Category Archives: Family living

Two years ago, (actually on May 21st) My Sweet Mama had fallen and broken her Femur. Her bird came to Shady Acres while she was in the hospital. We didn’t know it then, but Pretty Boy would become a permanent resident of Shady Acres until he died, almost a year to the day after My Sweet Mama went home to Heaven.

This was my facebook post, two years ago this morning:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10205716244117739&set=a.1140451303851.2022252.1004477626&type=3&theater

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Caption, May 25, 2017: Charis reads to Grandma Yoder’s bird, Pretty Boy. Charis is very concerned about her Grandma Yoder. She made her a card this morning, and put this picture on it. She wrote:
“Der Gremoe Yotre I am retig to your Brde. Love Charis. (And if you can’t read that, there is something wrong with your reading skills.)  

(*** for those who just can’t figure that out, here is what it says.  “Dear Grandma Yoder, I am reading to your bird.  Love Charis.)

On this rainy morning, the memories are making it hard to function. There is much to do today. If all is well, Blind Linda moves to rehab this morning. There is packing and paperwork and phone calls to be made. The unknowns of this are difficult for me.  (Will she ever get better enough to come home?  Will she be carefully tended in the nursing home?  What can I do to help everyone in this situation and still take care of my home and my husband and my family?  What is God saying to me about here and now???)

There is so much for which to be thankful, and even when I selfishly wish for time to sit and think and “wash the windows of my soul” (that’s CRY, if you didn’t know!) I know that God makes a way in our wildernesses, and He cares what we feel and how we grieve and He knows what is going to trigger our grief.

My Aunt Dottie’s fall on Monday of this week has given me a thousand memories of My Sweet Mama.  Aunt Dottie and Mama were friends, peers, sisters in law and almost the same age.  (Less than four months separated them).  Often church and family gatherings found them together, as in this picture, taken at a July 4th picnic, in 2009:

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Sometimes on Sunday Mornings when I see my Aunt Dottie, it makes me so homesick for My Sweet Mama that I turn my head away and think HARD about something else.  Aunt Dottie is a brave and classy lady.  I feel deeply for her in this latest episode.  I know it is devastating and discouraging and disheartening.  She’s doing better, but still is in Christiana Hospital. Please pray for her.

Then last evening we received word that Lawanda Zehr‘s father, Loren Martin, died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Lawanda is married to Daniel’s nephew, Pete Zehr, and this young couple has had a special place in our hearts for a number of reasons. This has triggered a host of emotions for me, too, and made me think of losing Daddy and how difficult it was once the reality set in.  With this being the anniversary of Mama’s fall and her homegoing (June 16th),  it feels like the loss of my parents is suddenly right in my face, and “in my way” no matter which way I turn.

And so.  What is the best thing to do on days like today?  Each person is different, I know, but for me, it’s a tried and true coping mechanism.  It’s to give thanks for any and everything that I can think of (while planning for a time when I CAN sit and think and cry) and getting on with the next thing that I need to do.

Which is to go and pack clothes for Linda’s move.  Mark them with her name, pack them carefully into the suitcase that is hers, and get a move on.  The transport will be there in another hour and a half and I have more than enough to fill up those 90 minutes.  (Plus, this computer is driving me batty by not keeping up with my fingers as I type.  This irritates me into being done for now. )

Blessings on you all today — may your day be filled with Grace and Glory.  May there be purpose in the mundane and excitement in the everyday.  May you find Gifts that give pleasure, Friends that give comfort, and a Sense of the Presence of JESUS that make everything look better.

My heart gives grateful praise.

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Filed under Dealing with Grief, disabilities, Family living, Grief, Heaven

Suppers and Scarves

Last night, Daniel and I took our local family out to supper in honor of Christina‘s “Glad I Got’cha Day!”   We slipped it in after a day that was hectic and hard on many fronts, but I’m so glad we did.  I needed it desperately, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.

Yesterday afternoon, in the hospital gift shop, I had bought a new scarf that had the color teal on it. This was to honor Youngest Daughter, Rachel Jane‘s request that we take note that the month of April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Yesterday was specifically designated as #everybodyknowssomebody day. People were asked to wear something with the color teal to indicate that they cared/knew/supported victims. I had forgotten until I was out of the house yesterday morning. Besides, I didn’t think I had a single thing that was teal, either in accessories or apparel. So I decided to check at the Milford Hospital Gift Shop where I have made some friends, and where I often find unusual things. The only thing I found was a scarf with butterfiles that had teal accents. It was pretty, and it would do.

So last night I wore my usual black skirt, a simple white top and with the assistance of Deborah dressed it up with the pretty scarf. The evening was pleasant, We ate on the patio at The Palace, and the six of us (Christina, Jesse, Charis, Deborah, Daniel and I) enjoyed our time together immensely.

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We got home, and I was getting ready to run into the hospital to see Linda. I was absentmindedly running the ends of my scarf through my fingers when I hit something crackly. Oh, dear! The price tag from the gift shop was dangling from the end of my scarf with one of those plastic string things that establishments use to keep garment price tags in place.

I hadn’t seen it! Deborah hadn’t seen it. I wonder who did!

Maybe as many who noticed the teal in the scarf and knew what it was for. And in River Town. Art Town. Home Town. We are Milford,” that just might have been nobody.  But they should have.  In researching my home town, I was saddened to discover that, for all we have going for us, this is also (allegedly) true:

Crime

The city of Milford has a crime rate higher than the national average in some categories, much higher in rape, assault, and theft, and lower in others.

Milford Nation
Murder 0.0 6.9
Forcible Rape 97.22 32.2
Robbery 166.7 195.4
Aggravated Assault 1333.3 340.1
Burglary 1027.8 814.5
Larceny Theft 5500.0 2734.7
Vehicle Theft 291.7 526.5

Formula used for chart: ((Crimes Reported) / (Population)) X 100,000)[12]

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Filed under Family, Family living, My Life

Nocturnal decimations

Delaware Grammy has always enjoyed the hours when she could sleep, undisturbed and quiet in her comfy bed.  Even though she is not one to claim (or even need) quantity of hours, the quality is mandatory so as to see her through the days that wrap themselves around the old farmhouse at Shady Acres. It has been a great blessing that Delaware Grandpa, though troubled by Restless Leg Syndrome and a family gene that causes insomnia, makes it his business to sneak stealthily from the room when he cannot sleep so as not to disturb his wife with his wanderings about in the still, quiet nights.

In recent weeks, things have gone awry in such a way as to make Delaware Grammy think there must be a conspiracy going on amongst the gremlins that disturb sleep.  And they are using almost every method available and opportunity afforded them.

The changeable weather caused one restless night.  Delaware Grandpa and Delaware Grammy sleep in a bedroom that tends to be on the cool side, and several weeks ago, when the weather turned cool, Grammy brought forth the electric blanket, threaded the controls under the bed to the respective sides and plugged everything in.  That very night, things warmed up and so it wasn’t needed for some time.  However, when the nights became cooler again, Grammy began to ask Grandpa if he was going to turn on his side of the blanket.  He always said that he didn’t need it “yet” but didn’t care if Grammy turned hers on.  So there were some nights when Grammy would turn hers on for a brief period, but most of the time it wasn’t necessary at all.  And then one night she came to bed feeling very tired and quite warm from a long day cooking and getting ready for company.  It was a cool night, but she kicked the covers off her feet, and didn’t think she needed the electric blanket at all, so she didn’t even look at the control.  She was restless all night, just feeling so warm, and finally kicking back the electric blanket and sleeping with just the sheet.  But then she was too cold, so she pulled it back up again.  Whew!  Then she was too warm.  Along about 4am, Grandpa took himself downstairs to his La-Z-boy and Grammy happened to fluff her pillow up over the side of his and take over part of his side of their bed.

H-m-m-m-m-m-m.  His side was cool.  Considerably cooler than hers.  Wait a minute!  She was suddenly very much awake.  She turned back over to her side of the bed, and grabbed the electric blanket control that was languishing on its side on her bedside table.

Oh, dear!  No wonder she was warm.  In the darkness, a bright green 10 shone out merrily.  TEN!  Oh, for crying out loud!  No wonder she was warm!  But how in the world???  She hadn’t touched that control for a number of days.  However, it didn’t take too much sleuthing to realize what had happened.  Last year, if Grandpa went up to bed early, and thought it was cold, he would turn on her side of the blanket so that it would be warm for her when she climbed in.  He never bothered to change the settings, but would just turn it on.  On this particular night, he was feeling chilly.  And even though he didn’t feel the need to start his side of the blanket, he was looking out for the comfort of his wife.  Somehow the setting was at TEN on this particular night, and so all night long Grammy roasted away while she tossed and turned and barely slumbered.

Around the same time, there seemed to be an upper respiratory bug going around the household of Delaware Grandpa and Delaware Grammy.  Grandpa was coughing and snorting around and Grammy was trying really hard not to catch it.  All she needed was a stopped up nose and a cough to complicate her life.  And so one night, getting awake in the middle of night, she found her mouth exceedingly dry and her throat feeling scratchy.  She padded over to the bathroom and got a drink and then climbed back into bed.  Lying there, thinking about the probability that she might be getting sick, she decided to spray her throat with some Chloraseptic spray that is always on her bedside stand.  She felt around in the dark and found the spray bottle.  Undoing the plastic top, she aimed it for the back of her throat where her tonsils once were and gave a hefty push on the spray top.

Ugh!  Oh, awful!  There was a horrible burning sensation, a terrible taste in her mouth and the smell of liniment.  Yepper!  You guessed it!  She had gotten her “pain spray” alright, but it was the one for aching muscles and creaky joints, not the Chloraseptic Sore Throat Spray that she was expecting.  It wasn’t just Grandpa who was coughing and snorting that night.  But her mouth certainly wasn’t dry for the rest of the night.  Ah, yes.  There was lots of watering going on.  But she hadn’t gotten terribly much, and she didn’t seem any the worse for it, so she waited for the light of day and then made sure that she had what she wanted and that it was where she wanted it for the next time it was needed.

And then there was the week between Christmas and New Years.  Delaware Grandpa and Grammy’s family came home for a few days, and Grammy had come upon the bright idea of giving Eldest Son and his family their side of the upstairs for the few nights they and their four children would be home.  The two bedrooms and the bathroom was a good fit, and Grandpa and Grammy could easily sleep on their recliners those nights and all would be well.

All would have been well except for a stomach virus that laid the family low during their stay, and there was much vomiting and bed changing and such going on.  On Wednesday, Eldest Son took his family back to Sugar Creek, and Delaware Grammy reclaimed her bed for a few hours until the same stomach virus laid its savage hand upon her, and she was back in her recliner for thirty hours or so.  Quickly recovered, she had pleasant sleep for all of Thursday and Friday nights, and quietly prayed that God would spare the rest of her family.  Especially Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda.

It was not to be.  Saturday morning she came down to a very miserable BL.  She had projectile vomited over her bedroom floor, clear to OGA’s bed, and then vomited profusely while in the bathroom.  All day long, there were ministrations of gingerale and peach juice and Phenergan.  By evening, she wasn’t vomiting, and she seemed to be better, but Grammy decided that it would be best for her to sleep in a recliner, where she could be helped quickly if she needed assistance.  (She also was remembering the three hours she had spent cleaning the bathroom, spraying Lysol over all the surfaces, and scrubbing the rug between the beds in the bedroom.  Linoleum floor and a Schwan’s ice cream bucket seemed a far better choice than a bed with clean sheets and a still wet carpeted floor.)  So, with Linda in her chair, and late night things to finish up, Grammy finally got settled very late, indeed, into her own recliner and drifted off to sleep.

It was a restless sleep, however, and scarcely was she asleep an hour when she was suddenly awake.  She heard voices.  People were talking somewhere, faintly.  Then she heard the driveway monitor.  This did not produce confidence.  As quietly as she could, she put the foot rest down on her recliner.  Stealthily she sneaked out to the kitchen and looked out the window.  Yikes!  The motion sensor light had been activated on the back deck towards the chicken house lane.  She stood stock still in the middle of her kitchen, straining her ears to hear, but the voices had fallen silent.  Had they detected movement through the kitchen window?  She stood contemplating what she should do.

Then it didn’t matter any more.  It was time to move to safety of her own bed and to the protection that the presence of Delaware Grandpa always affords.  She thought about the fact that it had been about eight hours since BL had vomited, and decided to take her to the bathroom and put her into her own bed.  With clandestine movements, intended to keep her out of the direct view of any windows and hushed, whispered instructions to BL, she got her from her chair, into the bathroom, and tucked into her bed.  She quietly sang her a bedtime prayer, and crept out of the room.  As she stepped out of the room, she heard voices again, and this time, she could make out words.  It felt like a cold hand had grabbed her stomach —

. . . until she realized that it was coming from the computer room..Her computer had not been shut down for the night and was picking up window after window of commercial drivel and playing it loudly to a dark, empty room.  She opened the door, shut the eight or so offending windows, and then shut the computer down.  And then she gathered her nightie tight against her and climbed the steps to the comfy bed where Delaware Grandpa lay snoring softly.  Slipping in beside him she gave a contented sigh and was almost instantly asleep.  There was a space of a mere two hours until she needed to be up again, but the quality of those two hours was unblemished by any interruption or disturbance.  Just pure blissful sleep.

She never did find out what set off the driveway monitor, (probably a cat on an nocturnal stroll) or activated the sensor light (probably a breeze in the branches that have grown into the line of perception).  But whatever it is that disturbs the slumber of Delaware Grammy, the truth is that she will always sleep better when Grandpa is there to defend and protect.  And so she continues to pursue quality hours of sleep that will refresh.  And if she can remember to check her blanket controls and keep watch over the contents of her bedside table, it stands to reason that peaceful slumber will be the norm and not the exception.

For this, her heart truly does give most grateful praise!

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Filed under Family living, home living, My Life, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW

And The Days Keep Marching On

It’s been a year since I finally agreed to getting a partial for my sparsely furnished upper set of teeth.  I was bothered and beleaguered and blatantly resistant, but finally realized that I needed to do something.  And so, in great co-operation with one of my favoritest dentists ever, Dr. Steward, there were impressions made and a partial plate was procured, and —

It didn’t fit.

It felt so completely unnatural and huge and wrong and I couldn’t even get my upper teeth and lower teeth to meet.  (I wondered which barnyard was missing their horse’s upper plate!) Dr. Steward took one look at my face, one look at the fit of the teeth in my mouth and started over.  I still don’t know if that was necessary, or if I just “needed to get used to it,” but Dr. Steward mumbled some things under his breath about the lab not believing a bite could be quite this diverse and taking it upon themselves to change it up a bit, and how he needed to put on the instructions “DO NOT CHANGE THIS IMPRESSION EVEN A MILLIMETER!  Just make it as directed!” He wasn’t extolling the virtues of the partial plate nearly to the extent he had before

(You see, I have a very strange cross bite as well as a very small mouth to put it into, and there  has been more than one dentist who mentioned the fact that I needed to open wider.  Then reminded me again.  Then insisted in not so gentle tones.  There was even one who found my efforts so unsatisfactory that he put this miniature jack into my mouth and cranked it open.  It hurt like crazy, and when he was finally finished and released my jaw, it went into a muscle spasm that reappeared with regularity over the next year of two whenever I yawned.  Shew-eee!!!  That kept me away from dentists for a good while!)

But I digress . . .

Following the first disaster, after another couple weeks or so, a second one was procured and this time the fit was acceptable.  Not that I liked to wear it.  I didn’t.  But the fit was about as good  as I could have imagined after the way the first fitting came down, and I went about wearing it (at least some of the time).  As time went on, there were days when I wore it less and less.  It made my mouth so dry I could hardly talk.  It sometimes made my mouth so sore in places that I almost couldn’t eat, and it just felt so unnatural.  There were days when I thought about my grandmother, Savilla Bender Yoder and how I never saw her wearing her dentures.  She kept them wrapped in a hanky, tucked into her Mennonite cape dress.  They just didn’t fit her mouth right, and she really disliked wearing them.  One time she dreamed that she saw them riding out of town, bouncing around on a flat bed tractor trailer, the only thing on the whole, empty back of the truck.  I became rather sympathetic towards my grandma, and wondered about what significance that dream may have held.  I kinda’ thought that wrapping my partial in a napkin and carrying it in my pocket would have the same desired effect — but when I remembered what they cost, I  thought better of it.

And so the months passed.  And the consistency with which I wore this appliance was getting spotty indeed.  But then Certain Man’s sister, Lena, came to spend a few months and she was having severe issues with her dentures.  Wanting to help, I thought that maybe she could get some help at my dentist.  However, I realized how little I  was wearing my perfectly good pair when I faced the prospect of accompanying her to an appointment..  I also realized that having a partial that fit wasn’t something to sneeze at. Which I certainly could do without fear of dislocating my upper teeth!  (I did realize that a hearty sneeze could send false teeth into orbit if they weren’t properly fitted.)  Suddenly, I began wearing my partial a whole lot more.  I found that it was a rather useful gadget.

But then something happened.  I don’t quite remember if it was at our annual picnic or some other time, but I was happily chewing away when I bit down hard on something with the only “anchor tooth” I had on my upper left.  This tooth had been saved by a root canal and a crown and it sometimes protested having the partial’s clasp tightly around it, but whatever was bitten upon this day was very specific to this one tooth.  And the immediate protest set me back a bit on my heels.

“Maybe that was just a fluke,” I thought sadly.  “Maybe it is just sensitive for some reason, and it really won’t be anything.  Maybe it will get better.”

Well.  That immediate starburst of pain did pass, and even though I found myself being a bit partial to my one remaining upper molar on the left, it seemed that it wasn’t too bad — unless I happened to bite down on it.  And as the days and then weeks passed, it became apparent that it wasn’t getting better.  But the days were full of demands that left me almost not thinking about that crazy tooth unless it was late and I was getting ready for bed.

“H-m-m-m-m-m-m-m,” I would think as I brushed and water pikked and mouth washed with a healing dose of Listerine.  “I really should do something about this tooth!”

But we went to Ohio for the birthday party for all three grandsons, attended the ordination of our Eldest Son, and enjoyed exploring the house that they had recently purchased, came home again, had a gazillion things here to catch up on and the days went by.  Finally, last week one day, I had really had it and I called my beloved dentist and before I knew it, I had an appointment for that very same day!

I trudged into the office at the time instructed and tried to be cheerful.  The dental assistant took me to my chair and did an X-ray and then Dr. Steward came in to check things out.  He was his usual cheerful, kind self.  He put my  chair up in the air, tilted it  back and proceeded to poke around the offending tooth.

“Let’s have a look,” he said.  “Uh-huh!  It has some wiggle in it!”  (Why are dentists so cheerful when the news is bad!)  He poked around some more and then said, “Well.  It has a crack in the root.  That’s a tooth that has a root canal in it already, and the crack is longitudinal.  There’s nothing we can do except pull it.”

“What about my partial plate?” I asked anxiously.  “That’s my anchor tooth for the rest of the plate.”

“Won’t be a problem,” said Dr. Steward, confidently.  “We’ll do an impression, send the plate out and have them add that tooth, and then when it comes back, we will pull that tooth, and put the plate into your mouth right away.  It will act as a ‘band-aid’ for the site and will actually be helpful.”

And so the impressions were made, and about a week later I went in and they pulled the offending molar.  Dr. Steward was nowhere to be seen.  Young, pretty Dr. Gall did the honors.  It was a tough extraction.  The crown came off right away, and then, piece by crumbly piece, they got the root out.  The sweet young dentist was cheerful, careful and thorough.  She left not a single particle of the tooth behind, and ended up needing to suture the gaping hole in my jaw.    My small mouth made things a bit difficult — especially when my lip got caught between the forceps and my lower teeth.  That situation got rectified soon enough, but a cold sore followed on the site a few days later.

When things were finally done to her satisfaction, in went to revised partial.  My heart sank.  The area over the stitches was so high, no other teeth would meet.  I was exceedingly worried about this, but Dr. Gall encouraged me to not get frustrated — they were going to make it all right again.  And so I sat for another half hour while they filed, then tried the fit, put carbon paper in my mouth and told me to grind, pulled it out and filed again, then the same procedure over and over again.  Finally, I convinced myself that I could live with it, and that it would probably settle down and that it was never going to be the same again, and I might just as well get used to it.  So I called a halt to all proceedings until the numbness wore off and I had a chance to see how things were and I got into my car and cried.  Then I put it into gear and came on home.

Home.  Where the fire was warm and there was a kind husband waiting.  He ordered me to my chair under treat of retribution if I didn’t take a nap and looked like he meant it.  I crashed onto the chair and slept a really good sleep.  When I got awake, things didn’t seem so bad.  The pain was manageable, and the partial was fitting fairly well.  I collected Grammy’s Girl and together we fed the birds, looked for pretty leaves and made a pretty candle holder for a tea light.

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The days have passed, as they are wont to do.  There’s been plenty to keep my mind off my jaw, but it has been troublesome to put it mildly.  I’ve been wearing my “band-aid” faithfully, and I do think it has been helpful.  Pain medicine has helped, too, and now, almost a week later, I feel like it’s improving.  Getting a tooth pulled just feels like a violation somehow, and I hate it!  But one thing kept going through my mind while Dr. Gall wrestled with this tooth.  That was how thankful I was that there was Novocaine for this sort of thing.  It sounded terrible.  In fact, it sounded like it was REALLY going to hurt when the numbness wore off.  And it sounded like it was the kind of thing a person could faint over if they were trying to take it straight up.  I thought about people through the ages and even now in less developed countries who do not have the choices that I have and who would have suffered so much more than I ever did.

And yes!  My heart gives grateful praise.  For Novocaine and and cheerful doctors who know what they are doing.  For a nicely fitting partial plate after all the trauma and for competent dental care for me and my family.  I’m thankful for a husband who protects and cares for me, and for enough freedom from pain to carry on with my responsibilities.

And I’m thankful for a brightly lit leaf lantern, for this season of grateful praise and for the many, many opportunities I have for joy.

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Filed under Family living, My Life, Uncategorized

Charis and Grammy Butcher a Chicken

The big trucks had pulled in and out of the lane at Shady Acres for most of Wednesday  night.  The big, fat, stinky chickens had been caught, put into the cages and hauled away to the processing plant.  Certain Man, short on sleep and long on labor, had finally come into the house and collapsed on his beloved chair and fell fast asleep.

The day was full with much coming and going, but somewhere along the line, Certain Man said, “The chicken catchers left one chicken — one big one!  Do you want to butcher it or shall I just put it into the composter?”

“I want to butcher it!” I said.  “I will probably not get to it, though, until tomorrow.”

“That’s fine,” he said.  “I will catch it and put it into my coop and you can get it whenever you want to do it.”

And so the day passed.  Thursday, I got a note from a cousin asking about some chicken soup for one of my neighbors, and I was reminded about that chicken, waiting for me.

“Sweetheart, did you catch that chicken for me?” I asked in one of my conversations with him during the day.

“Oh, no!” He said.  “I didn’t get around to it.”

“Do you think the fox got it?” I asked, reminiscent of the last chicken I had planned for a pot of soup.

“Shouldn’t have,” he said, “because it was in the chicken house and the doors were closed.”

Thursday nights are “Grammy Night” with Charis, and I decided that, unless her Daddy and Mommy objected, or unless she thought it was too gross, Charis and I were going to butcher a chicken for Grammy night.  I called her Mommy and told her my plan, and she and Jesse talked it over and decided to ask her what she wanted to do.  After school, when her Daddy was bringing her down he broached the subject.

“Grammy thought maybe she and you would butcher a chicken tonight,” he told her carefully, explaining some of the possibilities of the evening.  “Would you like that?”

“I wouldn’t like that,” she said, all excited. “I would love it!”  And so, it was decided.

She came into the house, all fired up to get busy, but I had something to get in to the post office before it closed, and she occupied her time with other things until finally, I was ready.

“I’m not so sure about this,” I said to her as we started out.  “Grandpa didn’t get this chicken caught, so I’m going to have to chase it down.  I’m getting a little old for this sort of thing.”

“Oh,” she said, confidently.  “You have me!  I’ll catch it for you!”

“I’ll be glad for your help, Charis,” I said, “but this is a big chicken.  It isn’t very easy to hold and it might hurt you.”

“Will it bite?”  She asked a bit anxiously.

“It probably won’t peck you, but it has spurs on the side of its legs that can scratch pretty hard.  I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Oh.” She said.

“Maybe you can chase it towards me and I can catch it,” I said.  “We’ll just see what works out.  Do you know which chicken house it is in?”  (She had been conversing with Aunt Lena who had helped Grandpa with some of the chores in the chicken houses that follow the movement of a flock.)

“Yup!” she said proudly.  “House three!”  So we headed out towards house three.  I was on the golf card and she was on her bike.  We stopped at the barn and the shed, also at the ante rooms of both house two and three, looking for the hook that makes catching a chicken a whole lot easier, but alas!  None was to be found.  I was wondering how in the world all of this was going to work out.  Chasing a chicken in a newly emptied house is precarious business for a woman of my age and weight and athletic ability.  The litter is uneven, with ruts and often wet places.  Chickens are crazy birds, with the ability to turn on a dime and run in the opposite direction.  They squawk and flutter and they are often the bearers of chicken poop on their feathers and always on their appendages that you are most like to grab when you are trying to catch them.  And without a hook?  I was most certainly in for some trouble.  But there was Bright Eyes beside me, chattering cheerfully and so very excited about our upcoming adventure.

We pulled up at the end of the chicken house and I opened the end doors.  It was dark and reeking of ammonia and the foul smell of a chicken house.  Charis nearly gagged at the heavy wave of barely breathable air.  We peered down the long expanse towards the other end, and in the darkness, somewhere near the middle door, I saw — well, something!  It didn’t really look like a chicken, but it was some sort of interruption in the emptiness, so I said to Charis, “We are going to go down to the middle door.  Grammy thinks she sees that chicken down there.”

We both got on the golf cart this time, as Charis decided to leave her bike and come back for it later.  Away we went, down to the main side door.  I opened it wide and stepped inside.  Charis stayed on the outside, undecided as to what she wanted to do.  She let the door swing shut.  I couldn’t see a thing.  I opened it back up.

“Charis, can you hold this door open so that I can see?”

She half-heartedly held it a bit, then stepped inside, then stepped back out, then held it open about a foot.  I still could barely see, but I could make out our intended victim.  He was a big old duber,  and when I stepped in his direction, he started getting away as fast as his little legs could carry him.

“Charis, can you come and help to chase him towards me?”  I was of the opinion that she could at least stand guard while I snuck up on him.  I caught on really fast that wasn’t a happening thing.

“Grammy, see, I can hold a little chicken,” she said from the safety of just outside the door, “but I don’t know how to hold a big one!”  She watched as I traversed the litter and got him over to the other side of the house.  Then, “Grammy, I’m gonna’ be down here,” she hollered as the door slammed shut and I heard no more.

I had a little more light at the far side of the house and it occurred to me that darkness might be in my favor in this situation, and so I eased myself slowly in the direction of the chicken.  He watched me with his beady eye.  I was almost ready to reach out and catch him by his wings when he suddenly took off towards the other end of the house.  About then I heard Charis at the end of the house where she had gone to retrieve her bike.

“Grammy, I’m down here, if you need me,” she hollered.  It was only 175 feet away.  I was pretty sure that she wasn’t going to be much help.

“Okay,” I yelled back.  “That’s good!”  At least she wouldn’t be getting hurt by a frantic rooster.

The things I had been concerned about were reality as I went over the ridges and rolls of the litter in the empty chicken house.  It was loose and I slipped and skittered around, trying to keep my balance.  Oops!  There was a very wet spot.  I hurriedly dislodged my foot from there, wishing with all my heart that I hadn’t worn my sandals for this job.  It already felt like there was at least a half a cup of litter between my sandal and my foot and now there was dampness. Oh, yuk! But I was intent on my prey, and he was stepping closer and closer to the wall.  I very slowly  narrowed the distance between us and suddenly made a grab!  Caught him squarely!  He squawked and protested mightily with his strong wings, but I quickly subdued him.  Charis, noting that he was safely in hand, disappeared again from the back doors of the chicken house and with amazing speed, met me at the side door as I exited with him.

I had procured some baler twine from the side wall of the barn when I had been in there looking for the hook, and I wrapped it around his legs while Charis made comments about his soon demise.  I put him into the back basket of the golf cart where my unreliable efforts to incapacitate him would not allow him to escape.  He looked questioningly at me through the wires.

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Charis fancies herself an animal whisperer.  She got up close to him and started to talk to him.

“Hey, little guy,” she crooned.  “Do you know you are going to get butchered?”  She didn’t seem sorry at all, and there was no pity or compassion or even regret in her voice.  She said something about it being her relative, but when I asked for clarification,  she changed the subject.

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“Come on, Charis-girlie.  We need to get this fellow up to the house and find a place to hang him.”

“Are you going to cut off his head?”

“I am, but I’m going to hang him first.  That’s the way my Daddy taught me.”

“Aren’t you going to lay him down and chop off his head?”  (There was entirely too much enthusiasm for carnage in this little person.  Maybe this wasn’t the best idea after all.)

“No, Charis, I’m going to hang it from the baler twine, then while it is hanging, I am going to go in and get some water started to scald him with.  While the water is heating, I will come back out and cut off his head.  But I don’t think you want to watch that part of it.”

“Yes, I do!”

“Well, we shall see.  But for right now, we need to find a place to hang it up.”  When we tore down the old shed, I lost my row of chicken hanging ropes.  I needed to fashion something to hang this chicken where it could bleed and flap about.  Charis and I checked out several possibilities while the chicken watched from his spot.

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I was feeling sorry for him about now, but my companion in crime was going full speed ahead.  “Why are we hanging him upside down, Grammy?  Why don’t you hang him on your onion rack?   Why are you doing that?  What are we going to do next?  Are you going to cut off his head with your knife?   Are you going to get your knife?  When are you going to get your knife?  Why do you need to get water?”  I answered questions and did my best to downplay any violence either intended or implied, but her thirst for gore was unabated.

I finally hooked the blue baler twine over the railing for the sliding door to the woodshed and secured the poor chicken into its restraint.  It was beyond much protest.

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But, wowser!  That fellow was really heavy.  Certain Man had said that he didn’t think I would have any trouble catching him because he was too fat to run too far, but for as heavy as he was, I thought he had run pretty fast!  Now, hanging him up, I wondered if my baler twine would hold him.  I didn’t think it would break, but it kept slipping down and the piece of wood that I had gotten to serve as an anchor wasn’t proving reliable.  I finally twisted and wrapped and wrapped again and decided that it would hold.  Charis wanted to touch him, but was worried.

“Do you think he will bite me, Grammy?”

“No, Charis.  I’m pretty sure he won’t.”

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And then we left him dangling in the evening sun, and we went into the house, started the water in a big kettle on a power burner, and sharpened my favorite butcher knife.  I tried to talk her into staying in the house with Auntie Beebs while I took the head off, but she insisted on accompanying me back outside.  The chicken was quiet.  I explained that hanging upside down like that made all the blood run to his head, and it kinda made him unconscious.  I told her that the knife was really, really sharp, and it only took a second to cut off his head.  I told her that her Mommy and Auntie Beebs and Auntie Rach and even the neighbor children and Grandpa didn’t watch while Grammy cut off a chicken’s head.  I told her that Grammy didn’t even watch while she cut it off.  She found the place on the neck that the knife needed to go and turned her head away so she wouldn’t have to watch.  I told her, again, that I didn’t want her to watch.  I told her that she had to stand back because the chicken would flop around up there on the rope and she could get blood on her.

“Okay, Grammy,” she said cheerfully.  “I’ll stand clear over her and I’ll do this.”  She backed about ten feet away and covered her face with her hands.  I checked to make sure she wasn’t peeking through her fingers.

“That’s good, Charis.  I think it’s better if you don’t watch.  I’ll tell you when you can look.”

“Okay, Grammy.”  Still cheerful, still not looking.

I grabbed the head of the big old rooster in my left hand.  He had a really thick neck.  I felt for an indention where I could put my knife, and put it there.  I turned my head while I made a quick, clean slash with my razor sharp knife, then dropped the head on to the grass.  And turned my head far enough to see two brown eyes peeking through conveniently spread fingers.

“Grammy!  I saw it!  I saw it!  I saw you cut it off!”  There didn’t appear to be any trauma connected with it, and I decided that I wasn’t going to make anything big of it.  In years gone by, many were the seven year old children who had to help with the family butchering, and seemed none the worse for it.

I gathered up my knife and said, “Come on, Girlie.  We need to go get the boiling water.”

“What are you going to do with the water?” She asked.

“We will put the chicken into it and scald it a little and then the feathers will come off.”  We procured the water, got it into a big pail, and came back out to where our now very dead chicken hung.  I dipped the chicken into the water and checked to see if the feathers were pluckable.  They were, and I hung it back up and started pulling feathers off in great quantities.  This seemed to bother Charis more than anything else.  She had donned latex gloves with the intent of helping, and I explained what she could do.

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She helped for a while and then, “Grammy, I didn’t know that I would have to do this.  I don’t like it.”

“It isn’t the most pleasant, but it is something that we need to do before we finish butchering it.  We have to get all the feathers off.  That’s first!”

“When are you going to take the guts out?”

“That will be next,” I told her.  “But first we need to get as many feathers as possible off.”

She manned the hose when I wanted the chicken rinsed off, and then we carried it over to the outside sink that her Grandpa had installed by the garden.  I scraped the skin and cut off the legs.  She watched in great interest as I made the first cut to loosen and remove the crop and windpipe.  She was unabashedly curious about every part that I removed.

“This windpipe feels like a tube!” she said as she fingered it.  And then, “Grammy is there any ‘chicken’ on the wings?”  I must have looked surprised, because she motioned towards the wings and asked again, “Is there any ‘chicken’ on the wings?”

I realized then that she meant “meat” and I said, “Oh, yes, there is.  You know, when Daddy goes to get hot wings, that’s what he’s eating.  Chicken wings!  Lots of people really like them.”

She looked thoughtful.  Then puzzled.  “Grammy,” she said, “do buffalo have wings?”

I had to laugh.  “No, Charis, buffalo do not have wings.  When the wings are called ‘buffalo wings’ it is talking about a certain spice that they put on chicken wings.  It’s still chicken wings, but it’s called by the name of the spices that are used.”

“Oh,” she said.

By then I had made a cut into the abdomen to draw out the innards from the bottom.  (I seldom cut up a chicken into pieces because I mostly use them to cook whole for soup or to stuff and roast whole or to soak in Tenderquick to put a different taste-twist on it.)  It was here that I expected some gagging or some serious revulsion and a hasty departure.  There was nothing of the kind.  The gizzard, the heart, the liver, the lungs, the intestines and even the gonads were duly noted, examined and discussed. And when all was cleaned up, a little girlie carried the heart, the liver and the gizzard to the house while Grammy carried the big old bird.  Inside, we put him into a big container and Charis added a cup of salt.  We filled the container with water until the chicken was covered, added ice, snapped on the lid and left it for the night.  I got a little pan and fresh cooked up the giblets.  Charis wasn’t much interested in partaking of any of them, so Grammy got the liver and Grandpa gladly speared the heart and gizzard for himself.

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Then her Daddy and Mommy came and fetched her home, and her Mommy reported that she slept almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.  Another “Grammy Night” was history.

After the chicken had spent the night in salt water, I took it out and put it into a big Ziplock bag to take to the fridge in the garage. On the way out the door, I stopped at the scales in the laundry room and plopped it on.  A full 8 pounds, all dressed.  He was big!

Then I cooked him up and today I made him into a big pot of chicken corn noodle soup with a generous portion of Delaware lima beans in it.  It made over two gallons.

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That’s enough to give away, share with friends and feed my family (who just might be getting tired of Chicken Corn Noodle Soup!) for a few days.

And that’s the news from Shady Acres, where Certain Man is always glad to let the butchering of chickens up to his wife, where none of The Offspringin’s are interested in learning this particular skill, and where Only Granddaughter has some stories to tell about her latest Grammy night.

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Filed under Family, Family living, Grandchildren, home living, My Life, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW, Uncategorized

Grandchildren Gifts

The call came on Friday night.  It was our Oldest Son, Raph, calling from Sugarcreek, Ohio.  I wondered what was up.  Raph (almost) never calls.  When he does, there is a reason, usually.  (Mother’s Day, my birthday, plans for arrival, etc.)  So when I heard his voice on the other end of the line, I was puzzled.  Maybe he wanted to talk to his Dad.  No, wait!  He had called my cell phone.  That meant he wanted to talk to ME!

We exchanged our usual banal formalities, “how are you doing,” and such and then he said, “Mom, I wanted to tell you in person so you don’t find it out online or otherwise, (because you will hear it there) that Regina and I are going to be getting a  baby  girl to foster in about 45 minutes. She’s about two weeks old, and we don’t know much.  We could have her only until Monday or Tuesday, but it could be longer.  We don’t know.”

. . . and thus he set my crazy heart straight into another tailspin of joy, hope, worry, pessimism, optimism, and Grammy-love.

Later that night, we saw pictures of the little one, with the little men of the family swarming (there’s no other right word for it) around the big guy who was holding the baby, cradled in his big arms, all of them looking almost like they couldn’t get enough of this new bundle.  My heart ached with wanting to be there —  to see her and to touch her.  How long would she stay?  How long would we have?  What would the morrow bring?  And how would the boys deal with this new attention grabber? How would they like her if she stayed and grew and got into their things?  What would it do to their hearts if she had to leave?

Oh, Lord Jesus!  I had better pray!

And pray, I did!  And then again, and then again, and still praying!

I wonder how it would be to await the birth of a grandchild knowing that there would be no question of DNA or biological parental relinquishment or court orders or home studies or social workers.  I’m not criticizing any of these, you understand, because it is through these channels that we have been grandparents to our four (or, now five, however temporarily) grandchildren (and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon).  I’m not raining on anyone’s parade who have grandchildren the natural way.  I’m all for that, as well.  (Youngest Son, if you and The Girl With A Beautiful Heart are reading this, take heed!)  And I rejoice greatly with friends and siblings and cousins who have precious grandbabies to show pictures of, expound upon, and brag about.  I look at those pictures and  think I see the DNA of the generations in the little noses or eyes or chins.  They are so beautiful.  I am so happy for each and every one of the little ones, their parents and especially their grandparents.

But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) there’s something that has been niggling at the back of my heart these days.  One of the things that has been exciting to watch has been the nurture and the excitement of other families over the coming arrival of the little one that is growing within the body of someone we love.  From the joy over the first positive pregnancy test, to the first doctor visit, to the first sonogram pictures, to the first movements, to the inconveniences of each trimester — all building up to the time when those contractions start and there is the long expected little one. A wonderful, albeit expected culmination of months of expectation

That.  That is what has been so different for our family.

It’s been close to a year since we knew that there had been application made for a baby girl to foster with the intent to adopt.  Over the months, it was amended to a girl, age three or younger.  The nursery was ready, the crib was set up, and the family waited.  In September, our daughter in law, Regina, whose instagram name is #Hopethriving wrote the following words, captioning a picture of the ready nursery:

Sometimes I feel like a piece of my heart is missing and I don’t know where it is. And the wait is exciting and scary and sad because I know the gift coming that will fill that piece comes at the cost of pain to a child, physically or emotionally or both. It can consume me, this wait. The questions of when and how long will that piece be here and how will a loss affect the boys is terrifying. So I put my trust in God for his timing and protection and whenever I walk past that room with that empty crib I say a little prayer for that little hurt heart that will someday fill it. #fostercare #waiting

(I shed some tears over that one, yes, I did!)

And so, yes, we had about nine months of waiting, not knowing, hoping and waiting some more.  When we were in Ohio a few weeks ago, I peeked into the room that had been made ready for the baby, and it was back to being a little boy’s room.  I knew it wouldn’t take much to make it into a nursery again, but it was symbolic to me of how hard it is to hope and hope and not have the ongoing testimony of things happening.  I watched my daughter in law care for her boys, her heart so full of love for them and hopes and dreams for their futures.  I watched my son, tussle and play and tease (How can that Raph Yutzy be so LOUD???) and sing and pray with his boys, and knew that this family gave more than lip service to a God who was going to do what was best for them. When they spoke of expectations, their voices changed, and there was a quiet resignation to what was, and a willingness to wait.

But still they hoped and prayed that God would send them a little girl.

So when the call came on Friday night that two week old “Baby K” was coming to their family (and ours, as well) my heart, as I said, went on a tailspin of emotions. As I processed the kaleidoscope, I realized that, for all the joy of this moment, and in spite of how grateful I am to God for this priceless gift, there was a deep heart envy of something that, while being a given in the arrival of most grandbabies, was not ours to savor and enjoy.   I wanted the joy of the anticipation, and I wanted the security of knowing that she was ours to keep for all the days of her life.  And, if the truth be told, memories of little ones that Daniel and I loved and lost under the same circumstances seemed to haunt my heart, cloud my vision and kicked me hard in the gut of hope.

“This will never do!”  I think in my saner moments.  (I do have them!)  “It will not help me.  It will not help Raph and Gina and their family or our extended family.  Most importantly, it will not help Baby K.”  And then there was that business about God being pretty specific about what he thinks about us wanting something that wasn’t ours.  He felt it was important enough to put it in The Ten Commandments, for pity sakes! So. What do we do with those empty places in our lives that feel like they are our right to enjoy, but (obviously) are not ours?  Where do we go with the broken dreams, injustices, unanswered prayers and the bitter taste of envy or resentment or disappointment?

I go to the foot of The CROSS.

It sounds simplistic, and it sounds like a stock answer.  But I’ve found that it is always the first step for me not only to acceptance, but to embracing what has been given, and believing that God has a plan, a “better thing” in what He has given than I ever could have dreamed or would have had on my own terms.

I go to the foot of The CROSS.

I wrap up the “might have beens” the “should have beens” and the “if onlies” and “I wishes” and specifically and intentionally leave them there.  I ask for clear vision to see the good that God is doing here and now (as well as what He wants me to do) and I need to push that foot right out of the gut of hope and replace it with a conscious recounting of God’s faithfulness in the past, the mercies He has granted, and the gifts that He has given when I thought that all was lost.

I go to the foot  of The CROSS.

I bring a sacrifice of praise when it feels like it might choke me.  I remind the LORD how hard this is for me, and I am not quiet about my fears, and then I fill this mouth with praise until my heart follows.  Then I purpose that I will not hold back my heart from love or hope or joy  when I think about a little girlie, loaned to us for now, and I will borrow from the strength of family and friends who love and care and support and pray.  I will remember the words of our brave daughter in law, #Hopethriving when she says, ” . . I feel very at peace and am trying to just enjoy every minute we have.”

For sure.  That’s the best thing to do.  And God helping me, I intend to do it.

“We have this moment to hold in our hands-
  And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand.
 Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
 But we have this moment.  Today.”  (Gaither)

Here’s to our personal raft of grandchildren:

Charis, Simon, Liam, Frankie — You four are THE BEST!  And I wouldn’t trade you for the world.  I love all four of you to the moon and back.  I bless the day you became ours and I’m so glad you all have come to stay.  I’m more than glad that I am your Grammy.  I’m ecstatic!  (Let’s see what we can do next to make life interesting!)

And Baby K — welcome to the crazy, noisy Yutzy family.  We not only confuse people who watch us, but we confuse ourselves sometimes.  It’s a wild ride but the love holds fast and is big enough for you.  However short or however long, we welcome you and you will always have a piece of our hearts.  May Jesus stamp His image on your heart through this encounter and may you find in Him the Friend that will never desert you or forsake you.

We think you are exactly right for this time and this place, and we’re so glad you are here.

Love Always,
Grammy

 

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Asparagus Thoughts on a Red Kitchen Kind of Day

It feels like it’s been raining a LOT in Delaware.  I’ve always loved rainy days, and (usually) I’m the one who is delighted when I look out and there are clouds and it’s cool enough to justify running the pellet stove one more day.

The asparagus has started to grow prolifically   I look at the shoots, growing so tall in the wet and spring and wonder, briefly, if there is asparagus in Heaven.  Nope, I’m pretty sure there isn’t.  Especially since you can’t have a crowd of more than two or three without great controversy concerning this vegetable.

I’ve loved asparagus for years, relishing the first picking, often picking it before it was really quite ready, and always taking one of the first pickings to My Sweet Mama.  She often “had a hankerin’ for a mess of asparagus” before there was enough in our sparse patch to take to her.  But the patch has grown over these last few years and we have plenty this year.  I’ve already given away a big bag to a neighbor, and plan to give some more.  There is a lot out there and a whole lot more coming.

I don’t quite understand what is wrong this year with my taste buds. I picked the first batch, cooked it up and scarcely tasted it.  It felt like it stuck in my throat, then lay in my stomach, heavy,  like a bite of bad food.  I was pretty sure there wasn’t anything wrong with it, and was gratified when Daniel and the rest of my household ate it up.  The next picking, The Offspringin’s grilled to go with an early spring cookout.  There wasn’t an abundance, and grilled asparagus has never tempted me, so I wasn’t a bit jealous when they ate that.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve picked it, washed it, snapped it, cooked it, and just haven’t wanted to eat it.

I’ve wondered about the phenomenon over the last several weeks, and felt this gnawing sadness at the back of my conscious thought.  The coming Mothers’ Day celebration has added to the knot in my throat and the catch in my throat.  And then a picture, found inadvertently this week, brought me face to face with the fact that the Mama I’ve had for every single Mother’s day for 62 years is gone.  And I cannot even walk into the place that she called home and find any resemblance of Alene Yoder there.  I knew that in my head, but somehow, stamped in bright read and changed windows and different flooring, was the proof that things have changed forever and my Mama is gone.

The kitchen when she cooked asparagus and a thousand other things with the touch that she learned from her Mama, has been decimated and remodeled to someone else’s taste.  And someone else, who has their own memories and opinions and ways of doing things, will soon be rattling around in my Mama’s house, making it their home.  And part of me hates it so much I feel like throwing up.

Mom's kitchen

I know that things have to change.  I know that it is probably easier for the house to be completely different if there is going to be different people in it.  What am I to expect?  That someone who isn’t my Sweet Mama would move into her house and leave it exactly the way she did, and do everything the way she did?  How would a clone of my mother really work out in my life and in my emotions?  Would it really be helpful?  I promise you!  NO!!!

And so, I give into the changes that have been made, knowing that it isn’t really up to me anyhow.  For me, there is no right, no real choice in this matter, except that I can choose to be happy, to be realistic, to embrace what is mine to remember and to love, to acknowledge that what is most tangible isn’t what is the most real.  And to remember happy times of laughter and love and good, good memories that cannot be changed by a sledge hammer and a paint brush.

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Mothers’ Day, 2015

And so, Mama, once again, I am so thankful for the Mama I had.  I knew that I was going to miss you, and I knew that it was going to be hard.  I’m often surprised at the things that bring a fresh stab of grief and make me pensive and quiet.  Today I remember a year ago when we had no way of knowing that a short 12 days later, a fall in your bedroom would set the course that would take you away from your sunny kitchen and from us.  

I knew I was going to miss you so much, Mama.  I just didn’t expect that missing you so much would cause asparagus to taste and smell like grief.

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