January 12, 2016

life is short

{written yesterday morning}

I am 42 years old today.

I'm sitting in my bed, glasses on and hair ferociously ruffled from sleep, waiting for my children to bring me breakfast in bed.

Just fruit, I told them two days ago when they asked if they could.  I have a cold.

It's Day 15 (or so) of this cold, and although I said this a week ago, I think it really is on its way out, now.  It has been a most terribly thorough cold:  sneezing, congestion, fatigue, runny nose, postnasal drip, dry cough, productive cough, nasty disgusting hacking cough, wheezing, sore throat, laryngitis - you name it, this cold has served it up!

But!!  Its days are surely numbered, as are all of ours ....

I feel reflective on this first day of my 43rd year of life.  Where have I been, and where do I want to go?

An older and wiser woman asked me last week if I was mentoring anyone.  When I said no, no one had asked me to, she confidently told me that someone would, this year.  Would I be ready if someone does?

A friend earnestly called me "so wise" a few days ago.  Could it be true?  I wondered.  Has God begun to answer that fervent and frequent prayer of mine?

A younger friend complimented my way with words and suggested I start a blog.  :)  Will I get any closer this year to my half-hearted goal of writing a book by the time I'm fifty?

.... And speaking of fifty, it's quite chilly this time of year in our un-insulated, unheated, north-side-of-the-house bedroom.  My Farmer's alarm clock thermometer reads 50 degrees!

I hope there's coffee with that breakfast....

I don't know what the children got me for my birthday, but I asked my Farmer for coloring books, and my own set of colored pencils.  I could use new spatulas, and potholders, and maybe a silicone baking lid for my 9x13, but life is too short (and I am too old to waste opportunities for joy) to ask for household items for my birthday.

Sunlight is coming in one of the five windows in this room, yellowing the white muslin curtains and casting the illusion of warmth a few feet into the room.

I find that it's easier to be reflective when my nose and cheeks are not quite so chilly ....

Then they traipsed up the stairs, all five of them singing "Happy Birthday."  Lil' Snip came first, carrying a green bell for me to ring if I needed anything.  Sugar carried the breakfast tray.  They'd brought me a kiwi (cut in half), a clementine and two chocolate pretzels arranged on a glass dish, a banana, a gold-rimmed glass bowl of grapefruit sections, a mug of coffee, a tiny lit candle, and a Russell Stover chocolate from someone's Christmas stash.

There was also a basket of gifts, borne proudly by Nice.  Torn wrapping paper and bows lie beside me now in a pile on the bed.  My loot:  a bar of dark chocolate (wrapped with great cunning to disguise its shape), a king-size package of Reese's Peanut Butter cups, silver cherry-blossom stickers for my wall or mirror, and a small rose-scented jar candle.

I used that bell, of course.  When my coffee mug got empty, I rang, and all four children tumbled over each other trying to get to me first.  Spice won (no surprise, there), but the others came up anyway, to see what I might want.  I like that bell.....!!

All that's left now on my tray (a laquered Japanese tray painted with carnations and, in gold characters, a verse from 1 Timothy - a wedding present from our church in Wakkanai) are the skins and peels of my fruit and an empty coffee mug.  (I ate the Russell Stover, and the chocolate-covered pretzels, despite my professed belief that sugar is not good for a cold.)  The candle shines on the windowsill now, against condensation from the cold outside the pane.

It's 8:37, an absurd hour for a mother of four to still be in bed, unshowered, but there are a few more thoughts in my head I'd like to get down on paper before I bustle into my day and lose them forever.

You know how you plan backward for cooking a meal?  "I'll need 30 minutes prep time, and then the chicken will need an hour in the oven, so I should start about 3:30....." - ?  Well, the same woman who asked me about mentoring told me she does her life that way - sort of  goals backward, year by year, event by event, by asking herself "At the end of this, what will I want to look back on?"

So I've been thinking about that.  Next year on my birthday, what will I want to look back on?

... I would like to see how I watched patiently and trustingly for God's plan to unfold in my Farmer's livelihood.  I want to have prayed, full of faith, for heavenly wisdom for him as he made decisions, planned, and worked, and I want to have trusted him to make wise choices.

... I want to have learned how to trust God, how to be free from needing to control or manipulate (or even, always, to understand) the actions of others around me.

... I want to have gotten back into reading Scripture.  God, open the way for me to satisfy my hungers in you!

... I want to have reached a place of easy camaraderie (or even, please God, wholly renewed friendship) with my estranged friend.

... I want to have found physical restoration:  my strength back, my zest for living restored, my joy firmly in place and spilling exuberantly and life-givingly onto all who need it.

... I want to have found a hairstyle I can live with!

... I want to have discovered and embraced and refined a structure for my days that balances my needs for creativity, beauty, novelty, and order, and enables me to fill my roles as a woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, daughter, sister, friend, member of a congregation of believers, etc., etc., all in a wholesome way.

That's what I want to look back on, next year at this time.

[I don't ask much of a year, do I?]

The coffee's all drunk up now.  The wrapping paper thrown away and the presents stashed in a safe place.  The bell's back in its place (till Mothers' Day).  I don't know what all I'll look back on in a year, but today, I'm looking back on a day of feeling loved.

January 1, 2016

moving forward

{re-post from 2012.....}

I like meaning.  I like understanding the "why" of what we do.  So naturally, when I married into a family that eats pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day, I asked "why."

They didn't know.

I asked other locals who also partake.  No one knew.  Fortunately for such queries there is Google.  At last, I had my answer!!

"Pennsylvania Dutch superstition says that eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck because a pig roots forward to look for its food, while chickens scratch backward and cows stand still."
Unfortunately, the answer was not exactly full of the deep meaning I was craving.  We eat pork and sauerkraut for good luck?  Huh.  And we figure it will bring good luck because .... pigs root forward instead of backward.  I see.

Well, I had to take what I could get.  But maybe I can give better.  

Evidently not being authentically Pennsylvania Dutch, I grew up thinking sauerkraut was something people who had no taste buds slopped onto their hot dogs.  You might say I was not eager to add this meal to our family repertoire.

So, naturally, I doctored it. 

With Betty Crocker as my inspiration, here's what I came up with a few years ago.  Happy New Year, and happy sauerkraut-eating.  And may we all move forward this year, pigs or not!

Pork & Sauerkraut
Brown in bacon fat in heavy skillet:
2 lb pork roast (or chops)

Set pork aside in dutch oven.  In first skillet (use more fat if needed) brown:
1 lb smoked sausage or kielbasa

Add sausage to pork in dutch oven.  Now saute in the skillet:
1 large onion, sliced into quarter slices (or chopped - I slice mine so it can hide amongst the sauerkraut)

Add the onion to the meat.  Also add:
2 lb bag fresh sauerkraut (you can use canned if you don't mind sacrificing serious flavor and texture)
1 tart apple, cored and sliced
bay leaf
1 T brown sugar
1 capful liquid smoke
1/8 tsp. cloves
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Now let it all simmer till the pork is tender.  Make it the day before to save yourself a serving-day hassle and to enhance the flavors.  Serve with mashed potatoes and pickled beets for a true Pennsylvania Dutch meal.

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