Archive for January, 2015

Three Stones

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say. ~Martin Luther

There are three stones at the bottom of the tote bag that I carry with me almost every day. There’s nothing special about the stones, they are typical Minnesota rocks probably picked from the church parking lot by my pastor a couple of years ago. He is the kind of pastor that likes to use visuals when he speaks every Sunday, and be it stones, water, or footballs, we’re often surprised but never bored. He gave each of us the stones and asked us to think about three places where we saw God that week. The stones stayed in the console of my car for a long time, and I can’t explain why I tossed them in the tote bag instead of out the door, but they are there to this day. My pastor probably never dreamed how important those rocks would become someday. It is easy to see God in life’s beautiful things such as sunsets and gardens and newborn babies. It is not so easy to see Him during the difficult times and sometimes it feels like there is more ugliness in today’s world than good. I pull a stone out of my bag if I am having a stressful day at work, or if I worry about the world’s latest crisis. Sometimes I reach in for something else and grab one by mistake. Except God doesn’t make mistakes. On a couple of occasions, I carried one in my pocket all day. Touching the rough edges with my fingers always reminds me that God is here with me and with each and every one of us, in all situations. I have never been particularly religious, and over the years did my Christian duty and attended church every Christmas and Easter. Moving back to my home town, going to church on Sunday became as comfortable as slipping into an old pair of shoes. Not that I would call the pastor an old shoe, but he gets it. He gets us. He gets me. Recently, I added responsibility to the collection plate and became a church council member. In our church and our community, everyone must do their part. If you live in a small town like I do, you will understand the impact of losing cheerful and motivated community members like Pastor Dwight and his wife Lisa. Yes, he has taken another call in another town, and although they are happy and excited with anticipation, they are sad to be leaving a community that has been their home for 20 years. In their honor, I ask all of you to do the following: Pick up a stone (any old stone will do) and keep it in your pocket or purse. Use it as a reminder that you are not alone. You may think it will be too heavy for you to carry around, but take it from someone who knows. Your burdens will be a lot lighter and your days a lot brighter. Godspeed, Dwight and Lisa. Godspeed, and thank you.

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Calls of nature

Barney the Chihuahua doesn’t like winter. Not one bit. His gene pool is from warm and sunny Mexico, while mine is from the almost endless winters of Scandinavia. Funny about those gene pools, though. I don’t much care for winter, either. We really don’t need a thermometer around here. If it is 80 degrees, Barney digs in his heels and doesn’t want to come in the house. At 65 degrees, he’ll still want to walk around sniffing every bush and tree and marking his territory. Barney thinks the entire county is his territory, by the way. At 50 degrees, a few quick sniffs and a brief er…whizz… will do, and he prefers to guard his territory from the window seat in the warmth of the house. At 30 degrees, a quick in and out is it. When it is below zero he doesn’t even make it off the porch. No way, no how. Ten steps and he becomes a cowering shivering bundle of misery, lifting each paw off the ground and looking so pitiful that he needs to be picked up and taken inside or stuffed inside your parka. Barney’s antics make me think of my Minnesota ancestors, and how they answered the call of nature. If you are wondering why in the HECK I am even discussing this subject, just know that I have a writer’s brain that often takes off in all kinds of strange directions, and believe me, it can be a curse as well as a blessing. My own grandparents probably didn’t have indoor plumbing in their youth, but how about going back even more years? How did people “go” in Victorian times in the middle of winter? I can’t imagine walking to an outhouse at 10 below zero in a January wind and actually shudder at the thought of sitting down on that freezing cold seat. There were also the indoor chamber pots, which would be a bit warmer, but the women had to deal with petticoats, pantaloons, or for the Farm Women, scratchy woolen long underwear. Chamber pots are actually quite small, too, and if you look at the pictures of my ancestors, you will understand just why I am wondering and why I am not a size three. Our biffy, as my dad always called them, is located not far from the house, between the back door and the chicken coop. Whoever put it in decided that it should have a place of honor, smack dab in the middle of the back yard. We don’t use the outhouse, but it is there just in case our septic should ever freeze over some winter or if we should ever decide to throw a big, wild, outdoor party. I can only hope that neither of these would happen. In the meantime, it’s time to take the dog out.

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My toddler grandson slept until 10:00 a.m. yesterday. On a Saturday. That is not fair at all. For generations, it has been every mother’s fervent wish that her children will have children who turn out to be just like them. Most mornings, my daughter got up around 5:00 a.m. Even as a teen, when most of her friends were sleeping until noon, she barely slept past 8:00. I remember a sweet little sing-song voice whispering in my ear one weekend morning at 4:45: “Kriiiispies……Rice Kriiiiispies….” Shortly after that, I moved the milk down to a lower shelf in the refrigerator where she could reach it. Don’t judge. There was no mother of the year award for me that year, nor the year I accidentally sloshed her out of the water-bed. HE tried to explain to her that weekends were made for sleeping in. Her answer? “Daddy, I just don’t want to waste the day!”. When I was a kid, I didn’t sleep late, either, but would stay in bed and read, hiding my book under the covers and pretending to be asleep if Mom came in to ask me to do my Saturday chore of cleaning my room. I had the messiest room in town, too. Unfortunately, our daughter took after me in the worst way, and her open bedroom door, with clothes and toys oozing out into the hallway, was a constant source of consternation for me while she was growing up. When my mom would visit, she would sometimes open that bedroom door and smile, making comments about her prayers finally being answered. Very funny, that mother of mine. I ignored the smarty-pants remarks, since when she visited, she did the laundry and cooked us a wonderful meal every evening, and I didn’t want to put a stop to THAT gravy train. These days, I would love to sleep late, but be it from the snap and crackle of my creaky joints or Pop’s snoring, I just can’t. I still can’t seem to keep my room spotlessly clean, but it certainly is a lot neater than when I was a teenager. (The rest of the house isn’t too bad, either, as long as you give me a few minutes notice before you stop over.) My daughter’s bedroom? I don’t know, because when I go to visit, the door is always shut. I like to think that she took after her father’s side of the family and it is sparkling clean in there. Whether your house is neat as a pin or has that “lived-in” look; if you’re a late sleeper or up at the crack of dawn, take some advice from the little girl with a messy room who turned into a successful woman anyway: Don’t waste the day!

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You are probably wondering why I always write about gardening in the winter, when everything, including my feet, are a solid block of ice. Truthfully, it is to keep myself from going stark-raving mad when I am surrounded by this never-ending season of Frozen, which in real life is NOT a cute little Disney movie. There is nothing cute about a temperature of six below zero, which is supposed to be the high today. I don’t even want to tell you the low. Days like this take me to my own personal happy place, a Disney Fantasyland of sorts. When we moved back to Minnesota from Florida a few years ago, I carried my vegetable seeds and seed potatoes in the car with us, and thanks to the help of an old friend who tilled a medium-sized garden spot before we even got here, I started planting before the moving boxes were unpacked. The next year, HE asked me how big of a garden I wanted, and I paced out the area for him to till. It was big. Bigger than big. He also erected a lovely high fence around it to keep the deer out. For the first time in my life, I had a garden as big as I wanted, and then some. Truthfully, it is way too big, and the weeds get away from me every year. The next spring, he tilled and fenced a garden in the back field. “I want to plant a few strawberries and pumpkins”, he said, and made a garden nearly the size of a football field. I tend to exaggerate, but should have been suspicious at the time, because nobody hates gardening more than HE does. In fact, I think there is something in our marriage vows “in sickness or in health but not in the garden”, or something like that. What he really wanted was to purchase the strawberry and pumpkin plants, then eat lots of strawberry shortcake and pumpkin pie. The stuff that came in between needed to be done by either waving a magic wand or waiting for me to do it. It is my own fault because after all, I do kind of promote myself as a Farm Woman. A sow it, plant it, hoe it, weed it, harvest it, cook it, and preserve it kind of Farm Woman. A tired and “What do you mean those weeds grew back? I just pulled them last week!” kind of Farm Woman. When I dreamed of this northern beauty of a garden, I was knee-deep in my Florida plot in 90 degree heat, trying to conjure black loam out of white sand, dodging snakes, (I don’t care if it was a “good” snake, any snake that is two feet long and meets me while I am on my hands and knees, nearly causing me to have a heart attack cannot possibly be “good”!) and slapping vicious mosquitoes. Here, the season is shorter and cooler. I am knee-deep in good black dirt, dodging snakes (they are a little smaller, but can still potentially cause a heart attack), and slapping mosquitoes which are even more vicious. Things don’t change much, do they? Except that it is probably going to be 75 degrees at my former home today. That’s ABOVE zero. I think I’ll just grab my seed catalogs and a hot cup of coffee and crawl under the electric blanket to dream of summer gardens to come. Weedless, snakeless, mosquitoless gardens. My Fantasyland. It is truly a happy place.

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