Three Thoughts for Thursday

Power outages, talking to a friend, and Valentine's Day in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. There’s nothing like a power outage to make a person appreciate electricity.
  2. Happiness is a phone call from a friend you haven’t talked to for a long time and feeling like you’ve never been apart.
  3. This Valentine’s Day, I’ll be thankful for the Man of Steel. We don’t have the overalls he wore when he proposed, though I still have my jumper. And we still have each other. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

What are you thankful for this week? Leave a comment.

Top 10 Ways to Say I Love You

Even if our mailbox doesn't contain any Valentine's Day cards this week, people have said "I love you" in these ten ways.

Valentine’s Day will soon be here. I have a stack of cards ready. One for the Man of Steel, others for our kids and grandkids, and one for Mom. Whether or not any cards arrive for me, the people in my life have already said “I love you” to me and others in the following wonderful ways.

10. My sister and her husband invited us to spend a week in Phoenix with them during the dead of winter.

9.  My kids announced plans for a 60th birthday party for the Man of Steel next month without prompting from me.

8.  God provided a way through a process I’ve been trying to navigate for a couple years.

7.  My sweet, shy one-year-old granddaughter smiled when we played peek-a-boo.

6.  My brother mentioned how much help it is when I pick up library books for Mom and take her to appointments.

5.  During a weekend with our daughter-in-law, the meals she prepared were all dairy-free.

4.  When I told Mom I loved her, she said, “I know.”

3.  A friend sent a Valentine ecard.

2.  The Man of Steel slept in the guest room for a week so I wouldn’t catch influenza from him.

1.  When it was time for Papoo and Grammy Jo to go home at the end of our last visit, our three-year-old grandson cried and said, “I don’t want you to go.”

How has someone said “I love you” to you this week? Leave a comment.

Fantastic Friday: Mom’s Valentine’s Day Wish

This week marks the beginning of a new Gravel Road feature called Fantastic Friday. Each Friday a fantastic blog post from the past will be given an encore airing. I hope you enjoy what you read as much as I enjoy thumbing through the archives and choosing them.

With Valentine’s Day almost here, this post about Mom’s Valentine wish (circa 2012) sprang to mind immediately. It truly is a favorite post because it shows the depth of Mom’s love for Dad, who died in 1997 after a 38 year battle with multiple sclerosis.

When Mom and I kept our standing lunch date last Tuesday, I mentioned that our next lunch would fall on Valentine’s Day. “That’s kind of fun, Mom. What would you like for Valentine’s Day?”

She thought for a few seconds. “Well, what I really want for Valentine’s Day I can’t have.” She fiddled with her coffee cup. “So I might as well not mention it.”

“Go ahead,” I encouraged her. “What do you really want?”

“What I really want is a few more years with your dad before his mind went…” She paused and moved her fingers in a circle at the side of her head. Her brow furrowed, and her blue eyes looked sad. “…you know, before he was…”

“I know,” I whispered.

“He wasn’t with me that way long enough,” Mom sighed.

I nodded, not knowing what to say. There are no words for Mom’s loss. Dad’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at age 29, less than 10 years after their marriage. The love of her life struck down by multiple sclerosis. The end of her dream of being the wife of a county extension agent and mother to an increasing brood of kids. The loss of the bread winner, the protector, and leader of the family she loved so much and taking on those roles for the next 38 years as Dad slowly failed and finally died at age 67.

Now, 15 years after his death, what does Mom want for Valentine’s Day?
Not chocolate.
Not flowers.
Not a card.
She wants a few more years with her husband as he once was.

I looked at her, across the table, and said, “We can’t know what life would have been like if he hadn’t gotten sick. But I do know the life you gave us was a good one. You raised us well.”

She nodded and smiled. “I did a pretty good job, didn’t I?”

“You did,” I agreed and helped her into her coat and out the door.

Hiram’s off tomorrow, so we’re going down together to see Mom. We’ll take her to lunch at Culver’s, one of her favorite places to eat. Mainly because she loves their frozen turtle custard.

Over dessert, we’ll tease her like Dad did. We’ll talk about his love of ice cream, his silly jokes, his infectious grin, the goofy songs he loved to sing, the cribbage rules he invented as he played.

Compared to what Mom has lost, lunch at Culvers doesn’t seem like much. But perhaps, sharing memories of Dad and indulging in the laughter and dessert he loved will bring him to her in some small way. Perhaps, over frozen custard, we can give Mom a memory of what she’s wanted for Valentine’s Day for years.

If you would like to see a certain post on Fantastic Friday, leave a comment in the box below, and I’ll try to find it. Happy Friday and Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Three Lovely Thoughts for Thursday

three heart thoughts

  1. A little light remained in the western sky last night at 6:40. The eastern horizon was brightening at 6:45 this morning. Lovely proof that daylight hours are increasing.
  2. Yesterday husband wrapped a cut on his finger with a Lincoln Band Aid. What a lovely way to honor our 16th president’s birthday month!
  3. When Valentine’s Day falls during Lent, do florists see an uptick and chocolatiers a down tick in sales? Which lovely gift would you rather receive on Valentine’s Day?

Three Thursday Thoughts for Valentine’s Week

Since this week began with a smokin’ episode of Downton Abbey and moved on to Valentine’s Day, it’s no wonder this Thursday’s three thoughts include love triangles. But as for the fixations with hot flashes and Pinterest, I have no idea of their origin.

  1. The minute Lavinia Swire walked into Downton Abbey, she was the doomed member of the love triangle. In our family, we call it the “Bonanza” principle. It’s named after the 1960s – 70s TV western series where beautiful, female guest stars always died. How about you? Did you see it coming?
  2. If a picture is worth 1000 words, is there any place on Pinterest for writers?
  3. If women in their 50s were in charge of utilities companies, they would already have invented heat pumps that could be attached to menopausal, hot flashing women, thus alleviating human suffering and solving the energy crisis in one, fell swoop.

Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about your Thursday thoughts, even if they don’t include Valentine’s Day, Downton Abbey, Pinterest, and hot flashes.

Valentine’s Day Likes & Dislikes

Five Things to Like About Valentine’s Day, 2012

  1. The slow increase in daylight since December 21 becomes obvious on Valentine’s Day.
  2. My afternoon will not be spent supervising a roomful of students on major sugar highs.
  3. Our monthly writers’ critique group meets tonight, which means the evening will be spent with some of my favorite people.
  4. I’m going out to lunch with my husband and mom, the two people who have known me the longest, seen me at my worst, and stick by me anyway.
  5. Coconut, caramel, maple nut, and peanut butter-filled chocolates.

Five Things to Dislike About Valentine’s Day, 2012

  1. The slowly increasing hours of daylight can not hide the fact that Valentine’s Day is still in winter.
  2. My afternoon will not include sweet notes from young children.
  3. An evening with my writers’ group sounds more fun than getting dolled up and going out to eat with Hiram – him elbowing through the crowds while I fall off my high heels.
  4. I’ll be eating salad at lunch while the people who have known me the longest, seen me at my worst, and stick by me anyway eat burgers and fries.
  5. Marshmallow and cherry-filled chocolates.

What do you like and dislike about Valentine’s Day? Add to the list by leaving a comment!

Mom’s Valentine’s Day Wish

When Mom and I kept our standing lunch date last Tuesday, I mentioned that our next lunch would fall on Valentine’s Day. “That’s kind of fun, Mom. What would you like for Valentine’s Day?”

She thought for a few seconds. “Well, what I really want for Valentine’s Day I can’t have.” She fiddled with her coffee cup. “So I might as well not mention it.”

“Go ahead,” I encouraged her. “What do you really want?”

“What I really want is a few more years with your dad before his mind went…” She paused and moved her fingers in a circle at the side of her head. Her brow furrowed, and her blue eyes looked sad. “…you know, before he was…”

“I know,” I whispered.

“He wasn’t with me that way long enough,” Mom sighed.

I nodded, not knowing what to say. There are no words for Mom’s loss. Dad’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at age 29, less than 10 years after their marriage. The love of her life struck down by multiple sclerosis. The end of her dream of being the wife of a county extension agent and mother to an increasing brood of kids. The loss of the bread winner, the protector, and leader of the family she loved so much and taking on those roles for the next 38 years as Dad slowly failed and finally died at age 67.

Now, 15 years after his death, what does Mom want for Valentine’s Day?
Not chocolate.
Not flowers.
Not a card.
She wants a few more years with her husband as he once was.

I looked at her, across the table, and said, “We can’t know what life would have been like if he hadn’t gotten sick. But I do know the life you gave us was a good one. You raised us well.”

She nodded and smiled. “I did a pretty good job, didn’t I?”

“You did,” I agreed and helped her into her coat and out the door.

Hiram’s off tomorrow, so we’re going down together to see Mom. We’ll take her to lunch at Culver’s, one of her favorite places to eat. Mainly because she loves their frozen turtle custard.

Over dessert, we’ll tease her like Dad did. We’ll talk about his love of ice cream, his silly jokes, his infectious grin, the goofy songs he loved to sing, the cribbage rules he invented as he played.

Compared to what Mom has lost, lunch at Culvers doesn’t seem like much. But perhaps, sharing memories of Dad and indulging in the laughter and dessert he loved will bring him to her in some small way. Perhaps, over frozen custard, we can give Mom a memory of what she’s wanted for Valentine’s Day for years.

Tough Women

This past weekend, Iowans enjoyed a break in the weather. It came just in time for Valentine’s Day, so women can wear dresses and strappy, spiky shoes instead of fuzzy sweaters, wool pants, and winter boots. KInda nice to set aside winter toughness for a few days, in anticipation of spring’s kindness.

I took advantage of the sunshine and warmer temperatures hovering around freezing and walked outside on Saturday. This is my version of spring training, my opportunity to toughen up before swimsuit season arrives. Not that I’m big into swim suits (or strappy, spiky shoes for that matter), but that’s beside the point.

The point is that my pride at being one tough women, who braved February weather to walk outside, was properly dashed after reading a couple tidbits in the Harding County, South Dakota weekly newspaper, the Nation’s Center News. You may think it’s pretty pathetic for someone to still take the paper, 25 years after they moved away. But trust me, articles about the tough women who live in the remote, northwest corner of South Dakota keep me renewing my subscription year after year.

In those parts, winter lasts a long time, and this one’s been pretty snowy, too. Which sets the scene for the first article which reported that Ronda Cordell “was a little worried about the ice and snow on her roof, so she chopped the six inches of ice from her eaves, but it was so icy that there was not much she could do about the snow.”

The second story was about Tawni Cordell. (I believe her husband is Ronda’s grand-nephew.) She and her husband went mountain lion hunting a few weeks ago. “When the dogs treed the cat along the face of a cliff, Tawni and Ryan climbed up to have an open shot and brought him down…He weighed 175 pounds.” The reporter concludes with these words. “These women are tough around here, because Tawni is expecting a baby, too.”

Like I said, those two stories put me in my place. Ronda’s the kind of woman who has no qualms about chopping ice from the eaves of her house on a ranch in the boondocks, even though she lives alone. Tawni’s the kind of woman who tracks and kills mountain lions while preparing to give birth. (I’m exaggerating a bit. She’s due in June.) I’m the kind of woman who wears yak tracks on a walk through town and takes her cell phone along just in case, and who refuses to wear spiky, strappy shoes on Valentine’s Day because she’s afraid of heights.

Stories like these keep me subscribing to The Nation’s Center News year after year. They remind me of the tough women who live in and around Harding County –
Of their kindness.
Of their determination.
Of their strength.
Of their resourcefulness.
They remind me that someday,
I want to be like them.

Heartfelt Fig Newtons

My husband says the package of Fig Newtons I gave him for Valentine’s Day was the best gift ever. Lest you think Fig Newtons sound like a loveless, cheapskate gift, remember we have a daughter in college and two weddings in three months this year. And don’t think I had ulterior motives in purchasing them, like eating a few myself. I consider the chewy, figgy, gritty things a waste of good calories.

If you still think I’m putting both words and Fig Newtons in Hiram’s mouth, let me assure you I am not. He loves them as much as Hobbits love mushrooms, so I check their price at the grocery store every week and stock up when they’re on sale, which hasn’t been very often lately. They weren’t marked down on grocery day wek before last either, but it occurred to me that they didn’t cost much more than a Valentine’s card. I closed my eyes and imagined Hiram’s face when handed a card, and again when handed a package of Fig Newtons.

After thirty-two years of seeing this sweet man get a pained what-do-I-do-with-this-now look on his face whenever he’s done reading birthday, anniversary and Valentine’s cards, the cookie face won. I bought the Fig Newtons.

So you can call me cheap and unromantic if you like. But over the decades, I have felt most loved by Hiram when he does little things that thrill him not one bit, but he does them because they make me happy. This year, I followed his example and gave him, not what delights me, but what he likes instead.

Next year, once the kids are married and the daughter is almost done with school, maybe a more expensive present will fit into our budget. Hiram will get two packages of Fig Newtons instead of one. Nobody’s gonna call me a cheapskate.

I Don’t Have to Cook Tomorrow Night

Our church has its annual Valentine’s Banquet tomorrow evening, so I don’t have to cook supper. The thought of a night away from the kitchen put me in such an expansive mood, I volunteered to decorate a table for the big event.

I spent part of Monday digging through boxes in the attic, looking for decorations. Tuesday I dug out my red tablecloth and napkins and put them in the wash. Wednesday I went to the store to buy a couple bags of chocolates that went with the table’s red and silver color scheme. Thursday I drove to Mom’s so I could borrow her pretty water glasses and good silverware.

This morning’s inspection of the silverware revealed some significant tarnish so I hauled out the toothpaste and shined the silver plate and my teeth after breakfast. Then I washed the water glasses and eight place setting of my good china. I wrapped and boxed everything good and tight for the trip to the banquet hall tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Hiram will haul the boxes to the banquet site, and I’ll spend a long time decorating the table. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll spend an even longer time decorating me. By the time we get to the banquet at six-thirty, me shivering to death in strappy sandals and a too thin dress and Hiram in his Good Will suit he insists fits real good, I will be exhausted.

It’s been quite a week. Good thing I don’t have to cook supper tomorrow night.