Saturday, November 26, 2016

Not a Contest

At the close of the wonderful meal we had on Thursday with our friends and some of their friends (one couple we did not know), one of the other guests started asking us to tell what we were thankful for.

Like us, she has no family in the area, and so we have had Thanksgiving dinner there with her on several occasions. She has done this in the past. Richard was prepared, and so he pointed at me, and said "I am thankful for her...."

I was next in line, and I was not prepared. I was scrambling to think of what to say, and the first thing that popped into my mind was how I thankful I was that we had a new roof over our heads and that God had provided the finances for us to pay for it. I did not go into the details of just how much stress our leaking roof had caused in connection with Richard's ADD and his paralysis in making a decision -- so his ability to pick up the phone and arrange for this was such an incredible relief.

As she went around the table asking everybody, the responses started to become more and more spiritual, which was perfectly fine, but we both began to feel uncomfortable and almost embarrassed that our responses were mostly material than spiritual.

Richard commented today that it almost felt like it was a contest. I absolutely don't want to discount anybody else's response about what they said they were thankful -- I absolutely believe these were genuine and accurate reflections of how they were feeling inside -- but doggone it, I really am thankful for my new roof!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Roof Over Our Heads

Very early on Thanksgiving morning, Dad would set up the metal food grinder and get out fruit and sugar – I think it was oranges, apples, and cranberries – and into the top of the grinder they would go. I got to turn the handle, and what a wonderful popping sound it made as the fruit was ground up for Thanksgiving relish (I get quite the same satisfying feeling when I put a blood-filled tick in a bowl of water and crush it with a pair of pliers, but that’s a story for another time). That special time with my Dad is one I cherish. Since we moved here, it has been “Friendsgiving,” and we have indeed been blessed with friends who have opened their homes to us for a day of food and fellowship.

I am so thankful for all of these people that God has put in our path.

I am also very thankful that we have a new roof over our heads. The crew came out on Monday. They had to do more than just replace old shingles with new ones. They replaced rotten boards, removed a chimney, and removed two skylights. Even so, they managed to finish the job in the early afternoon on Tuesday – just in time – because by late afternoon, it began to rain.

For the first time in quite a while we were able to stand by the front door (which is actually the back door) without watching water drip from the ceiling and pour down the wall. It is wonderful to once again be able to close a door that opens and shuts without having to be forced and to walk on a carpet that is not wet.

He has already ripped out some of the ruined drywall, and the carpet will have to replaced eventually, along with the insulation on two of the walls, but … it’s dry.

I am also very thankful that I have been able to earn the money (at this stage in our lives, I earn more money than he does) without worrying about “how are we going to pay for this?”

We heard a sermon last week on being thankful in all circumstances (give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus, I Thess 5:18)..

Sometimes it seems hard to do this – obviously we are not always thankful "for" the circumstance we find ourselves in, but keeping our focus where it belongs allows us to be thankful no matter what (OK, sermon over).

I am trying to cultivate an attitude of Thanksgiving every day -- not just on one special day in the year

At any rate, happy Thanksgiving!
I think that is a better thing than thanksgiving: thanks-living. How is this to be done? By a general cheerfulness of manner, by an obedience to the command of Him by whose mercy we live, by a perpetual, constant delighting of ourselves in the Lord, and by a submission of our desires to His will
Charles Spurgeon

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

It is truly lovely when none of the stressful things one anticipates might happen actually happen.

All of the flights both coming and going were on time, and there were no unexpected gate changes at Dallas-Ft. Worth. The airline failed to provide a wheelchair when I got off the airplane at Dallas-Ft Worth, but I was able to get to the departure gate under my own power without difficulty and was allowed to pre-board the plane going to Los Angeles. That meant I could get myself and my carry-on down the aisle without whacking anybody on the way.

When I told a friend I was going to see my brothers and sister, she wanted to know if we got along.

Yes. We do get along. When our mother was alive, she frequently reminded us not to let the occasional flare-up between us get out of control, not to feed it and let it turn into a root of bitterness. “We’re not a-havin’ that in our family,” she’d say. We did have our moments when we were younger, though. The boys were sort of ornery and they teased me quite a bit. They reminded me of the time they got on my last nerve when I was doing the dishes. I came after them brandishing a cast-iron skillet and chased them down the sidewalk. What must the neighbors have thought? Fortunately for all of us, they were fast runners and I was not, and we all ended up laughing hysterically at the spectacle of ourselves.

My brother’s granddaughter turned 1 year old last Friday,

  and on Sunday our dad turned 92.

 So we had parties on Saturday and Sunday, and a good time was had by all.

 We went places and saw amazing things...

and beautiful vistas...

ate good food, and had wonderful fellowship.

It was just about perfect.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Sprouting Wings

My heart leaps up when I think about seeing Dad and my brothers and sister. I haven’t seen them or their spouses, or my nieces and their spouses for 2 years. I have never met my brother’s granddaughter. We will celebrate her first birthday next Saturday.

I leave tomorrow morning for Los Angeles. And then all of that anticipated joy is tempered with the apprehension I am trying to keep at bay about traveling there. I am not sure when traveling on an airplane stopped being fun and became so stressful and unpleasant—probably when they stopped direct flights from smaller airports and put the “hub system” in place.

I am not afraid of flying—of being in the air in the silver tube with wings—the source of stress is what happens in the terminals before the flight actually takes off.

On one trip to Los Angeles, I was allowed to board a plane in Springfield, and then was told to get off the plane because the passengers and baggage exceeded the plane’s weight limit and that I would be put an another flight. Why me? I wondered at the time. I am not morbidly obese. And then they changed their minds and let me back on the plane.

And then there is the huge Dallas-Ft. Worth terminal. I have been through that airport many times. I know how to get on the shuttles that whir around the perimeter of the terminal and get to the departure gate. But what I have found at Dallas-Ft. Worth is there is a disturbingly frequent problem of the departure gate being changed without any announcement being made. Several times I have sat at the proper gate blissfully unaware that my flight had been moved to another gate until I happened to look up and notice that I was suddenly sitting at the gate for flights to Kansas… or Louisiana… or North Carolina (take your pick) instead of Missouri. One must be constantly vigilant about watching the monitors to make sure the gate hasn’t changed and then be prepared to gallop off to the new gate. This time around, there will be no galloping.

I am not in very fast on my feet these days. Recovering from the foot operation has taken much longer than I realized it would. I will be able to manage the Springfield airport without a problem, but I have arranged for a wheelchair to meet me at the gate in Dallas.

I am so thankful I have this verse to remind me to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

He took marvelous care of me the time I had to spend the night at Dallas-Ft. Worth.

It will be fine this time around too. And if things do go wrong, He will take care of me again.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

That’s the Way the Crust Crumbles

Yesterday was the birthday of my friend’s husband. He likes apple pie, but she is coping with life-threatening illness and all that goes with it—chemotherapy, heavy-duty pain meds, exhaustion—and doesn’t feel like cooking, so I made him an apple pie.

Bought the apples and two crusts. I am not that good with homemade crust on my best day. The apples made a huge mound, and I had trouble keeping them in the tin as I began to fit the other crust over them. Then, the crust that was supposed to go on top did not come out of the pan like it was supposed to, and a big chunk of it tore off.

I patched it together as best I could on top of the mound of apples. It looked awful.

And then I discovered that one of the apples that was supposed to go in the pie had sprouted legs and walked off. I didn’t see it until after I had cobbled together the pieces of the top crust.

So I put the pie on a cookie sheet and stuck it in the oven and ate the runaway apple.

I managed not to burn the pie. However, once the pie had cooled, the crust on top collapsed and broke because apples underneath had shrunk (and a lot of the juice had bubbled out onto the cookie sheet).

I am sure the pie tasted just fine, but it looked terrible. I did not take a picture of the pie to memorialize the occasion.

I was rather embarrassed when I knocked on their door to deliver it, but deliver it I did.

While her husband got ready to go out for a celebratory late lunch with their son, I had a nice visit with her at the kitchen island while she ate some pineapple and cottage cheese for her own lunch, tiny and frail, her face still beautiful and her greenish eyes luminous, looking very Sinead O’Connor-ish with her nearly bald head, but I noticed the silvery peach fuzz was a bit longer than it was two weeks ago when I saw her last.

Richard said he admired me for continuing to plod on in the face of ongoing cooking disasters—biscuits like hockey pucks, baguettes that turned out like truncheons—and yesterday, a pie that looked like someone stepped on it. 

Sometimes I think the thought really does count, even if the result isn't quite what one expected. I hope they enjoy the pie.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Odds and Ends

Unlike some of the characters at the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I have not finished my sojourn in Middle Earth and gotten on boat and sailed off into the West never to be seen again. Yes, I will be flying West in a week or so to see family in California, but I am still here very much in the middle of the country. Work has been crazy. I just haven’t been able to settle to attend to this poor neglected blog. It's been more than month since I have written anything. Yikes.

I have been expecting to get an e-mail from a woman in a nearby community, who I never see these days but who reads the blog, wondering if I am okay.

Yes. I am okay. Mostly.

Facebook is partly to blame for the silence here. I was sort of coerced into mounting a Facebook page some years ago by the issue manager for a journal I worked on. She thought it would be fun if the copyeditors who worked on the journal had Facebook pages so we could get to know each other. This was a rather radical idea, because up to that point, the journal managers kept the people who copyedited the manuscripts for that particular journal a closely guarded secret. We were not supposed to have contact with each other, and the only way I ever found out who my colleagues were was when the journal manager sent us all the same e-mail and forgot to blind the "cc" addresses.

At I found it is remarkably easy to write a very short “blurb” on Facebook  off the top of my head, and very hard and time consuming to write a thoughtful essay with something profound at the end, which the blog seems to require, and then be done with it.

So… here are a few short blurbs I have posted recently on the Facebook page (but of course, I have had to tinker with them a little because they just weren't quite right):

+ + +
Fall is in the air – finally. Someone has splattered the trees with red and orange and gold. It has been unseasonably warm (in fact, we had record high “low” overnight a few days ago), but I actually needed a light jacket yesterday when I walked the dog.

As I got out of the car at the post office to get our mail, a large group of geese flew over, probably more than 100 birds, together but in small Vs of perhaps 10 to 15 birds, constantly calling to each other, merging, and separating. They were lovely to watch as they undulated across the sky. I believe they were headed for a rest stop at a local private lake.

Nearly all of our cousins attended high school in Yuba City in central California, which may still be an agricultural community as it was when I visited them as a kid (if the drought hasn't put the orchard owners out of business), not far from the capital of Sacramento. The area is part of a great flyway and many migratory birds pass through. The athletic teams school they attended were called "The Honkers.” We used to laugh at that name, but I get why they chose it.

+ + +
What happens when you wait 4 months to get your hair cut and then finally make the phone call and lurch (I am not quite walking normally yet) into the beauty shop is that the woman who cuts your hair can’t remember how she cut it the last time because too much time has gone by. So you tell her to “cut it short.”

And she does. She cuts it short. Really short.

I am still having a bit of mirror shock. I thought ya’ll might like to see the new me.

(Now, of course, a few weeks have passed and I love it. I really do).

He is threatening to start a blog that he will call “Leilani-isms” in which he would post ridiculous statements that I have the unfortunate habit of making. Today I was trying to fry fish and wanted to set a timer so that I would make sure and cook it for the right amount of time on each side.

I was having a lot of trouble figuring out how to make the timer work because I didn’t have my glasses on and I couldn’t read the lettering on the small silver buttons (turns out the lettering on most of the buttons was worn off because of constant use, but never mind). I kept having to ask him to reset the timer and he was getting aggravated.

“Well,” I said, “I just don’t understand stuff.”

He looked at me in amazement and then started laughing so hard he had to sit down before he fell down. Well, it is true. I am not a stupid person but sometimes I just don’t understand stuff.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Not Made of Sugar

In Isaac Asimov’s a short story Rain, Rain, Go Away, a strange family, the Sakkaros, move next door to the Wrights. They always seem to be sunbathing, they rush indoors whenever there is a cloud in the sky, and the process she goes through to pour Mrs Wright a glass of water is peculiar indeed.

The Sakkaros are rather reclusive, and the Wrights decide to try to be neighborly and invite them and their son to go to a carnival. They Sakkaros check the forecast, which says it will be clear, and they agree to go with the Wrights. Everyone seems to be having a good time (the Sakkaros eat mass quantities of of cotton candy and other sugary foods). But then, the sky starts to cloud up and Mr Sakkaros hears on his portable radio that it is going to rain. The Sakkaros insist that they really need to go home. Right now.

So the Wright’s drive them home and when the husband gets out of the car to let them out of the back seat, he thinks he feels a drop.
The Sakkaros tumbled out, faces drawn with tension, muttering thanks, and started off toward their long front walk at a dead run.

 “Honestly, began Lillian, “you would think they were….”

The heavens opened and the rain came down in giant drops as though some celestial dam had suddenly burst. The top of their car was pounded with a hundred drumsticks, and halfway to their front door the Sakkaros stopped and looked despairingly upward.

Their faces blurred as the rain hit; blurred and shrank and ran together. All three shriveled, collapsing within their clothes, which sank down into three sticky-wet heaps.

And while the Wrights sat there, transfixed with horror, Lillian found herself unable to stop the completion of her remark:

“…made of sugar and afraid they would melt.”

I t occurred to me when I read the story years ago that the Sakkaros family should have carried large umbrellas “just in case.” We should have had umbrellas last Sunday.

The weather forecast on Saturday was that Sunday would be “bright and sunny.” How fortuitous for our friends, who had planned a party for Sunday for the wife, who turned 86. It was supposed to be an outdoor party on their lovely deck starting at 2 p.m..

At about 12:45, I left the house and took the Mollywog to the park so we could get some exercise before leaving for the birthday bash. Yes, friends and neighbors, I can walk now, but my gait is very lurchy and I need the crutch – or at least I think I do – for longer distances (I believe the crutch is starting to become “a crutch”). I noticed as we started off that dark clouds were forming in the distance, and there was lighting flashing and I could hear thunder rumbling. By the time had I just about finished, the sky was very dark indeed. The first drops started to fall just as we got to the car.

As we were leaving for for the 14-mile or so drive to their house, the heavens had opened and the rain was pouring down. Pouring down so hard that Richard had to slow down on the highway because the wipers could not keep up. He  parked as close as he could to the long cement walk leading up to their porch (I don't do well on gravel) and looked in vain for the umbrellas that are supposed to be in the back seat, but they weren’t there.

I found myself thinking about the Asimov story as I opened the door and got out in the pouring rain and walked—slowly, very slowly—up to the porch. By the time I got there, I was soaked.

I like to think I am sweet, but I am happy to report that I did not melt. They got me a towel, and I dried my hair. The rest of me eventually dried, too.

And we had a lovely visit with these dear people (who were the pastor of our church) and other friends and family.

By the time we were ready to come home,  the rain had stopped, so we were able to stroll back to the car without getting any soggier. And perhaps Richard will remember to put the umbrellas back in the car.