Monday, December 22, 2014

The Awakening and Merry Christmas!

I've been on a roller coaster of health issues in the last few months.  First, a minor surgery on a vein in my leg, only to end with phlebitis, and more treatment and care.  My granddaughter became seriously ill, and through the power of prayer and hope, she is now recovering and will continue to recover.  And then to top it off, I've caught an upper respiratory illness which has rendered me speechless - literally, as I've had forms of laryngitis for three days.  I have had more cups of green tea with lemon and vinegar in the last few days than I could ever imagine doing.  But the up side is that I now enjoy it, and will be starting my day out with this as often as possible.  Reminder to self (and you too): Don't forget to put your feet up and take time for yourself with a cup of tea!

Don't get me wrong.  I am not complaining. I am not whining.  I want to proclaim that in all the issues of the last few months, my life has continued to change and transform in ways I couldn't imagine or ever have sought for myself.  That is how I know that the Holy Spirit is leading me on this journey.

Last week, a close friend shared with me the poem called, "The Awakening."  She said it was given to her many years back after struggles and changes in her own life, and from what I had been confiding in her, she said it was meant for me too.  I share this here because perhaps this poem describes what you have gone through or are currently going through.  I keep going back to it and reading portions over and over.  It is my prayer, that you or someone you know, will also benefit from this poem.  Click on this link to read, Sonny Carroll's, "The Awakening".

My journey continues, at Motions Fitness, where I am now committed to their plan for me by purchasing an annual membership.  Yes, I have!  I am just as surprised.  But I am reminded that when you seek help from our faithful Lord Jesus, you never know what he's going to come up with!

Today, December 22, 2014 we are celebrating Christmas with the kids at our house.  It's all about them: decorating cookies (no requirements for the mess), reading the Christmas scripture from the book of Luke, favorite finger foods, playing the white elephant game for gift cards, and celebrating the good news of Jesus Christ with four generations.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy, healthy, blessed New Year.  Thank you for reading my blog.  Keep coming back and sharing my journey with me!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Safe and Secure

What makes you feel safe?

I would imagine there are many answers to this question.  Whether you've actually experienced something or someone that's made you feel afraid, or whether you perceive that you are in danger, the need for feeling safe is very real to you.

It's been awhile since I've posted about my journey to being pain free and healthier living. I'm meeting with my personal trainer once a week, instead of twice, and trying to continue exercise at home. But recently, while assessing my progress with my personal trainer, Lisa Mills, I admitted to her that when I am at Motions, I feel safe.  Although that might seem logical or normal to some people, for me, it was very unexpected, as being comfortable exercising in front of others was not something I wanted to do.

So what made me feel comfortable and safe there?

  • From the first day I walked through the door, I was greeted with genuine friendliness - that has not changed, not one time, during the last four and a half months.
  • I feel like I have the right to be there - I feel like this was my place.
  • Everyone is welcome to come for an initial consultation - no exceptions, none!
  • I've known that my personal trainer has had my needs and desires, my abilities and struggles in mind every time we've met together.
  • Sharing with other women in the locker room - every day concerns, successes, and goals with others feels like being at home with family.
  • I know that when I lay on the mat in the active floor space, no one will interrupt my exercise because they aren't being considerate of the needs of others.
There are only a few places in my life where I feel that I can be myself, that I am accepted for who I am, and appreciated and celebrated when I meet my goals and accomplishments.   That is a wonderful feeling, a feeling comfort and safety.  This is another accomplishment I didn't count on in my quest for healthier living.

Now the other side of feeling comfortable and safe, is realizing that the day is coming when I have to step outside of my comfort zone - incorporate my exercise and fitness plan into everyday life.  And that scares me.  So everyday, I am trying to step out of my comfort zone. I'm walking outdoors every chance I get, and plan to walk, whether inside or out, when the weather changes from fall to winter. I've realized, too, that what helps me feel OK about getting out of my comfort zone is the same thing that made me feel safe from the beginning - it's having confidence in what I'm doing, because I know I can do it, and caring about my own needs, concerns and goals just like my trainer did for me.

While my five-month old grandchild was sleeping in my arms today, I thought of how safe and secure she must feel.  I watched her as she was breathing, with little expressions on her face, and slight movements of her fingers.  I was reminded of the feeling of being safe in a nice warm bed during a winter storm; of being home after a rough day; and of course, feeling safe and secure in a place of hard work, goals, changes, and accomplishments.

It is my hope that you have a safe place in your life.  May you know that safety when you need it the most. And when you are feeling insecure and afraid, why not have a cup of Blackberry Sage or Raspberry Rose Tea?  Find a cup or mug, brew some tea, and take a moment to breathe deeply, and enjoy a sip or two of security in cup!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Down on the Upside

I've been kind of down lately.  I've let myself be influenced by some negative thinking and negative people, and even though I know that by the Grace of God, I can get the help I need to lift myself out of the pit, it's been harder for some reason to do so.
Yes, I've gone over the whole list of what I should be thankful for, and how blessed I am.  I've had the self-talk and started every day over and new.  And just for the record, I do know that I am blessed, and I am thankful.
While updating this blog I came across a few posts that were inspirations to me when I first started my journey to healthier living at Motions Fitness, and I couldn't think of a better example of motivational thoughts to get myself off being down on the Upside and back on track.  If you want to read more about each of these staff members at Motions, just click on their website below.

Thanks everyone!  I knew there'd be an answer if I just looked in the right place!

The following are quotations are taken from the official Motions Fitness Website.

Ronni says, "I believe in giving 100% in whatever I do and living life to the fullest with a positive attitude. I love waking up and going to a job that changes lives every day!"   
She is one of the smiling faces that greets you every day when you walk in the door, and as you leave to continue with your day.

My personal trainer, Lisa, says this about her life, "I had been overweight all of my adult life beginning in my teen years. I had tried many "diets" over all those years. And it was not until I began at Motions, did I finally make the "connection". One of the best benefits was that I began to get relief from the pain I was in.   I have lost a total of 69 pounds and have kept it off!! I have run a Half Marathon each year, as well as many other races. I fell in love with learning about healthy eating, and devoured all the education I could. In June of 2013, I enrolled into the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a Health Coach. I became a Personal Trainer at Motions just prior to my Graduation. I have found my passion! I am so blessed to have the opportunity to pay forward what I have learned thru my journey and thru my education. I am able to help relieve pain thru Trigger therapy and Nutrition. As a Personal Trainer I am able to help promote injury prevention thru better movement. And as a Health coach, and as a previously overweight person, I am able to help coach my clients thru the weight loss journey and help them to make better nutritional choices."

Mark says this, "You're never too old, no one is "too far gone," and we'll show you how you can succeed in all of your fitness and weight loss goals. Motions worked for me, and continues to work for me every day! THIS WILL WORK FOR YOU!"

Gary says, "Fitness Tip: It's not the length of time you lived that gives you pain and stiffness but the length of time you started slowing down or stopped moving because of a pain or because someone gave you the notion that you are "old" and that's what is expected. You can turn back the hands of time and begin moving again without pain and with good balance."

And from the owner, Mike, "I have helped thousands of people lose weight, recover from an injury, and even walk again! I look forward to helping YOU feel better, gain confidence, live pain free, and have the best quality of life for the rest of your life!!"

Monday, October 6, 2014


I've been painting my kitchen door, and the trim around the doorways and window.  At one point I suddenly I heard a voice in my head, "Susan! don't scrub with your paintbrush!"   It was Miss Audrey Topila, my kindergarten teacher at Birchview Elementary School, 1959.  Looking back on childhood, I can recall many early instructions, voices of my parents to me, their young child.  Some have stuck with me, like my mother's voice in my head telling me to "say thank you" and "be a gracious receiver." Many of us can recall our parents voices in our head, that told us to do the basic things, "brush your teeth," "wash your feet,"  or "go to sleep". I've noticed that these voices from childhood pop into my head when I hear a young parent saying the very same thing.

In 1963, I was in fourth grade at the Grammar School, with Mrs. Schuetze as my homeroom teacher. The one and only voice I recall when I hear mention of that year is "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."  Though the voice of President John F. Kennedy was silenced that year, I am thankful that I can hear his voice in my head and recall when he was our president. 

Other adults that have influenced my life in one way or another have their own voices in my head. There's the penmanship teacher from third grade, Mrs. Joan Luoma, "around, around, around," and "up and down, up and down," as she taught us to practice the strokes for Palmer Method handwriting.  To this day, some 50+ years later, I still think of Palmer Method writing when I see her.  I also remember the voice in my head of Mr. Victor DePaoli, my seventh grade math teacher. He used to sing a phrase, "How are things in Glocamora," when he thought you were day dreaming.  I'm still not very good at math, but I have never forgotten that tune!

Perhaps most vivid to me is the voice in my head of my dad, my father.  He passed away a bit over four years ago, and I am thinking of him more often than not.  The voice in my head of my father is telling me that if I don't learn to tie my shoes, I'll be 40 years old and he'll still have to do it for me!  I think of this when I see my own grandchildren struggling to learn.  The funny thing is, that at 40 years old, I did in fact require someone to help tie my shoes as I had a cast on one leg, and couldn't quite maneuvre the tying.

While learning to recite table grace and prayers as a child, I can hear the voices of my parents, saying grace, every day.  When I am reciting the Lord's Prayer in church or with others, my father's voice in my head is as clear as it once was while worshiping side by side.  When the doxology or "How Great Thou Art," is sung, the voice in my head is my father's, harmonizing, as I recall it through my own tears of remembrance.

When I look for my keys in my purse, I hear the voice in my head of my Godmother, "They're heavy, they sink to the bottom."

Once I asked my grandmother, "What's it like to get old?"  She replied, that in her head, she was still the same girl she's always been, but was an older woman on the outside, who couldn't seem to do what she once could.  As I grow older, I often hear her voice in my head, telling me what its' like to get old.

Now that I am working towards a daily exercise program for home, my personal trainer asked me, "What will you do when I am not there to coach you?"  I promptly replied, "I'll hear your voice in my head, with great enthusiasm, "You can do it! You can do it! You can do it! Go, Susan!" And that cheering voice is coaching me on, every day.

So now you know - I hear many voices in my head on a regular basis.  They are the instructing, teaching, caring, loving voices that were there from the start, the voices that have helped mold me into who I am.  I hope that my instructing, teaching, caring, loving voice is heard in someone else's head.

Who's voices do you hear in your head?

Friday, September 12, 2014


Fall has come here in Northern Michigan, and with it the cold, which in my opinion is way too early. We've had to harvest our vegetable gardens in a hurry before the frost hit, and even do the inevitable....turn on the furnace!

Two days ago we had the wildest rain storm for early September with shoreline flooding which closed some roadways.

So with the cold temperatures, and staying indoors while rain and wind pelleted the windows, it was time to take out some new to me tea cups and have a casual evening with friends.

It might have been cold and windy outside, but we certainly enjoyed an evening of paper crafting, tea tasting and a slice of lemon zucchini bread.  You can find the recipe on Pinterest on my board called "I've made/done these pins."

I think I've had more cups of tea in the last week, than I've had in awhile.  No matter, I love the comfort as much as the flavor of tea.

Why not take some time for a cup of tea!

Sunday, September 7, 2014


Have you been hoping and praying that something would happen or change for you?  "I wish this were so."  "I hope that will happen."  "I am praying about that."

For years, I had hoped that 'someday' I would be able to participate in life a bit more actively.  When I became a grandmother (12 times since), I had a rude awakening that just hoping to be in better shape and more physically active, wasn't going to happen by itself.  I knew that in order to keep up with my little grands, I had to make a serious effort to being physically fit.

I do pray, believing that my request will be answered according to God's will and plan for my life.  Hoping to have will power.  Wishing to be more active.  It seemed that no matter how much I hoped or wished, the will power or incentive to accomplish this was not there.  What complicated the will power or incentive was chronic pain.

Perhaps the title of this post should be hoping and wishing, praying and wanting.  I've been writing about my journey to being healthy and physically fit at Motions Fitness. I've come to realize that all the hoping and wishing wasn't going to amount to anything without praying and wanting to change.

Since my last post, I have attended "Body Pump", a weight-lifting class. I must admit that I have always wanted proper instruction on how to lift weights, and once had hoped to someday have a chance to do this.  But it had been a long, long time since I thought about really lifting weights.  The chronic pain had gotten in the way.  I'd watched the movements and sets from the back of the room, but now that I was in the class, it was really hard to keep up the pace and keep trying without giving up.  Tearfully, at one point, I wondered how I would ever make it to the end of the class in one piece. But then my trainer got right beside me, and helped me with each move, until I got back on track.

That "coming alongside" me that my trainer, Lisa, has done from the very first time we met at Motions Fitness, is the visible part of our trainer/client relationship.  To me, Lisa's actions were above and beyond the "you can do it, you can do it," support I have received at every stage of my work out plan. But to Lisa, this is her commitment to help her client succeed and realize all that is possible.

Before the class ended, the instructor reminded us that every set we do in every class must be a challenge to us or what good would it be? It was as if he was telling me personally that the hoping and praying, and wishing must turn to wanting to be healthy so bad that you keep challenging yourself, again and again and again.

So the tears keep coming, the tears of leaving behind the "I can't"  and "am I going to make it" ....  as I move from wishing to wanting.  Nothing I have tried previously ever got me to the stage of wanting such a challenge like this, until Motions Fitness.

I am praying for strength to keep meeting the challenge.

Until next time, keep striving.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Since I was a child, I would call green and red two of my favorite colors, not together though, unless we're celebrating Christmas.

Looking back on my childhood, I recall a green,white and black plaid blouse that I wore until it could be worn no more.  I have tried not to like green so much, and yet I choose it more than not.  The walls in my living/dining room and back entry are all the same beautiful green/grey.  The colors in my bedroom are green and pink; upstairs bath are green and other pastels; and craft and sewing room are Yet in my wardrobe, I have very little green.

The other color is red, or "rad" which is the way I pronounced it as a child.  Like all colors there are many shades and hues, so although I don't have any true red in the color schemes of my home decorating, I have shades of it.  The accent color in the living/dining room is a deep wine color. The free-hand designs I painted on the walls in the computer room are dark red.  But in my wardrobe, there is very little red or wine color.

By the way, my kitchen is yellow with blue accent and first floor bath is a dark tangerine, almost red.  As I look closely at all these colors, I can see that on the first floor, the main living area of the house, the colors are bright with deep shades and hues; whereas the colors on the second floor - bedroom, bath and crafting area are pastels.

When I am planning a tea party, the colors of the linens, cups, teapots, and even the food usually are chosen by a season or theme.  It is then that I am thankful that I am not color blind. I also enjoy pairing up some things that may not traditionally go together. I love the colors of fall - gold, bronze, orange and yellow of leaves, and reds found in apples - that's the season we are coming into here in Northern Michigan.

Even our long winters, have colorful choices - shades of whites, silver, pink.

and then spring brings the newness of green leaves and grass, 

followed by the blossoms of early summer and blue sky and waters. 


 Photo used by permission - Elizabeth Shevokas

Recently, I've been learning about some new colors.  They are the colors of cancer-fighting foods.  As part of my journey to wellness, the colors that I love are the colors that I also eat.  The greens are brussel sprouts, and broccoli, with red as peppers, and apples, and the pink of shrimp.  The bright yellows are also peppers, and pineapple too.

There was a saying once, that was something like this: Do you have to wear what you eat?  (do you spill your meal on your clothes every time you eat?)

For the first time, I can feel good about wearing and eating my favorite colors.  Are you eating your colors?

Enjoy the beauty around you, look for the colors.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


STRENGTH AND STRIVE is the class I participated in at Motions Fitness, after being a member for three weeks.  I did a post on this earlier called, HELLO TO ME CLASS PARTICIPATION.

At that time I had decided not to go back to the that point. My goal was to get stronger.  And now I have.....gotten stronger. Several times during the weeks that followed, I stood behind the class, watching and thinking that I could accomplish it.  After nearly eight weeks of working out with my trainer for two times a week, I realized as I watched the sets of exercises, that I had done most of them individually.

So on Monday, August 18, I made another attempt to participate in a class, which is included in my membership.  I had said farewell to my fears for the most part, and had met many of the ladies that were in the class, so there really was nothing holding me back.  I found Donna and told her I was "doing it" so she found me a spot right behind her.  The first time in the class I was so dependent on following her, but I found that it wasn't as necessary, though I was glad to have her right in front of me.

Once I couldn't lay on my back on a hard surface, and now I can do that.
Once I couldn't imagine doing even a modified push up, now I can do that.
Once I could barely keep moving to the next set, now I can do that with more energy.
Once I did not believe I was capable, now I know that I am.

I have gained STRENGTH as I have been STRIVING.  I will continue to get stronger.  I will continue to strive.  You never quite reach a point when you can say, "I've made it" and then quit.  You've got to keep staying strong, keep striving to be healthy and fit.  I've realized that.

I've set some new goals, which will include one or two times per week in one or two class(es), and one time a week with my personal trainer.  Funny, I never thought I'd be doing more than just once a week with a trainer!

I'm not addicted.  I'm not hooked.  I just feel better, healthier, happier, and more energized than ever before. You can do this
.  I found hope - you can too.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Summer is so short here in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan, and this year, it seemed even shorter.  We had an unusually long, cold winter, cool spring, and not so hot summer. With summer coming to an end soon, I did a quick rewind to what I look forward to doing in the summer, and what hadn't I done yet.
All winter, I long to sit in my front porch, only accessible in the summer as it is not heated. And of course, I look forward to having a summer tea. The front porch has been a quiet corner to read or take a nap, so now was the time to have the summer tea.  A couple of tea-loving friends are teachers and will be going back to their classroom next week, August 28, so time was of the essence.  I'm still meeting people who want to come to tea, so I sent a note to a few friends and soon-to-be new friends, inviting them to a summer tea.

There is an abundance of ripe fruit right now - wild blueberries and raspberries, and  I added nectarines and kiwi.

I chose a colorful hand-embroidered white table cloth, colorful napkins, and chose my fruit-patterned dishes and cups.

Here is the menu, some of which is from the latest issue of Tea Time Magazine and my own boards on Pinterest.  The teas are Rose Raspberry (Downton Abbey) and Blackberry Sage.

I made biscuit "cones" out of crescent rolls, by making a cone shape out of aluminum foil, and wrapping the dough around it.  The filling was a spread made from local, fresh salmon, cream cheese and sour cream; and a golden cherry tomato from my garden.  I laid each salmon biscuit on a leaf of romaine lettuce.  

I don't believe its a tea party without serving scones and mock devonshire cream. This is the first time I made the blueberry thyme scones, two ingredients I wondered about pairing together.  But the recipe in the lastest issue of Tea Time Magazine, again, proved to be wonderful!  I also learned a new technique from this recipe that keeps the blueberries mostly whole, which holds in the flavor.

Start by putting half the blueberries on one side of the dough, and fold the dough over, gently kneading or rolling them in.  Finish by adding the remaining blueberries to the dough and repeating the kneading and rolling.

Fruit Cup: to enhance the fruit with big flavor, combine fresh chopped fruit and berries in a bowl, mixing just to blend.  Add enough berry flavor wine cooler to cover the fruit, and refrigerate for several hours or over night.  Strain the fruit, saving the juice/wine liquid. (this makes a great drink) I served the fruit cup in double shot glasses with a little dollup of mock devonshire cream on top.

Dessert was a mini ice cream cone filled with a mock cheese cake filling, just like a little ice cream cone (!), and a mini pink cake heart with chocolate ganache drizzled on top.

I packaged raspberry muffins for my guests to take home.  They were baked in paper/cardboard cups, which are available at World Market stores.

Thanks to friends Marsha N. and Sandy A. and their families' estates, I now have a collection of hats for my guests to choose from.

Here's to you, teachers - Lori and Louise; and friends - Darleen, Wendy and Nancy. Thanks for sharing a summer afternoon tea. It was a delight!

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Matthew 15: 10-28 Jesus teaches his disciples that true purity is a matter of the heart rather than outward religious observances. Almost immediately, this teaching is tested when a woman considered to be pagan and unclean approaches him for help.
There are three key words that I want you to remember in today's gospel reading. You may think that they are DISCIPLE, JESUS, HEAL, but they aren't the ones.
The key words are: FOREIGN NUISANCE DOG
It is through these words, that we will learn what really transpired between Jesus, his disciples and a woman. FOREIGN, NUISANCE and DOG will show us the meaning of this text, perhaps in a way that we hadn't thought of before.
You could summarize today's reading simply like this: Jesus was walking through the country side when a FOREIGN woman asked him to heal her daughter; but the disciples thought she was being a NUISANCE, and even Jesus thought she was acting like a common DOG in the streets, until she said the right words to him. And then he healed her daughter.
The word “foreign” is something that doesn't belong together or of the same family, we could say - like the dust in my eye, “foreign body”; or “foreign country” a place outside of my own country. “NUISANCE” can either describe actions that make the person a problem, or something that is out of control, like weeds in a garden. Lastly we have “dog.” Dog has a dual meaning. Dog is mostly thought of as a long-time family pet; your cute and lovable pal, best friend, or your hunting companion. “Dog” can also be “dog-tired”, “worked like a dog”, or the “dog-days of summer.” But to some people, Dog is that barking beast next door, or that animal that attacked you.
Now that we are familiar with the meanings of the key words, FOREIGN, NUISANCE and DOG, let's try a summary again.
And so we find Jesus, walking through the country side, in an area that he hoped would keep him from being hounded by the“pop a rozzi” of the day - the people who had heard of his miracles and powers of healing, the ones who clamored around him wherever he went. Jesus had hoped to be left alone, except for His disciples who accompanied him on this journey. A FOREIGN woman, who cried out to him by name, begged him to heal her daughter of demons. The disciples were embarrassed by her actions. Without giving Jesus a chance to reply, the disciples step in and advise him, “Give her what she wants, get rid of her. Do you know what she is?” She was a NUISANCE and the only way they saw to shut her up was to respond quickly and end it – a common reaction.
She wasn't one of them, she was an enemy, like a common street DOG expecting more than she deserved. At first Jesus seemed to ignore her. But she had in fact, called out to him by name, hadn't she? “Sir, Son of David.” By calling Jesus “Son of David” she was using his correct name; she must have heard of his miracles.
This name, had stirred Jesus with compassion, but he didn't let her know that immediately. She might have used the right name, but who was she to call him that? She was a Canaanite Gentile – an enemy to the Jews, the Jews that Jesus came to save. It was like saying, “ok, lady, you got my attention. But how do I know you're for real? You could have overheard someone using this name with me.”
How does Jesus respond to her? He refers to her as a dog, which was a scavanger, a savage, but the woman replies that even the dogs get their share from their master. Not only was she calling Jesus by his right name, but she is telling him that she knows she is at his feet yet calls him master.
Besides Jesus, there are a few key people in this story, too. We have the disciples, the chosen few, who left their lives and families behind to follow Jesus; and we have the ones who chase after Jesus because they've heard of his love and miracles, but have never or may never want to experience them first hand, because they know what's best for themselves.
By the time of Jesus, the people of Israel had been foreigners for so long that we might think they would have had heightened sensitivity to the stranger in their midst. The Law of Moses specifically addressed the need for faithful Israelites to look out for the widow, the orphan, and the “sojourner”, someone not of Israelite descent who lived among the Hebrews. These foreigners were under the protection of God.
Listen to Isaiah 56: 6-8: “and foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord, to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant – these will I bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.......he who gathers the exiles of Israel: I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” This reading tells us that they were welcome at God's holy mountain, and their sacrifices were acceptable to God. But what we see in our gospel for today is that by Jesus's day, the Israelites' attitude toward foreigners had changed. Then a foreigner was no longer a member of a protected and welcome group but could be anyone who was simply unknown or away from home.
If we were to put ourselves into this story, I would imagine that not one of us would want to be the NUISANCE, the one who is so persistent that they are a pest. I also believe no one would want to be the DOG who was a scavanger, looking for more than its share. How many of you then would consider yourself a FOREIGNER? Depending on our age, at one point everyone who lived in the United States was a foreigner or a descendant of a foreigner. All of our families came from somewhere else. But few of us think of being a foreigner. Even fewer of us have had an opportunity to actually experience being an outsider. No one wants to be that either.
Now with the key words and key people together, here is one more interpretation of this text that puts our Gospel message in today's language.
And so we find Jesus walking through the country side in (your hometown). There are those that chase after him because they are skeptical – they want to see his miracles for themselves; perhaps test him, but have no real interest in experiencing his love. As Jesus is walking along the Heritage Trail, a stranger, a drunken woman of simple means immerges from the trees, and cries out to him as he passes by. She begs him to heal her daughter of drug addiction. Jesus slows but keeps walking. His followers position themselves between Jesus and the woman, and try to find an easy way to help her, to quiet her down, so that she will not bring any negative attention to their dear Lord and Savior, Jesus. Afterall, she and her kind are the drifters who have already requested help over and over and over. What is she doing to change her ways and help her daughter anyway? Because His followers know Jesus needs some contemplative time right now, they hope their efforts satisfy her so Jesus can get on with his walk. Instead, Jesus responds to her not with the same frustration that his followers used, but with a quiet tone, “You savage and scavander”as he remembers that she called him by name. He is humbled by her willingness to put herself in the public arena in the shape that she is in, and stand apart from her fellow alcoholic friends to request help from him. And when he challenges her, she bares her soul by admitting that even the scavangers and savages, even the dogs get food from their masters. She had proclaimed her faith in him. She had put herself at her Master's feet in humility. Our dear Lord and Savior Jesus praised her for her deep faith! He granted her request and her daughter was healed.
Perhaps you never thought of the key words – FOREIGNER, NUISANCE and DOG as describing your faith in Christ Jesus. We don't look at ourselves as a Foreigner until we acknowledge that we go our own way and get separated because we haven't trusted God's direction for our lives. We certainly couldn't be a nuisance could we? until we beg God to respond to our prayers, promising beyond our abilities. We could never be the scavanger, expecting more than we deserve, could we? Until we admit that we are self-righteous, and humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord. Today's text makes us look at who we are as a follower of Christ, and reminds us that the same Grace (GRACE = God's Redemption At Christ's Expense) of God, the same love of Christ that is offered to the foreigner, the nuisance or the scavanger, is the also offered to each of us.

Today's text also gives the Church as a whole the image of Mission. Every community is filled with people who are hurting, tormented, sick and oppressed. The Church must be in and of the Community to share God's healing with the world. It is much easier to help to those we do not know, cannot see or hear about. In sharing the Body and Blood of Christ, the Church receives the strength to enter this world and bring comfort, healing and justice to those in need. May we see ourselves as the body of Christ and witness to foreigners the universal message of God's grace, just as we receive him ourselves. 
Dear Lord, we give you thanks for women and men in every age who have devoted their lives to you.  Gather us with all the peoples of the world into your wide and loving embrace, here and in the life to come. AMEN  

(Portions of this message are taken from 'Sundays and Seasons' by Augsburg Fortress, ELCA Lectionary)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

TIGHT AND SNOTTY - at Motions Fitness

I have been seeing a personal trainer, Lisa, at Motions Fitness. Along with my faith in Jesus Christ, becoming healthier through working with a personal trainer, and the fitness experts at Motions has been one of the most amazing and transformational experiences in my life!

There is a bond between a client and their trainer.  Afterall, you are sharing about your daily life - your triumphs, struggles and frustrations.  The bottom line for me is being painstakingly honest, because this is it!

As we began our session recently, which consists of "sticking" your muscles and tendons starting with the neck and moving down, including arms and legs, Lisa noted that I was particularly tight.  I jokingly commented that no one had ever accused me of being tight!  lol (laugh out loud)

During the course of the workout exercises, I had a few moments of dizziness and when I told Lisa that I thought my seasonal allergies were kicking in, she quipped that she'd noticed a lot more snot these days, and that I just had it inside so that's why I was dizzy.  Another "lol".

There's not usually much time for personal conversation or jokes because we do need to stay focused, but by the end of our session, we had laughed a few times about being tight and snotty.  This is the only time I can remember those two words used together to describe me, and for the first time, about muscles and membranes (not personality traits)!  So go ahead, call me, "Tight and Snotty," and I'll answer!

Here is a motivational quote from one of the staff that really speaks to my situation:

Gary says, "Fitness Tip: It's not the length of time you lived that gives you pain and stiffness but the length of time you started slowing down or stopped moving because of a pain or because someone gave you the notion that you are "old" and that's what is expected. You can turn back the hands of time and begin moving again without pain and with good balance."

Until next time, keep striving!

Two Cottages And Tea: Special Pretties In The Garden

I just wanted to share this blog with all of you.  So beautifully captured by my dear friend Nancy.  Her pictures are so clear, you feel you're right there.  Take a moment to enjoy tea in her garden.

Two Cottages And Tea: Special Pretties In The Garden: Hello tea friends, thank you for stopping by!  Today I am sharing two special pretties with you.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


It's that time of year for the blues - no, not cabin fever blues, like the middle of winter.  It's the blueberry season in Northern Michigan.

I'm not a picker myself, but I've been blessed with friends and family who are, and who share a little of the North Country Blues with me.

A few of my favorite things to do with blueberries are blueberry pancakes, blueberry scones, and blueberry muffins.  When you add fresh lemon zest and lemon juice, any of these three baked favorites become even more delightful.

Perhaps you've only had the blueberries you can buy in a store.  I'm telling you, they are not as good and sweet as wild berries, and for some reason are bigger than the fresh ones.

I love the colors blue and yellow together, so blueberry and lemon - that's what I baked this week.  Thank you to Jan, and Nancy and Vi for bringing me some fresh berries.

This recipe for Cranberry-orange scones is from Tea Time Magazine, that I've used over and over, with my own variations, this time, Blueberry-lemon scones.

Sift into large bowl: 2 cups all purpose unbleached flour; 1/2 cup white sugar; 1 tablespoon baking powder; 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cut in 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter, not oleo or spread. Mix with pastry blender, two knives or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1 cup fresh blueberries. Set aside. (See alternative method below)
Beat together with mixer or blender, 6 tablespoons of milk (could be cream or half & half), 1 beaten egg, and zest from 1 lemon (or 1 tablespoon dry lemon zest). Add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface (I use floured parchment paper), and knead gently a few times.  Roll dough into a circle, 3/4 inch thick, and slice into wedges, leaving circle in place.  Or cut with a 2 - 2 1/2 inch juice glass. Place on parchment paper or Sil-Pat mat on cookie sheet.  Brush with 1 beaten egg white and sprinkle with turbinado or white decorating sugar.  Bake 10 - 12 minutes at 425 degrees F.

If you want a sweet wholesome blueberry flavor, I would suggest folding the blueberries into the dough by the following method just before baking. The dough will also not be as dark blue as the scones pictured below.
Follow above recipe, mixing all ingredients (except blueberries) together, and turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, kneading gently 3 - 4 times. Using rolling pin, roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Scatter 1/2 of blueberries on half of dough.  Fold other half of dough over to enclose them.  Lightly roll dough again to 1/2-inch thickness. Repeat scattering, folding, and rolling with remaining 1/2 of blueberries.  
Roll the dough into a circle, slicing into wedges but leaving circle in place before baking. Or cut with juice glass into individual scones.  Brush with beaten egg white and top with sugar before baking as noted above.  

Whatever you're doing this week, make sure to take some time out for yourself.  Enjoy a cup of tea (Blackberry sage is delicious) and a blueberry scone!

Saturday, August 9, 2014


I have decided that Face Book and all social media could be compared to the first phones and "party lines". I can still remember a "party line" when my oldest child was a toddler, say 1976. When people first got telephones (from what I've seen on TV and movies) some people had to have one right now; some felt that they'd lived without it this long, so they didn't need it.  Some became snobbish because "they" had one.  But eventually the telephone became the way of life, and everyone had them.  With the "party line" people were enticed to eavesdrop on other conversations.

So now enters the cell phone.  Some had to have it right away; some still don't use one; some have talked about requiring everyone to have one instead of the land line.  Some use social media; some don't want to; some won't ever.  Social Media has gone from personal use to business use.  It's the way it is.  Sometimes I stop and ask myself, "what was life like before I communicated this way, with family, friends and acquaintances alike? Have I neglected any relationships because of my focus on using social media?  Am I getting into conversations I never would have? Is this my business?"

The one thing I know that I am missing is personal, face to face contact, and casual phone calls just to check in, that existed even during all this progress and great ways to keep in touch.  When I see others, youth and middle age, constantly connected to their phone, my hope is that they are also experiencing the face to face connection as well as the peace that comes from sitting alone, reading, wondering and dreaming.  We all need that.

My challenge in my own life, is NOT to respond to others, "Oh, I already saw that on Face Book" without wanting to share a moment or two in face to face conversation with another. Before Social Media, we might have responded that we already read that in the newspaper, or the church newsletter, or heard it in conversations with others.

I will continue to use social media, but hope to take a more active role in face to face communication with others, and listening to stories I've already heard about somewhere else.

How about you?

Friday, August 8, 2014


The sun seemed just right, so I brought two teacups to have tea in the garden.  My garden isn't situated so that I can add a table, so it's teacups and my beauties - lavendar, camomile, roses, impatiens and more.  Hope you enjoy them!

Monday, August 4, 2014


I take a bike ride every day.  I always go 2 1/2 miles minimum.  Tonight I went farther, to my old neighborhood, my childhood neighborhood.  I've been going there once a year for the last three years.  It just amazes me that I still get that "I'm home!" feeling when I round the corner; but I'm also amazed that things look so small every time I go there.

The only things that aren't smaller are the trees.  My dad planted two maple trees, one for my sister and I, at each end of our front yard.  Well, one is gone and has been replaced, and the other, mine, is so large around that I would guess it would take almost two adults to circle it.  The third tree, a plum tree, that Dad planted for my baby sister is big and doing well.

I've always wanted to go inside the house that my dad built for us to live in from 1957 to 1988, but I am afraid if I get inside that the changes will wipe away my memories.  But today as I rode down the sidewalk, I stopped my bike right in front.  I looked at the trees, the flowers, but not too close.  I wondered what the owners would think if they saw me looking.  Then I noticed that the front door was open behind the screen door; and before I could give it a second thought, I rode down the sidewalk and into the street and continued my ride through the next block, with memories aflurry in my mind's eye.

As I write this, my eyes are flooded with tears when I recall that opened door.  It's just the closest I've ever gotten to really, really thinking about stepping inside.

Have you ever gone back to your house after years of being gone? Will going there take away the memories I cherish....of the home my dad built....of the home my mother made....of the loving, caring life my parents gave us in this house on Juniper Street?

I wonder if I can do it.  I wonder if I should do it.  I know that I am the only one that can answer that. Maybe the next time I go there, I'll be able to walk up to the porch.   

Thursday, July 31, 2014


I had to cancel a trainer appointment - I had gotten sick from humidity and a hot day, traveling on a bus without air conditioning.  I decided to lay low, having no appetite, every joint aching and I was really tired. In fact, I took a nap in the afternoon, and then slept all night.

I learned a lesson this day - I hope the wisdom I gained will carry me through the next time I encounter this. When your body is down and out, expect your mind and spirit to be down and out, too.  The sickness that had overcome my physical being, had gotten a grip on my thinking too.

I could feel myself going the wrong way down the right road.  I'd been going down the road the right way ever since I started to say Farewell to my past fears and inabilities from working out at Motions Fitness. Now it was as if I somehow lost my direction.

North? South? East? West?  Which direction?

I whined.  I complained.  "I don't know how long I can continue doing this (exercising at Motions)."  "I wonder what it will be like when my membership is up.............."   And all the doubts that were there before, that had kept me from joining for the past few years, started flooding my mind.  I told my husband this.  I told my friend over tea.  I started to believe it.

These are all the reasons I have given for not making a conscious effort to take control of my life - to step out of my comfort zone, and work at being healthier.  And these were the things that started flooding my mind, now that I was sick:

"I can't do it."
"I've never been able to do that."
"I'm too fat."
"I'm too old."
"They told me I'd never be able to do any more than that."
"They said I should never walk for exercise."
"I'm only capable of swimming for exercise."
"It's too late."
"I can't afford it."
"I've had a head injury."
"I get dizzy."
"I have bursitis."
"I would have to drive to Marquette a few times a week."
"I have other responsibilities."
"I have arthritis."
"I don't have the right clothes."
"My scale isn't the same."
"I could never do that."
"I'm not like that."
"I'm not going to be able to eat all that protein."
"I don't feel like keeping track of all those calories."

Have you used some of these excuses?  Have you allowed your sick body to infect your mind with sickness, too?

The next day was different.  I felt better.  I missed my daily bike ride. As I rode down the street, I could feel the enjoyment of the ride. When I'm on my bike, my mind clears.  I think, and ponder, and day dream.  It felt so good to be out, that I went a new longer route.  And then it became apparent to me that I had allowed myself to go down the road the wrong way.

Get on the right road.  Stay the right direction!  Call your personal trainer for support.  Thank God for his many blessings.

Till we meet again, keep striving!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014



It would be easier if one person instructed the movements and read the prayers, so you could just move and pray.  Find a way to do this as you carry out your stretches to Pray in Motion.

INHALE DEEPLY through your nose, pushing your diaphram out
EXHALE DEEPLY through your mouth
(Repeat this two times)

Glorious Father, we breathe in the goodness you bring to our lives and rid ourselves of those things that come between us.  Fill our hearts, minds and souls with your wisdom and your will for our lives.

ROLL HEAD SIDE TO SIDE, but not all the way around

Father, help us to relax and not worry about the future.  Keep our minds free from our fears, so we can focus on doing service for you.

ROLL SHOULDERS, forward four times, backwards four times

Dear Jesus, you saved us from our sins.  Thank you.  Help us now to unload unnecessary burdens from our shoulders.  Keep us mindful of your promise to bear all things for us.


Almighty Saviour, help us to reach out to those in need.  Remind us that our brothers and sisters still need to be fed, clothed, taught to read, and held in loving arms.


These legs have carried us on many a journey for your service.  Please allow them to march on for you Lord.  Believing in your causes and trusting in your protection.


Holy Spirit, you bring us power and understanding.  Help us to spread the good news to others.  Open our minds to the lessons we've been taught.  Light within us a burning  desire to witness together.


Thursday, July 24, 2014


In my journey to a better life, with a trainer and exercise at Motions Fitness, I was encouraged to join a class.  So I did.

I was introduced as one of two new members, and everyone welcomed us with warm smiles and open arms. My trainer positioned me in the second row from the front, behind a lady named Donna, who was a very active participant, and one I could follow.  (I'm not coordinated enough to step in time while watching the moves done backwards - in other words, watching the coaches on the stage face me and instruct).

Looking back, I am still amazed that I participated as much as I did.  The idea at Motions is that you don't compare yourself to others, to what you can't do.  You do what you can, you work at doing the best you can, and you keep moving.  There were some moves I couldn't do at all,  but I kept moving.

I was nervous as the memories of participating in line dancing were very vivid to me.  While most of the dancers were in beat and clapping and slapping while moving in sync to the music, there I would be, going the opposite direction.  I told myself to erase this from my mind, and when the very upbeat music started, I didn't have much time to waste daydreaming.  I didn't imagine I'd need the towel because I never sweat; and I didn't bring a water; but someone handed me a water as the class started.

Because this was something new again, I was tempted with the "I don't know if I can do this" mentality, but I was doing it, and I kept doing the moves to the best of my ability, sort of.  It moved along so fast, that there was no time to stand around to talk myself out of it.  Many times my legs hurt and I was so out of breath. A couple of times I wondered, "What the heck did I get myself into?"  Even without doing the floor exercises, I was more confident than expected.  I finished with the rest, quite out of breath, sweating, and exhausted, but I can say, "I did it!" One of the stage trainers came over to me and offered a chair as an option for getting down on my knees to do some of the floor exercises.  Who does that?  No where else, no one has ever offered me that in a group exercise experience!

Then came the verbal approvals - "Susan, you did it!  You did great."  Me?  I did great?  Really? "Come back again on Friday!" I'd have to think about coming back.

Probably one of the most surprising things that I experienced is later that day I didn't feel exhausted or in any way like I had just exercised the most ever in one hour in my entire life!  It felt good.  But then I saw the class picture on the Motions Face Book page.  I guess I'm still more self-conscious in a group.  At least it was a back view of me. And yes, I did share it on my own page, demonstrating that I am stepping beyond my comfort zone again.

Am I going back to the class?  I don't think I'm ready for that yet, at least not at this stage of my program.  I am doing so well in strengthening my hip and trunk muscles with my trainer.   I am really focusing on biking to warm up before our sessions, at home every day, and now by adding the roller for my hip pain at home.  I am trying to remain loyal to my eating plan, and feel if I add just one more thing, at least right now, that I'll lose my focus.

Time will tell.  What I can tell you, is that I am getting stronger, and am no longer saying Farewell.  It is "Hello Susan,  hello me."  Hello - to being what I can be, perhaps what I was meant to be.  Hello!

Monday, July 21, 2014


It's been a dream of mine - to share an afternoon tea at the Four Seasons Tea Room in Houghton Michigan - with many of the ladies that have come to tea at my home. I have been to the Four Seasons Tea Room two times before and each time I mention that I've gone there, I hear so many comments that others want to go too. I had hopes of inviting them all, but even with my new van, I would still have to make a choice from over 50 guests to fill my seven seats.

How could I do that?  I wouldn't want to offend anyone, and I wanted them all to I rented a 32-seat bus.  I worked closely with Greg from Checker Transport to arrange for transportation that would be comfortable and affordable.  And I worked with Andi from the tea room to schedule a private party for up to 40 guests, some of which I realized could be friends from Houghton and Ontonagon.  Though I've planned many an event, I had never planned a bus trip before.  I could not have arranged either without the superb customer service by both Greg and Andi, which to me, was always about pleasing the customer and creating a day to remember. Thank you!

Though I was concerned that sending out the invitation in May for July 21 was too early, I soon discovered that many people were filling up their calendars early for our very short U.P. (Upper Peninsula) summer. It seems I invited twice as many as were needed. It wasn't long before the twenty-one minimum seats were reserved and paid for, meaning my dream was on its way to coming true.

And so, on the same day that Prince George was celebrating his first birthday with a tea, twenty-nine of my friends and family, boarded a bus to experience a day dedicated to sharing tea with friends. The two-hour ride went along as planned, with the only issue being a little warmer on the bus than we had hoped for, the hottest day of the summer.

I was pleasantly surprised at the many styles of hats the ladies had chosen to wear; and how many of them wore a dress.

What once was a custom and required fashion item, hats have not been needed or desired to be worn like early days.  But there are many of us who feel that hats and dresses (beyond business casual) are what makes an event such as afternoon tea, all the more special.

 Anne and Cynthia


The Four Seasons Tea Room was once a drug store which is still visible by the small wooden drawers in the gift shop cabinets, and unique display areas in the dining area, filled with tea pots and tea cups.

The dark green walls and soft lighting around the room, tea cups, linen napkins and table cloths, and glass table tops set the mood for a tea, whether morning or afternoon, spring, summer, fall or winter.

We were expected for tea at 2:00 p.m. and arrived shortly before the hour. Though in the front window a "CLOSED" sign was posted, Andi and Sienna our server, and our local guests were waiting within.

One of the most interesting things guests discover as they enter the dining area is the many styles of hats hanging on the walls and lined up on the shelves, waiting to be chosen by man or woman to be worn during the celebration of tea. Here is Ken, our bus driver, wearing a "required" hat.

Our afternoon began with a greeting by Andi, who welcomed us to the Four Seasons Tea Room and thanked us for coming.  Our first cup of tea was served.

Here is our menu:

Queen Elizabeth - a blend of Darljeeing, Assam and Ceylon black teas
Pear Green - an iced tea
Last Mango in Paris - tisane, which is caffeine-free, and a fruity, light herbal blend (this was highly recommended by Andi, the owner of the tea room)

Our first course was a quiche', followed by sandwiches, sweets, scones with lemon curd and cream, and cake.  Here are the scones and cake.

We sang happy birthday to Sheryl who was honored with a candle in her quiche'.  Many poses for the camera and conversational moments filled the tea room with an atmosphere of enjoyment.  It was exactly what I had imagined and so much more.

Cynthia shared a short history of hats, and noted that her enjoyment is to remake or upcycle vintage hats.  It was interesting to learn that hats were once worn for coverage from the elements, protection, social position and of course, fashion.

Here are some of the best pictures from the afternoon.

The front seats of the bus included a table and reverse seating.  Nancy chose a full length dress, matching hat and lace gloves.

 Judi wore a pill box style daisy hat with green veil, and lace fingerless gloves 
which match her black lace top.

Wendy chose a pink tam with black plume, and matching bag.

 Darleen, Nancy, Janiece and Clarice wait for their first cup of tea.

Birthday girl, Sheryl and friend Kathy in their black and white suits.

 Cynthia on the left with her pink hat and matching dress.  Connie, LaVerne and Mary Ann all chose large brim hats - aren't they lovely!  

Wendy and friend Becky, who chose shades of tangerine for dress and hat. 

Louise, Nancy and Janiece.  Note the stack of hats behind them.

Janiece and Clarice live in Houghton

The wooden drawers and shelves once used by the drug store make unique display areas for the wide variety of tea pots and cups.  Anne and Cynthia enjoy the displays.

Soft lighting and hats add to the charm of the tea room.  Asunta and Judy sit across from Wendy and Becky, while friends Louise and Darleen visit.

The three ladies on the left are friends from Ontonagon.  Sue and Cathy in yellow and black hats.  Note Ginny's hand made white hat on the right.

Carol visits with Anne and Cynthia, as they discover that they all are nearly neighbors.

Here are some details about the guests: There were three ladies I had never met before today:  Asunta, Janiece, and Lorraine.   Mary Ann came a long way to participate: from Shelby, Michigan. Six of us are first cousins.  Every one (except Ken our driver) had either attended a tea at my home, participated in one I held at another place, or had a love for the celebration of an afternoon tea.

Scones were served with lemon curd and cream.

Each table setting was different - dishes and cups.

Roberta and Vicki are from Ontonagon.  Vicki and Sue (both in yellow) visit as they once worked together.

So delighted was Ginny to attend the tea that she fabricated her own hat.  I am wearing a "Minnie Pearl" hat, complete with attached price tag.

  We are first cousins from left:  Wendy, Clarice, Nancy, Carol, myself, and Judi

What made Monday, July 21, 2014 a memorable day was turning off our cell phones; dressing for the occasion; taking time away from the stresses of life; enjoying being served tea with delectable sweets and savories, meeting new friends and re-aquainting ourselves with long time friends; and for those of us on the bus, being willing to overlook the fact that our bus' air conditioner was not working. Yes, we had A day to Remember. Thank you!

(Ladies: I promised to only post the best photos.  I wished I was able to sit and visit at every table during the afternoon.  I look forward to your comments and suggestions.)