Need a NEW Excuse for Being Late? Borrow Mine….

A dedicated night-owl, I struggle to arrive at every early morning appointment on time, much less appearing rested & serene. (You know what I mean.) Yet, in my imagination…

I park my vehicle & stroll up the walkway. Flowers nod their petal bonnets as I pass. Then, with smiles for all (& my makeup perfect), I present a fresh-from-the-oven something to the hostess. Impressed, she breathes in the mouth-watering fragrance & her eyes roll back. 

Catching her by the elbow before she faints into a blissful heap, I help her into the kitchen. Then pull back the charming, hand-embroidered (by me, of course) bread cover from my basket of…what? Muffins? No…scones! And place them on the table. Tenderly. An offering.

The ladies trickle in one by one, unable to keep from commenting. “What is that delicious aroma?” “ Can this be heaven?” “I have to have the recipe!”

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Of course, that never happens. THIS is what actually happens:

One recent morning I was a little ahead of the clock for Bible study. Collecting my purse, books & highlighter, I stepped through the doorway. Then stopped. What had I forgotten? Oh, yes. Breakfast.

I’m not talking about a drool-worthy basket of scones. Just something to get me by until the coffee kicked in. Wait! Wasn’t I going to make coffee? I dropped my things & headed for the kitchen. Still time to grab some travel food. And drink.

Once there, I noted the tea-kettle rumbling on the stove top, about to whistle. (Oops. I forgot that one little detail.) Thanking Jesus, I turned off the burner, spooned some instant coffee into a mug & poured in boiling  water. And a hearty splash of Snicker’s Bar Creamer. Plus a couple packets of “I Wish I Was Sugar.” (Stirred, not shaken.)

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I chose a Lemon Meringue Pie flavored yogurt from the fridge.  Mixing it into a pudding-like state, I added some fruit & granola. And the spoon. Ta-dah! Ready to go.

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Back at the front door, I placed the coffee mug & yogurt atop the sideboard, away from the edge. (Safety first, right?) A quick glance at the wall clock showed my extra time had vanished.

I lifted my purse (NEW purse, BTW) from the floor & transferred it to my left hand, digging inside for sunglasses with my right. I found them on the sideboard, behind the coffee. A quick grab and they were on my face. Pulling the keys toward me, I skillfully captured the coffee at the same time…and…knocked over the open container of yogurt. A glob oozed across the top of the sideboard, a strawberry sliver sliding upright like a shark fin. With a hand full of keys & coffee, I tried to rescue my breakfast. It eluded my grasp & plop-plopped right into my purse. DEEP, deep inside.

I thought I heard it gurgle. Or was that giggle?

Game over. Then it was a matter of cleansing my purse – inside & out, removing yogurt from my car keys, wallet, etc., & dabbing at drips on the sideboard door, until all the goo was gone.

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I would have been only a half hour late but…flustered…I forgot my destination & drove to the wrong house. In the wrong town. (Really?) I arrived a full hour late – breathless & treatless. My friends gave me grace, as usual. And even though they know I write fiction, I’m pretty sure they believed my excuse.

Should you, dear reader, need a new & unique reason for lateness, I give mine to you. Obviously, I won’t use it again. No one would believe it twice.

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God’s Got This!

Working the weekend at the marvelous West Coast Christian Writers Conference in Pleasanton, California, topped off weeks of preparation for my role as the Critique & Coaching Director. I’d suffered a recent, personal loss & God gave me this task to keep me busy & affirm me going forward. Organizing appointments & interacting with both faculty & the attending writers were activities I enjoyed. (Loved.) So I put my heart into performing the job well & found myself rewarded at every turn. God knew this writer needed a win & it was a huge one. I left on Saturday night uplifted beyond expectation.

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WCCW Conference faculty describe their workshops.   Photo: Cathy Breslow.

I was joyful! And exhausted. So weary, in fact, I worried about falling asleep on the drive home. Adding to my concern was a little matter of massive flooding on Interstate 5 – my usual route. Several times I’d received news of two-to-five-hour waits on the freeway and single lines of cars led to safety by police. Was it foolish to risk getting stuck out on the road? Alone? Should I stay another night? Probably wise.

Lamb aloneBut I so wanted to go home. I’d made a date with my pillow & longed to keep my end of the bargain.

Trying not to fret, I determined to check for traffic conditions once in Vacaville. If reports still sounded negative, I’d grab a motel rather than venture out. An hour later, I pulled into a gas station in Cordelia Junction. Better fill my CRV’s tank. What if I became a fixture on the freeway for hours? With hungry engine idling?

I’d sent up several prayers for protection & for guidance as I drove, the evening darkening, rain threatening. More nervous with each passing minute, my hand shook as I aimed the nozzle into my vehicle’s gas tank opening. Once the fuel flowed, I gazed toward the bright blue car parked on the other side of the pump.

The gal in the front seat sure reminded me of my friend, Becky, from church. Maybe feeling my stare, she turned toward me & her big eyes opened wider. I’m sure mine did, too. It was Becky!

No, it was Christmas. Or felt like it, seeing my friend open her car door and rush over to me, laughing. We hugged, amazed to see one another. What were the chances? In fact, Becky told me they’d just decided at the last minute to top off their cars before going on. As I waved to her daughter Sarah, sitting in the passenger seat, husband Jeff appeared. He asked if I was on my way home. When I said yes, he warned me not to take Interstate 5. Instead, he recommended opting for Hwy 99, the old highway. A safe, dry route.

What a relief to have a plan. Jeff explained how to get on the right road by choosing a certain Sacramento exit. After explaining it to me a couple times, Becky intervened. “We have two cars. Why don’t you follow me? Jeff will stay behind you and we’ll just shepherd you all the way home!”

I almost cried. God’s provision was so sweet. Plus, Becky used the word shepherd. A perfect word. I pictured Jesus, the Good Shepherd, carrying one of His lambs protectively close. Near His heart.

With Becky & Sarah in the lead car, Jeff’s vehicle guarding from the back & me in the middle, we set out. Caravanning through myriad small towns, all dressed up in nightlights, we trekked along Hwy 99. Once, our vehicles sent off sprays when we splashed through a short strip of water. But it seemed good fun, like a child playing in a puddle after the rain. None of the flood trauma I’d envisioned.

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Throughout the weekend & all the way home, the Lord carried me above my sadness. Gifting me through His people & through the work itself. Later, secure in my comfy CRV, I wore an unabashed grin at the beauty of God’s kindness as dear friends guided me home. My time had been blessed from the moment I was offered the assignment to the last mile driven, shepherded between His own.

Why do I ever worry? His Word promises He will care for me. And again, my experience agrees. Maybe it’s a simple cliché, but whatever the problem…God’s got this!

He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.                                   Isaiah 40:11 (NLT)
Jesus & Lamb Far

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Picture Perfect

During a recent trip to Washington, I enjoyed a lovely visit with my brother & sister-in-law (Mike & Pam) on Whidbey Island. And, as usual, acquired a few antiques. Among them, a lovely old pastoral painting in a wobbly, gilt frame. Something about the scene spoke to me & Pam encouraged me to buy it, saying she & Mike could make the frame fit.

Once back at the house, Pam got busy, first removing the old frame – stamped with “Made in France” on the back. (Ooooo, France!) Mike took the frame apart in his man cave, then brought the pieces inside & laid them on the table.

“Back to you, sweet Sis.”

Pam lent supplies to work on the grimy-looking frame parts. With a turpentine-soaked toothbrush, I began a gentle scrub, trying not to dislodge any of the remaining gilt.

Then, Pam handed me the painting to clean. Uh…how do I…? No idea.painting-whalf-frame  Google offered some choices. But which was best? If I used the wrong method, I might ruin my precious painting. Gulp.

One wikiHow site warned, “…you can’t use water, paint thinner, alcohol, or any abrasive force.” Instead:

  1. Use saliva. (One’s own, I presumed.) Apparently, it was a technique promoted by many museum curators. “Saliva has enough enzymes to break down dirt and grime, but not so much that it will damage the paint.”
    1. Maybe so, but ew. Not a fan.
    2. That was a “no.”
  2. Use bread. Get a loaf of sourdough, break it apart & take some out of the middle. Rub gently against the painting…then brush it off. Really?
    1. On another site, the gal used the inside of a bagel. She seemed happy.
    2. Other sites cautioned, “No bread!”
    3. Okay…no bread unless it’s a sandwich.
  3. Use a soft brush. I had a clean blush-brush so I tried that, going over the painting little by little, using circular motions. I was pleased with the affect. One could see the difference between the treated & non-treated areas.

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Soon, my bro & wife teamed up to trim the loose frame, Pam measuring & Mike using his table saw to trim a smidgen more. Once perfect, they glued & fit it into Mike’s homemade jig to “cure” overnight. The next day, painting & frame were reunited. Pam finished the project with new strap-hangers & wire.

And voila! A mini-masterpiece…the result of a lot of loving care. Looks great on the wall.painting-4Thanks, you two! What a beautiful & generous gift.

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The Art of Motherhood

When I was little, I thought all mothers were artists. And musicians. And seamstresses. Like my mother.

Because she had so much creative talent, my mom enriched my  childhood with constant doses of it. She whipped up numerous dresses for me on her old 1940s Singer sewing machine. I was always in style at church or school. And so were my baby dolls. Chatty Cathy & I often wore matching frocks, thanks to Mother’s genius. In fact, until I took this picture, I never realized that little Muffy’s dress wasn’t just like mine.

Muffy & Me

Muffy & Me – Twins!

The turquoise-blue, dotted-Swiss number I wore for my portrait (about four years of age), was a rare store-bought dress. But Mother found similar material for Muffy’s look, added some fancy lace, & I thought we were twins.

For my birthday, Mother sometimes drew beautiful ladies on white cardboard, the stiff backing saved from packages of nylons. She sketched enough so each invited guest could take away her own, original paper doll. Each doll wore a unique hairstyle & bathing suit. And each had a large sheet of art paper filled with tabbed clothes. During the party, we could fill in the outfits using new sets of colored pencils. Scissors were provided so each girl could cut out clothing for her doll to model. We lay on the living room tiles, industrious, creating our own masterpieces.

Probably the only time we were quiet all day.

Paper Doll

Though I no longer have the paper dolls, I have a lot of my mother’s drawings that are reminiscent.

When I think of how much time & love Mother put into such projects on my behalf, I feel rich. Now that she is in Heaven, these memories are great treasures.

I hope I remembered to thank her adequately.

 

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Shirley You Remember!

43 Years old

She looks great, even after 43 years!

For many years, twenty-three to be exact, I stored my daughter’s classic Shirley Temple doll from 1972. Left behind when Heidi set out for college, I dutifully found a safe spot for Shirley to wait, gently pulling a clear plastic bag over her head. Couldn’t have those beautiful curls covered with dust!

I’d check on Shirley once in a while. But she never ran away or got dirty. Good girl. A big Shirley Temple fan myself, I thought of the doll when I wrote my latest cozy mystery, A Stitch in Crime, placing her on a shelf in my fictional antique store. That dolly needed a little outing, for pity’s sake.

Recently, Shirley was on my mind again. I invited my eight-year-old grandgem, Sidney, to watch a few YouTube clips of the curly-topped moppet singing & dancing. My girl was entranced. Soon my daughter stopped by & watched, too. I glanced at her & she looked at me, both of us emitting mutual “awws.” Amid the craziness of today’s world, I’d missed this sweet, sweet innocent darling from long ago, represented by those uplifting movies and that collectible doll.

When I asked Sidney if she’d like to have her mom’s doll, her face lit up. “Yes, please, Gramsey. Can you send her tomorrow?”

Sidney & Package

Sidney can’t wait to open her package.

“I’ll be traveling tomorrow, honey. Maybe the next day? Or Wednesday?”

“Tuesday?” she asked, hopeful.

I did my best & my best was Wednesday. However, I decorated the mailing label with a pic of a Shirley doll & sent a video message from the very doll I’d just put in the box & mailed. Sidney emailed me back, thanking me for the video & saying she & her little brother were cracking up.

Today, Sidney & Shirley were joyfully united. I hope she’ll treasure this new little friend. Maybe one day, she can pass it on to her own daughter. Meanwhile, I’m hunting for Shirley Temple DVDs to fill in the cultural blank. I think her heart will welcome knowing about a time when America’s Sweetheart enchanted all the country & uplifted us during a troubled time.

Sidney & Shirley

New mommy, Sidney Anne, with her own Shirley Temple doll.

Next up? Pollyanna!

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What’s in Your Wall–…er…Cupboard?

Fiesta Tea Time w/A Stitch in Crime

Fiesta Time w/A Stitch in Crime

When friend, Angela McInnis (who crafted the quilt for my book cover), posted a pictorial record of her new Fiesta collection on Facebook, I rushed to check my own kitchen collectables, including vintage Fiesta, partying behind my cupboard doors.

Goodness, but her new Fiesta was charming! Did I like it better than the old? I read that it’s now (& has been) the most popular line of everyday dishes for Macy’s. Unlike the old, the new stuff has added wonderful pastel colors, is microwaveable, & dishwasher safe. Nice. My daughter uses hers daily & her kids love to pick out their own plate colors. (Me, too.)

But my Fiesta is all from the 1930s & ‘40s & must be hand-washed. No microwave use. Yet, has a charm of its own. Unlike some of my collections acquired over many years, picking through antique stores, yard sales, & online, the Fiesta came to me in an unusual way.

A friend of mine was getting rid of boxes of old things offloaded by someone. “Do what you want with these,” she’d been advised. Knowing I was a collector, she  invited me over to check them out & help her decide what to toss & what to keep.

Fiesta dishes on shelf

Fiesta in the Cupboard!

Deep in the first box, I found treasure. And became over-the-moon-excited about some Vaseline glass pieces, hoping to absorb one or two into my small collection. I oo-ed & ah-ed so much, she decided to keep them all. Rats.

But one box housed quite a lot of old Fiesta ware ready to use.The colors were mainly cobalt, yellow, light green, & ivory. Plus a couple broken bits, some chipped plates, & a cup with no handle. Of little interest to my friend, she offered the entire box to me for $75.00. Of course, I’d hoped for my favorite price. Free. But her price seemed fair.

A few special pieces beckoned from the bottom. A carafe with its rare top & a mint, covered casserole. Later, shopping for missing pieces out in the antique world, I realized that three dinner plates alone might cost $75.00. I had almost an entire set of dishes!

Dishes on the shelf

American Sweetheart & Fiesta ware.

Along with the Fiesta in my cupboard, reside my everyday dishes – a monax American Sweetheart set from the Depression era. They are lovely in form, opalescent, with a raised design decorating scalloped edges. Unlike the Fiesta, it took me ages to collect the American Sweetheart.

The top shelf is populated with early Franciscan ware (Gladding McBean) in a creamy, swirl pattern. A service for twelve, they have appeared in many Thanksgivings at my home, doing utilitarian duty in a most elegant way.

Franciscan & Fiesta

Franciscan & Fiesta

I look into my cupboards & see great value there. Not how much they are worth. But the years of pleasure I’ve had, treasure hunting with like-minded dear ones. I see places I’ve been & conversations & laughter. They are more than colorful dishes. They represent shared experiences.

A very special lady once said to me, “Things do not satisfy. Only Jesus satisfies.” I so agree. These dishes are just things that will break & chip. They won’t last.

But He knows what delights my collector heart. So I’ll enjoy them in the here & now, until the day when I’m walking on the streets of gold.

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The Memory Keepers

Momma Recipe Cards

Much loved recipes written in Mother’s own dear hand.

Since my darling mother’s passing on Christmas Eve 2014, I have found unexpected comfort in things she left behind. I had no idea the memories each item would inspire in this devoted daughter’s heart. A trinket here, a memento there, some handwriting in a book, or on a recipe card. All much dearer to me, now that she has gone.

Emptying a box of stored Mother-stuff, I came upon a tiny, graniteware berry bucket. Mother used to tell the story of family berry-picking adventures, accompanying her two sisters, Nellie and Thelma, and her brother, Dave, out into the berry patch to gather fruit that would become jams, jellies, and juicy pies for dessert.

Momma's Berry Bucket

Berry Bucket Circa 1920s

As the youngest child, Mother’s job was to cover the bottom of that little bucket with berries. But she never could. “I always ate them as fast as I picked them!” she would say, laughing. I smile at her memory, which is now a kind of memory for me, too. Represented by the tiny berry bucket.

When Mother was slipping into dementia, I told her not to worry, I would hold all her memories close and retrieve them whenever she needed them. That seemed to calm her, something she could accept as she struggled to remember. Now I have all her memories to hold. Plus, memories of her sharing those memories. Precious gems in my treasure chest.

Perhaps I’ve been consoled by family possessions for some time. My Dad’s bolo tie’s been hanging from my car’s rear view mirror since his passing in 2005. It soothed me somehow, swinging back and forth, catching the light, reminding me of his handsome appearance and my mom’s pride as she walked beside him, hand in hand. The other day, I added one of Mother’s necklaces to Daddy’s tie. Then another, because I couldn’t decide.

Though they are beginning to suggest a bejeweled chandelier, I’m leaving it for now. Their shimmery sparkle brings many memories to light. And I think Mother, a great lover of all things bling, would approve.

Car Chandelier

Mother & Daddy Bling

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