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.

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: 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, “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?






Does This Make Scents?

Photo Courtesy of Eddy Boom, Unsplash

What do pumpkin pie and Chanel No5 perfume have in common? According to a recent study comprised of a group of American college students, the aroma/fragrance of those two items are at the top of a list of scents that evoke nostalgia. Also on the list are lavender, roses, baby powder, and apple pie .

Scents really do take us back in time. Anyone possessing a sense of smell likely has his/her own story of a scent that jolts them back to childhood, a first love, a favorite place, or best memory.

My story is the fragrance of fresh lilacs. Until I turned 20, I lived off and on with my grandmother Elizabeth. My bedroom in her home was a wonderfully-filled space of light since it had windows on three sides. The back window overlooked a huge lilac bush. Each spring I looked forward to the scent of the blooms being carried by the air through my open bedroom window.

Even today I can bury my nose in a bouquet of lilacs and vividly recall myself in that bedroom, first playing with dolls and then later playing 45s on a portable record player.

A friend I once worked with is a talented gardener. Until she retired, each spring she brought me a bouquet of her lilacs from her own garden. Those simple bouquets meant more to me than any expensive flower arrangement I’ve ever received. Thank you, Nancy C.

I know that some people suffer terrible reactions to certain fragrances. We DO live in an artificially-smelled-up world! There are a few perfumes and colognes that adversely affect me as well. I’m not sure of the names of the bothersome items, but I think the underlying scent is musk.

And of course, some people wear too darn much fragrance! A  former male colleague wore such a heavy dose of strong cologne that I held my breath as we crossed paths in the hall. The scent of him lingered long after he passed by. People joked about it. They’d sniff the air and say something like, “Oh, I guess Todd is in the office today.”

In coaching people about their image regarding jewelry and fragrance, I remind them of an adage I heard once:  “If you can be heard or smelled before you’re seen, you have on too much.”

Recent studies show that all these artificial smells can pose a danger to us. From creams for our faces, hands and bodies to dish and laundry detergents and everything in between, we’re smelling a lot! And much of it is not good for our health.

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. Much of their work deals with the ingredients in products and the effects those ingredients have on our bodies. You can search for products on their site,

EWG assigns a hazard score for a product. The Chanel No5 perfume ended up a 6 which is on the high end of the moderate risk. The perfume’s slogan is “the now and forever fragrance.” So maybe its scent is such a long-lasting one that you CAN take it with you to whatever forever you go to!

To my readers: What scent or fragrance evokes a special memory for you?




Frank Lloyd Wright, Part II

Photographer: Skitter Photo, from StockSnapIO

My November 1 post talked about Fallingwater, the architectural masterpiece by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the fact that his most famous creation does not have one of his red signature tiles. See below for a reminder:

Most Frank Lloyd Wright homes include his signature on a Cherokee-red tile affixed to the outside. For some reason, Fallingwater does NOT have one. I have someone looking into that. Seriously. You may be one of those people who is aware that my most quoted phrase is: It never hurts to ask.

I’ve heard back from Scott W. Perkins, Director of Preservation at Fallingwater. Here is his response via email:

“The red signature tiles were not added to all of FLW’s buildings. There is a myth that they were a “stamp of approval” or that they somehow marked his “favorite” buildings, but in reality they were added to the buildings after 1951. The tiles were designed by the mother of an apprentice, Aaron Green, and the original order was for 50 tiles. After Wright’s death, homeowners could still get a tile, as was the case for the owners of a Chicago-area prairie house and the First Christian Church in Phoenix, which was completed in 1972. The tiles were designed during the height of the Usonian phase of FLW’s career, so Kentuck Knob has one, and explains why Fallingwater does not.”

If you’ve toured Fallingwater, you know that the main family/living room has LONG, straight built-in seating. I found this really odd, since this style is not conducive to holding productive conversations. The set-up has people sitting in a long row, side-by-side, like the keys on a piano. I asked Mr. Perkins about that as well.

“The banquette seating (which I think you meant by “straight-line” seating) was not unique to Fallingwater, and Wright used it in many houses prior to it. Built-ins were more difficult for clients to move around, Wright felt.”

Although an amazing visionary, Mr. Wright was also known for his stubbornness. If he didn’t want the homeowners to change something that he truly believed in, he had ways to make sure they couldn’t!

I recall on a tour at Kentuck Knob the docent told our group that the owners (I.N. and Bernardine Hagan) wanted more storage space. Mr. Wright disagreed. So they had to wait until the house was finished before they could add it. And according to Kentuck Knob: A True Masterpiece by Ashley Dengler, “There were several debates and arguments between Wright and the Hagans over furnishings.”

So the moral of this post is we need to remember that no matter how smart or talented we are, it’s good to listen to another point of view and consider a mutual compromise. And then still do it your way, if you’re Frank Lloyd Wright.

To my readers: Do you have a story to share about digging in your heels over an issue? How did it end?



Need a hankie?

Part of the historical exhibition at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City tells the story of the worldwide sympathy and response to our nation’s tragedy. One section contains cards, letters, and gifts sent to NYC, its fire departments, and rescue teams.

One child had sent a hand-drawn card that read, “Maybe you need a friend. Maybe you need a hankie. But there’s no one like you.” The words are all the more profound because of their simplicity.

We don’t use the word hankie much anymore. We keep tissues in boxes or packets. And Kimberly Clark Corporation is thrilled (cha-ching) when we call a tissue a Kleenex™, its brand name of tissue.

The first Kleenex paper tissue was invented in 1926 for the purpose of removing women’s cold cream from faces. That’s where the KLEEN part of the name came from (as in a clean face). About 1926 it was discovered that people were using the tissues to blow their noses.

My sister Barbara wanted to do something to commemorate our mother who died in 1996. She found a craftsperson who creates memory displays in a picture frame. The crafter asked if we had any heritage handkerchiefs from our mom or a grandmother to include. Fortunately my sister Beverly had held onto some of our two grandmothers’ hankies. You can see one in the photo at the top of this post.

In my home I like to create interesting SIMPLE tablescape-type arrangements. I have a large countertop microwave and that bare white metal top is an ideal spot for something interesting.

unadorned microwave top

“tablescaped” microwave top

You can see I used a colorful heritage hankie to place under a simple glass plate and then propped up decorative measuring spoons along the front edge of the plate. This was created using items I already had plus the “new” $2 heritage hankie.

My friend Sonia’s dad died a few months ago. The loss is still heartbreakingly new to her and the family. She and her mom were going through some drawers on Saturday, and they came across her father’s cotton handkerchiefs. “Daddy’s hankies!” She asked her mom if she could have one and placed it in her purse.

On Sunday, Sonia was part of an audience where I told a sad story. Tears filling her eyes, she reached into her purse hoping to find a clean tissue. Instead, her fingers felt the soft material of her dad’s hankie. Just as her father had used one to wipe away her little girl tears, she now wiped her own. What a sense of comfort that simple white handkerchief provided.

As the child’s card said, maybe YOU need a friend (count me as one), or maybe you need a hankie (I wish I could send one to each of you), but remember: There’s no one like YOU.

To my readers: Is there a simple item from your past that brings you comfort?


What Are You Looking At?

Photo courtesy of Gaetano Cessati of Unsplash

Not long ago a magazine solicited its readers for their best single piece of beauty advice. There were the usual responses of never sleep in your make-up and always wear sunscreen, mixed in with suggestions for a specific night cream or moisturizer. My favorite among the submissions made me laugh out loud: Avoid magnification mirrors.

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a hang-on-the-wall, swivel arm, natural daylight lighted make-up mirror. I love it. Thank you, husband and Amazon Prime. I no longer have to guess if my make-up is evenly applied. And the natural daylight surround is so, well, natural.

And yes, the mirror does flip over to become a magnification mirror. As in 10X magnification. Holy Mother of Kim Kardashian, I can see every flaw, blemish, age spot, and pore on my face. NOW I understand why that piece of beauty advice to avoid these things was truly no joke.

There is actually a warning sticker attached to the “bad” side: Warning: Danger of fire if placed in direct sunlight. I am not making this up. It’s reminiscent of when the hoodlums from elementary school would burn ants on the sidewalk using the sun’s rays with a hand-held magnifying glass.

I know some people made New Year resolutions to limit time on Facebook or their smart phones. I had to set a similar limit for Norma 10X. It’s not that I was doing a “Who’s the fairest of them all?” routine; I was simply horribly fascinated by the up-close-and-personal detail I could see. It wasn’t pretty. Trust me; even Jennifer Aniston’s 10X reflection would not be something she would post on Instagram.

As I flipped my mirror back to its Glinda-the-Good-Witch side, I thought about how often we carelessly do a 10X view of other’s faults and annoyances. We let pettiness creep in and what really is a minor flaw suddenly looms large as a VERY BIG DEAL.

And it’s not just with other people; we flagellate ourselves over a minor mistake, fixated at the hideous creature we have turned into for having goofed up.

Let’s agree to flip our brain and heart mirrors back to 1X. Let us be kind and forgiving to others while we share a little of those same niceties with ourselves.

And oh yes, DO stay away from magnification mirrors.

To my readers: What one character flaw will you forgive yourself for today?