When Thank You is Not Enough

“THANK YOU for being there.”   “Thank you for your support.”  But what do you say then when thank you is not enough? 

IT ALWAYS FEELS GOOD to do something to help another person in times of stress or need.   I am not as comfortable, however, being the recipient of caregiving.

Agatha Christie said that “you cannot give to people what they are incapable of receiving”,
(Funerals are Fatal, 1951).

A RECENT EVENT requiring major surgery brought unexpected assistance and loving support to our door…and this big sister learned an important late life lesson to accept my younger siblings generous offerings of presence at a special time of need.

WE DID NOT IMAGINE anyone needed to stay with us during my anticipated hospitalization.  However…, my sister and two brothers and spouses arranged among themselves (a surprise!) to plan a week in our home (at different times) just to be available to do what was needed.

MY HUSBAND AND I thrived on such loving care. I let go of organizing in my mind what needed to be done (meals and this and that),  and accepting the proffered gift that all was taken care of, I focused on my single task to get well.

THEY WERE THERE FOR BOTH OF US when I was in the hospital, and when I returned home. I know the surgeon’s skill and medical care made my recovery possible, but I am confident that my recovery was hastened by the emotional proximity of loving family, great meals, and laughter at stories and happenings that can only be fully appreciated by family who have been together for many years.

THEY HAVE NOW RETURNED to their own busy lives in Georgia and Florida, and we are all back into our normal lives.

“It may be more blessed to give than to receive, but there is more grace in receiving than giving. When you receive, whom do you love and praise? The giver.”   Jessmyn West, The Woman Said Yes, (1976).

Thank you Ed, Sue, Nancy, Milt and Ann! 

EACH OF YOU BRINGS SPECIAL TALENTS to our family , and as a family, we re richer for it (including my sisters by marriage). You are loving and caring individuals who are living productive lives and making a difference in your worlds. I remember well your births and witnessed your growing up years, and  I  still occasionally see your young faces in your adult expressions..


I couldn’t be prouder to be your sister!

Sue Marquis Bishop

The Dressmaker’s Legacy: A Poem

IMG_0153The Dressmaker’s Legacy

Grandma Mamie’s hands were always busy
creating beauty where there was none –
from threads, potato sacks, fabric scraps and wool,
she designed, tatted, crocheted, knit and sewed.
She had magic in her hands.

She might have been a famous dress designer
in another time – with other opportunities.
She could envision a garment,
make a pattern from newspaper,
cut the fabric and sew the new creation.

When her twins were two, she made
a white cotton dress with crocheted yoke and sleeves.
her daughters kept the yokes all their lives,
as a loving reminder of their mother.

When her twins were 15, they sketched a dress
with a hem longer on one side than the other.
They said it reminded them of a shirt untucked
on one side, so they named it the “shirt-tail dress.
Grandma designed it and made two.
Classmates at Gauley Bridge High School
wanted one too, so grandma made more, and
started a local fad in West Virginia.
The shirt-tail dress, ahead of its time,
a dress with an asymmetrical hem.

Grandma believed clothes for her twins
should be ready to wear at the same time,
(no favoritism here), so she cut out sleeves for one,
then sleeves for the other, bodice for one,
then bodice for the other, and so on.
Cutting and sewing parts in tandem,
both dresses were ready to wear – at the same time.

She crocheted elegant tablecloths,
intricate feminine collars for dresses and suits,
flat doiles for the arms of her chairs;
fancy ones with starched ruffles for her tables,
and bedspreads of pleasing patterns;
tatted delicate lace for trims;
knitted afghans to cuddle under in winter,
soft booties, hats and small quilts for
new grandchildren and great grandchildren.
She used scraps of leftover material and old clothes
to design and sew beautiful quilts by hand.
She worked magic with those hands.

Grandma’s hands were always busy,
Even when she sat at rest and her sight grew dim,
there was piecework in her lap.
In her 80’s, she was happiest when family visited,
eyes bright with anticipation,
especially when children were coming.
Her wrinkled face with thick glasses greeted us in smiles.
She held both our hands and looked into our eyes when she talked.
I remember staring at her slender hands – with age spots,
blue veins and arthritic joints – tenderly holding mine
and hoping a little of her magic rubbed off on me.

Grandma’s art is in my home now,
fruits of her labor all around.
A favorite quilt pulls at memories
each time I see it, or touch it,
made of fabric swatches from clothes
my mother, sister and I wore in years past.
Sleeping under the warmth of this quilt
brings comfort from the past beyond measure.
I treasure too, my babies quilts,
the kitchen napkins with crocheted edges,
her doiles I have framed, and
the white crocheted bedspread
I drape with care each Summer
on the white bed in the guest room,
as a artist displays a valuable art piece.

Her legacy is greater than treasured items.
Grandma Mamie passed on the value of work,
and the will to create beauty in practical things
that comfort – and make a home.

Sue Marquis Bishop
Copywrite 2013

Reflections on Loss of Loved Ones

A prose poem reflecting on the accelerating pace of losses in the years beyond 50, is shared on the 20th anniversary of April’s National Poetry Month.

Someone Left the Window Open

Someone left the window open and they are slipping through,
One by one, and two by twos –
Loving grandparents – drum majors of a parade –
Uncle Don who drove everywhere looking for little pink pigs like ones in my storybook;
Betty Davis, dear childhood friend, named for a movie star, who survived polio to be felled by its re-awakening in later years;
Uncle Frank, who told scary ghost stories, loved Florida and lived life his way;
Uncle William, who lived a formal life as Presbyterian minister till he retired and put away his suits for blue jeans and bluegrass;
Aunt Ermal, who was dietitian at Cumberland College, loved playing Sorry, and made memories with her fruitcakes;
Aunt Verna, who cared for her town as county public health physician;
Aunt Maggie, who liked brandy alexander’s, managed her own business and parachuted from a plane in her 80’s;
Aunt Shirley, who enjoyed taking care of her home and sang country songs while she washed dishes;
Aunt Fanella, twin sister of my father, who kept kinfolk connected and her faith strong;
Dottie, my 6 foot tall college roommate, who had a big heart, a hearty laugh and was a wonderful nurse;
Sweet Alice, my Indiana University officemate, loyal to her friends, who found love in later life;
Mother-in-law Nora, loving mother and grandmother, who taught first grade for 52 years;
Brother-in-law Don, who went at life in a run, and took good care of my sister;
Dad, a talented and happy man who lived life well, but left under the veil of dementia; and
Mother, who loved Christmas, her family, and her home in Madison, and lived to 91.
Someone left the window open, and we keep slipping through.

Sue Marquis Bishop
Copywrite 2013

THERE ARE MANY BENEFITS to living fully in the years beyond 50.  One of the hard knocks we experience with increasing age, however, is the accelerating pace of loss of significant others in our social networks.

I CONTINUE TO FEEL  the presence and influence of loved ones who are no longer here, in so many ways –  in funny family stories re-told,  sage advice remembered, family talents and traditions passed on. My life has been enriched by knowing them. I feel gratitude and joy, that they were part of my life.

Welcome Spring!

“It is Easter morning.
Children who are still gentle as milk,
wake to its wonder.”
Caryll Houselander, “Souer Marie Emilie”, The Flowering Tree (1945),

It’s Spring!

 “Autumn arrives in the early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.”
Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart (1938).


Forsythia is …pure, undiluted, untouched joy.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Bring Me a Unicorn (1971).

Flowers and plants are silent presences; they nourish every sense except the ear”.
May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep (1968).


Have you ever looked into the heart of a flower? …I love their delicacy, their disarming innocence and their defiance of life itself”.
Princess Grace of Monaco with G. Robyns, My Book of Flowers (1980). 


“Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day – like writing a poem, or saying a prayer.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From the Sea (1955).

“Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.”
Ellis Peters, The Summer of the Danes, (1991).


Spring is a time of reflection and hope for new beginnings (SMB).


It’s Spring !
Welcoming sun’s warmth on bare arms;
tilting  faces up to tree branches ablaze with pink and white blooms;
bending to touch nature’s  yellow and red living lights on bushes,
gathering a bouquet of smiling faces pushed up amidst grass and rocks.
Witnessing a joyful display for the senses this Easter! (SMB).

Sue Marquis Bishop,2016










Changing Carpets From Winter to Spring

In spring, nature is like a thrifty housewife…taking up the white carpets and putting down the green ones.” Mary B. Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, 1896.


ONLY A FEW SHORT WEEKS AGO,  we enjoyed a light carpeting of Southern snow as a snowstorm blanketed the North in huge drifts.  But…it only lasted two days in Charlotte, until it morphed into water and disappeared.

WHEN IT SNOWS IN THE SOUTH,  it only stops in for tea and a brief respite before melting and running away.

SIGNS OF SPRING are emerging here and there in Charlotte as February and March days turn warm, then cool, then windy.  Today, it is sunny and 80 degrees.

buds bursting
open winter casings;


Jasmine’s display
beckoning us outside;

birds gathering
at the feeders:


with the
wind in my face;

pink ground
cover kissing lawns;


showing up
gray tree trunks:


and dreaming
at Spring Park Pond.


I’M READY FOR TOMATOES from the garden, flowers blooming in profusion, breezy days on the porch, walks in the sunshine, reading by Spring Park pond, cookouts, and yes… even Spring cleaning.

I AM GRATEFUL to be here, in this place, witnessing the emergence of Spring once again.

“Suddenly a mist of green on the trees, as quiet as thought.”
Dorothy M Richardson, Pilgrimage: The Trap, 1925.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2016






What’s New for Spring Gardens?

SPRING PEEKS OUT from Winter doldrums.   It’s time to visit Spring Home and Garden Shows…to see what’s new and interesting for Spring 2016.

SPRING FLOWERS will soon be
Dressing yards and neighborhoods in  colorful finery,
Re-awakening senses to the world spread before us, and
Tugging on memories of playful Spring days with loved ones.

We see flowers everywhere on our visit to the Cabarrus County Home and Garden Show in North Carolina.


Water features on display are varied and add soothing music to garden displays.


Hummingbirds prefer a shallow water feature. This year’s show featured artistic hummingbird baths for the  colorful birds to dip their needle beaks into a garden art piece.


Created-to-order wrought iron garden benches add sculptural beauty to any garden .



The whimsical item plants smiles in the garden.


And places to sit a spell and chat, or have an evening meal in artisan-crafted furniture, add comfort and style to outdoor garden rooms.


OK.  Now, I really do have Spring Fever.  Cool Spring breezes, dining alfresco, flowering bulbs and budding trees, working in the rich earth.  What project do I want to tackle this year to brighten my garden?

Spring …bursts with all the relish of a sudden surprise.”
(Mrs. William Starr Dana, According to Seasons, 1894.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2016


I Ate Brain-Boosting Foods All Day!

THE ONE-PAGE ARTICLE*  EXTOLLED the virtues of four foods scientists suggest may have a protective effect to enhance memory and mental abilities into our senior years.  The headline on the magazine article promised we could maintain our cognitive brilliance into old age, if we ate these brain-boosting foods every day.

OK, I’M IN!  Today, I will eat all four (4) of the brain -boosting foods.


IT SEEMS THAT THE ANTIOXIDANTS in the blueberries may result in more oxygen-rich blood circulating to the brain. The goal is to eat a cup of blueberries daily. In one briefly quoted study of 16,000 women, researchers found the women who ate more blueberries had “younger minds”. .

I LOVE BLEUBERRIES, so this one is easy.  When blueberries are in season, I freeze several large containers for the freezer. Since they can be frozen without being washed, it doesn’t take much time.  They freeze in separate, sweet balls.  Throughout the year, I can grab a handful, rinse them well, and add to cereal, smoothies, muffins, ice cream, or salad.

FOR BREAKFAST TODAY, I add blueberries to wheat chex cereal, with strawberries, bananas and walnuts.  The wheat chex adds additional fiber for a healthy start to the day, and a breakfast so crunchy and sweet tasting.



YOGURT THAT IS FORTIFIED with vitamin D  will give us about 20% of this vitamin we need every day. It is suggested that vitamin D may help strengthen connections among the cells of the brain, and some research has found that a loss of cognitive ability is associated with lower levels of vitamin D.

YOGURT CAN BE USED IN MULTIPLE WAYS in the kitchen, such as: a yogurt and dill topping for grouper or talipia; added to muffins for moistness; fruit and yogurt as a dessert or snack.

I DECIDE TO MAKE A YOGURT smoothie today.  I blend the following ingredients in a smoothie blender: ice, yogurt, skim milk, blueberries, strawberries, vanilla flavoring, honey, strawberry Slimfast protein powder.   Hmmm.  So icy and creamy and very filling!




I DO LIKE CABBAGE, BUT I don’t know if I want to eat it every single day.  We could have cooked cabbage and potatoes, a favorite of my Scotch-Irish grandmother. Or, cole slaw with carrots and onions and a creamy dressing.

I COULD SWITCH OFF and prepare roasted cauliflower or Brussel sprouts, other cruciferous vegetables with health benefits.  Some studies suggest the glucosinolates in these vegetables may lower rates of forgetfulness.  Wouldn’t it be great if it really were this simple to lower the incidence of Alzheimer’s ? Anyway, it’s recommended we eat 2-3 servings a week to benefit.

FOR DINNER TODAY, I make one of my favorite meals, a hearty vegetable soup, more like a stew with thick vegetables and a savory broth.  In this soup, I cut up the vegetables I have on hand. I like to enjoy each of the different vegetables, so I cut them up in large chunks,…toss them in the crock pot and let them cook for 4 hours until done and the flavors blend: chicken broth, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, onions, zuchinni, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, bay leaves (3) tomatoes, 1/4 cup red wine.


THE HOT SOUP smells rich and savory as I sprinkle it with parmesan.  This is a satisfying meal.


THE VITAMIN E IN ALMOND BUTTER may be a memory booster for the human brain, by reducing oxidative damage, according to a new study in The Journal of Nutrition , Health and Aging, quoted in the magazine article.  

I HAVE ONLY RECENTLY BEEN BUYING ALMOND BUTTER.  I use it in banana-almond butter smoothies or as an ingredient for an icing for muffins. This evening, I make an evening snack of almond butter toast, drizzled with wildflower honey, and a cup of English breakfast tea.  A spot of tea on a rainy evening with a good book, is a lovely way to end the day.


WELL, I DID IT!  I ate all four of the brain-boosting foods heralded in the woman’s magazine article in one day.  Now, where is that crossword puzzle I couldn’t finish this morning?

(* Information quoted in this post referencing the 4 brain foods and quoted health benefits were based on: “Eat These to Keep Your Memory Sharp”, p. 63, Redbook Magazine, March 2016)

Sue Marquis Bishop, PhD








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