WELCOME! In the midst of each life's chaos exists a place of calm and sunshine. I call mine Contentment Cottage. It is the place where I write my stories and find the peace of God. I've posted my "Ice Pick" reviews and will continue to add some of what I call my "Ice Crystals": poems, articles, essays, fillers, and recipes.

Monday, May 21, 2012


For years the road got darker, and then for the last five years, I've felt as though I were in a tunnel.  In the distance sometimes I thought I saw a white speck, which might have been a bit of light.  But whether it was sunlight, a single shining star, or an oncoming train, I couldn't tell.

I often asked myself what I was trying to accomplish and tried to focus on that goal, but in the end I was only trying to survive.  Where at first I was able to hide out in my fantasy worlds, I eventually became less and less able to concentrate on my story worlds as my characters grew less real to me.  I wanted to give up, to quit trying to write.  At first my characters nagged at me, but finally they shut up.  They will, you know, if you ignore them long enough.

And I continually asked myself, "What's the point?" 

Now, I'm trying to re-enter life.  I feel as though I were standing at last at the exit from the tunnel. I'm leaning against the side, looking out at the world of sunlight and green hills, where nearly anything might be possible.

I need to begin my life again.  And it's not easy.  I am grateful that God gave me thirteen years of living alone while I was working, because I am drawing on that experience as I recreate my life and give myself permission to do different things, to sit in different chairs, eat in different rooms, put my towels on different racks, buy and prepare different foods, wear different clothes, go different places, watch different TV shows, etc.  It's harder than it sounds.  And I've never been so lonely in my life.  Or so without purpose.

If you've ever been the sole caregiver for another human being, you understand what it means to live for two people at once, to virtually give your life for another.  I didn't do as well as I could have.  But I did the best I could at the time. 

And I've learned that everything takes time:  "Patience is the building block of life."

Friday, February 10, 2012


"'I AM the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God Almighty, who is, who was, and who is to come." (Rev. 1:8 TEV)

If God is almighty, all-powerful, then we can trust Him. I can trust Him.

I have let myself stare too long at the years I may yet have to live. Knowing that during those years I will become increasingly old (don't we all?) and increasingly weak and incapable of doing things and enjoying life. I may become sick and frail, unable to drive or care for myself or my home. It is a future none of us want to face, let alone live through.

Jesus' brother James wrote, "Remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from his wrong ways will save that sinner's soul from death, and cause a great number of sins to be forgiven." (5:20 TEV)

To change my own feelings of grief which are leading me down the ways of despair, I must change my attitude, my beliefs about sickness, arthritis, old age, and aging, and know that I don't inherit weakness, pain, and disability, but strength, health, and the ability to do and act. Yes, my mother was weak, in pain, and--thanks to considerable incompetence on the part of some (don't get me started on that story)--disabled in the last few weeks of her life, but before that she lived for 98 full years, dying only a few days short of her 99th birthday. She was strong, healthy, and able to do most things for herself. She went up and downstairs at will, dressed and undressed herself with little help from me, made her own bed, set the table, fed herself, and cleared the table and helped me with the dishes, read the newspapers and magazines, watched TV and enjoyed playing with our cats, wrote letters and signed checks, walked around the house and around the yard, clipped bushes and pulled weeds, sat on the front porch in the good weather, and talked about old times and current events.

"Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment." (Eccl. 8:5 KJV)

I must avoid thinking about the consequences of aging and other evil things, or acting like "an old lady" as my mother warned me. My spirit is ageless, eternal. Nana in her nineties always said that she still felt like a girl of eight in her mind even though her body had aged. I didn't understand what she meant back then, but I do now. I am whole, strong, and free. My body heals, reaching always for strength and health, no matter how injured or sick I may become.

Nana always said, "The less you do, the less you can do; the more you do, the more you can do."

James was right. "Remember this."

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

When my mom passed away last year, someone at the wake told me that the grieving was the easy part, that dealing with the legal and financial headaches was the hard part. Though I feared they spoke the truth, I didn't really believe them. After all, I loved my mother very much. She was my best friend and in every practical sense, the only family I had. I have since learned that they were right.

December was a blur of grief, of holidays I didn't want to celebrate. January was consumed with interminable hours-long phone calls, documents to be located, papers to be filled out and mailed. February is proving to be the month of waiting for promised letters, promised checks, promised phone calls.

I am not by nature a patient person, but I'm learning that when folder after folder in the rack on my table is labeled "Awaiting ... [this, that, and the other thing]", there is nothing you can do to hurry the universe along no matter how much you want to get through this and move on.

This summer I lost three kitties. Tipsy and Colleen were run over on different days near the 4th of July. I buried the kitten sisters next to each other between the lilac and the cardinal shrub. Pinocchio died of leukemia and feline AIDS. I buried him behind the garage in his favorite sunny place. Then my mom passed away. And just when I thought I had no tears left to cry, my 13-year-old kitty, sweet Sally May, died in the kitchen one night in January.

At the end of life for all creatures, we must release them to God, not that they weren't always His and in His hands, but that the time of our stewardship, our borrowing of them, has come to an end. And while we grieve here and bury their broken bodies, we know their little spirits are running free in the long grass of heaven.

It is the same also when we must let go of human friends and family members. "The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Even so, blessed be the name of the Lord." To paraphrase an affirmation from the Unity School of Christianity, "We release them to God's care and keeping, knowing they are being guided to their good."

Even though our hearts are breaking and our tears flow, we must remember that to God, death is just a coming home to Him, and that someday we will see our loved ones again.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I'm using Nora Holm's The Runner's Bible this month, and today's Statement of Truth is "The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17)

I know from my research that "Shadow of turning" calls up an image of a sundial. It refers to time and the passage of time."Variableness" calls up images of the clouds forming, changing, and passing. We see the sun, the moon, the stars, and then we don't. Light comes and goes. But not with God. He doesn't come and go.

He never changes.

And yet He created a physical world full of change.

"God is Spirit" (Jn.4:24) existing in a spiritual milieu, but He created a physical, material world and physical beings who can't put their hands through it, who enjoy hot tea and lemon with sugar and who love to watch the sun "rise." Even on a gray day.

He loves variety, motion, change, beauty, randomness. This God, who created all things, and who never changes, created a universe that never stands still, where every snowflake, every leaf, every person is different, unique in some way.

Even snowflakes that appear identical formed in different places in a cloud, fell in slightly different spots. One will get the sun, the other be in shade moments longer before it melts.One leaf catches sun or rain, is on a plant or a tree that receives more water or less. One gets eaten by an insect or a deer, another is the resting place of a butterfly, or ends up pressed in a child's scrapbook to be gazed upon many years later.

No two creatures--created by God--ever experience life or existence in the same exact way. Ever.

Think about it.

Is any "random" event truly random?

A bug flits randomly from my lamp. Not "randomly" to the bug. It has some "idea" in its pea-brain--to get away from the heat or light or enemy, to seek food or a mate elsewhere. It has eyes. It sees a place that might be good to rest in or on or under.

Samuel Johnson said, "Nothing in reality is governed by chance, but that the universe is under the perpetual superintendence of Him who created it; that our being is in the hands of omnipotent Goodness, by whom what appears casual to us is directed for ends ultimately kind and merciful; and that nothing can finally hurt him who debars not himself from the divine favour."

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

This has been both the longest and the shortest summer of my life! Lyme disease and unbearably hot weather simply (simply??) wiped out the month of July and most of August. I still don't have my strength back. But I'm working on it.

It's even hard for me to remember what happened in July beyond losing two of my kitties (Tipsy and Colleen), being in so much pain I didn't want to live anymore, and so sick and unable to eat or keep food down that I lost more than ten pounds in one week, which is not a preferred way to diet! I think I've gained it all back and then some. Eating is one of the few things I still enjoy in life.

Tipsy was gray and white with the most perfect china doll face and a long white tip on her tail. That and the way she'd race in front of you and then "tip over" to have her tummy rubbed gave her her name. She was more of a loner, although she and Pippin played together a lot. He was a year older and sometimes too rough with her. I'd hear her cry and run to separate them. She was bigger than the other kittens in the litter and I was able to get her spayed a full two weeks before the others. She loved the snow and, while the other cats stayed in where it was warm, she'd be out batting bits of snow around, making her own snowballs, or failing that if the snow refused to cooperate, she'd find broken icicles and send them skittering across the ground or the frozen snow.

Colleen was also gray and white, but she had red ears and a teeny white "firefly" tip on her tail. I called her Colleen for the red ears--my little Irish colleen. She loved to sit up in a chair at the dining room table, and I still see her there in my mind's eye. She was friendly and played with the other kitties, but she never learned "to keep her claws inside her paws, " and in trying to get my attention and some petting, she would hook me mercilessly until I sometimes called her "Cactus Kate." I lost her July 4th weekend just a week after Tipsy.

I buried them next to each other between the lilac and the cardinal shrub in the side yard. I still miss them both very much.

Tipsy used to cross the road all the time, and I'd see her chasing the wild bunnies over there. Like we don't have enough bunnies to chase over here. Eventually, someone hit her. They, or someone else who knew she was ours, got her out of the road and laid her behind our hedge where she wouldn't get run over again. I thank them for that.

I did the same with the black and white kitty I saw get hit on Route 52 at New Prospect. The dark SUV ahead of me never slowed or tried to avoid the cat. I still see him tumbling under their vehicle. I stopped and picked his little body up and put him on the lawn by the nearest mailbox. And cried for a kitty I never knew.

I never saw Colleen go across the road. Ever. But it only takes once. And early in the morning or at night, it's hard to see. I'm happier when my kitties stay indoors.

And now I'm pretty sure I've lost Pinocchio. He was two years old, Pippin's brother, but was an outdoor-only cat. He was a special kitty. Gray with a small white spot on his nose. He may have inherited FIV from his mother. Pippin has it too. And then he got leukemia, possibly from a fight with an infected cat. I never saw him fight--he was shy and always ran from other cats, but I noticed that his ears looked a bit chewed around the edges. His favorite place was upstairs in the garage, which I've fixed with boxes of hay for kitties. He always followed me around in the yard and was never far away if I was gardening or hanging the wash--underpaid and underfoot, but I loved him dearly. I never took the litter boxes out to be emptied or carried garbage to the garage without Pinocchio tagging along. If he wasn't in sight and I called "Pinocchio!" he'd come running. But I haven't seen him since Tuesday morning. The antibiotic and the special food the vet gave me seemed to be helping, but he was so very thin. I just hope and pray he's not somewhere suffering, but that God has taken him quickly, and that he is with all my other kitties who are running free in the long grass of heaven.

Maybe Tipsy and Colleen were the lucky ones. They were only a year old, but they died quickly.

The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Even so, blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Anyone who has animals for pets--hey, anyone who has kids--will know heartache and heartbreak.

But when you get to heaven, you'll know my place. It's the one on the hill with all the kitties. There'll be a few dogs, too, but definitely a whole pile of kitties.

You don't think there'll be cats in heaven? Jesus said "not one is forgotten before my Father" and He was only talking about sparrows. You think cats aren't mentioned in the Bible? There are plenty of lions in there. And lions are just big kitties after all.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Thinking once again about the common phrase, "the love of God." You hear it as a prayer and as a curse. "Oh, for the love of God!"

But what does it really mean? English is such a rich language.

Are we speaking of God's love for me? Or of my love for God? Or both?

Both, I would say.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011


I often find prayers in the Psalms that become my prayers, but yesterday I found one in St. Paul's letter to the Colossians that I thought was so beautiful and so perfect I wanted to share it.

Heavenly Father, please give me a complete understanding of what you want to do in my life. Make me wise with spiritual wisdom so that the way I live will always honor and please you, and that I will continually do good, kind things for others. Help me, all the while, to learn to know you better and better.

I pray also that I will be strengthened with your glorious power so that I will have all the patience and endurance I need.

May I always be filled with your joy, always thanking you, who have enabled me to share the inheritance that belongs to your holy people who live in the light. Thank you for rescuing me from the one who rules the kingdom of darkness and for bringing me into your kingdom. Thank you for purchasing my freedom with your blood and for forgiving all my sins. Amen.

Adapted from Colossians 1: 9-14 ( New Living Translation)

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sparks of God's Glory

I am currently reading a biography about a man who was sucked into Stalin's gulag. The man and his fellow prisoners suffered terribly in a camp far above the Arctic Circle. It is a depressing story with the only glimmers of light being hopes for release that were agonizingly dragged out, only to be dashed in the end. The only release for nearly all of the prisoners came through death. The man was an atheist, as were all of the others he knew. Religion of any kind, or any hope for salvation, is missing in this darkness.

By contrast, Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie, who were also prisoners at the same time, but victims of a Nazi death camp, were devout Christians who managed to spread hope in that horrible place. Corrie said, "You may never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have."

And it came to me that we are all in the same situation as these prisoners.

We spread joy or pain in our own worlds to our family, friends, neighbors, and strangers by our behavior, by what we say and how we say it, by our actions--how we drive; the things we laugh at or cry over; what we do at school, at work, or in our neighborhood, for others or against them; the kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and generosity we show, especially to animals, children, and the elderly.

We spread God's love or our own lack of faith wherever we are when we share our fears and worries, our hurts and anger, or our trust in God and our belief in His love, light, and peace. If we believe this world is all there is or that God has a better place for us after death will--or should--make a difference in how we live, speak, and act.

"Again Jesus said, 'God's kingdom is like what happens when a farmer scatters seed in a field. The farmer sleeps at night and is up and around during the day. Yet the seeds keep sprouting and growing, and he doesn't understand how. It is the ground that makes the seeds sprout and grow into plants that produce grain. Then when the harvest season comes and the grain is ripe, the farmer cuts it with a sickle.' " Mark 4:26-29 (CEV)

We don't know what will happen or who will ultimately be influenced by us when we put God's truth into practice daily in our lives. "You may be the only Gospel others ever read." We are all sparks of God's perfect glory.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

God Moments

A neighbor was telling me about what she calls her "God stories"--miraculous things that happen to her--and how her grandson urged her to write them down. I often have "God moments" too, and her grandson is right--if you don't write them down, you tend to forget them.

I had such a moment on March 1st. On the cover of the March issue of RBI's "Our Daily Bread," is a photo of magnificent pink azaleas blooming in Maymont Park in Richmond, Virginia. And the Bible verse below the picture reads: "For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth." Song of Solomon 2:11-12.

My reaction was, "Yeah, right!" We had plenty of snow still on the ground here and I hadn't seen a flower since last fall sometime. The sun was shining here, at least between the clouds, but flowers? You've got to be kidding.

I assume the photo was taken last year, because this is, after all, March, and I don't think that even in Virginia it would be warm enough for azaleas to have bloomed early enough to get on a magazine cover. It certainly isn't in New York State!

Later in the morning I was out back and I spotted something purple by the back door.

A tiny myrtle flower! Blooming among the green leaves and the twig and dead leaf litter of winter was my first flower of spring.

It doesn't qualify as a miracle, except by people like me, who feel that life is full of miracles--composed of miracles--most of them so small we don't even recognize them, but miracles all the same. It was definitely a "God moment."

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Thursday, March 03, 2011


"Centered in God's presence, I find peace."

My first thought is, "I wish." What does it mean to be "centered"? It sounds like something from yoga, and I'm not into yoga, although maybe I should be. Between being overwhelmed every day, I have "new normal" days when I just go nuts trying to cope with my mom's dementia.

"Centered." It brings thoughts to me of the eye of the hurricane. Or maybe the eye of a tornado. Do tornadoes have eyes? The only one I ever saw was moving too fast for me to tell.

I try to stop and think about this and not just let these thoughts bounce around in my brain.

When I am centered, I am balanced. In balance, I am steady, confident, empowered, peaceful, and strong.

Unlike a hurricane, I have to stop spinning to find my balance. I am not a top or a gyroscope. I may live in the midst of a hurricane, but I need to rest, to connect to God. Without an anchor, I just keep spinning like a kite on a string in the March wind.

I need to be grounded on a rock. There was nothing more grounded on this earth than the Cross at Calvary.

Centering does not eliminate suffering, but it allows me to stop and connect to God and to find peace in the middle of my own private hurricane.

"Centered in God's presence, I find peace." It is not the peace that the world gives.

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