We have a fireworks store in our little village just over the border from Illinois, and it’s evident the populous frequents the place. Pop, pop, pop, whir, bang! Twilight erupts with real-life sound effects around here on a holiday weekend.
I captured this rare evening photo of the church sign last night as some neighbor kids lit street sparklers in the background. My “mighty flame” message is both inspiration and a warning, te he.
Here’s hoping we Americans take advantage of the blessings of liberty for the greater good. Happy Fourth of July!
Nothing says summer like green grass. In the middle of winter when the white stuff covers the northern landscape, a little bit of greenery, even if it’s only a memory, is good for the soul.
The grass in most yards is like a military crewcut—neat and rather rigid in profile when it’s properly cared for. At Church Sweet Home, caring for the grass falls to my husband who enjoys driving a zero-turn riding lawnmower around to whack the shoots of grass into submission.
But my favorite grasses in our yard (and anywhere for that matter) are the ornamental grasses which come in a variety of greens and other hues, including purple and dark brown, and many have tufts, blooms and seedheads. Ornamental grasses are kind of like ’80s hair: big, wild and eye-catching. Marvel in their ostentatious beauty.
We began decorating the yard with fancy grass donated by a benefactor (and fan of this blog) who had an abundance in her own yard. Ornamental grasses are like hostas in that way: easy to divide and share.
Tyler planted this gift in a clump just off our patio. In late summer, beautiful pink seedheads decorate the tops. When the sun catches them, it’s like jewelry.
Last summer, Uncle Al gifted us with some more ornamental grass, this type with variegated leaves. Some of it, we planted outside the patio, to enhance a corner of the church.
More of these variegated variety, Uncle Al planted for us on another corner of the property. Here it camouflages some long forgotten and no longer useful utility pole. Tyler says it belongs to AT&T, probably not the current amalgamation but something closer to American Telephone & Telegraph (ha, ha, the telegraph, how quaint).
Here’s a close-up of the variegation-—yellow and green stripes.
Ornamental grasses can add big statement to your landscaping. According to the Extension Service, ornamental grasses can be planted in the fall or spring, so maybe now’s the time to dream up where you might plant some in your yard so you, too, can marvel in their beauty.
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Today’s headline is a quote from Frederic Chopin, a Polish-born pianist and composer.
Chatting with a friend the other day about 2020, she said, “It was a complete waste for me. I accomplished nothing.”
I pressed her on this pessimism, and she managed to find a few flecks of gold in the mining pan, but for many of us, 2020 was an outlier, and we’re all glad it’s in the rearview mirror. As an introvert who already worked at home and didn’t get sick, I found the year of the corona virus to be simply weird, not terrible. But I personally know two people who died of COVID-19, and I’m just as tired as anyone of wearing a mask and socially distancing. Goodbye, 2020, you won’t be missed.
I updated my beautiful church sign when the ground was still green, not white, but who couldn’t use flowers in the wintertime, right? And the message applies to a new year. If we’re still lamenting the awfulness of 2020, maybe the arbitrary turn of the calendar page might help put it behind us. And if we’re worrying about what 2021 might bring—political chaos, vaccine delays, inconveniences, sickness, death—well, that’s wasted time already.
Better to live each day as it comes. Did you enjoy sleeping in, tucked in warm pillows and blankets? Is the sun shining? Do you have the extra time to remove the seeds from a fresh and juicy pomegranate? Can you appreciate the function of your legs, however fat and hairy they may be? (“I cried because I had no shoes,” said Helen Keller, “until I met the man who had no feet.”) If all the restaurants are closed, make a pot of soup. If you can’t have a party, write a letter. If you can’t go on vacation, read a book. Fill your lungs with crisp fresh air. Home is a sanctuary; savor it.
Living mindfully in the present. These are the acts that give me peace. And that’s what I’m wishing for you, too, in the new year.
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The quote that forms today’s headline is attributed to Mother Teresa, a nun and missionary who devoted her life to caring for the sick and poor.
We like a good cucumber or Tyler wouldn’t have planted three hills of them this year in our little garden.
Our cucumbers, planted in rich mushroom compost and fed with adequate rain, are producing, well, like cucumbers. That is to say, abundantly. We have picked at least a hundred cucs in the past three weeks, and that’s about 90 more than we can comfortably consume or pickle. Between Tyler’s uncle who is staying with us for a bit and me, we have harvested enough cucumbers to suit us, our friends at church and the patrons of the local food pantry (twice).
And still, there are blooms aplenty in there.
If the cucumber patch were like Charlie Brown’s pumpkin patch, the Great Cucumber would be rising from it anytime to bring toys to sincere and believing vegetable lovers everywhere.
Therefore, we’re sharing. Need a hummus dipper, tzatziki ingredient, salad topper or quick pickle? One hundred percent organic! Stop by and pick through the box at the end of our driveway. Enjoy!
A friend who visited recently suggested I might use “storm” as the inspiration for my next church sign message, and I obliged with this. Whether we’re experiencing thunderstorms or not, we’re all experiencing the storm of COVID-19. Many terrible things have come about because of the pandemic, there’s no doubt, but some rainbows have made a showing, too.
Just today, I heard a story on NPR about a guy who build a treehouse with his three kids with all the extra time on the family’s hands. Instead of a packed sports schedule, they have a treehouse now! And the experience of making it.
I’m trying to find the silver lining in this strange world, and maybe you can, too.
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Today’s headline is a not-so-veiled reference to a huge country music concert event that occurs every July—but not this one—just a few miles northwest of our old church.
As I’m sure you’re aware (because your calendar is bare and those obscure holidays in tiny type are more easily read these days), we observed the Summer Solstice on Saturday. Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year when we have the most daylight.
I celebrated with a colorfully flamboyant dress and a crown of fresh daisies. Oh, and a new message on the church sign.
I found this verse on the internet, so I can’t claim it as my own, but it rose to the surface when I googled “quote about breath as soul.” A yogi recently suggested our souls may actually be our breaths. Yogis are quite obsessed with breath. It got me thinking about a body without breath (as in, one lying in a coffin). Funeral goers often remark that the dead no longer looks like themselves. Well, the soul is gone, the faithful think. But the breath is gone, too.
If my soul is my breath, I value my breath more. This boring function of breathing that occurs 20,000 times a day suddenly becomes more sacred, doesn’t it? And if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our breath is important. We get home, toss away the face mask and take a deep breath. A deep, soulful breath.
Feel the sun on your soul, friends. Each day now in the Northern Hemisphere, we will lose precious minutes of sunlight, so relish in the sunshine.
Earlier this week, I complained (a little) about a few minor irritants of living in a church. Today, we turn that frown upside down as I regal you with the glorious parts of living in a church.
Turning a church into a residence isn’t for everyone, but it suits me fine. Our home is a sacred space from steeple to church basement, and I find it a pleasant oasis of peace. Here are three reasons why.
No. 1: The church sign is a platform for speaking truth (or telling jokes).
Not very many residences have a way to make announcements to the public, but my house does. I still love my church sign for writing encouraging or cryptic messages of my choosing for passers-by. Last year, my son-in-law goaded me into posting a funny, fake Bible verse on the sign. Well, it’s my sign. I can write whatever I want! So I did! Well, I try to keep it clean in respect for the elementary school children who spend recess on the playground across the street, but the sign is a fun, creative outlet for me.
No. 2: Music of all sorts sounds great in here.
Our great room, once the church sanctuary, was designed for sound. I can only imagine the choirs and parishioners singing along to a piano or organ. Or a soloist, standing in the front, mezmerizing the crowd. The acoustics are amazing. Tyler’s sound system makes the most of it. The Rolling Stones sound like they’re singing live, but instrumental music? Even better. The whole symphony makes a full-throated appearance when we play Handel. Someday, I think it would grand to have a band play on our balcony.
No. 3: The bell! Of course, the bell!
You knew the church bell would be on this list, didn’t you? I love ringing our bell for visitors or special days or just on Sundays. Lately, I’ve taken to ringing the bell for a minute at 9 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Because I can. And a bell brings a smile to people’s faces. No other home in town can boast of such a unique talent. As far as I know, the bell was erected when the church was built in 1891, making it an historic element of this village. When I go for a walk, I admire my bell as I reapproach the church. It’s tall and distinctive, and I love it.
Despite a deadly virus. Despite snow and severe weather. Despite a total lack of attention. Look what’s blooming.
Little purple petals, covering the ground.
A poof! of blooms.
Oh, those hardy tulips. Every year.
And hostas, too. As you can see, nothing keeps a dandelion down.
And here’s my favorite. A lone tulip, blooming in the front garden. A former member of the church planted this tulip who knows how many years ago. Tulips are such a beautiful reminder that what we do now matters later.
A big thank you to my photographer, St. Johnny, who obliged to finding evidence of flowers in my yard for me.
As lovely as they are, I have a few more flowers in my archive to share with you. These fresh flowers were given to us by the spiral stair proprietress for our open house last fall, a generous gift of congratulations. My mother, bless her heart, arranged them for me. Enjoy the bouquets.
A couple bathroom vanity bouquets. And my favorite…
Mom arranged this one in an heirloom art deco vase given to me by my mother-in-law.
We made good use of the bonus space under the eaves on the second story of Church Sweet Home.
On one side, I store office supplies and Christmas decorations.
On the other side of the roof, Tyler created a little playhouse for our grandchildren. It’s about four feet wide, seven feet long and five feet tall and accessible from the guest bedroom.
A window on the balcony side was the finishing touch on the playhouse. For the window frame, Tyler found a doored mirror at Ginger Blossom, one of our favorite local furniture stores. He removed the mirror, and in its place, the frame looks like a little wooden treasure box.
Look how thick that wall is! That’s one of the original exterior walls of the old Methodist Church. It’s dark inside there because the little room still requires proper lighting and some nice comfy carpeting. But what’s inside there right now has a story, too.
This couple was given to me by a dear woman, a new friend I knew not long enough. A talented sewing congregant at our church made Raggedy Anns & Andys for the annual bazaar, back when our church still had a women’s group and bazaars. (They were made from what must have been a widely circulated pattern because my own mother made me a vary similar pair– twice! Oh, how many times Raggedy Ann listened to my troubles!) My friend bought this particular pair for her son, when he son was still a little boy who might appreciate such things.
A couple weeks before our open house last fall, this friend called me up and invited me over because she “had something to give me.” I was honored to be granted an audience, let alone a gift, because my friend had long been battling a terminal illness and she was nearing the end. (When I first met her when I moved to town, I didn’t even realize she was ill, she carried herself with such optimism and grace.)
I paid her a visit, and she gave me these handmade treasures because she thought “they came from your church, so they belong there now.” I accepted them with gratitude and made a home for Raggedy Ann and Andy in the playhouse, to display during our open house. (By the way, Andy there is seated on another gift from another generous benefactor. That little chair, repainted to match my design scheme, was once a Sunday School chair at our church.)
Very sad for me (and anyone else who knew her), my friend died the day of our open house.
These dolls make me think of my friend Deanna, and whenever I think of her, I think of her fondly. She was wise and generous and very kind to think of me and support our home improvement project so enthusiastically.
“Life is a song. Sing it.
“Life is a game. Play it.
“Life is a challenge. Meet it.
“Life is a dream. Realize it.
“Life is a sacrifice. Offer it.
“Life is love. Enjoy it.”