Sunday, November 30, 2008



The exact day that my father first looked upon my mother is forever lost to the ongoing annals of history, but my mother did know for certain that he was the ornery little boy who knocked over the small outdoor table where she and his younger sister were playing with their dolls ...circa 1929. Their parents knew one another, although the close-knit Mennonite communities in which they lived were on opposite sides of the James River and separated by over an hour's drive, thereby limiting associations. Neither of my parents could pinpoint another instance where memory brought them together until 1938, some eight or nine years later. So that's where my father's oft-told story would begin.

The groups of youth from Fentress and Denbigh would occasionally get together for activities, thereby expanding the pool of nice young Mennonite women from which the young men could cast about for future mates. My father was smart, good-lookin' and always ready to have some fun, and he was not yet ready to 'cast about' too seriously in the summer of 1938. He was eighteen. It's true, however, he'd already been enjoying the company of young women for quite some time, and had even broken the heart of at least one sweet young thing. But now the annual boat ride, a favorite event of the young people, was coming up, and he was between girlfriends.

"Who're you takin' on the boat ride?" It was his cousin Johnny asking. Johnny'd surely be traveling with him to the Denbigh side of the river, where the youth would be meeting and the boat would embark.

"Oh," said my future dad, "I thought I'd ask Edith Hertzler, I hear she's a right nice girl."

But Johnny had other ideas. "No sir!" he responded, "You can't do that! I'm already plannin' to take Edith. But hey, she's got a younger sister named Dora. Why don't you ask her?" He paused ..."Only thing is, she's pretty young. I don't know if her mama'll let her date."

Well, young Dan took up the suggestion, not daunted by the fact that he didn't recall ever meeting her; and who knew...he might get a no from her mama! Furthermore, he couldn't just pick up the phone and call her--in those days long distance telephone calls were strictly for emergencies only. What he did was march himself right up to the front door of her home on the very evening of the boat ride. And that's when he discovered that he was a little late in his endeavor; Dora had already left with her girlfriends, most of whom lived within walking distance, as was the river where the boat was docked.

What could he do now but follow her to the river, search her out amid her group of friends, and introduce himself. Would she give him a chance? Would she be his date for the evening?

I won't leave you hanging in suspense, Dear Reader...Dora was a lovely young maiden of fifteen, demure and curvaceous. Her mama had, in fact, deemed her old enough, and she had gone on a few dates prior to this evening. But now, oh. so happily for Dan, she had no escort for the ride. Clutched in her hand was a bag of Hershey Kisses she'd carried along, intending to share them with her girlfriends. Scramble and re-write history! She shared those kisses with the dashing young Dan, who quickly won her heart...and a lifetime of kisses of the infinitely sweeter sort.

Epilogue: Their wedding ceremony took place in the living room at Dora's home in Denbigh, November 30, 1941, sixty-seven years ago today.

Johnny and Edith, newly married themselves, were their attendants.

Over the ensuing 64 years and 9 months, Dan often sang to his wife, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray..."


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


HERE COMES ANOTHER little jaunt of a few days' duration. This time I'll only be leaving the state, but as for further details, I'll wax eloquent after the fact. Realizing the all-American holiday we have coming up tomorrow, one might reasonably expect this trip to be some variation on "over the river and through the woods,"* an excellent supposition as well as a correct one. No new postings while I ponder my thankfulness for family and friends and cherish the company of the immediate kind.

In the meantime, may all of you, dear readers, have safe journeys and grateful hearts!
Happy Thanksgiving Day!!

I know a tune for this poem and I'm wondering, where did I learn it? Do all of you know the tune? Are you thinking, duh, everyone knows that song! Okay, then did you learn it first as a song, or as a poem by Lydia Marie Child?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I HAVE A CONFESSION to make. I collect too many things. They are not organized collections, in boxes neatly labeled or displayed on shelves for ohh-ing and ahh-ing. No, it's mostly just categories of items for which I have an affinity and hence I end up with more than I can actually use...things like old books, interesting old prints, pretty antique salt and pepper shakers (are you sensing a theme here?) I'm continually trying to figure out which of these appealing old items that have piled up I can part with so that there is still reasonable space to walk in the house and we don't end up living in little aisles. Once I bought myself a "how to get rid of clutter" book (not an old book, so, easily trundled out the door) and it advised taking photographs of items as a way of "keeping" them, thereby making it easier to let them go.

Okay, so here we have a case in point: my little Bird Guide. Land Birds East of the Rockies.
From Parrots to Bluebirds.
This book was copyrighted in 1906, but published in 1920...the year of my father's birth...the year that women gained the right to vote... it's definitely and appealingly old. It's got such nice illustrations of the birds. And is plumb full of interesting information regarding "song and insectivorous birds"...look here... there are 29 kinds of warblers. Everything from the Prothonotary Warbler to the Worm-eating Warbler (What? They don't all eat worms?). There's the Nashville Warbler and the Tennessee Warbler, the Golden-cheeked Warbler, the Magnolia Warbler...perhaps I'd better not list them all, although it's tempting. (There are birds, and then, unfortunately there are rabbits with their trails. Where was I? Oh, yeah...all set to toss away one item).

Alright then, here are the photos:

Obviously, this is not a valuable's falling apart, for heaven's sake.

But look at this lovely "topography of a bird"...and look at these...

That should be enough photos. I should be able to do it. Just put the trash.

But now I'm engrossed in it. There is a preface and a long introduction from which I am sorely tempted to share fascinating and quaintly written tidbits (I'll restrain myself). And, isn't this book just as useful today as it was in 1920, should I wish to identify a bird or search out an interesting fact about a M'Cown Longspur? (Ha! I'll bet you didn't even know there was such a bird!) I'm enamored by the paintings of the birds, they're what attracted me to the book in the first place. Take photos? Get rid of the book? Maybe I'll just keep this old book and move on to the next one.

(Maybe I'll start planning where the aisles will be.) be cont. (as practically the whole post was a rabbit trail, wouldn't you know!)


Saturday, November 22, 2008


IT'S TIME for me to stop talking about the weather. Heavens, one would think I were an old lady! So instead of telling you about all the cold weather we've been having, I'm going to tell you why I titled this post Madeleine.

Simple: it's the second in my series of favorite words. (Let me explain that these words are not in any particular order. In fact I only just decided to make it a series because I've got plenty more to offer). I'm so fond of this sweet word for several reasons and maybe if I'm clever enough I can allude to them all in one recipe.

Here's a literary madeleine of mine:

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines,
lived twelve little girls in two straight lines
They left the house, at half past nine...

The smallest one was Madeline.

I learned to know ze little French girl when I was about her age. I daydreamed about living in two straight lines (Of course I'd want to be in the spot beside Madeline!). I liked that she was mischievous. I liked that she talked in rhymes. And wow...she was the smallest one! Just like me. Could it be that she, too, more often than she wanted, had to listen to these mollifying words "... good things come in small packages, you know!"

As far as I can now recall
she never said how she liked "small."
Perhaps she didn't mind at all.

As for me, it was no piece of cake. Being the smallest in every class of grade-school was somewhat of a burden to bear, and I was always looking for the bright side. And now, while
we're on the subject of smallness...and speaking of cake...

How'd I do
writing about this word, for you...
Would you like a recipe, too?


Monday, November 17, 2008


TOMORROW'S FORECAST IS for...(cover your eyes if you just can't bear the thought of winter yet)...snow! Surely it won't be much, if it materializes at all. But if there are flakes, it will be the first of the season, which means that I'll think of my father. All through the years of my growing up, when snow was somewhat of a rarity and caused all kinds of gleeful leaping about whenever we chanced to get any, my father would greet the first snowfall (well, every snowfall) with these words:

"The snow had begun in the gloaming,
and was busy all the night
heaping the fields and the highways
with a silence deep and white."*

He never failed to say them. It never failed to give me a little shiver of excitement. Snow was a magical, glorious gift! When snow was coming down "in the gloaming", we would turn on the outdoor light at the living room windows, turn off the lights inside, and watch the flakes swirling to the ground. Daddy would build a fire in the fireplace. Mama would make a big bowl of popcorn. Always. That was the way is was. We would listen to Daddy's music on the record player and then to the radio as announcements were made...a long list of cities and counties--and their schools-- in which classes would be canceled the next day: Gloucester, Hampton, Isle of Wight, James City... please please please say Newport News! If the forecast was for an inch or more, well, naturally the buses couldn't run. So we'd go to bed happy. I'd snuggle beneath the covers and drift off to sleep dreaming of the snow drifting down and heaping up the silence, deep (I hoped) and white.

And for many long years, snow held its thrill for me...all through the years of listening with bated breath to the list of school closings for my own children (who were leaping gleefully about)...Berks, Chester, Dauphin...Lancaster?? please. please.

But as for snow tomorrow? Jumping the gun on winter...falling on the still unraked leaves? No longer so magical? It's not likely to charm me much, but it will make me nostalgic!

* James Russell Lowell, The First Snowfall, which Daddy slightly misquoted: It's ..."and busily all the night, had been heaping field and highway...."


Saturday, November 15, 2008


I'M GOING TO SPARE you more photos of gray weather, although the opportunities have been abundant here in my neck of the woods (and meadows) for too many days now. Today's weather was interesting, complete with showers, complex fast-moving cloud formations and a tornado watch. But it's really not the weather I'm about to discuss. Although here's a the clouds, my subject, too, is complex and fast-moving. That's precisely what bothers me about it.


It's running way out ahead of me...leaving me in the dust. And it's going berserk! Just wait'll you hear!

There were items I had to fetch from the Home Depot store (a light fixture and stove burner plates for Apartment #57, just so you know, and how I despise going to the Home Depot store... but that's enough about that.) I only mention that store because it sits beside a Circuit City store and, aha...the perfect opportunity to pick up a new media card for my camera. It'd be a nice little digital camera were it not for the bad habit of saying..."Memory Card Full!"

So into the store I go, determined to cross this one thing off my agenda with dispatch. Straight to the service desk, where the first person I talk to escorts me directly to a knowledgeable employee in the camera department. Wow. How impressive. But then...I show my camera, I show the media card, and things immediately start slipping downhill.

It appears my camera is too old! Yes, that's just what I hear..."Your camera is too old." Poor old camera, it's been around four, maybe five years, and already technology's consigned it to the's fat, it's tiny-screened and it doesn't have enough memory! Yikes. Fat and not enough memory?!

But hey! The clerk happily points out that there are plenty of new cameras that are sleek and large-screened. On sale now! And just let me show you what all they can do, she says. That is when I see technology's backside, far in the distance! I cringed at the intricacies. My mind boggled as Beth (the clerk) ran down the list of modes...the snow mode, fireworks mode, kids and pets mode, underwater mode, beach mode, foliage mode (I think it puts the leaves back on the trees), the food mode, no less! And get this...she explained that the camera could learn to know one's grandchildren and keep track of their ages. I shudder to think I would ever need a camera with that much memory!

And then she got to this feature, which made me clutch my dear old camera to my chest and flee from the store... Look here, she said with delight. This camera can detect the curvature of your subject's mouth. It reads the facial structure of your loved ones...won't take a shot without a smile. Isn't that terrific?

Oh, I gasped. It's terrifying! What if I want to take a picture of them sad?! It will turn them all into technological Pollyannas!

She laughed. And I left.

And just before I got into my car in the parking lot, I used my trusty old camera to take this comforting oasis of nature amid the roaring technology.


Thursday, November 13, 2008


TODAY IT LOOKED LIKE this in the a.m.

Then it rained for a few hours. Really rained...the kind where an umbrella is necessary and then when you get inside (the car or the house), the umbrella drips water all over the place and your shoes are wet and your coat is wet and you pretty much have to take a towel and mop up.

Then it looked like this again in the p.m. except a bit darker.

And that was the weather today:


And that's all I have to say.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008



I like the fall,
The mist and all.
I like the night owl's
Lonely call--
And wailing sound
Of wind around.

I like the gray
November day,
And bare dead boughs
That coldly sway
Against my pane.
I like the rain.

I like to sit
And laugh at it--
And tend
My cozy fire a bit.
I like the fall--
The mist and all.

Dixie Wilson (from Childcraft, Vol. I--Poems of Early Childhood)

This evening I was muttering to myself regarding the cold weather and the early darkness (yes, the euphoria of an extra hour of sleep a week or so ago was short-lived...I've been tricked! Swindled! I sold my birthright for a pot of porridge! Give me back that every-evening hour of daylight!)

And just like that, into my head popped "The Mist and All"...words I've known since early childhood. If it's November, it's inevitable...sooner or later (and I always hope for later!) I'm going to recall this poem. And when I do, I know the time has come to embrace the "bare dead boughs that coldly sway". Time to stop dreaming of another Indian summer!

Oh... just one or two more days of shirt-sleeve warmth?

One more day where I think I am dreaming... It must really be September.
No. No. Just stop it!

It's time to practice laughing at the gray November day.
It's time to embrace coziness!

Okay, I think I'm going to have to go and build a fire now.


Monday, November 10, 2008


SO, DEAR READER, ARE YOU knowledgeable regarding the world's tallest structures?
Do I have to tell you that the clue in yesterday's photo is "Canada's Wonder of the World"?
That until last September it was the tallest building on earth?
That it is 1,815 feet high?
That it's located in Toronto?
That that's where I spent this past weekend?
Okay, well now you know.

I traveled with loved ones and went to visit loved ones of the loved ones...or I could say it like this:
I'm in the car with my husband, my daughter and her husband and we go to spend time with
the parents of the son-in-law (is that just one degree of separation or two?) Whatever, John and June are our friends now, and they are eager to take us to the Royal Winter Fair.

On our way, John can't resist giving us a speeded-up tour of the historic district. Hence, we get to see this gorgeous old building that is the world's oldest distillery.

We get to pop into one of the many small shops and galleries (through that door between the trees), but we can only glance at the works of time to linger. "Next time! Next time!" our hosts say, as we hurry to the fair.

And here we are at the big modern building where it's held. Quick, can you name that exceedingly tall structure in the background? (Please don't tell me you weren't paying attention!)

You'd never guess it from looking at the building where it's housed, but this fair is what we call a farm show in the country I come from!

I'm happily surprised that it's cleaner and classier than any farm show I've ever attended previously, although I've only got one shot to prove it. It does look rather royal, doesn't it?!

In addition, I'm delighted to discover there are plenty of other interesting things to see besides animals...enough to spend the whole afternoon perusing the aisles--handcrafted items, imported-fair-trade, jewelry, foods... even antiques.

By the time we leave the Royal Winter Fair, the city is lit up. The setting sun paints the sky.

But wait, our hosts are not finished impressing us with Toronto's offerings!
We move along to a dinner club, where we have an excellent meal and then are treated to a musical performance. It is:

I can't fault you if you don't know of Stan Rogers...I myself hadn't a clue who he was before this evening. And now, well I'm just enthralled by his music. It's so Canadian, meaning many of the songs tell stories of Canadian history. It's of the folk genre (a favorite of mine).

Here are a few more things I learned about Stan...he was born in that great year of 1949. He died in a plane crash in 1983. He left a widow and a son (both of whom performed with this tribute group). get to listen to a little snippet of the evening's final encore...Northwest Passage, though I (painfully) clipped off the final words.

Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea
Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage
And make a northwest passage to the sea.
Straight from the internet: "Northwest Passage is one of the best-known songs by Canadian musician Stan Rogers." If you're interested, you can watch a U-tube clip of Stan himself singing another song we heard---

Alright, enough about Stan. I took the Southeast Passage home to Pennsylvania yesterday and carried with me fond memories of the entire Toronto expedition!


Sunday, November 9, 2008


I'VE BEEN INCOMMUNICADO, dear readers, because I stepped out of the country for a few days. Naturally, I'd like to tell you all about it. However, as I'm still valiantly attempting to turn over the new leaf (the job is getting quite cumbersome), I'll just post a photo with a small clue (could also be called a tall clue) and divulge to you tomorrow where my journey took me. (As you can see, the country is not so foreign as to lack the golden arches, but alas, there are likely none so foreign as all that, eh?)


Thursday, November 6, 2008


THE WEEPING CHERRY appears to be dropping its beautiful sadness over the lawn...
in actuality it weeps with relief and happiness.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008



My throat is feeling the effects of too much screaming...(and I definitely missed the real action in this little clip!)

I may not have turned over a new leaf yet (staying up to celebrate an historical event just has to be an exception to my new resolution), but we as a country have turned over a monumental new leaf! We have done something profoundly right ( could also say it was left!) After three full days of making phone calls and canvassing in the final push of Obama's Campaign for Change, I am going to bed very late, very tired...and very ecstatic!

1:31 am...just before I post...they have declared this win a landslide!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

THIS IS NOT THE time of year that we associate with new leaves. Au contraire, it's crispy, crunchy, dried-up old leaves that we're watching fall to the ground these days.

But I myself am thinking of a New Leaf...and I have a definite plan for it. As you will see, it is imperative that it be new. One never turns over an old leaf...that is simply not a working proposition. No, endeavor is to turn over a New Leaf.

Simply put...I'm going to go to bed earlier. I'm going to get up earlier.

Today, all wonderfully served atop a pillow, I was presented with ONE EXTRA HOUR. It can't truly be called a gift, as it is the very same hour that was snatched away from us all back in the spring when we corporately took that little jump forward...(when I think of China taking a Great Leap Forward it makes me shudder). But that's okay with me. I'm delighted to pull that hour out of savings and play a little sleight of hand with the clock. Combine that with a few nights' worth of accumulated sleep deprivation and...voila!... an excellent opportunity for a successful New-Leaf-turning!

Don't look for any more late-night postings from me. I intend to be healthy, wealthy and wise from this day forward!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Friday, OCTOBER 31, 2008


MAYBE CRYING OVER SPILLED milk does no good, but it appears there may be some benefit to whining about the weather! No sooner do I complain about the cold, than we get Indian Summer!

With temperatures like this, I'm almost giddy. There's no way I'd let this day go by without taking my walk! I'm going to drag you along and leave you in this pumpkin patch, a good place to spend this spooky night of ghosts and goblins. Perhaps Charlie Brown will join you.

Happy Halloween!

Note: This delayed post is not due to procrastination, but to a failure of technology. Hours were frittered away, and frustration abounded. But I can report that I did take my walk yesterday... I did walk by the pumpkin patch.

Happy All Saints Day! I can also tell you that TODAY is even more frabjous than yesterday. So, dear readers, chances don't look good for another post while Indian Summer reigns.