The Winter Wait

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.”

Andrew Wyeth

It’s cold here in frozen Wisconsin — not sub-zero yet, but cold. I much prefer the warmer seasons in my beautiful state, but there’s something about the snow-covered ground that I like. Maybe it’s the reprieve of winter’s long nap–a quiet rest which requires little work from the gardener. Maybe it’s the thought about what lies beneath that crisp blanket of sparkly snow. As I view our gardens from the vantage of my second story windows, the snow looks like a pristine white quilt with meandering quilting stitches in the shape of the tiny paw prints of critters. I love to imagine the floral joy that will awaken from winter’s slumber when that blanket melts away and the ground warms to the longer hours of sunshine in a few short months.

First will come the demure crocuses with their grass-like leaves and dainty flowers of purple and white.

Before we know it, the daffodils and tulips will begin their colorful show. Snow will likely throw a light blanket over it all a few times, but the flowers will survive and stand resilient over the brief and momentary trial of life.

For now, I’ll take a little walk through the new fallen snow, breathe in some fresh air, and pop a letter into our mailbox in hopes of bringing a warm greeting on a chilly winter’s day to someone I love.


So that’s my Six on Saturday for this week (well, I did get a little carried away in my tulip and daff slideshow). If you’re experiencing the chill of winter like me, you can tour the gardens of others in warmer parts of the earth from the comfort of your favorite comfy chair by visiting the host of Six on Saturday, The Propagator, where you’ll find 6-photo garden tours, planting tips, and inspiration from gardeners worldwide.

Before I forget: Sharing Memories

This little story came up in my “memories” feed on my Barefoot Lily Lady Facebook page, so I thought I’d re-share it. I wrote this three years ago, so it might be time for another baked custard too.

Barefoot Lily Lady

One of the things that I am learning along this road I travel with my sweet mom is that the older memories are the last ones to leave; but, the ability to recount and express these stored up stories does slowly slip away. I find myself wishing I had written down more of the stories that my parents and grandparents told through the years.

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A Fresh Look for an Old Memory

Today’s post was written to the word prompt “Fresh” as part of the Five Minute Friday community of writers.  Let me invite you to read the inspirational writing of other writers on the same topic at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com 

I was blessed with a mother-in-law extraordinaire. Shirley loved me fiercely, prayed for me often (even before I met her son), and lived an exemplary life as a devoted follower of Christ. She gave me, her “daughter-in-love,” as she called me, a few of her earthly belongings which serve to remind me of her love. Over the years she’d hand us a bag or a box full of surprises as we headed out the door after a little visit. One item bestowed upon me was a blouse she enjoyed wearing–a denim blouse with colorful hot air balloons embroidered on the front of it.

One day, our eldest granddaughter Violet was using her gift of organization by tidying and reorganizing my perpetually messy craft room.

My craft room

As Violet carefully sorted fabrics into color families and folded them into neat little stacks, she came across that colorful blouse of her great-grandma’s and asked me what I was going to do with it. I told her its story and that I was thinking I might reuse the fabric to make a book bag or something someday. Violet remembered her great-grandma wearing it. Her eyes lit up with an idea!

“Can you make a jacket for me?”

I hesitated a tiny bit because refashioning clothing was outside of my realm of sewing skills, but told her I would try. With all the faith in the world that grandma could do it, she folded the blouse and put it on my project pile (on top of the pile, of course, with a sticky note that indicated it would be my NEXT project).

After more than a few searches on Pinterest for some inspiration and ideas on “upcycling” and “remaking” clothing, a design idea began to form. Violet really wanted a jacket, but there wasn’t enough fabric to make the sleeves, so I decided I’d create a little vest with an inset of pretty lace on the back. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find lace that I liked in my stash or at the fabric store, so checked the local resale shop. I was about to walk out of the store when I spied a lacy sleeve peeking out of an over-crowded clothing rack. There it was! A beautiful lace blouse made entirely of the kind of lace I had in mind AND it had long sleeves that I thought I could use to create the jacket Violet desired.

I thanked the Lord for helping me find the needle in a haystack and hurried home to start my special sewing project. Here it is!

A fresh look for an old garment, made with love and a prayer that Violet will follow in the faithful footsteps of her God-loving great-grandmother.

Winter Wanderings

Did you make a New Year resolution?

I confess I’m not very good at keeping resolutions. I severely lack in stick-to-itiveness with long-term goals. Achieving a short-term goal, I reason within myself, and practicing it over and over again just might become a long-term habit.

Well, that’s my theory anyway, and the premise for my decision about creating monthly goals in five areas of my life: Spiritual, Exercise, Ministry, Healthy Eating, and Personal Habits.

I’ve decided to share one of my exercise goals for January with you, my gardening friends at Six on Saturday. For most of my year, I count gardening as my main form of exercise. Since there isn’t a whole lot to do in my Wisconsin garden, I created this exercise goal for the winter month of January, and will revisit it in February to see if it needs tweaking. Here it is:

Baby steps toward jogging again by spring: Time spent outdoors DAILY, even if it’s just a walk around the block or a trek to fill the birdfeeders. On warmer days, try to make a loop around the park.

Cindie’s exercise goal for January 2021

I’m only nine days in on this goal, but am happy to say that I’ve been able to stick to it so far. I’ve taken a few photos of my daily treks and will share these in lieu of too many shots of my snow-covered garden.

The entrance to a lovely park with paved walkways (mostly free of snow and ice) is within a few steps of my front-door. The park is truly a “happy place” for me. There is so much to see and enjoy if I walk there with my eyes and heart open.

God bless the person who decided we all needed a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree to enjoy. I loved spying this red ornament someone had placed in a young pine tree.

My hubby and I like to create birdhouses (he builds and I paint). We added a second birdhouse to our little avian neighborhood, which you can see in the photo on the right (the other birdhouse is its backdoor neighbor). The volunteer tree we cut down is trying its darndest to keep growing–which creates a leafy cover for the birds, which I know makes them happy.

A tree stump in my front yard boasts this interesting snow-dusted fungi.

A garden neighboring the park entrance has a few of these bushes. I’m not an expert at identifying trees and bushes, but this one is easy.

It’s a burning bush (Euonymus alatus), easily identified by its unique, deeply furrowed branches. It boasts stunning red foliage in the fall, reminding many of the biblical account of Moses and the burning bush. Alas, this beautiful bush is also on our state’s list of invasive and restricted plants. We had several planted in our backyard at one time, but none of them have survived. We planted some lilacs in their place.

As I look forward to the heavenly aroma of those lilacs of mine blooming in Spring, I will try to keep you posted on my winter wanderings.

Quiet Beauty

My garden has taken on its quiet winter beauty.

A frost-covered clematis vine and its trellis make for a different kind of beauty in my curbside mailbox garden.

I left a little bit of my Joe Pye Weed for winter interest. I love how it’s wearing a gorgeous frosty coat. Folklore says that Joe Pye Weed was once used as a medicinal cure for fevers. As much as I love its winter beauty, I’m already looking forward to summer’s purple flowers and the bees which will undoubtedly visit.

A few summers ago this chair was a roadside treasure that my daughter rescued from someone’s curb. My granddaughters gave it a fresh coat of paint and gave it a few sweet embellishments like this adorable butterfly. This is one of several chairs I have in the garden which serves both as whimsical art and support for lanky flowers.

Covered in tiny ice crystals, I thought this dried hydrangea blossom looked like a crown of crystalline beauty.

An old mailbox took on new life as a tiny shed for a set of garden handtools that I keep in the backyard. Perched on a new post, all it took was a coat of purple paint and embellishing with acrylic paint and clear-coat. The purple chair (also painted by my grandgirls) and purple mailbox are pictured here keeping a winter vigil over a daylily and iris flowerbed.

Well, that’s it for my little wintery #SixOnSaturday thing for this week! (Yes, I’m late again!) Thank you to Jon the Propagator for hosting this fun little weekly photo sharing gathering of gardeners around the world. You’re invited to join in on the fun and give us a peek at what’s goin’ on in your little corner of the world.

Putting Away Christmas

I had planned to keep my Christmas stuff up well into January because it just felt like this year needed a little extra sparkle for just a bit longer. I’m not a perfectionistic white-glove housekeeper (by any stretch of the imagination), but I do like a certain level of tidyness and order. Before I knew it, the niggling longing for order won out and those green and red plastic tubs were making their annual trek back up from the basement storage area so I could begin putting back all those pretty Christmas-y decorations.

Each ornament goes back in its original box, or gets wrapped in newsprint or tissue and placed in a protective box or tin. As I carefully stacked those boxes filled with fragile baubles into one of the three larger bins, there was a sense that I was, in a small way, packing up and setting aside some memories that would be unwrapped and remembered once again in the hope of next Christmas.

“Putting away Christmas” is theologically impossible. Christ’s advent, God’s gift to the world, cannot be wrapped up in tissue paper and set aside the day after Christmas. Emmanuel, God With Us, cannot be stuck in a box to be forgotten about until unwrapped again next year. When I “put away Christmas,” it is our somewhat clouded by glitz and glitter attempt to remember his advent each year that we are really putting away.

As I filled the third bin with my tissue-wrapped baubles, I noticed the corner of an envelope hiding in the bottom of the bin. It was tucked under a box of lights I haven’t used in years. I pulled it out and discovered a gift I hadn’t opened this year. It was a letter addressed to me in my mom’s familiar cursive script.

Years ago, Mom had taken the time to write out the words to the poem “My First Christmas in Heaven.” I’ve read it many times before — maybe you have read it too. I know that a few of you, my friends and loved ones, experienced the fresh sting of grief in your heart because a loved one was missing at your celebration this Christmas, so I will include an image of the poem here for you.

It says “Author Unknown” but I think most sources now attribute the authorship to Wanda Bencke, whose daughter died just after Christmas in 1997.

The postmark on the envelope was clearly stamped 10 DEC 2009, so it was fitting that when mom copied the poem’s title, she neatly crossed out the word “First” and wrote above it, “Second.”

Mom’s little personal post-script penned beneath the poem sheds light upon the reason why.

Last Christmas, I kept running the last line through my head but could not remember the rest of this old poem. This year in Reminisce Magazine it was printed in their December-January 2010 issue.

Love, Mom

I just love this little find, yet another of God’s little grace gifts in my life. You see, she sent it on my dad’s second Christmas in heaven, and here I was re-reading it 12 Christmases later, just after she celebrated her first Christmas in heaven.

An ornament commemorating my momma’s last Christmas on this side of Heaven

A Family Story Found in an Unexpected Place

According to my Facebook post on January 1st of 2015, on that date in history I found one of my mother’s memories from January 1st of 1955!

How cool is that?

I had been going through mom’s jumble of paperwork, trying to find the important documents I would need as her power of attorney. Mom’s once neat filing system was a jumbled-up mess, due to the confusion of her mind caused by Alzheimer’s. I recall I was making good progress taming that paper tiger and that I found a few delightful surprises in the process.

One such surprise was a file folder labeled “Peet Family.” This file contained many treasures. Old black and white photos. Letters and cards. Newspaper clippings. Obituaries. Genealogy timelines. Tucked into this file category was a simple green pocket folder. I flipped it open, fully anticipating that it had something to do with the Peet family genealogy.

And it did – sort of.

It was a cookbook filled with favorite family recipes which had been compiled for a family reunion in 2000. I had fun taking a break from my sorting project to page through the recipes. The faces of family I had only seen when I was a young child came to mind as their names popped up on the righthand corner of each page. It was exciting to see the name “CHARLOTTE PEET-BOYLES” pop up here and there.

“Charlotte’s Layered-Spinach Salad” was in there, as it should be. It was one of those salads she made often for potlucks or when family would gather at her house for birthdays or holidays. Another family favorite was “Charlotte’s Dream Whip Torte”! My sister would often request that dessert for her birthday. It was not a surprise to find her “Never Fail Pie Crust” recipe was in there too. She never liked making pies until her friend from work shared that recipe with her.  

As I flipped through the cookbook, I noticed that some of the recipes had a family story included. Once I realized this, I went back through the recipes attributed to mom to see if I could find a recipe where my mom had contributed a story. And there it was included under a recipe called “Clara Gall-Peet’s Upside Down Cake.” Clara was my grandma, so I felt like I had found a double-treasure with this recipe and the giggle I received as I read the sweet little story mom told about her early baking attempts.

  

The date confuses me a little, as mom and dad were married in July of 1955, but, at the bottom of the cake recipe, my mom had reminisced,

“My Mom was a good cook and if you arrived unexpected at dinner-time she always had room for you at the table and enough food to go around. This is the first cake I tried to make after I got married. In fact, the date was January 1, 1955. Total disaster for there was no cake – all bottom or top, depending which way you look at it. I had copied 1 ½ tablespoons flour instead of 1 ½ cups. It took me three tries before I got it right.”

Charlotte Peet-Boyles

A Childhood Christmas Memory

Three ears were listening to the voices and metallic clinking sounds coming from the basement. Picture three pajama-clad siblings, Cindie, Brad, and Vivian, each with one ear to the 12-inch opening to the clothes chute in the hallway outside of our bedrooms. Judging from Dad’s frustrated comments about missing parts and lousy instructions, we knew SOMEONE was getting a bike for Christmas (and assembly was not going particularly well).

We three Boyles kids, Christmas of 1963

Our parents didn’t know that we were secretively listening to the bike assembly endeavor. After all, it was Christmas Eve and we were supposed to be ‘nestled in bed while visions of sugar-plums danced in our heads’! Hearing mom’s footsteps coming up the basement stairs, we each scrambled to our respective beds feigning sleep. When the three of us finally succumbed to sleep, I am sure the sugar-plums in our dreams looked more like a bike parked next to the tree with OUR name on the gift tag.

Imagine our great delight when Christmas morning dawned and three bikes sat perched on kickstands around the tree! If we didn’t live in snowy Wisconsin, we three kids would have been riding up and down Milwaukee’s Stark Street in our pajamas ringing the bell or honking the horn Dad had attached during his after midnight assembly project. For today, our Dad would drag those bikes back down to the basement and our bike-riding adventures would begin.

1963, Cindie Vivian and Brad with our beautiful mom

The Christmas Photo


It’s the last Five Minute Friday blog link-up of the year 2020. Join me and this beautiful community of writers and bloggers who gather on Fridays around a single word prompt to freewrite for five minutes. This week’s writing prompt is Conclude (check out the other posts here). I suspect most of us are really looking forward to the conclusion of the year 2020, which held no shortage of disappointing losses. I could write a few chapters about losses myself, but let me instead share with you about a special lesson I learned…a lesson from a Christmas photo.


Christmas is coming, so I take my cherished photo from the drawer where I keep it the other eleven months of the year.

Boyles Family of Three – Christmas 1957

It seems like just yesterday when I found this photo. In reality it was about five years ago. As I recall, I was busy helping my dear mom sort through life’s accumulation of things, when I found a shoebox tucked away in the corner of the laundry room near the place where mom would iron the wrinkles out of my dad’s shirts. Removing the slightly dusty lid, I found this box to be filled with fascinating photos of years gone by, each filed standing on edge waiting to one day be added to a photo album. As I thumbed through each time-worn photo, I concluded that Momma had at one time been busy putting the years of her life in order, one loose photo at a time.

That was before Alzheimer’s. Before her mind could no longer put anything in order.

My treasured photo, filed under “Christmas 1957”, captured a moment in my life and a memory I was too young to keep without it. We were a family of three seated in my great-grandparents’ living room. A well-tinseled Christmas tree was in the background, and I was sitting in 3-month-old chubby cuteness on my beautiful momma’s lap. My handsome daddy was seated on the floor next to us, arms casually crossed around his knees. If you look carefully over my dad’s left shoulder, you might spy a portrait of my mom in her wedding dress.

Gracious reader, you probably recall that Jesus took my momma home to heaven this year, which makes this photo more meaningful than ever. Now, as my fingers trace the little gold frame on this precious keepsake, something hits me straight in the heart, making me pause and think about the brevity of life.

Our Christmas present in 1979

I was young like my momma in this photo, just 22 years old when my own daughter was born. Except for the years I spent in junior high school, those first 22 years whooshed by in a flash, and the years from then until now are a blur too. Doing the math, if I live to be 86 like my mom, I conclude that I have 23 years left to spend (a mere 13 years if I live to be as old as my daddy).

The Bible speaks figuratively of our lives being like a mist or a vapor – here one moment and gone the next (James 4:14). It’s so very true. How will the story of my life conclude once the last chapters of my life have been written?

As I set my special photo down in a place of Christmas-y honor, my heart wells with gratefulness for this photo’s poignant reminder to invest these final years God has in His plan for me in what matters most: loving people and pointing them to Jesus for the glory of God.