Tag Archives: family

“Marley was dead: to begin with.” Thoughts on A Christmas Carol


A christmas carolI’ve always loved Charles Dickens’ timeless classic, A Christmas Carol, the most widely popular piece of fiction he ever wrote. Given all his great novels, the popularity of this far shorter work would likely surprise him. It’s not the length of a story but its weight, and A Christmas Carol has deep significance. There are those individuals I can think of, and likely so can you, who would greatly benefit from the visit of three spirits on Christmas Eve. I have prayed this might occur, and still do. Transformation in a good way is of inestimable worth to the person involved and everyone whose lives they touch.

Another amazing thing about A Christmas Carol is that Dickens didn’t begin writing the story until October of 1843 and it was published that same year. Quick work.

From: http://www.charlesdickensinfo.com/christmas-carol/

A Christmas Carol was the most successful book of the 1843 holiday season.  By Christmas it sold six thousand copies and it continued to be popular into the new year. Eight stage adaptations were in production within two months of the book’s publication.

The book is as popular today as it was over 150 years ago. Charles Dickens, through the voice of Scrooge, continues to urge us to honor Christmas in our hearts and  try to keep it all the year.”

***If only more people did, I add.

Excerpts From An American Rose Christmas“Scrooge’s transformation is legendary.  At the beginning of the story he’s a greedy, selfish person .

“Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” to the man who “knew how to keep Christmas well.”

Initially Scrooge is a miser who shows a decided lack of concern for the rest of mankind.  However after a ghostly night, Scrooge sees life in a whole new way.

“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”~

“I wear the chain I forged in life….I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Vintage American Christmas Card--excited boy peering through window“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

So be good and caring and kind.

And God bless us everyone.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Value Yourself, Ladies


My dear sister, Catherine, a breast cancer survivor, shared this on Facebook, I’m so impressed by her wise words that I’m sharing them with you.

Catherine and LizzyCatherine: When I was tagged in a photo to take my picture without makeup, I had to think how this would raise awareness for breast cancer… something I’ve dealt with. My great-grandmother had breast cancer and died of old age. My mother is a “breast cancer survivor.” And, I guess, so am I. Although, I prefer to think of myself as someone who went through cancer and chooses not to allow it to define me. I don’t want my beautiful daughters to ever have to deal with it. I wish all forms of cancer were eradicated. So, how can my picture without makeup help to bring that about? It can’t, unless I can touch just one person and help them to care enough about themselves to take care of themselves. 

Catherine and BethNo makeup? Sure, we are, at our core, imperfect. But, there’s beauty in that imperfection. And, others see us as far more beautiful, even without makeup, than we often see ourselves. Where we stop and see the puffy face, the skin spots that show our age, the little wrinkles around our eyes, we should stop and see the life we have been given, another day, another opportunity, another chance to demonstrate love and to witness that amazing beauty, that incredible gift to all those around us… and to value each and every person just as they are! So, value yourselves.

Pink Breast Cancer Ribbon.When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, I was told that I was EXTREMELY fortunate. Because I had gotten a mammogram, and because I hadn’t settled for the answer to go home and keep an eye out for a lump (I asked for more info and an answer), I am here to celebrate life. The kind of cancer I had was aggressive, but was caught early. I was told that if I’d waited to feel for a lump, it would have been too late to save me. With my dr’s guidance, I chose to have a double mastectomy, a choice I don’t regret. So, my advice to all of you beautiful women out there… do regular self exams, get your mammogram, go to the Dr regularly for checkups, cultivate friendships, laugh often, know that there is someone out there who cares about you. So, puffy face, wrinkles, pimples and all…. VALUE yourself.

*Images of Catherine and her oldest daughter, Lizzy. And Catherine with me taken over the holidays

Gardening and Country Life in Glorious Color!


cover-for-swcI’ve labored away adding lovely images to Shenandoah Watercolors, my nonfiction book about life on our small family farm in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Given my love of gardening, this includes a strong focus on my gardens and love of nature. The book is already out in print with images, but now that kindle and nook E-Readers support colored photographs, I’ve added heaps more. Shenandoah Watercolors in available in  eBook and print format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  I will also get it up on Kobo soon. If someone is dying for me to have it somewhere else, let me know.

Book description: Author/farm wife Beth Trissel shares the joys and challenges of rural life on her family’s small farm in the scenic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Journey with her through the seasons on the farm, owned by the family since the 1930’s, and savor the richness of her cherished gardens and beloved valley. This journal, with images of her farm and valley, is a poignant, often humorous, sometimes sad glimpse into country life. Recommended for anyone who loves the country, and even those who don’t. ***Shenandoah Watercolors is a 2012 EPPIC eBOOK FINALIST.


The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in springExcerpt:
  The heavy rain has given way to a misting drizzle, but streams of water pour down from the hills and make new ponds and creeks. It’s chilly with that raw wet feel. This spring is awash in moisture and amazing after last summer’s searing drought. I’m struck by the intense beauty around me, and I thought I was already seeing it, but it’s so much more somehow. The grass seems to shimmer, yet there’s no sun out today, and the meadow is so richly green it’s like seeing heaven. Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.I’ve been thinking about my favorite places.

Dark hollow falls on Skyline drive, Shenandoah national parkThe pool I like best lies in the woods near a place called Rip Rap Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A splendid falls cascades up above, but I like the pool far more. We always meant to go back, but never have. The cold water ripped through me like liquid ice and is as clear as melted crystal. I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.Now, that’s a good place to go in my mind when I’m troubled. The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found.~

***Images of the Shenandoah Valley in early spring and Dark Hollow Falls in the Blue Ridge.

How To Catch a Leprechaun


leprechaun (1)According to the small people in the family, you dig a shallow hole–or deeper, if you’re in a digging mood–beneath the old maple tree in our front yard, then disguise it with twigs and sticks, fallen from the tree, and add some tempting leaves and flower petals. The clover isn’t really out yet, and the best blossoms they can find are tiny white snowdrops. The idea is similar to a tiger trap, the thinking being that the unsuspecting leprechaun will tumble into the trap and stay there until discovered by eager youngsters. What they’d do with one if they caught it, hasn’t been hotly debated. No one has a clue. I’m not sure they even realize these magical little guys have a bag of gold at the end of the rainbow, or that they’re required to grant you three wishes upon their release.

irish shamrocksRecently, six yr old granddaughter Emma asked her Aunt Elise if leprechauns actually exist. Elise said that all depends on who you ask. Many would say ‘yes’ and there are a lot of stories about leprechauns. Satisfied, Emma returned to her task. Heaven knows our resident fairy expert, my niece Cailin, knows about leprechauns. They fall into her area of expertise, as they’re a type of fairy in Irish folklore. Nine yr old grandson, Ian, the original instigator of the annual trap laying, had a theory that a leprechaun hitched a ride to his school in the pot of shamrocks his teacher brought to class, found its way into his backpack, and then ultimately my yard. I’m told I have highly fairy, and likely, leprechaun friendly gardens with all my herbs and flowers. Scant this year, though, until warmer winds blow favorably upon our realm. It’s been a long winter.

Last spring, Elise dipped the small foot of a doll into green paint and walked her around the trap, to give the kids a thrill. Just missing a leprechaun is almost as good as snaring one.

darby-ogill-and-king-brian-sharWho remembers Darby O’Gill and the Little People? I saw the film years after it first came out in 1959, when my children were young, but we all found it enchanting. Although the banshee scared the bejeebers out of us and seeing Sean Connery with dark brown hair and singing was rather a shock for me. He was much younger then. I was a preschooler in ’59, only they didn’t have preschool in those days. Plus, I was in Taiwan where I spent much of my early childhood and they most definitely did not have leprechauns. Dragons, however, are another matter.

(Image of Darby O’Gill and King Brian)

leprechaun“Magic
Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblins gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.”
― Shel SilversteinWhere the Sidewalk Ends

The Heartwarming Story of Violet the Cow and Baby Buttercup


Colin and Chloe with Buttercup“The cow is of the bovine ilk; one end is moo, the other milk.”
― Ogden Nash,

In the world of cows, 92% of the females in a boy/girl set of twins are sterile and called Freemartins. The reproduction systems in these cows are malformed and they rarely ever grow to adulthood with the ability to reproduce. One cow defied the odds. She was taken in by our daughter Alison and her husband to raise on their little farmstead.  Her story as told by Alison.

Diron holding baby calf.jpg1 “Early in 2011, a brother and sister twin Holstein calf set from my parent’s dairy farm (Trissel’s Farm) came to live with my husband and me. A female cow, who is twins with a male, is almost always infertile, nature is smart like that, and so they’re generally used for beef. And that’s what we were raising them for. We decided it was best not to name the pair; but our [then] 5-year-old son, Colin, called the twin calves Violet and Moo. As Violet grew, we couldn’t help but notice that once a month it was an incredibly hard job to keep her in our pasture. Our neighbor’s field of a few beautiful Herford cows, complete with a bull, boarders ours. One cold morning in early spring, I was loading the kids in the car, getting ready to take Colin to preschool. I noticed Violet was missing from our field. We drove all around looking for her, and even drove to our neighbors house, twice, thinking maybe she was visiting their cows. The second time we drove to their house, because I had no idea where else she could be, Colin spotted her. “There she is!! She’s making friends already with the ‘bully’ cow!”  So she was, and so our neighbors allowed her to stay for a few days.

Months went by and we hadn’t thought much about the incident with the “bully cow.” But come to think of it, she hadn’t tried to leave the field in a long time.  And well, yes, she was getting big. Bigger than her twin brother.This past fall, a farm vet confirmed that the (almost) impossible had happened. Violet was pregnant and due around Christmas time. Her darling half Herford heifer calf was born a few days before Christmas. Violet the Cow rejoined her sisters of the herd at the Trissel Farm. My neighbor says she thinks Violet knew what she was doing all along. Her baby girl, named Buttercup, is with us now and someday will be a dairy cow too, only not on the Trissel farm, but on a place in the country providing milk for several families.”~

Colin and Chloe holding heavy cream carton with their image on the label ***Baby Buttercup, Colin and little sister Chloe are featured on the Shenandoah Family Farm’s cream label. In 2013, our family banded together with 20 other small family farmers in the Shenandoah Valley to produce and sell our own natural, local, sustainable dairy products. For more on Shenandoah Family Farms, visit our website and like us on Facebook. Also, you can help us bring our local products to your grocery store by signing the Product Request Petition. We’ll send these requests right to stores in your area so you can try our products as soon as they are available (we’re shooting for later this month). It’s a dream we’ve worked hard to achieve and our best hope of preserving our farms for future generations in the Valley.

*Images of Baby Buttercup and Colin and Chloe and their father Diron

Christmas is Coming, the Geese are Getting Fat–Beth Trissel


“Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, please to put a penny in an old man’s hat!” 

I’ve been known to burst forth in this traditional English carol whenever it’s near enough to Christmas to warrant it. Many moons ago when my children were small, this was my cue to joyfully anticipate the coming of Christmas. I don’t know why I happened on this particular song, though it’s a favorite from past madrigals and perhaps because we have geese.

I was horrified one year when my mother-in-law suggested we actually eat one of our abundant flock. I never sang that song in front of her again. She tried to persuade my hubby to catch one for Christmas dinner, but he was reluctant and it didn’t ap­peal to her to scamper after them alone, so that’s how the matter was left. The geese lived to see another Christmas unmolested and we had our usual turkey, not a bird I’m the least bit sentimental about.

Eons ago when our son was in grade school and times were particularly tight, I suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea to give more hand-made gifts because after all, what was Christmas all about? Wasn’t it enough to focus on the wonder and  true meaning of Christmas? To sing carols, pop popcorn, read stories, make paper chains…simplify.  In other words, “We don’t have much money, son.”

He regarded me impassively for a moment, then said, “You could get a job and we’d have more money.”

I was taken aback. “But my job is being here on the farm with you and Daddy and your sister(s).  Who would take care of you and the house and do all I do, if I weren’t here? You’d rather have Mommy here than more money for mere gifts, surely?”

He considered this reasoning, got out the calculator and the Christmas wish book and proceeded to tally up the desired items. He then presented me with his estimated cost. How I wanted to handle it was up to me, but here was his projected budget.

I cast my mind back to when I was a mere nine, sensitive, humble in my expectations and grateful for whatever I received. There was the one moment when an “Is that all?” slipped out of my mouth, but that’s the only ingratitude I can remember.

I’m glad to say my son has grown into a fine young man with a family of his own and is appreciative of all I did as his stay-at-home crazy writer/gardener mom.  All three of my children are, and now the grandbabies are excited to come visit and find me here.  Little faces light up and they toddle to me with outstretched arms or hurl themselves at me for hugs.  Precious little people.

Christmas means being with family and friends, treasuring those times, and shared traditions.  This year, more than ever, I find  comfort in the enduring truth at the heart of the season, best summed up in the ancient words of the Gospel of Luke.  “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior  which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

***Goose pic by my mom, our dog Mia under the Christmas tree by daughter Elise and my husband took the one of our daughter-in-law and grandbaby as Mary and baby Jesus in the Christmas program at our church several years ago. That baby is now three.

In The Presence of Angels–Beth Trissel


When my friend, Liz, was a child and very ill she says she awoke from a fevered sleep to find an angel seated at the edge of her bed.  Its face was human-like but the features were more angular than ours and silvery. The rest of its body was luminous and seemed neither male nor female, but she remembers the eyes, green, and the reassuring feeling of being watched over. You may think this divine visitation was the figment of a child’s fevered mind, or you may believe that she saw an angel. I believe. Once when I was asleep I heard a beloved voice call my name, a voice as familiar as my mother’s or husband’s and yet it was neither of them. I think this was an angel and someday I will see and instantly recognize this being as though meeting with an old friend, and understand that he has always been with me.

Angels are messengers of God and bearers of his comfort in a hurting world.  Sometimes they even intervene in our lives and lead us to safety, though not always. When my 16-year-old niece Kristy was killed in a car accident some people at the scene said they saw a great ray of sunshine stream down from the sky and spill over the mangled car in a kind of holy benediction.  As though God wanted us to know that he saw and was winging Kristy’s spirit up to heaven in that wonderful light, enveloped in peace that passes anything we can imagine. Were there angels with her?  I have no doubt of it.  Still we ask why God didn’t send an angel to prevent this tragedy, and so many others.  But it seems that why is not for us to know on this side of heaven.  Anymore than we can know why our first grandbaby,  Adam, so infinitely precious, was not somehow saved, but stillborn. Though I trust with all my heart that Adam is in heaven and we will see him again.

I have no answers to these tragedies, only the promise of God’s eternal love and presence. And I am watching for angels, tuned to the whispery touch of unseen wings and those in human form. God uses people, particularly those who have known grief, to minister to others.  If your heart seeks the light, you are never really alone.  If you yearn for comfort, keep watch, angels will come to you.  Remember, they can look like anybody, be anybody, young or old, can even be you.

angelsHebrews 13:2, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

“Be an angel to someone else whenever you can, as a way of thanking God for the help your angel has given you.” ~Quoted in The Angels’ Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman, 1994