Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 31, January 31

I love aprons. Although I rarely wear one (I avoid cooking whenever possible!), I appreciate the artistry and design that go into making one.

When I tried to trace my love for aprons to its root, I came up with my grandmother, Mamaw. Mamaw donned an apron first thing in the morning and didn't remove it until she went to bed.

Made of sturdy cotton, starched and pressed to within an inch of its life, her apron was a workhorse. There were no frills, no ruffles. Such fripperies had no place on a garment designed to protect clothes. With no washing machine for much of her life, she wore the same dress day after day. She taught her children--my mother, her sisters, and brother--the same practicality and frugality.

Mamaw's apron had deep pockets. In them could be found any number of surprises. A stray button. A marble. A trinket to delight a grandchild. The long skirt could be doubled over to serve as a makeshift potholder as she removed something from the black pot-bellied stove ... and it could wipe away a child's tears.

Mamaw was no steel magnolia. She was pure steel. Weathering the hardships of the Great Depression, the death of her husband, and countless other challenges, she still made certain her four children attended school, went to church, and learned to work. Her apron defined her because it defined her love for her family.

So, for today, I am grateful for aprons ... and for Mamaw.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 30, January 30

Today is Sunday, the Sabbath for millions of people around the world. In a few minutes, I will go upstairs and dress in Sunday clothes in preparation for going to church. From the time I was a small child, my parents taught me that when we go to church, we dress in "our best."

In today's world, where casual Friday has become casual Monday through Friday, where an emailed "Thanx" has replaced a hand-written thank-you note, where good manners are a way of the past, such thinking seemed old-fashioned, even antiquated.

Yet, I cling to the notion of "Sunday clothes" as a way of showing reverence for the Lord and for His house. A children's song contains the words "Reverence is more than just quietly sitting. It's thinking of Father above."

"Reverence is more than just quietly sitting." What a simple but profound concept. The dictionary tells us that to revere is to honor, to love. If I am to honor and to love the Lord, should I not dress in a way that shows that honor and love? Certainly, there are other ways, more important ways to show that love than by how I dress. How I treat others, how I conduct my daily life are but a few. Still, I cannot dismiss the idea that dressing in "my best" when I attend church is crucial.

So, for today, I am grateful for Sunday clothes.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 29, January 29

Generations ago, houses had large porches. Families and friends gathered there, to talk, to gossip, to connect. Houses today typically have small porches. The porch of our house is hardly more than a few steps. Still, I enjoy sitting there, snatching a few moments here and there to simply be.

When our children were young, my husband and I sat on the front porch watching our children as they rode bikes, played ball, skated down the driveway. We waved to neighbors and caught up with each other's lives.

We continue the practice today, but it is our kitty whom we watch play. Since she is declawed, we can't let her be outside on her own so we take her out for playtime. We smile as she stalks through the grass to find a bug or chase a dandelion puff. (I can see you rolling your eyes and thinking, "You take your cat out for playtime?" Yes. What can I say? We're absolutely silly over that little creature.)

I wave to a neighbor as he walks his dog, and we laugh over our devotion to our pets. I watch the play of leaves in the breeze and eagerly look for any sign that the tulips and daffodils might start to poke their way through the winter-hardened dirt.

Porches, large or small, are still places to connect. To nature. To people. To ourselves.

Porches serve another purpose as well. During the holidays, porches make convenient places to leave surprises. One grim year, when my husband's fledgingly business was struggling and we were exisiting on a spotty food storage and love, we found a box of goodies on our porch early one morning. Inside were a turkey and all the fixings for a special dinner, including homemamde bread and pies. Our family has made similar use of porches, leaving anonymous treats there.

So, for today, I am grateful for porches.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 28, January 28

More than thirty years ago, Hollywood made a movie entitled "Ordinary People." Though I never saw the movie, the title intrigued me. How could a movie with such a prosaic sounding subject be interesting, I wondered.

Since then I have grown more aware of the ordinary people who enrich my life and that of others simply through the way they live their lives.

Ours is a modest neighborhood, made up of hard-working people. They go to work every day to support their families. They mow their yards in the summer, rake the leaves in the fall, shovel snow from the sidewalks in the winter, and plant flowers in the spring. They attend their children's football games, dance programs, and piano recitals. They vote in every election. They serve on school boards, volunteer in the community, and attend political caucuses. They sit through PTA meetings because they care about their children's schools. They bring meals to families who have suffered a loss. They serve in their churches wherever they are needed.

There are no movie stars, no professional athletes, no politicians, no one who would be invited as a guest on the Oprah show among these people. There are no demands for the spotlight. In fact, most of them would shun the spotlight if it were to be turned on them.

These are the people who are there with offers of babysitting when a family of five has another baby. These are the people who shovel the walks of a widow. These are the people who take in a neighbor's mail when the neighbor is on vacation. These are the people who give an elderly friend a ride to the doctor or the grocery store.

These are the people who make the world a better place.

So, for today, I am grateful for ordinary people.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 27, January 27

In an earlier post, I talked about the quilts I had inherited from my mother, quilts stitched during the Great Depression, fashioned from scraps and flour sacks. These quilts would never win a prize at a county fair. The stitching is uneven in places, the corners of the squares not aligned with exacting precision.

Early in her career, Barbara Streisand was advised to have her nose fixed. Her less-than-perfect snoz was deemed a drawback to her career. She refused and went on to become a superstar.

Pearls did not start out as luminescent gems. Instead, they began as a blemish, an irritant to the oyster, who covered it over with layers of shell to form the beautifiul gem that is so sought after.

What do quilts, Barbara's nose, and pearls have in common? Imperfection. They are all imperfect, yet all possess a unique kind of beauty.

Would I trade my mother's quilts for perfectly stitched ones mass produced by a manufacturer? No. Would Barbara trade her snoz for a perfectly sculpted one? No. (I'm not sure about the oyster so I'll leave that to your imagination.)

Our appearance-obsessed society tells us that unless something is perfect, it should be thrown away. Perfect clothes, perfect bodies, perfect houses--we are bombarded by the images until we grow dissatisfied with what we have, what we are. Artificial standards of beauty assault us with every commercial, every magazine, every internet site.

Where will this quest for perfection lead? Some cultures discard babies who are born with defects. I was born with one leg several inches shorter than the other. Should my parents have tossed me away?

God judges us by a different standard, asking if we have cared enough, if we have loved enough. Never has He asked us if we have been perfect enough.

So, for today, I am grateful for imperfection, both in quilts and in people.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 26, January 26

As I've mentioned before, I am a writer. You will have never heard of me unless you know me personally. That is not modesty, only simple truth. You may recall the television show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." A show featuring me could rightly be called "Lifestyles of the Poor and Obscure."

Rejection is a way of life for many writers. A writer quickly develops a thick skin or gets out of the business. On one day, not too long ago, I received eleven rejections. The following day, I received seven. I tried to see that as progress.

Rejections used to come through the mail. Writers send in SASEs (self-addressed stamped envelopes) with each submission so that the editor can more easily reject them. My young daughter once asked me, "Mom, why do you send yourself letters?" I explained that writers are weird. She accepted that with a wise nod.

Now, rejections arrive via email. Again, I try to see that as progress.

Most of us have experienced rejection at some point in our lives. A scholarship not won. A job you thought you were perfect for that didn't come through. A raise in salary not given. We weather these because we have no choice and move on.

There is another One who also experienced rejection. He was rejected by His own people. Eventually, they crucified Him. However, Christ's love for His people never wavered.

With more than a tad of self-righteousness, I thought to myself, "I have never rejected the Lord." Then, in a moment of brutal self-honesty, I realize that I have rejected Him.

Every time I am less than kind to someone else, I reject Him. Every time I fail to obey a commandment, I reject Him. I resolve to do better, then find myself slipping into old behavior. I try again, knowing He will accept my humble and inadequate efforts.

So, for today, I am grateful for the Lord, Who, despite my weaknnesses, has never rejected me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 25, January 25

Today I have a number of chores to accomplish. Some are more palatable than others. On days when I feel industrious, I tackle the more difficult tasks first, then reward myself with the pleasurable ones. On my lazy days, which are far more numerous, I start with the easy ones and work my way up. I suppose I'm not much different from many other people.

I frequently find myself grumbling over chores and responsibilities. In fact I have raised grumbling to an art form. Still, at the end of completing a task, I feel a certain satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment that boosts my self-esteem.

I wonder about those individuals who have nothing which needs to be done, no one who needs them, no one who depends upon them. What must their lives be like? Do they flit from one meaningless activity to another?

The proliferation of reality shows on television baffles me, particularly those which spotlight people whose only claim to fame is that they are famous. What do the Kardashians do beside put on too much makeup and wear obscenely expensive clothes? What does Paris Hilton do other than to behave selfishly and thoughtlessly? What must they think about themselves when they realize that they have created nothing, produced nothing, contributed nothing?

Would anyone's life be less if these people stopped doing what they are doing? What a sad commentary.

Despite my grumbling, I realize that work is a blessing. Knowing that I have something to get up for in the morning is a blessing. Knowing that others depend upon me is a blessing. Knowing that I have a strong body which is able to work is a blessing.

So, for today, I am grateful for work and things that have to be done.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 24, January 24

I love pansies. I especially love winter pansies which defy the cold and snow to brighten even the dreariest days. I love their saucy faces of purple and gold.

(A personal note: In a children's song book, there is a song entitlted "Little Purple Pansies." When our oldest daughter, Alanna, was three years old, she sang "Little Purple Panties." It is one of those sweet memories that I take out and hold close to my heart.)

Pansies are a humble flower. Unlike the more showy roses, pansies require that you bend close to appreciate their beauty. They put me in mind of some special people.

A lady in our church serves faithfully in the nursery, lovingly tending the under-three-year-old children so that their parents can go to class. She willingly gives up going to the adult classes in favor of reading stories and singing songs to these smallest of God's children.

Another woman, whose own children are now grown, reads to preschool children every week. She does this without recompense, her only "salary" that of the joy she finds in sharing her love of reading.

A man gives of his time and means to work with the eleven-year-old scouts in our church. He is never happier than when he is teaching them, inspiring them, preparing them to go on and become Eagle Scouts.

Each of these individuals perform these small acts of love without fanfare, without seeking the spotlight. Each has defied personal challenges to serve others.

So, for today, I am grateful for winter pansies which bloom where they are planted ... and for people who do the same.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 23, January 23

I grew up in a family where prayer was a part of life. We prayed in the mornings, at every meal, in the evenings. Prayer was not only taught, but practiced.

I am ashamed to admit, though, that I took the gift of prayer for granted. Too frequently my prayers were offered in a perfunctory manner as I thanked the Father for blessings and then asked Him for yet more. I prayed, but I didn't truly believe in the power of prayer.

It wasn't until I was much older that I began to see prayer for what it really is: a two-way communication with the Father, where I could not only pour out my heart to Him but that He could and would answer me as well.

My prayers took on new meaning as I spent more time listening and less time talking. After offering a prayer, I spent time on my knees as the Spirit whispered to me. When circumstances rendered it impossible to get to my knees and utter a prayer aloud, I prayed silently and discovered that the Father's voice can be heard above the clatter and clutter of the world--if I but listen.

So, for today, I am grateful for prayer ... and for a Father who loves me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 22, January 22

Last week I wrote of my father. I then realized that I should have waited until today, his birthday, to pay tribute to him. Please bear with me as I indulge myself and write about him again.

My father would be the first to call himself an ordinary man. He remained modest, even humble, about his accomplishments.

At the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the Navy and was sent to Washington, DC. Though he had skills that would have allowed him to stay behind a desk, he volunteered to go overseas and was deployed to the Pacific Theater. During that time, two of his brothers died. The Red Cross offered to send him home, but he refused, believing he was needed where he was.

He was an ordinary man.

After returning from the war, he went to school, graduated with honors, and attended law school. He obtained a job with the Department of Justice where he rose to the rank of GS-16, the highest rating in the government at that time.

He was an ordinary man.

He and my mother cared for the widows and elderly in their church, taking them to doctors' appointments, to the grocery store, for a meal at a restaurant. Anyone who was alone at Thanksgiving or Christmas or other holidays knew they would find a place at the McBride table.

He was an ordinary man.

Yes, my father was an ordinary man, one who did extraordinary things.

So, for today, and for every day, I am grateful for my father.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 21, January 21

Today is my brother-in-law, Rolf's, birthday. Rolf would have been 60 today. He passed away a little over a year ago.

If I had to choose one word to describe Rolf, it would be WORK. Rolf loved to work. More, he needed to work. He worked in the yard. He worked in the house. He worked in his law office. He worked in the church.

Rolf and his parents escaped eastern Germany before the Berlin Wall went up. They arrived in America with little more than a fierce determination and faith in the Lord. Rolf watched his parents forge a new life in a new land.

Their example stood him in good stead when he served a mission for his church, graduated from college, and went on to law school. During this time, he met my sister, Carla, and fell head-over-heels in love with her. From that time on, his every thought and action was dictated by his love for her and their family.

They stood beside each other when they lost an infant daughter to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Faith that they would be re-united with her someday and their love for each other saw them through that terrible time.

In his last few months on this earth, Rolf did what he did best: he worked. He set up a family trust, making sure Carla and his family would be provided for financially. No detail escaped his attention, including having new tires put on her car.

The media delights in spotlighting Hollywood stars, athletes, and politicians who carelessly disregard their marriage vows, who dishonor their wives and their families with their selfishness. Rolf stands as a shining example of a man who kept his vows, who never tarnished his love.

So, for today, I am grateful for my brother-in-law, my brother.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 20, January 20

I love quilts. In particular, I love old quilts. I love the look of them, the feel of them. I love the way those who stitched the quilts worked with what they had--the scraps and pieces of living.

I am fortunate to have several quilts inherited from my mother, ones she and her mother and sisters made during the Great Depression. There was no money for new fabrics so they cut up old shirts and dresses to provide material. One quilt bears the words from a cloth flour sack. Nothing was wasted. Ever.

These quilts are now eighty years old. I would never think of getting rid of them. They are precious, representing the history and art of "my people," my family. Each is unique, fashioned from imagination and ingenuity.

As I finger the fabric of a sun-bonnet quilt, I am put in mind of a dear friend. Like the quilts, Dorothy was unique. Though nearly thirty years separated us, we became fast friends. We shared an off-beat sense of humor that occasionally baffled others. We told each other naughty jokes and laughed over the inanities of life.

Dorothy had weathered the deaths of three husbands, a child, and numerous operations, but she retained an enthusiasm for life and for living to the fullest. On her eightieth birthday, she threw herself a birthday party. She arrived wearing red, white, and blue, a tribute to the country she loved. Though she frequently was in pain, Dorothy defied it--and her years--by insisting that life was good.

Over the years, the quilts have faded, the fabric now fragile, the hand stitching undone in places. Dorothy's skin was also fragile, throwing the webbing of fine lines into stark relief. Scars from the stitching of various operations puckered her skin, but she viewed them as badges of honor and delighted in showing them off--to everyone.

In a culture which prizes youth and beauty above all else, Dorothy served as a reminder that age gives a diferent kind of beauty, one that is far more lasting than silicone implants and "nips and tucks." Dorothy passed away a few years ago, but her example remains with me.

So, for today, I am grateful for quilts which have stood the test of time and ... and for people who have done the same.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 19, January 19

I love music. I love the juxtaposition of notes that make up everything from concertos to guitar riffs. I love the melding of voices that work together in choirs. In short, I love everything about music.

Sadly, I lack any musical talents of my own, save for a very minor skill on the piano. I cannot carry a tune. I cannot play an instrument. I cannot compose music. Despite this lack, or perhaps because of it, my appreciation for those who possess these talents is endless.

Music touches my soul in ways that mere words cannot. It reaches inside me and squeezes my heart. At church services, I feel the Spirit most while the congregation or choir is singing. How can anyone not be moved by the magnificent "How Great Thou Art?" I am no less moved by the children singing "I Am a Child of God."

It is not only spiritiual music that resonates with me. I have seen "Phantom of the Opera" four times and discover new depths in it and fresh appreciation for it every time. I marvel at Andrew Lloyd Webber and his genius in bringing the tragic story alive.

So, for today, I am grateful for music and those who give life to it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 18, January 18

Yesterday I wrote about Benjamin Franklin and libraries. It seems I am not done with Ben. His accomplishments--from inventing bifocals to the rocking chair, from his work with electricity to serving as America's ambassador to France--continue to fill me with awe.

One of his lesser known roles was as postmaster. As postmaster, Franklin established the first national communications network. What a boon he gave the fledgling nation, to connect people over vast distances.

In today's world of emailing and texting, blogging and Facebook, the humble postage stamp frequently gets lost. Don't misunderstand me: I love the ease of email, and, obviously, I love blogging.

But I remain a devotee of sending cards the old-fashioned way, handwritten with a stamp placed in the upper right hand corner of the envelope. I take pleasure in choosing the perfect card to send to a friend. Is there anything more thrilling than receiving a real letter in the mail? They serve as beacons of intimacy in an assortment of impersonal junk mail, bills, and political announcements.

Letters are an intensely personal form of communication. I saved letters from my parents (both deceased) and re-read them, connecting with my mother and father all over again. I save cards from friends who care. I save cards from my children who express their love.

So, for today, I am grateful, once again, for Ben Franklin ... and for the postage stamp.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 17, January 17

Today many people are celebrating Martin Luther King's birthday. Because I frequently march to the beat of a different drummer, I am celebrating the birthday of a different American.

Benjamin Franklin was born January 17, 1706. Called the "First American," Franklin was an author, statesman, scientist, and designer. For book-lovers like myself and others, though, he may best be remembered for establishing the first lending library in America.

As a child, I haunted the public library. In it, I found a treasure trove of wonders. Through books I was anything I wanted to be. They took me from my introverted self into unknown and unexplored worlds. I came home with bags full of books and returned the following week for more.

My mother checked out reproductions of famous paintings, exposing our family to the works of the great masters. As a young mother I took my children to the library for story hour. They sat enraptured as dedicated librarians read to them.

Libraries of today are an Aladdin's Cave of activities, lectures, and books--always books. Do you want help in preparing your taxes? Do you want to attend a lecture on a trip down the Amazon? Do you want to check out the latest in music and movies? Do you want to read Grisham's current bestseller? Head to your library.

Do you want to give your children the gift of loving to read? Do you want to treat them to trips to the Orient, to the South Pole, to ancient Greece? Do you want to enrich their lives in untold ways? Then head to the library.

So, for today, I am grateful for Benjamin Franklin and his vision.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 16, January 16

I have always been fascinated by hands. I am fascinated by the look of them, the shape of them, the feel of them. I am fascinated by how they function, how the thumbs and fingers work together to perform tasks as simple as holding a pencil and as complicated as playing a piano concerto.

Some people believe that you can tell a person's character by what is written in their face. I believe that a person's character can be found in their hands, by the marks and lines and blemishes that come from living and loving.

One of my favorite sculptors, Mark Hopkins, fashioned a beautiful work depicting the Lord's hands creating the earth. The idea and process of creating--whether painting a picture, composing a piece of music, or designing a PC (printed circuit) board--fill me with wonder. How did DaVinci paint his masterpieces? How did Handel compose the Messiah? How does my husband design PC boards?

Because I can do none of the above, I am in awe of those who can. I am in awe of their hands. More, I am in awe of their minds and hearts which allow them to see beyond what is there.

A few days ago I wrote about my father's hands. They bore the scars of a lifetime of working and helping and creating a noble life. Another Father's hands also bear scars. Those scars are evidence of His love for us, of His sacrifice that made the Atonement possible.

So, for today, I am grateful for hands that create and for the hands of the Creator.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 15, January 15

Two nights ago, my sister, Carla, and I pulled into a restaurant's parking lot to meet a friend for dinner. The lot was full, and Carla waited patiently for a departing patron to back out of a parking spot. At that moment, another driver, who had just arrived, pulled into the spot.

Her rudeness startled us. I caught a glimpse of the driver, a well-coiffed, well-dressed woman and found myself thinking, "Where are your manners?"

I compared her thoughtlessness to that of another driver on a different occasion, who allowed me to pull in front of him when I needed to change lanes. I waved my thanks through the rear-view mirror, and he waved back.

Manners are more than meaningless gestures, as some people claim. Manners--both good and bad--define us in important ways. How we treat others is a mark of character, or lack of the same. Good manners smooth the rough bumps of life.

When growing up, I was taught the importance of saying, "Please" and "Thank you." Such simple words. As I grew older, I began to better understand the significance of them.

Are they not the same words we use when addressing our Father in Heaven in prayer?
We thank Him for the blessings He has bestowed upon us, and we ask Him for His continued blessings.

I am certainly not a paragon. Like the lady I described above, I am sometimes thoughtless. Then I try again, asking the Father for His help in doing better.

So, for today, I am grateful for people who touch my life with their kindness.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 14, January 14

I cannot describe my father without thinking of his hands. They were the hands of the farmboy he had been, bearing the marks of ploughing fields, sawing wood, milking cows. As the oldest boy (14) in a family of six children during the Great Depression, he assumed the duties of a man when his father died in 1932.

He grasped at any opportunity to "better himself" and to provide for his family. Working for the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), he sent home money to his widowed mother.

After serving in WWII, he went to school on the GI Bill. Sacrifice and hard work on both his and my mother's part allowed him to attend law school. His hands now turned themselves to working as a part-time cook. He obtained his law degree and earned a comfortable living, but his hands--and his heart--remained busy.

Though he could afford a few luxuries, he never sought them for himself. The idea of spending money on himself would have baffled him.

My hands have never sawed wood, ploughed a field, or milked a cow. Instead, they play the piano, work the computer, write books. Whatever I accomplish is due to the legacy of my parents who taught me early the value--and blessings--of hard work.

So, for today, I am grateful for my father ... and all the fathers who lead by love.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 13, January 13

I cannot think of my mother without remembering smells: sun-dried sheets--she was well into her 50s before she had her first clothes dryer; homemade bread--redolent with yeast, whole wheat, and honey; Estee Lauder's Youth Dew cologne--it was her one indulgence.

My mother grew up in Tennessee's Appalachia during the Great Depression. Upon graduating from high school, she dreamed of attending college. It was not to be. Instead she went to secretarial school, obtained a job in Washington, DC, and sent money home to her family.

She married my father, and, when I was born, left her government job and stayed at home. She was there when my sister and I left for school in the morning and again when we returned home in the afternoon. At the time I did not realize what a precious gift that was. When I had my own children, her example influenced my choice to be at home with my children.

After my sister and I left home, she started substitute teaching at the local high school. She read what her students were reading and entertained them with her lively wit. Learning remained a passion with her. Always.

So, for today, I am grateful for my mother ... and for mothers everywhere.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 12, January 12

I love books. I love the feel of them. I love the smell of them. I love the sound they make as I flip through the pages. I love the way they look marched across a shelf or piled on a table.

My love affair with books began early in my life. Reading has always been a passion with me. In fact, I cannot remember a time that I wasn't reading. Nancy Drew, Jane Eyre, Little Women, Tom Sawyer all found their way into my life and mind.

Nancy Drew gave way to Perry Mason and Agatha Christie, the grande dame of mystery. Books took me on trips to foreign lands. They allowed me to time-travel to Twain's 19th century Americana and Dickens' Victorian England. They dared me to think beyond the confines of my own experience; they challenged me to dream.

Books encourage me to test new ideas, to try on roles. In books, I am an explorer, a warrior, a diplomat, a leader.

When my children were born, I read to them, even when they were too young to understand the words. We read from children's classics and Bible stories. We read for the pleasure of hearing the sounds that words make when put together in lyrical form. We read for the sheer joy of it.

Now that I have grandchildren, I read to them. We are princesses. We are dragons. We are ballerinas. We are robots. It matters not so much what we read but that we read.

Books occupy every room in my home. In planning an addition to the house, I told my husband that I wanted built-in bookshelves.

So, for today, I am grateful for books and the worlds they open to each of us.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 11, January 11

Today I padded into the bathroom, used the facilities, washed my hands, brushed my teeth, and splashed water on my face. Later, I will do a load of laundry and run the dishwasher. All of these activities require water. I am ashamed to admit that I rarely give thought--or thanks--for the abundance of clean, abundant water that is available to me with the turn of a faucet or the push of a button.

As I related in a previous post, my father's ancestors settled in Arizona's Gila Valley in the 19th century. Water was scarce, more precious than gold. Irrigating crops was a laborious undertaking. A water-master was assigned the task of allotting water rights and settling disputes.

With all the technological advances we enjoy today, we still rely on life-giving water. Emergency preparedeness plans always include bringing containers of water. Without it, no other supplies will help in sustaining life.

There is another kind of water that is also life-giving. In talking with the Samarian woman at the well, Christ describes Himself as the "living waters." His Word gives life--eternal life--to anyone who will partake of it.

So, for today, I am grateful for clean water ... and for the living waters of Christ.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 10, January 10

I have a confession to make: I don't iron. Ever. I remove clothes from the dryer, promptly, gave them a hard shake, and consider it good enough. Those garments too hopelessly wrinkled, I donate to a thrift shop, hoping they will find a home with someone with more ambition, energy, and patience than I possess.

I have a second confession to make: liberal applications of Vaseline not withstanding, I have wrinkles. On my face. While I'm not particularly fond of these grooves and valleys, neither am I ashamed of them. They represent a lifetime of living: the furrows on my forehead started as I waited for a teenage daughter to return home at night; the lines fanning from the corners of my eyes were earned during time spent in the sun; the brackets around my mouth are the result of laughing with my friends.

No, I am not ashamed of my wrinkles.

I just re-read what I wrote and realize that I sound like a female version of Columbo with his rumpled raincoat and hangdog face. Oh, well.

Though my blog is only ten days old, I am discovering some recurring themes, aside from the stated one of gratitude. One such theme is appearance versus substance.

The daughter of some acquaintances received upon her graduation from high school the gift of breast augmentation (a boob job in the vernacular) from her parents. I question the wisdom of this "gift." (This beautiful eighteen year old girl also has hair extensions and artificial nails.)

I have no problem with people wanting to look their best. (After all, Lady Clariol and I are on first-name basis.) We all desire to look as good as we can. That is only natural and right.

However, I do have a problem with the values implied in this gift. Is this child-woman now pondering what should she do next, questioning what else is wrong with her? What will happen, when, age, inevitably, has its way and her beauty fades? Will she have the strength of character to accept that and find other reasons to feel good about herself? Or will she be constantly searching for the next "fix?"

For her sake, I hope not.

So, for today, I am grateful for wrinkles. I earned every one of them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 9, January 9

A few weeks ago, I drove a seventy-ish friend to the grocery store. She made her purchases and, while checking out, asked the checker to give her ten dollars worth of quarters. The checker did so. When the transaction was completed, the checker handed her a $10 bill as well. My friend gently pointed out the mistake. Flushed, the woman thanked her for her honesty.

Like many seniors, my friend lives on a fixed income. An extra ten dollars would come in handy, but it never occurred to her to keep the money. Her integrity could not be bought.

Contrast this with the actions of politicians, large company owners, and celebrities.
Too many of our country's leaders demonstrate on a daily basis that their integrity can be bought--with junkets, privileges, and bribes. The CEOs of major businesses embezzle from their investors, robbing hundreds of thousands of people of their hard-come-by retirement funds. Celebrities flaunt their affairs with a wink and a smirk.

The elastic morals of such people who claim the spotlight too often convince me that such behavior is not only accepted but is also to be expected. My friend's unwavering honesty was a much-needed reminder that individuals who respect themselves and others do exist.

So, for today, I am grateful for honest people and the example they set.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 8, January 8

I admit it: I wear an underwire bra. Age, gravity, and children have taken their toll.

My bra, a miracle of modern engineering and micro-fiber, has been known to set off the sensors as I go through airport security. (And, really, does a middle-aged Mormon grandmother with bad feet, arthritic hips, pasty white skin, and dyed blonde hair represent a threat--to anyone? But that's a story for another day.)

I am grateful for my bra, which provides much-needed support and keeps "the girls" in place. I can hear you thinking now: why is she nattering on about her bra? Aren't there more important subjects she could write about? Please bear with me as I meander to the point.

As mentioned in the prologue to this blog (December 31, 2010), the last five years have tested me in ways in which I never wanted to be tested. They have caused my resolve to falter, my strength to crumble, my heart to shatter.

I am not so arrogant ... or so foolish ... as to believe that it was any virture on my part that saw me through the rough times. What has gotten me through are what I like to call the "3 Fs": faith, family, and friends. I have been blessed with remarkable friends. Like my bra, they support me. (No, I am not being facetious here.)

My friends hold me and uphold me. They strengthen me. They sustain me. They succor me. Their humor lightens my heavy heart. Their compassion acts as balm of Gilead to my wounded soul. They rejoice when I rejoice; they weep when I weep. And, through it all, they are simply there. Always.

So, for today, I am grateful for underwire bras which support me ... and friends who do the same.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 7, January 7

I am a baby-boomer, growing up in the 50s and 60s. Computers belonged to the future. We had never heard of iPods, iPads, or the internet. (Notice how all of those being with the letter I?)

We didn't have language labs, media centers, or cafe-auditoriums. We brought our lunch from home, wore dresses every day to school, and minded our manners.

What I remember most from those years are the teachers: Mrs. Little, my kindergarten teacher. Miss Pease and Miss Bush, who taught second and third grade respectively. Mrs. Kennedy, who taught fourth grade and navigated my class through the first presidential election I can remember. Mrs. Biedler, who taught sixth grade and challenged the class to read every day.

These special teachers taught me reading, writing, arthrimetic, and so much more. They taught me how to think. More, they taught me how to dream.

Fast forward two decades. I was married, had a young family of three little children, and pulled one of my dreams out of cold storage. I wrote a short story and sent it to a magazine. To my amazement and delight, it was accepted. An editor liked my story! What's more, she sent me a check for it. Someone had paid me to write. It was a heady feeling.

I continued writing, selling a story here, a story there. My mother wrote to say that Miss Bush called her to tell her that she had read one of my stories in a magazine. I was touched that she remembered me and took the time to contact my mother.

Our family grew to include two more children. I kept writing, eventually selling a book, then another. All the while I remembered those teachers who instilled in me a love for words and how they could be strung together to form sentences, paragraphs, pages, stories.

So, for today, I am grateful for teachers who care enough to inspire.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 6, January 6

My husband and I raised five children. Our home was a cacaphony of noise--raised voices, video games, piano practice, video games, trumpet practice, video games, flute practice, video games. You get the picture.

I reveled in our family, in the activity and sheer energy of our three sons and two daughters. At the same time, I knew I needed moments of quiet. My family quickly learned that Mom needed her "alone time."

Like many writers, I am an introvert. Recently I learned a new definition of introverts: An introvert is one who gathers energy from solitude. (An extrovert, on the other hand, gathers energy from being around others.) While I enjoy attending church, parties, and other events, I need slices of quiet every day to recharge myself.

Over the years, I've learned that controlling my outside environment is often easier than controlling my own unruly thoughts. Negative, fearful, and sometimes downright snarky thoughts impinge upon my mind, making my quest for quiet impossible.

One of my favorite hymns is "Be Still, My Soul," by Katharina von Schlegel.

"Be still my soul:
The Lord is on thy side;
With patience bear
Thy cross of grief or pain."

The beautiful words remind me that the Lord is always there and is, indeed, on my side. When I acknowledge that assurance, my thoughts quiet and my mind is at rest.

So, for today, I am grateful for quiet. In the outside world. And in my soul.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 5, January 5

I am not a fancy person. My clothes come from garage sales, as do the furnishings in my home. As previously mentioned, I drive an 18 year old car. It is no wonder that I am equally frugal (some would say cheap) in my skin care.

I live in Colorado where the dry climate is hard on aging skin like mine. Budget and principle prohibit me from spending $100 or more on fancy creams that come in fancy packages. What do I use instead?


Yes, you heard me right. I use good, old-fashioned petroleum jelly on my face at night. It fills in the cracks and pores, much like spackling fills in the cracks in drywall.

Vaseline, in its humble plastic jar, serves a myriad of other purposes as well. It soothes chapped lips and hands. It protects a baby's bottom from diaper rash. It can loosen a stubborn ring that refuses to come off.

Why am I going on about Vaseline? I'm not a spokesperson for it. I'm certain the manufacturers would want someone far younger and prettier to represent it.

The reason is simple: Vaseline reminds me of some special people in my life, people who quietly serve without drawing attention to themselves. A friend who sees a need in another and sets about to fill it. A cousin who lovingly tends four grandchildren and calls her home "The Granny Farm." A lady in our church who sees to the needs of her seven small children with unfailing good humor and unflagging energy. My sister, who, despite problems of her own, is the first to volunteer to help when someone is in trouble. My husband, who sends flowers not only to me but to this same sister. The people in our church who serve wherever they are called to without fanfare and without recompense.

Contrast these "Vaseline people" to media stars and politicians whose every move is calculated to gain attention and notoriety. Grand gestures to charity are heralded with the "blowing of trumpets." Drunken sprees are heralded in the same manner. Nothing is done without an ulterior purpose.

So, for today, I am grateful for Vaseline ... and Vaseline people.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 4, January 4

It is now ten days past Christmas. During the previous month, I overindulged, as I always do, on honeyed ham and mashed potatoes, cheese platters and crackers, cookies and candies. In short, I ate too much.

The results are not pleasant: An out-of-shape body that refuses to get back into shape. No control top panty hose are going to help this particular problem. (And while we're on the subject of panty hose, how many of you have ever tried to fit in one-size-fits-all hose? Need I say more?)

So why am I grateful for my mis-shapen body?

Because, no matter how out of shape it is, I still have the strength to do what God intended it to do. I can still hold a grandchild, still comfort a grieving friend, still walk and enjoy the beautiful world our Father created.

This brings me, once more, to appearances vs. substance. In my case there is definitely too much substance, but let's move on from that unpleasant subject. Our culture continues to value the outward shell more than the inner spirit. Have you noticed the proliferation of makeover shows on television? Each one says, "You are not good enough as you are. You must be better. You must look better. You must conform to an artificial standard set by Hollywood stars, socialites, and other celebrities."

Do I really want to "Keep Up with the Kardashians?" In truth, I don't know who they are. Nor do I care.

I'm more interested in keeping up with my family. My friends. My God.

And so, for today, I am grateful for my body, out-of-shape though it is.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 3, January 3

My husband, Larry, and I have two aging cars, 12 and 18 years old. Like me, they are showing their age. Dings, scratches, and hail dimples (not unlike cellulite) mar their once shiny surfaces. Creaks and groans occasionally occur when they are started. Both are well past the 100,000 mile mark.

Why, then, am I thankful for these cars? Several reasons, actually.

First, the cars are paid for. As the children of children of the Great Depression, Larry and I were taught to "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." We chose used cars, paid cash, and never made a car payment on them.

Secondly, the cars perform a function. They take us to church, to work, to visit family. They allow us to perform errands, to drive a friend to the grocery store or doctor, to attend garage sales! In short, they do what they are supposed to do.

Lastly, they represent substance. Though they have lost much of their comely appearance, they remind me that substance trumps appearance every time. In a world where appearances are all-important, I am grateful for the reminder that in things, and in people, the inner workings are far more important than the outward trappings.

In this regard, I think of my father's hands. They were gnarled, the veins raised, the fingers bent, but they were beautiful to me. They symbolized a lifetime of hard work and care.

So, for today, I am grateful for old cars.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 2, January 2

I'm currently away from my home in Loveland, Colorado and visiting my sister, who lives in Sandy, Utah. This is the land of the Mormon Taberncale Choir, Temple Square, and green Jello studded with pineapple chunks. (This is not a peculiarly Mormon dish, but we have raised it to an art form.) It is also the home of the inversion effect where a bowl of gray sits over the Salt Lake Valley during the winter months, defying any sunlight to pass through.

When errant rays of sun make their way through the gray, it is a cause of rejoicing. Yesterday, the sun dared to shine, gilding the recent snow until it glowed. I felt my spirits lift with every speck of gold radiating from above.

Doctors tell us that sunlight is an important and much-needed source of Vitamin D. My spirit tells me that it does much more than provide an essential vitamin. Sunlight is a blessing from God, a benediction upon the day. Without it, I feel anchorless.

I wondered why that should be so. Is it simply a case of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? Like many others, I suffer from that. Or could it be more?

I love to play with words. Anagrams, word searches, crossword puzzles--they all fascinate me. Could the word "sunlight" hold a deeper meaning? Could it be that "sunlight" is synonymous with "Sonlight?" That by basking in the sun, I am also basking in the Son? That I am feeling His love when the sun touches my face?

It is a question to ponder. Certainly this comparision is not original with me. Many have put forth the same metaphor. Yet I had never before applied it so intensely to my own life. (I'm a late starter in many ways.)

Sunlight. Sonlight.

So, for today, I am grateful for the sun. It goes without saying that I am always grateful for the Son.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 1, January 1

The New Year is traditionally a time to look forward, to make resolutions to live one's best life. However, today, I am looking back, specifically, back to those who have gone before and the legacy they have given me.

My father's ancestors traveled across the plains in the mid-nineteenth century for religious freedom. They settled in Utah, built a comfortable home, and started a new life. At directions from then President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young, they uprooted their family to journey to the Gila Valley of Arizona.

Gila monsters, sand, and hardship greeted them. Still, they persevered and established a settlement, began a freighting company, and built churches. A town, Hubbard, was named for my grandmother's family. Hard work and worship were their watchwords.

My mother's people (in the south, you don't say family but "people") dug in to the fertile soil of eastern Tennessee. With stubborn pride and a love for the Lord, they taught their children to work, to revere God, to serve in whatever way they could. My mother frequently related stories of growing up during the Great Depression. She and her sisters each had two dresses: one for school and one for church. These few clothes were not popped into an automatic washer but sponged off every night, made ready to wear for the next day. Thrift and making-do were a way of life.

My parents left little in the way of material goods, but they gave my sister and me and our families a legacy rich in service, faithfulness, and integrity.

So, today, I am grateful for the legacy of family, for those who have gone before.