Advent Peace

Things got away from me at the end of November, when I would ordinarily have posted something, and even the beginning of December was packed. There were fun things, like a quick road trip to Minnesota. We saw this again on the way:

Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska

We had no Sharpie, but Brittany managed to sign the one designated “signature” car:

We were headed to Shakopee to surprise Courtney (Jay’s idea) with an early 40th birthday celebration, although the big day is not until the 20th.

Courtney and Brittany – 4 December 2021

Chelsea didn’t have as much time off, but of course, she wouldn’t miss it, so flew in to join in the fun:

Chelsea and Courtney – 4 December 2021

So we were all together. Jay pulled it off. Courtney was completely surprised and nearly in tears when she saw us. Worth every mile to see her smile!

Then, both Brittany and Courtney had surgery on the 8th, but I’m happy to report both are recovering nicely, although it takes time.

Meanwhile at my house, all kinds of things were going wrong and needing attention or time or money or all three. Yikes. Here’s a poem I wrote around the time things were going haywire at an alarming pace: 

I’ll Admit I Have a Thing for Snow Globes

And yes, I did just willingly fork
over forty bucks for the privilege
of watching silver glitter flash
and swirl around a cockeyed
scene in ceramic—
a tiny steepled church,
leaning left, as I do,
dwarfed by three tall spruces,
green-painted branches tipped in white.

And yes, the oven needs replacing,
and the HOA is demanding
funds for a road,
and a window was broken
by landscapers who are not
happy to pay, no matter what they say,
and a blind won’t obey
when the button is pushed,
and the heat just kept heating
and blowing and burning,

pulling me from sleep,
waking to summer’s heat
on that cold winter night,
the night of the day where I paid
with funds needed elsewhere, I paid
to smile and stare
and pretend myself there,
in a sparkling, pristine,
beautifully serene,
miniature world.
My new snow globe

Of course, a snow globe can only do so much on the inner peace front, but things are getting done. The landscaper turned out only to be busy, not reluctant, and has paid me. Yay! Several other issues resolved with little or no expense, and suddenly here we are in Advent and it’s nearly Christmas.

Apparently I’m not the only one occasionally feeling a bit frazzled these days. I heard an ad the other day recommending Legos to adults as a source of peace, but if you’ve ever stepped on one barefoot, I doubt peace was the immediate result. 

Which brings us finally to the reason for the title: “Advent Peace.” (I know you were wondering.) I’ve been thinking about the four themes of Advent especially this year, because I was asked to write and present something for one of the four weeks, which include Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace. If you know me at all, you know I’m a pro  worrier, so it may surprise you to hear I chose to write about peace.  Weirdly, wonderfully, supernaturally, I do often feel the peace of God, even in the midst of whatever is going on, even if it’s going wrong. He meets me where I am, if only I pay attention.

I’ll be presenting what I wrote (and lighting the candle–yes, they’re trusting me with fire) this Sunday, the 19th.  But if you won’t be there or watching online, here’s the shorter version–it’s already short:  The very best gift you could receive this Christmas is the transcendent peace of God, which he gives freely to anyone who asks. I hope you will. 

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a glorious New Year!


Color Therapy

October for me is always about color.

La Grosse Horloge, La Rochelle
Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon
Le Marais Poitevin – May 2014
Sunset on St. Pete Beach – March 2015
Key West Sunset Cruise — February 2015

Fall foliage, especially, always feeds my soul somehow. As Brian Doyle used to say, “Nice work, there, God! Now you’re just showing off.”

Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire 2013

 I’ve also been enjoying color in a few of the classes I mentioned last month.  My first photography class with Eli Vega has started, and I’m loving it. He absolutely knows what to do with color. Check out his website here. Now I’m scrambling to get my technical skills up a bit to be able to even attempt some of the things he’s demonstrating. But until that happens, you can revisit a few of our more colorful adventures, like the Outer Banks and colorful Key West and the post about the maddening butterflies.

I’ve also started the “Loose Watercolor” class with Steve Griggs, another who knows his way around the color wheel. Check out his website here. One of the great things about that class is that it’s on Zoom, so NO ONE can see what I’m painting, or rather the mess I’m making, so it’s 100% stress-free. Super fun. 

The “Food and Culture” class with Chef Larry Canepa was only three weeks, so that one’s finished. Here’s his website, including recipes. Yay! His visual aids were a feast of color, especially yesterday, when he talked about herbs and spices. Reminded me of a great little restaurant we enjoyed in La Rochelle in 2017 with Tom and Lexi. I’m afraid his spice photos were way cooler than anything I have on hand, so you’ll have to use your imagination (or maybe stay tuned, if the photography class goes well). 

My life is very much about reading and writing, so literally black and white much of the time. I have to lift my eyes from the page to notice and appreciate all the color around me, but it’s worth it every time I do. 

Beckett appreciates his fall leaves in a slightly different manner.

Beckett enjoying the leaves – October 2021 – Photo credit: Jennifer Mosley (his nanny) 

What a great gift color is. I’ve tried to give you about as much of it as I can fit into one post, but I hope you get out and savor the real thing in nature, even if you, like Beckett, prefer rolling on the ground to unleash the full joy of the moment. Enjoy!

Celebrating Learning

September is such a back-to-school kind of month, and I love that we’re never too old to learn.

Book Shop in one of the covered passages of Paris

There will be no John C. Campbell Folk School for me this year, but I’m determined to get back there. I absolutely loved it. Click here for their website. For now I’m staying local, and I have signed up for a slew of Osher classes for this fall semester: six weeks of photography, six weeks of watercolor, thirteen weeks of poetry classes, three weeks on food and culture, as well as my ongoing weekly French lessons. Plus there are occasional poetry or other writing workshops online that I take, so I’m staying busy. A few overlap, but some start as others finish, so I’m hoping it’s all manageable. Guess we’ll see! Either way I’m raring to go and most are on Zoom, so no annoying traffic!

The only class that has already started is a poetry class with Veronica Patterson. Sweetgrass was mentioned in one of the poems, which immediately had me thinking of our time in Charleston and on Folly Beach, during our year of adventure, both the perfection of the sweetgrass baskets and the beauty of nature we saw every day on our beach walks.

Folly Beach, South Carolina – December 2014

I’m also remembering all the road trips with Pascale and Jacky and how Pascale always had planned everything so perfectly and had all the guidebooks with all the information. Jacky drove us tirelessly–with David in 2013, many times in 2014, and even 2017 during his last trip to France.

Chateau de Sange

I don’t even know where to begin to add links for those, so either check out the France category or you could start by clicking the dates above. But their generosity didn’t end there. When I came for the first time on my own, in 2019, we took an extended trip to Bretagne and to several other places I haven’t even told you about yet. Everywhere we went, Pascale was either fully informed or had the guidebook open teaching us as she learned. I love spending so much time with people who stay curious. 

Makes me think also of Beckett and all he’s learning these days. He’s counting and singing and learning new words. A few weeks ago, I was babysitting, and at the time specified by his parents, tried to get him into bed. He was having none of it. Instead he squirmed away, giggling, but insisting, “I read! I read! I read! I read!” while grabbing more books. This was after nearly an hour in which we had already been reading. That kid is after my own heart.

Reminds me of one of my favorite photos of David with Bailey and Felicity just over ten years ago.

Nothing more cozy than reading together with children.

Here’s wishing you never-ending curiosity, many opportunities to learn new things, and the great good fortune to occasionally settle in a comfy chair and read to a child.

Thoughts on Marriage

Brittany and Andy — July 2021

Brittany and Andy have now been married just over a month, so marriage is on my mind.

Brittany and Andy – October 2020

They are so good together, which I love to see whenever I stay with them for a few days to help Brittany during chemo. She’s just finished her last round, so we are celebrating that (while trying not to think of the radiation to come).

I’m missing David so sharply again, after I’d thought the pain of loss had dulled a bit for good.

David — October 2016

David at Sunapee, July 2014, the middle of our year of adventure

But I am still profoundly grateful for all the years we had together.

On Île d’Aix with Pascale and Jacky – June 2014

Today, the 29th, marks exactly five years since the oncologist confirmed that David’s cancer was terminal, and that’s hitting harder than I expected. Also, as much fun as the wedding was, there were definite challenges that he would have navigated so much better than I did.

So I’m thinking about marriage today. Not always easy, I know . . . .

In France with David, May 2017

The following is something I originally wrote for a marriage course offered at our church early this year.  I suppose these principles could — to a certain degree — apply to all close relationships, so I hope it speaks to you, whatever your current situation. Here it is slightly revised today:

Thoughts on Marriage from the Other Side

It’s an odd place to be, having been married for nearly forty years, but now no longer part of that set, the coupled. David used to tease me – before we knew it would turn out to be prophetic – that I didn’t need him, that I’d be fine on my own as long as I had a good book, a cup of tea or a glass of wine, a comfy chair by the fire. He wasn’t wrong, exactly. I have survived and even occasionally thrived during these past three years since he’s been gone. But as my daughter Brittany once told me, she, too, is fine on her own, but the fact is, her life is better with Andy (her husband) in it. And my life was better with David in it.

Our marriage wasn’t an obvious success story in the making, at the beginning, marrying at 20 (David was 26), just shy of six months after we met, but we shared a strong faith, and by the grace of God, we grew closer and closer over the years. There were certainly difficult times, even a few nearly hopeless times, but those are stories for another day. Here’s what I wish I’d known and done when I was in the middle of it.

First, I wish I’d realized how fleeting the days are, that the time is up way before you feel ready. I wish I had properly valued togetherness years earlier. Respecting the need for solitude, but coming back together regularly to share hopes, fears, dreams. Fortunately, we did eventually get that right. Once I overheard a group of couples, not long after David’s passing, joking about how annoying the retirement of a spouse would be, having the other always underfoot. “For life, but not for lunch,” was the joke. Maybe this was not reflecting real feelings, and certainly change can be difficult, but oh, I wanted to say – and maybe I did – Savor. Every. Moment.

Second, I wish I’d had enough confidence in myself to let David be David, to celebrate him as he was, to let him say what he wanted, to make whatever mistakes he was going to make, without feeling I had to correct him. So he was not always great with details. So he remembered or told a story differently than I would have. So what? No one cared. All my contradicting did was corrode our unity a bit every time it happened. It served no good purpose. I was only beginning to learn that, and then he was gone.

Finally, I wish I’d made it a personal goal to give more than I received – no small task with a grand giver like David – rather than so often keeping score, policing “fairness,” whatever that even means. My biggest regrets – and I don’t say that lightly – my most tormenting regrets, are every remembered moment of selfishness. Sometimes I watch International House Hunters on HGTV, where very often it’s a married couple who’s searching for lodging in a far-flung locale. I love the armchair travel, but it stabs me every time I see someone claiming, without a moment’s hesitation, the best closet or otherwise demanding his or her own way, especially those who proudly announce they always get what they want. I recognize myself too well in those words. By the grace of God, I was allowed to give back to David as his caretaker in his final sixteen months. Those may have been the best months of my life.

I have no doubt relationships in these COVID times are challenging, especially if solitude is hard to find. Admittedly, for at least twenty of our nearly forty years, we had space to spread out. For us the danger was going our own way, doing our own thing, without touching base. Even as recently as 2015, when we were newly back from our year of adventure, we slipped briefly into a pattern where we would spend our days working in separate rooms, then drift to other activities, without any time actually speaking to each other. Fortunately, wise man that he was, David soon suggested that every evening at 5 p.m., we grab our beverage of choice, and sit and talk. He would ask questions like, “What’s the best thing that happened to you this week?” or “What would you change about your life if you could?” or “What are you learning from God these days?” Sometimes we just played “Name That Tune” with the music on an oldies station and reminisced about days gone by. Being intentionally together was all that mattered, and what a relationship builder it was. I treasure the memories. His cancer was diagnosed late August 2016, and he was gone two days after Christmas 2017.

So, although I am no longer married, I wanted to share this bit of perspective with those who are. As you navigate this grand adventure together, I hope you savor every moment. I hope you celebrate each other and selflessly give to one another. I really don’t think you’ll regret it. God be with you.

Adventures in Wanderlust