Monthly Archives: February 2006

This is a song for a tooth that is dying.

For a dentist whose prowess I am about to question.

For an insurance company whose mix-up may mean that they won’t pay.

For an appointment I don’t want to keep, but am afraid not to.

These are the tears from a heart that is selfish,

Wanting faces and smiles and prayers that seem so long gone.

Wanting miracles for ridiculous things like teeth and pay checks.

Wanting a house that is clean and a schedule that’s predictable.

This is a prayer for a world that is hurting.

For families torn, for children adrift.

For hearts that are hard, for heads turned from Truth.

For all of the broken things that cannot be fixed.

This is a hope, a choice to look upward.

To think of the good things, the blessings we’ve got.

For memories warm, for homes that are comfortable,

And Heaven that’s waiting when all this is done.


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       Today I feel like I’m eighty years old.  Yesterday, I realized that if the 100 tulip bulbs that were beginning to sprout in my garage were going to get planted, I needed to do it.  So Middle Daughter picked up this nifty bulb-planting thing from Wal-mart for $2.97, and I lost all my excuses.  I planted my two long boxes, and my barrel and then looked at the bag that looked almost undiminished by my efforts.  “Full sun” said the instructions.  “6” deep, 6″ apart.”  (It also said that in my zone they should be planted in October, but that wasn’t possible, and they were beginning to grow in that mesh bag, so I thought I had better get them into the ground.)
         I looked out at the long, long row where the grapes that we planted two years ago are bravely trying to get big, and looked at the long, ungraped spaces between each plant.  This, I decided would be a great place to plant my tulips.  So I went out there with my nifty bulb-planting thing and began to plant my bulbs.  I have this bum knee that will not bend very much, so it was a bit unhandy to put the oomph behind the nb-pt that was needed to get through the crab grass and the cold ground.  Part of the time, I was bent over, working from a distance.  But that didn’t work so well, so part of the time, I knelt down, and part of the time I just sat down on the ground and did the best I could.  I thought that I was pretty determined, and if I just tried hard enough, I could do it, so I kept at it though maybe five or seven bulbs, and then there was something that came into the line of vision.  Certain Man, on his way to the chicken house saw me over there, sitting on the ground and trying valiantly to plant the bulbs.  He came across the yard and looked on with amusement.
       “What do you think you are doing?”  He asked.
       “I’m planting these bulbs,” I said, quite unnecessarily, “If they are going to get planted in time, I need to do it today.  Do you think you could help me?  My hands just aren’t strong enough to do this with any great advantage.”
        He took the nb-pt and went to work.  He was soon on a roll, punching the holes, I would throw in the bulb, and together, we would replace the plug and then go on to the next one.  Suddenly he said, “I need to go check chickens.  I’m supposed to be a part of a conference call at 6:00, and that doesn’t give me much time.”   And away he went, with the bag still about half full, and a long, long row ahead of me.  I decided that I would keep plugging (excuse the pun) away.  It was getting colder, and the row seemed to be getting longer. 
        And then I thought about a gift I had that was given to me for such a time as this.  It was called Youngest Daughter.  She was languishing in the house, unoccupied by labor.  So, the gift that had been given was asked very sweetly if she would please help, and she cheerfully said that she would be glad to.  So she arrayed herself in shoes and sweat pants and came out to the long, long row. 
       There is something about her strength and her youth that makes me feel even older, but she grabbed the nb-pt with a vigor that outdid even Certain Man, and while her old Mama rolled about on the ground, putting in the bulbs, she punched holes with a vengeance, and before we quite knew what was happening, all the bulbs were planted.
       “Whew!  That was a job well done!” I said.  And Youngest Daughter and I went into the house to clean up.  This morning, there is a strange pain in my left hip that wasn’t there before.  The bum knee belongs to the right leg, so when there is walking to do, especially after sitting in church for a spell, I feel like I have to take a few steps before either leg catches up!  This does not make for smooth, feminine movement, I tell you!  And it is the reason that I feel eighty years old today.  It is truly the fault of those 100 tulip bulbs.
       But now, Eldest Daughter and Beloved Son in Law are here to play a game of Shang-hai.  One advantage of being elderly is that the younger generation ought to give you a break when it comes time to count points. 


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       Today was the day that I was going to have at home, to myself, and I was GOING TO CLEAN GERTRUDE’S ROOM.  I have been trying to do that for a long, long time.  I get in there, stir about a bit, feel really, really sad, and then go and do something else.  Like hang a picture, or do a load of laundry, or balance my checkbook.  Just “busy” stuff to put off the really important stuff.
       Yesterday, I looked at this day and said, “Aha!  Finally a day to clean the room, and nothing shall distract me.”  Famous last words.
       Along about Midnight last night, I became aware that there was much distressing noise coming over the monitor from the downstairs bedroom.  And so I paid attention, and realized that the noise was coughing and coughing and coughing.  It sounded deep.  Blind Linda does coughing for behavior reasons, but this didn’t sound like behavior.  It sounded like bronchitis.  I administered Robitussin DM as per Standing Medical Orders, and thought dismal thoughts about MY DAY.
       So, on this day, I didn’t get the room cleaned.  I kept Blind Linda home from Center.  I canceled the transportation.  I faxed the doctor’s office who called back to say that I needed to have her there at 10:30.  Everything takes longer when I need to transport Linda, black book, purse and important papers, but I got her there in the nick of time, and yepper, she does have bronchitis.
       One of the indications that Linda is sick is that she is irritable and rude.  She is both of these in some proportions most of the time, but it is even worse when she is sick.  So patience was needed in great quantities while the doctor’s office and the pharmacy was navigated.  Lunch was obtained at the place of the Golden Arches, and then it was home to get started on the notorious room.  Except that Certain Man came home at that point and there was lunch to make.  And after that, finally, it was time to get on the ROOM.  Certain Man’s Wife found many interesting things that she forgot she had.  She found things that needed to be thrown away or given to Salvation Army.  She found dust and cobwebs in unbelievable quantities.  And just when things were going good, Youngest Daughter called.
       “Um, Mom,”  she said cheerfully, “I just thought I tell you we are on our way home.”
       “That’s nice, honey,” said Certain Man’s Wife.  “Did you have a good day?”
       “Yeah, pretty good.  I’m pretty hungry.”
       “That’s fine.  There’s stuff here to eat.”
       “Yeah, well, I just thought I’d tell you we’re on our way home, and we are all pretty hungry, I think.”
       We.  All.  Wait a minute.  What was this?  We.  All.  What was this day, anyhow?  Oh, right.  That inconvenient, most troublesome Science Fair Project.  Youngest Daughter was bringing her two partners home tonight to work on that.  Certain Man’s Wife needed to rethink the outcome of this day.  There would be some work done on that room, but the end of all things was not yet at hand.  More important things were needing attending to.  Like pizza in the oven, and tables cleared off to facilitate some experiments.  And conversation to be had with three delightful freshman girlies.
       And a weblog needed updating.  So.  Some of the above is now completed and it is:
                                         BACK TO THAT NOTORIOUS ROOM.  UGH!!! 



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The Bigger Picture

      There is a cemetery in Southern Delaware that is at the end of a dirt road.  It is well kept, and the gravestones there are uniform, with simplicity being the thing they all have in common.  Row after row in perfect symmetry, nearly all are unmarked by flowers or mementos of any kind.  I have not often been there, but the thing that strikes me every time I go is the the names I recognize from the last 20 years.  Rosa Lozana, Virginia Frey, Dorothy Marvel, John Finnegan, Martha Pierce. . . and many that I recognize only by their first names.  This is the graveyard of the indigent, handicapped people, wards of the state, whose families either could not, or chose not to fund a burial in another cemetery.  Though not actually on the grounds of Delaware’s infamous “Stockley Center” it is maintained by the administration and is very near by.  As I said, at the end of a dirt road.
      This is where we laid Old Gertrude to rest last November on a sunny day.  I remember standing in the cemetery, friends all around, and flowers from our church being placed, one by one on her casket and around her open grave.  My Daddy was there.  He had the opening prayer in the memorial service in the little chapel, and he was strong and participant and thoughtful.  I remember him standing there in the cemetery that day, the sun on his white hair, his skin tanned.  He was dressed up, like for church.  He looked so good.
      I haven’t been to Stockley since Old Gertrude was buried.  I had such a longing to go to her grave in the few weeks before Daddy died, but had gotten sidetracked when everything happened so swiftly.  Old Gertrude loved Christmas, and our daughters had wanted to take her favorite Christmas toy and leave it on her grave, but none of us had gotten there.
      There was a class at Stockley Center today.  Once a year, “they” make foster care providers take a medication class so that we can “assist” with the numerous meds that our handicapped individuals are on.  Since I find myself in that position, it was mandatory.  This morning I looked at the schedule and thought that if there was time, I would like to go out to the grave.  I had some silk daffodils that I wanted to put there, and I wanted to think.  When the morning session ended a half an hour early, I knew that my wish was being granted.  
      It seemed like the cemetery was further away than I remembered, and I found it a lonely trek to the end of the blacktop and then down the dirt road.  There is a fence all around, and an arched entrance into the cemetery.  I left my van down by the entrance, and walked across to where there was some bare ground rising above the grass.  Old Gertrude’s stone is not yet in place, but there was a little marker there, and barely legible in ball point pen I could just make out “Gertrude Finnegan.”   The ground was soft, and the flowers went in easily.  It was a beautiful day, and I sang her a song and talked to her about where she is and what it is like there.  I remembered those last difficult, pain-filled months, and thought about her being whole and healthy and free.  There were tears shed, and they were selfish tears as I thought about what the losses of this last year have been, and about how much I miss her steady devotion and sense of humor and easy conversation.  
      There is going to be someone out there who will not understand what I am going to say next.  But I was suddenly aware that first she, and then Daddy, have given me a wonderful gift.  I know that they are not treasure that I stored up in Heaven, but they are part of my treasure, and they are in Heaven, and that has made me more aware of Heaven and what waits there than I have ever had cause to ponder before.  And I like it.  I like to think about the reality of a place that is so full of light and all that is good, so free of tears and pain and sickness and death and loss and grief and heartache.  A place where Old Gertrude and I will be equals and all that I loved about her will be even more real than this life here is to me now.  
      I like to think about what it will be like to see my Savior first of all, and look on the face of a Holy God and know that I am forgiven, not that I “made it through, somehow” or was “good enough,” but that, just like Old Gertrude and Daddy and every other saint who came safely home, I was brought home through what Jesus did for me.
      And that, my dear friends, really is a tiny glimpse of a much bigger picture!
      What a hope!


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The Past Seven Days

        Last Friday, I went with my Sweet Mama to Cambridge, MD.  No, we did not go to see President Bush.  We did not even know that he was going to be in Cambridge that day.  On the way over, I couldn’t understand the excessive number of state police cars that were convening on that small town.  But I was careful, so I didn’t have opportunity to ask them personally what was going on.
        My Sweet Mama was on her way to Dorchester County Hospital.  
        16 months ago, she and my Daddy had made this trek to have her esophagus stretched.  Her family has a history of constricture to the esophagus, and she, in the Autumn of 2004, had come into some problems with food getting caught in her throat and being forcibly expelled back out.  She remembers coming to, after what was to have been a simple procedure and hearing the nurse say, “Who is here with her?  Has anyone told her husband?”  She remembers hearing the word “malignant” spoken in her fuzzy post-proceedure daze.
        That set our family on a journey that would not have been bearable, were not the LORD on our side.  Our Sweet Mama had Esophageal Cancer.  If this had been but a few years earlier, the doctor said, they would have told her to get her affairs in order.  There would have been NO HOPE.  But it was nearly 2005, and there were possibilities and opportunities that were beckoning us all with hope.
        From the beginning, Daddy would not allow himself to hope.  He felt that it was over for this wife that he had cherished all these years.  He did not want to see her suffer through Chemo and radiation and surgery.  He did not want her to lose the blonde hair that had captivated him from the time he first saw her.  He was convinced that she would not survive any of the procedures.  He actually did not want her to have this surgery, but in the face of what she wanted, he agreed.  For she did want it.  Very much, indeed.  She believed that she could conquer this insidious disease.  As her eldest daughter, I looked at the grim statistics, thought about all the possibilities, and my heart ached for them both:  My precious Daddy, just pronounced “in remission” with Leukemia two days before her diagnosis, and my Sweet Mama, facing a battle that I knew she did not begin to understand what ramifications and demands would be visited upon her body.
         We know the story and how it all worked out from this standpoint.  My Sweet Mama had her surgery.  We nearly lost her several times.  It was not a pretty battle.  There were times when Daddy would not even go to Baltimore to see her because he could not bear how bad she looked.  But then, she turned a corner in her recovery and began to get better.  Daddy also turned a corner in a different direction and, last May we heard that, short of a miracle, he had almost no time left.
         There are those who say there was no miracle when it comes to our Daddy’s declining health.  But what we know now is that every single month we had was a miracle of sorts.  Every single day that Mark Yoder, Sr. did the things he wanted to do (and always did) was an extension of time that the medical profession did not expect and even now, cannot explain.  Daddy was so tickled with the progress that Mama made.  They spent long hours together, and Mama had a sense of urgency that she never had before.  She did not believe that he was dying, but she had this desire to spend every available moment with him.  “I just want to be with Daddy,” she would say to me, her eyes pleading with me to understand.  “I don’t know why, but I just feel like I need to be with him.”  And I, not really believing either, that he was going to die yet, thought that it was so sweet for them to be so happy to be together.
        And then, way too soon, long before we were ready, Daddy went home to Heaven, and Mama, hardly able to believe that this had actually happened, has been trying to find her way in what has been far harder than our wildest imagination could have pictured.  She has had trouble sleeping.  She has had trouble eating.  And no wonder.  Eating was almost a religious rite with Daddy.  He would bring breakfast over from the nursing home in those dark days after her surgery and set it down at her place. 
        “You need to eat, Alene,” he would say in that voice that none of us dared to disobey.  And he believed in three meals a day.  When she couldn’t cook, and no one else was available, he would do it himself.  Pulling out leftovers, little dabs of this and that, adding canned peaches and tall glasses of milk.  “Do you want some of this, yet?”  He would query.  Pushing her and prodding her to eat.  And she, hating to eat because everything felt so “wrong” after her esophagectomy, would look at him with eyes that have often caused me to relent. 
         “Mark, I just can’t.” she would say.
         “Yes, you can.” he would say.  “You have to.  Just eat a little bit.”  And she would try so hard to please him, often picking away at things until she finally got them down.  And if she didn’t, he would bring Ensure or other calorie packing drinks to make up the difference.
         But now, suddenly, he was gone, and she found that it was easier to not eat.  Easier to wait until lunch time to force some food down and hard to even think of supper. 
         We tried to fill in the spaces, inviting her to our homes for supper.  Carrying food in.  Taking her out to eat.  But it was clear that she was getting skinnier, and skinnier.
          Around the first of February, she confided in me that it felt like the food was “getting stuck” again.  She has had numerous stretchings of the scar tissue of her esophagus, but none since Daddy died.  She was worried that something was wrong.
           “Do you have another stretching scheduled, Mama?”  I asked her.
           “I am supposed to go back in March,”  she said, “but I don’t think I should wait that long.”
           “Then we are going to call, and get an appointment,” I said.  “There is no sense in waiting until March if you feel like you should have it sooner.”  When I called, told them that she felt like it was getting tighter again, and asked about moving the appointment up, they were in complete agreement.  So, last Friday, Mama and I went to Cambridge to have this procedure done.
             This is the one procedure that I had never accompanied Daddy and Mama on.  They went that first time, and somehow, Daddy never wanted anyone to go along.  “This is something we can do alone,” he would say.  And Mama always said, “Daddy can manage this just fine.  We will be okay.  He likes to go early in the morning and get it over with, so we will just go.”  As you can imagine, the memories that walked with Mama up the hill to the outpatient department were private and overwhelming.  I could imagine the two of them, coming into the cheery entrance of the hospital, and Daddy waiting in that same waiting room that held me captive, but I did not have the weight of memories or the slap of Daddy’s absence where his presence had always, every single time she had been there, that Mama had to deal with.  
             They let me stay with Mama while she got into her hospital garb, and together we waited until they said she was ready for the procedure.  Then I went out to the waiting room.  About an hour later, her doctor appeared and asked for the family of Alene Yoder.  I dropped the things I was working on and followed him to the hall outside the waiting room. He closed the door. 
        “Everything looks good,” he began.  “I cannot believe how good she looks for what she has been through.”  He made a circle around his face.  “She is amazing.”  He opened his notes and brought out a series of pictures.  “About what we did today. . .”  he paused, then pointed to the first of a series of pictures.  “Here you can see the top of the stomach, leading into the esophagus.  If you notice, there is some erosion there, which is acid reflux disease.”  He handed me some pamphlets.  “I want her to follow this diet really carefully.  She needs to eat more often, with smaller portions, but she never, never should eat any less than 3-4 hours before going to bed.  Her bed needs to be elevated.  This acid is starting to irritate the area and we need to try to get it stopped.”  He covered the next few pictures in one fairly inclusive statement.  “These next pictures are of the stomach, (and numerous other things that I forget, actually!) and as you can see, everything is clear.  It looks smooth and really good.  However – – ”  and this is where my heart stopped.  He pointed to a picture near the bottom of the page.  “If you look right here on this picture you will see some nodules.  I don’t know what they are, but I don’t think they are anything to worry about.” 
          I looked at that picture, and the nodules looked pretty pronounced to me.  They were smooth, but they were definitely there on the smooth pink surface of Mama’s esophagus.  I felt like I could not breathe.  “What do you think they are?” I asked.
          “I’m inclined to think that they are something that has come as a result of healing.  I did biopsy them, and I don’t want you to worry about them.  (Yeah, Right!)  If you call me next Thursday, I will tell you what the biopsy says.  And if it is something really bad, I will call you before.  But again, I don’t think they are anything serious.  Please don’t worry.”  He gave me the paper with all the incriminating evidence, and then said, “She won’t be back for at least an hour and a half.  Go get a snack or something, and then she will be ready.”
        I made my way blindly back through the waiting room and got on an elevator for the main floor.  Maybe a jaunt around the gift shop would clear my head.  But the gift shop was closed.  One of the volunteers had passed away, and they had closed the shop for the day.  I got back on the elevator and went down to the basement.  The cafeteria was closed, but there were some juice machines.  I purchased an apple juice and then thought I would buy a snack out of the snack machine.  I had my purse and Mama’s purse, and was trying to hold my apple juice while I  organized my change.  Suddenly, the apple juice slipped from my grasp and crashed to the floor.  There was this loud cracking noise as the plastic top split away from the bottle and there was apple juice all over the floor, splashed up my stockings and just this incredible mess.  I looked at the juice running out of the bottle and automatically picked up the shattered bottle, but I didn’t know what to do.  There was this great aching hole in my heart that was as out of control and messy as this small ocean on the floor of the hospital basement.  I retreated back to the wall by the elevator in tears, and a kind lady accosted a young man pushing a linen cart and asked him to call someone to clean up the mess. 
        He said, “Oh, that’s no problem,” and he took some folded towels from his cart and cleaned it all up.  He was so cheerful and optimistic and efficient.  It was so weird. but that helped me to not feel so out of control.  I  went back up to the waiting area to wait for Mama.  And thought and thought and thought and thought.  I kept thinking that I could not tell Mama.  I didn’t want her to worry.  And I felt like I shouldn’t tell my siblings.  They didn’t need more worry than they already had.  But I also knew that this was too big for me.  I didn’t know how I could keep this to myself for a whole week.
        Suddenly, they were calling me, and there was Mama, dressed and ready to go home.  I decided to be cheerful as I could be for her sake, and we came on home.  I made a wrong turn on the way home and ended up in Seaford, but it didn’t prolong our trip by even ten minutes, so it wasn’t too long before we were home.  I had things to do at home, and Mama said that she wanted to sleep.  I went over the results of the procedure with her and showed her the pictures.  I told her that there were some nodules that they biopsied, but that the doctor said he was sure it wasn’t anything and that we weren’t to worry.  She was sleepy, and she seemed to pass it off.  I hoped that she wouldn’t think about it too much. 
        On the way home, I stopped by Daddy’s grave.  I stood there in the cemetery at the as yet, unmarked grave and thought about these past months.  I wondered what Daddy would think about the biopsy if he were here.  I wondered what was ahead for us.  I missed his quiet faith and steady hand.  And I told my Heavenly Father how very afraid I was.  I prayed that the biopsy would turn out okay, and I thanked Him again for sparing Mama this past year.  And then I came on home.
        And yes, I told my siblings.  I decided that they and a few trusted others could help me carry the burden, and so the week has passed.  Mama told me that she was “kinda worried about what that biopsy might show,” and I realized that I hadn’t fooled her for a minute.  I guess she was trying to be brave for us!  But every day, I breathed a little easier, because the doctor had said that if it was really bad, he would call me before Thursday (which was today).  This morning, as soon as I could, I called the office.  I was told that the results were not back yet, but that I should call between 3 & 4 this afternoon.  At 3:15, I called again.  This time the results were back, but the nurse couldn’t release them because the doctor hadn’t looked at them yet.  She would have him call me as soon as possible.  I was tempted to feel very disquieted, indeed, but decided that it would do no good at all, and worry is such a waste of energy and time.  Around 3:25, she called me back.
        “This is Doctor Murand’s nurse.  Doctor Murand went over your mother’s reports and we are happy to inform you that everything is clear.  There is no evidence of any cancer.  We want to see her in a year (A YEAR?  A YEAR???  LORD JESUS, THANK-YOU!!!) because of her history, but she looks really good, and the doctor said to tell you that there is nothing to worry about.”  Somewhere inside my heart, that ball of ice that had been hanging around for almost a week suddenly melted into warm rivers of thankfulness.  I knew that I was anxious, but I didn’t realize how much I had felt “on hold” these past six days.
        I was on my way home from Mama’s when the doctor called, and on impulse, I wheeled in to the cemetery.  There had been some silk Easter lilies that were intended for Daddy’s grave that had gotten misplaced over the last few days.  (This is a story in itself, but maybe another time — ) but I wanted to find them and put them on Daddy’s grave where they belonged.  I found them stuck haphazardly into another grave, and I retrieved them and brought them to the head of this plot that I have come to know so well.  I anchored them into the ground and spread the cheery fronds.  “I appreciate the ‘flours’,”  I could hear my Daddy say, standing in the pulpit on a Sunday Morning at our Church.  He always noticed, and I wanted there to be some here.  I know they are nothing like the ones he’s enjoying now, but their hopeful green and lily-white contrasted with the brown of this grave that is not yet old, and made me glad.  For the first time, I did not cry at this spot.  I looked at the flowers, gleaming in the afternoon sun of a simply gorgeous day, and whispered thanks for answered prayer.  How very blessed we are!


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This recipe is from my Middle Sister’s Kitchen.  She gave it to me several years ago, and it never fails to delight people whenever I make it.  (P-s-s-t! — It’s easy, too!)


Monkey Bread Recipe

3/4 C. Brown Sugar

3/4 C. White Sugar

3/4 C. Vanilla Ice Cream

3/4 C. Margarine (or one stick is just fine, too.  It doesn’t need 3/4 cup.)

3/4 C. Chopped Pecans

Melt together the margarine and ice cream with the sugars. Bring to a boil and boil for a minute.

Spread the chopped pecans in the bottom of a 9″X13″ cake pan. Use either 2 large cans of the buttermilk grande biscuits or 3 cans of the regular size. I use a scissors to cut each large biscuit into six pieces or each small biscuit into 4. Mix another 3/4 C. white sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a roomy bowl. Toss the pieces of biscuit, with the sugar/cinnamon mixture. (Don’t put too many in there at a time, it will not work!) Spread coated pieces evenly on top of the pecans in the 9″X13″ pan. Pour the sugar/ice cream mixture over the whole thing as evenly as you can. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until it is evenly brown. Cover pan with tin foil and invert onto a hard surface. Allow the pan to remain for five minutes or so, then remove, making sure that the tin foil forms “sides” so the caramel doesn’t run all over the place. It is best warm, but it won’t last long at any temperature. Pretend that you spent a long time making this wonderful sticky bun creation and enjoy the compliments!



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          Did you have a sweet Valentines Day? 

          It is a very special day to me since Certain Man and I had our first date on Valentine’s Day, 35 years ago, today. 

          Old Gertrude, who lived with us nearly 20 years never could say “Valentines.”  It was always “Belly-chimes!”  Somehow, that made me giggle instead of feeling romantic. 

          Anyway, however you want to celebrate it, “Happy Belly-Chimes Day to all!”  (And to all, Good-night!)


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Just time for a quick update.  I am surprised that anyone reads this mundane site when there are such pretty pictures and attractive layouts on other sites.  I love visiting other people’s pages, and seeing how they come up with wonderful ideas.

It is a shiny Monday morning.  And it is laundry and cleaning and all that goes with that.  My heart is heavy for Connie and Cary and Matt.  It keeps me mindful of how good life is for me.  My Daniel and her Daniel shared the same birthday, only a year apart.  And most people probably wouldn’t believe it, but her Daniel was the one that was older. 

And yesterday was a stay at home all day kind of day.  I made a shrimp chowder, and a chocolate cake, and just pretty much lounged around all day.  In the evening, around 6:00, Certain Man drug a heavy table in that we had purchased from the Methodist church in Houston, DE when they were getting rid of them.  It weighs a ton, but it has the smoothest Formica top on it and is perfect for doing puzzles.  So he and Middle Daughter dumped out the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that I had bought him for Christmas, and they got started.  Middle Daughter loves puzzles, and Eldest Daughter and youngest Daughter helped for a while.  There was lots of conversation like this:

“Do you think you might get this done tonight?”  Eldest Daughter queries while searching for something that might fit.

“Ain’t no way,”  Says Certain Man decisively.  “I am not going to stay up that late.”

“Besides,” says Middle Daughter, “I still have to study for my test tomorrow.  I’m only going to help for awhile.”

“Ain’t no way to finish this tonight,”  repeats Certain Man.  “This is the dumbest puzzle I have ever seen.  These pieces just don’t fit.  I can’t even find all the edge pieces.  I am about to give up.”  But he kept finding pieces that fit just in time to keep him interested.

“These are really strange pieces.” Said Middle Daughter.  “I don’t think I like them much.”

And so they worked awhile, and then Youngest Daughter lost interest, and Eldest Daughter went home with her husband.  So Certain Man’s Wife pitched in and did a small section, then went and did some other things.  When the time rolled around that Youngest Daughter decided to go to bed, there was only about a fourth of the puzzle left to do.  And the two devoted puzzle-putter-togetherers no longer said anything about not getting it together yet tonight.  They (And CMW, too) knew that there was no turning back. 

So, around 11:30, the puzzle was finished.  The box boasts that it is the biggest 1,000 piece puzzle in the world (39″x19″) but I don’t suppose that is official.  It is a pretty picture, and it was a great satisfaction to get it done. 

Great family memories from a snowy Sunday.



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       So here comes Middle Daughter in the middle of a busy Saturday morning and exclaims the following:
       “Mom!  I can’t believe you!  You write all these things that you are thankful for and all these wonderful things and didn’t say a single thing about DAD.  You talk about your Mama, your brothers and sisters, son and daughter, but you never once mentioned that you are glad for the love of a good man!  That is just not right!”
        She is right.  It wasn’t right.  Because Certain Man has been the one who has lent his steadying hand and heart during these last few weeks.  He loved my Daddy as if he were his own, and he is grieving, too.  But he has never made me feel like the grief we share is unimportant or prolonged.  He loves my Mama, too, and encourages me to do all I can for her.  Her suffering is very real to him.
         He works so hard for us as a family, at his job, at this farm, in our home. 
         This week, he has spent hours and hours working on a drainage system for an especially troublesome spot in his chicken house lane.  He has access to the old blocks at Uncle Eli’s and he brings a load down here and crushes them with a sledge hammer and puts them into the low spot there.  He dug a pond behind the composter for the water to drain into, and he dug a ditch and put in drainage pipe to draw the water away from the veritable lake that was steadily growing in front of the small chicken house.  He has enjoyed seeing the success of his labor. And when they come to catch chickens next week, (Lord Willing) there will be a lot of other people happy, too!
         He has covered for me in the house when I needed to be gone with Mama and no one else was available.  This morning, he took the meat off the bones of two chickens that I cooked so I could make a big pot of Mama-style Chicken Corn Noodle Soup for the concession stand at the Basketball tournament that Youngest Daughter is in today. 
         He never complains when I sleep in on Saturday mornings and everything is behind all day.  He listens when I sob out my grief and holds me in my storms.  He tells me every single day that he loves me, and sometimes brings me flowers just because he knows the day is hard. 
         And so, Middle Daughter, (and the rest of the world, too) I am very grateful for the love of a good man.  It makes the rest of my life a whole lot easier.


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        The days hold much of joy that defies description or explanation-
        The (sometimes) eight pair of cardinals at the feeder outside my sliding glass door.  Their splash of red against the gray never fails to brighten my day.
        An X-ray technician whose understanding heart was like a drink of water to a dry and thirsty soul.  Her own losses, so recent, made her quiet, and gentle and so, so careful of my grief.
        An office tech at the doctor’s office who chose not to give me a hassle, but open-heartedly and generously changed the orders without requiring another appointment.  And smiled.
        Clean, warm sheets on a bed that was cold and wet this morning.  Tucking Linda in with a prayer and a song, and seeing her settle in with a quiet contentment.
        Filing tax returns for my sons, and being able to tell them that there will be refunds for both of them.  Overcoming the obstacles that this aging computer threw my way, and completing the task before too late in the day.
        Picking up Youngest Daughter after a day of quizzing.  Listening to her happy talk, realizing that she is growing so fast, and seeing that gawky adolescent turn into a beautiful young woman.
        And the satisfying joy of relationships.  Good-natured exchanges with friends.  All the blessings that friendships bring.  I have been so blessed.
        For the love of my sisters, the love of my brothers, the love of my Mama.  I am especially glad that our Heavenly Father saw fit to spare our Mama’s life through those terribly challenging days last spring.  I thought, tonight, of how it would have been to lose both Daddy and Mama in this past year, and I fervently thanked God that He did not ask that of us.  It is hard to see our Mama’s pain, but it is comforting to have her here, weathering the storms with us, still being a Mama to us.  How very much we need her!
        And the steady joy of having a Heavenly Father who cares, who goes way beyond the ordinary to show His love for us.  He hears my complaints, He listens and counts my tears.  But He said that He INHABITS my praise.
        “And so, Lord Jesus, may you be pleased to inhabit the sacrifice of praise offered here to a God so deserving, so great, so infinitely wise and kind and loving.  May your Holy name be exalted in the earth, exalted in the lives of your people, exalted by our praise.  Lord, we lift your name on high!”


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