Shhhhhhhh…they’re sleeping

We are in the throes of Winter. And I LOVE it! We live in the part of the Midwest that is usually just too far South for the real snows but too far North for the icy weather.

Most of the time. But this year, we are enjoying what I like to call Real Winter.

You know, cold temps, frozen precip, MEASURABLE snowfall???

And I really do love it. Being a girl from the North (Wisconsin and North Dakota) married to a guy from Alaska, somehow our variable weather here in Missouri does not generate much of a Winter.

Generally speaking.

But this year is looking a whole lot better for those of us who are partial to the white, fluffy stuff.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday, we enjoyed a single snowfall of over 12 inches. It was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

My sweet husband, who has a modified version of shoveling (let’s just say I am a bit more thorough and particular), agreed that since we were expecting so much snowfall, it might actually be worth shoveling the ENTIRE driveway and front porch midway through the storm, as opposed to merely removing a walking path to the street…

I know. Seriously. Why would anyone need more than a single, narrow path to the street when your driveway slopes 45º toward the house…

Maybe to GET THE CAR  OUT OF THE GARAGE and UP THE HILL???

But I digress…he had to fully shovel twice, and still the snow came down. The weight of the snow would not have been safe to shovel for people like him who are blessed with a tiny, metal screen-like straw inserted to hold the major coronary artery open…you know, shoveling and heart attacks and all that.

Midway through the snowfall,  after shoveling the first 6-7 inches

Midway through the snowfall,
after shoveling the first 6-7 inches

A greater portion of the day was spent cooking and watching the snow fall and hearing absolutely nothing.

Our massive Newfoundland/Lab/Chow mix dog, Joe Bear, did not want to come inside. Or STAY inside. Between the snow and the smells from the kitchen, he made numerous trips in and out to check on the progress.

Joe Bear: Why'd you make me come inside???

Joe Bear: Why’d you make me come inside???

But the next morning, the beauty of the fallen snow was an amazing sight. And the winds that followed the snowfall made the landscape look as though a sculptor had been at work. A divine Sculptor, indeed.

Wind carved drifting

Wind carved drifting

Ripples in the snow

Ripples in the snow

Our entire world was covered in a very thick blanket of white. St. Louis was totally shut down. Most schools did not reopen until Friday, using many snow days with that single snowfall. Buses could not make it through the streets and most side streets in many municipalities went without benefit of a snowplow for days.

But I was very nearly entranced by the beauty of the snow.

And the ice crystals on the windows.

Crystals formed on the inside of the door

Crystals formed on the inside of the door

More crystal formations on the glass

More crystal formations on the glass

It had been so long since I had seen that kind of beauty. I just stood at my door and looked out the window. Little Froglegs came and stood with me. Just looking silently.

Then he said softly, “Nana, I am so sorry all your flowers died.”

I was surprised. Here I was, reveling in the beauty of my covered yard, under that fluffy blanket of snow, and my little tender hearted guy was sad about my dead flowers.

“Oh, it’s all right, buddy. It’s like a picture. You know how Jesus died for us on the cross, but then He came back to life and now He lives in heaven? My garden will come back to life in the Spring,” I explained.

Froglegs was quiet for several minutes, just looking out the door with me. Then he said, “I understand, Nana. I really do! I get it!”

In spite of the frigid temperature outside, my heart was warm standing there with my Froglegs. It was a beautiful moment to share. And the reminder of the Spring yet to come. My garden will enjoy the benefit of that blanket of snow, and Froglegs will have a memory of that important lesson learned from that big snowstorm of 2014.

My Winter Paradise

My Winter Paradise

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Changes

The season is changing here in the midwest. And I am very thankful, let me tell you! After the Winter that wasn’t, we had such an awesome Spring that changed into half of a great Summer. Unfortunately, Summer turned into the Drought/Heat Wave of 2012.

But NOW, the air is brisk. Leaves are changing color and beginning to fall off the branches. Acorns and black walnuts are falling off the trees. Squirrels are scurrying. I have enjoyed seeing several large flocks of migrating birds visiting my bird feeders here and there. It also means that the hummingbirds and butterflies have journeyed to their Winter homes down South.

I continue to coax a bit of life out of the garden…hoping for some color for a few more weeks. And am still awaiting the opening of the mums.

Yesterday…FROST on the windshields! It was so wonderful!

There is something about this season that I find absolutely INVIGORATING! Coffee is especially great on those cold mornings. Snuggling under the blankets (and not suffering from heat flashes) and actually having a fire in the fireplace. I love this weather.

It isn’t just the weather that is changing.

Froglegs has learned to READ! It is a special experience now at bedtime to hear him reading to his brother and sister. There are times that childhood changes are mixed with sadness at the loss of that baby sweetness, but I must say hearing a child learning to put letters and words together is something very, very special for this Nana.

I remember when my oldest child learned to read. Shopping for groceries suddenly took A LOT LONGER because she wanted to read every. single. sign. On each and every aisle, every time we went into the store. You could see the smiles on other parents’ faces…they knew exactly what was happening. Such pride in those first successes at reading.

And pretty soon we were struggling to keep up with her. She read every book she could lay her hands on. She sacrificed recess to work on her school work. It had to be PERFECT in her mind. You know how those perfectionists are, don’t you?

Eventually, all three of my children were reading. Some enjoyed it, others tolerated it. Even my oldest one eventually began to HATE it because reading changed from something almost magical into the whole “read a book, write a report” scenario, and the joy of reading was temporarily lost. For about 15 years…

But now, she is a mommy and reads to her own baby…continuing to see those developmental changes for herself. They live so far away, but it was so much fun to get to hear her when they visited us over Labor Day.

And every day, I now get to enjoy listening to Froglegs reading his stories to me, and trying to sound out the words. And even better, trying to read his original stories that he writes out on his fabulous drawings.

I guess, for me, this season of Fall/Autumn has always meant “school”…memories of learning and playing with friends and reading contests at school and gold stars on worksheets… The awesome changes that came from LEARNING new things…

And…since it is Fall, I am reminded that I continue to learn…just how awesome God is, how very blessed I am, and how thankful I should be…

I hope I never get tired of learning. Are you still learning?

Ugly Treasures

I like to dabble in photography, and I take thousands of pictures, hoping to take that perfect one. Some are special. Some are blurry. Some are awful.

But honestly, I have a really hard time deleting my images. They are kind of like those boxes of mementos that I keep–treasures that somehow are too precious to discard but for some reason are still stuck in a box rather than out on display.

This week, my little buddy Froglegs became so excited and animated because he saw this very large yellow butterfly.

“Hurry, Nana! Get your camera! Come see this butterfly. It’s HUGE!!!”

I obviously have my little buddies well-trained at identifying those picture-worthy subjects. I hurried in to get my camera, hoping not to miss it.

It was a very windy day, and the poor butterfly was really flexing his muscles to hang onto the butterfly bush. (That bush is a topic for another blog post.) I snapped several pictures, but the wind was interfering with my shots.

And then, my battery died. Great. Just great.

Later in the day, I uploaded the photos to my computer to check them out. I felt a mixture of semi-satisfaction and disappointment. I don’t believe a single one of them was clear that didn’t also feature a weed, the neighbor’s trash can, her newspaper or the brand-new asphalt on the road. It didn’t look like any of them were frame-worthy.

Bummed would be an understatement.

I left the photos alone and did nothing. I moped a little. It had been a somewhat unpleasant day and I had a lot of mulling over going on. I had so many thoughts running through my head, and honestly, blurred pictures didn’t stack up too high on my list of significant failures.

But…as the day dragged on, the pictures became an escape for me. I was bound and determined to turn them into something semi-beautiful. After all, it was a gorgeous yellow swallowtail, the loveliest shade of yellow. It was stunning, to be honest.

So I messed around with my Canon photo editing software. I don’t even have Photoshop. As I experimented, God started bringing so many thoughts and verses to mind. And a-tweaking I went.

The mundane and ordinary became sublime. When looking at it through a different set of “eyes” I could see beyond the failures of the photos. Just take a look…

Can you even see the asphalt? Do you see the weeds? Or the garbage can and newspaper?

No. And you know what? These photos are a great example of what the blood of Jesus does to us…God does not see us as those miserable creatures bound by sin. We are not hopeless, ugly wretches.

We are His treasures. Loved and beautiful. Full of life and hope. When we are able to look at our lives through God’s filter of redemption and unconditional love, we can see ourselves as He sees us.

I pray that today, you will see yourself through His eyes of forgiveness and redemption.

Dancing Eyes, Froglegs-Toothless in St. Louis and Papa

After what seemed like an eternity, Papa arrived home safely late last night. After spending the last two days becoming intimately acquainted with the Sea-Tac airport, the ins and outs of flying stand-by, and the challenges of eating on a budget while stuck in a place that is known for gouging its patrons, he arrived safe and sound just before midnight.

I let out a sigh heard around the world when I saw him walk through the door. Relief.

The little people were all sleeping, so they didn’t know for sure if he was home when they awakened this morning. One by one they came up the stairs. I guided them  to the front door where they could look out and see Papa watering the garden.

Dancing Eyes was first. “Papa’s home?” he asked, softly.

He then went out the door and into Papa’s outstretched arms.

After a few minutes, the child formerly known as Sean, came up the stairs. {I realized a few weeks ago that this sweet boy did not have an official alias yet for my blog. How unfair! So…he has two, based on his developmentally appropriate statuses–frog legs and toothless in St. Louis. :)}

He went straight out the door, to be enveloped in some long, outstretched arms. There was Papa, holding two still sleepy, but very contented little boys.

Safe Haven

So, our world is turned right side up. And humor has rejoined my space in this universe.

Froglegs aka Toothless in St. Louis came inside and stood, looking out the door.

“Nana, I still recognized him. I did.”

Apparently, Papa was gone so long…

Gold

It’s all about the gold, isn’t? Gold medals, the gold standard…we attach a lot of value to the idea of gold…

Hearts are as pure as gold, silence is golden…

Women are accused of being gold-diggers…

Someone who is effective in making things happen is said to have the Midas touch…

So and so is “golden”…

Gold Medal flour…

Rod Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois, thought his position was golden because he would be able to sell President-elect Obama’s vacated Senate seat…and that cost him a lot more than a bag of gold!

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow guarded by a lucky leprechaun…

Given the current events of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, I thought I should put forth my best effort in recognizing an amazing unsung hero…

I am awarding this gold medal as a shared award–kind of like a team award. This gold medal recognizes someone willingly taking full advantage of new opportunities for personal development–above and beyond their natural skill or interest. I can honestly say that this person has proven repeatedly that it has nothing to do with his personal interests or needs, but rather those of his behind the scenes partner.

Many years ago, this individual left his humble hut behind and attacked with gusto many new and uncharted projects that would have escaped him were it not for the impetus behind all those uncharted projects. He developed a love of digging up plants and moving them to other yet-to-be-dug holes. He discovered new ways of getting brand new clothing ruined by dirt and grime faster than anyone in history. He never met a paint brush he couldn’t leave without layers of clear-cut evidence of the history of his handiwork.

He has graduated from building plywood crates to ship appliances overseas to mastering multiple kitchen projects, even an entire basement. Becoming well-versed in load-bearing walls and their removal, he has come to expect a wall to come down in every home he has bought.

He is a painter extraordinaire, whipping out his paint gear and attacking the house with colors he can’t even pronounce, repeatedly.

There is only one remaining medal event for him–tree removal–but he is ineligible to compete in that event due to his past experience involving a ladder, a tree and a chainsaw. Because of his serious violations, he is forever forbidden from competing in this event.

So it is with great pride that I award the Gold Medal for Outstanding Taker of New Opportunities to my own husband, Superman. I joyfully share that award with him as the impetus behind those repeated opportunities to extend his knowledge and skill in areas for which he has no natural interest. Please stand and join me for the playing of our National Anthem.

Naked Ladies

They get called a lot of different things…

Mystery Lilies

Surprise Lilies

Pink Ladies

Naked Ladies

But in all honesty, none of their names do them justice. In the Spring, when daffodils and other bulbs start shooting up their greenery, so do these lovely ladies. But if you are expecting flowers to follow immediately you will be so disappointed.

However, long after their foliage has died away and you’ve forgotten all about them, and the long hot days of the miserable Summer have taken control, you are greeted by these mysterious stems shooting through the ground with no leaves or foliage whatsoever.

And you get so excited! You try to remember just what those things were, and then you remember…

these shoots are about the same height as Curly Top

So as little Curly Top goes wandering through the garden, she breaks the neck of one of these beauties so she can savor its fragrance. And unsuccessfully attempts to put it back on…I almost cried.

But the blooms are so delicate and lovely, pink and blue and lavender…gorgeous…

Preparing to open…

With so many dying flowers from our drought and heat, the presence of these just gave us all a reminder of the beauty around us that we so easily ignore.

Beauty

So, whether you call them Pink Ladies, Mystery Lilies or Naked Ladies, just make sure you appreciate their beauty, because it is here today and gone tomorrow!