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.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Winter weather threats of sleet, or snow in Dallas kept the weathermen worried, and they had non-stop advisories for the past several days; forecasts were grim – freezing stuff would arrive by Thursday evening. No, the stuff will be here Friday morning; well, maybe not until Saturday evening.  Better prepare, the rain and freezing slush will affect churchgoers Sunday morning! Oops, we meant Sunday night. Or, Maybe Monday will be the day of bad weather. Oh, wait: temperatures are rising and the sun should appear this afternoon.

Oh! Sun’s out!

I am exhausted, worrying about being house bound and out of power because that’s what freezing rain and snow can do in Dallas.  

Anticipation can wear a girl out.

Then, a friend asked if I realized, that this time next month, Christmas would be in full swing.

Well, of course I knew December 25 was coming . . . just not so soon.

Christmas – the celebration by His followers of the conviction and hope that God entered human history, born of a virgin, to die in our place, paying the cost of all our sins, so we might love life without fear of disaster, disease or death. (Help Thou my unbelief!)  Unfortunately this toxic trio is still at it --  sowing seeds of apprehension deep within me, reminding me of Carly Simon’s lament -

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I'm really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day.

Anticipation can wear a girl out.

But, this year I welcome it, even tough I am unprepared.   Like those non-stop weather advisories, the lights around Dallas are starting to twinkle – the stores filled with holiday hoopla urge me to be ready – buy one more thing: something big is coming!  But now, anticipation need not wear this old girl out.

As my own expiration date looms closer, as news of the world presses in, as some dear  folks I know are deeply hurting, today I cranked up the Christmas music -- especially the great processional we sing the first Sunday in Advent:

. . . O come, Thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
from ev'ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict'ry o'er the grave ... (words: O Come, O Come Emanuel)

Anticipation . . .  

Welcome to the world’s celebration of “Christmas!” Many may miss its warning and wonder – preferring the lights, the music, the “magic . . .” (I may miss it too if I don’t get it together!) But right now, for you gentle reader, here’s the best advisory I can offer: 

For unto to us a child is born . . . Isaiah 9

 Sing with me! And see if this doesn’t remedy your holiday anxieties!

“Christ is the foundation but the well is deep, and thou must get forth this water before thou canst be refreshed by it.” (A quote from Richard Baxter, cited in A Book of Days for Christians by Richardson Wright, November 25)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Half-Century Later --

My Recollections of November 22 1963

 Has moved! Please click through to http://autumns-garden.com/account-november-22-1963/

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Covering the UNCOVERED – Uncovering the COVERED

Ms. Pelosi was right when she said we’d find out what’s in it when Congress passes the Affordable Care Act. I still don’t know; 2000+ pages is a lot to read.  But what I do know, just by listening to the talking heads, something fundamental has changed since March 23, 2010.

The President signed the law Congress passed requiring us to do something they exempted themselves from doing. And they put the I.R.S. in charge to see we all buy what Congress is selling.  Nobody, though, realized that the NSA could read our emails and listen to what we thought about it all.     

Someone who has read the new law, Denny Weinberg, described it as an iceberg, of which we have just seen the tip: 

  . . . It is a complex array of vaguely related mechanisms, assumptions about motivations and consequences of both harsh and subtle incentives and penalties. Many details are dependent on unknown decisions and solutions that would be determined in future months and years. Every part of the act is dependent upon the perfectly performing assumptions of every other part of the act. There has likely never been a law with so many interdependencies and unproven dynamics . . . The Future of American Medical Care

Icebergs, according to recent documentary, begin with one snowflake. (PBS: The Iceberg that Sank the Titanic) In time, an accumulation of flakes grows into an ice mountain whose hidden depths can destroy ships that sail too close. Pride, inexperience and poor planning also helped sink a ship that was thought to be unsinkable.  (Why the Titanic Sank)

I believe we are sailing now through dark waters, and coming close to a new giant “program,” whose underpinnings few of us can clearly apprehend. And I am afraid we can’t just change ships, hoping for smoother sailing.

Trying to “fix” the problems the Affordable Care Act has generated seems like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – I believe health insurance, as we have known it, has collided with economic, social and legal realities that are powerful as that iceberg’s deep web that gouged the side of the Titanic. I feel like a survivor of such a shipwreck may have felt waiting for rescue – waiting, hoping, and trusting help is on the way for each of us.

The rescue boats, however, may not be the kind we had anticipated.  Government-mandated life-boats may have unexpected rules and practices.

It’s disheartening though to listen to the explanations of how and why the roll-out of website has only enrolled 100,000 people, and the Affordable Care Act  has taken away the coverage of 5 million Americans.  It’s scary . . . not having the wherewithal to pay for healthcare always has been.

An Answer to Fear: Idol Worship -Me?

365th Post

After four years – this is makes an equivalent of one year’s reading. 

When I started writing, I wondered how I would make a transition from Maryland to Texas. Some costs have been dear; some benefits have been super.  I have made friends, done things, seen things that are flat out wonderful. But, I know I am missing other people and times that may never come again.  

A Wordless Evangelist*
We’ve been through four Texas summers – and now five autumns.  Only this week are the leaves changing colors, and the mums in the garden, blooming. Only this week did several of the plants shrivel and fade.  By Friday, the geraniums and impatience will go if the nights are as cold as predicted.    The first year I did little to prepare the beds for “rest.” Each year, a bit more – and this year, I’ve done the most.  It will be interesting to see if the jasmine I re-potted will survive.  I am saving the seeds from the black-eyed Susans and bachelor buttons.  

I even have plans for next March, God willing. I want to dig up a small bed on the west side of the house that has not done well in the heat and dryness, and plant an assortment of Texas flowers.  The afternoon sun is fierce – but the gardening book suggests a few hardy types can handle it. 

And I have learned a few more things writing about this move, the house and yard:

I have learned how to add my own photos.
I learned briefer is better than clever.
I see that two pieces still get the most attention; whether it was the artwork, or content, I can’t tell.       

·      Life is Messy

The backyard here has been as real a classroom, as the ones I had in Maryland – putzing around, I have time to think about mistakes made, and lessons learned . . . which enabled me to describe some experiences, that may help a reader avoid my mistakes.
Being messy – careless with belongings and relationships – is a quality of self-centeredness.

            I hate falling out with people I love; I hate being the reason they are mad, too.

Writing this humble blog is like my planning to dig up that western strip of garden – I am learning what works, and what has to go; I may even have time to get some plants into my life, like the ones I hope to plant in the spring, ones that will stand up to hard times.  (The Beatitudes)

Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused. --Unknown 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Liberated by Mustard Barbecue Sauce

Who knew that so much mustard could be a tasty ingredient in a barbecue sauce?

I should have.

I spent many summers in South Carolina as a child, and then visiting when my folks lived in my father’s hometown for a decade. However, of all the distinctly southern traditions, they passed on to me, barbecue was not one of them. For them, and me, it was an acquired taste – we never ate “barbecue” in Baltimore. (Unless you call grilling hamburgers and hot-dogs outside, “barbecue.”)

Not until I married a Texan, and came to his hometown did I realize how deprived I had been!  Maybe it’s the smoky flavor that addicts a soul, maybe it’s the fat content – or maybe it’s buttered, toasted rolls soaking up all that sauce, but I can’t go long without bit o’ barbecue.

So, when our son-in-law traveled to Greenville, SC, (a stone’s throw from my parents’ former dwelling) and knowing my keenness for all things barbecue, he thought I surely must have sampled South Carolina mustard sauce barbecue.

Never heard of it!

My parents learned to eat barbecue when they lived in South Carolina – buying it from the restaurants. They even learned the differences between North and South Carolinian barbecue – but never tried cooking it themselves, assuming barbecue was too complex a culinary endeavor. (South Carolina's BBQ history) Alas, I too came to believe that making a passable barbecue was beyond me – even with all the sauces and spices now at my disposal.  

But a few good recipes, from friends, a slow cooker, a bit of exotic salt, French’s mustard and liquid smoke have liberated me from the chains of barbecue ineptitude – and even impressed my Texas hubby that South Carolina’s barbecue has some merit.  All you need is a bit of time:    

I started with Slow Cooker Pig’s recipe; I let it cool, separated the meat from the cooking broth, and skimmed off the fat.
I doctored Mustard Sauce BBQ, adding a tablespoon or so of tomato paste, and a little bit of liquid smoke. I added the de-fatted broth (about 3/4 cup)

To all this deliciousness, I had to add some Maryland flavor. (NO, I did not add Old Bay . . .) So, I made my daughter’s recipe for coleslaw – which came from her husband’s family:  a package of coleslaw, mild banana peppers, cherry tomatoes, green onions, a bit of mayo – and let it marinate in the refridge.
Now, I am learning the distinctions among Texas barbecue are many and varied. But I know with the slow cooker – I need not fear. A little of this, a bit of that . . . who knows?  Not until we started driving between Texas and Maryland did I come to understand how many barbecue styles there are – and that overlooks the barbecue havens (or is that heavens) to our west!