Thursday, November 22, 2012

On Being Thankful

Please excuse my stream of consciousness ramblings - it's what I've got...

I've tried to keep my mind on gratefulness this month especially when all around me is in complete chaos. Boxes stacked along walls, some labeled, others still open and waiting for odds and ends, seem to be the decor of my home and my life at the moment. The scary part is we have to be out of this place in one week and the scarier part is we have no place to go. Our hands are tied. Banks and mortgage lenders do not care how urgent it is for them to move through quickly and apparently don't care about dates and deadlines either and so we sit at their mercy, awaiting the moment they claim to have checked off all the boxes and completed their end. Why do they get to break deadlines and say its our problem? It gets a little frustrating when the same request is made three times by three different people. I thought this electronic age was supposed to simplify this process. Well as a good friend reminded me last night. God's plans will not be thwarted by man. So I rest in gratefulness that He has this situation under control. I often send a silent prayer up during the days and sleepless nights with the simple plea - whatever you have planned please reveal to me. And although the answer has yet to come about He gives me peace.
And so I continue into the chaos of a move into a house in much need of rehab and a new job and the holiday season and I attempt to be grateful. And I am! Don't get me wrong, I have much to be thankful for and I am reminded of it especially today as we celebrate thanksgiving. I have a warm place to live, a roof over my head and I have no doubt at all that should we not be able to move into our new place for a few more weeks I will still have a roof over my head and a warm place to sleep at night. I have many standby offers waiting in line. I have a belly full of good food and a freezer full as well. (hmm that could be problematic) I have employment that I am getting used to and the extra hours will help with the costs incurred by a move and the season of giving that is upon us. I have a feeling that this season will be different for us this year. I hope so anyway; I hope we are learning a lesson about what is truly important and not getting caught up in all the poof of a materialistic holiday.
And so I am grateful! I listen to the song 10,000 Reasons over and over and am reminded that bottom line - I have it all, God's grace and God's care, and I am grateful, so very grateful.
And so I will continue to list things I am thankful for long past the Thanksgiving Holiday and I will do my best to trust and be at peace with the situation at hand

I am thankful that I am not homeless - a homeless lady approached me the other night and asked me to buy her a can of sterno so she could warm her hands. A poignant reminder that I am kept warm.
I am thankful that I have options, realizing that not everyone does.
I am thankful that my contractor remains on standby, ready to move the minute papers are signed.
I am thankful that even with our plans for today thwarted, we have an invitation to dinner - to be with family and be reminded of how blessed we are.
I am thankful for my family, even though we are not all together and will soon be separated by thousands of miles we are still close at heart and can text, write and call each other whenever we need a word of encouragement.
I am thankful for friends - who fill in the gaps as if they were family, who offer, fun, and refreshment when the going gets tough.
I am thankful for the gift of peace - in my heart and in our land.
I am thankful for the ability to work for a wage that helps cover the balance in tough economical times.
I am thankful for these things and many, many more, everyday not just today, and I am thankful that we have the opportunity to share with others - even if it is just a can of sterno.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Place of Peace

My sister-in-law was visiting for the afternoon, and knowing her love of gardening and wanting to explore a place I'd read about, I suggested we go to see the Master Gardener's Teaching Garden in nearby Bristow. It's not such a great time of year to see a garden, but I figured the exploration in and of itself might be fun. I had no idea what we would stumble upon; certainly no idea that this treasure lay just around the corner.

The Teaching Garden itself wasn't all that exciting, although I imagine it could be during peak seasons. But what I found that spoke to me was the Benedictine Sisters Place of Peace. A delightful walking area for people of all faiths to come and find quiet. Perhaps it is my desperate need for quiet in this chaotic place in life I find myself, but I eagerly await the chance to go back and further explore for I learned that we hadn't even visited half of it. What we did see, aside from the teaching garden, was the labyrinth and the silos. The silos are open to the sky and have a stained glass insert running the complete length of the silo. To follow it with your eyes to the poofy white clouds that we had at that visit was like a refreshing shower for me, although it seemed to creep my guest out and was a tad claustrophobic, she admitted.The labyrinth has 11 circuits or 180 degree turns and if you walk it you will go from the outer edge to the center and back again to the outer edge, although we managed to mess up by "cheating. It is not a maze with wrong turns but somehow we managed to skip a turn and end up inside instead of outside. Those who know me well, I am sure this doesn't surprise you. With plenty of benches for sitting and the peace and quiet of the country, I knew that I would be back. Sister Pat was busy cleaning up the flower beds and was a wealth of information about the property. She recommended that we pick up a copy of the walking tour on our way out and then come back for the full experience. And we did.

Now I can't wait to go back. What we missed on that beautiful fall day was the Way of the Cross walking path. The walk is  through an ancient cedar grove that includes 16 stations of the cross. The brochure reads, "a prayer path that calls each of us to better understand forgiveness through the example of Christ's life and his suffering." Growing up in a tiny Presbyterian church, I did not experience much in the way of the art of the church. We don't have statues and icons, in fact pictures of Jesus were forbidden as a form of idolatry so it wasn't until in my adult life that I really began to discover and enjoy the beauty of worshiping God through art. Now perhaps I have it all wrong and the stations of the cross are not considered art but several years ago I recorded during my travels the rendering of several church's stations. All very old churches in Santa Fe and each one with very different renderings of the stations. (The stations are depictions of Christ's final hours, crucifixion, death and resurrection, if you are as ignorant as me) So I am particularly interested in seeing the Way of the Cross walking path because it appears in the brochure drawings that they are made from wood. I have a special fondness for walking in the woods and I am eagerly awaiting a few free hours when I can experience both the beauty of nature, the beauty of creative expression and the beauty of spiritual renewal.
All practically in my backyard! And next spring I shall explore the Master Gardener's Teaching Gardens.
For more info check it out here

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Marco and Beena
 I wrote a truly melancholy post yesterday. It was so depressing it made me cry so it will probably stay in the draft folder and instead I will share some fun pictures of my extended family. One moth ago we gathered in Florida for the funeral of our brother-in-law Marc. Along with the mourning, grieving and hard times, we spent one evening at his favorite venue - the beach. We rushed from Tampa to Clearwater to make it in time for sunset. We threw flowers from a few of the funeral bouquets into the water and said goodbye and then spent time just being together on the beach - in the dark. It was good for all of us after a very hard day.

the gang

 Derrick was missing from this picture - because he took it and Lynnette had already left for her flight home

siblings in age order

 Mark, John, Ensign, Andrew, Sarajane, Luke, Nathaniel and Sabrina - what a good looking bunch of kids. Karla, the oldest sister, was not present.

the cute nieces and Uncle John (?)


Never underestimate the power of family. Whoever said that knew what they were talking about!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The New Farm

I've made noises over the last year about needing to move and looking for a new place to dream our dream of a small working farm and here we are six months later, with a new place to call home. "Lord willing and the creek don't rise", sometime in November we will own a 17 acre farm in Catlett, just 12 short miles from our current home but in a county that is friendly to the idea of owning a small business and running it on/from your own land. Not to be taken for granted because almost all surrounding counties do not permit you to do this. We are thankful, to say the least. With the current economy and the way business is struggling, it is not always possible to rent or own land that is zoned appropriately for our business - currently a million an acre to purchase where we currently rent. And even though Obama apparently built this business and not the blood, sweat and tears of the Aylestock and Underwood families, he won't help pay the rent! So we are off on a new adventure... 3058 Catlett Road...........

"Will you have to sell the other farm?" is the most frequently asked question we've heard since our plans were made known. "We don't know, yet." is our answer. While it seems silly to us to own two farms, the other property is hands down more beautiful than the new home. And with all the work this new adventure will bring, we have to be realistic about the upkeep of two places but also knowing we have a restful peace filled place to escape to has been what carried us along during this hard year. So who knows? and only time will tell, I guess. In the meantime here are a few pics and we'll share more of the adventure as it comes along.

the view from the house

A barn, 2 silos and a milk house await our labors

View from the barn - a good size pond is located where the dead tree stands tall

The milk house makes my creative juices flow. I see a small shop in my future.

LTC will be housed in the grove of trees

A lot of work awaits us; every stall is filled like this

Formerly a wholesale nursery was on the property

the remnants of the nursery

a small house also needing lots of rehab

there is more work here than meets the eye

the view from the back of the property
Now taking sign ups for volunteers to help empty the barn and greenhouse - she said grinning.....

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Day at the Beach

 Literally, a day was spent on the beach. Even though we rented the cottage for a week, the weather did not cooperate and our timing was off, but a day at the beach is still a day away from everything. Well, except in dear husband's case where he was still working every day. But phones can be answered on the beach and your home office can be set up anywhere so we worked around his working, and had a relaxing time.
 We found this cottage on Craigslist, one of those last minute deals where they rented it super cheap because someone backed out of a contract. The house was the cuteness thing except of course I was itching to decorate it. All white walls, linoleum floors, cast off furniture and 70's decor - beggars can't be choosy! but it had so much potential. If only I could have picked it up and plunked it down at my farm. Oh the potential!
 The girls came along a few days later and we enjoyed their company - wished Andrew and Laura and Mike could have been there too but I guess someone has to have a real job (Just kidding, dear) Kayla kept us up on what to watch in the Olympics and both girls kept the Qwerkle tournaments going. Highest score of the weekend goes to me, I might add!. Since the weather was uncooperative, we hit the shops and outlet mall and of course ate seafood on a number of days.
 Kayla does not care for the beach but she hung in there and got sand in her toes and even a workout with the waves. No one capsized this year - at least in the water.
We call this her Africa tan. She got it three years ago in Africa and it has never left.

 Good conversation while bobbing in the waves

 Bike rides are always fun. Except at Bethany Beach it has gotten very crowded with both cars and people. I had a little accident but my pride was hurt more than my body, so all is well that ends well.
 I could sit for hours and just listen to the waves
A beach picnic with friends, followed by bocce ball until it was too dark to see
 A sandpiper having his dinner

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Real Farmgirl

As shared in previous blog, I made my way to Iowa for a special time with extended family. We had a blast and mom did not let me down! She sang her Iowa song one more time as we crossed the line from South Dakota into Iowa. (We flew into Sioux Falls) More about the reunion later.

We were disturbing their peace
One thing that I knew I wanted to do was spend some time on my cousin's farm. She is the "other" Mary in our family (or maybe that is me?) but in any event when we get together we are inevitably called Mary Anne and Mary Helen so the aunties can get the correct one's attention. Mary and her husband George are farmers. REAL farmers - not wannabes like us who enjoy it as a hobby. Mary and George raise cows (cattle) and pigs (hogs) and even bottle feed baby calves. It was an eye opening tour and made me appreciate meat even more! On a tour of their busy farm, Mary told me that they have 2,200 hogs, over 700 head of cattle, 34 cats, 7 horses (or was it 5?) and 1 big dog. She explained to me all the common misconceptions about farming and raising livestock, and it was rewarding to see how it is really done. They also farm corn and make hay and I am sure do a myriad of other things that I am not thinking about at the moment - this was 2 weeks ago and I'm 50, people!

Meet # 505 - this one was born in May

getting my hand licked

this one got out of his pen and played a game of tag with us

checking you out

why do they like to stand on top of the pile? Is it King of the Mountain?
It was fun to experience a few hours of "real farm," and even more fun to get up close and personal with the baby calves. What a lot of work is involved!

1 dog and 1 cat = 2 friends

Now on to the reunion. Over the weekend there were three main events planned and I saw about 78 aunts, uncles and cousins. Only about 50 were present for the family picture and we should have thought to take one the following day as so many others were present.
Boy cousins in the 1930s
Girl cousins in 2012 plus 1 aunt = 4 generations of Vanden Bosch women

Coffee time at the Dutch bakery

My oldest uncle and his new bride

The aunties root for all teams

2012 (about 2/3 of total attendees representing 7 of 9 families)
The requisite ball game was played with friendly rivalry, a family worship service was held and picnics and coffee times were enjoyed. I ate more dutch pastry than I care to admit, and had so many good dishes at the picnic potluck. Stories and memories were shared, friendships renewed and thanksgiving given to God who is the author of this heritage.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Heading Back to my roots this week

Tomorrow I head out on another adventure.....this one with my mom. We are on our way to the Vanden Bosch Reunion in Sioux Center, Iowa - right smack dab in the middle of farm country. Memories come rushing back as I think about all the trips we made to Iowa as kids. They were the highlight of our summers - a week spent in the fresh air, going from cousins to cousins homes to spend a day here and a night there. Even the tiny one traffic light town of Rock Valley holds memories since we always made a trip to the bakery and the penny candy store. My grandparents lived a few blocks from town, once they retired, and we could walk which was an adventure in itself. Wide tree - lined streets, just called for you to walk down them. On Sundays we always walked to church - hearing the bells calling attention to the time. The creaky floorboards in the old church drew attention to each family as they walked to "their" pew and you could always count on a dutch peppermint passed down the aisle in a knotted handkerchief when the sermon started. Then the best part was cake and coffee at grandma's, various aunts bringing other sweet treats along, followed by a large Sunday dinner. You could pretty much say Sunday was a day of rest and feasting. We ate all day. Of course the other six days of the week were similar too. Farmers were hungry guys - they were always ready for breakfast, lunch, dinner, lunch, supper, lunch and less you think I jest - that is how we ate when we were there and let me tell you - those aunties could cook. "Lunch" was really just a mid morning and mid afternoon and mid evening break and might consist of a ham bun and a slice of cake or a handful of cookies. Of course a full morning or afternoon of work made that extra meal worthwhile and the calories were easily burned off in the barn or the field. We children always played outside all day long. All manner of games (Red Light, Green Light, Red Rover, Tag,) kept us active long into the evening. Grandpa had a giant rope swing that could seat about 20 cousins on it - guaranteed to give you at least one splinter or rope burn per summer. Uncle "Dutch" had the sack swing - an old feed sack stuffed with hay tied by rope to a tall tree. One had to jump off an old barrel and then swing until you were ready to jump off. Always better to jump when the swing still had some momentum than to just drop off - that almost always was followed by "rug burn" somewhere you rather not have to deal with. Even better were the summers as teens when we got paid to "walk the beans" (about 25 cents an hour) or to detassle corn - a few more dollars. This city girl was shocked to find out there were male and female ears. I worked one summer for a feed company and stayed all summer with one of my favorite cousins. We had sun burn blisters and itchy scratched up arms to show for it but a nice little chunk of change to set aside too.
So I eagerly anticipate the dusty dirt roads, the squared off miles, slow moving farm vehicles riding down Main Street and family. There are still 8 aunts and uncles left and since we started out with 52 "first" cousins there are hundreds of those to choose from when you count spouses, children and grandchildren. I am one of the younger bunch of grandchildren so a reunion is bound to have 4 and possibly 5 generations present. The first reunion was in 2000 - there were over 300 present at the main event. Numbers have dwindled over the years - we meet every three. Many of the generations have spread further and further out from the family home of Rock Valley, Doon, and Sioux Center areas even though all but one child of my grandparents raised their families within a few miles of the original homestead. I am sure the area has changed since I was last out there five years ago but I'm hoping that every little town still has a bakery and serves up some "banquet" (bon - ket) or almond patties, as they have been anglicized, now that the community is no longer all Dutch.

Hopefully my mother will break into song at least once with "You ask which land I love the best, Iowa, oh Iowa. The sweetest land in all the west" get the picture