Tag Archives: Youngest Daughter

Another Part of my Heart

One year ago, Hortencia Mancilla and I were cooking together.


In a facebook post, Middle Daughter, Deborah, noted that this picture is of “The mothers making the dishes they are famous for: fried chicken and mashed potatoes and chorizo y huevos.”  And she tagged Youngest Daughter, Rachel, and our “almost a daughter,” Yajaira.  Hortencia is Yajaira’s Mama.

What this post didn’t show was two breaking hearts, for it wouldn’t be too long until Hortencia and her husband would be moving from our rental trailer and flying to Guatemala to be with their 27 year old daughter, Yajaira, their son in law, Ervin, (whom they hadn’t seen in over seven years) and their two grandchildren, Nichole and Joshua (whom they had never seen).  On the night this picture was taken, Hortencia had come to our house, bringing the ingredients for one of Rachel’s favorite Mexican dishes, chorizo y huevos.  (We call it “eggs and pork,” but I don’t know if that’s literal or not.)  It isn’t something I enjoy, but it was eaten that night by Youngest daughter with big blue eyes bright with tears that wanted to spill over, and memories of happier times when it seemed like life could just go on like it was — forever.

And then there came the day that Hortencia and her husband came to tell us a final “good-bye.” The next morning, they would be leaving. It was an incredibly  difficult time in my life.  My Sweet Mama had already fallen and was in very poor condition. My heart was torn in a thousand directions. I could scarcely assimilate the pain that was crashing around my heart. Once again, prevented from saying what was truly on our hearts because of the ever present language barrier, Hortencia and I spoke heart language in hugs and tears and gestures.  Then finally, reluctantly, they began their last trek across the yard to their trailer home. I stood at the door of our garage, watching them go, tears flowing down my cheeks as I realized that the time of having them as our neighbors was coming to an end. And then I heard a sound that still wrings my heart and brings tears. I heard this little Hispanic Mama, sobbing huge wracking sobs as she picked her way across the lawn that we had shared for over twenty years.  America had been home to her for most of those twenty years, but her own homeland was calling.  She had children and grandchildren here.  Family in Mexico.  Her youngest girlie, in Guatemala.  Somewhat broken in health and saddened by life, she was heading towards a lot of unknowns.

I could not bear the sound.  Hortencia is feisty and loyal and determined.  She has been strong when I would have crumbled, resourceful when it looked like there was really no way through.  She held on to a marriage and made it work when lesser women would have given up.  And she has almost never allowed me to see her cry.  But that night, as I listened to the noise of her grief as she made her way through the twilight to a trailer that had already been pretty completely emptied except for boxes that were to be shipped, my heart ached with the sisterhood of motherhood and loving and losing and change and farewell.

She is often in my thoughts, even now.  And I realize that I am probably going to be judged for my stand on this whole thing.  I know that there are people who come into this country and live here illegally and collect undeserved benefits.  But I’m going to say it again.  Illegal immigration looks so different when it has a face that you’ve learned to love.  Illegal immigration tastes totally different in your mouth when it’s chorizo y huevos, made by people who feel like family.  Illegal immigration sounds totally different in your ears when it’s the laughter of a baby that seems like one of your grandchildren.  Illegal immigration is easy to dismiss unless you put faces, voices, fiber and family stories to the issue.

I didn’t do it on purpose.  I would probably been far more comfortable for these last twenty plus years if I had never rented my trailer to a family on a dark night when they came knocking on the door, asking for a place to live.  I didn’t realize how things were.  By the time I did, it was too late to undo my heart.

Tonight, this family I love is no longer in the USA.  Yajaira is in Guatemala with her husband and two children.  She is expecting her third.  She has made a life for herself and is happy.  Hortencia and her husband, Christino, are in Mexico.  Are they happy?  I don’t know.  I hope so.

Part of my heart is, and will always be with them and Yajaira.  And even though seeing pictures like this hurts, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because I have loved and I’ve been loved back.

And that is good.



Filed under Family, Immigration, My Life, Uncategorized

“All Growed Up”

Yesterday I posted (on Facebook)  about our Youngest Daughter wishing (as a little girl) that she was “all growed up. ” That has prompted some discussion — as well as some thinking on my part.

THIS morning, I would like to say that I’m glad for the children who do not know the weight of being an adult. Our world has far too many that are old before their time — who have been forced into burdens that were never meant for a child to carry. Children who have been given information that clouds their innocence, whose eyes have seen inappropriate activity, violence and bloodshed. Children who have known hunger, disease, abandonment, and war. This is not the world I want for my grandchildren, and it is not the world that will grow strong men and women of God.

Listen, brothers and sisters–
This is what God said to his people in 2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
I’m pretty sure these are grown up things that we all can and should do.
May God have mercy on us all!

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The Lows, The Highs.

This week has been a roller coaster for me.  Monday morning I was talking it over with Jesus, and telling Him how sad I felt.  And telling Him that I just wanted to undo the last fourteen months.  “I want Frieda back, whole and healthy and alive and HERE!  I want our church to not be burned.  I want Mama to not fall full on her face on a cold tile floor at our “borrowed” meeting place on a Sunday morning in February (a pivotal incident for embarrassment and infirmity in her life).  I don’t want to think about the health issues and infertility issues in my family that were exacerbated this year.   I don’t want Mama to fall in May and break her femur.  I don’t want her to have suffered those four weeks.  I don’t want her to have died.  I want her here, healthy and alive.  I don’t want Youngest Daughter, Rachel, to struggle to find a job for six months, with all sorts of reversals and setbacks and disappointments.  I don’t want Middle Daughter, Deborah, to be diagnosed with a genetic liver condition (http://www.alpha1.org/) that has given great cause for alarm.  I’m just so tired of everything! And I’m just so sad . . .”

And (Believe me!) there were a few other things in there that I “didn’t want” that can’t be said here.

Where do we go when life is too much for us?  How do we choose life and hope and peace when it seems like an exercise in futility?  What do we do when the people we love are hurting and struggling and doubting and failing? And what makes us think that it will ever be okay again?
Listen, dear friends!  Here is where I’ve chosen to focus:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19a


If there is anything that I’ve learned on this sojourn, it is that praise makes the darkest night navigable.  And while there may be all sorts of things that make me sad, I still need to choose that He does all things well, and that He is to be trusted.  It probably won’t ever all be “okay” again.  That’s what Heaven is for.

And if I can’t sink my “trembling soul” onto that immovable rock, then I’m pretty sure there’s no hope for this season of my life, this time, this place and my future mindsets.

The last few days have been better than that terrible Monday.  For every one of the “I wants” there have been blessings that I can choose to look at, be grateful for, and acknowledge God’s hand, working for our good.

I’m as convinced as ever that faith is the key to having a life focus that gives courage and hope.

It didn’t end at the Cross, and our Sunday’s coming!

My heart chooses grateful praise.

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Filed under Dealing with Grief, Grief, My Life, Uncategorized

Certain Man’s Wife Chases the Bull

This is an old story — as indicated by the date in the first sentence.  The reason I am posting it is that — I have another story about the bovine creatures at Shady Acres that I’ve been wanting to tell — and wanted to reference this story.  Alas and alack!  This story, though in my book, is so old, it never appeared in a blog posting.  Many of you have heard it.  Many of you have read it in my book.  But for those who haven’t — here is one of my favorite stories about life at Shady Acres and the neighborhood that we call home.  Sadly, two of the integral people who helped on this infamous day have gone to their reward.  I would just like to say that I deeply miss my dear friend, here referred to as “Good Wife Joan,” as well as our neighbor, Roland Willey, also a dear friend and trusty neighbor.

Now it came to pass on the very first day of September, in the year of our Lord, 2004, that Certain Man’s wife was complacently enjoying a busy morning of preparing for State Inspection. On impulse, that very morning, she had hired a friend, Alma Miller, to help clean the kitchen cabinets, and CMW was working at cleaning the bedroom that was to be inspected.  It was a beautiful morning.  There was a good breeze, the sky was blue, and all was well.

CMW had other reasons to rejoice.

For several weeks,one of the male bovines that Certain Man kept for meat had been showing signs of aggression, indeed, had charged Certain Man on a number of occasions, with great bellows and kicking up of the dirt. Now this Meany Pest of a bull was only 18 months old.  Certain Man had not had him neutered because he had never had a problem with other bulls when he hadn’t,and he liked it that an un-neutered bull would convert better to meat.  Since he only keeps his meat animals for two years, it had never been a problem. Until now.

This turn of events had been enough disconcerting to Certain Man that he had called the Honorable Allen Beachy and had him come and “band” the two young calves that he was raising for the spring of 2006.  That done, he also called the butcher shop and arranged for the slaughter of Meany Pest.  Immediately.  With the traffic of people and children through the property of Certain Man, he didn’t want to take a risk.  It was too late to tackle the neutering business with Meany Pest.  Unfortunately,slaughter time was a few weeks out, so close watch had been kept until this very morning when Friend, Tommy Eliason had come with his cattle trailer and hauled him off.  CMW drew a great sigh of relief that was matched by her husband.

Now, at the same time that CM had procured Meany Pest, he had gotten another male calf which grew up along side of MP.  What Meany Pest had in aggression, Second Fellow, though also un-neutered,  made up for in friendliness and complacency.   When Tommy Eliason came to pick up MP, Second Fellow wanted to go, too, and tried to stick his head into the truck..  Certain Man and Tommy enjoyed a chuckle at the friendly fellow’s expense.  They had to chase him away.

When Certain Man came in from sending Meany Pest off, he said to CMW, “Now,I locked the other three in the front pasture. Second Fellow is pretty upset, and I don’t want him getting out.”

Certain Man has always maintained fences in proper order, and it is a rare day when any of his animals get out.  He learned the hard way that it is no fun to have creatures running around at night on busy roads.  So he has a high tensile fence that has electric on the inside of it, nearly all the way around his pasture.  He has a four foot high board fence that runs for a short distance between buildings, and he keeps all his fences in good repair.  He has a large back pasture,well fenced, where he allows the animals to run around and graze, but it is behind the chicken houses, and out of deference to CMW, who cannot see back there from the house, he decided to confine them on the smaller, front pasture,where they could get into the barn if they wanted to.

The morning was so pleasant that the windows were open in the house, and all morning, Second Fellow was protesting loudly.  Around eleven o’clock, he sounded louder and nearer, and Youngest Daughter of CM and CMW went to look what was going on.

“Oh, my goodness, MOM, there is a bull out.  A BIG Bull.  Oh, my, it is one of the big ones, Mom!!!”

Certain Man’s Wife went out the back door to the deck, and sure enough, there was Second Fellow, prancing across the yard.  Behold, her heart made a very fast trip to her shoes.  He looked so determined and “bullish.”   She looked around for ammunition, and laid her hands upon a Stanley broom that was conveniently leaning against the deck.  She hollered for Youngest Daughter to call her father, and took out across the yard as fast as her 50 year old body would allow her.  In the past,getting animals back into their pens has been challenging but not impossible,and she had a great deal of optimism as to how quickly she would conquer again.

But something had happened to Second Fellow.  He had caught wind of a heifer in heat who belonged to a neighbor.  He was determined to seek her out.  By this time, Friend Alma had seen the predicament, and had come to join the fray. CMW sent Youngest Daughter out to the cow pen to open the gate.  Youngest Daughter thoughtfully locked the two younger (now) steers in the barn, and opened the large gate wide to the front pasture.  Friend Alma’s young son stood on the deck and yelled.

Second Fellow saw two determined humans coming across the yard, and was suddenly urged to run in the direction of the road.  He lowered his head and charged blindly toward the poorly armed females who were supposed to be directing him in the way that he should go.  Whop! Went the broom, scarcely making contact, but diverting him slightly. Friend Alma and CMW ran to and fro, trying to herd obstinate Second Fellow towards the barn.  Every time they achieved a few yards, down would go the head, and with a bellow, back the bull would charge.  CMW noticed that he was not kicking up any dirt with his bellow, but it did not comfort her heart very much.  It occurred to her that there were many guardian angels standing between the bull and the two inadequately armed females, for time and time again, he would head for them, only to turn aside in the nick of time.  Unfortunately, it was pretty obvious who was winning the battle of the wills despite angelic protection.

After perhaps five or six time of attempting to head him off at the road, kindly neighbor, Eddie,noticed that there was considerable difficulty going on in the yard across the road.  He and neighbor Steve left their task of putting siding on the house and came to help.  One of them had a stick, and CMW had her faithful Stanley broom, but otherwise the crew was unarmed.

Said CMW, “I surely do wish Daniel would get here!”

Said Kindly Neighbor Eddie, “What would he do?  Does he have a secret?”

“Not that I know of,” said CMW heatedly, “but it would be HIS problem!”

About then, Kindly Neighbor Eddie’s wife,Joan, appeared to lend her strong arm, and a shiny  red convertible also stopped.  Friend Bethany had seen the dilemma and decided to help, too.  CMW thought ruefully that RED was not especially the color that she had in mind for the present situation, but there was no doubt that help was needed, so she welcomed the extra body.  By now there were fully seven people in hot pursuit of seemingly demented bull.

They managed to chase Second Fellow up the chicken house lane for a short distance, when he suddenly caught on to the idea that it was not the right direction.  He turned and lowered his horns and headed back out the drive.  Sticks and brooms and bodies had no effect upon him whatsoever, and the posse scattered before him in grave disarray.  He headed out towards the road again, and then turned and trotted along the edge of the fenced woods where he was sure that his intended was hiding.  He bellowed and stopped and sniffed and bellowed and trotted.  Of course, all the traffic on the busy road beside CM’s farm were beginning to take note, and cars were going by slowly while gawking at the motley crew, and some were pulling off to see if there was something they could do.  Chicken trucks and work vans, jalopies and mini vans, town cars and meter readers got all jammed up on the road.  CMW’s face was as red as a turkey gobbler, and not just from exertion.  WHY DIDN’T CERTAIN MAN COME HOME???

Then the owner of the heifer, Neighbor Willey, came forth from his house down the road.  He had probably heard rather than seen the hubbub, guessed what the problem was, and secured offending female far from the site of the battle.  He picked up a sturdy stick and came to help, too.

With his approach, Second Fellow decided to turn around and head back up the fence line towards Shady Acres.  With great difficulty and many yells and whops with the weapons, the Bull was directed towards the back pasture.  CM had been called again, and he informed frantic Youngest Daughter that he was heading for home (in earnest with his state truck and his flashers going). CMW was pretty sure that they would be getting the bull in right before he got there, and that is exactly what happened.  Just before he sped in the lane, Neighbors Eddie and Steve managed to drive him into the back pasture and hook up the electric fence.

Things started to calm down a little then.  CMW was panting and tired, and the neighbors were saying friendly things about how “That’s what neighbors are for…” and CM was going back to bring Second Fellow to the front pasture and secure him there.  CMW was heading out towards the barn when she saw Second Fellow come around the edge of the barn at a gallop.  At this inopportune time, she remembered that she did not know how he had escaped in the first place.  It suddenly occurred to her that the two little ones had been inside the fence the entire time he was out.  It didn’t make sense.  A great feeling of dread came over her as she saw him make a straight bee-line for the four foot wooden fence.  Was there a break in it somewhere?  She watched in disbelief as Second Fellow trotted up to the fence and in one smooth motion was OVER it!  If it hadn’t been so terrible, it would have been beautiful. A perfect Olympic jump.

Believe me, there was some shrieking going on then! Certain Man jumped in his truck and headed out the chicken house lane,trying to head him off.  If it had been his own pick up instead of his work truck, he said that he would have run into the critter, but since he needed to be careful with the state’s property, he was unable to stop him.  Once again, out on the road,traffic stopped, and neighbors running and helping.  CMW was inclined to go inside and pretend that she wasn’t home,but she ran and herded and whopped with her faithful Stanley broom until the entire group had successfully herded him to the entrance to the pasture.

Certain Man had gotten out his blacksnake whip and was making good use of it.  Just before going through the gate, Second Fellow made a mighty dash for freedom.  Certain Man snapped him soundly with the blacksnake whip, but lost his footing and fell into a very green, very stinky body of water that was left over from the latest rain.  His efforts to divert the bull were effective, though, and while he picked himself out of the muck, the neighbors closed in and Second Fellow went back into the pasture.

CMW and Friend Alma and Neighbor Willey, and Neighbor Eddie and his Good Wife Joan, took up positions along the board fence.  Good Wife Joan held the black snake whip, CM held the faithful Stanley broom and the guys stood there and looked MENACING. Youngest Daughter went into barn and called cheerfully to Second Fellow with promises of FEED.  Certain Man gave her instructions from the pasture. Second Fellow was drawn by the cheery voice.  He was tired from so much running.  He ambled over and looked in the door.  He went in a few feet.  She continued to coax and call him from behind the feed bunker.  Certain Man sidled over, out of sight, while she wove her deceptive web.  Finally, Second Fellow was far enough in to shut the metal gate behind him.  Oh,NO!  It was hooked to the wall.  Second Fellow acted like he was going to go out again.  Youngest daughter took advantage of the situation to scramble into the pen and unhook the gate so it could swing free, then went back to her wheedling, cajoling call.  Again, the pull was strong, and Second Fellow turned back towards the feed bunk.

Certain Man, muddy and stinky looked at the great mud hole between him and the gate and did not waver a single moment.  Good work shoes and all, he plowed through the mud that was deeper than his shoes and grabbed the gate.  Second Fellow made one final dash for freedom,but CM hollered mightily.  When Second Fellow paused, CM clanged the gate shut, and this time the offending animal wasfully trapped.  Metal bars and chains and cement would need to be moved for him to escape this time.

“Whew!” said everyone.

“That was fun,” said Good Wife Joan.  “Quite a diversion from a boring afternoon.”

Neighbor Eddie and Neighbor Willey did not say much.  CMW noticed that they were looking positively cheerful, though.

“I’m glad I was here!” said Friend Alma.  “I’ve had lots of experience chasing animals when I was a girl!”

“You aren’t half as glad as I am,” said CMW.  “What would I have ever done without help?”

“That’s what neighbors are for…” said Good Wife Joan, again.

“Well,” said CMW, “I am quite certain of one thing.  There is going to be a steak dinner one of these days and everyone who helped is going to be invited!”

That was well received, and the neighbors went back to their jobs and CMW went back into the house to cool off and rest her weary bones. CM, after making double sure of everything in the barn, came back into the house to change his clothes and shoes and to go back to work.  He would have to call this time at home his lunch hour for the day, and CMW felt sorry for him.  But the bull was in, he was cleaned up, and he could get into his air conditioned truck and leave.  That didn’t sound like too bad a deal to CMW.  She needed to keep on getting ready for the coming inspections.  But first, she needed to write a story.

So, that is the news from Shady Acres, where Certain Man is working on a new electric fence that will compliment a particular board fence, Certain Man’s Wife’s face still feels hot and her knees feel weak, and Youngest Daughter is the only one of the children who was witness to the events of this momentous day.

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

Boys and Grapes and Helping Hands

So this week has been the week that everything seemed to get ready at the same time.

First, there were those wonderful Delaware limas that needed picking.  I picked a five gallon bucket to overflowing and brought them in on Tuesday morning.  Our Girl Nettie started in on shelling them as soon as she got home from center, and finished them before she went to bed.  I got them blanched and packaged. Four wonderful bags in the freezer.  So, so happy.

On the days preceding this, Certain Man was mentioning the fact that the tomatoes really needed picking and that someone should do something with them.  So Middle Daughter picked them all and brought them in.  There were some peppers and some onions, too, so they all went into a pot along with some celery and fresh basil and stewed for an afternoon.  The tomatoes from our garden this year are so good.  The 14 pints of tomato soup that I canned will be good eating this winter and it looks nice on the shelf of our “dungeon.”


And then there was the mention, also, about the grapes on the arbor that divides our side yard.  I would stop and check them now and then, but realized that if we wanted to maximize our yield, we needed to move on it.  So Wednesday morning, Carson and Nevin came with their strong arms, sharp eyes and youthful energy and harvested our concord grapes. Youngest Daughter supervised the operation and they finished in good time.  Whew!  Was I ever unprepared for how many grapes we were going to have!


I looked at their harvest and worried about my stamina and my ability to ever get this done.  There were two 5-gallon buckets and nine 10-quart buckets, plus a 6-quart ice cream pail.  I looked at those beautiful grapes and didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.  I have two wonderful steamers that produce concentrated grape juice for canning, but the thing is, I don’t like to steam the stems with the grapes.  There are various arguments as to whether or not it is necessary to strip the grapes, and my instruction book even says that it is unnecessary.  Well, I am here to tell you that if you really can’t tell the difference, you probably have a mouth that can’t tell the difference between canned tuna and fresh crab.  Or fresh squeezed orange juice and Tang.  Or a chocolate bar from Dollar General and Ghirardelli’s own.  The flavor is definitely different, and I’m always disappointed in the color/cloudiness when I don’t take the extra time to strip the fruit from the stem.

But that meant that every single grape had to be manually pulled from the stem.  And these grapes were picked in August, in Delaware, from a mostly undisturbed arbor.  There were crawly beasties in unexpected places.  Click bugs.  Stink bugs.  Centipede-looking little bugs with pinchers at both ends.  SPIDERS.  And though I knew that help from the daughters of Certain Man would be given if I asked, I also knew the magnitude of their other responsibilities and also the drama that would accompany such an endeavor.

“Probably,” I reasoned with myself, “I would be better off seeking help from the same stalwart young bloods who assisted with the picking of the grapes.  I think they would be amicable company, unafraid of the beasties and able helpers.”  So I texted their Mama and asked about the possibility.  She was glad to glad to have them assist, and they seemed willing, and so it was set.  I stripped twenty pounds off the first night and did two steam kettle loads.  That took ten pounds and left ten more pounds for the next morning.  I wanted to be ready!

My steamers take about five pounds per load and after an hour or so of steaming,  produces about two and a half quarts, more or less, of the highly concentrated purple liquid.  It is the purest, finest concentrate with no additives, no sprays.  And even though it is hard work, it surely is worth it.  However, I found that one person, working alone with the responsibility of filling the jars, keeping them and the lids hot until filling, dumping the pulp after the steaming, refilling the steamer, checking the water levels in the steamers, etc., just couldn’t keep up with the stripping process as well.  I went to bed very thankful for the promise of helping hands in the morning.

Thursday morning dawned bright and clear.  My helpers arrived, eager and willing and we set to it.  The steamers ran non-stop.  The bugs were abundant, and Carson and Nevin were delighted with the supply.  They kept a cup of hot water by their chairs and plopped the hapless victims into the stew whenever they discovered one — which seemed like it was every two minutes.  The grapes came off the stems and were put into the collection containers with unmitigated enthusiasm.  I remembered that these boys were sports enthusiasts, and this particular job lent itself well to exercising their basketball skills. The targets were usually right on, but sometimes missed, and the kitchen floor became hazardous to traverse.  Conversation was interesting, but when Middle Daughter came for a bit to lend them a hand, tell stories and discuss important issues, I realized that this 61 year old Auntie doesn’t really have the energy and enthusiasm that sustains young men in arduous jobs.  Deborah certainly was timely in her help, and much was accomplished by noontime.  We were well ahead of the steamers, and the grape-stripping process was to the half-way point.

Then Youngest Daughter took a break from studying for her GRE exam, and took the boys for lunch.  They brought their Chick-Fil-A bags home and took a much deserved “eat and refuel for the fray” break.  When their hour was over, they went back to work.  The afternoon moved right along, and along about 3:30, they pulled the last grape from their designated buckets and their Mama came and fetched them home again.

A large cup with a vast array of dead bugs sat on the table and made me smile.  The difference between these boys and my girls continually amuses me.  Where there had been chasing after bugs and exclaiming over sizes and determining the pedigrees of the spiders, ALL. DAY. LONG., there would have been great protests, probably shrieks, maybe even tears, and definitely shudders, over the wild life populating the picked grapes.  After the boys left, Youngest Daughter pulled up a chair to help finish the remaining small bucket of grapes and bravely stuck to it until the last grape was ready for the steamer.  Her Daddy got home from work just before we finished that task and looked with interest upon the scene.

I smiled at him over the bent head of Youngest Daughter.  “Sweetheart, what you are seeing here is sacrificial love in its purest form,” I told him.  He looked at me with that look of bemusement that I love so much.

“What do you mean?” he asked, fully knowing, but wanting to see her reaction.

“She’s right,” said Youngest Daughter, grimly.  “That’s the only reason I would ever do this!  I really cannot stand these bugs!  They’re hateful!

He teased her a bit, but we knew she was trying hard to be brave.  A most unfortunate situation in Thailand where she awoke to find tiny spiders, just hatched, crawling all over her, has left her with a severe case of panic when it comes to the bugs and spiders of any time and any place.  But she did persevere to the end and helped a bit around the kitchen before returning to her books.  Deborah had gone to work at this juncture, and Daniel went to chore.  I quickly made supper and kept the steamer going.  It was close to midnight when Youngest Daughter took the last buckets of pulp and stems to the composter and I finished washing the last bucket, steamer pan and accessory, wiped out the sink and surveyed the final yield.  About 45 quarts of juice sat on the cupboard, all sealed.  How beautiful it was!

How staggeringly tired I was!!!

The next morning, the same helping hands — Carson, Nevin and  Youngest Daughter, took off the rings, wiped the jars down and carried them to the basement.  When I got home from getting a tire repaired on the mini-van, the cupboard was clear, wiped off and there was no trace of the arduous work of the previous day.  I was still aching from the marathon of the day before, but I had to see these jars on the shelf.  So I betook myself to the dungeon and surveyed the work of the morning.


Oh, those wonderful Helping Hands — Of Middle Daughter, Youngest Daughter, Carson and Nevin.  I was very satisfied with this result, quite delighted with what had been accomplished, but quite depleted in every way when that day was over.  It was very apparent that I would never have made it by myself.  No matter how good my intentions, how solid my martyrdom, how determined my self-sufficient heart.  I thought again about families, about the extra people that have come into my life that have none of my genes and chromosomes (as in Carson and Nevin) and those that do (As in Beebs and Rach — who, incidentally, are Middle Daughter and Youngest Daughter, respectively).

. . . and my humble heart gives grateful praise.

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Filed under Family living, My Life

Youngest Daughter Walks

Tomorrow, Youngest Daughter, Rachel​, Graduates from Bryn Mawr’s School of Social Work, Master’s Program in Philadelphia, PA.  It has been a long road that led to this day, and her Daddy and I are so proud of her.    She has worked hard.  She has persevered when it would have been easier to give up.  She has held on when it seemed that life would wrench her dreams from her hands.  She has believed when doubt and fear laughed in her face.   She has overcome reversals, bulimia, and being a pacifist in a Baptist College.  She has endured loneliness, heartache, and hours and days of wondering what would be next in her life.  Even now, the unknowns in Rachel’s future are far greater than the knowns.

But for every single negative in her life, Rachel has had positives.  She has traveled, she has received accolades and awards and positive reviews and opportunities that few girls in her situation have been given.  She has worked hard, yes!  But she has also been given much, and as her parents, it has been so exciting to see how God has intervened time and time again to give incredible, “best gifts” to this girlie that we have been privileged to parent.

And so, our youngest walks.  A new chapter in her life —  and ours.  And even though it is sometimes hard to see a chapter close, in this case, it is exhilarating, exciting and humbling to think about the story that is Rachel’s life.

“We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord.  Trusting in His Holy Word.  He’s never failed us yet.”

He never will!



Filed under Uncategorized

Beyond the glitz

It is Valentines Day in the good old USA.  People everywhere are speaking of their wonderful Valentines and the wonderful gifts they have been given.  Certain Man’s Wife has been guilty of the same.  Her heart was delighted with two dozen multi-colored roses delivered on Thursday afternoon — ahead of the rush.  Practical as ever, Certain Man has found that it’s a WHOLE lot cheaper to order on line and have things delivered ahead of time.

This morning, standing in the kitchen, Youngest Daughter rehearsed her good friend, Anna Downing’s take on Valentines Day — that it is a day to tell everyone you love that you love them and to say something noteworthy about them in the love message.  Youngest Daughter got one this morning thanking her for being a good friend and wishing her a happy Valentines Day.

I like that very much.

I also got to thinking about the  ways Certain Man has tied the stuff that life is made of to speaking love to his unobservant and often clueless spouse.

For one thing, he has loved our children so intently(I did mean intently) and well.  Certain Man is not perfect and does not claim to be, but his children had better not hear anyone rehearse his faults.  I’ve seen his children struggle with having Christian Charity towards people who have, however unwittingly, said or done things that have hurt their Dad, and it is no small thing to them.  (They tend to rise up snarling!)  Certain Man did not get that kind of loyalty and love by being a selfish or distant father.  He draws them into his interests and into sharing his serving heart.  For example, this morning he hooked his trailer to his farm pickup, loaded his tractor, corralled Middle Daughter and Youngest Daughter and headed up the road to stack wood for an older man in our church who is having a tough time.  I looked at my girlies and knew that the last thing in the world they wanted to do this morning was go out in this bitter cold and pick up wood, but there was not a single word of complaint.  “Sure Dad,” they said, and grabbed gloves and old sweatshirts and warm tzibble kops and piled into the old truck and away they went.  He was jovial and exclaiming loudly about any of a number of things.  They were marching to their father’s music and “ever’thin’ was good.”

That is something that always melts my heart.  In this day when there are so many fathers who refuse to be dads and so many fathers who name the Name of Christ but whose hearts selfishly demand to be first or best or most, this Certain Man has never — and I truly do mean NEVER– made me choose between serving him or meeting a child’s needs.  I sought to put him first, would often protest when he would encourage me to comfort a child or talk late to a teen or take a late night phone call from a adult child.  “It’s fine, Hon,” he would/will say.  “Don’t worry about it.  There’ll be time later.”

This evening, we went out for a Valentines Day early dinner, and looking back on our trek, I have to smile when I think about how this evening could sort of define not only this man, but our marriage.  Certain Man worked all day at one thing and then another, reminding me now and then that we were going out to eat “somewhere” and “sometime before it gets too late.”  And also, “Maybe we could pick up those shop lights at Lowe’s when we are out.”  He had helped Gary and Elaine with their firewood, he had taken extra care of his animals and equipment because of the cold,  He had noted that some of the bird feeders were getting empty and he filled the feeders and replenished the suet hangers.  It was a great aggravation when ACE Hardware was out of, not only ear corn but out favorite “nutsie” block that we particularly like for woodpeckers and for diverting the squirrels from other feeders, but he decided that we would look at Lowe’s when we got there.

So, along about four o’clock this afternoon, we got on our way.  He had decided Outback! and I had gotten him a good gift card for there for Christmas, and there is a Lowe’s in this Lewes town, so he thought it would be the best destination.  Heading down Route 1 to Lewes, he surprised me by suddenly getting into the left hand lane and turning on to the road to Argos Corner.

“I’m just gonna’ see,” he said, “if I can figure out where they live.”  We both knew of whom he spoke — “Our Kids” as we’ve been wont to call them over the past few years.  They were homeless for almost two years, shuttling between counties and motels and trouble until about a month ago when they landed in a trailer “where the store had burned” in this small Sussex County community.  I had made a trip through a couple of weeks ago, but hadn’t been able to discern which trailer was theirs.  But Certain Man has discerning powers that I lack, and the trailer was soon found.

“That’s it, right there!” Said Certain Man.

“I guess it is,” I agreed.  “Same vehicle, and look!  He still has his old classic car.”

I noted the completely curtained windows, the big “No Trespassing” sign in the window.  He noted that the trash was already beginning to pile up in back.  Certain Man made a U-turn at the deserted intersection and we resumed our trip to Lewes, considerably more pensive than we had been.  Traffic was heavy as we came into the seaside town, and as we pulled into the turn lane that went to Outback, I noted the crowded parking lot.

“I’ll have trouble finding a parking place,” said Certain Man, “So I’ll just drop you off at the door and you can put our names in and then I’ll come on in.”  He pulled up to the curb and I bailed out, and went in.  The waiting area was crowded, and a hostess took my name and handed me a buzzer.

“Do you know how long the wait is?” I asked when I could get an word in edgewise.

In response to a quick question, a harried looking co-hostess looked up briefly and said, “60-70 minutes.  At least.”  I clutched the buzzer and decided to go and talk to Certain Man.  I looked all around the parking lot to no avail  and finally called him.

“Hon, it’s going to be a 60-70 minute wait.  We don’t want to wait that long, do we?”

“No way!  I’m having to park way out in the far parking lot anyhow, and I wondered how long a wait it was going to be.  I’ll be right back up to pick you up.  Let’s go up to Cracker Barrel and see how long that wait will be.”  And that was just fine with me.  I happened to have even better gift cards to Cracker Barrel.

“Go in and see how long the wait,” said Certain Man five minutes later as we pulled into the parking lot.  “I’ll go park.”

“Maybe five minutes,” said the pleasant hostess at the crowded Cracker Barrel.  “Not long.”

I put our names in under “Daniel” and called him with the news.  Actually, by the time he was walking across the parking lot, he heard them page us for our table.  We had a very nice time at our “early” dinner.  He had fish, I had chicken.  (Is anyone who knows us surprised?)  The conversation was good, and I even sent a picture of Certain Man and a short note to his children:

Me and my Valentine went to Outback to dine.
60-70 minutes to wait just wasn’t fine.
Off to Cracker Barrel we go-
got seated just so-
and decided that we wouldn’t whine.

(Poor rhyme, I know, but I was in the middle of organizing  it into something impressive when Certain Man proceeded to tell me about a restaurant that gives a percent off if you do not use any electronic devices while in the establishment and I considered that a hint to put my cell phone away!  Besides, we had plenty to talk about.)

We did not linger long over our meal, and soon we were on our way to Lowe’s to pick up lights for the shop that Certain Man has been working on for some time now.  First, we got a bag of ear corn, and a mealyworm cake and feeder for our beloved Bluebirds and then we picked out four shop lights and the bulbs for them.  Then I waited while Certain Man looked for hinges to fix a cupboard door that has been giving his orderly soul distress.  I looked at our loaded cart, thought about this Valentines Day Date and it made me laugh.  I just really like this guy  who is always taking care of farm and family and birds and people.  He made one more stop at the Best ACE Hardware in Lewes where he found the seed, nut and fruit roll that he wanted and we bought TWO so we wouldn’t run out, and finally we were done.

We came home in the cold winter twilight to our warm house and the lights of home.  We unloaded the shop lights and then he fixed the door that was bothering him, bedded down his animals for the cold winter night, checked his chickens, put pellets in the pellet stove, went up to Gary’s and filled his outdoor furnace as full of wood as it would hold, put out his corn and the other bird seed that he had gotten and puttered around pondering many things.

He has no idea how loved the ordinary things of this day have made me feel.

And so I thought about this man that I’ve loved for so long- and it reminded me of a song of that Steve and Annie Chapman sang.

(Wherever the seasons of life find this Certain Man, I still pick him!)

Seasons of a Man

I am the springtime, when everything seems so fine

Whether rain or sunshine, you will find me playing

Days full of pretending, when a dime is a lot to be spending

A time when life is beginning, I am the springtime


I am the summer, when days are warm and longer

And the call comes to wander, but I can’t go far from home

When the girls become a mystery, and you’re barely passing history

Thinking old is when you’re thirty, I am the summer


I am the autumn days, when changes come so many ways

Looking back I stand amazed that time has gone so quickly

When love is more than feelings, its fixing bikes and painting ceilings

Its when you feel a cold when coming, I am the autumn days


I am the winter, when days are cold and bitter

And the days I can remember number more than the days to come

When you ride instead of walking, and you barely hear the talking

And goodbyes are said too often, I am the winter

But I’ll see spring again in heaven, and it will last forever.

(You can listen to this here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3us8-U9-4s)






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

January Evening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Dealing with Grief

My heart aches . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know what?

Neither have you.

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Filed under time away