Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bad Breaks

I looked at the old apple tree a few weeks ago as we moved in, and remembered my gardening grandpa.  He planted the a dozen fruit trees in the backyard as soon as my parents bought the house.  I think I remember hearing that he planted them before they got back from signing the papers - without them!  There aren't as many trees in the backyard any more, but I love having grown up with them.

The sturdy limbs of the apple tree were full of round baby apples, green and hard.  There was an abundance of apples - too many.  I knew they should be thinned, so the branches could take the weight better.  Grandpa would have picked half of them off so we would have fewer, but larger apples when harvest day came.  But we were busy with the moving in and unpacking and the hubbub of the everyday.  We'll get to the tree.  We will.  Just as soon as we...

A few weeks ago, we had a big storm.  Thunder boomed and lightning crashed all around us.  The wind was blowing fiercely and the rain pelted our windows.  It was the kind of night that makes you grateful for shelter, and I loved listening to the wild music.  

In the morning, however, we found that the apple tree had not fared so well.  Four or five branches had broken when the weight of too many apples was exacerbated by the strong winds.  The worst break was a main branch on the front that had snapped along a weak joint.  The branch did not beak off, but split open along an extended fissure.  Not only that branch was lost, but possibly others along the split.  We might have the cut the whole thing off, nearly down to the trunk.

It's a tragic loss that could have been avoided if we had merely thinned the apples when we noticed how thick they were.  It made me a little sick, looking at the poor wounded tree.  I don't speak for the trees like the Lorax, but I feel for them.  In fact, I didn't want to cut off the branch so much that I avoided the task.

Weeks passed, and the end of the branch, once held so proudly, still rested on the grass.  It needs to be cut.  Really.  That sad tree needs some attention.  But after a while, I realized that even in its wounded state, the tree was still nourishing the branch.  The leaves were not withering and drying out.  The baby apples were still growing and ripening.  

It's finally applesauce season, and I've got my first two batches simmering in the kitchen.  The sweet apple aroma wafts about pleasantly, and I'm still thinking of the tree.  I've learned that too many projects will weigh me down.  Fever jobs mean that they get done well, instead of having lots of little half-baked tasks to burden me.  Too much weigh also makes me less flexible, and I snap when the weather is more harsh.  Thin.  Prune.  Prioritize.  Do less, better.

I'm also learning that I, like the tree, am very resilient.  Even when I think I am broken, I am still very capable.  That's an amazing realization.  And I can break and be cut and fall all apart - and still be ok.  I'm still here and still puttering around, after all.  The tree will still be beautiful without the broken branch.  I'm glad we have its stately branches and comfortable shade.  And I'm still useful and lovable, even with my warts and faults.

Thanks for the lessons, old tree.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mission Monday

This week on the other side of the world...

From South Africa:

It's so weird that I've been gone for 6 months already. It hasn't sunk in yet. I'm 1/4 done with my mission.

Today is going to be fun as well, as we are going to the VW factory in Uitenhage to tour it and to drive brand new VW's and Audi's on the test track that they have there. I'm looking forward to that. It will be fun!

He is also trying to teach me new words in Xhosa, and African language that is spoken by most of the population where he is right now.  I'm trying to get the hang of the clicking sounds.  C makes a "tut tut" kind of click on the back of the front teeth; X makes a cluck in the cheek like calling a horse, and Q is the tongue flip on the top of the mouth that sounds like a cork popping.  Whew!

From Madagascar:

On Monday, after the cyber in the morning, we went shopping and ate out with all the elders in Antsirabe, then we beat the tar out of some Malagasies at soccer. It was fantastic. That night, I was feeling kind of cold and I took my tempurature and I was at 100, and I felt super tired so we stayed home. Good move, because my fever shot up to 103 and I was vomiting/dry heaving a ton.

This week my word of the week is a little bit different because it's 2 words!!! Avy hatrany, AH-vee hah-CHAW-nee. It means from now on or continuously. This comes at you from Alma 32 when Alma turns from the big crowd of Zoramites he was preaching to and focuses on the big group of poor people because he can see that they are ready to recieve the gospel. And then from then on he only talks to them. I like how once he sees that there is something better that he should be doing, he turns and does that from then on. Lots of times when we try to improve, the change might not be lasting, or we might notice a problem, but not deal with it for a while. The nice thing is that through repentence we can stop doing that bad thing right away and live better starting then and continuing for the rest of our lives.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Repurposing Furniture

I've been reading some about "repurposing."  It seems like a big fancy word that means you take some of your old junk and make something new and useful out of it.  I remember doing this in the 70's.  Make binoculars out of old toilet paper tubes!  Make quilts out of your old holey jeans!  Macrame a plant hanger out of old rope from the garage!  Isn't it just recycling at home?

The latest trends on repurposing seem to be in using furniture for other than it's designed purpose.  Like cutting the legs off a kitchen table and using it as a coffee table.  Or adding boards to an old headboard and making a bench out of it.  I looked around the house today and discovered that we are trendy!  We have got this repurposing stuff down pat.  (patting self on back)

Vintage treadle sewing machine used as plant stand / end table.  Gorgeous.

Sunshiny corner table meant for *me* (notice covered sewing machine in the left corner) improved as a family computer center!  Maybe not improved.  Note the creative freeform tangle of cords in the snake pit under the desk.

Washer and dryer repurposed as storage shelving.  Open shelving is so *in* this year, isn't it?  How refreshing it is to actually see all our messes, instead of just having to assume they are there!

Empty propane tanks used as yard art. Stunning.

My current fave: yet-unpacked moving boxes standing in for a night stand.

And our all time best furniture repurposing came this week when we parked a full-size upright dresser next to a sofa and called it a side table.  It was quite a focus piece, I tell you.  And as much as I loved it, I have to say that the whole room breathed a sigh of relief when that dresser found a new home at someone else's house.  Somehow, the room feels bigger now, and we can actually get past the sofa without having to do a sideways shimmy.  

Maybe I'm out of my league with these professional repurposers.  My pictures don't have the same lovely feel that theirs do.  So I guess I'm not quite cut out for a home decorating blog.  Sigh.  I guess I'll go move those propane tanks around to the back yard.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Being Gentlemanly

All my life I have heard about how to be a gentleman.  My mother was constantly instructing my four brothers (and me) to not put our elbows on the table.  Say please and thank you.  Don't belch.  We were often admonished to "mind your manners!"  Although we were (and still aren't) perfect, I think we eventually learned how to behave ourselves, and I don't think we caused too much embarrassment to our sweet mother.  I hope not, anyway.

During those same formative years, I remember her often teaching my brothers how to behave around girls and women.  They were instructed to open the car for my mother.  They learned to open doors and let the women go through (although I don't remember being on the receiving end of these practices).  I do remember her admonishing them to "be gentelmen."

I just got a lovely book from my dear sister-in-law (thanks so much!), and I read it that very day.  Twice.  It was set more or less in England's Regency period, similar to Pride and Prejudice.  Oh, I enjoyed the book!  For some reason, I have always been drawn to the gentle refinement of that era.  Maybe I'm just a sucker for Jane Austen's writing.  No, that's not true.  I have suffered through a few of her books that I thought were abominably dry and unnecessarily long.  And there are a lot of things I don't like and find unfair or restrictive about that period.  But I love reading about it, living it vicariously.  I would even like to live there for a short while.  I would.

I think the thing I like the most is the emphasis on being a gentleman.  All those good manners that my mother worked so hard to instill in my brothers are there, and bigger than life.  Similarly, I am constantly trying to teach my boys to be nice and mannerly and kind.  Please don't belch at the table.  You can use nicer language than that.  No, we do not comment on the passing of gas.  It's a constant battle of refinement against our more coarser nature.

I love to read (and got some of my boys hooked on it, too!) The Art of Manliness.  That's what I'm talking about here.  Let's just peruse some of their articles, shall we?  How to wear a leather jacket with style.  Bringing back common sense.  How to roll up your shirt sleeves.  Why every man should be strong.  Being a gentleman at the office.  This is not sexist.  It's just how to be the best man you can, and how to be strong and nice at the same time.  I think it's a worthy goal.

I was a bit frustrated this morning, and I was thinking some uncharitable thoughts.  My inner mother jumped out, and I nearly admonished myself to be more gentlemanly.  Hmm...  Now that I think about it, I don't remember being taught how to be ladylike.  Only in keeping my skirt down and not climbing trees in a dress. The picture of womanhood that is being advanced in our society is remarkably... manly.   I am not a man, not am I interested in becoming one.  That is not to say that I am any weaker in character, for that is entirely untrue.  But there is a fine difference between being a woman, and being a lady.  Are we losing the art of being feminine and strong and kind?  What happened to being a ladylike?  I'm wondering.

P.S. I'm not affiliated with The Art of Manliness.  They have no idea who I am, although I'm a huge fan, and raiser of sever gentlemen-to-be.  I even sent off one of my missionaries with a double edged safety razor and shaving soap, just like they recommended.

P.P.S.  Jay always told me that he would never strike a lady.  That's what he daddy taught him.  But with a wicked twinkle in his eye (probably after being hit by a pillow flying out of my grasp), he did admit that if a woman hit him first, then she was definitely not a lady.  Stinker.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Found My Shoes!

When you move, you pack a box of hairbrushes and makeup and bathroom things (which was missing for the first few weeks we were here.  No hairbrush.  Fortunately, I did have a toothbrush.).  Then you pack a box of bedding. Then you pack a box of clothes. Then, as you look around at the nearly-empty room, you open another box and put in it... Your alarm clock, three tubes of travel sized toothpaste, the stack of men's adventure magazines which you never ordered but started showing up in your mailbox and you haven't gotten around to canceling yet, seven books you've been wanting to read, a decorative lantern that must be an antique because it is so rusty, two pumpkin scented candles your husband loves even though you never light candles, all the riff raff that was on your nightstand, and a pile of other random things that didn't go in any other boxes because it doesn't have a home. And then you get to your new place... and it still doesn't have a home so you just let it kick around. And I've been drowning in all the flotsam and jetsam.  

At the same time, there are a few things I would very much like to have, but remain mysteriously missing.  I went back to the storage garage to find things, but only managed to come out with a renewed disgust at how much stuff we have accumulated.  

And so I still only had two pair of shoes.  Reading letters from my missionary sons in poorer places, I worry that having two pair of shoes is actually a luxury instead of a hardship.  Most American women I know would have high-tailed it over to the shoe store long ago.  But my frugal side wants to wait and keep looking before I buy something new.  Three weeks, four weeks... my everyday shoes are all torn up inside.  Five weeks and my nicer silver flats are starting show signs of having been purchased at El-Cheapo-Mart (they were).  At six weeks of fruitless searching, I'm just about to go shopping.

But today, I found it.  The big box from my closet with hats and boots and jewelry and my shoes.  Oh, how excited I was to find this box!  It has been hiding in a corner in the living room behind the sofa this whole time!  I ripped the tape off the top of the box and started pulling out my treasures.  

I was disappointed.  My anticipation put an unearned sparkle on my old things.  I took out a stack of lovely hats which have never fit me and my big hair.  I found a small box full of necklaces and other jewelry parts, all broken from curious baby hands.  There was a pile of old, raggedy bandanas which had seen lots of use from flag football and "duck, duck, goose."  The seams in my nice black boots were sprouting a fine crop of white threads.  I didn't even look in the small box holding my lingerie - I haven't been that honeymoon size for years.  But my shoes!  My shoes.  Old worn leather and holey canvas, broken straps and balding toes.  The shoes that looked nice were the ones that didn't fit well enough to get worn.  What a disappointment.

Well.  Maybe I'll fill up a box for the dump and another for the thrift shop.  And then I think I'll go shopping after all.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mission Monday

A few snippets from this week's letters, for your reading enjoyment, quick perusal, or total ignorement.  Is ignorement really a word?  It should be.

We still had a good week though, and got to see just about all of our investigators, and we did a bunch of less active work, and we were able to see the results of that at sacrament meeting where the entire chapel was full with people. That was an amazing sight to see the chapel full. We also were able to meet with a few new investigators and to teach them. Sunday this week was crazy. Each week we get allocated 500 km to use in our work, and most weeks we use about 350 km. On this past Sunday, we used 100 km alone and brought our total for the week to 450. It was crazy when we had to pay for petrol. I really enjoy being a missionary. It is hard work and it takes time and effort, but it is way worth it. 

Word of the week in Xhosa is Hikoloukou (Hi-coe-Lo-coo) meaning something bad, or showing disappointment, or something went wrong. Fun word to use and it makes so much perfectness in day to day speech.

From Madagascar:

This Thursday, when we went to go teach M. and N., we walked in on a big (2 gallons ish) bowl full of live crawdads. They were all crawling over each other and a bunch were locked in death grips on each other. Then we sat down and plucked the legs off with the family and threw the live crawdads into another bowl where they all just thrashed and writhed, then after that we stuck them in a pot to boil. It was great! Not even phased.

They get a lot of rip off clothes from China. So there are a lot of American styles but all the clothes are dirty and worn usually. Everything is super colorful though, that's definitely a big thing. There are a lot of traditional clothes though too. Especially hats. There are 18 different tribes and they all have their own colorful hats. Then there are some other cool clothes too, there's this super long shirt thing, kind of like a night shirt thing, but it's just like a fitted shirt that goes down to your knees, and I am going to get one. Even if I have to have a tailor make one just for me because they are all too short.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Paper Products

My dad shuffled into the laundry room while I was in the middle of a project.  I was literally in the middle of a project, sitting on the floor surrounded by this.  And then some.  I don't usually like to use paper ware and such - something about being expensive and filling up landfills and the way my skin cringes when a fork scrapes a paper plate.  Don't even mention a foam plate.  Erk. 

"Dad, did you realize that your wife had a love affair with disposable dinnerware?"  

He chuckled, and asked where I had gotten all of the packages from.  The corner cupboard in the kitchen.  The shelves near her desk.  The storage room, and under the cabinet in the laundry room.  

He nodded.  "But did you get the big box on the top shelf of the pantry?"  Really???

About an hour later, we finally were somewhat more organized.  The utensils were corralled, the napkins were sorted, the cups were stacked.  I breathed a sigh of relief and hauled my stiff legs off the hard floor.  I'm gettin' old.  And then I remembered the big box on the top shelf of the pantry.  Argh (it's talk like a pirate day, after all).

I'll get to that another day.  For now, let the zombie apocalypse come - we're prepared!  We'll throw paper plates at them.  Argh.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Am I the only one who falls for this?

Every time I see this, I hope for the best. Maybe they have actually made cardboard with real perforations so it will tear instead of crumpling and demolishing the box. So I try. First with my fingers,then my thumb, then rapping in it with my knuckles, then hammering with the butt end of a butter knife. After a while, I rage and say things I don't normally say. "Bad words!" And the box ends up looking like this. Every time.

Finally, I get out a steak knife and cut along the pretend lines. They are probably printed on the box instead of perforated, anyway. Why do I believe them?

Somewhere, there is a dark room filled with cardboard sadists, watching a video of me mangling the box as I try to push in and tear back. They are laughing at me, but I showed them.  I got my mashed potatoes, and the shepherd's pie was pretty good, even after all that.  So there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Back Home

I've been gone.  Gone from my writing, gone from my routines, gone from any shred of schedule.  It feels like I've been gone from my brain!  I've missed it.  The brain.  And everything else.  I thrive best on a regular plan of action; a flowing stream that keeps right on flowing.  My goodness, we have been disrupted!

First of all, the summer happened.  It does that every year, I'm told, and every year I'm less prepared for the change in routine than I would like to be.  That disruption is just fine.  It just means that I am spending more time with my kidlets and less time alone with my thoughts.

The next change was our missionaries.  It's been a flurry of getting ready and shopping and preparing and gathering things and packing up a childhood's worth of memories.  They will be men when those cardboard boxes are opened again.

The last change was the one that turned our worlds upside-down.  In the space of two weeks, we went from happily living in our spacious home to paring out, packing up, and moving away.  We moved in with my dad, to care for him and his Parkinson's disease.  It was not completely unexpected, as I look back.  I was feeling a bit of wanderlust, to the point of checking out houses for sale, and I specifically wanted to find a place to live on my dad's side of town.  But the suddenness of the whole thing was dramatic enough to take my breath away.  I dragged my exhausted body out of bed every morning, hollered, "This is crazy!" to no one in particular, cried, and then packed like a mad woman.  I won't attempt write about the insanity of moving 10 people's things to a house half the size - I would not even be able to use complete sentences.  (But I did write about it in my letters to my missionary boys, and that's where many of the summer posts come from.)

After all the hubbub of moving and the logistics of building walls to accommodate our family in what was then a two-bedroom house (besides my dad's room) died down, I expected to feel cramped and distraught.  But I don't.  I am at peace.  Maybe moving back into my childhood home has something to do with it.  Maybe having lived in this neighborhood only five years ago (although in a different house) has something to do with it.  Maybe living in a quieter area, where my children play with new friends in the street in front of the house has something to do with it.  Maybe it's all of those things, combined with the quiet assurance that I'm where I ought to be, doing what I ought to be doing.  That Heaven-sent peace has been such a blessing in the middle of our chaos.

I'm back - back writing, back thinking again, trying to get back into a routine.  And back home.

Spoons my Oma collected from her native Germany, and a few here in America

P.S.  I actually have been writing over the summer - letters to my missionary boys.  I think I'll post parts of them and back-date them over the last couple of months.  Because I can.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bad Idea

I found an old feather pillow in the closet. It looked like a good, fluffy pillow, but the cover was dirty and stained. I've washed feather pillows before and they come out fine. It just takes a really, really long time to dry. A really long time.

So I tossed the questionable pillow in the washing machine with a load of sheets. When it was done, I pulled everything out and threw it in the dryer. After a minute I looked at the floor in front of the washer and saw this.

I guess the cover was older than I thought, because a whole bunch of the fluff got out. It looks like a big flock of baby chicks fell into the lake, floundered for a while, and somehow escaped into my washing machine. There are wet feathers everywhere.

Sigh. Guess I'd better go get the vacuum. When the wet fluff dries out it will look like a pillow fight convention in here. I already started the dryer... should I open the door or just go buy a new dryer?