Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My peace I give unto you.

Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
Tea today: Harney & Sons Chinese flower

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sam, Chuckie and Harold: It's not easy being green

I'm trying to save a $12 hibiscus I bought at Sam's several years ago. "Sam" got tossed about during our thunderstorm this week, and is looking a bit battered and bruised. Sam will make it - this is how I know...

When I was very young, my dad, on a typical one of his accountant-type days (same breakfast, same time, same coffee cup, same ashtray for his Tareyton - he'd "rather fight than switch") discovered that a seed in his breakfast grapefruit had sprouted. Teeny green spot on one end, with a little root on the other. In his infinite wisdom, he put the seed in a pot of dirt. Fast forward 12 or so years, and we were wrangling a 5 ft tall grapefruit tree in the Pontiac Catalina to take me back to college. He wanted me to care for his tree that he had so lovingly nurtured for so long. I had it for a long time, for several years after we were married. I thought it was dying every year until I figured out it was deciduous. It moved from Iowa City to Davenport to Waterloo, where interestingly (but somewhat sadly) it returned home to die. It was time. All of God's things have a circle of life, and this tree, whom I lovingly called Chuckie, had met his Maker in that Great Grapefruit Orchard. I have no doubt dad is caring for Chuckie once again.

Now understand that for the past 8 or so years, I can count on one hand the number of times I have NOT had a red grapefruit for breakfast. It's a ritual I got into, and I never eat one without thinking of Dad. I sort of look at it as a way to honor him, as well as lower my cholesterol. That's a lot of grapefruit - like almost 3,000! Today, there it was. A sprouted seed, a faint green stem, and for some reason it escaped the edge of the newly-honed santoku knife as I halved the fruit. Wow. For a brief (shining) moment, I was that little girl again. I fully expected to look up and see Chuckie there with his coffee and yes, cigarette. I put it in a dish of water, and later today will find some rich black dirt to see if it will flourish. I pray that it will. Which brings me to Harold.

Harold was our next door neighbor growing up. He and his wife Grace loved plants, and had two beautiful old jade trees on their breezeway. In the summer, they would come outside and get taller and plumper (the trees, not Harold or Grace). The trees finally got to the point that they were too large for these frail, elderly people to care for them, so they gave them to my mom. She kept one and gave me the other.

I didn't disrupt "Harold's" routine. I set him outside every spring and brought him in at the sign of the first frost. After 10 years or so, the man Harold became very ill with his diabetes. One Saturday morning Mom awakened me with a call and said that Harold had gone into the hospital and had to have both legs amputated. This saddened me so - to think of this strong, vibrant man becoming frail and so immobile. I remember laying in bed for a while, listening to Ben babble from his crib, thoughts drifting to the usual gift in his morning diaper I was about to receive. Babbling, stinky babies take precedence over disabled old men sometimes, but Harold was in the back of my mind. I changed Ben's diaper, cleaned him up, and took him out to the kitchen for his breakfast. And then I saw it. Right next to Ben's high chair - Harold. In his same spot by the deck door, but I gasped. Every single limb on that beautiful jade tree had fallen off - limbs were scattered all over the floor. HAROLD!! I bent down and looked at the limbs. They looked healthy, fine, it's just that something, Someone, had made Harold's limbs fall to the earth. And then I thought about neighbor Harold, waking up that morning with no legs. What does this mean?? I looked around, expecting someone to explain it, I saw the explanation in the blue eyes and pounding fists of that clean little boy in the high chair, bedhead and all, waiting for his breakfast. That circle of life, again.

After breakfast, I cleaned out the pot, filled it with fresh dirt, and one by one, gently buried each limb a few inches into the dirt. For days I watched it - the leaves remained green and firm, and with a few weeks I was able to put Harold (who had now transformed from a tall tree to a full bush) to his usual spot on the deck. He flourished over the summer, and remains huge and a pain to move in and out every spring and fall, but is a testimony to TLC, inner strength, and sheer will. Every now and then a branch falls, and it's simply a start of a new plant. I've probably given away a hundred of them to friends and family. But the patriarch is still going strong. Today might be the day that we (it takes 2) move Harold to his special spot by the front porch. A spot that was landscaped especially for him when we built our home, a horribly humble version of intelligent design.

Props to Sam, Chuckie, and Harold, and say a prayer for Chuckie Jr. A poignant reminder on this beautiful Sunday morning - HE LIVES! And as Kermit well knows, it just isn't easy bein' green.
Tea today: GoodEarth Green with lemongrass

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Have I told you lately that I love you?

Most men I know, and particularly the ones in my life, are so, well,.....predictable. Most of the time. They leave the seat up. Their anatomical noises are uninhibited and disgusting. Their table manners rival those of the family pet. Petty annoyances (yes, I want to reclaim my kitchen space) become more tolerable after a while, but will never go away. The cases of Bomb Pops eaten in a one-hour sitting drive me nuts (it's a short trip). The cutlery and dishes found in his truck - PLEASE!! But then there's always the surprise out of the blue on a Thursday afternoon that can make your day - I had one of those moments today. You see, no matter how nice he is to me (always), no matter how he treats me in public (like I'm the most important person in the room), I have shown little appreciation for that. I pray for less selfishness and more acknowledgment of random acts of kindness shown to me. I heard something today that reinforces something I hope that someday my sons will learn ..."How to Treat a Girl."

Mom was relating a story in true Gma fashion - long and drawn out - about the lawn care he had done for her. The perfect raking, bagging, and disposal of years of yard waste - as only Gma can tell. The clincher...as he was pulling out of the driveway, he stopped, opened the door, leaned out and asked "Have I ever told you how much I love your daughter?" I'm not sure who was more taken aback - Gma when she heard that, or me when she told me. Regardless, it made me feel a bit unworthy, yet so blessed. I do not deserve this. He is a much nicer person than I am. He never expected her to tell me, and that's what made it so powerful. It's not the first time he's told someone else something kind and loving about me that slowly trickled back to my ears. It says even more than when he tells me himself. Boys, listen up. And if anyone out there intends to take my daughter as a wife, this is a requirement. "Character is determined by what you do when you think no one is watching.
Tea time: Tazo Joy

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hope....and grace, sunlight, and rain

I was thinking about what to write tonight as I was on my walk around the lake - it's been one of those inner-turmoil days where you keep telling yourself "hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn't permanent." It was just sort of a punch-in-the-gut, kick-in-the-pants kind of day. Lots of guys and little boys fishing - so precious. Lots of runners - so young. Lots of walkers - most faster than me. Today they didn't make me too chipper - for some reason it all made me sad.

BUT...I was able to smile and say hello to all (fake it 'til you make it). The clincher was the podcast TAL story on being sorry and how people say it only because they have to or feel obliged and don't really mean it. It was a great episode, it just sort of made me even more of a "Debbie Downer" after the day I'd had. So here's a sincere apology - Jess, I promise, I will NEVER take Fiskars to my hair again! I'm REALLY sorry! NO MORE hack jobs that I think I can do myself! You fixed me up good and hopefully I won't look like Posh Spice tomorrow when I fix my own hair.

When I got home, I read the DM Register "Juice" blog of this pastor/kid/Jesus follower that I love to read/listen to (but the podcasts are so delayed- what's up with that??) and he talked about God's gifts of grace, sunlight, and rain, and how even non-believers are showered with these gifts. I felt much better after that - it's God's grace that can make such a sourpuss like me go to sleep with a bit of peace, even knowing I was a grouchy Christian today, but God's grace still shined upon me. I know I'm blessed, I just need some two-by-fours up the side of the head once in a while, even if it comes from a wiser-than-his-years, Doogie-Howser like pastor. He's awesome. I'll bet his mama's proud.
What a sweet story of Finding Grace."
Tea tonight: China white with orange blossom

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Strides around the lake

After some long overdue spring straightening, decluttering, and cleaning, today was just too vernal to not do the Prairie Lake route for the first time this year. It's finally out from under the flood waters, enough time had been spent with laundry, cleaning and dinner prep, and well, I did it because I could. Praise God for that. "Mr. Piriformis" was fairly kind to me - but he deserved a major stretch (more like a beating) when I got home. Rascal Flatts rang true about the last hundred yards.
'Cause when push comes to shove
You taste what you're made of
You might bend, till you break
Cause its all you can take
On your knees you look up
Decide you've had enough
You get mad you get strong
Wipe your hands shake it off
....Then you Stand
There were a lot more people out there shaking off more than bulging L4-L5's. Lots of courage walks that trail. Everyone has a story. And all of the cute puppies romping made me a bit nostalgic for when I had a romper, as opposed to a limper. Beautiful spring mold smell (is that even possible?) but you can almost hear those prairie flowers and grasses just aching to bust loose. It was invigorating, made me starving for our dinner - wild mushroom and brown rice risotto with (YES!) the first of the spring chives and just a smidgen of asiago. Sauteed brussels sprouts with proscuitto and pine nuts, oh, and the pork loin for the meat eater of the family. (Who was up and at 'em today, but significantly overdid working on VM's yard...the ultimate "intensity violator"). Dishes are done, lunch is packed, and it's most pleasantly exhausted in here tonight. Sweet dreams are in the plan. It's going to be a beautiful sleep - our bullfrog's back in the pond in all his glory. Sorry, neighbors, but he rocks my spring.

Tea today: "Beginner's Mind" Sencha Green with Cherry Essence. Sorta smells like Uncle Jack's pipe.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Something's not right

Tired. Short of breath. Exhausted after running short errands. Pale, drawn-looking. Dark circles under sunken eyes. On again, off again chills. At least 6 hours today in bed, restless, yet unable to sleep; now in bed for the night. Says he feels "ok" but I can get "maybe not quite right" out of him. In my business, we call that a "poor historian" but I don't think he can really pinpoint what's wrong. I'm praying it's a healing process and that some good nutrition, plenty of hydration, and TLC will get him back on his feet again. It's just so out of character. He's always been the strong one. I'm feeling some fortuitous resignation on his part - something that I haven't seen in 37 years. Seems like he wants to be alone. Please join my prayers for healing, strength, and resolve. Isaiah 58:8.

Tea tonight: Numi Monkey King Jasmine Green (said to bring "joy of summer to every sip") - I hope so

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Forever Young"

One of Rod Stewart's best songs and one of my all-time favorites. So after that litany last night, I caved and bought a product. It's a need. I'm getting a couple of undergrounders, one which has it's own heartbeat. Must be those cheap old moisturizer samples. These zits can't be there when I give a talk in a couple of weeks. Here's the kicker - I cut them in half (the oxy pads, not the zits). Here's an even better kicker - I'm 57 and getting ZITS! Who knew? So here's to you, Rod. You take me back, old friend....
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
And may you stay
Forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
And may you stay
Forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay
Forever young.
Tea today: Japanese Sencha

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wants vs. Needs

We don't NEED much, if you really think about it. But we sure WANT a lot, don't we? In the past several months, for many different reasons on many different levels, wants and needs keep resurfacing. "I need a drink" as spoken by a child in Malawi has quite a different meaning from "I need a drink" as spoken by a stressed out big-city businessman just before beer:thirty on a Friday.

So let's talk "products." Those over-priced, trendy-packaged items we buy for ourselves to make our lives easier, our skin smoother, our hair shinier, our smell a bit more seductive, our toilets cleaner, and our leather more supple. I started on an unintended mission a couple of years ago when I was given a big bag of sample deodorants and a bag of sample razors (no, I don't have facial hair... yet). Then it became an obsession.

"I'll never use these all up." But I did. BAGS OF DEODORANT SAMPLES! And I wanted more. And then I started the quest. Every sample/complimentary hotel shampoo, lotion, conditioner, toothpaste, face cream, make-up, fabric softener, dishwasher soap became a prize. Things I would normally keep for a while, then finally pitch because I couldn't stand the clutter in the cabinets. But I used them. And I didn't buy ANYTHING if I had a sample of a similar product, or the slightest bit in the bottom of a bottle. Sure, I'd lust after sales at Bath and Body Works, Clinique Bonuses, and Younkers' coupons, but my strength prevailed. Actually I probably saved gazillions on gas too, since I didn't frequent the mall and Target like I had before. I even got a bottle of shampoo off Freecycle (pathetic, I know). It's now been at least 4 months since I've bought nearly anything that I would have considered a personal or household product (you need toilet paper, however). It's really been liberating. Empowering. Defining. I haven't kept track of how much money I've saved, but I'm guessing it's a pretty phenomenal amount. Better than the dollar, the payback is nearly spiritual.

I feel genuine gratitude for this experience. There was really no big sacrifice, it just required a little discipline and common sense, both of which I discovered I must have lost along the way somewhere. I'm no worse for the wear, for sure.

Anybody want a razor?

Now, I really NEED a cup of tea.

Tea tonight: Sweet Sakura green with cherry blossoms

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Wake up to the sunlight with your windows open...."

at last!

Tea today: Organic Green with Ginger

Saturday, April 12, 2008

This is NOT a food!

Please, spare me from the wrath of iceberg lettuce! What a way to ruin a perfectly good salad.
Tea time: Zen....again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Matters of the Heart

Another Friday. Another day at work until 8 pm - how many of those in week can a woman take? But the exhausting week was made worthwhile someone I never even got to see today. He was one of the tough ones. One of those to whom we silently give the Cleopatra Award for being the "Queen of Denial " on his first day of cardiac rehab. We see that a lot with heart patients. His first day several weeks ago, we could barely get him to sit in his chair to do the initial interview. I took a risk with a stern heart-to-heart...."if you were MY husband...." Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't - it's usually a long shot. This time I hit pay dirt. He stayed. He came back. He kept coming back. He embraced profound lifestyle changes. He lost 40 lb. He smiled more. His skin even looked healthier. He smiled more (did I say that already? It's worth repeating). He was genuinely grateful for my initial hard-ball approach and for the expertise my colleagues imparted. And he became a teacher and health advocate for others in his shoes. Today he "flew the nest" to embark on his own new chosen path - with his Pilot. Thank you, D, not just for the plant (though it is beautiful), but for being a witness for health, kindness, honesty, and especially the Lord. You are one of those people I will never forget, and who has gently reminded me once again of my gratitude for diligent, brilliant colleagues and the healing power of faith. I prayed for you.

Tea today: The HyVee 75 cents/box stuff that's a Japanese import. Authentic flavor! An end-of-paycheck tea.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Lucky One

Yeah, it's a song (what isn't?) but my puppy scared me today when I couldn't get him out of bed. He's getting old, and has some sort of canine dementia setting in. Usually he follows me around and does "laps" around whatever room I'm in. Today was different. Ronnie was gone early for a meeting, and Lucky just laid there. Quiet. Looking at me like he might have known me in a different life, but not right now. There was no moving him. "Treat," "Outside," and "See the bunny?" didn't faze him. So I left for work, praying that when one of us got home he'd be romping around the house and not even caring if he peed in the house, either. I just wanted him there one more day. By noon when Ron came back Lucky was again doing (limping) laps and (slipping) sprawls on the tile floor, and all was sorta well with the world. He is such a loyal friend. I want him around for one more blooming of the rhododendron. We've shared 13 of them. I'll take one at a time.

"Dog" is "God" spelled backwards. I'm glad they're both in my life.
Tea today: "Snow Water Green Cloud"