Where Do You Find Joy?

January is a long, dark month and finding joy keeps the heaviness at bay.

I always wish for snow in January because it brings me joy. I’m not talking about a lot of snow, just a couple inches. When snow is on the ground, the early darkness isn’t so bad and when the moon is shining, the night has a magical quality.

This little angel of joy caught my eye with the rainbows on the wall. I have crystals hanging in the window, and in the late afternoon rainbows cover the walls. It’s impossible to enter the room and not be filled with joy. Of course if I have rainbows, that means the sun is shining. Any day the sun shines is a joyful day.

One of my granddaughters called me yesterday to tell me she had used her birthday money to buy a new doll. Talk about joy! Her joy was contagious and as I listened, I smiled and shared her happiness. Later she sent me a picture of herself with her doll. More joy!

I was able to go to another granddaughter’s basketball game this week and the happiness I felt for being able to go can only be described as joyful. I’m so aware that time goes by so quickly that I want to be a part of her activities as long as I can. Graduation comes quickly. It was a joyful evening.

I wish all of you many moments of joy this month. I know if I bake chocolate chip cookies today for my husband, I will bring him joy. My mother used to say, It’s the little things in life that makes us the happiest. I think she was right.

What a Night!

Mary was chosen.

Mary was a young girl by today’s standards. This was her first child and to have been far from home when she went into labor would have been frightening.

I always thought how sad it was that there was no room in the inn until I had a baby. Now I see the wisdom in being sent to a stable. The inns were crowded which meant they were noisy and probably dirty. Who’d want to have a baby under those conditions? Not me.

Clean straw or hay and fresh air would have been better. Maybe Mary could see the star and concentrate on its beauty as she went through labor. I like to think the innkeeper’s wife was there with water and clean cloths to deliver the baby. I think God would have provided support for her.

I wonder what she thought when shepherds arrived telling her about angels announcing her son’s birth. Had she been surprised or had she just smiled realizing God was spreading the word that his son was born. The long awaited child that Isiah had prophesized was here at last. God was a proud father!

This was a joyous night that Christians all over the world remember. I can’t imagine the responsibility of raising God’s son. Mary clearly loved and trusted God or she would not have been chosen. She is a blessing to all of us who celebrate Jesus’s birth. Thank you, God!

A Snowy Path to…?

Where does this path lead?

A familiar story idea is about following paths. I always liked how Gretel tried to mark the path to her and Hansel’s home with bread crumbs. As they continued their way through the woods they found a house made of gingerbread and covered with candy. As they discovered, looks can be deceiving.

Teachers and parents also like to use paths in discussing which path children should follow when it comes to career, behavior or group of friends to follow. In short, the subject of paths has a lot of material for people to write and talk about.

In my mind, the path is leading to a barn that holds an old sleigh that has been lovingly painted and repaired. A sweet old man, who looks like Santa, lets me pet his horse that pulls the sleigh. I offer to help with chores if he will show me how to drive the sleigh. Mucking out the barn is worth the lesson. My fantasy ends with driving the beautiful red sleigh through the woods.

Christmastime is a magical season of lights and dreams. For me, the snow adds to the feeling that anything is possible. I would love to hear where your paths would lead. Happy imagining!

Advent Time

The first of four candles was lit on Sunday.

Advent is a time of preparing for Jesus’s birthday. People are encouraged to use this time to pray and to become more Christ like in our thinking and our behavior. A candle is lit each of the four Sundays before Christmas and they each have a different meaning.

The first Sunday’s candle is known as the Prophecy Candle. The prophet Isiah told the people a young woman would bear a son and call his name Immanuel. (Isiah 7:14) It is also known as the Candle of Hope. That is a word that we need right now. Hope that 2021 will allow us to return to what we use to call normal.

When my kids were little, the five of us put our names in a bowl and then drew a name each Sunday in Advent. We were to do acts of kindness for that person throughout the week. We weren’t to let them know what we were doing, but do it quietly as to not bring attention to ourselves. You can imagine this brought joy and frustration when the act wasn’t even noticed. For example, my daughter hung up her brother’s coat every day for a week and he didn’t even notice it was in the closet and not on the railing or the floor where he left it.

I have an easier suggestion and my daughter is doing it with her girls this year. Whoever opens the door of the advent calendar gets the treat and also the responsibility to do an act of kindness. The act of kindness is not limited to someone in the household. After doing the act, the person writes it on a piece of paper and puts it in a jar. On Christmas Eve, the 24 acts of kindness will be read. This is a gift to Jesus in that he said what we do for others, we do for him.

We are beginning December with snow, and I love it. It’s enough to make everything beautiful and not enough to cause a sore back from shoveling. It feels like Christmas and makes me happy and hopeful for better days to come soon. I have hope and faith. Which is good because next Sunday’s candle is the Candle of Faith.

Thankful for Toilet Paper!

TP is used every day, and is appreciated!

Once again people seem to be gathering toilet paper rolls from the stores’ shelves. I guess it’s part of the fall harvest! I found very few rolls last week at my local Kroger.

When traveling in Europe, I saw the communal latrines the ancient Greeks and Romans used. The wealthy had toilets in their homes, but when in need they used the public latrines and were frequently treated to music as they relieved themselves. Good times, right? Sponges attached to sticks were used to clean one’s bottom and then the sponge was cleaned in salt water. These cleaning sticks were shared.

It is widely known that the Sears catalogue was used in outhouses throughout America as toilet tissue. I know my relatives did. Toilet paper was invented in 1857 by Joseph Gayetty but was expensive. It was made from hemp and treated with aloe. It cost 50 cents for 500 sheets. That would be $10 today. Gayetty was so proud of his invention he put his name on each sheet. The ancient Romans put their enemy’s name on pieces of pottery and then wiped themselves. People do interesting things, don’t they? I just love history!

Leaves, moss, and soft plants were also used to clean one’s bum and there is a list of the most desirable plants to use when in the woods. Lambs ear is a popular plant and the cowboy’s favorite was mullein. It has many other names such as flannel leaf, velvet dock and bunny’s ear. If you find yourself in the woods and need a tissue, just look for a soft plant! They have been used for centuries.

At Thanksgiving, I doubt if anyone mentions toilet paper as something he or she is thankful for, but I know people are. There are so many little things that we take for granted that have now been noticed. Toilet paper comes to the forefront. I’m glad I found some last week!

Spiders are Inspiring!

He’s cute, and not real!

It’s Halloween and spiders are a main item in this holiday’s decorations. Why? It is because of their association with witches. During medieval times black cats, rats, and spiders were all considered companions of witches. All live in dark places.

In countries around the world spiders are regarded as mystical because of their almost magical web creations. In some stories the spider is the storyteller and he can be wise or a trickster. Spiders have inspired many, many picture books and at sometime everyone has probably sung the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Once it starts to get cold, the spiders start to come in the house. I’m not afraid of spiders, and when I ‘m gardening I never kill one. However, when they come inside they are squashed. I had a friend who carefully carried one outside. Since I have been bitten by spiders, I wouldn’t even consider doing that. The swelling and intense itching is horrible! I suppose that does fit with Halloween.

Spider cookies, cakes, and costumes are all seen at Halloween. Legend has it if one sees a spider on Halloween it means a departed loved one is watching over you. Since tomorrow is All Saints Day the veil between heaven and earth is believed to be thin so that fits. I hope my deceased loved ones are watching over me and they haven’t forgotten me.

I love the fun of Halloween and all the cute creatures that go with it. I don’t do scary, so cute spiders and bats are welcome. Rats are never welcome! Not ever!

Trees are a Gift that never stops Giving!

Trees are Inspiring!

One my favorite books is a Berenstain Bear book called The Spooky Old Tree. The bears have an adventure through the tree and encounter the Great Sleeping Bear. I asked myself what adventure I’d create if I went inside a tree. I’d choose having a conversation with the tree. Hearing about what the tree had experienced would be quite an adventure!

I’d have to select the tree’s location before I asked my questions. There are endless ones to choose from. Trees saw battles, weddings, funerals and religious figures. Remember Zacchaeus from the Bible who climbed a tree to see Jesus?

We all appreciate the beauty of trees and what they provide. Food and shade are easily thought of, but they also provide inspiration for writers. I’m sure all of you can think of a poem that honored a tree. I know several of you are thinking of Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree.

A walk through the woods for many is a spiritual experience. It surrounds us with silent beauty and offers stories waiting to be written. Trees are one of God’s most precious gifts, and I am grateful. Just a note of interest. California is the home to Methuselah a bristlecone pine tree that is believed to be 5,000 years old. Now, that tree would have stories to tell!

It’s Pumpkin Time!

The holiday season has begun!

When pumpkins on porches appear, everyone knows it’s the beginning of three months of celebrations. Pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks are the joys of fall. Halloween fans (like me) are happily placing witches, ghosts and grave yards in their yards. I hope my big smiling pumpkin will bring a smile to my neighbors.

Since it is the season for pumpkins, I thought I’d learn more about them. The most surprising thing I read were the recipes. Now, I love pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving staple, but pumpkin chili and pumpkin cocktails do not sound appetizing. The pumpkin cocktail called for vodka and pumpkin puree. I just thought, yuck!

Since a Hallmark movie features pumpkin as a facial cream, I was interested to read about that. I liked a recipe for Pumpkin Body Butter. It’s ingredients were simple, coconut oil, pumpkin puree and cinnamon. All the facial recipes touted the vitamins in pumpkins and how that would benefit the skin. There was even a hair conditioner recipe that called for honey and pumpkin that was sure to fix frizzy hair. Once again, I say yuck!

I must say I don’t have a desire to branch out in my uses of the pumpkin. My pumpkins are sitting on the porch now and some will be carved into jack-o-lanterns. For me, they represent fall and unlike most decorations, they are good for two holidays! I hope you all are enjoying these cooler temperatures and perhaps a trip to a pumpkin farm. Yes, they are open!

Deceived by Beauty!

They looked so good!

It is apple time, and I was eager to make chunky applesauce. My daughter had gone apple picking for Gala apples, but said they were not very flavorful. I found these beautiful Gala apples at the store, and thought they would be delicious because they looked so good. I cut and cored them and put them on the stove. When they had cooked, I carefully picked out all the peelings because I wanted the applesauce to be chunky. I added sugar and cinnamon and was sure this would be delicious. It was flavorless! I still have apples that I wanted to use for apple cake, but a flavorless apple is pretty worthless.

I have to think of poor Snow White. She just couldn’t resist that bright shiny apple. It has made me think of all the bright shiny things that are difficult to resist. A perceived good deal, another pair of shoes or boots because what we have is out of style, or that soft, warm sweater to add to the ten that are in the drawer are all shiny red apples and hard to resist.

Our local farmers market will have apples this week, and I will see what kind they have. Apple pie and apple crisp are a necessity this time of the year. The first apple pie recipe was written in 1381 in England and included figs, raisins and pears. No sugar was listed. Talk about a healthy dessert! Mine will be just apples, and I will go light on the sugar.

My Ladder to Success!

Ladders are used every day and have been for thousands of years!

A painting of men on a ladder was found in a Spanish cave that is believed to be 10,000 years old. The men were collecting honey from a bee’s nest. Ancient ladders were made from vines and later rope. As you can see, mine is an old wooden one, but it allows me to paint and decorate outside for Christmas. (It’s become a little wobbly and should be replaced.)

A smart young man named John Balsley decided to put hinges on a ladder so it would fold in 1862. He lived in Dayton, Ohio. (He was a Buckeye but not a nut!) Today people talk about climbing the corporate ladder which Balsley would not have understood, but he would have known the Bible story of Jacob’s Ladder.

I now know why walking under a ladder is believed to be bad luck. In medieval times, it was believed a person would upset the holy trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) if he/she entered the triangle that had been created by the ladder leaning against a wall. This was the same belief the Egyptians had about the sacred symbol of the godly triangle. Another belief was since ladders were used to hang a person on the gallows, the triangle formed by the leaning ladder would trap the ghost of the person who had been hanged. No one wanted to encounter a ghost or offend God!

When students would say, “I don’t know what to write about,” I would suggest researching an ordinary object. Not many took me up on the suggestion, but see how interesting an ordinary ladder is?