faith, Jesus, the friends

Calm, Bright, Holy Beagle

It was not my usual week-before-Christmas.

Monday, instead of baking and sampling, I was fasting and prepping for Tuesday’s colonoscopy.  It’s not ideal to schedule a colonoscopy the week before Christmas, but it had already been rescheduled twice… The good news is I passed with flying colors. Doc says I don’t have to “Golytely” again for another ten years. Misnomer that.

All is Calm, All is Bright

Wednesday, instead of shopping, I was sitting on a folded quilt on the floor of the veterinary oncologist’s exam room with my back against the wall.  The little beagle lay on her side beside me, head on my lap. A mild, pleasantly soothing incense wafted through the air, mingled with the gentle music playing beside it. I stroked her soft little head and spoke quietly to her as she lay still for the twenty minutes the acupuncture needles needed to do their thing.

“It’s worth it little Be,” I whispered, as I stroked the side of her face, “they are stimulating your immune system and helping to clear the lung congestion.”

She lay perfectly still. Completely calm. Not a single needle fell out this time. What a sweet little love.

Acupuncture needles in place of pine needles.

She has been doing so well – her eyes clear and bright, her energy high – that I was starting to imagine her a medical miracle.

And then Thursday she started coughing. Really coughing. She coughed up a hunk of tissue and what looked like a blood clot.

Silent Night, Holy Night.

So Friday she went back on an antibiotic.

She’s sleeping a lot now, her little body battling pneumonia. So last night, while she slept, I broiled filet Mignon, mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed Brussels sprouts. And then my daughter and the hub went to the 10 pm Candlelight Service while I stayed home with our friends.

I was going to have our own little silent night, holy night – just me, the hound and the beagle. I was going to read them the Christmas story. I was going to tell them what Jesus said about not a single sparrow falling from the sky apart from the Father’s care. I was going to read them the story Nathan told David and explain that God considers pets members of the family, too.

“but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.”

God had no problem with the way the poor man lovingly cared for his lamb, but He certainly had a problem with the way the rich man treated her as property.

I was going to say, “God loves and cares for all of the creatures He created, guys, and He loves you even more than I do.”

We were going to have our own holy moment while the rest of the family was at church.

But the night turned out to be more silent than holy. The beagle’s breathing was labored as she slept on the sofa beside me. I didn’t want to disturb her by reading aloud. I knew she’d try to respond to the sound of my voice and she needed rest more than anything else.

So I scrolled silently and came upon this from Muddy Boots Manor:

A precious telling of the Christmas story. I think the hound was listening as he lay awake on the floor nearby. The beagle slept through most of it – awaking only briefly and raising her head to see who was talking. Then she drifted back off to sleep.

Now it’s Sunday. Christmas Day.

When my daughter wakes up I’ll make pancakes. I’ll embellish the maple syrup with minced figs, dates and walnuts because on Tuesday the recovery nurse handed me a brochure with a list of high fiber foods and dried figs was at the top.

We’ll open gifts and then I’ll make stuffed mushrooms and a mushroom pate for the hub and the daughter to take with them to the family gathering.

I’ll miss out on some amazing food, but Christmas, it turns out, is not about beautifully set tables and skillfully prepared feasts.

It’s about giving presence to a sick little friend.



The hound – 96 in dog years – wants extra presence himself these days.


I did take time to do some fancy wrapping this week.


Merry Christmas everyone!



the friends

‘Tisn’t it the Season to be Jolly?


The beagle and I have not missed a single walk since she was diagnosed. Because walks are medicine. They stimulate her immune system, they help the flow of her lymphatic system and they get oxygen to any anaerobic infections that may be present in her lungs.

Yesterday I smiled and said hello to a couple we encountered. They were on a (dog-less) walk of their own.

The woman responded, “I hope you are as warm as the dog.”

I chuckled and nodded.

Maybe she couldn’t think of anything else to say, I thought. Maybe what she meant to say was, “I like your dog’s coat.” or “Your dog looks nice and warm.”

Maybe she meant to say it with a smile.

But her tone and her look were disapproving.

I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt under a very downy down jacket. The hood was pulled up unto my head, my hands were mittened and my feet booted.

Clearly I was as warm as “the dog.” As my sweet dog.

Did she think my dog was too warm in her coat? Did she think I was cruel to put it on her? Did she hope I was as too warm as the dog?

I wanted to tell her that my friend’s little belly was shaved for a CT scan and the fur hasn’t fully grown back yet. It needs protection from the cold.

I wanted to tell her that senior dogs have difficulty regulating their body temperature. Just like cardigan-clad senior people.

I wanted to tell her that my friend was shivering by the end of the previous day’s cold, damp walk.

I wanted to tell her that my friend has LUNG CANCER.

So quit judging.

But we just kept walking.

We saw them approach a second time as we rounded the final bend.

The beagle stopped to wait for them, tail wagging.

She’s a greeter.

But the couple did not acknowledge her.

Clearly not dog lovers. Clearly her earlier comment was not out of concern for “the dog.”

Clearly she doesn’t deem dogs worthy of warmth.

“Come on little Be. Let’s go home.”

The Be didn’t move.

“Are you worn out little friend? Have you had all you can take today?”

I kinda’ hoped Mrs. Crabby Appleton heard my questions. I kinda’ hoped she realized that there was more to the story.

On today’s walk the Be is going to wear her silver “American Beagle” puffy jacket. Because it’s cold and windy and the jacket is warm and adorable.

Fa-la-la-la-la  La-la  La-la.



December 1


I got dressed up today and went to a Christmas Tea at a fancy club for fancy women.


It was very Emily Gilmore.


The other ladies at our table and I had a lovely, cordial chat as we sampled a variety of tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and pastries.


About midway through the event, a senior member of the club arrived late to our table. Late because she wasn’t going to come.

Last year we were handed a glass of champagne as soon as we arrived. This year we weren’t served champagne until we were seated at our assigned tables.

Last year we stood and mingled and chose from the offerings on a large buffet table. This year we sat and were served.

Seems the chair of this year’s Christmas tea wanted it to be high tea – not a cocktail party format as in years past.

The late-comer who almost didn’t come wasn’t happy with the changes. She wanted to mingle. See and be seen.

Her complaints were couched in fancy lady niceties. As I listened I heard echoes of a Gilmore Girls episode – the one with Emily and the pouring of the tea.


I suggested, aware that she is on the committee, that perhaps next year they could serve the champagne in their lovely foyer and allow the guests to mingle prior to being invited into the dining room.

The other ladies at our little table thought it was a stellar idea.

“Suggestions such as that must be made very carefully,” the senior member warned.  “My husband advised me to never be the one to make such a suggestion.”

“It’s a shame that you can’t speak freely,” I smiled.


Being a guest, and not a member, allows one to make such wistful observations.

As my 80-something-year-old-friend drove me home she said, “They keep trying to get me to be on committees and I keep saying no. Too much drama.”

Then she floored her Crossfire to squeeze us into traffic just as our lane ended.

“Whoa! You’re brave,” I remarked as I held on for dear life.

“It has a Mercedes engine,” she said. “Besides, God is watching over me. I pray every time I get into my car. I pray for my safety and for the safety of the other drivers.”

Thank goodness. (I love her.)


Taking pastries home is frowned upon but what’s the fun of going to a fancy schmancy tea if you can’t sneak some dessert into your purse under the nose of a committee member?

I transferred them onto a snowman plate as soon as I got home.

See those two Grand Marnier petit fours? They’re delicious. I have a vial of gold dust in my pantry – real gold – and I’m going to recreate them.

Everything sparkles in December.




On the Threshold of Christmas

Our tradition has always been to cut down a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.




But this year Netflix premiered Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on our annual Christmas tree day.

So instead of stepping directly from Thanksgiving into Christmas, we straddled the threshold; instead of bundling up and heading to the tree farm, we stayed in our pjs and parked ourselves on the sofa to marathon watch all four 90 minute episodes.

When I say “we” I mean my daughter and me.  Not the hub.

Six solid hours of Gilmore Girls with a brief intermission to walk the friends.

It was perfect.

Gilmore Girls was the weekly mother/daughter bonding date that took us exactly through my daughter’s adolescence. It began airing when she was in sixth grade and it ended just as she was graduating.

The show kind of reminded me of us – except Lorelai had her daughter at 16 and I had mine at 30. Lorelai gave birth out of wedlock, I gave birth in wedlock. Lorelai was hip and cute, I was not hip and only kinda’ cute.

But, Rory was smart and adorable and my daughter was smart and adorable.

It was just the two of them and they were close.

It was just the two of us for ten years and we were close.

When the reunion series was announced last summer, we started counting the days until we’d all be together again.

And it was perfect.


And then this morning, one day behind schedule, we drove an hour to Nicholas Tree Farm and loaded ourselves into a wagon.

In search of the perfect tree.


“Hey you guys,” I called them over, “how about this one? It’s nice and straight, and there is plenty of room between the branches for ornaments.”


We had a winner.


The blade was sharp, the trunk was slender and the hub had it felled in record time.


Waiting outside for the return wagon.


Waiting in the warming shack.


Here it comes.



Loaded back up with the loot.



Shake, bundle and roll.

Then off to lunch.




On the Third Day of Christmas

“Next to a circus there ain’t nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit.” – Frank McKinney Hubbard

The plug has been pulled on the Christmas music. WNIC played nothing but Christmas songs 24/7 since November 1. And then, exactly at midnight December 25/26, it was gone.

And it’s only the third day of Christmas.  You’d think after a 55 day build up, they could play them twelve days more.

Maybe they don’t know epiphany…


If you’re looking for something good to read this Sunday morning, I recommend this short article:  Too Great a Mystery for One Day.

And if you’re looking for something good to watch, the final season of Downton Abbey starts in ONE WEEK!

Happy Sunday.





life, Light

Merry Christmas!

I had a million things to do before I could go to bed last night, so what did I do instead? I went to a 10:00 candlelight service. It was wonderful. But long. I didn’t get home until after midnight.


I went because my daughter read an article, which she shared with me. I liked the author’s emphasis on worship. At the end of the article was a brief bio – the author, it turns out, is a minister at a church about 30 minutes from here.  My daughter googled the church.  They were having a 10:00 Christmas Eve Service.

“Let’s go,” I said.

So we went.

It was past the hub’s bedtime so he stayed home.

It was perfect: I got to sing some of my favorite Christmas carols, there were well-read readings from Scripture, we sang Silent Night by candlelight.

As we left, the minister shook our hands, introduced himself, asked how we happened upon his small church and told us to consider Holy Redeemer our church home.

How kind was that?

I mentioned to my daughter on the way home that the format seemed a little bit Catholic.

“I liked it,” she said. “I need more processionals with large crosses and giant gold Bibles in my life.”

I agreed.

This morning, as we were opening gifts, I said to the hub, “Let’s be Episcopalians!”

My daughter googled the church again because we were wondering whether the minister is called a priest or a pastor. Apparently both are acceptable.

We chuckled at how the church describes itself – “Protestant and Reformed, and Catholic” – because that’s pretty much how I described it on the way home.

The best of all worlds.

I liked how the minister truly ministered. Like a shepherd. I liked how the congregants responded like simple sheep. At this stage in the game, I like simple.

Will I become an Episcopalian*? Probably not. Will I go back for the candlelight service next year?  YES!

But first I’ll get all my stuff done.

Here are some pictures from my house.  Now I have to get back in the kitchen. I still have rolls (I have something to tell you about that tomorrow) and salad to make.


Merry Christmas everyone!


*Turns out the church is not Episcopalian, the denomination just has the word Episcopal in its name.  What do I know?




“We’ll wait and go Monday,” I said, “people will be back at work on Monday.”

Poor naive fool.

The days of magical strolls through snowy Dickensonian villages are over. It’s nothing but down and dirty from here on in.

This was Christmas shopping at its worst – Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The parking lots were full and the stores were picked bare.

Life is way too bleak when you head out in the rain to uninteresting stores AND strike out, so we ended our outing at Miracle Coffee – to stir at least a little bit of happy into our day.

As I sat down with my chai latte (yes, I’m in a rut), my daughter was folding a square of plain white paper.

“I’m making a snowflake she said,” in response to my query.

She nodded toward a table that had one last sheet of paper on it and some scissors.


So we made snowflakes and posted them for a potential prize and the day got a little bit happy.


My daughter’s is the heart-studded love snowflake and mine is the one right below it.

I sent the Vanna photo to her phone. She did a quick crop and edit and sent it back to me.



“I like the original better. It’s got a nice warm glow.”

“But it’s not white-balanced,” she said. “You don’t know anything about photography.”

“I like what I like, and I like a nice, warm glow.”

“But it’s wrong.”

“It may be technically wrong,” I rebutted, “but it isn’t aesthetically wrong.”

I noticed the man kitty-corner to us was listening to our tomfoolery.

“Let’s go.”

I posted the photos hoping you all would agree with me. But now that I see them side by side I must admit that the stinkin’ kid is right.

And I love her.









In a Pinch

If you still have a couple of dvds to wrap and you’ve run out of wrapping paper, or if you just feel like coloring, do this: Search adult coloring books then click on a link for free Christmas coloring pages.
Print a design on a sheet of legal size copy paper (landscape) and then color it in. Eight-and-a-half by fourteen is the perfect size for wrapping dvds. You don’t need scissors. But you do need tape.

I was in kind of a hurry so my coloring isn’t stellar, but it works in a pinch.

Merry, merry.