July 28, 2011

the years march on

The other day a friend who is also a mother, sympathizing, reminded me that I'm not so young as I was when I was caring for my first toddler.

I must confess that it caught me off-guard.  She's right, of course.  Nearly ten years have passed since then, and so, mathematically speaking, I must have aged ten years.  I am ten years older.  That can't be argued with.  Can it?

My Farmer cautioned me against letting this conversation persuade me to view my situation differently.  What if, I asked him, she's right about something I have neglected to notice?  He looked at me askance, but offered no rebuttal.

And so the case stands.  Am I older, or am I not?  Is age just in the mind?  Does aging ten years mean I should (or may) be having a different and more difficult experience raising my full-throttle (but adorable) Lil' Snip than I did while raising my equally adorable, but far more predictable, firstborn Sugar?

(And is it possible, do you think, to use parenthetical phrases too frequently?)

Obviously Sugar and Lil' Snip have different temperaments, so raising them feels different.  But I, too, am changed, I hope, in ten years' time.

Physically I don't feel that different (although I confess to not paying so much attention to that sort of thing as perhaps I ought).  The few white hairs I found after Sugar's birth have not multiplied so much that the novelty of finding one has ceased to amuse me.  I feel tired more often, but mostly since Lil' Snip, the fireball, started walking.  The four pregnancies, births, and recoveries I've had in the last ten years have been similar.

Am I wiser?  Have I gained perspective?  Perhaps my Maker (or my Farmer) can tell.  I am blind to my progress or regress.  (A poor memory is sometimes a friend, sometimes a foe.)

In the end, it doesn't matter.  My Farmer, as usual, is right.

If I have a particularly weary day and it is consoling to remember my advanced age, I shall.  If I have a particularly smooth day and it is encouraging to reflect on the lessons I've learned in my ten years as a mother, I shall.  The rest of the time, however, I'll just be me, as oblivious to my age as Lil' Snip is, and get on with the living before me.

July 25, 2011

borrowed words, Part Two

Part Two of my quotes collection:

I just love how some of these quotes contradict others (check out especially the first and last quotes here).  Isn't that just like life?  Two sides of the same coin.  So often two truths can occupy the same space.  Life is simultaneously more complicated and simpler than we readily imagine.  Enjoy these tidbits of wisdom from yesteryear....:

Our life is what our thoughts make it. ~Marcus Aurelius, 2nd century B.C.

Nowhere is the deep wisdom and justice of the Creator more apparent than in His so arranging the universe that a man can do his own sinning. ~Dr. Frank Crane

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The little ones leaped
and shouted and laugh'd,
and all the hills echoed.
~William Blake

A man's growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My country is the world;
My countrymen are mankind.
~William Lloyd Garrison, 1803

Kindness is the most exasperating vengeance. ~Dr. Frank Crane

There wouldn't be much work done in this world, mister, if only horses and folks that are plum fit had to do it. ~Dr. Frank Crane

Incompetence is no excuse for despair. ~Dr. Frank Crane

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
~Robert Frost

The quality of life is determined by its activities. ~Aristotle, 4th century B.C.

July 24, 2011

lost art

Someone dropped in tonight.  Pulled into our driveway, unannounced, got out and knocked on our door.

Our "free kittens" sign has been down for a couple of days, so it couldn't be someone looking for a pet.  I don't have anything out for freecycling at the moment.  Who could it be?!  Oh, the excitement of the unlooked-for vehicle!  (and the disappointment if it's just someone using the driveway to turn around).

It was my husband's aunt, stopping to wish him a happy birthday!  We chatted a bit, talked about the weather and the family, church and crops.  Ten minutes, tops.  It was the highlight of our evening.

"Dropping in" is a lost art, one worth cultivating again.  I know, I know, life gets busy.  We had friends who, b.c. (before children), used to drop in all the time.  We loved it!  It's like the bell ringing just as it's your turn to give your report - whatever you were doing, you're off the hook till later!  You get a break!

Having someone drop in is a practical and most pleasant reminder that it is people, after all, that are really important.  Things, tasks, can wait.  Relationships are the essential thing.

It does expose your vulnerabilities, if you don't happen to be perfect (although perfection itself is perhaps the most assailable vulnerability).  Without notice from your drop-in guest, you can't tidy up your life at all.  You're just all you, doing whatever you do when you're at home, dressed in whatever you wear for your family, listening to whatever music gets you through your day.

No chance to pretend you're anyone but who you are.

Some people worry about being dropped in on ("oh no!  they'll see me!").  Others find it a relief ("there!  now they know who I really am!").

Having given up on acting in real life, I am solidly in the second camp, and will convert who I can from the first.  It's worth the exposure to find out that you are loved, the real you - with sometimes messy floors and unwashed dishes, makeup-less and in old clothes, weary of your everyday burdens and frustrated with daily challenges.

So drop on in.  I'm as ready as I'll ever be.

(and yes, K, I wrote this for you.  Brace yourself - I will be dropping in!)

July 22, 2011


Wow, is it hot. So hot, the clean bedding I hung out in the sunshine to dry came in smelling faintly of sweat. Even the air must perspire!

In this old farmhouse, we have two window units, upstairs, to make sleeping bearable. We try to draw the cool downstairs using fans. Even so, it's 85 degrees. The slightest movement makes this mama sweat. I grow cranky, quickly.

Going outside, though, makes inside feel refrigerated. It's a temporary consolation; the feeling fades in minutes.

To make myself more grateful, I put our thermometer outside. The temperature rose five degrees in five minutes; the humidity increased five percent.

It's hot. And my Farmer works away tonight, filling in for someone's holiday. I pity him. (I pity me, alone).  How can he breathe? The air's so thick.

And yet, he goes on, cheerful. I must pretend, at least, to follow his example.

July 21, 2011

borrowed words, Part One

I have a small, grimy blue notebook about a third full of quotes I collected over a period of a few years.  None of them are dated, but judging from the changes in the handwriting, I'd say it looks like I started in in high school (roundish printing, short capitals, the typewriter "a"), went through college (smaller, less round mix of cursive and printing with the occasional experiment interjecting capitals where they do not belong), possibly into post-college Japan years (judging from the Alexander Pope and Kahlil Gibran quotes).

These quotes probably won't interest anyone but me - they're my history, after all.  I'm not really posting them here for you (although they may have some entertainment value, who knows?).  I don't want to keep the inconvenient little binder they're in, but I can't quite bear to lose all the quotes, either, despite the fact that it's been years since I looked at them.  It would feel a bit like throwing away my baby book.

So, what better place to preserve my collection of quotes than .... my blog!!!

Since it's too much for even me to handle in one sitting, I'll break it into parts.  I present to you, Part One, ordered as they were recorded:

We carry with us the wonders we seek without us.  ~ Sir Thomas Browne

What web is this,
Of what will be, is, 
       and was?
                              ~ Jorge Luis Borges

There was a star danced, and under that I was born.  ~ William Shakespeare

A baby is the most complicated object made by unskilled labor.  ~ anonymous

The youth of art is, like the youth of anything else, its most interesting period.  ~ Samuel Butler

As for me, let my bones and flesh be burned, and the ashes dropped in the moving waters, and if my name shall live at all, let it be found among Books, the only garden of forget-me-nots, the only human device for perpetuating this personality.  ~ Dr. Frank Crane

Glory be to stubbornness!  ~ Dr. Frank Crane

Come, be agreeable, for you will have little competition, and are pretty sure to succeed.  ~ Dr. Frank Crane

In youth, we clothe ourselves with rainbows, and go as brave as the zodiac.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each of you, individually, walkest with the tread of a fox, but collectively ye are geese.  ~ Solon

I think, therefore I am.  ~ Rene Descartes

Man is by nature a social animal.  ~ Aristotle

Truth is arrived at by the painstaking process of eliminating the untrue.  ~ Arthur Conon Doyle

Physical activity has a peculiar luminous effect upon the judgement.  ~ Dr. Frank Crane

All the religion that is of any account is what we thresh out with our own hands, suffer out with our own hearts, and find out with our own visions.  ~ Dr. Frank Crane

July 18, 2011

simply satisfying

If you follow my "what's for supper?" list on the sidebar (which exists to help my faulty memory), you've probably taken note that we eat a lot of simple foods.  Tonight was no exception:  cornbread, black beans, tomato slices.  It was a feast (whether because of the recipe or the love grown into the ingredients, I can't tell).

My daughters ground the dried corn that my husband grew and shelled for my jar; the milk comes from a nearby family's cow; the eggs are laid by our chickens, which range over green grass following bugs; the tomatoes are grown and picked and even sliced by my husband, and he gets credit for growing the garlic as well.

I know that "fresh and local" is popular amongst the crunchy folk, and it's a worthy pursuit, all other things being equal.  The flavor really is better, and it makes good sense, too.

But I think what turns this simple meal from food to feast is its soul.  It's not just grown nearby, it's grown and processed by people I know and love.  Their sweat adds the savor, maybe.  I hope that if you try it, it turns out just as well for you.


1 cup butter; stir in
1 1/3 cup sugar.

Add and beat well:
4 eggs
2 cups buttermilk (or substitute 2 cups milk + 2 T lemon juice)
1 tsp. baking soda

Stir in till well-blended:
2 cups cornmeal (if you don't have access to freshly ground, and you live nearby, I'll give you some)
2 cups white flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup grated cheddar

Pour into greased 9x13" pan.  Bake 40 minutes at 375 F.  Serve hot or warm.

Black Beans

Soak overnight OR bring to a boil and then let set an hour.
2 cups black (turtle) beans & water to cover an inch or so higher than the beans

Bring beans to boil and add:
3 bay leaves
1 T ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
3 cloves garlic, minced

Simmer till soft (an hour, give or take).  Serve with grated cheddar and sour cream.

July 16, 2011

ironing and ego

I ironed my Farmer's shirt tonight.  I'm not what you'd call an ironing expert.  I buy knits, mostly, and his other button-downs are "easy-care" and prints that don't need ironing, really.  So it's been awhile since I've even needed to iron a shirt.  We still use the fold-down travel iron he bought for college.

But tonight I was ironing a new white shirt for Tomorrow.  Remember?  The Sermon (about grace).

Grace was not on my mind as I ironed, though.  I wondered if it was okay to use a hotter setting than the wimpy "blends" that was not, in my opinion, getting the shirt flat enough.  I ironed a wrinkle in (and got it out again).  Memories of learning to iron my Dad's shirts took me back to adolescence.  I wondered how often he'd gone to work with creases off-center in the sleeves.

I finished and hung it beside the shirt he'd borrowed from his Dad (freshly laundered and perfectly ironed by his Mom), which didn't fit as well as he'd hoped.  Hmm.  My shirt didn't seem to flow from the hanger the way the other did.....

When my Farmer preaches tomorrow, I hope they'll see his Father's heart, and not his shirt.

(I hope I will, too).

July 15, 2011

wishes (borrowed)

Sugar and I share a journal, writing back and forth to each other, sometimes as regular as schoolwork, sometimes as inspiration strikes.  She wrote to me yesterday, asking me what I would wish for, if I had three wishes.  (She'd choose a spyglass, a bell for her bike, and pretty painted bedroom walls).  I had to think awhile.

Here is what I wrote:

Dear Sugar,

Three wishes, hmmm?  Well now, that requires a bit of thought....  I think I would wish for a maid, a pottery wheel, and a brown leather coat!  It's fun to wish, isn't it?

Right now, though, I'm thankful for beautiful weather, daughters who can help with cleaning, the pottery classes I've been able to take, and clothes to keep me warm in winter and cool in summer.

And ... a sweet little boy, a kind and patient and courageous husband, a 9 year-old who is seeking God's heart, a 7 year-old who is teaching her tongue to behave, and a 5 year-old who is happy to be herself.  What more riches could I want?

I love you, Sugar!


Gratitude is powerful.  By the time I was done, what I wished for paled beside the wealth I had.  Thank you, Sugar, for the lesson!

July 14, 2011

porchlight preacher

My husband preached to me last night.

I sat amongst the fireflies, on grass, to hear him talk. I watched his silhouette against the porch light where he stood to see his notes. A storm blew up to tickle his pages, but passed by west of us to rain on someone else.

This man of mine stood tall. No nervous pacing to and fro on concrete stage, though nervous he professed to be, and nervous was. His courage braced his knees. He would obey.

I loved him then. I smiled so he'd think to look at me and not his pages. Forgot I was to criticize and look for faults, and only listened. The truth he told, so old it's new, so good it's scarce believed on, is grace alone. To give up thinking we can earn our way to God, and only thank Him for the ticket.

It's hard to take a gift so big. We're “upside-down”, forever. The knowing makes us babes again, dependent. We always have been, anywayl – who makes this air we breathe? and freely grants us life? Not our own hands, for sure, but God above, whose love for us, unfathomably deep, draws us to Him, and Him to us through Christ.

He finishes, my husband. He asks me how he did. I tell him he'll be fine, to just forget himself and think the words he has to say.

God gives more grace.

July 12, 2011

quick tip

Today was definitely a napping day; by "quiet time", my morning iron pill had long since worn off.

I tried out a tip from Gene Stone's book, The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick:  before you nap, drink a cup of coffee (or eat chocolate, my favorite all-natural source for caffeine).  Then, when you wake up from your nap, the caffeine will have hit your system and you'll be bright-eyed and busy-tailed (instead of groggy and grumpy, as occasionally happens here - say, when my nap has been interrupted by excessively cheerful daughters bounding down from their quiet time to pounce on their prone momma).

I am here to tell you that it works!!

I ate one of the Newman's Own Dark Chocolate Espresso Bars leftover from my birthday splurge (they're single size, unlike the Lindt) while reading Godric (itself almost a form of caffeine) and then, reluctantly (by then I was caught up in my book), lay down.

Twenty-five minutes later, I woke up, refreshed and raring to go!!  We'll see how long it lasts.....but for now, I'm definitely feeling "squirrely-er" than I did half an hour ago!

July 11, 2011

feet of clay

Just like that.

I've lived in four different states and three different countries.  I've attended two different colleges, been employed in twelve different workplaces, volunteered with two different mission groups, and studied the languages and cultures of three different nationalities.

I guess I thought all that exposure to diversity meant I was immune to prejudice.

But the other day, a buried prejudice found me out.  I didn't like the discovery, and I don't like telling you about it.  Even less do I like the fact that it was there to discover.  But there it was, anyway.

We live in "the country."  Not just among the cornfields, although that's true, too, but along a sort of cultural boundary-line not unlike the proverbial railroad track.  [in fact, the line is real - it's a school district division that involves definite stereotypes on both sides].  Drive ten minutes in one direction and you've got your pick of high-end named subdivisions with SUVs and manicured landscapes.  Drive ten minutes in the other direction and you'll find trailer parks, overgrown arborvitae, and pickup trucks.  Whole cultures, twenty minutes apart.

I never noticed how I had compartmentalized the two worlds.  You know: "yuppies" & "rednecks" (or -oh, shame!- that other phrase, "white trash", which we'd never say, but sometimes think, maybe.)

When the house down the street from us was up for rent, a man with two children moved in.  We took cookies and daffodils and introduced ourselves .... and kind of, well, labelled them.  As belonging to the world without the classy address.  As being different from us.  [intentional irony here:  being their neighbors, we obviously don't have a classy address, either]

I made assumptions about their lifestyle, which I thought I could tell by looking, and as if that weren't bad enough, I made assumptions about their values.  (remember that old mnemonic about "assume" making an "ass" out of "u" and "me"?)

This week I found out I was wrong.  They used to attend a local church of our denomination.  Since moving, they'd thought of visiting where we attend, but just hadn't made it yet.


Appearances are just that:  the way things appear to be.  Not reality.  I thought I had them pegged:  no common ground there.  That we found denominational common ground is not the point, but it serves to remind me that there would have been something, had I taken the time to look for it.

Humbled (humiliated is more like it), I want to double back and make up for lost time.

There is always common ground.  In all of us, under all the layers, beats a heart loved and given life by the same God who made us all, in His image.

".......................................I am a [person]. Hath
not a [person] eyes? hath not a [person] hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
[any other person] is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die?.........................................."

[apologies to Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene I]

July 7, 2011

my guys

There go my guys, mowing the grass.....

My Farmer, dark from his hours in the fields, one muscled forearm wrapped securely around his boy, the other steering one-handed around flowerbeds and fruit trees, campfire and clothesline and picnic table. He finishes one day of work and comes home to another - children and homecare.  When he heard, this afternoon, that our son was more intractable than usual, he told me "I'll fix him."  Needless to say, he is my hero, again, always.

Lil' Snip (who's got his finger in his mouth and his shirt pulled up to expose his tummy to the air) wiggles his toes and stretches out one arm, feeling the breeze, maybe, or maybe trying to anticipate the direction of the mower.  He is on the cusp of toddlerhood, leaving behind the days of innocent impetuous babyhood, and embarking full-throttle into all the glories of conscious (and thwarted) desires.  I love him; I pity him.

There go my guys, mowing the grass......

[.....thud....thud.....thud.....  There goes my heart, watching them out the window.....]

July 6, 2011


What are little girls made of, made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar, and Spice, and Everything Nice,
That's what little girls are made of!

What are little boys made of, made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snips, and snails, and puppy dog tails,
That's what little boys are made of?

Well, if you read little house on the farm, then you know that this poem inspired the blognames for my children.  It was so tidy with the girls, and lining up both with their birth order and their personalities, so it seemed a natural to dub our first son "Lil' Snip", in case we have two more and need "Snails" and "Puppy Dog Tails", you know.

But .... my Farmer has mentioned to me, as an aside, that while "Lil' Snip" may seem cute to the female readers (i.e. "a little snip of a thing", i.e. "small") ..... it may have different associations for male readers. He recommends a change.

So, anyone who knows the small boy in question, what think you?  Shall it be "Snails" for the little gentleman, or "Puppy"?  Or perhaps "Tails"?  ..... or maybe I need a different poem altogether for boys....

Help me out, gentle-readers, with a suggestion or two, if you would be so kind.  

for your inspiration!  :o)

small pleasures

A summer rain, rushing in to drench a dreary world, and leaving filled with sun.

A small boy with a blue rhinoceros on his shirt, reaching up soft arms in confident appeal.

Companionable daughters, hair-dressing their dollies.

A quiet hour, a good book to read, a bar of chocolate.

A gift given out of love and fullness of heart, received in like spirit.

Air-conditioning on a muggy day, just enough to cool without a chill.

The tiny serendipity of bringing in the laundry just before the unnoticed rain.

The cozy sense of belonging.

The neighborly feeling of knowing who is riding that same motorcycle up and down the road all day.

A child, asleep under sun-dried sheets, almost but not quite too old for a nap.

My sturdy son, crowing for his tractor to be lifted down from the shelf.

Sibling love.

A phone call from my husband, to tell me he might be late, but probably not, just to let me know in case.

Simple suppers that nonetheless satisfy my family.

A good night's sleep.

A morning cup of coffee, drunk in comfortable silence with the friend of my life, my husband.

A daughter's gradual, hard-won victory over pessimism.

Another daughter's prayer, thanking God for herself.

My son's chuckle as he investigates the eternal fascination that is his world.

Reading aloud to my daughters a book that brings light to my heart and tears to my eyes.

Kindred spirits, every one.

Lightness of heart that arrives with the rain, inexplicably.


The Father of heavenly lights, down from whom comes every good and perfect gift.


July 4, 2011

a note of outrage to a favorite author

No, no, no, NO!  You cannot, in good conscience, end a mystery novel like that, Mr. Smith!

You mention resolution, and then fail to provide it.  You leave unexplained myriad titillating incidences:  why did the sight of Graeme in the pub make Ian feel suddenly ill?  Was Graeme following Isabel, and if so, why? Had Ian really seen Euan during his recovery?  And, whether or not he had, why did his meeting Euan in the end not affect him as his seeing Graeme had?

What about Grace's new friend? Was their romance in fact interrupted by the medium's inventions? And what about Tomasso? Was his family's business really shoes? What had his interest been in Isabel, and what was Cat's role in it? Why did he return so suddenly to Italy? And the waiter at the fish restaurant in Leith – why did he start so at Isabel's comment on honesty and kindness? Had there been a significant look between him and Tomasso, or not?

This is incorrigible, Mr. Smith. Either your talents as a writer have slipped, or you are indulging in that most inexplicable of all literary crimes: ghostwriting (which is, unfortunately, not actually in any way illegal).

When a person makes use of another's writing without asking permission or giving credit, we call it plagiarism, and regard it as intellectual theft, and rightly so. But when a person who has made a success of writing, grows lazy (or ambitious?) and employs another to do his writing for him, then sells it under his own name, he calls it ghostwriting, and regards it as a way to sell more books.

I regard that as highway robbery. Or, you could call it selling your soul. Take your pick.

A talented writer will naturally have readers. A well-liked author will have readers who want more of the same, and, seeing his name on a book, will purchase it, anticipating a good read. When an author sells his reputation for royalties, he cheats his readers, robbing both their pocketbooks and their trust.

[pause.  deep breath.] 

Now, I'm not saying Mr. Smith hired someone to write this book.  I hope he didn't.  I really hope he didn't.  I actually liked all but the last few chapters, when the mystery was cozily and unconvincingly wrapped up.  Maybe Mr. Smith just got tired of it by the end, or maybe there were just too many loose ends to wrap up, and he forgot some (or wasn't sure how to wrap them up....).  


My outrage ends.  Mr. Smith, is, after all, human.  Not to mention that he's an excellent writer, most of the time.  I don't even know how to wrap up this post, so who am I to throw darts at an established, intelligent, entertaining author just because the last few chapters of one of his books is disappointing.......?

Being able to see both sides of the coin has its disadvantages; I'd never make a good critic.  You'll excuse me now while I go open the next book in Mr. Smith's series?

July 1, 2011

notes on ice cream

First off, it was brought to my attention that the recipe for Frozen Maple Cream, although convincingly yummy-sounding, was a tad involved for summertime cooking.  I heartily concur, and want to offer the following research on said recipe:

Skip the gelatin part.  Just mix up all the other ingredients and throw it into an electric ice cream maker (I use a Sunbeam model with a base that you keep in the freezer.  Love it!).  This makes a smaller quantity because you haven't whipped the cream.  (No matter; next time I'll just add a cup of milk to the recipe, I think.  It was a little too sweet, also, but the extra milk will take care of that.)  Easy enough?

Next on the agenda is the amazing Chocolate Mint Ice Cream that I just invented (oh, clever, clever me!).  I will give you the involved version (which I did) and the simple version (which I invite you to try and let me know how it turns out .... unless I get to it first!).

Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (involved version)

Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, till almost boiling:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup sugar
dash of salt

Whisking constantly, slowly pour half of the hot chocolate mixture into:
1 egg, beaten

Slowly pour the egg/chocolate mixture back into the hot chocolate.
2 cups cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. mint extract

Refrigerate till cold.  Freeze in electric ice cream freezer according to directions (mine takes 40 minutes to get "soft-serve"; I usually then put it in the freezer for a few hours to harden it to "dippable")  I promise you that if you are a chocolate mint fan, you will not regret "slaving over a hot stove" for this one!  And if you run into any texture problems with the egg, just blend it all before chilling it, and it will be smooth as silk.

Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (simple version - untested, remember?  let me know how it gets...!)

Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, till almost boiling:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup sugar
dash of salt

2 cups cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. mint extract

Refrigerate till cold.  Freeze in electric ice cream freezer according to directions (mine takes 40 minutes to get "soft-serve"; I usually then put it in the freezer for a few hours to harden it to "dippable").  And if you run into any texture problems with the egg, just blend it all before chilling it, and it will be smooth as silk.

There you have it - just in time to win you accolades at your Independence Day party.  Enjoy!

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