Monthly Archives: March 2013

onion snow
n. Chiefly Pennsylvania

A light snow in late spring, after onions have been planted.
 

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Easter is getting closer and closer.  I’ve thought a lot these days about last year and how I wanted so badly for each of the children who attend Sunday School to have new Easter clothes.  They have so little when it comes to nice things, and I felt like it was one time we could buy clothes for them without offending their parents. (I can’t say that was one of my most successful endeavors.  But that is another story.)  At least we tried!

I mean, EVERYONE knows that people get new clothes for Easter.

The thing is, I’m not big on “new for Easter” for myself.  We seldom did it for our children either.  But then, neither were my parents.  In thinking about this, I may trace some of my indifference to new Easter clothing to a painful memory.  One of the many times I have wished for a second chance with my adolescent self.

My Daddy and Mama worked hard.  My Sweet Mama, especially.  Looking back, I know that there were many, many times when she felt inadequate when it came to some of the things that she considered important.  For one thing, she didn’t like to sew.  In those years, it was almost a mark of your Christianity that you sew all your own clothing.  If you had daughters, it was equally important that you sewed their dresses, too.

To be honest, Mama was a good seamstress.  Probably it was her perfectionist qualities that made her feel like it took too long, was too hard, and that she didn’t have time.  When she took time, there was always something phenomenal to show for her labor.  I think I was pretty hard on dresses.  For instance, I remember coming home from school in about third grade and overhearing my mama say to my daddy, “I think Mary Ann just might be growing up a little.  Her dress isn’t ripped every night when she comes in from school!”

But I loved new dresses.  And it didn’t escape me that some of my many cousins and many of my friends got new dresses for Easter.  I knew that Daddy and Mama held to the fact that new dresses for Easter was unnecessary, and while it wasn’t “wrong” it did border on “worldly.”

Mama worked out a LOT on the farm, helping Daddy with farm chores, feeding chickens, milking and such.  I remember that there was many a Saturday night when she would scrub and wax her kitchen floor after we children were in bed.  In addition to working outside, she liked for the farmhouse that she and Daddy had remodeled in 1958 to be clean for Sunday.  She often had company for Sunday dinner, and Daddy was so proud of his pretty wife, and the meals she would put on the table.  She just did so many things well.

But because she worked so hard, there were times when the tired lines in her forehead were deepened and the weariness would walk with her as she finished yet another thing, big or little, before she would let herself sleep.

I was often reading when I should have been helping.  Or pretending that I was some athlete, performing for adoring crowds, or writing letters to interesting penpals that seemed to always eventually disappoint me.  There were a hundred ways that I could have helped to carry the burdens if I had only been observant.  Or thinking.  But who is thinking or even observant, when you are in the throes of adolescence and self centered?

I remember as if it was yesterday, one Easter morning coming downstairs to find my Sweet Mama, working on the Easter meal that we would have after church.  I don’t think it was elaborate and I don’t know that there was company coming, but in those days, if you had six children and you went to church on Sunday morning, you always prepared– always made food for when the long sermons were over and people were hungry.

She was standing between the kitchen sink and the kitchen table, I was standing at the opening between the dining room and kitchen, by the little telephone stand under the tall, narrow mirror.  And I was feeling put upon and grumpy.

“Mama,” I said, standing there in my housecoat. (In our family, you never appeared outside your bedroom unless you were clothed (if you were a boy) or at least in a housecoat (if you were a girl).  “What dress am I supposed to wear today?”  I knew there were no new ones for me or my two little sisters.

She looked up from what she was doing, standing there in the morning light from the window.  “I don’t know, Mary Ann,” she said, and I remember that she looked tired.  “Maybe you can wear your blue one.”  (I’m not sure of the color, here, but let’s just use “blue.”)

“But, Mama,” I protested.  “I’m not sure that one is clean.”  In those days, you hung up your dresses after wearing them until they looked like they needed washing.

“It’s not dirty,” she said.  “I’m sure it will be okay.”

And this is what I will regret as long as I have memory.  I got angry.  “Mama,” I said, burst out spitefully, “you would think that if I couldn’t have a new dress for Easter, I could at least have a clean one!”

My Sweet Mama’s face!!!  I was sorry the minute the words were out of my mouth.  Hurt, sorrow, sadness washed over her pretty face as I stood there, miserable and ashamed.

“Oh, Mary Ann,” she finally said and her voice was quiet.  “You have it all wrong.  It isn’t about dresses.  It’s about what Jesus did for us on the cross and Him getting alive again . . .”  She may have said a whole lot more, but I don’t remember. 

What I do know is that something changed in my heart at that very instant.  I honestly would never again think that I needed a new dress for Easter.  The whole thing of getting new clothes just never held the fascination for me again.  And while there have been times when I will get a new dress on sale in the spring and decide to hold it for Easter, it hasn’t been often, and it has never been important.  

And while I may use it as an excuse to buy clothes or gifts for needy kids that I love, it is never about the new clothes or the Easter Baskets or Cadbury eggs.

I DID have it all wrong.  

It isn’t about dresses.  

It’s all about what Jesus did for us on the cross and Him getting alive again. 

And I have staked all that matters and my very soul on this one thing:

HE IS RISEN, AS HE SAID.

 

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Sunday afternoon at Grammy’s house.  

Daddy and Mommy went to Virginia to see Daddy’s cousin, Matt, and his wife, Angela.  I get to stay with Grandpa and Grammy.   I took a (very) little rest with Grandpa on his chair.  

He was snoring, so I pretended to snore, too, and woke him up.
 I decided to get down.

Grammy napped on her chair, too, while I watched Caillou,
but then I convinced Grammy that it was time to do something more interesting.

So we mixed up some cupcakes and I helped a lot with that, and then I washed the dishes with lots of soap and water and splashing about.  
I had to wear my apron:

 

And then, Grammy gave me Grandpa’s big honey bear that is out of honey.  
She filled it with water for me and I watered the flowers.
They were really dry, though Grammy isn’t sure if at least one of them won’t need water for a week or more:

 

When I got done with that, the cupcakes were done, so we got them out of the oven:

 

“H-m-m-m-m,” Said Grammy.  “We need to make some icing for these cupcakes!”

“Yes,” I said.  “We do!”

“Since it is Saint Patrick’s Day,” said Grammy, “shall we make green frosting?”

“Oh, Yes!” I said, “We need to have green frosting!”

So we made green frosting.  I held the mixer and mixed it up.  Grammy helped me.

 

 

And then I licked the beaters.  It was so yummy!

 

Then Grammy put the icing on the cupcakes and I sprinkled the green sugar on them.

And I did it almost all by myself.  Grammy almost didn’t have enough green sugar.

In fact, when I was done, there was no green sugar left in the shaker.  At all.

But all the cupcakes had sprinkles.

So I ate one right away to see if it was okay.

It was.

 

And now, as soon as Grandpa goes out to feed the calves, I think I will beg to go along.  I got my farm boots that Mommy bought for me from the thrift store, and Grammy has a farm jacket for me.  After that, maybe I will get a bath, since I haven’t had one in a very long time.  (At least that is what I told Grammy when I was begging for one!  Somehow I’m not sure she believes me, but at least I haven’t had one today, I am sure!)

I am getting really tired, too.  It’s hard work keeping things going at Grammy’s house.

 

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Sunshine Smatterings

The Friday morning sunshine streams in the picture window that faces the southeast.  I’ve been trying to take some time to sit in the sun on sunny mornings.  I’ve heard tell that it is good for a person.  Especially in these months.  I don’t think it’s doing much besides making me lazy.  I feel almost addicted to this morning siesta.  Almost grumpy if I don’t have time or there is no sunshine.  I’ve been trying to talk Our Girl Audrey into try it.  She sniffs in the way that is characteristic of her when she doesn’t believe a single thing I’m saying and has no intentions of changing her views.  Sometimes I get her to come out and sit in the one chair and she looks the whole time like I’ve asked her to eat brussel sprouts. Shifts around, acts put upon, and finally will say, “S’alrigh’ f’I go fee’ a birze?” (Is it alright if I go feed the birds?”) or “S’alrigh’ f’I go my roo’?” (Is it alright if I go to my room?) or some other such thing that will release her from sitting quietly in the sunshine.

I’m not sure why she resists it so much.  I’m of the opinion that it isn’t so much that she doesn’t like to sit still as she thinks that it isn’t right for me to sit still.  She thinks I ought to be doing something productive.

She’s a little like my Daddy on that score.  He liked nothing better than to see his wife or his children working really, really hard. “Hard work never killed anybody,” he would say with conviction and his characteristic grin.  Well, he wasn’t right on that score, but he really did believe it until the day he died.  And though I am forever grateful for the things I was taught, I believe that some of the things that were instilled in me as a child makes it difficult to feel worthy when I’m unproductive.  Not all of that is bad, though.  Our society could surely use a few more people who believe in the therapeutic value of hard work. (She says as she sits on her chair in the sun!)

I wonder if part of my current lethargy isn’t that there is so much to do that I don’t feel like starting.  Some people say they don’t know where to start.  I know where to start, for sure, but I just don’t feel like starting.  Taxes to organize and divide into columns and write down, computer room to clean, (AGAIN!)  book work for the casemanager, red Christmas bows to take off the upper deck railing . . .  I should probably start by just getting dressed.  I’m getting company at eleven.

The one thing that makes me want to sit on my chair is a painful cold sore.  I usually can head these things off at the beginning, but I think this one had every intention of turning into a plum size production.  My faithful applications of Abreva have made it more manageable, but I’m really tired of the ugly thing.  There has been some stress in my life (no kidding!) but it is very unusual for me to get a cold sore.  When I got to evaluating the different things that have been going on, a sudden memory flew up into my conscious thought.  Aha!  This might be Certain Man’s fault!  

Whenever Certain Man and I were expecting a baby, about the time the baby was due, he would come down with a mean looking cold sore.  I would sometimes worry that it was big enough to keep him out of the delivery room when the baby was born.  (It never did– I was just paranoid.)  It really did happen every time, if I recall correctly.  Now he’s the one that is headed for major surgery, so the other night I told him that it was my turn to get the cold sore.  I’m not so much worried about how things will turn out.  I am glad that this is available for him.  But I feel really, Really, REALLY sympathetic when I think of the hard work ahead of him — and the confinement of the first weeks, and yes, the pain.  Though it probably isn’t worse than what he is experiencing now, it is a different kind of pain.  Certain Man does not do well with pain or confinement.  Hard work is a different story entirely.  And that drive he has for working beyond what most humans consider possible will stand him in good stead when it comes to therapy.  In the desire for this to “just be over” I keep reminding myself that lots of good living lies between now and when he has surgery.  I don’t want to waste this!

That being said, I guess I better get along and get ready for my visitors.  Blind Linda’s mother and her two sisters are coming “to talk.”  No explanation given, but this family has been the most supportive and kind and generous natural family that we’ve ever worked with.  So, while there are some heavy things that we may need to discuss, I look forward to the exchange.  And then, maybe I will feel like getting started on one of the several projects that are reproachfully staring me in the face.  Besides, the sun won’t shine on my chair much longer, so I’m left without reason to linger.

Blessed weekend, everyone.  It wouldn’t hurt for more people to sit in the sun.

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Monday Morning Musings

You would think it would be easier.  After all, there have been lots of opportunity to practice saying good-bye to Youngest Daughter over the last few years.  She went off to Europe, then to Thailand, then to Guatemala, then to Uganda, and in between all of those escapades, there have been trips and trips and trips — to college and to visit friends and to see brothers and to go to conferences and weddings and such.

She came home last Sunday afternoon.  For some reason, she seemed inordinately glad to be home, and she meandered in and out of the house, washing dishes, loading and unloading the dishwasher, cleaning up the messes that were usually left for “later” and organizing what she didn’t know what to do with in little stacks of orderliness.  She spent a day helping me with preparing for the upcoming tax filing, and filled the days with studying, coffee runs to Dolce’s, being Auntie to Charis, and just filling our lives with presence.

But Saturday morning, she packed up her bags and headed out.  Overnight with Lem and Jess and then back to Ohio.

And this time it was harder again.  I have never liked to say goodbye to any of my children, but with all this experience it would seem like it should get easier.

Oddly enough, it still feels hard.  And today I feel sad and empty.  I’d like to just sleep.  But it’s a beautiful day, and a great day for washing sheets from the beds, catching up on laundry and doing all sorts of busy work while my thoughts tumble over each other in a strange, odd mix of ponderings.

“I’m coming home in three weeks, Mom,” she reminded me when I was protesting her going.  “And I’m coming home for the summer!”

Both of these are gifts.  Especially the summer business.  She had planned to take a job in Columbus, live with some friends, and just not be home for another long, hot Delaware Summer.  (Not that she minds the heat.  She sometimes says that she hasn’t been warm clear through since she came home from Thailand.)  She had warned us repeatedly last summer that it was probably her last summer home, like she needed to remind us.  But then plans changed radically for her friends in Columbus, and it looked like nothing was working out for her.  So she told Joe, the man for whom she has gardened four out of the last five years or so, that she would come back there on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and she told her cousin’s sweet wife that she would babysit their three children on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It was interesting to this mama how relieved and happy she seemed when this was settled.  It was even more interesting when things turned around in Columbus (and she could actually have lived there after all) to discover that she was entirely satisfied and even pleased that she was coming home.  I tried not to be too obvious in my joy.

Just as I tried hard to hide my angst when she left this time.  I really have no right to expect her to be around for ever.  When I was her age, her Daddy and I had been married for over two and a half years, and I wasn’t exactly thinking about what my Mama and Daddy wanted or whether they missed me or not.  

And now it is Monday morning.  Weekend catch-up and laundry day for me.  Certain Man is home today, working on Farm Things.  He is getting hay out for his beef cattle, working on things in the chicken house, tilling the garden, and getting early things into the ground, moving dirt piles, and taking his mower in for its yearly servicing.  We are putting in another manure shed, and there are preliminary preparations that he wants done today.  

I watch him walk across the yard and my heart hurts.  A month from today, Certain Man gets a new left knee.  I watch this strong man, who holds my heart in those capable hands, as he walks with an almost stumbling limp when he thinks no one is watching.  When he thinks people are watching, he sets that jaw and tries hard to not let on that the pain is almost more than he can stand.  He hates to have this surgery done, but now that it is this close, I think that both of us just wish it were over.  I pray that it is every bit as positive an experience as I have had.  It seems unreal that my second total knee replacement was three years ago today.  I have never wished for a minute that I wouldn’t have had it done.  Even in the middle of therapy and rehab, I was just so glad!  I still marvel at the gift I’ve been given. 

And that is the news from Shady Acres, where Middle Daughter is reading to two little boys that she is watching for a few hours, the washer and dryer need changing and the telephone is ringing.

Happy Monday to all!

 

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Cooper’s Hawk Invades a Peaceful Shady Acres

It was 7:30. I was standing at the kitchen sink, loading breakfast dishes into the dishwasher, and waiting for Blind Linda’s bus.  Our birdfeeders have been busy with the kind of weather we’ve been having, and I heard a thump and then a little shrieking sound.  It puzzled me, and I looked out to see if there was something amiss.  It sounded like a bird had hit the window.  There was nothing.

Just as I was turning back to my job, an object hurtled past the window.  A mama cardinal smacked the sliding glass door with a thump and tumbled onto the deck, lying there stunned.  Just as quickly, a Cooper’s Hawk dove in, landed squarely on the stunned Cardinal and swooped off again, its hapless victim firmly in its talons.  It landed about twenty feet out in the yard, and sat there.

I was furious.  The area that the hawk dared to come into has only one open side.  I sometimes see them in the tree out in the lawn, but this is a protected cove and it really made me cross.  And of course, Cooper’s Hawks are protected.  You may not kill them.  But you can encourage them to leave.  So I headed for the trusty BB gun.  Maybe three pumps on a copper BB in a ten pump gun would do the trick.

Rats!!!

As I rounded the corner to get the pellet gun, I caught sight of a DART van pulling into the driveway. Blind Linda’s bus.  Of course.  So I detoured back, got her shoes on her, and put on her coat, grabbed her lunchbox and headed for the other side of the house.  As I went by the door leading to the side yard, I craned my neck and saw that the Hawk was still on the lawn at the same place.  I hurried Blind Linda to the van, was barely civil to her driver, and flew back into the house.  Still there!

I grabbed the ancient pellet gun (Think “Youngest Son, age 12 or so”) and slid a pellet from the holding place into the chamber, gave three quick pumps that felt absolutely futile, and opened the door.  The hawk, watchful and wary, lifted off with its prey and I aimed in the general direction (using the term “aim” loosely, here) and pulled the trigger.  “Phoot” went the old pellet gun with a most useless sound, and the Hawk rose, sure and majestic and disappeared into the piney woods that borders Shady Acres.

I felt almost nauseous as I watched it go.  I came to my computer and googled Cooper’s Hawk.  What I read comforted me somewhat.  This from an article about protecting backyard feeders from hawks:

It is important to remember that even though it may be disheartening to see a songbird fall victim to a hawk, the hawks are only playing their role in nature’s cycle and they do not kill more birds than needed to survive. In fact, studies estimate that only 10 percent of a hawk’s kills are successful, and of those, the majority of the birds the hawk takes are old, weak or sick and removing them from the flock will help strengthen the remaining birds.

And even though I am quite sure that the Mama Cardinal wasn’t sick, I’m sure that she was confused.  Especially after I read this:

Protect Windows: Use decals and other methods to prevent window collisions by panicked birds. When a hawk attacks, small birds will mistakenly fly into windows and a stunned bird is easy prey.

We have decals and latticed windows, but we still have occasional incidents of birds flying into the windows.  So, it is one of those things that, even while I really hate it, I cannot escape the natural balance that God put into our world, and even the compelling engineering of this bird of prey.  He certainly is handsomer than a buzzard.

 

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It’s a cold and windy day in Milford, Delaware.  The basketball pole at Shady Acres finally succumbed to the years of wear and tear and laid over on its side, snapping at the base.  There are limbs strewn about and the furniture on the upper deck keeps changing places with itself and making me jump.  I keep thinking that this time, for sure, it sounds like one of Certain Man’s trees has decided to come crashing down on the house.  That is one of the few things I don’t like about all the trees. So far, it’s just the furniture. 

The temperature has been slowly dropping — literally by tenths of a degree all day.  It was 41.9 when I got up around six ((later than usual, since I decided that there was no way I was going to send my poor ladies out in this mess) and now it is 39.6.  Every now and then, I will see some stray snowflakes, but not enough to alarm even Certain Man. (Who, by the way, announced back in November, “I saw two snowflakes go by today, and that was one too many, and enough to last me for this year!)

Youngest Daughter and I have been working at tax preparation.  She reads me numbers from the bank statements and I enter them into a ledger.  Yes, I should have done this long ago, but I find that doing things this way has some advantages.  There is method to my madness, I promise you, but it’s complicated and I don’t feel like explaining it.  Besides, people have been known to criticize, so I keep this a somewhat secret procedure.  Besides.  Our accountant has been known to mention that he would like to hire me because of the state of the information that I turn into him, and though he would never approve of how I keep my records, I suppose that if the end result is that acceptable to him, I can keep on doing it the way it is the most comfortable for me.  It really isn’t all that different from most commoners.  The one thing that makes my husband tear his hair out is that I just cannot bring myself to put it on computer and keep it up to date all the time.  (Hold the advice.  Don’t even bother.  If I haven’t changed for that Daniel Yutzy guy, I probably won’t change for someone else.)

It has been a most comfortable day.  I’m still in my housecoat, and the pellet stove is burning brightly.  I’m still dealing with a most aggravating stuffy nose and have drank copious amounts of hot liquid and ate some wonderful soup that we made when I was at my Sweet Mama’s house yesterday.  I feel thick and stupid and slow because of how stopped up my nose and ears are, but it is so nice to be where it is warm and dry that I am so happy.

I said to our girls a few hours ago, “This is a good day for us to be grateful for a Daddy that provides so well for us and to be very, very grateful for this warm and sheltering house.”

One of them said, “Because he has to be out in it?”

I said, “Well, yes, that, too, but when you think about not only how he goes out in this weather, but also how his provision for us at every turn makes it possible for us to be in where it is warm and dry, it just is such a blessing.”  I had ventured out onto the deck to put lids back on the containers of bird seed lined up by the railing, and it was really COLD and really WINDY and the boards on the deck were slippery and I almost fell.  When I returned the few feet back into the safety of the house, I couldn’t help but think of how hard it would be to have to be going in and out of a truck, inspecting houses.  He stopped by home briefly this afternoon and he was damp and cold and tired.  But still cheerful in spite of it all.  What a guy!

We just might still get some snow tonight, but not nearly the amounts that others are having to deal with. 

Whatever is going on in your part of the country, I hope you are all just as warm and dry and safe as we are on the little farm called Shady Acres.

 

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