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.

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