Thursday, April 20, 2017

Clover and Buttercups

Our pasture, our pups:

I'm sorry for the general absence of blog posting. Life is quite busy, especially with Adam's right hand out of commission. I've enjoyed my week of spring break. Julia and I are heading to Charlotte for a bridal shower for my new daughter-in-law, Shani! It will be a quick trip. The wedding is right around the corner, and life will be busier still. Adam continues to heal although the damage to his middle finger was extensive. He has a pin in it to prevent bending it.

I will get back to you with photos from the shower, our garden (which is doing quite well), and other developments in family life. Tata for now!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Male Pattern Stupidity, Take Two

I just refreshed my memory about Adam's ankle injury of last June, remember?
Well, here we go again!
This morning I was happily plopping tomato seedlings into the soil when Adam walked up, holding his right hand wrapped in a dish towel.
 That's when I realized I would (again) spend my day in the Emergency Room.
He'd started the day so well! He was repairing the broken window, cutting a new sash.
There's the offending saw. I found a surprising lack of blood splattered around. And the broken window is back there too. The fact is, Adam was pushing that board through the saw without using the little pusher board, which we all know (from watching Norm Abrams for decades) is an essential part of woodworking safety!
Male Pattern Stupidity at work.
Thus, I got to watch him like this for a few hours:
 I admit, I was not as tender and caring as I was last year. After the whole Infamous Knee Injury While Riding a Bike, and the lawn mowing incident with the copper wire ... I'm rather tired of having Adam in the hospital.
Okay, I won't show the photo of his fingers when they were gashed open, but for those of you who like to see scary medical things, I'll post a post-stitches photo.
For those of you who get squeamish while trimming fingernails, this is fair warning!







coming up.

Hopefully that was enough warning and you have now put a book over the screen while you scroll past.
 The worst part was the thumb. He did break the end of the thumb, or perhaps I should say ... that's the part that must've hit the saw blade and it crunched it a bit. He got about 25 stitches in all. They put in an I.V. and everything! Gave him repeated shots of something like lidocaine into his hand so he wouldn't feel anything. But he still felt it. He felt the lidocaine jabs most of all, so finally he stopped telling her that he could still feel the stitching, so she would stop jabbing him. He's a nut.
Then another nurse came in and wrapped it all up with two splints underneath.
 "Live long and prosper," he can say. Or he can turn his hand sideways and it looks like a great gun.
He is determined to milk this injury for all the hugs he can get. However, he also doesn't want to stop doing stuff. I made us salads for supper, but he insisted on making hot cocoa himself while Julia cooked up some of her Asian soup.
Fun times in the kitchen!
I was meant to start my Spring Break from work tomorrow, but I took today off too. Injured husbands come first. Mine spends more than his fair share of time in the E.R. But at least this time --- he's still ambulatory!
I rewarded myself with pecan pie from a new bakery nearby.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Too Busy to Think ... Much

Hi, dear friends. Sorry for the sporadic blogging of late. It's spring, which means there's lots happening on the farm, so I spend most of my free time in the greenhouse or in the pasture or with the chickens or dogs or messing in my flower or herb beds. If you want a catch-up on the farm, click on over to that blog.

This blog is usually about family life and whatever thoughts have been ruminating in my head. Right now, family life is just fine. Peter has moved to Boston and is preparing for his wedding to Shani on May 13. Julia and I are going to a bridal shower next week in Charlotte! Anna has started her second year teaching in Japan. Philip and Kara are still living newlywed life in Chattanooga. Julia has only a few days of high school classes left. Adam says, "Hooray!!!" to that because he's the one that drives her back and forth to New Bern. She's taking an Ethics class and a Psychology class, plus a math class at home.
Adam and Julia doing Statistics together
When I have time to think thoughts, it's usually about the ladies Bible study I teach each Monday. We're studying one of my favorite books ever, Elisabeth Elliot's A Path Through Suffering. The chapters are quite short, but chock-full of wisdom and Scripture and a great woman's personal experience with suffering in her own life and the lives of dozens (really, hundreds) of people who've come to her during her life asking, "Can you help me with my suffering?"
Image result for a path through suffering
In that vein, I share with you a radically different perspective (but a typical one these days) from Tim Lawrence on "Upworthy" -- "8 Simple Words to Say When Someone You Love Is Grieving." Lots of people agree with him also.

I imagine both Lawrence and Elliot would agree on these points: 1) We should be very, very careful when speaking to those who suffer and grieve. 2)It's easy to say hurtful things to them, thinking we're helping. 3)If you haven't experienced their type of suffering then you're not equipped to speak to it at all.

Beyond that, I'm pretty sure Elliot's views would be offensive to Lawrence. He says that if you're grieving and anybody says to you that your suffering is for a reason, or it was meant to be, or it will make you a better person, you have every right to jettison that person out of your life. And not just because their words are causing you more pain. Oh no! But because such words are platitudes. They are "categorically untrue," Lawrence claims.

Elliot would disagree, and I'm so happy she does! She gives real hope. Lawrence does not. Elliot avows that God redeems all kinds of suffering and grief because He is a redeeming God. Lawrence doesn't see life that way. Lawrence admits he has a more cynical view of others, since his own grieving. What a joy to read Elliot, who has had some pretty intense grief in her own life, and hear her state confidently that she is not jaded nor dismayed nor afraid! She is confident not only of God's love and plan for her in her suffering, she is confident that her suffering is perfectly designed for her by God to equip her to serve happily in His kingdom as nothing else could have done. Suffering is the tool God uses, Elliot teaches us, that forms us into the people who better hold the "seeds of the divine life." No, that's not hocus-pocus stuff. It means our suffering is designed to make us better distributors of God's life-giving food-for-the-soul: love, joy, peace, patience, forgiveness, goodness, tenderness.

Think of yourself as a container with a lid. God comes along and begins to puncture your lid, jabbing hole after hole in it. It hurts! The lid is ruined! The jar -- YOU - cannot hold anything anymore. Then he puts into you all the things he treasures, those "divine seeds" of love and joy and all the others. Then He turns your life upside down and He sprinkles them all out on people who need them.

A pretty little picture? A cute analogy? Not really. It can be real life, if you let it be. Or we can keep grieving and grieving and suffering and pulling inward and feeling angry and hurt and resentful. I speak to myself. I ask: How have I let the sufferings I've experienced change me into a better person who gives those seeds of love and joy to others? I don't just ask, Have I changed? I ask, How exactly have my sufferings changed me?

Elliot's book is full, chapter after chapter, of people who have done just this -- taken their pain and suffering and determined to use them to help others and make God's joyful, loving kingdom a reality on Earth.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Of Windows and Wattle

Bad news first? Okay. We have a broken window on our back porch. Beyond "repair." This will be a "rebuild." Thankfully it's not a big window.
 I like these windows all around our back porch. They make the area light. Two of them lift out for ventilation. Below is the other one that is still intact. Above is the spot where the broken window simply fell out!
 One pane was cracked last year. Then in the wind yesterday the good pane fell out when the bottom board of the window (which was rotten) fell away into the flower bed below.
 The pane didn't break!
 Adam trimmed all the fruit trees in the yard of their water sprouts, which are straight and pliable. I have always, always adored the look of a wattle fence, so I made a low one around my hosta bed in the shade garden.
 I just adore it! It's quirky and has some bad spots, but I don't care. It's the general, natural look that I'm after.
Have you ever made a little wattle fence? That's one thing I can now check off my "bucket list." I don't actually have a bucket list, but if I did, that would've been on it :)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Julia Paints Pets!

Julia is now working on her third pet-painting commission. First she did the pair of kitty cats, remember?
 My mother liked them so much she asked a friend to lift the photo from my blog and make sets of cards for her to use. My mother loves to write cards and notes to friends and goes through lots of cards. She sent one to me too!!
Julia's also working on a German shepherd portrait for someone. She's not as happy about this one, so it's kind of in limbo. I told her to finish him! -- just because it doesn't look perfect to her artist's eye doesn't mean others won't think it's quite nice! Anyway, this fellow is still unfinished:
Last but not least, a pair of beagles:
They are still in the beginning stages. Below is the photo she's working from, 
for their owners, a girl in one of her college classes.
 When Julia paints, she likes to get big chunks done, and she paints for hours, usually in the middle of the night. (Mama Sigh inserted here.) I dislike her sleeplessness, but I sure love what she produces. This is the floor of the little room she usually paints in. (Cue another sigh.)
 Yes, she did. She used the back of a nice sketchbook for her palette. These things no longer bother me. Much.
 And don't forget the Painter's Fuel. Haha!
All that to say: I have suggested to Julia that there might be people out there who would pay for a nice acrylic portrait of their pets on canvas. If you are such a person, leave me a message, and I'll put you in touch with the artist herself, and you can work out the details. And I'll post those beagles when they're finished! It bothers me that they don't have eyes yet!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Hello, Beauty. Hello, Beast.

I fell in love with Beauty and the Beast many years ago after seeing George C. Scott and his wife Trish Vandevere in the 1976 version. I was entranced. Although I saw it only once (we didn't have any-movie-I-want-on-demand-whenever back then!), it was my favorite movie for years. It defined Gothic romance for me.
Image result for beauty and the beast scott and vandevere
George C. Scott and Trish Vandevere
When Disney produced their animated version in 1991, I was beginning motherhood and would soon have 3 small children. Those Disney movies were favorites, both the old ones from my childhood and the new ones. For some reason this Beauty and the Beast was not a favorite that we watched over and over. So when Adam, Julia and I went to the theater this afternoon to see Disney's latest live-action version, and I asked Julia if she'd ever seen the movie before, she said no. She knew nothing of the story. She watched the fairy tale for the first time today with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. We enjoyed it.

I quickly wondered how true the plot was to the original story line. When was the tale first written? How much had it changed?

If you care to read it, here's a link to the text of the story. It's a French tale written by a novelist called Villeneuve, published in 1740. (Unless I'm mistaken, in the new Disney version, the name of the French town where Belle lives is called Villeneuve, perhaps in honor of the author.) Apparently it was written to instruct young girls in the value of marrying a person of virtue instead of a handsome man or one full of cleverness. In other words, trust your father to arrange a good marriage for you with a man he finds worthy, and forget your attractions to the fellows with good looks or a way with words!

The text I linked to is a slightly abridged version done a few years later. You'll notice several glaring differences from the story according to Disney:
1. There is no Gaston. There is no Le Fou ("the fool"). There are no townspeople.
2. There are no talking teapots or otherwise engaging household implements.
3. Belle is one of six children. Her sisters in the story are the only real villains we see.
4. Beast is never, ever threatening or violent. No one is put in a dungeon. Belle is compelled to come stay with him, but he treats her gently from the beginning.
5. He proposes to her every evening. She sees him only each evening.
6. There's no magic rose slowly losing pedals. There is a curse, but it's not made as much of as in the movie.

The focus is much more on the family rather than on Belle's relationship with Beast.
Now I'll go over to Youtube and watch my favorite still -- Scott and Vandevere. It's slow, dark, and devoid of action, as you would expect from 1976. That's how I like it. Here's a sneak peak to entice you:

This is part 2 of 9. If you type the title into the Youtube search bar with the other numbers like this, you can watch them all.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Afternoon Drive to Goose Creek Island

We live in a watery part of the world, but our farm is not the wettest part of the county, thankfully. Parts of Pamlico County are just plain swampy. Today I felt like an afternoon car ride -- you know, just 'put the pedal to the metal" and take off down the road. We drove about 30 minutes to Goose Creek Island, i.e., the tip end of our county that is by far the wettest, floodiest, quietest, most-likely-to-have-a-derelict-trailer-park kinda place. I've wanted to go and had never been.
 If you want to know where this island is, click here. It's a Google Map, but I couldn't figure out how to do a screen shot and put it here. Goose Creek Island is the big island with Hobucken and Lowland on it. Hwy. 304 is the road our farm is on. If you look closely where 304 turns into 33, you will see a little bridge leading to Goose Creek Island. Do not be deceived! That is no small bridge; it's a mammoth, scary thing. Every time I drive UP and over it, I feel like I'm gonna fall off, far, far off and down into the ICW, the Intercoastal Waterway. Also known in these parts as "The Ditch."
 Above is the view from atop the bridge out to the Sound. Below is the view on the other side.
 On the far side of the bridge is this house, which I could not resist. I love falling-down houses.
 I rolled down the window to take that photo and heard the metallic rattling of the loose roof panels. That house does not have long for this world! Here's the other side:
 The many windows with their rippling, shredded curtains, and the angry flapping of the roof over the skeletal remains of the ceiling timbers. Doesn't it need a story?
Alright, I just discovered that Julia and Peter have been IN that house. Apparently they inherited my falling-down-houses gene. Julia says in that upstairs back bedroom someone painted on the wall, "Frankenstein was created here in 18--." Date unsure.
Nearby is the Hobucken Marina, a store that's been advertising for a full-time cashier for the longest time.
 It may not look like much, but it's about the only gig in town. Plus is has new gas tanks at its marina for boaters. Here's the marina:
 The docks are falling apart. The trailers are tired and run-down. Basically, it's a throw-back to a quiet riverside camp from years gone by. I think it's kinda beautiful.
 One sandy, silent lane.
 We spotted a pull-out place for big boats, not a lift, but tracks! Old railroad tracks, thoroughly rusted.
 Beau investigated.
 In Hobucken, the paved road suddenly transitions into gravel. At that point, we found the Goose Creek Country Club. I'm not kidding!
 This part of the county is gorgeous, unusual, open and wild.
 Somebody tied this old boat up by a little bridge.
 It came down this drainage canal to its dead end.
 Many of these canals and wide ditches snake around the low land on the edge of the county. All the roads have deep, full ditches on each side. The water table is quite high.
I almost took a picture of the one cemetery we saw along the road, but it was too disturbing to see that the graves, six feet under, would obviously be well below the water level in the ditch along the road.
A shot across miles of grassland to the Pamlico Sound:
 A blue heron stood in the ditch. I snatched two photos as he lifted off --
 -- and flew away.
One more dilapidated house. Don't you like the anchor above the porch? I saw so many photo-worthy objects on our drive, but I was behind the wheel, and I'm hesitant to stop in the middle of the road to take photos. In Lowland, however, there's hardly enough traffic to worry about it.
Probably only a handful of you like places like this, but I do find them fascinating.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tell Your Love Story

Here's an idea for the Blog World. How about we all tell our love stories -- let's tell how we met the men we love. It might be a nice change from posts about our opinions, our housekeeping, our anxieties, even our gardens.

I met Adam in a literature class at Mississippi College in spring of 1988. I was working on my master's degree; he was finishing his undergraduate degree that May. I was a full-time church secretary taking a few classes here and there. Independent. Living a fun apartment life. Dating a lot. Shopping at McRae's. Driving my little Toyota Corolla. Life was grand, but there was a big ugly question mark in the middle of it: would I marry? Who would I marry? When would I marry? I was 24 years old.

Adam was still 21, quite young. I walked into that Milton class and sat next to him. I noticed his very handsome legs. (He'd had a cross-country scholarship.) He was quiet, intelligent. At least one other boy in the class was more flirtatious and chatty, and asked me on a very boring date. Adam, on the other hand, walked me to my car once after a class lecture late that spring. He noticed the bike rack on the back, and we talked about that mutual hobby. And that was it. He didn't ask me out. He graduated that May. I continued working and planned two mission trips that summer -- one to Mexico and one to Poland. And I forgot about the cute boy with the nice legs who sat beside me in one class.

I should admit an interesting twist, and that's the fact that I'd seen Adam at least three times before we ever met in Milton class.  A year or two before, I'd seen him one day in the public library in our small college town. I noticed his dark curly hair, his angular face, his serious mien. Later that day, I saw him again, walking on the sidewalk toward the college. Twice -- and he stuck in my mind. Sometime later, I saw him again in the basement of the college library where I worked in the bookstacks. Clearly, he was a bookish fellow, and I liked that. So when I walked into the Milton class and saw him there, although I'd never met him I felt I knew something of him.

I returned from the mission trip to Poland on Sunday, August 7, 1988. The local newspaper ran a story with a photograph of our team. Adam saw the photo, recognized me, and remembered I worked at the church. So on Monday afternoon, 8/8/'88, he came to my office and said hello. It was quite bold of him! I toured him around the church and we talked the afternoon away. He said, "I came here to ask you on a date." I replied, "Okay, go ahead and ask." Such a smart aleck I was! I'd been dating steadily for several years, was in my mid-20s, attractive, in excellent shape, well-courted by my male friends at church, and frankly did not take this young whipper-snapper seriously. He said he worked each evening waiting tables and only had one night off, that very night (unless I wanted to wait until the following Monday). I told him I'd just returned from three weeks overseas, was exhausted and had piles of laundry to do ... but, if he was willing to accompany me to my parents' home where I did my laundry, he could make me dinner. He agreed. That was our first date. My parents were, as usual, out of town.

My mother had a washing machine that rocked and rolled its way across the laundry room, so I sat on it to keep it under control. Most of our date, after Adam made grilled chicken sandwiches, was spent in the laundry room, trying to talk over the noise of the machine. Not as romantic as many well-planned dates I'd had with other guys, but I preferred the down-to-earth honesty of Adam's manner. He was no-frilled. I felt no pressure.

I never went on another date with another man.

Our second date was a picnic to a local park in Belhaven, the residential area of Jackson where we lived few blocks from each other. That fall and winter we saw each other several times each week. I would walk one block from the church for my lunch break at his apartment. He cooked for me. We went to movies, for long country drives in his VW convertible in rural Mississippi with the top down and the leaves swirling behind us. We rode bikes and took long walks in the country. I met his parents and he met mine. We were an odd mix: his dad was retired military; mine worked at a seminary. Adam went to public schools; I went to private. We were both Christians, but we argued endlessly (and quite aggressively) over theology. We listened to lots of music we loved. I was a musician. He was a photographer. I think that was the most romantic year of my life.
photo taken in a tunnel in the Vicksburg Military Park
When we'd been dating a few weeks, Adam wanted to kiss me. We were at my apartment; I was seated on the couch. He sat on the floor in front of me. "I want to kiss you," he said longingly. I smiled. "Okay. Go ahead," I replied. Clearly I was to a point in my dating life when I was unintimidated by boys and their attempted romances, and I was willing to make him work for it. But he did kiss me. As a young man, Adam enjoyed challenges, and I was one. Later in the fall, I remember a balmy evening at his apartment, which had a lovely Juliet balcony overlooking Gillespie Street. Adam played Tchaikovsky on the stereo -- the big kind with stacks of electronic boxes on the floor and waist-high speakers on either side -- and we sat on the balcony and talked.  From that same apartment the next spring I would drive away in a fury after we'd had The Biggest Fight Yet about religion. Adam was still rather liberal in his views, coming to his faith alone in a Juvenile Detention cell with the help of a Gideon Bible and little else. I, however, had enjoyed all the religious influence that a Southern Christian, Bible-believing, church-attending-three-times-a-week family can give. We were both crying that night. I was sobbing and angry. I got in my car and drove away, and I knew -- I knew -- that if I left then I would not return. I would lose him. I could not lose him. If I did not marry him, I knew I would wonder all my life where he was. I would pine for him. So I did a u-turn in the middle of Gillespie Street, went back, and held him tight.

Sometime in January I got ill. My sore throat progressed to mononucleosis, and I was hospitalized with dehydration for four days. Adam was amazingly attentive. One anecdote here shows a facet of his personality: He told his boss at El Chico Mexican Restaurant that he needed to visit his girlfriend in the hospital. It was mid-February. The boss didn't believe him, and said he just wanted the day off to spend Valentine's with me. Adam said no -- I was really sick. The boss was willing to let him off, but Adam was so affronted at being accused of lying, that he quit his job (!!) Yes, he did. He was an idealist with high standards.

Sometime in March we were engaged. Unlike engagements today, the event was unfilmed, and we don't even remember the date. He attempted a proposal on a Sunday night. He was unusually quiet when we went back to my apartment. Normally we have no trouble with conversation. For almost 28 years now, we always have things to say. But that night, he was mum. Finally, the light dawned on me, and I said those fateful words a woman ought never to say: "I know what's wrong with you. You want to ask me to marry you, don't you?" (Oops!!) He nodded his head. Oh well, I made it easy for him! When we put the question to my daddy, however, we were not met fondly. I am his only daughter and the baby of the family; he was not willing to hand me over quite that easily! My mother had to win him over.

We married on July 29, 1989, less than a year after our first date.
We've been deeply in love ever since.