Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Treading an Untrodden Path.

The littlest native has been humming "Come! Come! Ye Saints!" at high speed under her breath while she reads "Bambi's Children" for probably an hour, and I am two inches from going coo-coo, so I think I will write a blog. Not because I have anything in particular to say, but I just want to connect with my blog people again, and stave off insanity, by means of distraction.

Hi, y'all!

I have very little time for writing anymore because I have taken on a new venture. Maybe I will tell you about it. It will give me subject matter, at least. Subject matter is a beautiful thing when you need to write. Especially if your sanity rests upon it.

Last December we sat across from friends of ours at a Christmas banquet and they told us the mayor of our little town had said that they were looking for someone to cook in the cafeteria of a new charter school they were building. He had asked if anyone in our church would be interested in the job.

On the way home we discussed it a little bit. "It could be fun!" I said. "I love to cook! We love children! It would be fun to work together!" The natives threw in a few positive comments. The Chief did not poo-poo it. That was something.The school itself was being constructed a half-mile from the wigwam. It could not be handier.

The more I thought about it the more I wished we would do it.The Chief would help, of course. He would take care of the business aspects. I would cook. And we had all this potential native labor. It would be a tribal effort, and it would be a great fit for us!

So the Chief and I talked about it. He called the mayor and we met with him. He was all for giving us the job if we wanted it, but there would be no kitchen at the school, he said. All the food would have to be prepared off-site and delivered. Whew. We asked him how long we had to consider it, and he said we had till the end of April anyway.

The no-kitchen aspect introduced a factor we had not anticipated. It was daunting, really, but we had some ideas and we explored our options. It took awhile. Also, there were so many other things that needed to be researched and planned. People to hire. Menus to plan. Food prep and transportation. I have never in my entire life done commercial-type cooking. I had never gone to public school. I couldn't even picture what a school cafeteria looked like in operation. There were classes to take and  regulations to investigate. The more we looked into it the longer the list grew.

We came up against the reality that the time was too short, and we were way too inadequate for the task. We could not funnel everything that needed funneling into those few summer months before school started. In April we called the mayor and told him we were sorry, but we just could not do it.

We were sorry, too. But we both felt at peace. Neither the Chief nor I wanted to force ourselves into something and regret it later. The natives were disappointed. The mayor was understanding, and seemed unconcerned about finding someone else to do it. In many regards, it was a relief.  We went back to wigwam life and the summer passed without incident.

The 4rth weekend in July we were preparing for a trip to Pennsylvania for a family reunion. We hadn't gone anywhere in awhile and spirits were high. We were leaving Friday morning, early. So Thursday we were doing up laundry and packing, when the Chief called. "Guess who just called?" he asked.

I couldn't guess.

"The mayor." he said. "He said they are going to have a meeting up at the school at 4PM about this cafeteria job. There's another lady interested, and they are meeting with the US Foods rep. They put in a kitchen after all, but it is fairly small. He said if we wanted a place at the table they would save us one."

"It's the end of July!"

"I know."

"So what should we do?"

"I think we'll at least go and see what they have to say."

"But it's the end of July!!"

"I know."

And so we went.

We toured the kitchen. It consisted of  walls, a ceiling, and a floor. An oven stood over near one corner. We picked our way over and around tools and ladders and building materials. I tried to imagine working there. I tried to imagine it being all in place by the beginning of school.

We went and had our meeting, but much of it was beyond me. I grasped for bits and phrases that might be useful, and filed them frantically. The other lady seemed very interested in the job. She was dressed in high heels. She had run a school cafeteria before. She knew how much she could produce a school lunch for and she had her bid ready to submit.

I knew nothing.

The US Foods rep said they had the menus for various local school districts and we could start by borrowing their menus at the outset if that would be of use. Everyone seemed very kind and anxious to be as helpful as possible. They needed cooks fast.

We left the meeting with our minds spinning. I went home to finish packing, and the next morning we left bright and early for Pennsylvania. We had a wonderful time connecting with the broader tribe.

And then we came home, and we had to decide. We had a part of a week to submit a bid if we were going to do it. "What shall we do?" I asked the Chief.

"I think we'll submit a bid" he said.

We will??

I was startled, frankly. Submitting a bid meant we were... um...submitting a bid!

"But if we submit a bid, we might get the job!"


Up to this point, it had always been a hypothetical. The ball had been in our court, but we could walk around with it under our arm. Or prop one foot on it and survey the landscape. If we submitted a bid we had just lost control of the ball. We might get the job. I was nervous.

"Are you going to stop your job and help me? I can't do this by myself."

He was a bit non-committal on that point. Non-commitment makes my insides knot up. But I try very hard not to be one of "those wives". The ones, you know, who hound their chief when their chief is being non-committal.

Eventually he leveled with me. He did not think it was wise to stop his current job not knowing how much this job would bring in.

He was right, of course. I knew he was right. But I did NOT see how I could do it without him. He is my rock. My decision-maker when my mind shatt...I mean scatters. I just like working with him. I wanted him to be there with all my heart.I had envisioned him being there beside me.

"I'll do everything I can to help you get started." he said. I felt overwhelmed.
He agreed to take off work the first week and help me. I relaxed a bit.

He submitted a bid. It would be about a week until we found out one way or the other. The clock was ticking. School would soon be starting. The kitchen still had no appliances installed.

I thought about the other lady who submitted a bid. She knew what she was doing. She would probably get the job. I didn't know whether I hoped she did or hoped she didn't. But it was a comfort somehow to tell myself that she would probably get it.

I started hunting for employees, just in case. The two oldest natives were working for the Chief. They would come and work for me instead. They were excited. And I was delighted at the prospect of working with them. But I needed another woman. Somebody who knew how to cook. Somebody I didn't have to babysit through every cooking step.

I wracked my brain. When we had considered the job the previous winter I had tentatively lined up someone I thought would be perfect, but her plans had changed. There are not many women worth their salt who are sitting around waiting to be asked if they would like a job. All the women I knew already had their plates full.

So I just tried to think of somebody I thought would be good at it. She was my friend, but she already had a job and I knew she loved her job. I called her anyway.

It was a long shot.

I pleaded with her as unobnoxiously as I knew how. She said, "Let me think about it and I'll let you know.".
I could tell by how she said it that she wasn't going to.

But she called me back later and said she would! I could not believe it!! I started feeling less terrified.

And then, the mayor called and said "Y'all are in the food-making business!"

And at that point, there was no turning back.

So we did as much as we knew to do, which felt really limited. My friend and I went and shadowed a kitchen crew at another charter school for a day. That was the most helpful and educating experience we had the whole time. The manager there was entirely hospitable and sympathetic, and was as helpful as she could possibly be. She printed off recipes that served 100 people, recipes they used. She told me to call her anytime I needed help. I called her several times. She asked various questions about our facilities and whether or not I had ordered food yet. I said "No. There are no freezers or refrigerators."

She seemed worried for me. School was starting very soon. There were no appliances installed yet either. But some of them sat in the kitchen there, waiting. A sink was hooked up. The appliances were going to nearly all be second-hand because the kitchen had not been in the budget at the outset. The kitchen had essentially been added as an after-thought. I hoped they would work. What if they did not work?

A few other friends offered to help us get started and so I hired a couple other ladies to help at the outset. They proved to be invaluable troopers, all.

The weekend before school started the kitchen was cleared out and the appliances were installed.
But they were used. Very used. Years of  greasy crud coated them. The ovens had not been cleaned in years I am sure. Paint was chipped. Long dried grasses stuck to the bottoms of the work tables. I guess they were stored in someone's back forty.

I had tried to figure out what I was going to serve the first week. It was all so new. What would they eat? What could we actually fix in a few hours time? They had told us earlier maybe 350 or 400 people, but that they would give us an actual number closer to the time. I didn't know. It was all a shot in the dark. I finally made up a menu, figured out recipes, broke it down to ingredients. We met with the US Foods rep to place our first order on Friday. School started Tues. At the time of the meeting we still had not been given a meal number. I went up to the front desk and asked if they had a number for us yet. The lady at the front desk said the number of people that had signed up to eat lunch was 70.


That was so far below what we had been told we should plan on, it was stunning. But okay, 70. I could cook for 70. That looked doable. We started down through our endless-looking list. Every single spice and condiment and bowl and ingredient. We were starting from scratch. And for every individual item he gave us all these options...this brand or this brand, or this other brand? Fat free? Whole wheat or white? This was clearly going to take a long, long time. Partway through, one of the powers-that-be came in and said we had better plan for at least 200something, that it is possible not everyone signed up that was planning to eat.


We revised our quantities...

And then later we were interrupted again. "You need to plan for at least 400. In no case do we want a child to show up expecting a meal, and there be no food available." Well, that was understandable. We re-revised.
It was as new for them as it was for us, I guess.
We placed our order.

That night we began to scrub appliances. We scrubbed work tables and sinks and ovens and stoves. On Saturday we went again. We scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and SCRUBBED. They looked so much better. We surveyed our work Saturday evening with a measure of pleasure.

"I think they would look so nice painted up!" I said. "Maybe a nice cranberry? Something to add some color in here." The Chief was agreeable and off he went for paint. He came back and we started painting. The paint sample looked fine but when we painted it on the table legs it looked like Barney the Dinosaur.... or poke berry juice. Oh my. It was just so bad. We tried to decide if another coat would somehow fix it. The Chief thought it probably would. But it was getting later and later. We HAD to call it a day. The next day was Sunday.

I could not wait for Monday. All I could think of was somebody walking in there and seeing those bright purple appliance legs and thinking "What in the WORLD is going on in this kitchen??"

First thing Monday morning we went to Lowe's for more paint. It was a more subdued tone. More of a reddish brown, actually. The natives started slathering it on. It was so much better! The work tables and shelves started looking uniform and almost classy.

And our food order came. We arranged it on the shelves and in the freezers and refrigerator. It all fit.

We cleaned every thing up, and turned on the ovens to see if they worked. They did. We opened up packages of steamer pans, and baking sheets, mixing bowls and utensils, and tried to decide how to arrange it all. The things we didn't have I hauled from my own kitchen.

And the next morning the whole crew showed up. Way early. We tried to figure out the serving table and in what order to do things. But the serving table was not yet hooked up to electricity and there was no way to keep food cold or hot. Hmm.

We scurried around trying to cover all our bases, and have all the food ready. There was no warming oven as yet so we had to have it all hot just in time to serve, but not too early. And certainly not too late! And how many were we serving after all? 70? or 400??

It was all exhilarating, and rather exciting, in spite of all the unknowns. The electricians showed up partway through the morning and hooked up the serving table. Yay!!

And we got everything around! And the children, the darling little children, began to file through.

My crew took their places at the serving table in the dining room.

And we had enough food. Way too much, actually. We served, I think 175, or something. It's a little fuzzy to me, how many it was exactly.

And so began this journey. Our oldest native has come to work with us now. The Chief did as promised and held my hand the first week. And my trusty friends got us started splendidly.

It was not without its share of bumps, learning the pesky foibles of the food company, and our own pesky foibles.

But it gradually got better! And all along we had a LOT of fun! Every day was a gem in its own right. Some of them polished to a higher degree than others.

I love my work crew. We have good times. The natives love working in the kitchen, in spite of the fact that they rarely ever helped in the kitchen here at the wigwam. They have become expert slicers and dicers. And singers. Lots of singing goes on.

In December we served an average of 240 a day.

But it's a good thing the Chief did not stop his job to start this one or we would be destitute for certain. He always was the wise one.

And if any of y'all would like a couple buckets of purple-dinosaur-colored paint, I know where you could get some for cheap.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Death of a Brat

The way I  remember it, I was an obnoxious adolescent.

I was the youngest of the three girls with a five year gap between us. Virtue did not develop within me in a timely fashion. Mother didn't seem too disturbed about it, perhaps she had enough experience under her belt to know the ugly duckling stage truly was a stage, but I grated on my older sisters. The one, in particular. (If  I grated on the other one she was too meek to mention it much.)

Being lazy, I didn't want to pull my weight in the housework department.
Being stubborn, I didn't want her telling me what to do regardless how diplomatically she said it. And she was extraordinarily diplomatic.

I could spot from miles away her housework "bargains".... the ones where she would agree to do 2/3rds of the housework if I would do 1/3 of it. The only legit bargain I would officially appreciate was the one where I would slip unnoticed out of the house and do what I pleased. I never pleased to do housework.  Mother could make me, but my sister wasn't my boss.

Being a brat, I said things to her that were just mean.
I told her once, "I love you, but I don't like you."
 It hurt her, and she told me so, but I didn't care.
I remember feeling smug when I said it. She bugged me. Always and forever presenting me with "bargains", when all I wanted was to go walking along the pond, or a tree-lined creek, sit on a big rock in the middle maybe, watch the water go around it on both sides and try to predict on which side of it approaching leaves would float.

I'd think about things. And imagine myself in the middle of interesting stories.  I was the quintessential tom-boy and I thought boys had a lot more fun than girls did. They didn't, for instance have to do housework. Not in my family they didn't.

But I was right there at "that" point in life....
I was kind of excited about growing up. Being a young lady held a certain appeal. I imagined being pretty, even though I wasn't. And having nice clothes, even though the ones I wore were just plain practical and I made them dirty with activities like lounging on the backs of the steers while they grazed, and sitting on boulders in the middle of the creek.

It never occurred to me that maturity was part of the package. Or working.

I did lots and lots of thinking. I didn't really, at this stage of my life, have any close friends because of factors that were beyond my control. This did not bother me at all. I liked being by myself to think. I thought of lots of things. I considered a lot of issues. I loved nature and solitude and making up story  plots. I did not love housework. Especially not cleaning. Or washing dishes. I didn't want anyone bugging me about doing it. Except maybe Mother because she was my legitimate boss.

I could hold up the only bathroom and experiment with possible ladylike hair arrangements in there for 45 minutes, but please, do not expect me to sign my name to any house cleaning "bargains" especially ones that make you look good and me like a wretch for doing only 1/3 of the work!!

 I can still hear her saying brightly, "Rhon, would you agree to do so and so if I would do so and so and so and so and so and so and so and so?" She actually could hardly wait for Sundays to be over so she could start cleaning again. That's the truth.

Spare me.

In retrospect, I cannot stand the girl that was me. How my sister managed to keep her manipulation diplomatic is beyond me, but she did. I was self absorbed and selfish and lazy and meanish. And ugly. I have pictures of me sporting the results of some of those 45 minute bathroom sessions.

But somewhere along the way the tension between us started to fade. I didn't know when. I didn't notice it at all. But here one day, we were friends. And I liked her. A lot. And I loved her.  And she liked me too.

We had good times. We did things together.

I never did like to do housework and I still don't, really. But I did do it.

One day, years later, she told me this:

She was forever frustrated with my stubborn, selfish, brattiness. And nothing she ever tried could dissuade me from my irritating resistance of her reformation attempts.

So one day she changed tactics and decided to treat me as if I were a princess and she were my servant.

And so, if I expressed a wish, no matter how small, she would jump to fulfill it. If I asked if anybody had seen my jacket, she would hop up right away and help me hunt for it, instead of simply saying "no".
Her entire mentality was geared toward serving me in any way possible.

Of course I was too self-absorbed to notice. Or appreciate it.  Or resist.

And so, we became friends. And I think after I quit defending against her improvement programs, I  became  invested in actually improving myself.

And then, by the time she told me what she had done it was too late to defy her efforts.
The door of opportunity was shut. There was no turning back.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Come We That Love a Rant

The tribe just returned to the wig-wam from a road trip. This gave birth to a succinct, three point sermon. None of these points, no doubt, apply to my above-average readers, which means they will be wasted breath, except for the therapeutic effect on the preacher, but here goes:

#1. If you are driving, drive.
You would think this would be a no-brainer, but apparently not.

If you come up on somebody driving 7 degrees slower than anyone else, with a biggish gap between himself and the car in front of him, as likely as not when you pull around him he will be texting.
Just stop, people. It makes no sense to be doing that and navigating a two ton machine with your leftover brain. At the very least you impede the smooth flow of traffic. At most you endanger your life and the life of everyone else in proximity. Put your phone down and drive. You don't have to be communicating 24/7, world without perceivable end. You can sit there and drive. You can.

#2. Pay attention and be thoughtful.
There are other people on the road besides you.

If you are going down a two-lane interstate don't pull adjacent to someone in the right hand lane and just hover there. Go around him. If he's going too fast to pass, slow down and pull in behind him. Don't sit there while traffic piles up behind you mile after oblivious mile. If you are the innocent party in the right-hand lane and somebody pulls next to you and stays there, don't be contrary just because you're not doing anything wrong.  Be a sweetie. Hit the brake or the gas till the people behind you can pass. It won't kill you to reset your cruise.

#3 Stopping to merge is not smart.

If traffic is fast and heavy, the gaps are already precious. It takes a FAR LARGER gap to merge when you are creeping, and the chances of you finding one plummet if you are at a standstill.

Matching your speed to the traffic is the way to go. Unless traffic is truly bumper to bumper and there is no where to get in, period, put on your signal light, and merge. Just do it. The traveling public will thank you. Amen.

Would the song leader please lead us in a song?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Mothering "Light-bulb"

Here is a bit of something I dashed off to a facebook  "Mommy" group two days ago.
I was asked if I would post it on my blog, so I modified it ever so slightly and am posting it here, NOT as an expert parent, but just as a mom, who, with the help of God, stumbles upon things that work now and then. (Hallelujah!)

There is one thing I have learned along the way that has majorly transformed my relationship with my children....
Let me take that back. I didn't feel like I had a bad relationship with them before, so "transform" might be a strong word, but I was just amazed how much richer and funner, lacking in tension and more congenial it became after I figured this out.

It came about when I became aware how much of my interaction with them, was initiated by my children:

They cry, I respond.
They whine, I react.
They ask a question, I answer.
They show me something, I look at it and say something appropriate.
They ask for a drink, I get them a drink.

The exception to that rule was when I was telling them to do something.
"It's time to pick up your toys. It's time to take a bath. Would you please bring me the scissors? Would you please call Daddy for supper?"...etc. and so on, ad nauseum, world without end, amen.

Occasionally I would ask them questions, but usually the "polite routine" types of questions, "Did you sleep well last night? How was the volley-ball game? How was school?..."...blah-de blah..

So after I noticed this, I decided to try to change it.

I began initiating conversations..asking their opinions on whatever. Initiating fun imagination-type things: 'What do you think would happen if..?"
Specific questions: "What was your favorite thing about today?"

Instead of trying to sneak a drink of tea without them seeing so I didn't have to pour four glasses of tea instead of one, I start out from an entirely different place: "Would anyone care for a glass of tea?" I'll say, and serve them first.

Or instead of waiting till they ask me to read to them, I'll suggest it, "I got this book I thought y'all would enjoy, if you'll get your baths quick, I'll read to you."
Or instead of waiting till they ask to play a game I'll say, "If you like, I'll play you two rounds of the matching game."

I will sometimes hop in and help them with their jobs...say it's setting or clearing the table, or picking up toys....especially when they are working well and don't expect or need help...."Here, let me get the blocks while you get the Legos.."

Even SMALL kindnesses/compliments if they are "extra" work wonders. "You have the best freckles EVER!" "How did I ever get so lucky to have you for my little boy?" Just whatever....

The atmosphere and dynamic of our home really changed to a much more positive tone! Our relationships just are far more open, generous, warm and giving, because they have just responded in kind. "Can I bring you a cookie too, Mom?" And to each other, "I'll carry your lunch box for you."

I have been so blessed and amazed, in all honesty. Borderline stunned.

There have been few things that will diffuse the grumpies as quick as me doing something for them that is clearly proactively caring, "Would you like me to pick out your songs for you tonight?" (...if your son is leading songs and he hates choosing them.)
It's so easy to switch to that dreaded parental tone and say something like "Well, picking songs is just part of the song-leader's job, so you might as well quietly do it without complaint."
(I have older children so some of these suggestions won't fit littles, but the idea holds true..)

Just to balance what I have said, I am not suggesting abdicating the parental role, neglecting necessary discipline, or ignoring disobedience, I am simply suggesting proactively putting goodness and blessing in your children's lives, and pursuing them with happy conversation rather than waiting for them to say "Mommy mommy..."

Friday, June 12, 2015

To Do or Dye

 The Chief and I were at a second hand store a number of weeks ago looking for work shirts for him. His work shirt situation was getting dire.

We paged through the long line of options, rejects from some other man's closet, most of them for apparent reasons.

Eventually he pulled one out. It looked entirely new and it was a good brand name. "How about this one?" he said. We discussed it a little bit. It was red. There are a some people in our congregation who feel it is wrong to wear red. We like to take things like that into consideration when we make choices. We thought about putting it back.
"Maybe I could dye it." I said.

What color would you die it? he asked.
"Maroon, maybe?" I mused. "It's cotton. It should take a dye, I think."
"Have you ever dyed anything" he asked.
"No," I said. "But how hard can it be? You can get those little dye boxes at the grocery store, and do it in your washing machine."
We had to stop at the grocery store anyway.

"Alright," he said, "let's get it."

So we got it. And one night I carefully read the directions, and gingerly started my machine using the hottest water, which is quite hot, adding salt, putting in the pre-wetted shirt, and extra dye which should result in a "richer color", it said. I like "rich color". Then I carefully made sure nothing else was within splashing distance, shut the lid, and went away.

I came back often and peered in, though, because I don't believe in letting stuff like that alone unsupervised in the dark. Also, I was suppose to let it go through three entire agitator cycles before I let it spin out so every now and again I had to turn the knob back so it could start over.  It looked practically black in there. Like black cherries. The kind of color that makes you smile.

Finally it was done agitating. Time to rinse.

"Rinse with cold water until the water is clear." the directions said.

So I ran it through the rinse cycle.
Spun it out.
Ran it through again.
Spun it out.
Ran it through again.
Spun it out.

It was getting kind of late. The water was not running clear. It was running rose.
I ran it through again. Still rose. Pretty much the same hue it had been the last three times.

I don't remember how many times I rinsed it for sure, but I do know I finally decided the thing it probably needed was to have the color "set" by putting it in a very hot dryer.

I put it in the dryer, and headed to bed.

Thus, the Chief came into possession of a new work shirt.

All was fine and good until the shirt came through the laundry again.
I should have switched to supervisory mode again, but I didn't. I didn't think about it one way or the other. I just put it in the dark load and lah-de-dah went on my way.

Everything in that load came out pink. A towel that had once been green, a dress that had once been brown, underwear that had once been gray.

"My underwear are pink?" The native whose they were suddenly popped out of the revery he had been in with visible concern.

From then on I have been very careful what I wash the shirt with. It either gets washed alone, or with red towels or things that don't matter. If you see me cleaning with pink rags you'll know why.

So we have a lot of lovely pink things. And one weirdly pinky-green towel.

The shirt itself looks pretty much like it did when the Chief first pulled it out and asked, "How about this one?"

The rinse water is still not running clear.

I'm choosing to believe, just for my own mental well-being, that everything in our septic tank is that beautiful black cherry shade.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


A crazy busy day! We cut up fresh veggies and fruit enough for 100 people probably, and made pasta salad for the same amount in preparation for the third native's  high school graduation party.

Regan and I went shopping a big hunk of the day. We weren't anticipating it taking as long as it did. We hadn't planned to stop and eat, but we eventually succumbed to the cry of our fainting bodies, and stopped at Burger King.

We were trying to eat as cheaply a possible. She got a $1 spicy chicken and I ordered a Jr. cheeseburger, we shared a small fry and a small Dr Pepper...

The first bite I took of my cheeseburger I was 8 years old again, or 9, or 10...one of my siblings had left home to do something...it could have been anything,  something more interesting than staying home at any rate.

As soon as we had waved the lucky bum off into the magical beyond, Mother would turn to the rest of us with a conspiratorial grin and say, "Now, we can do anything we want!!", as if the person who had just left had been somehow shackling us all to the dreadful mundane existence that previously bound us.

That "anything we want" generally meant going to McDonald's one night during the absence of the person who had disappeared into the magical beyond, and was so rare and fine a treat as to rise to nearly the top of my favorite childhood memories.

I don't know what anyone else chose to eat, but I think I always got a cheeseburger and small fries, and a Dr Pepper. Sometimes I got a fried apple pie.

We never ate inside. We would go through the drive-through, and then, in half-darkness in the old Wagoneer, by the lights of the parking lot, watch the people who went and came, and relish every bite of our stolen freedom.

It was the best food in the world. And now and then, I am once more unshackled from the dreadful confines of mundane existence into a magical beyond of my very own, with just one bite.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

An April List

I read once that everyone loves a list. This was asserted by a person getting ready to make a list.
I forget what sort of list she proceeded to share. I think I sort of did love it.

But lists are handy. With lists, none of your thoughts have to relate in any way to any of your other thoughts. But they may, if they happen to. And with lists you don't have to create context for any given thought. You can just spit the thought out and move on unencumbered.


1. I love this sunshine!!

2. I love this warmness!

3. I love all these things that are blooming! They are all blooming at once this year, everything that blooms in the spring is overlapping everything else that blooms in the spring. I can hardly stand it, it's so overwhelmingly wonderful.

4. We should all hire laundresses and housekeepers in April so we can spend the whole glorious time outside, digging in dirt, planting things, reading our Bibles, taking walks. talking with God, not thinking about laundry, watching birds build their nests, imagining which bird you would choose to be if you were a bird, imagining that there really are  fairies, imagining what the world would be like without sin and if you didn't have to try to be good but just were automatically cheerful and industrious and compassionate and thoughtful.... Things like that.

5. I hate when you are doing laundry and find a pair of dirty socks balled-up in the corner of the couch after you have washed everything.

6. I also hate when the last person who ironed does not fold the ironing board up and put it away. It is very hard for me to fit in the 5 and a half inches that remain in my laundry room when the ironing board is up. Just because there are natives in this wig-wam who can comfortably stand and iron in 5 and a half  inches of space does not mean that I can fit into that same amount of space to put the ironing board away. Plus, it just reminds me how small I am not.

7. I am losing weight! I love losing weight. I felt very happy about my progress... then I heard today of a man who lost 390 pounds in one year. That's over 1 lb a day. A whole pound a day! Plus some!

8. I will not try to sell you anything to help you lose weight. I hate trying to sell stuff.  I also hate when people try to sell me stuff.

9. The radio ad that says if you use their tooth whitener product all your friends will be talking about how great you look? Don't believe it. Do you and your friends ever stand around and discuss how great your friends' teeth look? No? Well, they aren't standing around discussing how great you look either. Even if you look fantastic and your teeth are blazing. They don't really care how you look.

10. A possum died in the woods right in front of our house. I really wish the buzzard that tended it for a day or two had been taught by his mama to finish what he started.

11. We planted peas this year, the Chief and I. It's the first year in our entire married life that I have planted peas. The Chief does not like English peas, and most of my cooking joys are derived from how much he loves to eat what I make so I have not put up peas. But I love peas and I decided to plant two rows of peas, for my own enjoyment. He made the rows and helped me plant them and covered the rows for me with all good cheer. This cheer was pretty much eclipsed by his full-blown laughter when Dustin plowed right over them, not knowing they existed.

12. I love the Chief. I can't help it. But I really do not understand how he can not like peas.

13. I found, when I was walking, a little disk of grasses. I stopped and picked it up. It looked like the beginnings of a bird nest. I looked straight up, and in the crook of the dogwood above me was a darling little nest.

14. Last Sunday in church we sang,  "I will Sing of My Redeemer" and as soon as we started to sing, tears started running down my face. I didn't know why. Later I remembered that we sang that song at Mother's funeral. How can a person start crying before he remembers?   I wonder how many other reactions we have to things without knowing why we have them. Like peas. Maybe The Chief was forced to eat peas in April when all he wanted was to be outside digging in the dirt.

15. I have the best friends. I can get choked up just thinking about how God blessed me with the best friends.

16. The other evening the Chief went walking with me in the orchard because it was getting a little late and he didn't want me walking alone. The trees against the sunset sky were just so pretty my heart ached. We scared up a big rabbit and startled some deer, and talked about things. Then the moon rose. We saw our moon shadows. And I remembered how we used to go on moonlight hikes when the moon was full when I was a little girl, down the straight dirt road that ran in front of our little cinder block house. Mother went along, and my siblings, and other children and their moms. The whole world is enchanting in the moonlight.

17. The world is different now. I would not walk alone with my children down a public road at night.

18. The world is going to be even more different in the future.

19. No matter what happens no one can take our memories from us. Nor our God. Nor our hearts.

20. And no one can take heaven, either.

21. I like odd numbers, so I will stop on this number in case I don't make it to 23.

Monday, March 9, 2015

So, I Ordered This Coverlet...

The coverlet on our bed was shrinking. I loved it; it was beautiful, but every time I washed it it  shrank some more until it ventured only timidly over the sides and foot of the bed. Weighed on both the aesthetic and practicality scales it was found more and more wanting.

So for the last 6 months I have been keeping my eyes open for another coverlet that I liked and a week and a half ago, I found one and ordered it. It was white. I recently read a study which showed that people sleep better under white bedding. Our last coverlet was ecru, so we should be sleeping a shade better.

I ordered it Wednesday or Thursday. It would be shipped Tuesday. On Tuesday morning I stripped the mattress pad and sheets and pillowcases off our bed and washed them and dried them and ironed them and made up the bed, minus the diminutive old coverlet, in happy anticipation of my arriving new coverlet and pillow shams. You can't put a new coverlet on unwashed sheets.

It was all fresh and beautiful. And waiting.

But the package did not come. I went and double checked the order. OoooHH! It was suppose to SHIP on Tuesday. Not be delivered. It was suppose to be delivered on FRIDAY. Why it would take them from Thursday to Tuesday to ship it I do not know, but I'm sure they do, and I'm sure they had a very good reason!!

 Friday wasn't all that far away. I could wait.

Friday came. I don't usually wash my sheets more than once a week but you cannot put a fresh new coverlet and shams on slightly dirty sheets. I stripped the sheets off the bed again with undampened spirits. Washed them, ironed them, made up the bed once more, and kept my ear cocked for the delivery man.

Afternoon gave way to evening, and evening faded to night. And nobody came. I had checked the order before I took the sheets off the bed. It said "Order status: In transit, on time". I guess on time means different things to different people.

I really kinda like to get a bed looking pretty. I find a good deal of satisfaction in pressing the pillowcases, and perching them just so on top of smooth sheets. I like sliding between crisp sweet smelling sheets at night. But I didn't just LOVE it. I mean, not quite that much.

When the Chief came home he did some better investigating than I knew how to do and it said the package was in Hodgkins, Ill ...."Severe weather conditions have delayed delivery. / We’re working to deliver your package as soon as possible."
At least it was in the country. At least it was not we who were having severe weather. At least I had not cut up the old coverlet into rags.
We went to bed that night breathing in the springy freshness of clean, ironed sheets, "too blessed to be depressed."

(Don't you adore cheesy platitudes?? They come in so handy when all else fails.)

Over the weekend the package made it to Atlanta! At least it was in the state.
This morning I checked and it was in our town!! "Out for delivery". WOOT!

I cranked up the washing machine and jerked the sheets off the bed, thwumped the pillows out of their cases and stuffed it all in the washer with the rest of the white stuff.
My package was "out for delivery!!"
I called the Chief. "You will never believe what I'm doing!!" I said. "I'm washing sheets!" He laughed, but he didn't sound in the least bit disbelieving.

Then I set up the ironing board. Got my trusty Magic Sizing. Put water in the iron. plugged it in...and started ironing.

And this afternoon right after I got home from retrieving the natives from school, the dogs set up a howl. This could only mean one thing. My package had arrived! I opened it with great joy and went to start my iron again. One of the natives, who had just been eating Cheetos, helped unfold it. "Watch out" said another snack eating native, "you're getting cheesy stuff on the cover!"

"I washed my hands" he said limply, looking at the damage. And he spoke the truth. It was wet cheesy stuff. There was some on the sheets too.

I got a white cloth and scrubbed at it, trying to decided just how obsessive to be. Should I launder them before I even put them on the bed? They probably had factory germs after all.

But the orange stuff came off  with only a little effort, so I quit trying to decide, I just ironed it all and put it on the bed, like the sensible person I am.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

On Societies and Cultures Large and Small

NOTICE: The first half and the last half of this blog were written months apart. MONTHS.
You see, I wasn't done writing it when the Chief came home so he played me a game of Settlers of Catan in good faith. Slightly misplaced faith, alas.
But here it is, Chief of mine. Thank you for your contributions to our native micro-culture.
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The Chief said if I would write a blog this afternoon while he was gone he would play Settlers of Catan with me later. Shameless arm-twisting.

"I can't just do that." I said. "I have to have something to write about. I don't have anything to write about."

"I know you." he replied. "You can write about nothing."

This was suppose to encourage me, I think. 

Every time I write I am under the impression I am writing about something, but apparently it does not seem so from his perspective.

Since I really want to play Settlers of Catan when he gets home I am going to write this afternoon and whether I write about something or nothing, you can decide.

To me it is a rather fascinating something.

It is culture. Or society.

Society I guess, is responsible for the resulting culture. And it is blamed for all sorts of ills, crimes, sins, and unhealthy behavior patterns.
When somebody behaves poorly it is quite common for them or the people who love them to blame it on society or the prevailing culture.
Entire blocks of people are regularly given a nearly blanket behavioral pass because society has, after all, made them what they are and they are merely products of the culture in which they find themselves.

This is convenient. Society, after all, cannot defend herself, making her a very meek scapegoat, barely bleating as her throat is slit and she is sacrificed in stead of the actual perpetrator of evil.

But it does have the effect of making the individuals who make up society, no matter how virtuous or exemplary those individuals might be, feel vaguely guilty. Or resentful. Perhaps both, and without recourse for shedding that guilt, having after all, so small an influence on society at large as to render him virtually powerless to shape it into something other than what it is.

The reality of the matter is that we are all going to be responsible for our own actions when we eventually stand before God. We are going to own our actions then. We would do well to own them now.

Who we are is not, in reality, the result of our culture. It is our contribution to the culture.

Well, who we are might be a result of our culture. It will in fact be unless we make intentional choices to buck it. But we can do that. We as creatures of choice have the power, and the responsibility to examine both the influence of our culture on us and the influence we have on our culture.

But I have at times considered how little influence the average person has on the greater culture in which he lives. There are some people who have, from positions of influence or fame, significantly shaped a given society's culture. But most of us will live and die without causing a perceptible blip on the cultural radar of our given society.

But underneath the umbrella of greater society are lesser societies. Subcultures. These may be formed by a common faith or religion, country of origin, regional location.  We are all part of one or more.

 It is possible often to wield more influence there, depending on our position and disposition, but likely we still hold very limited sway.

But then there are micro-cultures. And that's what I really wanted to talk about all along.
I LOVE to observe micro-cultures. Analyze their strengths and weaknesses. Appreciate their diversity. Their splendid palate of color! They come in such a delightful bouquet of varieties.

Work-places, college campuses, churches, Bible Schools, clubs...and tada! families.

What I really, really wanted to talk about all this time was families.

In these micro-environments we wield quite a bit of influence. Our conduct, attitudes, speech, character, personality and habits contribute significantly to these environments and help make them what they are. If we stir up dust the whole atmosphere is dusty. If  we sing, the whole atmosphere is splashed with music.

We've all heard the line "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
There is a lot of truth to that. But it is not limited to mama. If papa's upset everyone else is on edge. If  the teenagers are sullen and bitter, there's a blanket over the whole house. If the toddler throws tantrums when he's crossed, nobody's happy either, especially not the toddler, though a lot of other people are probably pretending to be to keep the sun shining in his world at all times.

I have for many years enjoyed analyzing families that to me seem really neat. It's intriguing to me how vastly they may differ from one another. In one there may be incredible structure and precision. Their house is always neat. Their lawn is groomed. There are no empty cups and receipts and used tissues in their vehicles. But still there is a warmth and love.

Another may have more in common with a fireworks display, great colorful eruptions, punctuated with lots of noise. There are families where strains of music played on fine instruments waft through the rooms at any given time during the day. And families where each one is silently curled in his own corner, reading.

There are families whose best love is inviting others and socializing over food.
And families whose best love is to just be together.
There are families  who sit at the supper table and discuss all the community news they've gleaned throughout the day.
And families who would much prefer to debate the latest mental morsel on the table.

But there are always some things in common, in really neat families. Love, being one of them. An atmosphere of kindness and respect, and unselfishness. A love for God and a general attitude of appreciation. And a sense of humor.

In my own family I am only one factor. I only contribute one person's-worth. But unlike in the culture at large, where I may feel powerless to exact change, my contributions shapes my micro-culture significantly. So how am I shaping it?

My industry or sloth not only shapes my physical environment, it shapes the emotional environment as well. It also shapes the habits of my children.
If the house is a wreck at the end of the day, the influence of that is felt keenly by all of us in this micro-culture. But it is felt just as keenly if everything is clean, the beds are made, there are bouquets in the windowsills and candles lit on the tables.

I have noticed many times how much better I feel if I am dressed neatly and my hair is clean and combed. If I scuff around in my robe with uncombed hair, my productivity plunges, my attitude plunges, my self-image plunges.  It's a rock dropped in my micro-culture with ripples that never end. Because of this, I do not often venture to begin the day till I am dressed and combed. I also look in the mirror first thing and grin at the lady in the mirror. Something about it makes me laugh, and it awakens the happies inside of me. This puts me in a frame of mind to favorably impact my micro-culture.

And whether or not I sit and read my Bible and pray. That impacts it as well. There is no one more difficult to live with than a person who is not at peace with his God. And himself. You can't have the latter without the former. Or at least I have never found the way. People who are not at peace with God and themselves are generally selfish, critical, and moody....or they can be at a moment's notice.
I do not know why it is such a temptation to neglect my relationship with my God, when maintaining it is the best thing in the whole wide world. Every time. Not once have I ever invested in my relationship with God and come away thinking, "Well, that was time and energy blown." And in turn, my relationship or lack there-of with the Almighty effects my micro-culture hugely.

There are a thousand other ways I make a major impact on my micro-culture. Do I laugh, or do I find nothing funny? Am I the sort of person to make a point of not being amused if, say, my children's teacher plans "funny hair day" and I cringe to see them going out with one ponytail and one braid, because after all, the Bible says "all things should be done decently and in order?" We are all different. We find delight in different things. Can we delight in what someone else delights in? Or not? Our response shapes our culture. It makes it what it is.

A spirit of criticism and micro management paralyzes a micro-culture. It doesn't take a genius to spot flaws in people. We all have them. Flaws are everywhere. But a healthy culture flourishes in an atmosphere of grace. In a micro-culture we can bathe the atmosphere in grace. We have that privilege. We have the power to create a flourishing, lush micro-culture. Because even though the other tribesman in the wig-wam are lacking in grace, and are abundant in flaws, we have the prerogative to remember our own flaws and extend grace.

And grace begets grace.
Just like singing begets singing.
And love begets love.
And industry begets industry.
Laughter begets laughter.
Joy begets joy.
Kindness begets kindness.
Righteousness inspires righteousness.

In a micro-culture it does. And you may think that your impact on the world at large is negligible, and perhaps it is. Now. But if you will look back a generation or two, perhaps you will get a bit of a vision for the impact one micro-culture has on the present culture. Think how many micro-cultures your parents' or grandparents' micro-culture currently influences. Whether it was healthy or unhealthy, the influence of the micro-culture you were raised in is a powerful force in your life that will either work for you or against you all the days of your life. I know each of my siblings  have been significantly impacted by the culture our parents created for us. And in turn the grandchildren's sub-cultures have been as well. In the end, our influence, though seemingly small today has potential to one day pack a significant punch.

The truth is, society at large... our culture at large... is the reflection of  the micro-cultures within it.

And I maintain that the culture at large is, sadly, a reflection of a generation, or maybe two, of parents who lost sight of the value of tenderly tending their micro-cultures in exchange for other pursuits, and have turned the daily maintenance of their respective natives over to others who have no vested interest in the heart and soul and character of the little ones in their charge.

Because in the end the hand that rocks the cradle does indeed rule the world.
Or tomorrow's world, rather.