One Year Kidney-versary

August 5, 2021 | My Jottings

Good morning friends. Are you all staying cool wherever you are? We almost aren’t here, in the Air-Conditioned City of the North. In Northeastern Minnesota. The state known for bitter cold, for snow on the ground over half the year. For no one needing air conditioning because we are so far north, so close to the cold shores of cold Lake Superior. But times they are a-changin’, as one Northern Minnesotan famously wrote, and we have had sweltering, humid, smoky air for weeks and weeks now. I live a block away from Lake Superior and can’t see that exquisite sapphire blue because of the smoke in the air. I can’t imagine how it must be for those close to the fires that burn out west. I am one of the ones blessed with central air conditioning and it has been running around the clock for so long.

Today is my one year anniversary of donating my left kidney Justine. Last August 5th I went under the knife in a freezing operating room at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and a transplant surgeon opened up my belly, reached into the parenchymal depths all the way to my back, peeled away my adrenal gland and removed my healthy kidney and corresponding ureter (and some kidney fat is always taken as well, who knew?), put it on ice and handed it to a courier, who rushed it in a red cooler to the Minneapolis airport. It was flown to Madison, Wisconsin where another surgical transplant team was gowned, masked, gloved up and waiting, along with Justine’s recipient.

I have always hoped to hear something from the person who now has my kidney. The one that the Lord knit with His own hands while He was forming me in my mother’s womb in early 1957 in Covina, California. My son-in-law Chris, who needed a new kidney desperately but who is a different blood type so couldn’t receive mine, received a wonderful note from his donor months ago. I donated as part of Mayo Clinic’s Paired Donation Program, which allows people who want to help a loved one but aren’t a match, to give to someone else, while another donor gives to their loved one. Sometimes donation chains can involve up to two dozen people — can you imagine organizing the details and the operating rooms and flights for that kind of a situation?

Our situation involved only four people. On the morning of August 5th, I donated my kidney in Rochester, and at the same time Chris’s donor, a 27 year-old Good Samaritan donor named Blaine who listened to a podcast about kidney donation at work, signed up online with The National Kidney Registry, and generously decided to give a vital organ to a stranger, was undergoing his donation surgery in Denver. Blaine is from Amarillo, Texas, but had his surgery in Colorado.

Once Blaine’s kidney, a perfect match for my son-in-law, was on ice and put on a plane from Colorado to Minnesota, they began to get Chris ready. Once my kidney was on its way to Madison, my recipient was also being prepared. All four of us, so closely tied, yet two completely unknown to the others. It’s such a miracle to me still.

All I was told about Justine was that her person had done well during the transplant, and his/her kidney function was excellent. Is that amazing, or what? A fist-sized piece of tissue from my then-62 year old body was placed into the lower front abdomen/hip area of a very sick person in Wisconsin who had waited Lord knows how long for hope, and within a day, his/her blood pressure was normalized, the toxins that had built up were finally being flushed out of their exhausted body, new red blood cells were being made, and things put to right. How did you do that, God? Because I know it’s science, but I also know no scientist could make a kidney, and make it do all the precise and powerful things it does. That piece of flesh above might look gross to some, but I see God’s fingerprints all over it, and I am in awe.

Chris’s new kidney from Blaine in Amarillo did the same for him. He named his Magnus, and there was a lot of cleaning up to do since Chris had been in severe kidney failure for a long time. Magnus really rolled up his renal sleeves and took over.

I had hoped by now to hear from Justine’s new owner, but I haven’t. It’s possible I never will, and I accept that. I have never expected fanfare or even a thank you, but my intensely curious nature would be so happy to know a few details. Is Justine’s new owner old? Younger? Man, woman, black, white, brown, married, single? Children or grandchildren? Church organist, former drug user, gardener, sailor, news anchor, knitter, sitter. Anything? My friend Vicki faithfully prays that Justine’s person will send me a card, and I prayed that very thing this morning. Unless you’ve gone through this, it’s hard to explain, even though I’ve just spent a thousand words trying to do just that.

The other evening Lloyd and I were working on a puzzle, a circular 1000-piece puzzle of planet earth from space that is making me cross-eyed and is one of the hardest ones we’ve ever done. As I took a break and glanced out the window in the dusk, I saw a rabbit digging. We watched her dig her nest for a full thirty minutes, going horizontally underground past her neck, but doing so in a manner that left the grass above her undisturbed. She acted like she knew what she was doing.

Her mate stood off in the distance watching, and when he approached to give a paw, she chased him off. She rested for about ten minutes, then began to vigorously pull dry grass (of which there is no lack, due to the aforementioned heat and lack of rain) out of the ground with her mouth, until she looked like she had a thick straw mustache sticking out on either side of her face. She hopped over to carefully fill the nest with these piles of grass, then plucked again, filled the nest again, and so on.

Then Mama arranged some dead grass over the hole, and this is what it looks like. I went out the next day and could see at one end of this patch that it’s deeper and goes underground. I haven’t checked to see if she has given birth yet. She will come and nurse at night, then leave the nest relatively unvisited during the day.

It made me wonder how many rabbit’s nests I’ve seen before and never realized it, because it truly just looks like a patch of dry grass.

These photos aren’t the greatest and this next one was taken through a window screen, but if you look closely you can see the process. She’s there digging, and hasn’t gotten to the part where she gets down underground yet.

I saw Mama sitting on top of the nest the night before last, and after a couple of minutes she hopped over closer to the fence that divides my narrow back yard from the neighbor’s garage, and began grooming herself and gathering fur from her chest. She most certainly added this to the piles of grass so the bunnies will stay warm and covered.

We are fairly overrun with rabbits in our town and I realize they’re considered pests, as are squirrels and chipmunks and marauding black bears, but I love seeing creatures do what they were created to do. It seems like it’s hard to find human creatures doing what they’re supposed to do sometimes. Some of us have our purposes confused and think our main jobs are to vehemently disagree online with others, foster unrest and division, and forget what it might be like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

So I turn to the stars and planets when I can see them, to ponder the bigness of God. And I study a mother rabbit expertly preparing for her litter, so I can remember that He is able to show anyone how to live. I see the goldfinches at our feeder and this reminds me that it’s worthwhile, healing and encouraging to contemplate how much He loves beauty and variety.

Last night I spent some frivolous time working on a song pertaining to my kidney in Madison. (By the way, my remaining right kidney is named Verna, and a recent blood and urine workup revealed that she is finally taking up the slack after the shock of losing her partner. My kidney function numbers have increased and most likely Verna has stopped pouting and is actually growing physically larger to make up for Justine’s disappearance, something the nephrologists call hypertrophic compensation.)

This song about my donated kidney Justine is called Justine. I realize I’m slaying you with my originality and creativity. It’s set to the same tune as Jolene by Dolly Parton.

Justine, Justine, Justine, Justine
I’m telling you I just don’t understand
Justine, Justine, Justine, Justine
To have no news is not what I had planned

Your ureter was so pristine
The toxins flushed like a machine
All the water that I drank had kept you clean
You passed the tests, you made the grade
For months so many prayed and prayed
And they cut you right out of me Justine

It took a while for me to heal
My GFR tells me it’s real
And I thought that I would hear by now Justine
I wonder who you’re helping now
Do they just say “hurray!” and “wow!”
And I hope I still might learn someday Justine

Justine, Justine, Justine, Justine
I’m begging of you please just say hello
Justine, Justine, Justine, Justine
Have them reach out before it’s time to go

And that’s all I have today.

There are a few more verses to Dolly’s Jolene, so I really think the song about my kidney Justine should have some additional verses too. Anyone volunteering? 🙂

I hope your kidneys are functioning well, and if they are, I hope you’ll consider donating. You really could save someone’s life!

Did you know you don’t have to pay for anything if you donate an organ? Meals, travel, lodging, can all be covered. Did you know that you would never be chosen as a donor unless the testing revealed you could live healthily without a kidney? They go to great lengths to make sure the donation is right for the donor as well as for the recipient. Click here to see if you could be a donor.

I also hope you’re staying cool wherever you are, taking time to watch the wildlife nearby. If you need something miraculous to watch, try seeing what kind of breathtaking magic God has put in the brain of the plain, tiny Japanese puffer fish.

This video never fails to thrill me, and I’d be willing to bet there are a few of us who could use the right kind of thrill these days. Click here and prepare to marvel.

My Daughter’s Podcast

July 17, 2021 | My Jottings

Hello friends,

My oldest daughter Sharon has a new podcast that drops on Monday, July 19th, and I think you’ll love it. She has an online community called The Governerds, and much of what she shares on Instagram (@SharonSaysSo) pertains to reasonable discussion about politics, our government, the electoral college, Presidential trivia and more.

She’s a former high school Government and Constitutional Law teacher, she aims for non-partisan conversations, and I’ve learned a lot from her this past year. I didn’t even know I liked learning about the government until recently.  🙂

She also loves whales, eagles, woodchucks, and little-known facts about people, countries, and history, and she posts about those things too.

One of the things I’m looking forward to is her interview (not sure of the date) with the lead flight attendant on Air Force One. Did you know all the food on Air Force One is prepared on the plane? All except the bacon, which has to be prepared before the flights and carried onboard.

Sharon will be talking with magazine editors (like Time), politicians, authors, bloggers and Instagrammers you might recognize. Conservatives, liberals, and everyone in between can find common ground at her account, which isn’t something widely available these days.

You can listen for free on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere else where podcasts are available.

Three podcasts will drop each Monday, and I’d love to know if you listened. I promise you will learn something new, and these new facts might just bring, as Sharon likes to say, “brain tingles.”

Have a great weekend everyone,

Must Haves

July 8, 2021 | My Jottings

My daughters’ voices

A smooth writing pen

Something good to read

SmartWool socks

A long talk with a friend

Birkenstocks

Eye drops by the bed

Uplifting music in the background

A long warm cardigan

Mentos gum

Stök cold brew coffee

Lavender essential oil and wool dryer balls

My gratitude journal

Water in my Yeti cup all day long

Grandchildren’s mementos

Acorn slippers

LOC in a hot bath

Time alone

Nest-flix each morning

Cool, dry air

Frazier fir foaming soap

Community Bible Study

Honey in my tea

Birdsong

God’s peace

A to-do list

White vinegar in the washer rinse cycle

Tiny lamp light

Nature shows

Reconciling to the penny

Cardinals outside my window

Plackers floss picks twice a day

Romaine and blue cheese

Early to bed

Windchimes

Trees

The hope of heaven

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What are some of your must-haves?

 

Thai Shrimp and Noodles

July 1, 2021 | My Jottings

From the archives… but I think you should try this recipe so I’m posting it again.

I’ve made Thai Shrimp and Noodles for years, but it has been a long time since I fixed it. I like shrimp, but don’t eat very much of it, since it’s a bottom feeder and all. So once or twice or thrice a year, I might make something with shrimp. I can’t remember where I got this recipe or I would give proper credit. I’ve tweaked it for our family’s taste and thought I’d share it with you. We had it last night and there were some  “mmm-mmm good!” comments.

Thai-Shrimp-and-noodles-recipe-taste-and-tell-2

Thai Shrimp and Noodles

16 ounces broken spaghetti noodles
1 pound broccoli flowerets (about 4 cups)
1 pound fresh or frozen shrimp
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup soy sauce
8 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
4 tablespoons sesame oil
1 dash Tabasco or 1 teaspoon crushed chili peppers
2 tablespoons grated ginger root (I like to use the kind that comes in little jars)
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
1/2 cup chopped, raw cashews

In a very large pot, bring a large amount of water to boiling.  Add pasta; cook four minutes.  Add broccoli; cook two minutes.  Add shrimp; cook 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine peanut butter and soy sauce.  Stir in vinegar, sesame oil, chili peppers or Tabasco, ginger root and garlic.  I like to whisk this all together to mix the peanut butter in with everything well.

Drain spaghetti mixture and return to the pan.  Add the peanut butter mixture, green onions and nuts.  Toss gently to coat.  Serve in warmed pasta bowl.  Makes 6 generous servings.

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What’s for dinner tonight at your house?

The Kindest Kelly

June 27, 2021 | My Jottings

From the archives…

Her name tag said Kelly. She was a ticket agent in a smart navy blue uniform with green trim, behind the Eastern Airlines counter in the Atlanta airport. It was 1979 and I was 22 years old, a heartbroken and exhausted young mother with two tiny daughters in tow, eleven pieces of luggage to keep track of, and a bleak-looking future before me.

When my then-husband Glenn decided to rather suddenly end our marriage in Germany so he could be with another woman (who also needed to end her marriage), I just had to get home to Southern California. The Air Force required meetings and copious amounts of documentation to warrant their issuing airline tickets earlier than the planned three years we were all to be stationed in Germany. By the time a few weeks had passed and the Base Commander gave the go-ahead, I was anxious to depart and to return someplace where we were wanted. I’m not sure my mother wanted us to move lock, stock and barrel into her quiet West Covina home for six months and nearly turn it upside down with sorrow and baby and toddler paraphernalia, but she was gracious to welcome us and let us stay for a time, so I could find a job and get on my emotional feet.

The Air Force travel agent (if there is such an animal) issued our tickets, and the itinerary was mind-boggling.

Our first flight was from Frankfurt to McGuire AFB in New Jersey, a long flight filled to the brim with military personnel and their families. I’d been issued two tickets, so two year-old Sharon and I had seats, and eight month-old Carolyn was on my lap for the entire eight and a half hours. Thank God she was a nursing babe.

We were not allowed to deplane in New Jersey, and the big jet then took us to Charleston AFB in South Carolina in about an hour and a half. Here our military transport ended and we had to find a way to get to the civilian airport in Charleston, with all our possessions. We had two bags for each of us (because we had to bring everything we owned, aside from furniture, which would be shipped across the Atlantic in six weeks), a diaper bag, my purse, a folded high chair, an infant car seat, and I can’t remember what else — I just know there were eleven pieces. I will never forget that. Can you imagine trying to travel with eleven pieces of baggage today? Impossible, and not even allowed.

As I stood on the sidewalk at Charleston AFB with Carolyn on my hip and Sharon holding my hand, surrounded by our bags, a man approached me and asked if I needed to get to the civilian airport. He was driving a bus there and kindly loaded everything up and we were on our way. Once we reached the smallish airport in Charleston I knew we’d have a layover but I must have put it out of my mind since the first time I’d seen the tickets days before. The girls and I settled in to a row of connected airport chairs and my eyes probably bugged out of their dark shadowed sockets when I looked up at the screen and saw that our layover was nearly six hours.

Yes.

No place to go, no cribs for sleeping little girls, no real restaurant to speak of. And of course no cell phones in 1979.

I did my best, cheerfully reading to the girls, making a big deal out of snacks and water, taking frequent potty breaks and changing diapers, helping Sharon curl up in a chair to rest, and leaning back in mine so Carolyn could doze on my shoulder. My sweet little daughters were so good. They were tired, but were cooperative and easy to console. It makes me tear up just to think about it now.

When we finally boarded our next plane we were headed, not for Los Angeles which was my neck of the woods, but for Atlanta, because that’s the way the Air Force travel agent planned it for us.

Because everyone knows the best route for a single woman with two little children and a bunch of baggage is Frankfurt–>New Jersey–>Charleston AFB–>Charleston civilian airport–>Atlanta, Georgia–>Los Angeles, California.

This flight was about an hour, I think. We waited six hours to fly one hour. In Atlanta we now had a four hour layover. And I remember thinking we had landed in the biggest airport in the world. The concourses seemed endless and the crowds were thick. Our ticket changed to Eastern Airlines (now defunct) and we got in a long line to check in and get our boarding passes. Again, this was before the days of online or kiosk check-ins.

By the time we neared our turn at the ticket counter, Sharon, Carolyn and I had been traveling for over nineteen hours. Sharon was almost sleeping on her two year old feet as she shuffled along beside me, holding my hand. Carolyn was fitfully sleeping on my shoulder as I held her and my purse and the diaper bag, and who knows what else. When the attractive blond woman named Kelly called me forward and took my ticket, she must have seen the exhaustion in my face, and assessed my situation quickly. “How are you this evening, Julie?” This was going to be the red-eye flight from Atlanta to LAX, but until Kelly had greeted me I’d lost all sense of time. The compassion in her eyes and concern etched on her face was too much for me. I started to cry, and I told her right then and there that my husband had decided to take up with someone else and had sent us home from Europe. Kelly deliberately put down the paperwork, stilled her hands and looked straight into my eyes and said with quiet fierceness, “How. Dare. He.” I can’t even convey how much her words meant to me. She was outraged on my behalf and for my little girls, and what happened next I will never forget.

Kelly quietly issued me FIVE seats on the flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, all across the center of an L-1011. And I didn’t have to pay anything extra. I’d never been on such a big plane. Here’s an old picture so you can see the five seats at the center of the L-1011. 34267_800 (1)

Then she closed her side of the counter and let the other agents continue issuing boarding passes, and she led me and the girls to a comfortable bed in a private employees’ lounge, where she brought us blankets and pillows and encouraged us to get some sleep. Kelly assured me she would come get us in time to board the plane. So we slept in this blessed, quiet place for over three hours, and I thanked God for Kelly.

When Kelly came to wake us in time to board, she escorted us onto the plane before anyone else, like we were some kind of VIPs. Even the First Class flyers were still waiting to board. She gave us more blankets and pillows and I was able to sit in the middle of the five seats, and Sharon and Carolyn each had a bed made of two seats on either side of me. They both slept almost immediately.

As Kelly was about to go back to her job behind the Eastern Airlines ticket counter, she bent over toward me and wished me well on this flight and in my life. I couldn’t thank her enough.

I have told the story of my encounter with Kelly many times. Several people have speculated that she might have been an angel because of the ways she ministered to us, citing Hebrews 13:2, which says,

“Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

I’m pretty sure Kelly wasn’t showing such love and kindness to me because she thought I was an angel. I wasn’t. And am not one still. But even though I wasn’t the one showing such love and care to her, I never completely discounted the fact that Kelly could have been divinely dispatched to come to my aid on that grueling trip. A ministering angel, perhaps. Or perhaps she was just a really wonderful woman who used the authority she had to soften my way.

Forty-one years have passed, and I have prayed that God would bless Kelly for the way she took care of Sharon, Carolyn and me. If Kelly is still alive, she’s probably in her early seventies by now. I hope someone is making sure she sleeps well and is gently covered at night. I hope there have been friends who’ve come along side her and expressed their outrage at any injustices Kelly has had to endure. And I pray that all the things she did for me during that short time, giving me five seats on the plane instead of two, finding a quiet place of rest for us, going out of her way to help and comfort us during such a terrible time, are multiplied back to her a thousand times.

I’ve known a handful of Kellys in my life, but the Kelly who worked for Eastern Airlines in Atlanta, Georgia was the kindest Kelly I’ve ever met.

O time, whither dost thou fly?

June 19, 2021 | My Jottings

A few days ago two of my granddaughters came to spend the night with me. Lovely Louisa is eight and is Sharon and Chris’s youngest. Marvelous Miriam is six and is Carolyn and Jeremy’s next-to-the-youngest. I use those adjectives intentionally — Louisa is lovely, but she is also a child who loves. She has a big, unselfish heart for such a young child. And Miriam is a marvel — a beautiful work of God who blesses our family and makes us marvel at Him and the way He creates children and actually gives them to us.

We did all the things we normally do when my grands visit — we had scrambled eggs for breakfast (“Grandma, please make sure the eggs aren’t slimy!” requested Miri), watched a couple of cartoons on television, played games, read books, took a bubble bath, braided newly washed hair, and played outside. And I was the official Counter of the Cartwheels and the Timer of the Headstands.

This is Miriam, with a smile that lights up the whole world, a voice that sounds like the morning song of a bird, and a heart of love and cheer that touches everyone who knows her. She chose the red scooter from Grandma’s scooter stash, and went up and down the sidewalk on my street while I sat on the driveway in a camp chair and told her how great she was doing each time she whizzed by.

Miriam just finished Kindergarten, a lot at home and some at school. She makes friends easily and shows her love to others in a way I so admire and delight in.

The resemblance between Miriam and her paternal grandma Diane is uncanny. When I look at Miri I see Diane, and then feel all the more love for her because that grandma is one of the greatest treasures in my life.

Louisa just finished third grade and looks so much like her mama. She is very attuned to the feelings of others and has a heart to comfort and serve. She is kindhearted, has a wonderful sense of humor and goofiness, and is so easy to be around. Her very presence is a gift. I’m the only living grandparent for Louisa and her siblings, and I want to be around a few more years to give them a good memory or two.

Louisa has a new pair of roller blades, and I recently took her to the cemetery where she practiced (with knee and wrist pads) staying upright and I sat in the shade with my summer Bible study lesson Jesus in Me by Anne Graham Lotz. We stopped at McDonald’s to pick up a lunch for her, and while she ate her chicken nuggets she sat on a rug and read a book in the sun.

When Louisa had enough rollerblading she sat on my lap and we laughed together about a few things. She had a lot of energy to expend, so I gave her some running instructions without pointing, so she would find things on her own: “Run to the headstone that is white and very tall, then go touch the place where a flag with the color red stands, then run to the twin trees, and back to me.” She did it.

“Now run to the black bench with a lantern near it, then to the grave with yellow flowers, then touch the green basket, and find the headstone with the name ‘Bolf’ on it, then back to me.”

She completed that. When she grew restless with my quiet studying we drove through the lanes of the cemetery and rolled to a stop when we came to the resident geese with their new babies. There’s one group I call The Ladies, and Louisa likes when I lower my window and call to them, “Hey Ladies!” and they all come waddling over to my side of the car, looking crazily sideways with their blue eyes, hoping I’ll toss them a crust of bread.

When you get to be my age (63), your thoughts begin to change. I think about when Louisa was a baby, how she came to spend time with Grandpa Michael and me on Fridays. She was just newly walking. She wanted me to pull the lever on a toy that played “Old McDonald” and played animal sounds over and over again. When “Old McDonald” would play she would wag her head back and forth vigorously like Ray Charles used to do when playing his piano, and I still have that video and watch it. Why does it bring tears? Why does the passage of time seem so painful to me now? A quote by C.S. Lewis sheds light on this:

“For we are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. ‘How he’s grown!’ we exclaim, ‘How time flies!’ as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the very wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed: unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal.”

I think that is it on the button — I am so little reconciled to time I am astonished at it. Lewis posits that we chafe at time because we are eternal beings who live temporarily within the constraints of time. I believe that with all my heart.

I don’t want Miriam to grow up and change, even though I know it is God’s will and He is growing her every moment. I don’t want Louisa to become a teenager, then a grown woman, even though I know that is part of God’s plan and He can be trusted. I want their lives to be suspended in time, I want them to stay eight and six for a millennium or two. I want Louisa’s blue eyes to stay huge and full of wonder, her teeth to stay slightly crooked and her smile to be that gummy breathtaking masterpiece it is right now. I don’t want Miriam’s voice to deepen and stop sounding like a robin outside my window in the morning. I want her to stay as she is, loving children’s cooking videos, adoring her daddy, welcoming everyone as a new friend. I don’t want that smile you see in the photo above to change to something dimmer, less eye-crinkling. Why, oh, why, is the passage of time so achingly, astonishingly painful and beautiful?

I don’t want the day to come when they won’t want to spend the night at Grandma’s anymore, where they have to shower themselves, where they won’t sit in front of me in warm jammies and wet hair, waiting for me to French braid their hair. I don’t want to see the day when they have cell phones and don’t answer my texts. I loathe the thought of the day (for it has already happened with some older grands) when they’ll say “Meh,” when asked if they’d like to come spend the night. I don’t want other children to hurt them, gossip about them, lie about them, ignore them. I don’t want them in environments where Jesus and His love will become faint and the lure of friends and the world will beckon loudly and stridently. I don’t want the world to teach them to disrespect themselves and to go looking for treasure in moldy crates of pyrite and colored glass. I want so much for them. I would give my life for them in one second without a hesitating thought.

So I do what I’m supposed to do, even though when I drop them off at their homes I sob almost uncontrollably as I pull out of their alleys. I pray for them. I plead with Jesus for them. I write their names repeatedly in my prayer journal and ask for impossible things for them. I can do that, because God’s love and power are limitless and His faithfulness reaches to the heavens…. which we now know, thanks in part to Hubble, are billions and trillions of miles deep and wide and high. I ask God to make Himself known to them now and for their whole lives. I ask for godly friends, protection, confidence, humility, industry, mercy, joy, self-control, wisdom, love, adventure, prayer, wholeness, wonder, and more. I never stop asking. Pages and pages and pages and pages…. I ask. I write their names and weep because they are my flesh and blood and I love them more than I have words to tell or ways to show. I bring them to the feet of Jesus and say, “Oh Lord, here are my treasures. Please.”

I don’t do this just with Louisa and Miriam of course. I do this with my three grown daughters. My two sons-in-love. All my grandchildren. I do pray regularly for other people, especially friends. Most likely if you are reading this I have prayed for you.

But these exquisite children make me ask, no, almost wail, “O time, whither dost thou fly? Why dost thou torment me so?”

And then I breathe deeply in and out, and reach for the seventh Kleenex, and I say, “Lord Jesus, thank you for Miriam and Louisa. Thank you! May your will be done. They belong to you, really. Help us trust you Lord. Amen.”

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 148

June 16, 2021 | My Jottings

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

~~G.K. Chesterton

Nothing Much

June 11, 2021 | My Jottings

Are you familiar with the Enneagram? I am a little bit, and I know the origins are reportedly strange, but what little I’ve learned I am shocked by. I took the test, ho-hum, because some friends and family asked what my Enneagram number was. I took it again, to make sure. I am a 9 with an 8 wing, or a 9w8. The reason I say I’m shocked is because reading about the traits of a 9 wing 8 is like reading my diary, my thoughts, my ways of walking through life. As I listened to a podcast by a Christian the other day interviewing three people who are 9s, I had to listen to some parts again, because what I was hearing took me all the way back to elementary school. I recall times when I just walked around the perimeter of the playground, observing, choosing to be alone even as a seven year-old. I did play hopscotch and four-square and such, but I also didn’t have to be doing things with other kids.

The 9 is the peacemaker, seeking peace at almost any cost, to the point of being absorbed into someone’s life just to avoid conflict. The 9 wing 8 is known as The Advisor and that made me chuckle. Oh yes. I have had to try hard to tone that one down.

One woman who is a 9 spoke about her “intense need for inertia” and that phrase hit me hard. That is me, through and through. I have this need for inertia, silence, stillness, and I have gravitated toward that all my life, even though for many years my life was not conducive to all that inertia. Having small children sort of waylays that somewhat.

Nines are said to be very low energy, easily distracted, want to prioritize and stay organized but have some difficulty prioritizing (although I am fairly organized), and are the only number who can usually see and understand both sides of things. I related to all of this. Nines are usually introverts, but they can love being with people too — that’s me. It’s just that I reach a point of overload, and almost immediately need to retreat.

Years ago I was asked to speak at the Spring Women’s Luncheon at a church. I spoke on Treasuring Jesus, and worked super hard on my talk, which was to last 30-40 minutes. I was a tad nervous as I always am, but confident in what I’d prepared, and I had prayed and prayed. It was a packed house, a delightful time. The fellowship hall had been decorated, women were dressed up (as was I), a delicious lunch was being served.

After I finished my message, it was time for the lunch, and people began turning their chairs toward their tables, servers were getting ready to bring out plates of food, and in a moment it hit me. I had to leave. I had enjoyed a great time worshiping with old friends, chatting and catching up a little, had even liked getting up to the microphone and giving my talk. It was about what God was doing in my own life, so I could share from the heart. But as these women I knew were transitioning toward lunch, I quietly slipped up the stairs unnoticed to the main level, out the front door of the church and out to my car. I drove home without a second thought. I never said goodbye to anyone. It was just what I had to do. It’s not agoraphobia, it’s not shyness or fear or being fed up. I just had to get home.

Apparently this is very common for Enneagram 9s. And I could name multiple times something like this has happened with me.

It was recently 95 degrees here in NoMin, today it is 50 and the wind is whipping and the foggy air reminds me of Morro Bay, California. Tomorrow it’s supposed to back in the humid 80s. That means the A/C will be on, I will be inside doing foster care paperwork and laundry, and I will close out the day tomorrow night by virtually attending my Covina High School reunion for the class of 1975. I’ve never been able to attend the reunions held before and I’m glad they added this online option. I hope others far away will be Zoomed in as well.

Have any of you ever tried the app called Pause? John and Stasi Eldredge have put it out, and I love it and use it every day. You can set it for the times you like, and you can choose one minute pauses, three minute pauses, and they gently and wisely guide you into stopping what you’re doing and consciously turning to the Lord, to hand everything over to Him as many times as you need in a day. It’s wonderful how reorienting one minute or three minutes can be. I highly recommend you try it!

Another thing I love is raw, slightly salted cashew butter heated as a sauce to drizzle over roasted vegetables. I’ve been trying to do food preparation for the coming week on Sunday nights, and part of that is roasting big pans of vegetables. I roast broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, onion, tiny red potatoes, cauliflower. Then I store them in lidded containers in the fridge, and I’ve got yummy roasted veggies anytime the mood strikes. Which happens to be daily.

I have two precious granddaughters spending the night with me tonight. Miriam is six and Louisa is almost nine. We just went outside in the foggy, windy cold so I could watch them scooter and roller blade up and down the street on the sidewalks. Gone are the days in this grandma’s mind where two little girls can be just sent out to play without being watched. I have loved ones who think I’m too fearful about this, and so be it. I remember riding my bike miles away from home when I was little, not telling my mom where I was going, but somehow in my mind things have changed. Miri and Louisa came inside with very rosy cheeks and are wondering when dinner is going to be. Then they’ll get a bubble bath in my deep, fancy tub, and we’ll play some games and read some books before bed. Louisa typically likes to play Battleship, Backgammon, and a card game called Garbage, which is pretty fun. Miriam likes to watch children’s cooking shows online before she sleeps.

Do you know your Enneagram number? If so, please let me know in the comments below!

Also, do you have a favorite app you use all the time? I’d love to know about that also.

Have a peaceful weekend – ha – there’s the 9 talking. If I were a 7 I would have bid you a fun and exciting weekend, and if I were a 3 I would have encouraged you to use the time to get some things done.

Until next time,

America’s Government Teacher

June 7, 2021 | My Jottings

Well. A lot has been going on with my oldest daughter, Sharon. I wanted to share her recent appearance on Good Morning America. 🙂

It’s a wonderful thing to watch so many peoples’ lives being changed, and burdens being lifted. I’m a proud mama. If you’re on Instagram, check out her account @SharonSaysSo.

Blessings to you all,

Ten Things My Dad Taught Me

June 1, 2021 | My Jottings

Another one from the archives…

A few months ago I published a post about some of the things I learned from my mom. If you didn’t read it, it’s here. I thought it only right that I write a post about some of the things I learned from my dad.

1.  Always snap your wrist to the right when shooting a basketball. My father was a successful and well-known basketball coach in our community, and it seemed like no matter where I went, if someone learned my last name, they always asked if I was related to Doc Sooter. One of the distinctive things his players always talked about was the odd way he taught them to forcefully snap their wrist to the right (if they were right-handed) when taking a jump shot, as soon as the ball rolled off their finger-tips. I have never forgotten this. Most players I see today do snap their wrists in a pronounced way, but I don’t see them snap it out to the right, with fingers splayed and wrist turned. If you’re going to play basketball anytime soon, you might want to take note as well.

2.  How to parallel park. Along with coaching, being a high school counselor and a math teacher, my dad taught Drivers Education for years. That was back when the schools offered it to 15 1/2 year-olds in preparation for getting their Driver’s License at age 16. I wasn’t allowed to have my dad for a teacher, but from the time I was about ten years old, he let me drive in parking lots, and he taught me many things I still think of today as I drive.

“When you make a turn, you should be sufficiently slowed down enough to accelerate into a turn. Never brake into a turn.”

“Always check your side mirrors every few seconds, not just your rear view mirror.”

“Never assume anyone else on the road is going to be a good driver. Anticipate the mistakes they could make.”

“Parallel parking is a skill worth having, and when it’s done right, you can slip right into a tight spot with one try. None of this in and out, forward and backward, turn this way and that way kind of stuff.”

And today, over 40 years after learning how to drive, I can still perfectly parallel park in one try. Is that boasting? I hope it’s not bad to say that. Just last week Michael and I drove to this restaurant to meet my family to celebrate my 56th birthday, and there was one place remaining on the street to park. The space between the two cars was tight. I remembered all the steps my dad drilled into my head about parallel parking, put them into practice, and slipped into the space like a glove in one try. Michael always smiles at me when I do this and says “I’m impressed.” And I always say, “Thanks Dad!”

3.  Reading a book a day is a worthwhile pursuit. My dad was an avid reader. When I was little, books were rewards. I hated going to the doctor and getting shots when I was young, and my father would say to me, “We have to take you to Dr. Klink’s office today, and you may have to get a shot. If you’re good and don’t raise a fuss, we’ll stop and buy you a book on the way home!” I still love the idea today of books being a reward. By the time Dad retired, he was going to the Morro Bay, CA library once a week, checking out five or six books, and finishing those books in time to return them all a week later. I cannot imagine my life without books. I would truly be bereft without them.

4.  Not saying you’re sorry is a big mistake. Our family was not the most dysfunctional I’ve ever known, but we had some big problems. Some of these problems could have been hugely alleviated if my dad had apologized in a truly humble way. He wasn’t the only one at fault, of course. But I think if I could talk to him now, he would say the same thing. I think it’s so important to say the words “I’m sorry” and truly mean it. I’ve heard many people say, “Well, ‘sorry’ just doesn’t cut it!” and I understand what they’re implying, but I think that a genuine apology heals and helps much more than we think it might. sc00021674

5. Say peoples’ names. My dad, like my mom, had scores of friends. One of the things I saw him do over and over again was listen carefully as people conversed with him, and to speak their names when he talked to them.

6. Be genuinely interested in people. Ask them questions about themselves. My dad was good at this too. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a one-sided conversation with someone, and when it ended I’ve thought to myself, “Well, they didn’t take lessons from Doc in that area.” (And to be fair, I have probably done the same to my friends since I’m known to be the long-winded chatty sort.)

7.  Enjoy the company of your children. I can’t remember one time in my entire life when my dad shushed me, told me in any way to be quiet, acted like he didn’t want to be around me, or considered me a pest. I didn’t know it so much then, but in looking back now I can see how remarkable that is for a parent. I felt that he valued my company even when I was a little girl. If I walked into a room, his face lit up. If I wanted to go with him someplace he always welcomed that. He listened to me chatter, asked me questions, patiently answered my questions, and spoke to me a few levels above what I was probably capable of fully understanding. 

8.  Peanut butter is delicious with many things. My dad loved peanut butter—Skippy crunchy peanut butter. He ate it on Wonder white bread, smeared it on saltine crackers, dipped pickles in it, and often just ate a spoonful right out of the jar. I am a huge peanut butter fan as well. I prefer my peanut butter without sugar and hydrogenated oil, but I could eat it every day of my life. I like it with apples, with a slice of swiss cheese, on toast, in cake frostings and on top of ice cream.

9.  Going to church can change your life. My father was the son of an itinerant Missouri preacher, and heard the Gospel preached all during his growing up years. By the time I came along in the family he was no longer attending church much, but he wanted to make sure I went. From the time I was about three years old, he drove me to Covina First Baptist Church every Sunday and dropped me off for Sunday School, for many years. I know it would have been more authentic for my dad to go to church with me, but all these years later I’m grateful he did what he did. He meant for me to catch the Gospel message there, and catch it I did. I can’t ever remember a time in my life when I haven’t believed in Jesus, that He died for me and took on my many sins, and loves and helps me every hour of every day. I remember the songs, the verses we memorized, the flannel board stories, the little painted chairs and the baskets full of crayons. I remember my Sunday School teachers, the clothes they wore, can still picture their high heels and beehive hairdos, their smiles, love and dedication. They made me want to know Jesus, and I still want to know Him.

10. Don’t ever say I told you so. My dad was a strong man with black and white opinions he rarely kept to himself. This wasn’t always the funnest thing to live with. But I am grateful that when he was right (at least with me), he didn’t say “I told you so.” For example, my dad didn’t like my first husband much, and in that 20/20 hindsight that comes with wisdom and years, I can now see why. I refused to look at it when I was eighteen years old, and just stubbornly married my handsome boyfriend of three years even though red flags the size of king-sized bed sheets were waving three feet in front of my nose. My dad attended my wedding, embraced Glenn, rejoiced when two beautiful granddaughters were born, and cried with me when the marriage suddenly ended in Germany four years later. My husband had been just who my dad suspected he was, but Dad never said, “I knew this would happen. I told you so!” I was very thankful for his restraint.

I learned other things from my father too, but these are the ten I thought of today. How about you? What are some things your father taught you?