Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Living on Grace Street

I finally, after many years of following Christ, have understood the nature of grace.  I've learned, at long last, that I don't have to pummel my day into submission, making sure that every single thing goes just exactly my way and every person does just what I want.  No, that notion serves only to totally frustrate me and annoy everyone else.  I have to constantly remind myself of my state of grace.  When I am living in that, I don't have to get perturbed by minor annoyances and the perpetually snarled travel in my area.

This morning the gray skies came back!  However, I reminded myself that I lived in the grace of God and the gray was okay.  I started doing paperwork at home, a privilege if there ever was one, and then was called into the office.  Rain + Downtown Tunnel = frustration and delays, but after grumbling a little, I returned to calm.

I called the office to advise that I hadn't moved in 20 minutes and was turning around to take an alternate route down Military Highway and over the Gilmerton Bridge.  When I arrived there, traffic on the Gilmerton didn't move at all for, you guessed it, 20 minutes.

This time someone called me.  Thinking that it was someone questioning how long it was taking for me to come in, I tensed up.  Grace again, this time in the guise of a colleague who said, "Don't worry, I've got you covered,"

I went back to my original plan for the day, which was to see how Mr. B. was doing and verify that he was in compliance with his legal requirements.  I listened to Bible teaching on the way over.  I prayed that I would be a blessing.

Mr. B. was pretty despondent and it seemed that I had arrived at exactly the correct time.  If I had gotten in to the office, I would have been bogged down with taking care of issues there.  I wouldn't have made it to Mr. B's house for several hours later.

When I tell folks what I do, they think that I have a very difficult, dangerous job.  I have to admit that about 10% of the people I deal with are both difficult and dangerous.  Mr. B's not one of them.  He is someone who has a mental illness.  He has had a very hard life and was grief stricken over personal  losses  as well as his past mistakes.

I think I might have felt overwhelmed by his deep pain a year ago.  However, now that I live on Grace Street, I know (really know deep down) that God's grace is sufficient for me.  Grace is further with me in that I can share Christ on the job in so many ways without breaking any rules.

The folks I am privileged to work with are the lepers of 2013.  Society covers them with a label, decides that they are beyond redemption, and basically considers them throw-away people.  They are not.  And I know that if Jesus walked the earth today, he would be among them with love and not condemnation.

I left Mr. B. after a half hour.  We dug out the large print Bible a pastor had given him.  He looked up at me, using my title, and said "Please recommend where I should start reading today."  I answer a lot of questions all day, but this was the best question EVER.

Last Friday, I met with a man who had been in prison for many years.  He was developmentally delayed and had schizophrenia.  While in prison he somehow fell (in circumstances which are probably best not thought about), broke his neck, and severed his spinal cord.

The Department of Corrections released him to a nursing home.   He still has to fulfill statutory requirements, I explained everything I was doing for him in the simplest way possible, as I took fingerprints and a picture.. When I was leaving his room, he smiled a big toothless grin at me and managed to say, "Thanks."  He doesn't talk a lot, but showed me grace in the effort it took for him to say that.

Grace is where I want to live all the time.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:35 -40

Monday, October 14, 2013

Here in VA we are seeing our first glimpse of sun in about a week.  Talk about 50 shades of gray...that's all we've been seeing for days:  pearly gray, slate gray, charcoal gray, gray skies, grey -looking water in all the creeks and rivers all around just, um, gray.

If Hampton Roads (or Tidewater depending on what you call it) Virginia was a color card at Benjamin Moore last week, it would look like this:

All week long.  Alllllll weeeeeeeeeek looooooooooooooooong.

Today, partly cloudy is lookin' pretty good!

Friday, October 11, 2013

No Matter What, Trust God

Oh my gosh, did I fall down laughing when I received this emailed pic. The "Karate Kid" you see here on the railroad tracks is my sweet Lauren from next door.  She's away serving her county right now, but sent this to me.

Lauren and Liz moved in next door after Genesis and her family were evicted.  I mourned over that, but then God firmly let me know that the time for crying was over.  What a delight "the girls" as we call them have been to us.

Lauren is one of the most joyful and spontaneous people I have ever met.  She had told me that she was looking for a rocking chair for the front porch of her Craftsman bungalow which used to be the mother-in-law's house for my house.

Somehow she found a rocker.  I don't know about your area, but here in mine, folks put handmade religious signs along the side of the road.  Sometimes they even paint the side of a barn with "God loves you" or something like that.  I guess Lauren temporarily pulled one up and set the rocker on the railroad tracks.  This is typical of her fey and impish sense of humor,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding

Proverbs 3:5

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Leading Me Beside the Still Waters

Today I drove the back way from Portsmouth Police Department, detoured by road construction,  Things have been so harried for the past 48 hours, with a number of folks whom I work with having emergent issues needing my attention.  As my mind raced through what must be accomplished next, I looked quickly to my left and a creek so calm that the trees and buildings were mirrored in the water.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul...

This is life today on Owens Creek, life as it has been for hundreds of years.  Egrets and sea birds feed in this tidal estuary  The tide is going out, out to the Elizabeth River, to the Chesapeake Bay, to the Atlantic Ocean.  
There's no need to be harried when I can refresh myself beside these waters, click some cell phone pics, and restore my soul.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

We'll Have a Nice Cup of Tea

My grandmother, Helen, got me started on drinking tea when I was very young.  Her next door neighbor, Bride (an Irish nickname for Bridget) Tierney, would always have a cup of tea for us and some cookies, while Pinkie the cat delicately washed her face with her paw under the table.  

The light would stream in from the two windows that the table was pushed up against.  Helen and Bride would chatter away as I kicked red Keds against the chair legs.  Bride's kitchen clock was loud and that tick tocking punctuates my memories of that time and place.  Her husband, Phil, was a very kind man.  He cut my grandparent's lawn.  Bride always called him "Philtierney," as if that was his first name.

Bride was from Ireland and what with my grandmother's Irish heritage, they were fast friends.  Helen was a junk store shopper before it was cool.  She bought me a vintage china tea pot with roses on it and two matching cups when I was ten.  Somewhere along the line, maybe in move from CT to NY, that little set was lost.  But my affinity for rose teapots remains, as you can see above.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ghost Sign: Uneeda Biscuit

I adore these old signs on the sides of buildings. City planners refer to them as "ghost signs."

This Uneeda Biscuit sign is in Richmond, across the street from St. John's Church in which Patrick Henry famously said, "Give me liberty or give me death!"  In some really enlightened areas, preservationists restore these old advertising remnants found in inner cities.

Uneeda Biscuit was a Nabisco product first produced in 1898,  Uneeda seems to be associated with health or considered soothing to eat during an illness. Graham crackers were thought of in the same way years ago. i don't need to be sick to have an excuse to eat graham crackers dipped in milk.  Nabisco stopped making Uneeda Biscuits in 2008. At least Twinkies are coming back...
These are vanishing bits of Americana.  Sometimes I wonder if we will be just like the ancient Egyptians. Long into the future, some archaeologist will attempt to decipher our old hieroglyphs.  There are so many of these kinds of ads for treats that they'll surmise we worshiped food.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dairy Delivery

I am pleased by little things.  Whether it is the first time Pumpkin Lattes are available at Starbucks each year or looking Richmond's row houses while on a walk or the sound of the mourning dove, certain little things that others may disregard or not even notice, make me happy.

Anything that reminds me of growing up makes me happy.  Honeysuckle bushes at the beach that put me back at Black Point, maple sugar candy, red Keds...and home milk delivery.  We used to get home milk delivery on Knollwood Road in a box just like the one pictured above.

So imagine my total nostalgic happiness when I found that Oberweis Dairy now makes home delivery in my area.  And can I just say, that's some of the best yogurt and cottage cheese in the cooler EVER.
I do wish this wasn't a gray Coleman's cooler and a cool metal milk box, but I think I can fix this by visiting Ebay.

Mountain Dairy in Storrs, CT stopped delivering milk in 2012...they started in 1851.  According the milk industry analysts, as of 2005, less than half of one percent of all Americans purchased milk via home delivery.  When I was a kid it was about 30%.  

So while one can't get home milk delivery back where I started out, I can here. The milk box and the milk man (with the dread locks) don't look exactly the same, but I can revive an old tradition.  And that makes me really happy.  The glass milk bottles are amazingly nostalgic and I LOVE pouring the milk into my coffee.

Learn more here:

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Scoop - Ten Random Thoughts in Ten Minutes

One of the highlights of my morning is when Bruce brings me a large coffee with milk and Splenda.  The other is that Lulu is the snuggling queen of the morning.  My life would be much less spectacular without her.

Sometimes I get the blues on Sunday night.  I think it is a leftover from when I didn’t want to go back to school.

My niece is a remarkable young woman…just saying.

My mother has done an amazing job since my Papa’s death.  I am really proud of her.

In the past few weeks I have been in the ER twice with a pinched nerve in my neck and a foreign object in my eye.  I’ve also had a cold.  And I’m done now.

My cottage garden is at its best just now.  I have to get a pic.

The other day we went to the Naval Hospital so I could go to a follow up appointment with the eye doctor.  We could not find our car in the very large parking garage afterwards.  Instead of freaking out and frantically searching for the car in the heat and humidity, this time I did something different.  We went back in and had scrumptious breakfast croissant sandwiches with bacon and eggs inside which nearly made me swoon at the Dancing Goat CafĂ©.  The goat is the Naval Academy Football Team mascot.  An “old goat” is also a term for a Chief Petty Officer, quite apropos in this case.  We read magazines from the NEX convenience store.  Bruce read about the surface of Mars.  I learned how to make Vietnamese steamed spring rolls.  Then we  called a cab.  Best eight bucks spent EVER.  We waited until the evening , drove back, and picked up the car when the garage was nearly empty.

I am no longer a rookie officer.  I finished my first year with very good evals.  I am proud of myself.

The other day was such a lovely day on the Eastern Shore with my family.  I am blessed, blessed, blessed to have them.  We went to Scoops, an adorable ice cream shop pictured.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Trip to Virginia's Eastern Shore

Virginia's Eastern Shore isn't too far, just a ride over the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel, one of the wonders of the modern world

We started out at Starbucks for breakfast...Bruce, Mom, Piper (niece), and me.  Mom is a Dunkin' girl, so now I have proof positive that she has gone over the the dark side.  

Then we headed for the Bay Bridge Tunnel.  The traffic was a little dicey for a few minutes.  However, one can hardly complain about traffic when you have this view out the car window:
We drove through all sorts of quaint little country towns, past cornfields as high as an elephant's eye, and combines harvesting wheat.  

We stopped for lunch at 
This restaurant is in Nassawadox, VA, a very special family-run eatery with excellent service and Italian food.

Mom, Piper, and me out front.

Then on we went, further up the Eastern Shore
This is the Inn and Garden Cafe in Onancock, VA.  Isn't it lovely?

An Early Summer's Night Dinner

Looking at this idyllic shot, you might think that we were in some National Park or out in the western part of Virginia where people, cars, and buildings are more scarce than my Tidewater region.

Instead, we were at one of our very favorite spots, Kelly's at Great Bridge.  I should tell you that I don't get any freebies or rewards from mentioning businesses like Kelly's or Fresh Market.  I love to record my days and the special things that make my life grand, not provide product or restaurant reviews.

We were really right here, in what has to be one of the most beautifully-located restaurants in my area.  Something about it reminds me of the Podunk Mill Club, a restaurant on the Connecticut River which no longer exists.  Once when I was perhaps 7, I asked for ketchup and the chef came out and had a cow.

I had a pasta dish with crab and shrimp.  Bruce had a burger piled high with roasted red peppers and an aioli sauce. Fab.
You can almost see how humid it was.  This is the view from the porch along the Intercoastal Waterway, the 3,000 mile waterway which flows down the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf of Mexico.  We chose an inside table along the Chesapeake and Albermarle Canal here below:
The Canal was completed just before the Civil War and linked VA waterways with North Carolina and the Currituck Sound.
A boat on the Canal...
Condos on the Intercoastal...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fresh Market

The Fresh Market is a wonderful chain of smaller grocery stores that sell baked goods, prime meat and seafood, prepared foods to take home for dinner, and organic produce.

I don't shop Fresh Market as a routine practice, but stop in at the one nearby Mom's when she is in town. We meander around commenting on the giant artichokes, or the lovely little organic cucumbers, or whatever catches our fancy at the time.  

Yesterday, I was in with Mom to pick up some Revolution Earl Grey Lavender tea which is perhaps the best tea EVER.  So many gourmet and unusual foods abound that it is hard to take everything in at one time.

Yesterday Mom and I saw cucumber soda, blood orange soda, and lavender soda!  We picked up the lavender soda to give it a try. Both of us delight int that sort of thing, so I guess I came by it naturally.

One of Fresh Market's unique features are little "rooms" that they have up high near the ceiling.  Conventional markets often display lawn chairs and coolers or other seasonal items in such spaces.

Here is Fresh Market's take on it:

The produce is amazing...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day

Pics taken during a recent drive to Richmond.

Our National Anthem - Second Verse
And thus be it ever
Where free men may stand
Between their loved homes
And the war's desolation
Blessed with victory and peace
May the heaven's-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made  
And preserved us a nation 
Then triumph we must
For our cause it is just
And this be our motto
In God is our trust
And the star spangled banner
In triumph will wave
O'er the land of the free
And the home of the brave


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Leave Things Better Than When You Came In

Okay...full disclosure.  This pic I took has nothing to do with the post whatsoever.  However, it is a very gray day as I type this, so I added this as a little pick-me-up. I took this shot on a weekend drive.  I'm not positive, but I think these flowers were in Smithfield, VA.

My grandmother used to say that you should leave a room better than you found it.  What she meant was that you should do a quick visual sweep of the room to see if you could throw out the Hartford Courant that everyone had already read or pick up your sneakers and leave them on the landing to go upstairs.  My father would sarcastically remark about this idea, "And some people make the room better just by leaving it."

Anyway, I always remember that and her admonition to keep the sink clear of dishes because this was a key  to keeping the whole house clean.  To this day, I cannot leave the house or go to sleep with dishes in the sink.  As New Yorkers say, "It skeeves me out."

The other day, I was making a visual sweep of the dining room on my way upstairs. I had left my Bible on the dining room table. I felt the Lord speak to my spirit quietly saying, "Take your Bible upstairs with you and it will leave you better than if you left it here."  Which reminds me of the old saying that if your Bible looks spiffy on the outside, you don't look so good on the inside.  Conversely, those with the underlined, booked marked, highlighted pages and the spine taped with duct tape (a la my Papa) looked pretty good on the inside.

I will delight in the law of the Lord, I will meditate day and night.  Then like a tree, firmly planted I'll be - grounded it Your word.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Daddy Can We Hop, Daddy Can We Skip?

I was thinking this morning about the difference between the bloggers with sixty eleven gazillion followers and folks like Debra of As I See It Now and Judy of Anybody Home.  I'm not sure what kind of blogger you'd call either of these two wonderful ladies, but I guess they could be categorized as "Christian Lifestyle Bloggers" or something like that. 

Then there is Alex of Living the Small Life.  She's not a Christian Blogger, but she blogs about thrifty living and keeping fit.  So what's the difference between these three wonderful women and the glitzy bloggers with the perfect, ethereal-looking pictures of the charmingly-worn pitcher with the artfully arranged wildflowers and the curtain blowing ever-so-slightly in the breeze?  They're real.

And when I really think about it, these are the three that I read day after day.  All three have been plugging along for years, sharing their lives, and giving wisdom to a world of strangers they may never know.  They chronicle their lives, reflect, share their mistakes and idiosyncrasies and sometimes less-than-perfect pics that would make BlogHer peeps hair stand on end.

The other difference is that many of these bloggers, the glitzy ones that we sometimes envy...well, they burn out.  When every entry has to be a work of complete perfection, they run out of ideas, because life isn't perfect. 

One of my favorite, gorgeous ethereal blogs hasn't been updated in months.  The sweet girl who writes it let all of us know at Christmas that the perfect-looking life that I envied once upon a time was an illusion that she couldn't keep up any longer since real life crept in.

Another wonderful blogger is perpetually tied up in knots both because of life's truly difficult circumstances and a constant need to tweak, refine, and play with the blog that results in hard crashes of the site that already looked amazing.

Still others blog for a short time, with gorgeous pics and wonderful content, only to burn out later because everything cannot stay perfect all the time.

Hence, the imperfect pic above, which I would have discarded a few months back.  I'm done with not expressing myself because I can't live up to standards which I imposed upon myself, yet cannot meet.

I was waiting for some prescriptions at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital last night, a healing place I am truly grateful for.  A young Naval officer and his daughter were walking through the corridor hand in hand.  I suspect that Mommy may have had a new baby.  You can see her in the less-than-perfect pic in the little pink t-shirt.

"Daddy, can we skip?," she said, looking up at him with a smear of chocolate something across her upper lip.

He hesitated for a moment and looked around.  Then with an "oh what the heck" look to all of us,  Daddy skipped down the corridor with her.

"Daddy, can we hop now?"

And hop along to the parking garage they did. 

Somehow I think that kids would have better lives if more Daddies hopped and skipped with them, regardless of looking ridiculous.  To me, he looked like a hero, not ridiculous.

My firm belief is that kids already know the Lord at birth,  As Helen Keller famously said when Annie Sullivan spelled the name of God into her hand, "I always knew He was there, I just didn't know what to call Him,."  That's why kids skip for joy before the world tries to take it away from them.

Luke 1:14  The Message 

You're going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you, but many...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Almost Time for Sugar Hill Blackberries...

Sugar Hill is a neighborhood behind mine, down Booker Street,  Sugar Hill is Portsmouth's last vestige of the "40 ares and a mule" promised to Southern blacks following Emancipation and the end of the Civil War.

Once there was a thriving black community  there, two little groceries, some churches, a "buttery," and a candy store as residents have told me.  Urban renewal in the 1960's decimated this community as a road was cut right through the middle which serves as an approach to the Mid-Town Tunnel under the Elizabeth River to Norfolk,

Did you ever notice that any street called "Martin Luther King" anything always seems to be around an area where African American's are exploited?  One never sees MLK Blvd near an elegant area.  I don't think this practice represents what Dr. King lived and died for.

In this case, the MLK Freeway was built right over Sugar Hill's graveyard.  Yet, the quiet community still lives on in a few houses and the old folks' memories former days.  One of them is my buddy, Mr. Curtis, a gardener and disabled Vietnam vet whose wife was born in the house they reside in.  He tells me that many of Sugar Hill's residents were porters for the Norfolk Southern railroad, black elite in their white gloves and uniforms helping customers in the sleeping and dining cars during days of posh railroad travel.

I still hear the trains chug past Sugar Hill, but the porters are gone and CSX halls freight instead of people.  Scotts Creek, part of the Elizabeth River, flows around Sugar Hill as it always has, endangered green herons nest in its trees as egrets stand feeding on one foot and Cooper's Hawks circle above.

As I ride through Sugar Hill, I always check this time of year to see if the blackberries are ripe yet.  As you can see from the pic above, they are not quite ready.  The blackberry blossom's intoxicating has me stop my bike on the way past to check.  Honeysuckle blooms there, some kind of purple flower, and Queen Anne's Lace which I gather and take home.
I'll check out Sugar Hill next weekend when I know I can gather some ripe berries in a white enameled pail with a red wooden handle, sharing my bounty with the little red foxes that live on the banks of Scotts Creek and the birds that swoop down to feed there.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Teeny Tiny Town Hall Near Eastville VA

Is this not the cutest municipal building EVER?
Apparently this is the "civic center" for a tiny town on Virginia's Eastern Shore.  I thought I'd remembered it as "Eastville."  However, when I Googled Eastville VA Town Hall, it was another (also adorable) brick building which looked like the Chrysler Building in comparison.  

I should have written the name down, because those civic-minded folks deserve recognition for the loving way this little spot is maintained.

This pic and hundreds of others I've taken over the years is why I have such a passion for exploring and driving on Virginia back roads.

Just because I don't want this post to be too short and because I think it is so pretty, here is another pic from later that day:

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gatsby Eyes

Mom and I saw The Great Gatsby after some awesome guacamole and chips at La Parilla not long ago. The two of us are discriminating guacamole girls; in fact, she makes some of the best guac this side of Mexico.  La Parilla prepares guacamole fresh at the table to order and we judged it sublime.

This version of Gatsby was breathtaking in terms of the costuming, the cinematography, the blessed my Art Deco heart.  Mom thought it was even better than F. Scott Fitzgerald's book.  Since I believe that movies often ruin adaptations of books, this was high praise.

As she and I discussed the movie on the way home, we both felt it was a morality tale with many applications to the excesses from which America is trying to recover.

The fleeting nature of fame and adulation depicted in Jay Gatsby's fall from grace has a number of parallels to the Paula Dean Witch Hunt.  I'll digress just a moment on that to say that Paula apparently said something offensive and ill-advised 20 years ago.  Now she is losing the business she worked years to build while rappers repeatedly use the same word to the delight of all their fans.

One of the themes in Gatsby is a faded billboard advertising the services of an eye doctor. The "eyes" keep watch over an area on the wrong side of the tracks between posh "East Egg" on Long Island and New York City.

Many literary critics believe that these eyes represent the eyes of the Almighty, observing all the transgressions which occur below. Ultimately, the eyes bear witness to a vehicular homicide committed by an idle rich woman, distraught and drunk after an afternoon of excess in a swanky Manhattan hotel.  I've been thinking about those watchful eyes ever since I saw Gatsby.

Dr. R.E. Titcomb, who practices in Cape Charles on Virginia's Eastern Shore, must be a Gatsby fan.
We saw this optometrist's office during a drive last weekend.

The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
Proverbs 15:3

Friday, June 28, 2013

I have a friend, Snow Jade, who chronicles everything in her life.  If she takes a package to the post office, it is entirely possible that the postal worker will be featured in her Facebook the next day - or the waiter at the Chinese restaurant or the hula dancers downtown (she lives in Hawaii) get the idea.

So without further fanfare, following is my evening last night because pictures are worth 1,000 words.

I left those lovely people about 1 a.m. and returned home to rest on the couch and look at this