May 31, 2017

In Memoriam

Posted in Faith, Just Life at 10:02 pm by catsinboxes

My grandmother, Jan Toole, died at 3:15 am this morning.  She was 81 years old.

Grandmother was a wonderful woman.  From some of her features to her sense of humor, I am her granddaughter.

My earliest memories are of energetic grandparents.  Grandmother —letting me balance on her shoes & walking me along the grocery store aisle.  Grandmother, her yellow lab in tow, surprising us with a visit.

These and other glimpses and impressions all include the memory of fun.  Grandmother was a grandmother who played.  She understood and loved children and that colors my earliest memories.

Grandmother was a teacher.  Raised ahead of her times by a father who encouraged his daughters in their pursuits, Grandmother was fiercely independent.  She was an elementary school teacher in Europe for the Department of Defense. During school vacations, Grandmother and her friends would take her car and travel across Europe.  While teaching in Europe, she met my grandfather, an Army Officer.

Grandmother was a storyteller.  But whereas Granddaddy could spin a fictional yarn, Grandmother’s stories always stuck to fact.  Camp adventures from growing up —swimming in a lake with cottonmouths.  Travel adventures —visiting towns in Europe where Americans had never visited.  Teaching adventures —helping difficult pupils understand math and teaching migrant workers at the racetrack. And last but not at all least, animal adventures —often featuring dogs she had known and loved.

When Grandmother told a story her eyes would light up.  She’d fix you with bright, brown eyes which would glint with humor even as her face quirked into a half-smile at some memory.

Over the years though, the light in her eyes began to fade.  Parkinson’s began to replace brightness with bewilderment.  Humor remained for a while, but it was often superseded by petulance.

Grandmother was a proud woman.  It was hard for her to let go of things, even as my grandfather gently learned to cook and took over running the house.

Grandmother loved fiercely and kindly.  She loved the hurting —gently and tenderly.  She loved the weak and guarded them carefully.

She loved my grandfather, faithfully, and told him goodbye three years ago.  Despite Parkinson’s, she was present enough to tell him she loved him, and it was alright for him to leave.

The last time I saw Grandmother was the summer before that.  Granddaddy was in Normandy for D-Day’s anniversary —it would be his last visit.

Grandmother’s health was at the point she couldn’t live on her own.  So I stayed with her, cooking and helping around the house.

She was still herself part of the time.  Sometimes she was irascible and petulant, but still, overwhelmingly, Grandmother.

I think we both knew it was the last time.  The last time I’d get to see the Grandmother I knew . . . .

Everyday she’d give me long, long hugs.  As she hugged me in a strong bearhug, she’d whisper, “I love you.”

I’d hug her back, trying not to cry, and whisper, “I love you, too.”

Grandmother left a legacy of love to her children, grandchildren, and to the countless others whose lives she touched.

As I look to her life and death, I’m haunted by the words of Job.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.  



February 4, 2017

Coffee Cantata

Posted in Coffee, Favorite Quotes, Just Life, Recipes, Trader Joe's tagged , at 8:11 am by catsinboxes

There are some things I cannot imagine life without.  Faith.  Family.  Books.  Coffee.

Life without coffee?  Inconceivable!

Often at Trader Joe’s I spot someone standing uncertainly in front of our coffee shelves.  It’s my queue, “Can I help you?”  Coffee matchmaking —oh, the joy!

My go-to recommendation is our Bolivian Blend ($7.99, Organic, Fair Trade).  Medium-Dark with wonderful nutty undertones.
Like a darker roast?  Take Cafe Pajaro (also $7.99, Organic & Fair Trade).  This is one of our extra dark roasts, and it is deliciously dark and bold.  —Cafe Pajaro is a new favorite of mine.  I’m a dark roast girl to start with, but the real reason I bought this, was *cough* the name/canister.  Who doesn’t want a coffee canister with a parrot on it?
Off-the-wall recommendation?  We carry a New Mexican Pinon ($6.99) that is a popular favorite.  Medium, already ground, and nutty —due to added pine nuts—, it is well worth trying.  One purist note though, since it’s not a TJs name brand, it does contain artificial flavoring . . . . I know, I know, you’re running screaming for the hills.

I could keep going with coffee recommendations, but I will save that for a later post.  If you have a question, feel free to comment.  Tell me what kind of coffee you like, and I’d be happy to recommend a blend.

Much, much more could be written on coffee.  Take the history of coffee, as it gained popularity in London among literary circles.  I’ve always found it a note of American pride that we gave up tea for coffee during the American Revolution.  Remarkably good taste, wot?

And then there’s iced coffee.  I can drink it all year.  I’m drinking it now.  Yes, I know it’s wintertime, your point?

The thing about iced coffee is that it is SO easy.  And yummy.  I follow Pioneer Woman’s recipe.  It takes a little advance planning —I usually make a big batch at night and then have a supply for days.  My current supply was made with Cafe Bustelo —which is very inexpensive.  The end product is quite good.  But, I think it’s even better with Trader Joe’s pre-ground Dark Roast or French Roast.

Someone (purportedly Oscar Wilde, but a quick internet search doesn’t confirm that) said,

“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”

Who indeed.  Go enjoy some coffee!

February 3, 2017

Back in the Saddle again

Posted in Blogging, Books, Humor, Just Life at 11:22 am by catsinboxes

boot-449044_960_720I mean figuratively.  —It’s been quite a while since I blogged regularly.  But since I love horses and riding, why not add a picture?

It’s not the start of 2017, it’s not even quite the start of a month.  But I’ve been meaning to blog, so here’s to a start!

I have half an hour before work —one eye half on the clock.  What to write about?

Books.  I’ve started off the year reading quite a lot.  Favorites from January?  Hmm . . . I’d have to say Dianne Wynne Jones’ fantasy has been a new favorite.  I really enjoy her tongue-in-cheek humor and Year of the Griffin was a pleasant fantasy adventure.  In a sentence: a plucky young griffin is off to college to study magic, but the university’s methods are archaic, and she and her friends realize there is much more to magic than they are learning in the classroom.

On audiobook, P. G. Wodehouse remains a favorite.  I met Psmith for the first time, thanks to Leave it to Psmith.  Since I love Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle series, I had to enjoy this one!  Meanwhile, Uneasy Money was great fun to revisit, especially with Nigel Lambert’s excellent narration.  And if you are completely lost now, I apologize.  Remedy the solution by going out and getting The Most of P. G. Wodehouse.  As I wrote a couple years ago,

Combining understatement and literary allusions, slapstick humor and serious butlers, imperious aunts and impoverished aristocracy, The Most of P. G. Wodehouse should provide hours of entertainment to any Anglophile in need of a humorous read.  

On the biography front, I’m loving Ian Murray’s The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  There is much more I could say, and would like to say, about this book in particular and books in general, but the clock reminds me of my time constraint.  So, I will wrap up for the present.  I know this hasn’t been the most interesting of posts, but one has to start somewhere!

August 26, 2016

Wayfaring Stranger

Posted in Blogging, Just Life, Singleness, Travel at 3:03 pm by catsinboxes

Five years ago, I wrote a cheerful recap of summer.  As I flitted from puppies to fairs, I was happy.  I know then, just as now, I was wondering a good deal about the future.  And then, as now, I know very little.

I am a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world below


I love that mountain song and have for years.  The reminder —often needed— that this world is not our home.


Another summer has come and gone.  This one marked by an amazing trip to Europe. The intoxication of traveling, of new places, of history.  The romance of a boyfriend at home.

Then a return to reality.  A break up, different values and different directions.

Learning, growing.  Recognizing that God is always good and sovereign —that is why I’m doing well.

Because, as much as I want a relationship.  I want God more.  And that means being single.

Single.  Wayfaring Stranger.  But not alone.  Because God provides community.  I’ve put down roots in the past years.  A new season lies ahead.  New adventures.  Friends, old and new.  It’s bittersweet, realizing it’s been 5 years.

I love Mercy Me’s song, Dear Younger Me.  What would I say to the younger me?

Don’t worry, dear, that you don’t know the plan.  Keep trusting.  It will be so good.  It will be so hard.  But the best is yet to come.   As the song says,  

Yet there’s no sickness, toil nor danger
In that fair land to which I go  

October 19, 2015

Finally —A Monday

Posted in Just Life at 9:03 pm by catsinboxes

This will be quick. . . . Blogging every day hasn’t happened. I did try to post a picture of Illinois sky on October 2 —but my phone failed.  However, despite the false starts and great expectations, I do intend to blog more!

Life is good. Life is crazy. The days are filled, and I am thankful.

I’ve been reading a lot over the past season. (More posts about books will follow.)

11218995_907232859323332_1394252260662006576_nAs it is, Jasper Fforde and P. G. Wodehouse both do a wonderful job of making me laugh.  And on that note, I must be off to clean and listen to some more P. G. Wodehouse.

June 4, 2015

Settling in

Posted in Blogging, Cats, Faith, Just Life tagged , , at 8:05 am by catsinboxes

He’s curled on the bookshelf by the window —napping and feigning oblivion. It’s a sham. I know he’ll be up soon: bustling into the bedroom if I spend too long in there before returning to the living room. Or, he’ll start patrolling the apartment: pacing from room to room and vociferously complaining when I don’t let him out or refuse to fling open a window to give him a better view.

Oliver. The cat I didn’t want. God certainly has a sense of humor. This cat has more personality in the tip of his tail then some cats in the entire sum of their lives.


“I think he has some Oriental Shorthair in him; he has that look.” —Says Mary, our regular mail carrier and a fellow cat lover.

So, while he was in rare form one day, I looked up “Oriental Shorthair” and read their personality.

The Oriental has a . . . colorful personality. They are closely linked to the people they claim as their own and desperately want to share their lives with you. In the busiest moments, your Oriental will find a way to interrupt your activities.

They usually bond with one person and become extremely devoted and dependent upon their chosen human. Expect them to be at your side, in your lap, and at the door to interrogate you about where you’ve been.  (Cat Fancier’s Association &  Petfinder Breed Profile)

This explains so much, and it’s Oliver to a T.

And I didn’t want a cat . . . hah! God knew better.


May 30, 2015


Posted in Blogging, Just Life, Travel tagged , at 4:09 pm by catsinboxes

It has been quite a while.  All well-intended resolutions to blog were forgotten.  The semester flew by, full of work, laughter, friendship, and adventures.

Three weeks were spent at home in another crazy adventure, manning the home front with five younger siblings while my parents finished an international adoption.  It was a whirlwind: time with siblings, friends, books . . . greeting a new sister, packing the car and saying goodbye, heading back to Louisville.

Then, this week, I’ve been settling back in to the apartment.  It’s funny how two completely different places can be home, but that’s how it is —unfortunately they’re separated by two states, but it does make life interesting!

There have been blog posts I have written, on paper or in my head throughout the semester: an In Memorium tribute to our dog, and a post titled, “Lord, I didn’t want a cat.”  —That one about the sovereignty of God and stray cats.  I will still write it, in some form.—

As I look ahead toward summer, I know that I will soon be looking back.  Here one day, and gone tomorrow.  And when I look back, I want to see a summer of blog posts.

So here’s to summer blogging and a return from silence!

March 11, 2015

Four Years Later

Posted in Blogging, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Japan, Just Life tagged , , at 9:13 pm by catsinboxes

There are some dates you will never forget.  Today is one of those dates.

*Originally published on March 11, 2011, at the LEX Language Project blog:

It started with a faint rumbling. I could feel the floor vibrating under my feet. Around the office, people stopped work; there were exclamations, and then everything really started shaking. Within a few moments, I was sitting under my desk and listening to the sound of cabinets and everything else in the office being shaken by the earthquake.

This was my first earthquake in Japan. I knew Japan had earthquakes, so I was a bit surprised when my supervisor told me I should let my mom know I was okay. Wasn’t this a normal earthquake?

In the hours since then, and one powerful aftershock later, I have come to understand that this was much more than a standard earthquake. In fact, this was the largest recorded earthquake in the history of Japan . . .

I was in Tokyo when it happened.  It doesn’t seem like four years ago.  In many ways, it feels like only a short time ago.

Then, and in the following days, God was faithful.  Just thinking back brings a rush of memories.  Listening to Praise You in the Storm and not getting it, on my way to work that morning.  Listening to it the next day, and understanding.

Reading Isaiah.  Remembering Isaiah 41:10.  Remembering God’s promises, and though I was scared, not being afraid.

Singing You Raise Me Up in Japanese with believers that following Sunday, joining hands and praying.  The power in that calm moment.  “Do not be afraid; I am with you.  Be not dismayed . . . I am your God.”

Four years later, and all these memories can slip, but they come rushing back.  They come on March 11.  They come at other times.  So please, take a moment, and do not forget.  Remember Japan.  And say a prayer because, 4 years later, many people are remembering this day.

March 5, 2015

Whatever the Weather . . .

Posted in Favorite Quotes, Just Life, Poetry tagged , , at 12:38 pm by catsinboxes


Whether the weather be fine

Or whether the weather be not,

Whether the weather be cold

Or whether the weather be hot,

We’ll weather the weather,

Whatever the weather,

Whether we like it or not.


March 3, 2015

Children’s Music

Posted in Just Life, Music tagged , , , , at 9:03 pm by catsinboxes

I’m dating myself. . . . I love to listen to children’s CDs from the 90s or earlier.  Babysitting toddlers has given me the excuse chance to revisit the music of my childhood.

So, for a trip down memory lane, or for some fun children’s music suggestions: read on!

Raffi.  How good does it get?  “Banana phone,” “Biscuits in the Oven,” “Simple Gifts” . . . So fun!  I love the really old albums.  The newer ones, meh.  “Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside . . .”  I dare you not to start tapping your feet.

The Washing Machine Song!  And “I’m Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor,” these are good.  I may or might not have done some talent show skits using The Chenille Sister’s hokey pokey.  That’s another story.


Yes, it was just like this!  The cassette and the booklet . . . I have so many of these songs stuck in my head:  “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Sweet Betsy from Pike,” and many more.



Oh yes, nursery rhymes.  Don’t get me started on nursery rhymes: treasured BBC tapes brought back from England by Dad and listened to again, and again, and again.

Best thing is, they’re still around today.  Check out The Wheels on the Bus.  It’s wonderful, replete with British accents.  I think I’m going to get this one for my iPhone . . . for the children’s sake 🙂

Entering the world of folk, there is:

Oh yes.  Pastures of Plenty, Leatherwing Bat, and —my favorite— The Fox.

Back to early childhood . . . This is such a wonderful bedtime CD.  I love Herdman’s voice: deep, gentle, and melodious.  Favorites?  “Autumn to May” and “Waltzing with Bears.”

Finger-snapping, toe-tapping fun . . . Just listen to Froggy Went a Courtin!

Just writing this post has been so much fun.  Thank you, Mom, for a childhood filled with music!  (And this isn’t even touching all the children’s classical music we loved!)

What did you grow up listening to?  What are your favorite songs and albums?   



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