Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Heavenly Sight...

Don't ever tell me cloudy days are boring... Here a sunburst made glorious by thick clouds and  mountains. Taken from the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry. Unforgettable.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Marriage Moment

I hate conflict, always have. As a child I felt helpless in moments of conflict and would run away. In my marriage, running away is no longer an option nor, I might add, any longer a desire, thanks be to God quite literally. We have to barrel it through but barreling hurts.

At any rate, here we were having dinner and a movie (a bad time to bring anything up but sometimes it's now or never - at least it feels that way) one of our differences was weighing on me. In fact I felt he was wrong.

So I brought it up rather uncouth-like. He was terribly gracious. What started as an inquisition on my part quickly turned into real dialogue. We have both learned to ask questions rather than assume we understand the other's whys and wherefores.

We must have spent over two hours peeling back layer after layer of supposition (many wrong), motivations (despite what I think I am no mind reader) and observations (that can be painful). It was hard going. After a while however we both realized this is GOOD. We felt better and seemed to have arrived at a place that was new for both of us.

The issue isn't resolved but right now I don't care. I feel like we found the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Marriage is not just co-habitation, not even just a loving commitment to stay together, no, it's much more than that. It truly is a relationship where two become one. It really is. I have believed that because the Bible says it but I had never seen it before.

Our conversation started like rough sand paper. It hurt. We kept on. The more we talked, the more we got sand-papered. We began to let go of our own reasonings and enquired of each;  the perspective of the one began to affect the other.

The emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of our existence affect much more than our feelings, minds and hearts; they affect our bodies as well. We both felt physically better, lighter than we had in years about this. We both received the other and in so doing literally became a third entity on this issue. I will never be the same. The two shall become one. Indeed.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Spool Rack

Independence. Think it through but dare to make it your own, don't stop short. That's what we're celebrating.  I still marvel at the birth of America here some 235 ago (is that right?). It wasn't perfect, it wasn't without conflict, it wasn't without mistakes, but a group of men did their level best to make it happen. Their visions differed in some ways but it happened and here we are.  They wanted freedom to chart their course. I do too. I thank God for America, I really do. I have no idea how long this albeit flawed wonderful nation will survive as it was founded but for now, it is. Fireworks. Let's celebrate. We're still here.

As close as I can give you to fireworks is my adapted spool carrier I made, ahem, my husband and I made, for my sewing room. But a picture's worth a thousand works. Enjoy and see recipe below.

Take a smooth piece of plywood/wood. Figure out how many rods you want and arrange them (regularly or randomly in an artistic pattern ;) Mark each space with a pencil dot. Drill 1/4" holes partway in at slight angle. Cut 1/4" round dowel (smaller would be better: one of my spools just doesn't fit and oak is strongest) in pieces long enough to easily fit a spool. Glue them in. Prime and Paint the whole, frame (or not) to your liking). I recommend using a hanger like so (I didn't have nails short enough so I rigged it this way):

...and also that you affix the tacky putty at the bottom of the frame or wall as seen above. The hanger ensures that the entire affairs hangs flat against the wall and the putty keeps it immovable while you take spools on and off.  All my spools (save the one that is too small) are on this frame and it decorates my laundry room nicely. Even my family likes it!! Laundry room users unite. Happy Independence day!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Love

Here is part 2, or the sequel to the last post a bit late. I really thought I had published it this morning early. But here goes anyway.
The timing of this moment in Bill's life struck me in light of Father's Day.
The other phrase of scripture that came to him in that moment as he stood against a short wall among the bleachers in the noisy arena, cradling his tired little grandson, was this:
"...happy is the man that has a quiver full of them"
The full version is found in Psalm 127:4-5: "As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate".
That's quite a picture painted here and I do not claim to understand it all but it does leave an impression in my heart. Our children and grandchildren are more than just a blessing although Bill would be content with that. Quite content. When he was young, he decided that while children would disrupt his life, if he didn't have them, he would regret it. Now, 35 years later, I see how true that was. 

In any arena of life, be it sports, the field of battle or the simple routine of daily responsibility, a key ingredient of victory, overcoming, is adequate motivation. 
How do we get it? Pep talks? While I would never underestimate the impact of the spoken word, I know it is the substance behind it that gives it power. For good or ill. 

In my life, and I feel backed up by scripture in saying this, the greatest motivator has always been -and always will be- Love. I remember well the love birthed in me for each of my children. It gave me selfless courage, strength and endurance I had never had or felt before. In Bill it awakened a desire to build a life, to protect us, to care for us. 
Talk about motivation. Talk about something to keep you going beyond your ability, about dedication, persistence, devotion. I'm not talking about perfection, I'm talking about motivation. Love is amazing. 
Our children are our riches. When life closes in on us, we can lift them up before our eyes and somehow accusations against our soul wither because of them. Who they are, their very presence in our life is encouragement itself. I'm still not talking about perfection but about family love, devotion, belonging. I'm talking about that quiver full. Deep gratitude for the opportunity and deep satisfaction for having done it, not perfectly, but with all our hearts. 
Happy Father's Day. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Children's Children

My husband had a moment of understanding recently as we celebrated our son-in-law's Graduation Ceremony (an MBA in Technology no less). 

The graduation took place in a sports arena. Bill (that's my husband) spent most of the time standing in the background, holding our tired little grandon while our daughter tried to film the event. It wasn't until the long drive home that he shared it with me. 

It had started with fragments of two scriptures, here's the first one:

"Children's children are the crown of old men..." Proverbs 17:6

The birth of his own girls turned his life and heart upside down (I know I was there) but he was busy, we both were, first with twins and his studies, then adding our third little girl, a budding career, more College, life, marriage, family, budgets, everything. We knew we were crazy about them but, being "it" for them, we were consumed with their well-being, our own delight was rarely a focus. That's how I explain the difference between being a parent and a grandparent. 

But as my mom often points out, he WAS a puddle for his own girls. Still is. What he didn't expect however is that he would also, and perhaps even more so, be a puddle for his grandchildren. Well, he is. 

So as he was standing in the crowded arena, alone with the tired little tyke draped over his left shoulder, cheek to cheek, he shed a few gentle tears of gratitude (did I say puddle?) and he wondered about all these feelings (he's an engineer and generally leaves feelings to me). Then those two scriptures (the second one will be part 2) slipped into his heart. He understood in a moment why, here's what he said: 

...grandchildren represent the future and their very presence in his life says, in effect: "you might not have been the primary care taker" (he was second mate to "moi" in our traditional stay-at-work-dad and stay-at-home-mom household) "but you did start this thing and worked your whole life, denying yourself to make a place for me so I can grow and be a part; I am your crown, I am here as a tribute to your love, your constancy and your enduring devotion." 

Somewhere they must know it, because they adore him. 

Happy future and happy Father's Day.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Speaking of obstacles. Speaking of trials.

What about loneliness? This humble little problem can have devastating consequences and for good reason:  we are made for relationship, I am convinced of it. In fact it is written in the beginning of Genesis that God said: "it is not good for man to dwell alone..." 

When I am gripped by loneliness I have learned to take stock. That is actually a little bit relational because that's when I talk to myself (after all God is in relationship with Himself and aren't we made in His image?). 

First of all I have learned that I tend to feel lonely when I long for something or someone. At times I long for something entirely unreal, seriously, I have been lonely when finishing a good book! The first time I ever read through Genesis I actually missed all those folks in there (can you believe it?) but then realized with joy I could read it as often as I liked! 

So rather than focus on what I miss, I take stock of what it is my life. One other person is a treasure. Most of us know more than one person. There are many levels of relationship ranging from the store clerk to our nearest and dearest. I have learned to value them all.

Secondly moments of loneliness, like suspended animation, have a timeless quality to them and tend to bring me face to face with the eternal. (By the way did you know that in the French Bible the Lord is called the Eternal?) Such alone moments have a way of causing the roots of my faith to sink deeper in dependance on Him (because I can't figure out very much about life and even less about the future so I have to trust Him); that in turn tends to sift out any over-dependance on the opinions of others (you know, those others I needed so much a bit earlier, love that paradox). 

So I think of those lonely moments as an oil change: a bit unsettling but periodically needed, ultimately healthy and very restful.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Now what?

Am happy to report that my recovery from pneumonia is just about complete (NB: it really does take 4 to 6 weeks as the doctor said). Back into the swing of things somewhat and yep, life has its challenges alright. In my invalid seclusion, I had almost forgotten. So here's this about that.

Since Jesus has overcome the world and since He knows full well what's wrong with us and our world (if He had to overcome it, there was something wrong) and since He told us that in the world we would have tribulation (not 'might have' but 'would have') then WHAT IS THE POINT HERE? Are we just destined for trouble? 

No actually, I believe we're destined to overcome trouble. 

Picture a vessel battered in a stormy sea but rising up over the waves as opposed to being overturned and shipwrecked. 

Without any contradiction, I will tell you that I often feel overcome by my circumstance (and the emotions they incite). But then I know, I know that my Redeemer liveth and I just wait in the dark, seeking His face for relationship, not just his hand for help and somehow, in that time, in that darkness, something invariably happens, a word spoken to my heart here, a change in the circumstance there, a scripture illuminated or a meaningful contact with a friend and my vessel, my circumstance, comes bursting out once again in the light of day. 

It is in the trial my friendships are deepened. By taking a risk and sharing my burden with another, I often find a stronger bond emerging. I've come to believe that is the meaning of Proverb 17:17: ..."a brother is born for adversity."  

Trials are often beyond our ability to control and some never lift. For those we have been given His Grace, which, He says, is sufficient for us. His Grace somehow helps us to carry on in the midst of the trouble. That is why to me, overcoming means not letting the problem at hand undermine my trust in God, my faith. My emotions and thoughts have often failed me but God never has and I know from His Word, He never will. I can still say that after 30 years of knowing Him. 

I know when one challenge is met, another will sooner or later takes its place but that does not depress me. Why not? Well, first of all I accept the imperfection of life on earth. Secondly, I have seen how much relationships can grow through the difficulties, I count family and friends as treasures.

But even more importantly, from what I have seen, it is when the hour is darkest that the Lord's love is sweetest, His Presence is most precious and meaningful. It is written that He is acquainted* with grief and that He will never leave us. That means in every trial He is there, whether we are aware of Him or not and for Him, nothing is impossible. Knowing Him better and being changed by Him is glorious prospect enough.

(*Isaiah 53:3)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Wartime Story

This weekend, we remember those who have given their lives so that the interests of our nation can be preserved. And by interests I don't just mean the oil reserves of other nations although I understand that our access to them is fairly crucial to the survival of life as we know it here in America, right or wrong. By interest I mean our freedom. Freedom to live, worship, try stuff, free from fear of oppression. 

I am the daughter of a French mother and a Dutch father who are still grateful today for the liberation of Europe, which I understand took the strong arm of the US to achieve. 

Just this morning mom told me a wartime story of her girlhood in France. She and some of her friends, all about 14 years old, were surprised by a bombing raid as they made their way to a rural train station. Quickly jumping in a ditch, the girls watched spellbound as the battle unfolded in the sky. To their dismay, several allied planes were shot down and the gunfire stopped. Resuming their trek to the station they saw a small formation of German soldiers coming out of the field, rifles trained on their prize: a captured American pilot. 

Fearing for his life, the girls were made speechless as he ambled casually past, surrounded by his captors. They stood with open mouthed admiration at the sight of him, not just because he was handsome, which he was, not just because he was American, though that made him an instant hero to this gaggle of girls, prisoners in their own country, no he won their hearts because in the midst of his predicament, he casually strode past still chewing on his gum. To them, he was the image of cool, a picture of victory over the oppressor. Spontaneously, the girls erupted in fervent applause for their hero. They quickly thought better of it however when the Germans guns were turned on them. She thinks they all fell in love at once with the gum chewing American.  

So first of all thank you to all the soldiers past and present, thank you to you and your families for doing what must often be a difficult, sometimes wrenching job, for protecting our ability to continue living as we do. As an immigrant, I for one, am so very grateful. Grateful that my parents, like countless others in various times and places, were liberated.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Stepping Back...

I am famous (relatively speaking) for fairly often missing the forest for the trees. 

The way I'm wired, (that's a tame expression for how God intricately wrought me in the lower parts of the earth - just love that intense language), I am very much a detail person. I have come to accept there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, as the Brits would say, indeed it can be an asset as with my painting efforts for instance and even at times in relationship to people: I miss very little of what goes on between people in the room. Of course that's not always a blessing, ignorance is bliss more often than not. But I digress. 

Rest has been such a detail in my heart and mind in recent weeks. By detail I mean I have zoomed in on Rest with abandon but now, I can tell, it's time to zoom out again to the broader view. 

There are many times in life when rest, stepping away physically and assuming an attitude of repose, is simply not practical or even possible. Having been a mother (of twins no less), I fully appreciate the vigor of that statement. 

So then what? Are we supposed to just grin and bear it? Even though I, for one, have often done just that, I do believe there is a better way and am quickly becoming addicted. 

Yep, love. God's love. Trusting in Him. Turning to Him. Crying out for His help though we don't see or feel Him near and resting in the knowledge He will answer, sooner or later. He says that if we know He has heard us (1John 5:15), then we already have in essence what we asked for. 

Think about it. Imagine yourself alone, no money, no wallet, stranded by the side of the road in a most inhospitable place. What do you do, how would you feel? Now imagine you found the cell phone you thought you had left at home and it was fully charged. You call your most trusted friend, the one who has always come through for you. They not only answer but immediately get underway to help you. Now how would you feel? That's what I'm talking about. You'd rest in the knowledge that real help was on the way. 

I've come to realize that Rest truly is an act of faith which explains why God seems to place such importance on it in our lives.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Emotional Rest...

On Sunday, I was too tired to attend a family gathering. I never miss them but felt my head spinning: oxygen intake was still not be what it should be. 

With my contingent gone, I was retreating to my reading chair when I decided to pull on my raingear and head out to the back yard. A friend had just completed a beautiful lean-to against the shed -a cheerful garden workspace- and it needed 'moving in'. 

I spent a good hour out there under the soft grey cloud cover, sheltered from the falling rain, its gentle splatter my only companion. With unhurried focus I began to organize the space, situating the potting table, the containers, the tools. I was puffing a bit after a while and wondered if I was overdoing it but then I noticed a sort of inner buoyancy so I continued for a spell.  

By the time I got back inside, I knew I had spent my physical energy but realized at the same that my emotional tank had been completely refilled. I understood then the multi-dimensionality of rest. None of this was my plan, in fact I've had plenty such whims end in total frustration. No, this struck me as one of those 'Father knows best' sort of moments. My Father in Heaven that is. 

The following day a family situation came to my attention, you know the kind, you have them too, and away I went on that familiar road to worry. This time however, with that full tank in my emotional reserve, I was able to stop myself in mid-thought: I would roll it all onto God's immeasurable shoulders, casting all my cares on Him, because He cares for me*, and I found myself at peace.

So I learned that rest is not simply for physical renewal,  we are complex creatures, it involves emotional needs as well.

Never again will I blithely ignore my need for rest, emotional, physical or mental... never again will I thoughtlessly muscle my way through life, physically or emotionally, thinking I can or should in the name of perseverance or some such lofty ideal. Neither will I ever again view rest merely as a prescribed religious exercise. Rest is a time when God does His mysterious work of restoration and preparation in us to fit us for what He knows is coming. 

I do not expect to walk flawlessly from now on where rest (or anything else) is concerned. But I have been awakened to its reality and necessity in more ways than I had ever imagined. I am convinced we need it as much as we need food and shelter. I will never forget this illness for what God has given me in it. In fact you might say I am going to rest in it.

(*1 Peter 5:7)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More Rest

This all started with being sick with pneumonia and learning about rest. REST. The importance of it with an emphasis on the definition found in a Bible Dictionary: suffer to be lacking.

That's one of those killer concepts. Accept the imperfection. Let it go. Stop. Rest.

I'm not advocating turning to a permanent vegetative state, this is about resting periodically. Knowing how to let go. Finding out what it even means to rest. It's one thing to cease from activity but it's another to get the mind and emotions to come along. That's where the letting go part comes in.

As I was driving through our local farm fields recently, appreciating the freshly turned earth ready for seed and the promise of a new crop, I was reminded of another definition of rest: allow to lay fallow.

According to the online Dictionary, fallow ground is: "land left unseeded after being plowed and harrowed to regain fertility for a crop." So while the earth is untouched, it renews itself, it rejuvenates, it is getting ready for the future (Don't tell me there isn't a God who is love in charge here). It reminds me of the scientific discoveries being made about sleep and its important role in rejuvenation. 

As a side note, I have seen in my own little garden that when the earth is left untouched for a season, it forms a crust and settles. It doesn't look its best I always think, not its most promising. Apparently the reality is quite the opposite. What a lesson in not judging by the appearance. 

So rest, I am learning, is God's opportunity to renew us, to repair and prepare us for what lies ahead. 

You know, since only He knows what really lies ahead, He is uniquely qualified for the job. Rest is growing on me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


So in my last post I talked about REST. As I thought on it today I realized that the prequel to Rest is TRUST.

The only reason I can rest at all is because of my conviction that whether I understand whatever or whomever it is or not, whether I see anything coming or not, God is in control.

Yes, bad things happen but I am convinced that they are allowed to happen to us by God. One read through the Book of Job has taught me that. And that makes all the difference in the world to me. All the difference.

Think about it. Nothing gets past Him. It's not as if he slept or nodded off or got distracted and lost track of me. He is everywhere at once!!! Unfathomable that is. Everywhere. I mean everywhere at once. Not only in space but in time!!! He knows the end from the beginning, from the very start of things, He knows how it'll play out. Wrap your head around that! He knows what is going to happen. He doesn't miss anything, not now, not tomorrow not ever.

Secondly He loves us. So many passages in the Bible say just that, some directly, some implicitly; Jesus said it "once and for all" with his very life. God is FOR us. It's not just an indulgent ok, I love you cause you're my kid. No, it's purposeful, eternal, meaning it'll last forever, it will outlast EVERYTHING, it's a with all His heart sort of love for each one of us.

Not only have I felt that love transform my life (and believe me it needed transforming) but to really settle the issue, I can read all about it in the Bible,  it's all there. Amazing. It tells me God loves me over and over and over again. Again, not indulgently, oh, no, He has unflinching character and integrity (He wrote the Book). But in spite of it all He loves us devotedly, forever. And that's much better than indulgence. I trust Him.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


one of my early watercolors...
The last few weeks have been interesting: was down with pneumonia (no worries, am getting better or wouldn't be blogging).  I learned something though: a little bit about REST. 

Being no couch potato, the idea of doing nothing but read or watch tv is foreign to me. I cannot abide it  while there's daylight with so much to do. However I had so little energy, my options were limited, so I read a lot. And did some thinking. It turned into a discovery. 

I looked up the word REST. Of all the definitions, the one that stood out to me this time was this: "suffer to be lacking"... Think about it.  

It was fairly easy to stop all my activity because I was really sick and had little energy and no choice about it but inwardly it was easy because I felt a sense of the presence of the Lord in my illness. So first of all I wasn't worried and secondly it made me surrender more easily. It actually gave me comfort and even joy. I read about rest. God Himself rested and, I noticed again, He insists that we do too, and regularly. The whole idea of setting aside Sunday comes to mind but I think there's more to it. Sabbath Rest.  Stop. Desist. Let go. Stop. Stop. Let it go. 

The immediate reaction is "No I can't! This and that needs to be finished or developed or undertaken! I can't!!" there's an endless list. 

Stop. It's not about my performance. It's not even about what I can make of something (remember Cain). It's not about what I can do. Stop. Rest from all that pressure. Let it go. That's what I heard. So I thought I'd pass it on. I'm sure it's good for my health on a cellular level. I can feel it. Inside. Letting go. Accept, suffer if I must, but accept that I am lacking. Just accept it ok? I'm not perfect but it's ok I don't have to fix it. He's got it covered. I feel stress melting away a little. I like it. Rest. Go ahead and work but takes times to rest. Stop. Let it go. Again and again. 

So I want to thank God for this pneumonia but then I think, is that right? I mean did He give me Pneumonia? Honestly, I can't figure that one out so you know what, it's ok, I'll just let it go. That's it. I got it. Rest.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Garden Help!

Spring is here. Now weeding is something I only do reluctantly and sporadically, mostly spontaneously and never methodically (these words actually did roll off my keyboard). The idea of preparing to go weed is foreign to me.

I have therefore instituted these handsome (to me) weed bins.

I have four of them, each strategically positioned about the yard. They are made of containers leftover after planting trees and shrubs. The bottom drainage holes are perfect since they are outdoors at all times even half full with pulled weeds and dead leaves. When overflowing, I do empty them.

Drill two holes at opposite ends of the container. Thread through whatever rope/cord you wish to use and then fasten the ends securely. I used leopard duct tape but any other method is fine. The middle section is taped for comfort when carrying.

I don't know which I like better, their utility or the fact that they're NEVER a sore sight.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I am Published!!!!

Tadaaaaaaaaaa! Now available at and coming soon to the iBookstore.

"Three Very Short Stories"

My first e-book Venture. Easy and quick read, cheap, tender, funny and poignant (love that word - comes from the French poignard - a small dagger that could fit in your poing/fist but could really rip into you, nice huh?) Try it. I hope you like it. Paste this link into your browser:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines!

I know this doesn't appear to have anything to do with Valentines but...  because it's hanging on my Valentine's (husband's) wall,  it has everything to do with Valentines. Happy Valentines to my One and Only!

These last 36+ years with him have been anything but boring and this authentic Bill Grace cut-and-paste moment (he did the cutting and taping himself) illustrates why he will never fossilize. Also, thanks a bunch to whomever dreamed up this photo commentary. These two gents look like solid citizens and at the risk of sounding like Sherlock, I'd say their Valentines are waiting at home (or at the Beauty Parlor):  they're both entirely too well groomed to be bach-ing it.  Happy Valentines Everybody!!

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Duck: Memories Stirred

I painted this little guy in a Watercolor Workshop some three years ago now. The story it stirred up is entirely true and follows. 

My first stuffed animal was a duck. He was of a size that would seem large to a child and medium small to an adult. He had a sort of peachy colored beak. I must have had him for some time already because I remember him being a lovingly faded yellow with a pilled furry hide. His wings were small on either side of his still plump little body, more like those of a chick than a duck and even I knew they would never carry him anywhere. I often held him close by the base of his rather stubby neck which seemed to consist of half his body and was the perfect size for a child’s hand. It did seem wrong to hold an animal by its neck so I would try to cradle him in my arms but that never seemed to work. He mostly lived on my bed and I liked his colorings.

I’m pretty sure the duck came to me in Holland where I lived until I was about 7 and if I ever named him, I do not remember it. In my native Holland, he was mijn eendje, my small duck, and later became mon canard in French. I actually doubt he was my first stuffed animal and he was certainly not my last. In my mind’s eye, I see dolls lining the wall on my bed. But he was without equal and except for a doll that I have seen myself holding in a photograph, I remember none else. 

He had shared with me the difficulties of moving to another country so stridently different from our own that it was difficult to appreciate. It was my mother’s country and my father was not there with us.  I’m sure that these French people also loved their children but it did not seem so to me. 

Here, I had had to trade the open, mostly decorative, brick wall around our our grassy front lawn in Holland for a closed high rise wrought iron fence, complete with forbidding spikes and a gravel yard. Many of these fences were lined with metal sheets for privacy. Ours was mercifully see-through but nonetheless it kept us and our house under lock and key at all times with one of those huge near medieval looking keys. 

Furthermore, gone was my favorite gouda cheese, the good sandwich breads, dark, medium and white; gone were the lovely cold cuts for breakfast and lunch. No more white bread with butter and marmite, no more chocolate sprinkles on toast, no more peanut butter on brown bread. Even worse, gone was the delectable black licorice of my fatherland. I was in France now and had to learn to a new language. But Duck was with me. 

No wonder, come to think of it, no wonder I never liked the story of Peter and the Wolf! I had once been given an LP record album of the story together with an illustrated book. Oh, I was told as child, you’ll love it, it’s a classic... You can guess where this is going. I remember being terribly reluctant to play it but in the end, familial duty prevailed and I grimly set to the task. 

I began listening and reading, quite an odd combination I thought, at least I was old enough to manage our little portable record player on my own. It looked like a square suitcase and when you opened it, one side was the speaker and the other the turntable. We loved it. Well anyway, it didn’t take long before the music went into a blood curdling crescendo and then it happened: the wolf ate the duck!!! I couldn’t believe it! Why would anyone in their right mind think this was enjoyable! To make matter worse, the accompanying illustration showed a cross section of the wolf and his stomach containing the duck!! Enough! I slammed the book shut, never to open it again. Wild horses couldn’t have made me. I turned off the record player before even lifting off the arm. I wanted nothing more to do with the book, the record, the wolf, the duck or Peter.

And now for the rest of the story.

Fast forward some 40 years. I am having a delicious breakfast of soft boiled egg, gouda cheese on brown bread, cold cuts and black tea. My husband, the American, always prefers cereal but was at this moment he is standing at the sink, his back turned. I am now telling him about it, I cannot remember how on earth it came up, probably because I had painted this duck and it brought back a flood of memories, which I then shared with him. 

“You never finished the story?” he interrupted, turning around incredulously. I must have stared blankly: “You don’t know what happened to the duck?” he repeated as if I hadn’t understood him the first time. “No, I didn’t, and as for what happened to the duck, he was in the wolf’s stomach, what more could there be to know” I replied defensively. 

“No, you need to know what happened” he insisted with a smile. I have always known him to be a man who sees the cup as being half full so I wasn’t so sure but I listened. He happily went on to explain that the wolf was pursued and caught, his stomach was cut open and the duck was restored to Peter. Great story. He was smiling openly now. I thought about it as he turned back to the sink. Well, ok, maybe I should have kept reading... but.. how unlikely, I mean the wolf ate him, what about that, what about teeth, digestive juices... The cross section illustration in the book just did not look believable: the duck in one piece inside the wolf... I mean really!

To this day I read the last page of any book before starting it except maybe Agatha Christie and to this day I remain unconvinced about Peter’s duck. However I have accepted the facts and do feel a tad mollified. The author had given a good ending to a disastrous story. Good... but unlikely. That said, my own duck, though no longer with me,  will ever live on in my fond memory

The End 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Morgan Freeman on Black History Month -

Some years ago I read an interview with him in which he basically says the same thing but through the filter of the journalist. It's dozens time better on video. I so appreciate his stepping out for what he believes. Obviously I TOTALLY agree with him. Let's all be what we are: PEOPLE, unique individuals, no two alike, ya?

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Favorite Color? My first thought is for brown. My father has beautiful deep brown eyes. I had brown hair (and brown eyes) and for years brown was my basic wardrobe color, shoes, purses, tops and coats. Brown was my neutral. 

Of course there are many shades of the lovely earth tone: cool browns, red browns, greenish browns, yellow browns, but my favorite is and always will be chocolate brown. Dark chocolate that is. I’m not sure which came first, my love of brown or my love of chocolate. I suspect chocolate, nevertheless brown is not the color I settled upon.

Then I think of green. My mother has lovely green eyes. I love the outdoors and all things that grow. Green is so amazingly used in nature. Blue greens next to yellow greens and everything in between living side by side in amazing harmony. In my Dutch Bible, it says that on the third day God said: "there be much green on the land". I love that. Yet green is not the color I chose either.

No, I settled on the most intangible color I know. I chose grey. It’s my new brown. You know grey is an amazing color. Just look up at (any northern) sky. I love the endless cloud formations: the deep, dark purplish grey gathering overhead for a winter storm, the lightest palest transparent puff in a blue sky, the bright and breezy billows of a spring day.

Did you know that when you mix any two colors which are opposite each other on the color wheel, you will obtain a shade of grey? Quick lesson. There are three primary colors: blue, yellow and red. These are not made up of any other color, hence the name, primary. Mix any two of those and add it to the third primary and you will get, yes, grey (by the way if you mix all three you’ll get brown). So for instance blue and red make purple, mix that with yellow and you’ll be a rich mauvish grey and so on. You can imagine how many different shades of grey, how many tints, how many hues there can be... That is a quality I crave, endless possiblities.

Some say grey hair is dead hair and should be colored. I beg to differ. Grey does an amazing job of softening the lines on our faces, it’s much more forgiving that any so called true color. You might say it’s the silver lining for our advancing years.

Out of doors, grey acts as a go between: whether it be silvery leaves or tree bark, glorious grey is the unsung hero of any garden, it acts as the tie that binds all those strong personalities, reds, purples, oranges, yellows, blues, and even the many greens of a well watered garden.

Perhaps the one element I love most about grey is its exquisite delicacy: any particular grey is almost impossible to define in terms of hue or tint and is loveliest in my eyes, next to other shades of grey. Unlike all the other gorgeous colors, grey never draws attention to itself, it never calls dibs on the front row, let alone the stage. No, grey is generally found somewhere in the background,  yet I could not imagine life without it.

So in honor of grey, here is an oil painting I did while I was still *blissfully* unaware they were the cause of my many headaches, it's called Grey Day....

Friday, January 7, 2011

My First Americans


pen and watercolor

Some stories are easy to tell while others are not. Reasons are often complex and, seemingly, as numerous as the stars in the sky. This story should be straightforward but it isn’t. Over time, it has taken on layers of meaning, becoming increasingly textured and rich, like a good painting. In the telling, every nuance matters because now I realize that it was a defining moment in my life.

The time is my middle childhood. The setting was a park in the suburbs of Paris, le Bois de Boulogne. From the bare trees and dead leaves of my memory, I would say we were just going into or pulling out of winter.

When I say park, you may think of a well designed National or even State Park complete with rangers on trails, pine cones and the scent of fir trees, sightings of mountain goats and warnings of bears. No, this was a deciduous forest. It was surrounded on all sides by habitations of men; there were no evergreens, no bears, no mountains. It was a respite from buildings and roads perhaps but it was not really another world. I never remember seeing wildlife save birds in trees or the occasional hare, there was no expansive wilderness to be held in awe. Neither were there inviting clearings with barbecue pits and picnic tables, there were no restrooms, no helpful trail markers, no hiking plans. It was undeveloped and tame at the same time.

I do not remember the occasion for our gathering but a birthday, mine or my sister’s, may well have been the impetus. Maybe that is what makes this story so hard to tell. 

You see France was my mother’s country. She was, after all, French and had resorted there again with the two of us and her Dutch companion after her divorce from my father some years before. My father, on the other hand, was Dutch. In the Europe of that day, different countries were different worlds. Undoubtedly widened by the divorce, the chasm between the two countries had become impassable to me. I never saw my mother again in Holland after that. She had apparently never liked it much and had completely reverted to her French roots, Dutch companion notwithstanding; he, for his part, seemed eager to cross the border and follow her over into the French way of life. 

I did see my father in France many times after that when he would pick us up for visitation and in spite of our adoration for him, that was often how it felt: an artificially designated time, legally instituted and required. It took years before I would understand what it all meant to him.  While he spoke French with ease, he did so without regard for grammar or pronunciation. I did always admire his pluck as he spoke street German, English and Italian the same way:  serviceably but not artfully.  What I admired about him was that he seemed to know no fear, French sensibilities would just have to fend for themselves. True, he was able to communicate but to my young mind it always seemed to underline the fact that he did not belong there.

My father had remarried and begun a new family. By this time, I had two new brothers to play with during those visitations. All were present that day at the park. We must have had a fairly typical picnic of sandwiches for I do not remember it. Camping was the normal way to spend a holiday for us everyday Europeans; it had been honed to a science of tents, fold out chairs, a burner, tea, bread and packaged soup. This picnic was a well organized mini camping trip, minus the chairs, the burner and the tent: a simple blanket marked our grounds. If we had a ball or badminton rackets I do not remember it. We children were mostly left to our own devices when we were not eating, going to school or sleeping and in that sense we were perfectly normal for our day.

As it happened, we had neighbors in the park that day, which, in itself was not unusual; what was extraordinary is that these were not Europeans. How did I know that? Well it was obvious, anyone would have known: first of all they were beefier than the rest of us, their clothes seemed more casual too, a bit looser perhaps. They were clearly of African origin but these, I was certain, were no Africans: again, they were beefier. It reminded me of the pictures I had seen of the Beach Boys. There was that same charming ease in their demeanor, they were relaxed, as if they weren’t trying to impress anyone. I believe it was my father who explained they were Americans. I later realized that my father had met Americans as a lad, when they came to liberate his country from the Nazis.  It was an American who gave my father his first chocolate bar. He has never forgotten them, he remains grateful to this day. At that time, I knew none of that. For me, that day in the park, it was love at first sight.

To complete the picture was the fact that they had what I later came to know as the sine qua non of American outdoor eating: a Barbecue. I was mesmerized. This was not some little contraption close to the ground as what my mother brought out with burning coals for occasional brochettes, no, this thing stood on its own legs and big flames came licking up through the grill at what appeared to be gigantic (I was a child) slabs of meat. I know I stared. The man whom I considered to be the patriarch of the group was standing watch, turning the meat over and waiting.

The others were either lying down or standing around in groups; many had brown bottles in their hands. I was captivated and had to find a way to get closer. I asked my father to teach me the English phrase I hoped would let me in. He told me and, repeating the phrase in my head, I cautiously made my way over to my patriarch, half expecting a dissuading frown. There was none so I tried my first English phrase ever: "may I watch the fire?"

By my childhood reckoning and not in physical terms but relational ones, his arms flew wide open. Not only could I watch the fire but my siblings and I were all given to share in the feast. His generosity was almost overwhelming. I don’t remember the food nearly as much as I remember the kindness. I stayed with him until we left.

As I was observing the group I noticed one man, he was lying on the grassy slope and seemed asleep but I didn’t think it was possible to sleep with all the goings on. I asked the patriarch about the man on the grass, how I don’t know, I’ve often wondered since, perhaps he spoke enough French. He turned back to look at his friend then slowly resumed his grilling duties in silence: “ he misses home” he finally said without lifting his eyes...

I immediately felt sorry for the man, why couldn’t he go home? I was also concerned because something seemed terribly wrong. I had been intensely homesick for Holland since arriving in France but had never found sleeping to take that ache away. I was worried he would wake up just as sad.

I fell in love with those Americans that day. The sorrow of the one man and the way the others bore him along only confirmed to me these people were real, flesh and blood and vulnerable like myself; it made me sad but did not repel me. I knew sadness. What I never forgot was their largesse (a good French word denoting the big giving swing of an opening arm); I never forgot their easy going ways, the utter lack of pretension. My heart was indelibly marked that day. 

Later on, in my teenage years, learning English became a goal and my determination may well have been fueled by that first unforgettable meeting. What I didn't know, is that I would in time become one of them. Oh Happy Day.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rain, Rain Don't Go Away...

Someone asked me about this poem recently so I reprinted it here. The illustration is pen and watercolor. I wrote and illustrated it out of my own childhood memories for anyone who does not like grey weather.  Perhaps another view will make you smile… Here's hoping.

Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away
Little one here wants to play
Where it's warm
And stay there all day.

I loved it when the days were grey and clouds were low
They seemed to want it so
To be near us, to bring Heaven down
Down below.

It felt cozy and comfy
A blanket from the winter cold
It seemed I could touch them
Yet being so small.

I loved it when it rained all day
It sprinkled evenly, a lot like snow
Then streets would sparkle 
And shops would glow...
I loved it and enjoyed it so.

There were puddles
In shiny street
The rain in gutters
Running on at full speed

I loved how things twinkled
After being so cleaned
The street lights would shimmer
The asphalt would gleem.
Trees became ornaments
Windows were jewels
And the shops 
Just invited you in.

The Bakery is warm
The glass door keeps it dry
And the shelves are crammed full
Of good things to buy;
Breads and rolls
Of all sizes and shapes
Ladies with baskets 
And kids in their wake

The butcher shop bustles 
With shoppers today
They are planning their meals
From the luscious display
And a dog wags its tail. 

Outside again now, 
Quickly back to the car,
With the singsong of splatter
As the tram hurries by.

Briefcases, black hats 
Umbrellas and boots
Bicycles, baskets
And ladies with goods
And all running here
And all running there
Splattering music everywhere
Cars and trucks and cargo-bikes too
Rushing forth with things to do
Cheeks are wet and collars high
Raincoats dripping under the sky.

Now safely home

With lamps that glow

  Get us our slippers

And kettle for tea.
These memories I treasure  

These thoughts I will keep. 

Back then I was little

So young and amazed
And I may be much older 

But some things don't change
 I still and will always
Enjoy rainy gray.


First Impressions Part 3

Welcome in mid-stream here, parts 1 and 2 are below on the Blog. I realize now that this is about a new beginning which seems fitting on this New Year's Day 2011. These events took place in late August of 1971, 40 years ago this year! I have never regretted coming to this wonderful land of liberty, it has truly been my Promised Land. Happy New Year everyone.

...My mother and I made it over to the domestic terminal, where we proceeded to buy to tickets for San Francisco but we found out we needed to put my little dog in a big one-size-fits-most kennel and pay $75.

She was an abandoned mutt I had found in Italy when I was a child. She had tugged impossibly at my heart and I had sent my mother what she later described as a tear jerker letter that no one with a beating heart could have refused. She didn't refuse, in fact, and for that I have always been grateful.

At the American Embassy in Paris, where I lived with my grandmother that last year in Europe, they had informed me of what would be required to bring my dog into the US. Leaving her behind was out of the question. So we got all her shots and a little yellow certificate and off we went. At the travel agency where I reserved my seat on a fully booked chartered flight (much cheaper than a regular flight apparently) they told me she could stay with me provided she sit on my lap. I anticipated no problems. As I walked through the gate at the airport, the customs official looked down questioningly at my dog. "I was told I could just bring her on a leash and here are her papers" with a shrug of the shoulder, he let me pass.

The flight was at least 10 hours from Amsterdam to our refueling stop in Winnipeg, Canada. The other passengers got used to us both walking back and forth in the aisle. After some hours, I could just pass the leash on down and she would get her walk courtesy of my flight mates. However when I realized we would not disembark, I began to fret about my dog. No, I was told, no one gets off the plane. Do you really want doggie do in the aircraft I challenged, as any real mother would? No, in fact, they did not. So they let us off the plane directly onto the seemingly endless tarmac. We circled the wheels of the gigantic plane in the hope these would somehow inspire her. But the roar of the idling engines and the lack of anything even remotely associated with grass or a tree must have all been too much for her. Nothing doing, back inside we went. She made it all the way to LA though. Good doggie.

As soon as we touched down in L.A. the whole plane load erupted in spontaneous clapping and cheers. These people obviously don't think that this exhuberant outburst will make them look terribly immature, I thought to myself; then it immediately occurred to me that better yet,  they don't care if it does! This is good, I reflected, this is really good.

Later, there we were getting tickets on what they called a commuter flight. I was told people went to work this way, leaving in the morning and returning at night. Unbelievable I thought. Meanwhile, we had to get a kennel. Pooling our resources (there went my $50) we came up 25 cents short. What now. My mother tends to panic and she taught me well. So here we are at the counter, fretting and not knowing what to do. A superior who happened to walk by stopped to find out what the problem was; he then decisively reached in his pocket and slapped a couple of quarters down on the counter with a hairy eyeball in the direction of the desk clerk. There you go, he said, problem solved. So just like that, we got our tickets and our kennel.  These Americans were amazing.

I don't remember the short flight to SanFrancisco except for the arrival, this time it did look like we would land on a lake. What an approach grazing the San Francisco Bay: it was a grand! After having retrieved my poor dog out of the kennel and my two suitcases from the carrousel, we headed for the curb. There was mom's friend, an American beauty of Swedish origin. She had come to get us and smiled broadly in welcome, she was so happy to finally meet me she said. Really? Why on earth? She didn't even know me but she certainly seemed to mean it and I melted a little more inside. As if that weren't enough, she then loaned my mother her car for a time to show me around. I was flabbergasted, these people were just popping all my circuits. It was a nice car too, one of those English Rovers with leather seats but I did notice that it has an automatic transmission, cars clearly meant something else here. I liked it in my Promised Land.

I remember waking up the next morning in my mother's Bernal Heights House and staring out the back window at this world renowned city: San Francisco! There it was on this cloudless morning, warming up in the late summer sun. Could this be real? After the increasingly difficult years in Europe, I felt an unforgettable lightness. I realized some time later that the moment I landed on American soil, it seemed as though 1000 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. The past now seemed to have been wiped away. The present was delightfully different and I did looked with anticipation to the future: I was here, I was really here, it was before my very eyes and it was my new home.