Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Our house is a very, very fine house, With two cats in the yard, Life use to be so hard, Now everything is easy cause of YOU"

The misery of selling a house. I can tell you that it is NO fun AT all. I’m a planner. I have an agenda and I always have lists everywhere. As a person my emotions are volatile and my art oriented brain tends to think a little wacky so I like order everywhere else in my life. I like steady. It’s one of the things that drew me to Ben; his steadiness in the midst of my craziness. Selling a house does not fit into the pattern I like. God is definitely trying to hammer some patience into my stubborn heart.

There are two reasons selling a house makes me crazy. The first is having to clean the house in a split second because some one wants to see it in an hour. Yesterday, during my lunch, I scrubbed tile in our shower and Windexed windows in my work clothes. I came back to work pitted out and smelling of Clorox wipes. It’s not that I hate cleaning so much; it’s just that I hate not having advance notice. My mom teases me because when I know people are coming over I have a set cleaning routine. I think part of this is due to the fact that when one is off at work all day it’s hard to fit all the cleaning in and it’s the last thing I want to do at 8pm at night. I would not say I am a total slob, I HAVE to have a clean kitchen and I’d say I keep some areas up to pare. But I’m a project person, so there is always random stuff lying about. And it seems that I can never get on top of clutter that creeps in everyday. Where the heck does that stuff come from?!! Another difference is that it’s not my mom coming over, it’s random people that I don’t know so I feel like toothbrushes and birthday cards must disappear. All the personal effects must be (literally) swept under the rug or in the nearest cabinet. Ben and I have so often rushed to hide things in random drawers that we can’t seem to find anything.

Yet God grant grace, even for the cleaning. Monday I had back home bread and fix shrimp and grits so the evening had been full. But I still had an itch to clean, partly due to the fact that my brother and sister-in-law will be coming in this Friday. I worked hard that night to scrub the kitchen and make sure the guest room was looking nice. I even made an attempt to get on top of that endless clutter. And when Tuesday morning came I actually neatly, made the bed and tidied up our toiletries before work. All this is to say, the house was in more order than usual. So when Ben called yesterday to say I needed to clean during lunch because people wanted to see the house, I was not thrilled but I had a doable amount of work. I even thought, as sweat trickled down my back while wiping our bathroom counter, that God might be helping me to learn to be more orderly.

However I am in need of God’s grace when it comes to timing. This is the second item which I despised about selling. You have worked your heart out to make your home shine to the buyer. It is houses which you love, have made so many memories in, but know it is time to leave. And they come and peak into your life, yet you have no idea of their judgment. You don’t know if they will call or not. And if they don’t, what was wrong with this home you love so much. The unknown. I hate it. I like things to flow from one situation to the next. When I make a decision I want the consequential action to be taken immediately. The timing of selling our house is driving me a bit coo-coo.

Once again, I must remember that God is both sovereign and good. He has a plan for me and it is good. He has also given me tools to use to handle the trial ahead. Soon I will be through with work (yippee for Sept 3) and be able to spend the bulk of my time on keeping up our house. I count this as a blessing from God. His way of giving me a break during the insanity. He has also given me a loving husband who works extremely hard to keep me happy. Ben has been a rock since day one of our marriage and continues to be even when I’m nuts. And greatest of all, God has given me Himself to lean on and rely on. All I must do is submit. I’m stubborn and do not come by submitting naturally but God is wooing me as He always does. His love and comfort are undeniable far greater than anything here on earth. I know that if I open my heart to Him He will teach me great things in the midst of my trials and refine me. I must not be scare of having to be refined but run to it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.

"Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light."

Lately I have been absorbed in post about “mommy-hood” and the tasks of staying at home. I will soon be quitting work (yippee) to pursue this role. Though I am not a mother yet, I hope to be one in the not too distant future. And lately my mind has been on Homeschooling; if, when the time comes, I should pursue this option with my children. My heart says yes, “it would be wonderful”; but my mind says: “what are you thinking?!…are you nuts!!! You don’t have the abilities needed for that…things like patience and intelligence…you really shouldn’t.” Alas, I am hoping that when the time comes my heart and mind will be on the same page.

I wrote on my homeschooling experience a little while back and decided to post my views. Hopefully, the words will encourage those who choose to teach at home; and give insight to those who don’t. I know it is a huge decision and I want people to understand why I might choose this route some day. God give me the grace when the time is needed to choose the option that will produce children whose sole purpose is to glorify You!

Southern Bell
Dixie land, the Bible belt, this is where I grew up. My home town of Covington lies forty-five minutes south east of Atlanta, which gives some people the idea that I am from a the big city; however, this is far from the truth. The little square in Covington which contains Claudia’s Flowers, Ace Hardware, and the Court House, is the heart of the town. We do have a Kroger’s and a Wal-Mart, but there are not any malls or fancy restaurants. The town is growing fast because of its close proximity to Atlanta and I suppose one day it will just be part of the urban sprawl, but I will always remember it as the “one horse town” in which I spent my childhood. Nevertheless, my childhood was slightly different than some of my friends. Like many southern children I grew up playing in red Georgia clay and going to visit our grazing cows on sunny afternoons. However, my education did not start in a preschool with ten other children.

My Mother is from Alabama and my Father is from Dalton, Georgia. They met at school in Vanderbilt and eventually moved to Covington where my father started his medical practice. Going against the tide, my mother decided to home-school my two older brothers and I because she was unhappy with the public school systems in the town. Two of her close friends also decided that home-schooling was the best option for their children. Soon several families had started to home-school and agreed to start a group. They named the group Excel as a reminder of their goals for their children: to excel in school, and in the knowledge of God. Excel met weekly for group activities and frequent field trips. The rest of the week my brothers and I would eagerly get up at dawn with the aim of finishing our school work early.

History and literature were normally the first classes of the day. A Child’s History of the World told us who Zeus was, how pyramids were made, where Columbus landed, and why the North and South raged against one another in the Civil War. My mother strived to make events of the past interesting to us by incorporating skits, art projects, and anything else that would help us learn. Henry, my middle brother, and I ate pomegranate as we played kings and queens of long ago empires. A time line stretched across the kitchen counter where I was able to display my artistic talents by adding pictures to note historic events. I can remember drawing the pyramids of Egypt and Moses as he parted the Red Sea. My brothers and I also built miniature teepees while learning about the Native Americans. We often spun the globe and where it stopped was the next country to visit. Home-schooling allowed my brothers and I to learn through interaction instead of merely sitting in a class room and listening to a teacher drone on about history. I had an appreciation of the world and all its many wonders which stimulated my yearning to travel, and to taste the foods in their countries of origin.

Soon the aroma of foreign foods was a distant memory and I had to learn mathematics. My mother tried her best to make the subject interesting but my art-oriented brain rebelled. Flash cards and videos were only a part of my mother’s effort. It seemed we owned every “learn math in no time” book, game, or pamphlet. I have numerous memories of sitting at the “little table,” a miniature table that still holds its place of prominence in our kitchen, and trying to memorize eight times seven. My mother taught me all the tricks, such as using your fingers to multiply by nine and many other ploys. Eventually multiplication tables engraved themselves on my brain and long-hand division started to come naturally. Before long “Nock-out,” a math game, did not seem such a daunting task and became enjoyable. Math still is not a subject I enjoy but thanks to my mom’s persistence I can now add and subtract without too much trouble.

I preferred science to math because my father came home everyday at lunch to teach me the unexplained mysteries of the universe. Roy G Biv was the anachronism my father taught me for the colors of the rainbow. Sitting around our table Dad taught me how I was made up of little tiny things called atoms that worked together to form my fingers and toes. He showed me how I and all things were unique and had our own special traits. Learning the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates always seemed a struggle but my father frequently reminded me that it would take diligence and hard work to progress. On sunny days cumulus and sires clouds were prevalent as my father explained precipitation and condensation. Mount Saint Helen was recreated in the backyard as chemicals flowed out of our paper Mache volcano. My father was a hard teacher and expected much from me but he also loved science and his teaching glowed with his enthusiasm. He believed that God’s handiwork displayed itself throughout the wonders of science, and showed how His fingertips touch all of creation. A butterfly was the artistic expression of God.

God seemed to be prevalent in science but He was no where to be seen when it came to my ability to read. English was difficult because, try as I might, I could not learn to read. My mother was my source of encouragement because she believed that children learned at their own time, and she had no doubt that I would accomplish the task. Poster saying “Never Give Up!” and “Every Expert was Once a Beginner” littered our walls in my mother’s hope to encourage me. However, I thought I was truly stupid and could never learn. In a public school my ideas about myself would have been reinforce because they would have held me back or put me in special classes. But I was doing well in all my other courses and my mother knew that I would catch on. I learned through Phonics like many children; it merely took me longer to catch on. Finally, with time and much practice, my reading improved. Because of my mothers faith in me I was able to learn to read and enjoy it as well. I was captivated as a new world of adventure opened to me. Books now became an escape in which I could lose myself; traveling to distant lands, meeting Kings and Queens. I sat at the Round Table with Arthur’s men and heard tales of Arabia through my journey in books.

Our course material was made by Calvert, a school in Baltimore, Maryland. They had set reading assignments everyday, but I always read ahead and finished books early. Writing was never as much fun as reading but it was a large requirement in Calvert. I had a journal that I kept daily, which still makes me laugh when I read the entries. Short papers were also required, along with special outlines. Calvert had one outline that was called the spider because there was a bubble for the main idea and then multiple circles branching off. I learn to brain storm and write in a somewhat orderly fashion, but to my mother’s dismay I never liked outlines. I prefer to write as things came to me and hope the words were had some semblance of coherency.

I visited many places through books, but I was also able to go on trips with Excel. Soda sprayed out of the ceiling as our home-school group tasted all the different flavored soft drinks at the World of Coke. I discovered Norman Rockwell was my favorite painter at a trip to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Panda bears from Japan and a prowling tiger were just a few of the animals I was able to see on frequent trips to the zoo. While Native American mounds were intriguing at the Indian reservation; Six Flags was even more exciting and a group favorite because the lines were so short on home-school days. We tasted delicious cookie dough as batter swirled in industrial size mixtures on a Jacquelyn’s bakery outing. Although we did not go to Gettysburg, we watched as soldiers shot cannons and brothers fought each other in battle reenactments. Field trips with Excel are some of the best memories I have of home-schooling. The trips open a whole new world to me and exposed me to things and ideas that I probably would not have experienced had I been at a public school.

Leisure time was spent painting flowers in Ms. V’s art class or tumbling in gymnastics. My brothers and I also enjoyed going to the library as often as possible to hear story book readers or watch Curious George on an old slide projector. The Library was three stories with the bottom as the children’s area. The stairway down was painted with scenes from different children’s stories. Wilber, Corduroy, and Winnie the Pooh greeted us as we rushed down the steps to find our choice of ten books; a rule which my mom imposed to keep us from trying to carry forty books back to the house. My mother often took away our television when she thought we were watching it too much; hence, being a coach potato was never part of my day. Many Saturday mornings were spent in the back yard jumping into piles of leafs we had just racked, while our friends watched Saturday morning cartoons. We just recently acquired a satellite because my parents hold to the idea that television only hinders the imagination. When I got a little older our church started a girls group that met on Wednesday nights to try our hand at quilting. It seemed to take a life time to finish my log cabin quilt but I also had a wonderful time talking and laughing with friends as we poked ourselves with needles.

I have never regretted my years spent learning with my brother’s about arithmetic and writing. My mother exemplified everything a teacher should: she believed in hard work, strong discipline, and also the idea that learning could be fun. But most of all, she loved us and always had our welfare at heart. Home-schooling gave me the opportunity to be educated in an environment which allowed me to learn at my own pace and encouraged me to use my imagination. I also was able to develop a close relationship with my parents since they were such an integral part of my learning. But most importantly, it grounded me in my faith in Christ. Everyday the importance of Christ was reaffirmed and absolute truth was taught. I sometimes wonder at the person I would be had my younger, most impressionable years not been spent in the care of a mother, whose chief purpose was to raise children who loved the lord.

While home-schooling was a wonderful time in my life, I would soon decide to go off to school because I wanted to be in a class with children my own age. I would start a Piedmont academy my seventh grade year, which was very difficult for me but soon turned into a great experience. Yet, home-schooling would always be my fondest memories: my brother’s, my mother, and I all together learning about the world and all that God had endowed it with.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Blue, Blue windows behind the stars, Yellow moon on the rise, Big birds flying across the sky, Throwing shadows on our eyes."

A continuation of Canada memories…

As you can see from the past post, Ahmic is quite routine and unchanged by time or events. I think it is that which has made me so completely in love with the Lake; the unchanging, in the midst of change and chaos. My time on the lake has always been defining. Possibly, because it is there that I reflect and think on the numerous events of life. It is there that I find solace in the past and traditions. I am a free person but I have always loved the routine of Ahmic; no surprises, because the bells will ring heck or high water. It reminds me of our relationship in Christ. His laws are not meant to bind us down but to free us of our sinful live. Ahmic is full of routines but it never feels binding.

I remember finding such comfort in all that Ahmic is the summer after my seventh grade year in high school. It was my first year off to school, because my mother had home schooled me till then. It was one of the toughest years of my life. I learned the reality that I did not look to the world like I looked to my mother. I learned that not everyone thought my laugh as cute as my Father. I learned that I did not really fit in. I wore home made bell bottoms in a school full of wranglers and loved to read while those around me loved country music. I made it through the year, but I was ready for summer. Summer that brought outings to the pool, watermelon, fresh tomatoes, and most importantly, a trip to Needle Point.

We drove the long 22hours, like we had done before, passing the time with books on tape. I always loved seeing the first few white birch trees standing out among the forest because I knew I was only hours away . Soon after the birches, we would reach the Mag (Magnetawan). The air seemes to change as Ahmic nears. It becomes more pure, permeated with the smell of earth and fir trees. I can recall Granddaddy waiting at the dock with Tug Boat Annie. Tog Boat Annie is famous on the lake for being one of the most beautiful wooden boats in the area. It is large boat with a small cabin and lovely wood work. It is like stepping into a time capsule. Granddaddy hugged us all and help load our luggage. We set off in the misty afternoon air towards Needle Point.

Every year, Granddaddy would put up flags with symbols which we would rush to decode. They flapped in the wind as we made our way to the dock. Here I was, a million miles a way from the kids who had teased me, the petty fights over best friends, and all my insecurities. I was with family, family that loved me despite my shortcomings. I was in Canada, where I could sing at the top of my lungs all the way to Edmund’s Thumb (a granite outcropping); or I could still pretend to be the Little Mermaid as I swam to the Island. It didn’t matter. On Ahmic things were the same as they had always been, so I was free to be whoever. It was a summer of bliss.

I imagine my Grandfather felt much like this the summer after the war. He was a pilot for the Marines in WWII. He had lost one of his best friends during the War, Cousin Howdy, who used to summer in Canada as well. There is an old, faded photograph of Cousin Howdy and Granddaddy, arms around each other’s shoulders, huge smiles on their faces, standing on a sail boat. I can only imagine the escape Ahmic felt like for Granddaddy. I think of him coming up, much the same way I did, in a car, and sighing as he got his first breath of Ahmic air. I imagine him unpacking at Indian Point, putting his clothes away, and setting his uniform aside. Howey was not there to fish and swim with, but I’d like to think that Ahmic was still a place of peace for Granddaddy; where he could remember Howdy as the happy and good humored friend he had been. I can see Granddaddy diving into the cold smooth waters as he still does today, laughing as a shiver ran through him. How far away the world’s troubles must have felt.

I can see my Grandmother too, dignified as always. She once told us that she had not liked Ahmic from the beginning. It amazed all of us for she loves it now. She came up, the new bride, and found she was in the middle of nowhere with tons of family and every woman wanting to be “mother Hen.” I can visualize her brushing her coiffed locks and wondering who she can play bridge with and how she will ever suffer through the summer. But Granny is not one to complain. She is one to do whatever needs doing, and being in her eighties has not slowed her down. I can see her putting to order what once was chaos; young and beautiful, helping wash dishes without a complaint. I imagine her and Granddaddy’s excitement as they built Needle Point, establishing their own camp. She would now run her own house, tend the garden, and make sure that the hummingbirds where all fed. Granny was and will forever in my mind be the Matriarch of Needle Point.

I think of my Grandparents lives and how they have been so defining to my own life. I think of how much they have done to make Needle Point the place that I remember: full of traditions, good food and laughter. My Grandparents have been an integral part of all my family’s summer trips. I did not realize their essential role on the lake until this summer. It was mentioned at lunch that this would most likely be their last trek to Ahmic. My heart lurched and tears formed in my eyes. My grandparents are now in their mid and late eighties. Although we all knew that one day the rigors of life on the rugged terrain of Canada would be too much, I had pushed it to the back of my mind.

My Grandfather has hurt his leg and is moving slower in general, and although my grandmother is still sharp as a tack, her body is starting to fail her. I want what is best for them but I cannot imagine Ahmic without Granddaddy telling funny jokes or Granny making strawberry preserves. I have always felt that it is a magical place but now, as I come to the realization that they will not be the faces that greet me, I feel they were the magic. It was Granddaddy whose happy smile made my day when I would bring him back sugar babies and black licorice from town. It was Granny who let me help with flower arranging even though I was awkward and clumsy. It was my grandparents who took me on canoe trips and taught me how to paddle. It was Granddaddy who made Henry and I cry from giggles as he snored loud enough to shake the room. It was Granny who taught us card games and helped us with puzzles on rainy afternoons. It was my grandparents who cultivate my love of this beautiful and majestic place. They were the reason that we all longed to be in Canada. It was their love that made it magical.

I hope that the fall will revive them and they will be able to spend yet another summer on the tranquil waters. I hope to one day bring my own children to Ahmic and let them feed Chippy, the pet chipmunk we train every summer. But I want to tell them about my Grandparents as well. I want them to know all that was done before them so that they could enjoy the beauty of Ahmic. I will tell them all of Granddaddy’s funny jokes and let them know that he is where I get my insatiable sweet tooth. I will show them Granny’s flower gardens and try to attempt her strawberry preserves. I will try and make Ahmic as enchanting as Granny and Granddaddy made it for me. It is a place of rest, of laughter, of feasting, of love, and a place where bells sound every day.

***the picture are from years past but I thought y'all might enjoying seeing them

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"There is a town in North Ontario, With dream comfort memory to spare, And in my mind I still need a place to go, All my changes were there.

“There is a town in North Ontario,With dream comfort memory to spare, And in my mind I still need a place to go, All my changes were there.”

I know, I’m the world’s worst Blogger. I just can’t keep up with all the posts. What has it been? It’s probably close to a month since my last post, but time passes so quickly.

Ben and I have spent the past week at my parents’ cabin in Canada. It was a wonderful trip but before I give all those details I’d like to give a bit of background information. I’m pretty sure it was my great, great grandfather Kelly who first purchased land on Ahmic. Ahmic is a small secluded lake in Ontario, Canada, about four hours north of Toronto. Grandfather Kelly was fishing with a friend, I believe, and came upon the lake, empty of any human life. He, being a very successful doctor, bought up about half the property on the lake and established one of the first “camps” or cabins there, known as Indian Point. As the years passed, many more camps were built around the lake by two main families, the Kellys and the Candlers. We all tease that if someone from the two families married, the whole lake would be related.

Many years after Grandfather Kelly built, my mother’s parents, known to me as Granny and Granddaddy, built Needle Point. It is there that I spent one or two weeks every summer. There are too many wonderful memories to name, so I’ll save some for a later post. But I do want to give you a mental picture of the place.

Needle Point has a main cabin with a lovely porch, a kitchen, a great room, three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. My grandparents have their own sleeper cabin. I grew up staying in the boat house with its two bed rooms and one bath. My parents occupied one room and my two brothers and I shared the other. A typical day would start with the ringing of the bell at 7:45 am to wake you and the next bell would ring soon after at 8am; which meant that you should be waiting in the dining room by this point. The bells were always the same and Granny meant business with them. If you did not show up by bell time you missed the meal; however, I haven’t known anyone to try, because no one crosses Granny.

My Grandparents had a cook name Ann that would prepare the meals which Granny carefully thought out. After a lavish breakfast, which always included fresh fruits with cream, cereal, an egg, bacon, juice, toast, and the best strawberry preserves you have ever put in your mouth; we would sit at the table and listen to the walkie talkie for lake news. There were no phones, TVs, or electronic conveniences. Conversations on the band waves would always begin “Rose Camp calling Needle Point, Needle Point come in.” After all news was heard we would then change clothes and work on whatever tasks were at hand till around 10am. Men normally did duties such as chopping wood or clear paths, while the woman picked wild blueberries or weeded. After work we would all pile in the fast boat to go to town. There are no roads to Needle Point. The town of Magnetawan consists of a few churches, a post office, a general store, a small eatery, and a couple of houses. We would go every day to fill up the boats at the Marina and buy groceries; but most importantly, to get a luscious scoop of mouth watering ice cream from June’s. It is pure heaven because Canadian dairy products are far superior to those in the States. After the errands we would head back to camp.

At 12:45 another bell would ring and then soon after the 1pm lunch time bell would sound. Once again we would gather around the table and delve into another scrumptious meal. Lunch always consisted of some variety of soup and an assortment of meats and cheeses to prepare a sandwich. At the end of the meal the candy jar would be passed around the table and we would each get to pick one. I can’t remember everyone’s choice but I do remember my father always chose a Sweet Marie, Brother Henry almost always chose Junior Mints and I could always be found swiping the toffee bar. Oh, that wonderful toffee. There is absolutely nothing like it in the States. I would hand it to Granddaddy so he could smack it on the ground and break it into bite size pieces for me. Granddaddy was so strong and I can remember asking to see his big muscled arms when I was small. I was Granddaddy’s little Squirt and still am. I’d be sad if he called me by any other name.

After gorging ourselves (everyone gains the Ahmic 10lb) we would lay on the day beds and let our meals settle; often falling asleep. I still feel that Canada is the only place where I can take a nap. If it was sunny outside we would spend our time skiing, tubing, and swimming in the cold green water. If it rained we would contently read or work on one of the many puzzles my grandparents had laying around. Yet, rain or shine, whoever was old enough would make the swim to “the Island” and back. It is an island, Birch Island to be exact, which lies about two football field’s distance from Needle Pointe. It was a big deal to swim to the island because when you could swim there and back with no help, you were allowed to ride in the boat without a life jacket. Even our visiting friends which we brought up had to make the trek.

After the days events we would have cocktails at 6pm. I don’t think my Grandparents have ever missed their bourbon drinks a day in their life. My father attributes their long and healthy lives to their one drink a day. At 6:45pm the first bell would ring and then the bells would sing again at seven. Dinner was yet another monstrous meal with meats, veggies, and rolls. There was always a lovely dessert at the end, ranging from crème brulee or lemon curd to zebra cake or meringues with chocolate ice cream. My grandparents ate like “a king at breakfast, a queen at lunch, and a popper at super” but fed us like Kings all day.

The evenings came quietly and filled the sky with a moon so clear you could see his laughing face or stars so bright you could see the Milky Way and numerous constellations. We would usually sit and talk or play card games before bed. The best was Spoons, which can be dangerous in my family since we are so viciously competitive. My mother continues to be the reigning champ although we all plot to take her down. My grandparents would drift off to bed and we soon after. Since we shared a bathroom, many nights as many as four would be shoved into the room, trying to brush teeth and wash faces. Often a game of touch back would ensue with fits of laughter. My brother’s and I would stay up late telling stories or making bodily noises while my father would tell us through the thin walls to go to sleep. We never took it very seriously though, because we could hear the laughter behind his words. We would finally drift off to sleep with the sound of stormy winds or a loon’s sad song on a clear night.

This was the typical day. Sometimes they would vary with a day long canoe trip or a drive to the Maple store. And as we got older we would go out more at night. But the days only vary slightly and they always began with the enchanting sound of bells in the misty, cold Ahmic morning.

Since I have written such a long reminiscing story I will save my words on our last trip for another day. I hope that this gives you a mental picture of this peaceful and majestic place although my words do it so little justice.