the porch in October

When you stand on it in the middle of the day and close your eyes you can hear in the distance the sounds of acorns falling heavy out of tall oak trees. Crickets are chirping continuously in the key of D, birds are busy eating from the feeders nearby. The air feels cool out here on the porch, insects buzz, the old dry leaves of dying sunflowers rub together like crumbled papers. Another nut falls in the woods. You can smell dry pine, rotting mushrooms, pond water, leaves, wood bark, wild grapes, earth and wind. Colorful zinnias are waving like upright magic wands back and forth, back and forth. Bees hum, chickens sing, and the clean dewy grass is lovely, you know it would feel so good pressed against your temples and forehead. Garden toads and worms are in the hidden parts of the gardens surrounding the porch. Wind-chimes, clothesline, bells, all dangle and wave. The sky is smoothly blue and dotted with clouds. If you squint at the trees all you can see is orange.

But in the morning all is quiet. Misty falling fog wraps around the porch. Large plastic spiders have woven a cotton doily web and a black cat sits, patiently waiting to be let inside for his morning can of food.

four dollar goodwill find

I’ve been obsessed with Goodwill lately and I go at least once a week. I’ve found so many treasures that I told my family they will be getting some Christmas gifts from second hand shops this year. It’s delightful to peruse the aisles never knowing what I’ll find next.

For example, yesterday I found a beautiful and scenic oil painting….for four dollars. Not only was the painting beautiful, but the frame was, too.

I didn’t even have to think twice!

Once I brought it home I had to contemplate where I would hang it, which is how I found myself eventually standing on my art table.

Whilst standing on my art table, I was able to reach up and hang the painting by a nail centered above the big picture window.

I found myself singing “Beautiful! Beautiful!” as I carefully got down to the floor….a song I made up spontaneously, but then…..I choked on my song as I noticed An Eye-sore. On the windowsill above was an unsightly plastic bottle of almost all gone water. It was there since the day the boys got a little wild “bottle flipping”. In fact, it was there for maybe even a year, so high up that I had easily ignored it. However, with a flash of insight I knew I could never look at my beautiful art piece without my eyes going up to that water bottle, so…..I got back on the table with a broom. Ugh! What a work out.

That accomplished, I dusted off my hands and started singing again.

“Beautiful! Beautiful!”

This time of year, what with my favorite season giving me joy, the colors inspiring me, the fresh cooler air and bright hotter sun, I delight in my little home. I’m getting it all ready for the coming cold months, when we will be cozily within the pretty rooms again for most of the day.

I put my flashlight away, which I had used as a hammer, and the broom, which I had used as an arm-extender, and started upstairs to gather laundry when I stopped in my tracks.

I couldn’t even believe my eyes.

I had to get the broom again! I was no longer in the mood to document. However, if I had, the video would have been exactly the same, only longer, and you would have heard me groan loudly and say to no one, “I don’t think…..I can….get it.” But with determination I figured out just the right angle to use the broom and eventually the tube of green paint fell just like the water bottle had.

And that’s how I hung my four dollar painting! I’m always having the best adventures in my little ol daily life. I am happy to say that once they came home, my husband and the children noticed the painting right away, too.

They looked at me with wonder and awe. “How DOES she do it?“

Rest assured, dear children, with pocket money, a Goodwill store, a nail, and a flashlight, you too can do little things with great love.

so this is the morning

As soon as the queen awakens, she is presented with both the morning’s news and with pressing problems to solve.

With coffee in hand, she waves in the first child; who requests a ride to the grocery store for “pizza dough so we can make pizza for lunch, there’s pizza sauce in the pantry.”

The Queen rarely wishes to give rides, so she demands the child to make his own dough. He leaves, satisfied with her ruling.

The next child is welcomed. She hands the Queen a folded up piece of notepaper, with a tragic expression written (not just on the *said paper*) but also upon her pretty face.

After reading the note, the Queen Mother is not surprised to be encouraged to write back, “now”. The child will wait.

The Queen has never hired a scribe, as she takes pleasure in writing all her own notes.

Thus begins a rather lengthy discussion, involving tears (on the child’s part) and gallant stifled amusement (on the Queen’s part). They share possible solutions, reminders of past times, comforting AND uncomfortable truths, and a baring of souls. Finally, seeing no end in sight and feeling that she had reached the end of her resources, (and also rather hungry for breakfast), The Queen eventually makes a proclamation:

“I have said all I can say on this topic. The rest is up to you, child. Life is full of times that are less than ideal to our personal wants and wishes, and we must all figure out life’s riddle; how to make do with Plan B.”

There was no applause. So she sent them away from her presence. By this time she had also been back and forth from the kitchen several times to help the dough-making-boy, and it was time to dress in her royal garments.

when the world seems so chaotic

I don’t think it’s wrong to step away from it. For the most part, I am aware of what is going on in the news. Troubling, awful, and heart-wrenching things are happening all over the place. I hate it, and I grieve over it, and I groan for things to be made right.

And my thoughts shift; what can I do? Is this even the correct question to ask of myself, an ordinary 45 year old housekeeper, wife and mother who hasn’t worked outside of the house since before she was married……..what have I done, all these years? who am I?

wife; be the wife
mother; be the mother
housekeeper; be that, too

also (of slightly lesser value) friend, daughter, sister, etc.

For me, it’s quite obvious that I find the most value in my relationships. I delight in encouraging people. And I know that what we (I) love is what our (my) purpose is. So I will continue in the cleaning, cooking, snuggling, grocery shopping, singing, playing, walking, talking, texting, and taking advantage of every opportunity. Rich and I are working together to get the three younger children going in their fall sports, and one dear son prepared to enter his first year of college.

I love homemaking. I have a closet that’s simply begging for some TLC, and throughout the house a bunch of now-unneeded possessions to be sorted through and donated, and some family papers and treasures that need to be rediscovered, cleaned and organized.

Maybe others are like me, after hearing the news, and wonder what there is to be done? I am open to any and all suggestions, but I tend to go back to what I know for sure; “Shanda, do what you love to do most, excel in your own purpose; as a loving wife, mom, and homemaker, and all that trickles down from that.”

It’s not that I don’t care about current events and history-in-the-making; indeed, I care more than words can say…..which means I feel almost helpless in the face of such tragedies in our world. I find hope and strength in God (“He’s got this”), and in quiet daily living, doing my own small part, knowing that all good people are working together in our unique and priceless ways, and it does make a difference.

Sending love and prayers to all my friends here.

“Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.” Colossians 4:1

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4

cool morning

I will live the beautiful life–a life of godliness and righteousness. The fragrance of a life with Him is what causes me to pause and breathe deep; pause to wonder, pause to savor, pause to rest.

Pause to see.

We want to grow more potatoes next year. It was such fun.
We have been playing in a miniature world.
Five of our ducks got “picked off” so we bought new ones.
delicious blueberry muffins
Sarah and sunflowers

“Go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage–do good, be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous.”

Home is where my heart is.

You are loved, dearest friends.


Good morning and isn’t the sunshine and cool breeze lovely? I am back in New England, where I feel certain I belong. I love our Georgia place but it isn’t home (yet), maybe someday. But here in New England are all my people, and all my things, and the air and insects and seasons and familiarity that I do my best breathing, enjoying, and living.

The month and more of Georgia did wonders to my nervous system and I feel calm and peaceful. Rather than doing life at a break-neck speed out of endless adrenaline, I almost feel “too slow” and my brain feels forgetful. I’m used to it firing off information and “things to remember” nonstop, instead, it feels empty in spots. Not to worry, I’m sure this Shanda is just as entertaining as the other one. I feel a shift has occurred, a changing of life that happens to all of us, and it is good. The fundamental things are the same; love of family, a desire to know and love God, celebrating life in all its messy beauty, and a love for home (this one, and the one to come). Just a step down from those things are the primary loves of my life; words written and read, nature, photography, animals, gardening, and homemaking, walking, laughing, learning, growing……..

I’m currently reading a Fannie Flagg book titled Standing in the Rainbow and I came across this quote and wanted to share it here;

“‘ You know, so many of you have written in over the years and asked me what is the best thing to do for a blue mood…….and asked if I have ever been in a blue mood, and yes, you can be sure I have. I can only tell what helps me and that is baking. I can’t tell you how many cakes I have sifted, how many cake pans I have greased, all because there is something about baking a cake that gets me out of a mood, and so I’ll just pass that on for what it’s worth.'”

Standing in the Rainbow, page 268

When I read this I thought of my mom and aunts and grandma and cousins and siblings and myself…..and understood again so clearly how much kitchen-craft serves a purpose not just for the end result, but in the very process of the work, how satisfying it is to make dishes and meals, desserts of all kinds, and even the cleaning up part is satisfying. I want to take pride in my kitchen and making it sparkle. It will always be used and a place to create.

So when we got home on Friday it made perfect sense that on Saturday I made pancakes for Caleb. Granted, it didn’t make sense as to why the batter tasted so salty, but I kept on and was quite proud of the (very very) fluffy stack of pancakes I served up. Turns out the flour I used was self-rising and I didn’t know it. It was a new bag that I opened without looking first, and as I never buy self-rising I didn’t suspect a thing. In other words, these particular pancakes had twice as much baking powder and salt in them. They got eaten, so I guess they were edible enough…….butter and syrup do wonders.

I was very eager to dig around in the garden. This spring I had a bag of grocery-store potatoes that had all sprouted so energetically (so many sprouts, making the potato itself unrecognizable) that I decided to plant them. This was a first for me. My mom guided me through the basics of tending them (now I know why gardeners are always hoeing) and as soon as I could (saturday morning AFTER the pancakes were made) I went outside to see if it really worked; and it did! I’m a potato farmer on a very small scale! I dug up three hills and found about 10 potatoes, and I have three more hills to dig when I’m ready. I also pulled some carrots, a couple beets, and onion, and picked yellow squash and cucumber.

Meanwhile, my husband was busy taking out our old dishwashers and installing these two new kitchen aid dishwashers…….we were both working so hard in the kitchen, we kept bumping into each other as Alexa played our favorite songs. Quite romantic. Since he was working so hard and did such an excellent job, naturally I felt compelled to make ……… meatballs! This was next on the kitchen-craft list of things to make.

We ate our meatballs and sauce (all homemade with tender loving care) out on the porch that evening. (by the way, when making sauce, I only ever use San Marzano canned tomatoes, I have found that they are my favorite by far.)

Cucumber salad, with my own garden onion and cucumbers.

On Sunday, Jacob, Brittnee, Sierra, and Mitchell came over for an afternoon steak cook-out. Jacob grilled the steaks and I prepared the side dishes.

“What am I going to do with all that self-rising flour?” I asked myself, and then baked this very simple cake. It’s closely related to the peach coffee cake I make all the time on Jekyll so I went ahead and made the topping for that recipe (fruit, & brown sugar mixed w/butter). However, this cake fluffed up so much as it baked that it baked AROUND and OVER the topping. (Wow self-rising flour takes itself very seriously!) Therefore, when Sarah looked at it and begged, “Mom, can you please not put sugar on top of this one, pleeeeeeeeeese?” I could, in all honesty, say “no”. What she didn’t know was it was all on the bottom.

I take great joy in making baked beans from scratch. There is something magical about them, a humble package of hard, dried beans developing into a pot of melt-in-your-mouth flavor. I used a basic recipe and then went from there, soaking and simmering and baking, stirring, tasting, adding this and that, for hours and hours until they were perfection. And thank goodness everyone else liked them, too.

While roasting marshmallows outside last night a few hours after our big meal, I let out such a loud toot that Mitchell said in surprise to Jacob, “Was that your MOM? I had no idea Moms could even DO that, I’ve NEVER heard my mom do that!” and later on, when he left he said he felt like he was part of the family.

This is just some of what kitchens can do!

who, being loved, is poor?

What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life — to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting? ~George Eliot (1819–1880)

What is it like to grow a daughter and then see her get married?

Sort of like planting a seed, tending it all through maturity, and then at just that time, transplanting the plant into another garden, miles away, to finish growing?

(Dear Brogan, I grew a flower, and gave it to you. Love, Mom)

Sort of like building a house, furnishing it prettily, and giving it away? (giving, the most beautiful expression of love).

Sort of like getting married again, yourself? Reawakened memories, dreams, and expectations.

It’s huge. At times I felt like I was going to go crazy if the wedding didn’t just come and go…….because the emotions were almost unbearable. Dealing with them left me exhausted.

At times I wanted to push stop and rewind to when she was little. Do it all again. And again.

At times I wanted to push pause and keep her a little longer. Please?

Most of the time I was simply thankful in the giving. She’s not just my daughter, after all, she’s herself. She’s Grace. She’s bigger and deeper and higher and louder than “Shanda’s daughter”. I am truly inspired by her in every way. Her unshakeable love for her husband, her friends, her family. She loves well; in looks and little love notes, and tea, and music and books and service. Her quiet wisdom. Her sense of humor. Her “beauty on the inside”, her heart. Her strength and sensibilities. The things she’s interested in, the things we share. She’s made me a better woman in raising her and having her as my forever-daughter. She’s truly unique and special, as all of the children are.

The most difficult aspect is giving away that Grace-part of myself, letting go of something that was not only mine but part of me, the girl who came from her father and mother’s love. And yet, that giving, again, is deep-down joyful. True gifts aways satisfy the giver.

The best part is knowing that she and I? “We still got it”, ready to pick up and enjoy any ol’ time we want to. Mom and daughter…… are forever.

So anyways, here we are, a few weeks after The Wedding Day, and yesterday we got the link to the website which contains the professional wedding photos and I thought I would share some. There are so many, it was hard to chose, but these tugged on my heart-strings the most.

The morning of the wedding we drove to Brogan’s Grandmother’s beautiful home (the wedding was in Pennsylvania, where Brogan grew up and Grace attended college). Gemma did Grace’s hair, and Sierra drove to Dunkin’ with Sarah to get us breakfast sandwiches. Then we all got dressed in our finery.

Grace’s dress was a gift; Gemma was a bridal salon owner a few years ago and some of her dresses were still available there from that time. Grace was thrilled by the meaningfulness of wearing one of “Gemma’s Dresses”.

My own dress was serendipitously discovered at anthropologie just a week or so before the wedding. I had already chosen a dress, but Grace ended up liking this one better and it really did go along with the theme of the day, pink and wildflowers, and love like valentines.

the princesses

The sisters were ready. Sarah was the Jr. Maid of Honor, a set of words which I can almost never get out of my mouth. I hope I wrote it correctly. Sierra and I both curled Sarah’s hair for her with a curling iron, she has a lot of hair but it holds curls very well.

Gemma got us “to the church on time” and Rich was waiting. The photographer did such a wonderful job of capturing the moment. Rich was very emotional throughout the day. His precious daughter’s wedding.

The ceremony was beautifully sacred.

I love the way Brogan treats Grace and people. He is respectful and courteous, and fun without being silly. He has a special maturity, despite his youth, that we admire and appreciate. I’ve mentioned before how these two can talk……and I also appreciate the depth and interest in their conversations, talking and visiting that way is such a day-brightener! I look forward to the times we will be together through the years. They are also comfortable in silence, and Brogan’s mom loves to tell the story of them reading together at her home for long periods of time, lost quietly in their books, yet together.

This is probably the most touching photo from the day, for me. Rich has a vulnerableness that not many people get to see. But I see it, I know who he is, he is my rock, steady and calm, and his love runs deep. During the most important family milestones, his calm exterior and demeanor reveals the honest emotion he has, in his love and gratitude, for his family. His wife and children mean everything to him.

***my heart is bursting***
all photos here, taken by tialeighphotography

My Dad and Mom, with all of us. No one was missing on this amazing day.

“What wondrous love is this, oh my soul”

Let’s be a comfortable couple and take care of each other… how glad we shall be that we have somebody we are fond of always to talk to and sit with! ~Charles Dickens

Who, being loved, is poor? ~Oscar Wilde

grandma’s Granada

Rich noticed the coil-ponytail holder on my wrist just now and said “it looks like my Grandma’s keychain.” It triggered a memory.

“My Grandma had a Ford Granada. G-R-A-N-A-D-A. I was like seven years old and it was a red car and said “Granada” in silver letters right across the right side of the dash. I always thought it said “Grandma”……it was her “grandma car”. How interesting that Grandma found a car named Grandma! And then one day I carefully looked at the letters and I realized that it didn’t say Grandma. See, the letters were all in cursive and I couldn’t read them very well.

So the car lost a little bit of its specialness after that.”

“It’s definitely a true story. I lived it. I know.” Rich

“It looks like Grandma’s keychain,” he said.

good morning!

Hello my friends, we have arrived safely in Georgia and I have been trying to catch up on my sleep (so tired) and getting things orderly here in our cottage. We did a huge grocery trip the day after we arrived and it felt so good putting things away and knowing there was good food and drink for the family to enjoy. Interestingly (and it made my heart happy), our dear Caleb made the main grocery list, filled with healthy and nutritious foods like brown rice, wheat bread, and sweet potatoes, things I didn’t think he even liked. I have been at the pool with Sarah, I finished a book (I Know This Much is True) and started another one (East of Eden), I’ve walked in the sand and the ocean, and have already taken a multitude of photos…………

I find myself missing my girls Brittnee and Grace, a lot, especially the conversations we used to have all day every day about everything and nothing, serious and silly. However, it is good that I can focus on the children left at home with me, who need more of my attention and care. Jacob and Brittnee, and Grace and Brogan, are so happy. Both couples send us photos now and then and I lean into them, I especially notice their eyes (all eight) that sparkle with joy and gladness in these early and magical first days of marriage. I feel excitement, and always so blessed and grateful, to watch them begin their own families, while always part of mine.

Ethan and David are at home in Connecticut, “holding down the fort”. And, trying to stay cool. We don’t hear much from them. LOL. I’m sure the brothers are having a great time, as they get along so well and are great friends. And I miss Sierra, too. I’m glad that I still have her (Ethan’s girlfriend) to spend time with when I get back home. Rich and I have already talked about making her fly down here…………yes, I think it’s safe to say we miss our big girls. But all is well. Rich is at the beach volleyball area down the road with the boys while I type this up and get ready to go. He’s taking me on a morning date for coffees, fresh magazines, and togetherness.

Thank you for being here, and adding so much to my blog with your loving appreciation. I want you each to know how special you are, as we walk each other home………

you are loved.

Quote I clipped from Victoria magazine because I loved it so much: “The poet Mary Oliver expressed it this way: ‘To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.’ I’m grateful that both my loves [art and writing] require the deep payment of attention. As do the boundless other loves out there, including cooking, rearranging pictures on the wall, reading, praying, and, of course, the giving of oneself in relationship with another. I’m grateful that life can still surprise us. No matter what our age, or stormy national conflicts, or aches of the heart, we all can enter more fully into the skin of life itself.” ~Jan Karen

all for love

It’s eight in the morning and I am sitting on the porch. I fell asleep last night thinking about my blog and woke up this morning thinking about my blog. I’m writing this on the verge of tears, but I must write. Something about the nakedness of it all is giving me anxiety…….I share my heart here, I always have. There are some things too painful to share, and that’s okay. I understand that, now.

I am healing. I am so in love with my life; being a mama, being a wife, being a friend, being a woman, but most of all I am learning to love simply being myself. We are allowed, and indeed it is necessary, to put ourselves first. Not in a selfish way, of course. However, I have learned that it is quite selfish to put others first to an extent that I am neglected and suffer because of it. For so long now I have done this. And wondered why I felt so “off”. Why I couldn’t quite feel my best while pouring all of myself into my people and work. Why it (life) felt a little “wrong”.

There are many reasons why a person can become mentally and emotionally unhealthy, it’s often a slow journey there, but finding oneself in an unhealthy state doesn’t matter as much as the subsequent desire to be well. Oh God, how I want to be well. This desire fuels me onward and only recently I have discovered that in my instance, and in most instances, it is possible to find mental wellbeing. In fact, this healing for me is happening now. The hurts and pain cannot be forgotten, but they can be processed, with help from friends. The brain is amazing, God made it that way, “and it was very good” (Genesis). And I realize that it’s not easy and sometimes not even possible to the extent that one might wish. Certainly, perfection is never possible, but improvement in any area of life is my highest goal.

Yes, I thought about blogging and then as I sat down with my computer just a moment ago, I found myself starting to cry. I was feeling fear about opening up. But what made me proceed, was the urge to lovingly give. I know my blog is a delight to others, because you told me (thank you, sweet precious friends). I know in this small blogging-way, I even find a bit of my true self whilst writing and posting photos. I know that the spirit in which I share is the spirit of “take this gift, it’s from me, to you.” I truly love each person who comes here to read and share a moment or two, with me and my words.

But be careful of words. The actions of a person are much more telling that the words they say. I pray that my work here (which seems more like play) never hurts, but only serves to love.

That being said, guess what?

photo by Tia Leigh Photography

Grace and Brogan got married!
on June 12

It was a beautiful, magical, wondrous day.

I’ll tell you all about it, as soon as I can.

Tomorrow we travel to Jekyll for the rest of the summer but I plan to be blogging throughout.

Thank you for mercifully listening and for being here. If you would like to email me at any time the address is I love your comments here, as well, please be advised that they go to “pending” until I approve them. Thank you my dears.

You are loved.


We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. 1Cor13