Sunday, May 31, 2009

Giving Gratefuls

171. Surprising someone.

172. Meeting a neighbor.

173. Root systems.

174. Dirt under my fingernails.

175. An abundance to share.

176. Dog kisses that do not make contact, but communicate the sentiment anyway.

178. Daughters who made dinner and dessert while I dug.

179. Steve swooping in to dig out the last few things when my strength was gone.

180. Sitting on the concrete bench in our newly rearranged, de-tigerlillified little garden using a big spoon to eat melty orange sherbet from a Christmas mug and examining the small butterfly that landed on my aching thigh.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gratefuls in Balance

161. Walking together.

162. Celebrations.

163. Loooong weekends.

164. A beginning. Belonging.

165. Spider conquered.

166. Impromptu lunch with a crowd that grew. Outdoors on a Sunday afternoon. With much laughter.

167. The word impromptu. Impromptu use of the word impromptu.

168. Impromptu small purchases.

169. Kind words.

170. Balance. Being told that someone on the other side of the world thinks I'm a genius. In this particular narrow situation, I just may be. Then having to ask how to fix the view in Excel because I can't figure out how to make the slider bar display. Balance.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Which came first...

...the wakefulness or the urge?

Since I am vertical now, I might as well get my horizontal thoughts out.

Last weekend we took a trip to New Castle, PA for a church conference thingy. We flew to Pittsburgh and then drove to New Castle. This isn't about the meetings. Stay with me.

I found a book in the airport on the way home. I bought it based on the title - unreviewed, unrecommended, unheard of (by me) until that moment. The Girls From Ames might not have grabbed your attention the way it did mine, but then again you may not have grown up in Iowa with a tight-knit group of girlfriends that you've known so long you can't even remember when you met. I did. When I saw the book I said to my friend Robyn,

"Someone wrote my book!"

Ya snooze, ya lose.

Robyn told me I should still write my book. I love that. She said this book is not my book because it's not my story, and she's right. It is parallel though. That's why I bought it and read it in four days and wrote notes on nearly every page. I could have read it all in one sitting. I think you should read it even if you didn't grow up in Iowa and it could have (should have) been your face on the cover.

It's a book about friendship.

Read it. I need to discuss.

Now that I got that out, I have to say that this isn't even really about the book, though the book is marinating in my subconscious, and may have directly influenced my wakingupinthemiddleofthenightneedingtopee thoughts.

My thoughts followed a progression that began with something that happened to me as a teenager. Many teenagers in Iowa get summer jobs detasseling. My friends and I detasseled. It was hard, filthy work. It was also fun.

Ten years ago, as we were thinking about moving our family here, people were amazed that I was 33 and had never seen an ocean. They thought I was some kind of deprived. But I've spent hours in an endless ocean of green with my friends, riding the waves of leaves, often completely immersed. It's an immersed you can breathe under. I've heard the ebb and flow of popping tassels, each one a distinct, plaintive cry. I've dived in as one person and come out another. Who's deprived?

Sometimes detasseling was not fun. Our crew cleaned up the fields after the machines went through. It was our job to get the tassels that the machines missed. Some parts of the field were easy while other parts of the field were untouched. That's called 'full pull'. Sometimes I got a bad row, and my friends went on ahead.

I was alone in my row, all about pull drop pull drop pull drop, when I turned and came face to face with a huge spider. A huge spider with a huger web spanning my row and blocking my way. I was just inches away from the spider; it was at eye level. I'd seen thousands of spiders and whacked down thousands of webs with tassels, but this close encounter left me paralyzed. I must have screamed because suddenly there was a crowd in my lonely row. One of the foremen had to lead me between cornstalks to another row to pass by the spider.

Then there was this.

Shortly after Steve and I got married, we were going somewhere in our little red Ford Escort when a spider crawled across the windshield. It made it's appearance on the inside of the windshield and on my side of the car. The same paralysis took me. I must have screamed because suddenly Steve smashed the spider right there on the windshield. It was at eye level. He was angry with me for nearly causing an accident. Rightfully so.

I was angry with myself too. Even though we were newly married and we were not even considering having children at that point, I vowed to never let my children see how terrified I was by spiders. I've done pretty well, I think. I suck them up in the vacuum. Or I get a piece of paper and try to coax Spidey to take a ride to the great outdoors. Or I calmly yell for Steve. Practicing not showing fear has made me less fearful.

So what was I really thinking about?

One of the biggest lessons of parenting that I know well and I am still learning and am not sure I can even wrap my mind around is this.

I must let my kids live their life.

I have a hard time keeping my big mouth shut when they choose something that I don't agree with. I'm not talking about the bad choices. I'm talking about when they decide not to do something that I can see would be good for them. I can advise and I can coach and I can teach, but they have to face their own eye level spiders. It's their choice whether they will run from spiders, or whether they will deal with them.

Still, you can bet that I would gladly take my girls by the shoulders and direct them to a new path or squish a spider with my bare hand if need be. All they have to do is scream.




Birds begin chiping here at 4:24 am, FYI. And the urge has returned.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

sixteen


We played our game last night at bedtime. We do it every year.

I said, "Good night, fifteen year-old. I love you."

And she woke up sixteen.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The end of the middle

El is nearly finished with middle school.

Next year the girls will go to the same school for the first time in four years. They have individual interests and activities, so I doubt that their comings and goings will coincide every day, but I'm looking forward to the occasional coordinated departure or arrival. The thought of no more separate back-to-school nights sends thrills of delight down my spine.

One of the things that mystifies me about middle school is the schedule.

In elementary school the teacher writes each days activities on the wipe board. High school students receive the schedule on the first day of school and it stays the same all year. The electives meet on opposite days, but the classes meet at the same time each day.

Middle school students have the most complex schedule I've ever seen. When Mo came home with her 7th grade schedule my eyes crossed. My eyes may have spun. Visual overload.

Want me to explain it?
No way. Do you understand it?
Yes. Maybe.
All right then.


Over the last four years, osmosis has granted partial understanding. Talk of 3B White and 5A Red days with a split lunch and double Team Time no longer causes heart palpitations, just the same kind of general anxiety I get when I hear someone order a drink at Starbucks. Not only are there several periods a day, but the classes meet on a rotating basis. So if yesterday she went to period 1 first, today she would go to period 2 first, and so on. There are six six-week arts courses that rotate throughout the year. Since I have not mastered the concept of how to discern when double classes occur, I cannot even fathom the complexity of double classes that meet over lunch. It might depend on the color code of the day.

I wonder why 'they' would subject middle schoolers to such craziness. Do you remember what it was like to be twelve, thirteen, fourteen? It seems to me that it's a cruel joke to play on kids whose emotions are swinging out of control and whose bodies are set to full morph:

Let's give them schedules that by nature have no predictability.

It's a probability lesson gone haywire. Like middle school students amped up on Starbucks.

Ah, now I get it.

More coffee, please. I take it black.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What's wrong with my skin?



I'm not a quick thinker.

I'm a processor, the tortoise who manages to finish behind the hare, a slow-poke. I'm behind the times in many ways, often socially oblivious, a dreamer.

Imagine my surprise (a few weeks ago, you know, the slow processing translates to slow writing) when I woke up to the reality that I am living in middle-aged skin. Over time, my skin has changed as slowly as I process information. The reality smacked me in the eyes and heart right there in the JC Penney dressing room.

The one by the Old Lady dresses.

Where I was shopping for my first dress in many, many years.

The last time I got myself a new dress was for Brian and Sharon's wedding. They have four children now. Obviously I am not a big fan of dresses.

I shopped three times for something to wear to Steph and Paul's wedding. The first two times, I did not find anything worth removing my comfy clothes to try.

I did not like anything.

Until I went to the Old Lady section.

Of JC Penney.

That should have been a warning of sorts, but you know, I am a slow processor.

So I tried on two dresses. I liked them both, but I didn't much like what I saw in the mirror. There were bulges and saggings and genuine jiggles.

On my body.

Under my skin.

Affecting my appearance and overall mood.

And then something even stranger happened. Like the time over a year ago when I unconsciously moved the menu a foot further from my face so I could see it.

I considered the merits of a girdle.

A break in the weather gratefuls

154. Strawberry cheesecake before dinner.

155. Steak of my choosing wrapped in brown paper.

156. A package delivered - a silly surprise for me!

157. Having an entire day alone. Devoting an entire day alone to cleaning.

158. Brand new green against rain darkened bark.

159. Water droplets.

160. Steve saying "I should let these bananas go bad."


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

ba-na-na-na

I bragged on facebook about the incredible banana cake I made today. Karen, my friend since childhood, asked me for the recipe. No, she told me I HAVE to share it. So I did. I e-mailed it to her. As I finished the e-mail, I decided I needed to blog it. It is that good.

Thank me.


Kar,

Banana Loaf
Adapted from Flavorful Favorites of First Baptist.

I had a friend in college who was studying nutrition. She said that you could call a recipe your own if you changed at least 3 ingredients. I may not have changed 3 ingredients, but I think I adapted it enough to call it my own.


Original in regular print
My comments in italics

Baking with Stefanie is always an experience. You have to understand that baking is an inexact science for me...I put this banana bread in a small cake pan and it took a lot less time than I expected. I have no idea what would happen if you follow this exactly. I recommend that you make it however you want to. Make it your own.

Sift together:
Mix in a big bowl:
2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Pretty easy so far...

Blend:
Mix in a smaller bowl:
1 1/2 sticks soft butter - mine melted in the microwave, 35 seconds was too long for softening
1 1/2 C sugar - wow that's a lot of sugar, no wonder it's good
2 eggs, beaten - seriously? just crack 'em and mix well

Stir in:
Then stir in the next 3 ingredients and blissfully ignore the following instructions about the last 3 ingredients:
1 C mashed ripe nasty bananas that no one will eat. I used two nasty bananas, it was a little less than a cup.
1/4 C milk
1/2 tsp vanilla - or just pour some in, who measures vanilla?

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir in last 3 ingredients just until blended.
Add the small bowl stuff to the big bowl stuff. Now is when you may notice that you weren't aware of the whole 'just until blended' thing a moment ago.

Pour into greased and floured loaf pans (1 large, 1 small).
Huh? There are different sized loaf pans? Put the batter in whatever you have and hope for the best. I have a small pyrex dish measuring something like 6x8. I sprayed it with store brand cooking spray. Canola oil. All natural. Do people still flour pans?

Bake for approximately 1 hour at 350. Test for doneness.
It was more like 40 minutes and I didn't preheat. I think preheating is a waste of time. Ok, honestly - I just plain forget to preheat most of the time. It was done when it was all golden brown everywhere and the top didn't look wet and it smelled good.

Eat while warm.

You can substitute mashed strawberries for bananas.
How about strawberry banana next time?

Sorry you asked?

I'm blogging this.

stefanie.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

please don't use that word, mom in the bookstore

El's been looking forward to today's release of the latest Rick Riordan book, The Last Olympian. I took her to our favorite local bookstore a while ago so she could purchase their last copy. She says that she finds the twist on Greek mythology 'entertaining' and she sure knows more about mythology than I do. She's on the phone with a friend talking about it right now. I find her side of the conversation 'entertaining'.

And I'm thinking El has a small crush on Percy Jackson.

We survived Mo's crush on Edward Cullen last year; this too shall pass.

So, we are in the bookstore and this mom comes in and asks for a certain book. They show her where to find it, and as she walks past us on the way to the cash register she says out loud to anyone who cares to hear or maybe (as in my case) doesn't care to hear, "I got it and the one that comes after it because she reads through them so fast, it's retarded."

Huh? I pause for a second to wonder if I'm hearing right.

El whispers in my ear, "That's a bit of an oxymoron."

Ya think?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sprung

Steve and I were doing some errands yesterday and he said, "Spring color here is just as amazing as Fall."

And it is.



I spent Monday morning at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve with my friend Deb.

When we were driving there she said, "I want to make sure we get to the pond to see the turtles and the frogs."

When we got there we mapped the route to the turtles and the frogs. We started walking.

I looked up.



I dilly-dallied and I dawdled.

"Let's make sure we have time to get to the pond."

I looked down.




We made it to the pond. It was a worthy goal.




I'm glad we went to the pond and saw the turtles and frogs.

Sorry, Deb, that I move at turtle pace.

Discerning Gratefuls

153. My Bible study group just finished Priscilla Shirer's Discerning the Voice of God. I want to remember these things (these are my impressions from her teaching, some thoughts new and some reminded - they're probably not her exact words and if they are her exact words I hope she will not mind my using them):
  • If I press into Him, I cannot go the wrong way. If I press into Him, I will learn as I go. I can move forward with Him even when I don't have the answers.
  • When He speaks, it's not enough to listen. I should obey.
  • I can expect to hear Him. Saying you talk to God is widely accepted - but saying you hear from Him? Not so much. So be it. I've heard Him in the past. I will hear Him today. I can expect to hear from Him.
  • I can expect Him to confirm what He says through His word, through wise people's words (that includes R, L, and Cam, I Am who spoke at our retreat last weekend and confirmed many of the things in this list), through prayer, through circumstances, through my Spirit-influenced conscience, through peace.
  • When I hear from Him and obey, I will have to adjust my plans. This was the key for me. I have been holding on to something for ten years. I let go of it this week. It's hard. I will probably try to grab it back. I'm writing this right now to remind myself that it's not mine to have; it's right to let it go. There is peace in this release. I want to move forward, pressed into Him, letting Him lead. For that, I am most grateful.