the gracious change of autumn, and will ever continue to order His creation in due season to His honor and glory. How refreshing!

Sunday, October 03, 2010


Having 20 grandchildren (17, three with mates) may make it seem unlikely to be positively fair to each of them. Still we don't lose sleep over equal division of attention on that score. We love them each dearly and do our best to show them so at every opportunity. And love is not an equal opportunity employer, it is a constant of heart that cannot be measured or hidden.

On with the story. This is the counterpart to Tim's "Head for the Hills." Same process, different hues. As yet unsettled on a name for it, I rather hope it doesn't end up with something so mundane and "fair share"! Oddly, it did not turn out as I had envisioned beforehand (as Tim's did); but I still like it and think Philip will too. There's a really cool print with shells and snails (several years back it could be "Snakes, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails," but that's now far too juvenile for this handsome teen) and the blue batik works for me as well. We shall see what the boys think, eventually.

Now on to other schemes and things. Maggie beckoned this afternoon and for want of any other inspiration, I made ten crumb blocks. Having cut 5-inch squares from random pieces, it seemed 5-inch crumb blocks would partner with them nicely. The crumb blocks in the boy's tops were cut 4-1/2 inches and it was amazing the difference 1/2 inch made ... I do think I much prefer the smaller ones. But maybe they will grow on me. The nice thing about crumb blocks is that they are scrap users and space fillers - little sewing snacks to chew on between projects, no pressure attached. So there's time to grow accustomed. If the larger blocks don't grow on me, they can be trimmed down to fit former fancy.

From teenage boys' orange/brown/green and blue/green/red ... off to prissy pink and yellow. That's where I'm headed once a pattern choice is settled. Meanwhile, leaves are falling, air is cooling, there's a little fire in the stove and DH is making music splitting hickory. Did you know a maul can sing?

Thursday, September 23, 2010


"Head for the Hills"

Every so often, or more accurately, never so very often, we get to put something together that just flies into place. This quilt started out with 40 crumb blocks (to which I needed to add just two more when the design was worked out). Those were done in about two day sessions. Four patches were completed with fabric patterned with leaves and bark. DGS Timothy loves the woods, you see. Hence, the title "Head for the Hills."  

Have I told you about the great fabric stash boon received from my twin sister? Her dear husband was a quilter...he hand pieced and was an absolute artist. After his passing DS parceled out most of his quilting fabrics between our older sis and me. How very generous! I have spent literally hours handling, sorting, dreaming over the lovely fabrics. Greg was very fond of gray and orange - colors I rarely buy. But his very masculine palette is perfect for 13 grandsons! I've started with Greg's Swiss cheese assortment...fabric from which he'd fussy cut many little triangles and diamonds for the perfect color/design of his need. Swiss cheese, between the holes, makes for good crumb blocks and paper piecing.

All that would account for the fun in the present quilt. But I did move on to the luscious batiks for the larger squares and borders. Good fabric just seems to melt together under the presser foot. So Smoothly. What joy to handle.

Nor can the happy prospect of Tim's reception be discounted in the effort. I thought lovingly of him with every stitch. He may not be surprised, but he's sure to be very pleased. Since he is quite tall I added a header/footer strip for added length. After getting it all assembled, it occurred to me that I could have accomplished the same length with another row of blocks...but I did want to work in that very stunning autumn stripy piece separately from the rest.

This quilt story continues with a like design for Tim's brother Phil. Philip's version will feature blues, greens and reds. The crumb blocks are made and all the other squares cut. It should proceed with equal pleasure and ease, e'er long. These brothers are great pals, so it is easy to make them peas in a pod of different hue.

Nines is right ... it is as much the thought of person for whom it is fashioned, as anything else, that makes the process of quilting delightful.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


 Unlike my dear sis, this week brought me something else besides trouble in a string of three. Three crib-size quilt tops, to be exact.

The first two were merely sashed and bordered from blocks a friend had done with her embroidery machine. One was ABC's in bold colors. The other was cross stitch style, babies bundled to look like story book animals. So cute. Then to round it out, I picked up the left-over theme fabric, cut it into squares and added four-patches from my 2-1/2" light scrap bin. Pieces of the same 2-1/2" strips make a pieced binding as well.

It seemed enough for the time being. Now my "finished tops" bin is nearly full, so I must take it off to the quilter's .. maybe as soon as next month.

Maggie is taking a break today. Just the same a bin with crumb blocks sets at her elbow. You never know when she might change her mind.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We all have them. Some of us have them coming out our ears. I am not quite overrun or overwhelmed by the quilting bins. The painting bins may be another matter.

Nonetheless, imagine my surprise to find, when bringing up a bin today, this baby project was nearly completed. Age. I remembered trimming the squares and cutting the sashing; but did not recall having assembled the rows. It was a simple job to join rows and add borders.

The blocks came courtesy of Sandy J's embroidery machine. The ABC's were so brightly stitched (indeed they look like they might glow in the dark), a bright hue seemed suitable for sashing/balance. The name, no surprise here, will be "Now I Know My ABC's ... next time won't you sing with me."

Another set of blocks similar to these awaits - the next ones are 'cross-stitched' bundled babies in little animal suits. I trimmed them, cut the yellow sashing and put them in a project bin. Some new day they may call out my name.

Friday, September 03, 2010


Anniversaries are by nature very sentimental occasions. Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of our wedding day. A good friend offered some good advice. He said, "Don't look forward to the 50th so much that you miss the joy of today."

Isn't that just so right! We tend to plan for projected events, and sometimes in anticipation of the exceptional, sweep the ordinary right under the rug - under-appreciated. There is nothing ordinary about our everyday blessings. Indeed, "count your blessings" is an impossible task for our blessings are infinite.

DH often remarks that he is the most blessed man in the world. As his wife, that must make me the most blessed woman in the world. Besides the children and grandchildren he considers high on the list when he makes that statement, I have him. In truth, how blessed we have been.

I am very sentimental about wedding memories, but not wedding details. It is the scope of life, feelings that draw me back - our young love and new beginnings. What an exciting time of life! Followed by young parenthood, watching children grow (a wondrous process), seeing them off to lives of their own, opening arms to their mates and their children. And now embracing grandchildren as they begin, as we began 47 years ago.

I said elsewhere, "I think this marriage thing is working out really well." How thankful am I for the Lord's design; what a blessing. The wisdom of that design becomes clearer with time. I could not love him this much in less than 47 years. We could not know the joy of enduring together, without the passing of time together. It might not have been so...we might have lost sight of our commitment and goal (millions do, and we're yet humans upon this plane; the vicissitudes of life plague all of us).Our life could run a very different course, prompted by different choices or circumstances beyond our control.

But, God is gracious. Point in fact, DH's first heart attack, twenty years ago and subsequent close calls have not yet deprived us of more time together. Our love and appreciation for each other has deepened immeasurably throughout the gift of that time. I hope that it is not just sentimentality, but also reverent gratitude to the Great God who gave me this good man...and every blessing that comes to us in our time together.

Together ... for the better...on our way to heaven. Such was our ambition 47 years ago. How precious to know the joy of all those yesterdays, the goodness of this day ... and the hope for tomorrow.

Friday, August 27, 2010


The last time I needed a picture of a quilt this size (generous queen), DH spread it on the grass and stood up on the tractor seat. Where is the farmer when I need him? Off being a maintenance man...he's a gentleman of many hats - quite a few many hats, actually.

So, left to my own devices, the picture is of an inferior sort. That's life in the real world.

As always, there is a story behind the quilt. DD hand dyed and cut the yellow/blue blocks which were used for guest signatures at our grandson's July wedding. I assembled the signature blocks into this quilt top. It will go back to DD for quilting. Certainly her quilting will much improve the simple design. The center nine-patch contains quotes from the wedding program and signature blocks are scattered about that. Since there was writing on most of the blocks anyway, I lettered the quilt label on a blue square and just stuck it in with the others.(The quilt's name is "Set Me as a Seal")

After doing a string of small quilts, this one seemed larger than life and grew accordingly. If the quilter wants to trim the outer borders down some, that will be fine with me. I do love these little projects...and I do love getting them to the point where I don't have to make any more decisions. Nine-patch? Twelve-patch? Borders or no? Her turn now...teeheehee.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Anniversary of Gold

Golden Devotion

Dearest friends and sweet companions
Ever faithful, pure and true;
Valiant in pursuit of honor
On the path love set in view.
Two made one - a golden union,
Image of that Love divine,
Over time so closely melded,
Now e'en souls as one entwine

Devotion - to each other...
Side by side and hand in hand,
Heart to heart through tides and seasons,
Looking t'ward eternal sands.

Devotion - to the children
Given by a Gracious Lord...
Counting every golden moment
Held in trust, with utter joy.

Devotion - as with children
Each grandchild treasured as gold...
Keepers of their growing wonder,
Guardians of their precious souls.

Devotion - to all Christians
For whom fifty years have shown
Countless hours of love and labor
That the Master's cause be won.

Devotion - friends and family
Gathered here tribute to pay,
Thank God for their rare example -
Golden love ... lived day by day.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I've reached the stage in my life that I sometimes like to turn decision making processes over to someone else...like spending birthday cash. The first half, I spent on some new accessories for Maggie; the second half I intended to spend on fabric. When they brought the kids half-way to spend a week at the Barn, I handed the cash over to Nines and Sandy with full confidence they could increase my quilt stash with very good choices while I stayed home and played. Shopping is hard work in my book.

We had a wonderful week with the children. Nothing extraordinary (except the company), just a bit of country living with a bit of country cooking thrown in to make them smile. I made some aprons, nightgowns and p.j.s. Grandfather let the girls drive the tractor all by themselves and read them chapters from Farmer Boy (Laura Engles Wilder). We played in the rain and had some rainy day fun inside when it was just too hot and humid to bear the great outdoors. The days flew by for all of us!

Today, I exchanged three precious grand-angels for this. I'll miss my angels excruciatingly, but you gotta admit, this is is a pretty good consolation prize. Great job choosing, girls - and Mama didn't have to make up her mind once! The sweet clear blue/leafy pattern at the upper right is an extra gift from Sandy (thanks so much!); the rest came in fulfillment of birthday wishes from dear twin sis.  The rosy greens are very me. The turquoise is a bit of a departure...but I do love it! And aren't those fat quarters just delicious? It will take a lot of dreaming to decide which way to go with them.

I think I have enough mind to decide how to parse and piece all these lovelies ... but not today. Six hours on the road and fourteen quarts of tomatoes canned is enough for today. I'm off to find some mindless sit-down task and fully expect that to be the only sensible decision left for now.

Monday, August 09, 2010


"Charmed, I'm Sure."

Not exactly the most original of titles for this little quilt top, but one I'm sticking to for now. The blocks were in a charm pack that was a gift (thank you, Sandy) -- working them up was a breeze. Such funky fun with all the retro shapes and colors! Now why do I think the quilt, in it's completed state should be retro-fitted with a few episodes of "The Mod Squad" or "The Brady Bunch"?

Fingering the retro patterns brought such fine memories. Back in the day (the 70's) we had uprooted our family of six from our Pennsylvania home to return to our birth state of West Virginia. This began the era our children most remember of their beginnings; a place and time that took them from first grade to college. It was a good move. Besides being reunited with our families, we were re-established among our church family - an association that stretched over many years that followed. High on the list of my own memories of this time is my relationship with a very special person ... friend, teacher, mentor, stand-in mother and grandmother to so many within our congregation - a special lady named Catherine. (Unlike Anne of Green Gables, Catherine with a "C" is extraordinary in my book.)

Catherine's Colors were brought back in the designs of these quilt pieces. When I was in my thirties, Catherine, in her generous way, bestowed many gifts of fabric upon me. I soon lost count of all the material she sent my way. Don't remember when or how they came to her, but she passed them on, seemingly delighted to think I would find some use for them. Everything from polyester leisure suiting to sewing scraps to feed sacks - what a treasure trove. Especially those feed sacks. In those days, with four kids in grade school, my piecing hours were numbered, but I was doing a bit here and there between other sewing projects.  I do recall cutting letters and zig-zagging them onto a banner to advertise a bean dinner fund raiser at the school. And later a corduroy knotted comforter that got "lost" when loaned as a prop for a high school production of "Fiddler on the Roof."

I probably did not adequately appreciate the feed sacks, though I should have since my own first grade school dresses were made of such. Perhaps I thought they would not preserve well enough for a part in my later quilting ventures. However they made some pretty aprons and pillowcases and school lunch bags at the time...so they did serve some useful purpose before being consigned as dust/cleaning cloths.

Catherine's Colors are appropriately bright. She was not a modern lime green and orange and hot pink kind of lady. No, Catherine was not modern; she was perfectly, wonderfully old-fashioned. Yet she was vivid of life...bright, sweet, caring, sharing, cheerful. Not because she had an easy life, but because she knew His Life Eternal was her purpose. She took her purpose very seriously. She taught us how to be giving and practical: "You don't have to be rich to show hospitality -- anyone can find enough pennies for popcorn and Kool-aid."  She was a excellent role model in faith, dedication, compassion and joy. She loved to sing. Contentment and hope are often partnered with singing, don't you think?

As time went on, as life has a tendency to move in diverging directions, Catherine was no longer able (either physically or financially) to live on her own; so she moved out of state to the homes and care of dear daughters. Even when she was away, she was near....sending kind notes of love and encouragement. With every card or letter I could hear her speak my name, feel her love, see her smile, remember her wisdom. Such a good woman!

Retro is all the rage in fabrics these days: Civil War...1940's - 1970-80's.Even feed sack replicas. They're just great!  It seems to me we are drawn to the patterns and the colors of former decades largely because of the memories they generate. How refreshing it is to go back and relive, revive those precious ties.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


What do you call a small square baby quilt? I remember laying several layers of square baby blankets and folding them over my babies when we went out in cold Pennsylvania weather. They were so bundled up, you could hardly feel the baby in there.

So that''s what I'm calling this smaller version of a baby quilt top ... a baby bundler. It's about forty inches square; made of leftovers. The half square triangles were made long ago with cut offs of pineapple blossom squares, to which I added a few 9-patches of Nines' leftover hand-dyed. (I tried to add enough orange to redeem the pink, Hannah.) When the HST are already done, it takes no time at all whip up a quilt this small - so easy, you could make a whole line of them. I'm not so crazy about the outer border, too pale a yellow; but if I found something better, replacing it would be easy too.

"Rosy Cheeks with Star-Bright Smiles"
Well, Maggie's gone through four bobbins, so that should be sufficiently broken in to get serious about a real project. On the other hand, moseying along, an hour here and hour there, is perhaps better suited to the current climate. I have some embroidered squares given to me by Nnies' friend Sandy (three sets, in fact). While taking it easy, I may trim those up and cut sashing today...let Maggie have the day off.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


I was having a bit of trouble coming up with a name for this, Maggie's first project. Decided to steal a title from John Denver...always did like that song.

The quilt top is s a break-in project for the new machine and likely incomplete - it needs to grow a few inches with a border. I had made the HST of Asian and DD Nines' hand dyed some months back (they were break-in for HST from a tube process, so I'm breaking new ground on several counts); and sewing up the blocks and joining them with sashing was easy all round.

Maggie's learning curve has been painless, I must say. She purrs right along (DH says she sounds like a bumble bee) and doesn't fuss a speck over extra layers that seams make. Smooth as silk, appropriately. I have ordered a presser foot with 1/4-inch guide as I have a tendency to look away and swivel a scootch every so often.

So this one is named and in the hopper ... wonder what will pop up and grab me next? Something tells me my sewing season will begin long before winter this year.
 With border added...

Sunday, August 01, 2010


As if I weren't already spoiled enough, DH gave me a new sewing machine for my birthday. And since I hope to have a long and fruitful relationship with her, she needed a name. Maggie it is! My new best friend forever. Well, maybe I won't go that far; but we are getting nicely acquainted and she's very likable.

You'll laugh at my decision making process. Choosing a sewing machine is much like picking out a new computer. You have to balance function with flair if you're also counting the cost. And we all count our costs these days. I crossed off embroidery machines as unpractical for me and narrowed it down to two basic Janome models - one twice the price of the other.

DD Laurie suggested I save for the better model by selling a few of my quilts to make up the difference; even offered to help me advertise online. I'm sure that was good advice; but you know, I just couldn't do it. Sell my babies? I mean for a few days there, I thought I might, but no I couldn't. After all I put a share of time and heart in the simplest of creations - and farm them out to strangers? I may one day be pressed to change this viewpoint...but not yet.

When all the family started gathering in for the July, I watched Caitlin helping with all those endless wedding details and just knew "Dragonfly Summers" was made for her. And Abe, sweet Abe, who loves all things red -- Oe's Cabin (which just had to stay in the family anyway) -- would be in ecstasies with a red quilt on his bed. Not for fortune nor for fame ... for family.

The only basic difference in the two machines I considered was the number of decorative stitches available. More stitches would be fun, but also frivolous for my use. When I thus explained my choice, Wayne said, in his simple way, "if that's what you want, order it." How exciting. He didn't have to tell me twice.

Maggie now has a place of honor on a desk my brother made when he was in high school. She basks in full light by the window ... good for my eyes ... and sets at a very comfortable height for what I suspect will be frequent visitations.

And yes, I've begun another quilt top already.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Set me as a seal on your heart,
Set me as a seal a seal on your soul...

Such were the words sung by the wedding party as they walked forward in the wedding procession. How fitting that the bride and groom, both lovely singers, chose bridesmaids and groomsmen with beautiful voices to proclaim their love and dedication as the ceremony began.

It was a warm afternoon, shadows started drifting over the audience as we began and with no rain, all was well. Song of Solomon 8:6 set the stage for as spiritual a wedding ceremony as could be planned on this earthly stage. A stage of His own creation -- a woodland cove and grassy meadow, inhabited for the hour by His people, joined to celebrate the sacred trust of marriage. A serene bride stood with her father and a gentle groom waited patiently as the best man and maid of honor spoke of marriage commitment and duty. A groomsmen led us in the singing of "The Sands of Time," starting with the verse:

"The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land."

The father of the bride delivered his remarks, then Luke and Sarah read the vows each had written. It was easy to recognize that Luke based his on 1 Corinthians 13, and Sarah engaged the wisdom of Proverbs 31. Sarah's father sweetly lifted her veil and handed her to Luke. We sang another hymn: " God Is a Fountain Whence." At this point the father of the groom finished presiding over the ceremony.

Luke's father was overheard to say later that it was very hard to do your own children's weddings...this makes his second. He did very well, though; choosing as the basis for his thoughts the love theme of Song of Solomon to match the wedding's beginning. He did forget the next hymn on the program, "For the Beauty of the Earth," but that was certainly a small matter. How sweet to see him grin and say, "Well, son, kiss your bride." as he closed.

Throughout the ceremony, prayers were offered by special men: an uncle of the bride, the groom's father and grandfather. All transpired with reverential praise, faith and hope. A once in a lifetime event for a very special couple ... now happily joined in marriage.

A joyful reception followed and with the singing of "Blessed Be the Tie" the newlyweds departed on their great adventure of a new life together. How exciting!


And yet, and yet....I must confess there was a part of this day that was more thrilling for me than this lovely wedding. As happy as the events of the afternoon made me, there was joy beyond measure through the morning that preceded.

The dawn broke with lovely birdsong in the wedding cove; I sat on the benches, soaking up His glory and their praise; then dared add my own prayers of thanksgiving, petitions for blessings on us all. Later, friends and family of the bride and groom (around 60 in number) met together with the church in Clendenin - an hour of song, scripture reading and prayer followed by our regular Sunday morning worship service. The rafters rang with the glad voices - among whom were all but four of our own (those four being well represented by the two oldest siblings of their clan). Our youngest son guided the services, one grandson preached, several other sons and grandsons took leading parts as needed. No feeling can compare to gathering with children in spiritual communion.

My cup runneth over ... to God be the glory!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

LIKE ... ... ... MAGIC!

I think myself not at all superstitious; nor do I believe in magic. Whimsy, yes - magic, no. Yet we have experienced a month of magical  events -- thanks to the willing hearts of family and friends who lent their time, talents, hands and backs to pull off an enchanted forest wedding for our grandson and his bride.

DD Laurie and DGD Audrey arrived a month ahead of festivities to help set the stage.  They started with the Barn. Like magic, ten years of clutter disappeared from the lower level; including boxes packed from our last move, lots of junk and no small amount of dirt and sawdust. Without that clutter the floor was transformed with space for woodworking tools and storage shelves. And did I mention a clear path through on both sides? Now, when I take down laundry or step up on the treadmill, I look around and shout, "I love you, Laurie!" Hard, hard work is a precious gift, (especially on older parents' behalf) don't you know.

Just the beginning! A trip to the Farmers' Market and Garden Centers of several stores yielded annual blooms for planting. No magic, just labor. Plant them in large pots, shelter them from the noonday sun and behind the garden fence (away from deer) and water them daily to ensure full, presentable growth for the wedding venue. These plantings were icing on the cake - the cake was seven acres worth of mowing and trimming all around. Grandfather did much of that before company started arriving; including hand raking a back breaking amount of cut grass when our neighbor hay reaper failed to keep his annual June hay cutting appointment. The groom was intent on as natural a landscape as possible, however, so most of the grass cutting was done well ahead of the wedding date. Good deal, as more pressing tasks were afoot.

Next, mother and grandfather of the groom (DH & DD) set their sights on arch and arbor designs. Drawn by the groom on his last visit, Laurie was interpreter of her son's schematic. She and her dad pulled red cedar and poplar boards out of the shed, ripped them down to size, sawed and planed and sanded; marking each upright, slat, brace and header. The arbors' sections were sealed, the arch awaited construction before being painted white. Benches were needed too, so Grandfather set out with his handy chainsaw - I'm quite suspicious that is his very favorite tool; he gets this gleam in his eye as he goes to the woods, saw in hand. He cut a couple poplars for posts and enough planks were found among stored timber for top seating; they too were sanded and sealed. Bench parts were set in the meadow and so began the sweet wedding chapel in the cove.

Inside the Barn, DGD Audrey and I played and piddled...painting on slates and signboards, making aprons, slicing cucumbers, baking cookies, etc. In truth, my whole month was the easiest of parts - that's why I'm calling it magic. How could so much be accomplished with so little effort? Easy enough when others are shouldering the work!

A week before the wedding, bride, groom, bridesmaids and groomsmen began arriving. Together they assembled arch and arbors, nailed down benches, made wedding cake, arranged bouquets and decor. We shared a meal together at least once daily with DD Laurie the master planner/provider of great menus - a daunting task indeed as the number grew from four to forty and more by the weekend. But DD Laurie excels at such provision, deliciously and with flare.

Family and friends were all present and accounted for by Saturday. The groom's folks had rented a local house for the month and most of the guys camped there; the bride and her maids slept (or not) in the Barn with DH and I downstairs. Spare cousins joined the wedding party at one place or the other and the rest found hotel rooms or other friends and family willing to board them. There would have been a time when families lived within sight of each other so such random arrangements were unnecessary. Still, we had time enough together to come pretty close to filling that nostalgic image even with folks coming from California, Florida, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia and New Jersey - ah, the magic of airplanes, autos and interstate highways.

A group effort may indeed make work disappear like magic. No words will describe the sweetness of seeing good and loving people joined in a common objective. Everyone here wanted to make preparations for the finest wedding day possible for Luke and Sarah Jane. The stage was set at the farm, the reception room was beautifully decorated just down the road, and the food for the reception was washed, sliced, diced and divided between counters and refrigerator. All was in readiness. After an evening wedding rehearsal, we enjoyed cleverly assembled gourmet boxed dinners in happy fellowship on the grounds of Teelside.

The wedding day is another story - one which I choose not to taint with even a hint of "magic." It was extraordinary in every way from start to finish...and finishing that story will wait for another entry.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


When I was a child these were called “pillow slips.” They were line-dried, sun-bleached a dazzling white, starched and pressed to a smooth, fragrant finish before slipping on feather pillows when the bed was changed.

This set of slips belonged to my mother and were made for her by my twin sister. That makes them very special, wouldn’t you say? They are on their way to a new home. They are going to someone very special: the lovely young lady who, Lord willing, on July 11, will become my third granddaughter-in-law. It just so happens that her wedding colors are yellow and blue, so it’s a perfect fit for the precious bride. We’re not given much to “in-laws” around here, though. Just as we have four children born to us and their spouses who became our own when gifted by marriage; we do and will think of her as a welcome new granddaughter.

It’s summer and family reunion time. The crocheted collar will go to the family reunion auction. A couple years back I made one for a cousin who seemed very pleased to receive it…perhaps another cousin will consider picking it up as a reunion remembrance.

Family traditions and remembrances are often the simplest of things tied to small items that generate deep affection with their connections. Very often our dear treasures began as a wisp of thought or action. Family love is precious … pass it on!

Friday, June 11, 2010


Nearly all of my sewing/piecing gets sandwiched in between the sundry items that appear on my Barnside to-do list. I’m thankful that the list is rarely so heavy or lengthy that there’s no room for at least a few seams…between times.

About the quilt top: the squares (back to those old-faithful HST stars) were done some weeks ago, so today I worked out starry sashes between loads of laundry. Just as I was about to join the rows, DH brings in a few gallons of strawberries. Guess it was time for a strawberry break.

Our “big as peaches” strawberries from Gurney’s are something of a disappointment. In size, they are more like radishes than peaches, and small radishes at that. DH sent a note off this afternoon telling Gurneys the only thing whopper about these strawberries is the story the salesman wrote when he was trying to sell them. [Can’t blame DH for wanting a refund…he’s put a lot of time, work and expense tending that patch for such little return.] On the up side, the berries are nice and red on the inside and make lovely juice with just a little sweetening. Without any sweetener, it's close your eyes and try to guess the flavor. I know, ‘cause I tried a few as I was capping them. (Like the man said, it’s no sin to taste test a few as you go.) They get capped – and tested – and sent off to the freezer or refrigerator for eating sooner or later. I’m thinking they’d make very good ice cream….

Back to the quilt…it will take its place (third) in my “baby quilt stash.” The grandchildren are getting married and it’s reasonable to suppose there will one day be great- grandchildren. (We still like to do things in that order in this family:). It may be some time yet before they come along, but with seventeen grand-angels in line, I figure I need a head start on the great-angels’ baby blankets. (Pity the daughters and granddaughters who will be stuck with the task quilting the stack.) Don’t know how many I’ll get to pass along personally, but that doesn’t matter to me so much. The Lord knows…and I can work with a full heart toward whatever future is in store.

This quilt’s name is: “Catch a Falling Star - and put it in your pocket.” It is unlikely that its beneficiary will ever know Perry Como’s whimsical tune of the same title; but that precious one will know that I loved him/her long before birth. Every child should know they were loved long before they were born!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Sometimes a girl just needs a little bit of fun. You know what I mean - something that seems productive, but doesn't take break the energy or time bank. This "Li'l Bits" wall quilt qualifies.

It took not too much energy; but a whole lot of patience (for a novice). Still, I'm glad I kept plugging along to the finish line for a completed project - that's always a lot of fun. This done, I have a second pattern (thanks Sandy) and am more confident about approaching it.

Next time I will NOT use the paper copy (I made in case I messed up a block) but the tissue paper copy. Getting all those tiny computer paper scraps loose from the back was very time intensive! That's what surgical snips and tweezers do pretty well, though.

Since it's a little bit of a quilt, will I be brave enough to quilt it myself? Hm.m.m.m.m.m. That's a novel idea.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


• GREW UP A COUNTRY BOY – he knew barefoot summers with frequent swims in Elk River. He shared a single bedroom with all of his siblings, where the cracks in the board walls allowed snow to blow in atop their covers (of quilts and coats) on stormy winter nights.

• HAS ALWAYS KNOWN THE WORTH OF CLOSE FAMILY TIES - next to youngest among seven children of a coal miner and his young wife (I say young because his dad was 30 years his mother’s senior – born in 1885, the same age as my granddad). By all indications his parents were devoted to each other and to their children; a family tradition that remains to this day. Could be why preserving even greater closeness in his own family is paramount to him.

• WAS SHYER THAN SHY AS A YOUNGSTER – he would not ask his Aunt Margaret for a drink of water when his mama’s hands were busy at other things. He pretended to sleep in the car so he wouldn’t have to eat with cousins who were strangers to him.


• WAS LIKELY THE CUTEST TEEN YOU CAN IMAGINE – big dimple in his chin, slightly crooked smile, amazing blue eyes, an irresistible wink and well groomed crew cut.

• WAS A YOUNG MAN OF UNCOMMON VISION – who soberly set his sights on higher ground early on, knowing where he wanted his life to lead and knowing he could trust the Lord to point in the right direction. Where his shyness held him back; his vision and faith broke the barrier. He could not live for God and be a hermit (or build a life with me). I’m awfully glad he thought beyond being a hermit…

• HAS A BRILLIANT MIND – that seeks to learn more, always interested in every detail; ever searching the nooks and crannies of knowledge that most of us pass over. If activity will keep a brain young, he should never lose use of his; for it never stops.

• HAS ALWAYS KNOWN PHYSICAL ADVERSITY – from early childhood to teenage years to adulthood a series of serious conditions and surgeries have been his lot to overcome. And overcome he does; with quiet courage, pressing beyond pain and limitations. Perhaps, as they say, such vicissitudes build character. I believe he brings character to each challenge and through faith allows that character to grow.

• GREW TO BE AN EXCEPTIONAL PARENT – he is unfailingly strict in principle; and unabashedly abundant in affection. Eternally faithful to his offspring, his charge, he loves deeply, cries tenderly, and prays unceasingly for their welfare. When his head hits the pillow at night, he lifts the name of each child and each grandchild toward heaven in supplication on their behalf. I hope they know that!

• A MAN OF INTEGRITY – he sometimes tells the story of how, in childhood, he told his mama a lie. She taught him the error of that way and it undoubtedly was a lesson very well learned. I cannot imagine him dissimulating in the slightest - any where, any time, any way. As good as his word, his face set like flint for what is true; indeed, for truth. His most difficult struggle in life is awareness of others who have no regard for or allegiance to truth. Truth is his bulwark - an anchor to revere, yet along with devotion, a heartbreaking one. (Psalm 119:136)

• A MAN OF INDUSTRY – his children will tell you their father taught them how to love work. Perhaps (with diminished health) this love borders on obsession. But who can say – it may be that very drive that has kept him out of a wheelchair and in a productive mode so long. This is where brilliance, vision and industry converge. We live in an idyllic home that began as a sketch on notebook paper. He labors to produce ... in countless ways EVERY day. It sometimes bothers me that I cannot keep pace with him -- and then I remember, I never could.:)

• A MAN WHO WILL SANCTION NO “FOOLISHNESS” – his quintessential concept of “foolishness” may be charmingly homespun at times. It could be summarized just so: anything displeasing to the Lord, lacking in faith or counterproductive in practice is foolish. Like all of us, he has known his own foolish moments through life; but I’m thinking he’s grown far and away beyond their pull or influence.

• A MAN OF WISDOM - whose practice and counsel are worthy of attention.

• A MAN OF TENDER COMPASSION – I have often seen him greet beloved men with an embrace and a kiss on the neck. Those good men treasure his regard and are encouraged by his love, no doubt; and I thrill to see his kindness so revealed. His eyes brim often with anguish of others; if you need a sympathetic hand he will provide it with gentle sincerity.

• THE MAN THAT I MARRIED is the man that (over the last fifty years) I’ve come to ADMIRE GREATLY and TRUST IMPLICITLY and LOVE FULLY … I’m sure I always will.

Saturday, June 05, 2010



It’s early June and the weather is already very summery. The sun is up; the cock is crowing, the birds are singing, the church building waits all fair and holy down the road. I’m just a kid and have far to go in this life …but I think this just may be one of the most memorable dawns of a lifetime.

Fifty-plus years later, it seems clearly so still. Certainly that memory has revisited as often as any from my childhood, or since. Have you ever known a space when time stood motionless? When some unknown awe brought eternity almost near enough to touch? Where all about the present was suspended; you feel, if you cannot see, the Hand that created the vision before you? Yeah, it was that kind of moment. Perhaps these days it would be called an epiphany.

And so it is - perhaps every child thinks their time at “Grandma’s House” is magical beyond definition. But this well remembered prospect is simply too down-to-earth to be mere magic. I could not, in a lifetime, describe that Sunday morning image from the upstairs window, because remembering is itself a baptism that stirs countless ripples all the way through the years and through my heart. Allow me to connect a few dots…

Ah, the excitement of a weekend on Tanner; staying at Grandma and Grandpa Miller’s, visiting with aunts, uncles, cousins; looking forward to unannounced kin dropping by. What wonderful people live in my family tree! What we all knew first – humble, genuine living. Easy – never; faithful – ever! It is doubtful our relatives ever thought or imagined at the time how unique and special they were. Maybe I couldn’t guess either, but I loved them all dearly even in my ignorance.

How natural to begin by peering out the upstairs window and then review the ripples swirling all around.

Look down that road! Close your eyes and see:
• Grandpa’s hands and Grandma’s hair
• Aunt Minnie’s smile, when she first brought her boys to visit
• The uncles’ tall shadows across the grass
• Cars slowing down for holes/puddles as they drive the road
• Haystacks in the meadows and on the hillsides
• Folks walking to church in pretty weather

Stand still and call back the sounds:
• Grandpa’s foot tapping out time as he sang on the porch
• Grandma’s laughter
• The neighbor’s friendly “har-ree.”
• The dasher’s clap when butter was a-churning.
• Fresh milk hitting an empty pail and kittens mewing for their share
• The back door banging and potato peelings landing in the slop bucket
• Chairs scooting under the table when the hands came in for dinner

Breathe deeply; absorb the home-bred aromas:
• Breakfast biscuits and supper cornbread
• Sizzling pork chops or fried chicken
• New-mown hay
• Wisteria and lilacs
• The woods after a rain.

And (for the very brave) set your taste buds back on:
• Black walnuts
• Creamed tomatoes
• New potatoes
• Corn on the cob
• Pickled beans
• Real molasses and just pulled taffy

A stroll down memory lane may begin with a single snapshot of mind. I do remember most of these things…or remember my Mom’s memory. The rest we will just chalk up to dreamy imagination; for I think Tanner is a place that lends itself to most pleasant dreams and remembrances.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


I remember when .... Saturday was grocery shopping day. Dad took Mom to Kroger (she didn't drive in those days) for food supplies and they were usually home not much after noon. That meant no hot lunch. [The kids wouldn't mind anyway - we didn't eat hot lunches offered at Taft Elementary on school days. Too pricey? We carried peanut butter or bologna instead.] Guess Saturday lunch was often sandwiches from fresh "light bread" then. I also remember opening pork & beans and eating them cold (or room temperature). No weenies, just beanies. I still like them that way best. Sometimes we had Vienna sausages or potted meat - which were a treat since little processed meat, other than bologna was on the storing list. We never felt slighted or poor, though. Mom's Sunday dinner always made up for the different Saturday menu. Especially her pies.

Wayne recalls that his mom went grocery shopping once a month (when the check came from the mines). She'd get a Greyhound bus down to Clendenin and the store keeper would use his truck to deliver her and the groceries back up the road (about five miles to Queen Shoals) at the close of business that day. Once a month necessities for a family with seven children was a pretty good load, I reckon. Nothin' fancy - dry beans, flour, sugar, other staples, but there was usually a bag of candy (whatever would stretch out most, like those little orange marshmallow peanuts) as a treat. Doubt that stretched more than one day with seven youngsters.

I went shopping today - all the way to Barboursville. My friend Steph and I met for a nice breakfast and she did the driving from there. At Hobby Lobby, I headed straight for the fabric aisles and likely spent much more than our folks would spend for necessities, though my yardages were not large. Well, for some of us fabric IS a necessity. I had a little baggie with slips of cloth to be matched - all UFO's (unfinished objects in quilters' terms); mostly something to go with squares already sewn and lacking sashing and/or binding - that sort of thing. Found some good deals and some great matches.... and amazingly came home with three pieces of RED. One pattern just wouldn't suit when there are three different shades of red in three separate projects.

Try explaining that to a husband who had to get his own Saturday lunch. I figure it was red ... so Grandma Oe would understand.

[Actually, DH said not a word about my purchases, sweetheart that he is. But it makes a good story.]

Thursday, May 20, 2010


That seemed a likely title for a quilt of tropic colors made out of jelly rolls with a design sufficiently vague as to split its personality between dragon or butter fly-bys. Once you've tried a jellyroll, you can't get enough, right?

Summer is upon us. The front balcony lends itself to dreams and memories -- family reunions, visits from grandchildren, trips to Pocahontas County, fried chicken picnics, blackberry cobblers, lemonade and iced tea, homemade ice cream, fresh green beans and vine-ripened tomatoes. Especially tomatoes. Yes, I'll take it all! Nothing greedy about me...

This is one of those special summers that is to include a brand new experience for Teelside acres: A Grandson's wedding. Of course we're elated that the bride and groom chose to be wed under our very noses – out in the meadow in front of our own favored cove where two woodsy hillsides meet and form deliciously deep shades under sycamores, dogwoods and poplars as a backdrop. Perhaps there will even be enough water in the stream to add its melodies to our Joy and Love and Worship. A thrilling prospect!

Meanwhile, lots of plans are afoot. The stage is to be set with arches, arbors and benches for seating. Several trees are ringed for cutting (their towering over the Barn have made DH uneasy for a while now) and their trunks will be cut in sections to serve as posts for the benches. Plans were drawn by the groom for arches, etc.; he will return to complete the central arch, but has agreed to trust his Grandfather with some prep work. Grandfather’s tools and noggin will be hummin’ soon.

As for yard work, it may take every week between now and mid-July to trim the premises all around. Indeed we should solicit all 13 grandsons as groundskeepers the week previous. (That would be a dozen trimmers and Abe as water boy). After the festivities, wedding trappings will be relocated to cove or orchard or yard or recycled to woodsheds for burning. Either way they should serve as reminders of the new snapshots for the family album that will warm our hearts and hearth in days ahead.

The best part of this – short of having family together, which is always just the very best part of anything – is the knowledge that all the work and plans are in other capable hands. I get to sit on the front balcony, drink iced tea and love every minute of it as it flutters by.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


Driving to meeting this morning, Wayne I were talking about how pretty the light green hills of spring were this lovely Lord's day. Then he said, "Every one of those leaves are brand new, they've never been here before." I do love that man! And his comment prompted me to think on and write these lines.


Gentle green hangs on the breeze
Floating softly through the trees;
Branches bathed in budding light
Bring to Spring their lovely sight.

Every leaf is shiny, new
Moist with gentle rain and dew –
Tender growth lately alive
Breaking out, with Joy revived.

Resurrection, Praise His name!
Here on earth His power proclaims
Once again with gilding ray
Winter’s night has turned to day.

Gentle green is born again
Hope and glory grandly reign;
Singing forth, sweet blooms and birds
Declare their anthems without words.

Beauties wrought by His design
Mark afresh that place in time
Where life returns again to bless
His world in Grace and Righteousness.

Gentle green whispers of Love
Spread in mercy from Above –
A timely summons gently borne
On wings of Spring for everyone!

See now the promise of the Lord
Believe and trust his Precious Word,
As surely as these gentle greens
Our souls will prosper – born again.

Not just in seasons come and gone,
Not here upon this plane alone –
We’ll find eternal life and bliss
In Heav’nly Light greater than this.

09 May 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Naming Quilts

Quilting is such a heritage with us…begun of necessity by grandparents generations ago; piecing remnants from sewing and fabric from worn clothing outgrown or worn through at knees or elbows. Sewn by hand, the quilts or comforters were hand quilted or knotted with yarn, often stuffed with a worn blanket and backed with feed sacks. Colors were what they were, whatever was on hand. Grandma Oe liked some red in hers – she had an eye for beauty. I’m thinking ancestors had little time for conjuring up quilt labels in those days. They did well to get the chores done and lay by blankets for cold weather.

By the time you’ve cut, pieced and quilted, you have developed a standing relationship with a quilt. For me, getting them pieced is the fun part (I have daughters and granddaughters enough to do all the quilting) and assigning a name is the icing on the cake. Sometimes the title relates to color or pattern; sometimes it speaks to the intended owner of the quilt. Always it is a matter of whimsy of the quilt maker. I’ve taken to Nines’ practice of putting names, places and dates on the quilt label as a way of building legacy. I hope on the label the title will appear as a peek into my mind (now there’s a scary thought) and the passage of time.

I could never match Grandma Oe’s penchant for unusual children’s names (having only four and a very traditional husband); but I try to employ her creative genes in quilt naming. To name a few: Tumble Weed, Fifth Child, Blueberry Lattice, Singing Stars and Dancing Waters, Teelside Ties, Shaggy Cowboys, Mulberry Harvest, Rainbows & Lollipops, White Picket Fences & All things Rosy; Peppermint Stars – a Cabin for Oe, Far Side of the Hill, Crumb Pudding, All Her Winsome Ways. There are 48 quilts on my list and I’m sure I’ve forgotten several. Yes, it is an addiction.

Should you have in your possession a precious quilt of known origin that has no label, take a moment to label it. A fine point permanent marker on a backside corner will do. If you write there what you know about the quilt – its maker and an approximate date – it’s history will be preserved when you pass it on.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Joseph, Daniel, Jacob, Paul, John & Abraham

I had Nina pose this picture as a counterpart to The Miller Uncles. It's just too much a coincidence NOT to reflect on the beautiful grandsons who are growing into fine young men, like their great uncles.

I choose now to give them one word descriptions (left to right): JOE - the worker, DAN - the preacher, JACOB - the naturalist, PAUL - the thinker, JOHN, the inventor and ABE - the apple of everyone's eye.

Friday, March 26, 2010



What is good for the goose is good for the gander, so there needs to be a sequel to “All about Aunts.” It’s only fair. And we have the perfect picture to accompany the memories. Again, thoughts are but snippets of childhood recollection and later reflection; but here goes.

The “all in a row” photo has been an all time favorite snapshot. Such handsome men! Did Grandma Oe’s heart leap up every time she looked at it? Mine does still.

Uncle Gale – he was oldest and lived closest to Grandma and Grandpa Miller, so naturally memories of him are plentiful. The quintessential teacher (for close to a century), I often pause to regard his curiosity, intellect and kindness. All of those attributes were expanded by his counterpart - our ever kind and gentle Aunt Ruth. I do suppose Uncle Gale encouraged me to be good as much as anyone in life, by his generous praise. And his most frequent greeting at Miller Reunions was a smile, a hug and a gentle, “I love you.” Quite a man, that one!

Uncle Orbert – what I know best of Uncle Orbert, is how much one sister (my Mom - Aunt Jessie) loved him. She once told how he liked to come in from farm work, wash up, put on a clean shirt and bake a cake. I think him particularly handsome and a good match with pretty Aunt Bonnie, whom he adored.

Uncle David – he looked most like Grandpa Grover to me, though smaller in stature. One time when he’d flown in to visit family and was at our house on Newhouse Drive, he inspected my hands for any sign of arthritis … how significant of his concern for Aunt Bonnie and care for others. He was a valiant heritage keeper; working with wood, preaching, always industrious. Our David dropped by to see him one time while traveling in Arizona, he so enjoyed talking with Uncle David and took some of good photos for us to cherish. Pretty cool.

Uncle Bon – he so often talked, with a distinctly different voice and that little half smile, like he had some great secret afoot. Like the others, he never stopped learning or creating good conversation. Personally, I think his secret was Aunt Janet – what a beauty he reeled in there! And how could I forget our little do-si-do to the tune of family bluegrass players at the Family Reunion … I can well imagine that was the only public dancing either of us ever did; and I'm so glad we did it!

Uncle Corley – such a practical, down to earth man, who contributed so richly to life for all his kin. I loved his laugh, and the pleasure he took in people and his gentle insight. Several pieces of his woodcraft hang around the Barn to keep me in touch with his warmth. And he, along with the rest, chose his wife well. Corley and Justine … it’s hard to say one without the other. Remembering his wedding day, he smiled with happily brimming eyes saying, “that was a good day.” How touching.

Uncle Bly – was everyone’s sweetheart. Youngest, stalwart and handsome, it was pretty easy for young nieces to develop a near crush on him. But I’m glad, glad, glad he chose Mavis. Our Craig reminds me of Uncle Bly – affectionate with a good sense of humor. I especially enjoy the memory of feeling petite in Uncle Bly’s big bear hug and hearing his deep voice rumble a greeting.

There you have it…hardly ALL about uncles, but perhaps enough to kick-start random memories of your own.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


[Written for and "shifted" from a family site.]

The following thoughts followed the loss of a favored Uncle, Gale Miller. I say favored (not favorite) because I favored all my uncles and like my Uncle Bly (who sometimes told me I was his favorite niece, with a wink) considered the one present my favorite at the time. Uncle Gale passed away just 19 days before his 100th birthday and like so many of his generation he was an exceptional person. Hence, the following:


The patterns of life are ever shifting. Change is perpetual, in some ways predictable, in other ways not so much. Change is something we all resist at times. The change that emerges with passing life is inevitable, yet somehow in our heart of hearts it is almost impossible to prepare for it. We cling closely to that which we know and love best…to those whom we know and love best. And so we should.

Someone recently remarked that even coming to this site was sad – so many changes in the patterns of the things we know of life and the ties we’ve made upon this plane. That tinge of sadness is quite rational. In truth, the reason we come here and enjoy this neighborhood so much is that it represents so well the way things were; the way we remember things being; yes, in those good old days.

With Uncle Gale’s passing I have been weighing change anew. And seeing his tribute to Grandpa Grover, the weight was broadened. It comes to me that the loss of these two men represents far more than ordinary shifting of patterns. Not because I love them so – though indeed I’ve always loved them so – but because these men along with other men and women of their generations, represent a very different breed of humanity. They and their womenfolk weren’t like you and I – try as we might, we cannot be like them. We may follow their good examples, but the scope of their lives is indeed irreproducible.

Those men were strong, fearless, honest and faithful. Those women were tough, brave, hardworking and loyal. They knew toil we can hardly imagine; faced dangers that would make us shudder, survived losses and forded streams they seldom mentioned in the retelling of their stories. And all with far less wealth or material gain than the poorest of us enjoy. Sometimes I think the times and hardships of the day shaped their worth, and I’m sure that overcoming adversity played a part. But along with facing the challenges of an austere life – they had mettle, valor born of true faith and conviction of their stand before their Creator. And in their fidelity, they also knew how to enjoy life fully, love deeply, keep learning, sing wholeheartedly and laugh often.

In the end I decided that when Gale and Grover Miller and others of their generations depart this world, the void is felt more crucially than in the passing of ordinary people. They were extraordinary in so many ways…and so they leave a very big hole when they go away. We’d be blind not to feel that true.

But on the other hand, as Aunt Luanne said about her brother, “Haven’t I been blessed to have him so long!” Indeed we have been blessed to know and see in the shifting patterns of life such remarkable men and women. They teach us so much of how to build the best of lives and speak, even in passing, of a better way.

I am so blessed to be able to follow their footprints through the shifting sands of time …into eternity.


Sands are sifting through the glass
Images of loved ones pass
Gently whispering soft good-byes
E’er they journey to the skies

Such is life and well we know
Tides and patterns come and go:
Blessed birth brings hope and joy
Age and loss our tears employ

We’re born to life that ever lives
Reaching through the time that gives
Wonder, joy, a little pain
We turn to dust, yet live AGAIN

Of all the marvels known to man
None will surpass the Master’s plan
Bestowing peace and hope and love
He measures twice – here and Above

We watch the shifting, changing sands
Rejoice in all the good His hands
Of mercy grant ... from day of birth
The same Hands lead beyond this earth!

PJT 1/31/2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

All about Aunts

Aunts: Minnie, Carrie and Luanne (with mother Jessie)

ALL ABOUT AUNTS? Not really…there is little possibility of writing all about aunts…just too much to be said.

Even so, I’ve been thinking “way hard” about Aunt Carrie lately. Such thoughts are always pleasant and were enhanced by a conversation with Aunt Luanne. I could not help but be reminded of what pleasant voices are a part of my Aunts’ acquaintance. Aunt Luanne doesn’t sound a day over thirty; Aunt Minnie had a soft husky voice, a voice with a smile inside; Aunt Carrie sounded like, well, Aunt Carrie. She seemed to have an accent all her own, or perhaps it was her laughter that so distinguished her. I do wish I could sit in a circle and hear them each talk again.

But back to Aunt Carrie: she used to send me mail. Her letters revealed her intelligence, creativity, sensitivity and concern for others. One time she wrote in the margin of a postcard, “You have your mother’s hands.” That seemed such a kind and comforting thought to me (and I hope to her). Aunt Carrie, she had very gifted hands … such as run in Miller/Minney bloodstream for both boys and girls. Like others of her generation she could not allow those hands to sit idle long, if ever. What a lovely world of embroidery, crocheting and quilting she turned out. In fair weather she set her hands to tending flowers and gardening. Everything beautiful engaged her eye and heart; became integrated into her daily patterns. Part of that claimed beauty was a very neat house. White-bright linens, shiny floors and clean sinks made hers a space to savor. I often recall the rented cottage at the Shock-Tanner junction – flowers by the porch and a new quilt in the frame; and the Miller homestead closet where her ironed linens awaited use. Aunt Carrie would never have judged her life to be exceptional; but what an extraordinary example and heritage she’s left us. So tell me, can you think of Aunt Carrie and not smile in your heart. No, I didn’t think so.

Now Aunt Luanne is reading this with a hearty amen, without thought of what might be said of her. She would not likely tell you her hands are likewise gifted … as she hasn’t a penchant for needlework that I’m aware of. But oh, she does have gifted hands … hands that have prepared countless Sunday dinners for her family; hands that have written tender words to brothers and other kin – words that bind a family many times over; hands that teach and nurture children (so many over the years) at school, at church, at home; hands that fold in prayer for all the souls she holds so dear. Nor are her hands ever idle. How do I know? Because recently when instructed to get some bed rest she complied about 12 hours and then her hands just had to do something useful – not grandiose – just a simple task like opening cans to make a bit of bean salad.

And another thing…I do not recall every hearing Aunt Luanne’s sweet voice complain about a single solitary thing even when facing some pretty stiff challenges. But yesterday I heard her voice wistfully speak of missing the work her hands would find to do were she but able. Well, she’s shown the way for others to share in her stead and her smiles would spur anyone along that good path.

Hands and voices, smiles and laughter linger still and speak volumes. I hope my heart is listening.