Category Archives: My Life

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

Yutzy Family 2016 Christmas letter

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Dear Friends and Family,
A Merry Christmas to all of you!  This season is a great time to remember all the people who have been a part of our lives in years past, and we enjoy hearing from you.  (Well, we’d like to hear from all of you, but we are very grateful for the ones who have taken time to remember us.)  The pictures are great, and the wall is filling up with Christmas cards.  We leave the pictures up for a number of months after we have taken down the cards, and it is one of the things that people will stop and look at and ask about.  One of the questions that we often get asked is, “How in the world do you know —?”  Let me tell you, it really is a small, small world!
I’ve wracked my brain for weeks over this Christmas letter.  There seems to be a lot in our world today about which to be discouraged.  There are differences of opinions on many popular subjects, there are wars and disasters and oppression and haters and people who just give up.  I remember President Kennedy making the observation in a speech that he gave around the time of the Bay of Pigs incident that has impacted me ever since.  (Yes, I’m old enough to have been living during his term of office!)  But what he said was, “We are living in perilous times . . .”  If ever there was a statement that defines where we are now, it’s that one.  (And I do think about it often.)
However, there has been a most persistent reminder coming over and over again to my heart in these days of uncertainty and that is that we are to be people of HOPE.  We are to remind the world of God’s goodness, His justice and His mercy.  We are to live and love the people that God has put into our lives with an eye on the Eternal, and hands that are occupied and invested in the present.
And so, with that in mind, I come to this Christmas Letter with a sense of the need to recount God’s Faithfulness in Daniel’s and my lives as well as in the life of our adult offspringin’s and our grandchildren.  There has been much for which to be grateful.
Daniel and I are both 63!  Daniel had toyed with the idea of retiring this year, but has opted to remain with the State of Delaware for now.  (If nothing changes, he plans to retire at 65.)  In addition to his “day job,” he is still raising chickens, raising a few beef cattle, doing some woodworking in his shop, gardening, and serving as deacon at our church.  Here at home, he tore down an old shop and made a place for his sister, Lena’s motor home to park.  (Lena was officially here from early August until after Thanksgiving, and that was a happy time for us.  She is now in Florida for the winter, and will be heading west in the spring.)  He is continually making improvements to his farm, looking for ways to make things better.  He loves the land, and he has a great sense of design.  I’ve often said that he has the eye of an artist, and he puts it to great use in the yard and buildings of the farm we call Shady Acres.  He loves helping our adult children with work projects, and enjoys the grandchildren and other little ones who are in and out of our home.  His Christmas village is up again this year, and it is pretty stellar!  Come on by and see it!
Jesse and Christina still live close by.  They have had a full and interesting year.  Jesse is still at Burris Foods.  There have been many stressful days there, and his job is anything but easy.  He’s been blessed with health and has proven over and over again that he will do what needs to be done, even at great sacrifice to himself and what he may want to do.  He is a kind and involved husband and father.  He is still my “go to” guy when I need help with something involving computers, and he helped to get my new computer up and going, as well as getting our Christmas addresses onto labels for me.  Christina is a stay at home mom to Charis, volunteers for many things at Charis’ school, and still manages the coffee bar on Sunday mornings at church.  She is a loyal and loving wife, mother, daughter and friend.  She has a heart for the marginalized, and she cares deeply about people.  Unfortunately, this tender heart has not been extended to the puppy, Maisy, that became a part of the family on Charis’ seventh birthday.  While a delightful friend for Charis, Christina has had the brunt of putting up with the antics of a young puppy (. . .digging up the flowers, tearing the neighbors sheets to shreds, dragging trash into the front yard, whining to come in, whining to go out, and the smell!) and though she has adapted and been gracious (for the most part) it has been a sore trial to her patience. Charis dearly loves this Rottweiler-Dachshund mix (I know!) and has spent many happy hours with her pet.  She also enjoys school, is reading very well for being only a second grader, and is a great companion for her Grammy on Thursday nights.  She is involved in piano lessons, and will sometimes spend time at her other grandmother, Achi’s, book store. She loves to follow Daniel around the farm, digging in the dirt, looking for kittens in the hay, harvesting cucumbers from her own cucumber vine in Grandpa’s garden and having sleepovers whenever she can talk the adults in her life into agreeing.
Deborah made up for last year by being out of the country two times this year.  She went to Prince Edward Island with her friend, Kanina Miller, on a trip that she describes as a “Bucket List” trip.  She had a wonderful time, was gone about eight days, and made some great memories.  In September, she went to Great Britain and the Island of Guernsey with another friend, Liz Washburn Strite, and even though she has been to England several times before, this was a trip that she enjoyed immensely- partly because of the company, but also because she saw places that she had previously missed.  She proudly says that they “did Land’s End to John O’ Groats” which is the equivalent of “sea to shining sea” here in America. On the home front, she swam with friends and their children, made cookies and cupcakes for the Bible study that meets at our house on Thursday mornings, as well as taking an endless supply of baked goods to other friends.  She’s teaching Sunday school again this year, and enjoys her class of the younger women very much.  She just celebrated her six-year anniversary as a hospice nurse for Delaware Hospice, and even though I may be biased since I’m her mother, I’m often grateful for the natural talents she has been given that make her an excellent nurse in this capacity.  She is efficient, compassionate . . . and often TIRED!  She is planning a big trip next year with her Aunt Lena – either an African Safari or to New Zealand, but those details still need to be worked out.  She is still occupying “her apartment” on the left side of the landing upstairs.  We are glad to have her living at home, but she’s been thinking seriously about more permanent housing.
Raph and Regina have had a very eventful year. They were approved for another foster child and in May had placement of a wee girlie that we came to know as “Baby K.”  Raph and Gina and the boys had her for around 11 weeks, loving her and believing that God was going to do what was best for her.  She went home to a family that loves her, and Raph and Gina have been privileged to have ongoing contact with her.  Shortly after she left, they were contacted about a house that they had wanted to buy five years ago.  Did they still want it?  Absolutely!  The next weeks were such that made us all catch our breaths in amazement.  Baby K went home around the first of August, and by the end of October, Raph and Gina had sold their house, bought the new one, moved, had a birthday bash for the three boys, Raph was ordained to the ministry at Grace Mennonite Church where he has been employed full time since the first of the year, and they got a call for another newborn baby girl.  Whew!  I still find it all hard to believe!  Mia Faith has been with them for almost two months now, and she is equally as loved as Baby K.  Her future is uncertain at this point, but God has given grace to this family to walk with trust and courage and an open hand.  As their family, we certainly have been offering some fervent prayers for this little one, but it’s not our decision and God will give grace for whatever He asks of Raph and Gina and the boys.  The boys! Simon, Liam, and Frankie are growing, doing so well, and are three distinct personalities.   It’s hard to imagine our lives without them, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to be Grandpa and Grammy to these three live wires!
Lem and Jessica are now living in Washington DC.  This past summer, they purchased one floor of a condominium in the city.  They have worked hard to give it the feel of “home” and to make it a reflection of who they are.  It has seemed “right” for them to put down these kinds of roots, and we’ve enjoyed visiting with them in their new home.  Most recently, Daniel helped Lem install a set of shelves in the living area, and the result has been esthetically pleasing as well as serviceable.  In late March, Lem and Jessica took a trip to Europe that they had planned for long time.  By the time Lem had finished his course work for his Ph.D. and taken his examinations, while both had carried full time work loads, it was time for the two of them to have some time away.  They made some wonderful memories, took some marvelous pictures and came home still friends! They are employed by the same enterprises as they were last year; Lem at Alvord, Baker and Associates as a psychotherapist and Jessica at the US Government Accountability Office as a Research Analyst.  They have been associated with the Table Church since they moved to the Washington area in 2013, and have made good friends there.  We were honored to have some of their friends join us for an early Thanksgiving dinner in early November, and it is always so nice to meet and develop relationships with the people who are friends with our adult children.
Rachel spent the year at her job in Washington, DC at Catholic Charities.  It was an important milestone when she crossed the one year mark in early December.  This is a job that causes young social workers to rather quickly burn out and they tend to move on.  Though Rachel does get really weary of the dynamics of poverty, government and human nature, I’m happy to report that not only has she stuck to it, but has been a very profitable servant to this organization.  We are so glad that she has been faithful when it would have been much easier to quit.  She took a road trip this summer with her friend, Lynae Byler that satisfied her thirst for adventure to some extent, and she has developed some close friends through the Table Church that help to fill in the spaces in her life.  The more she establishes her independence, the less we see of her, but it’s gratifying to know that she has friends and is trying to be at home even when and where it may not be exactly easy.  She does talk of looking for another job, and that’s a distinct possibility.  The thing is, she loves the city, so it’s not just any old job that will be able to woo her from the attractions of city life as she has known it over the last two years- first in Philadelphia, and now in Washington, DC.
I’m still a care provider for the State of Delaware and Audrey and Linda are still here with us.  My interests don’t seem to change a whole lot from one year to the next.  There is still a Thursday morning Bible study at our house with young women who impact my life and challenge me constantly by their commitment to serve Jesus, raise children that are Godly, and to be women who impact their world.  I haven’t written as much this year because of the everyday things that take my attention, but it is something that I still enjoy and keep trying to find time to do.  The year has been full of many things, and I certainly have had many reasons to rejoice.  The Christmas season has taken on a different tenor in the years since Daddy died (and now Mama) but it is still a time of wonder and joy as I think about Heaven and all that was given to us when Jesus came to earth as a baby.  We have been given so much, and this season is a good time for us to remember and to give back to those around us.
May we never forget the Best Gift of all, JESUS!
Merry Christmas to all of you.  May your days be filled with Joy!
With Love from all of us,
The Yutzys

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Filed under Christmas, Family, Holidays, home living, My Life

Chapters in December

The skies are grey and heavy with rain on this Saturday a week before Christmas.  I’m supposed to be editing my yearly Family Christmas letter.  The envelopes are addressed, and stamped, the cards are ready to go into the envelopes, and the letter is mostly finished, but it’s been a difficult task this year.

Certain Man is home today, in the house, working on tomorrow’s sermon for our congregation at Laws Mennonite Church.  I’m sitting for the first time since I got up!  And I did sleep in this morning.  In fact, when I got up and saw that it was after eight o’clock, I rattled around the old nursery rhyme in my head, editing it as I went.

Mary Annie has grown so fine
She won’t get up to feed the swine
But lies in bed till eight or nine
Lazy Mary Annie!

This week has been another week in the journey I continue to make in life.  I think the last months I’ve felt more like I was walking in my Mama’s footsteps than I ever have before.  One of the things that is evident to me is that the Mama I remember best was far younger than I am now.  And often things come up that hit me squarely in the face that were things of the years when I considered her “old.”

One of the things that has been entirely too reminiscent of her has been this thing of getting accustomed to my partial plate.  Mama had a bit more vanity than I do, and she went the route of implants and caps for most of the teeth she lost, but as the years passed, she was forced to go with dentures.  They were a sore trial to her, and they hurt, and they didn’t fit right, and they wouldn’t chew the things she wanted them to chew.  Lots of times she had sores in her mouth from where they rubbed, and she was dependent on me or someone else to take her to her dentist in Dover to get things adjusted or repaired or replaced.  I feel so sorry sometimes when I am dealing with even a minor maladjustment to my partial plate and I think of how she must have felt and how miserable she must have been with the constant lack of satisfaction with her teeth.  I wish that I had paid better attention and tried harder to help her get that one issue resolved.  I felt like I did run her to Dover a lot, but if she felt the despair in proportion to what I feel, I’m certain that she often wished that either she could just do it herself, or that I would have understood better and done more.

And then there is that issue with her feet.  In the last months, the feet that I inherited from her have been giving me a fit!  Last week I had a few days when I felt like I couldn’t walk!  I have been seeing a specialist, and he had told me on my first visit to his office that my feet were not in any kind of good shape.

“The arthritis in your feet, particularly your left one, is very advanced,” Dr. Menendez said that day in September.  “You have some bones in there that are ‘lipping’ and there are calcium deposits and just bad arthritis.”  He sat at the end of the table, holding my foot so gently in his hands, like he was willing it to be better somehow.  I saw a look in his eye that I decided to read as “compassion” instead of “pity” but I knew that he had seen something on the x-ray that told him that I wasn’t lying when I said that my feet sometimes hurt.

“I don’t feel like I’m in any sort of a crisis right now,” I said to him.  “Rather, I’m here for sort of a base line consultation at the advice of Dr. Wilson, and because I have a feeling that in the not too near future, I may need some help.  I also wanted to know if what I am doing now is the best thing I can do for them, or if there is something more I could be doing.”

He affirmed all of the things that I had been doing, prescribed a different anti-inflammatory, and told me that if I ever felt like I needed some shots in those feet, I shouldn’t hesitate to call him.  He did think that “putting them up whenever I could” might be a good practice to pursue.

I went out of his office that day with a heart that wanted to turn away from this aging process.  Dr. Wilson has told me (more frequently than I care to remember) that I’m “a young woman trapped in an old woman’s body.”  Excepting that over the years since he started to tell me that, the “young woman” has mutated to being a bit more age appropriate for the body, I’m rather forced to admit.  I remember hearing Uncle Johnny talking at one of our family reunions some time before he died.  He said, “You know, I’ve always been able to count on this body of mine to pretty much do what I want it to do when I want it to do it.  But something has started to change, and this old body is letting me down!”  Yepper, I’d say that pretty much catches it.  This old body is letting me down.

In the months since that first visit to Dr. Menendez’s office, I’ve had a life so full of happenings that I’ve hardly had time to think about feet.  There’s been canning to finish, lima beans to freeze, a beloved sister in law living in our yard, a dishwasher that needed replacing, seven family birthdays and a trip to Ohio, parties for my grandsons, Grammy days with my granddaughter, an ordination for Eldest Son, a new foster baby in the family, Thanksgiving, a Christmas Open House for Certain Man’s office friends, Christmas preparations and shopping and then the usual things with Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda.  Life just hasn’t stopped, and that business about putting my feet up just hasn’t been a happening thing.  And slowly I became aware that there was something just not quite right with these crazy feet of mine. And last week, when it was rainy for a few days in a row, and I could barely motor, I called Dr. Menendez’s office and asked if I could come in for shots. The thing that really put me over the top was that the foot that hurt the most was my “good” one.  That kinda’ scared me because when my “good knee” went bad on me, it had to be replaced before my “bad” one.

They put me on the schedule for Thursday, a week out, and I hobbled about and got ready for the Christmas Open House, and prayed.  And the pain diminished and I felt a whole lot better about things.  I started toying with the idea of not going.  But then I had a regularly scheduled visit with Dr. Wilson, and decided to ask his advice about whether I should have it done.  I thought maybe he would advise against it.  However, it was my first visit to him since he had read the x-rays, and he had some strong words to say about it.  “Go get the shots,” he said forcefully.  “By all means, get them.  It’s Christmas, you are going to be on your feet a lot, and it just doesn’t make sense to not get them.  I really think you should!”

And so, on Thursday afternoon, I tromped off to Dr. Menendez’s office.  I thought I had prepared myself quite muchly for this encounter.  I had taken My Sweet Mama to her specialist often for this sort of thing, and I knew that it wasn’t pleasant, but as I sat on that table waiting for the doctor to come in, I was overwhelmed by such a feeling of Déjà vu that it almost took my breath away.  My feet stuck out the end of the table, and the veins, purple and prominent made their tracks across them in almost the same pattern that I had seen on Mama’s.  And when Dr. Menendez brought his spray for numbing, and sprayed it on my foot while putting a needle into almost the exact same spot that Mama often had hers, the pain from the needle wasn’t even a scosche compared to what was crashing through my heart.  My Mama!  My Sweet Mama!  What she must have felt those many times that she went for these shots, hoping to find relief for the pain that dogged her every step.  What had she thought?  Did she really think it was going to work this time?  Did she think she would spring out of there, able to do all the things that she so longed to do?  Did she somehow know that she was fighting a losing battle with time and aging and a body that was “letting her down?”

It was another chapter in my Decembered grief.  I missed her terribly in that moment, wished for the chance to talk to her again, and ask her more about what was in her heart.  Dr. Menendez put bandaids on the the drops of blood that appeared on the tops of my feet.  He smoothed some callouses off the bottom of my feet and reassured me that I would feel better.  I chatted with him cheerfully over the pain in my heart and took myself out of the office and into my mini-van and headed home.  And then, as I motored towards home, I talked to My Sweet Mama and cried some overdue tears.  The years slipped away so quickly.

But my feet are feeling so much better.  The weeks ahead hold so much promise.  The offspringin’s and the grandchildren are coming home for Christmas and I don’t feel nearly as incapacitated as I did a week ago.  I’m looking forward to the celebrations of Joy that are ahead.  The message of Christmas is that of incredible hope.  A Savior is born!  He came to us, in our sorrow, our need, our pain.  He came to bring Light and Healing and Life.  He came to bring Peace and Joy.  All the things that are wrong with this old world will someday be put right by this Precious Christmas Gift.

And that includes bodies that let us down.  My Sweet Mama’s feet don’t hurt her anymore.  She’s dancing in her brand new feet, and they are beautiful.  What a glorious expectation!  What a thing to look forward to!

My December Heart gives grateful praise.

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Filed under Aging, Dealing with Grief, Family, Grief, Heaven, My Life

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

Monday Morning in the Bean Patch

I went out to my bean patch on Friday afternoon, and looked very sorrowfully at the beans hanging there. It looked like there was a lot there that were ready to be picked, but I knew it was going to have to wait. I was getting ready for church retreat and there was just no way that I would be able to get to my patch yet that afternoon.

“Maybe I can scurry out here in the morning,” I thought hopefully. “We don’t need to be at camp until 11, so maybe I can squeeze that in before we need to leave.”

The thing was, I wanted to make cinnamon rolls for our church family for brunch on Saturday morning.  Friend Torre was spending the night with us, and she would help me put the dough together when we got home, and all I would need to do would be to roll out the dough and put the rolls in the pans in the morning.

Friday night was hotter than all get out at Mardela Springs camp.  Certain Man took a big chicken house fan along to try to move some air, and we milled about, sweaty and sticky in the big room.  It was noisy with the hum of the big fan and the conversations that went on between the adults and the playing of THE LITTLES.  We ate hamburgers and hot dogs and ice cream and lemonade and tea and finally came home around nine.  I had gotten Friend Normie to stay with OGA and BL, because they really do not like going to Church Camp under aesthetic conditions, much less ones that are noisy and hot, and I was so thankful they were already in bed when we got home.  Torre and I got the dough mixed up and into the refrigerator, and I went to bed.

In the early, groggy minutes soon after five the next morning, I was aware that I had a really insistent headache.  This is not my usual malady.  I almost never get headaches, but I did that morning and I tried to go back to sleep, hoping to sleep it off, but then I remembered that I had cinnamon rolls to make, and that I wanted to pick them thar’ beans, and so I decided to get up and get moving and see what I could get done.  I came down to the kitchen, got some medicine and a cup of coffee and sat on my chair for a bit.  I was soon feeling rather muchly better, so I got the cinnamon rolls started and worked at straightening the kitchen, looked for a recipe for sticky buns that didn’t have milk, got BL up and showered, got OGA her breakfast, and kept my eye on the time.  Then I started the icing cooking on the stove and called Friend Normie and told her we weren’t going to be gone before at least nine-thirty.  I fed BL, iced cinnamon rolls, and inverted the sticky buns onto a hard flat surface and called Eldest Daughter to see if she could pick up the cinnamon rolls and sticky buns to take them over to camp.  Whew!  She could!  That was a big load off my mind.

I kept thinking and thinking about the Lima beans hanging on and thought about just giving them away to someone who would pick them.  But it’s been a slow year in my bean patch, and even though we’ve had some good eating, I haven’t frozen a single bag of this year’s crop.  This wears hard on this Delaware Grammy’s heart, but as  the time got shorter and shorter until our intended time of departure, I realized that there was no way that I was ever going to make it out there before we left for Mardela Springs.  I decided to just wait and see.  Maybe we would be home before dark –?

We weren’t.  And it doesn’t work very well to pick Lima Beans by the light of the moon or the beam of a headlight or even the steady beam of a LED light, plastered against a sweaty forehead and held in place by a big piece of elastic.  I gave it up for the night and went to bed.

Sunday morning came, and it was off to camp again.  There was the usual last mad flurry of activity where church members cleaned up and then Daniel and I delivered non-perishables to the church, took some leftovers to a local homeless shelter for veterans and pulled into our driveway at about 3:20.  We unloaded our ladies and emptied our mini-van, then dropped the van off at a repair shop for a Monday morning appointment and came back home to catch some rest.

“Maybe I should go pick those Lima Beans,” I said to my weary spouse as we walked to the house after parking his pickup in the pavilion.  “I know it is Sunday, and all that, but I also think I am going to lose quite a few the way it is.”

“Well, you don’t want to go do it now,” he said.  “It’s too hot!  Besides, you should take a break!”

“You’re right,” I said, “but do you think it would be okay to do it later, after it cools off?”

“I guess you can do what you want,” he said, without enthusiasm.  And headed up the ramp into the air conditioned coolness of the farmhouse at Shady Acres.

I followed him in and did some serious thinking.  I thought about my Daddy.  I thought about hay down in the fields on  a Saturday night, needing to be baled, but his unwavering commitment to NEVER doing unnecessary work on Sunday.  I thought about how he would leave everything sit over the Day of Rest, and then get back to it on Monday.  I thought about how he would leave his farm on busy June evenings to be the superintendent for Summer Bible School at a little country church in the rural Frederica/Felton area and how hard he worked to bring children to Bible School.  I thought about people who had no religious sense of obligation, who planted and cultivated and harvested whenever it seemed like a good time, who thought that Daddy was foolish to sacrifice so much for “so little” in monetary rewards.  I remembered Daddy saying to us children, “Always remember that God doesn’t settle His accounts in September.”

I thought and thought, and knew that I was going to wait to pick beans until this morning.  Daniel wondered about what I was going to do, and I said, “I’m just going to get out there in the morning, first thing, and I’m going to pick those beans, and what I lose, I lose.”

Through the early morning while I changed the washer, made beds, showered BL, fed breakfast, and did meds, I thought about my bean patch.  I had sent some fervent prayers Heavenward, begging for protection and that the patch wouldn’t have too many dried and ruined bean pods.  Maybe God would choose to bless the decision to wait until this morning, and give me an overabundance of beans for my freezer.  The longer I thought, the more excited I got to just see how God was going to make this my best picking ever.  Or at least this year.

I put BL on her bus after telling OGA that I was going straight to the bean patch immediately after she was gone, and headed out for my garden.  I got a five gallon bucket from Certain Man’s stash, and contemplated taking the second one that I had convinced myself I would need, but then decided that I would just come back for it.  I left it down where it was easily accessible, and started down my first row.  The dew was heavy, and the sun was warm.  Even with the cooler temperatures, it was still a hot, wet job.  I picked the first five feet and got about that many beans.  Five.  There were almost no dried, brown ones, but neither were there many that were full and ready to pick.  I searched the plants high and low and wondered if I would even get enough to make this worth my time.  The second five feet yielded another ten or so, but also had wilted, green and yellow pods hanging lifelessly from the stems.  The leaves were mostly full and lush, and there were plenty of blossoms, but there were almost no beans to pick.  I looked at the bottom of my five gallon bucket and it wasn’t even covered.  I wondered about my optimism and hope for a good picking this morning.  I couldn’t say that there were terribly many that went to waste, so far at least, but there just wasn’t the abundance I was looking for.  I thought about how I was planning to give God the glory for a great crop, and about how encouraged I had planned to feel if I hadn’t lost very many and had a better than expected picking.  I wasn’t to the point of feeling resentful, but the temptation was growing in my disappointed heart.

And then in my pocket, my cell phone began to ring.  I checked the screen and saw that it was from my brother, Mark, Jr.  I wiped my fingers off on my t-shirt and swiped the screen.  The voice on the other end was subdued, but warm.

“How are you doing?”  We exchanged pleasantries, talked briefly about my bean patch, his bean patch and how nobody’s bean patch seems to be doing well this year. And then he said, “What I really called to tell you was that I got a phone call this morning that I’ve been sort of expecting for a long time, but I still don’t know how to deal with it.  (—-) took his life last night.”

In that millisecond, time stood still.  Around me, the dew still hung on the bean leaves.  The cicadas made their crazy noise and the crickets chirped.  I felt the sucker punch of denial and sadness and shock and regret settle in my stomach with a sick, sick feeling and I tried so hard to not believe what I had heard. (—-) was a childhood friend, born between Mark, Jr. and me.  He often spent the summer days at our farm, playing with Mark and turning brown in the sun.  He was allowed to go without his shirt and he could make those offensive noises with his armpits and he showed off his skill often to the point of sometimes being obnoxious.  I remember his skinny, sinewy arms and his shock of blond hair.  He loved to tell stories and among our family treasures was this one.

His father had taken to doing a little farming in the fields beside their big white house, and one of the crops that he planted was some corn.  Young (—-) watched the corn with great interest, and lo!  And behold!  There came a day when it sprouted tassels out the top the way corn is supposed to, but this phenomenon had never been observed by him before.  He came striding down to our house with the air of something to tell.

“You’ll never guess what!” He said with great excitement.  “My dad planted all of his corn upside down!  The roots are growing straight up in the air!”  He paused a bit for effect and then said, shaking his head with disbelief, “How dumb can you get?”

Life so often disappointed him.  He never married, and had a succession of failed relationships, failed enterprises, and failed dreams.  He often told my brother, “You’re the only friend I have.”  Mark was always kind to him, lending mowers and other equipment to him, always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, always trying to speak Jesus into his life, but also sought to give him the space he 0ften desperately seemed to fight for. And now he was gone.  The thought hung heavy in the morning air.

“I know he had choices,” Mark was saying now, and I brought myself back to the bean row and his voice.  “But on mornings like this, I cannot begin to say how thankful I am for the home that we had, for the parents and the upbringing we had.  Sometimes it just seems like there are some people that are just so shortchanged on so many counts.”

I looked at my almost empty bucket of beans and thought about how easy it is for me to expect God to do the special things or give special gifts because I am keeping my attitude right or because I am doing the right thing, and I suddenly felt so ashamed of my petty expectations and my selfish heart.  There was more than enough reason to give glory to God and to shout aloud His praise.  He had given me so much in so many ways that counted far more than a bean crop from a Delaware summer.  I finished my call with my brother, and looked at the sum total of beans in my bucket.  It wasn’t even half full.

But my heart!  My heart!  It was brimming over with praise for God’s incredible Mercy towards me in a thousand ways with every single breath.  I felt the sting of sadness for our friend and his family, and I don’t think I will ever make my peace with suicide, but I also can stand in the presence of an almighty God and lay the questions at his feet, and decide to trust Him with the things that I can never personally explain.

God doesn’t settle His accounts in September.  And God’s mercy is not measured by a five gallon bucket that is standing almost empty.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

And so, my heart gives humble, grateful praise!

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Filed under home living, Laws Mennonite Church, My Life, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW, Suicide, Uncategorized