Sunday, May 31, 2009

Read. Think. Pray. Live.

In its day, the Bible was written in 'the language of fishermen, shopkeepers and other regular people,' according to theologian, scholar, minister and teacher Eugene H. Peterson.  Which is why he spent a decade translating the Bible into beautiful, poetic 'everyday language' for modern times. One day I happened to pick up the chunky volume that my children were using in their middle school chapel and The Message came brilliantly alive and accessible and relevant. Life-changing, life-affirming. A very, very Good Book.  

Friday, May 29, 2009

the art of writing

There are many depictions in art of writers at the page. Like this beauty by American Impressionist Childe Hassam (1859 - 1935). How phenomenal it would be to paint pictures as exquisite as this one. With words.  
At the writing desk, Childe Hassam

Thursday, May 28, 2009

heavenly hydrangeas

Walked outside this May morning to pink hydrangeas starting to blossom. Spring keeps coming at us, with summer right on her heels.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

common denominator

It began as a tiny mustard seed of an idea and quickly became an industrial-size jar of Grey Poupon. Common Grounds Farm Stand opened this morning on the side porch of Interiors Marketplace in Charlotte. There were tomatoes and turnips, cheese straws and golden honey, homemade pound cake, bunches of rosemary tied with raffia and an antique enamel wash tub filled with asparagus. There was a vintage red farm truck, prayed-for sunshine and an elated crew of dreamers, planners and workers united around a common cause. Every penny of the proceeds will help our neighbors here in town who are struggling with homelessness. Lifting them up will make this community a better home for all of us.     

Sunday, May 24, 2009

what to wear for any occasion

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12). Came across this verse today. Makes it super easy to decide what to wear the next time you get dressed, doesn't it? And every time. If you're not convinced, read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. This fine and remarkably illustrated little book should be required reading in elementary schools everywhere. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

take up your brush

We are talking about being an artist every single day of one's life. It's about going fishing as an artist and having relatives over for supper as an artist and walking the aisles of Woolworth's like an artist. Cynthia Rylant

Friday, May 22, 2009

picture yourself an artist

Lots of people have the funny notion that, to be an artist, you have to spend your days toiling in front of a blank canvas. Or have a certain type of training or degree. The truth is, we're every one of us already an artist. It's just a matter of approaching the world with the heart of one: to find beauty in the details and add splashes of color where needed. Teachers and mothers are artists. So are writers and store clerks, business people and bricklayers. The key to an artful life is simply showing up at the easel every day, ready to dip a brush into the stuff of life and make a masterpiece. 
Triple Self Portrait by Norman Rockwell

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

letters to Earl

Best writing advice ever came from Tommy Tomlinson, the Pulitzer prize nominated newspaper writer who has been at Harvard this year on a Nieman Fellowship.  He visited Pencil, Pen & Magic class at Trinity Episcopal School, mesmerizing us with stories and memories and his great, generous spirit. The tidbit that made the biggest impression? Tommy said that whenever he sat down at his desk to face a blank page or computer screen, he simply pretended he was writing a letter to his best friend.  And I'm thinking that his best friend from childhood in rural Georgia was Earl. Try it! Whether you've got a term paper to write or a thesis, a memo to the folks in human resources or even a cover letter for your resume.  Just start out with these two little words: Dear Earl. Whoever your very own Earl might be. He's always there waiting, missing you and pining for your voice.   

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

human nature

Earth is what we all have in common.  Wendell Berry

Sunday, May 17, 2009

hands of time

Life is change. But before that truth truly registers in your heart, it's about changing their diapers, changing their pajamas, changing them out of a crib and into a big boy bed, changing room decor from the Power Ranger theme to a sports theme, changing out the Goosebumps books for Hardy Boys, changing the wooden bat for titanium, the tiny corduroy slippers for size 12 cleats. Then, one day, the thousands of little changes morph into the biggest one of all, which is to officially deliver this person who holds your heart in the palm of his formerly chubby hand to the world at large. It takes every bit of grace a person can muster. Which is probably one thing that will never change. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

easy as pie

When you need dessert for 18, and quick, it's best to go tried and true. The homely pursuit of baking three of these pies for last night's neighborhood supper club was actually a great transition from weary work week to fun evening. Wishing you a delicious weekend. With a dollop of homemade whipped cream on top.  

Chocolate Chip Pie
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 stick butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 unbaked, ready-made pie crust

Combine sugar and flour.  Add eggs, butter and vanilla. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.  Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve hot or cold.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

morsels from the writer's cafe

How energizing to spend a morning with bright young writers. This early on in their career, Ms. Garner's adorable third graders are hungry for every bit of advice and inspiration they can scribble in their notebooks. We savored delicious words as an appetizer at our writer's cafe, then did our own writing for the main course. Dessert was sharing what we'd written. I left them with these ways to feed their voracious appetite for writing:
1. Devour words by reading a lot.
2. Collect juicy words and phrases. 
3. Enjoy a 5-minute writing snack at least once a day.
4. Keep a writer's notebook - it's the recipe for creativity.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

hallowed week

If you didn't know it, this is Children's Book Week. It's the perfect time to reflect on childhood books that are near and dear to your heart. Or books you loved reading with your own children. Celebrate by re-reading some of them and sharing, especially with the young readers in your life. My list goes on and on and on, but I will limit it to a few picture book gems for today. Just typing the titles makes me happy. What are your favorites?

1. Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson
2. An Angel for Solomon Singer by Cynthia Rylant  
3. Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
4. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
5. Fishing in the Air by Sharon Creech
6. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
7. I Know an Old Lady by Charlotte Zolotow
8. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
9. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
10. Brave Irene by William Steig

Monday, May 11, 2009

at what price love?

The cost to mail a first class letter goes up to 44 cents today.  Still a small price to pay, don't you think, to send a card, a handwritten note, an envelope full of love?  As for paying the bills, maybe now's the perfect time to start doing that online.  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

sentimental journey

Despite all of the fellow travelers, motherhood is ultimately a solitary journey on a winding path without a map.  The emotional terrain can get rocky and the baggage heavy, but you'll encounter wonders along the way and glimpses of heaven. Pack plenty of handkerchiefs for the showers of tears and a good hat to wear for all of the brilliant, sunny times.  You won't need designer clothes or expensive jewelry, just sensible shoes and a willingness to put one foot in front of the other, day after day, and walk to the ends of the earth and back. Prepare to be confused, uncertain, anguished, astounded and ecstatic. Sometimes all on the very same day. You'll get bone-crushingly weary, and occasionally even lost, but keep the faith and let love guide the way.  Thankfully, every mother comes equipped with her very own compass. It's called a heart.

Friday, May 8, 2009

father's day

Mother's Day is this weekend and me 'n mine have plans to sit for a while in the garden on Sunday afternoon. The peonies are in bloom.  I'm going to make strawberry shortcake with berries from a local farm. We'll drink cold white wine. But first, Father's Day. It falls on May 8th in our family now, Dad's birthday. He would have turned 74 today, but died at just 57.

For the longest time it was too painful to remember: how he flew fighter jets, got a five-o'clock shadow by noon, called his mother 'sweetheart.'  How old world elegant and Italian and dignified he was, how great he always smelled. How smart he was and how he could fix anything. How he enjoyed a good laugh. How he loved babies, books and the beach, a ripe tomato, a good steak, a cold beer after working in the yard and, above all else, mom. It's not been easy, soldiering on without this person who simply made our world right. 

I'm thankful to report, though, that his heart beats quite strongly now in seven grandchildren who remind us of him in the uncanniest and most joyful of ways. Which, in turn, makes every day a little bit like Father's Day. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

another May morning

The Early Bird

Still dark, and raining hard
on a cold May morning

and yet the early bird
is out there chirping,

chirping its sweet-sour
wooden-pulley notes,

pleased, it would seem,
to be given work,

hauling the heavy 
bucket of dawn

up from the darkness,
note over note,

and letting us drink.

             - Ted Kooser

Monday, May 4, 2009

a writer's best friend

Lots of hoopla surrounding the 50th birthday of The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White, all completely justified. If you're a working writer, or a simply a lover of and stickler for the English language, there's bound to be a dog-eared copy or three on your shelf. I've got several paperbacks tucked here and there, but will mark this momentous occasion with the stylish, red-covered hardback edition with illustrations by the fabulous Maira Kalman.  A toast to the authors who have taught more than 10 million of us that writing with clarity (and without pretense) never goes out of style.  

Sunday, May 3, 2009

you simply must meet Herb!

The first time you sprinkle your own chopped rosemary on a bowl of roasted pink new potatoes, you'll be hooked. Or fill the lemonade pitcher with fresh mint. These are herbs at the awesome North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill ( Am enjoying them vicariously until I get my own planted in the ground this spring, hopefully today! The rosemary, lamb's ear and a little bit of mint wintered over. Basil, oregano, thyme, sage, Italian flat leaf parsley, cilantro and lemon balm still to come. A few will go in the small herb bed as always, others in big pots so the bunnies won't eat them all. Growing herbs is one of the most gratifying of gardening pursuits and truly easy. A wonderful way to add flavor to life.    

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Morning

You could say this isn't much of a morning:
cold mist across the meadow,
the woods in tatters,
fog horns bleating.
The ocean drones like traffic on a highway,
towels hung out to dry are 
dripping from the line . . .

When suddenly
from around the side of the house
a soft wind comes, 
carrying the smell of lilacs.

James Stevenson