Ugly Brown Shoes

April 30, 2012 | My Jottings

Do you ever ask yourself rhetorical questions? Do you mutter under your breath and say things like, “What in the world is going on with you, Gladys?!” Or when you’re driving to the store to buy toilet paper and cottage cheese do you ever ask yourself out loud, “What do you think you’re doing?

No? Oh come on, I’ll bet you do.

We’ve been packing up just a few items and putting them in just a few boxes, and hauling just a few things to our local Goodwill, all in preparation for our move to a different home on May 31st. Recently as I was going through our closet, I asked myself a rhetorical question.

I asked myself, “Hey! What’s with all the ugly brown shoes?”

And I didn’t have an answer for myself because it’s just way too deep of an enigma for me to figure out at this stage of my life.

Here is one pair of my ugly brown shoe collection. Guess how many times I’ve worn them? Zero. Zip. Yes, that’s right. I bought them in late 2006 because we had a trip to England, Scotland and Ireland planned, and Mr. Europe Through the Back Door Rick Steves said Eccos are really, really comfortable and good for a lot of travel walking. I did not think they were cute, but bought a pair anyway, and then didn’t wear them, because my dark blue Danskos felt better. So I walked all over the British Isles in those instead.

But I’ve kept these Eccos for all these years, and am not sure why.

Shoe comfort is important to me. My feet do an incredibly demanding job. They are long and narrow-ish (think “marsupial” as Ember would say), and must carry around more poundage than they would prefer. So when a friend told me these shoes below were comfy, I bought a pair. I wanted to be able to slip them on without tying laces, and I wanted a non-slip sole because we have snow and ice on the ground in Northeastern Minnesota for sometimes six months out of the year.

But these shoes weren’t very comfortable:

The arch hit my foot’s arch in the wrong place, and they ended up hurting my feet. So I don’t wear them anymore.

I love these ugly brown shoes below. Or boots, actually. They’re Mukluks, made in Minnesota, and are the warmest winter boots I’ve ever owned. And soooo comfortable. You can wear these outside in the snow when it’s twenty below zero and your feet will stay warm. So even though they’re not the most adorable looking boots you’ll find, I’m keeping these. (If I ever move to Costa Rica, I will give these to a deserving Minnesotan, but for now they’ll stay in my closet.)

And oohhh, don’t get me started on Birkenstocks. I love Birkenstock sandals. I have owned six pairs in my adult life, and worn them almost daily. They last at least five-six years, with frequent wear. I have a pair without the toe thing that I wear in the winter with warm socks too. When I put on my Birkenstocks, my feet and legs sigh loudly and say rapturously, “Aaahhhhh. Thank you.” I have friends who wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of Birkenstocks because they’re sort of clunky, not exactly feminine and prissy looking. But my Birkenstocks and I will be together in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, so long as we both shall live.

Why I still have these shoes pictured below is beyond me. I bought them for Sharon years ago when she was in college. She didn’t wear them much and gave them to me. I have worn them a time or two, but I think they look a little dated, don’t you? They’re fairly comfortable but since I haven’t worn them in at least five years, I think it’s time to give them to some nice woman who wears a size 9.5 shoe, so she can store them in her closet and not wear them too.

These taupe-ish brownish shoes are sort of dressy — what I might wear to a wedding or a fancy dinner at the White House. When I was young I used to wear very high heels even though I’m already 5′ 10″ tall, but when I turned 50 I decided to boycott high heels. It was one of my Turning Fifty Resolutions, and I’ve stuck to it quite well. These heels are about as high as I’ll go now that shoe comfort means more to me than style.

Two years ago I finally found a pair of very comfortable ugly brown shoes to wear for daily errands. They’re Merrells, and these feel good on my arch, and when it’s icy out they give me some traction. They have good soles. Do you have a good sole? Sometimes I think my sole isn’t so good and I need to spend some more time with the Lord to let Him work on my shriveled, selfish sole. Er, soul.

Okay now don’t laugh. It’s all about comfort, remember? Even Isaiah quoted, “Comfort, comfort my people!” (I know, that kind of comfort was about comfort for our souls, not our soles.)

These shoes are Earth Shoes, and are designed on the premise that when we walk on sand, our heels actually go deeper than the balls of our feet, so shoes should also follow suit. As you can see, the heels of the shoes are lower than the rest of the shoe. They look a little dorky (ugly might be too strong a word? Yes? No? What do you think?) but they are sooooo comfortable! If you don’t have a pair of Earth Shoes and you have feet issues, I would encourage you to get a pair of these.

However, if you have feet like mine that are size 9.5, these shoes do nothing for making your feet look smaller. If you’re into that. These shoes make your feet look so big it’s almost comical. When I got them home and put them on again, one thing immediately came to mind.

And what came to mind were the 1000-foot ore boats we see almost daily on Lake Superior, transporting iron ore from our port to various parts of the world through the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Does this ore boat look like my Earth Shoes, or what?

I’m going to keep five pairs of my ugly brown shoes. The others I’ll give away in hopes that they’ll find some nice big feet to land on.

How about you? Do you buy your shoes based on the cuteness factor or the comfort factor? Do you have a favorite brand of shoe? Do you have any ugly brown shoes? Or ugly green shoes? Or ugly purple shoes?…….

Oh, to live by prayer…

April 26, 2012 | My Jottings

O God of the open ear,

Teach me to live by prayer
as well as by providence,
for myself, soul, body, children, family, church;

Give me a heart frameable to thy will;
so might I live in prayer,
and honour thee,
being kept from evil, known and unknown.

Help me to see the sin that accompanies all I do,
and the good I can distil from everything.

Let me know that the work of prayer is to bring
my will to thine,
and that without this it is folly to pray;

When I try to bring thy will to mine it is
to command Christ,
to be above him, and wiser than he:
this is my sin and pride.

I can only succeed when I pray
according to thy precept and promise,
and to be done with as it pleases thee,
according to thy sovereign will.

When thou commandest me to pray
for pardon, peace, brokenness,
it is because thou wilt give me the thing promised,
for thy glory,
as well as for my good.

Help me not only to desire small things
but with holy boldness to desire great things
for they people, for myself,
that they and I might live to show thy glory.

Teach me
that it is wisdom for me to pray for all I have,
out of love, willingly, not of necessity;
that I may come to thee at any time,
to lay open my needs acceptably to thee;
that my great sin lies in my not keeping
the savour of thy ways;
that the remembrance of this truth is one way
to the sense of thy presence;
that there is no wrath like the wrath of being
governed by my own lusts for my own ends.

~~from The Valley of Vision

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Of Candles, Cars and Cups of Tea

April 24, 2012 | My Jottings

Have I ever mentioned that I don’t care for the word busy? Well if I haven’t, I’ll say it now — these last weeks have been incredibly busy ones, and the next two months are bound to be even busier, and although my dislike of busyness is interspersed with much gratitude, I’m liking busy less and less.

When one moves a foster care home, there are so many things to address. Cable television has to be installed in our gals’ rooms. (I do not need cable and lived happily without it until we began doing foster care.) Phone lines have to be run in their rooms since they each want their own phone number. Hard-wired smoke detectors have to be installed rather than just the battery-powered kind. The State Fire Marshal has to go through the house before even one resident moves in. The county foster care licensor has to inspect the house. Many change of address forms have to be filed with the post office. And there’s more, but I just can’t think of them all right now.

I think once we move and have unpacked the last box and hung the last picture, I’ll feel better. But this year I will be 55 years old, and I’m pretty much feeling 55 years old. I crave time at home and quietness. I am already picturing myself in the new house, sitting in our master bedroom in the late mornings, with a cup of tea and my reading, and my ever-more-quiet husband by my side. Our new smaller house has a beautiful, close view of Lake Superior, and there’s nothing that soothes my soul like our big lake. Like Ember, I will be “looking at the blue” as often as possible. Our profession requires that we stay active with the women we care for, and I do enjoy that. I love to see them happy and excited to get out and do things. We are tentatively planning a trip to DisneyWorld within the next fifteen or twenty years and the thought of their glee and delight about that makes me glad. There are always many doctor’s appointments and various banking, haircut, out-to-dinner-and-a-movie type outings, and Michael and I enjoy doing this with them.

But when I come home….aahhh. I love to be home. I think I have the teensiest bit of agoraphobia or something. I’m not exactly afraid of wide open spaces, but sometimes after being out running errands for the better part of a day, the agoraphobic me kicks in and says, “Get home. Now!” And I usually obey.

This morning I got up at 5:30 and could still smell the onion and garlic from last night’s dinner. I make Chicken Tortilla Soup every few weeks and every time I hear everyone’s mumbly-yumbly sounds at the table I wonder why I don’t make it more often. It’s easy, uses just a little meat, has lots of vegetables, and is absolutely delicious. I like the smell of garlic and onions sauteing in olive oil when it’s time for dinner, but when I get up in the morning I prefer the scent of my favorite candle in all the world, a Thymes Frasier Fir that makes the whole house smell clean and nature-y in about ten minutes. I know the environmental engineers of the world would probably tell me I’m polluting my indoor air with a scented candle, but a girl has to choose her pollutants. And I choose this one.

If you look closely at the photo you can see that a few dishes were not done last night before I went to bed. Most were, but instead of cleaning up everything, Michael, Sara and I watched a movie together. We loved it. It’s called Arranged, and is about a young Jewish woman and a young Muslim woman who meet each other teaching at the same school, and who form a bond because they’re both facing arranged marriages.

As of yesterday, we have no car. My husband has an older truck so we do have transportation if the need arises, but the dealer where we got our Honda almost three years ago kept calling us, wanting to know if we would be willing to sell our car back. Apparently used Pilots are in demand and since ours didn’t have many miles on it, they wanted it. We finally decided to let them have it, and bought something just a little smaller. Something not a Honda. We still need a mid-size vehicle because we transport so many people, but the one we bought (which we will hopefully pick up later today) gets slightly better gas mileage than the Pilot did, and has a name I like better.

My mother told me years ago that she wasn’t sure she could vote for Gerald Ford for president of the United States because she didn’t like the shape of his forehead. Even back then, when I was nineteen years old, I knew there was something absolutely terrible about that kind of political reasoning. Can you imagine? So today when we bring home our new car, I’ll be careful about telling people that what swayed my vote regarding which vehicle to buy out of all the ones we test-drove, is that its name reminds me of my favorite place in Scotland, a country I love. If our new car had been named The Ukraine or The Inland Passage or even The Alpine, I couldn’t possibly have bought it. The car is nice and hopefully will meet our needs, but the name is what eventually made it stand out from the others. Any guesses on what we bought?  :)

And yes, The Slippery Slope to Becoming Your Mother gets just a little steeper with every passing year. Sharon, Carolyn and Sara….don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’ve been trying to pack three to four boxes per day, thinking that if I keep up with that, by the time we move in late May I’ll have most of the house done. So far I’m not too overwhelmed, but I know the last week will be hard. We’ll go to the real estate office on May 31st, will close on our house at 9:00 a.m., move into another conference room to close on the house we purchased at 10:00 a.m., exchange keys, and will not be able to go back to finish anything up in our old house because the new owners will be moving in right away. So every person and dog and jug of milk must be packed and ready to leave early that morning.

But….when we’re all done, I’d like to have you over for a cup of tea. Can you make it, do you think? Let me know when your schedule permits a leisurely visit on the deck of our new home, which looks out over the biggest freshwater lake in the world. If you’ve been needing negative ions for brain health in your life, we’ll have plenty to share.

Thank you so much for stopping by….I hope you have a blessed day!

At least sixty-eight things

April 21, 2012 | My Jottings

If you visit this blog regularly you know that I joined Ember in committing to donate at least one item per day in the year 2012, resulting in 366 things gone from our home when it’s all said and done. It has been a wonderful exercise and has helped me clean some hidden clutter away that I’d long forgotten about. I’ve been taking pictures and posting each week’s seven things, ever since January.

I know. Be still your heart, right?

As we prepare to move to a new house at the end of May, I’ve been weeding through drawers and cupboards and closets, unwilling to move anything to the new place that I don’t plan on using there. In doing so, I’ve donated in just a few fell swoops, at least 60 or 70 things in the past two weeks. But I didn’t stop to take any pictures. I just piled the things in boxes and bags and my daughter Carolyn kindly drove them to the Goodwill for me.

So even though there’s nothing photographic on the blog to document it, I know I am covered in my one item per day until at least the end of June. Just today, many mugs, candle holders, scarves, mittens, movies, and plates left the building.

And it feels really good. It’s sort of pathetic what makes you feel happy when you get old, but I don’t mind admitting it at all.  :)

This is why we bought a king-sized bed

April 19, 2012 | My Jottings

Michael and I have been married for almost 31 years, and we’ve always slept on a queen-sized bed. We’ve owned one uncomfortable queen bed, one very comfortable soft-side queen water bed, and the mattress we sleep on now, which is like a dream, but also fifteen years old.

He has said at least one hundred times, “We need to buy a king-sized bed.” And I’ve never said much in response, because our sheets are queen-sized, our comforter and blankets are queen-sized, and when something is working for you, why change it?

Well, the master bedroom in the house we’re moving to is quite spacious, even though the house is smaller overall than this one. And since our current queen bed is pretty old and has two submarine-shaped dents in it where the owners sleep, we finally gave in and bought a king-sized bed. We went to the bed store and laid around for a while, and finally decided on one that will be delivered on June 1st, to the new address.

When we tried out the huge mattress at the bed store, we looked across the vast expanse at each other and I called, “Hallooo over there!” and Michael sort of half-grinned. But for probably different reasons than you might think. We can read each others’ minds, you see. And I knew exactly what Michael was thinking, and he knew my thoughts too.

He was thinking, “This bed will be just perfect for the four of us.”

Here are three of the four of us, resting on our current queen bed after a full day of errands and cleaning.

Michael is in the blue jeans, Mildred is in the blue collar, and Edith is wearing the red. The pooches don’t like to sleep at the foot of the bed. They crowd in as close as they can, making a Michael and Schnauzer sandwich whenever possible. Millie didn’t like the click of the camera and you can see the paranoia in her eyes. Before I took the photo she was quite relaxed, and stretched out as if she owned the bed and Michael.

Anyway, we will soon have possibly the last bed we’ll ever own, and it will be a king-sized beast…for the beasts.

Don’t judge.

Wednesday Whimsy-Edition 82

April 18, 2012 | My Jottings

“Are you born again?” he asked, as we taxied down the runway. He was rather prim and tense, maybe a little like David Eisenhower with a spastic colon. I did not know how to answer for a moment.

“Yes,” I said. “I am.”

My friends like to tell each other that I am not really a born-again Christian. They think of me more along the lines of that old Jonathan Miller routine, where he said, “I’m not really a Jew — I’m Jew-ish.” They think I am Christian-ish. But I’m not. I’m just a bad Christian. A bad born-again Christian. And certainly, like the apostle Peter, I am capable of denying it, of presenting myself as a sort of leftist liberation-theology enthusiast and maybe sort of a vaguely Jesusy bon vivant. But it’s not true. And I believe that when you get on a plane, if you start lying you are totally doomed. 

So I told the truth; that I am a believer, a convert. I’m probably about three months away from slapping an aluminum Jesus-fish on the back of my car, although I first want to see if the application or stickum in any way interferes with my lease agreement. And believe me, all this boggles even *my* mind. But it’s true. I could go to a gathering of foot-wash Baptists and, except for my dreadlocks, fit right in. I would wash their feet; I would let them wash mine.

Anne Lamott

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Grandma’s Great Granola

April 16, 2012 | My Jottings

I posted this recipe a few years ago, but since we’ve been enjoying a fresh batch of yummy homemade granola lately, I thought I’d share the recipe again.

This granola recipe is for people who love granola, and for people who aren’t crazy about granola at all. If you love it already, you need to try this recipe. I’ve tried various store-bought granolas, and a few homemade recipes over the years, but have never found a granola better than this one.

If you’re not a granola fan, I encourage you to try this recipe too, because it’s just different. I got this recipe long ago and honestly can’t remember who gave it to me or I would gladly give him/her credit. I’ve very slightly altered a couple of things and just always call it granola. But since I like alliteration and needed a title for this post, I thought I’d call it Grandma’s Great Granola. Because I am a grandma. And because this granola is great.

I’ve baked huge batches at a time and given small bags of granola as Christmas gifts. Everyone always asks for the recipe. Try it and let me know if you like it!

Grandma’s Great Granola

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Stir together in very large bowl:

2 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw sunflower meats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup grated, unsweetened coconut
1 cup raw cashew pieces

Add:

1/2 cup warm water
1 cup oil (I like sunflower or safflower best but canola can be used too)
1 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir well and spread out evenly over two large, greased cookie sheets (or even three sheets)

Bake for one hour at 250 degrees.

After thirty minutes I take out the cookie sheet, carefully turn the granola with a pancake turner so it browns evenly, then return it to the oven for the last half hour of baking.

Cool and store in air-tight container. This freezes well. This makes a lot and tastes wonderful with milk poured over it, or just eat it plain as a healthy snack.

Enjoy!

Thirty-three years ago

April 14, 2012 | My Jottings

As I’ve mentioned before, over these last several months as we’ve packed things away and prepared (sometimes waffling from faith to uncertainty) to move to a smaller house, we’ve gone through old scrapbooks and reminisced.

Here’s an old picture I found, of me (age 21), my oldest daughter Sharon (age 20 months), and my middle daughter Carolyn, who was a few days old in this shot. We were living in the beautiful little German village of Damflos. My husband, who was in the U. S. Air Force, worked in a top-secret underground military facility called the Börfink Bunker, from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. 

I loved Germany. Loved it. I loved being immersed into village life and having to bumble my way with the language, and I loved the castles and the forests. I was surprised to feel so at home so far away from home.

It took almost two months for our household goods to be shipped across the Atlantic to Bremerhaven in northern Germany, and then finally delivered to us in the western part of Germany near the Luxembourg border. During that time, with no radio, no television, no car, no friends, and only a very beginning grasp of the language, I reveled. I don’t know how else to put it.

I reveled in being a mom. Every morning I sat with Sharon on the floor and we played with wooden blocks with letters on them. At age 18 months she was holding up blocks and asking, “Whas dis?” I would answer, “That’s a D, and it says duh.” She would pick up another one and ask the same question, and as long as she was interested, I answered. She was reading fluently by the time she was 2 1/2, and I never pushed her. She still loves to learn today.

We strolled the streets of Damflos and noticed that the women bought their groceries every day. So many of them wore scarves, had very rosy cheeks, carried woven baskets over their arms, and dipped their heads and said “Tag!” to me as we passed on the street. First they’d stop at Edeka, a tiny little grocery-like store. Then they would walk across the street to the Beckerei, and come out with warm crusty loaves of dense bread. Then they would stop at our landlord’s butcher shop, called Metzgerei Diel. The shop was no larger than a small bedroom, with a long counter over a cooler, with hams and ropes of plump wursts hanging from hooks on the ceiling, and many kinds of rich meats behind the cooler glass that I’d never seen in the states. My husband loved sausage, I did not. But each time we paid our rent, Herr und Frau Diel would give us a large bag of various kinds of wursts that Herr Diel had made in the small barn-like slaughterhouse right behind their old, modest and immaculate home. There was deep maroon-colored blutwurst, fleischwurst, bratwurst, mettwurst, pig’s feet, pork cutlets dredged in a coating and covered with sliced onions, and massive slabs of bacon with tiny streaks of lean in it. I can remember it vividly. Chicken and beef made up a small percentage of what the Diels offered in their butcher shop; pork was the big deal.

Aloys and Anna Diel grew to be very precious to us. They knew we were young and thousands of miles from home, and they did all they could to make our stay in Germany a good one. They fell in love with “Bebe Scherren,” bought presents for her, held and kissed her, and crooned rapid, guttural German phrases to her that she quickly picked up.

They invited us to be part of their family Christmas celebration in their small living quarters upstairs from the Metzgerei. I spoke very broken German and the only English they knew was “Hallooo Yimmy Carter!” (President Carter visited Bonn while we were in Germany), but somehow we enjoyed each others’ company and were able to convey what was important. On Christmas Eve we sat in their simple parlor and watched them decorate their freshly cut tree, and in candlelight we sang Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.

Here’s a photo of Frau Anna Diel with one year-old Sharon in the butcher shop. She wasn’t keen on Blutwurst either.

We lived in the Diel’s rental home, a newer two bedroom house right on their property, just behind their garage and slaughterhouse/barn. After we had gotten settled in, Frau Diel came over to visit and to instruct me (in German, of course, and with much pantomiming) on all that was expected of me as a citizen of the village.

The Germans are clean, organized people. The Diels wanted me to be clean and organized too. I don’t think I was too bad at it — I like order and did a fair job keeping things neat. But I was shocked when I looked in my German/English dictionary and it dawned on me that the words she kept saying to me, Fenster waschen jede Samstag, meant that she expected me to wash the windows every Saturday. “Jede Samstag?” I asked. She nodded vigorously and smiled, “Ja! Ja, jede Samstag!”

Frau Diel brought me a little red jug with a skull and crossbones on it (I am not making this up) and demonstrated how to pour one tiny splash of the clear, slightly thick solution it held into a bucket full of very hot water, and swirl it around with my bare fingers. She showed me how to dip a clean leather chamois cloth into the liquid with lung-burning fumes, quickly swipe the windows inside and out (thank God they were hinged and could easily swing open so I could wash the outsides), and leave the wetness to dry to a sparkly, perfectly streak-free finish. We’re talking just a few seconds of wiping. And that poison, whatever it was, made window washing a breeze and Windex look like baby saliva in its effectiveness.

I can handle this, I thought. I can wash the windows every Saturday. But then Frau Diel took me by the hand to lead me to the front of the house. She then began to show me in charades-fashion that also every Saturday, I would have to scrub the huge marble front porch which spanned the whole length of the front of the house, and the steps. She got down on her hands and knees to show me how easily I could look just like a washer woman and stick my butt up in the air for all of Damflos to see while I was scrubbing and wringing and crawling around.

Then, Frau Diel showed me where a witch’s broom was kept in a corner of the little garage. I say witch’s broom because it was a bunch of very long and sturdy, skinny branches and twigs, bound tightly together by wire, sans handle, and she led me to the curb at the front of the house and showed me how I would have to sweep the street free of dust, pebbles, rocks and any other matter…jede Samstag. The street. Every Saturday.

“Every Saturday I am supposed to do this?” I asked. More smiles and vigorous nodding; it was clear that my quick grasp of her instructions filled her with deep joy. I smiled weakly back and nodded, and gave an oh-my-gosh-help-me look to my husband who was watching us with raised eyebrows from the window.

So, like a good twenty-one year-old housewife and grateful guest of Germany, I did it all. I washed my windows every Saturday and scrubbed the continent-sized front porch on my hands and knees with my butt in the air and my pregnant belly serving as ballast, and I did the steps too. I took my witch’s broom out to the street and swept away every pebble from one end of the property line to another, and so did all the other German women of the village. We’d wave and call “Guten morgen!” to each other, and I knew they were probably nodding in approval. Maybe somehow I was making up for some of the American G.I.s who had wormed their way into German hearts by getting drunk on Heineken and peeing in meticulous German flower gardens.

My second daughter Carolyn was born in Germany, and Herr und Frau Diel fell in love with her too. They didn’t have grandchildren then, and I think they poured all their pent-up grandparental love out over my two little girls. And it was quite mutual. We all grew to love the Diels like they were our own family, and as my German improved we spent at least an hour a day together. They spoke to me about matters close to their hearts, and generously made our little family part of theirs. They even allowed me to ask them questions about the Holocaust and what they remembered about it. Frau Diel remembered being a little girl when Hitler came to power, and questioning her mother when the shops owned by Jews in the neighboring village of Hermeskeil were suddenly closed and boarded up. She remembered her mother shushing her when such things began to happen more often, discouraging her curiosity. The Diels told me that they did not believe until years later than millions of Jews had been killed; they had been told they were only deported. Early on they were happy with Hitler because they said he changed everything for the better — jobs materialized, the economy improved, and finally women were safe to walk the streets. Herr und Frau Diel spoke sparingly about it, and shook their heads slowly and looked down now and again, as if still trying to process that this had happened in their country, in their lifetime.

After living in Germany for two of our assigned three years, our world turned upside down. My Air Force husband met another Air Force wife at the underground bunker where they worked, and decided she was the one for him, baby. She left her Air Force husband, my Air Force husband left me, and it was quite the scandal in our little military community at that time. I was undone, but I had a two year-old and a nine month-old to love and care for, so I saved my tears until I went to bed at night.

I grieved the end of my marriage, occasionally gave myself an inner smacking for ignoring the giant red flags that were waving in front of my nose before I got married, wept for my children, and wondered how in the world we were going to survive. And as I packed and prepared the three of us to fly home to California, a trip that was to take a full twenty-four hours of travel and layover time, I cried over leaving Germany. And the Diels. They cried with me and shook their heads in sorrow over a young man who could throw so much away. And I don’t mean that I was such a treasure, I mean his two little daughters.

My husband eventually married the woman he left me for, but their marriage didn’t last. Over the next couple of years they both called me at various times and told me how the other had really behaved badly and hurt their feelings. I look back now and marvel that I didn’t start laughing maniacally at these calls. No, I just listened, wished them well, and hung up the phone.

You’d think that Germany would be a place of terrible memories for me, and that I wouldn’t recall it so fondly, but that’s not the way it is. In the midst of all that Sharon, Carolyn and I went through while we were there, I still smile when I think of Aloys und Anna Diel. A comforting kaleidoscope of memories forms; ruddy cheeks pressing up against infant cheeks, guttural German words turning a little softer when helping a blonde toddler draw a cat on a piece of paper, a thick German finger dipped into a bucket of foamy, maroon blood with a mischievous grin and a “Mmmmm, schmekt gut!” as Herr Diel chuckled to see my disgusted reaction, going to church on Christmas Eve to meet Saint Nickolaus and watching my little girls reverently take the fruit he gave them, walking through the clean streets of Damflos and wanting to pinch myself because I was living in such a beautiful, old country, picnicking in castle ruins, visiting Bavaria and staring up at the Zugspitze in awe, and reveling in it all.

After I returned to the states, for several years the Diels and I kept in touch. They wrote a letter a year which had to be translated by my German-speaking friend Bob. I wrote them once a year and they had a young man from their village read it to them. They sent a ham once at Christmas. We called each other a few times (I still remember their phone number) and I groped around with what few German words remained in my mind, and always we said, “Ich liebe dich!”  I love you. They sent pictures of their two pretty, rosy-cheeked granddaughters. Then Herr Diel died, and gradually I stopped hearing from Frau Diel, and then over time I stopped writing.

I still think of them, though. I think of how privileged we were to be immersed in German village life, and to be welcomed, taught and loved so generously by the delightful couple who owned the little butcher shop in Damflos.

Singing and Packing

April 13, 2012 | My Jottings

Yesterday was our youngest daughter Sara’s 30th birthday. I think that means I’m old now. Anyway, the whole family got together for dinner at the place of Sara’s choice, and we had a great meal. Sharon and I had Cobb salads, Sara had cedar plank-cooked salmon, Michael had a turkey dinner with smashed potatoes, Chris had a breakfast skillet with a huge buckwheat pancake, Carolyn had a burger called the Grand Royale, Jeremy had a bison burger, and the seven children had various mac-n-cheese like things off the kid’s menu, with fresh fruit and steamed broccoli.

We had a little surprise for Sara planned, and I tried to carry in our small CD player/stereo without her seeing, because we were going to sing. Over the years our family has rewritten famous songs, putting our own words in them and ridiculously performing them with a karaoke CD as accompaniment in the background. We did it at Sharon’s wedding shower, at Jeremy and Carolyn’s wedding reception, for Chris’s 50th birthday, and also for various friends over the years. It was Sara’s turn to have a song written for her.

If you aren’t familiar with music from the 1960s, you may not know the song. But most of you should remember it. I’ll wait quietly while you click here to see what song I’m talking about. Do you remember that one? And hasn’t popular music changed a bit since then? Yikes.

So before the server brought the fourteen meals we had ordered at the restaurant, we closed the doors to the private room where they seated us, plugged in the CD player, and sang “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” to Sara.

Only these were the words we used (since my name isn’t Mrs. Brown, and my husband’s name isn’t Mr. Brown, but our last name does begin with B):

Mr. B. you’ve got a lovely daughter
Girls as sharp as her are somethin’ rare
Yes, it’s true, with flowers she’s “white-hot”
Some day she might just have a business of her own

She was quite a picky little toddler
Her Osh-kosh cuffs had to be just so
When she was 12, she used to clean a lot
She had a business she called “Sara’s Spic and Span”

When she was young, Mom prayed for a cardinal
Now their whole house…is filled up with…red birds!

Mr. B. your daughter sure loves doggies
She lets Edith lick her on the lips
But her mom, she doesn’t like such things
But Sara’s 30 now, so nothing can be done

She’s workin’ out, she’s obsessed with fitness
Goes to the gym, kettlebells and squat jumps!

Mr. B. you’d better keep your doors locked
Guys from match.com are keen to call
Just so no! No to the pond cleaners!
No to the guys who think that bike repair is fun

Mr. B. you’ve got a lovely daughter (3x)

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

So now you know why you would never go wrong by saying a prayer for our family. :)

There are a few little jokes in the song that our family would understand, and I don’t think Sara would mind me telling you about them, but I don’t want this blog to be a sedative, so I’ll think about that another time.  I am happy to say that Sara laughed at our performance and we had a nice dinner.

In other news, I have begun packing! Because on May 31st, we are moving to a new house. At the 11th hour, we found a place that might just suit us well, and a new (young) family of three will be moving into our house.

I will post photos of the new place once we get settled, of course, but the best two things about it that I’ll share right now are: 1) it is one block from Lake Superior and the view is gorgeous, and 2) it’s all on one level, which is what we need in this phase of our lives. We are very grateful, and I’m getting used to the idea of going, and am looking forward to the new place.

I decided that I would try to pack one room per day. Ha. I guess I have to lower the bar a little bit. Yesterday I packed the books just in our living room book cases, and here they are:

This is roughly one-third of our books, and I’m frankly stunned that one-third of our books fill twelve boxes. Another third are in the bookcases in the den, and the rest are in bookcases in our bedroom. I guess I had no idea that we have close to forty boxes of books. And I have already weeded them out, and given many away!

We have a welcome, soft rain falling as I sit here in my office and type this. The grass is finally turning green and big fat robins have returned to our area and are hopping around the yard, cocking their heads sideways, to hear the worms underground. At least that’s what I’ve always been told about robins. Maybe that’s a euphemism we need to add to our speech, you know, like “faster than a rabbit” and “slow as molasses in January”? We could now say something like this, “His hearing was sharper than a robin’s!”

Well, maybe not.

I am off to fix some dinner now, so will close this disjointed post with wishes for a blessed weekend to all of you. I’m running a little late, so I hope I’ll be faster than a muskrat!

A Love Story

April 11, 2012 | My Jottings

(from the archives….I wrote this poem in 2000)

In Southern California in a home near the beach
Lived a broken young woman, her dreams out of reach
Her fair little daughters, ages two years and four
Would ask her, “Will Daddy be home anymore?”

He wouldn’t, she knew, and their lives were all changed
And she chafed and she wept for those things rearranged
By her God, who had seemingly, mercilessly scattered
The scraps of their life as a family, now tattered.

Off to work this mom went and the Lord did provide
And the pain, it diminished, and the three of them tried
To live every day with a smile and a song
And God helped them and met them as they walked along

Then one day a letter she found in her mail
From a man in Duluth, Minnesota, and his tale
Was the same as hers was — an unwanted divorce
At 30 he’d met Jesus, who put him on course

They wrote and they spoke on the telephone each day
They sent photos, they shared, and they’d quietly pray
In less than a month he had asked her to marry
But they hadn’t met, and the woman was wary

She loved him and felt that his love was a gift
But her 23-year old feet had not touched a snowdrift
From warm, sunny California to frigid Minnesota?
In terms of life’s stresses, had she exceeded her quota?

They met only once before tying the knot
Each one felt so certain of the treasure they’d bought
The woman quit her job, left her kin and her friends
And knew for the first time, that yes, a heart mends

So the Lord gave a sign and they made the big leap
With her family all present they promised to keep
The vows that they said — they were so joyful hearted!
Three months after that letter, for Duluth they departed

Fairy tales say “they lived happily ever after”
And their home for awhile was filled with bright laughter
The blizzards, they came, and the cold, it amazed her
By spring her blood thickened; the weather hadn’t phased her

In less than a year a new daughter was born
But the cloth of their marital bliss was now torn
For the man and the woman, despite their great love
Had some lessons to learn from the Teacher above

He wanted to mold them, to hone them, to polish
If they were to be Christlike, He’d have to demolish
Their stubbornness, selfishness, anger and greed
God’s plan for the couple was that His Word they’d heed

With tenderness, Jesus, their Savior, gave care
He led them through valleys and deserts so bare
He took them to mountaintops, gave them refreshing
He held both their hands when their wheat needed threshing

There were years of home schooling, and daughters’ emotions
Their ups and their downs and their tears that made oceans
There were days when the woman was sure that her life
Would never be free from confusion and strife

But the Lord was so generous, constant and kind
He always brought healing and true peace of mind
The couple had humor and friendship and they
Learned slowly that adversity helped them obey

Soon many years passed and their daughters had grown
Those beautiful girls were striking out on their own
The man and the woman, they looked on, astounded
And saw much answered prayer from those Gates they had pounded

From that first special letter to their love story today
There is one scarlet thread that has woven its way
Through the deaths and the triumphs they have known through the years
In the heartbreak and doubt, in the troubles and fears

This thread has been present when money was lacking
When the woman, offended, in her mind began packing
It ran through the days when no good thing was missing
The thread wound its way through the hugs and the kissing

The years that have passed almost number nineteen
And the woman has aged and isn’t nearly as lean
And the man who had brown hair is now fully gray
But they have not, they do not, they never will stray

From each other’s embraces, from the shield of the Lord
From His mercy and grace, from the blood He has poured
From the chastening He brings, from the pruning He gives
From the song in their hearts that cries out “Jesus lives!”

When she reached her forties the woman surveyed
That the scraps of their lives had been carefully laid
While faded and tattered and worthless to some
They’d been magnificently stitched by the One who had come

To show them the Way and the Life and the Truth
That He’s right in their midst there in arctic Duluth
The man and the woman know their story of love
Is the handiwork of their dear, faithful Father above.

This couple still lives, and they yet are quite flawed
But as long as their hearts beat they’ll be molded by God
His plyings, severe, and yet merciful, truly
Tell the story of Michael and his sweetheart Julie

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