Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Worship, Perennials, and a Sailboat


          We have had some good family discussions lately and in response to a negative statement someone was to have said about worship, Clark said “It is what we bring to our worship time that makes it what it is.”  I agree. Our own attitude and willingness to learn and listen makes all the difference. To pick apart what's happening because of our personal unmet expectations is to admit ingratitude or discontent of our own. Frankly, when the negative statement was made, it felt unkind and untrue because my take on the same event was one of my particular happy things. It inspires me again to remember how important it is to be encouraging.
         We are trying to improve Elv’s health and sense of well-being by giving more attention to what we are eating. It’s challenging right now because he is eating out of a cooler four days a week working away from home. And I’m at home defaulting to what’s to eat as usual, which is only bad because of portion control. Our larder is rather simplistic and balanced for the most part. Except I like ice cream too much and Elv likes bread too much. But now we have to make changes. 
So I’ve been strategizing his grub into balanced, healthy, daily packets to be kept in his cooler. What an interesting project! He needs protein: eggs, cheese, meat, and beans. And only a few carbs: chips and whole grain breads. I can add milk, nuts, fruit and vegetables. But we don’t want any added sugars (corn syrup appears everywhere like nobody’s business where it has no business to be!), and we want low carbs in general. And how do we do meat? We spend a little more money buying decent hot dogs (real beef) and cheese sticks. Home formed hamburgers? Hard boiled eggs can be a good source of protein. But who wants hard-boiled eggs every single day? How about hummus in small containers of different flavors, is that a thing? Could do the same with some fruit dip made of real cream, cream cheese (which is fattening but good) and that yummy, expensive, real-peanuts-only peanut butter. I’m trying to stop just short of being radically “quack” here by not falling for vegan, non-dairy or gluten free, to boot. Elv is not impressed at all by fads and fancies, food-wise.

Another happy thing for me is planning a perennial flowerbed where now the garden attempts to be. Since I can’t seem to have a good vegetable garden: rust in the zinnia row, blight from the store bought squash plants, meager soil nutrition, sand, and in general a silly, little, pretend garden, I shall now turn it over to hardy perennials, soaker hoses, mulch, and paths. We’ll see what that does.
You might sense that I’m discontent and frustrated. You would be correct. I feel like we’ve tried everything to have a nice garden and some years it almost is. But unless we pile on the manure and lime yearly and spray and mulch and irrigate and keep the deer out, we cannot have a garden here at all. Even when we do all those things, it is sketchy! The last straw for me was when the holly hocks made one last appearance last year and generally created havoc by sharing a bad case of rust with the zinnia and mallow
. This year the holly hocks didn’t come up, which is just as well. And then the VERY last straw was when I started looking at others’ gardens and comparing and finally realized that my pitiful attempts were worse than ridiculous … I am not even getting crops out of all those efforts.
            So, I am making lists of perennials that we already have here on our acre that need dividing and nurturing. And researching design ideas. And thinking about Lily’s garden and maybe having her wisdom. And visualizing green grass paths. And absorbing the beautiful Pinterest ideas.

            Meanwhile, Brad is fixing a sailboat. This is really exciting. Thanks to Bill. It is amazing and generous of him to hand on the pleasure to Brad. He could have kept his sailboat for his own memories sake. I hope to finally go sailing with Brad one of these days. This summer.

            To gather  these threads up into a tidy conclusion, I'll repeat Clark's idea and say that it's what we bring with us to the experience that makes or breaks it. It takes thought and effort and a good attitude to eat well, live well, worship well, and play well. Have a happy day, all of you, my patient readers.

Monday, July 23, 2018

This Summer's Oasis

 An oasis is a place for rest and refreshment. There should be amenities to sooth tired feet and troubled minds. It is a place to pray away fears. A safe place to shed tears or laugh. We like to retreat from battle there. It is an appropriate place to regroup. To strategize. It can also be a place to get a few minutes break. Our patio is our own kind of oasis then.
   We take our suppers here often in the summer. Morning coffee, evening visits and tea with friends. It is the most used room in the house in summer. I scribble here. Elv studies here. We feel most blessed.
   This past week was full of thought provoking news and decisions. So, like Pooh, I was glad for a thinking spot.
   To begin with, Susan told us about the bud worm infestation happening on the north shore this summer. Will all of the spruce and balsam trees die? Really? I don't want to imagine most of the forest in the area around Silver Bay, where their homestead is, dying out. And it is spruce trees that makes our acreage around the cabin beautiful. I thought about this all week. Elv and I discussed the possibilities of planting trees. We are so glad for the few maples that are already established there and the rest of the aspen and birch. These will redeem our forest there. I finally found the DNR forestry report for 2017. It really is a thing. The worst affected areas will lose up to 50% of the spruce and balsam trees. I hope the cedars will somehow be exempt. But that's better than ALL of the trees dying. "Nature has a way of healing itself." Elv comforted us with his logger knowledge and experience.
    Other news was that Elv and Lance will be working two hours away from home again for up to three months. This, the tears part of our lives this week for Kristine and I. Elv will be away from me/home, Monday to Thursday evening, each week. I tell him and myself, "Let's not have drama about it. I will miss you; then we will be together all weekend. Trucker's wives do this all the time, right?" But I'm not convinced. Neither is he. We discuss ways to alleviate the separation. We discuss job changes for both of us. We pray.  It feels ironic to me … "Together" is our word for our marriage this year.

 So Kristine and I shared with our church women in Sunday School class some of what is happening about our guys' work situation. It was comforting. They promised to pray for us. Sunday School has often been a real oasis. Yesterday was exceptionally so. They listened and we prayed. They honestly cared about it, because we know each other so well. And everyone matters to each other. It is amazing what true caring can do for a heartache.
    Around the supper campfire last night with our church "small group" we discussed our "Jonah week" stuff together. Ben reported that the spray planes had moved in for two days and he wondered what they were targeting. So much for our bud worm infestation. Maybe we'll keep our spruce trees after all.
   Even as we ask, Sovereign God is arranging solutions for our problems. Coming to the oasis of prayer is what we can do.
   And one more oasis from the week was an email circle letter with my sisters and mom. We are scattered over four different states, yet we can share this way to support other. We've gotten pretty good at getting across in words, feelings, emotions... with all the known inflections, our thoughts to each other.
   Finally, being present in this moment, with a grateful heart presents to me the very best oasis of all. God is here holding me … and you.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Blueberry Picking Day

 Would they really be here?  We had picked them twenty years ago here in these sand lands of northern Wisconsin. So I kept searching in the almost-shade of low shrubbery, small trees, just off the trail, in a sweeping line into the trees and back to the trail. Eventually I found them them, blue at my feet here and over there. Yes, I shouldn't have doubted. I knelt down in the grassy, spongy softness of a jack pine forest long gone, settling in to gather them gently using both hands.
    Last week when we came up with as many of the family as could get away on short notice to swim and picnic at Cheney Lake. Lisl had to search only a short time until she found there were blueberries.
     So yesterday we packed four women and eleven children, food, buckets, and swim stuff into three vehicles and headed north to Cheney. The children planned to swim. Kristine agreed to be life guard in deference to the need and as preference to wading in bug-land and unknowns accordingly when one gathers blueberries. (Kristine is a smart gal and nobody faults her at all for not liking bugs. She is also courageous and patient with this crazy, nature loving family she married into.) Lisl, Charlotte, and I were off to the boonies to pick blueberries. It was a perfect arrangement. 
We also had three neighbor children along. Sebastian told me this while we were picking berries, "Your family are the kindest people I have ever met."  Now there's a challenge for us, family. I suppose we have little knowledge with what he might be comparing us.
    You learn things from these children of our neighbors when you include them. All three of them had things to share from their hearts. For privacy reasons I can't say them here, but I was reminded again that God gave us to each other for a reason.
 The small thuds of berries hitting the bottom of the bucket lasted only a short time. Lisl asked the traditional question in the berry patch, "Mom can you still hear your berries?" I did get the bottom of my bucket covered before she did hers.
"You have too big a bucket." I told her eyeing it for size. But she soon had hers silent and blue, too.
   I've picked berries in the woods often with my mom and with my daughters and though I try hard I have never kept up to Mom's ability to fill her bucket in such a short time. It takes me hours to fill an ice cream bucket with wild blueberries. Mom could do two to my one. Lisl fusses that I am so fast, but she and Charlotte did just fine and came home with a proper amount of them.
    We saw where the bears had swiped off the tops of ant hills, and where they or other pickers had cleaned up whole patches of berries. We saw that the hazel nuts are making fruit just fine. I took pictures of irresistibly, beautiful red lichen on an old stick of jack pine. On closer inspection, I counted three kinds of lichen growing on the stick.
   But mostly we picked berries staying within yelling distance of each other, keeping our bearings by the sand road nearby where the Jeep was parked.

 The children played in the water the whole time we were there except for when they were eating sandwiches or pie or cookies. They wore their life jackets in the water for the mom's sake. And yelled and teased and just generally made lots of racket. I felt sorry for the couple who came down to "unknown" Cheney Lake to fish. We noticed that she caught a fish immediately, but the noise had to be deafening to them. They left in about ten minutes flat.
   To be honest, we want all that noise. It clears the area of any self respecting bear who knows it's time to give over to the humans for a day. We didn't see any of them.

It is nice to have re-established the berry picking tradition after ten years of marrying children off and too much busy-ness. Kneeling in the deep grass and moss of the woods with the cicada music, hot sunshine and cool shade felt almost surreal to me. Amazing opportunity to worship and wonder. Again I realize that we have been putting far too much importance on things and schedules.
    After this,I want to find time every summer, as mom and her sisters did, to get away for a day now and then to pick berries or play or take the children swimming.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Juneberry Jam

The lake scene was typical for Grabers. Everybody's vehicle backed up to a semi central area, tail gates open and doors ajar. Coolers, towels, flip-flops, baskets, blankets, lawn chairs, and firewood from beach to cars. The men cooked. The girls sent the children off for water play and went looking for blueberries in the woods.
Elv and I pulled in through the sandy trail with the Jeep and added our own tailgate grilling.
The girls soon reappeared to show us their plastic cups half full of blueberries. But I was already noticing a pair of cedar wax wings playing in a Jack pine and in the reeds on the lake shore. They hardly seemed to notice us in their play back and forth. Apparently they were feeding on the red berries in the tall bush that Lisl eventually noticed right next to the bird playground. It was full of red berries and they tasted quite good.
    We consulted the work wide web on the spot (we thought Cheney Lake was in the boonies) to discover that our red berry tree was a June berry tree. Thus we ended up with enough berries for four small jars of beautiful jam.
Jam Making
 Jam making is a satisfying homemakers adventure. To wing it is to have runny jam, ie. a colossal fail. All that sugar, and stirring and guessing for...what can you use runny jam for, anyway! Follow directions, and feel the particular triumph belonging only to the chosen few who actually do.
Next week, we'd like to go back up there to pick several buckets of blueberries. We will take the Jeep up and our picnic lunch. Any bears hanging around, we hope, will take a hint from all of our noise and move off to the next county. It's been years since we picked blueberries in the woods.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Home Things

It is the oddest feeling to be sole cook and bottle washer. Sometimes it is sad, but mostly just odd... something to get used to, like new shoes. Whatever gets done is only what I have done myself. I wonder, as I tend and arrange, what my own style or way of doing this, is like. I honestly can't remember after 30 plus years of making home with the help and talents of our children, what I do when I am on my own with it.
We had fun with home decor and management. The girls cooperated so well helping to make our home, as we envisioned. They cleaned and arranged and even initiated renovations with me. New floorings and wallpaper and trim went in upstairs in their bedrooms. Now they all are making their own houses into beautiful homes. They're good at it. They've mastered the art.
Now I am learning to dream and home make on my own again. Amy came in last week one evening and commented, "Mom, how do you make your house feel so comfortably home like this?"
Of course, I'm feeling a little flattered, but on second thought, I look around and wonder what it is she is seeing, "But Amy, you are doing the same thing, your house is beautifully homey, too." She says she learned it from me, and I say I learned it from all the women in my world: my mom, Elv's mom, my sisters, and the girls.

Elv's mom and dad moved fairly often in their lifetime. So one of her joys in life was to make the new place "home" as quickly as possible. I admired this a lot. No such thing as boxes sitting in corners waiting to be unpacked for her. Anything not unpacked or set up either got sent away to a different destination for give away or trash or it was stored neatly in the store room away from the living space.
She liked tidy surfaces and plenty of closets and chests of drawers for games, linens, toys, pantry, dishes, and tools. Organization was her strong point.
And she didn't let undone projects bog her down. Either she pursued them to the end or she dispensed of them. She enjoyed home making, thus being a great example to us.

I have a few rules that work for us.

~ Keep it simple. Too many of anything is messy. Keep toys, tools, gadgets, and papers at a minimum. Wall art, shelf settings, and nick-knacks should be few and only what I really love.
~ This goes for dishes and kitchen tools, too. With a small kitchen all these years it is an easy decision to make. If we already have one, we really don't need two.
~ Something in, means something out. This goes for furniture and dishes mostly.
~ To see an end table in a bench, a newly painted nightstand in an old ugly end table, a table in an old pile of boards, and wall covering in a pile of salvaged cedar.
~ Do without until I can afford one nice, quality one.
~ A poor, old room can be make wonderfully beautiful with a little vision and a lot of elbow grease. Scrubbing tools and pine cleaner and inexpensive wax can do wonders for an old hardwood floor. Besides it is so fun to find that warm wood. Even the scars and embedded stains add to the charm. It's only the dirt we don't want.
~ I've also rediscovered English oil to shine tired wood furniture and cabinets. This one is from my mom. She lately moved from a new house with lovely kitchen cabinets into an older home with used up, cheap, wood cabinets. She handed us girls the Old English and rags telling us to use it liberally and buff well. It made a huge difference in the appearance of those old cabinet doors. Yes, it was work but the result was reward enough.

~ To bravely let expensive trends pass by unnoticed. They're quite fleeting anyway. Who knew that ceramic sinks and cook stoves would return to our kitchens after all that 70's shag rug, olive colored drama. I am ever so glad for wood and white and practical.
~ To go ahead, hang up that funny looking tapestry that I like, above the piano, and enjoy it. To go with what I believe is pretty, because I may, in our own house.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

In Summer

 His text said, "Weather permitting we are going to put green canoe in and putter down Billy Boy with a picnic lunch in afternoon." So we did. We tried to remember when was the last time we took our green canoe out for an 'explore'. Couldn't pin that down. So we concluded that it had been far too long.
We put in on the Couderay side of the channel here in Northwoods Beach. Elv had loaded the Pelican right side up on a trailer earlier so all we had to do was to back it in to the water and let the canoe scoot off in the lake, me holding the rope while standing on the dock. The forget-me-not flowers on the landing were gloriously adding their bits of periwinkle and gold to our adventure.
The water was up a little in answer to the lovely summer breeze. We headed south out of the bay straight across the lake the wind in our faces and that lovely little wake off the back. There is nothing quite like a summer day lake ride in the Pelican. I love the choppy water and the spray and everything about it. Elv is careful so I lean into it fully.
We had to putter west up the other shore till we got to the bridge we were looking for where the lake connects with Little Couderay. Elv slowed it way down as the bottom came into view. Clear and shallow there under the bridge. Memories of playing in the shallows of our river at home always come to mind. The fat Red Horse were darting back and forth there. If they were not so quick, you could pick them right out of the water. We mused out loud again about catching a few in a net to can up in jars for fish patties. Another time later maybe. It's one of those promises we make to ourselves for when we have more time. The future is rich.
Crossing Little Couderay is shorter. We head across again angling south and mostly west to find another bridge under which we quietly putter past the "no wake" sign and into the Billy Boy flowage.
The yellow iris are in full bloom right now. Along all three miles of shoreline on both sides are iris blooming in yellow, blue, and white. Mostly yellow this week. I try to absorb this beauty with my eyes, and my two cameras. The sunshine bounces and glints and plays everywhere on the water, swamp grasses, and flowers making it all so dazzling and brilliant it is hard to get a picture. Too much light, too many details. Over exposure everywhere. But who cares. It's an awesome creation to enjoy.

A pair of loons were nesting somewhere about the middle mile of the flowage. We saw only one of them and he was calling to her, our trespassing, till we got closer, then he ducked under the water and stayed put till we passed out of sight. We have in the past been able to spot the nest but not this time.
We scared up two herons just by drifting by. I caught the one just before lift off.

Getting off to the swamp for a few hours helps me to weigh up my worries for what they really are: a sickening distraction from the reality of living with Jesus in my heart.The Psalmist encourages worship and prayer with this simple command. Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you: He shall never permit the righteous to be moved (shaken).
Lately I've noticed that a burdened mind/heart is full of stress. It soon becomes a convoluted mess of hard-to-solve questions. Problems loom larger than reality and it is difficult to think properly. Worries and frustrations get bigger than they should. I notice that great solutions never come of fear and doubt. We think we are so knowledgeable and smart and godly that we can think our way through these things on our own. We do. We try it.
The best solution to a burdened heart is to turn to Jesus. He said, and I have to keep being reminded, "My yoke is easy, My burden is light. Come to Me, all You who labor and are heavy laden. I will give you rest." 
That's a promise.
An island of red pine in a large swamp became our picnic spot. We nosed the canoe into shore and climbed up the grassy knoll and spread out our picnic there. Life, as we know it, seems far away and unreal when tucked away so, the only eyes and ears, God's, for miles around. We sat and savored until the bugs found us. I wish it could have been longer. Next time we'll take bug barriers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Summer Begins

 Summer is here with warmth and sunshine and green grass. The leaves burst out of the bare branches overnight seemingly and the water temperature on the surface of Lake Windigo last night was a swim-able 74 degrees. We asked the family who was tubing last night if it was really warm enough. Mr. looked at his boat dash and informed us the exact temperature. So! Summer is here.
    Along with lawn mowing, AC installation, and pretty patio baskets. And hot, humid days followed by thunder storms.

It was an eventful spring. In the end, Amy married her Tim. The wedding was small in our own simple style, but woodsy pretty. We are grateful for all of our family and friends who helped make it a lovely celebration. More on this later with pictures.
   For now the days of summer work followed by evenings of canoeing or yard work are here. It feels especially nice this year, maybe because of that long winter.
   It seems especially nice to me also because we are now in the era of "after the wedding".  Now summer may commence as it will with crazy days at work where customers are pleased or not as they will. And with campfires and weekend jaunts to see friends or family hither to the north shore or thither to Nebraska or Sparta as we will. And of logging, safely tucked inside cool, clean cabs away from the heat, dust, and bugs of our northern Wisconsin days.
    This posting is just for momentum. Scribblings have all but stopped for the last few weeks for real reasons. But I don't want them to stop. There are many weddings and funerals going on, it's hard to find time to process these things in my mind as they happen, not to mention blogging. Sometimes I think that time is actually going faster than it ever has before. 

So we defied the flying minutes and went canoeing. On Lake Windigo, in the evening, time seems to stand still. I observed from the middle of our red and white canoe, Elv's life jacket for my cushion, that we have two pairs of loons living there this summer. On the east shore of the small island there is a pair of blue herons nesting. They were quite anxious about our approach and hoped with hovering squawnks that we would not discover their nest. There's a pair of mallards nesting on the opposite shore of our favorite fishing hole, and the Canada geese pair have made their nest right near the fishing hole itself. Mrs. Goose was very unimpressed with our presence. Lucky for her we hadn't gotten our fishing licenses yet.
    We stayed and paddled around looking at all our old haunts to see what's what this year. We found a floating log out in the water off one of the islands just lying in wait to kill someone's prop. So Elv hung on to the tip of the iceberg so to speak and Brad and I hauled on the oars to bring it to shore. We felt a bit triumphant to leave it resting along side another downed tree that the DNR has anchored to it's own stump. The fallen trees will shelter fish we hope to catch this summer. We saw that there are designated, accessible places along the shores of the islands to have picnics or camp. Maybe we will picnic there this summer sometimes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

In The Midst

  Ten days until Amy's wedding. It's been wild. Suddenly spring came for real making it possible to do the yard work. Everybody came and helped us here at the Stone House and then Elv and I cleaned and raked even more after that. And hauled tires and recycle-able metal away. Tires cost and metal pays. And it is not even at all. Funny world.
    I always get this urge to write it all down in my journal over coffee in the morning and to read books between prayers and bedtime. I scribble detailed lists and then finally cave in to writing on the blogspot, too. I read Kathleen Norris's book entitled Mother in the last twenty-four hours and wondered about authors and their little soap boxes and mine. Will mine every produce a readable novel? Maybe in the middle of the busiest of times someday. Anyway, reading is my escape from all the demands.
    What if I forget something important on wedding morning. Or what if there isn't enough food. I don't actually spend much time worrying about these things... I can't. I just can't even think of not getting this right. So I won't think about it. So I don't. But the last ten days are fraught with the care of timing orders for flowers and food and of phone calls and making sure everybody knows what they should know. And of finishing up things at the right time. The flowers are coming to our door here on Thursday according to the ordering we did online with Sam's Club. I haven't talked to a person. Just made an order on the computer. If those roses don't show up here on Thursday, I'll...what will we do? Another thing that I refuse to think about. All this not thinking of potential disasters and of working on not forgetting anything important and checking the things off my four or five lists that I keep adding to or crossing off. It makes me dizzy. Soon I'll have to have a list of my lists.
The wonderful people helping us along way must know that we are very grateful.
    Elv pulled me away from work half an hour early today and we did the weekly grocery shopping together. He had been on his feet all day doing repairs for Farmer Bob and his back was killing him. He finally asked to push the cart at Wal-mart to lean on it. I wondered when he was going to finally take over the cart. Everything took too long. We'd been to Miller's Market for cheese, and Kwik Trip for gas and then at Wal-mart we pulled up to the check out to the very slowest clerk we have ever encountered, ever. I kid you not. Maybe she was tired and in pain too, I suppose. We arrived home to laundry and dishes to do and the car full of groceries. The groceries came in. Then Elv offered to make supper while I whipped through the dishes and folding laundry and Brad built a fire in the stove downstairs because at last it has turned cool and rainy as per hugely needed. My man takes such very good care of me and us. He cooks on a crazy evening like this one or on another day shows me how to get a margin right here by having coffee midday.
    Elv says he has ordered 125 feet of the best clothesline there is from L&M. Should be in by the weekend. But I wonder, when am I going to hang out laundry yet, too. But I will. And read my books and learn my music.Which brings me to a miracle moment for me. In the middle of all of this I have re-discovered my piano. And a new song. A new song besides the Festival sheet music that I am learning. Like there isn't quite yet enough to do, so I add in another thing.
   Every day interesting packages arrive. It's fun. Last week while I was working on making the patio into our usual summer oasis, the mail carrier handed Elv two big boxes at the back of the house at the same time as the UPS handed me a package in the front. Kettles, lace, shoes, and you name it all addressed to Amy Graber. She opened a carefully arranged six yards of table lace the other day and the dearest little sewing kit fell out into her hands, a blue lace covered box with pins and thread and do-dads completely complimentary.
   Amy is getting married in ten days. But Brad is planning a canoe trip with Timmy for this summer. And researching their canoe trail and planning their outfit and possibly buying a canoe. So we all have our goals and dreams providing us purpose for living.
   And to keep the house from turning into complete mayhem I have asked Lou to do the weekly cleaning for us these three weeks over the wedding time. It's amazing to find our little house all spic and span when the four of us gather home in the evening. I had time to bake bread and play piano last weekend on Saturday for a change. I'm considering how we could make excuse to continue having her.
    I'll resist the urge to make yet another list here of what still must be bought and done and finished by simply closing this scribbling. Goodnight and sweet dreams. 

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