Monday, July 28, 2014

Sometimes I wish somebody else would write this blog

It's weighing on me.

I need to write about moving, how we moved a year ago, and how far we have come since then.  Also, I need to write about Shannon's move this past weekend, and Lu's move over the course of this month.

All I know is, every time I see a moving truck or a UHaul trailer, I get harsh pangs in my stomach and I spontaneously pray, "Oh, Lord Jesus, please help those poor people with what they are going through."

I wonder if strangers along the road were praying that for me?  I think they might have been.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Some pictures that make me happy

I was going to write over on "To Sleep..." today, about how well I am doing as a person with lupus.

But...

I didn't quite feel good enough.

I'm chuckling over that, don't worry.  I really am doing quite well.  I've been so thankful each day, for the sun, the flowers, the birdsong and the cornfields.  And everything...  the hope of heaven, and Jesus who loves me all the time.

Here are some pictures that make me happy.  I hope you enjoy them too.

a zinnia

a different zinnia

my front door
I love walking up to my front door these days, 
even though the flowers crowd the path
and could be a tripping hazard.
I feel a little bit naughty 
to be so delighted by this wild
riot of color and leaves.

These giant dahlias are ridiculous.
The dark purple morning glories are vining all over them.

Honeysuckle
How amazing is it to have honeysuckle?
Yes, I've tasted some.  It's good!

Yesterday I was walking the dogs.  
A neighbor called to me from her driveway,
"You aren't looking for a plant stand are you?
I'm trying to get rid of this."
As a matter of fact, I have been looking for a plant stand.
Thanks! (I might paint it brown...)

In front of the porch, I planted two canna lilies.
One is blooming.
It is red.
Shawn insists on calling it a "bird of paradise."

a close up
(canna lily, aka bird of paradise)

some flowers I picked and brought into the kitchen

a favorite picture from the wedding
(thanks for taking it, Ann!)

another favorite picture from the wedding:
Shannon in the dress I made her
holding hands with flower-girl Kristi
listening to Shawn give a speech.
 and a dahlia from behind
because I cannot get over these dahlias

~The end~







Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hummingbird victory!

This morning I took this picture, just to show that I do have morning glories.

I am not so very proud of this corner of my yard.  I think the bright orange and deep purple look more like a sports team than like somebody's flower bed.  I'd expected the morning glories to be more of a cornflower blue color, and the nasturtiums to be more towards yellow.  I guess you get what you get.

Speaking of getting, we have hummingbirds around.

For Father's Day I got Shawn a hummingbird feeder.  I think I got him some other things, too, but the hummingbird feeder has turned out to be the most interesting.

It came with powder to make "nectar," which was red.  We never saw the birds feeding, but the level of the nectar did go down steadily.

When the prepackaged nectar mix was gone, I googled how to make my own and found this.  Who knew there would be such a fantastic use for our white sugar, now that we eat healthy!?!? After I put my own, clear nectar into the feeder, we started seeing birds every evening, about 7:15 p.m.  They love my homemade hummingbird food!

Tonight I saw a bird earlier than usual.  I'd just filled the feeder with a fresh batch of nectar. and I think he loves it!

I decided to try to get a photo of him.  The hardest part of this was sneaking out so Schubert didn't realize I was on the porch and scratch at the dining-room window...

I sat down to wait.  Bored, I shot a photo of another one of morning glory vines.  Since it is getting on toward evening, the flowers are all closed.


I waited quietly.

And then!

When a hummingbird comes near, he buzzes, almost like a giant bee.  I suppose this is why they call them hummingbirds: the hum of their wings is startlingly loud.  If you didn't know it was a hummingbird, you might be inclined to swat it (or to duck and run).

He came and hovered above the feeder for a bit, and then he came in for a landing...


















I am so excited.  

I don't know if I am more amazed that I have a hummingbird who loves my homemade nectar, or that I was able to get photos of him eating.

Today we had a hummingbird victory!




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Moving and ovens

Shannon is moving.

Out on the east coast, she is in the process of boxing up her worldly belongings and moving north a couple of hours to a new apartment.

I think of her and pray for her often.  I want to be there, boxing things by her side, wrapping things in packing paper, writing detailed content lists on the outsides of the boxes.  I want to help, to engineer, to manage.  I probably want to control.  I want to be there, but I am not there.

I was thinking about her last night and an old memory popped into my head.

When Shawn and I were packing up to move to New York, he had just finished his degree at the University of Minnesota.  We lived in the University's married student housing, on Gibbs Avenue in St. Paul.  GE hired Shawn and paid to move us to Syracuse, New York.  There was not much I needed to do, as we did not own squat at the time, and what we did own was going to be handled by movers.

However.  The rental agreement for married student housing stated that we must clean the oven before we moved out.

My recollection is that the apartment was bare at that point.  Perhaps the movers had already removed our stuff.  I remember an expanse of off-white vinyl tile floor, a bit scuffed where our kitchen chairs had slid back and forth beneath the table.

The day was sultry, and the windows were wide open, but that not being enough, I had also propped open the door to the apartment hall.   Besides being hot, I was probably worried about the fumes from the oven cleaner, because I worry about such things.

Wearing shorts, with a scarf holding my hair out of my face, I sat cross-legged on a spread of old newspapers on the floor in front of the oven, scrubbing away in rubber gloves, twenty-two years old and sweaty.

I heard footsteps in the hallway outside our apartment.  Suddenly, a small boy, about six or seven years old, peered into my open door.  He looked at me with wide eyes and I smiled at him.  He ducked out of the door and I heard him holler down the hall, "Hey!  There's a woman cleaning an oven!"  In a few moments, a second small boy joined him.  They both stared at me, speechless, and then they ran away.

********
I wanted to include a picture with this post.  Pictures are nice, you know?

This is a pizza that I made.

The pizza is not related to moving, but it did come out of an oven.

Shawn does not care much for cauliflower crust pizza (if you click that link, scroll to the bottom).  The first time I made cauliflower crust pizza, it was good, but the second time, although I thought I made it the same way, it was not so good.  Also, it made the house smell like cooked cauliflower both times, and Shawn hates the smell of cauliflower.

This time, I decided to try potatoes instead of cauliflower.  I beat together cooked potatoes, salt, cheese, onion and garlic powder, oregano, Italian dressing and eggs.  I spread them in my generously buttered pizza pan.  I pre-baked it, and then topped it with pizza toppings.

It looked fantastic.

The house did not smell of cauliflower.

I served it up to Shawn and Jonathan.

note:  Being gluten-free is a challenge.  The thing I miss the most is pizza.  If I cheat, I usually save my cheat for pizza.  But there are times when I do not feel hearty enough to cheat; I just know that the price I will pay in aching will be too great.  Yes, there is gluten-free pizza.  You can even get it at Dominoes.  But.  Have you ever had it?  It is fine for a snack, decent as a vehicle for carrying pizza toppings, kind of.  It is flat, and hard.  It does not give you that big, satisfying, fill-up-your-mouth-with-goodness effect that you get with a nice chewy traditional crust.

So, I served up this potato crusted pizza.  It didn't come out of the pan well, and I was tired from crafting it, so that began a disappointment.

It was, ah, what?

I took a bite, and it did fill up my mouth nicely, and it did not taste bad.  But it did not taste like pizza.

When you work hard to prepare a multi-step dish and it is not what you had been hoping, it can be rather a bitter disappointment.

Shawn said, "Can this maybe be our last experiment with vegetable crust pizzas?"  Which means that the poor guy really hated it, because he would not normally say such a thing.  I felt utterly defeated and in despair, because I so very much long to discover a viable option for pizza crust that is tasty, delicious, chewy and satisfying... not like commercially available gluten-free pizza crust.

Jon.  Jon.  Jon said, "Well, if you are looking for pizza, it doesn't taste a lot like pizza, but it sure is a great way to have mashed potatoes!"  And he had seconds.  After which he fought me for the leftovers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The weather and other meadering ruminations

Today is a beautiful day: cool, crisp, dry, sunny, breezy.  Beautiful.  There are many types of beautiful days, but this one is prototypical.

We've had some weather.  Saturday was a monsoon, which I will tell you about later.  That was followed by more rain, and also by heat and humidity.  It wasn't amenable to walking.

Today was a perfect day for a walk.  I took the dogs out, and they were fairly pleased about it.  Schubert, however would bark at every person he saw.

"Schubert," I told him, "You cannot bark at people when they are out in their own yards.  It is not the thing to do, and you must desist."

Of course, he did not listen to me, but continued to paddle along at the end of his leash, throwing up his chin and yelping with a passion unique to the small, brown, furry dog soul.

We decided to come home and have some quiet time.

I can use quiet time.  I am still tired from the wedding.  Funny, how an event like that--for all its glory and wonder--can take it out of the marrow of one's bones.

I'd planned to come home and sleep, to stay in my pajamas for three solid days.  Something about my giant east-facing bedroom window prohibits such excessive sloth.  The sun (glorious and miraculous though it is) beats in on me as it rises each morning, and there is nothing to do but get up, have coffee, and feed the dogs.

But Saturday.  Saturday was different--a monsoon, as I already mentioned.  The sun did not beat in on me, and I awoke late to a dark gray sky and the sound of pouring, streaming, cascading rain.  No trickles or patters here: it was running like faucets turned full-force out of the sky, across our roof, and through our exterior downspouts and drain pipes.

Shawn made the coffee (he usually does; his is much better than mine).  I went downstairs to sip from my mug on the sunporch, which was not sunny.  Peering out our many sunporch windows, through the deluge-blurred expanse of our yard, I saw that the stream at the back of our property was swollen and rushing, a small, angry, brown river torrenting into the lake, which was high.

"Is it going to get into our basement?" I asked Shawn, who was pouring himself a second cup of coffee after returning from the garage with the dogs, who had refused to venture into the downpour.

He thought not.  There are some timbers at the back of our yard that edge what should be landscape beds (in reality they are weed patches, but I am formulating plans for them which involve lots of daylillies and a few hostas).  It appeared to me that there were still five or six inches between the level of the water and the tops of the timbers, not a lot, but somewhat reassuring.

I leaned back on the futon with my coffee and prayed for mercy and a dry basement.  We got something like four inches in four hours, or possibly five inches in five hours.  Jon waited on going in to work, as major intersections in the city were reported to be under twelve inches of rain.  I've never experienced a rain that came that hard for that long.

It felt like living in the Marilynne Robinson novel, Housekeeping.  Have you read it?  It appealed to me because of the title and (of course) me being a lowly "homemaker" (and I put that in quotes not because I think ill of homemaking, only because I am bad at it).  Also, it had a character named Ruth, so naturally I had to read it, even though Marilynne Robinson is extremely hard for me to understand, being as abstruse as she is.  She has lovely, long, meandering sentences and probably writes exceptional poetry, which she should (write poetry, I mean), although I suppose nobody buys books of poetry these days, so a poet is forced to write novels, which then turn into something like Ms. Robinson's books, and then only academics can truly appreciate them anyway.  I digress, and having given up writing for years of practicing the more practical skills of producing prodigious pots of sloppy joes and strapping tupperwares filled with pasta salad coated with store-bought Italian dressing, clearly I have no right to have an opinion about an artist such as Marilynne Roninson, at least not a negative opinion.

Still, I can't help noting that it seems to me that a poet writing a novel ought to try to restrain herself and confine the poetry to portions of the novel, not infuse it throughout the whole thing to the point where the common among us have terrible trouble making out the plot.  That is a great deal to ask of someone trying to get through an entire, fairly long book.

Anyway, there was a lot of water and water damage in the book Housekeeping, and there was a lot of water in my yard on Saturday, and I had a peculiar feeling that I was in the book, for awhile.

On Sunday, we learned that many of the members of our church had suffered extensive water damage, and I wondered why my prayers for mercy had been answered, but not theirs.  Then I remembered Job, and I knew that this does not mean that God loves me more; it may, in fact, mean that God loves them more.  Probably He loves us all the same and just knows what each person needs, what each person can take, and what will make one person stronger but would decisively break a different person.

Our backyard was untamed before, but it is a real mess now, after the monsoon.

Our front yard, however, is quite delightful; at least, to me it is.  I've planted some (for me) unusual flowers, and they are delighting me.

Coming up the front walk, you meet leafy nasturtiums (they remind me of lily pads), 
whimsical zinnias, huge dahlias in pots, and hearty hanging baskets.

A closer view of zinnias.

And closer yet.

Nasturtiums are so cheerful!

A view of a dahlia... these are impressive blooms.

Another dahlia blossom.

(to give you an idea of the size; and I have big hands)

Well, who knew I could grow such a thing?


We've come a long way since this.







Monday, July 14, 2014

Dairy free chocolate shake




This is pretty good, really.

I love ice cream, and I am not looking for ways, personally, to avoid it.  Much ice cream is gluten free, which--along with chocolate--makes for a very happy state of affairs.

However, my daughter is dairy-intolerant.  She also loves milkshakes, but (as the saying goes) they do not love her.



So, in three quite simple ingredients, this:

Dairy Free Chocolate Shake

*3/4 cup vanilla flavored almond milk 
(not unsweetened... it usually comes sweetened, 
and this is what you want)
*1 frozen (ripe) banana 
(see this post for instructions on freezing bananas)
*1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder  
(sometimes known as baking cocoa)

Blend together in your blender until smooth.  Make sure it is smooth, and the banana is not the least bit chunky.  Consume immediately while it is at its very coldest.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The story of Laura's wedding



Amazing.

Simply amazing.

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, 
according to His power that is at work within us, 
to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, 
forever and ever!  Amen."  
~Ephesians 3:20-21

My father read that scripture in the wedding ceremony as part of a longer passage.  

My heavenly Father came through and did more than we had asked or imagined.  

And I just noticed today:  
"...to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations..."  
The perfect, everlasting union of Christ and His church, which is the ultimate reality that every marriage tries to reflect, was there, right there, in those very words.




For starters, the weather was perfect.  

The previous day (July 4, and, incidentally, Lu's favorite holiday) was sunny, dry and 72.  We had a fabulous time with our friends, Ann and Walter, and their two daughters.  Matthew and Lulu served root-beer floats to the bridal party and other friends in Lulu's hotel suite, securely closing the door to the bedroom where her dress hung, of course!  I thought, "Oh dear.  We got the perfect day today.  We can't possibly hope for two perfect days in a row."  But July 5--the day of the wedding--was sunny, dry and 76, just as perfect but a touch warmer, so I was okay even though I forgot my sweater at the hotel.

We were all nervous, and had trouble choking down our breakfast.  I don't think Lu ate a bite.

After showering and dressing in preliminary clothing, the first order of the day was to drop the decorations off at the reception venue.  Mind you, this was the first time I ever saw the reception venue.  We had driven past the outside during the deep freeze of last November, but I'd never gotten up to the door, let alone inside.  (I guess when you've bought a house sight unseen off the internet the previous year, it is not such a big deal to rent a wedding venue without looking at it.)

The bridesmaids all came and helped us carry 17 brown paper grocery bags, each with the set up for an individual table, as well as other things.  When we finished, it was a rush back to the hotel to gather everything we needed for the ceremony and get over to the church to meet the photographer.

We left the hotel in waves.  I said, "If Daddy and I stay back until last, you can call us and tell us to grab anything you might have forgotten."

My darkest moment was around 12:12 p.m. when Shawn and I were in the van on the way to the church, late and unsure of whether we had everything.  There was a lot of brown paper involved in this wedding, and right then I could have used a brown paper bag to breathe into.

Leading up to the wedding, time blurs in my mind.  All of the girls were gathered in an upstairs room at the church, braiding hair and getting dressed. Food sprawled all over the table, bagels and fruit, crackers, cheese, grapes, bottled water.  I remember feeling like I was going to die of thirst and going around heedlessly drinking the dregs of any water bottle I could find, against all better judgment... but that was actually later.

The photographer took pictures.  I hope she got some good ones, because I got exactly four.  Four.  Here is one of them:



After that, I forgot both my camera and my phone in the the upstairs dressing room, and later in the van.  So I have virtually no photographic record of the day.  Shawn reassures me that the mother of the bride never has time to take pictures and that this is, in fact, precisely why one hires a photographer.  So I hope the photographer took some good pictures, because I did not.

When everybody was ready, and the photographer was off photographing the boys, we took a moment to join hands in a circle and pray, a precious memory.  There could never be a more amazing group of girls than the group showering love on my daughter that day.

At just the right time, Connie, the wonderful wife of the church's pastor, came to get us and take us to the back of the church.  The church was a charming place, a historic building with an antique, working bell tower, but it also had a modern addition.  I am not sure how it was all laid out and connected together, but we were upstairs in a spacious room with a huge walk-in closet (the girls dressed in it).  Outside the room was a corridor with a kitchenette, and a bathroom at the end of the hall.  There was also an elevator.  Connie led us all into the elevator: herself, Laura, six bridesmaids, a flower girl, and me.  It was a crush of feminine excitement, that's for sure.

The church has a fantastic, well-tested system for keeping the bride and groom from seeing each other before she enters the back of the church.  We were to take the elevator down to the basement and cross underneath the church in a passageway... but somebody hit the button for the elevator to open on the first floor, right into the hallway where Matthew might be waiting to walk into the church!  The girls all hurriedly clustered around Lu to cover her up as the doors glided apart, but (whew!) the hallway was empty.

The doors closed, we selected the correct button, and soon the elevator delivered us to the basement where Shawn, waiting in his brand new gray suit, blinked back tears at the sight of his baby daughter all grown up and bedecked in her wedding finery.  We walked across the bottom of the church and up the curved stairway that opened to the tiny vestibule at the back of the church.  The event was upon us.

Standing at the back of the church, we waited for the appropriate music.  My brother was playing, and it was beautiful.  My biggest regret from the day is that I was unable to be in the sanctuary to hear the musical prelude; my brother Paul played piano, and my son David played some saxophone pieces accompanied by Paul, and I missed it.  I hope there will be another day.

Matthew's mother was seated, and then I took Jonathan's arm and he walked me into the church which was full of beautiful music and beloved friends and relatives.  It was surreal to be supported on the arm of my tall, handsome son, walking into my daughter's wedding, looking across the church at people from all over the country who had gathered there to witness the day with us.  They smiled at me, and I felt so much peace and love and beauty, I thought I might burst.

Paul began to play the processional, the very wedding processional that he had written for me twenty-seven years ago. The wedding party did what wedding parties do, and then it was time.  The music paused for a split second and then Paul's hands crashed down in triumph on the piano keys, embellishing the melody with runs and arpeggios.  The doors at the back of the church swung open with a grand whoosh, and there was Lulubelle, all perfectly bridal on her father's arm, white and pure, innocent and sparkling, smiling bravely as her dad's face crumpled just a little bit and he tucked her hand a little tighter into his elbow.  A loud rustle spread through the church as we all rose, and the piano thundered with grandeur, and Shawn and Laura walked steadfastly up the aisle to Matthew, who waited with tears streaming down his face.

I did not cry as much as I had expected to, only just a slight hiccup as she was coming up the aisle.  It was surreal, like you could taste the weddingness in the air and the beauty was not so much something you saw as something you felt seeping into the skin on your face.  The pastor was deep voiced and authoritative, not the pastor of the church (who was graciously helping with everything behind the scenes), but the pastor who had been Matthew's pastor since the day he was born.  Scripture was read and vows were made.  Rings were exchanged.  Traditions were honored.  Candles were lit and blown out, and hymns were sung with lusty gusto, from the heart.  I've never heard a congregation sing out with such fervor.

At the end, the pastor invited Matthew to kiss his bride; then he introduced the new couple.  The congregation burst into loud, vigorous applause that did not stop.  Laura and Matthew began to walk out of the church in the midst of the applause, and I put my hands out to try to signal them to stop, to wait until the recessional music began, but it was a like a tidal wave that would not let up.  Jon, who was to play Ode to Joy on his trumpet, saw them leaving and took it as his cue to start, imparting the glorious melody into the church, over the applause, as Paul joined him on the piano and the bridal party joyfully exited.



Jonathan and Matthew's brother, Andrew, dismissed the people row by row and gave everyone a small bell to ring.  We lined up on the path outside the church and waited.  As soon as everyone was out, Matthew and Laura went into the vestibule and pulled the rope to ring the antique bell in the bell tower.  They were supposed to ring it five times, but they rang it seven, because seven is the perfect number.  We clapped and cheered, and they came out of the church, walking between us as we rang our little bells and made a truly joyful noise.



Then there were some pictures with the photographer, and the overwhelming job of getting all of our things out of the church and over to the reception.  At this point, the platters of grapes and cheese and fruit looked delicious to me in the abandoned upstairs dressing room, and I spent some time gorging myself on strawberries and pineapple when I might should have been packing up.  Somehow, and with the help of certain kind and blessed people, we made it over to the reception where, again, we worked like dogs getting things set for when the guests would arrive.  My brother and his wife and their two (adult) children were there ahead of us, and we would have been in good shape except that I kept remembering things that I had forgotten.

When Lu and Matthew arrived to make their entrance at the  reception, I stepped outside to help Lulu bustle her dress.  Shawn was there, and the DJ joined us to ask some logistical questions.  This all happened at the same time, and I struggled to answer questions while trying to figure out which bustle tie went to which other tie.  In the midst of the chaos, up from the parking lot walked Mrs. Auser, our piano teacher of fourteen years, who is also a remarkable seamstress, and who fairly recently married off two daughters of her own.  "Don't worry about this," said Mrs. Auser.  "I've got this!"  God is so good, so good.  Who ever would have thought He would send Mrs. Auser just when we needed exactly her skills?



The reception was all burlap and barbecue, old glass bottles decorated with twine and lace, little wooden crates that Matthew had made that we filled with country-ish things, lemonade and iced tea and bottles of colorful sodapop.  This was when we actually got to see and enjoy our guests.  Instead of a receiving line, Laura and Matthew delivered plates of cupcakes to each table and spoke with each guest as they passed them out.





Near the end of things, while the joy was still full and the excitement still coursing, Lu and Matthew came to us, faces flushed and just a bit damp from exertion and elation, eyes glowing.  "We're leaving now," they said, and they did, hopping into Matthew's little car and driving off into the night.

And then came the point in the evening when I realized that the balls of my feet were beyond aching, that I was limping like a war victim, and that the entire place needed to be torn down and packed up.  As I rued the fact that I hadn't brought a sensible pair of shoes to change into, Sarah, one of the bridesmaids, came to me, still smiling and energetic.  "What can we do to help?" she asked.  And suddenly, there was a small army of people in their early twenties, bridal party and guests alike, sorting and organizing and taking apart, packing and loading things into our van.  After they finished getting our stuff, they even helped the caterers take down tables and stack chairs.  I pray that their excellent witness spoke Jesus to the people at the venue.

I was truly overwhelmed with wonder and thankfulness.  My heart was so full.  And, as we drove away--by then just Shawn and me in our van full of crumpled party paraphernalia--we saw fireworks going off in the distance over the tops of the trees, a perfect end to a perfect day.

Of course, we were too excited to go to sleep back at the hotel, so the lot of us sat around our room talking late into the night, until we got hungry again and I made fried eggs and fruit smoothies in our kitchenette, happy to use up the eggs and frozen fruit I'd purchased for our time there.

I still can't believe it.  I can't believe any of it.  But I think it's true anyway.

I need a nap.  I need a few naps.