As a writer, needle artist and photographer, I invite you to share my pursuits with me on this site. Among other things, there is a weekly post called “D-mail” that examines the spiritual meaning in current stories, both personal and news events.  I invite your comments at  cathycongerblog@gmail.com

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”  N. Platt

My son, Michael and daughter-in-law, Kim, Katie (age 3) and Andy (age 17 mos).  They live in Longmont, Colorado, where Michael is in his first year of a PhD program in business at Colorado U.  Kim is a poli sci professor at Colorado State.  They were with us for 4 days after Christmas and hope to visit them out there during spring break.  Katie, Andy, and Michael were recipients of my hand knit hats and mittens, but I didn’t realize that Longmont is down on the plains and doesn’t get but a dusting of snow.  It is 50 degrees there this week!  Anyway, aren’t they a handsome family?

Icicles on the roof

Icicles on the roof

Sloppy slush!

Sloppy slush!

Deer in our woods in fluffy snow

Deer in our woods in fluffy snow

Catching snowflakes on your tongue

Catching snowflakes on your tongue

Four magnificent icicles hung outside my kitchen bay window like stalagtites in a crystal cave, four days of temperatures above freezing melted them before our eyes.  Drip, drip, drip and before we knew it, they dropped to the ground like glass daggers, splintering into a million icy shards.  My husband and 3 year old granddaughter were devastated!  Those giant icicles were the topic of their conversation and nature study all through Christmas vacation.  Much of the deep snow nature had dumped on us by the skyfuls on December 11th began to melt into that sloggy slush us Wisconsinites hate.  You can’t shovel it, it splashes dirty salt water on the back of your pants, fog rises from it in the gloom, mittens get soaked with it, and when at last the temperature drops back to January normal, it freezes in treacherous sheets and ruts. 

However, it snowed again -big, fat puffball flakes fell slowly, floating down as if inside a glass snow globe.  They were the kind of huge snowflakes you can catch on your tongue (and I did!) and get a glimpse of their crystalline structure on your hand in the micro-seconds before they melted.  Soon the ugly slush and gray roads were covered in white again.  I took a walk to breathe the fresh winter air, snap some photos of snow-laden branches in the yard, and let my spirit take a fresh bath in the newness of life those flakes brought.  Tonight a blogger friend, Mary Pierce, sent me her latest blog entry.  She had experienced the same cleansing of spirit I was feeling.  She said,

“TODAY’S ENCOURAGEMENT: This cold morning I sit at the kitchen window, looking out at the fresh snow that fell in our woods during the night. As I sip my cocoa (with marshmallows, of course), I imagine hearing the harness bells of Frost’s horse in the “lovely, dark and deep” woods of that “snowy evening.”

It is lovely here, too, in the deep, awakening woods this morning. Fresh snow covers the forest detritus, transforming every branch and twig, every bush and bramble.  A lovely, transformed world.

Fresh snow feels appropriate today, like a clean slate, a new start for the new year. Fresh snow, like fresh mercy, fresh forgiveness. Fresh snow reminding me that the old is gone, the new has come. That God is faithful. That life goes on. That I am loved.

The sky brightening, I look toward the sunrise. A layer of pink, stripes of pale blue and bands of amber cloud offer up a new day. A new beginning for me. For you.

I breathe and breathe again, inhaling fresh hope. In this moment, here, now, all is well.

Like Frost, this year we’ll all have “promises to keep and miles to go.” But in this moment, as you pause and breathe, let peace settle over your spirit. Let all be well with you.”

All I can say is that for me in this moment, here, now, all is well.  Thanks Mary!  (to read more of Mary Pierce’s writing, visit her blog  http://laughlady.com/)

cardinals survived the storm

cardinals survived the storm

buck at neighbor's backyard feeder
buck at neighbor

Buck at neighbor’s feeder 

a farm on the way to Neilsville
a farm on the way to Neilsville

 

There's a sidewalk under here somewhere!
There

There’s a sidewalk under here somewhere! 

Collapsed Metrodome in Minneapolis 

Last weekend my husband, Chuck,  and I were to have driven from home in Wisconsin Rapids (central WI) to Stillwater, MN for a 3 day get-away.  I was really looking forward to a few days relaxation, enjoying the Christmas spirit, food, decorations, etc. in the touristy town of Stillwater, along the Mississippi River south of St. Paul.  We had reservations at a romantic bed and breakfast.  Saturday morning I awoke to 8 new inches of snow on the ground on top of the 5 inches we’d gotten the week before.  It was so pretty! I dressed in a Christmas sweater to attend a luncheon.

I had done a tablescape for one of the tables at our annual hospital auxilliary luncheon and was anxious to get over to the golf club where the luncheon was being held.  It is always a festive event with raffle prizes donated by area businesses, a lovely meal, 40 decorated tables, and local entertainment.  Chuck promised to be ready to leave for Stillwater as soon as I got home from the luncheon. 

When I came out to the parking lot after the luncheon to load my decorations into the car, the snow was falling pretty hard.  However, when I got home, my husband said he wasn’t alarmed.  We had an SUV and would be just fine.  So we left.  That was at two pm.  As we headed west, the snow got worse.  About an hour into the trip I discovered that I hasd forgottn my medicine kit!  I couldn’t get through 3 days without it.  By this time we were pulling into Neilsville and could barely see.  The wind was howling.  After a fruitless search for a pharmacy (my husband is a doctor and could write me a Rx for a few days’ meds) , we decided to push on to Eau Claire where there would be a 24 hour drug store open.

Besides the heavy, blowing snow, it was now dark at 4 pm.  The country road from Neilsville to the interstate 94 entrance in Osseo was deserted.  I was getting scared because the snow seemed to be piling up faster than even our SUV could plow through.  A snow plow passed us going the other direction, so we drove on that side of the road where it was plowed.  “Don’t worry,” my husband said, “We’ll be at the interstate in a few miles and it will be fine after that.”  By 5:30 we came up on Osseo.  We couldn’t believe the sight before our eyes.  Over 75 semi trucks were parked in the parking lots of the Stockman’s Supply, the gas stations, and the four restaurants.  Barrels were across the entrance to the interstate and state police cars were enforcing the closure.  Cars were left stranded in snow banks all over the place.  We looked at each other.  There went our romantic get-away.  Instead, we crept forward past the traffic mess to try to reach the motel on the other side.  I prayed they hadn’t already sold out all their rooms.

At the Osseo Motel, the unplowed parking lot was littered with cars stuckor spinning on the ice.  I got out and walked down the hill from the road to the motel office, the wind nearly picking me up off the ground with each step.  Inside the office, two desk clerks were doing their best for all of us stranded travelers.  I procured one of the last rooms.  The clerk was telling those behind me in line that the town had opened up the high school to house the stranded “refugees” from the storm.  Nobody knew when the interstate would be re-opened but the snow was predicted to stop by 6 am.  Meanwhile my husband had helped move several cars in the parking lot and shovel out some parking spaces.  Looking like the abominable snowman, his beard caked in snow and dragging our suitcase, my darling came through the door of the office.  We were safe. Snowed in at the less than romantic Osseo Motel.

The only food available was at the bar, where the football game and the weather were on the Tvs.  The tables were full, but there was a sense of comeraderie, as there is during most crises, and a young couple offered to share their table with us.  They said the burgers and fries were pretty good.  For the next hour we chatted and ate and made calls to those who needed to know our condition and plans.  Our daughter and son-in-law in St. Paul, once they’d told us that we were crazy, told us that everything in the Twin Cities was shut down tight - not even busses were running.  We agreed to meet Sunday afternoon if the roads were open.   Then we were ready to collapse in bed.  Unfortunately, the room was bare bones, 2 double beds, a small TV, a coat rack with a few bent hangers, and a tiny bathroom.  Despite lousy pillows and hard mattresses, it was warm, although the heater that provided that heat clanked loudly on and whooshed off about everry fifteen minutes all night.  The hamburger did not agree with me and I was up most of the night ,while my exhausted husband snored away.  I didn’t have my night time pills and my ear plugs were…you guessed it…in my medicine kit.  I was glad someone was getting some sleep anyway while I laid there listening to the wind whistling and howling ouside.

In the morning, the sun shone brightly and we could hear the sounds of many snowplows and snowblowers at work.  By the time we got our car ready to go, I still didn’t feel well and they still had not cleared much away in Stillwater, so we decided to head home.  The trip that had taken us 4 hours the day before, now took us the usual one and a half hours!  The B&B kept one night’s fee of our money and we were awfully disappointed, but happy to be back in our own beds Sunday night.  We used the free days to decorate our Christmas tree, wrap some presents, and do the last of our local shopping.  And now, as my mother-in-law always used to say, we had a good story to tell at our next dinner party!  And we sure don’t have to hope for a white Christmas.  We have 25 inches of it!   Above are some photos of the sights we saw during the December blizzard of 2010.

After several times of re-writing and editing The Birthday of a King, the Christmas story I wrote last year,  and choosing illustrations, my plan was to self-publish it.  I was all ready to send it to the printing site when I discovered that I could not get permission to use several of the photographs I had included for illustration.  RATS!!!  I had hoped to announce the publication and sale of the book this week on this site.  I did have a few test printed and it looks great.  So, as soon as I can find alternative illustrations, I will get it published.  Stay tuned.

My free-spirited son, Peter, was married to another free spirit, Lindsay, on October 17th in Portland, Oregon.  Our whole clan gathered from all over the U.S.  We rented a house and an apartment in the lovely Hawthorne neighborhood of south east Portland to house us all for the week.  The weather was marvelous!  It was in the 60’s and sunny for a whole week!  For those of you not familiar with Portland weather, that was a miracle.  October begins their rainy season there but it didn’t rain until several days after we left!  The festivities began with a bridal shower on Friday evening at the home of one of the bridesmaids.  Two of my daughters had arrived in town by then and my son-in-law, with the help of his trusty GPS, got the three of us there.  The rest of our children plus Chuck’s brother and family and my parents flew in Friday evening so Chuck got to make a trip out to the airport (using his trusty GPS!).  Saturday was family time.  Our clan had a picnic in a beautiful, nearby park.  Meanwhile Lindsay and her clan were carving pumpkins and making centerpieces for reception decor.  Dozens of pumpkins had P’s and L’s carved in them.

Saturday night we had a groom’s dinner in the party room of a local restaurant that Pete and Lindsay liked to frequent.  We served finger foods and I made a Wisconsin specialty for dessert - caramel-covered cranberries.  Peter’s sister, Laura, had put together a montage of Pete and Lindsay’s baby, childhood, teen, college, and recent photos on film with appropriate music tracks.  We all enjoyed the film immensely.  Laura did a great job!  Afterwards us old folks and the grandchildren went to bed, but the bridal party plus anyone else under 40 who wished to go, went out to a kareoke bar.  I’m told that even the shyest of the crowd got up and sang.  There must have been a lot of beer!

 The wedding was held at 2 pm on Sunday in a meadow surrounded by towering, ancient Douglas firs and oaks in an area of Washington Park, Portland’s huge, gorgeous city park.  The meadow is in the Hoyt Arbouretum.  The only way to get to it is by hiking paths through the woods down a fairly steep incline.  Fortunately, they opened up the service road to us so that we could get chairs and guests delivered to the meadow.  The chairs were set up around a huge, ancient oak tree which the bridesmaids had decorated with dozens of brightly colored satin ribbons, hanging from the branches -some 20 ft in the air.  I was glad I didn’t have to climb that ladder!  The ribbons rippled in the breeze.  It sort of reminded me of the May poles we used to dance around at May Day celebrations when I was a child. 

After the guests were seated, we began to hear the sounds of a polka band in the distance.  Sure enough, a band consisting of a clarinet, accordian, and a tuba were leading the wedding party down the switchback hiking trail to the meadow.  As they got closer, we could make out splashes of white through the trees from the bride’s dress.  The bridesmaids wore blue dresses and, to make them comfortable, sweaters and colorful puddle boots!  They carried brilliantly-colored boqets of fall flowers.  The bride wore a blue sash at her waist.  Her gown was all lace.  Peter wore a brand new brown tweed suit with an orange sweater vest and a brown tie.  The other male attendants wore dark suits and the best man wore a jaunty hat.  As the music got louder, the guests stood and watched the opening in the woods, practically on tip-toe and began clapping to the rhythm of the music.  The band was playing the familiar Hungarian Rhapsody, which was appropriate since Pete and Lindsay spent the whole last year living in Budapest, teaching English.  The whole idea of a bridal parade originated on a trip they took to Serbia during one of the school breaks.  In a small village there, they saw a traditional bridal procession through the streets with a band leading the way.  There, it is the custom for the families and all the guests to follow the bridal party and the band through the streets to the church.  Pete and Lindsay fell in love with the idea and adapted it to their wedding.

At last the procession broke through the trees and the bridal party walked down a short “aisle” between the rows of chairs and took their places under the huge tree.  Beneath the tree with its dancing ribbons, in the bright autumn sun, Peter and Lindsay became man and wife.  After the ceremony, the band led all the guests in a procession up the service road back to the parking lot.  The rest of us stayed for photographs while some burly family members folded and loaded up the chairs.  We left the meadow in the late afternoon sun with the ribbons hanging joyfully from the tree.  For the bride’s family, led by Lindsay’s mother, Teri, and father, Rick, the afternoon was a frenzy of cooking.  They cooked all the food for the reception, including barbequeing delicious steaks!  Our side of the family relaxed at our rental house, where I served coffee and fancy pastries from two of the many wonderful bakeries in Portland. We were so pleased that our best friends from home were able to fly out for the big day.  They were joined by one of their sons and his wife and baby, who live in Seattle now.

The reception began at 7 pm at a place called Holocene, which is a nightclub Monday through Saturday but rents out for private receptions on Sundays.  The carved pumkins glowed from every nook and cranny and fall flowers and candles decorated the tables dressed in deep orange and brown tablecloths.  Abundant food was spread on buffet tables in an adjoining room.  The previous week, Lindsay and her “girls” had gotten together to make mustaches for everyone!  Yes, mustaches.  They had formed all shapes and sizes of mustaches from clay, stuck each one onto a long stick and baked them.  They then painted them black, brown, red, and blonde.  Much fun was had at the reception as guests held their chosen mustache to their lips.  There was also an old-time photo box - the kind that you sat down inside with your friends or best girl or guy, inserted your quarters, and got a strip of four black and white photos to take as a souvenir.  All the guests took turns during the evening having their pics taken.  Scissors and a wire of clips were right there so you could cut off one pic and clip it to the wire.  Later, Lindsay and Pete collected the pics and made a collage to remember the guests who were with them on their big day.  They also provided a big box of all varieties of hats that they had collected from thrift stores and flea markets.  Throughout dinner guests wandered back and forth from the hat box so that by cake time, everyone was in a chosen chapeau!  What fun!

After dinner, Lindsay and Peter cut the cake, which was a three layer beauty , homemade by a friend of their’s.  Each layer was a different flavor but all were yummy.  Next came the toasts.  I was so touched to hear what my son’s friends, many of whom I didn’t know well or at all, had to say about Pete.  I was called upon to say something too!  Chuck had prepared his toast, which was beautiful, but I was not prepared.  I told a few “Pete as a kid” stories, which his friends enjoyed.  Then the dancing started.  No, not with the polka band.  They had a DJ for the reception.  After the first round of special dances, those of us over 50 retired to our beds, along with our other kids who had to be at the airport by 6 am the next morning.  Pete and Lindsay danced until 1:30 am and then retired to their hotel bridal suite.  They plan to take a honeymoon to Mexico at a later date when they have more vacation time and some money!  They did take Monday and Tuesday off, during which time we saw them for short stretches between their much-deserved naps. Monday and Tuesday Chuck, my parents, and I did some sightseeing.  The weather was so gorgeous!  Then the four of us headed to the airport Wednesday morningand flew home.  I’ve been sleeping in every morning since! 

 Meanwhile, Pete and Lindsay have been “nesting”.  They’ve been shopping for furniture and other storage pieces with their wedding money and have been having a ball opening wedding gifts and making their apartment cozy.  Everyone is anxious to see the wedding pictures.  The photo above was a silly one taken between the ceremony and the reception at their apartment.  The cat in the photo is their furry child, Cupcake.  The photos we took are almost ready to post (they will be available on our site at www.flickr.com) .  The ones taken by the photographer and various relatives will be ready ?  Stay tuned!

I guess the timing of the special D-mail I just sent a few hours ago is a bit off, but who cares!  I just heard that Terry Jones has been persuaded not to burn the Koran on September 11th.  Thank God!

Power of Prayer

 
Someone has said if Christians really understood the full extent of the power we have available through prayer, we might be speechless.. Did you know that during WWII there was an advisor to Churchill who organized a group of people who dropped what they were doing every day at a prescribed hour for one minute to collectively pray for the safety of England , its people and peace?  There is now a group of people organizing the same thing here in America .  If you would like to participate: Every evening at 9:00 PM Eastern Time (8:00 PM Central) (7:00 PM Mountain) (6:00 PM Pacific), stop whatever you are doing and spend one minute praying for the safety of the United States, our troops, our citizens, and for a return to a Godly nation. If you know anyone else who would like to participate, please pass this along.  Our prayers are the most powerful asset we have.  Please forward this to your praying friends.

 

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  Usually at this time of the year I am making grocery lists and menus, trying to remember who likes what and how I fixed it last time.  This year, I realized, will be the first year I have ever eaten out for Thanksgiving!  And we aren’t even going to eat out on Thanksgiving Day!  It’s an unusual combination of circumstances.  The married children will be at their in-laws (we get them for Christmas), two of the kids are living abroad and will actually be working on Thanksgiving Day since there is no such holiday in Hungary or Ireland.  That leaves Laura, our youngest daughter, who lives alone in the Twin Cities in a tiny studio apartment with an even tinier kitchen.  My husband is an ER doctor and is scheduled to work on Thanksgiving.  So my diningroom will be empty as we head up to Laura’s the day after Thanksgiving.  She said, “Mom, don’t even think about cooking Thanksgiving dinner in my tiny kitchen!” so we’re going out.  We might not even eat turkey.  Who knows?  And come to think of it, I will be alone the whole day of the 26th - to do anything I want to.  Hmm.  Sleep in, sew, wrap Christmas presents, dig out the Christmas decorations, make a pumpkin pie just for me?  This isn’t going to be so bad after all.

It seems that while Judy Wallman, a professional geneology researcher in southern California, was doing some research on her family tree, she came across an ancestor that she happened to share with Senator Harry Reid.  She found out that Remus Reid, her ancestor and Harry’s great-great uncle, was a wild west outlaw.  On the back of the photograph of Remus Reid that Judy obtained during her research it says, “Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.”

Judy recently e-mailed Senator Reid to see if he had any more information on their notorious common ancestor.   Believe it or not, Harry Reid’s staff sent back the following  bographical sketch for her genealogy research:

“Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include equestrian assets and  intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he 
devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run  by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important  civic function held in his honour when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”

Folks, you’ve got to hand it to Reid’s staff.  That is some awesome political spin!!!!!

Granddaughter Katie at the pumpkin patch!