Monday, December 31, 2012

Packers vs Vikings and the Fastidious Table Washer

While in Grand Forks today with Elsie and her friend, Holly, we stopped at Culver's for supper. 

I have kind of a soft spot for Culver's.  It reminds me of being a college student in Madison, Wisconsin.  There was a group of us youths who spent many Sundays after church hiking and climbing the hills, boulders, and easier cliffs at Devil's Lake State Park.  It was great fun with wonderful friends, many of whom are still close friends today.

One of the highlights of a Devil's Lake trip was a stop at Culver's on the way back to Madison.  This was the original Culver's way back before it was a chain.  It sat along side the highway just on the edge of Sauk City. Seems like it was better back then, but perhaps that's just a little maudlin sentimentality coming through.

None of us ever had much money, but we almost always stopped for something.  Some who had a little more discretionary income might get one of Culver's famous butter burgers or a big waffle cone with the flavor of the day.  Others of us might split an order of fries or a small dish of custard. 

But the fun was in the tradition.  The day spent with and among friends.  Car pooling and then finding each other after we arrived.  Getting fresh air, seeing the scenery, having adventures.  Going to Culver's afterwards.  

I still don't have much discretionary income, so a trip to Culver's is still a special treat.  I took Louisa there once when we were in Grand Forks together.  And now I've taken Holly and Elsie.  Oh, and I think Beth K. took some of the kids and I once when we lived in Madison the second time.  I'm thinking maybe after a Holy Cross basketball game?  That's another tradition.

But I digress.  Culver's.  Kids.  Holly and Elsie.  Oh yes, today's outing.

We arrived at Culver's just in time to see the last quarter of the Vikings game.  Well, that's how Holly and Elsie thought of it.  I preferred to consider it a Packer game.  It was fun to watch the Packers get that last TD to tie the game.   But it wasn't so much fun to watch the Vikings get that field goal and break the tie, with only a few seconds remaining. 

And so it goes.  I'm not a hard core fan, but I enjoy watching a game when I get a chance. 

We really got a kick out of the young man part of whose job was washing tables at Culver's.  I bet those tables never get washed as frequently as they do during a Viking game.  The dining room is set up with televisions in two corners.  During the time we were there, perhaps a total of six or eight of the maybe twenty tables were in use.  But all of the many empty tables got washed multiple times while we were in there.  Every time the kitchen and counter slowed down a bit, that young man was back washing tables.  He worked very carefully.  Very slowly.  I'm not sure he really ever looked at the tables, but he sure washed them.

Over and over again.

Time after time.

Especially the ones nearest the television screens. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Strange thoughts about Life and Grey's Anatomy

I started watching Grey's Anatomy on hulu awhile back, but hulu only offered the first season.  Now I have netflix, so I can watch the rest of it.  And I have been.  Not tons.  But a few episodes every now and then. 

It's OK.  Not great, but OK. 

So why do I waste my time on something that's merely OK?  Three things:  Scenery.  Art.  Psychology of Human Nature.

Having grown up in the Puget Sound area, I like seeing the Space Needle and other Seattle scenes.  It makes me all mushy inside when those panoramas flow past the screen.

I also like the artistic angle of how the show is put together.  There are facets of the production that appeal to my emotions like good art does.  It hits me deep down inside.  Like the music.  I'm not a music person.  I mean, I can't name all different kinds of musical genres and bands and instruments.  But I almost always notice the music in this show.  I like how the producers combine the music and the weather and the moods of the characters. 

And I like the glimpse into hidden parts of human nature.  The portrayal of humanity.  How do the patients deal with their crises?  How do they deal with their families during crises?  How do the doctors deal with the patients?  How do they deal with each other?  And in what ways do the issues the patients deal with help the doctors, at a basic human level, to be better people? 

And yes, I know it's not a Christian show.  I realize that the solutions and answers to which all these issues lead are not foundationally the same as the solutions and answers to which I'd come myself, or toward which I'd advise a friend. 

The writers do, however, seem to capture little nuggets of interpersonal truth at some level.  They get it.  They see how we broken human beings interact.  How we feel and cope.  How we use and manipulate.  How we analyze and muddle. 

It's kind of strange to me that through this artistic medium we call television, the writers and producers of this show capture life truths and reflect them back to viewers.  They give us an opportunity, impetus, to think about our own lives and interactions.  To examine our own interpersonal mechanisms to see how we measure up.

Last night's episode was called Enough is Enough.  It's in Season Two somewhere toward the beginning.  There was a character, a patient, who had ingested doll heads.  Ten Judy Doll heads.  Judy Dolls are apparently similar to Barbie dolls.  Ten.  He swallowed the heads whole.  Very strange. 

I did a little search to see what Judy Dolls were.  But in the process of trying to find that out, I noticed that most of the google search hits about Judy Dolls have to do with this particular episode of Grey's Anatomy. 

So see, I'm not the only one to whom this show does something.  A cursory glance through the search hits showed me that others viewers write about the characters and their various psychoses.  People think about the episodes and turn them over in their brains.  If a person is so inclined, he or she might put to paper the thoughts and feelings elicited through such analysis.  Viewers emotionally ingest the episodes, the various issues and hurdles the characters face.  They apply such to their own lives and come to some sort of resolution.  And then they spit these thoughts and lessons back out in written analysis.  It's in interesting cultural phenomenon, is it not?

I happened upon the following blog post last night.  I like it.  I like the Christian solution to which this writer alludes.  She doesn't phrase things exactly as I would.  But I understand her use of some cultural thing, a television character with emotional trauma, as a metaphor for life. 

I get it.

And so I'm passing it on.  Nothing big or earth shattering.  I just like it.

Why do we eat Judy Dolls? on If Words Were Medicine blog.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How are you today? Flinty or Crumbly? Or somewhere in between?

Some of my readers understand my love of words and metaphor and colorful turns of speech.  My friend, known around our home as the Michigan Dave Thompson, since there is also a Minnesota Dave Thompson, inadvertently started me thinking of my days in terms of flinty or crumbly.  It helps, in some strange way, to have these little gems; these wordy nuggets that seem to capture so much of how I feel on a daily basis.  Sometimes something as simple as a word picture can turn around a blah day.

The flint thing is easy to explain, and has such a beautiful source, in Luke 9:51.  The Michigan Dave Thompson pointed this phrase out to me awhile back and it stuck in my brain and heart.  At this point in Luke's narrative, Jesus is getting ready to head toward Jerusalem where He knows He will suffer and die.  Some translations use the word flint to describe Jesus' attitude.  Jesus set his face like flint toward Jerusalem.  The picture is of great resolution and solid determination. 

I try to keep that in mind as an inspiration or motivation to just get up and get going.  If Jesus, my Lord, can set His face as flint to go to His death, oughtn't I be able to be a little bit flinty about things as mundane as dishes and laundry and exercise?

But sadly, many days I am somewhat less than flinty.  Many days I plod along.  Doing little things. Just getting by.  Muddling through.  Dealing with each thing as best I can.  Somewhere between flint and incapacity.

Worse yet, there are also those days that are further yet from flinty.  Days of seeming incapacity.  My demeanor some days seems stuck at the polar opposite of flinty.  And the Michigan Dave Thompson again had a perfect word for that.  Crumbly.  He didn't really mean to start anything with it.  And he might even be a little bit self-conscious that I am crediting him with these ideas that may seem silly to some.  Once when I mentioned various things my kids had going on, and how sometimes I struggle to not be overwhelmed by it all, Dave said, "I would crumble."

And really, that's the prefect word.  The metaphoric opposite of flint.  Flint is hard and strong and lasting.  But something like limestone or a dry cookie or old mortar is crumbly.  Very unstable.  Transitory.
My life.  My abilities.  My emotional stability.  Where I strive for flint, more often, I see crumbs.  I wish all my days could be flinty.  I think of Jesus' resolve to face unafraid the path before Him.  The path to His own death on the cross.  The path through hell.  I'd love to be that strong.  But alas!  I am not. I cannot even face the path through this life with flint.

I can't be that strong.  I.  Simply.  Cannot.

But my Heavenly Father knows that.   He knows that this sinful worm cannot get it right no matter how much I try.

He had a plan.

God sent Jesus.  The Rock.  The Flint.

Jesus is flint for me.  He is the backbone of my life.  My strength and hope.  The only source of my determination.  Without Him, I crumble.  Every day.  Every minute.  Even the accomplishments I think I am attaining, the hopes and dreams and goals in which I actually succeed.  Without Jesus, these, too are nothing.  Like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand, anything to which I set my face, outside of my Lord, will erode.  It is not lasting.  It's value is transitory.  Crumbly.

Amidst all the crumbles of my life, I thank God for the true Rock, the flint upon which I build my hopes.  Jesus was flinty for me.  I don't have to do it by myself.  His flint is mine.  Praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy.  When I was still in my sin, He loved me. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Small Town Christmas: Many Wonderful Happenings

The Plummer Tree Lighting

I had a wonderful little hometown Christmas season afternoon and evening on Friday.   It was a soothing and joyful balm in the wake of the tragic and frightening news out of Connecticut earlier that day.

School Program

The K-3 school program in the afternoon was fun and cute. Mrs. Bernstein does such a nice job.  The kids all love her.  Her energy, charisma, zeal, and kindness come through from the stage!

Third Grade

John and a small group of other kids did a good job with their harmony part.  John did his speaking part loudly and clearly.

Even Stella had an unexpected speaking part; she was asked to step in for another child who was absent.  But, alas!  Stella had the second line of the program.  I was fashionably late, as usual, and so I came in the door just as she was finishing up.  I think I will have to ask Mrs. Bernstein never to give any of my kids parts near the beginning of the programs.  "Just a general notice for all future Abrahamsons near the beginning."

Giving Back

After the program, I got to play Santa!

I am so grateful for our little schools here, and for all the wonderful people who work to make them what they are.  Everyone gives 200%, and I know it's not always easy.  I try to do a little something for my kids' teachers each year, as a token of how very much I appreciate them. 

I spent my fall crocheting scarves.  It all started when I got a few things ready for the Nazareth Fancywork sale in mid September.  I had used some nicer yarns that Louisa had given me before she left for Italy, from her left-overs yarn stash.  Since I generally use only the cheapo basic yarns, crocheting with these other, fancier fibers was a new thing.  I discovered a sensory experience I had not imagined.  I found a sort of serenity in seeing all the colors and patterns run through my fingers.  I was soothed by the feel of all the different textures.  The soft yarns and the bumpy, stretchy knots in the crochet; the combination of smooth and rugged.  Plush and firm.  There's also the soothing, repetitive rhythms of the handiwork itself.  And the sense of accomplishment at finishing something.  The pride in creating something lovely.  It was all very healing for me.

Soon I found I was creating scarf after scarf with no particular end in mind.  It wasn't long before I came up with the idea of taking a box of scarves into the school from which the the teachers could each choose.  Well, really it started with a more vague idea of giving scarves as Christmas gifts.  But since I don't know the teachers well enough to have a sense of their style, and don't see how they dress except a couple times a year, I didn't want to choose the scarves for them.  I have four kids in school, so I figured I'd need a dozen or so scarves.  Enough for each homeroom teacher, plus a handful of extras in order to provide selection, so that each could find something he or she likes.

I easily reached a dozen.  But then I kept going.  And going.  I couldn't seem to stop.  I was having too much fun.  Soon I had enough scarves for the homeroom teachers and all the various teachers who have worked with my kids this year.  But that didn't suit the kids.  They kept wanting to add more and more people to the list.  I think that says something powerful about our school.  My children have so many people there that they love, and think of as their "special people."  They listed playground helpers, the "Grandmas" who come in to help, the library and special ed teachers, kitchen workers.  I don't think there was any school worker demographic that was not represented.  (Oh, that reminds me,...I still need to get one to our bus driver...).

I felt happy, but I sure look somber showing off my accomplishments

I would have loved to take a big, big box, filled with a hundred or more scarves, and put up a sign that said,

Everyone, Please choose a scarf!
Choose for yourself, or to use as a gift
Thank-you for all you do for our children.  

You are all a wonderful part of this place!  
Have a Merry Christmas!

But alas, time ran out and I had a mere 30-40 scarves.

I contacted all of my kids teachers, plus any school workers I've gotten to know when I need their help with school related things.  I felt a little bit sad, though, the whole time I was there, as the other teachers and workers came and went to see what all the excitement was.  I really, really would have loved to have enough for everyone!  I can't say enough how much I appreciate the fact that it takes every one of those people to keep a small school running.  And I'm thankful for how personal and caring everyone is.  They are like family, especially for my kids who have no extended family nearby.

But I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit.

After the school program, Sophie and I scuttled out to the van to grab the booty.  I had prepared a box, wrapped in Christmas wrapping, from which the scarves could tumble forth.   I had some homemade hot fudge ice cream topping for each of the homeroom teachers.  I arranged for the teachers to mosey into the teachers' lounge when they had the extra minutes in between their after-school responsibilities. 

It was great fun!  Sophie stayed for part of the time, until she had to go to her Honors Choir obligations.  I got to meet many of the teachers and workers who I previously knew only by name, those teachers who have not worked with my children, but who my children love and talk about.  Yes, those that my children consider special people, but for whom I did not have scarves enough.  (Sad sigh.)

As I was hoping, the female teachers had fun wrapping around themselves many scarves at once to compare, or holding them up for each other, or setting them out to get a better look.  The male teachers were a little more mixed, choosing for their wives or themselves.  Some had definite ideas, and some looked at the box in confusion, wondering what would be a good choice.  Or in one case (I'm not telling who) even trying to remember what color coat his wife wears.  The difference between the men and women tickled me, because it so aptly fit the stereotypes.

At one point, when nobody was in the lounge "shopping" I stepped out into the hallway and, peaking around the corner, I saw a handful of teachers visiting outside their classroom doors, waiting for the buses in front of the school to pull away.  Waiting for that Friday afternoon moment to arrive, when they too could head for home.  They joked that they were worse than the kids.  And I smiled because they all had their scarves wrapped or flung around their necks. 

That's exactly what I wanted!  Not just a Christmas gift, but a bit of fun along with it.

I had the camera along, and had wanted to take pictures, but not once did I think to get it out.  Sadly, I am not much of a photographer.  My plan had been that Joe would be taking photos of all the fun, but Inge ended up spiking a fever just before it was time to leave home.   He stayed home with her and they both had to miss all the fun.  And I missed the opportunities to take photos.

It was great fun.  But the fun didn't stop when scarf giving was finished.

Clara and Sophie, along with the rest of the school Honors Choir, had been asked to sing at the Plummer Tree Lighting celebration, which was scheduled for the evening.  Fun activities had been scheduled throughout the evening, including the arrival of the Canadian Pacific holiday train.  Joe and I went out on a limb, and planned to partake of a rare family activity.   Inge's illness put a damper on the family aspect of it, but the rest of us could still enjoy the fun.  

Visiting Friends

During the school program, Donna and Sohpie and I had sat with our friends, the Roues.  Rachel Roue is Louisa's good friend, and between those two girls the families have become friends.  My John and Rachel's brother, Jonathan, are also classmates and great friends.  I think they perhaps make things a little challenging for their teachers.  They both have very active and curious minds, and a tendency to get distracted by their ideas and dreams of various creations, many of which are of Legos and Star Wars and Superheros.

After the program, Rachel offered to take my little ones to their home, since I was planning to be busy with the scarf thing.  I had not planned to go home in between the program and the evening activities, since Plummer is almost 20 miles away from our home.  But Rachel's family lives nearer Plummer, so it was a handy place for us to spend extra time.  I had no set plans for my family, but I had brought along a bag of snacks to use in lieu of supper.  Of course, in all the excitement, I didn't think to send that bag along with Rachel.

This all worked out very well for me.  I could relax and enjoy the scarf giving, and visiting with the teachers, without any distraction or commotion from my littles.  And Rachel and her mom were kind enough to find some food for my kids while they were there.  I joined them, too, for about an hour.  We got to visit in the comfort of their home.  It's always a treat to visit Rachel's family.  They are wonderful people and we are very blessed to have them in our lives!

Oh, and I got to meet Louisa's and Rachel's friend, Josh B.  Louisa went to prom with Josh, but I had not met him.  He was to spend the evening with Rachel at the Plummer festivities.

And speaking of festivities, ...

Learning to Dress for Winter Weather:  Duh!

I have lived in Minnesota for most of my adult life.  Those years not in Minnesota were spent in Wisconsin and the Chicago area.  Although not all of these years did I spend in as cold an area as that in which I live now, I did experience winter in each locality.  BUT, I still mess up on this winter thing.  And Friday night could have been a really big mess up, if not for the help of Rachel and her mom in winterizing us.

Because of a combination of having homeschooled for many years; trying to keep our family home-centered and not externally focused; and having spent much of the last 20 years either pregnant or with an infant; all these things have combined to equal a mom who is not in the habit of orchestrating outings.  It seems crazy, but I did not even consider that we'd be outside in the cold for much of the evening.  We were all in dress clothes.  John and Stella because they had to dress up for their program; and Donna and I, too, since... well..., that's how I was raised.  You dress up for programs and concerts as a way of showing honor and appreciation for the work the performers and directors put into the occasion. I chuckle when I compare the two ideas.  I may know how to dress for a concert or performance, but don't ask me to dress my kids for weather.  Can you tell I did not grow up in an area where we had winter?

John and Stella were not so badly off, since they had snow pants in their school bags.  They had their winter boots.  John had left his gloves in the classroom, but otherwise they had the capability of being dressed for the weather.   But Donna and I had nothing!  Dresses and tights and church shoes.

As I was hustling the kids together, to get ready to return to Plummer from the Roues, it dawned on me how utterly unprepared we were!

Rachel's mom, Renee, offered some of Jonathan's extras for Donna, and a pair of gloves for John, which Rachel quickly gathered for us.  They offered to find extras for me, too, but I figured I could tough it out.  Mark, Rachel's dad encouraged Rachel to pull on some Carhartts.  She instead opted for several layers of coats and jackets.  Josh also didn't have much for winter wear, but he also opted to tough it out.  Let me just say that there were several times during the course of the evening, when I wished for some Carhartts to pull over my skirt and boots for my frozen toes.  And I'm sure Josh thought some of those same thoughts. The many people walking around town with their Arctic Cat bibs, gloves, boots, and neck gators looked toasty warm. 

I am very thankful, however, for the warm things my kids were able to use.

Next time, I hope I am neither ditzy enough to forget to prepare for winter weather; nor stubborn enough to refuse the kind offerings of friends.


When we got to Plummer, we found the line for Santa in Centennial Park in front of the gazebo.  My kids don't have much experience with the whole Santa thing.  We try to keep the focus on Jesus at Christmas.  I was never raised to believe in Santa, which at the time I felt was a great injustice.  I felt a little bit robbed at not being able to enjoy the magic of it all.  And although my husband was raised to believe in Santa, he made the decision that we would enjoy that man in a fictional kind of way in our home.  We honor St. Nicholas, by periodially reminding the kids of who he was and the things he did to care for others.  And Santa is not "off limits" in our home.  We simply don't put much focus on or energy into him.

A few of our kids have been to see Santa with other families.  But this was the first time either Joe or I had taken any of our kids to such an event.  John, Stella, and Donna got sit on Santa's lap and tell a little about what they want for Christmas.  John of course wants a DS (whatever that is, some game thing, right?).  I was quick to assure him teasingly that he had not been that good.  He smiled, because he knew that what I meant was, "We don't have that kind of money, my son.  I'm sorry.  But don't ever forget that I love you."

I was glad that Rachel took pictures of my kids.  Again, that dumb camera phobia came to plague me.  I'll try to remember to add them after she posts them.

Throughout this part of the evening, I couldn't help but think of my friend, Deb H. from highschool.  She often amused us classmates with her vocal imitations.  She frequently did her mother, who happened to be adamantly anti-Santa.  Perhaps Deb's best loved and remembered imitation was given one day when we were all joking about going to get our pictures taken with Santa.  Knowing how Deb's mom felt about the whole Santa thing, one of us asked what she would say.  I can still hear Deb's response to this day, and it ran through my head during the time my kids were in line to sit with Santa, "Deb, Deb!" spoken in Deb's funny Mom voice, "Who's that little red man your sitting on, Deb?"

The RLCC Plummer Honors Choir regaling the crowd


Our little local towns never cease to amaze me!  The city of Plummer has a very cool museum that I never even knew existed.  The Tri-River Pioneer museum was open Firday night from 6:00-9:00.  What a little gem of a place.  It features a hardware store, blacksmith shop, school room, kitchen, harness shop, gas station.  They have a fire truck and a pump wagon, over which Charlie Bishop was presiding, and about which he was teaching the kids.  He let the kids line up on each side to try out the pump mechanism. Up, down, up, down went those little bodies lined up on each side.

The Pump Wagon

It was fun to visit with many friends and neighbors.  It was so interesting to hear the older, long time residents talk about who had donated this piece or that piece, and how they used the various things in the old days.  In the harness shop, along the wall, hung two large leather nettings.  I was curious about these, so Rachel asked one of the older men who she knew.  They are fly nets.  They were laid across the backs of the horses to keep the flies from bothering. 

I didn't make it into the hardware store, but I could see through the window that one of the area ladies was dressed in period costume visiting with and gently teaching all who came in.  We'll definitely have to get over there sometime when Joe's parents are around.  I don't know what the regular hours are, though.  Or if they have regular hours.  But I'm sure I can find out.

The museum was a nice place to come in out of the cold.  They served coffee and hot chocolate, and cookies and goodies.   Just as with Santa, this was free to visitors, with the request for a free will donation of non-perishable food items.

Christmas Train

Until last year, I'd never heard of the Canadian Pacific holiday train, but what a fun concept.  Starting in 1999, in Canada, and being added in the US in 2001, CP has sponsored holiday trains to raise awareness of and food for local community food shelves.  For three weeks each December, the trains run throughout the CP routes, with scheduled stops in the communities along the line.  The communities are encouraged to use the occasion as an opportunity to collect money and food items for their local food shelves.  Plummer did this with the Santa visit and the "little lunch" in the museum.  The local businesses also pitched in with a $1000 donation.

For those of you not along a CP line, what exactly happens when the train comes?  Read along to experience it second hand.

Seemingly the entire community is assembled in Pummer's Tri-River Pioneer Museum.  Some sitting at the tables enjoying their snacks.  Others trying to maintain a tight hold on excited and rambunctious children.  Others are wandering the museum displays.  Many are milling about visiting friends and neighbors.  The honors choir has assembled outside, and is leading visitors in singing Christmas and holiday carols.  A joyful and friendly cacophony.

Then the call goes out!  The train is within two miles of town!

The timbre of the gathering changes markedly.  There is an audible shift in the level of excitement.  Parents gather their children.  There is a rush to get coats and hats and gloves back on.  The crowd starts to flow toward the doors of the museum.  This becomes a bit chaotic, as everyone jostles for position and kids slither through the crowd in ways parents cannot.

But eventually everyone gets outside and parents are reunited with those children who have slithered ahead.  The train crossing is just a block or so from the museum, so the excited mass moves that way.  Nobody will get into town from this direction tonight.  The street is filled with people.  As we near the crossing, the adults make room for the kids near the front.  Everyone is friendly and happy, encouraging parents with small children to make their way forward.  The train, ablaze with lights and color is rumbling nearer.  The crowd squeezes closer.

(This was all quite a bit to take in on a first visit, so readers who shared the occasion will have to forgive any misrepresentation in my description, and please, add your own version in the comments.)

I see the train a-comin'

The train chuffs into town.  There is a feeling of excitement and anticipation.  The lights.  The sounds.  The holiday cheer and excitement.  The train comes to a stop before the surging crowd.  Christmas music pours from the train.  In a moment, Santa issues forth and the little ones press toward him.  He hands out candy canes to each of them.

I notice, as the train pulled to a stop, what appears to be a large silver screen on the boxcar that is situated directly across the roadway, immediately in front of the crowd.  Earlier in the evening, I had learned that this is to be the first time the train has a scheduled stop in Plummer.  A question that I heard repeated often was, "Are they going to perform?"  I did not know what to expect.  Do they project some sort of show onto the silver surface mounted on this strategically placed boxcar?

My kids and I were with Rachel and Josh most of the evening, since Jonathan and John wanted to enjoy the festivities together.  I have to insert here that much of the time Josh and I, being both of more reserved natures, were left together.  The younger ones ran around enjoying the fun and playing with all their school friends.  Rachel did her Rachel thing, which means visiting with and hugging everyone.  Rachel worked for several summers with the Oklee Community Rec, so children of all ages know and love her.  She is also a favorite of the parents too.  Having just graduated last spring, Rachel has friends among the high school kids and other young adults.  Even the older people seem to want to hug her and ask how things are.  I was continually impressed with how many people's lives Rachel has touched.  And I myself felt a special fondness for this dear young woman many times throughout the evening, as I realized that these two young people, Josh and Rachel, had no embarrassment or awkwardness at all, spending their evening hanging out with me, a comparably old lady, and her crazy kids. 
Rachel and Josh

As the train pulls into town, Rachel explains that until it's fully stopped, the people must stay back a ways, but later everyone can come right up to the stage.  Hmmm.  Stage?  Curioser and curioser.

Then suddenly, the large silver surface about which I had wondered, seems to drop from the side of the boxcar.  Several other things occur simultaneously.  Pink and purple fog issues from the boxcar, and the music grows in intensity.

What had previously appeared to be a silver wall falls opened to become a stage.  The ClayTones appear, rocking to a familiar holiday tune.  They will entertain us for about half an hour, jamming away to their own rock and country renditions of various Christmas and holiday songs, and some original numbers, as well.

The ClayTones

In between musical sets, different speakers come forth for a brief statement encouraging support for the local food shelf.

The crowd is huddled cozily together and we keep each other warm, both with the close proximity of the many bodies, and the dancing and swaying in which we all participate as the band gets us going.  

At one point during the performance, the announcer mentions that those with tickets into Thief River Falls can board the passenger car.  Apparently, those who desire it can purchase a ride between legs of the route.  How fun!

When the performance is done the train pulls out again, slowly gathering speed.  The crowd turns away and drifts into the night.  Rachel and I have a hard time pulling John and Jonathan away until the train is completely passed.  They don't want the night to end.

It was an afternoon and evening full of of fun and excitement, neighbors and friends, holiday cheer and good will.  It was filled to overflowing with the goodness of small town life.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Did drill fit Miss Rib? Big!

I haven't been working with Donna too much on official school type things.  I'm of the mind that a stimulating home environment is equally valid at this age with any kind of seat work or real school type lessons.  Ok, yes, sometimes I'm not very good at providing stimulation, either.  But we always have books and toys, games and puzzles, tools and stuff, that active little minds can turn into any kind of learning opportunities.  And kids have their innate curiosity and sense of discovery.  Who needs a teacher at this age?  No offense to any of the great pre-school and kindergarten teachers out there, but, well, there it is.  Sorry.

But Sophie likes to play school with Donna and Inge.  She pulled out some Kindergarden readers the other day for her "classroom."  Since these books were out already, and since Donna is beyond ready, we've been working a little bit each day on reading lessons.  Yesterday, Donna graduated from "a" to "i" in her reader.  Today, she pulled out her Victory Drill Book to practice the "i" list.  The Victory Drill Book is a compilation of lists of 100 words each.  Each list, or drill, teaches a certain phonetic lesson. 

Donna is easily sounding out her words, so now she likes to stop and talk about the meaning of what she is reading.

Today's drill lesson started with fib, win, sin.  Donna didn't know what fib meant, since we don't often use that word.  After I explained it, she continued on to win and sin.  After she read sin, she stopped again.  She pointed to fib and sin and said, "We shouldn't do this or this, but," she continued, pointing then to win, "This is a good thing."

When Donna got to rib, she wasn't sure what that was, so I tickled her on the ribs.  Each time after that, when she got to the word rib, she giggled a little bit and said something like, "I don't want you to show me what that one means." 

When names come up in the lists, I've always pointed out the capital letters, and explained that names must always start with a capital letter.  Today we had Jim and Bill and Jill and Tim, for instance.  That made a good lesson to point out the difference between Bill and bill.  And when we got to Jim we talked about the Jims we know from our churches; and Jill C. is Donna and Inge's friend, Alexa's mom, so that was fun.  My sister who we don't see often has a son named, Tim, so we talked about Cousin Tim, who we see when we go to Grandma Eskew's house.

The other game the kids have always enjoyed playing when we've worked with these drill lists, is to come up with places where the word order makes sense.  For instance, today Donna found things like, "Sip did nip Tim."  And, "Jim hit pin."  The little ones often come up with some pretty cute combinations of things that make sense to them.  And almost to me, too.

But my favorite part of all was Donna's little foot, which she kept looping over the hand she was using to hold the book.  She'd then point with her toes at each word as she read it.  She didn't notice anything strange about it, and I didn't say anything about it.  But to me, this little action kind of epitomized the comfort of learning at home.  My daughter, snuggled up around me, reading.  We, being silly with the fun word games.  And her, having the freedom to point at her words with her toes. 

I am so blessed to be able to recapture some special school moments with my two remaining little ones.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Clean Day

My house is clean!!!

I had five wonderful ladies here all day making it so.

Last Wednesday afternoon, as I stopped at church to deliver the vanload of Wednesday School kids at church, one of the teachers who was also arriving just then stopped at the van to talk a minute.  She said that she and some of the other ladies had decided to offer to come a day and help me clean.  And she was wondering if that would be OK, or if it would be insulting, or pushy. 

I of course responded that I have no pride left and that I'd love to have help for a day.

I found out over the weekend that they hoped to come Tuesday or Wednesday. 

As the day approached I found I was a bit anxious about it all.  I realized I did have some pride left. after all. 

But also, I had to think of things, in amongst all this disorder that I could have them do.  I have so many stacks and piles and stuff all over, half finished sorting and organizing, etc, that I had to think a little bit to figure out either what to do with the stacks, or how the ladies could work around them.

But the other thing that made me a little anxious, and this is where the pride comes in, is that my house is really dirty.  Deep down dirty.  The kids clean the bathrooms and sweep and mop the kitchen.  But that's kid standards which does not always coincide with theMom standards.  And theMom standards have been lowered so many times throughout the years that even theMom standards are not up to par with most homemakers. 

But besides that, there are many things that never get done, and also many things that I let go, that I ought not.  My kids write on walls, for instance.  At some point, I got tired of dealing with it.  I'd rather scrub walls than spank.  After 19 years, I'm tired of spanking.  I'm tired of time outs.  I'm tired of the constant, "Who did this?" routine.  And let's face it, I'm just plain tired.  I try not to let the little ones get away with things too much, but I know there are many things I've stopped caring about that I used to address immediately. 

That was my primary anxiety.  Or maybe it's just embarrassment.  It's humiliating to admit to others how inept I am at the whole homemaking thing. 

But there were other stressors, too.  Just little worries.  Anxiety.

And those had to do with my mental health.  I often can't keep going all day long.  I often have to nap or sit or tune out for awhile.  I also have trouble thinking clearly much of the time.  I was unsure whether I'd be able to keep my brain sharp all day when others need to ask what to do next, or what to do with such-n-such an item or stack or heap.  And also knew I wouldn't feel right taking my "coffee breaks"  or "crochet breaks" or "facebook breaks" or even "nap breaks" when others are busy working in my mess. 

I knew I would be bushed by this evening.  And I was.  As soon as these friends were out the door, Joe offered to help with supper.  I put rice in the rice cooker, and went in the bedroom and took a 20 minute nap. 

Good old Joe.  He knew that I was worried about being done-in at the end of such a busy day.  He pulled out a jar of canned bear meat and simmered up a barbeque sauce in which to reheat it.   When it was time to eat, I remembered that Joe does not do vegetables, so I opened a jar of green beans and served them room temperature with everything else.  It was wonderful!

Several of the ladies know about my struggle with depression.  I've not made any secret about it.  But I also haven't made a big announcement about it.  I got a chance today to talk to one of the ladies about it, which was good for me to do.  It's hard to admit that something is wrong.  That I'm weak in this way.  We all want to be polished and able and good.  I don't like to admit that I am not strong enough to handle whatever life throws at me.  I'm supposed to be tough.  Just get yourself going, Mary.  Just pull yourself up by the bootstraps.  Right?  But this time it didn't work.  And I have to admit to others that I am struggling.  I have to admit that things are not easy.   It's embarrassing to admit that I can't think straight much of the time.  And that I lose patience with myself and my situation. 

So it is good to talk to others, to share, and to be consoled by Christian friends. 

And it's also wonderful to have a clean house.

It feels good to have the deep cleaning done.  The Chervestad and nee Chervestad ladies scrubbed walls and washed windows, wiped down woodwork and mopped floors.  They cleaned my little girls' room.  They picked up John's room.  They vacuumed the rugs and draperies, steps and basement floor.  Muriel cleaned the mudroom bathroom, including (which I didn't even know had to be done) cleaned the rust and mineral out of the tank on the back of the toilet.  She straightened and washed walls, doors, and storm door in the mudroom.  And Shirley, well, Shirley is perhaps the only one would could get away with this, Shirley marched straight down to Jeremy's cave and prodded him into helping her clean it.  I had assured him that his room was not on the list for the day.  But Shirley decided to brave it anyway.  Jeremy came upstairs at one point and asked if I could make her to stop. 

I just said, "Nope, sorry.  Just help her out respectfully and deal with it.  Even if you didn't want your room clean, it will be good to have it done." 

"NO IT WON'T!"  Jeremy insisted. 

I bet he's happy it's done now.  But I also know that he'd never, ever in a million years admit it if I asked. 

While the ladies  were doing all that, I caught mostly up with dishes, and then putzed with some of the organizing and re-ordering I've let pile up.  I sorted socks.  I answered questions and ran errands. 

And I stayed on top of things.  I kept my wits about me.  I didn't break down crying. 

Now, my house is clean.  Thank you ladies, so very much.  Thank you for not judging my incompetence, or at least not doing so in an obvious manner.  Thank you for your labors when I feel too weak to accomplish them by myself.  It's a humbling thing.  But I thank you for your support and kindness. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

An Emotional Rescue

Imagine with me please...I'm jamming to 80s music on the radio.  Madonna, Hall and Oates, J. Geils Band.  All the good stuff.   When suddenly...SUDDENLY...they play a song that's so very familiar.  I know that I know it.  I know instantly that it had been a favorite.  But I can't quite place it...Is it Electric Avenue?  Funky Town?  No, neither of those sounds quite right.  It feels like a song from my grade school years, which would put it into the 70s rather than the 80s.  Hmmm.  I listen a little bit further.  Rolling Stones.  It's got to be Rolling Stones.

I cave, "Joe, what song is this?"

Joe checks the window on the media player he is using,  "Rolling Stones, 'Emotional Rescue.' " 

Oh, my goodness!  This is the signature song from my one of my berry field summers. I was instantly right back working for Matlock Farms in the Puyallup River valley.  I didn't know it was the Rolling Stones at that time, but I did think it was a cool song. 

I go over to the computer and stand beside where Joe is working.  I'm grooving along with the beat.  Waiting, just waiting for my favorite parts.

The,  "Uh-hoo, uh-hoo-hoo, uh-hoo-hoo-hoo, Uh-hoo, uh-hoo-hoo, uh-hoo-hoo-hoo," was something I thought was really cool.  I also liked the part about the "crying like a child."

But still, I had to wait for my very favorite lines
I will be your knight in shining armor
Coming to your emotional rescue
You will be mine, you will be mine, all mine
You will be mine, you will be mine, all mine
I will be your knight in shining armor
Riding across the desert on a fine Arab charger.
It appealed to the imaginary, knights and ladies, part of my young personality, but it also had a fun electronic sound and a cool beat.

Oh, here it comes!  We're almost there!

But suddenly!  Suddenly the sound is gone.  GONE.  And I see Joe pick up his phone.  He had muted the computer to talk on the phone.  Well, maybe it will be fast and he'll get the volume back up in time.  Maybe I'll still get to hear, in that funny, whispery, spooky voice I remember, the part about the guy riding across the desert on a fine Arab charger .

But no such luck.  Nope.   It was Issues, Etc., radio show calling to line up Joe's next interview.  Can you imagine something so trivial as that!  I bet they would have called back had they known it was the Rolling Stones.  Right?


This song stuck with me throughout the years.  Now remember, most of these years were before google.  Before the internet.  I remember at one point, having heard that it was the Rolling Stones.  But when I asked Joe about it, (yes, that same Joe who seems to know everything about every eclectic kind of music around), he could not tell me anything about the song.  He did not recognize it at all.  I think he must not have been a Stones fan. 

Now this "sticking with me thing" that a few tidbits of these lyrics did, it was not any big deal.  Just a curiosity.  A memory I'd occasionally pull out and dust off.  And wonder about.  I didn't know the name of the song.  And I only suspected that I knew it was the Rolling Stones. 

Now pan forward a few more years until shortly after we moved up north.  Once when we were in East Grand Forks visiting Rolf and Dort Preus, with whom we were still getting acquainted at the time, it came out that Rolf had been a big Rolling Stones fan in his day.  So I sang that lyric.  The one I included up above.  The lyric for the mystery song.  Rolf started laughing at the idea of this mother of six, this younger pastor's wife, knew that song from what must have been his college or seminary years. 

But Rolf was also good enough to solve the mystery for me.  "Yes, of course!  That would be "Emotional Rescue," from the 1980 album of the same name."

This is the Stones' Solid Gold performance of this song.  Aaaaahhhhh.  Solid Gold.  Now there's another story for another day.  Definitely a period show.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The High Standards of One's Ancestry

I'm thinking tonight about family histories.  I was corresponding with my friend, Marge, today about family history.  Her husband's family is from the rural Oklee community, but Joe and I know Marge and Ernie from our Mankato days.  Joe knows them from as long ago as his undergraduate studies at Bethany Lutheran College; and I from our time there during Joe's seminary years, and also when he later worked and taught at Bethany. 

Although I did not know Marge and Ernie well at the time we lived in Mankato, now, due to this marvelous thing called social networking, I enjoy the blessing of friendship with Marge.  We share many interests.  I love to see her pictures on the blog she keeps, of her lovely flowers and gardens, and also her household projects and accomplishments such as cooking, canning, and quilting.  I enjoy reading of her travels; and her adventures with and joy in her extensive family.  And I'm thankful for her voice of comfort and support in my vocation of motherhood.  She has built me up many times with her kind words.

But today we talked family history.  It started when Marge posted on facebook remembering and honoring the life of her late mother-in-law, Alma Fore Lillo.  Throughout the day, we exchanged a few messages about the Fore family connections up this way. 

I love family history.  And not just my family, but the histories of others.  I love to hear the stories of those who have gone before us.  I am often inspired by their courage and tenacity.  There are also many times I'm saddened by their tragedies and heartaches.  I am built up by the faith to which they clung, through thick and thin.

But often, I'm also shamed by my failures as compared to the valiant tales of such ancestors.  One of my constant challenges is to turn that shame into a good thing.  Into being inspired to do better and work harder, rather than being crushed by a self-imposed burden of comparison. 

I remember learning this poem when I was young. 
If You Could See Your Ancestors
By Nellie Winslow Simmons Randall

If you could see your ancestors
All standing in a row,
Would you be proud of them or not?
Or don't you really know?
Some strange discoveries are made
In climbing family trees.
And some of them, you know,
Do not particularly please.

If you could see your ancestors
All standing in a row,
There might be some of them perhaps
You shouldn't care to know.
But here's another question
Which requires a different view -
If you could meet your ancestors
Would they be proud of you?
See, and there's rub, right?  "Would they be proud of you [me]?  Hmmm.  The million dollar question.

I often feel the burden of living up to the standards of those who have gone before.  Sometimes that burden is Biblical, to live up to God's standards, as set forth in His Word and as passed on to me by my family.  And well I should be so burdened.  But along with the burden of God's perfect Law, my ancestors also passed on to me the joy of salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I will never live up to the standards of God's Law.  But I am pure and white, washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.  May I ever hold to that One Thing Needful, God's Word, and use it for a guide in how I judge myself and what I pass on to my children!

But there is also a second kind of standard.  Those are the man-made standards.  Many of these are wise and good.  Many of these serve a societal purpose such as effecting a common courtesy, or providing structure and order in our households and neighborhoods.  Some provide efficiency and cleanliness in our homes and yards. 

But these standards vary from place to place and from time to time; from family to family and from community to community.  It often seems to me that these are the sorts of standards that often cause the biggest rifts between people.  They cause the most frequent hard feelings, and self-righteous judging of our neighbors.

But for me, such standards also tend to cause unnecessary guilt in my life.  I tend to beat myself up for not being able to live up to the standards, real or imagined, to which I feel I must perform.  I have to remind myself, as Paul did the Romans, to not give up on the freedom won for me by Jesus.  To not put myself into bondage under the law.

Thanks be to God who has freed me from such burdens and guilt.  Jesus' perfect life and sacrificial death cleansed me from all my real and concrete sins; those things I failed and constantly fail to do that I ought to do, and also those things I ought not to have done that I did and still do constantly.  Jesus cleansed me from the innate stain of sin on my very nature, that more subtle evil that pervades human nature.  But He also freed me from the obligation and guilt of standards that are of my own human fabrication. 

I praise Him for His goodness!  I thank Him for giving me the gift of faith in Him, through the tradition passed on to me from my ancestors, and through His Word and Sacraments at church and in the home.  I ask Him to guide and direct my ways that I never forsake the One Thing Needful, the message of salvation through Jesus.  As long as I've got that covered, it matters not how well I live up to any other standards I've put upon myself by comparison to my forebears.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Torrific New Word

I have always loved words. To the point of being quite geeky about it, in fact. But I have a recent acquisition in the facebook friend department, one Haleigh M., who overshadows me in every way in the word geekiness department.

Being a teacher at heart, as I myself tend to be, Haleigh posted the following this morning,
New Word of the Day: torrefaction (or the verb - torrefy) - something I am especially grateful for this morning.
She left the work of discovery to any readers who might be students at heart.

And I eagerly took the bait.

From the Free Dictionary,
torrefy [ˈtɒrɪˌfaɪ]
vb -fies, -fying, -fied (Medicine / Pharmacology) (tr) to dry (drugs, ores, etc.) by subjection to intense heat; roast
[from French torréfier, from Latin torrefacere, from torrēre to parch + facere to make] torrefaction [ˌtɒrɪˈfækʃən] n
Hmmm.  Interesting.

Going back to Haleigh's post, the part, "something I am especially grateful for this morning," piqued my interest.  If torrefaction is, "To dry by subjection to intense heat; or roast," Haleigh's description conjured up images of her sitting inside her woodstove after falling in the creek.  Or some other such nonsense. 

I asked Haliegh about this.  I was really curious as to what aspect of being dried "by subjection to intense heat," she was enjoying this fine morning.

Haleigh responded with these quotes from World Wide Words e-magazine.  The first segment is from 11/24,
I found my wife studying a big dictionary. She told me what she was looking for, but my ancient inadequate ears heard it as horrify, leading to one of those increasingly common moments of mutual incomprehension. The word was torrify, not one in either of our vocabularies. She had encountered it when reading the list of ingredients on the packaging of the sausages she was cooking, which announced that they contained Melton Red Ale made from “torrified wheat”. It was easy to work out that the word was a close relative of torrid, very hot and dry (they derive from Latin torrere, to dry with heat). It turns up often as torrefy, though our sausage spelling occurs by analogy with terrify (and horrify).
And a follow up from today's edition,
Many readers pointed out torrefy (or torrify), which I mentioned last time, has close relatives in other languages. In Canada, where French and English mingle, Wendy Magnall noted that “the excellent French term torréfaction can be found on one side of coffee containers in place of the overworked English roast. As I write, I am enjoying a cup of torréfaction traditionelle.” From Germany, Reinhard Fey tells us, “In many Italian cities you will find shop signs torrefazione propria. These are shops roasting and selling their own coffee.

Peter Rugg added another context: “This process is used to dry and slightly char biomass pellet fuels. It is called torrifaction or torrification. Like many technical words, in its many forms it confuses digital dictionaries. The one approving this note wants to change it to horrification.” Martin Spiller added a memory: “The lovely old Carwardines Tea and Coffee House in Corn Street, Bristol, had a sign painted on the side which fascinated me when I was young: ‘The Liquefaction of our Torrefaction Always Brings Satisfaction.’”
Well, these little quotes thrilled me in several ways.  Firstly, they solved the mystery of Haleigh's morning enjoyment of torrefaction.  She was enjoying her morning cup of coffee in the liquification of the torrefied and subsequently ground coffee beans.

But I also enjoyed imagining Louisa over in Italy, drinking her caffè that's been brewed from beans that have been freshly and locally torrefied, torrefazione propria.  Oh, that's right, Louisa doesn't like coffee.  Oh, well.  At any rate, it gave me reason to think of my dear daughter who is currently dwelling far across the sea.

And finally, I just plain like words.  I totally enjoy reading the mental ramblings and vocabulary gymnastics of someone else who finds similar pleasure in something as simple as words and definitions and word histories.  Is there not something innately fun in learning such arcanities?

That word, by the way, arcanities, is a ... a ... a ... Oh, shoot!  It's not found in a dictionary. 

What's that word for a made-up word that's created by following the normal rules for spelling and grammar, suffixes and prefixes, etc?  I know I've heard a word for that!  There's got to be a word for it, right?  If not, there definitely ought to be.

Haleigh!   Yoohooo, Haleigh!  Help me out here, will you, please?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Donna and Inge are feeling a bit more limber lately

That title, by the way, is a play on the line from Butler of the Aremis Fowl books.  Butler, with his lilting Irish accent, was "feeling a bit more limber" once he started doing pilates.

My friend, Alyssa, came over today to do pilates.  We've been trying to do them together once a week.  We take turns at each other's houses and our littles play together no matter where we are. 

When we're at my house we've been using the first half of Ana Caban's Cardio Pilates.  The first half is basically a mat workout.  It's not as intense as her Intermediate Mat Workout, but slightly more difficult than her Beginning Mat Workout

After we finished today, and after Alyssa and her twins headed out the door, my girls wanted to "do pilates."  So I started the video for them where we moms had left off, and let them go to it.  It was pretty funny to watch the girls try to work out the steps as I sat nearby and stitched at my crochet project. 

The second half of the Cardio workout, which is the part my girls did first, is basically gentle dance steps with a reminder to focus on the core muscles and hold in the tummy, in line with traditional pilates. 

Joe stepped in a took some video.  Our camera is old, so there is no sound.  You'll have to imagine Ana Caban doing her encouraging instructions.  I like how the girls so intently watch the video and attempt to imitate the moves.  They do pretty well, really, for not having seen it before today.

I especially love Donna's outfit.  Her little princess dress up dress and those big clunky boots of Stella's.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happy Thought Indeed

Many of my readers will recognize the title of this post as being Lizzie's response to Mr. Collins' predictably overwhelming praise of Lady Catherine in suggesting the very arrangement of the shelves in the guest closet.  Although this line does not actually occur in Jane Austen's original novel, Pride and Prejudice, it's an example of the wonderful job the writers of the 1995 BBC film adaptation did in changing Austen's descriptions of situations and conversations into actual dialogue. 

It's a wonderful line, "Shelves in the closet?  Happy thought indeed."   Those simple words, or a variation on them, have brought a smile to my face and the faces of my family on many occasions, when we reuse and recycle them for various situations around our home.

Today it refers to the refueling I need to do some days.  I still struggle some days more than others in this journey, this walk, through the illness of clinical depression and my recovery from it.  I've described previously the image I use of a bank account with withdrawals and deposits.  I can feel so keenly, so actually, the level of fuel I have in my account.  And I'm low today.  For a variety of reasons, which are unimportant to this post.  Just little things, really, but enough of them to drag me down a bit.  To deplete the stores of happy and tip the scales toward down.  

I'm exited today, though, because I have just the thing to refuel the happy.  My missing needlework book is found.  I knew who had taken it, and I suspected where it would be found.  And it was.  Under a bed.  The culprits may remain nameless.  The important thing is that the lost is found.  There are several crochet stitches in that book I've been wanting to use, but I couldn't remember exactly how to do them.  Nor could I find them online anywhere. 

But today I get to get out some of the yarn I've been saving for these particular stitches.  I get to open my book and review the stitch patterns.  I get to sit and produce something lovely out of mere strands of yarn.  It's amazing.  And fun.  And therapeutic.  And happy.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

So much to write about: Louisa, Thanksgiving, the Quiet Joy of family time together

Wednesday morning we woke to a lovely frost.

I have been falling short on my writing.  Not becasue I have writer's block, or because I have nothing to write about.  More the opposite.  I have so many things to write about that it's been hard for me to focus on any one thing.  I've been trying hard to stay busy around my home, so that equals less time at my computer.  Which is a very good thing!  But the writing has been hard.  The ideas build up and when I finally sit down at my computer, there is a glut of ideas and no focus.

One reason that things are backlogged in my brain is because I have in my head a lovely post dedicated to my oldest daughter who is studying in Italy with a highschool exchange program.  I want to include some pictures.  But that task of finding and loading images always seems to take much longer than anticipated.  I want to talk about Louisa's adventures.  I want to express a little bit of what theMom has experienced in allowing her teen-aged daughter to embark on such an adventure.  So always, when I get to the computer, I think to myself, "It's too much for today.  Later."

Louisa with a view overlooking her town of Belvedere, with the sea in the background

Another factor in this backlog is the jumble.  The convoluted nature of my mind these days.  A hundred times a day, I compose bits and pieces of blog posts.  While washing dishes or folding clothes.  Taking a shower or watching my kids play.  During all of these times my brain is busy thinking of things to write and ordering those things into sensical patterns of words.  But when I sit down at my computer, either the thoughts don't come at all, or there are simply too many to choose any one about which to write.

So today is a mish-mash.  A mish-mash of thoughts.  A digital convolution of words.

We had a very nice Thanksgiving.  The kids and I, with Joe's help too, got the house mostly presentable for company.  Joe's parents came on Wednesday afternoon.  We had homemade soup and freshly baked gluten free bread for supper.  The soup was a mix of my homemade beef broth that Joe had canned for me, and various leftovers.  Warm and good and sustaining.

Joe had a service at 5:30 at Mt. Olive.  We all went to church at Oak Park at 7:30 that evening.  Then we came home and settled in for the evening.

Joe and I (mostly Joe) got the turkey in the roaster for a slow overnight roast.  It was a free range bird.  They tend to be a bit drier and somewhat tougher than the commercially raised turkeys, so they warrant a little finesse in preparation. 

On Thanksgiving Day, Joe had two morning services, St. Petri  and Nazareth. 

I mostly putzed around the kitchen, and the kids entertained Grandma and Grandpa. 

Apron-clad Joe after carving the turkey; Donna, Grandma, and Grandpa

Besides the turkey, the mid afternoon dinner included roasted sweet potatoes (I had forgotten to buy marshmallows, so that was a disappointment to the kids), mashed potatoes with gravy, cooked carrots, stewed cranberries, and three kinds of pickles (cucumber, green beans, and milkweed pods).  We had pumpkin custard for dessert.  This is simply crustless pie.  But this time there was a twist, since I used some cooked squash Joe's mom had brought, rather than thawing pumpkin.  It was very sweet and creamy, with a delicate buttery flavor.

Jeremy's friend, Peter popped over in time for dinner.  That was a nice surprise.  Peter is kind of part of our family.  He's a friend from the charter school Jeremy attended in southern Minnesota, who now lives up here.  His late mother was Joe's prom date one year during high school.  His uncle, who helped raise Peter, was one of Joe's late brother's best friends.  The families have known each other forever.  And there are many fond memories and sentimental ties.  Peter is fun to have around.  My kids love him like a brother.

Jeremy, Peter,and Elsie washing dishes

After dinner, I set the kids to washing dishes and I sat down for awhile.

I had many contented Mom moments over the weekend.   Really, content is too weak a work.  What I experienced is a feeling of utter happiness and peace and thankfulness to God for the gift of the family He has given me.  Not any single moment, but the blessing of a great couple of days with my kids, in-laws and husband.  I love the moments when my kids play together wonderfully, and we, all of us, are happy and calm in the same room.

We don't have an extra large living room.  It's plenty big, mind you, but one of the smaller rooms of the house.  We have two couches and two easy chairs and a wooden rocker.  We have a piano bench and various other cushions and pillows.  One of the couches is currently occupied with the remains of my ongoing sorting project.  My apologies to Joe's parents for not getting that hidden away out of sight.  But I think they would agree that in spite of one occupied couch, the house is much, much more presentable than it has been for many visits.

The floor is picked up.  And vacuumed, even.

Much of the weekend, the little girls played with their princesses and ponies on the living room floor.  Joe's mom sat reading, Joe's dad did his Dad things (dozed, fixed, looked at newpapers), I crocheted, Joe napped and worked.  The middle kids were in and out, visiting or reading, playing with the littles or doing various of their own projects.  Sophie finished up a ruffle scarf she had started knitting last week.  Stella and John played Legos, and they are each working on their first embroidery project.

Stella's embroidery pattern. 

I love looking across the living room, and seeing all of the kids strewn about, but quiet and peaceful.  It hits me every now and then, what a strange thing it might seem to some, to have this number of people lying about a room.  And it seems a strange and blessed thing to me when they are all doing so peaceably.  Much of the weekend we had seven or eight or even ten of us sitting together in a room with available seating for only six or seven. 

It makes me happy, for instance, to see Clara and Matt sitting together on the piano bench, without even a second thought.  Even though a few minutes earlier they might have been bickering aggressively over dishes chores.

It brings me joy to see my kids all piled up together on the couch.  Littles and bigs and mediums all in a heap.  It brings me a special kind of joy when this occurs in a calm and loving manner.

John's embroidery.  He's starting with the square with the snagged boot.

It brings me a wonderful sense of accomplishment and peace to see my little ones learning skills.  Working with their hands to produce something functional, that will make the world more pretty or pleasant. 

I like to see my Matt in and out, working on his car, in the kitchen helping Joe process the deer that have been hanging to age since hunting season, or heading off to his job at Pizza Hut in Thief River Falls.

I even like it (on occasion) when Jeremy invites the younger kids downstairs to watch or play his many electronic devices.  Yesterday, after Joe's parents left, the kids spent all morning down there.  Quietly playing the games or watching his videos, or whatever.  It was a nice "down time" after the busyness off a holiday visit.

I am so very thankful.  Thankful to God for my family.  Thankful to God for preserving them through my many flaws and failings.  And preserving me through theirs.  God is good and faithful.  He has given Joe and me this great and wondrous gift of ten children.  There are times when the responsibility of it threatens to overwhelm.  But we need not fear.

Moments like the many I had this weekend bring a welcome balm.  A reminder to me of the many, many promises of God.  Both those promises surrounding our temporal well-being and preservation; and also the more fundamental promises of eternal life through salvation in Jesus' name.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Of Moms and Men: the Bear Facts

We had Winkel here today.  Here, as in at Oak Park.  Winkel, as in the monthly meeting of the circuit pastors and guests, for further education, and mutual support and encouragement.  Many times the wives and kids come, too.  But today was just me and my girls.  There was a time when most of the pastors' kids were homeschooled, so we used to have a pretty big gathering each month.  These days the circuit has evolved as some pastors have moved on, and others have moved in.  The kids who are still here are older.  Some, like mine, are in public school full time, others are in a handful of activities through the public school system in their community.  It's a bit unpredictable each month, which wives will make it, and whether or not they will have kids along. 

The Winkel day opens with a worship service, and then a quick Minnesota Lunch.  I have to call it that, because people in most of the US mean something quite different with the word, lunch.  In Minnesota, lunch is a snack.  A between meals snack.  But it's never just a quick snack.  It always involves coffee and if kids are present, milk.  Usually bars or sweet rolls, banana bread or pumpkin muffins; sandwiches or pickles, or a little of this and a little of that.  Salad, pie, bread and butter, pickled fish, nuts and candy.  Could be anything.  It's most always called a little lunch, as in "Let me get you a little lunch," as your hostess opens the fridge and starts to pull things out. 

For more Minnesota-isms you could read, How to Talk Minnesotan, by Howard Mohr.  But probably you wouldn't get it, unless you live here or have listened to years of Garrison Keillor.  Many years ago, at a Mother/Daughter luncheon at Joe's parent's church, Howard Mohr was the guest speaker.  Most people enjoyed it immensely.  I was a bit lost, since I had not lived in Minnesota long enough, nor even been affiliated for enough years with Minnesotans to appreciate the cultural humor.  I'd probably enjoy it now.  It's hard to believeI've lived in Minnesota for almost 20 years.  And sometimes I still feel like a foreigner! 

But on to Winkel.  The day starts with a worship service and the forenoon lunch.  Then the men meet and the ladies meander up to the parsonage to have their own little visit.  Then we have dinner (the noon meal) sometimes at the hosting church or parsonage, other times at a nearby restaurant.  The men then continue their meetings into the afternoon, and the women return to the parsonage.

Here at Oak Park, since we are quite a distance from any eateries, and the men don't want to spend most of their lunch hour driving, we generally eat at church.  Sometimes the Ladies Aid provides the food, other times I do it myself.  Really, for me, it's not too big a job, simply because of the volume at which I generally cook for my family.  Today, Muriel M. provided the treats for lunch and a dessert for dinner.  I made a Tex-Mex hotdish for dinner, and served it with lettuce, Mexican flavored rice, and taco toppings.  I thought that made an adequate lunch.  Oops.  I mean dinner.

But nope.  I found out that it was, in fact, not enough.  It was missing the most important menu item. Joe had to show off his manly prowess and serve some bear chops along with the Tex-Mex meal.  "Fine, Joe," theMom replied with the barest hint of an eyeroll.  "It's a novelty thing.  I'm sure the guys will get a kick out of it.  As long as your prepare them, though, please.  I'm going to be plenty busy with the other items."

Everything went fine.  Really.  The dinner was wonderful.  The bear was well received and made for good conversation.  I think even Pastor Longshore may have had a nibble.  (I told him afterwards that the meat in the Tex-Mex hot dish was venison, too, so he really had some culinary adventures today.)  Pastor Longshore is the newest pastor in our circuit.  He's from the South, and bigger towns.  Cities, really.  So he's still experiencing a bit of that culture shock that can awe someone new to the area.)

After we finished eating, I closed the window curtain divider thing for the kitchen, and pulled shut the doors, to enable the men to have their privacy while they continued their meeting.  And I washed the dishes.  Am I a good pastor's wife, or what? 

As I was cleaning up, I noticed that there was a big black smear on the white and shiny, usually pristine, surface of one of the flat topped stoves.  "Shoot, did I do that?  I didn't even use the stove.  What might I have set there?  I'm very sure The Ladies would not have left it like that, so it must have been us somehow."  These and other panic stricken thoughts ran through my head as I washed the rest of the dishes.  I was a bit fearful, wondering what it might have been and how easily (or not) it would come off.  I know the standards The Ladies expect to be followed in the hallowed domain of the Church Kitchen.

As I got to the last few items of dirty dishes, it dawned on me.  The bear.  Joe used one of our cast iron pans on the stove.  Yes.  One of the well-seasoned cast iron pans that sometimes leave black greasy smear marks on surfaces.  And there is was.  The blaring black grease smear.  Baked onto the Ladies' Aid's stove.  Yes, it is the church's stove.  But only in name.  We all know it really belongs to The Ladies. 

(When you read this, you have to think in a somewhat somber and frightening kind of voice every time you read the words The Ladies.  It's not meant in any unkind way.  And it's not any one or couple of individual ladies.  It's simply the collective power of The Ladies to strike fear into the hearts of those unsuspecting individuals who tread wrongly.)

Terror was striking my heart during those minutes.  I know how hard those smears can be to remove from a solid surface stove.  Much to the chagrin of The Church Ladies, I don't really scrub off the parsonage one all the time anymore.  Dare I say it?  Stains don't bother me.  As long as the crumbs and chunks are scrubbed off.  as long as the surface grease is wiped up.  But I know it bothers The Ladies.

I knew that smear on the church stove simply had to come off.

I must admit that about this time, I did lose my battle against a few more eyerolls, directed at the whole bear thing.  Such a Man thing, right?  I mean, it's OK for us women to show off our quilts or crochet, or to even to leave our filled canning jars sitting on the counter for others to notice.  But it is pretty ridiculous for a man to want to show off his accomplishments, right? 

"Such a guy thing!" Eyeroll.  Right?  Isn't that how we are?  Well, maybe not you, but I am. 

Oh, and the did come off with a little elbow grease and a dab of CeramaBryte.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Beautiful Rest

In the last several years, I've been a big proponent of the idea that creating beautiful things is an emotional need for people,  But it's especially a need for stay at home moms, whose many daily accomplishments are less tangible and more fleeting.  Such creative endeavors might be simple or complex.  Anything that makes the world a prettier place according to any of the senses, and brings pleasure and relaxation to the doer.  I think of things such as singing some songs or playing piano; baking cookies or bread; crocheting a scarf; quilting; redecorating a room; or even scrubbing a well soiled wall. 

But it has to bring refreshment.  It can't be something on that "to do" list.  I mean, if baking bread is something you have to accomplish, it can't count for refreshment, no matter how much you enjoy doing it. 

Lately I've been crocheting.  Mostly scarves.  I love it.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!  And I think it's good for me in some deep way that I can't quite explain.  Except to say that the sense of accomplishment at creating a thing of beauty is healthful.

But now I have a real, honest to goodness, medical reason why this is so.

My good friend, Lisa, who is also a professional family counselor, explained it to me.  I probably can't explain it all well.  But in a nutshell, it is because of how the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work together. 

When a person does quiet refreshing hobbies, it gives the parasympathetic nervous system quiet time to do what it's supposed to do.  Active endeavors use primarily the sympathetic nervous system, which somehow overshadows the parasympathetic.  The parasympathetic needs down time.  So when a person is always busy and active, the parasympathetic doesn't have a chance to perform those things it needs to do, in order to keep a person in optimal mental health. 

Isn't that interesting? 

Lisa, if you wish, please leave a comment giving any additional info that explains better for my readers what you explained to me last night.  Thanks.