Monthly Archives: January 2015

Of sons and cold and long ago days

This was written in January, 2008.  I was reading it this morning and thinking about my sons — and how neither of them are working in the cold at this point, and how life changes so much.  The years have a way of marching on, and it seems like decades since our lives were like this.  I was going to say that the one thing that never changes is the love that we have for our children.  But that isn’t true.  It is true that we always love them, but how we love them changes almost as much as everything else.  I love our sons — I always will.  And I still pray for them.  But the days of sprinkling love over the lunch sandwiches are long, long gone.  🙂

Today was one of those Delaware days.
The temperature is low.
There is a mean wind blowing.

I make swiss cheese and ham sandwiches in the early morning light.
I think about the men my sons have become.
Heading out into the extreme cold.  Learning hard life lessons.
Construction work in Delaware is not for softies.

Through the day, their job comes to mind over and over again.
When I step out of the warmth of the car to the doctors office with my Nettie-Girl.
When I come back out and the force of the wind hits me square
And seems to go right through me. 

I pull my flapping jacket closer around me, and find there is no real warmth
Against this biting, cutting wind.
I pray the Lord to make them strong.  And cautious.  And wise.  And full of optimism.
I pray the Lord to provide respite from the wind.
I pray against bitterness, discouragement and despair.

They tumbled in tonight.  The coffee was on.
“J’amaican Me Crazy”  blend from Dolce’s swirled its comforting smell out to the back door.
Pork Barbecue was in the oven.  Martin Potato Rolls on the cupboard.
They started to “unpeel” and I had to laugh.
Plastic Wal-mart bags around shoes inside boots.
Work pants came off.  Then sweat pants.  Then work shorts. Then there were flannel pajama bottoms.
(Whatever happened to long underwear???)
I see Youngest Son curling up beside the burning flame of the pellet stove.
Oldest Son tending to the “foreman” responsibilities of truck and fellow employees before allowing himself the luxury of warm house and lounging clothes.

Tonight they soak up the warmth and the fire and the comfort of home.
Tomorrow is to be even colder.  And tomorrow they go back out to the job.
It no longer is my responsibility to keep them warm and safe.
I will always be glad when they come home for warmth and food and comfort and encouragement.
But tonight, I know those days are seriously numbered.
And that is okay.  It is the way of Men.
And they are men.  They don’t even love me best of all anymore.

And so, I pack the lunches with a prayer.
I remember the days when I would take my hand and pretend to sprinkle “love” into their food.
It made them laugh.
They are way too big for that trick now.
What they don’t know is that, even though my hand is still,
My heart is sprinkling love all over those Swiss cheese and ham sandwiches.

And I will always love them.

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Amazon Packages

I love getting packages in the mail.  I am continually astonished at ordering something on a Wednesday night and it appears in my mail box two days later, with no shipping charges!  Amazon Prime Rocks!  And since Amazon Prime allows auxiliary members, we have our children on our membership.

Saturday, I went to the mailbox and found this box from Amazon.  Okay.  I wondered what Middle Daughter had ordered that she hadn’t told me about.  It was almost too big for the mailbox , and I struggled a bit to get it out.  When I checked the address, I was surprised to find my name on the label.  H-m-m-m-m-m.  Maybe Youngest Daughter had ordered something to come here instead of to her Philly address,  She hadn’t said anything, but she had come home for the long weekend, so maybe she just had it sent to me, hoping she would be here when it came.

Then I looked at the box a little more closely.  AMAZON FIRE PHONE was written all over the packing tape,  Oh, dear!!!  My heart sank clear down to my toes.  I couldn’t believe it!  The Offspringin’s had actually gone and done it!  I looked at that box and thought I just might cry!

It is no secret to any faithful reader of this blog that I am an old stick in the mud when it comes to cell phones.  I have a sturdy old flip phone that has been washed in the washer, has suffered many indignities, yea, things that would have killed off a lesser phone many times over.  It texts, it takes marginal pictures, it calls people, it keeps a wonderful contact list, and if I’m really desperate, can be programmed as an alarm clock.  But when the family is sending group text messages, I only can respond to one person unless I enter the addresses of the rest of the flock.  And I cannot tell to whom the text was sent( besides myself).  This bothers some of the Offspringin’.   Over Christmas, when they thought I might not be listening, they were discussing getting Certain Man and His Wife smart phones for Christmas.  I thought I had made myself clear on the point, and was terribly relieved when I escaped unscathed on the far side of the Christmas Celebration.  Now, THIS!

I brought the box in and set it on the kitchen table and considered my options.  I love my kids and the people they’ve married so intensely, I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.  I considered writing a group e-mail and thanking them sincerely but begging them to reconsider.  (That wouldn’t do, I decided.)  I thought about giving vent to my frustration and bringing on some tears with Middle Daughter and Youngest Daughter and explaining that I just didn’t want it!  (I decided that wouldn’t do either.)  I got to wondering if that was one of the reasons Youngest Daughter came home this weekend — she wanted to see my surprise and delight at this wonderful gift.  Maybe I should wait until she and Middle Daughter were both here to witness the opening of the box.  But then I worried that my reaction would be less than acceptable since they had obviously gone to great lengths to procure this new phone for me.  I decided that I had just better bite the bullet and open it and determine that I was going to learn to use it.  The Offspringin’s had obviously thought it was what was best for me and I am on a kick to try to listen to our Offspringin’s advice and counsel about what is best for me.

I got my instrument of sharp edges and slit the tape.

Oh, dear!

It was not a phone at all!  I looked in that box and laughed out loud.  It wasn’t a phone at all!

I began to feel really, really foolish.  It was a package of B12 drink mixes that I really like that I am no longer able to buy locally and I had ordered them on Wednesday evening and they had even told me that they would be delivered on Saturday.  Sigh!

The thing is, if it wasn’t for that phone phobia, and seeing those words in bold print on that tape, I would have thought of that sooner or later.  So it really is Amazon’s fault.  I think.  I’m pretty sure it hasn’t anything to do with anything else.

And when I say that my heart gives grateful praise on this Monday morning, you can believe that I am telling the truth.  My heart gives grateful praise for an old, old flip phone and for The Offspringin’s who weren’t half as meddling as I thought they were.

I think I’ll go have one of my new grape-flavored drinks.

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January Evening

The cold seeps in around the edges of the old farmhouse.  I take a cup from the corner roundabout and wonder at how cold it is.  Why is that cupboard so cold?  I almost want to pour boiling water into it and let it sit for a bit until it is thoroughly warmed before making a cup of mint tea.  The day has been long.  Tonight I finally finished the delinquent paperwork that I need to file with the state.  I feel cross.  I should be grateful.  I have a wonderfully understanding case manager, and I’ve had the best nurses in the system.  My case has just been reassigned, something I always dread, but the replacement is optimistic and warm and she makes me think that just maybe, losing the best nurse I’ve ever had won’t be the end of my tenure.

The cold has been seeping around the edges of my soul these last few months.  Sometimes it seems like grief deferred is grief escaped, but it just isn’t so.  It niggles at the edge of my conscious thought, lends cloud cover to my sunniest days.  I’ve fought with all my might, I think.  I refuse to answer any question of “How are you?” with anything but an enthusiastic, “I’m GOOD!”  Or even, “I’m GREAT!!!” and if the truth be told, that does make me feel better.  But the tears are so close, and the smallest things set me off.

Today, Youngest Daughter stood in our kitchen, ready to go see Joe, the employer that has suffered a stroke.  She is blinking back the tears.  “I know that he knows me, Mama, but he doesn’t remember my name sometimes.  I feel like my sense of loss is far deeper than I realized at first.  At first, I knew he was in there, and I thought that he would probably get better, but now it’s like he knows that he knows me, but he doesn’t know how or why.  And–” her voice caught and I had to strain to hear her, “I’m afraid it’s just too late.”

“It reminds me of  a story I read recently,” I told her, “about this girl who would visit her grandma and her grandma never spoke her name, but would engage in conversation with her.  She wanted her grandma to remember her name so desperately, so as she was leaving, she said, ‘Grandma, you don’t know my name, do you?’  Her grandma looked at her intently and then said, ‘I don’t know your name, but I know that you are someone I love.’  And Rachel, I believe that is how it is with Joe.  He may not remember your name, but he does know that you are someone that he loves.”

Tonight I am so glad that when Jesus looks at me, He knows my name.  He knows my heart.  He knows that I am someone He loves.  This soul sadness is something that He has already carried, so he understands it.  And while there are numerous things that are honest grief, there are still One Thousand Gifts to count, and people around me who need to be encouraged and loved on and who “borrow” joy from me.  This I purpose to rejoice in and I also purpose to not let them down.

And so, let the evening begin.  I have “promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”  I think I’d best get busy.

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Of Laundry Lights and Wifely Plights and Husband’s Might

The light in our laundry room has been intent on driving me crazy!  For about a year it has been unreliable just often enough to make me threaten it and even sometimes whack it a time or two with a wooden spoon.  Following such displays of power, it usually would straighten up and fly right for a while.  But increasingly, over the last few months, it has not responded to authority.  I have stood at the light switch and turned it off and on and off and on for great lengthy sessions of gentle persuasion, and until just before the New Year, it would eventually come on.  But alas, I seem to have lost my touch.  Certain Man never needed “The Touch” it seemed.  Have any of you ever noticed how things work properly for the man of the house?  And malfunction with annoying regularity when they are nowhere to be found?

A few weeks ago marked a change in the light’s entire demeanor and attitude.  We had a few days of dimming and brightening, then some of that dreadful buzz, and finally NOTHING.  I don’t know about the rest of you,  but I really cannot function without a light in my laundry room.  I complained loudly and lengthily  mentioned it to Certain Man, and he found the sudden (!) demise unacceptable, too.  However, it chose to go out at an inopportune time and there was interference to fixing it, due to schedules and weekends, etc.. So I hauled a spare lamp in from the family room, put a nice, bright replacement bulb into it and “made do” with what I had.

Certain Man took the light apart and peered about at the innards of the receptacle.  He determined that there were some serious problems with the mechanism, but also that one of the long bulbs was burnt out.  He stood at the door of the laundry room and weighed his options.

“I think I will go into ACE Hardware and see what they have for a replacement light,” he finally decided.  “I can buy replacement bulbs for this one and it would probably work, but maybe not right.  I kinda’ think I would be happier with replacing the light.”

I was okay with whatever he decided.   I was sure that it would result in illumination of my laundry room, and I didn’t much care how he did it as long as it got done.  He went out  and came trudging back with two new light bulbs.  ACE Hardware didn’t have any replacement lights that pleased him.  He put the new bulbs in, tried the switch, and lo! And behold!  LIGHT!  I was ecstatic.  But he wasn’t.  He said, “We are going to have to replace that light.  It just has too much wrong with it.  I have a gift card to Lowes.  Maybe I will run in there one of these days and see what they have.”

A few days later, he came home with a box from Lowes that said “florescent ceiling lamp” on it.  I wondered whether he would put it up, or if he just had it on reserve in case he suddenly needed it.  But then the light in the laundry room started acting up again.  It was taking its sweet time about coming on, and when it did come on it was  sometimes dim.

“I don’t know, Sweetheart,”  I said to him the other day.  “That light in the laundry room isn’t acting right.  It takes a while to come on and its just not right somehow.”

“I know,” he said, looking thoughtful.  “I guess I am just going to have to change it.”

Over the next few days, I thought about it occasionally, especially when I moved the box to get something out of the closet in the entryway.  It honestly didn’t bother me very much.  Certain Man has been operating with four stitches in one finger, has gotten new chickens, and has been especially busy with deacon calls because of the extreme cold and Christmas and PEOPLE.   (He has also been dealing with a beleaguering weariness that troubles me, though I do think that some late night watching of his favorite sport, FOOTBALL, and in particular, his beloved Buckeyes, could have something to do with that.) But I knew he would get it done sometime.  Besides, once this faulty light was on, it did a fairly good job.

Then yesterday, I spent the day on Nettie, and besides that, pretty much just did what had to be done to get laundry washed, dried, folded and put away.  I went to bed before Certain Man finished watching those Buckeyes win their game.  This morning, I headed for Greenwood to pick up my Sweet Mama.  She had a dentist appointment, needed to get her glasses repaired following a bad fall at church over a week ago, and wanted to look for a new recliner for the one she has that is literally “letting her down on the side.”  We ate lunch and then I flew into Boscov’s to exchange some things from Cecilia’s’ Mother and sisters from Christmas.  Then I took Mama back home, filled her med box, went through some mail, stopped some things off at my Aunt Freda’s for my mama, and then came home to Shady Acres.

The house was unusually dark.  I peered through the dark laundry room, through the dark kitchen, on to the dark family room.  Middle Daughter was in her father’s recliner, listening to music with Cecilia.

“Whew!  It sure is dark in here!” I said as I came into the dark kitchen and flipped on a few lights.  “Where’s Dad?”

“I don’t know.  I haven’t seen him,” said Middle Daughter.  She seemed unconcerned.

“His truck is in the pavilion,” I said.  “I saw it when I pulled into the lane.”  I went out to check, and he was in the truck, talking to his sister. He seemed uninclined to talk to me, so I wandered back in and went to trade my boots for my sandals.  I heard him come in.

“Where’s Mom?” I heard him ask Middle Daughter.

“I don’t know.  She was here–”

“I’m here,” I said, coming around the corner.

They were both looking at me with “the look.”  (I hate that look.  It means I missed something very important.)

“You didn’t even notice, did you?” Questioned my long suffering spouse.  “The light?”

“”I had all the lights turned off so she would turn it on,” said Deborah, “But she came on in and never even noticed.”

I turned to see the laundry room flooded with light.  A clean, new, gorgeous efficient light was shedding a wonderful clear light all over the room, giving it a whole new brightness.

And I was properly grateful and delighted and grateful and delighted, and said so over and over because, in truth, I WAS!


And my heart gives grateful praise for a husband who looks so well to the ways of this household.  I am so blessed.

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Our Girl Nettie has a Birthday

On a grey January day, we celebrated Our Girl Nettie’s birthday.  She had an appointment in Lewes, and then we shopped for a new winter hat at Peebles with the 40 dollars that she had stowed in her sock-shaped change purse just before we left home.  This was a big decision, but eventually we settled on a warm cowl-necked circular thing that she could pull up for a hood and she was satisfied.  So was I.  It looks very nice on her and the coloring is great for her hair.

And then it was off for her best surprise ever.    On our way to Lewes, I had told her that there was going to be another surprise for her today.  Earlier, she  was so pleased with her new jeans and the birthday cards she had received, plus the whole church had sung “Happy Birthday” to her yesterday, to her great delight.  But this was Monday morning, and it was rainy and it was cold and she was feeling grumpy.  She looked at me with skepticism dripping from her body language like the rain that was dripping from the eaves of the garage as we backed out.

“A bad surprise or a good surprise?” she asked darkly.

“It’s a terrible surprise,” I responded brightly.  “I’m gonna’ take you to the doctor and have your leg cut off!”

“Mare-Ann!!!”  And she laughed.  “I know ‘at ain’t right!”

“You’re right, it isn’t!  I’m going to take you to the beauty parlor and have them shave off all your beautiful hair!”

“No, you’re not!”  She was quick to respond.  “Wha’ you sayin’ at for?”

“Nettie, have I ever planned a surprise for you that was ‘bad’?”


“Well, then, why, when it is your birthday, would I be planning a ‘bad’ surprise for you?”

“I ‘on’t know.”

“Well,  I’m not!  This is a good surprise.  You are going to love it!

“I ‘on’t know ’bout ‘at!”

“You will just have to trust me, but I know you will love it.”

And so we went to the doctor where we waited for almost two hours past our appointment, but then got in and got out in a little bit of no time, stopped at Peebles and now were headed to Cracker Barrel, where (at least I hoped) the surprise would be waiting.  She knew about going out to eat for her birthday, but she didn’t know about who might be there.

We pulled up to Cracker Barrel at 12 noon.  I got OGN’s walker and noticed someone waving at me from a car just across the lane.  Good!  Nettie came around the back of the car and got her walker and headed out to towards the restaurant.  But just as she started, her sister, her only sister, stepped out of the car and began to walk towards her.

“Nettie,” I said to my gal, who was heading out across the parking lot at great speed. “Look who is here!”

She stopped, and looked disbelievingly at her beloved sister.  As it registered, I thought she  was going to cry.

“Sally!  It’s Sally!”  She squealed in disbelief.  She covered the short distance between the two  of them and grabbed her in a big hug over the top of her precious walker.  “How did you know to come here???”

Sally laughed and told her a big story about just pulling into the parking lot and suddenly seeing her, but Nettie, caught in the  intense emotion of the moment neither listened nor believed.  The truth was, I had invited Sally last week and decided not to tell Nettie in case something happened at the last minute to mess the plans up.

What a grand time we had, talking and laughing and eating in the big room at Cracker Barrel with the fire burning so brightly.  I learned things about Our Girl Nettie’s family that I had never known, and Nettie reveled in the presence of her  sister and this “best gift” — that her sister came to Lewes to surprise her for her birthday.  When the waitress brought a piece of Coca Cola cake and some ice cream and had some of the staff sing “Happy Birthday” to her, Nettie’s delight was complete.

Then we finished up, and when I went to pay the bill, Sandra already had it in her possession.  “I’ve got this,” she said.  “I have a gift card and I want to pay it.  You can leave the tip, but I am going to pay.”  We had some discussion, causing her to produce the card to prove that she did, in fact, have it in her possession, and I finally gave in.  “Besides,” she said, smiling across the table at Nettie, “It’s Nettie’s birthday and I don’t have a present.  This is something I can do for her!”  This pleased Nettie exceedingly much and we gathered our belongings, and headed home.

The rain pelted down, and the day was grey, but beside me in the mini-van, Nettie rode happily and contentedly.  Such a happy day for Our Girl Nettie.  She told me tonight that it was her happiest birthday ever.

“Ever?” I asked.  “When you were a little girl, didn’t your Mama make cake for your birthday?”

“Yeah, she did.  Had birfday cake,” she acknowledged.

“So those were happy birthdays, weren’t they?”

“Yeah, ‘ey were happy.”

“So this maybe wasn’t the happiest birthday ever, but maybe it was the happiest for a long, long time?”

“You got ‘at right.  It was because I got to see my sister.”  And she smiled her sweet smile.

Happy Birthday, Our Girl Nettie.  I hope you have a grand many more!


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My heart aches . . .

We are in Philadelphia for the day.  Youngest Daughter (Rachel) had begged us to visit, and since she is still on semester break from Bryn Mawr, it seems like a great Saturday to go.  Though she has been back at her internship for a week, at least there are no papers to write, no books to read and no tests for which to study.  It is the coldest Saturday for some time, and Certain Man and I are bundled up against the wind and cold.  Something about Philadelphia makes everything seem colder:  The big stone arches, huge concrete structures, stone statues and iron gates and cold, cold glass and steel.  Even the big, colorful LOVE statue in the center of town doesn’t help much on this cold day. (Maybe it is just that this is “the city.”)

But the people!  Wealthy people in big cars, various ethnic populations, ordinary people in heavy coats and scarves, all moving along the sidewalks with hurried steps.  They are stepping around and over and away from the various bumps of humanity sitting along the edges of the sidewalks, on the street corners, outside the doors of establishments, swaddled in various garments against the bitter cold.

It is impossible to help all the homeless, I know, but their desperate plights on this freezing cold day is almost more than I can bear.  A little black lady, sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, rocking and talking to herself, with a cardboard sign that is illegible.  A man without legs in a wheelchair, cupping a steaming disposable cup of something in his hands, his eyes begging, his words unintelligible.  And the one that really gets me:  A person, I suspect female, but I cannot tell for sure, is sitting wrapped up in a quiet side street near a parking garage.  The sign reads something like this:  “I’m homeless.  I’m hungry.  No job, and I’m too ugly to prostitute.  Please help!

We are scurrying along the sidewalk, trying to get out of the stinging wind, trying to beat the parking meter, trying to find shelter ourselves.  Youngest Daughter is leading the way, and I hurry to stay in step with her long, confident strides and my husband’s naturally long steps.  It feels like my heart will break and I finally say to her, “How do you stand it?  How can you bear all these poor people?  Doesn’t it just feel like you have to do something???”

Our daughter, young, full of life, full of hope, and compassionate to her very core says, “It is really troubling, Mom, and it is especially bad in the winter.  During the summer, I give away anything in my lunch that I think will help — an apple, a granola bar, whatever.  But in the winter, when the biggest issue is the cold, there is so little anyone can do that is going to help.  The churches send out buses when it gets really cold, and will take anyone who will go to a warm place, but there is so much misery and sadness and hopelessness out here.”

It is late afternoon, and the temperature is dropping into the teens, we abandon our walking for a driving tour of historical Philadelphia, and then drop Rachel off back at her apartment and head for home.  The van is warm, dependable and quiet.  Both Certain Man and I are in our own thoughts, and eventually I sleep.  Then home again, safe and sound, I revel in the silence of the Delaware night and the little farm that we call Shady Acres.  Inside the house, Middle Daughter has everything under control and I am home in time to put Nettie and Cecilia to bed, and collapse in my comfy chair.  The pellet stove is burning brightly.  The people near me are ones I not only trust, but love deeply.

But I think incessantly about a human being out in that freezing cold, so alone, so hopelessly caught in wretchedness and sorrow with no shred of self esteem . . . (“too ugly to prostitute???”) and wonder again what will be required of this handmaiden of the LORD.  What will my answer be some day when I am called to give an account of how I’ve used what has been entrusted to my care?

The truth is, being faithful where I’ve been called is important.  But there have been many times in my life where my efforts on behalf of all the need I saw were so scattered that I ended up doing more harm than good.  And I have a serious calling on my hands right now on my home front that I am committed to doing with all my heart.

But that doesn’t stop me from praying.  I do not know how God ministered to the needs in frigid Philly last night, but there were people there who were the object of a Delaware Grammy’s prayers and I believe in a God whose hands will reach where mine cannot, and whose ways are far above my understanding.  It doesn’t bring complacency.  It doesn’t keep my heart from hurting.  But it does bring renewed commitment to do what I can do in this time and in this place with what I’ve been given and to the ones I’ve been given. And to share in ways that will help those beyond my physical reach.

This verse, from my favorite translation, The New Century Version, rings loud in my head: (Jesus speaking!)

Luke 12:48b:  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. And from the one trusted with much, much more will be expected.

I have nothing that I haven’t (directly or indirectly) been given!

Do you know what?

Neither have you.

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