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And now for another diversion . . .

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Today is the 67th anniversary of my Aunt Orpha and her husband, Lloyd Gingerich.  My Sweet Mama and her boyfriend, a very young Mark Yoder, were their attendants.  This picture always makes me laugh.  Daddy looks like he really isn’t comfortable being too much involved in the wedding party.  But oh!  How I love the youth and the happiness and beauty of these two gals and the angular ruggedness of the guys.  Daddy was 17, Mama was 18.  Their wedding was a mere 28 months away.

Mama was here for lunch today, as it sometimes works out.  Josh and Lawina (Sarah Jane’s son) pick her up for church and then, whenever we can work it out, she comes home with us and then I take her home after lunch some time.  She was very sleepy today.  Looking at the picture of the four of them — thinking about how time just keeps marching on, and sometimes feeling really pensive about how things keep changing, makes me look for a bit of levity in my life.

And I got at least a diversion today. At my own expense.

The temps in Delaware have been borderline — almost too warm to not have AC on, but also almost cool enough that we want to try to make it without. Daniel’s sister is living in our yard right now in her motor home, and she HATES to be cold, so we have been erring on the side of natural ventilation here in the old farm house at Shady Acres since she does spend a good bit of time in the house.  This morning, I had toyed with the idea of asking Daniel to close up and start the AC because I knew the oven was going to be going the whole time we were at church.  But then I decided I could manage it.

Sunday Dinner at Shady Acres.  My Sweet Mama always had big Sunday Dinner for her family when we got home from church, so I guess it is in my genes.  And usually I like to go to church at least a bit prepared in case there is company that needs inviting home.  I’m not a stickler for having the house spotless, but I’ve learned that good food makes it less imperative that everything is in place.  Besides, if I wait until things are perfect, there is no company happening.  Ever.  So today, a pot roast was in the oven (complete with a good marrow bone for Mama to eat on piece of bread that I baked yesterday) and it was circled round with new red potatoes that Daniel had dug yesterday and his sister, Lena, had scrubbed carefully for us.  There were Lima Beans in the pressure cooker and Lena had made a blueberry crumble to eat with vanilla ice cream, so the lunch was pretty planned and ready to go.  Christina and Charis were coming and Grandma Yoder and, of course Lena.
We came in after church and the house was HOT.  I hustled about the kitchen with the many helping hands, and we got lunch on.  Just as we sat down, I said to myself, “I am going to get out of this dress before we eat.” and since it was all family, I put one of my housecoats on and was comfortable.  After lunch, Christina and Charis had a birthday party to go to, so while Mama slept on my chair, Lena and I cleaned up the kitchen.  And then it was time to take Mama home.
“Mama,” I asked her, “do you mind if drive you home in my housecoat?  I’m just going to take you and come right back.”
“I don’t mind a bit,” she said.  “Just be comfortable.”
“Sweetheart,” I entreated my long suffering spouse, “do you mind if I drive Mama home in my housecoat?  I don’t plan to stay.  Just going to take her and come right back.”
He looked like he didn’t even want to be bothered.  “I don’t care,” he said.  “Do what you want.  It doesn’t matter to me.”
“Don’t get stopped by the police,”  warned Lena.
“I shall try to be very law abiding,” I said.
And away we sailed to Greenwood.  Chatting away the eight mile road that goes past the graveyard where a stone marks the grave of my Daddy.  We came down that last stretch of road to the stop light at Route 13.  The traffic was heavy and it took two cycles before we could finally get through the light.  Sitting there, waiting for the light to change, my car made another one of its warning beeps that I still don’t always catch.  I looked down at the gauges and wondered again what was amiss.  And suddenly realized that this annoying beep was the low fuel warning.  Wait.  What???  I had NO FUEL.  As in the gauge was barely hanging on the underside of empty.
Now, my first reaction was to be very cross with my husband.  I had asked him to get gas last night when he went out late for milk.  The reason I knew we were going to soon need to fill up was that . . . well, um, IhadforgottentofillitupwhenIhadgottengroceriesintheafternoon.  But when I voiced my concern, he said he thought we would have enough for what we needed to do today and since the hour was late and he was exceedingly tired and he needed to preach this morning, he made the arbitrary decision that we didn’t need gas.
And now, here I was, on a Sunday, when we do not shop or buy gas as a matter of principal, and not only that — I was in my housecoat, for crying out loud, and I was most definitely almost out of gas.  I decided a call to a Certain Man was in order.  I was just wasting my time, though.  I know this guy pretty well, and I don’t know what I expected him to say any differently than he did.
“You are going to just have to stop and get some gas,” he said, matter of factly, but with a snicker in his voice.  “There is a gas station right there in Greenwood.”
“But I’m in my housecoat,” I wailed.  “Do you think that just MAYBE I can make it home on what I have in the tank?”
“Well, Hon,” he said, a little less patiently.  “What if you don’t?  It will be less conspicuous for you to pump gas in your housecoat than it will be for you to WALK in your house coat.”
WALK???  Who said anything about WALKING???  I was thinking he would come and rescue me if I ran out of gas.  This bore some consideration.
“What if I see someone I know?”  I asked a bit anxiously.  “With my luck, someone from church will have the same emergency I have and we will meet at the pumps.”
“So?  What’s wrong with that?  You will both be pumping gas on Sunday.”
“But they won’t be in their housecoat,” I said, still wailing a bit.
“Just go to the last bay, as far on the end as you can go.  You’ll be fine.”  And that was that.
So I delivered my Sweet Mama safely home, we listened to her phone messages and got her situated and I headed back out to the gas station.  In the very last bay, shielding all eyes from the east, was a large large SUV pulling a big motor home.  I sneaked my way into the other side of the bay and was glad to see that I was very protected from peering eyes on almost every count except for the family who was filling their SUV and enjoying ice cream in the warm, sunny afternoon.  They exchanged pleasantries, looked me over rather curiously, but I turned my back, attended to filling my gas tank and finished without any lingering whatsoever.  Over 19 gallons in my (approximately) 20 gallon tank.  I might have made it back to Milford, but it really was rather “iffy.”   I felt very contented.  Certain Man was right.  I would much rather have filled my tank in my housecoat than to have had to walk.
I wonder if he really would have made me walk.  I tend to think not — but I’m not in any mood to find out.

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June 23, 2014 · 12:17 am

Petals on the Tablecloth

We came home from moving Youngest Daughter to Philadelphia on Saturday to find that Middle Daughter had picked peonies for the table.  They looked great there, and the aroma is heady.  Within a few days, the petals began to drop.  Once that happens, I’m often tempted to just be done with it all, and throw them out.  But life at Shady Acres in these past few weeks has made me think in terms of seeing beauty in the things that mark the end of things as we know it or want it.

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The flowers of our lives add so much to the quality of of our days.  I stood on the front porch of my Sweet Mama’s house yesterday.  Mama has had a tough, tough Spring.  And the ongoing inconveniences of aging trouble her –as they do us all.  The day had been full of more unwanted interference and precautions.  It was just a hard day for her — and consequently, for me.  I took a moment to regroup on the front porch when I went out to retrieve the mail.  Bobby had given her a gorgeous hanging basket of lavender petunias for Mother’s day.  The day was sweetly cool and a breeze caught that incredibly sweet scent and tossed it around like the memories in my head of simpler days and happier times.  I felt a rush of childlike joy as the flowers danced in the lazy wind.  So blessed.

Last week, I worked at weeding the hedge row.  The peonies and roses were competing with wire grasses and a strange invasive weed and Delaware’s crazy chickweed.  The roses are so beautiful, but the thorns were unmerciful.  My arms were caught by their obscure menacing, and there are unsightly scratches and even gouges on my arm.  More than once I was surprised by a trickle of blood adding itself to the age spots on these arms of mine that no longer look “young.”

I mentioned moving Youngest Daughter.  I was going to chronicle this move, thinking we would make happy memories.  I got a good start:

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. . .but I lost heart.  There is so much excitement with moving a child forward in life, knowing that plans are coming to fruition, and that God has been leading and directing and providing.

But there is a poignancy as well, and I have felt this niggling sadness hanging over my heart.

Shadows fall on brightest hours.

Thorns remain.

And the petals fall onto the tablecloth.

“Oh, Lord Jesus!  Let me remember the beauty.  Let Joy be a wellspring in my heart.”

 

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June 3, 2014 · 2:55 pm

Bluebirds and butterflies and birthdays

I was checking on the tulips out by the grape arbor and decided to check the rain gauge and my bluebird nest while I was at it. Image Before I got there, lying quite still and cold upon the ground was a daddy bluebird.  It was featherweight in my hand when I cradled it there.  I looked for injury but there was none to be seen.  I saw Certain Man out by the barn where he was trying to put the spring calves back into their pen, and I went to him with my find.  He, too, could find no injury or reason for its demise.  He took it from me, looked it over carefully  and then put it into the composter.  There was really nothing else to be done.  An especially virulent strain of bird influenza is about these days and he could not take any chances.  I understood, but it didn’t seem fitting, somehow.

I decided to check the birdhouse where there had been five blue eggs just a week ago, so I approached the box and knocked gently on the side.  No adult bird appeared, so I opened the turn nail and lifted the hinged door.  There were some sorry looking scraps of tiny birds huddled in a disheveled looking nest.  One or two of them struggled to raise their heads a bit but sank back down.  I felt sick.  I closed the box back up, went and got mealy worms for the feeder that was close at hand in the tree, rehung a waterer in the same tree and decided to leave things alone.  I felt the sadness, deep and penetrating.

“. . .nesting bird nor star in heaven, such a refuge e’re was given.”

It has been a pensive week.  Yesterday my brother (who has, from childhood, always been my friend) and his family buried a sixteen month old girlie.  It was also Mark, Jr.’s 58th birthday.  You don’t say “Happy Birthday” to a man on a day like yesterday.  But I can speak a blessing.

And this I do say:

May the years to come mark this day with a surge of joy as you remember a little girl who could light up a room with her smile.  May you be blessed to remember that God entrusted Ariel to your family and that you did not fail her on a single count of love or care or faith or nurture.  May your heart be light as you remember that you rejoiced over her with singing.  And may this day be remembered by something other than a small grave in a Delaware cemetery that holds only the chrysalis of a Heavenly Butterfly that is more alive now than any of us are or ever will be in this life.  May the memories that you have made this weekend as a family be the things you remember whenever these days come up in conversation, by inference or in the quiet remembering of your own soul.  Although mighty forces have waged war against you and your family, do not anything worry.  You already have the victory.”

And I surely do love you and yours!

 

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April 29, 2014 · 10:51 pm

Those Purple Tulips

The tulips are gorgeous this year.  Tucked into an out of the way corner, I had a single purple tulip that came as part of a “Purple Flowering Plants” gift package from Arbor Day Foundation a few years ago. This year there were two blooms.  I plucked them from their spot the other day and brought them in and put them in their own vase on the kitchen window sill.

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Certain Man, looking perplexed, said, “Why did you pick your only purple tulips?”

“Because I can,” I answered. “Because they were almost hidden where they were growing.”

“They weren’t hidden,” he said.

“They were right up by the front steps.” I said, argumentatively. “No one could see them.” I went to the front door and he followed. We both looked down at the tulip leaves that were sticking their empty, waxy leaves out to the morning sun.

“See,”  I say, unnecessarily, “they were right there by the front steps and the fence and other flowers are in the way, and no one could see them until they were almost past and . . . ”

He kinda shook his head and said, “People could see them. They were right THERE!”

“I know,” I said meekly. “But I couldn’t see them there unless I was going out to get the mail. I want to look at them. They cheer me up.”

“Whatever,” he said, not unkindly, and went back to “whatever” (it was that he was doing).

It’s another case of the differences between my good husband and me. He doesn’t like me to pick the flowers too much because then there aren’t any out there to make the outside look nice. The fact that these are the only purple tulips made him think they should be outside.  Where they grew. The fact that these are the only purple tulips made me think they should be inside.  Where I could see them.

“There are plenty of others out there for her to pick,” I can imagine he thinks, “I don’t know why she isn’t content to pick some of those and leave these alone.”

 

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Well, I DO pick those (not enough to cause him too much angst) but there is something about these splashes of purple that just speak something hopeful and special to this Delaware Grammy.

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April 23, 2014 · 2:08 pm

Catching the Spring

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Our Girl Audrey and Me.  Off on a golf cart ride, picking flowers from the grounds of Shady Acres Farm.  We inspect the bird houses.  One has the beginnings of a nest.  One has spiders and things that no self respecting bird would think of having in their home.  And one!  Ah, one!  has a finished bluebird nest and one egg already there.  Hope in a box with twigs and leaves.

Our Girl Audrey has had a tough week.  Vague complaints of phantom pains in her stomach, legs, back, and frantic cries of “all over my body tingling.”  And then a brief psychotic episode that had me worried.  Lots of conversation.  Extra attention.  Time and Time and Time.  She is doing so much better, but still so fragile.

Certain Man took our trusty golf cart to the repair shop yesterday and got it fixed.  New batteries and a general all over check up.  It rides sweet and smooth.  He probably wouldn’t have done it, but he made promises to (grandsons) Simon, Liam and Frankie when we were in Ohio two weeks ago and it was too cold to take their beloved wagon rides with Grampa.

“Grampa is going to take the golf cart and get it fixed and when you come the weekend after Easter, we will go for a ride then!”

How Grammy’s heart sang to hear this.  That old golf cart, bought second handed for a good price, has saved many a step on the farm, and it is especially nice when the day has been long and yet another chicken house alarm is screaming for attention.  It’s been great for toting kids around, too.  When he brought it home yesterday, all fixed and smooth running, I was like one of the grandsons in my delight.  I could hardly wait for an excuse to take a ride.

Late yesterday afternoon, quite by accident, I found out that Audrey loves to ride the golf cart, too.

“Do you wanna’ go for a ride with me, Audrey?” I asked her on impulse. She was sitting in her room, her Saturday chores all done.   “I’m going out to see what Daniel is doing.”

“I’d like that,” she said in one of her rare decisive moments.

She got her shoes. We went out around the old manure shed, around the west end of the chicken houses and spotted Daniel spraying along his chicken houses.  We made a circle around the back pasture and then came up to the barn to find that two of the littlest calves had escaped their enclosure and were running free.  Daniel found one, picked it up and carried it back to safety.  We went after the other one with the golf cart, Audrey enjoying every minute, and when he wouldn’t stay put on the back of it, we helped Daniel herd him back to the barn and his fellow fence mates.  And then we returned to the house and Saturday chores for me and evening television for Audrey.

This afternoon, with Certain Man and Middle Daughter at a concert and Blind Linda safely ensconced on a recliner in the sun room, Our Girl Audrey and I set forth again.  She chatted amiably and made astute observations.  We checked on the asparagus (three more shoots peeking) and then did a circle of the yard, picking flowers and smelling smells of spring.  She carried the flowers, and brought them in and laid them carefully on the counter.  I found a vase for them and they are brightening a spot on the dining room table.

Winter is so hard for some of us who sometimes struggle for equilibrium in dark days.  But these days!  These gloriously gorgeous, perfectly beautiful days speak hope and future and GOD to the sadness.

And my heart gives grateful praise.

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April 13, 2014 · 7:50 pm

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The cold is creeping in on the wind.  All day it has been colder than they promised.  I’m still recuperating from my latest sinus infection, and my energy is at low ebb. It feels like I have gotten precious little done today.  Outside, I hear Certain Man’s chain saw as he works at trimming back his burning bush at the edge of the house.  I stir around in the kitchen, making food for our church family’s potluck tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

A day that Certain Man and I have waited for with eager hearts for some time.  Tomorrow, our church installs Dale Keffer as our overseer and the position of Chairman of the Leadership Team gets passed to Joshua Slaubaugh.  I don’t expect that we will be less busy, but the weight of responsibility will be so different, and along with full support of our new overseer and church leader, we are both full of grateful praise.  Our church has been so kind to us.  So supportive.  And we have been blessed in the eight years since Certain Man has been “first among equals.”  But he is far more comfortable being a deacon than he is being chairman and it is the right time for this to happen.  I cannot begin to say how glad we are.

And now that I’ve sat a bit, and warmed up from my trek outside to see that good work that Certain Man was doing, I am going back to my kitchen.  It is almost time to call it a night.

One more night before a brand new day.  My heart gives grateful praise.

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April 6, 2014 · 12:21 am

Faring Sumptuously

The family group has been talking about a number of things on our family group.  Numerous things have been said.  That strikes me as more than co-incidental.  It seems like this is a story that has been on my mind so much over this last period of time.

I’ve been struck over and over by the phrase in the King James Version about how the Rich Man “fared sumptuously every day.”  (There was that part about purple and fine linen, but I don’t think my old housecoat that I’ve worn most of the week, no matter what the color or cloth, really qualifies as that . . .)

But even though I’ve been so very sick this week, I’ve fared sumptuously.  I’ve been taken care of.  My house was warm, my family has waited on my hand and foot.  I’ve had all the Sierra Mist and ice water and pain medicine and blankets and comfort measures that I’ve wanted . . . and my bed!  Ah, my comfy bed!

This week the family of six that I have loved so much were (supposedly) evicted from their hotel room.  It has been so cold.  I don’t know where they are.  I cannot think of them without crying.  (I could have, I should have, maybe if I would have, I wonder, I hope . . . )

This week, the family in the trailer that houses ten (to twelve at any given time) found out that they must be OUT by the 31st.  They don’t know what to do.  They are talking of giving the children to relatives.  The kid that is my favorite is with us this weekend.  He is pensive and preoccupied.  I just want to hug him.  And then I come in to the computer and find that he is looking for games called “family killer.”  Oh, Lord Jesus.  Have mercy!

This week, our beautiful niece and her lovely family came home.  Home to people who want to help, who are equipped to help and who desire to wrap this little family up and give them a place to heal.  But it is a difficult and disappointing time for them, and even when physical amenities are in place and comfort measures are available, there is hard, hard work to be done, decisions to be made, and I’ve looked at her face in the pictures and prayed quiet desperate prayers and cried buckets. Oh, Lord Jesus.  Have mercy!

Our friend lies dying in a hospital in Maui, while his wife, son and daughter keep watch.  “Anytime,” we keep hearing.  How can this go on so long?  His only response from the depths of coma is an occasional moan.  They and he have suffered so much.  Oh, Lord Jesus.  Have mercy!

And none of this even addresses the Third World situations that break my heart and how people suffer every single day, but that it is so much worse when they are sick.

And then I think about the fact that not only this week, but for my whole life, I’ve fared sumptuously.  And much of it has been out. of. my. hands. It’s been choices of parents, husband, family and even offspringin’s that bless my heart in so many ways.  And even my own choices that I made– often not beginning to realize how much difference it would make.  (What if I HAD married that other guy, for pity sakes!!!)

And I know that I’m not dressed in “purple and fine linen” but I surely hope that it was the man’s heart and not the fact that he “fared sumptuously every day”that was the real sin.

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January 25, 2014 · 10:19 pm