2015! Resolutions? Still Pondering!

I’m nuts over New Year’s resolutions! Love to ponder and finally zero in on one.

However, I’ve been making them for forty-plus years and have only kept two:

  • When I was in my mid-forties, I had several book deadlines in the same year. I vowed to work harder in the evenings, and I did.
  • About five years ago, I set out to keep the rocker in our bedroom clear of my clothes. I would hang those suckers up! I kept this beautifully until January of the next year came around and all diligence vanished.

For 2015, I’m pondering these:

  • To be self-indulgent while practicing self-discipline. (That seems like an intriguing challenge.)
  • To be as chill as a bottle of bubbly on New Year’s Eve. (That’s a happy, laid back, friendly sort of chill.)

The best resolutions, like the two I kept above, are very specific, which my new ones aren’t, so I’m thinking about these:

  • Join a Zumba class
  • Get back to revising my middle grade novel

What about you? Have you ever kept a resolution? Are you making any for 2015?

Twenty Fifteen

Here’s to all of you and here’s to the promise of a brand new Year! Welcome 2015!


Grandma Update: He’s Two!



Mazen turned two in September. Glorious, irascible two!

We get along like Pooh and Piglet, as long as I do exactly what he says. This includes playing trains Mazen’s way, letting Maze pick the stories, and being open to a bedtime ritual that extends indefinitely. This child isn’t spoiled. His mom and dad have him in their parental grips, but when Grammy visits, Grammy is a happy pushover.

We don’t get many do-overs in life, but grandparenting is one of them. I can close my eyes to flashbacks of impatience with my girls at Mazen’s age. I can feel my body clench. Hear my frustrated words. My impatience sometimes haunts me with regret.

But by the time I get impatient with Maze, it’s time to go home. And within a day, I’m REALLY impatient, impatient to go back.

When Mazen sees Cliff and me again, he starts to jump. His feet leave the ground.

My jumping needs work, but my train skills are improving by leaps and bounds.

Photo Above: Maze loves the antique dollhouse at my mom’s apartment in Baltimore. The front porch makes a fine driveway for his cars. The dollhouse, built by my great-great-grandfather, is a replica of their summer home in Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania.

Photo Below: An enthusiastic artist working at a table that was his mom’s when she was his age.




Fling Wide the Portals!


I stood in church two weeks ago singing from our new Presbyterian hymnal, which is PURPLE! 

“We don’t wear purple,” was one of my great-aunt’s credos. Now every week, I hold a purple hymnal. The Frozen Chosen, as the Presbyterians were fondly (?) called years ago, are letting loose.

As we sang “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates,” a line from that purple hymnal landed in my own head and stuck:


“Fling wide the portals of your heart.”


What a line!  What a challenge!

And that’s my holiday wish for you and for me. Fling wide those portals.

To the new, the daunting, the creative, the unusual, the refreshing, the funny, and the irresistible.

Like the Christmas angel above, stand with outstretched arms.

Happy holidays and here’s to the promise of 2015!


Angel Arms


My mom, Nancy Kiehne painted the angel. You can see more of her work at


Our Christmas Shed

Cliff and I have been married for thirty-seven years.

We haven’t been asked yet what the secret is to a long happy marriage. Maybe you have to be married fifty years to get asked that question. Or maybe folks watch us and think we still have plenty to learn, which I imagine we do.


One of our secrets is that we celebrate. A lot! We celebrate everything that merits celebrating.

And so, in honor of the season, I present to you the Christmas shed. A project slow in completion, the shed has now officially been cleaned out. When a friend offered me a wreath leftover from the Hillsborough Holiday Tour, I said, “Thank you!” I knew just where that wreath would go.

Since a wreath has no beginning or end, it represents eternity. This project seemed to take an eternity, but now the lawn is clear of wood and clutter and the shed door is closed.

All three of us: me; Cliff, whose project it was; and the shed, are celebrating!

What projects are you celebrating this season?

More Shed

 Our Shed: Our shed is made from barn tin. Cliff thinks it dates back to the first half of the twentieth century.

Giveaway Winners!

Congrats to Gail, who won Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation by Maggie Oman Shannon.

Congrats to Joyce, who won One Big Pair of Underwear by Laura Gehl.

And congrats to Penny, who won the Old Factory Candle Gift Set.


The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Holiday Edition


A Christmas trip to Texas last year inspired the first post in the Ladies Room Door Art Series. Look what Christmas 2014 brings! A holiday bathroom of bathrooms!

On Saturday, we walked into our official coffee stop enroute to Charlottesville, Virginia, where grandson Mazen lives. This time, there would be no visit with Maze. We were only traveling part way. Due to a sad encounter with a deer at Thanksgiving, we needed to retrieve our car from a body shop in Alta Vista, Virginia.

My eyes caught the holiday door. Yes! Of course I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture. But then I stepped into the bathroom. And what did my wondering eyes behold?

The walls:


The toilet topper:

Over Toilet

The sink:


The hand dryer:

Hand Dryer

If I wanted to cast a poopy spin (pun somewhat intended), I’d ask this: What kind of nasty germs do you think that sink skirt catches?

But who wants to be a poop this time of year! So here’s to the Three Point Grill in Prospect Hill, North Carolina. You made my morning!


Thanks to those of you who sent me ladies room door photos in 2014. Keep your eyes pealed on the way to the potty in 2015. Art abounds!

The store clerk told me that the store’s manager started her decorating spree this Halloween and plans to do all the major holidays from now on. It’s a good thing we go to Virginia often!


Holiday Downsizing: The Santa Collection


As a girl, I’d hear older women say, “I’m not decorating much this year” or “I’m not bothering with a tree.”


Who doesn’t want to decorate for Christmas? Who doesn’t want to put up a tree? For the life of my six-year-old self, I didn’t get it. But oh my golly, do I get it now!

And so last week, about thirty-five Santas in my collection took a sleigh ride to Goodwill.

“Will you get these out right away?” I asked the young man who helped me carry them into the store.

“This afternoon,” he answered.

I hope my Santas will have a holly jolly Christmas in homes all over Hillsborough. I kept about twenty. Three grace my mantel this season along with Santa postcards my mom bought years ago.

Grandma's Santa

And that’s it for indoor Christmas at our house. Years ago, there was barely a surface not festooned for the holidays. Our ten foot tree took me four-plus days to complete. And I spent a chunk of January packing it all up again.

The next time we host the family Christmas extravaganza or a holiday party, I’ll pull out all the Christmas stops! I’ve got lots of boxes left in the attic.

But this year, my simple Christmas has put a ho ho ho into my heart in a way I never could have understood at age six.

What about you? Have you pared down your holiday decorating?


Your Old Toy, Your Spirit Companion


 A post by my childhood friend Kathy Speas:

Let’s face it — everybody has some kind of stuffed toy. A teddy bear? A stuffed cat or little dog? A plush frog that somebody just thought was oh too cute, and there’s your birthday present?

Admit it — you have one. You’re not quite sure why you’re so attached to it, but you are.

My toy is a doll. Her name is Violette — Shrinkin’ Violette, Mattel 1964.

People ask, “Oh, are you a doll collector?” No, I just never grew out of playing with dolls.

Psychologists like to call Violette a “Transitional Object,” something a 5 year old would cling to until the child felt safe in the world. I feel less safe in the world than I did when I was 5.

My husband calls  my love for Violette “Like a Crazy Cat Lady, Only With Dolls,” and worries that I will become a hoarder. This is because I stalk Violette on eBay, buying the ones who look like a little stuffing/purple thread/glue TLC might make them resemble the Mint-In-Box beauties that go for $300+.

She prefers to be called an “Antique Soft Sculpture Collectible,” definitely NOT, “Old Rag Doll.”

My mother gave her to me for Christmas, the year I informed Santa that I was Too Old For Dolls,and wanted roller skates. My mother said, “I thought she looked like you.” This explains quite a bit about my self-image.

She is very shy, a shrinking violet, which I most definitely was NOT –not in 1964, not ever. She talks, saying things that make today’s Girl Power champions cringe:

“I’m afraid of noisy boys.”

“I’m just afraid of everything.”

“I wish people wouldn’t look at me.”

“Will you take care of me?”

Mostly, she keeps bad spirits out of my bed, but she has had some adventures. Here she is with cowboy boots:


Visiting the world’s largest (over 8,500) collection of teddy bears at Teddy Bear Town in Hillside, South Dakota:


Dressed up for Mardi Gras:


Don’t you be shy — take your stuffed toy off the shelf, and out into the world! For Pete’s sake, get it out of the closet — they hate the closet! Talk to it, you’ll be amazed at what you hear back.

In many cultures, dolls and figurines are noted to have spiritual power. Let your toy be your spirit guide.

Shrinkin’ Violette  was made in 1963-1964, and based on a character in a TV series called “The Funny Company.”  Kathy and I both got Violettes for Christmas, but sadly a few years later, mine was eaten by our golden retriever puppy.

Rev. Kathy Speas is an ordained Swedenborgian minister, recently retired after 10 years of hospice chaplaincy. She lives in Northern California with her husband and a host of cloth collectibles.   Her writing has appeared on, an online publication focused on the humanity of medicine, and in the Sonoma Index-Tribune.

Kathy Speas