The times they are a changin’….

May 27, 2016 | My Jottings

Friday felicitations to you, my tens of readers! I hope you’re able to enjoy a long holiday weekend and make a delightful memory or two with your family.

I have plans for this weekend, but I’m not sure about the delightful memory part. If driving up to the Subaru dealer to have my lug nuts tightened, and then going to the Verizon store and hoping to replace my shattered iPhone without spending hundreds of dollars constitutes some delightful memories, then I’m in trouble. Nevertheless, those are my plans. And I might read, and I might eat something with blue cheese dressing on it, and I might finish up all the paperwork necessary for my foster care re-licensing that happens next week. And I will go to my husband’s grave on Memorial Day, and tell the Lord for the ten-thousandth time how blessed I am to have been married to Michael for almost 34 years.

DSCN1281Speaking of foster care, I drove to Minneapolis yesterday with one of my gals, who will be having some minor surgery in a University of Minnesota clinic next month. We listened to the Radio Theatre production of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the drive south, ate some fruit, and watched the outside thermometer go from 50 degrees to 82 in just 150 miles. Then when we drove home we watched it go from 82 to 54. I know not everyone appreciates the cool springs and summers we can have by Lake Superior, but I do.

I’ve never been to a medical facility like the one we visited yesterday. There was valet service, and when we drove in to the bustling driveway, uniformed young men gave us a numbered receipt and parked the car. When we stepped inside the huge, light-filled building, more uniformed young people approached us and asked if we needed help finding Clinic 4J, which we did. We rode the elevator to the fourth floor and when we stepped out, there were many waiting areas with modern, comfortable chairs very similar to this one.

We checked in with an employee who stood behind a tall podium/desk, piled with large iPad-like tablets in leather holders. She did all her info taking and recording on her own tablet attached to a long-necked stand. When we were done checking in we were given one of these tablets in leather, so we could answer questions on it, sort of like the clipboard and paper and pen of ancient days. Will our grandchildren someday ask us, “Grandma, did you ever ride in a Conestoga wagon and use paper and pencils when you were little?”

Before we sat down with our tablet, my foster resident was given a lime green, plastic rectangle with a button on it, to clip to her shirt, “So she could be tracked by satellite” while she was in the building. At this point I was agog. They want to track us by satellite when we’re in the doctor’s office now? Because we might do what? Or go where? Lastly, the employee checking us in lifted her own tablet out of its stand up to her eye level to take a quick photo of my gal, so that when it was her turn to go through the doors of 4J, the nurse coming to get her could recognize her from the photo and not have to break her privacy and call her first name out loud.

We had a great appointment and the three professionals who helped my gal were fantastic.

When we rode the elevator down to the main floor, we were met by a young uniformed man who asked if we had used the valet parking. He led us to a station with several iPad-like tablets on it, and showed us how to scan our ticket under the red light, and pay for our parking by swiping my Visa, which then alerted the valets to run and get the Outback, which was parked in the hinterlands. As we approached the exit doors, there was a lime green push-door in the wall, where we were instructed to remove the clip from my gal’s shirt and drop it in. When we stepped into the bright Minneapolis sunshine, we took our places in line as the valets pulled up in the various cars of the departing patients. It reminded me of Disneyland and what it’s like to get on a ride there, except you’re not waiting for a Matterhorn bobsled or a boat for Pirates of the Caribbean to board, you’re waiting to spot your own blue Outback slowly rolling in the line of vehicles, then stopping right at your feet with an attendant to help you in.

Do any of you have medical facilities like this? It felt a bit futuristic, but it was very efficient. The times they are a changin’…  (I thought I’d say that because it’s true, but also because it was Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday this week, and he was born and lived his first five years in my city, and that’s also the title to one of his songs. He’s a distant cousin of Michael’s, on the Zimmerman side, but I don’t think that means Bob wants me to call him up to say hey or anything.)

I guess it’s time to make a cup of tea, turn on some music (this is one of the songs on today’s CD), and get to my tasks.

May God bless you with His hope and help today,

More Monday Minutiae

May 23, 2016 | My Jottings

I wouldn’t say that rainy days and Mondays always get me down, but I would say that rainy days often bring a happy feeling to my heart, and Mondays make me feel tired before I even get out of bed. Today is supposed to be a rainy Monday, so that’s good, but it’s Monday, so that’s a bit of a challenge. I could probably rewrite Paul Williams’ song and sing, “Rainy days and Mondays always make me feel conflicted….” Except that I would sound nothing like Karen Carpenter, whose rendition of the song gives me the chills.

1. I have errands to do today. Doctor’s appointment, grocery shopping, foster care provider meeting.

2. I’ve been watching Dancing with the Stars this season and am rooting for two women I’d never heard of before. (Ginger Zee, chief meteorologist for ABC News/Good Morning America, which I don’t watch, so that might be why I’ve never heard of her, and Paige Vanzant, who apparently is some kind of fighter, which is weird that I would root for someone like that but you would just have to watch to understand why Sara and I like her, and then pray that I would start shortening my sentences.)

3. Our adorable, cheeky little parakeet Phoebe has grown quite comfortable with eating out of our hands now. Here’s a photo of Feebs (Phoebs?) sitting in Merida’s Sara’s hand, eating millet. You can click to enlarge the photos if you like. IMG_2807We have hopes that Feebles (Phoebles?) will someday feel fine about coming out of the cage, having her wings slightly clipped so she can’t fly into the wall, and will eventually sit on our shoulders. We had a cockatiel years ago named Rosie who did all that and more.

4. I am trying to decide if I can take a three week trip to England, Ireland and Scotland sometime this fall. If I lived alone, I’d have my tickets already, but there are details that must be ironed out, so I’m still on the fence.

5. I just finished my tenth book by Corrie ten Boom yesterday. Truly she was one of the most incredible people to ever live. I love this quote by her: “Look around you – be distressed, look within – be depressed, look at Jesus – be at rest!”

6. Do any of you like blue cheese dressing? It’s my favorite and we have a double batch of this made at all times. I have the best recipe for it, and if you’d like to try it, here’s the link.

7. Now that the grass is green and spring is really here in Northeastern Minnesota, we decided to buy our own grave flower basket instead of renting one from the cemetery. IMG_2814Sara put some flowers, greens and vines in it and we placed it on Michael’s grave Saturday.

8. I’m looking ahead to when I might retire in a few years, and have decided to start paring down bit by bit now. Yesterday I went through all the books in my bedroom and pulled out the ones I knew I’d never read again. Even so, they’re like old friends and I felt so sorry to have to part with them. Today after my doctor’s appointment I will take almost a car load to the Goodwill, and pray that whoever needs these wonderful reads will find them there.

9. The University for Seniors term is over for the summer, and will resume again in September. I will be participating again — what a great experience it was for me. If any of you are over 50, love to learn without being graded or pressured, and are in my area, I encourage you to look into going in the fall. You can take one class or ten, and the cost is only $140.

10. Each time I read the news I marvel that the race for President has come to this. For a few minutes yesterday the state of things sent me to a wonderful blog about an American woman who became an expat to Scotland, and she had a lot of advice for how to make the move. I know if my kids are giving me fits about entertaining a move to the mountains of North Carolina, I’d never hear the end of it if I moved to the Scottish Highlands, so it’s only a dream. But for a while, a simple cottage overlooking Loch Ness or on the Isle of Skye is much more pleasant to consider than a pompous, philandering, mocking person in the White House. A friend asked me recently if I would ever consider voting for Trump, and I told her never. I am not ashamed of any person I’ve ever voted for for President, even though a couple of them have been largely unpopular. I would be honestly ashamed to have to someday tell my grandchildren or great-grandchildren that I was a woman who voted for Donald Trump.

11.  Have you ever eaten a chocolate donut in a bowl with milk poured over it? Then cut it with a spoon into little mushy bites, and sat in a comfy chair in front of the TV while watching a travel show about Edinburgh? You should try it!

12. Do you have any Monday Minutiae?

It’s bird chirping weather.

May 17, 2016 | My Jottings

After the work of the day is done and the meal of the evening has been gratefully received, I often sit in Michael’s old, brown leather recliner. It’s near a large window on the west side of our house, and right outside that window is a bluish green juniper tree. The tree is at least 15 feet tall and needs trimming, as its former cone shape has fanned out into spikes of new growth, making it look wild and bushy. A couple of weeks ago I saw movement out of the corner of my left eye, and spied a robin flying into the interior of the juniper. Soon she was out again, flying up and over the three miniature crab apple trees that stand together at the edge of our small property. When she returned again with a mouthful of brown grass streaming from her beak, I knew she was probably building a nest.

This morning I sat in the recliner as I finished eating a Pink Lady apple, and there was that dark brown blur in my peripheral vision again. I retrieved the kitchen step stool, invited Sara to come with me to see what there was to see, and oh, what a wonder we witnessed!

I was careful to place the step stool quietly, and as I pulled the branches gently apart in the vicinity where I thought I’d seen Rosemary (that’s the mother robin’s name) fly in, a fluttering flash shot by me, missing my shoulder by inches. She perched about 20 feet away in one of the crabapple trees and watched me. Here’s a blurry picture of her:

mrobphoto (1)

I promised Rosemary I would not touch her children, and that I’d only look once. I would hate it if someone came into my house to nose around without my permission. I hope somehow she forgave my need to gaze upon the miraculous.

I took two quick photos with my iPhone (click to enlarge) and here’s the best one:


Three baby robins! I think by what I could find online they must be about four days old right now. And their mom has apparently removed the beautiful light blue eggs. Look at the perfection of that nest. Do you see the little tufty feathers coming in? In about ten days they’ll be ready to leave their lovely home, which is hard to fathom. I wish major progress could be made in my life in ten days. 🙂

“My favorite weather is bird chirping weather.” 

~Terri Guillemets

The robins wake me up in the mornings now before my alarm does. The older I get the less I like throwing back the covers before 6:00 a.m., but my reluctance has faded a bit with the sun and the heartening birdsong that comes with spring.

Old Pickleson

May 13, 2016 | My Jottings

I’m just getting ready to take a bath, put on my warm plaid nightgown, and settle into a book or a massage or a facial for the night. But seeing how there is no masseuse or skincare specialist that I know of in my vicinity, I think the likelihood of the latter two choices is close to zero. So that leaves a bath and a book. And haven’t there been worse things in our lives than a bath and a book? Oh yes.

Some of you might remember that I’m delving into all the books written by or about Corrie ten Boom. I wish I could convey what is happening, but I think in a sense I’m being mentored (at age 58) by Corrie, even though she’s gone on to glory and we’ve never met. So, for Mother’s Day Sara gave me a canvas she painted, of a well-known quote of Corrie’s. I think Corrie’s sister Betsie said it too. Isn’t it beautiful? She found an example online and then just painted from the photo. I have it hung in my office and love it.


My daughter Carolyn gave me a beautiful card with some very loving words she wrote inside, and that made me cry. And my daughter Sharon came over in the afternoon to give me a long hand and arm massage, and that made me moan. She found all kinds of knots and bad things which would explain my wrist pain and the way my arm muscles feel like oatmeal underneath my skin.

This morning I took my Subaru Outback for an oil change and tire rotation. I’ve had the car for almost a year and a half now, and the odometer just turned over 8000 miles. I’m a real ramblin’ gal these days. You’ve heard of the used cars driven slowly and carefully and infrequently by grandmas? That’s my scenario, and whoever buys my car when I’m done with it will get a deal.

After I came home I fixed myself the most delicious lunch. I tore up an entire romaine heart on a plate, topped it with a small handful of peanuts and a couple tablespoons of dried cranberries, then drizzled (“plopped” might be more accurate) some homemade blue cheese dressing on it. After I finished my salad I had some watermelon for dessert and felt so blessed to enjoy a peaceful meal at my table, looking out on the deep blue of Lake Superior as I ate.

Carolyn and baby Miriam stopped over a little before 2:00, and Miriam and I had a great time together, playing with all the little stuffed Audubon birds I have. I’ve collected these for over a decade and my grandchildren have had hours of enjoyment from them. Here’s a link if you’d like to see what I’m talking about. When you squeeze the birds, actual recordings of that bird’s vocalizations play, and Miriam was delighted when I helped her cup her chubby hands around each one and squeeze so she could hear the honks and twitters and peeps. We have a male and female cardinal (of course), a turkey, a loon, an eastern bluebird, an oriole, a chickadee, a Canada goose and a goldfinch.

A little while ago Sharon called to tell me something funny. lmFullSizeRenderShe said that while she and 3 1/2 year old Louisa were driving today, Louisa asked from her car seat behind Sharon, “What’s your mom’s name?”

“Julie,” Sharon answered.

“Oh, Balmer Julie!” Louisa said.

“Yes, Julie Balmer.”

“Does she have a nickname?” Louisa wanted to know.

“Not really. People call her either Julie, or Mom, or Grandma.”

Louisa thought about this and then asked, “Not Old Pickleson?”

Nope. Not Old Pickleson.

But I’m sort of a pushover where my grands are concerned, so if Louisa decides she wants to call me Old Pickleson instead of Grandma, I think that’s an acceptable choice.

What did you call your grandpa and grandma? I called mine Grandpa and Grandma (Sooter or McInteer), but I know people who call theirs Pop and Nannie, and Papa and Nana.

If you’re a grandparent, what do your grands call you?

Not Old Pickleson, I hope.

Not ready to talk about the GOP results yet.

May 6, 2016 | My Jottings

And when I am ready to discuss the probable nominees, I might truly rant.

So I’ll just ramble a bit. Rambling vs. ranting — which would you prefer? 🙂

I’ve had a busy couple of days, and I’m looking forward to a day at home tomorrow. Most normal people make weekend plans; I make weekend lulls.

Yesterday was week six of my University for Seniors term, and I’m continuing to find it challenging and enjoyable. Our assignment for our Memory into Memoir class was to write an anecdote about an older person. I wrote about my Grandma Oma McInteer and how I took her on a surprise adventure when I was a teenager. I revised the post I originally wrote about our outing, but if you don’t know the story of how I blindfolded Grandma and took her someplace that shocked her, you can click here.

Then for my Great Books class, we discussed the short story “Tomorrow, Tomorrow and So Forth” by John Updike. I’m reading things in this class I would never pick up otherwise, and it has been good to be challenged. There are usually four questions at the end of each novella or short story, and after the first read-through I almost always answer those questions to myself, 1. I don’t know, 2. I don’t know, 3. I don’t know, and 4. What the heck are you talking about?  Then I read it again slowly, more critically, and shafts of light come to my understanding. Then on Thursday when I sit around the huge table with 25 other students (ranging in age from about 55 – 85) and listen to their comments and insights, it’s fascinating. The woman who led our discussion yesterday was a beautiful 83-year old retired teacher, and I could tell the questions she prompted us with came from a brilliant mind.

There is no summer term, but I’m already looking forward to seeing what they offer in the fall. If you’d like to see some of the quirky courses offered from this current term, you can click here.

This morning after getting several living beings fed and cared for in the individual ways they needed, I finished my last CBS lesson of the year, meditated on Psalm 6, wrote in my gratitude journal, took a few deep concerns to the Lord, and then plopped myself into my office chair to tackle a pile of foster care paperwork.  Jphoto

After my lunch of homemade curried chicken fingers on a bed of romaine with yummy vinaigrette, I went to Grandparents’ Day at two of my grandchildren’s school. Li’l Gleegirl sang two lovely solos (one of which was the Navy hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”) and Louisa’s preschool class sang a song about the ocean. After the wonderful program, we left the church and went to see their classrooms in the school a couple blocks away. Li’l Gleegirl showed me the folktale she wrote and the coat of arms she’s working on, which includes a huge shamrock, a cross, a dog’s paw print and a magnifying glass. The latter is because of her new interest in Trixie Belden mystery books. Did any of you read Trixie Belden books when you were young? I did. I liked Nancy Drew mysteries best, but read all of the Trixie books when I was in fifth and sixth grade.

Then I visited Louisa’s classroom and she showed me a flower she planted in a pot for her mama’s Mother’s Day gift, along with her own thoughts about her mom, written out by her teacher on a sheet of paper: “What does your mother like to do?” (Take pictures). “How old is your mother?” (30 — haha!). “What does your mother fix you to eat?” (Ham sandwich with cheese.) And “What does your mother do to relax?” (Lays in her bed — *grin*.) Sharon is going to love this fine Mother’s Day gift.  🙂

By the time I drove home, the temperature in our famously cool city soared to 95 degrees. And a small town 20 minutes up the shore of Lake Superior, Two Harbors, was the hottest place in the nation today. So unexpected and unwelcome. I am deathly allergic to any temperature over 79 degrees.

Then around dinner time some black clouds gathered, thunder boomed and lightning flashed, and torrents of much needed rain poured for about an hour and lowered the temperature 15 degrees.

I dropped my ancient iPhone today and instead of having the glass replaced I might opt for a new phone. Mine has very little storage and seems obsolete compared to the newest ones. I’ve never had a Droid phone and know a couple people who really like them. I’d love to hear opinions from those of you who’ve had both a Droid and an iPhone — which do you prefer and why? Thank you in advance for your help.

And for those of you who are mothers, I hope your Mother’s Day this Sunday is a good one — may your offspring rise up and call you blessed.

Thank you for stopping in,

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 128

May 4, 2016 | My Jottings

Victor Hugo

“The pupil dilates in darkness and in the end finds light, just as the soul dilates in misfortune and in the end finds God.” –Victor Hugo

*         *         *         *         *         *         *

Revelation 3:20

May 3, 2016 | My Jottings

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

No one!

I got up one morning recently and this is what the dining room looked like — Sara had seen a blue and white table cloth she liked and brought it home and tried it out. She put some orchids in an old Delft pottery container, and put out place mats and matching cloth napkins. I took this photo before the silverware was added, and just thought I’d share. See all the morning sun we get?


It made me think of who I would like to invite over, though. And aside from picturing many of you at our table, I let my mind wander to what it would be like if Jesus really came for a meal at my house. I don’t even know if I could talk. I think I would be equal parts Mary and Martha, wanting so desperately to make everything comfortable and delicious for Him, and yet yearning only to sit with Him and listen to every single thing He had to say.

Then I thought of Revelation 3:20, where Jesus said this, “Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home, and share a meal with him, and he with me.”  —NET Bible

I can’t get over the thought of the King of the universe standing at my front door (either the door of my home or the one to my heart) and humbly knocking, asking for entry. If anyone has the right to barge in, it’s Jesus. But He knocks.

And He also says He will share a meal with the person who lets Him in. Not just eat a meal. There would be give and take. Deep words and knowings. Laughter. There would be true communion, I think. And lots of tears on my part.

What would you do if you knew Jesus was coming to your house for dinner?