Friday, August 15, 2014

Black-Eyed Susans, Flocks, and a Hummingbird Moth

It's a banner year for our golden posies!

This guy startled me when he buzzed nearby. He's fascinating but scary and I wondered what kind of insect it might be. Mystery solved. Tom says it's a hummingbird moth. Now it's not nearly as frightening.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Fickle Weather, Funny Little Girls

Unless you live near enough to run home at a moment's notice it's hard to plan a swim date at my house this summer. If the sun's out, come quick!

The weather can go from this...
              to this...

                           in not much more than the blink of an eye.

But we're still enjoying the pool and certainly love when people come over. Here's a picture of  two of the regulars. I kind of consider them my own, and aren't they sweet as can be?

But sometimes they're goofy as all get out!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Renovations and Regeneration

We got our living room back in order just under the wire, right before the Henning family began arriving for the Cousins Reunion.
Backyard/pool side view of the living room
Front porch/yard view of the living room.
Picture above piano --our barn painted by dear friend Toni Jo Kidd
We're so happy with our home. Through the years we've added to and changed much, always hoping we've kept the character of old times while adding convenience and looks of present times.

As for the living room, we still have decisions to where to put a television. I know, just don't. But the winters are long here in northwest PA and we do watch TV. I'd like to enjoy the coziness of a crackling fire while watching a movie or Downton Abbey, and so, this winter, I shall. As soon as I figure out how to put the set in this corner in a tasteful way, I shall. (We're open to suggestions.)

Posting pictures I'm more aware of details needing attention. I itch to dress up the walls and decorate the mantel. I'm also mindful how far behind I am posting less materialistic self-centered blogs. Should I write or should I do? 

Day by day my spirit soars at the joys of life all around me, or flags at the weight of injustice and pain surrounding us all. It's a battle, where my focus lingers -- on the good or on the evil. I don't turn a blind eye to either. I accept gratefully and relish the blessings lavished on me. I wince at hardships and sadness, my own and the world's. I want to do my part to right wrongs and trumpet hope, yet my desire too oft paralyzes me. So I shake it off, clean a room, work in the yard, call a friend, hope for company to come splash in the pool with me, or I write. That's what I do...and then my world is rosy once again.

May the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; establish the work of our hands for us-- yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July 4th, July 5th, July 6th 2014

The 4th of July is a big weekend for the Bruce family every year. My Yankee-Doodle-Dandy sister celebrates her birthday. The extended Bruce family holds a reunion -- going strong for 60 some years. Adding a memorial service for my mom, a celebration of her life, and then a mountain top send off made this year's 4th of July weekend bittersweet.

At the memorial we intoned Mom's praises, extolled her beauty, and shared remembrances and grief at our great loss. One of my brothers-in-law said it was a wonderful going away party for our mom, oma, Gloria Kubasik Bruce. One grandson led the memorial service, another led the mountain top service, there were songs and hymns performed by grandkids and my husband, and Dad himself sang "All the World Will be Jealous of Me" -- a love song sung to our mom throughout their 63 years together. All of my brothers and sisters gave tribute to our mom and several of the in-laws did as well. I wasn't ready -- still not ready. I've had since December 17th to get ready. The best I could do at that time was to share my dad's tribute to Mom. You can read that here -- Thanks Dad! I'll write my tribute to mom. When I'm ready, I'll write it.

On Sunday we climbed Mount Nittany in State College to carry out Mom's wish to have her remains scattered from the mountain top as we did 15 years ago for my brother, Rob. Dad made the rugged trek up the steep trail -- not bad for nearly 83 years old. We did take a break to rest a time or two...

And when we arrived at the top, husband, children (and in-law children), grandchildren (and in-law grandchildren), after a reflective and responsive service, we scattered Mom's ashes to the wind while singing..."I'll fly away."

I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away.
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by...I'll fly away.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Never Ending Journey

The Journey is the Destination. Really? I hadn't ever thought of that...until this morning while reading a young (and very wise) blogger's most recent post. Rachel Haltiwanger blogs at Inspired Story and she is so worth following.Go ahead, click on over there and get to know Rachel -- and vicariously enjoy traveling, discovering, getting the most from life and giving back.

That was a short commercial break to say I have great respect for this young woman, her ability to share her inspired thoughts through writing. It's a gift, I think. And today it's a wake up call for me.

I tend to forget to enjoy the journey. When we're traveling I can't wait to get there. When I'm going for a walk I focus on the halfway point and how long it will take to get back to where I started. When cleaning or working in the yard, no matter the project my goal is to be done with it. I can't remember ever basking in the pure joy of the task at hand: mowing, weeding, planting, scrubbing or polishing. And yet, I like taking walks, doing outside work, and honestly, I don't mind housework. Well, that might be a stretch, but I do like a clean house, and really, I think I could enjoy the process of getting it clean if I'd revel in every part of the accomplishment rather than being driven to have it completed NOW, or better yet, yesterday. I remember one time, years ago, working in our terribly weedy garden with Tom. We weren't even half way done when he leaned on his hoe and said, "Look how nicely this is coming along." So I got off my hands and knees and took a look. My eyes saw only the unfinished, unruly, weedy big half of the garden, and I groaned, "Look how much we still have to do," I am sad to say I couldn't take pleasure in what had been accomplished, for fretting over the lack of completion. I didn't want to be like that. I wanted to be like my husband who could enjoy and be proud of what was accomplished regardless of the work ahead. I could see the tidied-up part of the garden was gorgeous, but I couldn't celebrate.

That was years ago, and sheepishly I admit, I haven't grown much. But today I'm going to try harder -- not work harder, try harder -- to delight in what I am able to do and relish every small thing. The washer and dryer are running, sending fresh fragrances through the house. Sheets are drying on the line. Tonight we'll drift off to sleep surrounded by the sweet scent of outdoors. The house is decent enough for company. I've written a little piece so not to disappoint my writer's accountability group who I will be hosting in a few short hours. Non of that amounts to much, but it's what I've done and I think I'll relish it. And I think I'll go bake a treat for my friends when they come.

The sun is shining and this is a great day. One day of my God ordained destiny. Gosh, I wouldn't want to miss or dismiss the magic moments I have right now. Let's see, what do I get to do next! Oh yeah, go bake a cake.

"This is the day that the Lord has made.
We (He and I even if no one else) will rejoice and be glad in it!"
 Psalm 118:24

Yesterday's fun...a tractor ride to the creek with the delightful company of my two favorite girls.

And then into the pool.

Today's goal, and tomorrow's and all the days after that...Enjoy the journey, because it is the destination.  (Still wrapping my head around that.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Keeping Promises?

The first ripe blueberry on my plant --
 a Mother's Day gift from Adam and Alicia
I've promised myself that I won't do any other writing, any other projects, not work in the tree nursery, not plant more flowers or mulch flower beds, not mow lawn, not paint or organize or clutter bust until I finish a very important writing assignment. I gave myself a deadline -- the first week of June. It's here. The writing assignment is almost complete. Almost. So I'm sort of, kind of cheating to be writing a blog post when that's on the list of things I won't do until... yeah.

But every time I turn on my computer my blog page comes up and I have to look at that picture of my living room floor halfway torn up. The renovation project has moved way beyond that point, but the house is still torn up. I'm getting tired of it...reminding myself that as with every other project we've ever done (and there have been myriad) when it's finished it's so worth it and all memory of the inconvenience fades away.

Yet today, everywhere I look my house is out of order. (Slight exaggeration, but that's my mood right now.) So the last thing I want is to turn on my computer and see Destruction that Leads to Construction complete with a picture.

By the way, we have a very flat, solid subfloor now, just think how terrific it will be once the real wood floor arrives. Meanwhile new doors and a new window are in place, and the rebuilt hearth is very pleasing.

The guys are working on our new master bath even as I type. 

The Sun is shining, and goodness, I just want to be out there. I'm going to go mow a little portion of the lawn, the part inside the fence around the pool. It won't take long. Then I'll get back to that writing assignment. I promise. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Destruction That Leads to Construction...

No spiritual metaphor here. I'm talking about crowbars, hammers and saws. Music to my ears. Well not really. It's noisy and startling and sometimes grating -- all sounds of progress. Yippee!

The floor is coming off...

Men at work...
saving the old floor to be refinished and repurposed.

I can't wait to see the new floor, and doors, and window. Perhaps the construction phase will start tomorrow. Patience is a virtue which does not come naturally to me.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Oh My Aching Back

You know what doesn't go well with spring time and outdoor chores needing to be done, an indoor remodeling project, and plenty of energy and motivation to get after it? A backache, that's what. I go from icepack to magnet belt to ibuprofen. Throw in a gentle walk, two swims a week, core strengthening exercises and a hot bath and still, oh my aching back. Sitting at the computer doesn't seem to help...might even hurt. Too much computer time when my back is even slightly out of alignment causes muscle knots just below my shoulders. My dear husband knows just how to unknot them, which is lucky for me...when he's around.

With enough visits to the chiropractor and a reasonable amount of "taking it easy" (whatever that is) this too shall pass. It always does. Then it comes back again. My dear old dad suffers like this off and on too...more on than off as the years go by. Not encouraging, but good to know. I might as well buck up. I'm most likely in it for the long haul.

Okay, enough complaining. It was a great week in many ways. The pool people stopped by to tell me they weren't going to replace our pool liner yet, but that they'll be here next week if the weather straightens around. We've had rain in the forecast every day, but until yesterday all the rain came at night time -- buckets of it -- while we slept. The days were unseasonably warm and mostly sunny. It was like Camelot. Now it's cooler, down right chilly, and rain is predicted for most of next week too. So I'm not sure we'll be seeing the pool people next week either, hoping though! The contractor called this week too and he's going to get started replacing our living room floor this coming week.  Late in the week, but still, floor, doors, windows, hearth and new bathroom, yippee!

I had a busy and fabulous Mother's Day last weekend, which afforded enough distraction to not dwell on missing my own mom.  Dwell or not, I was keenly aware of missing her. She had her first Mother's Day in heaven with my brother Rob, and I'll bet that was terrific. Although I'm pretty sure heaven in itself is so spectacular our earthly holidays don't even register on the terrific scale.

I can't tell you when I last got to spend Mother's Day with my mom...but here's a picture from Christmas, a few years ago, of me with mom and her sister (my Aunt Roselyn).
We represent 3 decades: Ro, me, and Mom
On Friday Tom and I went to Cleveland to watch my niece, Rebecca in an ice show. It was super fun to watch little skaters and bigger skaters, novices and accomplished skaters, even a few Olympic contenders! The program was so delightful that if it weren't for the hard bleachers, we would hardly have noticed the 3 hours and 15 minutes go by. Next year I must remember to take a cushion. Oh yes -- I'm going again next year. Rebecca is a great little skater and it was a fabulous show!

10 going on...  Too grown up.
From Cleveland we traveled to State College and spent Saturday and Sunday with our very favorite little boys in the whole world. Grant and Max entertained us with their antics and their chatter while we played together in the yard, in the house, and read stories. The guys (Daddy and Papa) took the boys fishing and got some great pictures -- action shots and video -- of their outing. Meanwhile, Amy and I had some girl time, a chat over coffee and a quick shopping trip.

Church on Sunday was excellent. The preacher at their church is really, really good, but I might be slightly biased. (To sample a sermon click here.) Then out to lunch for Mother's Day with the Grant clan: 4 moms (including me but without my daughter-in-law), 5 dads and 4 children (should have been 5). Missing were Grant and Amy...the older of our two grandsons came down with a sore throat and fever and needed his mom to stay home with him. We missed their company, but it was a lovely dinner out. And then we headed home.

We arrived home to messages and cards from our other boys and this bouquet...

More of my Mother's Day haul...
It seems I've been at this most of the day, with a couple hour break to visit with two little neighbor girls. And, wonder of wonders, my back isn't killing me anymore. 
Was it the rest? The ibuprofen? The ice pack? The magnet belt? Who knows, who cares! I knew it was going to feel better as soon as the pain went away.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sunshine and Flowers

Oh that life could always be full of sunny days and pretty posies.
We're still having cold frosty mornings, but the afternoons warm up a bit. Today is the start of a warming trend 58...66...79 (!) and then back downward 74...63...
The good news is I don't see anything below 60 for the next 2 week forecast.
Our frosty mornings look like this...
But the sun comes up and does its job...
And pretty soon the flowers lift happy faces up to be kissed by sunshine.
And you just can't resist bringing a little of that happiness inside...
And's back outside to pick up sticks and rake dried up leaves off some of the flower beds. The couple of windy days we had wreaked havoc, and the extremely cold winter burnt my pachysandra something awful. A little trimming and raking should spruce things up!
The daffodils, tulips and lilies of the field may not have to toil or spin... but it turns out I must.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Finding a Writing Class, Finding Peace

A friend posted this on Facebook and it tickled my fancy in an aha sort of way.
 So that's what I've been doing wrong! 
I spend most of my life trying to get all my ducks in a row, which I do with varying degrees of success. The finding peace part...I'm not sure exactly where that fits into the picture, it's not like I don't have peace. I'm not a malcontent. Peace neither eludes me nor is it my constant companion. As much as possible I live in peace with God, people, and my surroundings -- finding joy in little things like sunshiny days, wildflowers and rainbows. I have a friend who gets exuberantly happy over having a perfectly ripe banana to put on her cereal. I'd like to tip my own scale in that direction. Or is that more of me working, organizing, striving -- setting the stage for peace?
Forget that! Right now, it's my blog post about rabbits, robbing me of peace. I've got to publish something new so I don't have to look at those sweet, dear, departed creatures every time I fire up my laptop. Sniff, sniff.
The rabbits came to me in the midst of our remodeling project. Our living room renovation has successfully imposed itself on every room bordering it. Kitchen -- painted. Guest room -- filled with all the living room furniture. Family room -- likewise cluttered and torn up as we prepare to build in closets and turn it into our master suite. The little guest room off the family-room-transitioning-to-bedroom -- cleared out ready to become our master bath. But hey, that's not all...
They came when spring had sprung. On the days nice enough to work outdoors I'm clearing flower beds,  picking up sticks to make way for lawn mowers, raking leaves left over from last fall, and readying birdhouses for new tenants.  Township clean up day sneaked up on us and we're hurriedly gathering junk to haul away this weekend. Our outbuildings -- hopeless collectors all year long -- get this one chance a year to give up broken useless treasures and junk. Someone's got to supervise and help load it all. That would be me. All that, and...
When Phoebe brought me the rabbits I had just signed up for a writing course I found on Patricia Kay's new website. Her smiling face, friendly demeanor, enthusiastic style, and especially, her publishing success, reeled me in. This description of her course in her own words, caught my eye: Challenge to Write is the name of a class I teach. It’s designed to give writers a kick in the pants, something to help them get started writing for the day. If you’re not a writer, I know you’re probably shocked to find out most writers need a kick in the pants.
She piqued my interest and made me laugh. Click on over there and read more about the class and more about Pat Kay. I was hooked when she said, If you’ve found your way to this page, you’re either a writer or a curious visitor wondering what Challenge to Write means. 
Through this course I'm accomplishing what I set out to do, which is to write every day. Confession: I got behind the ten days I was nursing bunnies, which coincided with Holy Week and extra church activities and services, but not irreversibly behind.
Pat offers encouragement and critique to writers who post their work. Another confession: I haven't been posting my assignments -- not because I'm too shy, more because I'm still figuring out whether fiction is my thing. Compared to my classmates I have a deplorable lack of imagination, and imagination seems to be the key to good fiction writing.  On the other hand, I do have this novel I've written. I have two versions of the same book. One manuscript is safely tucked away in a desk drawer, where I understand all first novels belong. The other lives on my computer desk top, subject to edits and changes according to my will or whim.
Challenge to Write serves as a litmus test. By the end of the month (five short days) my novel, my work in progress, will earn a place of priority in my daily writing...or not. Either way, the class has been successful. I'm writing every day. Not posting for critique, mind you, but writing. And feeling a sense of hope and peace about it.
Having found peace, surely everything else will fall into place. Right?