Thursday, April 02, 2015

Slow Evolution of a Tea Drinker

I was born for coffee. My Danish Grandmother gave it to me as a treat whenever I'd spend time at her house, laced with lots of cream and plenty of sugar. It made me feel so grown up! By the time I was 16, I was drinking it regularly.

When I became engaged to my future husband, there was one little snag. He didn't drink coffee! My Dad fixed that, encouraging him to replace his daily Pepsi with java. Perhaps he just wanted to fit into the family, but he learned to enjoy it and I've been spoiled for decades because my guy has turned out to be one great barista. He even travels with his coffee grinder!

Tea? Not so much. Oh, I'd try it from time to time, choosing herbal blends from the grocery shelf with exotic names ---but the chemistry just wasn't there.

Until. . . one day I dropped by my friend Michelle's house. Michelle and her family had spent half a dozen years living in England, and were bonafide tea drinkers. Michelle wasn't home that day, but her sweet teenage daughter offered me a proper cup of tea and I accepted. With cream and sugar, thank you.

Oh my! THIS was heavenly! What was it?

"P.G. Tips," was the reply. Only I misunderstood her; I thought she said, "Peachy Tips." I looked high and low for this brand whenever I went shopping, to no avail.

A few weeks later, I took my daughters  to a little cafe that served tea. When I perused the menu, I saw clearly my mistake; it was P.G.Tips, not Peachy tips! I ordered a cup and yes! it was just as good as the first one.

From then on, I kept P.G. Tips in my cupboard for a rainy day. I'm not quite sure why I preferred it over coffee on rainy days; perhaps I subconsciously associated it with England's drizzly weather. There is something gentle about a cup of tea, as opposed to the boldness of coffee. When I steep a solitary cup, it  evokes the feeling of relaxation and quiet contemplation, but when prepared for company it oils the internal conversational mechanism.

My evolution to tea took a giant leap forward when I discovered a local specialty shop that carries dozens of exotic, loose leaf blends. Cherry Blossom. Pomegranate. Black tea with rose petals. Orange rooibos heavy with spice. What a delight to the senses!

When my hands encircle a steaming and fragrant cup of tea, I'm encompassing a realm of pleasure both ancient and new. Such is the joy of living; discovering new things that link us to ancient traditions. It makes me think of the old adage,

"Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea."

This is the elegant tea cup my daughter gave me for my birthday.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Set Apart

Isolate me, if Thou must
Train my heart to love and trust
By the arrow's inward thrust
I am reminded Thou art mine

I'll cleave to Thee, I'll not let go
For Thou alone, my heart doth know,
Hath sent this wound to bid me grow
And remind me I am Thine

—Vicki Baird

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Proof Against Adversity

"God gives, even to the poorest and least instructed of us art, science, literature, appealing not only to the senses but to the soul. By the aid of those teachers of mankind we may, if we choose, build such houses and palaces within us as shall be proof against adversity--bright fancies glad memories, noble histories, faithful sayings, treasure-houses of perfect and restful thoughts, which care cannot disturb, nor pain make gloomy, nor poverty take away from us. These He gives us as the foretastes of the many mansions which He has for us in His home above."
~excerpted from Streams in the Desert Volume 2, September 4

Yesterday, we re-embarked on our homeschooling journey after our summer break. The ranks are thinning; my youngest daughter is my only student this year! It is a delight to see her begin her high school studies, to witness her eagerness and her self discipline. When I came across this quote in an old devotional book, it struck me as the perfect summation of what I hope to accomplish in our homeschool.

I remember sitting in school and watching the clock tick slowly, itching for the bell to ring and to be FREE! Sadly, I didn't fully enjoy learning until I was an adult, when I began to connect it to beauty and to virtue and especially to God. Storing up beautiful things in the heart against the day of adversity seems a very worthy goal, don't you think?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

My Love Affair with 3x5 Cards

Writers sometimes experience a conundrum when they face a blank computer screen, or when they pull out a fresh, white piece of writing paper. On the one hand, the blank canvas presents delicious possibilities; but the flip side is that the yawning expanse, waiting to be filled, is a bit overwhelming. Where to start?

The lowly 3x5 index card can be the anecdote to the dilemma. Its small size narrows the field and helps a writer mentally scale down the possibilities to a manageable size. Speaking of size, the cards are aesthetically pleasing because they are proportioned according to the famous "golden mean," the mathematical ratio that the human eye finds beautiful.

For me, writing on a 3x5 card is also a tactile pleasure. Good quality cards have a creamy finish and it is a pleasure when the nib of a fountain pen glides silkily along its surface.

The cards are great for journaling, whether you adhere to the one-line-a-day school of thought or are a little more prolific. They can be dated and boxed for posterity at the end of the year.

Serious writers find index cards convenient for sequencing. If you are writing a story or novel, the elements of the plot can go on the 3x5 cards and you can play with arranging and rearranging them until it fits together the way you like. Similarly, college students writing a research paper can place their research data on the cards and then order the bits of information logically before writing the first draft.

I have found that a 3x5 card is also a great reading companion. It can serve as a bookmark, a place to jot down a quick quote that I want to remember, and a straight edge for underlining. The best of the quotes will find their way into my stash of pink 3x5 cards, and I pull one out every day for viewing. Today's quote is, "The broken become masters at mending." It's a great way to recycle worthy words and keep uplifting thoughts in view.

Believe it or not, index cards can be a great tool for uncluttering the mind. Does your mind ever get full to the bursting point? Right now I have some of these random and disjointed thoughts rolling around in my head: I need to get a birthday card in the mail for my friend, it's time to make my next dental appointment, I've got to get a quote on new shades for the living room, need to write down the name of that book I want to read before I forget it, etc. Carrying around this alphabet soup in the mind drains my creativity and also detracts from my ability to stay focused on what is most important. Unloading these thoughts on a 3x5 card is very freeing. I put only one thought on a card and later I can take action, starting with the highest priority item.

In my purse I keep a few 3x5 cards, held together with a binder clip in true Hipster PDA fashion. They are always handy for making a  grocery list, jotting an address, or taking notes at a meeting. Unlike a notepad, you can toss them when you get home or file them if they contain info you want to keep permanently.

During my 16 year homeschooling season (which is still on-going), I've used tons of index cards. Every morning I wrote a card for each student containing  daily chore and assignment list. When the kids were young, I'd use colored cards and attach fun stickers. They carried them around all day and checked off their assignments as they finished them, before presenting them to me at the end of the day. We also found them useful for making quick flashcards, memory games, and word banks. I'd definitely place 3x5 cards near the top of my list for homeschool essentials!

There is a rather elaborate home management system that centers around the use of 3x5 cards, popularized in the 1980s by the book Sidetracked Home Executives.  It is really a variation of the timeless tickler-file system, but with some color coding and twists especially relevant to home managers. One great advantage of this system over the more techno-savvy apps available today is that only ONE card with one action point lies in your view. You aren't tempted to run off on a bunny trail, surfing the net instead of focusing on the thing that needs to be done.

Finally, I have to mention the vintage recipe box in my cupboard that is crammed full of  recipes handwritten on 3x5 cards. Although there are some definite advantages to keeping recipes on a computer file, I could never part with the recipes penned lovingly by Grandma Jordan, my Mother-in-law, my Mom, and far flung friends. Some are splotched with food stains, some are dog earred, others proudly proclaim "from the kitchen of . . .," and a few have roosters stamped in the corner. Back in the day they were convenient to slip in the purse to be shared at church and today they remind me of wonderful shared meals, holiday feasts, church suppers, and Sunday potlucks.

Yes, I have a history with 3x5 cards. How about you? Do you find them useful or outdated?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Shortest Poem

Do long poems make you yawn? Here is one that you can read in a jiffy:

 by Aram Saroyan, 1965

You read that right! It qualifies for the "minimal poetry" category, sure enough. Not meant to be pronounced, its impact lies in the seeing. By manipulating the spelling of the word "light," Saroyan created something which seems to radiate forth in the same manner as light waves. Do you see it?

This poem not only emits light waves, it also created waves of controversy back in the 1960s because the poet was awarded $500 from the National Endowment of Arts when it was selected to be a part of a published anthology of poetry. An Iowa congressman thought it wasteful and reckless on the part of the government to be paying out good money for one word, and a misspelled word at that! He tried to get the chairwoman of the NEA removed. George Plimpton, the one responsible for selecting the poem for inclusion in the anthology, reportedly said, "You are from the Midwest. You are culturally deprived, so you would not understand it anyway." [OUCH! says this midwestern girl.]

The "it" to be understood was the style of poetry called "concrete poetry," in vogue in the 1950s and 1960s. Concrete poetry was structured in a way to create a visual impact. Since George Herbert employed this device in his poetry back in the 17th century (see "Easter Wings" here), it could hardly be called avant-garde. Lewis Carroll, ee cummings, and Ezra Pound also played with the visual sculpting of words on paper. Why then, a firestorm over this little one word poem?

Timing. Our nation was experiencing deep division during the 1960s over Vietnam. The older generation didn't understand the shaggy haired hippies. There was cultural upheaval brewing, and "lighght" brought to light the differences in thinking: traditional vs. outside-the-box thinking, government support of art vs. private support, status quo vs. "flower power."

I think it fascinating that one little word--if it can even be called a word--could stir up such strong feelings! Lines were drawn over whether this word symbolized the degrading of culture or the expansion of culture. What do you think?

One thing I think we can all agree on : words are powerful. Language is the gift that sets us apart from all other creatures, and wielding words wisely calls forth a maturity that few can claim to possess. As the ancient writer James declared, " For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dead Men Walking by Bryana Johnson

 Peter and John Running to the Tomb by Eugne Burnand 1850-1921

Dead Men Walking

(For Peter and John)

And we were dead,
stark in our trespasses,
your unseeing eyes wide,
--mine, too,
the smell of the grave on our lips,
It is the way of things,
the coursing of the world:
death begat death begat death begat death

We went racing,
our hearts and our toes
thudding in time together
--I beat you.
She said there was nothing,
and I found the nothing first.
There was nothing.
You and me, how could we understand that?

cracked into regrets,
sobbing, "I love you, I love you,"
--too late.
Me, spluttering
choking on the taste of deadness,
all my ideals spattered
into tears upon The Skull.

We went like that
dead men walking,
running, running, running!
How could we know
the missing One had come
to love all our corpses
into the land of the living?

by Bryana Johnson from her book Having Decided to Stay

Bryana is a talented young poet. Please visit her blog and purchase her book.
Her poetry is vivid, bold, and a delight to read. Highly recommended! 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Consider the Lilies

John Singer Sargent, Study of the Vickers Children

On Easter Day the lilies bloom,
Triumphant, risen from their tomb;
Their bulbs have undergone rebirth,
Born from the silence of the earth
Symbolically, to tell all men
That Christ, the Savior, lives again.
The angels, pure and white as they,
Have come and rolled the stone away
And with the lifting of the stone,
The shadow of the cross is gone!
~ June Masters Bacher ~