Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You Can Never Have Too Much Chocolate

Fudge Chocolate Cake Hershey Bar Hot Fudge Sauce Aztec Fudge Cake German Chocolate Cake Beate’s Killer Cake Chocolate Sheet Cake Hot Chocolate Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Soda


“You can never have too much chocolate.” Derrick’s words come repeated back to me as we walk out of DeBrands, stuffed to the gills. Barb and Derrick had taken me there after my birthday dinner. Needless to say, we were already full from that. (My birthday, but Derrick picked his favorite place to take me, Takaoka, the Japanese restaurant he loved to go to on his birthday.) I thought we’d go home after dinner, but Barb L and Derrick conspired to take me for a chocolate delight. Nowhere but DeBrands would do! What a treat! Too many choices on the menu, but I finally pick a chocolate brownie with ice cream and hot fudge sauce. Derrick was probably about 10 at the time. I remember enjoying the chocolate, but when I think about it now, what I really remember is the camaraderie of the evening, sharing conversation, laughing with each other, talking together, just being. Chocolate does that for me, helps focus in on the best of memories.

One of my favorite chocolate memories is actually tactile. Grandma made fudge. Truly a delight for all the senses! The sight of a freshly made batch, shinny in the pan before it has been cut. The sound of her beating the fudge by hand. What an upper arm workout! The smell of the chocolate concoction simmering on the stove. Don't stir yet or it will be ruined! Absolutely nothing compares to the taste of her fudge. She's gone now, but her tradition continues. My Aunt Nita makes it for birthdays and family gatherings. I make it for other family gatherings. I've even taught my college age niece to make it, assuring the tradition will go on well into the future. But the best part of thinking of the fudge brings me right to Grandma’s Love itself. She tests the fudge to cooked perfection, not with a candy thermometer as I do, but by dropping just a bit from a spoon into a cup of cold water. She pinches the small sample into a perfect, soft round ball. Then, on the tip of her middle finger, she asks if I would like to sample it. Every cell of my being can still feel the fudge and her finger on my tongue as the chocolate melts into my very soul. She’s already tested the chocolate to determine if it is ready to beat, rolled it between her fingers to feel if it’s cooked enough. Even that is a loving motion, followed through by my rolling the small fudge ball on my tongue, savoring it as long as possible.

When Derrick was born I was very particular about introducing food to him. Guess it was one way to show love and care to him. Protection even. I always knew what he had to eat and was certain the choices were the best. He didn’t nap a lot. So when he did take a nap, sometime in March of his first year, I was determined to make the best of it. I reached into the cupboard for my secret stash of Ghirardelli dark chocolate stir sticks. Left over from my Christmas stocking. Of course I couldn’t eat them in front of Derrick’s dad. But I knew where they were! I cozied into my chair with a book and ate a few of the chocolate pieces. Too soon I hear Derrick and up I go to return to mothering. Sometime later, I’m in the kitchen, keeping an eye on him in the family room, peeking through the fireplace so I know what he’s up to. He’s just started his cruising around furniture. I go into him and he turns around to face me from the footstool. I’m horrified to see his face, covered in dark goo. Has he gotten into a forbidden diapee? But then I notice the look of ecstasy and realize he’s discovered the joy of chocolate! The joy I felt then is immeasurable. Derrick takes after me! He likes chocolate! Later he would tell me not I want chocolate but I NEED chocolate.

Chocolate, streaming in and out of my life. Poured amongst the cracks and crevices of memories. Flavoring my life with richness, fullness, trust and love.


Fudge Chocolate Cake Hershey Bar Hot Fudge Sauce Aztec Fudge Cake German Chocolate Cake Beate’s Killer Cake Chocolate Sheet Cake Hot Chocolate Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Soda

Simply must view this site!  http://www.debrand.com/

Monday, November 14, 2011

Joyful Things . . .

In no particular order . . .

1. Good health.

2. Extra time with Derrick, before he starts Basic Training as a Marine.

3. Being inside, warm and toasty dry, while a thunder storm rages outside. Who would guess in mid-November?

4. Finding friends in the area that make me feel I’m at home here.

5. Going to art shows two Saturdays in a row with my friends!

6. Time spent at the Lake this summer in the cottage. Lori and Dom are dear to share such a special place with me.

7. My Artist’s Way group that meets every Wednesday. I feel grounded after spending time with them.

8. Sunday meditations with Vince. Totally revives my soul and being.

9. Book study group discussions.

10. Yoga classes. I can never get enough.

11. Walking whenever I want. Another thing I never get enough of!

12. Chocolate covered almonds, brought by Demetrius. He said I deserve them!

13. Having a family that loves and accepts me.

14. The cats. Purring, playing, snuggling, asking for food. They never cease to bring a smile to my face.

15. Being the mom that Derrick and his friends enjoy sharing time and space with.

16. The trip to Arizona in October. Beauty, meeting a new friend, spending time with Lori, walking, old friends.

17. Henri the dove. Still working on the lesson(s) about that! No doubt in my mind Henri picked me of all people he saw when he was lost to live with. He has such a gentle coo to welcome me.

18. Mixed media.

19. My art instructor.

20. The women in the art group.

21. Engaged students.

22. A load of firewood to prepare for winter. 

23. Free coupon to watch Puss ‘N Boots. Plans for the weekend!

24. Students that say good morning to me before I have a chance to greet them. They’re learning!

25. Looking forward to seeing the entire family at Thanksgiving next week. Not to mention all the good food!

26. Recognizing myself as an artist.

27. Understanding that even if I'm not in a relationship, I know I don't want to be in the wrong one. Maybe, just maybe, there is the right relationship waiting for me somewhere.

28. Pulling a pair of stockings from the drawer that doesn’t have a hole in the toe.

29. Finding friends through the world of blogging. Even having a chance to meet one of them in person! (More about this to come soon.)

30. Fixing a wonderful meal and sharing it with friends.

31. Kayaking at the Lake.

32. Hanging out at the sand bar with friends with the waves making me feel a bit bouncy in the water.

33. Finding a book to read that I simply can’t put down.

34. Having someone open a jar of olives for me.

35. Realizing having a clean house makes it easier to keep the house clean. Also helps when Derrick goes away for the weekend!

36. Shelves and containers to keep my art supplies organized.

37. Having an espresso maker at home to enjoy a morning cup.

38. Knowing that nothing calms me quite like a cup of chai.

39. Chocolate. The darker the better.

40. Having faith to take the leap into the unknown. So much better than the push from behind.

41. Laughing with a friend.

42. Believing in love come true by watching Eric and Susan. Anything is possible.

43. Even if I would like someone to share my bed with, I know it’s special to have a room of my own.

44. Realizing one day, not that long ago, that most of the art I have hanging in my home is my art. What a surprise!

45. Getting my hair done and actually thinking I look good.

46. A new eye pencil.

47. Enjoying a dinner out with Derrick and the resulting conversation. What a joy to have raised such a fine young man.

48. Meaningful conversations.

49. Taking the time to write in the mornings.

50. The surprise of sunshine when I’m not expecting it.

51. Going to bed early enough to feel rested and able to dream good dreams.

52. Getting the laundry done and all put away.

53. Just when I was feeling down last week I was told by someone special that “You are loved. You bring us all such joy.” How could I feel anything but joyous after hearing that!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooky Tales

Then let the white-flaked logs burn low,

Lest those who drift before the storm

See gladness on our hearth and know

There is no flame can make them warm.

Hortense King Flexner

Leaves blow around, there is a chill in the air. Perfect night for sitting in front of the fire and sharing spooky tales with my nephews.
The best ghost stories are the scariest when there is a grain of truth woven in. Those are the stories that people will listen to . . . hanging on your every word.

There is enough mystery in life to keep us guessing.What is real? What is made up? The stories that keep me wondering are my favorite ones to think about.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Arizona Sunshine

Just back from a week in the desert. What a joy to visit there again!
Somehow it doesn't seem quite real to be back in Indiana, getting ready for school again this morning. I'm sure it will seem real when the children enter the building in a few hours.

Will have to keep the idea of the clear blue skies in my mind's eye to get me through the day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October Full Moon

It goes by lots of names . . . Hunter's Moon, Harvest Moon, Blood Moon. I know that this one is a beauty. Shining bright these past couple of nights, glowing bright to light the night.

Last night I met with a couple of friends for our nearly every Wednesday gathering. The coming together of friends to talk, create, share a cup of tea and a sweet. We've done this nearly every week since May. Beth mentioned at another gathering that she wanted to start a study group to explore Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Three women who didn't know each other very well came together for the purpose of learning, introspection, art. The quest of life. What we found was that through our reading, our sharing, we enjoy our gatherings much more than we anticipated. It's a small group, but we've shared much. Daily life, dreams, hopes, fears, disappointments, successes. Once in awhile we miss a week because of travel, family commitments, work. But we miss each other during those off weeks and look forward to meeting again. We worked on a project last night. Beth taught us how to weave a small basket. Symbolic of the friendship we have, a safe place to hold our hearts.

One of the things we talked about last night was the full moon. The beauty of it this week. The difficulty each of us has had in getting to sleep. Can we blame the full moon for that? Seems the full moon gets blamed for that and other things . . . naughty children, extra crazy students, a stolen kiss, finding magic where we need it.

Monday, October 10, 2011


We're never so vulnerable than when we trust someone - but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.
~ Walter Anderson

Seems to be a lesson in this season of life for me . . . Trust. Of course, I've thought about it before. But it hasn't been a pervasive thought, more fleeting somehow.

It all started when I picked the word for a mixed media class. I had intentionally not taken anything with me to the class, leaving myself open to fully experience the class without a preconceived notion. The class was "Pass the Canvas." Jill instructed us to pick a word from the selections, one that we could use as inspiration for the piece. (Check out Jill’s work at: http://truoriginal.blogspot.com/search/label/art%20work) To be honest, I wasn't thrilled with the selection, but chose "trust." After all, that seemed fitting when we were to trust others with the work that was actually ours. To let the work evolve outside of my personal control, to let go, to expand a bit.

In late June Derrick and I rescued a white dove. (Though actually it is probably a lost homing pigeon.) We tried to find a home for it, but nothing felt right. So we’ve kept him, Henri, as part of our household. Not the easiest thing for a bird to coexist with two cats, lots of teenage boys, another international visitor, and me trying to manage it all at the same time. Yet it has seemed to be one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.

I turn to the symbolism of everything in my life. And what can be more symbolic than a white dove? When I tell the story of his rescue, and his presence in my life, my friends always say, “What do you think it means?” And I wonder. As usual, the answer comes in small pieces, woven into my story over time.

Henri is the epitome of living in the present moment. It appears as though he has no other place but in the now. He greets me with his cooing, gets excited about new seeds and water in his dish. He is happy when I go to sit with him on the patio to read or have an afternoon latte. It seems he even enjoys the attention of the cats, as long as they are safely far enough away from him, chattering as they do through the patio door. Watching all as the world goes by. I probably project way too much on him. But he calms my spirit whenever I sit with him or care for him. It’s a totally different experience than being with the kitties. It is the symbolic peace of the dove. He expects nothing, yet completely trusts that his needs will be provided.

I think of trust again. The word. As in the workshop, I have to learn to open up to others, Spirit, Life. To let go of the imagined control I have over my life. Do I live in a way that really trusts Spirit? Time and again I’ve been shown there is a place for me, for my talents in the world. The path has been laid down as if nearly paved in front of me at times. So why do I continue to guard my trust toward Spirit and others? True, my trust has been brutally broken by others at times. But the positives have far outweighed the negatives. And even those terrible times have resulted in wonders I never would have experienced if things had gone on without those times of broken trust. I think I place limits on my trust, I live in such a way as though I think I’ll reach my limit, as though the well will run dry, the sky has a ceiling. The reality is that there is no limit except that which I put there.

The other night I had a friend over for dinner. I hadn’t mentioned anything about Henri. Perhaps the critical voice of, “Why? You don’t need the extra work. It isn’t fair to keep a bird in a cage. . . .” was in the back of my mind. Yet, when I introduced Henri, the response was pure delight! Delighted in the story of the rescue, affirming that I did the right thing by bringing him in to care for him, giving me ideas about what to do with Henri in the upcoming cold season.

So again, I think about trust. Think that while for so long I’ve thought I was ready for love, maybe what I wasn’t ready for was trust. But maybe I am now. Ready to open up and allow myself to be vulnerable. Trust that someone else can hold my heart because of the simple fact that I let them. Trust that I am, in fact, worthy of receiving love in such a way.

I still wonder why Henri picked us as his heroes to save him when he was lost. Lessons come in the most amazing of ways.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reflective Night

"A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank...but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child." -- Forest Witcraft

Last night was the wedding of a colleague. She was one of the very first people I met when I moved to town for the teaching job. Even with the age difference, we were beginning teachers together. A special bond between the two of us. Two schools, six years, lots of children, laughter, struggles, growth and lessons later.

From the time I really knew N she was talking about, planning her wedding. Certainly worth it. What a lovely evening. Lots of fun, just like N. Ceremony brought a tear to her groom's eye. Dancing breaks into near craziness as she breaks tradition with her step father and dances like only N can. What fun. She even changed into a different dress to dance with reckless abandon.

Fun to spend an evening with colleagues and friends. Teaching friends over the years filled about 4 tables, catching up with people moved to different schools, paths going different directions. Laughing, dancing, silly pictures in a photo booth. Good times had by all.

Aside from the wedding, it was a time to reflect for me. Nothing new for me to reflect at a wedding. But this was different. This time I was reflecting on the progress I've made as a teacher these years. Two of the guests were the two principals from the boys and girls academies. The two principals that took a chance on me as a beginning teacher in an urban setting in a start up program. Me, the rather prim single mom from rural Indiana, moving into an environment I couldn't even imagine.

In a moment that I found myself alone with both S and D, I told them how meaningful it was for me to see them together. To have a chance to thank them for taking that chance on me those years ago. To let them know that I am grateful for the teacher I am because of their influence. To let them know that I've grown so much since the time I worked for them. Tears came to D's eyes as she said that's what being a life-long learner is all about. S said that one of the things he appreciated most about me as a teacher is my willingness to take constructive criticism, to take that and actually make the changes, not to act as though I knew more than he did. I told them both I wish they could see me teach now and see how much I've grown, so much as a result of what I learned by working with them. As S said, "You never know. It might happen someday." We briefly discussed the difficulties of public school these days, how politicians think they know how to run schools, the uncertainty of the future for all of us.

The one thing I do know is that I am in the right place as a teacher. And that as much as I've learned these past years professionally, I look forward to all that I will continue to learn in the future.

So as N and B start their newly married life together; new adventures, experiences, difficult and good times together, I look forward to continuing my journey as a teacher.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Labor Day Weekend harolds the end of summer. How can that be?! Seems summer just started. And then, it seems like nearly years ago already, so full of everything it was.

Favorite things I did this summer . . .
  • Being at the Lake.
  • Kayaking in the mornings.
  • Walking in the evenings, just before dark.
  • Laughing with friends.
  • Wednesday evenings with The Artist's Way group.
  • Meeting with friends at the Pub on Friday nights.
  • Saturday afternoons at the sandbar.
  • Making favorite dinners and snacks for Derrick.

Projects I worked on . . .
  • Sewing some new clothes.
  • Mixed media - two lovely pieces now housed at the Lake, plus one for my sister.
  • Artist Trading Cards.
  • Heart pillows for birthday gifts.
  • Too bad I can't list all the great ideas I have floating around my mind as completed projects.
  • Greeting cards.
  • Index cards.

Happy moments . . .
  • Watching Derrick graduate from high school.
  • Spending time with Derrick and his friends at home. Even if my only role is simply to be present while they're hanging out.
  • Being with the kitties. Even now they are on my desktop with me.
  • Listening to my dove coo a greeting for breakfast or dinner.
  • Full moons . . . a special one in June and another in July reflecting on the Lake.
  • Listening to crickets sing me to sleep.
  • Wide open windows on a cool evening.
  • The smell of rain after a dry spell.

Favorite summer foods . . .
  • Blueberry muffins, crumble, milkshakes.
  • Margaritas.
  • Mom's potato salad.
  • Grilled brats.
  • Dom's steak and ribs. (Hmm, even if I don't eat much meat, it's showing up here!)
  • Somemores.
  • Tomato, basil, mozzarella salads.
  • Iced green tea.
  • Cafe Latte in the morning as I write in my journal on the patio.
  • Aunt Nita's chocolate cake. (She always brings it for the 4th of July gathering.)
  • Kristen's special salsa.
School has been back in session for four complete weeks. So in a way it feels like summer has been over for awhile already. But summer always lasts in my heart until Labor Day Weekend.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Teach us to care and not to care. 
Teach us to sit still.
- T. S. Eliot

Today I am linking up with Gypsy Mama in the Five Minute Friday Challenge over at {in}courage. Today’s challenge is to take five short minutes to just write and then leave it be… no editing, no re-thinking it. Just writing for the love of it, for the love of written words, to become Word Artist. So here goes…

The art of patience while we are waiting. Waiting, yes, for the outcome of our desire. Waiting and trying to still the desire of the heart. Learning to let go of the outcome and simply let be what is to come.

I remember my dad said, years ago, "Patience isn't always a good thing." But what else can I do?
I try to still my heart while waiting for the answer. And remember that God rests in action. So I try to still my heart with the activity of these last days of summer. I make art with friends. I read and ponder words. I bake . . . cookies, bread, lavendar short-bread, angel food cake . . . to share with those I love. I sew, making new things to spark my life and to wear to a new school year.

Still, it is difficult to quiet my heart to the stillness, the peace it longs for. I wait.

Here is the link to check out others . . .


Friday, July 22, 2011


In the middle of the journey of my life
I found myself inside a dark forest, for
The right way I had completely lost.
 - Dante

The idea of loss has crossed my path several times this week. Once, ok; twice you might notice; third time, you better listen.

Loss has visited me many times in life. Beloved family members that have passed on, the death of my first love, friends left behind in a myriad of moves, divorce severed my family and home. Terrible things all part of the journey that is my life. I’ve come to think of some of these losses as the very fiber of my being. If I hadn’t had those incredibly significant losses, I wouldn’t even be who I am today. Sometimes that makes me sad, wondering who I might have been, but most days that idea nearly scares the living daylights out of me. The idea of continuing in a way that simply wasn’t right for me, and the idea that I am right where I need to be right now.

There are other losses, on a much smaller scale, that I’m thinking about now. Like the loss of the letters I received when I was a little girl. Letters my grandpa wrote to me when my family moved away. Instead of writing those to me in his voice, his dog Scamper was the voice I read. How Scamper missed my laughter and following me around the garden while I helped Grandpa. Suffering from the loss of his first grandchild, he was. Birthday poems that Aunt Nita sent to mark each new year. She was traveling at the time, around the world. Too expensive to send a package. Too creative to buy an ordinary birthday card. Letters Grandma sent to encourage me, remind me, be a part of me.

Those letters survive only in my memory. Small things, to be sure compared to other losses. What I wouldn’t give to have them in a box or drawer to touch a part of them now.