Red, white and blue … and lavender

 

Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day, and the lilacs are heavy with fragrant blooms as they ought to be in late May. I have two more lilac bushes on my property that I didn’t realize were ours last year when I counted only one bush. Though choosing a favorite flower is a bit like choosing a favorite child, lilacs are among my favorite.

Memorial Day is for remembering and honoring people who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Stop, smell the lilacs and remember a soldier.

Advertisements

Don’t be a pansy

 

Memorial Day sign
Tyler planted some pansies beneath ye olde church sign earlier this week.

Teddy Roosevelt spoke these words in an address at the opening of his gubernatorial campaign for New York in 1898. He was a war hero, fresh from the Rough Riders’ Battle of San Juan Heights in Cuba during the war with Spain. Three years later, he would become president.

Our little church was just seven years old when Roosevelt was running for governor five states away.

I chose Roosevelt’s quote because it was appropriate for commemorating America’s fallen solders on Memorial Day but also because it reflects the greatness of our little renovation project, which demanded much effort, sacrifice and certainly courage.

Wishing you a blessed Memorial Day weekend that includes a moment to ponder the sacrifice of the soldiers who make it possible and the ways you can live up to such high ideals.

Why the bell rings? It rings for you (but also mostly for me)

The glut of holidays at the end of December had us ringing our church bell with regularity. Now that is it operational again, we welcome opportunities to use it.

We try to be respectful. It’s a bell in a former church, after all.

So far, no one has complained. At least to our faces.

We’ve been ringing to the bell once or twice or letting our guests do so whenever we have a tour of the church, which occurs with some regularity, maybe once a week. People are curious, and in some cases, our various contractors have enjoyed showing off their work here. So when we walk through the second floor, I will invariably yank on the bell pull to show off the unique feature of our home.

But for winter solstice–the shortest day of the year marking the beginning of winter–we ran the bell twelve times at sunset: 4:23 p.m. on December 21.

 

My birthday was December 23, so I rang it six times at noon (one for each decade and partial decade of my lifetime). We discussed ringing it once for every year, but that certainly would have ticked off the neighbors! (My father, who helps at funeral services with his local funeral home, also objected to ringing it once for every year because that’s what some churches do at funerals; since I’m not dead yet, we didn’t want to commemorate that).

Of course, we felt compelled to ring our bell on Christmas Eve (6 p.m.) and Christmas Day (9 a.m.), so we did then, too.

Our belfry was quiet for a few days until New Year’s Eve. If ever there were an appropriate time to ring our bell at midnight, this was it! I sort of rang a church bell one other time on New Year’s Eve. My priest threw a “Y2K be damned!” party on December 31, 1999, and he let me and my then-husband ring the bell at midnight. Only the bells on the cathedral were electronic and operated by pushing buttons (still, that was exciting if only because January 1, 2000 arrived without any fanfare beyond midnight bells).

Tyler and I planned a small get-together that disintegrated when one of our guests came down with the flu, so it was just Tyler and me celebrating the new year in the church. Then, as is his wont, he turned in early. So ringing the bell was up to me. My father joked with me earlier in the day that he wasn’t going to visit me in jail if I got arrested for disturbing the peace.

I stayed awake with reruns of “Friends.” At 11:55 p.m., I crept upstairs. It was a warm night (for December), and I opened the belfry window so I could hear the bell better.

Instead of ringing the bell a certain number of times, I decided to ring it for a certain amount of time–one minute.

About halfway through the minute, I could popping sounds I hadn’t heard on the other days we rang the bell. I thought for a moment I had broken it! But then I realized I was hearing fireworks through the open window. (See! I wasn’t the only awake in our little town. Whew!)

When I was done, I looked through the belfry window at the now quiet scene below. No police cruisers had assembled.

Someone down the street yelled “Happy New Year! And thanks Methodist Church bell ringer!” I was stunned–and thrilled–that I had an audience. So I yelled “You’re welcome!” And they yelled “That was awesome!”

It was awesome, in the original meaning of the word: filled with awe. Not everyone gets to ring a real church bell at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I literally rang in the new year! I closed the window, turned off all the lights and sneaked into bed beside my husband, who was now wide awake. “Happy new year!” we wished each other.

I have no plans to ring the bell for any upcoming holidays (Tyler’s birthday isn’t until August). If you hear it ring, it’s because we have guests, and I’m showing off.

Generosity is the spirit of Christmas

Back in the 1980s, the annual Christmas bazaar held here at the old Methodist church was the place to be and be seen. Members of the church spent all year creating handmade goods to sell, and on the designated Saturday, people lined up outside the church down the street waiting for the bazaar to open so they could get their hands on these one-of-a-kind treasures.

One of those treasures has now returned to the old Methodist church, thanks to the generosity of a patron who wanted me to have a house-warming gift.

table cloth

My benefactor’s mother bought a hand-embroidered felt Christmas tree skirt, only she requested it not be cut for a skirt so she could use it as a tablecloth.

table cloth close

Embroidered families of teddy bears and toys of all sorts decorate the Christmas green background. White fringe adorns the edge. The detail is impressive; the characters are outlined in hand-sewn sequins.

table cloth closer up

What with all the cutting and sewing and bedazzling, it surely must have taken weeks to complete. The artist did not take the time to embroider her name (though maybe one of my readers might know who completed it).

For being more than thirty years old, it is in impressively good condition, and I am fortunate that my benefactor took such good care of it and it found its way home to me.

It decorates my sofa table this year with other meaningful and historically significant holiday decorations, sitting as it does beneath the treasured Christmas card tree I received many years ago now from a former boss and a small ceramic manger scene my grandmother gave me.

Thank you, Tammy!

Decorating the church for Christmas

More than a year ago, when we were trying to convince our loved ones we weren’t crazy for wanting to live in a church, I told my stepdaughter she should get on board because she would love the 18-foot Christmas tree we would put in the great room.

Well, it’s Christmastime, and we’re wanting to make good on our promises, but as it turns out 18-foot Christmas trees aren’t sold off the shelf at Home Depot. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Early last week, I stopped at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Meijer’s, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Pier 1, Kohl’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond looking for a big enough artificial Christmas tree suitable for our Church Sweet Home. Nope, na da, no, nix, nope, nope, nope, no.

Most people buy six-foot Christmas trees. Sometimes 7.5 or 8 feet tall. I found a 9-foot pencil tree at Home Depot. That was the biggest. But not quite big enough. We’d ruled out the 18-foot model; it turns out 12-feet tall (plus a star topper) would do in the corner where the ceilings were lower.

So once again, Tyler turned to the internet. We found a 12-foot Christmas tree on Wayfair that could be delivered in two days. And I had a coupon. Click, click, click, and we were the proud new owners of a Christmas tree with 7,480 tips that came in five parts.

If you thought finding a 12-foot tree was the hard part, you’d be wrong.

Try assembling a 12-foot Christmas tree. It took both of us three hours to fluff all those wiry tips. And we summoned You-Can-Call-Me-Al, who was staining our entryway steps, to stack Part VI on Part III of the tree (Part V was light enough for me to stack from the top of a 10-foot ladder). Fortunately, all the of lights worked when we were done.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I also needed the ladder to decorate the tree. But I got my workout in going up and down those rungs. Tyler helped hang 100 feet of ribbon, and I used four boxes of large silver ornaments, 18 white poinsettia blossoms, two feathery angels, one white peacock and every last white, silver, gold, blue and aquamarine ornament we owned or I could scavenge.

christmas tree decorated

christmas giftsAt the foot of the tree, all my Christmas gifts are wrapped in snowflake-accented craft paper with white ribbon. Instead of bows, I’m recycling a box of Christmas ornaments we unearthed when we demoed the church.

garland

wreath 1I also hung dozens of feet of lighted flocked garland at the feet of our balcony railing. Really happy with the effect. We hung wreaths in front of all the double windows in the great room. Like the tree, the garland and wreaths are accented with silver, gold and aquamarine Christmas ornaments. I’m just a little bit obsessed with flocking and glitter this year.

wreaths

Just when I thought I was finished decorating for Christmas, a new friend stopped by with one more Christmas decoration that, in a way, originated in our church. I’ll try share that with you later this week.