Sunday, November 9, 2008


There's a change in the air, warm, sweet and full of turbulence. The wind hums as it picks up from the south. A whirlwind in the distance it seems; heading this way.

Look who's blown into town...

Ella Frances has a week long break from the rigors of kindergarten. In her five year old opinion, the best place to spend any free time is at Nonni's farm. Not that she doesn't love all her grandparents dearly and equally. It's just that Nonni's is where Punky lives. Punky is a small, sweet chestnut colored pony with a wild flaxen mane (think Tina Turner). A patient little equid, she has helped a steady stream of youngsters learn to ride.

Where horses are concerned, Ella is precocious to say the least. She has a fire in her heart for all things equine. As a baby, she was plunked on the pony as soon as she could hold herself in a upright position, and has been progressing at lightning speed ever since.

Last summer she rode lead-line in her first horse show and won a blue ribbon (as did all the entrants). The excitement of the show, the glitz of the outfits on all the beautiful cowgirls, horses everywhere, she was hooked.

Ella now discusses in detail, next year's show season, what sparkly shirt she will wear, what classes she will be old enough to enter and what horse she will ride. Where most little girls want the Barbie jeep, an American Girl doll or something Hannah Montana, El asks for riding gear and a black and white pony that jumps.

Since she arrived on Tuesday, I have not put on make-up or left our property for that matter. I'm surprised that she lets me shower and brush my teeth in the morning. Right after breakfast every day we are at the barn for chores then grooming, trot work, cantering, trail rides, jumping, barrels, bathing, stall cleaning, barn sweeping, evening chores... We don't come back to the house till after dark.

I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining, I relish every moment of our time together. As the mother of four sons, having a little grand-girl that hangs on my every word is a gift beyond measuring.

Yesterday as we were getting ready to ride she asked me if I had tan riding pants like hers, I told her I did. "What about a pink jacket like mine, Nonni?" Yes.. Before I knew it, we were dressed alike from head to toe and stood admiring ourselves in front of the mirror, Ella looking for all the world like a little Mini Me.

Today another one of Ella's adoring Grandma's (there are a bunch of us!) arrived to take her home to Tennessee and the parents who greatly miss her. Ella clung to me and cried. She said the time went too fast. She didn't get to ride enough, to be with me enough. I know. I feel the same.

It's hard to be this far apart. It breaks both our hearts when she has to go home. Our time is bittersweet. From the moment she arrives, she asks how many more days are left of this visit. It is always in the backs of our minds.

So now I begin my wait. I turn my attention forward, to Christmas and another school break. Then, once again, I'll feel that warm, sweet change in the air...

...and Bella Ella will breeze back into town.

Friday, October 31, 2008



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Me and Mini Me off on a trail ride.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A perfect day.

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Sunshine, check. Fuzzy pony, check. Red hound dog, check!
Ah, it's a perfect day!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Like two ships passing...

It's the natural way of friendship I guess. People drift in and out of our lives like boats on the tide. Some resemble huge cabin cruisers as they go steaming past, full speed ahead. Others are more akin to little dories and dinghies that bob happily by, sharing the water for a time before heading off in another direction, on to new adventures in their lives.
Once or twice in a lifetime though, the winds may chance to breeze a resplendent little cattamaran into your life. With sails snapping in the wind, colorful flags flying and bullhorn booming: "Let the fun begin!" I am blessed to have a friend like this. She comes complete with a Caribbean steel drum band and rum punch. Let's christen her "The Dolphin".

"The Dolphin" and I have been anchored in the same small harbor together for more than a few years now. Drawn into friendship by the circumstances of our kid's activities and a mutual admiration of all things equine, we have had great fun sailing along on a similar course. Always there for each other with a hand to help, an encouraging word or an obnoxiously self-serving I-told-you-so, we have weathered some rough seas together.

Recently though, ever so slightly and without being aware of it, I have begun to list a few degrees starboard of my charted route. At first I didn't realize that I was off course, it looked like we were still heading toward the same spot on the horizon. Now I am conscious of an ever widening distance between us, as I unwillingly change direction.

I feel as if I somehow came unmoored in the night, caught up in my own personal riptide. Untethered from parenting, I seem somewhat rudderless, and I am for the moment, drifting in an unfamiliar direction. Pummeled by the hormonal tempest of my age-group, I am at the mercy of this fickle wind as it blows me into uncharted territory.

All the while, "The Dolphin" has been sailing steadily along behind me. The winds of mothering teenagers whirl around her, as she braves the storms of her parents ill-health. She needs all hands topside, a firm grasp on the wheel, and a sharp eye towards the rocky shoals. I've sailed these waters before. I want to run alongside, to call out a sounding that will help her avoid the craggy shoreline and the dangers of running aground or capsizing.

But I've drifted too far ahead. We are both battered by the wind and waves. As my storm intensifies, I call out one thing, she hears another. She yells back, but I can't understand her. As I am slowly spun out to sea, I am convinced that she can no longer hear me at all.

As this day draws to a close, the wind and waves have ceased and the water is like glass. I sit marooned and alone, no land in sight. I long to get back to familiar waters, but my sails are in tatters and my rudder is gone. The sharks of despair seem to make ever smaller circles towards my leaky, broken boat. I think our friendship may be sinking, but I am unwilling to abandon ship. I hope this isn't the end...

Wait. Do I hear Reggae? Could it possibly be? There, in the distance, motoring at top speed, sails full and flags whipping in the breeze, it's "The Dolphin" coming to the rescue of her sinking compatriot. As she makes ready to pull alongside, I am filled with delight as I hear a familiar voice shout, "Hey, do you have any olives? Quit teasing the sharks and get over here. Let's get this party started!"

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A sighting of the ever elusive...

It was a rare sighting. They landed in our yard just before midnight after a weekend spent on the shore of Lake Michigan. To gain strength before winging their way back to Chicago, they returned once again, to a place of known food, shelter and shower facilities. We coaxed them into staying with promises of soft beds, endless hot water and a big breakfast.

They didn't stay long, just enough time for hugs, kisses, how are you's, and here eat this. Then, born to fly, they were gone and the nest sits empty once again.

The seasons of life have changed and I watch my fledglings soar off into the unknown, with me waving a frantic good-bye. It's hard not to be melancholy, they were nurtured in this nest. But you can't hold them after they learn to fly. They will just struggle in your hand until you release them. Then with a whir and a flutter, they ascend till they are just a tiny speck in the sky.

Still, I understand the seasons, so I don't despair. Just like the robins that disappear from my yard in Autumn, only to return every spring, they'll be back...

They know the way home.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Clown Fish and Rich Girls

Trying to join an existing “friend group” is a little like scuba diving, you have to constantly watch your perimeters. This is especially true, if the water you are entering is an established friendship of strong, beautiful, well-to-do women.

It’s like swimming with say... Manta Rays. It’s amazingly fascinating and fun, but it also has an element of danger. A school of Manta Ray is not aggressive per se, but when they go cruising by, swinging those long tails with the VERY sharp barbs on the end, it’s only a matter of time before you get hit.

That’s probably why I am somewhat of a loner. As much as I enjoy the company of other women, I don’t usually swim in a school. There is always an intricate hierarchy, too many dynamics already in place.

I usually feel like the clown fish, swimming in and out among the anemones, trying to avoid the stinging tentacles. It’s exhausting and not really all that worth it, because more often than not, I come away stung and tattered, with puncture wounds all over my dignity. Painful to say the least. It's enough to make me want to get out of the water.

Maybe I should just swim nearer the shore. Play in the waves with a few really good dolphin friends I have in my life. Not venture out too deep.

You never know what’s out there in the dark water… maybe something that bites.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Bitter Root

It starts out as a hurt, real or imagined. It plants itself in my mind and heart. I water it with my distressed thoughts, raking it over time and again. Before I know it, bitterness has taken root and soon blooms into what looks like Jack's beanstalk. Or more like that plant, Audrey Jr. from The Little Shop of Horrors.

It's huge and feeds on my thought life for weeks or months. When finally I get sick of this thing eating me alive and come to my senses, I decide enough is enough. That's it. I'm forgiving this person. I take hold of the hurt, give a pull and up it comes. Easy. There it's gone.

What I didn't see was the root left behind, below the surface, and the next time that person comes to mind..whoosh! I turn around and there it is, bitterness, anger, resentment in full bloom again. It always surprises me. Where did THIS come from? I dealt with that weed long ago.

We all know weeds are almost impossible to get rid of. You pull, you dig, you spray, you set it on fire and if you work REALLY hard, you MIGHT eradicate it. God in his wisdom offers a much better plan. Don't plant it in the first place.
Hebrews 12:15 "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."

Here is what I am learning. Dispense with hurt while it's still a seed. Take it to God and if possible, to the person that caused it. It's alright to examine it, but then choose to forgive and cast the hurt away. Don't allow yourself to dwell on it any longer. Give it no room to grow in the garden of your mind. Philippians 4:8 states "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." These are flowers in the garden.

Weeds and flowers don't grow well together. The weeds will eventually choke the flowers out. Deal ruthlessly with bitterness and anger. Ephesians 4:31 "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice."

As for dealing with old hurts and resentments that we have cultivated.....

Lay an axe to the root.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bella Ella

A year ago my oldest son and his beautiful wife ripped my heart right out of my chest and took it with them to live in Tennessee. They stole my granddaughter, Ella. Okay, perhaps "stole" is too strong a word, she is their daughter after all, and they had an excellent reason to go. They went in search of a more peaceful way of life, and of course they took their daughter with them.

At first, I held out hope that they would come to their senses and realize they just couldn't be happy living so far away from us. While being outwardly supportive, I found myself secretly exulting with every hardship and difficulty they encountered. Aha, I would think, now they are going to realize the mistake they've made and head home. But no. They are happy and thriving in the South. My little family has been "mountain folk" for just over a year, and now a serious development is unfolding. They are buying a house. So. They are not coming back.

My son and his wife moved to Tennessee for a variety of reasons, all of them compelling. They wanted warmer weather, mountains to bike, rivers to swim, a simpler life-style close to nature. I understand completely and am overjoyed that they have found contentment with a slower paced life centered on their family, but sometimes I am so lonely for Ella I can hardly breathe.

I can't remember what I did for fun before she came along. Being with her makes me appreciate God and this wonderful world he made for us to play and live in. For such a little munchkin she certainly has taught me a lot and reminded me of things I hadn’t thought about since her daddy and uncles were little. Things like-

Being outdoors is always more fun than being inside.

Admire the sky least once a day, it's an ever changing masterpiece.

Dance barefoot in the grass.

Hugs, kisses and smiles should be given freely and often. They make both the giver and the receiver feel good.

Anything and everything can be taken to God in prayer:
"Lord, please bless these ladybugs and help them find their way out of Nonni's house, before we have to send them to Heaven through the vacuum cleaner..."

It’s nice to sit on the floor with dogs.

Smell the flowers, even the wilted ones.

Remember to kiss your pony after you ride.

Gaze around in wonder.

It’s okay to cry when you feel hurt or disappointed.

Hold your hands up in the air and feel the breeze.

Get down really close to bugs and stare hard at them.

A nap always helps when you feel cranky.

Look for fun, it's all around you.

And just like gems, you can never have too many interesting rocks.

God bless you Ella Belle, thanks for the life lessons little girl.

My new reality, Ella in my life at Christmas and summers. That's not going to be enough. It looks like I will be burning up the road between here and the Smokies on a regular basis. So Ella and I won't have the casual, see you everyday relationship that we have enjoyed. But, we'll make it work.

Our visits will be precious. Our time together condensed to it's essence, like coal compressed till it's a diamond, and for that, it will shine all the more.

Friday, August 22, 2008's just around the corner.

A recent realization; even though I have faked it my whole life with skiing, sledding, ice skating and snow angels, I have lately come to the conclusion that I'm not all that fond of winter.

It's a predicament. I live in Michigan. At one point, our state motto was "Michigan, the winter water wonderland". Wonderland? Yes, but I now "wonder" how I am going to make it through another unending Michigan winterland.

The length of winter, the deep, brittle cold, the abbreviated days, these are at the center of my despair. Winter brings horse chores in thigh high snowdrifts, with it's frozen water tanks and water lines, frozen fingers and frozen toes. It's the ice storms, the freezing rain blowing sideways, black ice, slush that sucks at your tires and tries to pull your car off the road. The deep wind-blown drifts on the highways, the.... yikes! What an absurd preoccupation with the coming horrors of winter. This has got to stop, it's still August!

I can't change where I live, I'm a Michigan girl and this is home. It's obvious wishful thinking won't change anything, or the North would be in the South. The only thing I can change is my perspective. To do that, I need to see the Creator in this picture.

As I ponder the seasons, my first thought is how graceful God is. He doesn't just slap us in the face with winter the day after Labor Day. He brings the change slowly. First he cools the air, making it brisk and refreshing; it leaves me feeling invigorated and full of anticipation. Next, he plasters color everywhere. There is no way to ignore his invitation to come outside. Trees and plants turn golden, orange, red. Leaves fall and crunch underfoot. Apple orchards yield their harvest, pumpkin patches are full. The bugs die down and it's perfect weather for trail-riding. Family and friends gather for bonfires, football games, hay rides. I can't believe I forgot about Autumn, I LOVE Autumn.

And what about the holidays, Thanksgiving with Christmas right on it's heels? I cannot imagine Christmas without snow. I love tromping through the drifts to find the perfect tree. As a child, I considered Southerners deprived at the Yuletide; I could never Christmas shop in shorts. I still feel cheated if I wake up to a green Christmas morning. Apparently, I look forward to the snow. Confusing isn't it?

Well, it's not that I hate snow, I love the stuff. I love how it sparkles in the sun like it's filled with hidden diamonds. I'm amazed that each snowflake is intricate and unique. I like snowball fights and snowmen and coming into the house to a roaring fire and hot chocolate. I love to gaze out my living room window when it's snowing really hard. I feel like I'm inside a snow globe that has been shaken. I like the crunch of new snow under my boots and walking in the dogs tracks down to the barn. I love furry horses with frosty whiskers. When they call out to me, I can see their whinnies in the air.

I love woolly sweaters and fleecy robes. Cute hats with matching gloves and big scarves. I love laying on my back in the snow at twilight, while snowflakes land on my face. I like... well, I guess I like winter. Remind of this in February, will you?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bloggers Block

Well, here it is, my new blog. I should write something interesting. Hmm, nothing comes to mind.

I want to write! To put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and express my ideas and opinions, my joy, sadness, love, confusion or peace du jour. But I feel a little nervous. I seem unable to draw from my creative well. It's, it's...well for Heaven's's empty! Is there truly nothing in there? Can I really be this mentally dry?

Scary. Could it be my age? Probably, but just when did I stop thinking? I've got no thoughts profound or otherwise. Where did they go? I used to have them...good ones too. I hope they come back...I miss them. Maybe if I think REALLY hard... thinking...thinking...

Stay tuned...