A Rhyme In Time

Rhyme in Time

Be honest. How often do you read poetry? For a while, it seemed to me that poetry was on its way out. So I was happy when the 2020 winner of America’s Got Talent was Brandon Leake whose talent was identified as “spoken word poet.” And of course with Amanda Gorman’s stirring rendition of her original poem The Hill We Climb at this year’s inauguration, I think we can claim there is a resurgence in interest.

Way back in 12th grade English class, an assignment was to recite a poem, explain its meaning, and share what it meant to us personally. I chose a little-known poem called The House with Nobody in It from 1914.  Recently one of my closest friends (who was with me in that long-ago English class) shared that since the day I presented it, that poem has remained her favorite.

The author is Joyce Kilmer who is most widely known for his 1913 short poem titled Trees. He and his wife and children were living in Mahwah, NJ, when he wrote much of his poetry. The first line of the House poem refers to a walk from Mahwah, NJ to Suffern, NY along the (now defunct) Erie Railroad track, a distance of about two miles.

Joyce Kilmer was a World War 1 hero, dying in 1918 of a sniper’s bullet and being presented with (posthumously) the Croix de Guerre, a French military decoration awarded for gallant action in war. He is buried in France.

The House with Nobody in It

Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I’ve passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.

I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn’t haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn’t be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.

This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside.

If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I’d put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I’d buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I’d find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.

Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there’s nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.

But a house that has done what a house should do,
a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby’s laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it’s left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.

So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can’t help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.

Kilmer bestows almost anthropomorphic attributes to the old house.  It seems as if the battered place has human feelings and can recall memories of happier times.

When houses become homes, they are woven into our stories and our histories. So very much of our lives happens within our homes. Look at your family photos and you’ll see the following take place inside your walls: birthday celebrations, presents under the Christmas tree, family Thanksgiving dinners, getting ready for the first day of school, the prom, and graduation, coloring Easter eggs, baby’s first steps, and Grandma’s last visit.

Anyone who has left a beloved home to move somewhere else can tell you it’s a momentously sad occasion, regardless of how happy we may be about moving to a new home. I’ve done it twice and cried mightily both times.

I think the feelings, emotions, and memories connected to our home are why infirm or elderly people, even when they know they are not physically or mentally able to continue living in their home, are so opposed to leaving it. That’s likely why the concept of “aging in place” is so appealing to people my age. We just want to stay put, safely wrapped and held close by our homes’ walls.


Amanda Gorman at the 2021 Inauguration

2020 AGT winner Brandon Leake’s performances

a reading of The House with Nobody in It

Joyce Kilmer

Does Not Convey

does not convey

Photograph by Norma Thatcher

When you’re selling a house, it’s important to note in the contract what fixtures are included (will convey) in the sale of the home. RealtyTimes.com suggests that the contract should incorporate wording that states “all items in the MLS will convey.”

It appears that many home buying/selling problems occur in the “Personal Property and Fixtures” arena. “Fixture” is defined as something that is physically attached to the property such as a ceiling fan. There are items listed in the contract with a Yes or No box for each one to confirm whether or not the item will convey.

You see, just because an item is in place in the home, it doesn’t mean it will stay. Refrigerators seem to be a big issue in the stories I’ve read. So, while that ceiling fan is likely going to remain, a refrigerator simply needs to be unplugged and lugged to the moving van. Or not.

While I’m not thinking about moving any time soon, I’ve already determined that my antique mantle will not convey. It’s one of those grey area items. The mantle is not part of any fireplace set-up; it’s simply nailed to the breakfast room wall.

I bought the mantle for $300 while our home was still under construction. We intended to install a fireplace in the bump-out in the family room and it appeared to be a perfect fit.  The lady at the antique store told me the mantle had come from a home that had been torn down in Grassy Lick, Kentucky. I like old stuff and wondered how many families had sat around a hearth graced by this mantle.

The mantle sat leaning against the bump-out for several months while construction continued around it. We finally decided on a pellet stove instead of a fireplace. When the sales guy came to the house to take measurements, he had some bad news; the mantle did not provide the necessary clearance for the larger size pellet stove we wanted.

Opting for a smaller stove wouldn’t provide the maximum heat output we deemed necessary to heat the first floor. That is why, on pellet stove installation day, I reluctantly had the workers move my mantle to the breakfast room just to get it safely out of the way.

The mantle sat there beside us, propped against the wall, as we ate our meals and tried to figure out where the mantle would be a good fit. I don’t have a lot of wall space because of the many windows we put in.

After several weeks it dawned on me that I liked the mantle just where it was. Now I can’t imagine the breakfast room without it. I use it for seasonal displays. Cut flowers in vases adorn it during summer. In December the Christmas stockings hang from its edge. It’s become part of the fabric of our home.

So yes, when we move, I’ll leave the new owners the refrigerator and the ceiling fans. But there’s no way I’m leaving this house without my mantle.


Article from RealtyTimes.Com

A Rose By Any Other Name Might Be A Peony


Art by Marty-arts on Pixabay.com

PEE-oh-knee or pee-OH-knee?

Both HowJsay.com and Merriam Webster advise that the correct pronunciation calls for accenting the first syllable.

However you choose to pronounce it, aren’t they the grandest, abundantly full, late-spring perennial?

You may know that I am not the gardener in the family. That’s the reason this post is one day late. In order to give my readers quality material, I ended up doing hours of research.

You’re welcome.

The herbaceous peony lifespan is amazing; well-cared for peony plants can live from fifty to over a hundred years. According to recent gardening advice from the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, peony bushes don’t require extravagant care:

  • They are sun-worshippers, tolerating just a little shade. That means you need to plant them where they’ll soak in lots of sun.
  • The bushes are picky about sitting in waterlogged soil, so make sure you plant them in an area with adequate drainage.
  • Peonies that fail to bloom likely had their tubers (roots) planted too deeply in the soil. Correct planting calls for the tubers to go in the ground first at a distance where the “eyes” (buds) end up less than one inch under the soil.
  • Finally, provide them with some open space and good air circulation. Just like me, they don’t like to be crowded.

There are many varieties of peony plants, from those with a single layer of petals (quite fragile) to those with a double layer, and all the way up to the variety that has over a hundred petals. The more petals, the longer-living the cut peony; it may last in a bouquet up to ten days.

Claire Austin, the current chair of the Peony Society, gives this advice about actions to take regarding the ants that are attracted to the sweet tight buds: Do nothing. The ants simply feed on the sugary substance that the buds produce. Ants may even help the buds open.

There is just one downside to the peony. A healthy peony bush blooms abundantly, but there are too many flowers at one time. Then too quickly, they are gone. We have to wait another year to enjoy their stunning luscious blooms.

But I have good news to share! My daughter led me to a Martha Stewart video that features Kathleen Gagan, owner of Peony’s Envy. (Don’t blame me; that’s what her garden center is named.)

If you click on the link below, you’ll find a two-minute clip (from the six-minute mark to the eight-minute mark) that tells you how to cut peonies to preserve them for up to six months!

Please watch the video to receive the full instructions. But here are the Cliff-notes-type directions:

  • Cut the flowers while they are in balls, still green but just a tiny bit open. (You can see her example in the video and she says, “You can cut them even when they’re tighter than this.”)
  • Even up the tops of the flowers and cut off the very bottom stems evenly.
  • Place in a cellophane wrap like the type a grocery store provides when you purchase cut flowers. But the bottom of the wrap needs to be OPEN so that the stems can stick out.
  • Leave the top of the cellophane open for air. The wrap simply protects the flowers from frost.
  • Place the flowers in a tall container with a little water. If needed at a later time, add a little tepid water.
  • Move the container to the refrigerator

OR here’s a second method:

  • Cut the flowers on a dry night when they have no dew or moisture on them. The flowers need to be dry.
  • Wrap the flowers securely in newspaper, around and over the top and bottom (like a burrito).
  • Secure with a semi-loose rubber band at the stem.
  • Place in refrigerator.

Ms. Gagan swears both of these methods will preserve the flowers for six months in the refrigerator. Then, when you’re ready for a fresh bouquet, remove them from the fridge, place in a vase with tepid water, and they rehydrate.

I’m going to give this a try because who doesn’t want to prolong a beautiful life as long as possible.


Advice from Kathleen Gagan owner of Peony’s Envy on the Martha Stewart show  Note:  The two-minute clip on preserving peonies starts at about the six-minute mark and ends at eight minutes. But if you have the time, the whole video is interesting, even though Martha doesn’t appear to be paying 100% attention to what her guest says.


A House Is Not A Home

House Home

Photo courtesy of Evelyn Paris on Unsplash

Do you ever tour model homes? I don’t mean with an intent to purchase, but rather, just to see new and clever concepts from builders as well as their decorators’ creative ideas.

For the second year my daughter and I visited Richmond, Virginia’s Homearama. This year there were seven new homes in an area called Magnolia Green.

Since my daughter works for a custom home builder and I designed my current home, we both have a strong interest in houses.

I do believe part of the WOW! factor of a model home is the essence of perfect completeness.

Let’s face it. Here is what you will NEVER see in a model home:

  • A laundry basket of dirty socks and underwear waiting to be loaded into the washer
  • Breakfast dishes in the sink with fried egg stuck to them
  • Dog nose prints on the windows
  • Dried toothpaste on the bathroom vanity
  • A kitchen counter stacked with two days of mail, expired coupons for Kohl’s, and 17 recipes torn from magazines

Instead, here’s what you WILL see in a model home:

  • Cabinet pulls without one tiny smudge of stickiness
  • Pantries with food decoratively arranged such as cake mix boxes slanted at angles
  • Spotlessly clean bathrooms large enough to double as conference rooms
  • Counter tops that glisten and shine so dazzlingly clean that you may feel a compelling urge to perform a lab experiment on them

We can feel a tad depressed when we start comparing our own home to these Stepford-wife type model homes. We start wanting that essence of perfect completeness.

Comparing is never a good idea. I believe it should be banned. Most of us fall short when we compare ourselves to someone else. Some of what we compare against others includes our looks, our bodies, our mates, our children, our jobs, and yes, our homes.

We look at air-brushed models in magazines and wish we had fewer wrinkles. We read a Facebook post about a super-flexible 90-year-old woman who has done yoga all her life and ask ourselves, “Why can’t I bend my body like that?”

Would you feel better about your house if I told you I can’t remember the last time every room in my house was clean at the same time? I come from a long line of women who believed that a spotless home was at the top of the “must do” list. It’s not that my house is dirty; it just wouldn’t live up to the spotless standard.

There are other things I would rather do than clean, such as write to my nice tribe of readers. (I do appreciate each one of you!)

So please stop comparing. Those wrinkles at the outside edges of your eyes come from smiling so much. That’s good. And the reason you can’t bend your body like the lifetime yoga practitioner is because you would break something.

Straighten your “Home Sweet Home” sign, run a dust cloth over it, and say out loud, “Why, yes it is my sweet home, dirty laundry, dishes in the sink,  dog nose prints and all.”

Home Sweet Home

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Because That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It!


Photo courtesy of Otto Norin on Unsplash

My sister Bev shared that as her whole family sat around their Thanksgiving table, someone asked, “What are we doing for Christmas?”

Bev’s grown son (who himself has adult children) looked as though someone had just made an inappropriate remark. “Why, we’re coming here, of course. Just like always,” he replied.

Many kids, even grown-up ones, really like to hold on to the traditions of the Christmas season.

I recall that after my own children were out of high school, I suggested altering the Christmas Day breakfast. My son Tim threw a fit. How could I even suggest NOT having cinnamon rolls as part of breakfast on Christmas?

Sometimes the cycle of life breaks traditions for us. As little ones grow up, get married, buy a home, and have their own little ones, going “over the river and through the woods” to Grandma’s house may lose some of the original appeal.

And as the Matriarch of the family herself ages, cooking, cleaning, and baking for a group of people (even those she loves dearly) begins–as the years unfold–to be a bit too much. I’m actually dreading the year that I start to feel those twinges that, “maybe this is the last year for this.”

We expect life to go on status quo. This time, this present, feels as if it will last forever, even as logically we know that to be untrue.

My Episcopal church uses handmade kneelers, and each one tells its own brief story of the person for whom it’s dedicated. Looking at the kneelers you can guess from the dates of his life and death, that this sailor did not survive World War II. And that young girl didn’t even make it to age eleven. This woman lived to 97.

After spending thirty years at St. James’ some of the people named on the kneelers I recall. But many I do not. That makes me feel a bit sad. These people, regardless of how long they lived, each mattered tremendously to their families and friends.

During the Christmas season we especially remember all those who are no longer part of our earthly family. They are a deep part of our traditions and in this way we feel a special closeness.

So yes, the Thatchers will still be serving cinnamon rolls for Christmas Day breakfast.



I’ll Leave The Lantern On For You

Lantern of light

Photo by Norma Thatcher

Some beautiful words in the English language don’t get used much anymore.

One of them is wayfarer. The precise definition tells us that a wayfarer is one who goes on a journey, most often traveling by foot.

When I came across the website for Wayfarer’s Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, I thought to myself, “Well, if someone traveling by foot stumbles across this place, he may decide to give up on his travels and just stay there.”

As you can read on their website, here is their welcome:

A Beautiful Sacred Space

Pause for a moment, Wayfarer, on life’s journey.

Let the beauty of holiness restore your soul.

May the harmony of sky and water, leaf and rock, nourish the creation and growth of your inner being as you fare through this life and on into the life beyond.

The architect for the chapel was Lloyd Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Yes, you may be aware of my slight crush on FLW from prior posts. And here’s another.

Completed in 1951, the chapel and grounds are open to the public and are available for events. Take a look at their photos and videos on the site; you can just feel the connection between faith, nature, and the human soul.

Many natural elements were used in the construction of the chapel such as the walls and the baptismal font being formed from fieldstone from the actual site. The glass ceiling connects guests to the air and sky while protecting them from the elements.

Just knowing about this amazing space has inspired me to make some changes at my home.

You may recall that I have talked about living in the country. It’s DARK at night. There is no ambient light from stores and there are no street lights. I don’t want my home to give the appearance of being shuttered up with a “go away” vibe coming from it. So while a nightlight in my foyer gives a soft glow through the glass side panels of my front door, I wanted more.

I added two medium-size mercury glass solar lanterns to my front porch. They provide more gentle points of light, and I can envision a wayfarer coming upon them and using them to guide the way.

Mr. Wright wanted Wayfarer’s Chapel to be open and welcoming to all. That’s how I want my own home to feel to guests.

And it’s also how I strive to live my life.

Yep….I’ll leave the light on for you.



Take Me Home, Country Road


Photo by Seth Fogelman on Unsplash

If you’ve ever attended Sunday School or Christian education, you likely have heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

The younger son of a wealthy man wanted to live an adventurous life. So he asked his father for his share of what would be his inheritance when his father eventually died. He took the money and left, going to a far-away country; he spent that money and his resources recklessly and wastefully which is the actual meaning of prodigal.

As the money runs out, the country he’s in is going through a famine, and the only job he can find is that of feeding pigs. He barely earns enough money to feed himself and considers eating the pigs’ food. At that point he decides to return home, throw himself on the mercy of his father, beg for forgiveness, and ask his father to hire him as a servant.

After walking many long, dusty roads (to the point where his sandals are so worn they barely stay on his feet), he approaches his family home. The father sees him from far off, and, recognizing him, runs to him, and showers him with love and forgiveness. No begging was necessary.

There are so many different facets of this story. I could write a dozen posts about this one parable. And that’s what is so wonderful about the parables; they are rich with meaning. Just when we think we have figured out one, there’s another angle to consider.

Henri Nouwen (a priest, theologian, professor, and writer who died in 1996), spent hours studying Rembrandt’s painting that represented the prodigal son parable. He then wrote a book titled The Return of the Prodigal Son.

Here’s a link about Rembrandt’s impact on Nouwen’s life and the book. https://combonianum.org/2016/03/28/ogf-12016-h-nouwen-the-return-of-the-prodigal-son-1/

This is a snippet of the son’s feet from Rembrandt’s perspective.

When I was studying Nouwen’s work, I kept coming back to those feet. Over and over I would look at them.

In 2012, four years after my son Tim died, I felt compelled to write about them and how Tim (also a prodigal), might have felt in the son’s sandals.  Although this is intensely private, I feel moved to share my concept of Tim putting himself in those shoes at the time of his death.

This is me—the child returning home.

Feeling unworthy, unloved, and alone.

Remembering all those things I did that put me where I am now.

Wasting time, wasting money, wasting my life.

Living for only what brings excitement and thrills for the day.

In my head I plan the words that will soften my father’s heart for me to get back within his good graces even a little.

Will he be surprised to see me?

Will he talk to me?

Will he even acknowledge my presence or turn his back?

I’m so afraid of his reaction because my life has run out of chances.

And as I start that final mile home, there in the distance, I see him.

I am too broken to walk any faster than my halting steps take me.

But here he comes—running in the light, his arms open wide.

I kneel before him, my sandals so worn from walking that dusty road alone that they fall off my feet.

He pulls me up, his arms folding me into him.

And I am home.


Reflections on Mirrors

Photo courtesy of Dawid Zawila / Unsplash

Always position a mirror to reflect something worth seeing twice.

I don’t recall where I read that sage advice, but it has stuck with me. As mentioned in a prior post, I collect beautiful and original mirrors. They are strategically placed around my home to reflect lovely or interesting views.

Some reflect long diagonal views within the house; others bring the outside in by showing trees and sky.

Some of my mirrors can be found in unexpected spots. A small rectangular mirror perches on the edge of my cabinet-type exhaust hood and from one angle reflects a set of French doors with a transom. See below:

Another small hand-painted mirror hangs beside a guest room shower, reflecting light where normally a blank wall would be.

Inside my front door hangs a huge vertical mirror. To me, seeing the outside that I left behind reminds me where I came from. HOWEVER, this is a SERIOUS VIOLATION of Feng Shui rules. (Please don’t report me.) The tradition has it that a mirror opposite a door pushes the energy of your arrival back out the door. But really, I have never had a visitor come in the front door and then pass out from exhaustion. I think my home’s energy is just fine.

I just like the concept of remembering where we came from…both literally and figuratively.

You know, sometimes when I’m writing I’ll remember something relating to my childhood. When I was around eleven, I became frightened of mirrors.

There was a series by Boris Karloff from 1960-1962 called Thriller. Even though the shows scared me, like most kids that age, I watched them anyhow.

There was this one episode (and don’t you know that I just found it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt6-YcIjTz8) called The Hungry Glass. It was about people living an alternate existence within mirrors. They could reach out and pull you in if you got too close.

That frightened me so fiercely that I wouldn’t stand within five feet of a mirror for about six months.

So the next time you’re looking for an accent piece for a wall, try using a mirror. I think you’ll be amazed at just how much one brightens up a dark space.

Just be sure your mirror is certified as “people free” glass.




Keep Any Memories Lately?


The magazine article was called Memory Keepers. It was the story of five women who preserved each of their individual family’s history by varying means.

The photographer decided she wanted to capture ordinary growing up moments of her three boys. So she took photos every single day. So now when the boys ask, “What was I like when I was little?” she has a photographic history to prompt memories of each day.

One woman, who had an abiding bond with her grandparents, made a large story box representative of their marriage. Vintage mementos, photos, and letters told a visual story of a happy life.

Christmas cookies played the leading role for Liz Spencer’s memory keeping project. For many years her grandmother Ruth baked about 500 cookies each Christmas and presented every family member with an individual container filled with the goodies.

Sadly, Ruth announced her retirement from baking (due to arthritis) on Christmas day 1999. Not wanting to lose the tradition, Liz’s dad took photos of each cookie which Liz used to paint watercolor images to go with each typed recipe. They made twelve books and gave them as presents the following year. The recipe book is, of course, called Ruth’s Cookies.

Another woman found recordings she had made of her grandmother THIRTY YEARS prior! Ersula Knox Odum was a young college student when she convinced her grandmother to be recorded. Grandmother Sula was a fantastic story weaver, singer, joke teller, and the reel-to-reel tapes are filled with her beautiful voice.

Ersula used the tapes to craft short stories about life with grandmother and these were later compiled to form the book At Sula’s Feet.

The final story was of a woman who took up quilt making at the age of 55. It took her five years of working a couple hours a day to complete the quilt’s 25 blocks. Each of those blocks holds a family meaning. The center displays a rendering of the Cape Cod home her parents built. Ten generations of relatives’ names are stitched into the border.

These stories have influenced me to expand my own personal recipe collection. Many of my recipe cards are old with fading print, which makes sense since some of them were typed on an actual typewriter! Some of my recipe pages are torn or have splotches.

My project is to type up each recipe in a larger, bold font and “scrapbook” them into a 3 ring binder. I’ll add photos and any stories or memories that go along with the recipe. Then on the back of the page, I’m going to attach the original recipe card or page.

So it will become a historical recipe book of sorts.

Sorry…not for sale. It will be a one-of-a-kind book.

But I’m hoping this post will give you some ideas to launch your own memory keeper project.



Beautiful Scars

Photo courtesy of Breno Machado/Unsplash

About six years ago as my husband and I were sitting in our breakfast room, a wicked thunder storm was under way. We ate with the sounds of thunder and lightning as our background music.

Our breakfast room may be the smallest room in our house, but it feels open since there are large picture windows on two sides.

Lightning struck and suddenly chunks of wood began furiously striking the window facing the backyard. I screamed and we both jumped from our chairs. It was as though a wood chipper was being wielded by an invisible adversary to hurl fragments at the window.

As soon as the storm subsided, we went outside to check for damage and to determine the cause of the pelleting. Lightning had struck two trees about fifteen feet into the woods just off our driveway. We could see where the current ran down each tree and burned the soil at their bases.

According to the site ScienceABC.com, “When lightning strikes, the sap in the bark of the tree is subject to extreme temperatures. The electrical resistance causes the sap to be heated into steam, which can make it explode. That’s why some trees violently explode when struck by lightning.”

We found pieces of bark throughout the outside surroundings—on every porch and its roof,  all over the yard and driveway.

I remember walking down to the trees and running my hands over the scars the lightning had inflicted. This may sound completely wacko to you, but I’m being honest. I thanked those two trees for giving their lives to protect our house. I figured for sure they would die, but they are still standing today.

In the recent issue of Homestead Magazine (a short periodical distributed by John Deere Tractor Co.) there’s an article about, well, talking to trees.

Charles Johnson, the article’s author, pokes fun at the topic. But he says his interest was piqued when he read a book written by a forester who works in the Eifel Mountains in Germany. The book has the long-winded title of: The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate….Discoveries from a Secret World. Book author Peter Wohlleben says his belief is that “trees experience pain and have memories.”

Now the sacrificial hit my two trees took seems all the more poignant.

I read a story about a college professor who asked her class, “How many of you love nature?” As expected, every hand in the room went up. Then the professor asked, “And how many of you believe that nature loves you back?”

Think about that. It’s a great question.

The students looked around a little sheepishly and then tentatively, a few raised their hands.

But what a beautiful thought to embrace…that nature, God’s creation, loves us back. We would likely gain even more pleasure from nature if we accept that mindset.

Later in the spring when the peonies release from their tightly wrapped balls and the daylilies unfurl like flags, I will consider that they are giving me their spectacular gifts because they love me.

And just remember, my trees have the scars to prove it.

To my readers: Will you share a favorite story concerning nature?