Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dad's Surgery Was Postponed

Just wanted to let everyone know that my dad's surgery for this Thursday has been postponed, possibly for next week. Another patient had a life-threatening condition and needed his surgery slot. Dad says he is both disappointed and relieved.

This will enable Mom and Dad to go to their great grandson's fourth birthday this weekend, so they are happy about that. Thank you for your prayers. I'll let you know when find out the new surgery date.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dad's Surgery--Please Pray

In April, an endoscopy revealed the second cancerous nodule in my dad's esophagus. That growth was removed, but there is a very high risk of recurrence, and his esophagus is too fragile to undergo additional laser procedures. Despite his advanced age (78), his doctors believe his best chance of long-term survival is an esophagectomy. This Thursday, they'll remove his entire esophagus and pull the stomach up in its place.

We had a family meeting yesterday to discuss plans for his surgery and recovery period, and we invited Dad to express his concerns. This is a very dangerous surgery, and the recovery will be long and arduous, but Dad is facing it with quiet determination. His only fear is what will become of Mom if he should pass away. They live mainly off his Social Security checks, and he's worried about how she'd survive on her own. When we assured him that we will always take care of Mom's needs, tears filled his eyes.

My brother Rick reached out to pat his knee and said he knew Dad was making the right decision, and that he was confident Dad would come through the surgery safely. Emily's husband Paul reminded him of how he'd surprised the doctors with his quick recovery after his recent gallbladder surgery. I told him he was a tough old bird, and he'd be fine.

We wrapped up our talk with multiple servings of Mom's irresistible homemade ice cream topped with the richest hot fudge imaginable--my Aunt Carol's recipe.

Saying goodbye was difficult because I won't see Dad again until he's admitted to the hospital. I'd planned to visit today, but Ethan had apparently contracted the flu, and I knew he'd be home from school.

Allyson and I have missed our visits recently. Mom and Dad have been busy with doctors' appointments, and I've been busy with... everything. Now it will be a couple of months before we can resume our weekly lunches.

Anyway, we exchanged hugs all around, squeezing perhaps a little more tightly than usual. We'll all be together again on Thursday, probably for many hours.

In the coming weeks, please pray for Dad whenever God lays him on your heart. Pray for his health and his peace. Pray for our family to be able to give him and Mom the support they will need. And pray that God will protect Mom when she's making the 50-mile round trip to the hospital each day; she will likely be exhausted, and the Dallas traffic is intimidating for her.

If you wish, you can follow my dad's progress here:

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/richarddunlap

Thank you!

Sarah Louise

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why We Love Snails

On Labor Day, instead of resting from his labors, Bill decided to tackle a giant project: cleaning out our garage, which was so full of crap that there was just a narrow, circuitous path to the one working garage door. Now, he didn't ask for my help with this task, and I didn't offer. We both know that organization is not my forte; in fact, my presence would only hinder his efforts since I have a habit of exclaiming, "Oh! Is that where that was? Cool!" whenever he puts something in the discard pile.

I thought it was a peculiar way to spend a perfectly good holiday, but Bill seemed excited about it, so I left him to it. Little did I know that he would find a wonderful treasure hidden in all that junk.

Bill almost carried my old iMac out to the curb, but thankfully Ethan spotted it and said, "Oh! Is that where that was? Cool!"

"There's no reason to keep it," Bill argued feebly. "No one has used it in at least two years."

Me, My Niece Savannah, and the iMac Back When it Was Useful

I hurried over to put in my two cents. "That could be worth some money someday."

"When? Why would anyone want to pay anything for this old thing?"

"Don't you realize that that was the FIRST iMac? Byron and I waited in line early in the morning to buy it on the day it was released. I'm sure there are Mac geeks out there who would love to have this. It's so retro."

"I dare you to put it on Craigslist and see what you can get for it," Bill challenged.

"My dad wants it," Ethan interjected.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"Because he was talking about it just last week. He said he wished he would have kept the iMac instead of you."

"I let him pick whichever computer he wanted," I said, only a bit defensively. "The other computer was better and faster."

"But this one just looks cool. Can Dad have it?"

"Sure," I said.

Bill warned that we'd have to turn it on and make sure it still worked, and then I'd have to retrieve any data I might want before wiping the hard drive clean. "And I don't want it sitting in the TV room for weeks," he added.

"Oh, I'll take care of it right away," I promised.

It was only after several days of Ethan's nagging that we drug the somewhat portable computer out of the garage and up to the TV room. We set it up on the floor and plugged it in, and in moments we heard the harmonious chord of the "happy Mac" start-up tone.

I found multiple spreadsheets I'd designed for the Chevron convenience store ten years ago, resumes for myself and several family members and friends, and... a bunch of letters to my grandma!

The kids' bedtime routines were forgotten as I sat cross-legged on the floor, lost in decade-old chronicles of my old life, right around the time of my divorce. This was a priceless find! Back then, I hadn't started journaling yet, so I had thought these detailed memories were lost forever.

By far, the best thing about the letters was what I wrote about Ethan. Of course, I had written about the dinosaur story and about Ethan's fascination with cows and chickens. But there were other stories I'd completely forgotten....

Grandma and I, July 2000

Letter to Grandma, 11/15/99 (Age 2)

Ethan has matured so much in the last six months, and I am very proud of him. He's about 2-1/2 now. He knows the whole alphabet and can sing it all by himself. He can count from one to ten (although he usually forgets five and six, for some reason). He also loves to sing and has memorized many songs from his Barney and Veggie Tales videos.... The most important thing about Ethan, though, is his sweet disposition. He is very lovable and mostly obedient--at least as obedient as a 2-year-old can be expected to be. Hopefully we will be able to visit soon so you can see Ethan for yourself. Physically, he is still a little small, but he is no longer considered abnormal on the growth chart.

Ethan, Age 3
Letter to Grandma, 2/4/01 (Age 4)
I am really looking forward to seeing you again, and so is Ethan. We were watching an old video tonight of a visit to Indiana, and he recognized you and Grandpa and asked when we could go to your house again. I am amazed at his memory. I don't think he got it from me.

Thought I would close with a funny anecdote about Ethan--at least I thought it was funny, but maybe I have a crude sense of humor. Anyway, the other day we saw a picture of a snail. Ethan said, "Mom, I like snails." When I asked him why, he said, "Snails don't poop on you."

"Oh" was all I could think of to say.

He went on to explain, "That's because they don't have bottoms." I hated to laugh as he was quite serious, but I just had to. He's such a funny kid.

Ethan, Age 3.5

Letter to Grandma, 2/28/02 (Age 4)
Bill built Ethan a large, low table for his Thomas the Train set. Ethan loves it, but my only complaint is that now he won't pay attention when I read his bedtime stories. He plays with the train and murmurs to himself. He says things like "Watch this" or "This is gonna be cool." But he's just talking to himself. I think it's so cute.

He says lots of cute things still, and he's very sharp. Last week he said he wants a baby sister. I told him I'm not married so I can't have a baby now. He tilted his head to one side and said, "Maybe Bill could marry you. Then we could have a baby." And Bill was standing right there! We both tried not to laugh because Ethan was being very serious.

He also asked why Daddy can't come live with us. He said that I couldn't live with Daddy because Gina lives there. But I live alone, so why can't Daddy sleep at our house? I don't know quite how to answer questions like that....

Ethan, Age 4

Letter to Grandma, 5/25/02 (Age 5)
He turned five in April and is getting so mature. I might have mentioned on the phone that he learned to ride his bike without training wheels last weekend. He worked at it all weekend until he could start the bike off on his own. I was so proud that he was persistent like that. He was proud of himself, also; he was telling everyone about it--even perfect strangers at the store!

Ethan is learning to write and trying to learn to read, and I think he's doing very well. He's sending you some pictures. I think there will probably be dinosaurs. I'll let him decide....We play games pretty often, and he almost always wins. I don't know why that is. I don't even have to let him win! He gets so tickled when he wins, but he's learning to be a gracious loser as well.

Ethan's favorite games are the ones he makes up himself. His very favorite game is one he named "Why's This Couch Moving?". Here's how you play: Ethan, Bill , Mommy, or a combination thereof hide under the couch cushions. Then the remaining party(s) make a big production of sitting or lying on the cushions, which of course begin to move up and down mysteriously. The people on the couch must ask, "Why is this couch moving?" until there are audible sounds of laughter under the cushions. Then the cushions are thrown onto the floor, and everyone is surprised to find Ethan (or whoever) hiding there. The game gets a little tiresome for the adults, but Ethan never tires of it. We play several times a week, usually three or four times in a row.


So, what happened to the iMac? What do you think? It's still sitting on the floor in the TV room, of course.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

He'll Put His TONGUE in the Jelly Jar

Last night around 11:30, Bill and I were once again standing in the kitchen looking bleary eyed. Or maybe it was just me, because it was past my bedtime. We'd stumbled across Obama on David Letterman and stayed up to watch most of the segment.

We were discussing healthcare reform and the economy, in as spirited a conversation as we can have at 11:30 at night, just moments before Bill turns into a pumpkin. (When I say a spirited conversation, by the way, I don't mean a debate; we tend to agree on these kind of issues. Either that, or Bill has learned that with my debating style, resistance is futile.)

In any case, our discourse was not compelling enough to distract me from the rumbling in my tummy. I stood on tiptoe and pulled down Bill's industrial-sized box of Cheerios--which he can eat all by himself in under a week. I paused mid-sentence and plunged my hand into the box, then tossed a handful of cereal into my mouth. I took two more large mouthfuls before Bill noticed what I was doing.

His eyebrows rose at least an inch. "Did you just jam your HAND into my cereal box?" he demanded.

"Well, yes," I answered sheepishly.

"Did you wash your hands first?"

"Um, no..." I answered, my voicing trailing off. I couldn't suppress my silly grin.

"And you gave me such a hard time about the jelly. You are a piece of work, woman!" Bill said, trying to glare at me.

"I know, I know. I guess I might have gotten some germs in the cereal."

"Next time I'll put my TONGUE in the jelly jar."

I wanted to say that, with my compulsive hand washing habit, it wasn't likely that my hands were all that dirty. After all, I'd spent the last 45 minutes sitting on the couch watching Letterman. Then again, I might have done a little Facebooking before that, and who knows what kind of germs could be lurking on the family keyboard. (The rest of them are definitely NOT compulsive hand washers.) So I said nothing in my defense; it was too late to argue anyway.

My Penance
"I'll post a blog entry tomorrow and tell on myself," I promised.

"You don't have to post a blog entry."

"No, really. I will. It's only fair. And I'll find an unflattering picture to post of myself. It'll be even worse than the one I posted of you."

(By the way, the picture I posted on that entry was supposed to be representative of Bill's morning mood. He endured a lot of ribbing at work over the picture and the jelly jar incident, so I figure I really do owe him a particularly awful picture of myself to make up for it.)

Bill kept watching me and trying to give me dirty looks while we brushed our teeth, but he couldn't really be mean if he tried. By the time we collapsed into bed, all was forgotten.

Bill fell asleep instantly, but I lay there mentally reviewing all my pictures on the hard drive. I laughed out loud when I chose the winner. This one was taken by Allyson at the ice cream shop on Ethan's first day of school. She's going to be so proud that I published some of her work. Isn't it awful?? [To get the full effect, you might need to click on the picture to view it in a larger window.]


I think we're even now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Dubious Welcome

After the long drive from Canada, Bill settled into his new life in Texas very quickly. We arrived on Wednesday 9/5/01, and he moved into his small, rather old apartment on Friday 9/7/01.


He'd brought down a rickety futon bed, a worn sleeper couch, and the big, hideous blue chair and ottoman that he absolutely loved. I think all of that familiar, shabby furniture made him feel a bit more at home. I had a feeling that that blue chair could cause some contention should we get hitched, but I figured I'd worry about that another day.

Bill, Ethan, and the Ugly Blue Chair

As it turned out, the blue ottoman proved useful; the apartment had no dining room and no room for a table, so Bill used the large ottoman as a makeshift table.

A Warm Welcome
That weekend, we drove to my parents' house in the country for a joyous welcome party. I still remember the irresistible taste of that big decorated cookie.

My Niece Savannah, Sister Emily, Me, Bill, Ethan

When Bill started work that Monday, we were pleasantly surprised to find that his new coworkers had decorated his cubicle with a Canadian flag.

You can't see it in the picture, but the monitor was adorned with a bar code sticker that read, "Mr. Wonderful." My coworker Al had given him this nickname after listening to me rave for months about how incredibly awesome Bill was. (A couple of years later, everyone realized I'd been telling the truth when Bill received the Summit Award, the highest honor a support associate in our region could receive. After our client support director had finished extolling Bill's virtues, Bill squirming and blushing all the while, I couldn't resist exclaiming in my most breathless voice, "He really IS Mr. Wonderful!" You can imagine how thrilled Bill was about that.)

Tragedy Strikes
It was good that we had a few days to revel in our new life together, but it didn't last long. I was driving to pick up Bill for work on Tuesday morning, just ten days after Bill had crossed the border, when I heard the most devastating news. At 7:45 our time, a hijacked American Airlines plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. "What a bizarre accident!" I thought when I first heard the story. It never occurred to me that it could have been deliberate.

Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting on Bill's couch watching live footage of the wreckage when a second plane hit the other tower. We sat in disbelief, too stunned to speak as we watched the first tower collapse in a billowing cloud of dust, killing the first wave of rescue workers.

We had no idea of the protocol at work regarding a terrorist attack; should we stay home? Should we try to reach a supervisor? After a half hour or so, we went ahead and drove to the office, ten minutes away.

After an hour on the phones, which were mostly dead since the entire country was watching television, we were sent home due to our proximity to the airport. By this time, two other planes had been hijacked, and we had no idea what might happen next.

In Shock
We picked up Ethan and took him to the park next to Bill's apartment complex. It was a beautiful day, and I wanted to enjoy the sun on my back while I watched Ethan play, but I felt guilty to be enjoying myself under such circumstances. I almost felt guilty to be alive.

A few minutes later, we walked back to the apartment. Bill and I lay on our sides on the futon, my back nestled against his chest. Ethan played on the floor, and I stared at the wall and tried to keep my mind blank.

I shuddered when I realized how close we'd come to a much longer separation; the borders were now sealed. I was so thankful that Bill was with me, yet his strong arms surrounding me did not make me feel safe.

"Are you sorry you came?" I asked. "This sure isn't a warm welcome to America."

"No," he murmured into my hair. "I'm glad I'm with you."

I felt the same way. It felt like the end of the world, but if it was, being in Bill's arms was where I belonged.

Unexpected Hope
It's hard to express the despair of those first days. As my dad put it, our generation had been leading a charmed life. I think many of us believed that bad things like war and terrorism happened only in other countries. Now we had no such illusion.

Still, an ironic and beautiful thing happened. The tragedy brought us together as a nation and made us stronger. Here's how I explained it in an email to my Girl Scout friends:

"Sometimes I feel angry, but most times I just feel stunned and literally sick to my stomach to think of such violence and evil in the world....

What's bothering me most is what to do about Ethan..... I told Mom last night that this is the most terrible time to be a mother. I've never been a mom before, and now I'm faced with something like this! I want to run away and hide. I want to run to my own mother. But I have to be there for Ethan and try to put this in perspective for him. He's only four, but he too was affected. He has been fascinated with the violent image of the plane crashing into the building and exploding into a fireball. He keeps re-enacting it with his toy plane and saying 'Boom!' I thought he didn't really understand the sorrow of it until a couple days later when, out of the blue, he said, 'Mom, did the building go to heaven?' I told him no, buildings don't go to heaven, only people. He insisted that the building is in heaven, but not the airplane. So I said, 'Maybe you're right.' I didn't know what else to say. How do you explain such a thing to a four year old?

"At other times I feel proud and patriotic and full of love for all my fellow Americans. This is a new thing for me. I guess before I was a little patriotic on the 4th, but I never got tears in my eyes from hearing the anthem played, like my dad always did. The other day I was listening to a special version of the national anthem, where they put in audio clips about the disaster, and I started sobbing so hard I could barely see the road. But it wasn't grief; it was pride! I'd never felt that proud of our country. It's ironic and beautiful that the evil people who planned this and carried it out did not succeed in destroying our spirit. Instead, they made us stronger!"

Eight Years Later
It's a different world than it was before that September 11th. I no longer think about terrorism on a daily basis, but neither do I take our safety and our way of life for granted. I'm reminded of it every time I go through security at the airport, and every time I hear about a terrorist attack anywhere in the world.

For me, though, the sorrow of September 11th will forever be linked to the joy of beginning of my life with Bill.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Plan Accomplished!

At 6:34 this morning, about four minutes after I drug myself out of bed, I was standing in the kitchen and staring blankly out of dull, bleary eyes while I waited for my toast to pop up. Bill happened to be in my line of vision, so I listlessly watched him slather peanut butter on his toast.

When I saw him lick his knife, the first smile of the day teased my lips. "Ah, so he licks the knife just like me!" I thought.

A grimace quickly replaced the faint smile when I witnessed his next action. He wiped the knife on a paper towel and then plunged it into the jelly jar. As he spread a dollop of jelly on his melting peanut butter, I exclaimed, "Did you just lick that knife and stick it in the jelly??"

"I wiped it off first," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

"But... the knife has... GERMS!" I sputtered.

"No it doesn't. I'm not sick."

"But you haven't brushed your teeth yet," I pointed out. "You have all those morning breath germs still. Besides..."

"I took a shower," he interrupted.

"But you didn't wash your mouth."

"I rinsed my mouth," he said. Case closed.

"Well, I'm not eating any more of your blackberry jelly," I said emphatically.

Now he cracked his first smile of the day, though he tried to suppress it. "Plan accomplished!" he said.

I thought about the way he drinks straight from the Gatorade jug. Of course, that doesn't stop Allyson from stealing it and drinking it just like Daddy does, though the 64 ounce jug is almost bigger than her head. I wondered what other things in our refrigerator were contaminated with saliva germs.

"What else do you...? No, never mind. I don't want to know."

"Hey, you've known me for ten years and it hasn't killed you yet," Bill said.

I could have argued that there's a first time for everything, especially now that the swine flu is always at the back of my mind. Instead, I said nothing, mostly because I knew I was pushing the limit on early morning conversation. Bill doesn't usually talk until after he's finished his coffee.

So What Do You Think?
So would you eat the jelly? If you're reading this via email or Facebook, please click the link at the bottom of this post and then take my poll, at the top right corner of the page. Together, perhaps we can help Bill see the error of his ways.

In the meantime, I wouldn't eat any blackberry jelly at our house.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Driving into the Future

Here is the next chapter of my love story with Bill...

Excerpt From My Journal, Saturday 9/1/01
It seems fitting to start this new journal today. [I had actually left the last four pages of my prior journal blank, which bugged me a bit.] Today is the start of a very different phase of my life, and I don't know where it will lead me.

Right now I'm flying to Seattle, where Bill will meet me in a U-Haul truck. Over the next four days or so, we'll be driving back to Texas.

We've both waited so long for this day, and now it has arrived! The last week was difficult for us both. We experienced many conflicting emotions, all very strong. The hardest one for me was fear--fear that the step we're taking will lead to heartbreak....

Now I'm back to joyous anticipation. I realize that I can't know what will happen between us, but I have to find out. I feel like I'm turning a corner in my life, and it's exciting to see what will develop. I know I love Bill, and now I will get to know him better. I have the next four days to get started on that.

Happy For Him
It had been a most hectic week. Bill was trying to sell his new Blazer, which he was not allowed to take over the border because it was a lease vehicle. He also had to open an American bank account and transfer his money, and he took a beating due to the exchange rate at that time (about $1.00 American per $1.55 Canadian). On top of that, he had to say goodbye to all his friends and family.
Uncle Jack and Bill at Farewell Party

Bill with Brother, Trevor

Bill with Sister, Lisa

Meanwhile, I was locating an apartment, getting utilities turned on, and securing a Social Security card for him. And at night I was crying and feeling guilty for tearing him away from his family. A night or two before the big move, I called his sister Lisa and sobbed about how awful I felt. She said, "Don't cry for him. We're not. We're all very happy for him." She said he was happier than he'd been in years, and that was all that mattered.

One detail that seemed to go smoothly was the fact that I obtained a one-way ticket to Seattle for only $179--the lowest fare yet. What I didn't realize until the night before was that I'd accidentally booked the 11:00 P.M. flight instead of the morning one! I showed up at the airport early the next morning anyway. At the last possible moment, they called my name from the standby list. I got the very last seat in the middle of the back row, right in front of the bathroom, and I had to eat a kosher meal, but I didn't care. I was on!

The Long Drive
After all the trouble I had getting up there, I half feared that Bill would not be waiting at the other end, but he was there with the little truck, and we started our journey around 1:00 in the afternoon.

The truck was quite old and rickety, and we were afraid to tax it by running the air conditioning, so it was a little hot. Also, all it had was an AM radio, so Bill had pulled out the radio and set a different stereo loosely inside the empty space.

The scenery on the first three days was breathtaking. From Washington, we drove through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. Drinking in the sight of the mountains and lush greenery, I felt closer to God as I enjoyed his handiwork. My very favorite experience was driving through the Wasatch Mountains in Utah.


The truck, loaded down with all of Bill's worldly possessions, was not enjoying those mountains. It literally puffed and chugged up the long stretches; several times we were chanting, "I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can." Each time we'd stop for gas, Bill would add water to the radiator while I scrubbed hundreds of bugs off the windshield.






By the fourth day, in Kansas, it was terribly hot. At this point the terrain was flat and unchanging, all grain fields and sunflowers. Bill decided to try the air conditioning now that we were no longer worried about making it up the next hill. Unfortunately, it just exhaled a gentle stream of warm air. The back of my legs were sticking to the vinyl seats, and sweat was trickling down between my breasts and dripping from my underarms.

I knew that whining would ruin the camaraderie we'd been enjoying, so I tried not to complain. Once we hit Oklahoma, though, I couldn't take it any longer. "Let's stop at a Walmart and see if we can find a battery operated fan," I suggested.

In typical man fashion, Bill argued that we would lose too much time, but I brought out the big guns and started up an endless barrage of whining and griping.

"Enough, Already!"


About 20 minutes later, we were power walking through the aisles of the first Walmart we spotted. We found two roll-up sunshades with suction cups--one gray one and one Winnie The Pooh one. We also bought two tiny fans attached to spray bottles that we filled at the water fountain.

We positioned the two sunshades wherever the sun was beating down the most, often on the windshield (not on the driver's side). This made me more than a little nervous, but I was desperate for some relief. I kept both of us misted with the fan sprayers, and we were almost comfortable.

For four straight days, we never once argued, though Bill probably wanted to throw me out the door when I had my whining fit. We talked for hours--or rather, I probably talked for hours while Bill listened. When we weren't talking, we rode in companionable silence. It gave me a very good feeling to know we could spend eight to ten hours a day together in such close quarters and not kill each other. I figured it was a good preview for marriage, should that be in our future.

Texas!
On the fifth day, we crossed into Texas. It was raining cats and dogs, and we weren't talking at all. Bill was concentrating on the road, and I was silently wishing we'd get there already.

Welcome to Texas!

When we were about 45 minutes out, we hit the worst traffic jam I've ever encountered, before or since. The entire highway was shut down in both directions. We sat in the steamy cab for 30 minutes or so, unable to roll down the windows because of the rain, and I simply couldn't refrain from whining.

"Come ON!" I kept yelling. "How long are we gonna sit here?"

Bill seemed to be waiting patiently, which drove me crazy. "There's nothing we can do about it," he pointed out. I knew he was right, and that annoyed me even more.

"It's just that we've been driving for five days," I said plaintively. "I want to get home!"

At last, we started inching forward, and finally we saw the cause of the delay. In the center median, an 18-wheeler lay on its side. Underneath it we could make out a little pickup, about the size of ours, and it was completely flattened. I started sobbing immediately, and I felt so awful for my impatience. Here I'd been whining about five days on the road, and there was a man or woman who was NEVER going to make it home.

It seemed like a bad omen, and I felt very unsettled. Little did I know that an even worse omen was soon to come.

Home at Last
In the early afternoon, we finally pulled up to my house, where Ethan was waiting with my mom. He was ecstatic to see us both, and we all covered each other's faces in kisses.

We went inside without unloading the trailer, and then we ate a fast-food dinner. This was how our wildly romantic long-distance relationship ended, and our everyday ordinary life began.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wonderfully Made

The most peculiar and wonderful thing happened to me on Tuesday night. I was on the way to Ethan's meet-the-teacher night, alone, and I was thinking about a blog entry that you'll probably read in a couple of weeks. I was contemplating whether the entry needs a melodrama alert, and my thoughts were a cross between a monologue and a polite debate.

"Anyone who's been reading my blog any length of time already knows I'm melodramatic," I argued mentally. "So why do I need a melodrama warning?"

"True. I can't help it. God just made me that way," I agreed.

Suddenly, my lips began to twitch because I had the strong suspicion that God was laughing at me. I laughed along with Him. "Yes, you did make me that way, didn't you?" I said aloud. "You made me dramatic on purpose, and you like that about me."

I laughed for a good block, and it was the most exhilarating feeling. I don't ever recall sharing a joke with God before, but I hope it happens again. Once I could stop laughing, I quoted part of my beloved Psalm 139: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful; I know that full well."

I thought about my basket case life, and I was actually thankful for my mercurial temperament. I realized that I love the "quirky" parts of my personality because along with the drama comes passion, and I think my passion is the core of who I am. I'm passionate about books, gardening, and cooking. I'm passionate about writing--everything from training materials to blog entries. I'm passionate about prayer and scripture memory. I'm passionate about parenting, friendship, and marriage.

The downside--which I experienced just today, as a matter of fact--is that I feel my negative emotions just as intensely. I'm prone to beating myself up for mistakes, for thinking the world is coming to an end when someone hurts me, and for suspecting a slide into insanity whenever I suffer anxiety.

Still, I don't care to step off the roller coaster. The joy of "rising on the wings of the dawn" far outweighs the agony of "making my bed in the depths" (Psalm 139:8-9).

Me, As God First Made Me

What About You?
What is it that makes you special? What is it about you that makes God laugh with delight? Did he endow you with a character trait that is both a strength and a weakness?
THESE ARE NOT RHETORICAL QUESTIONS. I'd really like to know.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Just Slide it Like This!

Yesterday I took Allyson to the Little Gym for her friend Mallory's birthday. I think she was more excited about birthday shopping than the actual party--though she ended up having a blast there. Throughout the day, Allyson kept suggesting hopefully that maybe we'd buy HER a toy.

"Today we're buying a toy for Mallory," I explained.

Allyson at Her Friend Eniya's Party

Allyson thought hard. "I know," she said cheerfully. "You can get down my piggy bank--that one up there, the big pig," she instructed. "You can open it up and get my moneys out so I can buy my own toy."

"Sweetie, you don't have enough money for a toy," I replied. "Besides, we're saving your money for something special." Her little shoulders slumped, and I figured she was giving up on the idea. I was wrong, of course.

While I was showering, Allyson banged on the door and hollered, "Is this enough moneys?"

I peered through the steamy glass and was able to make out two expired insurance cards and an old J C Penney card. "That's not money, Boo Bear."

"I know!" she said in a patient, patronizing tone. "It's credit cards."

"How do you know about credit cards?" I asked, simultaneously impressed and disturbed.

She slipped one of the cards into the crack between the shower door and its brass frame. "You just slide it like this," she explained, scanning it deftly.

"You are something else, girl!" I laughed.

So did I buy her the toy? No, I didn't. I wanted her to know that we don't always get the things we want, even if we have credit cards at our disposal. But I did give in to her plea for a bag of strawberry peanut butter M&Ms. (What a bizarre combination, if rather tasty!) Turns out she didn't like them, and I had to eat them since I can't throw away perfectly good food. So that turned out pretty well.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Seven Green Beans and a Rotten Tomato...

...was last week's yield from The Family Garden. We'd been watching the green beans for a couple of weeks, and as soon as they looked almost big enough to eat, we picked them. Otherwise, we were afraid birds or bugs or slugs would get them.

Since there were only seven of them, I bought some more green beans at Walmart Market. As you might have guessed, I was anxious to do a side-by-side comparison. I was delighted with the velvety, almost downy surface of our home grown beans, and when I snapped them they made a satisfying sound that I could both hear and feel. The Walmart beans felt dry and rough in comparison, and their snaps were a little anemic.

I carefully cloistered the home green beans in a separate compartment in the steamer basket. When the beans were ready, I counted out two beans each for Allyson and Bill, and three for me--I was the one who was most excited, after all. (Ethan was out of town, but he wouldn't have eaten a single bean anyway.)
The Verdict
Honestly, it was hard to tell any difference between our beans and the Walmart ones when it came to taste. Maybe I over-steamed all of them. They were all just... green beans. They were certainly tasty, at any rate--much better than the bitter salad we ate a few weeks ago.

The tomato, on the other hand, was not so pretty. Like several other tomatoes recently, it had split in two directions as it ripened. Maybe it had ripened too quickly; it was still quite small, the size of a cherry tomato instead of a beefsteak tomato. I cut into it anyway to see if part of it might be edible. It wasn't. Inside, it looked like Ethan's moldy cheese experiment from fourth grade--the stinky specimen that we kept in the garage.

I should have realized it was no good when those pesky birds left it alone.

One Glorious Sucess
Soon we'll be harvesting Ethan's two giant banana peppers. These are actually bigger than the banana peppers I've seen in the store. I'm hesitant to pick them because I'm not sure how to tell when they're ready. Or maybe I'm just reluctant to see our summer adventure end; I think these peppers will be the last of the vegetables.

Taken About a Week Ago--Much Bigger Now

My plan is for Ethan to pick the peppers, then to pickle them together. Does anyone have a good recipe for brine?
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