Sunday, December 31, 2006

Two Unrelated Photographs

Last night was the sixth-or-seventh Annual Unwanted Gift Exchange at Doris's. Even my current plague and laryngitis couldn't keep me from this wonderful event. Six cousins, intent on nothing other than laughter, gathered for a delicious dinner followed by the telling of stories, and the reading of some captivating newspaper clippings (including the sale of a property by an individual named Fang Fang). I thought it appropriate to share with the group the lovely rendition of "Carol of the Bells" that George had sent me earlier in the week. If you've not heard it, you can find it here http://www.fullervoice.com/cluck/bells/play.html and I urge you to do just that. But enough with the digression.
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At last we moved on to the enticing gaily wrapped packages on the coffee table. The gifts were varied this year and included a bad plastic (?) teapot, impressive hand-crafted wooden chicken with an astonished look (perhaps a reject from the Carol of the Bells auditions), and a container of "Soak Your Tired Old Ass" Bath Salts, among others. This photograph is of the sculpture I received and unwillingly brought home. Perhaps it is a case of The Less Said, The Better.
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Moving right along, this photo is of a gift I received from my Secret Sister. I just love it. The package appeared in our doorway on the day after Christmas in the standard surreptitious Secret Sister fashion. It may be that if you click on the photo, you'll be able to read the inscription. But if you can't, what it says is, "You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm."
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Obviously, Secret Sister knows me all too well. I do these things all the time. With enthusiasm.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Two -- or Three -- Deaths

It's the contrast that keeps hitting me. Home alone today, recovering from a chest cold and trying so hard not to cough, I've spent more than the usual amount of time in front of the television, in front of CNN, to be specific.
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Earlier in the day the station was obsessed -- predictably -- with the hanging of Saddam Hussein, showing the masked men leading him to the gallows, fixing the noose, and then tastefully fading out, and fading back in to the body in the loose shroud. Over and over and over.
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By mid-day we were seeing images of the nation's preparations to pay tribute to Gerald Ford, the honor guard, the outlining of the ceremonies ahead, the loading of the casket onto the elegant Air Force jet.
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And I got to thinking -- though certainly not reaching any conclusions -- about the one man who is such a symbol of everything dreadful, a person so widely despised, the individual who somehow is the cause of our country's being at war with Iraq and the other man who is a symbol of everything decent, the person who was responsible for the healing of our country after a terrible, terrible time. And the fact that they are both being memorialized today.
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And I think that these images of two deaths couldn't be more opposed -- the dancing in the streets vs. the formality of the lying in state that is yet to come, the fineness of the casket vs. the sloppy white shroud, the people of the nation gathering to mourn vs. the tribe's coming to claim the body.
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Now it is mid-afternoon, and CNN is focused on the 8000 people clapping and dancing at the musical extravaganza purporting to be the funeral of James Brown, with Michael Jackson blowing kisses, and I have no idea how to fit that into the mix.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Hacking, Near Philadelphia

It started on the 22nd, actually. I was out to lunch at Whole Foods with Rhodo. We were sharing salads and the current details of our lives including our Christmas plans. We were both in excellent shape, we agreed, with the buying, the wrapping, the carding, the decorating all under control. Even the baking was right about where it should be. Just a few more projects. And then I felt it. The first chill, the first prickly feeling in the left nostril, the first tightening of the froat. "Oh, no," I thought. "The Christmas Crud."
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Were I to have been a physician, I'd have been a diagnostician of the finest type. By the time I got my groceries and returned to the kitchen to tackle what remained of the baking (the almond bars that Tom couldn't live without, the old-fashioned chocolate chips that Andrew absolutely had to have, etc.), the nose was running, the shivering was alternating with the overheating, and I knew I was in for it. The Christmas Crud.
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And so it was, and so it has been, and more than likely, so it will be for another week or so. When I get a winter head or chest cold, it always goes into bronchitis and hangs on and on and on. Next year, at the first twinge, readers, I'll post a quick notification and y'all can hurry to purchase stock in the Puffs corporation (I prefer the aloe treated variety and I don't care what the outside of the box looks like).
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It came and it stayed. But it did not defeat. Christmas happened, with a few modifications to be sure, but with no less of its glory. One of the joys of adult children is that they pitch in and help. And one of the joys of married adult children is that they bring three more who also pitch in and help. They bought supplemental food including goodies that I would not have made. They set the table, they served, they cleaned up, and they sympathized. I spent much time ensconced in my big chair with my ottoman watching Sam crawling around with his swishy back end, listening to the big six banter, risking a coughing fit to laugh at their antics, and loving watching the aunties and uncles pass Samuel Eugene around.
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It was a wonderful Christmas that went on and on. The last of the guests did not leave until yesterday. I scrapped my plan to accompany Joe on a visit to his brother's place (a four-hour drive each way) in favor of staying home to continue to Deal With It. The temperature extremes are about over. Last night I actually slept. I still have a tissue box in every room, just to be safe, but they aren't being consumed quite as quickly. The pharmacist has recommended a new cough medicine that actually seems to be somewhat effective. I have a concoction of hot water, honey and lemon that I piece on. And in the evening I pour myself a big swig of Frank's Creme de Vie whose powers are miraculous: I still cough, but I don't mind nearly as much!
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Joe will be home tomorrow. Perhaps my voice will have returned by then. Perhaps not. I've got a stepladder up in the kitchen and when the spirit moves me, I'm rearranging some cupboards. The postal person brought a squishie containing the fixings for Chizuru's birthday block which was made within an hour of its arrival. A William Morris calendar miraculously appeared in my doorway from Marsha. Bonnie is coming over in a little while with a Netflix and a pot of her wonderful French onion soup. As Mrs. Goodneedle would proclaim, "Life is good." Even with the Christmas Crud.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, Dear Sister

Some years, there is one gift that I'm so excited about and so eager to give. This year it is for Bonnie.
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Several months ago I took a Stack and Whack class. The night that we selected our fabric, I looked and looked at the vast selection our LQS had to offer. Kept coming back to the same print, a sage green background with cardinals, berries, and greens. It was gorgeous. Trouble was, however, that it looked like fabric Bonnie would choose, rather than fabric I would pick. Well, I gave in to what my gut was telling me, believing that it was high time I had a Christmasy quilt for myself.
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The day of the final class, I returned home with four completed blocks. Guess who stopped by that night? Yup. And she just loved the fabric. So much.
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This was one of those occasions where a widdle white lie was called for. I spoke about how many UFOs I had and the pressures I was under to get a couple of wedding quilts finshed. No way I could get back to the Stack and Whack until January at the earliest. I'd be sure to let her know how it went when I resumed.
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And then I got busy. Contacted dear Branky for a quilting date and stacked and whacked and assembled and got it off to her. When it came back, I was so delighted with her craft. She'd quilted ribbons, holly leaves, even poinsettia petals in the quilt. And today it becomes Bonnie's. Merry Christmas, Dear Sister. Merry Christmas to you!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Birds


This night as we attempt to understand the incomprehensible, God's coming to us as a baby in a stable, I urge you to read this poem by my dear friend Frank. He makes it almost possible for me to wrap my mind around the idea of the incarnation.
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Peace and joy to my readers this night.

Almost Christmas


It's Christmas Eve. Technically, of course, this morning we are still in Advent. But in anticipation of tonight and tomorrow, I've taken down the Advent hanging and hung the Christmas one. It is part of the series I made when in seminary. I wanted the focus to be on Jesus, so left Joseph and Mary off. Then it seemed a little bit bare, so the shepherds and angels showed up. Can't have the star without the cross, of course.
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Epiphany comes up very quickly and with it, instead of a whole separate hanging, we will have additions to the Christmas one.
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So it is Christmas Eve (day) and company is coming for brunch. I was scheduled to be assisting minister at church tonight but I'm plagued with some kind of head and chest crud and have asked Marsha to fill in for me. I love to assist on Christmas Eve, but it's not going to happen for me this year. I hope Marsha loves doing it.
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I'm so glad I shopped and wrapped early. Would not want to be dealing with those tasks now. The only thing remaining is to prepare a couple of dishes for the brunch and then tomorrow get the lasagna ready for dinner -- the sauce was cooked already, so that should be complicated. Tomorrow I'll just enjoy being with my family, all of whom will help.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jaime's Wedding Quilt


We moved to Near Philadelphia twenty-six years ago, and it was in that first year that I met Jaime's mom, Kathy. Kathy and seven or eight others make up the group of women called the Good Guys. When offspring of Good Guys marry, I make them quilts for their wedding gifts. Of course, as these kids grow up, they develop their own taste. Sometimes I know what kind of a quilt will be right; other times I have to check with their moms. I like to get the quilts done well before the time of the wedding. I thought I had Jaime's wedding gift finished a few months ago -- http://nancynearphiladelphia.blogspot.com/2006/09/great-william-morris-baskets-quilt.html -- but I was mistaken. That particular quilt needed to stay in my living room. So I was back to square one (in a manner of speaking) as far as a quilt for Jaime was concerned.
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Kathy had said that Jaime's taste was "Pottery Barn," and I just felt in my gut that William Morris fabrics were what Jaime should have. I had some green William Morris blocks that I liked pretty much. So I set them on point and made narrow lattice out of a nice green batik and cornerstones from a peach-and-green William Morris print. For the border I found a terrific large green leafy print that was very reminiscent of William Morris designs. The quilt went together with no problems, even with that narrow lattice and those tiny cornerstones. I'm eager to give it to its new owner.
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Jaime's a lovely girl. It has been fun watching her grow up. I only know one thing about Dennis, her intended, and that is that he is a lucky, lucky man to be marrying Jaime and into her family.
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Branky did the quilting for me. As usual, I told her that she would know better than I did what form that quilting should take. And I was right. She chose this absolutely perfect William Morris like vine and quilted it all over.
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Jaime and Dennis will be married in about six weeks. It will be a very special day indeed. Not only is it their wedding day but also my birthday!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Near Christmas, Near Philadelphia


It looks as though Christmas is coming at our house. But first, there's Advent. When I was in graduate school at the seminary, one of my last classes was a liturgy class. My project for that class was to design a series of wall hangings for my home; each hanging reflects a different liturgical season. Joe made the frame and we have it hanging in our entrance hall. We change the hanging with each liturgical season. Most of them are made out of batik fabric because I thouht it to be reminiscent of stained glass. They are the appropriate liturgical colors and use symbols appropriate to the season. This one is for Advent.
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Our Swedish heritage is reflected in a collection of wonderful Swedish, Norwegian and Danish figures that we've collected over the years. Bonnie gave me the first one, and Carol has given me most of the others. Their church was made by Susan's late father-in-law. The photo in the background is the Thorsens, a wonderful tribe of Swedes that Carol belongs to and happily shares with Joe and me. Sherry likes to tease me, saying that if Joe and I ever do get to go to Sweden, we're going to be in for a huge shock when we discover that the people there do not all go around wearing little red sweaters and littler red hats.
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We have two nativity scenes. The first one is nearly 40 years old -- we bought it with money that Paul and Florence gave us for Christmas the first year we were married. We were living in Pensacola, Florida, and were delighted to find this at a little shop there. When the kids were much younger, they took great delight in placing the animals in compromising positions. I would not be a bit surprised to find that happen again this Christmas -- we have not put this nativity scene out for a few years and I imagine that the boys will be delighted to see it again and try to remember just what which animal was doing with which!
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Susan gave me this nativity scene over a period of a few years. I just love it. The mantel scarf was a gift from Bonnie. We used to put the Swedes up on the mantel and the nativity someplace else, but last year I noticed that they were getting crowded, so they moved to the dining room window sill and this nativity scene moved to the mantel. The angels were mostly gifts from Bonnie. During the larger part of the year, when the nativity scene is packed away, the angels are on a shelf in our guest room where we have a couple of other choirs of angels to keep them company. The donkey was a recent acquisition. I'm on the look-out for a camel from this designer; then it will be complete.
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O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree . . . . I like a skinny sort of a tree. Last year's was just perfect. This one is pretty close! Tomorrow night I believe I'll move the packages down under it.
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In our family, one of the things we always consider when we go to look for a new home is where will the Christmas tree go? It is a silly sort of a question, to let something that is in effect for two or three weeks out of fifty-two to be a factor. But there you have it. And the funny thing is, we don't always put the tree in the same spot! We move it around from year to year. The year that Jack was a super frisky kitten, we just got a table-size tree. I'd rather have a regular sized skinny tree. The angel on the top was made by either Sherry or Andrew way back in nursery school.
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Vicki gave me this poinsettia rug a couple of weeks ago. Bodacious was a little bit afraid of it the first day, but quickly came to the conclusion that it was acquire strictly for his comfort and to show him off. Doesn't he look fetching?
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So, that is what our home Near Philadelphia looks like Near Christmas.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Day of Daughters

This morning while I was driving to work, I was thinking about Jean and her daughter Elizabeth. I'd received Jean's Christmas card yesterday and the accompanying note brought happy news.
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It was just a little later than noon when I received the email about another friend and her daughters. This one did not contain happy news.
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I knew, then, that today I needed to write about my friends and their daughters.
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I met Jean ten years ago when I was serving as a chaplain at a large inner city teaching hospital. It was my first day on the oncology floor and the last thing I wanted to do was to walk into the room that housed a 16-year-old girl, newly admitted. I'd expected the oncology floor to hold a much older population. But walk in, I did, and thus began a relationship that would be intense over the next eight months. Elizabeth had broken her arm in a car accident, and in the local emergency room in upstate Pennsylvania the x-rays had shown a bone tumor close to her shoulder. The tumor was malignant and would need to be removed. But first Elizabeth would need to undergo many rounds of in-hospital chemotherapy in an attempt to shrink the tumor before the surgery. In all likelihood, Elizabeth would lose her arm to cancer in an effort to preserve her life.
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By way of an odd coincidence, I was connected to this patient and her family. They came from a "town that nobody ever heard of" that was about three hours away from Philadelphia. The same town where my father-in-law lived. Elizabeth's parents were his veterinarians. They knew my father-in-law and they knew his Brittany spaniel and his spiteful cat even better.
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It turned out that Jean, then, became my patient rather than Elizabeth. Every few weeks when Elizabeth would be admitted for her chemo, I'd pick Jean up and we'd go to the cafeteria where she could share her fears, her worries, without Elizabeth's having to hear them. During this time usually the social worker would visit Elizabeth so that she, too, could share. Jean and I became close. On the day of the operation, I was with Jean and her husband when the surgeon came out to report to them. I stayed long enough to hear him say, "We were able to save her arm," and then I went back up to the oncology floor, happy to be the bearer of good news in a setting where there was precious little of that.
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Jean's Christmas card and note reported the Elizabeth has become a successful photographer, is engaged, and planning an August wedding. She has been cancer-free for ten years.
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As I drove to work, I thought about what it must have been like for Jean to fear the loss of her daughter's arm, to fear the loss of her daughter. I could not imagine.
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At 12:30 the email with the subject line "Sad News" showed up in my inbox. It was from a member of my little evening quilting group. My stomach tightened. Our member Kathleen has a lovely daughter who is losing her battle with breast cancer. She does not have a lot of time remaining. We have marveled at Kathleen's courage as she faces Laura's illness, as she talks about what is happening. We cannot imagine what it is like for her.
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The email was not about Kathleen. It was about another of our group, Connie, whose daughter Nancy experienced liver damage some years ago from a faulty tattoo experience, and is in hospital way out in Arizona. She has been waiting for a liver transplant and the situation has now become critical. Nancy must receive a donor liver within seven days. But the subject of the email was not Nancy. It was Connie's other daughter, Gwen, who this morning, quite unexpectedly, passed away down in Florida.
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I cannot imagine what Connie is going through. I simply cannot imagine. I do not even want to try.
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A day of daughters and thinking about them, and worrying about them. Rejoicing once again at the Eastering of Elizabeth's arm, and agonizing over the loss of Gwen and the urgency of Nancy's situation.
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I cannot imagine. All I know right now is that I wish I could be with Sherry or Amy or Anastasia tonight. I'd really like to see, to hug, one of my daughters.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The AFTBOTGOOGD


I guess the first thing you need to know about the family -- both the family of origin and the one we've grown -- is that we're not reverent. Some of us are spiritual. Some of us are religious. Some of us actually are both. But reverent, we are not.
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Something else you'll need to know is that we are GWTW aficianados. The women in our family read and reread Gone with the Wind every few years. The men used to go with us to see it at the movies and from time to time still will suffer through when it is shown on television. We've memorized far too many lines, and really it is a good thing that the film isn't shown at the movies any longer because we have to recite along the lines that we know. We also fling quotes at each other at appropriate (and sometimes inappropriate times). Bob was particularly fond of "Scarlett, I know you drink and I know how much you drink," whereas Bonnie's and my mother brought us up on "Miz Scahlett, ah don't know nuffin' 'bout birthin' babies!" Honna and I used to toss out "Cheer up -- maybe you'll have a miscarriage!" until we did it once too loudly in a public place and were mortified by the glares we received.
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Bonnie and I were so eager for our daughters to reach the Age of Appreciation and introducing Susan, Karen, and Sherry to GWTW was more fraught with meaning than the first training bras. Sherry, of course, was the last of the three, being a dozen or more years younger than her cousins, but at last the time came and she did not disappoint. She dug right in, fell in love with Rhett just like the rest of us, and soon was saying things like "There's dead folks down there and ah'm skeered of dead folks!"
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It was that Christmas, then, that the naming of the Annual Meeting began. Each year, Bonnie gathers some greens and puts a bow on them. I pick her up and we drive to the cemetery where we wire the greens around the family's headstones and sometimes think of a profound comment but mostly feel awkward and uncomfortably eager to get on our way to lunch, which is where we do the remembering and the talking. The cemetery just isn't our place for that. So that year when I left to pick Bonnie up, the boys were doing whatever and Sherry was re-reading. I told them where I was heading and flew out the door.
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And when we returned home, we learned that Sherry had turned a corner developmentally, having discovered adult irreverence. Immediately upon assessing us to be "okay" and not burdened with visible sadness, she got a twinkle in her eye and asked, "Have you been to a meeting of the Association For The Beautification Of The Graves Of Our Glorious Dead?" Scarlett couldn't have been prouder.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

One Word, Part Two


Please see post "One Word" below for an explanation of the following continuation. And then, by all means, try it yourself. Copy the instructions and send it to Your People.


One Word For Nancy
Lynn: Compassionate
Joe: Fun
Susan: Listener
Sherron: Good Friend
Alison: Caring
Amy: Gramma


Reberta: Caring
Helen: List
Dottie: Quiltologist
Susanne: Fun
Joanne: Quilterextraordinaire
Carol M: Wonderful

Sunday, December 03, 2006

One Word, Just One Word

Linda sent me an email this week, which I'm reproducing right here:
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Describe me in ONE WORD...just one word! Send it to me only, and then send this message to your friends and family and see how many strange things people say about you!
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This is really fun! Just hit "Reply" and send me my one word back. Then forward this message on to your friends (including me) and see what they say about you!
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GAME ON!! This will make you laugh out loud.
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Linda, who is wise and wonderful and seldom wrong and above all insightful (which was my word for her), was wrong. I did not laugh out loud. To the contrary, I found myself filled with awe and gratitude at the words my people chose. This is precisely the kind of thing to print out and stick on the refrigerator for One Of Those Days.
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I would urge you to copy Linda's paragraphs and send them to Your People. I suspect you, too, will not laugh out loud, but rather will be affirmed in ways you cannot anticipate.
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My people said:


One Word About Nancy
Who: Said

Tom: Punctual
Susie: Articulate
Ingrid: Witty
Paul: Sweet

Sharon: Ardent
Vetch: Caring
Kat: Dee-lightful!
Carol P: Thoughtful
Polly: Entertaining

Desertsky: Spiritual
Jan: Diamond
Marsha: Caring
Rhodo: Succinct
Karla: Splendid!

Honna: Cute
Pat: Quilter
Linda: Genuine
Elaine: Witty
Joan: Inspiring

Chris K: Nurturing
Lois: Witty
Judy: Inimitable!
Lynn: Compassionate