Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crocheting Hearts and a Solemn Pledge

Disclosure: This post contains photos of crochet projects, but I promise to not become a crazy-crocheting-grandmother-gone-wild. You have my solemn pledge.


During the time I was away in October, I enjoyed making small crochet projects in my downtime, anticipating cupcake's arrival. Everything I made was super simple (I actually made up a couple of designs, using bits and pieces from separate patterns) and I can see how it would be easy to get carried away and whip out a dozen or more each. (See Disclosure.)

The amazing thing about crochet projects is a) for every design out there, you can find a hundred different patterns that will result in that design, with a few variations throughout; b) there are free patterns galore on the Internet, nice people who share either their own design, or the design of another crocheter (with permission) for no charge at all; and c) if you have no prior knowledge of crocheting, you can pretty much learn how via YouTube tutorials, including how to interpret a pattern. 

Oh, the world in which we live.


Recently, I came across the easiest and prettiest heart pattern that I've tried yet, which is why I'm sharing it with you. This photo came from the link for the instructions, but you can see the two pink ones I made in a collage from my Monday post.

The designer of this heart pattern is June Gilbank and she is from South Africa. June asks for donations if you download the PDF version of the pattern, but she posts the pattern on her blog and states that the pattern is free for the using, so I took her up on that. Thank you, dear June.



I especially like the smallest heart (could it be any cuter?) and made this little white one to attach to a store-bought hat, shown in the above-referenced posted. I added the extra circular embellishments to the heart, for no reason and just because. (See Disclosure.)

Until next time, dear friends, my hands may or may not be busy. Carry on and keep crocheting.





Monday, November 17, 2014

The Cozy Month of November ... and Cupcake

The rain has fallen off and on now for a week, bringing brisk days and cold nights. Tonight's low is a predicted 26-degrees. Hello and BRRR! Such weather makes a perfect backdrop for homemade potato soup. Although this isn’t a photo of my potato soup, I like to think mine tastes better than anyone else’s. It's the dill weed I put in it that rocks my taste buds.

Since returning home from our month-long holiday, I’ve enjoyed the company of family, and especially the little ones, but I’ve mostly stayed on the sofa, with a quilt wrapped around me. I didn't tell you that I fell, just as our time away was coming to a close, but I did, right in the middle of Cloud Nine and not on a sidewalk, thank the good Lord. Nothing is broken, but I'm still nursing my right arm and shoulder. May need physical therapy or a cortisone shot or both. Aren't I something?


Remember the recent sneak preview? 

I attached some of my embellishments to store-bought hats for a bit of girly flair.


As you can see, Memaw has been thoroughly enjoying the thought of cupcake’s arrival. I'm not proficient at crocheting but I can read a pattern and I'm wobbling my way through and making up stuff, to boot. My mother is the official Queen of Crochet and she says I'm doing good, so I'm taking her word for it. Mothers don't lie, do they?


Guess what I'm working on? Why, a cupcake hat, of course. I found a pattern that isn't a proper cupcake hat pattern, but I think I can make it work. The pattern resembles the one in the middle, except it will be crocheted instead of knitted.


Speaking of cupcakes, I made some from scratch over the weekend, frosting and all, and YUM was the overall review.

If you're tired of hearing about cupcake, raise your hand. 


My daughter is in her sixth month of pregnancy, if you can believe it. She thinks she's fat, but I think she's perfect and glowing.

***

As I write, my feet are in wooly socks and an old quilt is draped across my lap. Outside, a gentle rain splatters against the window, making music meant for dozing. It is the cozy month we call November. I am blessed.


***

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Tangled Path

Everyone has a path to walk, a journey to make, a story to tell. Some days, the road is clear. Our story goes according to plan. The appointments on the calendar come to pass, just as we intended. We travel confidently, not fearing what lies ahead.

Other days, the bottom drops out. In a split second, everything changes and nothing goes according to plan. The notes on the calendar must be drawn through and rewritten on another date, if at all. Without warning, we find ourselves on a tangled path, unsure of even our next step.

When life makes a sudden turn, or screeches to a halt, it leaves you disoriented, afraid. And sometimes, despite our best efforts to get back to where we were before, we can’t go back. We are here, and there’s nowhere else to go. We’re faced with a new normal, whether we want it or not.

The same life that can fill us up with joy, can also be hard and cruel. Our lives can change forever, due to no fault of our own. Parents divorce, leaving innocent children to deal with the fallout that never ends. A husband is told he has cancer, and a handful of months to live. A drunk driver crashes into a car, taking the life of a loved one. A careless driver runs into innocent people on a sidewalk, altering their physical abilities forever. Such tragedies are almost impossible to bear.

Other times, our lives are changed forever by our own actions. I remember when my dad, at the age of 85, climbed on the roof one time too many, after years of being begged to stop taking such risks. His fall resulted in a grave injury to his ankle; the doctor said he might never walk again, said he might need an amputation, said it was a hard recovery for a 20-year-old man, let alone an 85-year-old man.

I recall my sister wringing her hands in anguish and asking, “Why did this have to happen? Why now, after so many years?” And my mom’s answer to her was simple and straightforward: “It happened because of gravity.” Yes, that was it in a nutshell, but to think that my dad might not walk again was something I couldn't wrap my head around, because he'd always been so active, walking a mile or more every single day.

But I remember the night I adjusted my perspective. I couldn't let myself think too far ahead; I had to get through this moment, this day, this long and tiring night. It was the only thing I could do, unless I wanted to be miserable from this point on.

And when I did that, when I adjusted my perspective, when I got over the fact that I had to put my life on hold for an indefinite amount of time, when I accepted that my dad may have walked his last mile, when I embraced what could not be changed, a curious thing happened: I began cherishing the time spent with my parents, shuffling around a house with no television, no Internet, drinking coffee every morning with them, sitting on the porch together, watching my husband push my father here and there in a wheelchair, helping him with daily necessities. And as we played games at the kitchen table, or I planned the next meal with my mother, I knew I'd been given a priceless gift, just being there, helping them cope, sharing their space.

Another gift that came out of this tragedy was having friends all over the country hold us up in prayer. Prayer can move mountains. This, I know to be true, and it was an amazing feeling knowing people were praying.

Three months after Daddy’s fall, he took his first halting and painful step. He needed assistance, and his ankle, held together with metal rods and pins, hurt something awful, but he was determined to walk again. Soon after that first step, he and Mom felt they were ready to travel the road ahead on their own, and it was a bittersweet day when we rolled out of driveway and waved goodbye. I cried, for reasons hard to explain, but mostly because my life had been enriched and blessed by sharing in their time of suffering.

Oh, the hours wasted kicking against the hard places, wishing we could turn back the hands of the clock. I have been guilty of doing that myself in recent months.

But ifinstead of fighting the detours and the inevitable changes they bringwe adjust our thinking and embrace what is, we will be strengthened, and the journey will reveal gifts in the most unexpected places.

I believe—and time has proven to me—that the best stories come from the tangled paths.  



***

This post is part of the series Spiritual Sundays


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Naming ~ What will I call her? What will she call me?


Five months after Anna Marie was born, her grandmother suffered a stroke that would leave her paralyzed on her right side. But Mildred was an amazing woman. She never let her disability keep her from being a remarkable MeeMaw to her grandchildren.


She and Anna Marie shared a special bond until Mildred passed away in 1996.

When my daughter asked what I wanted to be called by my soon-to-be-born grandchild, I thought about it, and I didn't have to think long, for I couldn't think of anything I'd rather be called than MeeMaw, in honor of my dear mother-in-law. 

Although I've chosen to spell it differently, I'm looking forward to my new title: Memaw. And, with a new spelling, The Man will be Papaw, just as his father was to his grandchildren.

But ... that leaves us with one unanswered question: What sweet name will I call my granddaughter? 

The question has been asked, and I have the answer for you, right here, right now. First, a little backstory, if anyone is still with me.


When my first-born niece gave birth to my first grand-niece, I didn’t plan it, but somehow Ainsley became my sugar plum. You who are familiar with my blog know what a delight sugar plum is to me. There are no words for how much I love her.


When my second-born niece discovered she was pregnant, the first thing she asked me was what “sweet” name would I call her baby? I told her if it was a girl, she would be my pie. And you who know me know how much joy Audrey, my precious pie, has brought to me. There are no words for how much I love her.


When my daughter announced her pregnancy, she asked what “sweet” name I would call my grandchild. I told her I’d have to wait and see if it was a girl or boy before deciding. Once it was determined to be a girl, I gave it some thought and am happy to announce that my granddaughter will be my cupcake (and Papaw’s, of course). In fact, I'm calling her that already, and I cannot wait to meet her! 

What a sweet life it’s shaping up to be. Sugar plum, pie, and cupcake. I am a blessed woman.

Until next time, dear friends, this Memaw was one busy girl during her month-long holiday. I'll share some of my creations with you in an upcoming post, but here's a sneak preview. 


Whatcha think?


***



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Postcards from the Road ~ Family fun and Farewell October


Our autumn trip is winding down, and so I leave you with photos from the past few days. Thanks again for your company along the way. It's made the journey even sweeter.


On Sunday, The Man and I attended services at the little church that sits right next to the RV park, and there's a story behind this photo. Every evening, in a small window of time, the sun’s rays flood the two trees on the right, setting them aglow in shades of crimson and orange. For days, I attempted to capture the perfect moment, but my timing was always off. Until Saturday.


My sweet cousin, Edward, and his lovely wife, Sharon, drove up from their home in Mississippi to spend a few days hanging out with us this week. They stayed in a hotel close by and we enjoyed being together so very much.

***

Monday was a day of unspeakable beauty, a day when nature’s colors mingled together in every shade of grandeur, a day that left me breathless and humbled by the loveliness of autumn and the companionship of family. 


What mystical beauty, when the sun pierces the foliage above the shadowy riverbed. 


I love this photo of Edward and Sharon.


 Meigs Falls is a popular stopping place along Little River Road.



There's nothing more special than family. 

Nothing.


The gang takes a selfie, while Edward makes me nervous standing a little too close to the edge. I was concerned we might have an unannounced baptism.





God's handiwork. 

No words needed.


After we left the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, we drove into Gatlinburg for a little fun and food.


Tuesday found us back at Dollywood, enjoying the National Southern Gospel and Harvest Celebration month.






As I write, it is Wednesday night. Earlier today, under dreary skies, the captain turned on the seat-belt sign and Cloud Nine rolled out of Pigeon Forge. As we drove through the gray morning, I realized October is almost over, another October spent in the Smokies, another month of undeserved blessings.

Through the years of coming to this part of the country, The Man and I have stayed both in log cabins on high mountain peaks, and in RV’s in the foothills below. Although I don't enjoy the tedious drive up or down a steep mountainside, those narrow roads with endless drop-offs and hairpin curves, I had always considered myself a mountain top kind of girl. The views are majestic, the air crisp. 

But this trip revealed something to me, something I never expected. While a stay at the top is always going to bring a thrill, I’ve discovered that I’m a foothills girl at heart.


Photo Credit
To dwell in a cabin, nestled against the side of a mountain, watching the seasons unfold in my very own yard, now that would be a piece of heaven for me.

Until next time, dear friends, thanks for your generous comments and for your continued friendship. I hope October has been kind to you.

***

Sunday, October 26, 2014

On Top of Old Smoky, for Real : Postcards from the Road

Dear friends, I am sitting at the dinette in Cloud Nine, the windows open, a cool breeze touching my skin, the rich aroma of coffee filling the space around me. 


It has been a magical week in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, the artistry of the Creator in fine form. We’ve seen morning temperatures in the 30’s and put the quilts I keep on board to good use. But it doesn’t take long for the sun to warm the earth, leaving us with perfect October days in which to forage about.

Since we tend to travel by the seat of our pants, we don’t often make reservations ahead of time. This can be a curse yet we’ve always managed to make it work, and such was the case here. The first three days of our stay in Pigeon Forge found us at our long-time favorite KOA campground, but then we had to move, and I think it was a blessing in disguise. We found a park that we’ve passed many times in our years of returning here, positioned in the foothills, with a mountain side for a backdrop. It has quickly become our new favorite place.

See that cabin behind us? 

On Tuesday, I told The Man, "Let's go find that cabin."


And so we did, winding our way up narrow, shady roads, through hues of orange and crimson and yellow and gold.

If you ever come to the Great Smoky Mountains, you must set aside a few days for exploring, no matter your age. There's so much beauty to behold and it would be a shame not to see it. 


On Thursday, The Man and I headed out for a day of adventure, to see what we could see and do what we could do in "them thar hills." Our first stop was Newfound Gap, a mountain pass situated on the Tennessee/North Carolina state lines. A kind tourist offered to take our photo.


Newfound Gap is a popular stopping point and the parking lot was overflowing on this day.

The seven-mile drive from Newfound Gap to Clingmans Dome is quite curvy and, on a brilliant autumn day, crowded with like-minded folks. The closer you get to the top, the slower the traffic moves.


But the drive is well worth it. Once we parked, we decided to hike the half-mile trek to the summit. Between The Man’s Achilles heel issue, and my bad knees, we were a couple of pokey people, but we had plenty of fellow-pokies, of all ages, to keep us company along the way. There are benches every few feet, for pacing yourself, and we put those to good use. At one point, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, but I had no thought of turning back.

Clingmans Dome, is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains, the highest point in Tennessee, the highest point along the Appalachian Trail, and the third highest summit east of the Mississippi River—6,643 feet above sea level. 






The reward is well worth the journey, the views from the observation platform are nothing short of spectacular! And when the conditions are just right (which isn’t often) you can see 100 miles and beyond. If you want to know how it feels to be "on top of old Smoky," it feels invigorating! 


On the downhill hike, I stopped and took a zoomed shot of the distant slopes, all adorned in autumn's glory. I thought of the Scripture that says: "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." 

Well, dear friends, I hope I'm not boring you too much with my postcards from the road; for every one I post, there are dozens that I don't, as a little restraint is always in order. 

Until next time, thanks for keeping me company here and for sharing this journey with me.

***


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Postcards from the Road ~ Another Year Older and the 2013 Scrapbook is Finito!

Dear friends, the retirees are still enjoying the mountain views. The rain has finally stopped, leaving the air amazingly autumn. I’ve pulled out tights and sweaters and boots and, call me odd if you will, that makes me one happy camper.


After two days of rain, Wednesday was overcast and perfect for driving through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We’ve driven through many times, taking various scenic routes, but I’ve never seen it looking more spectacular than it did on Wednesday—the river was high and just enough foliage ablaze to make you catch your breath around every curve. We took the 18-mile road known as Little River Road, but the photos can’t truly tell the story. If you ever have the chance to drive through in autumn, you won’t be disappointed.


In other news, for the second year in a row, I celebrated my birthday away from twin sister. I’ve already decided that next year will be different—we will be together, Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise.


I was born seven minutes ahead of Gayle, but I never existed without her, not even in the womb. Being an identical twin cannot be explained to anyone who isn’t one, but Gayle understands perfectly when I say that the words, “I love you,” almost have no meaning, as there isn’t a word or a phrase to describe the feelings between identical twins; we share a language and feelings uniquely ours. 


Despite missing Gayle, my birthday was filled with good food, precious cards from home, a slice of apple spice cake, with a little rum sauce, and a tealight candle for making a wish, which I did but I can’t reveal here, lest it not come true. (wink, wink) The Man always goes above and beyond for all of life's special occasions. I am blessed to call him mine.


Speaking of The Man, my birthday evening also found a little posing going on with Mr. Handsome. In case you’re wondering who that bespectacled female is, I have two new pairs of specs and decided to try out a pair last night. The girl is getting old. Things are changing.


In case ye think otherwise, it hasn’t been all play around these here parts. On Thursday, I put on my determined face and got my scrapbooking completed for the year 2013. Finito! That still leaves me about a year behind, but I have crazy faith that I will get ‘er done before my granddaughter arrives in February. I've had such faith before, to no avail, but it's been a unique year, so I may skip most of it and only hit the highlights. That should make things move along quickly.

Currently, a golden sun has found us here in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, the outdoor thermometer registering a pleasant 61-degrees. Wish you were here.


***

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