Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Retreating...not as in falling back, as in taking time apart from daily routine...

2014 Weekend Retreat for WELCA
(Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America)
At Camp Lutherlyn

Seven women from St. Paul's ELCA church in Drakes Mill attended a weekend retreat: Ida Right, Wylda Cole, Juanita Farias, Mary Alice McMunn, Natalie Stoeger, and me, Betsy Henning. Angela Morton joined us for the day on Saturday, staying till after dark for a very fun sing-around-the-campfire time.

 Spiritual Well Being was our retreat theme. Bible lessons, services, devotionals, workshops and fun shops throughout the weekend encouraged spiritual well-being in five areas: social, intellectual, vocational, physical and emotional.

Apparently I wasn't paying close enough attention when I registered, I signed up for both physical well-being workshop and physical fun shop. The morning workshop had us walking Lutherlyn campus taking in the amphitheater and passing the impressive and off-limits-to-us high ropes, climbing wall, zip-line arena. We meandered through woods and caught a glimpse of the upper and lower lakes on our way to Chapel Hill. I’d never been to Chapel Hill before, and an awe inspiring sight surprised me. A magnificent cross, stone altar, and plank benches surrounded by trees create a beautiful setting for outdoor worship, absolutely beautiful!  

The walk fulfilled more than my need for physical well-being…it added to my emotional, intellectual, vocational, and social well-being as well. Much of that thanks to my walking partner, Angie Morton. She reminisced about her years at Camp Lutherlyn as a child adding an insider’s knowledge to the tour. 

Later in the day I attended a Zumba session just for fun, but it turned out to be just for torture. Oh my goodness, a person my age ought to build up to that level of activity before literally jumping in. The other gals participated in fun shops like “take home craft,” “front porching,” “sit and be fit,” and “prayer in color”.

The highlights of my weekend retreat, aside from delightful fellowship with sisters in Christ, were the Saturday evening Healing Service with Pastor Arlene Schweitzer, and the Sunday morning worship service at Chapel Hill with Pastor Susan Irons. I’m richer for having attended the WELCA Weekend Retreat, refreshed (though physically exhausted), better balanced, and most important, my Spiritual Well Being tank is full.

Natalie Stoeger, Angela Morton, and I took a walk on our own during some free time -- 3 generations we were -- walking together. Natalie is a senior in high school, adding youth to our women's group. Angie is only a bit older than my own children. Way back when, she was our neighbor and a babysitter for my little boys, who, as I recall, tormented her unmercifully -- all in good fun because they liked her so well. 
Me and Angie

Natalie and her exuberant, always fun, Nana.
Of course we gave the kid the top bunk.
Natalie making her bed 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Write It Down, Don't Think It Up

I'm reading and working through Julia Cameron's book The Right to Write. Her chapter titled "This Writing Life" makes so much sense to me...but it's tripping me up. You see I'm about 50 years behind on the write-it-down edict. I didn't journal faithfully through my youth or my young adult life, and I don't journal faithfully now. Or at least I don't think I do. But if that's true, if I haven't written over the years, why do I have, like, 15 notebooks filled page after page with my musings, rants, prayers, and prose? Why are there files and folders on my laptop filled with compositions, essays, articles, and devotionals? Why am I believing I haven't written, don't write enough, and it's too late for me to become a writer? I am a writer...even if I stink at blogging.

I began blogging in 2005 when my third son, Adam, was going off to war. In 1998 he signed up to serve in the military and get some assistance with college tuition. Our country was at peace with the rest of the world at that time. Then in 2001, 9-11 happened. As a reserve commissioned officer he was called up right after graduation. Adam began his own blog for the purpose of figuring out and remembering his life. Those were the days when people asked, "What's a blog?". It's a log kept on a website, a weblog. A blog is your own personal journal... posted online for all the world to see. And anyone, absolutely anyone can blog. Isn't that a great thing? I mean, what could possibly go wrong? But that's another post for another day!

Adam helped me start a blog and showed me the ropes so I could make posts for him to read while stationed in Iraq. A taste of home, family news and updates, and pictures to keep us tethered. I posted often. I posted for an audience of one, but in reality had a large family following. Friends and family read my blog where I offered a glimpse into our lives here in northwest PA. But I lived for Adam's blogs in those days. They were a lifeline to us, a guarded peek into the goings on of military maneuvers and daily life in FOBs (Forward Operating Base). His posts served as a meter for us to rest easy or pray harder. Little did we know, he kept the fearful worst from us until he returned home safe and sound. Or at least as sound as one can be after living so close to the trauma of war.

That was all long ago and far away. Now, what purpose do I have in blogging? A journal for sure, but as that, most of it is kept private. In my list of posts there are many more unpublished drafts than published posts. I don't want to bother people with my thoughts and fears, questions about the meaning of life and my purpose in the here and now. There are drafts expressing my political opinions and faith convictions -- which change and grow as my notions change and grow in understanding who God is and who I am in relation to him.

And that brings me full circle. There's a lot going on in this rather limited brain of mine, a lot of things to sort out, to laugh at, to act on, to clean up or clear out. Yes, Julia Cameron, I think I get it. There is much rattling around in my head wanting to be written down, and therefore, no need spending minutes, hours, days trying to think something up. Instead, just write it down.

Yeah, write it down and get outside...summer won't last forever.

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.