Monday, January 30, 2012

For the Love of Ginger

Here's a post by Mrs N, an American who lives and blogs in Japan. She said I could share it on my blog. I imagine you can guess why I got excited when I first read it! (You can read more of Mrs N's thoughts at Simply...Life.)

I am a nut for ginger. 

I love the taste, but did you know that ginger has amazing health benefits?

Here are a few other things I found out a while ago while researching the health benefits of ginger:

*Ginger essential oil helps ease sore muscles. Place freshly grated ginger in a cotton bag and toss the bag into your bathtub filled with hot water. Let sit for a few minutes to release the oils in the ginger and then enjoy a relaxing soak.

*Ginger tea can relieve period cramps. 

*Crystalized or pickled ginger works better than store-bought medicines for motion sickness according to Brigham Young University research.

*Ginger works great as a body scrub.  Mix 4 ounces Epsom salt, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 1 tablespoon chopped ginger; microwave at 15-second intervals until warm. Apply scrub all over, then rinse. The ginger gives you a healthy glow, while the lime's vitamin C smooths skin.

And here is another whole list of ginger benefits! I found this list here.

Ginger and the Immune System
  • strong antioxidant
  • Antimicrobial (kills bacteria - including salmonella) - internally and topically as an antiseptic
  • two natural antibiotics are found in ginger
  • contains anti-inflammatory agents
  • helps eliminate congestion
  • contains zingibain that dissolves parasites and their eggs
  • ginger root tea eases some throat pain
  • kills cold viruses
  • inhibits production of cytokines which cause pain and swelling
  • combats chills and fever
  • ginger inhibits 5-LO enzymes, the only food for prostate cancer cells, prostate cancer cells die in one to two hours without this enzyme
  • gingerol (an extract of ginger) inhibits pancreatic cell growth
  • beneficial to prevent constipation-related cancer
  • an effective ani-tumor agent in leukemia cells
  • an extract of ginger causes lung cancer cell death
  • gingerols inhibited the growth of Helicobacter pylori associated with dyspepsia, peptic ulcer disease and the development of gastric and colon cancer
  • ginger extract raises significantly the thymus index, spleen index, percentage of phagocytosis, and thus improves the immunologic function relating to tumors
  • gingerol inhibits cell adhesion, invasion, motility and activities ofbreast cancer cell lines
  • gingerol induces viability reduction (killed) gastric cancer cells
  • a ginger extract causes apoptosis (cell death) of breast carcinoma cells
  • ginger inhibits cell growth and modulates angiogenic factor in ovarian cancer cells
  • 6-shogaol (component of ginger) induces cell death in colorectal carcinoma cells
  • compounds of ginger inhibits proliferation (stops growth) of ovarian cancer cells
  • a component of ginger suppresses metastasis (stops the spread) in any type of cancer cell including leukemic, skin, kidney, lung, and pancreatic cancer cells - one of the most exciting and powerful health benefits of ginger!
Ginger and Circulation 

  • stimulates circulation
  • may help prevent heart attacks
  • has natural blood thinning properties
  • lowers blood cholesterol levels
  • cleanses and stimulates blood
  • prevents internal blood clots
  • may prevent TIA’s (mini strokes)
  • therapeutic properties for hypertension
Ginger and Digestion 

  • cleanses colon
  • reduces colon spasms and cramps
  • helps clear gas
  • relieves indigestion
  • excellent for nausea, vomiting and motion sickness
  • stimulates production of digestive juices
  • helps bowel disorders
Ginger and other Body Systems 

  • lungs: helps with respiratory problems, eases asthma symptoms
  • helps eliminate hot flashes
  • relieves headaches
  • promotes menstrual regularity
  • helps with morning sickness
  • helps reduce inflammation of arthritis
  • supports kidney health
  • topical gingerol provides protection against UVB-induced skin disorders
  • reduces the severity of post chemotherapy nausea
Ginger and its Nutrients 

  • high in potassium
  • manganese which builds resistance to disease, protects lining of heart, blood vessels and urinary passages
  • silicon which promotes healthy skin, hair, teeth and nails
  • helps assimilate calcium
  • also contains Vit. A, C, E, B-complex, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, iron, zinc, calcium, beta-carotene
Other Facts and Health Benefits of Ginger 

  • was listed in U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820-1873
  • British research has found ginger to be as effective as drugs at relieving nausea after surgery
  • Patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis studied at Denmark’s Odense University got relief from pain and swelling after taking ginger daily for three months
  • gingerol promotes healing of inflammation and minor burns
  • may prevent transient ischemic attacks (TIA’s) know as mini strokes
  • Israeli researchers found that standardized ginger extract has dramatic effects on cardiovascular health, lowering cholesterol levels and preventing oxidation of LDL which contributes to cholesterol deposits on artery walls
Did you know that you can grow ginger at home? A ginger plant is easy enough to get started. Just go to the store, buy a fresh piece and plant it. The ginger found in grocery stores is native to the moist forests of tropical Asia, so keep the plant warm and add extra peat moss or compost to the potting soil to help the soil mix hold more water. You can begin harvesting as soon as five months after planting. No need to unearth the whole plant; just poke into the soil with a knife and take what you need. For more information -Google it!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Wheels on the Bus

I took the bus yesterday, for the first time in many years. It was just a short trip and the sun was bright. I should have walked, but I took the bus instead.

When it was time to pull the cord that would notify the driver I wanted off at the next stop I found myself getting just a bit giddy, just like when I was a kid. Growing up, I usually rode the bus with other people so I could never be sure this responsibility would fall to me. But yesterday I was alone. Pulling that cord was sweet.

There were about 50,000 people in Everett when I was growing up, not a huge city, but no village either. Life was simple in those day. As we lived just south of the city limits, we often relied upon the bus to get us to town. I usually traveled with my brother Tom. He was a year older than I, level headed and dependable, so I just trotted along behind him and he always got us where we were going.

We signed up for swimming lessons the summer I was seven. I put my clothes on over my swimsuit and we walked down to Taylor's corner store and boarded the bus for Silver Lake. The teachers walked us into the lake, told us to form a circle, then instructed us to put our faces into the lake and blow bubbles. I was indignant. My face? In this dirty lake? No Way! All I wanted to do was get back into my safe, dry clothes and go home. But when I returned to the dressing room, I couldn't find my undies. I had to put my clothes on over my wet bathing suit and get back on the bus.

It was during the two block walk from the bus to our house that I found the undies on the sidewalk. Oh, the humiliation!

I sometimes rode the bus with Tom when he went to his Saturday morning violin lesson. Mr Nastri was a fine musician and he saw promise in Tom. As I remember it, his studio was on the second floor of an older downtown building. The studio was smallish, filled with printed music and magic. It was always an adventure to take bus trips with my brother.

One summer day between 8th and 9th grades, I got to go downtown by myself to pick out fabric and a pattern to make a dress. It was a huge opportunity for me, and I was very proud of myself.

When I finished my shopping, I realized that I didn't know which bus to catch to get home, and Tom wasn't there to help me. I was just starting to panic when I saw two girls from school, with some little kids in tow, queuing up for a bus. I didn't really know the girls, but I did know that if we went to the same school, we lived in the same part of town. When the bus door opened, I, too, climbed on.

The bus pulled away from the curb and headed due north, far from where I needed to go. I spoke to the girls from school and discovered that they were babysitting and were delivering the kids home after an outing to town.

It was clear this bus was not going to take me home; I needed a back-up plan. Then I remembered that my great-uncle Lewis and great-aunt Nellie lived on the bus line in the north end of town. Just before their stop, I reached up confidently and pulled the cord, notifying the driver of my intentions. Gathering my bags, I walked with head held high, dropped my coins in the money box, and stepped off the bus.

What I lack in planning skills, I make up for in resourcefulness.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Longing Season

I wasn't in the mood for a romance novel, not at all. I had no intention of reading this book. But before I put it in the go-back-to-the-library pile I thought I'd just thumb through it. Next thing you know, I was hooked!

The Longing Season by Christine Schaub is set in the mid-1700s. It tells an intricately woven tale of 20-year-old John Newton and the woman he loved, Mary Catlett.  Having just watched the film Amazing Grace, in which we meet and old and blind John Newton, I was curious to get a glimpse into his earlier life.

The story of John and Mary was beautifully told. They met when John was 17 and Mary 13, but they were separated by John's life at sea. The Longing Season focuses on the years in which John was both a seaman and a slave, from 1746 to 1748. With well developed characters and comfortable familiarity with such varied topics as 18th century England, herbal medicines, British military and the perils of life on the sea, the author draws you into John and Mary's love and the separation they must endure.

Not only was John far from Mary during these years; he was also far from God. A dissipated infidel, it was a storm at sea and the story of the prodigal son that drew him to God on March 21, 1748. Ever after he would mark that date as a day of humiliation and thanksgiving for his great deliverance.

I had often heard that John Newton was the captain of a slave ship, but that was not a part of this story. Could he, indeed, have participated in the slave trade after trusting in Christ? Schaub's story answered -- and raised -- enough questions to make me want to know more.

I discovered a sermon about John Newton that John Piper preached at a pastors' conference in 2001, in which he said:
"For six years after [Newton's conversion], he said he had no 'Christian friend or faithful minister to advise me.'[20] He became the captain of a slave-trading ship and went to sea again until December, 1749. In his mature years he came to feel intense remorse for his participation in the slave trade and joined William Wilberforce in opposing it. Thirty years after leaving the sea he wrote an essay, Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade, which closed with a reference to 'a commerce so iniquitous, so cruel, so oppressive, so destructive, as the African Slave Trade!'"

It is a great sadness to me that Newton should have participated in the sale of human beings even after his conversion, yet it is also a testimony to God's willingness to take us where we are, bring us to Himself, and, for the rest of our lives, complete His work in us. Conversion makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), but that's just the beginning. By God's grace, mercy and power, we are "being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:15). And there will be many areas of our lives that God will put His finger on, saying, "I want this part of your life too." 

This is why John Newton could sing -- and we can join him:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

StoryCorps Animation

Here is a delightful video that combines two things I care about -- sharing stories  and autism. It is an animation of 7th grader Joshua Littman, who has Asperger's Syndrome, interviewing his mom for StoryCorps.

Q&A from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snowbound Bean Soup

This wild weather prompted Tom to take a vacation day on Wednesday, avoiding the possibility of a 33-mile slide to work. It was a perfect day for a pot of soup, especially since we had made bread the night before. So we raided our pantry and created a very tasty Snow Day Bean Soup.

Snowbound Bean Soup

2 cloves garlic
1 cup chopped onion
2 T olive oil
1 15-oz can black beans
1 15-oz can kidney beans
1 15-oz can pinto beans
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 cup truRoots Sprouted Bean Trio*
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1 bay leaf
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t Italian seasoning or oregano
pepper to taste
6 c water or vegetable stock

In a Dutch oven, saute the garlic and onion in the oil. Add the cans of beans and tomato sauce. Add the sprouted beans and the carrots. Add the bay leaf, cumin, Italian seasoning or oregano, and the pepper. Stir in the water or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Serves 8

*You can get truRoots Sprouted Bean Trio at Costco. A few other suggestions for using this healthy mix: cook it up for a side dish, add it to rice for pilaf, puree it with olive oil and use it for a dip or spread.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Logophiles, Unite!

I remember from my school days that occasionally a sadistic teacher would make unruly students copy pages from the dictionary while the rest of us went out for recess. And maybe once or twice I have met people who read the dictionary, just for fun.

Well, now I have come across a man who tackled the ambitious project of reading through the Oxford English Dictionary -- all 20 volumes -- in one year! Ammon Shea is a logophile, a word lover. In the introduction to his book Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages, he says, "Some people collect matchbox cars or comic books. Others collect more obviously valuable things, such as rare paintings or cars. Most of these collections are made up of tangible objects, things to which one can assign some sort of monetary value. I collect words."

For the past ten years this gentleman has been reading dictionaries -- all kinds of them -- with great relish. He would, in fact, be happy to read every one of the many dictionaries and word books he owns and then start over again. As for the Oxford English Dictionary, he says, "If you are interested in vocabulary that is both spectacularly useful and beautifully useless, read on, and enjoy the efforts of a man who is in love with words. I have read the OED so that you don't have to." And then, from Abluvion (n.) Substance or things that are washed away to Zyxt (v.) To see, he catalogs for his readers his favorite words that he came across and gives his own definition for them. What logophile would not be happified (v.) To be made happy by such a book?

Maybe the words themselves don't interest you as much as their story: who first used the word or phrase? why? what does it really mean? I've just found the man who can help you with that too! His name is Evan Morris, and he is the Word Detective. He grew up the son of the editor in chief of a publishing company in New York. Mr and Mrs Morris, enterprising people, also had a home business of preparing pamphlets to help people improve their vocabulary, and from an early age Evan and his siblings processed requests for these booklets and stuffed them in return envelopes. Living with people whose bread and butter was words, he absorbed a love for them himself.

For 35 years William Morris, Evan's father, wrote a syndicated newspaper column called Words, Wit and Wisdom. When he was ready to quit the column he announced his intention to his grown children, adding that Words, Wit and Wisdom was kaput -- unless one of his children wanted to take it over. Without intending to, Evan volunteered. For the past twenty years he has been the Word Detective, sleuthing out the origin of words and phrases that people would like to know. His book presents many of these words and the results of his research, accompanied by much tongue-in-cheek humor.

In one entry he explains that the name Idaho comes from Idahi, "which is what the Kiowa Apache tribe called their Comanche neighbors. Curiously enough, Idaho was first proposed as the name for what is now the state of Colorado. On the other hand, for some reason, folks originally wanted to call Idaho Montana." 

And maybe you already knew that it was American Civil War General Ambrose Burnside whose facial hair -- a mustache, a shaved chin and cheek whiskers -- was the inspiration for the term sideburns. Prior to sideburns, the fashionable man's face was clean-shaven except for chin whiskers, which made him look like a male goat and was called a goatee.

If words are your thing, these books need to be on your reading list. And if you have any favorite words or word meanings you'd like to share, pass them my way!

Monday, January 16, 2012

What Influenced Martin Luther King Jr.?

Here's an interesting insight into the early life of Martin Luther King Jr. Well done, Simsbury High School students!

And here is an article from Sojourners about Martin Luther King and healing prayer. It's worth the read.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Of Corn Pops and Twinkies

These are hard times for people of my generation. Two of our childhood favorites may soon disappear -- Hostess Twinkies and Kellogg's Corn Pops. The sentimental value of these, shall we say, foods is much greater than the nutritional value, but sentiment counts for a lot.

When we read recently that Kellogg's Corn Pops will disappear in 2012, we went to the store for a box, for old time's sake. Back in the 50s, Tom loved watching Wild Bill Hickok, starring Guy Madison and Andy Devine, and has fond memories of the Sugar Pops ads, with Guy and Andy shooting Pops from their guns. (Well, at least that is how Tom remembered the ads. We didn't locate any such ads on YouTube but if you find one, let us know!)

OK, everybody, sing along with me: "Oh the Pops are sweeter and the taste is new, They're shot with sugar through and through. Kellogg's Sugar Corn Pops; Sugar Pops are tops!"

Earlier this week we learned that Hostess, maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, has filed for bankruptcy. The red, yellow and blue balloons on Wonder Bread's packaging and their claim of "building strong bodies 12 different ways" are as well-known to my peer group as are our own names. But what made Wonder Bread especially memorable for me was the nightshirt Mom made for my brother Tom when he was a teenager. Mid-calf, slits up the sides, long-sleeved and V-necked, Tom's roomy sleepwear was white with big red, yellow and blue polka-dots. He looked like an oversized loaf of Wonder Bread when he wore it. He loved that thing.

Twinkies, those sponge cakes with cream filling, have been around since the 1930s, when the Hostess company was founded. Of their 37 ingredients, perhaps only water would appear on today's stringent "good for you" lists. And you've probably heard jokes about the indomitable Twinkie that lasts for years.* With that in mind, NPR conducted an experiment to see how Twinkies would hold up in a bowl of Mountain Dew!

Now, like Corn Pops, Twinkies appear to be fading from the cultural scene. Not to worry. If you stock up on Twinkies now, they could last you for the rest of your life!

*(I'm perpetuating an urban legend here. Snopes says they really only have a shelf life of 25 days. But this is my blog, and I'm sticking with it!)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hymn of the Month -- Worship Hymns

Check it out.  Most hymnals  begin with a worship section, songs of adoration and praise to God.  Look, for example, at the words of the first and last verses of O Worship the King, based on Psalm 104 and written in 1833 by Robert H Grant. They lift our eyes to God and raise us outside ourselves:

O worship the King, all glorious above;
O gratefully sing his power and his love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

(Click here to listen to the hymn.)

* * *

In 1738, while Charles Wesley was studying under the Moravians in England, he found himself seriously doubting his faith. Laid up from pleurisy, he was visited by a group of Christians who shared testimonies with him and cared for his needs. Deeply touched by their visit, he turned to the Bible where his faith was renewed. A year later, in celebration of his faith, he wrote an 18-verse poem. Part of this poem included the verses of the song we now know as O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing. Here are the words to the verses 1, 2, and 6. Is this not the song of a man longing to express to God the praise due His name and inviting others to join him?  (Information found on Wikipedia)

O for a thousand tongues to sing My great Redeemer's praise,
The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God, Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad The honors of Thy name.

Hear Him, ye deaf, His praise, ye dumb, Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come, And leap, ye lame, for joy.

(Hear it here.)

* * *

Another hymn that often appears in the earliest pages of hymnals is All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name, written by Edward Perronet in 1779. According to Hymn Stories website, "the music sounds particularly beautiful when played by a violin. One of the more famous stories surrounding All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name involves the use of a violin.

"A missionary to India named E. P. Scott learned of a wild mountain tribe that had never been introduced to the message of Christ. Since they had never been presented with the gospel, he decided to visit that tribe. When he reached their mountain home, he discovered a group of savages on a war expedition. They took him back to camp and threatened to kill him. He closed his eyes and starting playing All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name on his ever-present violin. The natives were so overcome; they dropped their spears and invited Rev. Scott to stay with them. He lived among them for over two years, converting many to Christianity."

Rev. Scott's experience makes verse 3 especially meaningful.

All hail the power of Jesus' name! Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all;
Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all!

Ye chosen seed of Israel's race, Ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him who saves you by His grace, And crown Him Lord of all;
Hail Him who saves you by His grace, And crown Him Lord of all!

Let every kindred, every tribe, On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all.
To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all.

O that with yonder sacred throng We at His feet may fall!
We'll join the everlasting song, And crown Him Lord of all;
We'll join the everlasting song, And crown Him Lord of all.

(Here is a beautiful rendition of the hymn.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hymns for a Lifetime

I love hymns, but maybe you already knew that. As I was growing up, each time we went to church -- Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening -- we sang. We had two hymnals, an older green one which we usually sang from in the evenings, and the "red hymnal" that was our book of choice on Sunday mornings. The songs required my eyes, my ears, and my voice and wrote themselves on my heart. They became a part of my very  being.

My  mini-collection of hymnals includes books published in 1909 and 1910.  Other newer books are church hymnals and hymn arrangements for the piano. I also have a couple of sambika, Japanese hymn books.

We sometimes played "Name That Tune" in Japan. A combination of a sword drill and the popular old TV show, someone would play a few notes of a song on the piano and, in small groups, we would try to determine the name of the song and be the first group to identify it. My team always won. I would recognize the song, dash to the index of my sambika to find it in English, then turn to the page so one of my Japanese friends could call out the title in Japanese.

I don't tell these stories to show off. It's just evidence of my love and appreciation of hymns. But my familiarity with these grand songs is not the only reason I love them and share them here.

Hymns are the story of God and his grace. They are the theology of the church. From Miriam's song after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea to the songs of the redeemed in Revelation, music is integral to scripture and the life of God's people. Not unlike scripture itself, hymns can remind us of the depth of God's mercy, his power and holiness, his love for all people, and his arm outstretched to deliver us from peril. They help us identify with other believers, both those who composed the hymns and those who sing them with us. Many of the songs in our hymnals are hundreds of years old; they have stood the test of time.

There are many wonderful contemporary songs that we sing in church today. I could hardly keep from dancing yesterday while we sang the Newsboys song, He Reigns, which talks about the song of praise to God that our brothers and sisters around the world sing. Many other contemporary songs and musicians proclaim truth in powerful ways. Yet I am saddened that our younger generations are missing out on the hymns. We incorporate hymns in most of our services, at least at our church we do, but these are so few compared to the hundreds that we don't sing.

My Hymn of the Month posts this year will include some of those hymns that I grew up on, some that I don't want to see fade from the church. Grab a hymnal and join me as we celebrate the mighty hymns of the church and the God to whom we sing them!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Back to the Bread Board

In the early days of our marriage we made a lot of bread, yeast bread that involves you up to your elbows.  It was all new to me (I'd never worked with yeast before) but Tom was a seasoned baker.  He'd experimented with it over the years so much that he had perfected his technique and had tweaked several recipes. As our family grew, we moved to a bread machine, preparing the ingredients in the evening and being roused from sleep by the aroma of fresh bread. A little less work and still as much joy.

And then we learned that three of the four of us have food issues and could no longer eat wheat.

We gave away the bread machine and started working with alternative grains. Our early attempts at feeding the family with the ingredients remaining on our "legal" list proved to be quite a challenge. Over the years new things were found that caused trouble for one or another family member, with the occasional lifting of the restriction on other items. We ended up with some great muffin recipes, but never had much success making bread. Until lately, that is.

After 11 years of store-bought bread we are moving back into the bread business. We're still in the experimental stages, but it does look promising!

With the help of a couple of books by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois from Artisan Bread in Five, we have found a simple and fun way to provide our family with fresh, home-baked bread.

This book includes a section on gluten-free bread.
The bread dough is mixed up and stored in a 7-quart container and requires no kneading. The system is quite similar with either gluten- or gluten-free flours, with the gluten-free being a bit more fussy.  Here we are, making up a recipe of Gluten-Free Crusty Boule. You mix it together and leave it on the counter for a couple of hours while it rises.  You can bake it the same day or leave it in the fridge for two or three days for later use.  This batch makes enough for two round loaves. We've also used it for pizza crust and it turned out mighty fine!

We use a Danish dough whisk to mix the ingredients.
Because of the consistency of the gluten-free dough,
it is important to smooth the top of the bread
before you let it rise.
Forming the loaf
This pizza paddle makes it easy to slide the bread onto the baking stone,
which has been heating in the oven.
Taking the gluten-free loaf out of the oven
No more waiting -- time to try it out!
Tom's loaf, made with wheat flour, has a more traditional texture
and taste than the gluten-free bread.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Life in a Dresser Drawer

I was digging through my dresser drawers, desperate for a set of shoelaces. I didn't find any that would meet my need, but I did find a veritable time capsule of my life in those drawers.

My college roommate was an art major. She made art look fun -- and easy. So in my senior year I decided to take a weaving class one night a week with her. Larry Metcalf, a master weaver known around the country, was our professor and we had amazing colors and textures to choose from. I labored over my wall hanging (top center), creating a tight, anxious work of art and a basket case of myself!  Poetic justice that I should marry an artist!

I found remnants of three things I cared about in my young adult years -- photography, my wardrobe, and Ciara perfume.  In my drawer were two rolls of undeveloped film, over 30 years old! I wonder what's on them. As for my wardrobe, Peach and I attended a class which we called "I Am Beautiful." I have no memory of what it was really called, but in that class I learned that I am a Winter. As a Winter I should wear strong colors -- black, white, red, blue, certain shades of pink -- but should avoid orange and yellow and other Fall colors. Please don't scold me if you see me wearing any color that doesn't show up on that color card in the middle of the photo. I loved the scent of Ciara, so much so that when I used up all the powder that was in the powder box above I kept the puff in the empty box in my drawer, just for the fragrance that lingered on it.

My white wedding stockings with the tiny bows on the side were elegant and I just couldn't give them up. Today I discovered in the right toe something like a small piece of bark. Was I so out of it that day that I didn't notice I was walking on a piece of bark?

I wonder, which of my babies was born to earn me those beautiful hospital socks?

Years later I worked in the public school as a substitute para-educator and kept my lanyard from the 2000-2001 school year. I picked up a Pokemon marble off the floor and hid it away in my drawer. And on the backside of Christmas wrapping paper in 2005 I jotted down the list of Christmas gifts for Tom, the boys, and the extended family. They all ended up in my dresser drawer.

One last thing I found today was a baseball. Actually there are baseballs in several of our dresser drawers. Tom has saved them over the years to give to our sons. Though the circumstances of my receiving one of these balls has passed from my mind to cyberspace, I am honored to have been included as a recipient.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Yes You Can -- Sara's Shoe Drive

Today's blog introduces a new monthly series about people who have made a difference because they stepped out and did something bigger than themselves.  Let's start with Sara. I met her through her blog, and that is where I heard her story.

Sara is a nurse in a psychiatric hospital in Michigan, where, she says, "our patients are often indigent and homeless. Believe it or not, several times a month we admit people without a pair of shoes. A single pair of shoes." The hospital issue socks these patients receive when they are admitted are sufficient for their stay in the hospital but they have no shoes to wear upon their discharge. And Michigan, especially in winter, is no place to be without shoes.

"So when they are ready to leave the hospital," writes Sara, "we need to give these guys a pair of shoes.  Our staff donates a lot of shoes and clothing for our patients but there never seem to be enough shoes.

"I have seen staff take the shoes off of their own feet and go home in stocking feet because there were no appropriate shoes in the right size for their patient.

"I have seen staff go home to get their kid's shoes to bring back to a patient.

"I have seen staff take up a collection to buy a pair of shoes because all of our ideas ran out.

"I have seen a patient cry as he laced up a pair of used tennis shoes. I've also seen a man who had to wear women's shoes for discharge, it was all we could find."

"Do you have any shoes that are in decent shape that your family doesn't wear? If you could consider giving these shoes to our patients, you will make an incredible impact on  a simple human need," Sara asked her readers. "While you are going through your closet, cold weather clothing and jackets are appreciated too."

This request was posted on September 25. On October 1 she reported that the staff was re-organizing the hospital's clothing closet and how they would identify people's needs.  And on October 5 she reported, "Every morning our leadership team huddles to discuss the current hospital concerns. Yesterday I shared our progress.  They couldn't believe it.  People you've never met? Yup! Bags full of wonderful shoes (and clothes?) A box of brand new shoes? Yup and yup!

"Your generous response and allowing the Holy Spirit to use you to touch lives has had a profound impact. In fact, it's started a revolution!" The hospital leadership team got behind Sara's dream for an entire room of shoes and clothes to give away to patients. And rather than the staff exchanging white elephant gifts for Christmas, they requested that contributions be made to the clothing closet instead.

"I wish I could have captured on film the first young lady who asked if we had any shoes for her when we handed her a brand new pair of tennis shoes, still in the box that had been lovingly donated by Margie. 'Are these new? Oh my God these are brand new shoes? Oh thank you Jesus.'

"I set out to do a better job of meeting a need but to see the feeling of restored dignity of someone getting a pair of shoes is both heartbreaking and exhilarating" (December 8 post).

If you'd like to help support Sara's clothing closet, check out her blog to learn how. And if you feel the nudge to do something similar in your own part of the world, what's stopping you?