A Postcard from the Beach

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Mostly Musings / Nature

 Orange Beach, Alabama

 “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea–whether it is to sail it or watch it–we go back from whence we came.”    John F. Kennedy

There is a magic in the ocean that draws me to it, as if my DNA remembers that all life began in the sea. It holds the power to reset mind and body and spirit. I may stay here forever.


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Mostly Musings

There are many ways to remember loved ones. And even more ways to miss them when they are gone.

A light scent of a familiar perfume, so subtle you may have only imagined it. The brush of a nubby tweed jacket across a bare arm. Sadly sweet notes of a nearly forgotten love song. A booming laugh. A whispered shhh that tickles in your ear.

But sometimes the heart longs for something more tangible. An artifact, if you will. Not only a symbol, but an object that you can hold and touch. Something that your loved one held and touched too.


When we lost Dad 21 years ago, my sister-in-law created the perfect artifact. She took the jacket and vest from his best suit and decorated them with feminine touches. The next Christmas she gave one to Mom and the other to me. What could be more perfect than a wearable artifact? Both now hang in my closet since I have also lost Mom. Because she frequently wore the vest, it has increased value for me.



Mom was a saver. She left behind treasured family heirlooms, old jewelry, seven scrapbooks, baby books for each child, a diary from her courtship and early marriage, hand-stitched quilts, Christmas decorations, and much more.

Try as she might, Mom never was able to keep all of her photos organized. She packed a whole lot of living into her 96 years—and most of it was documented with snapshots. They stuff large envelopes and spill by the handsful from boxes.



And, of course, Mom left me her cat Shadow, a living, breathing, purring artifact. The photo above would have been stronger if it had been Shadow looking at the photos. But she is sleeping in the sun this afternoon, so Angie checked out the pictures.

Mom was not really a fan of cooking, but she did her share as a farm wife and mother. She and Dad each had a recipe box. Mom’s was this old wooden one with the cover dangling from a broken hinge.


I love these old recipes, largely because they are hand written, providing another connection with the person. The recipes are not just Mom’s but also from my dad, his aunt, my grandmother, and family friends. I was pleased that I could recognize the handwriting of quite a few people without having to see their names.

Looking through the recipes has inspired me to take on another memory project. I want to make some of the dishes on these tattered old cards. What fun to reminisce while cooking and eating some of my long-forgotten favorite foods.


Orchids Are Calling Me

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Nature / Pictures

Are you as ready for a break from winter as I am?

Is the lack of sunshine getting you down?

Does your world look like something like mine—gray, dark, and dismal—day after day after day?

Then let me make a suggestion.

You may want to head to Rockford to visit Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens’ orchid exhibit. “In Full Bloom: The Orchid Exhibit” opens today and runs through March 7. It is well worth the hour’s drive (from Woodstock).


It was this time last year that I discovered the conservatory, which is located on the banks of the Rock River. It features an 11,000-square-foot tropical plant exhibition area. In addition to thousands of plants, it includes water features, sculptures, and secluded seating areas.

When I walked in, I forgot it was winter in Illinois. It was as if I had been swept away on vacation, surrounded by soft spring air and light and nature’s beauty. Only when I looked out a window did I remember it was January in Illinois.


Everywhere you look, there are orchids, orchids, orchids. It’s a photographer’s paradise; anywhere you point the camera is a picture waiting to be taken. Here are some of mine from last year:

If you would like more information about Nicholas, including hours, prices, and directions, visit their website here.

And if you decide to go spend some time with the orchids, maybe I’ll see you there. Look for me in one of the cozy seating areas nestled among the blooms.


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Animals / Pictures


Shadow is a seeker of light and of heat. During the daytime, I often find her napping in a pool of sunlight on a bed or a rug. On cold winter nights, she will sit quietly in front of the dark fireplace, waiting for me to turn it on. She understands what it means when I walk over and flip the switch.

The word ambience is not in her small cat vocabulary. She doesn’t know or care that ambience means the atmosphere of one’s surrounding environment. All she cares about is the intensity of the flames. There is no such thing as too hot or too bright. Sometimes she will stand on her hind legs and stretch her body up against the screen to get as close as possible.

I sniff the air, hoping not to find the smell of singeing whiskers, and I don’t. I push my chair closer to the fireplace, joining her in that atmosphere of peace and comfort. She purrs… and I wish I could too.

via Photo Challenge: Ambience

Tiny Expectations

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Mostly Musings

When I was young, I thought the secret to a successful new year’s resolution was choosing a grand project and then threatening and beating myself into accomplishing it. That method, predictably, led to nothing but miserable failure and self-doubt.

As I grew older and wiser, I began lowering my goals and reducing the pressure on myself. And it worked. Once I traded in my


teeny expectations,

I was actually more successful and certainly a lot happier.

There is also something to be said for coincidence. My 2016 resolution sneaked up and tapped me on the shoulder. It actually began as a whim in early 2015. The year, if you will remember, began tragically with a terrorist attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly newspaper in Paris.

Now, I may not have told you that I was a French minor in college, but that played a part too. Somehow the idea of reading news of the attack in the French newspaper Le Monde popped into my head. But I had forgotten so much of my French in the 46 years (ouch) since college that reading full articles would be laborious. That’s when I decided to follow Le Monde on Twitter. How hard could it be to read 140-character snippets of French?

As it turned out, some tweets were slow going, but others I could comprehend by looking up a word or two and getting the rest from context. And so my project began. Every day I would read a little French on Twitter. Some days it would be only one tweet, others, several of them. My French did improve slowly as the weeks went by. Sometimes I read beyond the headlines to the articles.

Then came November 2015, when more widespread shootings and bomb blasts in Paris left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. I rededicated myself to my French Twitter reading. I liked the way Le Monde was giving me details that were not always covered by U.S. media.

I remember in particular the day after the attacks, when I found a retweeted message from Clara R., a Parisian who was searching for her friend. The English translation read: “We are looking for Marie who was at the bataclan, we have no news.”

Hours later, an update revealed that her fears had been confirmed. Marie and a man named Mathias were among those who died.


“The search is over, I have no words, only tears. Marie and Mathias have both left us.”


When the time came to choose a resolution for 2016, it was a no-brainer. I would continue what I was already doing and enjoying. I read my minimum 140 characters of French at least 350 days last year. And I plan to continue this coming year.

As for a new 2017 resolution, I am waiting for inspiration to strike. All I know is that it will be something enjoyable, something I want to do rather than need to do. It will sneak up on me and hang around until I notice it. Until then,

     Bonne année!