A Few Days Up North

October 21, 2020 | My Jottings

Recently, to celebrate our one year anniversary, Lloyd and I spent a few days in Northern Minnesota, just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. We went to the same place we stayed for our After Wedding Trip, except we stayed in a slightly larger cabin this time. Here’s a view of East Bearskin Lake from our cabin door. The first day was drizzly, but the wood stove in the living room warmed us up and we kept it stoked almost the whole time we were there. I’ve since wondered, how can 70 degrees from my forced-air furnace feel so unbearable, and 82 degrees from a steady, radiating woodfire feels so wonderful? I’m sure there’s a scientific answer to that.

There was a double swing and some Adirondacks on our dock, and I went down to read on the swing as the sky was clearing — you can see a little blue on the right of the photo below.

This is our cabin (Balsam Cabin, #4) from the dock. We were tucked away in the woods and could have stayed for much longer, if not for the toilet. This was an old cabin at a great resort that had been nicely remodeled, meaning they put new flooring down, new kitchen cabinets, new wood stove. And they tiled the tiny bathroom floor and put in a new toilet and sink, but they must have purchased the toilet at www.HobbitPotties dot com, because it was like using a mixing bowl. Soooo low to the floor (a challenge for someone with a knee replacement), soooo tiny of a seat circumference, so precarious a flusher. Lloyd and I laughed about it a lot, but by the time we headed home, I was surprised how much I was looking forward to seeing my own toilet in my own bathroom. How ridiculous is that?

No wi-fi, no televisions at this resort, hardly any noise. It was heaven for two introverts who love the beauty of outdoors.

We took a long hike one day, up, up, slowly up, toward Canada, on winding paths with lots of rocks. We stopped and smelled the white pine needles, the balsam too, and hoped to see a moose. Here’s the little map that showed the hiking trails available to us.

You can see the red star where we stood, and of course I wanted to head up the trail that led to the “Moose Pasture.”

This is Lloyd getting suited up, since it was chilly. We parked on the side of an old logging road and set out. I have walking poles and by the time we got back, I wished I had taken them. The big rocks sticking out of the paths at times made me feel unstable and I walked like an old lady.

Below you can see the type of path we were on for at least half the time. Lloyd rubbed my sore feet that night, God bless him please.

But the smell! Oh! It was like heaven. The autumn leaves on the ground, the dry air carrying the various evergreen fragrances everywhere, I could have just set up a camp chair, lifted my nose and sat and sniffed all the livelong day. I could have switched my vocation to Professional Pine Sniffer.

I thought these needles were interesting — like hundreds of tiny witches’ brooms hanging up waiting for their diminutive riders.

We saw zero moose. Others were posting pictures on Instagram from all up and down The Gunflint Trail that day, with moose and their babies crossing the road, bull moose browsing the low-hanging twigs of the forest. We saw blue jays, grey Canada jays, chickadees, woodpeckers, eagles, ruffed grouse, red squirrels and a bushy-tailed red fox, which were all so delightful anyway. Lloyd made a pot of chili at his cabin before we drove north, and we had that for dinner two nights in a row. He has always eaten chili over rice, so I made a batch of brown rice and we enjoyed it that way — very good! I made muesli for breakfast and we had grapes and Honeycrisp apples for snacks.

We read out loud to each other and are still thoroughly enjoying this book, about a couple who left their jobs in Chicago in the late 1950s and bought a run-down cabin off the Gunflint Trail, staying for sixteen years. He illustrated the books she wrote about their time in the forest. With a little online research, we were able to figure out what their address had been way back in the early 1960s, and we drove north to Gunflint Lake, driving down the little road they lived on so we could get a feel for what she was writing about.

Today as I type in my office, there is snow on the ground from an early storm that blew in yesterday. I like snow. I love Minnesota. But I would prefer if my snowstorms would come in early December, just in time to put us all in the Christmas mood (although this hasn’t worked for me for quite a few years). I am getting too old to be chipper about snow in October. I had to be out driving in it last night and it was slippery, and I thought to myself, “Ooooh yes, I remember this. And I think I’ll go see what the vrbo winter rentals in Florida look like.”

So I’m having a cup of tea with creamer made from PEA PROTEIN, because I took a food sensitivity test and it turns out I’m very highly reactive to milk and eggs. But that is another story for another day.

How are you? What is your weather like? What animals have you seen lately?

Thanks for stopping in,

One Year

October 5, 2020 | My Jottings

It seems surreal that Lloyd and I have been married a year already. One year ago today we were preparing for our Saturday morning wedding, and it was pouring rain. We were both calm and looking forward to the day, but also  surprised that we were getting married as older people after having lost our spouses to illness years before.

The best part of the day for us were the friends and family who loved and supported us with their presence. Many came from miles away to be with us, (my childhood friend Denel gets the prize for most miles traveled, as she came from California) and for us to walk down the aisle to this song, preceded by our children and grandchildren, and see our friends standing and smiling as we made our way, was a gift from the Lord.

And how can I not post a couple of photos of the spectacular situation that’s happening all around us right now?

I took a walk yesterday and couldn’t resist documenting the glory. The last picture has a huge bald eagles’ nest at the top of that pine tree. It’s home to two parents and a couple of juveniles who live a hop, skip and a jump from my home.

So much to give thanks for today,

At This Point in Time

September 28, 2020 | My Jottings

Anticipating each Tuesday morning for Community Bible Study on Zoom. Listening to audiobooks as much (or more) than reading books normally. Baking bread in a Dutch oven. Purchasing an ebike. Saying goodbye to a 16-ounce Byta and hello to a 20-ounce navy blue Yeti. Having longer hair than ever with almost silver roots that I like. Feeling constantly chilled when it’s 70 degrees inside. Still savoring the riches from our annual summer Bible study (Jen Wilkin’s The Sermon on the Mount) on Zoom. Not being able to see my family as much I would love. Getting a speeding ticket. Making Dutch Babies for breakfast (see photo). Feeling unproductive. Listening to music by the group Secret Garden. Leaving dishes in the sink for 24 hours. Getting tested to see if I have antibodies for COVID-19. Living life as a kidney donor. Helping to homeschool two granddaughters. Getting behind on paperwork. Waking up too often at 3:15 a.m. Liking my new iPhone cover a lot. Learning about laundry stripping and being shocked at the results. Feeding squirrels bits of apple on the front deck. Wanting to learn more about Bach. Wondering when I’ll start the online German class I ordered. Learning (again, and again, and again) how to pray. Delighting in my gratitude journal. Dreaming about building a small log home in the woods. Being encouraged about John Zebedee and how long it took him to change. Praying I’ll see a moose. Fellowshipping in the cemetery on camp chairs. Doing jigsaw puzzles and actually liking it. Marveling that I have been married three times (gahhhh.) Taking a food sensitivity blood test. Wishing there were more episodes of Shetland or Endeavour. Loving my job. Feeling like my life is up-anchor and slowly sailing to that horizon. Wanting to meet my nephew for the first time. Paring down, organizing. Delighting in grandchildren to the point of deep aching. Savoring hot jasmine tea with a bit of ginger-infused honey. A sheet pan of roasted vegetables, often. Craving older, truer, ancient in everything. Wishing I knew how to write better. Hoping someday to attend Evensong at the York Minster. Regretting I didn’t become a dendrologist. Thinking about writing a weekly devotional on the organs of the human body. Having the occasional dream about Michael. Wanting to go deeper, yet still afraid. Needing my clean laundry to smell like lavender. Itching to move furniture around. Trying to remember to moisturize my face every blue moon. Curious about who my kidney recipient is. Yearning for Scotland, especially now that I’m a Scottish landowner. Feeling my grip on things loosen. Grateful for the wisdom of friends when I’m in the dark. Resting in the peace of those who love me no matter what. Needing beauty and grandeur more than ever. Not wanting to decorate for Christmas. Remembering my mother’s devil’s food cake with her peanut butter and chocolate frosting. Planning to take an art class at this fine art academy. Aiming for 100 ounches of water each day. Considering painting my living room. Being drawn to needlepoint. Feeling my love for Christ grow and deepen. Thinking I need to see Western Montana and North Carolina. So wanting to be transformed. Trying to stay open. Praying for you.

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 144

September 23, 2020 | My Jottings

“This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you—you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith. Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s. All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction. The Brocken spectre ‘looked to every man like his first love’, because she was a cheat. But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.”

C. S. Lewis

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Pottering About or Puttering a Bit

September 14, 2020 | My Jottings

I have several things on my to-do list this morning, but have taken to puttering around the house instead. Or pottering. What do you say? I think pottering sounds old-fashioned and I like it. But puttering is more familiar to me, so…. I’ll just use both.

Here’s what’s on my list that I would like to accomplish today: 1. Call some tree people because I have some trimming in my yard I don’t think I’ll attempt to do myself.  2. Pick up a prescription for my foster gal.  3. Call on a medical appointment I need to schedule — one that needs to be done every ten years and I can’t believe ten years has gone by and I’ll have to drink that awful tasting stuff again and I pray I can get it down without throwing up in the kitchen sink and perhaps this will be the last time I ever have to have this invasive test done because maybe in ten years I’ll be with the Lord. 4. Make some progress on the big organizing job I’m doing in my office closets. 5. Take many bags of items to the Goodwill. 6. Clean the kitchen. 7. Shake and wash some rugs. 8. Pay some bills. 9. Read.

While I was puttering in the dining room, I thought I’d take some pictures of the beautiful flowers Sara put on the table last night with some leftover flowers from a floristry job she did recently. This is my favorite red — dark and rich, cool and moody and mysterious. The blue and white bowl is a beautiful gift from my friend Su, who blessed me recently to overflowing on my 63rd birthday.

Su and I had the nicest time together. We met outside, six feet apart, at the highest, hilly part of the cemetery, where old trees overhang the lanes and tall grave markers covered with lichens eerily lean and topple. We sat in our camp chairs and visited, and Su served me so many delicious things on a tray with fall-themed napkins. A Cuban sandwich, fresh fruit, artichoke dip with crackers, California rolls, and for dessert an eye-rolling peanut butter and chocolate layered delight. Two hours passed in what seemed like minutes, and we had to reluctantly leave and go back to our non-cemetery lives. I was humbled by the thoughtful gifts she picked out for me, and this blue and white dish with a friendship quote I love was one of them. I could use it for a ring/jewelry dish, but I don’t take my rings off. I could use it for a soap dish, but I want to be able to see the words. I think I will just keep it out so I can be reminded of a decades-long friendship that has been over and under and through the woods, and has come out as a treasure to both of us.

I have two sets of little cardinal salt and pepper shakers, and I can’t decide which ones to have on the table, so I just keep both sets out. Aren’t they adorable? They make me smile.

One of the most unique birthday gifts ever was from my daughter Sharon, which I will share about in another post. She gave me some land (no joke) in Scotland, the country of my heart.

My three daughters and I met last night for our voting meeting of the book club we’re going to have together for the coming winter months. It was so nice to be with the three women I love most in the world. And we all got along, which is such a bonus! I made this dish, which was something I made often when they were little. We had some fresh cut cantaloupe, some sliced chicken, and for dessert some chocolate chip banana bread with Georgia pecans, made as a birthday gift for me by one of Lloyd’s neighbors.

Each of us presented three books and told briefly about them, and we voted on one title from each of our three. The four books we chose will see us through the end of January, and then if all goes well we’ll continue after that, probably reading from the others that were presented, since all twelve looked so good.

Our reading list for the next four months (we’ll read one book a month, then get together to chat about it) is: October (Sharon):  I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, November (Sara):  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, December (me): Dream Big, and January (Carolyn): I am, I am, I am.

My son-in-law Chris continues to slowly improve after his kidney transplant on August 5th. It hasn’t been smooth or comfortable sailing, and there are still challenges. His appetite is very suppressed and he is losing more weight than he should, but the Mayo Clinic experts say this isn’t unusual. He gets very tired, and doesn’t have the energy we’d heard many transplant recipients feel after a new kidney moves in and cleans house. Hopefully that will come. But Sharon told us last night that after taking three blood pressure meds for a long time, he is now taking zero blood pressure meds. This young male kidney from Colorado named Magnus has taken over the regulation of Chris’s blood pressure so efficiently, his BP is now around 117/78, which might even be too low for someone his size.

Have you ever considered what one kidney can do? I had never, until of course I gave one away, and prayed for someone to give one to my son-in-law. Take care of your kidneys and you will never be sorry — drink lots of water. I’ve been drinking 80-120 ounces of water a day for as long as I can remember, not doing drugs or drinking alcohol, and I think it might have been a good thing.

Chris was taking 13 anti-rejection drugs and has been able now to go off of two of those. Hopefully at the end of a year he will be taking the bare minimum and will begin to feel more like himself.

It has now been almost six weeks since my left kidney Justine has been in her new person in Madison, and I feel pretty good. I get more tired than I’d like, but I am patient with myself, with the healing that’s happening, with the adjustment Verna is making as she takes on all the kidneying herself. The three spots of irritation I was feeling deep inside (which I learned were probably surgical staples purposely left at the renal artery, ureter and lymph node sites) have eased considerably, and I’m so grateful for that. I pray for my recipient often.

I have a dear friend named Kay, and she and I have known each other for years through Community Bible Study, and she and I do a summer Bible study together each year, along with several other wonderful women. She was seriously injured in a biking accident recently, and the internal bleeding that was found at the hospital was the blood supply to one of her kidneys, which is now a loss. She was told her body will absorb the dead kidney, and of course the remaining one will increase and take over. She went through surgery and is still having a difficult recovery at home, so if you’re reading this, will you lift Kay up in prayer? She and I are now One-Kidney Kindreds, and who knows what might come of that? Maybe we’ll have a traveling One-Kidney Show someday, although for the life of me I can’t fathom what that would entail. It’s scary how the brain works when you get old. It doesn’t do what you want it to, and the things you don’t want it to do (like envision a traveling One-Kidney Show), it does.

Okay, I’ll go back to my pottering and puttering.

How is your Monday going? Thanks for stopping in, and may God give you His unshakeable peace in these shaky times,

A Slow Month — My Kidney Donation, Part 6

September 2, 2020 | My Jottings

Four weeks ago today I was letting a strange man look at my butt. A nurse named Steve had to put an adhesive pad across my lower back (to help prevent skin breakdown) as I prepared for my kidney donation at the Mayo Clinic. It was more traumatic than I expected, brought quiet tears and deep breathing, and a prayer for God’s help and grace. I hope I never have to let a strange man see my backside ever again.

Four weeks ago today my left kidney Justine was surgically removed, carefully placed on ice, flown to Madison, Wisconsin, and then placed into the lower abdomen of a person I don’t know anything about. Except that he or she was very ill, and had waited a long time for a healthy B positive kidney. I learned yesterday that my recipient is “doing great, and kidney function is excellent.” So Justine is doing exactly what we prayed she would — rolling up her sleeves and cleaning up and setting things right in her new human. I truly praise God for how miraculous He made the human body, and that perhaps that person will have more time with their family, more laughter and hope and walks and gazing at the stars and hugging children and reading, and knowing the love of God through Jesus Christ.

Four weeks ago today a generous man in Colorado had his kidney removed too, and it was put on ice, flown to Minneapolis, and picked up by a courier and driven to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. That kidney was transplanted into my son-in-law Chris, who had been in sudden and severe kidney failure for over a year. Chris is home now, and the kidney was a good match. He is on many anti-rejection drugs that make him feel exhausted and he has a hard time eating as much as he should. The viral times we are in make life uncertain and challenging for Chris and Sharon and their family. Kidney transplant recipients who get COVID-19 don’t fare well, so they have to be so cautious it’s disheartening. It’s hard to know if you can let your children play with a friend, when you can go back to work and what those risks might bring, will you ever travel again, eat at a restaurant again, do anything at all without assessing the risk.

In the last four weeks I’ve taken it easy and allowed my body to dictate my healing. My remaining kidney, Verna, is enlarging and learning to do all the filtering, detoxing, Vitamin D making, blood pressure controlling work herself — something called Compensatory Hypertrophy. I’ve been tired a lot and have taken it slow. My granddaughter Margaret (age 13) stayed several days with me and was such a help. I’m not supposed to lift anything more than 10 pounds until after Labor Day, so she carried laundry for me, emptied the dishwasher, made molasses cookies, BLT pasta salad, and helped me organize three horrible areas.

Margaret took everything out of my kitchen baking carousel, I decided what needed to be tossed out. She cleaned the shelves which had flour, sugar, bits of nuts and smears of molasses on them. Then she put everything back as I directed, and I have a baking cabinet that is so easy to deal with now. A few days later we tackled the toy closet in my hallway, which looked like someone had bought up seventeen old games and sixty-eight toys at a rummage sale, brought them to my house and thrown them into my closet. While I sat in a chair, Margaret and I sorted big Legos from small Legos, Magformers, Monopoly pieces, dolls, puppets, dice and games. Many things went to the Goodwill bags. My toy closet is camera-worthy now, and the clutter hum at the back of my mind went down several decibels. Margaret said, “That was a lot easier and went a lot faster than I thought it would.”

Then a couple weeks later Margaret came back and helped me organize the linen closet in the hallway, which doesn’t hold linens, so I don’t know why I call it the linen closet. It holds lightbulbs, diapers, Kleenex, old folded quilts, a first aid kit with flash lights and other miscellany. Three more Goodwill bags were filled, and now that closet is organized and has space on the shelves. It feels so good to have these three spaces done, and it really makes a difference when you have a partner working with you. I need to do my office closet but I don’t want to do it by myself. If someone (Margaret?) would help me it would seem doable. I guess I need some kind of Organizing Aide by my side at all times now that I’m old and have a Compensatory Hypertropic Kidney.

I have one complaint after these four weeks, and I’m praying things ease as time goes by. My surgical sites have healed nicely. I had three laparoscopic sites and one large incision under my navel. No swelling or redness ever appeared, no tenderness remains. But inside something is hurting. On the side where Justine used to reside, there are two spots that feel like something sharp or abrasive is constantly rubbing. It feels like deep inside as I move, a rug burn type of pain is always being irritated. And on the other side where Verna still is, only much lower and toward the front of my body, is the same kind of pain. Of course I Googled this, but nothing definitive came from my few searches. I finally emailed my transplant team at Mayo and was called back the same day by my Transplant Coordinator Kay. I asked the question I didn’t really want an answer to: “There aren’t staples inside me, are there?” And you already know the answer I’m guessing — yes, yes there are. The blood supply to the removed kidney had to be stapled. The ureter that used to go to the bladder had to be stapled. And one of my lymph nodes was stapled so it wouldn’t leak. I’m not sure why stitches aren’t used, or maybe they are along with the staples. But most likely, those staples are jabbing my internal tissue all the livelong day, and there’s not a lot that can be done. I’m waiting to hear back from the surgeon, but I’m hoping calluses will develop instead of constant wounds that get worse and worse inside. It’s not unbearable, but it’s there. And I guess it’s unusual for a donor to feel them.

For the last four weeks we have had the most humid weather I can ever remember since moving to The Air Conditioned City on the shores of cold Lake Superior in 1981. My central air has been on non-stop for over a month, night and day. So that has contributed to my slow month as well. Who wants to go for a walk when the dew point is 70 and the temperature is 92? Not this woman.

For the last four weeks, Lloyd and I and Margaret have worked on a lovely jigsaw puzzle. My friend Tauni in San Diego sent it to me, and it is very Minnesota. A cabin, a loon, a canoe, a cardinal, a plaid blanket…. here’s a picture of it finished.

The last few days however, autumn has begun to show herself. The light streaming in the windows is coming in at a lower angle and seems more golden. The dew point has been in the high 40s, the temps in the high 60s. The windows are finally open and a wonderful breeze has billowed the curtains, and I’ve turned on my little bedroom fireplace again in the morning dark. My hydrangeas are blooming in glory and beginning to blush, as if someone paid them a lavish compliment. There are flannel sheets on the bed and I’m thinking about making a pot of soup soon.

I’m looking forward to getting back on my e-bike soon, too. Community Bible Study begins in a couple of weeks, and all over the world the classes will be held virtually. I will be helping one day a week with some of my grandchildren as they begin home schooling. I’ll be returning to Mayo in early November for my three-month checkup. This may be the first year in my life that I won’t be meeting with my whole family for Thanksgiving and Christmas… we will cross that bridge when we get closer.

I woke at 3:30 a.m. this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, something that happens to me more often than I would like. I don’t want to get up at that time, but I don’t want to lay in bed either. So this morning I just took a cue from my beloved Michael, and I quietly praised the Lord in the dark. I thanked Him for how trustworthy He is, how beautifully and carefully He has made His creation. I thanked Him for His mercy to me, how unspeakably patient He has been with me for almost sixty-three years. I thanked Him for the desire to praise Him, for the understanding that praise and gratitude really does something, really matters, even though I might not be able to see and grasp all the whys. The name and the person of Jesus sustains and thrills me in these times. He is a firm foundation and I ask Him to help me build my house on Him each and every day. I ask Him to help my children and grandchildren build on that Rock too. No shifting sand for a foundation, Lord.

Thank you for stopping by, and your prayers would mean so much,

Ten Things My Mom Taught Me

September 1, 2020 | My Jottings

This is a repost from May of 2013…. been missing my mama these days.

Did you have a nice Mother’s Day on Sunday? If you’re a mom, did someone give you a card or a hug? If your mom is still living, did you spend time with her or give her a call?

My daughters blessed me on Mother’s Day with cards, a soup/salad cookbook, lip gloss, and some home-fried corn tortilla chips, homemade salsa and homemade guacamole to munch on while we visited. That was my mouthwatering Mother’s Day dinner — piles of fresh salsa with cilantro or chunky guac balanced on still-warm chips, about seventy-nine of them, with some iced tea. Yum.

sc000fc163My own beautiful mama died in February of 1993, so it’s been a long time since I’ve picked out a Mother’s Day card. I think of her so often, and thought in her honor I’d share some things she taught me:

1.  Always cook twice as much food as you need at every meal, just in case an army stops by unannounced. I think Tupperware was invented for my mom, because she was unable to make a meal without a huge heap of leftovers. She was definitely one of those 1950s/1960s moms who showed her love by serving good food, with second and third helpings urged.

2.  One of the joys in life is to take a drive in the cool of the evening while eating an ice cream cone from 31 Flavors. I was the youngest of three children, but I was born late in life to my parents, and I thought going for a drive was totally boring. What does a seven year old want to do with her free time? Probably not sit in the backseat of a behemoth Buick LeSabre station wagon for two hours while her parents gawk at fields, trees, houses and flowers. I think that’s why ice cream was always involved, so they could bribe me to go along without pouting. Now that I’m older, I love taking drives too. It’s always a treat for Michael and me to take a drive up the North Shore of Lake Superior — the blue splendor never gets old.

3.  Little girls’ hair looks best without bangs. My mother could have started a rabid anti-bang movement had her personality been a little more fiery. You can see here and here how her “foreheads should been seen and not covered” philosophy was enforced with her only daughter.

4.  Blues and greens are classic, soothing colors to decorate with. mdXjfXWkpgklY5hPfz8piaAIn our home we had avocado green carpeting, a blue and green floral couch, a deep blue velvet chair and ottoman, dark green painted kitchen cabinets, blue and green kitchen wallpaper, textured blue wallpaper in our foyer, blue and green glass grapes on our coffee table, and a dark green recliner in the living room. I didn’t pay much attention then, but those colors must have seeped by osmosis into my bone marrow because to this day they’re my favorites.

5.  Always buy Duncan Hines cake mixes, never Betty Crocker or Pillsbury. I rarely make a cake with a mix, but when I do, I’m a total Duncan Hines snob, turning my nose up at the other brands in the baking aisle. There really is a difference. 🙂

6.  Doing something artistic or creative each week feeds the soul. My mother had creativity oozing from her pores. She was musical, artistic, and crafty. She had long slender fingers that danced over our Hammond B-3 organ keyboard and she could of course read music but never needed to. Once she played a song, it was in her brain forever and she could play it thereafter in any key. She loved taking classes to learn how to china paint, macrame, decoupage, and knit. I still have china plates hanging in my house that were her first attempt at painting, that look like a master did them. She loved needlepoint and rug hooking and sewing. I didn’t know it then, but I can see now that my mother loved beauty, and was innately drawn to create beauty in our home.

7.  Morro Bay, California, with its huge, brooding rock and morning fog, is one of the best places on earth. While my friends who had younger parents were being taken on water-skiing vacations to Lake Nacimiento or to beach houses in San Diego, my parents loved the little central coastal town of Morro Bay. It was sleepy, foggy, cooler than our city in Los Angeles County, and they dreamed of living there someday. They both eventually did, but only after they divorced.

8.  A clean, clutter-free house really does make life easier in the long run. I was not a fan of my mother’s clean-up-a-mess-as-you-go policy when I was little, preferring instead to “store” things under my bed or in the back of my closet. Today, clutter-free is what I crave, and I think a little maintenance every day is better than an exhausting overhaul once a month.

9.  Grandchildren are some of the greatest treasures God gives. Had there been such a title, my mom would have worn the sash and crown awarded to The Ultimate Grandmother Supreme of the Universe. She loved her grandbabies, sacrificially devoted her time to them, taught them how to cook and bake, powdered their bottoms with Estee Lauder dusting powder after a bath (“because they’ll sleep better if they’re dry and powdered!”), and had them spend the night often. I wish I were half the grandma she was.

10. Being a good friend means listening, laughing, encouraging, sharing, remembering, and being real. In spite of her many gifts, my mom wasn’t an overly confident person. It’s like she was unaware of how deeply she was affecting peoples’ lives. I thought having 100 friends was a normal thing when I was a little girl, because both my parents knew how to be loyal friends and were sought out by many people. I look back in my memories now and see that my mother somehow always made her friends feel as though they were her favorites. And she wasn’t duplicitous at all so it’s not like she planned this. I think each friend truly was her favorite friend; she knew them well and made time for them and laughed and cried with them. After my parents’ divorce and my mother’s nine-month emotional collapse, my mom’s loving and generous employer Helen Hasabales hosted a Virginia Sooter Day, to help welcome Mom back to work as an organist, and to the land of the living, basically. Over one-thousand people signed the guest book on that day. I will never forget how my humble mama touched lives, mostly without ever knowing it.

So I guess I have a few of these lessons my mom taught me down pat. I have tested her Duncan Hines theory numerous times and totally agree. Morro Bay is truly a wonderful little town and I wish I could visit more often. Have any of you been to Morro Bay? And having grandchildren is one of the happiest things that has ever happened to me.

But many things my mother demonstrated I am only now beginning to learn. Hopefully.

How about you? What are some things your mom taught you?

Muskrat Love

August 28, 2020 | My Jottings

This is a repost from the archives… this happened years ago, but the memory of this evening still makes me giggle.

Earlier this week it rained and the temperatures dropped. The wind blew and a hint of winter was in the air. Michael had been outside and he came in to tell me that there was a critter in the front yard, over by the neighbor’s fence. I asked him what kind of animal it was and he said a muskrat. A muskrat? I thought. In our front yard? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a muskrat before and wouldn’t know one even from a photo.

I followed Michael outside into the cold drizzle and this is what he showed me:

Do you see the round furriness and the long, hairless tail? (You can click on the photos to enlarge them.) As we approached I thought it looked like a beaver, but once I saw the tail I knew it wasn’t. At this point we thought this little beast was just resting near the fence and we didn’t want to get near her because we figured she could viciously attack us at the speed of light and permanently disfigure our faces. So we backed off. She was calmly sniffing the air and sitting in the rain and I wondered where she had come from, and what she was. Michael left to run his errand and I went back inside to check online to see what I could learn. Sure enough, not a woodchuck (which was another thought we had), but a Minnesota Muskrat. They swim in lakes and ponds, and they dig and they make messes of people’s yards. They are also known to be carriers of rabies and leptospirosis.

Michael returned a little while later and came in to tell me she was still there. So back out we went into the rain, and it was then we saw her wriggling, and we could now tell she wasn’t resting near the fence, she was stuck in the fence. Apparently she had tried to squeeze herself through, gotten the front half of her thick-furred body through one of the square holes of the chain link fence, but couldn’t get the back half through. We bent over and talked to her and clapped our hands and said in high-pitched voices, “Come on, you can do it!” to give her a bit of friendly encouragement to try again, but she wasn’t having it. She began to look tired and she closed her eyes.

I did not like this one bit. A large rodent was painfully stuck in a fence bordering our yard, and if we didn’t do something, she would die there. In the cold and rain. And away from her family and the soothing warmth of her cheerily blazing hearth.

“She’s going to die here!” I said to Michael. “What can we do?”

Please forgive my husband for what he said next. He grew up in Minnesota where he has hunted and fished since he was a little boy. It’s the culture here.

Michael responded helpfully, “We could kill her.”

I cringed. “How?” I asked timidly.

“Hit her over the head.”

Oh, no, we don’t, I thought. Not on my watch. I’m not a fan of anything that ruins yards and spreads diseases, but seeing her stuck so tightly in that tiny square of wire made me feel strange twinges of compassion for this little animal, and we were not going to kill her. Moths? Smash ’em. Mosquitoes? Whack! Flies? Swat them dead! But Minnesota Muskrats? No killing.

What were we going to do with her, then? Well, if you are Michael and Julie, you spend thirty minutes in the rain, going back and forth with various unlikely implements, trying to help the poor muskrat get free.

First, I took a shiny yellow gardening boot that belongs to our daughter Sara. I grabbed it because I was looking for something to prod the muskrat’s rear end with, something not too sharp to cause more pain than she was already in. So I let myself in the neighbor’s back yard through their gate, and cautiously proceeded (in my slippers, in the rain) to the trapped muskrat. I inserted my hand into the boot and used the toe to gently prod and push her rump, to help her squeeze through the fence. She turned in a flash of fur and tried to bite me, but of course she couldn’t because she was stuck, and I was on one side of the fence and her little yellow beaver-like teeth were on the other. The other defensive thing she kept doing was swatting both her front paws quickly down on the ground in front of her. I kept gently prodding with the yellow boot, but I could feel that this little muskrat was really, really wedged in tight. And her hind quarters had begun to swell. Oh dear! I thought. What are we going to do?

Back into the garage. This time Michael found a large pronged garden hoe. He carefully placed the prongs under the upper part of the wire square she was stuck in, hoping to pull upward to bend it slightly enough to release her. This was a strong fence. He pulled, I pulled, she wriggled, to no avail.

“Do you have any thick gloves?” I asked Michael. He had begun to shiver a bit and our muskrat was looking feeble, closing her eyes. Back into the garage. We looked for gardening gloves and couldn’t find any. So I went into the house and found a pair of my winter leather gloves, and a large pair of Thinsulate mittens. I put them both on my hands and tromped back out into the rain. I went into the neighbor’s yard and bent down to push, but she was so swollen it didn’t work.

Next I came back into our yard and decided to gently pull her out. But that meant dealing with her little yellow teeth. So I crooned to her as I carefully placed the leg of the vinyl yellow gardening boot over her head to keep her from seeing me. She did not appreciate having a yellow gardening boot put on her face. Do you want to know how I knew this? Let’s just say I could tell. She did settle down and once she did, I grasped her front sides and tried to pull her out. I believe she moved forward an inch or two, but she made the most pitiful little muskrat whimpers and I stopped. I tried again, but couldn’t move her any further. She was truly stuck fast.

Michael and I were praying out loud now. “Lord, please help us get her out!” Michael hadn’t really wanted to kill her to be unkind — he was wanting to put her out of her misery. As we worked together to see what we could do for this helpless creature, he kept praying and we kept brainstorming.

“Do you have wire cutters?” I asked. He did. Back into the garage, and he came out and handed me this heavy, long-handled, mammoth tool that I knew I would be unable to use. I tried. I went back into the neighbor’s yard, and from behind I placed the wire cutters on one of the wires that made up the little square she was caught in. I exerted all my strength and could not snap that wire. I was starting to feel very sad. We kept praying.

I came back into our yard and was almost on the verge of tears. It was getting dark and we were expecting company for dinner. I had Chicken Parmesan to finish and Panzanella to toss. I thought I’d try the wire cutters one more time.

As the muskrat sat there looking exhausted, I bent down and placed the cutters on a wire right above her back. “Lord, give me strength!” I said as I squinched my eyes shut and brought those handles together with all my might, and snap! the wire was severed. Wow! Now we brought out the pronged garden hoe again, placed it under the newly cut wire and pulled upward, hoping to bend it enough to enlarge the hole a bit. No good.

I then took the wire cutters and placed them on the other connecting wire above the muskrat’s back. Once again, click! — that wonderful sound, and I had cut right through. Michael gently placed the prongs of the garden hoe under the area where these upper wires of the square had been cut, and pulled upwards, grunting with the effort. The hole was getting bigger! He pulled again — now it was a little larger. I went back to the neighbor’s yard, my slippers completely muddy by now, and used my double-gloved hands to push her rump through the hole.

It worked! She was free. Free to spread rabies, leptospirosis, to make tunneled messes of people’s yards, free to trundle back to Birdinal Creek at the back of our property and do whatever it is muskrats do.

She didn’t run at first. She sat still for a minute, breathing heavily, and we wondered if she had been permanently injured from her ordeal. But soon she started waddling away, toward our back yard and down toward the creek.

“Thank you Lord,” I said with relief, and as we put away our wire cutters, pronged garden hoe and Sara’s shiny yellow boot, we were both smiling and feeling so happy. The dinner got finished and we had an enjoyable evening of nice visiting with our old friends Bob and Linda.

I am a little worried that I’ll have to explain to the neighbor why his fence was cut, but I’ll deal with that when I must.

And to end this little adventure, I leave you with the song that came to mind as Michael and I were working hard to free this little muskrat from her fence trap. I remembered the words from The Captain and Tennille’s song as the rain was soaking us, and I said to myself if this story has a good ending, I’ll find the song online so I can share it on my blog.

Those of you born in the seventies or later may not remember this song, but I have vivid memories of it.


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I’ve been asking God to increase my capacity to love. I want to love Him above all, and I want to love people better than I do. I know He answers prayers like that.

And maybe while He’s at it, He’s giving me some muskrat love too. 🙂

A Year of Nots

August 25, 2020 | My Jottings

(From the archives…)

First grade at Workman Avenue Elementary School was a year of nots for me.

I did not have a really close friend yet, so I spent recess time wandering around deep in my thoughts, talking to myself a little bit.

I did not like most foods, so spent lunch time in the cafeteria hoping others would offer me their peanut butter balls that came in the tiny paper cups. When it was time to go outside for lunch recess, I always took the mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy, peas, and cherry cobbler that I did not eat, walked to the cafeteria garbage can and threw them away. I also did not eat the fish sticks, the pizza, or the spaghetti and meatballs.

It wasn’t a concern because I was not that hungry. Abba Zabbas and cottage cheese were usually waiting at home if I was.

In first grade my hair did not have bangs. My mother always took an uncompromising moral stand against bangs. She believed little girls’ foreheads should be seen and not covered. And the rest of them covered and not seen. 

Consequently, one small drawer in my room was not lacking in a wide variety of plastic headbands.

I did not think I’d better chop off my hair right before picture day, like I did when I was in Kindergarten, here.

At age six, I began to be aware that my parents did not have a solid marriage. I felt this deeply and probably spent a lot of time walking around at recess begging God to please not let them split up.

In Southern California in 1963, I was miserable and petulant if I was not allowed to swim as often as possible.

I was not close to my older brother Steve, who regarded me as a pest he did not want to have around.

I did not see my oldest brother Larry enough, as he was twenty-one when I was six and did not live with us anymore.

I did not miss very many afternoon episodes of Mighty Mouse.

One afternoon during story time on the rug, my teacher Mrs. Weber asked the class if they believed in the devil. I was a Sunday School goin’ girl so said yes, and when I described to her what I thought he might look like, Mrs. Weber laughed and mildly snickered at me. I was a little embarrassed and did not like that. (Mrs. Weber was in her fifties then, so I do not think she’s alive today. I would imagine that no matter what side of the spiritual fence she ever came down on, she is not snickering about that topic now.)

My mother had a friend named Mary Wyles who did not ever miss a Wednesday visit at my house with my mom. They did crafts together and talked over the matters of their hearts.

I had a little red bike with training wheels and did not like it when it was stolen from our garage less than a year after I’d received it for Christmas.

In first grade I had not yet eaten anything green except celery and iceberg lettuce, had not had a nibble of cheese, or a taste of an egg.

When I was in first grade, I did not realize how wonderful it was to have a back yard with two nectarine trees, one apricot tree, one peach tree, one plum tree, and a lemon tree with fruit the size of oranges.

I did not know that two chocolate donuts mushed up in a bowl of whole milk was not a healthy breakfast. And apparently my parents did not realize this either.

I did not realize then how I could have been the poster child for Gummy Bears, but hindsight is everything. (Click on the photo for further confirmation.)

I did not know that twice-yearly trips to Disneyland was not the norm for other little boys and girls of the world.

In 1963 I did not have a clue that I would do better in school the following year.

I did not know that someday I would drink from a water fountain and not have the water run out of my nose.

In first grade I realized my mother had a slightly crippled foot (due to a botched spinal anesthetic), and that was why she sat in the car and did not go into the local Alpha Beta grocery store, and sent me in with a list and a check instead.

There was never a time when Knutsen Cottage Cheese was not on the list.

Right around this time I decided I would like to be a grocery checker (we didn’t call them cashiers) when I grew up, and not a nurse or a teacher after all.

Even at age six, I was not afraid of deep water.

I did not understand puns yet, and had no idea how humorous it was to have a dentist named Dr. Payne.

I did not know a lot of things.

What I also did not know when I was in first grade was that God was really there with me at all times. I did not know yet that He had made me and was going to see me through a lot of things in the coming years. I knew He loved me because my Sunday School teachers told me so, but I did not realize what kind of love and keeping that would turn out to be.

I did not know that He would save my life over and over again, and that He would not ever let me go.

I did not know that no matter how tied up in nots, Jesus can take any life and make His light and presence known in the deepest of darks.

Even today, I sometimes do not remember that this is His promise to His children.

During the year of nots, Jesus was there. He never left me.

He will not leave me now.

And He will not leave you.

Have you called out His name lately?

If not…why not?

From This One Place

August 17, 2020 | My Jottings

20091014082310_0_Fireflies_and_SongsThis is a repost from the archives…. I still love this song so much.

I’ve shared before on the blog how much I love the music of Sara Groves. And if you’ve visited here for long you know that I often like to let the words of one song speak to me over and over again, especially a song rooted in scriptural truths and encouragement.

I don’t know of any other artists (with perhaps the exception of Bob Bennett) whose music so represents many of my own thoughts and feelings. Sometimes when I listen to Sara Groves, it’s like she has eavesdropped on my heart and penned the words I would have written if I had the gift of songwriting.

Most of you know that cardinals are my favorite bird, for very good reason. If you’d like to know why, you could click here to learn more about it.

Recently I went back to listen to some Sara Groves music, in particular the song “From This One Place.” She wrote and sang this piece about a dark, fearful time, and a cardinal outside her window. I have cardinals all over the inside of my house to remind me of God’s love and faithfulness during a dark and fearful time in my own life many years ago.

I’m so thankful that even when we don’t see much happening in answer to our prayers, He is still at work. He promises. I’m so grateful that when we’re in the dark and can’t see clearly, God sees “something else.”

I thought I would share this beautiful song with you. Make sure your speakers are turned up a little bit, and click on the dark red song title below. I don’t think it works on phones. Then once the little player opens, click on the play arrow and you can read the lyrics as you listen to the song:

“From This One Place” by Sara Groves

I was about to give up and that’s no lie
Cardinal landed outside my window
Threw his head back and sang a song
So beautiful it made me cry
Took me back to a childhood tree
Full of birds and dreams

From this one place I can’t see very far
In this one moment I’m square in the dark
These are the things I will trust in my heart
You can see something else
Something else

I don’t know what’s making me so afraid
Tiny cloud over my head
Heavy and grey with a hint of dread
And I don’t like to feel this way
Take me back to a window seat
With clouds beneath my feet

From this one place I can’t see very far
In this one moment I’m square in the dark
These are the things I will trust in my heart
You can see something else
Something else

From this one place I can’t see very far
In this one moment I’m square in the dark
These are the things I will trust in my heart
You can see something else
You can see…

Words and music by Sara Groves

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How about you? What do you remember, what do you do, what do you cling to, when you’re feeling “square in the dark?” Is there a verse that you go back to? A friend you call? Do you take to your bed? Do you bake? Do you operate on autopilot? Do you put on music?

I know a lot of people in the dark right now, even though they’re devout believers. Maybe something you share could help someone else. You may even post a comment and keep it anonymous if you like.

Thank you so much for reading…

Waiting with you,