Thanks for stopping by, whether you got here by a link or hitting "next blog" -- I am glad you are here. I've also done some writing on homeschooling, and what I learned thinking I was teaching.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Virginia Keenan Miller


My cousin called the other day to reminisce about his mom – it would have been her 96th birthday. He realized a few details in his recollections were fuzzy – and I may not have been much help; I don’t know so many details about my mother’s side of the family. My mother would have been 99 this month had she lived.  I guess life crowded out conversations that might have made her life more three dimensional to me.

Sharing our mutual ignorance about our relatives, we filled in a few gaps, and had a few laughs – and we both took in a few sighs realizing what a hard life they had endured.  

My mother and aunt lost their mother to tuberculosis when she was 28 years old; their father could not make a home for them. Or, his wife’s sisters ran him off.  The aunts raised the girls and put the two littlest boys in an orphanage. I don’t know how old my uncles would have been when they lost their mom and dad and their home.   

Having grandchildren makes their loss more personal than just the facts.  What a blow these simple facts were in four little lives – an 11 year old, a 7 year old, and two little boys under 6!   

That separation never healed, however; even as adults their families were estranged for reasons neither my cousin or I fully understand. My mother and aunt married men who did not embrace their wives’ families – their kids were not oblivious to this. And, that fact might make a chapter or two in the great America novel I keep threatening to write. 

Her home wasn’t my home; it was a mooring – an anchorage  – that suited the swells of my life. Her home was a breeze to enter, and painless to depart. She extracted no emotional entrance fees, and never ran a tab on her time, or hospitality. Even if she were caught in personal squall, it was never dangerous to come alongside Virginia.

The last time I went into her home, in 2002, her children were preparing the home for sale, dividing her possessions and clearing out. The first time I saw it, around 1956 or 57, it was also empty, but brand new – just before she and the family moved in. Over the years – its ambiance and her welcome seemed indestructible. But, yapping dogs, hearty hel-lo-o-o-o’s and smells that forty-six years of living grow,  were gone. The house was almost empty – but worn, the way she was before the Lord moved her on.  As I watched my cousins sort, pack and toss; kibitz, laugh and wipe away a tear or two,  I realized all my relatives in Baltimore were now gone – I wished they would slow down!

My friend, my aunt, and my mentor, Virginia  told me truths I needed to hear and hated to hear.  She also knew how to leave out details and still tell the truth. Forcing me to see some things as they were, not as I wanted, Virginia helped me pack for more than one life-journey.   She never waited for me to come back, but welcomed me when I did.  I learned from Virginia that hospitality isn’t just putting a great meal on the table – although that she often did.   Whatever issues there might have been between her and her sister, or her sister’s husband, she made a space at her table for me. 

She was not afraid of hard work or pain, either.  She died from complications of a stroke -- I visited as often as I could – watching what a stroke can do, was grim; she never was. She soldiered on; she could be right plain spoken about the hassle rehabilitation was – but she never failed to be gracious to those who helped her; she would not give up on her goal to get out of the nursing home.   And she did get out of that place.  On the afternoon of her move into her new assisted living apartment, Virginia moved, unaided, into a much better home than any of us could have secured for her.

The photo is of the tree in her back yard – many a summer evening I remember her seated, smoking and chatting with neighbors – just enjoying the breeze and beauty of the moment. Virginia’s friendship was a gift more valuable than any family history.   Over the years since her death I think about the friend she was – maybe more than the relative she was. She’s been gone a decade.   My mother’s been gone sixteen years – and I wish we all could be sitting on my back porch, catching up on what’s been happening!

Reflections on relatives #2

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


As world, national and local TV devolves, I switched to watching cooking, travel and home improvement shows. (Or, my brother-in-law urges watching the golf channel.) Heretofore, the home shows or cooking shows were a respite from 24/7 cable news of the reality of a world going its own way. But too few cooks are truthful about the caloric cost of their creations. (Or, how many hours of exercise their tasty treat will cost!) And now, HGTV’s House Hunter’s has been revealed as a hoax!  It seems the productions are filled with as much hooey as some newscasters I’ve stopped watching. (Info.)

Truth be told, though, I am just as likely to cut corners -- prevaricate – and obfuscate stuff as all the entertainment and news producers may do; smoke and mirrors aren’t limited   to magicians. Writing as a daily routine reveals my penchant to put myself in the best possible light.

My friend Solomon was quicker at spotting man’s pretenses than I am – which is why Ecclesiastes is a handy personal compass in these uncertain times – when so much is not as it seems, and nobody seems embarrassed or contrite about getting caught behaving badly – myself included.

Recently, I’ve been reading through Psalms – words of worship written through all kinds of times – Solomon knew these songs. Maybe their wisdom goaded him to conclude Ecclesiastes as he did: Don’t waste any opportunity to know and grow up in God, before you grow old and can’t. (Ecclesiastes 12)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Texas Touring

I am glad I gave myself such a cheerful pep talk about being grateful this morning. 

Yes indeedy.

“’Cuz I got myself royally lost on the way back from DFW airport shortly before noon.

Gratitude and panic are not simpatico – and I am prone to freak when I don’t know where I am going . . . in a car. 

Everything is under construction in Dallas – or so it seems to me. No sooner do I figure out a route, BAM! The landmarks are torn down, and today – by the airport, miles of roads look like they have been rerouted. Whatever happened to the turnoff to return to Dallas from the airport was not obvious to me, so I turned  chose another path – a choice I   made while traveling in excess of 50mph, surrounded by big cars whose drivers were on cell phones. Immediately my error was apparent --  I was on a one-lane road amidst major road construction, headed to Grapevine Texas.

I took the first chance to get on a known road – 635, or LBJ Freeway. Was I going east or west? Ah, I see a cut off to a road I know: Royal Lane. But then I had to choose: North or South?

Why oh why don’t I spend as much time looking at maps as I do facebook?

I reached for the GPS, stored neatly in the glove compartment – and was able to program in where I wanted to go: HOME.  It showed me the way, but couldn’t help when I missed my turn.  

Yes, it was quite an adventure, all on a day when the temperature soared.   

“Getting lost is just another way of saying 'going exploring.”
Justina Chen Headley, North of Beautiful

It's Monday

Summer is sending her calling card: though her formal arrival is a few days off, today the forecast is for triple digits – but a persistent breeze keeps the mosquitoes from lighting.

Our porch remains a favorite perch from which I can survey the early morning. Its calm is sometimes broken by noise of traffic and bi-weekly garbage trucks that rumble through the adjoining alley.  I can see its top as it pauses, and then I wondered about the men who man it.  What would (my) life be like if he were not there – or if the soul(s) who organized its collection and dispatch had not imagined its management?  (More info)  

Mornings on the porch are a good time to recall how large my debts are to so many people. But, with these recollections comes the awareness how limited is my ability to repay the debt. 

So, I opened the gate and thanked the young worker – I think we both surprised each other.   

·      We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. (~Cynthia Ozick)

·      Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone.  (~ G.B. Stern

No, this is not the best of all possible worlds.   But today, so far, this is a wide place in worrisome times. Today the heat index will be high  -- perhaps reaching 110 degrees. Another Texas summer is arriving. God willing I will enjoy eight to ten more weeks of such blasts.  Whew.

And God willing, I will remember innumerable kindnesses and comforts, and open my mouth in praise for the God who sees, hears, loves and rules.  (Isaiah 53)

·      There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed.  If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude.  (~ Robert Brault

Friday, June 8, 2012

So Simple a Child Could Do It

Unfortunately, Doug and I have no [little] children readily available, and returning to one’s second childhood doesn’t count when changing the water filter on the refridge.

Now, I have done this once or twice before – and I understood the instructions. But I must have been slightly off center when I shoved the canister of chemicals to remove the chemicals in Dallas’ water supply – for the filter only went so far and no further. Then the cap popped off. Doug reattached the cap, but even he could not wiggle or cajole the mechanism.  Thankfully, a grown-up plumber is on his way.

What’s the connection to my gardening lessons?

Often I need a fresh filter, purifying my attitudes, words, and deeds, for I am doing the wrong thing – or saying something poorly – or feeling toxic. Fretting is the most noxious of my emotions that can distort what I want to do or say.  Fretting proliferates when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired, and ignore the acronym, HALT! 

Do not become hungry, angry lonely or tired. (AA Slogans)

I’ve known these instructions for decades, but I can still get jammed up and as impossible to budge as that filtration cylinder. So, I must call for help.

Turning to The Daily Walk Bible reading for today, June 8, five psalms are suggested, Psalms 37 through 41. The sum is number my blessings and my days. “Instead of worrying about things we cannot change, David exhorts us to concentrate on attitudes we can change.” (TDWB, page 592) 

Here goes:
·      I have a helpful hubby – who is not afraid of a cranky appliance, or wife.
·      We have a plumber who is willing to come today.
·      We have a refrigerator!
·      I have a program whose principles work when I work them. 
·      I have a higher power who listens to my cries. (Psalm 40:1-5)

I wonder what is keeping that plumber . . .

 An Update: The plumber arrived -- and used a large wrench to disengage the canister, which I inserted slightly skewed.  A costly tutorial, but I am grateful.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Purposeful Packing

Good packing requires adept projection, confidence that the destination has laundry capability and drugstores, and a willingness to wear (unsoiled) clothes more than once.   Such packing is an art form I’ve never mastered – although I have improved.  Unfortunately, unpacking in Maryland, I realized I packed too much of some items and forgot one or two essentials. Unpacking now in Texas, I see clearly I overestimated the time I could have had to read, wear dress slacks and put on make-up – and I forgot my daughter does have a washing machine and dryer that is operational 24/7!   

When I arrived in Maryland two weeks ago, I arrived with a new suitcase held together with packing tape. One zipper on an outside compartment failed as I stuffed in a pair of shoes; its twin failed in the check-in line at Southwest at Love Field, temperature 95 degrees, when I wanted to added just one little old shift. Clearly, I added one item too many. But it was not over limit. However on the return trip, the replacement lighter weight suitcase weighed three pounds over the 50 pound limit, and for that I paid a whopping $50!

Go figure – so much for agreeing to put all the dirty clothes in my bag.  

We had ten days caring for our grandchildren – and these days flashed by with hugs, giggles, a few tears – and grubby faces, feet and fingers.  I didn’t pack enough get-up-and-go, and clearly ran out of strength.   But, friends of the family stepped up and provided hands-on help – and their kindness gave welcome breathing space and loving diversions when longing for mommy and daddy threatened tiny hearts. 

And I came home with way more than three pounds of love, joy and delight.  To see the loving bonds between our kids and their kids is a weighty treasure, and have any part in the happy milieu of both families is glorious!  I am so glad that can’t be measured – or taxed!   

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Rounding Another Bend --

These past several days I’ve watched three children master the words they are acquiring – communicating and inquiring distinctly, often as I struggle to find the word I know should come next in the thoughts I wish to convey.  Searching for just the right word in the middle of a conversation with a curious child is a humbling run into the joys of maturity.  

Case in point:  One child yells; I did not see the provocation. The other child has no clue why. So, I say it is unkind to provoke another person to anger.  Then I try to define provoke . . . Good luck, Mimi.

Another example: I say washing machine and mean dishwasher, and visa versa.

And I kept calling the baby by her older sister’s name.

On top of all my word worries, technology in my daughter’s home taunted me.  The dishwasher has a control lock system that only responds to Doug’s tap. It will not turn on for me. Doug said it needed a lawyer’s touch. And the television-DVD system required a training session and instructions on a legal pad, to which both of us referred frequently.  Finally, the rental car has an anti-theft locking system that was an unexpected surprise, and kept both Doug and a neighbor, who works on cars, and me busy for 30 minutes. Not that I am gloating – but I finally unlocked the sucker.  

So . . . this is the day that the Lord has made; I do rejoice and am glad in it.  I am tuckered out, but in a good way. I am just happy to have had these crazy busy days. On to lunch with the youngest grandchild and his folks!


  • Age is like the newest version of a software - it has a bunch of great new features but you lost all the cool features the original version had.  ~Carrie Latet, from the quotegarden.com
  • The robe of flesh wears thin, and with the years God shines through all things.- John Buchan (1875-1940) "The Wise Years."