Hard Times

Hurricane Harvey…you are welcome to leave the great state of Texas at any time! You have become similar to the guest that overstays his/her welcome…you stink like days-old fish. Bye-bye!!

Although we only received 5.5 inches of rain over three days at our home, the communities of East Texas were not as fortunate. Houston and areas south and east have received over 50 inches of rain in places. It is estimated that over 30,000 homes have been destroyed in Houston alone and literally hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless. As of this post, six people have lost their lives, among them a first responder who drowned while attempting to get to his assignment and a mommy who died trying to save her 18 month old baby. The tragedies are many but for each sad, depressing story there are many, many more that are uplifting and filled with hope.

Texans take care of their people. When the first responders became overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people needing to be rescued from the swiftly rising flood waters, their neighbors rose up to help. Boats of all sizes were used to traverse the waters to pull people from the roofs and through the windows of their flooded homes. People used social media to connect those who needed help/shelter to those who could provide what was needed. Businesses opened their doors to any who needed shelter and volunteers poured in from all areas of the Lone Star State and neighboring states to provide a hug, a blanket, water and a hot meal to those affected by Harvey. Celebrities donated monies to help the relief effort while others set up foundations to raise funds and take donations. There is an old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and boy has that been true of Texans this week.  Although there were those who tried to put a political spin on this tragedy, the following were non-issues: race, wealth, gender, life style, politics. People helped people. It’s that simple.  All else just faded away.

Houston and the rest of the coastal area will survive. They will rebuild. They will heal and move forward. But my heart breaks for the loss of homes, possessions and, most importantly, lives.

And the rain continues to fall…

My heart is so heavy tonight. One of our sweet neighbor friends passed away this evening. His illness came on fairly recently and after a brief procedure in the hospital he was released only to return soon after. Four days later, he is gone. Michael was such a sweet man. He and his precious wife, Angel, lived across the street from us for over 29 years. They were the very first people we met…even before we moved into the house. When Steve and Mike got together they talked for hours about everything and about nothing. One thing was always certain with those two…stories were told and laughter was loud. Mike was the kind of man that would give you the shirt off of his back…literally. He always had a smile on his face and a chuckle in his throat. The ONLY annoying thing about Michael was that his lawn was ALWAYS the greenest and the most beautifully mown in the neighborhood.  Shrubs were trimmed neatly and flowers grew bigger and brighter than any others!  It didn’t matter what we did, when you compared our lawn to his, ours always looked dry, brown and raggedy!

My heart breaks for him, Angel and for his family. His death will leave a real void in their lives…and in ours.

Though rain, high waters, adversity and death surround us, we must remember that…

“God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
(Psalms 46: 1-3)
and

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
(Psalms 46: 10, 11)

We are not alone! God holds us in the palms of His great hands and we WILL prevail!

Bucket Lists

A few days ago, as Steve sat in his easy chair, I mentioned that since he was feeling better we needed to start making a list of places we wanted to go visit and things we want to do. A bucket list of sorts. He rolled his eyes and said, “We’ll see!”

I thought, “Ha! No, my sweet, we WILL!”

Most people I know have some kind of bucket list … a “To Do” list, if you will, of future activities. Personally, I think making a bucket list is important! We have written several lists over the years only to misplace them (my turn to roll the eyes). The lists always turn up again after we’ve rewritten a new one. As it turns out not one of the lists were the same. In fact, while each list may have had one or two overlapping activities/things to see, each subsequent list has been almost completely different from the previous one.

So, if the list changes as often as we brush our teeth, why make a bucket list at all? Well, for us, creating a bucket list is a way to acknowledge that there are things we want to do and there are places we want to experience before we can no longer do so. The list helps us to prioritize, plan and save for each activity.

I used to think that the bucket list should be unchanging, the “must dos” and “must sees” would remain the same until the end. I mean, the list in the movie, The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman never changed! Shouldn’t our bucket list remain the same until its completed or until we die? Our list seems to change as often as we do. As various life events happen, as we grow and our interests change, the list adapts, as well.

Since Stevie is feeling better, we begin again…

Spend a month in Ireland.
Visit every state in America.
Hike the Grand Canyon.
Eat at one Diners, Drive In and Dive locations in each…
Learn to…
Drive a…
Eat at…
Fly a…
D…

Adversity

I went out to water the garden today and noticed a couple of weeds growing up through the crushed granite.  They were just behind the containers where I had planted some of our favorite tomato varieties.  Absentmindedly, I bent down to grasp the stem where it met the rock and then I stopped.  The plant was NOT a weed but a tomato plant.  In fact, as I stood up, I realized that there were two tomato plants growing up through the stone.  Paying attention now, I looked around and there was a third tomato plant growing up through the rock.  How in the world did that happen?  I laughed aloud as I wondered how those seeds had found a foothold in the soil beneath the crushed granite and how it was that they were growing bigger and stronger than the plants in the containers!!

In some ways, the lives of people mimic what is going on with the stone and those little tomato plants.  When do we grow the most?  When do we become the strongest? We become stronger only when we go through adversity.  When the world of hard knocks comes around, we learn new skills and/or strengthen those we already have.  We push through, pick ourselves up, straighten our backs, lift our chins and step out to continue on for another day.  When the world treats us less than well and we come out successfully on the other side, we have overcome!

God is waiting to hear from you so He can help!  He is there for YOU!

What do you need today?  We will pray for you!

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“…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that  tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. ”  Romans 5: 3,4

How to make Reusable “Paper” Towels

In my last post I explained how we came to the decision of using reusable paper towels.  In this post I will explain how I made them and how YOU, too, can make these for your home.

  1.  Choose your fabric.  I love to shop online for fabrics and Hawthorne Threads and Fabric.com are two of my favorites.  If you are fortunate to have a Walmart or Hobby Lobby near you, you most likely can find fabrics that you love at those stores, as well.  If you don’t mind the towels not matching, you might consider looking for “fat quarters”.  These are anywhere from 8-12 pieces of fabric measuring approximately 18″x18″.  You can pick these up pretty inexpensively.
  2. I purchased 1 1/4 yards of quilting cotton for one side of the towel.  You will need the same amount of terry cloth for the other side.
  3. Using your cutting board and rotary fabric cutter, cut your fabric into 12″x12″ squares.  When finished, you will have nine lovely towels to use in your kitchen!
  4. Once your fabric is cut, they should look something like this.  You can iron the pieces if you wish, but I don’t and they turn out just fine.img_33991.jpg
  5. Pin the fabric together, right sides together.

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6.  As you sew, you will need to leave a space so you can turn the fabric.  I usually put a double pin on either side of the opening as a reminder to NOT sew it closed.

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7.  Using a 1/4″ seam, sew along all of the edges, leaving a space between the double sets of pins.  Be sure to sew and then backstitch at the beginning and the end of your seam.

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8.  When you are finished, turn the fabric right-side out.  Use your scissors to make sure the corners are pushed out into points!

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9.  Find the open area and turn under the fabric.  Tuck under the pieces not sewn and pin closed.

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10.  Topstitch a 1/8″ seam all around the towel being sure to back stitch at the beginning and end!

11.  Find the center of the towel and stitch down the center.  This will hold the towel together when you are using it to dry your hands or wipe up spills.

IMG_3406You should now have a stack of fabulous reusable paper towels to use in your kitchen.  I hope you love them as much as we love ours.

Feel free to ask questions or comment below!

 

Reducing our Carbon Footprint!

Last Tuesday, when I took the kitchen garbage out to the garage, I had a small epiphany. How is it that two adults can create so much trash within just a couple of days? I took that thought, pushed it back and finished my chores.

A couple of days later, while making dinner, I suddenly stopped and looked at the wet paper towel I was holding in my hands.  “How many towels had I used?”  I opened the trash and counted at least ten paper towels just sitting on the top of the heap.  The only thing those towels had been used for was to dry off my hands and to wipe up small spills on the countertop as I prepared our dinner.

What a waste of resources! How many trees are cut down each year just to provide me with something with which to dry my hands? I got to thinking…I bet there are people smarter than I who have already figured out how to handle this.  To Pinterest, to Pinterest I went!

Sure enough, someone had already figured out that they could make reusable, otherwise known as, the “unpaper” paper towel. Now, I know what you are thinking, “Why don’t you just go purchase some extra dish towels?” Well, I could, but I wanted something smaller than a kitchen towel and, more importantly, I wanted towels that were pretty and would also look beautiful in my kitchen.

I visited my favorite online fabric store, Hawthorne Threads, and chose three designs in quilting cotton that were perfect, as well as, some terry cloth. I cut the fabric into the size that I wanted, pinned the fabric together and started to sew.  It really didn’t take too long to finish a set of reusable towels.

In the next post, I will provide directions on how to make the towels. Even if you are not an experienced seamstress you CAN make these towels. It’s easy breezy!!

We LOVE them! They are pretty, soft, very absorbent and our carbon footprint on our earth is reduced just an itty bitty bit!

Fun Day

Yesterday, my mom came out to our little place in the country. She loves to visit us in the country but hasn’t been able to come out for quite awhile. The cows on the road, the deer and antelope, jackrabbits and hummingbirds make her heart so happy. That being said, she wasn’t coming out to just sit back and veg! She came out to go shopping!

So, after pigging out on a lunch of Kiolbassa sausage with onions and peppers, we took off! Steve really didn’t feel up to walking a lot, so we left him to enjoy the peace and quiet of lounging in his favorite recliner.

Our first stop was Mom’s favorite little store in Fredericksburg, Phil Jackson’s Granite and Iron Works. Whenever we are in town, she must stop in to search for new iron and granite pieces designed and built by Phil. After consulting and bartering a bit with Phil, we left. Getting back in the car, we turned around to drive back towards Johnson City and one of MY favorite places, The Wildseed Farm!

I LOVE this place. It is a very popular place with locals and tourists alike. Red poppies sandwich the nursery and the vibrant color of the flowers is what first draws your attention to this gem! Once inside, the red poppies are just the beginning of a super shopping experience. There is a walking path with a wide variety of flowers just waiting for you to enjoy. If you are lucky, you will visit at just the right time to see butterflies by the hundreds enjoying whatever the flowers have to offer.

The main store is filled with garden and home items featuring flowers, birds and butterflies. The aroma of lavender wafts under your nose as you peruse the wares. In the rear of the store are bags and bags of Texas native wildflower seeds just waiting to be tossed on an open piece of soil. Homemade jellies, salsa, canned vegetables, local honey and more are stacked floor to ceiling in the second building. Fortunately, they offer a variety of goodies to cool you off on those blazing Texas afternoons. In addition to a wine tasting room, they have beer, ice tea and homemade ice cream (I hear that the peach ice cream is to die for).

The Wildseed Farm is not a huge nursery but they have a very nice selection of organic, treatment free flowers, herbs and bushes from which you may choose. When you are finished shopping or if you just need to take a break, there is a large covered area in the middle of the property where you can rest while you drink something cool and enjoy the beautiful plants all around you!

Mom and I only had enough time to shop for plants today and we came home with some beautiful specimens. I can’t wait to get them all in the ground (or in containers)! Mom loves the color purple (violet in artist’s vernacular) and so she chose a purple Delphinium. Although she’s never grown this type of flower she decided to give it the ol’ college try. I certainly hope that she is successful with the plant because she was so tickled to buy it!

Once we spent what was left in our pocket books we once again turned the car toward home but were led to stop at William Chris Winery to enjoy a glass of vino! I am determined that Mom will learn to love wine…well, at least one varietal!! She did seem to enjoy a Muscat called Mary Ruth which was named after the mother of one of the owners. William Chris has a lovely porch and “back yard” where you can sit for hours and just soak up the environment and Hill Country atmosphere.

Our day ended back at Casa de Holson where we ate dinner, walked the pups and looked at all new additions to the garden.

The day was a day filled with laughter, teasing and sharing.  How blessed are we!

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter,                                                                                 And our tongue with singing.                                                                                                            Then they said among the nations,                                                                                                   “The Lord has done great things for them.”

Psalm 126:2
Continue reading “Fun Day”

Digging Deep

Joy! Joy! Joy! Joy!
Down in my heart.
Down in my heart.
Down in my heart.
I’ve got joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay!

I remember singing that little ditty in Sunday School when I was little (at least those are the words I recall). I love the tune. I love the words and I love the intent of the song.

But…those words are hard to believe and live by when your world turns upside down.

My last post was on February 3rd when Steve went into the hospital. Although he was released four days later, he ended up back in the hospital on the 20th. That time he spent a week in the hospital and my “joy reserves” were pretty much depleted. I’m a pretty tough ol’ bird and usually hold it all together pretty well, but February almost did me in! Maintaining an attitude of joy while in the midst of turmoil, fear and sadness is so difficult and, I suppose that is why I had such a tough time writing for this blog.

Fortunately, my sweetie has several fabulous doctors and they changed his treatment plan and, while he is no longer receiving chemotherapy, he has been moved to an immunotherapy protocol which allows his body time and space to repair itself. It has taken over six weeks, but his former self is starting to emerge and for that I rejoice.

As Steve continues to improve we have been able to bring back some semblance of normalcy to our days. I’ve planted our garden, painted a little bit, completed a couple of sewing projects and began cooking a variety of new meals (he isn’t turning his nose up at most food any longer)! This past week, on Wednesday, Steve mowed a small portion of our front yard. Yesterday, he moved his stationary bike in from the garage and rode it…TWICE! And today, while I went to town, he dusted the living room and dust-mopped the floors! Yes, things are slowly returning to what we consider to be normal!

During these past two plus months I’ve thought about joy, what I have said and/or written about it, what I believed about the concept. I’ve had a couple of insights…insignificant perhaps but biggies for me.

Joy, joy, joy, joy….sometimes it is buried too deeply under the worries of the day to easily find it. I almost feel guilty for saying “There’s always something to be joyful about. We just have to look for it” . It’s not really that simple after all. Even when we look for it, in times of stress and earthly troubles, it’s nearly impossible to locate.

Joy, joy, joy, joy,
Down in my heart to stay…

In spite of what life heaps on us, we will keep trying to find joy in our day and I encourage you to do the same. We are not alone on this journey. There is happiness, light and goodness on the path. We may to shovel some debris before we see it, but see it we can…if we will!!

Our recent joys:

  • Steve is feeling better each day.
  • Our 11 year old Malti-Poo was found after two days and nights in the country…alone.
  • Encouragement…consistent and constant from family and friends.
  • The garden is planted.
  • The hummingbirds are back.
  • We are occasionally visited by our Cardinal friends.
  • Baby birds in the nest above our porch.
  • That rattlesnake seen on the road was not in my yard!
  • Our Savior, Jesus Christ, died for us so that we might live!
  • God is on His throne and His eyes are ever on us!

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him

Psalms 28:7

Thankful

It is almost 1:00 a.m. and I sit in this darkened hospital room with a thankful heart.

It has been a long day. Steve has not felt well all week, but when I woke up this morning, I found him at the kitchen table with his head between his knees. He was short of breath, extremely fatigued and light-headed. After a short conversation with his oncologist, we got into the car and headed south. Yup, we were on the way to the hospital…again. After being on the road for about an hour and a half we arrived at the hospital at around 10:30 a.m. After a million questions to which the answers had to be repeated, much poking and prodding, blood cultures, CT scans, urine samples and conversations between doctors, they made the decision to admit Steve to the hospital about an hour later.

You know, this cancer “thing” is no walk in the park and is not for the weak at heart! His blood counts were dangerously low and he has an infection “somewhere” so he was given four (or five…who’s counting) different antibiotics throughout the afternoon and into the late evening. Two units of blood and plasma, five different oral medications and an insulin shot were added to the ever-lengthening list.

It is no wonder that my sweet, ever-strong, wise and calm-as-a-cucumber husband began to feel completely overwhelmed and filled with an anxiety that he couldn’t shake. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it or not, but my precious husband is not a great talker when it comes to things that really weigh on his heart but tonight he at least voiced that he was anxious, that this shouldn’t be happening, that he was overwhelmed and disappointed that he had to be admitted to the hospital.

Those feelings had so taken over his mind that he couldn’t sleep. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I rubbed his arm and assured him that there was nothing to be anxious about, that I was “here” and I was “not going anywhere”. More importantly, I reminded him that God was here in the room with him as was his guardian angel and the prayers of many of our friends were being said on his behalf.

It was then that he took a deep breath, closed his eyes and slept. Not for too long as we ARE in a hospital and no one EVER rests in one of those, but he is sleeping soundly in larger chunks of time.

And his fever finally broke.

When the morning sun breaches the horizon we will still be here in this hospital room. But, we are thankful that the antibiotics are doing their job, that his fever has broken, his strength is already returning and his eyes are brighter than they were earlier in the day.

So, I sit here in this darkened room, listening to him breathe (and snore), and I am thankful.

I am thankful that my mom was able to come sit with Steve as I ran back to our house, packed a bag, and dropped the dogs off at the kennel!

I am thankful for the nurses, doctors, technicians, cooks and housekeepers that keep this hospital running like a top as they care for my sweetie.

I am thankful to our God who is Peace and Love and who carries us in the palm of His hands in our darkest hours.

I am thankful for another day with my best friend.

A Love Note

This has been another difficult week for us. Steve’s final “hard” chemo treatment was last Friday and the subsequent days have been filled with nausea, chills, fatigue, no desire for food and very little communication. He’s always been a quiet guy at home but these days he sits in front of the television in unbearable (for me) silence.

I assume it is a lonely place to be in for him (he doesn’t want or can’t talk about much of anything) and I know it is for me. So how do I cope when the ocean waters threaten to breach the walls and overflow?

I walk and I talk (or cry) with God.

On Saturday, the day after Steve’s treatment, l went on one of those walks. As I finished a crying jag and a rather one-sided conversation with God wherein I fussed that He didn’t care about me (us) and that I felt completely alone (which I’m not) and whined about Him not listening to my prayers, I stopped walking to blow my drippy nose. I looked down. There, off to the side of the trail was a beautiful pink stone made of crystals. It rested all by itself surrounded by a sea of white and gray rock. The light rose-colored stone isn’t one usually found in our area and was, most likely, brought in months ago when contractors laid the makeshift road.

You may not think anything of that, but I believe that the stone was a love note from God. I picked it up, gently put it in my pocket and took it home with me. I don’t usually collect stones but this one was special!

The rest of the week was no easier but that love note helped to get me through the next several days. When Steve had a really tough time or when he took a nap during the day and I was left alone with my thoughts, I remembered finding that stone and, just like that, I wasn’t alone anymore. God was right there with me!

You would think that I would have been satisfied but, no. That’s not really human nature, is it?

Yesterday, as I walked a different road/trail with Ella, I was in the middle of another conversation with God. This time, I made certain that I spent some time in praise. I thanked Him for the blessings in my life. I thanked Him for Steve and that he appeared to be feeling a bit better. I thanked Him for the beautiful, cool day. However, in spite of all of HIs blessings, I again began to feel as if I were alone. So, I did what humans typically do, I asked God to show me (prove to me, I suppose), again in a tangible way, that He was there. It didn’t have to be much, I told Him. It didn’t have to be another pretty piece of earth with crystals in it. An object of any kind with an interesting shape or color would suffice! Nothing out of the ordinary…just something that would shout, “I’m here”.

As we walked the last quarter mile of trail, I noticed a flat, clear plat of land just to the left of the trail on which we were walking. I didn’t recall seeing that piece of land before and we stepped off of the trail and walked over to see what might be there. I scanned the ground and noticed a ‘rock’ with an interesting shape resting near the center. Bending down to retrieve it, I was amazed.

A fossil!

There was no mistaking His intention. There was no doubt in my mind. That fossil was God’s shout of, “I’m here”!!

Our God DOES answer prayers. All we have to do is ask. His answer won’t always be “Yes”. Many times His answer is “No” and sometimes it is “Wait”.

Twice this week, He answered my simplest request with a “Yes” and provided a tangible object for me to look at and remember that He listens and responds. Our difficult days as a family are not over. My prayers for Steve’s healing may not be answered in the affirmative but, when things get tough, I am going to look at those two stones, both created under heat and pressure, and remember that Steve and I are not alone! We will come through this time stronger than ever!

It certainly helps knowing that our God stands with us…Always.

The Joy of Creating

When I look about at the world I think, “God must love the artistic endeavor!”  I mean, at the very start of the Bible, God is busy creating something out of nothing.  He separated day from night, created animals of every size, shape and color, plants in various shades of green, rose, yellow and blues and, he created us!  I can’t help but envision our heavenly Father having a blast  when, with every flicker of his eyelash or crook of his finger, something different, new, interesting and fun appeared before His and the angels eyes!

Ever since I was itty bitty I loved art. Although I enjoyed looking at the art made by others, making my own creations was the most fun. Whenever I had the opportunity, I painted and drew.  I drew in class, at the dinner table and under the sheets when I was supposed to be in bed.  I even pretended to be sick one day so that I could stay home from school to complete a painting!  Suffice it to say that when I wasn’t reading I was creating!  That all came to a screeching halt when I moved out of my mom’s house at age 19.  Life became extremely busy…I went to work, got married, returned to school, had my own kiddos and then I went back to work! There just wasn’t enough time left over to devote to a hobby.

Steve knew how much I missed that part of my life and, once we retired, he encouraged me to pick up the paintbrush again!  He is such a smart man!!  While far from being a professional artist, I am learning more all of the time and I LOVE it. Creating art brings me great joy.

As I finish new pieces, I will share them with you. If you are interested in these or in having something painted just for you, I invite to email me at onjoyroad@gmail.com.