On Waiting

“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience–or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”
~Mrs. Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility


A friend referred to this past summer as “a growing-pains” summer, and I could apply that description to our last year-and-a-half.

I remember the sharp, deep ache under my shins as a child, which seemed to radiate from the very center of my bones.  I feel it in my chest, now–when I see the list of church services I’m missing, when I listen to the sound of Shaun backing the car out of the drive-way in the early morning, when I open our check-book.  The feeling of being relentlessly stretched and shaped, sometimes beyond what you believe you can bear.

So we clench our teeth against the tears, and pray as relentlessly as the ache comes, and try to believe that the growth spurt is worth the ache in our bones.


Etsy Shop: Flora

A little detour from my usual fabric, bead-embroidered items: new in my Etsy shop is a floral-decorated candle, “Flora”…actually, it is probably more accurate to say that it is a bouquet, featuring a candle!


The candle is a 15-inch, drip-resistant white taper, around which is arranged fluffy green hydrangea, dusky blue flowers, and demure cream blooms.  Vintage lace encircles the bouquet.  The bottom of the candle is wrapped in white satin ribbon, over which a sheer white organza ribbon has been crossed and secured with pearl-headed pins.  The overall effect is fresh and vibrant, ready for Spring (and aren’t we all!).

I hope that this candle will add to your celebration of Easter or a baptism.

This candle is available in this Etsy listing.


There, and Back Again

In December 2017, Shaun and I flew to El Paso, TX with three friends to attend the wedding of a mutual friend.

I never thought I would see El Paso again in my life.

Over the last five years, Shaun has repeatedly, publicly, vowed that he would never again step foot in that city.  Or, for that matter, in the entire state of Texas (which, as everyone–especially Texans–knows, is quite a lot of area to avoid).

Life has a gleeful way of making you eat your words.

To everyone who likes El Paso, I apologize.  It probably does not quite deserve the ire we heap on it.  It has its good points (Shaun has only admitted this recently).  Shaun spent a year at Fr. Bliss (a misnomer) before we were married.  His first barracks was an ant-infested trailer in the middle of the desert.  He encountered a bleak landscape, blazing heat, stalking coyotes, and wasps the size of hummingbirds.  He was far from enchanted.

Then we married, and he brought me back to El Paso to live.  It was like being thrown off the deep end.  We were newly-weds, newly Orthodox, newly Army, new to Texas, and many little things all added up to culture shock and chaos–even the fact that we had never lived in a place which boasts 360 days of sun a year.  The heat, the lack of trees, the absence of green grass, the bare mountains–to us, they all represent the hardships of that year.

So when I looked down from the plane window in December and saw the familiar tan, veined, scrubby, alien-looking landscape below, I wanted to cry.  Or beg the pilots to turn the plane around.

When we were waiting to de-plane, and I saw the Franklin Mountains looming up beyond the airport, I had to remind myself that I was only staying for about 45 hours.

And when, upon getting out in the city, the first sight that welcomed us was a rather incredible traffic accident,* I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into by coming back.

It did not help that the GPS, while trying to calculate directions to our lunch destination, kept ominously repeating, “Turn back.” 

And then–perhaps in a spate of vengeance for failing to heed it–the GPS routed us along I-10, which is basically tantamount to attempted murder.

But then El Paso began to redeem itself.

We had lunch at a recommended BBQ place, and my fingers got sticky with a brisket sandwich dripped with tangy, smokey sauce.  We crashed at the apartment of one of our weekend hosts, who made five let-lagged people feel at home while juggling her children, out-of-town family, and meeting our own last-minute needs.  We met up with far-flung friends and belly-laughed our way through the wedding rehearsal, which was followed by a delicious Mexican buffet dinner.  The next morning, after Shaun and I spent a very comfortable night with our own host family, we snacked on pan dulce and horchata while getting ready for the wedding, and laughingly rolled our eyes when the ceremony had to be delayed for twenty minutes because of guests arriving on “El Paso time.”

That evening we had fancy hot chocolate at Starbucks, watched the city lights from Scenic Drive (where Shaun had proposed, almost seven years before), star-gazed at McKelligon Canyon, and paid a nostalgic visit to our favorite Italian restaurant.  The refrain during our jaunts around the city was a (generally) pleasantly surprised, “oh yeah, I had forgotten about that!”


Night view from Scenic Drive


Christmas tree on the Wells Fargo building, which I had forgotten about.

When Sunday morning rolled around, we drove over the mountain (which still had a dusting of snow) and to the airport, where I bought post-cards.

photo 6

Snow on the mountain.

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I actually found myself wishing that I had more time to see sights, visit old spots, and catch up with friends.  And thinking that maybe I wouldn’t mind going back again.  Just for a visit.

–Although I will always silently panic-pray every single time we have to drive on I-10.


*The scene of the accident: a solid-looking retaining wall in front of a shopping center.  A large black pick-up truck had plowed into and over the wall, knocking part of it loose.  ON TOP of the truck, almost as if it had been dropped from the sky, was a red sports car.  (Unfortunately?) we were all so stunned, and so busy asking each other, “did you just see what I thought I saw?” and “how, in the name of physics, did that happen?” that none of us thought to get a photo.

Etsy Shop: Splendor Crowns and Candles

I often have trouble titling my creations, but this was not the case with these particular crowns and candles.  The beautiful cream-and-gold paisley ribbon paired with the winking gold braid quickly suggested “splendor.”

This set of crowns sparkles in the light.  They are covered in a gold and ivory paisley brocade ribbon, which is overlaid with gold trim. The inside of the crowns is lined with an ivory ribbon edged in gold. These crowns are tied together with an ivory satin ribbon, which is attached to the crowns with a “neck-tie” tie.  They may be found here in my Etsy shop.


Splendor crowns–available in my Etsy shop

The candles are made of the same ribbon and braid, and could be used with the crowns as a matched wedding set, if desired.  The candles are currently available as 15-inch tapers.  They are available here.



My First (and Last) Valentine’s Date

Shaun and I have a running joke that we just can’t do things the easy or normal way.  We met in college and then dated long-distance for four years, first between Ohio and New York, and then between Texas and New York, while I finished up school.  With inter-state travel being a necessity, we were bound to have a few travel-related mishaps along the way.

It also meant that “dating” was a bit of a misnomer when it came to describing our relationship.  E-mailing, AIM-ing, phoning, skype-ing, even letter-writing, yes–but actual dates were a rare thing.  In fact, we didn’t have our first real date until we had been “dating” for about a year and a half.  I suppose we could have tried a candlelit dinner via Skype, but I doubt a glowing computer screen would have created the same ambiance.

When Shaun surprised me by visiting for Valentine’s Day weekend my sophomore year, we were eager to try out this long-heard-of-but-as-yet-untried relationship ritual.  The college was set in a rural part of New York, and the campus and surrounding hamlet offered no appealing venue for such a momentous occasion–being not only our first date, but also the most romantic day of the year, at that.  The nearest large town, which was half an hour away, boasted an Italian restaurant, and we decided that this would be very suitable.

Being winter in New York, it was getting dark by the time we set out along the winding county routes.  We were excited and a little nervous and relieved that, finally, some part of our relationship would conform to the prescribed pattern.  Lacking a car, I was also excited to get off campus and at least see some different trees than everyday.

Everything had been going smoothly by the time we arrived in town, and we were basking in the rosy romance of being together, on a date, on Valentine’s Day.  At the first stoplight, Shaun got into the left-turn lane and waited for the light.  The light glowed green–and the truck stalled.

He turned the truck off and back on, and nothing happened.  He tried again.  Meanwhile, the line of vehicles waiting to turn grew longer and longer.  Giving up on getting the engine to come back to life, Shaun found the AAA card in the glove box and called the number.  The cars behind us also gave up on waiting, and started using the center lane to turn left around us.  After waiting through several “press one” thresholds, a recorded message politely informed us that the AAA offices were closed that night.

We looked at each other in dismay.  There was no other service number to try, and we were blocking traffic.  “I don’t know the local police number, but there’s always 911,” I suggested. Shaun apologetically explained our non-emergency situation to the 911 operator, who dispatched a police vehicle to assist us and told us to sit tight.  We sat in the dark and watched as annoyed drivers navigated around us.

At last we saw flashing lights and an officer pulled up behind us.  Shaun demonstrated the stalled engine to him.  He had Shaun put the truck in neutral, and pushed the vehicle across the intersection and onto the shoulder.  Then he offered us a lift to the police station, where we could try and figure out a way to get back to campus.

I sat in the passenger seat of the police car, while Shaun had the notable experience of riding in the back, on the hard plastic bench, behind a metal grate.  When we arrived at the station, the officer said to me, “You can go ahead and get out, but then you’ll have to let him [Shaun] out, because the back doors don’t open from the inside.”   So I ended up chivalrously holding the car door open for my boyfriend.

Inside the police station, we tried to figure out what to do next.  The other officers offered us coffee, and a few jokes about our situation, and looks full of pity.  At the time I did not have a cell phone, and had none of my friends’ numbers.  In any case, few of them had cell phones, and even fewer had vehicles.  Thankfully, Shaun’s phone still had numbers for some of his fellow ROTC cadets, from when he had attended the college the previous year.  He started working his way down the list.

Not surprisingly, most everyone was out for Valentine’s Day.  At long last, he reached someone who wasn’t out on a date, and thankfully, who had a car.  Forty-five minutes later, our ride pulled up outside the police station door.  We rode back to campus in awkward silence.  So yeah, thanks for picking us up from our date at the police station–so glad you didn’t have a date yourself tonight….

Our rescuer accepted our profuse thanks and some money for gas, and dropped us off at the campus center.  It was late, and we still had not eaten, so we made our way to the campus snack shop, where we ate wraps and curly fries at a booth, surrounded by students doing homework, goofing off, and ogling this poor couple who had to have a date at the snack shop.

The bright side of this situation was that Shaun had to stay over for an extra day, to wait for his truck to be repaired.

We never did get to that Italian restaurant.

But Shaun did propose two years later, so it must not have been such a bad first date, after all.

In the Grip of the White Witch

Originally written on December 28, 2017.  I couldn’t quite bear to post it until we had passed the half-way point for winter.

I was dozing this morning when I half-heard a loud “bang.”  A few seconds later, the water in the bathroom abruptly stopped.  Shaun, who was brushing his teeth, moaned, “Oh, no.”  That really woke me up.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, as he came into the room and started throwing on layers of clothes.

“The water stopped,” he said, putting on his third shirt.  “And there was a bang.  I’m going to see if one of the pipes burst in the basement.”

I followed Shaun downstairs, which was markedly colder than the upstairs, and waited anxiously as he went into the basement.  I could feel the cold seeping into the house.  The furnace had long given up on keeping the house at our set 64-degrees, and had settled for 59 instead.  A few minutes later, it gave up on even that, and the thermostat registered 58-degrees in our living room.

Shaun returned from the basement and reported that no pipes had broken, thankfully, and that he had stopped up an old, broken basement window, in an attempt to keep out the frigid air.  A little later, our water started flowing again.

Disaster averted.

After consulting the weather conditions posted online, Shaun finished dressing for work. He often spends a great deal of time working outdoors in a warehouse and supply yard.  -21-degrees merited long johns, a long-sleeve tee and two sweaters, two pairs of pants, wool socks, and a fleece jacket to top it all off.  This was before he put on all his outerwear, mind you.  I imagine him toddling around work looking like the Michelin man.

A little before 7:00AM, in a fit of perverse curiosity, I checked the online weather report.  Weather.com was cruel enough to initially pull up the stats for Miama, FL, where it was a balmy 60-degrees.  I checked our town again, which had fallen to -22-degrees.  The local news station reported that Watertown, NY, had set a state record that morning for -25-degrees–not factoring in wind-chill.  This comes directly on the heels of record-breaking snowfall in the Tug Hill region.

Fairbanks, AK, on the other hand, was reporting a balmy -1-degrees.

While I was on the computer, I was startled by several more ominous-sounding bangs coming from the house.  This is my fifth winter in New York’s North Country, so I am no longer a stranger to sub-zero temperatures, but this is the coldest I have yet experienced.  After checking the house, I settled down the conclusion that the house was merely “creaking with cold.”  The whole morning has been an unnerving symphony of structural pops, bangs, creaks, and crackles.  As I was eating breakfast in the dining room, a small older window suddenly started crackling–the very sound ice or glass makes in the movies when it is cracking and about to shatter.  It looked fine, but I finished my bagel while watching the window with suspicion.

It’s not even January, yet.

(Not long after, in January, I set a new personal record for Coldest Temperature Experienced, at -30 degrees.  That was quite cold enough, thank you.)


Come soon, Aslan.


Why Punxsutawney Phil lives in Pennsylvania…

After living in New York’s North Country for five years, having Groundhog Day on February 2 seems rather pointless to me.

At this time of year, a groundhog’s burrow is still deep under multiple feet of snow.  Forget the groundhog seeing his shadow–you can’t even see the groundhog.  Or his den.  I doubt he even wakes up long enough to consider attempting to dig his way out.

Of course we are going to have six more weeks of winter.  At least.  There’s even two snowstorms on the way to prove it.

Having Groundhog Day on April 2, though…that would make more sense.

Dear Groundhog, is it going to snow on Mother’s Day?

That’s the question everyone around here would like answered.


Winged Futility

He beats himself against the window
framed in a square of watery winter light
while behind him
stretches the wide, wide-open door
but he
is futility, winged.



(A note for animal-lovers: he did eventually find his way out…cupped carefully in my hands…and flew away into the great outdoors.)

Apple Harvest

At the start of the year, when we decided to move–when I cringed at the thought of ripping out all the emotional threads I’ve sewn into this place–I secretly thought, “Oh!  But we will miss the apple harvest!  Perhaps we could stay just that long….”

(Be careful what you wish for).

We have two trees, one an eating apple variety, and one a cooking apple variety.  The eating apple tree is beautiful and produces some of the most delicious fruit I have ever tasted–sweet, tangy, and flavorful.  The cooking apple tree, on the other hand, is like a vertical thicket, and has small, hard, ugly apples.  Until this year, we had not harvested from it, as the apples looked so unappealing.

Last year, due to the unusually hot, dry summer, neither tree produced any apples. This  was a great disappointment to me.  This spring, as I looked at the bounty of blossoms on the eating apple tree, I thought regretfully of the harvest we would miss.

As spring turned to summer, I watched as “baby apples” replaced the blossoms on the eating tree.  It was packed!  And then, for some reason…perhaps because of all the rain, perhaps because we need to prune the tree…all the apples turned brown and rotted on the branch.  There would be no apple harvest, whether we lived here or not.  Summer slipped away into fall, and with my last reason for staying here gone, I became very impatient to leave.

September came, and on a whim one afternoon, I walked around the side of the barn to look at the two trees.  The cooking apple tree is “hidden” behind the eating tree, so I don’t see it unless I go looking.  The eating apple tree had almost no fruit on its branches, and even its leaves were sparse.  But the cooking apple tree…it was lush with leaves and packed with round, yellow-red apples.  I was amazed.  We would have apples, after all.

After such a rainy summer, it took extra time for the apples to fully ripen, but towards the end of September we gleaned almost three bushels from its branches.  I was elated.  Money is tight right now, and any source of food is welcome.  I was somewhat less elated when peeling, coring, and cutting the apples took a week and a half, and canning took another week–fitting it in around the I had other things I had to do, like go to work and do laundry–but at last the apples were processed, frozen and canned.

I have been struggling over the last few months with anger and impatience over our lack of progress towards moving.  We feel stuck, and forgotten, and we are tired, and tired of waiting, and tired of being tired.  I let this house, which I truly love, become a source of resentment and bitterness.  Some wise words from dear friends have helped me change my perspective, slowly.  I began to pray for comfort during the waiting, rather than the strength to forge my own way through.  And we were given apples…the ugly apples from the ugly tree, which I had discounted–and they softened my impatience and quelled my anger.

Thanks be to God for His provision, and for His softening of hard hearts.

And for ugly apples.

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Six Years

In 2018, my grandparents on both sides of my family will celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversaries.

Shaun and I marked six years of marriage on November fifth.

Our years are few by comparison, but I hope that one day six will be sixty.


I did not write last year, to mark five years, because it was too hard.  The times come when everything seems to crash around you, and a year-and-a-half later, we are still sifting through the pieces.

Together.  Thank God.

I have fallen in love with Shaun even more fiercely over the last year.  His character has truly been tested, and has not been found wanting.  I admire and strive after his faithfulness, integrity, loyalty, compassion, and self-sacrifice.

And, also, I’m completely smitten with his post-Army curly hair and beard. 🙂


I was cleaning out a closet not long ago, and found two shoe-box size plastic bins.  One held all of the letters and cards I sent to Shaun while he was in Army basic training.  The other held cards from our wedding, and most of the correspondence we received over our first year of marriage, while we were living in Texas.

Seeing the cards and letters transported me back to our one-bedroom apartment in El Paso.  I got a bit teary, re-reading the encouragement people sent to us as newly-weds, living a new life in a new place.  It was a hard year.  It’s taken me a while (the last five years) to realize just how hard.  Those cards and letters bolstered us through the difficulty.

I was terribly remiss in thanking the senders of those cards and letters for their thoughtfulness and encouragement–but I was grateful then, and possibly, I am even more grateful now.  The difficulties come and go and change, but we know that we are not alone in them.


Happy anniversary, my love.  And thank you to everyone who has encouraged us, shared their wisdom with us, and smiled and laughed and cried with us over the years.  I hope there will be many more years to come.