Monday, November 30, 2009


Today I taught Henry Thoreau's "Life Without Principles" to my sophomore college English students and the response was very interesting. For those who haven't read it or aren't interested in finding it to read, the premise of the essay is that we make the choices of how we spend our lives --- for things or for values. Thoreau argues that we should make a life and not just a living. He states that we should never compromise our values for stuff. What a timely essay to read right after Thanksgiving, don't you think? Cunning plan, wasn't it?

The first thing asked of each class was how many folks had a cell phone. Everyone raised their hand. They wrote down the total cost for their service and then had to divide it by their hourly wage. Or, if they didn't work, they were to use the state minimum wage. Then, they had to do the same with their car, insurance, and gasoline. There were a lot of gasps!

Next, they wrote down how much time they spend per week in class and multiplied it the same way, by the hourly wage, and then times four for the entire month.

Now, I posed, the first total figure is a debit. You spend it and never get anything back for it. When you use it, it is gone. Now, look at the education column; it is a credit. I asked: Does it go away when you are done? Which is the better value? More gasps.

Lastly, they had to write a journal entry of how they would rather spend their time instead of working for things. There was a lot of silence and thinking going on; I had to wonder how many went home to share this new concept with their parents.

Before you think I am brilliant, let me share that I did it, too. I wrote down my numbers and was quite surprised that, confidentially, I am making some pretty suspect choices myself. In fact, I had a hard talk with myself on the way home. I hope I was listening!

While the students may not remember a lot about American Literature, I suspect that this is a lesson that may just stay with them. And, perhaps, they will be happier than most. I hope.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Day Thoughts

This morning on Meet the Press the theme was on giving. Brenda has been writing a series of thoughtful posts on the ways and means of giving and helping others. It has reminded me of a time in my life when very little was a lot.

Twenty years ago, my family found itself without job or home. We had been through some very difficult family times and ended up losing a business and three homes (mine, my previous husband's (God rest his soul), and our beach house) as well as 10 acres of undeveloped land. He had lost his pharmacist license and we had four children to feed and clothe.

On faith, we had moved to another state to begin again. He was unable to work, so I had three part-time jobs and had returned to college as I believed I would have to become the major bread winner for our family. It wasn't easy. We lived in 900 square feet; we stood in free food lines; we had food stamps; the children and I collected firewood in our little wagon every day. Yet, we were happy because we made up our mind that we would make it an adventure for the children and never let them know how tough it really was.

For that Christmas I had $30 to spend for all the children's Christmas. Now, in 1988 $30 still wasn't a lot of money, so I had to be very creative. I shopped yard sales and thrift stores. I made little doll outfits and matching dresses for the girls. I made the boy's shirts and quilts. While we didn't have much money, the spread looked impressive because each piece was wrapped, regardless of how tiny it was.

The night before Christmas we went to a beautiful love feast at the Moravin church. We walked home because we didn't have enough gas money to ride. It was magic -- as Brenda says -- Narnia magic. We lit a fire, made hot cocoa, and read "The Night Before Christmas" and then everyone went to bed to wait for Santa.

The next morning there were squeals and giggles as each child opened presents and shared it with their siblings. No one was disappointed. No one cried. No one fussed. It was a lovely day. The best we ever had, I dare say.

Those days are long gone; yet, the warmth of that day still fills my eyes with tears. The simplicity of that day will never be matched by huge shopping trips or over the top decorations. It was the simplicity of knowing, truly knowing, that the Baby came so that we might live forever with our Father. It was the simplicity of laughter and hot cocoa in front of a fire we had built with our own hands. It was the joy of gifts lovingly made and the choice of joy over defeat.

As you begin your holiday planning, won't you think a few minutes about others and share a little of what you have with them? It needn't be much; even a smile is a gift that lasts. Rick Warren said in his interview this morning that the gift of time was the best we could give. Share that with someone who needs it without thinking of what you might get in return. Knit hats, tie quilts, bake a goodie, serve in a community event, give away what you most want. You will find that you are blessed in ways you cannot imagine.

Friday, November 27, 2009



Let the games begin!

While my Mother and Sissie are out doing the Black Friday game, I am home beginning the second day of our Christmas tradition -- watching a Christmas movie a day.

There are only two rules: we start with Miracle on 34th Street on Thanksgiving night and end with White Christmas on Christmas Eve. It is a perfect way to begin our holidays.

Last night, we started with Miracle on 34th Street; John made the most wonderful hot chocolate with crushed peppermint and Don made popcorn with just the right amount of butter. We all took our showers, got in our jammies, and settled down for day one.

Like I said, life is good, ya'll.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Day Before...

Thanksgiving and I am probably the calmest person you know. Why? I let VISA do the cooking. We are going to my parent's home for Thanksgiving. My Sissie is responsible for the salad. Mother and Daddy are responsible for bread, pies, and the wild turkey shot on their farm by a friend. Me? I am responsible for the wine-glazed Smithfield ham. It was ordered last week, arrived at Mother and Daddy's yesterday, and, if we can keep Daddy out of it, the ham will be the centerpiece of the meal. Yum.

Daddy had many health challenges this year and has decided that he might be having his last holidays. Just so you know, we don't believe it. Twenty-five years ago he was told to go home and make his arrangements. He outlived that doctor and two since. So, when he says, "Well, for this last ..." We all roll our eyes and fix his favorite foods.

Mother, on the other hand, is doing her "momma sigh" (you have to have heard it to know it) and fussing, "Why do you all pamper your Daddy? He is so spoiled. I just don't understand it." At which point one of us usually puts our arms around her and whispers, "You're spoiled, too, by the way. You aren't cooking!" And everyone laughs at the joke because she does cook even if we are all bringing 39 dishes of food. That's just Mother.

So, today, I am playing house. I am NOT rushing around cooking; I am NOT rushing to the grocery store: I am NOT washing 9000 dirty pots, pans, and bowls. I AM playing with my toys --- weaving and cleaning my loom room.

I have so much to be thankful for; I can't just list one thing. Life is good, ya'll.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dear Victoria:

How wonderful you have found a new pet in Brenda! I think you are very beautiful. I know your pet will be as good to you as mine is to me. But, since you are new to her home, let me share a few tips I have learned over the years:

1. Be sure to ask for food often.
2. Smack your human in the face while she is sleeping if she doesn't get you the food the first time you ask.
3. Always sit on the side of the tub. It makes the human nervous.
4. Pretend you are angry with your human often. It makes them pet you more.
5. Walk on the table. You will get picked up and held which is, after all, what all kitties deserve. Never walk!
6. Refuse to move when your pet wants to get up from a chair, hold another human, read a book or go to the bathroom. See number five.
7. Throw up hairballs as company comes in the door. This makes the human look silly and as if they don't give you hairball medicine. Embarrassment results in more holding.
8. Pull all the human's clothing on the floor and sleep on them. It will encourage them to put them away more quickly.
9. Sneak food from the owner's countertops. It teaches them responsibility in putting things away more quickly. See number eight.

10. Purr. When all else fails, regardless of how much you may have misbehaved, purring will trump angry every time.

Your Kindred Spirit,


First day thoughts

Quakers call today "first day" as it is the first day of the week. As I sit here in the living room with a cat between me and the computer, the sun dappling the floor and a lovely fire, I am touched by the kindness I see in the world and stunned by the cruelty and inhumanity there is as well.

Someone set a boxer out near my mother's home. The dear little thing waits every day for its owner to return. He watches every car, rises to meet it, and is visibly hurt when the car passes by. Mother has tried repeatedly to catch the fella; he can come live with us if and when he is caught. I have a thing for harboring the lost and abandoned. In frustration, Mother wrote the local paper a letter about the dog and the abandonment. We all understand that these are difficult times financially. A boxer isn't cheap to feed. But, to abandon the little guy is cruel. It makes me want to weep.

However, after Mother's letter was in the paper on Friday, she has found folks trying to round up the dog as well as people who have left a total of 40 pounds of dog food on the side of the road for him. This is the kindness that surprises and pleases me. There are kind people in the world.

These are the same people who, after a mother in Fayetteville is arrested for selling her own five year old daughter for sex slavery and the child is found dead a short time later, show up at a parking lot to pray for not only the child, but the murderer and family, including the mother. These are the people who are quiet and unassuming; people who care for others. People who live what they believe. No judgement. Just love.

This morning I am wishing that the news was all good and we just ignored the bad for one day. I wish I were leaving my son a kinder, gentler world.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tea for Two

Good morning, sunbeams! So glad you dropped by for a little tea and conversation! Here is my little feast: a fine cup of tea and homemade pumpkin scone with Amish butter. Yum!

This morning I want to tell each of you how much you have come to mean to me. I've only been blogging for a few months; I have lurked at a number of blogs, but it wasn't until September that I took the plunge. You all have made me feel so welcome! Thank you!

Will you take a few minutes to post and then link to your blog? If you have a picture of your tea party, won't you share it there?

Have a glorious day!



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's a Tea Party! Y'all Come!


You are cordially invited

to a virtual tea party

at the Lazy Bee Farm

on Saturday, November 21, at 10 a.m., EST.

Okay, it is a little strange, I know. We will be celebrating the joy of female friends, blog or near, and the beauty of friends we may never meet in person but are kindred spirits just as surely as if we were neighbors.

The premise is simple. Please make yourself a lovely cup of your favorite tea and a pretty plate with your favorite tea goodies. Then, won't you leave a post here at Lazy Bee Farm sharing your joy of friendship for our many friends?

A little hostess gift (some handmade goat's milk soap in guest soap size) will be sent to the first ten ladies who post during the day on Saturday.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

No? Well, maybe...

Learning to say "no" has been the most challenging task of my life. By nature I love to say "yes!"

"Can you make 10,000 cupcakes by tomorrow morning?" Never mind that it is 9 p.m. and I have nothing in the house except crackers. I can do it! "Sure!"

"Can you take me to the doctor, mall, and phone company after you work Tuesday morning?" Let's see. I work in another state. You are one hour away. The doctor, mall and phone company are two hours from you. "No problem!"

"Can you bring me (fill in the blank)??" Let's not speak of the fact that it is 10 p.m. and I have been in bed for an hour. I can surely find a pair of pants and shoes in a few minutes and be right there. "Certainly."

You see the problem. With all this "yes" stuff going on, I can't find time to do the things I really want to do. And, what I really want to do is be at Lazy Bee Farm playing with my toys -- goats, roving, knitting, books, soap -- you get the idea.

So why is it that saying "no" makes my brain ache?

This week I have hit the wall of saying "yes" to everything. I have grown frustrated and annoyed with all the demands on my time that are not necessarily top priority to me. I really want to say NO and not feel mean about it.

The Dali Lama wrote in the Art of Happiness that the most compassionate act one can often make is to say no and let the individual deal with their own fall out. I really want to be compassionate. I really want to pick and choose my daily commitments. I really want to not have to eat a Tums when the phone rings.

So, how do I do this? Ideas?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Do you read and write??

One of the best things in my day is just before I turn out the lights. Although I teach English and have tons of reading and evaluating to do, it is the time I get to spend with my night-night book that makes my day complete. Sometimes I am so tired that I can barely get into the bed before my glasses are off and I am snuggled down with Wookie, my enormous Maine Coon cat (he hogs the covers, btw). But I always manage to read at least a paragraph of the latest treasure before I fall off to sleep.

This week I am reading the most wonderful little book: "Notes from Myself" by Anne Hazard Aldrich. This delightful book reveals not only how many forms a journal might take, but also fascinating stories of other journalists. I have enjoyed the book so much that I am revising my American Literature assignments for the next few weeks to include a journal component. I have kept a journal for more than 15 years without fail. It has saved my life and my sanity. It is a record of who I was and who I have become. It is my dear friend, just as Anne Frank's journal "Kitty." How would I ever live without my little journal? I just don't know.

We will be reading Henry Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Emily Dickinson, amongst others over the next few weeks. We have just finished Waldo Emerson. Each of these were unquenchable journalists and this is certainly evident in their various works. I want my students to see how keeping a journals isn't a chore; it is a pleasure. So, they are to decorate a journal over the weekend to make it "theirs" for the project. We are going to explore our literature through the journals, but not in the form of reflective writings. Rather, we are going to write about our own lives in connection or contrast to the works we are reading. While I do not plan on evaluating the journal writings, a final essay will come from the project reflecting on the writing process and what they learned along the way. Hopefully, a few will remain journalists!

I hope it will be fun and interesting for the class. I am going to do it, too, to see if it is as useful as I anticipate. And, I think it is important to model for them. We must be with our students in this process, not separate. Possibly it will inspire dialogue as well as build relationships in the class.

What are you reading these days? Do you keep a night-night book? Do you journal??

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rain, rain, go away!

Noah lived with rain for forty days and nights. It feels that way here at Lazy Bee Farm today. We have had so much rain that the does are cross. The chickens, while in their snug coop with a heat light, are fussing. Moose and Annabell are on the porch, leaving to chase the occasional car or truck. Don and I weren't sure we could even get out of the holler to get to the hard top. In short, the ducks are the only folks happy.

Rainy days make me think about when I was a small girl. Mother always worked the 3-11 shift at Baptist Hospital and Daddy worked down on Cherry Street from 8-5. Mrs. Tucker, our next door neighbor, always kept us between school and Daddy coming home because Mother had to leave to walk to work at 2:00. Rainy days were so much fun at Mrs. Tucker's because, well, it wasn't home!

Mrs. Tucker was a round little lady, just about my height when I was seven years old. She always wore an apron and seemed to be in perpetual motion either cooking, making those wonderful trapunto pictures of deer or some other outdoor scene, or smocking. Mr. Tucker was a police officer, but he was usually home by the time we came from school. He'd be in the basement either doing some kind of woodwork or playing, er, working on his train set.

The train set was wonderful! It filled the entire front half of the basement. Villages, trees, tunnels, roads, and even a postman filled the scene where the train would fly past on its way around the huge train board. Mr. Tucker was always doing something on the scene -- adding a tree or rearranging a town or painting something a newer, brighter colour. I could stand and watch him for hours!

But is one particular rainy day that really sticks out to me.

Mrs. Tucker had taken in sewing and worked to save enough money to get her entire living room recarpeted. The day finally came when she had the new carpet laid. Oh my goodness, it was the prettiest thing I had ever seen. The creme background accented the lovely roses that were strewn about the carpet. Ranging from a pastel pink to a deep blush, the roses were in full or partial bloom. Some were fully coloured, but others were only outlined. In my mind, it was a shame that all the roses were not fully coloured.

Poor Mrs. Tucker; she couldn't afford to have the full colour, I decided. As I sat with my marker set colouring, I kept pondering those roses. They just didn't look right. I studied the colours in my set and figured out that if I were to mix the red with the white, I could come close to the same rose on the carpet. I even tried a sample on a piece of paper to be sure that it would work. It did.

I slipped between the sofa and the coffee table and selected the first rose to be finished. I was thrilled to think that I could surprise Mrs. Tucker with such a perfect gift. I loved her so and wanted to make her carpet complete. I settled on my rose and begain to colour. It was just right! I moved on to the next one. Another perfect rose! By the time I was on my fifth rose, Mrs. Tucker came to see what I was doing.

Expecting her to be pleased, I jumped up and shouted, "Surprise!"

She was.

She didn't yell. She didn't cry. She stood there, looking at the floor, the marker and me. Finally, she took a very deep breath and whispered, "Sit in the chair by the door and wait on your Daddy." Then she turned around and went to the kitchen to get a rag and something to scrub the floor. Nothing would take the full marker out. I guess it was there until she died or replaced the rug.

But, I do remember this. When Daddy got there, it was raining. Mrs. Tucker took him on the porch, told him what happened, and then came back in the house. You have had to have experienced the fear that comes from facing a 6-foot 4-inch man who has worked all day and is tired and hungry to understand how I felt. Total fear. He lifted me up, Mrs. Tucker patted my back, and Daddy carried me home. I was certain I was going to die. But, all he did was tell me, "Never use markers on anything but paper again." No yelling, no spanking. Just a simple warning.

That's my Daddy. A huge man with a huge heart and a huge temper when provoked. Veteran. Gentleman. Loving. Understanding. Could anyone hope for more?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This and That

It's a rainy, cold Tuesday here at Lazy Bee Farm. We have a small fire going and coffee on the counter brewing. It should warm us up pretty quickly, don't you think?

A lot has been going on here this week, so how about a quick run through with a promise for more details later this week?

1) Evelyn, Deniece and I went to a 250-year old farm on Saturday to help the current owner (the farm has been in the family since the early 1700s) dress her loom which was built in the room in which it is housed. Five hours and three weavers later, we had lift off and a header was started on the rug Ida will make on her four-great-grandmother's loom. Yum.

2) Shelly and I attended a wonderful session last night for the New River Organic Grower's organization. We learned about the benefits of the organization (they have a marketer!) as well as a variety of opportunities, including a consumer supported agriculture program as well as farmer's market and wholesale information. Fascinating!

3) Mid-term has come and I am more behind than ever. I really need a wife.

4) Omission of information is the same as a lie, especially when it impacts another person. Period.

5) Under the steps is cleared out and the storage building is all purple and getting more and more full of stuff (such as from under the steps). Did you know that it is possible to have 50 paint stirrer sticks?

6) My pants are looser; Valerie is pleased; I am, too!

7) Sissie and I are neck-and-neck in the savings war. However, I have a secret weapon.

8) It is three pay-days until Christmas.

9) I haven't knit in four days. My hands are sad.


10) Chocolate-peppermint icing is really good on cherry cake.

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


This is the view from the front porch of Lazy Bee Farm just at twilight.... the most perfect time of day. Tonight, as I came in from milking, both guys were gone and I could linger and watch the night come on. The crisp air was broken by the kiss-kiss of one of the cardinal pairs we have living in the woods just behind the house. I adore hearing them call, sounding as if they are tossing kisses to each other.

The chickens had put themselves to bed and were singing their night time song. It is a cross between a hum and a whisper and makes me smile to myself when I hear it. They sound so content! The goats baaad in unison as they began their stroll to the shelter in their pasture. With the nights getting colder, they are due to move to the stable again this weekend. The cow began her night time chat with our neighbor's cows -- mowing back and forth until they have caught up on the news along the creek -- and then they tuck in for the night.

The world takes a deep breath, holds it, and lets it out again.


The dogs are restless. The coyotes are howling and Annabell, the Pyrennes, responds, as if to warn them that she will not tolerate any foolishness on her farm. The baying stops and the coyotes are heard again, this time farther over the ridge, most likely sizing up my neighbor's fall calves. I listen and hope they are not hungry nor prowling tonight.

Waldo winds around my legs as if to encourage me to pick him up for a kitty kiss. I oblige and he rewards me with a sweet purr and a second kiss to my nose before he leaps to the ground to begin his nightly hunt for mice. Lydia stops for a second for a pat and then (yes, he) joins Waldo in the quest for unsuspecting mice or moles. I know that in the morning I will have to watch carefully when I open the back door for breakfast. No doubt, there will be a fine display for my "eating" pleasure.

And then, as I turned to survey the ridge one more time, the moon burst from behind the mountains, lighting the ridge as if it is a giant spotlight. It takes my breath, which is now tiny white wisps, as it is so unexpected and so beautiful.

Moose speaks to me, "rararrraw" which means, "Hurry up, woman, dinner time." Taking a last glance at the moon, I pick up the egg and the milk buckets and slowly, deliciously, stroll to the back door and back into the harsh house lights. The spell is broken, but the memory remains.