Seeds of hope

May 29, 2009 | My Jottings

For a long time now I’ve been thinking about hope and patience and how they’re linked. Specifically, hope in God and His doings, and patience with His timing. I don’t want to just hope, I want to hope in God.

Hope alone is like putting a heartfelt written message into a bright blue balloon, then blowing it up and releasing it into the air, fixing your eyes on it as it rises, until it’s just a tiny blue pixel in the sky before it disappears from sight, and wishing it will go someplace where someone will eventually find it and read it.

Hope in God is like writing that same message from your heart on a scrap of paper, and as soon as you put down the pencil, a huge hand comes down from on high and takes to Himself what you’ve written, and leaves you with a sense of peace and expectancy that not only were your words received, but are that very minute being ably and lovingly tended to.

Patience is diligently keeping in your heart and mind the picture of that huge hand taking those words, while the circumstances around you still rage and roar, and calmly and confidently waiting for the answer, the resolution, the change, the miracle, the whatever is needed to come.

Not long ago I received a wonderful drawing from a new friend I met at our local Community Bible Study. Her name is Shawna and she heard me share a while back about the changes that God has brought into my life, and my (varied) responses to those changes. She sent me a sensitive and encouraging note, along with a wonderful drawing she did, entitled, “Seed of pain mixed with seeds of hope.”

I had no trouble at all picking out which seeds are the seeds of hope, and the drawing is very meaningful to me. I plan to have it nicely framed and it will hang in our bedroom in a conspicuous place.


Seed of pain mixed with seeds of hope

I decided to assign verses to each of the seeds Shawna drew.  🙂

The seed on the left:  Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

The next seed:  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:24-25

The dark seed of pain:   We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;  perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

And the last seed:  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Shawna’s drawing is really a glimpse of what life is like, isn’t it? Hope mixed with pain. Or pain mixed with hope. The main thing I want to keep in mind, though, is that as I hope, I’m not just sending up a balloon and wondering if it actually reaches someone instead of going down in some remote woods, never to be found. I’m hoping in God. I’m putting my hope in Jesus. It’s the patience while hoping that I’m still fumbling with.

I need all the reminders I can get. Be patient, Julie. Put your hope in God, Julie. Amid the pain, there is still hope. Hoping in God brings peace and joy. Julie, hope in Him does not disappoint.

When I hang Shawna’s drawing in our bedroom, these are the truths I will be reminded of.

Edition 6 – Wednesday’s Word

May 27, 2009 | My Jottings

“O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises…whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days…Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer.”

John Wesley

Trying not to trifle,

Accidental Bloggist

May 25, 2009 | My Jottings

I do realize that bloggist is not actually a real word. Blogger is a new word in this decade, but it’s still barely a word.

So accidental bloggist is a phrase I’m using (anyone read the book Accidental Tourist?) because I’m going to share once again some of the funny search terms that people have typed on Google that accidentally sent them to my site,

Some of these are chuckleworthy. See if you don’t smile at a few – these are exact quotes:

“Do you ever listen to a song over and over again” – yes, yes I do. Yes, yes, I do. Yes, yes I do. Yes…as a matter of fact, I do this a lot. What I’m playing over and over again right now is a G.T. and the Halo Express CD.

“Big Tex pure grapefruit juice” – No Big Tex pure grapefruit juice at, Google folks.

“No one to tell me and no one to say Julie will come over” – what do you suppose this person was actually searching for? Are these lyrics to a song? If not, maybe they could be…

“Kilt” – they probably saw this photo, but scratched their head when they read the druthers post.

“Anemia muesli recipe” – I didn’t know there was an anemia muesli recipe. I think if you put red meat in my muesli recipe, it might help your anemia.

“Son-in-law Jeremy Birkenstocks” – My son-in-law is named Jeremy, but his last name isn’t Birkenstocks.

“Purple sea anemone” – People from all over the world happen upon my blog because of this post, more than any other thing I’ve ever written. That’s the truth.

“Be persnickety blog Julie” – Okay, I’ll try!

“Sheep lie down” – I’ve heard that they do – in green pastures, as a matter of fact.

“Her arm hair” – whaaaat?

“The blog that ate Cleveland” – Google sent them to my site for this quote? I don’t think my blog even knows anyone in Cleveland.

“Enemies of the pachycephalosaurus” – Yes, if you wanted accurate information about dinosaurs you could always visit my blog. I’m incessantly posting something about the uplifting Jurassic era.

“Sharon Nisky” – perhaps the name of my yet to be conceived great-granddaughter?

“Doily couch” – I think when I’m seventy-three I’ll probably own a couch made entirely of doilies. Not yet though.

“Woman yawning face smell” – Oh my. I’m not sure this woman received any help when she clicked on this site.

“Beagle boo radley” – I didn’t think Boo Radley had a dog. Maybe I need to read the book again.

“What is the meaning of a woman slaying a dragon” – I have no idea. I only know about one woman (me) trying to slay a figurative dragon (selfishness) and I wrote about it here.

“Rabbiting laws” – I couldn’t agree more – there should be rabbiting laws, and they should be aimed at shiftless crows who take fake casual strolls in yards in which there are rabbit holes housing helpless baby bunnies.

“Would” – What in the world would a person be looking for by typing “would” into Google? Whatever it was, they found my blog.

Anyway, I’m on vacation, so this is auto-posting. I will tell you about our trip when we return.

If you accidentally happened upon this blog because you typed “fever kangaroo Tupperware elbow departure,” into your Google search, I welcome you. If you actually visit here on purpose, thank you for reading.


Childhood books

May 22, 2009 | My Jottings

With a passel of grandchildren in my life, children’s books are never far away. Right now there are several piles in the den, some in the living room, at least ten on our bedroom shelf, two on the dresser, one on the floor beside the bed, and one on the kitchen counter. I love sharing books with my grandchildren that I enjoyed as a child.

The books that I loved when I was little were:

Carol Ryrie Brink’s The Pink Motel.




I haven’t read this to my grandchildren yet but think I might this summer.  Actually, anything by Carol Ryrie Brink is wonderful. She is most famous for Caddie Woodlawn, but her The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein was also a favorite with my children years ago.




And Beverly Cleary books were great reads, especially for little girls. My granddaughter Clara is devouring Cleary’s books as fast as she can get her hands on them. This is her favorite out of all she’s read so far:





About three weeks ago I took two of my grandchildren to see a wonderful play at the Minneapolis Children’s Theater called Ramona Quimby.  Based on her other grandma’s recommendation, Clara is now reading Cleary’s Ellen Tebbits.




I also was addicted to Nancy Drew books. I didn’t like when they were revised and modernized even back then. I preferred the word “roadster” to “car,” and “pumps” to “shoes,” and I thought Nancy’s hair was much more attractive when it was called “titian” rather than “blond.”  One of the best Nancy Drew books was this one:





If I remember correctly, this story was set in Canada, and an evil crook (in the red coat, one inch away from an unsuspecting Nancy on this old book jacket) almost thwarts her ingenious sleuthing work that not even entire police departments and experienced attorneys could outdo.







 I have no remembrance of why I liked this book so much, but I owned it and read it several times. I recall staring at the cover a lot. I’d be surprised to learn that any of you read this one – did any of you read this one?










And what childhood would be complete without the adventure and imagining this Newbery award book brings? Some of the concepts in L’Engle’s books aren’t easy to explain, but even youngsters are fascinated by the thought of “tessering.”






I first learned about Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books in second grade when my teacher, Mrs. Lokken, read them out loud to us after lunch recess every day. It was hot where I grew up, and the lights would be turned out to keep the room cooler, and we would put our sweaty heads down on the desks and listen to these wonderful stories. I read them to my children and now my grandchildren enjoy them:


Clara recently told me that her favorite Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle story is “The Radish Cure.”


There are so many of course, but my final favorite today is this book, one of many written by Marguerite Henry:





This heartwarming book won the Newbery medal in 1949, and now sixty years later I just finished reading this true story to some grandchildren. It’s the kind of book that made them say at each chapter’s end: “Grandma, will you read one more chapter, please???”

I just love it when they say that.  🙂





Now it’s your turn. What is one (or some) of your favorite books from your childhood?

Bunny Bereavement

May 20, 2009 | My Jottings

They’re gone. All six tiny bunnies have disappeared and I can’t bear to think that they might have been eaten. The hole has been empty for a couple of days now, and the most tragic part is the mother has been looking for them.

I’ve watched her show up and look at the empty nest, and then hop a few feet away and just sit. Waiting. Watching. At one point the other evening she actually laid down on her side on the grass near the garden, like a dog stretches out to rest, waiting for her children to show up.

The mother rabbit was back yesterday checking the nest, but all six babies were still missing. She sat there quietly, wiggling her nose and looking off into the distance.

The bunnies were too young to have all just decided to start their own lives somewhere else without letting mom know. Something happened to them, and it’s almost more than I can bear, even though I realize that this is just life in the animal world. I know that people are starving all over the planet, families are hurting, jobs have been lost, lives are being torn apart. As slightly irrational as it is, I’m so sad for this mother bunny. I may be ascribing more to her “emotional state” than is really there, but it wrenches my heart to have seen her faithfully caring for her young, and now to see that they’re all gone.

I’m glad I didn’t witness whatever it was that happened to them. I kept seeing crows casually walking around in our yard, and I knew they were up to no good. Is a crow ever up to any good? Do you know any crows who are given to kind and philanthropic deeds? I didn’t think so.

I know crows are part of God’s creation, but today I detest them anyway.

Edition 5 – Wednesday Whimsy

My Jottings

I have always liked the writings of Ruth Bell Graham, the late wife of Billy Graham. She was funny, deep, passionate, practical, resilient and wise. I hope to share more of her words in coming months, and someday I’ll tell about how she actually called our house one day and spoke with my husband Michael. 🙂

Here is the first quote on the blog from her:

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.

Ruth Bell Graham


Bunny Bulletin

May 18, 2009 | My Jottings

Last week Sara happened upon a bunny hole in our garden and I wrote about it here. We’ve been watching them since then and recently found that there are six live bunnies, now almost doubled in size, piling on top of each other in the shallow hole. The mother comes at least twice a day to nurse them, but now they’re all venturing out into the yard on their own for hours at a time during the afternoon.

Here’s a photo of them all dozing together in the hole. They’re about the size of an average fist.


And you can make out some cute little ears:


We’re still concerned about the presence of crows who seem to be taking an interest in our yard lately. I hurry out and shoo them away when I see them, but I obviously can’t be out there all the time.

I know the predator/prey thing is part of the grand scheme of things, but I don’t really like it. For some reason it makes me sad. I want the lion to lay down with the lamb now. And the schnauzer to lay down with the squirrel. And the crow with the bunny. And so on.

Lord, I was born a ramblin’ woman…

May 16, 2009 | My Jottings

I’m such a nester, such a homebody, that anyone who knows me knows that today’s title can’t possibly mean I’m a ramblin’ woman in the normal sense. No, it means in the wordy sense. I was born to ramble, and so ramble in print I will.

Yesterday Michael and I drove to the Minneapolis area for an all-day series of medical appointments at The Struthers Parkinson’s Center. We left at 6:45 a.m. in order to make his first appointment, and returned home in the torrential rain last night after dinner.

At the Struthers Center Michael saw his neurologist, Dr. Martha Nance, who prescribed a significant increase in the medication he’s taking. She’s a brilliant, slightly quirky woman we really like and trust, and she said that in spite of the increase in meds he began two months ago, he still looks like “an undermedicated Parkinson’s patient.” I knew what she was talking about; once you know what PD looks like, you can often pick other people out in a crowd and tell they have it by the way they tentatively move, by the lack of expression on their face, the sound of their voice. So he will begin taking quite a bit more of the carbidopa/levadopa this week, which replaces the lost dopamine in his brain (which facilitates basic body movement). The goal is to take enough drugs to restore smooth movement and hence, quality of life, but not to take so much medication that the main side effect, dyskinesia, sets in.

Dyskinesia is the term for the wild, undulating movements that most of us have seen in Michael J. Fox. Parkinson’s disease actually makes one stiff and frozen; too much medication makes one dyskinetic. It’s actually pretty difficult to take just the right amount of medication because there are so many variables. Sometimes a PD patient (they call each other Parkies) will have wonderful results with the same pill, and the next day it’s not enough because they ate more protein, or because the atmospheric pressure is different, or because of any kind of stress. So most PD patients know they can fiddle with their meds and most doctors give them that permission, within guidelines.

We learned yesterday from Dr. Nance that Michael’s PD is more complex than just the kind that causes a movement disorder. His Parkinson’s is beginning to affect his cognition and his ability to retain things that are said to him. Up until now his medication has helped a little. We’re hoping that the increase will help even more.

After we saw Dr. Nance we saw a Speech Pathologist who specializes in Parkinson’s-related speech difficulties. Michael spoke into a microphone that showed us how many decibels his voice level reaches, and it was surprising to see that to reach the decibel level of a normal speaking voice, he had to exert the energy a healthy person would need to project their voice across a large, crowded room. So for him to make himself heard, he has to basically make himself yell, which gets pretty tiring for him. He was a bit taken aback to see on the computer monitor that his normal speaking voice (affected by PD) is at the level of a whisper. What makes it even harder is that PD affects a person’s perception of this – when they raise their voice to what most listeners would be able to understand, the patient himself wrongly perceives that he is yelling loudly. So we have a lot of speech practice and homework to do, along with some breathing strategies Michael will have to learn, so he can make himself understood a little better.

Then we had a lunch break, and we drove to a place nearby called Panchero’s Mexican Grill, where they made their own giant flour tortillas right before our eyes with this huge press that flattened the balls of dough and cooked each one within seconds. We had pulled pork burritos with tangy pico de gallo and black beans, and then we went outside to enjoy the beautiful day. It was warm and breezy and many people were out walking, reading on benches, experiencing the pleasant weather after such a long winter.

Once back at Struthers, Michael’s next hour-long appointment was with a Physical Therapist, who had him walk down the aisle and back several times, and she was able to see that his right side is more affected than his left. He doesn’t swing his right arm much when he walks, and occasionally drags his right foot in stride, although it’s not obvious to an untrained eye. She spent a lot of time teaching him about posture (which deteriorates in PD), turning around in small places without falling, the importance of stretching and spine extension. We learned about “festinating,” which is a strange phenomenon that happens in PD patients, and Michael is beginning to experience this. Sometimes when he starts to walk, or particularly when he is walking through a doorway, his brain misfires and inaccurately senses the narrowed space he’s about to pass through, and he involuntarily steps or shuffles jerkily really fast for a few seconds. He can’t control it, but there are things we learned about that can head off a festination before it starts.

By this time in the day, we were getting tired. There’s so much information given, so many new things that need to be learned about living with Parkinson’s, we both felt a little overloaded. And traveling is always a bit tiring too, and we knew we had the long drive home after his last appointment.

Michael’s last appointment for the day was with a kind and compassionate man named Rick, who’s an Occupational Therapist who specializes in PD issues. This was perhaps the most helpful appointment of the day. He showed Michael how to turn over in bed easier by using a large piece of satin on the mattress, tucked on the sides. He brought Michael a tray of food and had him try out several adapted eating utensils, and what a difference those made. He’ll be able to cut and spear his food much easier now. Rick tested Michael’s strength, his spatial perceptions, his finger mobility, and was honest and encouraging even though the findings were sobering. We left that appointment with a pile of paperwork and a catalog from which we’ll order several items that we’re hopeful will be really helpful in everyday life.

On the way back from The Struthers Center we listened to The Hobbit on CD, read by a man whose name escapes me now but whose deep and rich British accent makes for delightful listening. It poured most of the way home and even with the windshield wipers on high, visibility was minimal. We were so glad to get home safely after such a long and eventful day. On the last stretch of road, about a mile from our house, we thanked God for giving us a safe journey.

Our daughter Carolyn and her husband Jeremy held down the fort while we were gone, serving meals to and visiting with our residents, making sure Edith and Mildred the Schnauzers were put out sixty-seven times, and just generally giving us the peace of mind needed to spend the whole day away at Michael’s appointments.

When we pulled into the driveway in the pouring rain, the lamps in the den were glowing from the window, the house had been picked up and vacuumed, the kitchen was spotless with the dishwasher running, and even the grass had been mowed. I was so thankful for the things Carolyn and Jeremy did for us while we were gone.

Today we have grocery shopping to do, prescriptions to fill, paperwork to complete, meals to make. We’ll also order some things from a Parkinson’s catalog, and now bent forks, curved-handle knives and plate guards will be part of our kitchen. We’ll buy some satin yardage for our bed and perhaps a stretching DVD that we’ll eventually do together several times a week. I know that as we drive along and listen to The Hobbit in the car, Michael will quietly reach for my hand as he usually does. Our individual thoughts may not come out as conversation, but they’ll probably be similar thoughts: we did not sign up for this. Who knew that Parkinson’s Disease would be a part of such a vigorous, active, strong man’s life? Who knew that my husband would be forced to become slow and inactive, prisoner to his own stiffening muscles?

But I’ll tell you what we did sign up for, back on June 28, 1981. We signed up for each other. We signed up for years of faithfulness and service to each other. We signed up for forgiveness and patience. We signed up for “better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.” We promised each other, our family and friends, and God, that we would take whatever came, with His help. If I am to be perfectly honest I must say that Michael has honored these vows much more graciously than I have. But God’s kindness and patience with me makes me want to do better and better. I want to learn to love lavishly, as He does. I believe He’s teaching me, and He’s astoundingly merciful with such a willful and stubborn child.

In spite of all these trials, I know that God is good. I’m so glad that His ways are higher than my ways. I’m so relieved I don’t have to understand what He does to trust what He does.

In His grip,

Garden surprise

May 14, 2009 | My Jottings

Our youngest daughter Sara has a week off from her job as a floral designer, and on Monday she decided to weed, clean and plant a good-sized flower garden we have in our front yard. We were thrilled – it was overgrown and needed a lot of attention. It took her eight hours, but she says she enjoyed it because the weather was so nice. Michael went out and joined her in the work they both think is so satisfying.p5101164

Right before noon I looked outside to check on her progress, and was just in time to see her quickly fling something aside and then rise from her knees and run off to another part of the yard, arms up and mouth open, as if frightened. Two thoughts came to me: that Sara had encountered some kind of underground hornet’s nest and was running from being stung; or that as she dug, she had happened upon some giant rabid rodent with long yellow front teeth and a thick long tail. In other words, a rat.

Then a slight movement caught my eye, and I saw that whatever she had flung had landed on the grass and was slowly inching itself along. From where I was inside the house, it looked like a mouse. Oh great, I thought. Just what we need, a mouse nest in our front yard, to add to the myriad chipmunks, squirrels and deer who make our property their own.

I went outside and Sara told me she had been digging around and clearing old leaves, and had inadvertently grabbed a handful of moving, brownish fur. Her first thought was “Rat!” and she automatically cast it aside and ran. I have to say, it was pretty funny to see her do that.

We cautiously made our way to the part of the yard where this small creature was slowly moving, and groooaaaned when we saw it was a newborn baby bunny. Sara had found a rabbit hole and there were four live babies there, eyes closed and ears back. The mother wasn’t in sight. What could we do? We knew we shouldn’t handle them, but we couldn’t very well leave the bunny out in the middle of the yard, away from its little brother and sisters, could we?





So while I ran in to get my camera, Sara gently picked the teeny creature up in her garden-gloved hands.







After I took a photo, she placed it back with its litter, gently recovering them with leaves and the plucked fur from their mother, as they had been found. They wriggled together and tried to burrow further under the earth a bit.


We were not happy that just a few minutes later a crow appeared, sometimes circling around our yard in the air, sometimes just walking nonchalantly around in the neighbor’s yard across the street. Have you ever seen a crow trying to act nonchalant?  This one did. Could he have possibly seen this group of bunnies in that short a time? We didn’t want to think about it.

I’ve looked out at that part of the garden many times since then and haven’t seen a crow there. We haven’t checked back to see how the bunnies are – we wanted to leave them be. We’re hoping they’re okay and that their mama is tending to them, even though when they grow up into adult rabbits we won’t appreciate the way they eat everything in sight.

It doesn’t matter what kind of creature it is, there’s just something irresistible about a newborn.

(Note added on Friday, May 15: very early this morning I saw Mama Bunny cautiously approach the hole in the garden, thump on the ground with her front paws, and at least one baby came out and spent time at her belly. I assumed the bunny was nursing, because Mama was very still while he seemed to be pushing himself closer to her. She sat like this for at least ten minutes. I didn’t see the babies return to their burrowed spot, but I’m sure they did, because Mama then rearranged the entrance to the hole with her front paws, tamping the earth rapidly and fluffing the leaves. She laid over on her side a bit, groomed her belly and then hopped off to a distant part of the yard. We were glad to see she’s still tending to her babies. Maybe we won’t be so glad when they’re grown and eating all our plants, but today this brought a smile.)

Edition 4 – Wednesday’s Word

May 13, 2009 | My Jottings

A Pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, and a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself.

A.W. Tozer