Spring Observations

 

Spring Observations                                                                   March 2015

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Yesterday I thought I saw a robin. We were just getting home and it was almost dark, so I’m not sure. It was the right size and it looked like a robin from the back, but the front of it was partially white. Today I’m looking closely to see if I can spot one for sure. Early this afternoon, I went down and looked out the back door and I didn’t see any birds at all, which is kind of unusual. Then I went to the sun room and took some time to just be quiet. I have found that at least ten minutes spent in silence each day is important. It is amazing the things that are revealed to me in those quiet moments.

As I sat there I noticed the most beautiful drops of water cascading down from our roof. Each drop was round and glowing with light. The robin’s egg blue sky was the perfect backdrop for this spectacle. I felt such joy and gratitude to see the snow being transformed into beautiful clear water. Spring is surely on the way whether that was a robin I saw or not.

Eventually a few small birds appeared, sparrows I think. Definitely not robins. Next I saw a bird that was about the right size, but no, the head was kind of pointed. Then I saw its mate, a bright red cardinal. Not robins, but beautiful. The last bird that I saw in those ten quiet minutes was like the one from last night. It was definitely partly white in the front. I just checked on the internet and yes, some robins look like that. I think I have officially seen my first robin of the season. Sometimes I get looking so closely for one specific thing, whether it’s a robin or what I think is the right solution to problem, that I can miss the gifts and answers that are right in front of me.

 

I’ll keep looking for robins, but I’ll also take time to notice what is in front of me and be grateful for cardinals, sunshine and melting snow, for my family and friends, and for t

he peace and love that are part of my world today. Well, I have a hair appointment soon so I better close now. By the way, my hairdresser’s name? Robin, of course!

Wonders of Water

Water drops falling from a bamboo leafWater-it’s beautiful, reflective, ever changing, refreshing, cleansing, and necessary for life.  These days I am thankful for the drop of rain on a flower blossom, a cool glass of clean drinking water, the calm surface of a pond, lake water to play on, and the vast ocean to walk by. I find it soothing to be around water. It is amazing how God meets our needs spiritually, physically, and emotionally with this one part of His creation.

I have heard it said that you should drink more water than any other liquid to stay healthy. We are very fortunate to have clean water to drink. I find it easier to pray near a body of water. I feel calmer and more connected somehow. When I am upset, just walking or sitting by the lake can restore my serenity. Whether it is a cloudy day with turbulent waves that reflect my turmoil or a calm day when the water is glassy and peaceful, it helps me to let go of my troubles and restores my sense of well-being. Sometimes I enjoy my solitude and other times I share the view with a family member or a friend. Kayaking and swimming offer a pleasant change from my usual forms of exercise.

Water is important. We have to be careful with this invaluable and irreplaceable resource. We can’t allow greed or complacency to destroy our water through pollution, excessive waterfront development, or drilling for natural gas. We have to remember what truly matters. What do you appreciate about water? What can you do to help assure the preservation of this valuable resource?

 

Surviving Winter and Welcoming Spring

I am grateful that spring is finally here. This has been an especially harsh winter here inIMG_0235 New York, but we survived. It is finally above freezing and I have seen robins, a cardinal, and a blue jay. My tulips and snow drops were popping up today. These signs of spring always fill me with hope and wonder.

I am also thankful for the vacations that my husband and I have enjoyed during the winter. Sometimes it helps to get away. We went to the Fort Lauderdale area for a few days in January. The weather was just about perfect. Most of the time that we were there it was in the mid to upper seventies. We enjoyed walking on the beach and listening to live music without coats on. The food was great and a lot of things were within walking distance of our hotel. Then when February got here and it was still really, really cold and snowy up here we decided to drive to North Carolina for a few days. It was in the low sixties while we were there, so at least not freezing. We did a lot of walking in some nature preserves and visited a great aquarium and an old fort.  We walked on the beach and read our books by the ocean all bundled up in our blankets. It was a nice get- away.

I appreciate being able to travel, but there really is no place like home. I’m glad we have a house for shelter in all kinds of weather and family and friends here who love us. I do think that we live in one of the most beautiful regions in the world. I try to remember that during the winter and look for the beauty in that too. We had the last big snow storm of March over the weekend. The roads got dangerous and it was cold again, but the snow coating the pine trees and the pure white of it covering the gently sloping lawns was exquisitely beautiful. As we drove down our road I spotted a very cheerful looking snowman. Some people do more than just survive winter. What are you grateful for today? Which season is your favorite? How did you get through the winter?

 

My Movie Picks

I just read a list of the Oscar nominees. What were they thinking? I do not agree with the Academy on most of them. The best movies I saw were About Time, The Book Thief, 42, Philomena, and Grace Unplugged. Gravity was good, but I thought the spiritual aspect was underplayed. These are movies that I would recommend for adults. I don’t know what is out there that I could recommend for children.

Tom Hanks might have been my choice for best actor, but Captain Phillips was too violent for me. The Book Thief, on the other hand, was set in a very sad and violent time, but it was handled beautifully. It showed the strength and resilience of characters doing the right thing under very difficult circumstances.  The acting was excellent all around and it had a powerful message. I do agree with the nomination of Judi Dench for best actress. She played a character in Philomena with unshakable faith and it was an impeccable performance.  I believe she should win her category.

 About Time had a very uplifting message. It was rated R, but easily could have been rated PG or PG-13 if they just took out about ten minutes of it. I am grateful that I saw that movie, but I wish it had been edited a bit more. It would be nice if current movies could be edited so that they could be rated PG or PG-13 and shown in our local theaters in that edited form.  I think a lot of people would make that choice if it were offered. It would be even better if the movie makers would produce more movies that didn’t need cleaning up. I do not think that the qualities that earn movies an R rating are the ones that make a movie great. Foul language, violence, and amoral behavior in the movies set a bad example and I think they influence our society in a negative way. Some movies revolve around these things and should be rated R. Then I would know to skip them. Some of the films that the Academy seemed to like the best would fall into that category. The problem is that some great movies, like About Time, have that rating when it didn’t have to be that way to tell the story.

Why do I even go to the movies? I go to relax, to be enlightened or uplifted, and to have fun. I like spending time with my family and friends, and I like the popcorn. I love to read and movies are just another way to share stories. I want to encourage people who are using their creative talents in a positive way.

What are your favorite movies? Would you go to more movies if they were cleaned up and had positive messages?

 

Traditions, Transitions, and Truly Odd Presents

Traditions, Transitions, and Truly Odd Presents

I’m grateful for my family’s Christmas traditions. When I was a child there were certain treethings that I could count on at Christmas time. The old nativity set would be displayed. We would have a real tree. There would be presents under the tree on Christmas Eve and we would open them that night. Most of my family would go to midnight mass together. At some point we started to have cube steak and creamed corn for Christmas Eve dinner. The real feast would be on Christmas Day.

After I got married and we had children of our own, the four of us would go and pick out a real tree each year. I bought a tiny plastic nativity set at a craft sale when the boys were little. We put that in a place of honor every year. We opened one present on Christmas Eve and the rest the next morning, as a compromise between my husband’s traditions and mine. The four of us went to a mass together to celebrate Christmas, but not always at midnight. When I sang with the folk group at church it meant a lot to me when my husband and sons came to the evening mass at which we sang.

On Christmas Day we went to my mom’s house (the house that I had lived in from the time I was born until I got married) for a fine dinner with my extended family. We started to draw names for gift giving when the family got large. Somehow we began a tradition of giving an oddity to that person along with the serious gift. My sister was responsible for this tradition. All kinds of weird things have been given as oddities. I’ll just say that if you go to the checkout and the cashier says, “What is this?” when you hand her your purchase, you know you found a good one.

Now that my sons are grown up they each have an artificial tree in their home. My husband and I still get a real one each year. One of my sons comes over on Christmas Eve and we go to at least one church service together and then watch It’s a Wonderful Life. I love Christmas movies! Our other son joins us on Christmas Day. We open presents and then go to see our extended family. This year we will have dinner at my niece’s house.

Some things have changed, but the heart of Christmas remains the same; love of family and friends, the spirit of giving to those close to us and those in need, and celebration and thanksgiving for the glory and wonder of our Savior.

What are your most treasured traditions? What is most important to you about Christmas?

Thanksgiving

There is so much to be thankful for I’m having trouble deciding on what to write about this time. I’ve enjoyed reading other people’s gratitude lists and posts. I guess I could just make a list for now and write more about these things later. These are just some of my blessings.

1. God’s love and guidance are at the top of my list. He makes all good things possible.

2. My family is next. I’m blessed with a great husband, two wonderful sons, and a large extended family with varied gifts and talents.

3. I’m grateful for books and the people who write them. My life is so much bigger and better because of the good books I have read. I don’t know where I’d be without the wisdom that comes from the Bible.

4. I’m so glad that I can write and share my thoughts, feelings, stories, and gratitude through books, blogs, and letters. I’m grateful for all of the people who help me with my writing.

5. I’m grateful for my students, fellow teachers, and all the caring people who work in the schools.

6. I have a few close friends who make my life so much more fun. They comfort me and listen to me. They share what’s going on in their lives and make mine more interesting. Some of them even pray with me

7.  I’m grateful for food and water.

8.  I’m thankful for my health.

9.  The beauty and abundance of nature is a real blessing.

10.   I’m glad that I am in a place in my life where I can appreciate all of these things and keep my focus on positive things most of the time.

That should give me plenty of ideas to write about and no excuse for my next blog being late.

 

How Can I Keep from Singing?

Color Spectrum wave with Musical Notes Original Vector IllustratMusic is an important part of my life. How can I keep from singing? I was in chorus in school. In the early years anyone could join, but when we got to fifth grade we had to audition.  I was one of only two people in my homeroom to get chosen. The next year I was not. I still remember my music teacher walking around the room when we were singing in my sixth grade music class. She stopped at my desk and said, “Miss Foster, why aren’t you in chorus this year? You don’t seem like a quitter to me.” I told her that I had tried out, but I didn’t make it. She said, “That was a mistake. You get right back down there.” I did and I got back in.

In high school I tried out for the musicals. I was not chosen. I worked behind the scenes on costumes and props. I had a blast. When I was in college I auditioned for individual voice lessons. I was one of the students who were chosen. Then I joined the folk group at my church.

Years later, the music teacher at the school where I taught asked me to sing in the elementary school musical. I agreed and we got a standing ovation. Things don’t always happen when I want them to, but I have found that if I am patient and prepared some pretty cool things happen in God’s time.

I love to sing and though I never sang professionally, I used what talent I had. I sang to my babies and I sang to my students. I sang in church and I sang for joy.

I had the opportunity to sing with my old folk group last Sunday. We haven’t sung regularly at church in a couple of years. It was nice to see my old friends from the group. It was a beautiful fall day and it was a joy sing outside at the service before the church picnic. I have a lot to sing about, even when I am just singing from the pews. I am grateful for music and friends, and for the strength and courage to try again when I have been rejected. I’m grateful for encouraging teachers and second chances. I’m not a quitter. Is there someone you could encourage today? Is there something you need to try again?

Kayaking

2 KayaksIt was a beautiful Monday evening. One of my friends asked me to go kayaking. If it had been earlier in the summer I probably would have said, “Not tonight, I’m too busy.” Since it was late August, I dropped everything and said, “Yes, let’s go.”

There is something about the last days of summer that makes me appreciate it just a little bit more. I know there won’t be too many more weeks before fall is here and I won’t be able to kayak, ride my bike, or swim. There are other things to do in other seasons, but I really like to soak up the last bits of summer.

With this in mind we slid our kayaks out onto Canandaigua Lake. The temperature was perfect and the lake was as smooth as glass, just the way I like it. As we paddled down the lake all of the tension seemed to lift away. Soon all of the noisy motorboats left the area and we could just hear the gentle splashing of our paddles.  We chatted at times and just enjoyed the peaceful silence at other times.

Drifting past camps where children played on the docks reminded me of pleasant summer days when my family would rent a camp for a week. We would stay outside and enjoy the water until the sun went down, just like those kids were doing.

We headed back to shore just as the setting sun was starting to color the sky. My husband was waiting to hoist my boat out of the water. I felt gratitude for him, for my friends, and for the beautiful summer evening on the lake.

I have kayaked on the Erie Canal, Cross Lake, the Black Water River in Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico, but Canandaigua Lake is still my favorite place to do that. I am lucky that it is close to where I live. Where do you like to kayak?  What are you doing to take advantage of these last days of summer?

 

Greetings, Gratitude, and Glue

Writing Hand

I was blessed to have a good mom. She was ready to listen and enthusiastic when I had good news. Joys were multiplied when I could share them with her. She was always one of the first people I thought to call about an accomplishment, a new job, an upcoming event, or some little thing that happened during my day that made me happy. She was always ready to spread good news.

She was a writer, not in the usual sense, though she did write for a newspaper when she was young.  Most of her writing took the form of letters. Whenever someone in the family, and I mean a very large extended family, had a birthday or a special event of some sort she would send a card with a long note in it. She sent these for holidays too, even the minor ones. Holidays and family were important to her. She was born on the fourth of July, so that was a day for us to send her cards. She would display these on her buffet for weeks. The Christmas cards that she received would be taped to the inside of her door, so we could all read what friends and family had written.

After she passed away on Thanksgiving of 2012, I found the card she had sent for St. Patrick’s Day. I kept many of her cards, but this one was not with the others that I had saved. It somehow got mixed in with the unused cards that I kept in a box under a bed. I found it when I was looking for get-well cards for some people. Mom sent out many get-well cards, especially when she was in her eighties and nineties and her friends grew frail. It was like she was encouraging me to send the cards.

She sent letters for the first day of school, to grandchildren living far from home, letters when babies were born and when people died. They helped a lot of people celebrate and mourn. They cheered and encouraged people.  They often expressed gratitude. She would express thanks and appreciation for vacations that we took to New Jersey with her, time that we spent with her, and little things that people did to help her. Signs of spring, like a blossom on a tree or the first sighting of a robin in her yard, were noteworthy to her.

I am grateful to have had a mom who was there for me, took me to church, and cooked great meals including some really special birthday cakes. Lots of people have good moms who read to them. I’m glad that I had a mom who wrote. Her words were our glue. She kept our family connected. How are your connections? Is there someone who needs to hear from you? Why not write a letter?