Monday, December 28, 2009

Mother Love

I had several posts in my head to write about "Love" for the topic of the One Word at a Time blog carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley this week. Try as I might I kept coming back to unconditional parental love and a poem that I was given nearly 20 years ago. I do not know the author, but will credit him/her if anyone happens to know. Unconditional love, like our Father has for us, and like every mother and father has for their children, no matter what.

Mother Love

Long, long ago; so I have been told,
Two mothers once met on the streets paved with gold.
“By the stars in your crown,” said the one to the other,
“I can see that on earth, you, too, were a Mother.
“And by the blue-tinted halo you wear
You, too, have known sorrow and deepest despair.”
“Ah yes,“ she replied, “I once had a son.
A sweet little lad, full of laughter and fun.

“But tell of your child,” -- “Oh, I knew I was blest
From the moment I first held him close to my breast,
And my heart almost burst with the joy of that day.”
“Ah, yes,” said the other, “I felt the same way.”

The former continued, “The first steps he took
So eager and breathless—the first startled look
Which came over his face—he trusted me so….”
“Ah, yes,” sighed the other, “How well do I know.”

“But soon he had grown to a tall handsome boy,
So stalwart and kind – and it gave me such joy
To have him just walk down the street by my side.”
“Ah, yes, sighed the other, “I felt the same pride.”
“How often I shielded and spared him from pain.
And when he for others was so cruelly slain,
When they crucified Him and they spat in His face,
How gladly would I have hung there in His place.”

A moment of silence –“Oh, then you are she—
The Mother of Christ,” and she fell on one knee;
But the Blessed One raised her up, drawing her near
And kissed from the cheek of the woman a tear.
“Tell me the name of the one you loved so,
That I may share with you your grief and your woe.”
She lifted her eyes, looking straight at the other

“He was Judas Iscariot, I am his mother.” 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Grace in Muddy Slush

This is my account of the Ten Dollar Challenge that Billy Coffey has presented. Click on the gift icon to read the wonderful stories of the others who have taken Billy up on his challenge. 


It did not turn out how I expected. But that's the nature of our plans. 

At first I wanted this to be an anonymous blessing. Then I had visions of doe-eyed children longing for Christmas toys, or parents lamenting the fact they didn't quite have enough money for their groceries at the check out. I would give them my ten-spot and they would smile and be eternally grateful and I would (wrongly) feel proud and smug.

In my dreams.

I stopped by a convenience store to put gas in my car. Simple enough. I ran my debit card through the pump, was ready to hop in and take off, but decided I'd run in the store quickly to use the facilities before embarking on the remainder of my errands. As I reached for my purse, I saw the designated Ten Dollar Challenge bill sticking out from behind my insurance cards in my billfold. I grabbed it, and stuck it in my jeans pocket. You just never know.

When I returned to my car, there was another car at the pump immediately in front of me. A 30ish woman, looking a bit bedraggled, was pumping gas into an older model car. The car seemed to be in fairly good shape, save for the frayed bungie cord that was holding the trunk lid in place.

The woman's raspy voice was angrily directed at the children in the back seat, but it's the dead of winter and the windows were up. I heard the familiar sounds of sibling rivalry, and saw some arms flailing and heads bobbing. Two, maybe three little heads. Hot-aired screaming children tend to steam up windows, and I really couldn't see clearly.

"Whew, glad those days are over for me," I thought to myself.

But they weren't over for Angry Gas Pump Mom. She lurched toward the car, opened the drivers door, and proceeded to launch into a tirade of multiple expletives toward the children. "Shut up." "Leave her alone." "When we get home I'm going to give you an @$$ slap." 

Ouch, it felt to me like she already did.

Those were some of the kinder words. The remainder were more colorful. It was sad, it was ugly, and at first I just wanted to run away. My second thought was to give her a taste of her own medicine, but I had no idea what she had gone through that day. Could have been any number of things.

Besides, I'm a confrontation coward.

I sat in my car and messed with my phone ... thinking. I gathered up a couple of gum wrappers and random receipts, got back out, and threw my trash in the garbage can.

I kept coming back to the fact that nobody should talk to a child that way, no matter what. I could only see them from the very tops of their heads in the back seat of a compact car, so they weren't very old. I was getting really angry with her.

"Now look what you made me do. You made me go #%#@ over!! Which one of you is going to pay for this ^%#@ gas?" She crossed her hands over her chest and "harumphed" at the steamed up window.

I walked toward the trash, reached in my pocket, and offered up the ten dollar bill.

"Here. I want you to have this, and may you and your children have a Merry Christmas."

"I don't want your #*%+$ money. I can buy my own (#%* gas," she exploded.

"Oh, it's not for your gas. It's just for you. I just want you to know that I care. And that your children really love and need you. Mine used to drive me bonkers when they were that age, too. In fact, they still do!"

So much for Mother of the Year this year. Again.

She pulled her hand away and the bill dropped to the dirty wet slush on the pavement. We both looked down, then our eyes met. I yearned to see hers soften, but it wasn't happening. I shrugged my shoulders, turned, and walked away quickly.

"Well, if you don't want it, I hope it will bless whoever finds it. That was my intent. Merry Christmas."

As I slid behind the drivers seat, she was still glaring at me with eyes not unlike her frosted windows. I started my car and drove off. As I pulled to the stop sign on the access road, I glanced back. It didn't appear that she had moved.

I have no idea if she took the money. When a gift of grace falls into the muddy slush of winter, is it still grace?

Yes, grace can be really muddy sometimes.

And it just might make you cry all the way to Target.

(Image: Photobucket)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Stories

Our house is as decorated as it's going to be this year. In other words, the tree is up.

And every ornament tells a story.

Friends I miss


A First Christmas

Proud Gifts to Mom and Dad

Nurse Mom to the rescue. Some of these we've had since Shep was a pup - if we'd had a pup named Shep, that is.


That was a good year - First Baby, First Christmas.

Our wedding cake topper turned into Best Christmas Decoration Ever

And who could ever forget a lispy three year old's precious voice when we set this one up 30 years ago..
"Mom! It-th Mary, Jopheth, and JC Penney!"

May your dayth be pleathant and brite.
Just don't shoot your eye out.

Tea today: Dragonwell

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple...


Here is the church
Here is the steeple
Open the doors
And see all the people.

It's a childhood finger rhyme that takes me back more than a couple dozen years. Pudgy fingers wrangling to point and intertwine and form the church in the way it was intended. Little fingers representing people, working together, pushing against each other, wrapping around each other, interlocking, and being the church only because all of the people-parts are working together for the One True Glory.

When the people of the right hand and the people of the left hand don't work together, the church falls into a mass of tangled finger people. And when the hands are flailing ghost-like in the air, seemingly attached to nothing, the church flounders. Gasps a few agonal breaths, then dies.

Our church has recently been divided by, of all things, the governing body of it's denomination. A vote was cast where nobody wins.

Not God. Not us.

Yet we still yearn to open the doors and see all the people. Together.

We are confused, broken, struggling finger-people who were bound together by the love of Christ for decades, and are now torn apart by the very entity that was intended to bring us together.

I have one request today - will you pray for my church?
This post is a part of the "One Word at a Time" Blog Carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley. Stop by and visit other contributions on "church." And bring some kleenex - she's got herself a bit of the flu this week.
Tea today: Tazo Joy
Image: PhotoBucket

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Adrift


When a paralyzing snow storm comes our way, it freezes you in your tracks. Literally and figuratively. We know it's coming, we have the non-stop "weather crawl" on TV to warn us, the shift in barometric pressure alters our moods and our physical senses, and there's a swelling-up of that calm-before-the-storm that centers in your chest. We're used to it in Iowa, and when we had children at home, I was always prepared.

Cookies. Hot chocolate. Mac & cheese. Goulash. Entertain the kids. Avoid hearing "I'm bored" at all costs.

This storm was no surprise. "Biggest of the decade," my favorite weathermen told me. That can only mean one thing in Iowa. You'd better buy bread and milk. And lots of it. I never quite understood that "milk sandwich" thing, but I usually just do what the guy ahead of me in line at Fareway does.

Until that day.

I left work irresponsibly later than I should have for a stormy day, and the evening was already wrapped in full white garb. The white skies were peacefully eerie in the dark. Streets were covered, businesses closed, and respectful white-knuckled drivers were headed with trepidation to their destination.

I stopped at the grocery store, only because I could. I knew not what to buy. Our refrigerator was on the blink, so "stocking up" was pointless. I'd just thrown out an unopened bottle of milk the day before, and chastised myself that I hadn't caught it sooner and thrown it in a cooler.

I left the store with bananas, an onion, two sweet potatoes, and three grapefruit. Storm patrol at it's finest. My mind was simply adrift along with the storm. You really don't need to think much when you're driving 20 mph.

The drifts blanketing our yard and sub-zero temperatures would not let me keep refrigerator food - like fresh vegetables, yogurt, and eggs - unfrozen. The garage hovered around 42 degrees - for now. The freezer was chock-full with everything that could be frozen that had been rescued from the fridge. Two big containers of freshly-made soup sat on the garage floor, but I was hesitant to eat the beef noodle - it had never really cooled from its initial preparation before my fridge met it's maker ("Hello, Amana, I'm home"). The black bean was a different story. My jalapeƱo passion would kill anything.

Hating to waste anything remotely related to red meat, Ron Burgundy decided he'd try the beef soup anyway. Brave man, always going ahead of us to sense out danger. It was apparently fine, but I left it for him, knowing I wouldn't be cooking much the rest of the week. (And I also know bacteria will grow in 42 degrees). Other than my sparse grocery purchases, I was left with 3 of the four food groups: frozen, canned, and preserved. I could make do.

The official snow day came as predicted. I was imprisoned by beautifully sculpted 3 foot drifts in the driveway. The laundry and de-cluttering was done, except for the most obvious things I don't mess with:

The yard art in the family room in various stages of re-stringing, which prevented me from cleaning that room prior to assembling the Christmas tree

the kitchen desk containing very important things that cannot be lost and must not be moved

 or the den-turned-computer-room-turned-editing-studio with strategically-placed video cassettes, DVDs, and yards of firewire

Disorganized clutter is certainly a spiritual gift for a certain few in my family, and I decided not too long ago it's not the hill I want to die on.

I was paralyzed. Literally, nothing to do except read or work on the projects I hauled home from the office (bleh). I entertained the idea of making cookies, but nearly every recipe called for sugar. (Obviously I don't bake much). I found 1/3 cup in the container, a recipe for Snickerdoodles, cut it in thirds, and made a batch for RB to enjoy with his salmonella beef soup. I found myself adrift on the internet, but with my email down, it was difficult to communicate. I couldn't make any calls out of our area, because our new cell service does not work in our house (huh? SprintFail), so there was no catching up with out-of-towners. It was a good day to shop online, but I had not one clue what to get anyone. My trusty little book collection was lulling me to sleep.

I made lists. I love lists. They offer hope and plans and tomorrow.

I enjoyed the solitude, staring at the beautifully formed drifts in the yard.

I read Scripture and caught up on podcasts.

I did a couple of online yoga sessions, for which my back was grateful.

I baked a sweet potato.

A wise person once told me "only boring people get bored." That was assurance that I wasn't boring, but Snickers didn't seem too bored either, and she is the epitome of boring. Besides, she thinks yoga is dumb (and for dogs).


It was most certainly a day the Lord had made, and I loved every minute of it. Adrift among the drifts.

Am I the only one who can enjoy a day like that and not feel restless or bored?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Awaiting My Ten Dollar Challenge

Last week, Billy Coffey posed the Ten Dollar Challenge to all of us, so on a brief trip to the grocery store, I got $10 back on my debit card, and tucked it away in a safe place. I was waiting for the opportunity to bless someone with this ten-spot.

Today, I'm still waiting.

Interesting, the Advent series at church has been about "Waiting..." And I'm not a very good waiter.

Impatient.

Anxious.

Tired of waiting for things to happen. You know, on my timetable. It's been good for me to understand the whole concept of waiting in the scripture. Waiting in faith, and understanding that in God's silence, He's doing His work. He's attempting to align my desires and dreams with His. My job is to remain faithful while waiting.

Hurry up, Big Guy. 

It's not like I didn't have the opportunity for that ten dollars this week. There was a guy in front of me at the convenience store buying milk, jerky, and cigarettes who didn't have enough money, and had to clumsily write a check. Judgemental of me, I know (it was whole milk)! Just couldn't do it. There was the donation bucket at the hospital cafeteria for someone with an ill child. I walked right past it. I can't explain why. Was it wrong? I don't know.

I even entertained the idea of blessing myself with carry-out sushi. It had been a long week and not an easy week at work, and I deserved it, didn't I? I can't believe I just admitted that.

But I didn't feel really led to do that either.

I'm still waiting for that opportunity to bless someone with this ten bucks, and I'm certain the opportunity will come. Is it my fear that this kind act will go unnoticed? I hope not. What I have in the back of my mind is that I want this to be only between me, the person I give it to, and God. Nobody else.

Except the entire blogosphere (Billy's the boss of me on this) - but hopefully I will have a story that will bless you as well.

But these things are not on our timetable, are they? So I wait...

Will you take the Ten Dollar Challenge? If you do, please sign the linked list on Billy's page, and leave me a comment about how God used you and your ten spot.

I know the time will come.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Greatest Kind of Grief

Time again for the "One Word at a Time" blog carnival with our host, Peter Pollock. Stop by his blog and join us!

Grief.

If given the choice, none of us would probably choose to experience grief in even it's simplest form. It assumes loss - loss of life, loss of health, even the loss of our sense of self.

It is impossible to avoid, foolish to deny, yet inevitable for growth.

Grief chooses us, but it doesn't mean we must live in it's grip.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, I can't completely grasp the concept of prolonged grief when someone dies. Many people close to me have died - my father, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. It was sad. I cried. But to me, after a short period of mourning, death loses it's sting because of what my faith tells me. I won't deny the occasional thought of a sad memory that conjures up feelings and tears of missing them, but grief?  Not so much.

In the words of the venerable Dr. Seuss:
Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. 

Please, God, don't test me in these thoughts.

To me, the greatest grief is the loss of a real-life relationship. When bitterness and envy and greed enter into hearts and harden them. When understandings fade. When closeness separates. When opinions collide in a broken heap of rudeness, pride, mockery, and jealousy. Where laughter ceases and tears begin. Trust pales. This is where I find the greatest grief, because it has a way of hanging around, dancing this vicious circle in our hearts and heads, allowing the enemy the next dance.

There must be some good in grief. I don't believe for one minute that God created such a potent emotion without purpose. He will fix the broken, mend the torn, and bestow the grace that comes with His abundant love. The "good" in grief?

It brings us to our knees as we cry out and bare our souls to the One who loves us the most. And I have no doubt that in our angst, He cries right beside us, wanting our relationship with Him restored as well. Wanting all relationships restored. He wept, but His work did not stop there. Ours must not either.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4


Tea today: green with pomegranate

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gratitude

Today I'm grateful for the fabulous colors of fall that will all-too-soon be covered with downy snow blankets.

May we enjoy the autumnal beauty as it is, in this moment.

The leaves turn.

The leaves fall.

The flowers fade.
Sometimes more than we like.

But the Word lasts forever with promises, preparing for the next season.

I am grateful for His promises.


Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1 Thessalonians 5:18~
Tea today: Tazo Zen

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Pomegranate Within

By now most of my friends know I'm ga-ga over pomegranates. I could go on and on about the nutritional benefits, the beauty of the fruit, the biblical references, and even where the best deals are in my town. I'll spare you.

Most would choose a fruit that looks like these. Symmetrical, shiny, firm, heavy for it's size, and of course, the POM Wonderful brand, which IMHO, is the only real pom there is in existence. No, POM didn't pay me to say that. But I did win a free bottle of juice in their Twitter contest last week. That alone is enough to be on the Twitter bus. And I didn't even sleep in a Holiday Inn Express. 

I got these a week or so ago. (The pom is the fruit on the left, for those of you who are produce-challenged). 

At the store Thursday night I saw the most shabby, pathetic bin of POMs I've ever laid eyes on. They were shriveled, had lost all roundness, were peppered with sunken, dark spots, and the rind was thin and hard. There was nothing pretty or appealing about them, other than I knew they had probably once looked more beautiful. Some of them were actually cracked open. I was, as usual, drawn to the bin. I looked them over, and thought that if I just bought one, I wouldn't be out that much, there might be some decent arils deep into the fruit, and could have my pom fix for the day. Sucker, I know.

What a blessing that pitiful thing turned out to be! It was one of the most delicious, sweet poms I'd ever enjoyed, As I cut through the rind, a few squirts from the deep ruby-red arils greeted me. The juice was so dark, it was almost purple. There were maybe 10 bad arils in the entire fruit. Legend has it there are exactly 840 of them in every fruit. It was nearly perfect.

If one can have a spiritual, out-of-body experience eating a fruit, then I did. Or the crazies had struck. I'm going with the former.

Surely this is how God sees us. To others (and sometimes ourselves), we're cracked, bruised, thin-skinned, and not so pretty. To Him, we are perfect, from the inside out. Fearfully and wonderfully made. And He longs for us to burst forth with the joy he has put deep inside of us, putting aside all the the things on the outside that cover us, haunt us, and keep us from living the life He designed us to live.

I just knew that pomegranate was destined for bigger things than the broken-down produce bin at Walmart. 

So am I. 

Tea tonight: Green with lemongrass

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Belated Honest Scrap


Thanks to Alix over at Casa Hice for bestowing upon me the Honest Scrap Award many weeks ago. I don't do awards well, and am grateful for the acknowledgment. Alix is one of the sweetest and funniest people you could meet, if you could meet her that is. Which I haven't. But I feel like I've known her most of my life.

Thank you, friend. Thankyouverymuch.

Honest Scrap rules require that I list ten honest things about myself, and then I have to pass it on to seven people with blogs that I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.

I'm well aware that many of my favorite bloggers don't "do" awards, so don't be surprised if this doesn't appear in their blogs, but do me a huge favor and drop by their cyberhomes. They are certainly worthy of visiting.

My 10 honest things:
  1. Just  because I cry, it doesn't mean I'm sad. It means that emotion is my spiritual gift, which I have not yet learned to either contain or gracefully embrace. Short of a coma, I probably won't be cured of this.
  2. My co-workers think I'm a lot smarter than I really am. I'm an idiot savant, but for work purposes, the "savant" part is all that matters.
  3. I can and do forgive very easily, but unless you're repentant, I may have a hard time forgetting. Being sorry without repentance means you keep reminding me because it keeps happening.
  4. Finding pleasure in solitude is one of the most wonderful gifts God gives me.
  5. My faith is an exercise in "use it or lose it." And the more I practice, the better I get. I need more practice.
  6. I never see a little girl with long hair without thinking of my own and remembering the smell of her hair.  And usually tearing up (see #1).
  7. When I walk by the giant bags of cereal at the grocery store, I miss my boys (see #1).
  8. I have been to a mall once since January, and only out of necessity of an undergarment. Yup, just one. 'Nuf said.
  9. Bad table manners are like fingers on a chalkboard to me. I'm not a dining snob. Please, don't make inappropriate noises and eat like it's the last meal you'll ever have. Because if you get really gross, it just might be.
  10. I absolutely, totally, and undeniably love to cook, especially concoctions that call for 10 or more ingredients and lots of chopping. I love my knives. Be very afraid.
I'm supposed to pass this along to seven others. I hate to pick seven, because I love more than seven - I love everyone on my blogroll. Starters: Hysterical Steph. Random Katdish. Deep thoughts Billy Coffey. Strong and courageous Gitz. Boz my favorite dog, and his "mom" Annie. Encouraging Peter (who even made me a special video - check out that accent!). Food with Style (oh my, just look at that food - you won't find a ham sandwich there)!

The problem with these gifts is that I've left of at least a dozen of my favorite bloggers, all of whom I find gracious, encouraging and who make my day. But I have to stop and peel a pomegranate.

Because every quick fruit snack should require a sharp knife, a big bowl of water, a strainer, a stack of paper towels, and 20 minutes.

Just bein' honest.

Tea today: Jasmine

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Yellow Fuzzy Community

We were a community of sorts
A baker's dozen, a horde of hapless hormones
An odd group to the unknowing
Different backgrounds, marital status
   ...life callings, financial peace (or not so much)

Some collected degrees
And there were GEDs
Professionals and service workers
Homemakers and factory workers

Some sported the latest Michael Kors or Coach bags
Others were perfectly content with half-price Target satchels
Or a daughter's cast-off purse from middle school
Our bags did not define us.

Some of us held deep love for our Lord
Others questioned His existence
But there was never discord

The little we held in common
Most notably
A passion for the game
And four years of college eligibility
Melded us together as a community.

Expectant acceptance
Peace and ease.

We were brought together by one thing.

A yellow fuzzy ball.

A symbol and scent
Of trust
Friendship
Honor

"I got your back" ...as well as the shot that just whizzed past you

"Yours!"

Lots of grace (for that shot just whizzed past you again)
Ice for a swollen knee
Bloodied band-aids
Hugs and tears for other wounds that you couldn't quite see
Because we felt every hurt, as if it was our own.

The thrill of victory
The agony of defeat
And the feet
And the feat.

Road trips
Borrowed bobbie pins
High fives for impossible shots

A badly broken ankle in a crucial match
And the insensitive teammate who said,
"Suck it up!"
We won anyway, but ouch,
I felt terrible after saying that
When she showed up on crutches.

That yellow fuzzy ball leveled the playing field
Every. Single. Time.

We were the Sisters of the Yellow Fuzz
The older we got
The better we used to be

We were a visible community
Until one by one
We parted

One moved
One was injured
One died
Then another
(Heart disease sucks
Cancer really sucks)
And a few just sort of
             ...faded ... away ...

Some still gather
Shopping in the "city"
Travels to distant states for old friends
Over a local birthday margarita
The gaggle regroups to giggle
At carefully chosen birthday cards
That only 
we would understand.


We become community again
Even if only once a year
It's like we never missed a step

And we realize that it wasn't about the yellow fuzzy ball after all

It was about something intangible, yet palpable
Different, yet unchanged

An indescribable gift
Of heart and soul and spirit

Our Yellow Fuzzy Community endures
If only a precious memory.
"What cannot be achieved in one lifetime will happen when one lifetime is joined to another." ~Harold Cushner
Join us at the "One Word at a Time" blog carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley and Peter Pollock. Come, bask in that which is my new community.

Tea today: Tazo Zen 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"I don't remember..."

I'm joining Bridget Chumbley and Peter Pollock this week for their "One Word at a Time" Blog Carnival. Stop by Peter's blog and see all the great entries on this week's word:
Remember
Car keys. Dental appointments. Birthdays. All relatively unimportant when you look at remembering life. And love. And forgetting how to do both.

I clearly recall the first time my dad told me "I don't remember." Those three words told me so much. The cold reality of finally humbling himself to the ravages of Alzheimer's was so evident in his eyes.

He would have no more yesterdays to remember.

He was aware of his dilemma for a while. That vague, obtuse state of mind when you know you can't remember.

He knew he wasn't the meticulous, sharp-penciled accountant he had once been, though he'd spend hours scrawling random numbers in ledger books for no other reason than he could. There was a whisper of familiarity there. He struggled with pride and was able to fool a lot of people for a long time because he was so brilliant, and didn't want anyone else to know his debilitating secret. He did this for many years until one day he just up and said  "I don't remember." 

The white flag of surrender was flown.


That was so painful for me. It was easier when he'd call me for the umpteenth time and ask me how to microwave popcorn, like it was the first time he had ever asked. Or for him to refer to one of my boys as "what's-his-name" in a joking manner, pretending he really did know of whom he spoke. Or when he'd say "Hi There" and make you think he knew who you were.

Eventually everyone was named "There." Some knew his ruse and some didn't. His amiable disposition always took him far.

We had some fun with Dad's memory and lack thereof. After all, it was what it was. Coping wears a dark, humorous cloak sometimes.

He remembered where his stockbroker was and drove downtown to see him. What he didn't remember is that you don't stop your car in the traffic lane, shut it off, and just walk in the office.

He remembered that he didn't want anyone to eat his turkey sandwich, but didn't remember that he hid it in an old dresser down by his tool bench. Mom found it several years after he was gone.

He remembered how to drive, but he never remembered where he put the keys. That was to everyone's advantage. Eventually when we intentionally hid his keys, he gave up looking for them, thinking he was the one who had lost them. It was all in the name of love, safety, and the preservation of his dignity. We kept him busy studying the driver's manual so he could "get his license back."

"Tomorrow, Dad," I'd respond when he asked when he could take the driving test. Tomorrow never came. It never does when you don't know there was a yesterday. But that never dimmed his hope of looking forward to tomorrow. 

Dad struggled to recapture the past, to keep alive some memory, but neither was to be found. Our desire was to make his today pleasant, knowing that he would never again have another yesterday.

Today I remember him in gratitude and prayer. And I so appreciate all the yesterdays he gave me. Remembering them is a cherished gift.

Join us for the upcoming "One Word at a Time" Blog Carnivals here.


Tea today: Jasmine 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I ♥ NY

A year ago I chased Ron Burgundy and our daughter all over Chicago while they were running the marathon, trying to figure out the train system and snap the elusive father-daughter photo. My directionally-challenged self failed miserably.


With this year's marathon Kate fulfilled a life-long dream of going to New York, though I don't thing she ever intended her "dream trip" would include a 26.2 mile run with 42,000 of her closest friends through the Big Apple and the boroughs. 


We weren't invited able to go on this trip. She went with a gaggle of her Des Moines friends and left Mom and Dad behind. I wasn't too concerned. She's a grown woman with just a little ADD and a disdain for anything that resembles boredom. A frightening combination to travel to the Big Apple, indeed. But she has dependable friends, some of whom are familiar with the big city.


I was pretty calm about things until last night when she called and said "I don't remember training for this."


Oops.


She was so struck by the big city, seeing STOMP on Broadway, and looking forward to crashing the Today Show next week, that the thought of running a little marathon today was not foremost in her mind.


As I followed her on Athlete Tracker, the marathon's servers crashed. Surely they knew her mother would be sitting in Iowa wanting to know where their daughter was on a Sunday morning? 


They didn't hear my screams. I was so frustrated, I sent a tweet out about her at the starting line, and fortunately a friend of mine was able to log on to the site, scream "GO! GO!" at her computer monitor while on the phone with me, and send me screen shots of her progress late in the race.


She crossed the finish line, sent me a text saying she survived, bemoaned the hills, and made me proud - again. What grit. She later said she about threw up with 3 miles to go.


"I think it was the Snickers bar the guy handed me on the course." That's my girl. Never lure a dietitian with chocolate on a marathon course.


Here's a shot of her finishing up in Central Park, dressed in a green bubble suit. Doesn't she look fabulous? (You may need to click the image to view her).




They are always your babies, aren't they? 



Image courtesy of PhotoBucket

Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy Birthday to Nick the Geek


Let's face it - I liked Nick the Geek long before I knew he was younger than 2/3 of my kids. If you found my blog today, it's because of him. If you got lost and directed somewhere else, it's because of him. Most things are his fault, good or bad.

Nick is Super Youth Pastor who has gotten me out of more than a few geek-type jams. He has also gotten me in a lot of trouble, but we won't go there. Go follow him on Twitter, because I need you to take my side on a few arguments like using the NetiPot (not geeky enough for him, it simply uses the wonderful forces of gravity), eating more fruits and veggies, and supporting my Hawkeyes in some way, shape, or form. He will argue with you, simply because he can.

He keeps his finger on the pulse of geekdom at all times.


I really wanted to give him these for his birthday, but I didn't. I'm of the "It's the thought that counts" mentality, so...
 He.Got. Nuthin'.

He even has his own action figure. I've heard his MIL has one, but she's ripped the head off. For the love of all that's good and holy, I can't understand why.

Nick has a huge heart for the youth in his community, and I'm waiting to see him on AFV one of these days sporting his T-shirt cannon which he has promised to use to spew my ashes across the Mississippi. (Hopefully not soon).

Swing by Nick's blog and wish him Happy Birthday, or leave a comment here - I'm sure he'll stop back to make sure this random rambling is still online.


Tea today: Young hyson

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

One Word at a Time: Trust

I'm joining sweet tweep Bridget Chumbley today in her "One Word at a Time" blog carnival.
Today's word:
trust

We are born trusting souls, dependent on someone else for our every need. As we mature, our human failures become all too obvious. Who and what can we trust?

The first thing that came to mind when I heard this week's word was "Guard your heart..." Seriously, how trusting is that?

It's so easy for us to distrust both people and things.

Inanimate objects are very easy to distrust, because we half-way expect them to let us down. A flat tire. A broken dryer. Mere "stuff" is known to fail us on several levels, even if it works all the time. In the end, it's still stuff. Stuff with no heart.

When people let us down, the failure goes much deeper. It's heart failure.

"Guard your heart..."

And therein lies error of our ways, because our hearts are not perfect. People, no matter how close they are to you, are simply not perfect. Worse, we are unmistakably flawed. And only the ultimately perfect can be trusted.

Our most trusted friends have let us down with gossip, greed, or envy. Our families will let us down with broken promises, little white lies, disrespect, and less-than-full disclosure. Trust that takes years to build can be destroyed in a moment.

Trust me on this one.

Because I have been that friend.
That wife.
That mom.
That daughter.
And though I'm as loyal as white on rice, there have been times that I know I have let others down in their eyes and they felt some level of betrayal, no matter how unintended it was. I'm a work in progress.

With our relationships, we take the risk of rebuilding and regaining that trust. It demands faith, hope, and guts. And a bit of heart-guarding until you feel safe and secure again. We want and need to trust again. We will trust again. In order to do so, it begins with reminders of simple scrawled words of a small child, and a lot of help from Above. Because only the Perfect can be implicitly trusted.

Tea today: green with lemongrass

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Death Stinks

If you've been hanging out here for a bit, you may remember Harold. He's nearing 50 years old and has been with us for over 30. He's far more than a jade plant - he's family. With our below-freezing temps, it was time to snuggle him in for the winter.

Sadly, I think we were too late. The frost hit us hard the night before. Though we brought him in while he still looked healthy (actually, Ron Burgundy brought him in and I supervised), his limbs are starting to brown and wither and I fear that he has seen his last days.

Jade is also known as a friendship tree, lucky plant, or money plant. Through the years I have been blessed with dear friends, a wonderful puppy named Lucky, and a good job. I don't see it as an accident that Lucky went to the Rainbow Bridge this year, and it now appears Harold might join him, or wherever it is that plants go to die. It is not a coincidence that in the past 3 months I have also seen 3 old (yet young) tennis friends go to Heaven's gates.

God is never surprised - I shouldn't be either. But the plans are His.


And Harold stinks. Stinks like death. As in compost. Unfortunately, his winter home is right next to my bed and it's the last thing I smell at night and the first thing I smell in the morning. This air can't be healthy. Compost was meant for the outdoors.

Harold may surprise me again. He's rallied before, just like Lucky did many times after being given his death sentence by the vet. But Harold's gigantic pot is cracked, and I can't find another one to fit him. Consequently his nourishment is limited, and I can't find the right way to patch a clay pot. The only saving grace is that he has an offspring in my kitchen window that is thriving. Perhaps little Harry will live on and carry Harold's legacy.

I'm just not quite ready to see him go yet. But that smell can leave any time.

"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever."
~Isaiah 40:8

Tea today: cheap generic green from somewhere but it's good.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Octopus Elliptical from Hell

I sauntered into the gym yesterday as I have done for the past 20 years, with all the confidence my saggy T-shirt could give me. “2002 District Sectionals.” The multicolored tennis balls on my shirt were cracked and faded, but yes, I had been there. Once.

A perky thirty-something on one of the machines caught my eye. Perhaps it wa
s her toned, tanned Barbie-like arms. Or maybe her Barbie-like blond ponytail swinging with each graceful stride. Or was it the glistening sweat rolling past her trendy UnderArmour onto taut Barbie-like hammies? I watched her with that “I’ll have what she’s having” look and decided it was going to be a tough workout.

I know the gym equipment as well as the crow's feet in my 10X mirr
or. I had been involved with the initial start-up for the Wellness Center. My very first request was for petty cash for a Jane Fonda aerobics album. Album, as in vinyl. Legwarmers. Terry cloth sweatband. That was when we were jumping and stretching to Billy Ocean, Jimmy Buffet, and Boz Scaggs. Hawt. And we served punch after class.

We eventually got real gym equipment and I became quite comfortable with it. Treadmill: forward and up. Elliptical: forward and back. Cybex: up and down. Barbells: uh and oh. I had pretty much christened every piece there. Most of them were my friends and had served me well.

But Barbie was on a new torture device, and it intrigued me. I couldn’t wait until she left for the stretching corner so I could hop on this new-fangled machine, because surely I could capture her same stride. I situated my iPod earphones. Right ear - check. Left ear (no sound, but lets me hear the right ear better) - check.

My first step up (way up – it was a tall machine) was a surprise. The foot piece went straight down, not forward as I had expected. I managed to catch myself after whacking my elbow on what was apparently an upright hand grip. I firmly planted the other leg into place. There were a dozen buttons on the console, none of which said “defibrillator” so I was fairly certain I wasn’t on a suicide mission. There were three different places to put your hands, and I envisioned this would be quite simple for an octopus, but now I had a decision to make. Straight in front and stationary? Down to the side and slightly pumping? Or swinging at my side and really trucking along?

I started stepping, but the up and down motion was something that was not in my muscle memory. I tilted sideways to the right and nearly fell down the 18 stories inches to the ground. I hit my hip on a railing, but kept stepping. My stumble had forced me a bit to the left and my hip bounced off the railing on the other side. I now have matching hip contusions, all to the tune of TobyMac singing “…fall to the earth lik
e a crashing wave...” in my right ear only, of course. My pride wouldn’t allow me to stop stepping, so I forged ahead.

I started getting the hang of it, but after 90 seconds, my quads were s
creaming for mercy, and I realized then that I had the machine on the highest resistance setting. I hit a few more buttons to relieve my suffering. I switched my iPod to some Andy Stanley for a little inspiration and perhaps some divine intervention.

I’m in the groove now, and it’s time to be like Barbie. Let’s see what these guns will do with the other arm options. I reached up to grab the gliding arm things and lost my balance again. This time I lurched forward, and my right foot slipped off the foot piece, which in turn made me whack my right knee on the middle rail piece some brilliant e
ngineer thought was necessary to put there, just because he could. And I’m sure he’s in cahoots with the orthopedic surgeons in our town.

Keep moving. Just keep moving.

I’m settled into a groove again. Me, Andy, and the Perky Octopus Elliptical from Hell. My right foot is getting sore, mostly from compensation because of the wad of ga
uze that I use to pad a thin spot in my well-worn shoes. The gauze is now wadded up in the toe. And Andy’s in my right ear telling me “don’t judge and measure God by your circumstances.”

Oo--kaaay then.

That’s when Barbie walked by and gave me a perky, toothy smile. “Don’t you just love that machine?"

Have I mentioned how I hate “perky?” And that youth is so wasted on the young?

“It’s great,” I lied, perkily. It’s amazing how much energy you can fake muster when someone is actually watching you.

I very quickly found out that speaking, even two words, while stepping and arm-gliding and balance-keeping and message-listening – two words were enough to thr
ow my rhythm and balance off again. Clunk. I fell forward, this time whacking my left knee on the same doggone rail. My arms flailed in the air, grasping for anything that would hold me upright, but I wasn’t smart enough to stop stepping and as such, the right arm handle came back and whumped me in the forehead (which could only mean I was doubled over in pain before it hit me). Praise God nobody had given me a stick of gum. This could have been ugly uglier.

Barbie skipped out of the gym and I glanced over my shoulder to make sure she was gone. I stopped the machine. Four minutes and fifty-five seconds of being thr
own under the exercise bus.

I went to the stretching corner and licked my wounds. Caught my breath. Told Andy to take a hike. (He was not meant for such a time as this). And when I was able to move again, I adjusted my high-tech shoe gauze and went back to my t
rusty treadmill - my safe, happy place. Forward and up. To the tune of “Burn for You” (thanks, Fee Band), fire in my bones and all.

This morning I woke up in the middle of a dream where I was playing at Wimbledon in a pair of steel-toed work boots. It was one of the most painful crawls out of bed since Jane Fonda bellered “Feel the burn?”

I hate perky.



Tea tonight: Young hyson