Message in the Clouds

It is Friday afternoon and my weekend to be with Mama. She has had a rough week. I cannot deny my slight dread of these three long days of explaining and re-explaining and literally and figuratively nudging her along. It is full-court press during these extended stays with her. Simply taking a shower and being away from her for 20 minutes is a daunting task. 

This afternoon as I was brushing my teeth and getting ready to go, I looked out my bedroom window and saw a parting of the clouds with this funny little shape in the middle. I immediately thought it looked like a small shaggy dog, maybe a Scottish terrier with its little nose sticking out and its tail curled up.

Perhaps this was to remind me of how Mama is, or at least used to be.

Scotties are fast, alert, sporty and playful dogs. They can be fearless and feisty. They are gentle and loving and make excellent watchdogs. They are sensitive to harsh discipline. They are very calm, though consistent instruction is necessary.

Yep, there are definitely Mama qualities in there; fast, alert, excellent watchdog. She is 90 years old and may not be able to remember what we ate for dinner as soon as we leave the table, but she sure knows how to count money and lock doors and pick out a suspicious-looking character. 

Mama has what is called agitated dementia. She is able to deliver some harsh words but certainly incapable of receiving them. And consistent instruction? Well, that one is a stone cold truth. 

Just like any cute doggie, Mama simply wants to be loved and cared for and petted a little. I am thankful for this cloud reminder and will be looking for that cloud all day tomorrow and the next day and the next.


In 20 days I will be 61 years old. My daily blog will come to an end on August 21. I am feeling a bitter-sweetness about the arrival of this anniversary date. It has been an amazing journey. As in all journeys, it has been fraught with a collision of emotions, as well as losses and gains. I will be writing about those things in the next couple of weeks. But for now, let’s stay on the path together and remain steady and strong.

This evening as I sit at my desk, I hear the jigsaw sound of cicadas which always signifies a hot summer night. The buzzing becomes louder and high-pitched, then retreats, only to cycle again. It is constant. On the low end of the buzzing cycle, I hear cricket calls, so desperate for love. They go till dawn. 

Summer. Yet, tonight these sounds have a finality to them. It is as if the insects are scrambling for a humongous block party. They sent out the message and all are responding. One last hurrah! 

Perhaps it is simply the butterfly effect. The Butterfly Effect is a term coined by Edward Lorenz and is a concept that states “small causes can have larger effects”.  It is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a tornado being influenced by minor stresses or disturbances such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. Fascinating. 

Minor stresses and disturbances most certainly influence bigger things. One year and 20 days ago I began the tiny flapping of butterfly wings. The oscillation has continued and grown. I have picked up momentum. 

It is an inevitable life truth. All movement leads somewhere. I may not be sure where I am going, but I’m in motion. 

Serious Sunday

I have not done a lot of traveling in my life. And I’m thinking I better plan to pursue it with a little more vigor. I would prefer to not see it from my three-wheeled mobility electric scooter, but will if that becomes my only option. 

Many of our family vacations have been to the southeast; South Carolina, Alabama shores, Florida. The furthest west I have been is Olathe, Kansas. Being a not-great flyer has certainly limited my travels to some of the most majestic places in this country—Boulder, Colorado; Jackson, Wyoming; Missoula, Montana, the Grand Canyon, the California coastline and the Pacific Northwest. 

Early this week we received in the mail a postcard from our dear Andrew and Lindsey as they made their way across the map. It was sent from Kodachrome Basin National Park in southern Utah. A (apparently) beautiful place not mentioned in the above paragraph. 

The postcard read “We read Psalm 19 last night under an amazingly bright moon that lit the desert. It was a passage most commensurate to this night.”

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God;

The skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

Night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

Their words to the ends of the world.

And ten more truly poetic verses.

The postcard is a reprint of an original poster available at some National Park Bookstores. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA’s (Works Progress Administration) Federal Art Project printed over two million posters in 35,000 different designs to stir the public’s imagination for education, theater, health, safety, and travel. Due to their fragile nature only two thousand posters have survived. 

I was printed in 1957. I may develop a fragile nature. But my hope is to remain one of the originals who survives the wear and tear and stands as a symbol of beautiful history.

National Meteor Watch Day

I love meteor showers. I have, many times, set my alarm for 3:00 a.m. and stood on my front porch hoping to catch the fleeting light of a brightly burning comet. I have seen a few and it is truly spectacular. 

Meteor is defined as the visible passage of a glowing meteoroid, micrometeoroid or asteroid through Earth’s atmosphere, after being heated to incandescence by collisions with air molecules in the upper atmosphere, creating a streak of light via its rapid motion and sometimes also by shedding glowing material in its wake. 

That is scientifically correct, but I so much prefer the romantic name shooting star or falling star and all that connotes. 

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket

Never let it fade away

Catch a falling star and it in your pocket

Save it for a rainy day

Tonight I did not see a meteor shower. However, I did see some amazingly beautiful fireworks. They were top-notch, crème-de-la-crème, professional fireworks. But that is not the amazing part. 

The amazing part is the love by which these fireworks were presented. The amazing part is the heart of three humans, hearts so good and caring and giving that these fireworks are nothing but a labor of love, love, love. And it shows.

I will continue to look for meteors and be moved by their beauty. But the brightest comets I ever hope to see pale in comparison to the light in the eyes and hearts of these three dear ones. They are incandescent through and through. 

National Water a Flower Day

Who thinks this stuff up? If you have flowers you are going to water them. I doubt that you need a national day to bring it to mind. 

I love flowers. I just finished my planting for the season. 

I have Cincinnati Reds red impatiens and royal purple torenia. I have drought-loving, yellow lantana and delicate, lavender angelonia. I have traditional marigolds (which are supposed to help keep hungry mosquitoes at bay), hearty vinca mixed with wandering jew, a smattering of magenta petunias and three hanging Boston ferns. I also have a lovely, voracious dark purple clematis that seems to grow two inches every day. It has climbed way beyond the six foot lattice and is heading toward the roof lines. 

I put a substantial amount of money into my flowers every spring. But in truth, it is well worth it. They bring me joy from the moment I begin to roam the garden store in early May, to the planting (I do not wear garden gloves because I love the feel of the dark, rich soil), to the care and and feeding of them. I look at my flowers every day. I deadhead what needs deadheading and occasionally say out loud to them “Do you know how beautiful you are?”

Early this morning, with coffee mug in one hand, I watered my beautiful flowers. However, I watered only the ones that require shade; the ones that are sitting on my front porch and the four pots beneath the covered patio. I knew that rain was predicted and it sure did come through. We had a steady rainfall that quenched the thirst of the rest of my flowers. I could nearly hear them sigh in relief. 

Needing a national day to remind us to water a flower is like needing a national day to remind us to feed our dogs or put on clean underwear or put gas in the car. 

These things are built into us. They are second nature. They are common sense. Let’s save the national days for something really important like reminding us to call a great-aunt or return a library book or schedule an appointment to get our teeth cleaned. 

Ah, which reminds me, I am due for a dental checkup. 

Plastic Stirrers Begone!

USA TODAY reported that Alaska Airlines will be eliminating plastic drink stirrers. Those stirrers will be joining the archived legends of paper tickets and empty middle seats.

The airlines will be switching to a compostable version of stirrers made of white birch, and citrus sticks will switch from plastic to bamboo.

These changes, set to begin July 16, are in the name of environmental protection. Other global airlines have promised to gradually reduce the use of plastic items, as well, but Alaska Airlines is putting its money where its mouth is, making it the first in the U.S. to eliminate them altogether. 

“Plastic is a serious issue for our planet. What’s important is continuing to move the global supply chain toward making sustainable materials accessible and affordable,” Shaunta Hyde, Alaska Airlines’ managing director-community relations, said in a statement to USA TODAY.

In another statement detailing the change, Alaska Airlines says “plastic straws are of special concern because they cannot be recycled, and they’ve been shown to kill birds and other marine life.” 

After handing out a combined 22 million plastic stir straws and citrus picks on its flights and in its frequent-flier lounges in 2017, Alaska Airlines hopes its shift to sustainable versions will make a difference. 

I applaud Alaska Airlines for making an intentional decision for change. I am fired up!

No more plastic stirrers for me. Let the search begin to find an artisan who can craft me a coffee stirrer made of steel or gold or crystal. I will carry it in my purse and whip out my custom-made stirrer at McDonald’s, Panera, the mom and pop coffee shop in my town, and maybe Alaska Airlines. 

It may be reason enough to book a flight. 

National Bike Month

A couple of years ago for my birthday, my family bought me a great royal blue Trek bicycle. Though I do not ride it enough, I love it. 

My house is located on a narrow two-lane road. It is not safe for bike-riding. So, unfortunately, to get in a good ride, I have to pull down the bike rack from its hook high on the garage wall and do all the strapping and pulling and tightening and fixing in order to attach my bike to the car. It is a bit of exercise in itself. Though, if I did it more often, I am sure it would become much less cumbersome. 

I then drive about two miles to a beautiful park, unhook the bike, put on the lip balm, don the helmet and hit the path. The park has three ponds, each with a lively fountain shooting crystal droplets into the air then delivering them back to the water.

There are a couple of baseball fields, four tennis courts, a great play area for kids, a nice picnic shelter and a beautiful white barn. 

What is it about riding a bike that instantly takes us back to childhood? I remember loving the feeling of sailing along on my bike with my hair streaming behind me. I also remember a feeling of freedom. 

In complete apropos timing, tonight on our way home from dinner, my husband, without prompting, mentioned that he would like to get a bike and ride with me. Awesome!

I often ask him to walk with me at the park but walking is just not his thing. However, bike-riding might be! I am excited about the two of us strapping our bikes onto the yes, double bike rack that I bought in anticipation that he would someday want to ride. 

We are going to be like Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper out riding our bicycles, holding hands. The Wonder Years revisited.

 “And so Winnie and I had our one slow dance after all. But things wouldn’t be the same between us. We were getting older. All we could do was close our eyes and wish that the slow song would never end.”

May Day

May Day is a public holiday celebrated on May 1. It is an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival and a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the festivities.

Dancing? Singing? Cake? Yes, count me in!

May Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. In the United States May Day was celebrated by some early European settlers of the American continent. In some parts of the United States, May baskets are made. These are small baskets usually filled with flowers or treats and left at someone’s doorstep. The giver rings the bell and runs away. That sounds like fun!

May Day celebrations were common at women’s colleges and academic institutions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a tradition that continues at Bryn Mawr College and Brenau University to this day. Good for them for keeping up tradition!

I have vague but sweet memories of celebrating May Day at my childhood school, Kirby Road Elementary. I remember a Maypole with beautiful colored streamers hanging down and we would each grab one of the streamers and walk around the maypole while singing a song. I remember carrying flowers or wearing them in our hair. 

I googled Maypole to see what was the ‘411’. Here is the official definition:

A pole painted and decorated with flowers, around which people traditionally dance on May Day, holding long ribbons that are attached to the top of the pole.

Yep, that is how I remember it. I wonder when that stopped? I do not recall my boys celebrating May Day at school, which is unfortunate. I remember it fondly as the highlight of spring. 

For the record, the distress call “Mayday! Mayday!” is in no way related to the May Day celebration on May 1. “Mayday” the distress call comes from the French term m’aidez, which means “help me.”

On this May Day, perhaps you won’t leave a small basket of treats at someone’s doorstep or dance around a Maypole, while holding onto beautiful ribbons, but do something! 

Sing a little song, if only to yourself. Pick a flower and put it on your desk in a vase, or behind your ear. Or bake a cake and decorate it with pastel colors. Notice spring, in some way. 

Happy May! 

Serious Sunday

On January 28, 1969, a well drilled by Union Oil Platform A off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, blew out. More than three million gallons of oil spewed, killing over 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. As a result of this natural disaster, activists mobilized to create environmental regulation, environmental education and eventually, Earth Day. 

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. The commemoration was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) as an environmental “teach-in” after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill. 

Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Nelson realized that if he could use that energy, combined with an emerging public awareness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national forefront. 

Senator Nelson announced the idea to the national media, persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republic Congressman, to serve as his co-chair, and recruited Denis (yes, his name is spelled with only one ’n’) Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. 

Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the country. April 22, falling between spring break and final exams, was selected as the date. 

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable, environment. There were massive coast to coast rallies. Groups that had been isolated rangers fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.They finally felt “heard” and supported. 

Senator Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his work. 

Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. 

When I was in high school, a friend and I decided to take an ecology class. That was in 1975. We were certainly interested in protecting and preserving the earth, but we were much more interested in appearing ‘cool’ and ‘aware’. Hey, we were 17 years old. That mattered. 

It still matters. Often, it feels like the ‘cool’ thing to jump on the bandwagon of caring about government regulation and our environment and our national parks. 

As I have aged, I now understand that it is about so much more than a bandwagon. It is our responsibility and duty.

Several years ago, I wore a t-shirt to church on Earth Day. It is pictured above. On that day, one person called me a hippie and another called me a flower child. A half smile with eye-rolling accompanied those words.

Because I care about the earth that our supreme Lord created, I am a hippie and a flower child? 

Unfortunately, caring about our earth has been linked to bead-wearing, peace symbol-giving, long-haired freaky people*, bare-footed, tunic-wearing, pot-smoking, hippies and flower children. 

I do have long hair. I do occasionally wear beads. I love to go barefoot. I sometimes give a peace symbol to someone speeding past me on the highway. I have an adorable Lilly Pulitzer tunic that I wear in the summer with white jeans. I love flowers and James Taylor and Jackson Browne. I have, however, never smoked pot. No interest whatsoever. 

Christians should be leading the pack to care for our beautiful earth. 

On this day, when walking out of church, bend over and pick up a piece of paper. Smell a flower. Turn off your running water while you brush your teeth. Ride your bike to work tomorrow. Notice the glorious colors of the sunset. Appreciate the tree in your yard that gives you shade and red birds. Visit our national parks. 

And if you are feeling really crazy, put a daisy behind your ear and kick off your shoes. You might like being a flower child. 


*Line from song “Signs”, circa 1971


Pansy Love

I made a quick run through the grocery store today. Outside the doors, these beauties caught my eye.

Pansies are one of my favorite flowers. There are several reasons. One, the colors –  hues of purple; royal, violet, lavender, nearly black and the yellows… Ah, the yellows. Pansies also can be tricolored with tangerine orange and silky white.

The name “pansy” is derived from the French word pensèe, meaning “thought”, and was imported into Late Middle English in the mid-15th century. The flower was regarded as a symbol of remembrance. “Love in idleness” is another name for pansies. This is meant to imply the image of a lover who has little or no responsibility other than to think of her beloved.

Another reason I love pansies is that they are velvety soft and delicate but also incredibly resilient. They are hardy. They can survive light freezes and short periods of snow cover. They are not very heat-tolerant (like me). Warm temperatures inhibit blooming and hot muggy air causes rot and death (I’ve felt that way in the summer). Pansies, however, do grow well in sunny or partially sunny spots. They grow best if watered only once a week.

Pansies are not fussy. They are not demanding. They are not complainers. They seek the warmth of the sun. They love a cold drink of water. Other than that, they just sit in their simple beauty, delicately swaying in the the gentle breeze and show their chubby little faces at every opportunity. I cannot look at pansies without returning the sweet little smile they always wear.

I want be a a 60 year-old pansy. I want to not be fussy, not be demanding, not complain. I want to seek out the warmth of the sun and drink in living water. I want to sway and move with the wind and bear the coldness when I must. I want to fiercely stand my ground, yet possess gentle, beautiful, delicacy.

And when others believe me to be weak and soft, I want to wear a smile. The mighty pansy knows that keeping a smile on its face does not change its circumstance. It knows that true strength is found there; that true beauty is found there.

And occasionally, just occasionally, there is love in idleness.