Wednesdays with Dorothy for a Fantastic Friday

This post from October of 2010 sheds light on one way Mom has changed in the last 5 years.This Friday’s post comes from October of 2010. Back then, Tuesdays were my normal day to visit Mom and the switch to Wednesday was a welcome change for her. Five years later, we’ve made a permanent switch to Wednesday. Mom would choose Village Inn and free pie every Wednesday (if that was an option), and then send the pie home for the Man of Steel. Because her appetite for pie has decreased, though her appetite for a great bargain has not.

Wednesdays with Dorothy

Tuesdays are usually for visiting my mom, Dorothy. Most weeks we go out for lunch, run errands, keep appointments, pay her bills, and balance her checkbook. But my crazy week of travel meant our day out was today, Wednesday.

Which was fine by Mom. She’s been hankering for schedule change ever since Village Inn started their Wednesday-free-pie-with-any-purchase promotion. So today we made a beeline for Village Inn – before putting gas in her car or buying some birthday cards – and made quick work of lunch. Then we ordered our free pie. Cherry for Mom. Strawberry-rhubarb for me. It was surprisingly good pie, though it couldn’t hold a candle to homemade.

The fact that it was free had Mom, thrifty survivor of the Great Depression, grinning from ear to ear. Free pie made her happy enough to crack a few jokes on the way home. Engaged enough to read yard signs and comment on the political leanings of home owners along the way. Secure enough in who she is to use her cane in the Target parking lot. Silly enough to choose the goofiest card she could find for her son-in-law’s birthday. And to think, all it took to make her happy was a schedule change and free pie.

Wednesday with Dorothy – priceless.

What My Dad Taught Me for this Fantastic Friday

An unforgettable lesson learned from my father is the the subject of this Fantastic Friday look back at the past.This Fantastic Friday post comes from October of 2007. It’s one of the first blog posts ever published on Down the Gravel Road. I can’t remember the name of the person who’s funeral is mentioned. But every day, I remember and treasure the lesson my dad taught me each day of his life.

On Monday, I went to a funeral for a man from our church. His children paid tribute to their dad during the service. He’d been a wonderful father, who took them hunting and fishing. He coached Little League, encouraging and teaching every child on the team. They mentioned that throughout their adult lives, when they reunited with childhood friends, their friends said hello and in the next breath, “How’s your dad?”

Maybe I shouldn’t confess this, but their memories saddened me. They reminded me of all my father couldn’t do with us. Don’t get me wrong. Dad was a vibrant man who loved children. He would have been a great Little League coach. And though he wasn’t a hunter or fisherman, he would have led our 4-H club. He would have taught us to raise, show and judge cattle because that was what he loved.

But he couldn’t do any of that because multiple sclerosis put him in a wheelchair when he was thirty, my sister was six, I was three and my brother was a baby. So I was sad at Monday’s  funeral, not only for the family of the man who had died but also for what our family lost to Dad’s illness.

For the last few days, God has comforted me with truth. Over and over I’ve pictured Dad in his wheelchair while he lived at home or in his bed at the nursing home. And in every picture, his wide face is serious, even sad. Until one of his children or grandkids comes into his presence. Then his face breaks into a big grin that shows his square, white teeth and his green eyes light with delight.

And that is what Dad taught me: a father’s delight in the presence of his children. His delight didn’t come from what we could do for him. He was delighted because we were his children. We had taken time to be with him.

So now I’m thinking about God the Father. When I enter His presence, does His face light up? After all, I’m His child too.

Top Ten Air Travel Thoughts

Airport layovers give a person plenty of time to think. Here are my top ten travel thoughts.Long airport layovers give a person plenty of think time. Here are 10 things I’ve been thinking while sitting in airports lately.

10. Sitting beside a sweet 12-year-old during her first flight ever makes flying fun again.

9.  Smart phone boarding passes. Totally worth the price of an iPhone.

8.  If we can send men to the moon, why can’t escalator handrails be programmed to move at the same speed as the escalator steps?

7.  I predict that in the next few years cup holders will become a fixture, not only on chairs in airport gates, but also in airport bathroom stalls.

6.  Airport coffee shops. Ahhh!

5.  Diabetics, people with celiac disease, and dairy allergies should never be assigned to airport gates directly across from Cinnabon. It’s cruel and unusual punishment.

4.  In addition their two free bags policy, Southwest Airlines flight crews give extra peanuts if you ask.

3.  They also let you use the bathroom before take off. Especially if you ask with a very pained expression. Don’t ask how I know this.

2.  And when they page a passenger with an ordinary name to come to the front of the plane, they also page Brad Pitt. Believe me, that gets everyone’s attention right away.

1. Sadly, the powers that be removed the Blues Brother statue from its spot between the A and B terminals at Chicago Midway Airport. Only the sight of a Southwest gate attendant in a black fedora mitigated this traveler’s disappointment.

What do you think about during airport layovers? Keep it clean, people!

Finding Holiness in the Ordinary

Why growing in faith involves finding holiness in the ordinary and persevering in holiness.But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith.
Jude 1:20

A couple weeks ago I flew to North Carolina on Friday and returned on Sunday. Both flights departed v-e-r-y early. So early that I had to skip my daily exercise routine for an entire weekend. Secretly, I appreciated having a legitimate reason to play hooky. I told myself it meant more time to meet and minister to hurting parents and network with others who serve special needs families. And to hobnob when the opportunity arose. And to do all of it guilt free.

Reality returned Monday when I resumed the old routine. About halfway through the morning walk that’s normally a breeze, my muscles screamed “Enough already!”

Talk about God’s perfect timing! There I was, walking down an ordinary street in my ordinary town when he used my aching muscles to drive home a point Oswald Chambers made in the devotional I had read just one day early. At the airport. While waiting to board the plane home. Chambers said this:

It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God–but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy in the ordinary streets, among ordinary people–and this is not learned in five minutes.

At that moment God made his priorities for my life very clear. He considers my faithfulness in the small, daily happenings of life as more valuable than my participation in exceptional events. He wants me to devote the bulk of my time to the ordinary. He calls me and all Christians to see the ordinary as holy.

But how can we frail humans be exceptional in the ordinary things? How can we persevere through the mundane dreariness of daily duties? How do we infuse holiness into the wiping of noses, changing the oil, yard work, visiting elderly neighbors, walking the dog, and punching the time clock at work day after ho-hum day?

The truth is, we can’t do it ourselves. The only way we can do it by asking Jesus to quicken his Spirit within us. To transform us into a people for his own purposes through the consistent practice of the spiritual disciplines he uses to draw us closer to him.

So that through perseverance and faithfulness, we grow strong enough to live like Jesus did during his time on earth. To walk down dusty roads with people who need compassion. To welcome children and the messes they make into our lives. To devote the best part of our days to ministering to the sick, the broken, and the despised. To wake up in the morning ready and willing to do it all over again. To count as holy and exceptional the ordinary work he calls us to complete.

Because if Jesus, the exceptional Creator of the universe, considered the ordinary people and ordinary events worthy of his time and devotion and lifeblood, how can we do anything less?

Three Thoughts for Thursday

An upcoming trip, my new super power, and watching the local wildlife in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. Press Release: The Man of Steel and I are going to Philadelphia with my sister and brother-in-law next week. We want to assure reporters in the City of Brotherly Love that we do not expect the same level of press coverage as the Pope received. Though we wouldn’t turn down a parade in our honor and a ride in the Pope-mobile.
  2. New Super Power: The ability to select the public bathroom stall with a latch that appears to be secure but mysteriously opens once I’m seated on the porcelain throne.
  3. Simple Pleasure of the Week: Watching a flock of birds discover and devour the teeny-tiny fruits on our ornamental crab apple tree. Though if they eat all the fruit before it ferments, we will have to forego the annual tipsy-birds-falling-out-of-the-tree extravaganza.

Pick a Little, Talk a Little this Fantastic Friday

A gathering of goldfinches and their similarity to the Pick a Little, Talk a Little crew from the Music Man is this Fantastic Friday's look at the past.Today’s Fantastic Friday post first appeared on Down the Gravel Road in September of 2008. Considering the popularity of a recent listing of ten reasons to watch The Music Man, this article about some very noisy birds in our neighborhood seemed to be a logical choice.

Pick a Little, Talk a Little

Yesterday morning, I was walking along our gravel road at top speed, oblivious to the scenery around me, when the noise from the ditch awakened me from whatever inner thoughts consumed me. The chirping along the fence was deafening.

For a few seconds, I couldn’t see a thing. Then, I noticed the grass waving and saw a bit off fluff pulled from a seed pod. Finally the noisemakers, a small flock of female goldfinches, came into view. Their dusky gold coats so perfectly matched the browning fall grasses, they were barely visible. One by one, their movement and their chirping, gave their positions away. By the time my camera was out of, some of them had flown away, but a few remained.

While I snapped their pictures, I thought of the song from The Music Man, the one when all the town gossips are busy spreading rumors. The music makes them sound like a flock of old bitty hens. That’s exactly what the goldfinches sounded like, scolding and flapping their wings at each other. I half expected Robert Preston and Shirley Jones to march by, followed by the 76 trombones and the rest of the band.

Instead, I saw a sure sign of fall, the goldfinches flocking together as they do at this time of year, stocking up on provisions before they journey south for the winter. What I wouldn’t give to be going with them, I think as I face the prospect of winter.

But if I do that, I won’t be here to welcome them next spring on the day they return. No matter how hard the coming winter will be, the joy I feel when the birds come home melts my aversion to snow. Their return beats Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, the 76 trombones, and the town gossips, hands down. I can hardly wait.

Walking Beside a Rainbow this Fantastic Friday

The legacy of hope Uncle Marvin left his family and the hope his descendants carry into the future remain a source of hope on this Fantastic Friday.This Fantastic Friday remembers my Uncle Marvin who died four years ago this week. The legacy of hope he left his family and the hope his descendants carry into the future remain a source of hope today.

Sadness kept me company on this morning’s walk. No matter how hard I tried to steer my thoughts to smoother ground, they continually strayed to the uneven place where we stood and buried Uncle Marvin yesterday.

All I could think about were his grandchildren, the honorary pallbearers, gathered from Minnesota and Iowa, North Dakota and Illinois, and one recently returned from Egypt. They stood tall and straight and lovely, in the tiny country cemetery where their grandfather joined his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, only a few miles from where he’d been born and lived all his years.

These sweet carriers of our family’s future stood guard over the coffin, grave and composed during the pastor’s committal service, through the military gun salute, the folding of the flag, and it’s presentation to their grandmother. But when haunting notes of Taps filled the air, they began to cry, realizing for perhaps the first time in their young lives, that there is an end to every good thing.

Will this be the end of their connection to the family farm? I wondered, as they placed flowers on their grandpa’s coffin and said good-by. Will they return to their homes far away and forget their family’s long history in this place, the connection to the land that binds their parents together?

Sadness weighed heavy on me, and my head drooped lower. It’s over, I thought, and tears came to my eyes. For a moment, the sky wept, too, and raindrops wet my shoulders and hair. Maybe I should just give up and go home, I thought, too sad to fight life’s changes or the weather anymore. I looked up to check the sky.

And there against the grey clouds in the east was the beginning of a rainbow. A small, faded streak at first, it grew brighter and brighter the longer I looked up. Slowly, my sad weight lifted, and when I turned the corner I walked beside the rainbow. The further I went, the brighter the rainbow grew, until finally it stretched across the sky, bold against the grey clouds.

When those sweet grandchildren and their far-flung adventures came to mind again, the rainbow whispered to me.

Hope, it said so softly I had to strain to hear the word.


Three Thoughts for Thursday

Yellow watermelon, red sweet corn, and colorblind tomatoes in this week's three thoughts.

Last week’s CSA share included a yellow watermelon. (It was a whole one, but I forgot to take a picture of it so what you see above is a supermarket shot.) It’s presence led to these three thoughts.

  1. Our yellow watermelon smelled wonderful, but it was disconcerting to look at. So I had to close my eyes and pretend it was red for the first bite. It was so indescribably delicious, I ate the rest with eyes wide open.
  2. In the interest of full disclosure, please know that if served an ear of red sweet corn, closing my eyes for the first bite would become necessary again.
  3. The same rules do not apply to yellow tomatoes in place of red ones. They are completely interchangeable. Don’t ask me why.

What horse-of-a-different-color foods are hard for you to eat? Leave a comment.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

The latest version of this classic honey-oatmeal muffin recipe includes blueberries and lemon zest and is absolutely delicious.Remember the honey-oatmeal muffin recipe that first appeared on this blog in January of 2011? And then the updated non-dairy recipe from May of this year? Well, today’s recipe is a new variation on our family classic.

This version came into being during a visit with my daughter in July. Blueberries were really cheap at the grocery store, so we bought quite a few. More than we could eat before they went bad. So I added them to the muffins she asked me to make. Along with some lemon zest, which made them absolutely delicious.

Below is the non-dairy version. Just switch the soured rice milk to buttermilk if you aren’t concerned about being dairy free.

Honey-Oatmeal Muffins

1 egg, beaten                            1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey                          1 cup soured rice milk*
1 3/4  cup whole wheat flour     1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup oatmeal                           1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder        2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup ground flax seed          1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl combine beaten egg, oil, sour rice milk, honey, and lemon zest. Stir. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to liquid mixture. Stir by hand until dry ingredients are moistened, but batter is still lumpy. Carefully fold in blueberries.

Line muffin pan with muffin papers. Spoon batter into cups until they are ¾ full. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the edges turn golden brown. Do not over bake! Serve them warm. Or let them cool and store in gallon freezer bags. Makes one dozen.

*Sour rice milk by putting 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a 1 cup measure. Fill to 1 cup mark with rice milk and let sit at least 15 minutes before using.

Home Again Pee-Soaked and Happy

Here's why I'm home again, pee-soaked and happy, after several weeks of travel and busyness.Home. I’m finally home after several weeks of travel. All to see family. All of it good. But I’m glad to be home and in one place again, with time to think and reflect and process the experiences.

And to do laundry.

Because our very precocious and gifted almost 4-month-old grandson proved to be very adept at peeing on my lap. By the end of 6 days of snuggles, the little rascal had soaked through his diapers and every pair of pants in my suitcase.

And that’s saying something.

Because I’m one of those people who throws in an extra of everything. Just in case. And then an extra extra of everything. Just in case the just in case extra of everything might not be enough.

And it wasn’t enough.

Which means I now need to pack an extra extra extra of everything. Just in case. Or–paradigm shift–I could do laundry at the grandson’s house. Why didn’t I think of that before?

I know why.

Because I’m too busy thinking about that sweet little boy who found his fists this week, learned to put them in his mouth, who grasped his rattle for the first time, who cooed and smiled at his grammy, and stole her heart.

And her mind.

So she paid scant attention to the time or the gleam in his little eye that means, “I’m going to pee now.” Which is why every pair of my pants came home pee-soaked and pee-stained.

And I came home happy, exhausted, and utterly content.