Of Things and Daughters

I’m a collector. I knew that subconsciously, but a personality test confirmed it a few years ago.

The first thing I remember collecting is bottle caps. I loved the different colors. When I visited my great uncle’s store, he’d empty the bottle cap holder in the drink machine into a little plastic bag for me.

I’ve collected metal buttons, the kind politicians used to give away, since high school. The last ones I bought are from England. I have one with a bust of Jane Austen and one that says, “I heart Mr. Darcy.” I don’t wear these buttons, but I have them.

I have yards of fabric waiting to be cut for a pattern. I have skeins of yarn waiting for a crochet hook to loop them into a shawl or scarf or sweater.

It’s crazy the way I feel about having only two similar items. For instance, if I have two books by the same author, I feel like some small part of the world is perfect. A tiny bit of joy sighs in my heart.

Collecting is fine to a point, but collecting can morph into something oppressive and unwieldy, maybe even ridiculous.

That’s where I am now. Actually, I’ve been here for a long time.

Thank Goodness for my second daughter, Hattie. She is an organizer. She is a cleaner. She determines a course and sticks to it.

For the past week or so, she’s been cleaning/organizing my office/crafts room. “Madre, what is this?” “Does this go in the giveaway pile or the throw away pile?” “Do you really need two of these?”

Don’t think she’s heartless. Plenty of times she’s said, “If you want to keep it, that’s fine. I’ll find a place for it. Just tell me what it is first.”

I have a great office thanks to a creative friend who designed cubbies and shelves and drawers and cabinets to keep all my stuff, but it’s been a miss pretty much since the paint dried.

Here’s the problem: I love remembering the stories attached. I suppose if I throw something away, I throw that memory away because the item in question recalled the memory in the first place.

Here’s my secret: If I’d known years ago what to do with some of these things she’s unearthing, I wouldn’t have stuffed them into the back of a cubby in the first place. So for the past week or so, I’ve forced myself to deal with items that should have been dealt with in 2004 or earlier.

The end is in sight, however, and it’s an organized, efficient office.

Yea for children who are better people than their parents.

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Favorite Books #2

A few posts ago I wrote about my top ten favorite books. Today I’ll share more favorites in two different categories. I chose to categorize because two many books exist to choose only a few. Categories help.

Favorite Books by Southern Authors
1. Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton
2. Raney by Clyde Edgerton
3. Ellen Foster by Anne Gibbons
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
6. A Short History of a Small Place by T. R. Pearson
7. All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg

Young Adult/Children’s
1. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
2. Like Moonlight at Low Tide by Nicole Quigley
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
4. Anne of Green Gables Series by L. M. Montgomery
5. Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Engles Wilder
6. The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
7. Betsy, Tacy, and Tib Series by Maud Hart Lovelace
8. A Year Down Under by Richard Peck

I’m still looking for others to complete the top ten in each category.

Training Anyone?

Two days ago I started training. One of my sons is my personal trainer. I’m not trying to lose weight. I just want to tone, tighten, and, for sure, flatten specific areas that with decades of use have shifted or expanded from their original positions.

Here is his original schedule with no proofreading edits:

Mon-15 Minute run. 30 sit ups 15 push-ups
Tuesday 20-minute swim 2 sets of 10 8 lb curls 2 sets of 10 8lb reverse curls 2 sets of 10 tricep lifts with 3 lb
Wednesday 30 minute bike ride
Thursday- repeat Monday
Friday- repeat Tuesday
Saturday- repeat Wednesday

Trying not to disappoint him (which reminds me of all the other times I’ve done things not to disappoint my children like running four 5ks, swimming across a lake twice, joining a volleyball team—do you see a theme here?), I’ve completed all my assignments for the first three days.

My arm muscles are a little wobbly this morning and I’m sore, but I’m determined to stick with this torture scheme.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Bible and Ten Favorite Classics

A friend at a dinner party once suggested a game—if we were marooned on a desert island, which book would we want with us and why. Then she looked directly at me and said, “And don’t choose the Bible, Hope.” At the time, I was a little irritated—and yes, if I’m honest, maybe a bit embarrassed—that she singled me out as one of the few Christians at the table. I was also a little disappointed in myself that I hadn’t even considered the Bible before she pointed her finger at me. As a former English major, teacher, and voracious reader, I’d already thought of several books to choose from before her caustic comment.

That night, I didn’t have a comeback. I just swallowed my exasperation and played along. Later, however, after replaying the night in my mind several times, I realized that the Bible would be the perfect book to have on a desert island. It contains every kind of story a reader could want—romance (Song of Solomon and Ruth and Boaz), history (the entire Bible), humor (Balaam’s talking donkey), magic (several stories including the sorcerers in Pharaoh’s court), adventure/action/shipwrecks, giant men and giant fish.

Those are a tiny bit of the stories found within the books of the Bible. What about the admonitions against fear and for strength and the many, many verses of encouragement throughout the Old and New Testaments? Wouldn’t the Bible would be the perfect book for a shipwrecked person?

Absolutely.

So, yes, I’d choose the Bible. Then—if I could grab a few more before the ship sank, these are my ten favorite books I’d choose to carry with me (in no particular order):

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  6. Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
  7. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
  8. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  9. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  10.  

The tenth choice is purposely blank. I like to keep my options open.

Simon’s Lesson

In past posts, I’ve written about my sons’ journeys to West Point. Last year, Quinn was accepted, but Lane was medically disqualified because of childhood asthma.

 This spring, Lane re-took the methacholine challenge test and passed it, overruling the asthma diagnosis from his medical chart. Yea. Praise the Lord.

He received a senator’s and a congressman’s nomination to re-apply for West Point. He worked hard all year at UNC-Chapel Hill with his academic classes and as a freshman ROTC member, earning coveted spots on the Army 10-miler Run in Washington, DC and the Ranger Challenge team. He earned the respect of his ROTC upperclassmen through good decisions, a positive attitude, and a willing spirit.

Everything looked excellent for his second try at the military academy.

I prayed earnestly for God’s will for his life. But even while those prayers rose from my heart, I kept dreaming of his acceptance. Thoughts like “When Lane has to survive Beast Barracks,” or “At Plebe-Parent Weekend next year” regularly flitted across my brain.

Recently, Lane received a lovely letter from West Point announcing that although he was “academically qualified” and “medically qualified” (Praise God again), he couldn’t be offered a placement in the class of 2018 because of “shrinking class sizes” and “budget cuts.”

Lane said he was fine. He worried about Quinn, his twin who wanted his brother to experience West Point with him. Of all of us, Quinn probably was the most disappointed.

Driving him home from college, I reminded Lane of Simon of Cyrene, the Jewish man who had arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover but was forced to carry Jesus’ cross on the way to His crucifixion. Simon had his plan in mind, but God had another one.

I likened Lane’s story to Simon’s. “God has a plan for you, Lane, and because it’s God’s plan, it’ll be a great one.” (Jeremiah 29:11 is one of our favorite verses.)

Simon had worked hard and traveled a long way from north Africa to Jerusalem, maybe anticipating being part of the Jerusalem Passover for the first time in his life. He never expected to be part of the horrible experience of a crucifixion.

Thousands of years later, however, we’re still discussing him and learning from him. This incident affected him so much that it seems he shared his experience with his family. His sons, Rufus and Alexander, were known to the early church and are mentioned in the Bible as well. (Mark 15:21)

Lane said, “I’m fine, Mom. I know I’m supposed to be at Carolina. All the time I was re-applying, I felt like I was slamming up against God’s will. I look at it this way—I’m supposed to be a missionary for those guys in my suite.”

Well, okay then. Lane’s got it. He didn’t need Simon’s story.

Pretty sure his mom did.

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Juliet Act II, Scene 2 Romeo and Juliet

I agree with Juliet. A rose would still emit the sweet, rose fragrance if we called it a daisy or a hydrangea or a bachelor button (also called cornflower and the Boutonniere flower.) A name is simply a label. The essence of a thing doesn’t change because of its name, right?

At our house, my name changes with almost each person who calls for me. All my children began calling me mommy, but through the years they’ve stamped their personal identities on my moniker.

Anna usually calls me “Marmee,” like Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy called their mother in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. She’ll sometimes shorten it to “Marm.” Other times she elongates it to “Marmalade”, not because I like the orange jam but more because she thinks it’s a funny word. She’s a funny girl.

Hattie always calls me “Madre.” I have no explanation for this name. She studied French, not Spanish. Once in a while “Mum” will sneak into an email, but “Madre” is her normal choice for me.

Lane and Quinn mostly still call me Mommy. It’s true, but sometimes, they’ll call me Mother. Lane, for example, will resort to Mother especially when he’s exasperated with me and dealing with an imagined infraction on my account. He says it with emphasis on the last syllable and draws it out several beats, like “Moth-errrrrrrr.” It’s back to Mommy, though, when he wants me to proof an essay for him.

A few years ago, I discovered a cool website for the different names of God. It provides the Hebrew text for the name, the most common English transliteration, and the name’s definition. Some of my favorite names include El Hanne’eman, The Faithful God, from Deuteronomy 7:9; El Olam, The Everlasting God, from Isaiah 26:4; El Roi, The God Who Sees Me, from Genesis 16:13; El Gibbor, The Mighty God, from Isaiah 9:6; Immanuel, God With Us, from Isaiah 7:14; and El Hannora, and The Awesome God, from Nehemiah 9:32.

The one I’m thinking about this week, Holy Week, however, is El Yeshuati, The God of My Salvation, from Isaiah 12:2: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.”

No matter what we call Him, or even if we don’t, He is God.

Praise be to God for His great and awesome gift.

Quotations

With spring breaks, March Madness, weekend guests, and traveling, March has sped by for me with a lot of thinking about blogging but not much writing. This post might be considered cheating, but I need another post before April starts. I’m sharing some daily quotations I emailed to my family over the past few weeks.

These are some of the most popular.

1. “Many people are unable to prepare for the future because they’re too busy reliving the past.” Nido R. Qubein

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell in the past.
See, I am doing a new thing.” Isaiah 43:18-19

2. “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Albert Einstein

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

3. “If failure is not an option, then neither is success.” Seth Godin

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my sesrvant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

4. “Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.” William James

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

5. “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.” Walt Disney

“All hard work leads to a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23

6. “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Abraham Lincoln

“…the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

7. “Putting things off has selfom been associated with winning. A lot of people wait for things to happen. Achievers in the game of life make things happen.” Nido R. Qubein

Thomas Jefferson said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,
not for men.” Colossians 3:23

Sometimes the quotation and verse seem to fit seamlessly together. Other times, I can’t think of a verse that matches, so I send one of my favorites. No matter what, God’s Word always triumphs and trumps the wordly version.

What’s your favorite quotation or verse?

Irish Soda Bread

During March, we go a little crazy for Irish recipes. With a name like Dougherty, how could we not? 

Here’s a recipe my mother-in-law gave me for Irish Soda Bread. Since it includes raisins and carraway seeds, it’s supposed to be the American version. (My mother-in-law didn’t tell me that part.)

4 cups flour
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon carraway seeds

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter into flour mixture, forming small, pea-like bits. Add raisins and carraway seeds. Make well in flour and butter mixture and add buttermilk to well. Combine the flour and buttermilk to form soft dough.

Transfer dough onto floured surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky–about three minutes. Don’t over knead the dough. Cut the dough in half and place in greased cake pans or cast iron pans or pizza stones. 

Glaze tops with buttermilk. Cut a cross in the tops about 1/2 inch deep.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

This bread is easy to make and delicious to eat. My husband likes to toast a slice and slather it with peanut butter. I like it plain. Whichever way you choose, I hope you enjoy a little slice of Ireland!

 

Technology

Before February closes out, I want to share about something I love.

Technology!

Even though I’m pretty much a novice at most technological things, I’m thrilled to have so many ways to keep in touch with my children: email, Facebook, texts, phone calls, and this wonderful new addition to our communication options: ooVoo!

According to its website, ooVoo is a video chat and instant messaging app for desktops, phones, tablets, and Facebook. Similar to its more popular cousin, Skype, it’s FREE, and we can talk and see a picture in real time.

The main difference between Skype and ooVoo is that with Skype, only two computers are involved at a time. Sure, you can have several people crowding around the computer camera, but only two locations are involved.

With ooVoo, up to twelve laptops can join in the conversation. At our house, we’ve had four so far at one time. Having all us talking together like we’re in the same room is really cool—and, in a Jetson-family-kind-of-way, we are.

The first time we used it, I felt a pang when I saw Quinn sitting in his fatigues. Remember the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words?”  The pictures show what mothers could only hear in phone conversations—you sound tired; you sound sick. Now I can see the glazed eyes, see the dark circles underneath—oh wait. Am I talking about myself?

Maybe–because not only can we see our chatting partners, we can also see a mirror image of ourselves. That part isn’t so much fun because my camera isn’t very flattering, doesn’t airbrush out the wrinkles, the puffy eyes. So please give me some grace when you view the screen shot at the end of this post of our ooVoo-ing I took last Sunday.

Technology! I love it.

Image

I started something new this year. I send a quotation of the day to my children in a good morning email. It’s a nice way to start the day and an excuse for a daily email.

I don’t choose the quotation myself. I use a quotation-a-day calendar sent to parents of students by Nido Qubein, president of High Point University.

These daily statements are usually affirming, positive, and encouraging. Lately, however, the daily thoughts seemed a little lacking to me, so I added an extra thought to my morning message. Here are two examples:

1. “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Sagan.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

2. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
The Bible says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you,plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

I like encouraging my children with positive statements.

I like encouraging them with biblical truth even better.