Thursday, May 30, 2013

When a Bad Thing Is a Good Thing

This morning Adam and I did something different. We went to a free health screening, open to the public. It was sponsored by the Farm Bureau and other local health organizations. Lots of elderly and infirm folks were there, and us. We looked a little out of place.
But hey ... I got a great free shopping bag!
I forgot my camera, but Adam had his iPad, so I got these two shots. We waited on those chairs for our numbers to be called. They checked all cholesterol, sugar levels, body mass index, blood pressure, and bone density. I did fine. My cholesterol could be a tiny bit better, but it was still good.
And that's the last photo I took because after that it got a little scary.

Adam's blood pressure was Through The Roof. At the screening, it was 188/118. He's 47. (His sugar was great, and his cholesterol was fine, thankfully.) He was pretty stressed. The nurse told him, "You need to see a doctor immediately." It was labeled medically urgent.

I'd just talked with some people from a local clinic with a sliding scale for payments. You should know that Adam and I are two of the millions of working uninsured in this country. No, we don't run up bills at the local E.R. and pass it off on the taxpayers. We are taxpayers. We work. Unfortunately, in the U.S., healthcare is only available to those whohave large employers, or pony up lots of cash themselves. If you're a child in a poor family, or if you're over 65, you get a government funded program. Otherwise ... you just go without.

I know this because we've been living this for years. We just Don't Go To The Doctor. The last time Adam gave blood (he used to do this a lot), they made him wait until his blood pressure came down. That scared him and he never gave blood again. He didn't want to know. He hasn't been to a doctor for a regular physical check-up for about 15 years.

Anyway ... we dashed down to this wonderful clinic designed for people like us. I didn't know it existed before. We qualified (yay! but no surprise) and Adam got a thorough going-over, his b.p. went up even more, we picked up his b.p. prescription and bought a blood pressure machine to check his b.p. at home. He's a hypochondriac, so he's now checked his pressure four times at home, and done the kids too.

We're thankful for clinics like this. We paid a little, but nothing like the E.R. We'll only pay $30 each time we go there, regardless of what they do. So, you should know that there are perfectly normal "middle-class" people out there, well-educated and good neighbors, without tattoos or drug habits, who make so little money and have kids in the house, who qualify for that kind of assistance.

That's the America we live in. If you think doing without medical care (as we've done for years) is normal for other people, that's sad. If you think our present system isn't horribly broken, you're wrong. If you hate Obamacare, that's fine, but then it's your responsibility to present a better option. And remember: the Obamacare model was exactly what the Republicans were asking for, way back when Hillary Clinton was demanding a single-payer system. If you have lovely health care through your employer, or you have Medicare, I'm glad for you. But do take a moment to put yourself in the place of a 50 year old woman with three college kids who have no healthcare, and a husband who is ill, without insurance. If that thought scares you, realize that millions of people live that way every day. And be thankful.

Meanwhile, I'm very, very grateful to the people who run this clinic and meet the needs of some of the millions who are falling through the Very Large Cracks in our nations Very Broken System. If it weren't for them, we'd be paying off an expensive E.R. visit, $25/month, for many, many years. That's the reality for the uninsured who finally buckle and go looking for care, and don't have a clinic like the one God sent to us today. I've been thanking Him all day.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hidden Art: Chapter Six

"Studying the intellectual and philosophical answers to the questions of life and the Bible is more meaningful when undertaken in a situation involving such activities as digging, planting, weeding, picking, caring for chickens, sawing wood, making shelves and furniture, cooking, sewing, painting walls, and so on."   ~ p. 93
What did she just say?
Basically this:  doing "hidden art" stuff helps you understand spiritual truths.

Schaeffer notes repeatedly that gardening (this chapter's emphasis) is satisfying and fulfilling and thrilling and therapeutic.  Those are all nice. She even says it's healing. (86)

But at the end of the chapter she makes a good argument that working in the soil with plants, bugs, seeds, and weeds broadens our understanding of spiritual truths. God uses many gardening/farming metaphors in Scripture to help us understand deep truths -- like how we must die to be resurrected, as a seed does. Or how sin encroaches in the soul and chokes out the spiritual life, like a weed or vine. I believe farmers have a better natural understanding of life and death, and the ramifications of both, better than we regular folks.
My brother and sister-in-law have a farm. They grows lots of blueberries, among other things.
They have many animals that depend on them, and on whom they depend.
This photo is only their garden plot. Serious gardeners they are! They keep beef cattle, a milk cow, and have about 3000 blueberry bushes, plus raspberries, asparagus, and other crops. Add chickens and sheep to that.

They live very closely with life and death, day in, day out, year in, year out. And I've said before that their farm is, to me, the most lovely place on earth. It's ART. For them it's hard work. To my eyes, it's art. They take huge risks, life on the knife-edge of ruin, trust in little plants and seeds ... to produce this complicated ART, as Schaeffer calls it.

We must always remember that God placed humans initially in a garden, a "paradise" (the king's garden, literally). We are created, Schaeffer says, to interact with the soil, the plants, the animals, to find our place in the garden.  On a farm, the beauty of Eden, and the sadness of the fall into death, are juxtaposed so closely. People who live in big cities with concrete, plastic and metal tend to divorce their lives from both Eden, and daily death.

Seeing Eden each morning, and seeing death each day -- these things remind us of our place, our humanity, and who God is. A farm is the best place for this.

(Read more bloggers' views of this chapter of Schaeffer's book at Ordo Amoris.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Yarn and Paint, Paint and Yarn

Adam has the car all day today (yes, we're down to one car at this time), so I'm staying home and trying to be productive. I finished another chicken -- remember this pattern of Debbie's, over at "No Spring Chicken"? This hen's name is Henrietta :) She needs eyeballs.
I've also been making crocheted market bags. They hold a lot -- this one has a dozen eggs, a roll of paper towels, a box of tea, a quart container, and room to spare. It has a sturdy handle.
I've made four now, and I'm improving my pattern.
It starts with a reinforced bottom.
But this morning, inspired by Pom Pom (go see her doodles, which I adore) and Lisa (who is a true artist, unlike this occasional dabbler), I decided to paint. First, I made a new sign for my market table.
Now, go look over at Lisa's mini-watercolors. She did a seashell that I fell in love with.  I said, "I have to try that!" So I did. My colors are not as good, but it's a decent attempt, for me.
Since the paints were already out, I wanted another shell. I retrieved one of my large conch shells.
And I came up with this. Not awful.
Remember the seagull from our beach day?
Here's my version of him.
I'm not much of a painter. I'm satisfied with a semi-likeness, and I always have to copy. I don't practice painting, and I've never taken lessons to learn the first thing about what needs to be done.
But the operative word is satisfied. I find painting very satisfying, not because of the result (although sometimes it does pleasantly surprise me), but in the activity of painting itself. It's like a foot-massage for the brain. I'm distracted from things worrying me, and the break from worry is pleasant. Painting things I love (like seashells and seagulls!) adds to the joy.

Greenfield Civil Wars: Chapter Fifteen

(Other chapters of this book can be found by clicking the box above, in the tab bar, called Greenfield Civil Wars.)

Chapter 15 – Tete-a-Tete

We will allow President Hipp to proceed with the implementation of his plot against the wife of his bosom without disturbing his concentration, and we will follow Lily Cloudee as she walks along the sidewalk from the potting shed, right at the corner, and down the long shaded pavement to the college entrance. She’s visited Emilia Greeter many times. Although the two women attend different churches, and for most of their lives have aligned themselves with different denominations, and although one of them does not leave her home, the two women still have shared confidences and tea, tears and recipes. Lily straightened the sewing bag on her elbow, and tapped on the Greeters’ door. She heard a lyrical voice waft through the house:  “Come iii—iin!!”

Strains of happy music greeted her.  “Ah! Clementi!  How nice,” thought Lily. “I will work on that satin pillow sham without doing any damage.”

Emilia was delighted at the unannounced visit. Both women were happy when guests dropped in, as long as it was between the hours of 10:30 and 5:00, and not over lunch. Such were the unwritten social rules of Greenfield – sensible and generous. Many drop-in visits like this occurred in the town, from the highest echelons of domestic power to the lowest student housing.

“Lily! I hope you can stay for a bit!” said Emilia, and hugged her friend.

“I thought I’d do a little satin stitching while you play,” Lily replied. “It’s such a lovely day, and the view out your picture window is an inspiration for my sewing.”

“It inspires me when I play,” noted the pianist, and she settled herself back onto the bench that Lily had embroidered for her, in roses and ivy. “But everybody knows that.”

After a few minutes of music, Emilia asked, “Are you making anything for the rummage sale?”

“Oh yes. A few baby blankets, and a layette set. I’m almost done.  How about you?”

“Billy wants to make more CDs of my playing, and sell those. It’s ridiculous.”

“Why? You play beautifully, Emilia! Everyone knows that.”

Emilia plunked all ten fingers on the keyboard in a cacophony of sound. “Exactly. Everyone hears me play. Anybody that wants a small concert can hear it for free any day of the week. Just come sit in the garden and listen! Why should anybody pay for it?”

Lily had no reply to this logic, and melodious quiet ensued again. Finally, she thought it might be time to gingerly approach her topic.

“Are you enjoying having Billy home?”

Emilia smiled. “Yes, of course. It bothers Ernest to have him so undecided about his future. He was a bit angry at first, when Billy came home. But he’s young.”  Here Emilia stopped in her playing, but the damper pedal held the notes in midair. “I think he’s trying to decide what to do.”

Lily nodded. Emilia played again.

“Did he dislike tax work so much?  I know it’s not very fun, as work goes, but some people like it.”

“I never thought it was a good choice for Billy,” Emilia replied. “He has more spirit than that, more creativity. I’ve watched him while he was at that firm, and he never talked about his work, or his office. I think he disliked it there.”

Lily shifted in her chair, and stuck her finger with the needle. “Ouch!”

“You okay?” Emilia asked. “No blood on the satin, I hope!”

Lily sucked on her finger. “No, I’m fine.”

Sunlight filtered flickering through the pine trees and onto Lily’s lap. She drew a long, thin thread through the satin. Slowly, she said, “Emilia –“

The music hesitated and came to a leisurely pause. “Lily?”

Lily looked up at her friend and their eyes met. “Does Billy have friends at work? Does he ever talk about them?”

“No. Not that I recall. Why?”

“No girlfriend back in Atlanta?”  She smiled. “I’d think a handsome boy like Billy would have a string of girls following him around.”

“He did mention some girl a couple of years ago. They went out once or twice. I don’t think anything ever came of it.” She turned the pages of her music, looking for a new piece. “I wish he’d find someone. Perhaps that would help him settle down.”

“But he would tell you?”  Lily asked carefully.

“Well, yes, I think so. I don’t think he’d keep it from us. He knows we’d be thrilled. Unless he picked some loathsome female with tattoos up and down her legs.”

“Ugh! I know!” Lily interrupted. “What are girls thinking these days? When we were that young and pretty, we were careful with our skin.”

Emilia examined her friend’s face over the black edge of her baby grand. “Lily, why do you ask?” And she leveled a steady, inquisitive gaze at Lily’s eyes.

Lily was caught. Her friend had noticed something in her voice, in her tone, in her movement perhaps, and she’d been given away. Now she must choose her words delicately.

“It’s just that I’d heard he had a, um, a friend, a girlfriend,” she said.

“Really? Who said? I didn’t think anyone in town knew any of Billy’s friends in Atlanta.  Unless it was Sam and Athena.”  Emilia leaned forward. “Does he have a girlfriend? Did they say?”

“Oh, it wasn’t Sam or Athena. It was just one of those Greenfield rumors, you know. Tuppence Tea Room talk.”  Here, Lily sewed more assiduously. Emilia frowned.

“Well, if it’s gossip, I hope it’s not the harmful kind.”

Lily sighed, and stopped with a French knot. “Emilia, I’m afraid it is.”

Emilia felt a different knot tighten in her stomach, and the room seemed to dim. She hated bad news. And no news is worse than bad news about one’s children. She sat silent, waiting.

“There’s gossip that Billy is home because of a woman in his office,” Lily began.

“A woman!” Emilia knew that when people talked of a woman, instead of a girl, the tone of the gossip had worsened considerably.

“—of a woman, and an inappropriate relationship,” finished Lily.

“Is that all of it?” asked the worried mother. She wanted nothing held back. She wanted it out, so she could examine the ugliness of it, and determine what to do.

Lily fidgeted in her chair. “No.”  She folded her pillow sham and sat straighter, looking at her friend. “There’s talk of a baby.”

“A baby!”

“Well, a baby on the way. Not a baby born.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

“I thought so too, Emilia.”

And both women, for a brief second, considered Billy’s handsome looks and broad smile, and wondered if it were quite so ridiculous as they exclaimed.

Lily’s heart hurt for her friend’s sadness. “Emilia, I only came here because I wanted you to know. If I were in your place, I’d want to know. It’s so horrible when gossip is whispered everywhere except into the ears that should hear it.”

Emilia stood and walked to the window.  She did not care to show her tears.  “Who is saying this, Lily?”

“Oh, Emilia, you know how gossip is. The person you hear it from is not the person who started it. Not even close. I don’t want to cause hard feelings in town by saying any names.”

Her friend turned to face her. “You would tell me the horrible gossip, but not tell me who I should thank for it?  What good is that?”  And then her face flooded with tears that she couldn’t hide. 

Lily rushed to her friend. “No, no, Emilia!”  She laid a hand on her arm. “Telling you the gossip was necessary.  But I’m afraid of doing worse damage if I repeat names. It’s such a dangerous thing, you know.”

Emilia sniffed, nodded, and turned to sit on the couch near her.  “I suppose so.”

“We must combat these rumors,” Lily stated.


“Talk to Billy.  Ask him if there is any shred of truth in this gossip.”

“Truth! You think there might be truth in it?”

“I didn’t say that,” replied Lily. “But he’s the only one who can tell you why such things would start. It’s the best place to begin." She sat beside Emilia and put her arm around her. “He must be asked. He should know what’s being said.”

Emilia looked down at her hands. Her fingers were long and lithe, the nails very trim. Bluish green veins branched across the tendons. They were strong hands, not beautiful, but agile. Loving, mother’s hands. A single gold band graced her ring finger. Lily smoothed over these hands with her own.

“I’ll ask him. I’ll find out,” the mother said.

“Good,” Lily replied. “Good. It’s the best way to begin laying this rumor to rest. And it will give you relief of mind.”

She kissed her friend lightly on the cheek, stood, gathered her sewing, and left without another word. Emilia Greeter cried for ten minutes alone, and then dried her cheeks.

Lily Cloudee left the Greeter home, but her work wasn’t done. She turned right at the college gate and walked quickly down the sidewalk toward Highland Circle.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Sunfish Adventure

This will be a blow-by-blow account of the first outing on the sunfish. This sunfish is loaned to us for the summer, mostly for Julia to enjoy. A little sunfish, zipping along on the water, with a loan sailor easily managing its small dimensions and miniscule sail -- what could be nicer, right?
Adam and Philip carried the sunfish to the water.
They set it on this dinghy lift to lower it into the water.
Not an ideal arrangement, since the sunfish is longer than a dinghy, but it worked. After one trip back home to retrieve a wine cork (to stop up the drain hole in the bottom) and a 3" nail (to serve as a fastening pin on the rudder), they were ready to go.
Julia totes the rudder and the daggerboard. This sunfish is about 50 years old, so it has some lovely old wooden pieces.
Our friend, Mr. G., who's loaning us the sunfish, watches all the activity.
They put up the sail.
Adam climbed down into the sunfish.
He and Julia got themselves situated. Adam did the sail, and Julia steered.
And they're off!
They came about smoothly and headed out of the marina.
I drove back across the bridge and, hoping to catch a glimpse of them, parked at the Oriental harbor and walked out on this long dock that looks over the mouth of Smith Creek, just under the bridge.
And here they come!
Adam takes her through the correct channel markers.
Then they turned toward the bridge, the wind picked up, and they sailed along at a nice clip. I got back in the car and drove over to our home marina where the sailboat stays. I was to meet them there.
Well, the wind was so good, they beat me there! As I drove up, Adam was out of the sunfish, but Julia had decided (at his prompting) to stay in alone and go sailing a little in the creeks. She's been all over these creeks in her dinghy, rowing. How different could it be?
She started well, but the wind picked up and carried her down Green Bay, a narrow channel of water with reeds and overhanging branches. Her sail got turned, and she panicked a bit.
Julia couldn't get the boat turned, and in her defense, she'd have had to sail into the wind, in a narrow space, her first time manning sails herself, in order to get back to the slip. Poor girl! She was not happy. She floundered along into shallower water while Adam and I walked along the edge, trying to encourage her to steer the sunfish to our edge. At last, she washed far up the  channel and ended up next to someone's little dock, wedged next to their canoe.
She clambered out of the sunfish through muck and seaweed, swearing she'd never sail it again. Adam struggled his way into the sunfish. It was turned the wrong way, the nose wedged into a corner, the sail stuck behind a pole. It was awful. I pushed, and he maneuvered, and finally he got her turned around. He took down the sail, which was only making it much harder. Then he began to row.
All I could think of was Ratty and Mole, and how simple this would all have been for them!
Adam paddled up the channel, which you see here. He has such bad, painful shoulders, it was a trial. His left shoulder had just begun to heal a bit, and I'm afraid today's adventure set it back.
At one point he pulled up to a dock and asked Julia to come back aboard with him, to do the steering. I can tell you, he was One Grumpy Man.
We did at last get the sunfish tied up to a dock we could use. We pulled out the sail and boards, and Adam at last debarked. Adam asked me to call Philip to drive over and help pull the sunfish out of the water. But a few minutes later, I find Adam has  already been yanking at it, tugging it through the weeds. With his bad shoulder! He was being, as he says, An Old Guy. That means stubborn, grumpy, and impatient. Yep.
The adventure was over at last. The sunfish was stowed away until next time. We all traipsed home and enjoyed a hearty Memorial Day meal of hamburgers with all the fixin's, baked beans with onion and bacon, cole slaw, and mashed potatoes. Delish! Except for Anna who wisely stayed at home today knitting or some such activity, we are thoroughly exhausted from the day's adventure -- and that sunfish event didn't really start until about 4:00! What were we thinking? Perhaps ... perhaps, we have learned a lesson or twelve today, to apply next time.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What Moly Had to Say about HOME:

My copy of The Wind in the Willows is illustrated by Helen Ward. Here's her rendition of Mole's little home:
Notice the warm fire and the beds in bunks along the parlor walls. Mole has a snug, homey abode. He's missed it since he went off adventuring with Ratty.
Here's another depiction of Mole's parlor. I think I like this one better. The dishes are lined up as they should be, and isn't that a welcoming chair?
 Oh anyway -- what was I getting at? Mole says this about having a home, after he and Rat come back to Mole's underground domicile: "He saw clearly how plain and simple -- how narrow, even -- it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one's existence."
There it is. Even Moly knows. Each of us needs a location that anchors our existence. We need home. Children particularly need home. As a friend told me recently, home is wherever she and her husband are together. Children know this about their parents.
Mole and Ratty tidy the neglected house.
What two opinions did Robert Frost express about home, in "The Death of the Hired Man"?
1) "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."
2) Home is "something you somehow haven't to deserve."
The little mice come caroling at Mole's home that night.
I long for this anchorage, as Mole calls it. Always have. As I age, I think I realize more and more that my anchorage is elsewhere, a specific physical location on God's New Earth. It's not imaginary; it's entirely physical. The more I see myself as a citizen of God's kingdom, the more my existence is anchored there. And since this Earth here will be remade by God (who made it first anyway) into the New Earth later ... then loving even this fallen planet is a way of loving the new one He'll make. This Earth is the same as the New Earth, just as I now am the same person as the person I'll be for eternity, when God resurrects my body and makes me new.  New and improved!
How did I get all spiritual? I only meant to say that I like Mole's words. He waxed unexpectedly philosophical and wise on the night of his return home.
I would add that Frost is right, even when I think of the New Earth as my home. It is something I don't deserve, and I'm never expected to deserve. And because God has adopted me as His child, when I have nowhere else to go but heaven, He will most certainly have to take me in. He has to because He's promised me, sworn to me on His own character that He'll do it. That's anchorage.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Because ... some days, one's brain is scrambled, and a hodge-podge post is all one can do.
A walkway arbor thingie covered with blooming jasmine. Don't swoon as you pass underneath!
Remember the house that's being built high by the river? They've brought in pallets of cement block and brick.
I made two batches of soap. This first one was recommended by a friend; it's pet shampoo soap. Around Oriental, it should sell very well. These folks are all about their pooches. This soap has lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus, and peppermint essential oils, to repel insects like fleas and ticks.
I also made a batch with ground oatmeal. The square bars are lavender; the darker rounds are lemongrass; the beige rounds are tea tree oil. Folks really like the oatmeal soap. Oatmeal is good for the skin.
You can see the oatmeal in there.
I bought a tent at Big Lots at close-out prices -- a great deal! It will serve as shade at the market all summer. I'm so thankful!
Last week Julia and Anna went out in the red dinghy. Anna wanted to row. It didn't last long. Anna returned in about 15 minutes and spent the rest of the time in the van with me, crocheting. Then Julia took the dinghy out on the creeks until a storm approached.
Philip enjoys taking Sandy to the park to play. Her favorite ball is a nasty, chewed-up Nerf football from last summer. Philip gets her desperate for the ball, before he'll throw it. Now, Philip isn't exactly a control freak. But he does have a certain knack at "managing" dogs and small children in a way that they seem to enjoy. Here, he's instructing Sandy to "have a seat." It's so funny. She must be yipping too, because he's telling her to be quiet.
One day, we rode bikes over to the wildlife ramps at sunset.