Monday, September 29, 2014


Boy#1 had the first emailed reply after the update to him and his brothers Friday afternoon.

"Whooooooo! I haven't been this relieved about something I didn't know was a potential crisis in quite a while. Excellent news". 

I couldn't have said it better myself. 

And now I'm traveling and meeting with trustees and greeting alumni until I collapse in an exhausted heap Saturday night. Behave yourself until I see you again next week.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Friday Morning

These are the first initials of dear friends who are currently fighting breast cancer:

G., who will get her portacath Tuesday to begin chemo. G. is taking care of her aging mother who can no longer get out of her wheelchair unassisted.

S., whose early treatment plan of lumpectomy plus radiation has been altered to include mastectomy plus 12 weeks of chemo, the hair-loss variety of chemo. S. is the mother of three teenagers.

R., who had beaten her breast cancer several years ago but is back in treatment after a recurrence.  R. is funny and energetic and keeps the trains running on time.

And Mary Ann. I'm using Mary Ann's full name--I'm pretty sure she won't mind. Mary Ann was my roommate when I was in the Peace Corps, and she's one tough cookie. The kind of tough cookie who rides a horse over mountain roads in pouring rain to meet with her nutrition group when we were in Costa Rica. The kind of tough cookie who took over when our house was robbed, cleaned up the mess, sedated me (yeah, I thought it was an aspirin), and sat next to the broken window all night just waiting for the thieves to come back. For the record, I don't condone giving people sleeping pills so they'll calm down after their house is robbed even if those people are shrieking about their lost cassette deck, but hey, I kind of can't blame her.

I describe Mary Ann in full because she was the one who let me know a month ago that she's been diagnosed with breast cancer, Stage 4, and is halfway through chemo.

"I'm tough, and I'm going to beat this," she told me then, "but would you pray for me? And get a mammogram."

I got that mammogram. And I flunked.

The form letter from the hospital clearly was designed to not induce panic but to make it clear that its recipients needed to act immediately.  "Irregularities in your mammogram make it necessary for you to come back for more testing. Many of  these irregularities turn out to be benign."

To my surprise, my first reaction to the news was not panic but irritation. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. I have been compulsively punctual about getting my annual mammograms--until two years ago, when some government agency announced it was okay to go two years between testing, and the two years stretched into three. But gynecologist had checked me every year (while chiding me that I should ignore the government and be tested every year).

I had always been fine so I wasn't panicked, I was irritated. I have too much going on to have breast cancer. In the next few weeks I had calendared a three-day trip to Minneapolis for a national denominational meeting, Small College's Homecoming, trustee meeting, the start-up of two different women's groups after summer hiatus, and being at the piano for a friend at her first gig as a lounge singer.

"Dang!" I thought as I read the lines. "I don't have time for this."

But then reality set in. I knew that no person is immune to breast cancer, no woman and no man. I had seen my boss and mentor, Susan, die of breast cancer at age 42. Strong women? She was a national age-group racketball champion. She was strong and awesome and she died.

So the next morning I called to schedule the recommended follow-up mammogram and diagnostic ultrasound. The earliest I could get in was 10 days later. Ten days. That's nothing in the eyes of eternity, but 10 days of wondering what the first mammogram had found. What was it? Was it a shadow, or a lump? Right breast or left? Was it bigger or smaller than the lump that had led to a biopsy after my very first mammogram 20 years ago that turned out to be the aftermath of breastfeeding four babies?

I didn't tell many people, not even tell the Boys, not at this stage. But Husband, of course. My two sisters. Another dear friend from Bible study who has had breast cancer and is officially deemed cured. My work buddy to whom I Skype prayer requests before I go into tough meetings. G. And Mary Ann.

I wanted people on my team who could pray for me, but pray in a way that harmonizes with my own prayers. A few weeks ago we worshiped in a different church and the pastor clarified this so perfectly that it had been ringing through my mind every day, every hour:
"We know that prayer works," he said. "We know it because we have experienced prayer working, and we know it works because the Bible tells us that 'the prayer of a righteous person availeth much.' But we also know that God is not a vending machine. You don't put in your dollar's-worth of prayer and out pops what YOU want to happen. No, prayer is a matter of aligning ourselves with the will of God, of reflecting His will back to Him."
The week was long and I was cranky. On Thursday I had no patience for anyone. "You think you have problems because your brochure isn't printed yet? I may have CANCER." It was like being newly pregnant, before you tell anyone. "You think your life is wonderful? I am PREGNANT!" Yes, just like that, except on Opposite Day.

Husband followed my lead in talking about What Was Happening. We didn't verbalize what ifs. We didn't jump ahead of the following step into the unknown. But on Friday before I left for the hospital he let slip that he had researched the subject on WebMD. I had told him that the sonogram would only be done if something untoward was found on the next mammogram. "No, I think a sonogram is standard in this case," he told me. To my own amazement, I had not Googled "abnormal mammogram." This is unlike me; I am normally into the tenth screen deep before I make a follow-up appointment.

Husband and sisters and friends offered to stay with me during the mammogram, but I told them no. I didn't want to be responsible for anyone's emotions but my own, and from long experience as a middle child I knew I would worry about how each of them was holding up.

As I sat in the waiting room, I pecked out lines into my iPad's Notes program.
"I have so many people praying for me. I feel it. I laughed as I walked out of the door to come here. They're praying for God's will to be done.And what is God's will? That I do not fear. That I am kind to those I encounter. That I seek him. That I glorify him. All of these I know are indisputably His will because He repeated those things over and over in the Bible. That I have perfect, perky boobs? If the past 60 years is any indication, not so much."
Since this post is already book-length and I'm sure any of the men in my life are squicked out by all this talk of my breasts, I'll fast-forward over the ensuing hour.

I called Husband from the ultrasound room, my shirt halfway back over my head. I broke the no-cell-phones rule because I couldn't wait a moment longer to hear his voice.

"I'm fine. They didn't find anything wrong. They said to come back in a year for a well woman check." His sigh was so deep it sounded like a sob. "Are you breathing?" he asked me with a laugh, "because I just started again."

Then I left the hospital grinning so widely that my cheeks hurt. I stepped into the street in a daze before noticed a car was coming half a block away, and this made me laugh out loud. Wouldn't that be ironic? If I were hit by a car just as I felt so invincible?

I texted my other prayer warriors, and the joy and relief spilled out of the iPhone screen. Much Older Sister, when she heard that the abnormality on the first mammogram may have been a digitally-captured wrinkle, reminded me of our Great Aunt Gladys, who claimed that in her later years her once-sexy bras were just "a handy way to roll 'em up and tuck 'em in." (Great Aunt Gladys was a character.)

This morning I woke up early, something that never happens on the rare unscheduled Saturday. I couldn't get back to sleep, thinking about the days between when Mary Ann urged me to get a mammogram and yesterday.  I'll get up and go about my day without having to temper my joy about the Royals play-offs (woo-hoooooo!) with the knowledge that "I might have CANCER."

G., S., and R. do not have that luxury. Nor does Mary Ann. They are all strong women and tough cookies, and they plan to be with us for many, many more years. Please, in their honor, make sure your mammograms are current. I will be praying for God's will in their lives, His good and perfect will that is peace and kindness and grace during suffering.

Because my initials are not among them, but until Friday morning they could have been.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Zap You! and You! and You!

Back in much less sensitive days when these things still could be joked about, I had a colleague who told me about a previous workplace where they had played the One Shot game. This game was played on days when everyone was supremely irritating and demanding, so supremely irritating and demanding that it was became unclear who would be the recipient if you had a gun but only one bullet.

Today, of course, that seems horrible to even discuss. I mean, shootings aren't something to be taken lightly. They happen.

But today, if I had an imaginary Taser and only enough zapping power to incapacitate one person, it would be a close race as to who would be left twitching on the ground.

I am a complete Mrs. Crankypants, and several colleagues have had perfectly normal and reasonable requests which at the moment struck me as so abnormal and unreasonable that my blood pressure spiked precipitously. Then I realized that I was being a crankypants and calmed down, but in that one moment, hoo-eeeee.

I mentioned this to one of the Boys in a chat, and he cautioned me against doing anything untoward.

"You know, don't you, that if you're willing to spend your one tase on several different people you're probably treating them in a way that they're more than willing to spend their one bullet on you?"

He was, of course, right on target (so to speak) so don't be surprised if you come upon me later in the afternoon, my bullet-riddled body slumped beside the open door of a 1932 Packard a la Bonnie Parker.

I probably deserved it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Not That Hot

Celebrity in Sunglasses
I read a fashion blog that claims that everyone looks hotter in sunglasses. Although I realize you're probably saying "Hold on, MomQueenBee, did you just say you read a fashion blog?" Yes, yes, yes, I do. But that's not what this post is about and looking hotter in sunglasses is not the reason I went to my optometrist to order shades yesterday.

No, that was for a way more practical reason: Said optometrist had told me over the years that eyes get sunburned, too, and that I should put on sunglasses every time I put on sunblock. Also, due to the happy fluke of being mostly well during the past year, Husband and I had not spent our medical savings account down to zero and there are only seven days left in the use-it-or-lose-it fiscal year.

So, yay! "Free" sunglasses to replace the ones I had lost at the football game four years ago sent me to my optometrist's office in a good mood.

I picked out a modest-priced set of frames, then sat happily waiting for the optician to tell me how much I would have left over to spend on vitamins and Band-Aids in order to wipe out that flexible spending account.

This led to an instant message conversation with Boy#2 this morning.

Do you know how much sunglasses cost in Small Town?


Try again.


Try again.

$1, Mom!

Because we were not actually playing Price Is Right, I was able to tell him that sunglasses in Small Town cost $613. 





Not only did I not get money back for vitamins and Band-Aids, I had to write a check for $213 in order to get both lenses. 

Now, let's just do a little comparison. For $613, I could have bought a new iPad. I could have extended my Scribd subscription for six years. I could have bought as many shoes as I will need  for the next decade (based on current wearing out rate of my shoes). I could have paid for a cleaning lady to come twice a month until next Easter. 

I could have done so, so, so many things I'd rather do than cover my eyeballs. But I gulped, wrote the check, and crept home to stare into the mirror and tell my retinas they'd better be worth it. 

Because everyone looks hotter in sunglasses, but I'm pretty sure I won't look that hot.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Trash Majal

Over the years the Boys have often occasionally never asked my advice on choosing a life partner. I have, however, made a list of things that I would have told them if they had asked, just in case my not-yet-in-existence grandchildren someday ask how I managed to live with Grampsy so long, what with his tendency to appear halfway through a television show and ask me explain the plot line even though I am in the middle of WATCHING the show.

The answer is this: He's a guy who does things right.

And I will offer as evidence the structure pictured in today's post. Not the garage, which was built in 1927 at the same time as the House on the Corner and frankly, will not be included in the itinerary when the HoC is part of the celebrity home bus tour. No, the structure I reference is the trash can holder.

Several weeks ago it suddenly dawned on us (in the sense that this particular sun has been rising for 27 years) that more of our visitors use the back door than the front door. All of these visitors have walked past our trash cans, which had been conveniently located right outside that back door since we moved into the house almost three decades ago. We're come-right-in-into-the-kitchen type of folks and I guess we thought ripening chicken bones gave a special olfactory welcome note. Besides the trash cans, the basement steps were full of old shoes (for lawn mowing purposes) and the whole foyer needed paint.

So we decided to spiffy up that entrance. I cleaned all the junk out of the down-to-the-basement stairs and got ready to paint. Then I ran out of steam and went back to knitting and Netflix.

Husband began to build the new home for the trash cans. And unlike his lazy wife, he did not run out of steam. For three solid weeks he has spent every spare minute either mentally drawing plans, visiting the lumberyard, or fretting over the squareness of the construction. He measured twice and cut once, countersunk the bolts, matched lattices with the precision of a quilter. Every so often he would call on me to hold the end of the chalk line while he snapped a guide rule or to support a board too long to fit on the work bench while it was being cut to length.

Saturday was the grand unveiling, and people, this thing is a masterpiece. Notice the front corner with the beveled insert that covers the raw joint between the side and the end boards? And the eight-inch top railing? This is the Rolls-Royce of trash can holders.

It is also, unfortunately, behind the garage, hidden by a tree, on the side of the house that is away from the public.

You know that old saying about how you can judge someone's character by how he treats people when no one is watching? That, my not-yet-in-existence grandchildren, is why Grampsy is a keeper: He built the Trash Majal behind the garage.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

I post today's picture not (solely) to make you jealous of what I eat, although that is a nice side benefit. (Jealous, aren't you?) The point of this picture is that I have become the kind of person who has all the ingredients for a fancy feast on hand when I needed a last-minute meal:

Naan. Fire-roasted peppers. Pesto. Feta cheese. Shaved Parmesan cheese. Sliced olives. Free-range diced chicken. And basil grown on my own little plant in the back yard.

Who is this woman and what has she done with the macaroni-and-cheese queen who lived here a few years ago?

Today is my younger sister's birthday. Although I talk about her less here than I do about Much Older Sister, she is equally spectacular in a totally different way. Because I wanted her to know how much I hoped her Big Day went well, I sent her a text:

"May cartoon bluebirds wake you and singing mice make you a gown!"

Later it occurred to me that this may be the creepiest birthday wish ever wished upon someone.

If you have not yet seen the following video, it may be because a) like me,  you do not stay up late enough to watch the Tonight show in spite of your delight in Jimmy Fallon, or b) like me, you had never heard this song before even though it was the song of the summer (or so "they"say). But if hear it once, you will never un-hear it, especially if c) like me, you are completely unable to get it out of your head. You're welcome! Also, The Roots rock.
Homeright SteamMachine
This week's blurb is for a self-indulgent purchase that turned out to be a pretty good investment. The Homeright Steam Machine people do a fine job of peppering the internet with free samples of their product, which they have given to every blogger in the world except me. I read the glowing testimonials to its ability to clean anything and remove everything from wallpaper to warts (well, maybe not warts) until I finally broke down and bought one.

That's because my kitchen cabinets were gross. In spite of hours and hours worth of attempts to clean them with everything from vinegar to expensive chemicals, I could not get the greasy/grime accumulation of the years off  the oak doors. We were even thinking of replacing the cabinets, which ain't cheap. But after one tankful of steam and a wipe-off with an old towel, now I have cupboard doors that are no longer sticky and icky. (Although Husband tells me that if I don't quit running my hands over them them and saying "You're so smooooth!" they won't stay clean long.)

Nice job, Homeright SteamMachine. And just think what a great review I would have written if you had actually given me one of these instead of requiring that I shell out my own hard-earned American cash for it. Hrmph.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ach du Lieber!

Boy#2 is in the downhill slope of the long haul that will allow me to call him "My son the doctor," even if he can't tell me what this funny ache in my shoulder is. Being on the downhill rather than the uphill means he is finished with the required classes that have allowed him explain to me in great detail mathematical things that make my eyes glaze well before the first equals sign appears.

Instead, he is able to take a break from the lab and this semester he's taking German 101. This is a class that will come in handy if...well, I can't think of any reasons it would come in handy, but he's enjoying it.

This morning Husband and I received an email from him.
"For an assignment, we were supposed to write a postcard to a family member. I decided to write one to you guys! For the record, it's incredibly hard to write a postcard when you only know the simple present tense and about 10 verbs."
Then he wrote his message:
Liebe Mutti, lieber Vati,
Guten Tag von Durham! Wie geht es ihr? In diesem Semester, lerne ich Deutsch. Ich studiere oft, aber ich spreche gern Deutsch! Ich nicht mache Party. Mein Freund heißt John. Er trinkt viel Bier aber nicht mit mir. Heute, es ist sonnig und es ist schön. Ich jogge gern. Morgen, fahre ich Fahrrad. Ich vermisse (Boy#1, Boy#3, and Boy#4)!
Alles Liebe,
Now, I've never taken a German class in my life. I speak blathering non-stop English, fairly proficient Spanish, and Pig Latin like a son-of-a-gun, but German? 

You would think I wouldn't understand a word of Two's postcard, but you would be WRONG! I returned it to him with my translation:
Good morning, Von Trapp Family Singers!  Did you get this here? In this semester, I’m learning Dutch. I study it often, but ick! Dutch is gosh-derned. It is definitely not a party. My friend is John. He drank vile beer last night as he looked in the mirror. This morning, he is snoring and shiny. (He ran into some germs.) Morgan Fairchild was a fair actress. Ick! My brothers are vermin!
Always loving, 
 And to those people who say German is difficult I can only say: Pfffft. Nicht.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Up On the Roof

There are many, many aspects I highly recommend about the empty nest phase of a marriage, this phase I've described as "dating without the anxiety." It's awfully nice, for example, to have time for idle chats after supper. Those are the times when Husband and I talk about how we might use all the extra cash we're now swimming in, now that we're past braces (times three), first cars (times four), music lessons (times four kids times two instruments each), incidental school fees (free education times not so fast there), and all the related and sundry expenses that don't include feeding and clothing four boys whose capacity to consume milk and cereal was only exceeded by their capacity for their jeans to instantly be too short the moment they ripped off the tags.

"We could do one of those Viking river cruises," I said excitedly. "You know, like they advertise just before Downton Abbey? Or we could trade in the camper we haven't used in two years on a more tricked-out camper that we would never use at all."

Husband got into the swing of things.

"How about a new table saw? You know you've always wanted one," he said. "Or we could replace the garage, and make it big enough to have a workshop with air conditioning."

And this, my friends, leads to the most crucial advice I can give parents who are within a year or two of the promised land known as Kids All Grown Up: Don't ever, ever, ever talk about having even an extra nickel if you are somewhere your capital investments can hear you.

We forgot this cardinal rule of money management as we were having our post-dinner discussions, and the House on the Corner was listening as we made plans for our post-braces/music lessons/school fees riches last week.

I know we're going to just love our new roof.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

We open this episode of Friday Orts and a Blurb with something that made me say "Awwwww."

When Boy#1 and Lovely Girl moved back to God's country a few weeks ago they pre-mailed three boxes of books to save them from the packing melee. Two of these boxes were filled with old textbooks, law manuals, and other references. The third was filled with One's sentimental books--the first book Girl gave him, his childhood Bible, gifts from cherished friends. If you were to guess which of those three boxes arrived intact and which did not survive the trip, you would be correct. Their bookshelves are, sadly, now filled with reference books and law manuals and all that remained of the most beloved books was a packing label apologetically returned by the post office.

This week, though, a package showed up at our church. The folks in the dead letter box at the post office (or whatever it is now named) checked through the Bible and found an old bulletin with the address of our church. They mailed the Bible back to the church, and it's now in the House on the Corner waiting delivery to its owner.

Strong work, postal service. Strong work.

I'm taking the afternoon off for some routine maintenance. I tend to put off this kind of routine maintenance (see also: crushing deadlines) but Wednesday evening my women's group spent much of our time clustered around one of our members who has just found out she needs chemotherapy for breast cancer. The following morning I received a text from my Peace Corps roommate, letting me know of her diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer.

Both of my friends are upbeat, and positive, and both are surrounded by good support systems. Neither is asking for boo-hoos, but my ex-roommate did have a request:
I am sharing this info with you now because it is my hope that you and your friends will schedule a mammogram in case you have not done so recently, and secondly, because I would like you to add me to your prayer list.
You've got it, MAK. I'm heading to the radiology lab this afternoon, and will be whispering your name and S.'s name to the Great Healer as I go.


Photo from Taste of Yum
This week's blurb subject got a mixed review in the House on the Corner.

When we got back from Iowa with Pearl loaded down with farm food, one of the delicious goodies was a home-raised chicken. I did not know this chicken personally, so I was able to happily pop it into the Crockpot and Monday night we had an enormous (and delicious) chicken dinner. That consumed approximately one-eighth of the bird.

They raise chickens BIG in Iowa.

For the remainder of the week I have been scouring the internet for recipes that use cooked chicken, and my favorite has been this Creamy Chicken Quinoa Broccoli Casserole from Pinch Of Yum. I thought it was, indeed, quite yum. Plus it didn't include any canned soups, was low in fat, and was packed chock-full of healthy ingredients. (Quinoa! Broccoli! Chicken!)

Husband, on the other hand, found it meh at best and barely leftover worthy. (Quinoa? Ick.)

Okay, I can take a hint. I'll make it again but I don't plan to share.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not That Good

Halfway done
I was first introduced to cinnamon pickles when I joined Husband's family. My mother-in-law made these delicacies and brought them out on Very Special Occasions, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving or Wednesday. I had never tasted them before, but it was love at first bite.

Oh, but they were good. Crispy, crunchy, sweet, spicy, pretty much the perfect accompaniment to ham or turkey or anything else being served. (If it was Wednesday, tuna casserole.)

After my mother-in-law stopped canning my sister-in-law K. continued the tradition, using up the past-their-prime cucumbers from her garden and bringing me a jar of the results for Christmas every year. Then K. stopped canning them, and the past few years a good friend (who knows how much I love these pickles) has brought me a jar from her kitchen because she's a sweetie.

When we were in Iowa a couple of weeks ago K. was loading our car with garden sass for the trip back to Kansas and started to throw out a couple of honkin' big cucumbers she deemed were too over the hill for consumption. I stopped her.

"Wait! I'll take those home and make some cinnamon pickles!" And she didn't say anything, she just stuck the vegetables into a sack. Because each was roughly the size of a loaf of French bread, they filled a sack by themselves.

Here and now I want to apologize to my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my pickle-supplying friend. I have been known to pop open a jar of these pickles and stand in front of the refrigerator eating them. I did not cherish each bite as a representative of time and effort, laden with love and cinnamon sticks.

I am so sorry.

Because holy hannah, these puppies are complicated. I am now into my FOURTH DAY of converting those two cursed cucumbers into cinnamon pickles, and they still aren't ready to eat.

You start with the cucumbers, which must be peeled and seeded and sliced. Then these slices are soaked in water and pickling lime for 24 hours. Then the pickling lime is drained and the slices are rinsed in cold water for at least three hours, changing the water at least once per hour. Then they're simmered two hours in water, vinegar, and red food coloring (and alum, but I didn't have any alum so I left this out because the internet said I could), followed by soaking for a day in a syrup made of vinegar, water, red hots, and all the sugar in the world. The next day you drain off the syrup, bring it to a boil, and pour it back over the pickles and let them soak for another day, then you repeat this step once more.

People, I gave birth to children who required less coddling than these pickles do.

This doesn't even take into account that the recipe calls for three gallons of cucumbers and because I had only two cucumbers, I have to cut down the recipe in a way that begins like an eighth grade math problem. ("If three gallons of cucumbers leave the station traveling east with 10 cups of sugar on board, how much vinegar does it take to pickle two cucumbers if you are in Central Daylight Time?")

Four days, people. Four days to make some pickles and I haven't even reached the stage when I can sample one.

Tomorrow I am going to put a nice tablecloth on the table, bring out Grandma's china, and eat a plate of pickles by candlelight.

I want to make sure the experience is special because as much as I love these things, me making pickles? It's not happening again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Walk a Little Faster, Dear

I have confessed here often that I am not a cat person. Not so crazy about these animals that, I have heard, will try to kill babies by SUCKING THEIR BREATH. (Okay, maybe that isn't so true, but would the internet have gone to the trouble of making it up if there weren't at least some truth in it? I didn't think so.)

As I've gotten older, though, I've gotten softer. I've even been known to pet a cat and think "Huh, this thing is really soft." And last week when we were in the state of mind also known as Iowa, I even sat for a few heady moments with a cat in my lap as I rocked and stared out the window.

I know! Who is this person?

It was in this beneficent state of mind that I turned the corner on my exercise-cool-down-lap-around-the-block this morning and saw a cat hopping down from the step that leads up into our back door. Small College is just across the street, and because its mascot is a black cat (really!) I felt a thrill of excitement that I had been visited by school pride.

And then.

Then I noticed that this black cat was not our school's live-in mascot, but was instead something almost the same but entirely different, which is to say it was this:

I t'ot I taw a Puddy Tat but instead I taw Pepe Le Pew.

And while I'm as much a Looney Tunes fan as anyone in the world (my children grew up thinking that Bugs Bunny wrote The Barber of Seville) revisiting cartoons of Pepe LePew make me realize that hmmm, he was kind of creepy, which is the ONLY reason I turned around and speed-walked the opposite direction.

It was a cultural statement.

Friday, September 5, 2014


You know the inspirational poem "Footprints in the Sand"? Written by, well, we don't really know who it was written by because at least three possible authors would like to claim the a share of the proceeds for all the coffee mugs and framed prints and other tchotchkes based on this poem I had thought was written by the prolific "Anonymous."

If you have not read this poem (and if you haven't, congratulations on getting out of the sensory deprivation chamber because isolation is the only way you could have avoided it) the poem recounts the author's dream of walking along the beach with God, and seeing two sets of footprints where God had accompanied the dreamer through life. But at a certain point the second set of footprints disappears and the dreamer realizes this occurs during low periods.

"Where were you, God?" the walker cries out in the dream. "I needed you!" God replies, "My beloved child, that's when I was carrying you."

I have heard an appendix to this story, and I was reminded of that version this week as I saw several of my loved ones dealing with issues in their lives. The author is still looking for an explanation:

"And God, there is a part of my life where all I see are my footprints and two long furrows in the sand. What's up with that?"

"My beloved child, those are still my footprints. That's where I was dragging you."

Grace and peace to you, my best beloveds, as you are being dragged.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Iowa Way to Treat You

My absolute favorite musical of all time is The Music Man. I had an LP of the soundtrack when I was a kid, and I played it over and over and over until I knew all of the songs by heart. The Boys thought it was oh, so special when every time we crossed over the state line into Iowa I had to sing "Iowa Stubborn":

Ooooooh, there's nothin' halfway
About the Iowa way to treat you!

I didn't actually burst into song when I sat down to this meal during our Iowa weekend but those lyrics were going through my mind. I grew up on a farm but I've become a city girl who assumes the ingredients for her meals will be found shrink-wrapped in Dillons--but every single ingredient here came off the farm where we were consuming it. 

The smoked chicken had just days earlier been scratching around in the yard. The sliced tomatoes and the cabbage for the slaw came out of the garden. Heck, even the ice cubes were made from rural water, although the tea may have come from the local Dillons equivalent. Husband and I oooooh-ed and aaaah-ed over the deliciosity of the meal, and took seconds (and thirds) of the healthy goodness. It was aaaaah-mazing.

But our lovely relatives were not finished treating us. When we got in the car to come back to Small Town, the back seat was filled with this:
and this:
and this:
oh, and don't forget the chicken:

Nope, nothing halfway about the Iowa way to treat you. 

You really ought to give Iowa a try.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Is This Heaven?

When I was growing up, my mother always made sure that Labor Day was no fun at all.

It was a day off, and her five children insisted that it was a holiday. Not so, she said. "It is Labor Day, so we labor," she told us firmly. We cleaned the garage, or washed windows, or scrubbed the basement or whatever she could imagine that would keep us busy and tired enough that we didn't squabble with our siblings.

My mother was very wise.

For this Labor Day, though, Husband and I wanted to take advantage of our status as Faux Senior Citizens and visit my favorite Iowa in-laws. S&K (Husband's brother and his wife) have retired to a beautiful house that's near their oldest daughter's family. Don't try to straighten out that confusing syntax, just be aware that their beautiful house is in the country and we had not visited for way too many years.

As late as Friday at noon, though, my crushing deadlines were still making me crazy. I wasn't sure I wanted to get on the road, or if I just wanted to crawl into bed and try to fight off the virus that was making me sick as well as tired. But I have traveled enough in the past few months that my carry-on bag practically walks out the door by itself so I followed it to Pearl and off we went.

Do you see what I would have missed if I had followed my first instinct?

S&K's house sits at an angle, and the room where they spend most of their time is essentially one large window looking out on the northwest half of the farm. I sat in a white rocking chair in that room for two days, rocking idly and looking out those windows. This part of the world has had unusually abundant rain this summer, and what I saw could have been ordered up by a movie producer wanting to wanting to portray an unrealistically perfect farm vista. I watched the horses and chickens on the other side of the glass, chatting idly with Husband and my in-laws as we watched storm clouds build up in the west.

Husband checked the progress of the storm on his computer, and S. went to shelter the horses before the downpour began. You can barely see him in today's picture, a tiny white dot leading the pony named Peanut Butter into the barn.

Then we watched the rain and played Spades as the lightning flashed outside.

Is this heaven?

No, it's Iowa.