Well Enough to Write about It

Due to one horrendous head cold, the new year did not start for me until Epiphany (January 6). It all began with a bit of chest congestion, resulting in discrete coughs at the New Year’s Eve party. It fooled nobody.

My head filled up with fluid, which I do not have to describe. You’ve all been there. Eyeballs seemed twice their usual size and squeezed out tears that ran down my face. That pressure, of course, caused the brain to go totally stupid for days on end. The periods of waking were scattered throughout daylight and darkness. Explosive sneezes, properly focused, could have tunneled through a North Carolina mountain. Amplified coughs would have made an excellent fog horn on the coast. My lungs produced sounds like an out-of-tune calliope. I could have played a very sad tune with them.

John was smart. (Say in a posh English accent), “He went to his club for the duration.” The train club in Tennessee was already on the calendar, but he was fortunate to miss the worst of my debilitation.

There was measurable progress when I moved the tissue box from my lap and would venture five feet away from it. The brain was what I missed most. It finally went from the speed of stupid to merely “slow”. When I considered myself almost well, I lost cream cheese I took out of the refrigerator. I left Greek yogurt in the laundry room, rescued by John.

Grandson David did what he could to help, but he was working most of the time. It was son John $pencer who took care of me and kept the household running during the worst of this monster cold. He cooked for himself and David, and he kept the kitchen clean. Marvelous! I have only one photo to show for it. $ made himself and me a breakfast burrito that was hearty, attractive, and good for us. He knew I couldn’t taste it at all, but it did clear my sinuses for a while!

I lost a week, but that’s not all I lost! I now weigh less than at the beginning of Fat Season (Thanksgiving through January 1). Don’t get excited; it was ounces, not pounds. Considering I usually gain five pounds in that period, I’m way (weigh) ahead of the game this year.

The day I figured I would survive, I saw a lovely bow in the sky. There was neither rain nor snow where I was standing, but the sun shone on clouds to make a rainbow or snowbow.

Sweet Moment of 2019

Our dear neighbors came to see in the new year with us. We enjoy the easy conversation and teasing when this group gets together. I laughed when I looked at the quick snaps. Although the photographic quality was poor, I could mentally draw a line through the room separating the men and women. Everyone joined in, so that arbitrary line did not separate us.

This was the first year that neighbor Logan (9) stayed up until midnight with us. He was absorbed in his new tablet and seemed to delight in sharing it with grandson David. We appreciated David’s spending a great deal of time with him. The camera caught a sweet moment to end the year.

A Christmas Thought

I’ve heard the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus all my life. Amazingly, almost every year something shines out of the story to catch my attention. This year I thought of how God called two groups to see his son. The rich and the poor had special invitations for a birthday shower. The poor group of shepherds were terrified of the heavenly host, but they immediately went to Bethlehem to see the baby the night he was born. I’m assuming the Persian kings were rich enough to be globe-trotters of the day, and God got their attention with a celestial incident. My conclusion: God wanted everyone to know of his extraordinary act to rescue mankind. Both Jews (shepherds) and Gentiles (the magi) received notice.

What gifts did they bring to the party? Most people know the wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The shepherds gave their hearts – they left the stable, glorifying and praising God, telling everyone they met what had happened.

God’s message remains the same. He’s dying to let us know that he loves each of us with an everlasting love.

John sent me this link to the King’s College Choir singing In the Bleak Midwinter. https://www.bing.com/search?q=youtube+in+the+bleak+midwinter&form=EDNTHT&mkt=en-us &httpsmsn=1&msnews=1&rec_search=1&plvar=0&refig=e4bc064a355a47bf8d8dda da745eebc7&PC=DCTS&sp=1&qs=SC&pq=youtube-in+the+bleak+mid+winter&sk=PR ES1&sc=8-31&cvid=e4bc064a355a47bf8d8ddada745eebc7&cc=US&setlang=en-US

Hiking from the Hostel

Rose and dog Sadie left in the morning for a Christmas visit with her family. By late afternoon we were in hostel mode. Son John $pencer bunked in with grandson David to give his room to Bob, a hiking friend of long standing. We had a leisurely breakfast before driving the two to Cataloochee to hike. Even though it was not prime grazing time, we saw a herd of elk resting in the valley.

I zoomed in to get this. The elk were across a large meadow.

The fellows let me take their picture after they strapped on their backpacks. They planned to hike back to a peak we can see from our living room window. It isn’t right in our back yard, but it is pretty close.

Bob and John ready to hike for a couple of days

Picturing Love

We went to the midnight service on Christmas Eve and the one on Christmas morning. If I had photos to share, they would show ordinary people gathered to worship God. We are common people loved by our extraordinary God. Sharing faith draws us together to love each other. What a celebration we have every year, because God sent his son to become one of us!

I hope our love shines through photos taken at home, beginning with Sadie, who had an immediate attachment to her new chew toy.

John and grandson David handed out gifts from under the tree. This was the best photo of the tree this year. Decorating the tree was a labor of love, one that I always leave entirely to John.

Son John $pencer held Sadie as Rose put treats in the dog’s main Christmas gift. That kept Sadie busy for the rest of the morning.

Family and neighbor friends watched the flaming of the Christmas pudding, a show we always enjoy. Our neighbors are very special, and we were blessed that half of our favorites could be with us. The others had family activities elsewhere.

John $, Rose, Marla, David, John
John, Dawn, Jeff, and Connie watching the flame. Pumpkin roll waits patiently.

For the foodies: We had baked Brie with crackers, spinach dip with chips, a casserole of chicken and stuffing, frozen cranberry salad, glazed carrots, broccoli with Hollandaise sauce, homemade rolls (not tasty at all) Jell-o cottage cheese salad, Connie’s delicious pumpkin roll, and Christmas pudding with hard sauce.


My 77th birthday was one of the most delightful ever. First, there was the surprise party in New York with relatives and friends of long standing (not calling them old). Between that and my real birthday, I received lots of lovely cards, e-greetings, and phone calls. I was humbled by all the attention from around the world.

After church, I was given a fun story to write. Surely that counts as a gift. Ed and his wife were flying to Texas the next day to spend Christmas with relatives. Did he have a big family? Oh! My! Yes! He had 35 first cousins!! Those 35 were descended from 11 children, so Ed began life with 10 aunts and uncles. John and I wanted to know if he knew everyone’s name. You could see the wheels turning, so I suspect he could pull those names out, given time. He explained that every family member has a number. His dad was the seventh child, and Ed was his firstborn, so Ed’s number is 71. I think that is brilliant. If you know the number of the person you are talking to, you know exactly where s/he belongs in the family tree.

Rose and son John $pencer met us to go to a Thai restaurant north of Asheville. I last had Thai food three or four years ago, so I was excited about it. We shared an appetizer – spring rolls, crab Rangoon, and dumplings. John and grandson David chose orange sesame chicken, and Rose had a tofu dish. It didn’t matter what $ ordered, because he chose the hot version and probably couldn’t taste anything because of the searing heat. He turned all shades of red, while insisting he loved his food. I had pineapple curry with salmon that was only mildly spicy.

I asked $ to take a selfie of us, but we didn’t all fit in. $ overheard a family conversation at the next table, so when one of them offered to take a photo of all of us, he asked, “Are you also celebrating a birthday?” They were. It was a young woman on the far side of their table, so we waved and called greetings to each other.

John, Anne, Rose, David, and John

At home, I quickly looked at messages. Having had the phone silenced during church and dinner, I was behind. Neighbor Shawn texted to ask if they could come over in the evening, and neighbor Marla said she and her mother would like to bring something to our house. That was the beginning of the best impromptu birthday party. Connie and Marla arrived wearing festive Santa hats.

Sadie was enthralled when Logan arrived. Their play was so active that both boy and dog were blurred in the photo. Shawn, our son $, and Bob were in the background.

I liked the picture of everyone at the table after we devoured the cake $ bought. It was marvelous to have this congenial group together. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better celebration.

Rose, John $, Connie, Marla, David, Shawn, Logan, Bob, and John

Stony Brook Family and Friends

Sister Barbara can turn any space into a festive party venue. We had a light supper in the living room after church and breakfast the next day in the sun-filled dining room.

We walked on Main Street, the place where I used to walk when we lived in Stony Brook. I got a quick photo at the millpond, but it was much too cold to linger. We walked back to the car as quickly as possible to thaw our faces.

David, Barbara, and John at the millpond

Our nieces and nephew visited in the afternoon. It was amazing how much great nephew Thomas had grown. His little brother Ellie is now a year old, and he was a mere infant the last time I saw him. The boys played together nicely while the rest of us chatted.

Ellie, Lars, Thomas, and David

I liked the photo of Tonja and Catherine ( sisters-in-law) with Ellie.

Barbara served dinner for twelve, making it seem as easy as putting out snacks. It was delightful to visit with old friends from church. Resident Sophie and her niece Sara expedited the serving and cleaning up.

My birthday was the last thing on my mind. I put off thinking about it until this trip was over. It was a total surprise when Barbara came in with two pies, one headed my way with candles blazing. I have good breath control but no aim to speak of. It took both a huff and a puff to get the symbolic candles out. Who knew you needed to practice candle-blowing? I should be in good form Sunday when I turn 77. There should be no hoopla, although John always buys a luscious chocolate cake to celebrate. I like things so low-key that they almost fall off the piano.

Barbara, Sophie, Judy, Pat, Thom, David, Al, Karen, Anne, Ruth, and John

We stopped in New Jersey to see daughter Kate on our way to North Carolina. She was called into work early, so we talked with her as she set up her check-out area. It was fun to see her scan groceries and pack them efficiently.

We had a pleasant drive back to North Carolina, a trip of 16.5 hours. Now, on to Christmas!