Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Currently


Discouraged by the events of the past couple weeks, I looked over some pieces I have written over time hoping to discover hope.  This piece written at this time of year five years ago reminds me that we have been through hard times before. The issues remain frighteningly constant.  We have known discouragement, and we have prevailed.  
Currently, the world is just a little mixed up.

Currently…
…I am saddened by the loss of civility in our culture.  The crass and vulgar language that is considered appropriate in public spaces makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  The aggressive and disrespectful way people treat each other wears on me.
…I am furious that the interest rates on student loans are doubling, and that those we elected to represent us are doing nothing to stop it.
…I am worried that the wealthiest and most powerful are using their influence in a way that will insure there won’t be a middle class in America for my grandchildren.
…I am heartened by the young people I know personally who have strength, character and  humor despite the culture we have handed them.
…I am awed by every day heroes who reflect the very best in us as they selflessly rush in to eradicate danger.
…I am surrounded by miracles- Grown children who grasp the importance of family; plants that doggedly grow and bloom , sharing beauty regardless of the care I offer; babies on the way, new lives filled with potential.
…I am trying to leave the world a little better than I found it through love and compassion.
…I am comforted by the knowledge that I am not alone.
The world is a mess, that is true.  Still, it has been a mess before.  Time and time again we have seen that human beings hold within us the power to improve the world.  It will take effort and require a tireless insistence on our best.  We must not pander to our most base instincts.  We were not intended to be just another beast in the animal kingdom.  We are intended to rise above.


Currently, I believe in the promise we hold within us to heal.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Security


I lay in the dark sifting through a thousand thoughts left over from the day, sorting them into the proper cubby in my mind.  I’m restless and realize I can’t remember if the back door got locked before we came up to bed.
My husband is snoring lightly beside me sleeping soundly.  I say his name three times before he responds.  I ask about the door, and he replies the same way he does each time this scene plays out, “Yes, it’s locked.”
He stirs, is still a moment and then wordlessly crawls out of bed.  In the dark he half sleepwalks down the stairs returning a moment later to report his findings.  Some nights we’ve left it open; tonight it really was locked.  Either way I sleep easier knowing for certain.  He understands this.  It is why he goes wordlessly into the dark.
Checking the backdoor at night is only one of the ways that my husband makes sure I feel the security of his love.  Through his fidelity, commitment, responsibility, honesty and care he makes each of my days secure.
It only takes a minute or so for his breathing to shift back into the slow heavy rhythm of sleep.  I reach out in the darkness and stroke his cheek issuing a silent prayer of thanksgiving before joining him in peaceful slumber.



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Circling Back




I saw this quote the other day and was struck by its truth…

Life’s journey is circular, it appears.  The years don’t carry us away from our fathers–they return us to them. ~Michel Marriot

Abutting generations.  Their issues, feelings, experiences may be too intense.   People pull away from one another to gain space in which to find their own footing.
They maintain distance.  When grandchildren come, they need their grandparents, and the generations are pulled back together.
Time allows us to see each other in light that falls less harshly on our choices and ways of thinking.
The line that once moved directly away bends and bows and encircles all once more.  Three generations; one family.  Individuals bound to one another through time by love.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Operation Apple Recovery





This summer I am engaged in war with the local squirrel population.  We are competing for the apples and tomatoes I am growing.  So,far I am not winning. Thinking of other gardens and epic battles with nature's creatures of the past, I went back in the archives to remind myself that occasionally I do win a battle.

Last Fall we enjoyed our first crop of apples.  We had planted the tree years ago and had grown several crops.  Every year we saw the branches fill with apples.  We watched as they got larger and closer to ripeness, our mouths watering at the thought of the yummy treats a tree full of apples could produce.  Every year just as we had begun counting down the days until harvest,  we would go to bed one night with the vision of  a luscious tree of fruit in our heads only to wake the next day to empty branches.  No sign that there had ever been apples remained.  Apple, core, stem,  all were gone along with our dreams of homemade apple sauce and the crunch of a sweet juicy apple.
This was an affront we could no longer tolerate.  So, we became detectives looking for clues.  Chief suspects?  A yard full of squirrels, the mama possum who brazenly scaled the back fence each and every night, and most likely the pair of raccoons that we fought to keep out of the chimney.
Each growing season saw a new plan of attack.  We researched natural repellents for each of the suspects.  We sprayed the tree with hot pepper spray which might as well have been pure water for all the repulsion it provided. We covered the tree from top to trunk in netting.  That became problematic when both a bird and squirrel found a way into the netting and we couldn't figure a way out for them without placing ourselves within striking distance.  We covered the trunk in an attempt to make it impossible to climb, but apparently our thief  used the fence to jump into the tree rather than climb.  Each growing season began with high hopes for our latest battle plan only to end with a stripped tree.
Last spring my husband had had enough.  He came home one night wild eyed a live trap in tow. When I asked what would happen if he actually caught anything, he grinned and said we would figure that out if and when we had success.  Up the trap went to the roof of the sleeping porch.  It was fortified with cat food which was reportedly irresistable to raccoons.  Every night my husband scaled a ladder to the rooftop and the trap was baited.  Every morning back up he went to find the trap sprung and the food missing.  This was our routine as the high school prom approached.
When my daughter and her date arrived home in the wee hours they startled a humongous raccoon who scurried away from them almost as quickly as they scurried from him.  The enormous creature attempted to shinny up the downspot but awkward and portly (apparently from eating trees full of fruit), he lost his balance somewhere near the roof.  He scraped along the uneven rocks of the second floor as he tumbled down the side of the stone house.  The kids hurried inside wide eyed as a thud sounded in the bushes.  The next morning there was no sign of the raccoon himself but the side of the house was covered in a trail of raccoon blood.  War is hell.
One villain down-literally-the trap and the battle moved to the back fence area.  To our surprise it captured not one but two opossums.   There is a trick to removing these unattractive creators from the trap as they really do "play possum" and convincingly so.  You can be completely convinced you are removing a corpse when you suddenly face a mouth filled with tiny spiky teeth and a spitty sounding hiss issuing forth.  The details on this stage of Operation Apple Recovery are too ugly to share.  Suffice it to say the opossum family no longer resides out back.
While Man vs. Wild played out on Westwood the tree silently produced its best crop yet.  Picking time approached.  We were optimistic but not overly confident.  The yard still teemed with dozens of squirrels who had not been eliminated as suspects themselves.  They seemed to taunt us with their chipper scampering around the tree, but each morning we awoke to branches still brimming with apples.  Although we still don't know who the real culprit was, when harvest came last fall the apples were ours for the picking.
We enjoyed apples in the fall until we could eat no more.  I made some simple syrup and added lemon juice to cover and freeze apple slices. Now from time to time I pull out a container of those apples and cook them on the stovetop with some cinnamon.  I run them through the blender and have yummy homemade applesauce for lunch and a house that smells absolutely wonderful.  Also, it is a healthy treat which is important.  We need to be in tip top shape because apple growing season is just around the corner.
April 2011

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Road Trips




1990- 2010 was the Era of Epic Road Trips for our family. We made multiple runs to the East coast from our Kansas home.  We thought nothing of buzzing up to Door County, Wisconsin with semi-frequency.  We loaded up our own wagon and traveled to every location where Pa Ingalls had settled the Little House gang.  From the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty we saw the USA, and we did it while preserving quite a bit of the domestic tranquility.
We were blessed with three easy going kids which made the traveling feasible, but we also had a secret weapon…the little girl in this photo, Daughter #2 age five.  By this point she could out-pack me for the journey.  Those indoor/outdoor sunglasses are a tip-off that this young lady was ready for anything.  Wherever we traveled, she brought along a backpack filled with the most obscure items which we inevitably found ourselves needing.  Tape, chigger bite cream, a flashlight, a permanent marker, a bungee cord, all manner of safety items could be found in that red calico bag.  But she wasn’t merely practical, she also packed creature comforts.  Snacks, drinks, lotion, chap stick, stuffed animals, fuzzy socks, and most likely that set of Uno cards amusing her in the photo, all were things she could be counted on toting along as well.
The mere mention of an item one of us might find handy sent her riffling through her back pack.  Nine times out of ten she could lay her hands on the very item we were wishing for.  She wouldn’t say a word, but simply grin and hand it over.
She and I  make fewer epic road trips now that shuttling her back and forth between home and college not to mention our summer vacations have ended.  The last road trip we made was Kansas to North Carolina where she settled into her adult life.  Even on that trip she still thought of things we needed that I had forgotten, and still pulled them out of her bag with that same sly grin.  She is still a world class traveling companion.  In fact, the only that has really changed is her taste in sunglasses.


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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sweet Corn

The father-in-law of one of the secretaries at my school has farmed his whole life.  Though he reached the age when many people retire years ago, there are parts of farming that he can’t let go.  Every year he grows sweet corn on a scale that must be considered more crop than garden.  Everyone at our school benefits from his efforts.
I decided to preserve the corn I received after finding food.com’s instructions for freezing fresh corn.  Step 1:Shucking the Corn is the kind of chore that can be done while your mind is  a million miles away.  My mind was on the back porch on a hot summer day in the early 1970s.  Sitting on the concrete stoop I happily worked through a stack of corn that someone had given to our family helping to stretch the food budget required to fill the bottomless bellies of so many growing children.
Corn on the cob was one of the best things about summer in my mind.  I could make a meal of buttery, sweet corn.  I loved pretending with my brothers that our corn eating was like fingers flying across the keys of a typewriter reaching the end of the page with a ding and returning to the other side for yet another line.
I took pride in my ability to remove more of the corn silks than my older brothers could.  No one would get a silk caught like floss in their teeth as long as I was performing quality control.  I often reworked ears of corn my brothers had deemed ready for the pot of boiling water shaking my head at their feeble attempts.

Step 2:  Cook the ears in boiling, salted water for four minutes.  The steam rising above my huge soup pot as I drop in each ear causes my glasses to fog over.  I think of my mother in her hot kitchen.  Our house was cooled–on those summers that it was cooled at all–by a single window air unit positioned in the living room at the farthest point from the kitchen possible.  Standing near the steaming pot in my own comfortable kitchen I suddenly remember that there was at some point during my childhood a unit in the window by the kitchen pantry.  I don’t recall it ever being there, but a memory of my dad removing it floats through my brain.  I am peeking at him from inside as he works outside the window.  Normally, he would grin at me but in this memory he is discouraged.  Why had I never made the connection between this memory and the many memories of my mother’s flushed face as she stood working at the hot stove?



Step 3:  Lay the ears on a clean dishtowel to drain and cool.
Step 4: Once cooled to the touch, stick the end of an ear into the opening of the center tube of an angel food or bundt cake pan.  Using a paring knife cut the kernels from the cob letting them fall into the cake pan.  Going through the motions I can’t help but notice how much my hands have come to resemble my mother’s. Her hands are the things I remember most vividly about her perhaps because they were always moving, always delving into some project that would directly benefit me.


Step 5: Melt butter (1/3 cup was perfect for a dozen ears) , drizzle over the corn and toss.  Place corn in an airtight container and freeze.


I tasted the corn before slipping it into my freezer and smiled at the same buttery goodness I remember from my childhood.  I started this project with the idea I was preserving corn, but came to understand I was really preserving memories.  Memories of childhood summers with simple pleasures in a family who surrounded me in love.







Saturday, June 16, 2018

TToT: Throwback to Summers Past



…back in Kansas,  there is much to be thankful for.


Little kids and their great sense of style.  How can you go wrong with a red glitter visor and patriotic tutu skirt?  Not to mention the confidence to wear it in public!
Rain that brings the temperature out of the “hazardous” range and offers a life saving drink to the outdoor plants.
Watermelon.  Cold, juicy watermelon.
Summer binge reading.  
An example of graciousness: Sunday at church an elderly gentleman mistook a decorative gem stone for a mint, placing it in his mouth and causing concern among the crowd.  I attempted to get him to spit it out for fear he would choke, but only succeeded in confusing and embarrassing him.  Soon after, a lady sitting near us reached for her purse.   Pulling out a tissue she lightly folded it into a square, leaned over to him and said, “When you are finished with what you have in your mouth go ahead and slip it into the tissue.”  Genius, unadulterated genius.  He swished the hard stone around his mouth a couple more times before discretely depositing it into the tissue.  Not only did she stave off a choking disaster, she allowed him to retain his dignity.  Her gracious act was a thing of beauty.
Sun tea by the gallon.  Cold and crisp.
Mammographic proof of healthy breasts.  And 364 days of smoosh-free existence.  I am never quite ready for my close-up.
Watching my friend at her father’s funeral this week, I was reminded of my mom’s funeral a few years ago.  My kids surrounded me with both physical and emotional support.  It is one of my earliest memories of them all three as adults, roles reversed with them caring for me.  The pride and affection of the memory is still as strong as it was in the moment; I am tremendously grateful for these three people who make life pretty much as good as it gets.
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The entry above was written several summers ago.  I happened across it today as I was deleting some old files from my computer, and it was a timely reminder of how much of what is really good in life remains the same from year to year.  As another week comes to an end I remain thankful for all that gives refreshment, for the love of family, the company of friends,  the innocence of childhood, the written word, and fathers.  This week I am especially thankful that I never had to face the possibility of someone beyond my control separating me from my children; and though it has been far too long in coming I am grateful that faith leaders are raising their voices to say that our government doing this to families is morally and spiritually wrong.