Saturday, December 31, 2011


2011 concludes tonight and with it another year of life and the living of it, not only for us here in this quiet corner but for the larger collective humanity across the globe.

This year, we cheered and watched in respectful fascination the revolutionary zeal of the Arab Spring as it spread across the Middle East. This revolution of change, ushered in by the people who longed lived with dictators and despotism gave rise to the Occupy movement here in our own country, with the 99 percent calling attention to a dramatic inequality of distribution of wealth. 

We also watched aghast and aggrieved by the images of Japan, rocked and swept away by the force of a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.  We lost the visionary Steve Jobs and the notorious Osama Bin Laden.  We ended a decade of war in Iraq.

Here on this homefront, we rejoiced in a new home for one offspring and a new baby for another.  I marked the end of five years of cancer treatment. We celebrated a career recognizing award for Jim and our 40th wedding anniversary.  In 2011, we also endured tests and trials, both small and large. Jim had shoulder surgery, and I wrestled some bouts with a too zealous heartbeat.  Penn State was shaken to its core by scandal; while truth and justice remain elusive, the loss of innocence for the many who bleed blue and white still feels devastating.

We relished a trip to Hilton Head, Sunset Beach, time spent with family and friends, our evening bike rides, a spotting of a bear, a witnessing of a sunset, and the blessing of times of peaceful meditation and moments of unexpected joy

We welcomed baby James and baby Liam. We said hello to my retirement and goodbye to some dear friends—Eleanor, John, and Ed. 

365 days of living, breathing, watching, praying, and participating in this journey we take by grace, step-by-step and day-by-day.  Now we turn the page to a brand new year…

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Gifts

The house is emptied and just a bit too quiet.  Alex's fold-up bed is bended up and tucked away.  A pile of sheets is in a hamper and a pile of clean towels sits atop the dryer.  The dining room table has shrunk by two leaves and the dishwasher has only run one time today. Sigh.

Last night we were nine around a table; now we are just two.  Big sigh...

We received some wonderful gifts this holiday season, thoughtful presents picked out by those we love to show their love to us.  But the best gift of all is just being together--telling stories, laughing, reading, watching a movie, riding bikes, building, cooking, eating, and sitting around in our pajamas at any and every time of day.  Family.

After months of making things to gift, I can now post a few of them:

A hat and mittens using Paton wool and a Knitting Pure & Simple pattern.

A cowl using Blue Sky Organic Cotton and this pattern

And this quilt.  My second one.

I hope your Christmas was just as warm and just as merry.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I just couldn't resist

Just when I decided that I was at the "ready-for-Christmas" finish line, I happened upon this pattern and this lovely hand-dyed yarn.  And there really was one more gift I could use.  So I started knitting last night. I will finish it tonight and then, I am really am ready for Christmas, after I clean the bathrooms, add leaves to the table,  retrieve the high chair and fold away beds from the attic...

 Tomorrow, our family begins to arrive, and Christmas festivities commence.  Peace.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

One more week

…until Christmas Eve.  And I am getting ready.  I have adored the mantle...

delivered some handmade gifts to friends and neighbors...

wrapped some presents...

made some cookies, fudge, and party mix…

enjoyed good times with friends...

and finally, trimmed our tree this afternoon.

Now, it is time to breathe deeply, sit down, slow down, savor the season, lovingly welcome my family home, and settle my heart and mind on true miracle of  this season—the Incarnation, Word become flesh, a baby born in a stable to save us all…

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ruby Anniversary

December 11, 1971: 40 years ago…what did we know, other than we wanted to be together, all the time.  In retrospect, it seemed so foolhardy; in retrospect; it was so wise.

I was 19 (just) and he was 21 (barely).  He was a senior at Penn State and I a sophomore.  We had no money and no jobs, other than part time work.  We had no plans for the future, except to finish school and make the monthly rent of $85 on our second-floor, Nittany Avenue apartment.

Our wedding day was an unusually lovely, balmy December day.  I remember walking into town to buy a black shoulder bag for our honeymoon; Jim washed his ’65 Mustang.

The ceremony was held at the Helen Eakin Eisenhower Chapel on the campus of Penn State at 7:00 in the evening. I carried white roses and holly.  Jim’s grandfather, John Henry Frizzell, chaplain emeritus and founder of the speech department at Penn State, wrote a prayer for us.  A simple reception followed in the Fireside Room at the Nittany Lion Inn.   Tea sandwiches, cake, ice cream, and punch were served, with a piano player providing background music.  

We left that night and drove to Lewistown for a what we thought would be two-day honeymoon/Christmas shopping trip to Harrisburg . The next day we ran into Jim’s brother Rob and our sister-in-law, eating breakfast at Zimmie’s Diner, and they persuaded us to go to the King of Prussia Mall instead.  So we did.

40 years later, I would do it all over again, exactly the same way.  This naïve, young couple added three children—two incredible sons and an amazing daughter.  Later, another good and gentle son-in-law and a beautiful and bright daughter-in-law joined this clan Campbell.  And then came our two adored and beloved grandsons.  Together we built a family, careers, a home…a life.

Our life together hasn’t been perfect but it has been good and it has been blessed. Experiencing our share of sorrows and disappointment, we too have been showered with uncanny amounts of joy and wonder.  Together with our devoted family and our cherished friends we have built a rich history of faith and love.  Tomorrow, we celebrate it all, with joyful and grateful hearts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Sweet Little Hat

After my mother died, my father arrived on my doorstep one day with her knitting bag in tow.  "I thought you might want this," he said.  I did.  It is really wonderful to have her knitting and sewing "tools," and I use them often and with great pleasure.  One of the things I found in that bag was a little, now vintage, knitting book of "quick things to make."  It cost all of 35¢ to buy.  Gosh, what does 35¢ buy you now?

I really began knitting agin in earnest when Barbara was pregnant with Alexander, and one of things I made him was a little yellow simple seed stitch hat from this book. I just made one for his brother in red. It is such a quick easy and darling patter that I thought I would it share it with the modifications I made:

Simple Seed Stitch Baby Hat

Size:  6 months to 1 year
Yarn: 1 skein DK weight yarn
Needle size:  No. 4 double points
Gauge: 7 stitches.= 1 inch

Cast on 85 stitches and arrange on 4 double point needles.  Join, being careful not to twist.  Work in K1, P1 ribbing for 1 1/2 inches.  *Work 8 rows stockinette.  Work 8 rows seed stitch.  Repeat from *twice, cut yarn leaving about a 10 inch length.  Thread into needle and draw yarn through all stitches.  Fasten and weave in end. You may, if you wish, turn ribbing to the inside of hat and sew it into position.  Or, you may, as I do, simply turn it up, allowing for a longer hat. Trim top of hat as desired (pom pom or tassel).  

These really are so sweet, especially adorning such a sweet little head!

Friday, December 2, 2011


"The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah; 
make level in the desert a highway for our God."
Isaiah 40:3

It is the season of Advent, a time of expectant waiting and preparation….

Our contemporary culture is not a patient one.  We operate quickly and instantly in our digital world, expecting immediate answers and rapid results.  But often, things simply require time, and then we must wait and listen and watch for a revealing.

Sunday marked the first Sunday in Advent.  Monday, I cleared away the reminders of Thanksgiving, putting away the autumnal tones painting our home and beginning anew this season of waiting.

Part of the preparation for us 21st century pilgrims is the “getting ready for Christmas.”  I am not a Black Friday shopper and didn't partake of Cyber Monday, but I did make a trip to JoAnn Fabrics on Wednesday to buy some fabric, and there I happened upon four aisles of Christmas trappings marked 50% off.  Advent has just begun and already there are Christmas sales!  We really can’t wait well, can we?

I have been slowly making some gifts for the many people we care about.  My latest projects are quilted potholders based on this pattern.  It has been fun, gathering scraps of fabric, piecing them together and stitching them up.

My sincere hope is that I might walk carefully and mindfully through this bustling season, quietly coming to a more intimate understanding of the incarnation, this word become flesh, this birth of a baby in a manager so long ago. And may it be so for us all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Polishing memory

Yesterday, the Thanksgiving countdown began in earnest. Recipes spread out beside me, I crafted the holiday menu, simultaneously creating a shopping and a "to-do" list, so that turkey day (and the days after!) might find me prepared and ready.  Today's major tasks included (after breakfast with Barabara and Ralph) shopping and polishing the silver.  

Section by section, I clean out the top drawer of my mother's server, heaping its silver contents on the sink next to the pile of soft rags and polish.  And then, I begin--rubbing the tarnish away, fork by fork and spoon by spoon.  I don’t know why I dread this silverware chore so much, but I do.  Until I begin.  Invariably, once I dip the cloth in the paste, the rote and repetitive nature of this mundane job takes me back to  places and people I cherish.

Jumbled together are pieces of mine, my mother's and both my grandmothers.  It is somewhat ironic that I never asked for nor desired sterling silver flatware.  After all, I was a mere 19 years old, a college student, and a bit of a dreamer when I upset the apple cart to marry during the trimester break.  A seamstress family friend sewed my simple wedding dress.  We didn't have a registry, a fancy reception, or really any of the hoopla of today's weddings.  Add to these untraditional nuptials an unplanned pregnancy two months into our young marriage and a drawer of sterling silver was the last thing on my mind.

In August of our honeymoon year, at eight months pregnant I vividly remember sitting in my mother's kitchen when the phone call came telling her that her brother Bobby, my favorite Uncle Bob, was dead. She was so shocked to hear these words, she barely spoke to the woman telling her (my Nana's best friend) before she replaced the phone on the hook.  Almost immediately after she told me Uncle Bob had died, she said, "I don't even know what happened." She had to call back  It was an automobile accident; he never stood a chance in his VW Beetle. My mom and dad almost immediately sold the only cool car we had, our own beloved Bug.  My brother and I completely understood.

About three months later with a new baby in tow, Mom dragged me down to Crabtrees, a hometown, family-owned jewelry store.  She had inherited some money from her brother, and she wanted me to pick out a silver pattern. This was to be a lasting gift to me from Uncle Bob. I thought it totally unnecessary and frankly, a bit weird.  But I did it entirely to please her, selecting seven place settings of a simple pattern of straight lines and smooth surfaces.  She had an old English "C" engraved on the handles.  

I have forever been grateful for her foresight.  I am not overly sentimental about stuff, except for the dishes, china, crystal, and silver passed down to me from the women in my family.  I am who I am today in large part because of those who have gone before me.  My mother, my Grandma Herman, and my Nana Hueston taught me much about being a mother, a woman, a teacher, a grandmother, and a caring contributor to society.  Setting a feast table becomes a reverent act, with soft images and memories of my mother, my Nana, and my grandmother enfolding me.  I imagine them smiling down their approval as new generations eat from their dishes, use their utensils, and dine on a table lined with linens that once were theirs. They and their traditions live on...and for that heritage, among so many other good things, I give thanks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


There is one thing, and one thing only,
That makes a human life successful.
It is not wealth.
It is not power.
It is wisdom that brings us joy.
Wisdom is the key to life.
Put others above self.
Respect the laws of gods and men.
Be not too proud, or the gods will bring you pain and suffering.
Some find wisdom before they are destroyed for their mistakes,
yet others only find it after being broken.
Sometimes, in old age, after great pain,
men find wisdom.
                                    -the Chorus, Antigone

Two nights ago we sat in a high school auditorium watching a production of Sophocles' classic tragedy Antigone.  The story of a king destroyed by his own pride and power has much to say to a modern audience, and these young thespians delivered a compelling, tight, and riveting performance. 

What made the night even more special for us was that Robert directed this show, adapting the script from multiple public domain versions, casting a talented group of high school students, connecting these players to a text they so obviously internalized, and pulling a performance from them that made this ancient story contemporary and relevant. 

I am in awe of my son… as a teacher, an artist, and a man.  I am glad he finds important stories to tell, and I am proud that he chooses to invite young men and women into the art of telling them.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

his gaze

he rests on his back
the world condensed
to what appears before him

he studies his moving hand
a glowing light, the swirling fan
a dancing bear, his laughing brother

 he finds joy in each face
courting his gaze, eyes locked,
voice gurgling, cooing delight

 he explores space with stretching limbs
twisting body, grasping fingers
touching the air

he abandons time,
freed to greet each moment
with utter expectation

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Baking Pumpkin Cookies

The news in my hometown is unbearably heavy right now. There is nothing to say that has not been written, reported, tweeted, dissected, blogged, or talked about over and over and over again. And none of it is good--the story is too horrific to comprehend or understand.  We here in a once happy valley are still Penn State, but our hearts are broken and our souls are sickened. 

This morning, after a fitful night of light sleep, an early cup of coffee, and a cursory glance at the newspaper (a rehash of late night ESPN reports), I decided to bake.  Following a spattered recipe, I assembled ingredients and started stirring together pumpkin cookies, a seasonal favorite family sweet.  I thought this recipe may fill better this space than the lament I feel, so here it is--an oldie goodie:

Pumpkin Cookies

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon. salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (or raisins)

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

Cream shortening and sugar.  Add pumpkin and egg. Beat well.  Add sifted flour mixture.  Stir.  Add vanilla and nuts.  Drop by generous teaspoonful on greased  (or parchment covered) baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  Cool.


3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup powdered sugar sifted

Combine butter, milk, and brown sugar in saucepan.  Heat to boiling.  Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Cool slightly, stir in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Immediately frost cookies.

And then...sit quietly with a couple cookies, a cup of tea, and while you do, please say a prayer to end all forms of abuse, sending one up especially for all those children who are not protected when they should be.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In the Low Country

“I stood face to face with the moon and the ocean and the future that spread out with all its bewildering immensity before me.” 
--Pat Conroy

We just returned from spending this past week with my brother and sister-in-law in the Low Country of South Carolina.  The sun shined every day, the skies radiated bright blue, the lush vegetation carpeted the landscape, and the waters rippled in and around the islands.  We boated to Daufuskie Island, the site of the school where Pat Conroy penned The Water is Wide.  A retired vet (as in veterinarian) piloted us through the marshes and lagoons surrounding Hilton Head, while my brother, the photographer, shot amazing film of birds in flight. We  rode bicycles, watched birds, climbed a lighthouse at dusk, and ate enough seafood to satisfy the hunger.  

It was a wonderful week, this first week of November. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My sons

Both of my sons were home together this weekend, a rare and sweet treat.  Rob and his father share a love of and season tickets for Penn State football, and that is often the reason for Harrisburg Campbell fall travel to State College.   Friday the weather report was calling for a historic October snow storm, and we all agreed that a trip in the middle of it simply was not a prudent decision.  But early Saturday, the flakes hadn't even begun, and Rob decided if he left early he might just beat the storm. So come ahead he did, arriving in good time on for the most part decent roads. It was so good to have him here...

I spent a good part of the day Saturday sewing up costumes and costume adornments for the fall MASH production of "Antigone" Rob is directing while two of three boys (Jim included) bundled up and trudged off to a snowy, messy and less-than-pretty Penn State win.  Our power stayed on, I made an apple pie, we were warm, JoPa had his 409th win, and we were here together safely.  A wonderful weekend....

The costumes don't look like much on the hangers; it's a Greek thing, I guess.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The colors of fall are disappointing this year.  All the rain diluted the brilliance of a changing season, and a look out the back window reveals foliage resembling more a lackluster end of summer than an almost Halloween.  I miss the flaming reds, the blazing yellows, and the burning oranges that so often set the spirits afire in October. 

In my quilting class on Saturday, our teacher talked to us about color.  While we laid out our project pieces, she spoke about "value," the lightness or darkness of hue, in color.  An interesting quilt will most likely contain fabrics representing a range of values from light, to medium, to dark.  No wonder picking fabric is challenging for me. Not only should I seek compliment and variety in pattern, but I also ought consider harmony and hue of color.  I understand more fully what my daughter and son-in-law, both artists, mean when they speak of color theory.

And I also realize why I question the choices I sometimes make in fabrics... like this one, a table runner I just finished.

While it is certainly filled with fall colors, when it all came together I regretted the fabric choices I made. I wasn't sure why until Saturday when Deb described the importance of value.  She told us one way to check value in our piecing is to turn the picture into black and white and see the contrast.
So I did and I see what I might have done differently--change the tan in the four-patch or change the intensity of the orange.  Obviously, I am still learning...

The notion of value in color made me think about my own life and the interplay of light and shadow within.  I tend to be on the serious side, with my spirit life resembling these pieces I patched together. I need to swap in some lighter hues for the more somber ones.  Smile more, laugh more, whistle, sing, skip, and delight more.  By simply holding life more lightly, I ought to create a more pleasing pattern for all to enjoy.