Thursday, August 28, 2008

C jane shine

Not too long ago, a couple from Mesa, AZ was in a plane crash. There were three people on board -- the pilot, his wife, and a flight instructor. The filght instructor did not survive his injuries. The couple remains in critical condition, having suffered severe burns but thankfully no internal injuries.

Theirs is a long, hard, tenuous road. My heart aches for them, their children, and their family.

I learned about their situation here; I learned about their lives here.

I am blown away by the way this family has rallied together, and more blown away by the way one sister is managing to share the story with such grace, wit, hope, and humor. It's a true manifestation of their faith, hope, and love for God and one another.

A quick review of my blog posts through equally dark times reveals that I was not nearly so eloquent, faithful or hopeful.

Lately I am reminded over and over again of the passage that Elaine read at church last week from Expecting Adam by Martha Beck. I can't remember what was written, but I remember what I heard: The beauty of people is blinding if we allow ourselves to see it. Painfully blinding.

C jane has blinded me and the pain is real but consequential. I don't know what it will bring, but I believe that it can't help but change me.

God's blessings, healing, and peace to all of them.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The funniest nonagenarian I know -OR- I could tell you what her real name is, but then she'd have to kill me

I might have to make this a regular feature.

My Grammy is 94 years old.  She lives by herself in an old farmhouse in the middle of the country.  She has always been hard of hearing and, for all practical purposes is just about deaf now.  She insists on keeping up with some of her own yard work (like pruning bushes and sawing off rogue limbs) and sometime within the last few years was caught up on a ladder cleaning out a gutter.  Need a dish she's stored up on the extra-high shelf?  Not to worry -- she'll just climb up on the counter and pull it down for you.  (This is the same woman who didn't want to walk down her own front stairs during my wedding because she "usually just hops off the retaining wall instead.")

Hello!  She's 94.

She's also a lot like her son, my dad, in that she's stubborn and reluctant to accept help.  She is in considerable pain a good deal of the time due to osteoporosis and degenerative disease in her spine.  "It's just like my mother, nothing you can do about it" is what she says when you ask her if she'll go see the doctor.  That's great Grammy, just great.

Well, Grammy has fallen a couple of times over the past few months.  We tend to find out about these little spills accidentally.  This last time she did consent to go to the doctor and, good news! -- no fractures, no damage to her spine.  Just good old arthritis and osteoporosis.  He did suggest that she get a doughnut pillow to sit on, use ice instead of heat, up her dose of Tylenol (a placebo if ever there was one) and get some rest.  My cousin Molly, who just happens to be a nurse, goes out to check on her frequently and moved a chair into her regular "spot" that she thought would be easier for her to get in & out of.

And this is where we pick up our tale.

Sent an e-mail to my aunt earlier today, who replied with a couple of new Grammy stories.  I think I'll just cut & paste:

[Grammy] was in a really good mood when I got there... she was still sitting on the south end of the sofa...kidded me about being "late" compared to other mornings.  (Didn't feel any better, she said.)  I should have know she'd succeeded in putting one over on us.
 
Couldn't quite figure out what she'd done til I got ready to leave and realized her little LaZBoy was back in its old spot, and the higher, bigger upholstered chair that I had moved from its spot by the piano to the former LaZyBoy site in the family room was now in the dining room. 
 
I thought perhaps she might have asked Molly to move it yesterday.  So I asked her, "Did YOU move these chairs?" 
 
She replied, "Nah, I didn't really move them.  I just leaned on them a little bit."

And then there's this little gem:

Earlier this week Grammy was watching the weather, and I asked her how the "hurricane" was shaping up.  She raised her arm in the air and gestured as she said, "I'ts going 'round and 'round!"

Honestly.  I'm not that quick and I'm, well...  a lot younger than 94.

My aunt made me promise not to mention this to Grammy, as she is always afraid we're laughing at her.  Well, we are --but it's really in a good way (if you know what I mean).  So do me a favor:  If you run into a wicked funny old lady at the hardware store, in sharpening her pruners or looking for a new saw, don't mention that I shared these stories with you.  She wouldn't like us laughing at her.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Something in the air

Had an unsettling dream this morning. Won't bore you with the details, but money (actually an estate being settled), a break-dancing judge, and a tornado or two were involved. Pretty much in that order.

I woke up a little rattled.

Being a pragmatic Hoosier (descended from a line of even more pragmatic New Englanders) I'm not a big believer in dream interpretation -- though it did work for Joseph and his amazing technicolor dreamcoat. But sometimes, when the dream is just so vivid and so alarming... well, I let curiosity get the better of me and I turn to my old friend Google.

Turns out, tornados (and other strong winds) can mean many things. What I distilled from all of the internet kooks experts was that tornadic activity in your dreams can be a sign that you are stressed about something.

Oh. You don't say? Boy, that's a stretch. Because really, stress? I don't know anyone who is dealing with that.

Anyway, I'm hoping for less atmospheric disturbance in my sleep tonight. It's exhausting.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Such a sucker for a pretty picture

So Rob and I had date night a couple of weeks ago...  we went to Borders, which we discovered is not exactly conducive to "date night" -- he winds up in sci-fi (of course) and I'm wandering through the chick lit.  Note to selves:  no more dates at the book store.

Anyway, I usually take a stroll through the children's section to see if there's anything there that I just can't live without.  Usually there isn't -- but not last time!  I found a new old favorite:  A Visitor for Bear, written by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady Macdonald Denton.  

As Sara would say, I WAHVS it!

The story is sweet (how I love that mouse!) and the illustrations are enchanting.  (Did I just say "enchanting?"  Why yes, yes I did.)  I am crossing my fingers that they make it into a short animated movie -- seriously, I would go.  Twice.  By myself.

Anyway, if you -- like me -- are a sucker for sweet and clever children's books, and you just happen to have a child to buy it for, I highly recommend A Visitor for Bear.  

I WAHVS it!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tu(tu) much

Never, ever in my life --
EVER --
did I think I would have a little girly girl.  

Never.

And never, ever in my life -- 
EVER --
did I think that she would want a tutu.

Well, let me tell you something:

The girl has a tutu.  The tutu to end all tutus if I do say.  And I made it myself.

Excuse me, what?

Yes yes, me -- the one whose mother played ice hockey and semi-professional softball and struggled to sew a button onto my father's pants -- I made a tutu.  That's right, me.  The girl who owns a sewing machine she doesn't know how to use, who struggled with the concept of wearing a dress on her wedding day, who only went to the ballet in college because the tickets were free -- I MADE A FREAKING TUTU.  A shiny, frilly, fabulous pink tutu complete with a smashing pink peony at the waist.

Oh, there will be pictures.  Don't you worry.  Pictures a-plenty.

I love that the bear is a girly-girl despite the fact that her Mama, most definitely, is not.  She certainly has opened my eyes to the frilly side of life and I hate to admit it, but...  it's not so bad.  (Shhhhh.  I didn't say that.)

The trick of course will be to convince her to not wear the tutu while caving, climbing, and carousing with her father.  Because -- wouldn't you know --  girly-girl also happens to be a tom-boy, too.  

She ROCKS.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Here's how I know I'm getting old

• I'm closer to 40 than 30.
• I'm closer to 50 than 20. (WHAT?!)
• I have a conversation about funeral planning and realize that it's not just theorhetical.
• I can tell when there's a front coming through.
• I suddenly have a pill case. And it's full.
• I understand the importance of life insurance.
• I'm bothered that we still don't have a will prepared. (Note to self: Find an estate attorney. Pronto.)
• I think that I'm listening to Top 40, but the album was released in 1995.
• I look forward to the seed catalogues coming each winter. I mean, a LOT.
• I don't think McCain is that old.

Friday, August 08, 2008

What's better than finding a forgotten 10 spot in an old pair of jeans?

Finding a favorite song you forgot you loved.

I found this one earlier today. So true then, oddly true now.
Ah, music.... it soothes the soul, no?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Tasty summer

For the most part I am not a big fan of summer. This is not to say that the idea of summer isn't appealing to me, because it surely is: all the beautiful colors, the sound of the cicadas, the fresh, home-grown vegetables, the sweet seasonal fruit, the never-ending supply of fresh cut flowers...

Bliss, yes?

And then there is the heat and humidity.

Bliss? No.

Somehow I managed to put my disdain for the weather aside these past two days and really enjoy summer. The main event this weekend was my Uncle Paul's fresh sweet corn. I realize that I risk offending many by saying so, but fresh Indiana sweet corn really is the very best on Earth. It is a double-edged sword, knowing what really good corn tastes like because once you've had it, you just can't stomach what the rest of the world eats. You know, that stuff they've got stacked up in the supermarkets or -- even worse -- what you get in the freezer case [shudder]. So it's a darn good thing that I've got my Uncle Paul in my corner, who puts out "a few rows" every year to share with family & friends.

"A few rows" is roughly equivalent to the size of my yard, FYI.

But in my world, sweet corn is more than just a tasty treat. This annual ritual is steeped in memories and traditions and, probably, a little bit of pride. It starts when we get The Call from Aunt Judy letting us know that the corn is ready. We truck down to Hope and after a bit of visiting head out to the corn patch to pull as much as we think we can handle (and then some). My uncle is a corn-pulling machine who seems to take great delight it filling our bags to the brim -- and then going back for more. After he's convinced that we have all that we need (and trust me, it takes a lot of convincing) we head back to the house for a little more visiting, which always ends with the invitation to "come back and see us." We always do.

Once we're back home the real work begins: Shucking, blanching, shocking, cutting, storing, and freezing. It sounds easy, and it isn't difficult, but a whole winter's worth of corn is a lot of work. By the end it I'm always tired and a little bit sore and overwhelmed by the mess and the dirty dishes. But the best part really is in the work, because this is when I get to think about all of the other years spent doing these very same things. Dad always helped pull and then shucked, going to great pains to get rid of nearly every last strand of silk. Being an engineer he was almost obsessed with counting the dozens as they were through, trying to figure out (every year) how many ears were going into each quart.

Then things moved inside, where Mom had her huge canning pots filled with boiling water and her sink filled with ice water, so she could blanch and shock in a futile effort to keep up with Dad. Next she got out her corn cutter & creamer, a barbaric looking device intended to both cut off the kernels and extract the cream, all in one pass. I remember the first time I tried to help Mom with this... and let's just say she was amused. An expert I wasn't. But then again she had a few years on me and after a few trial ears I wasn't doing so bad myself.

Ironically (or not), although you would think we had seen enough sweet corn to last us until next summer, we always had fresh corn for dinner that night -- just as we did yesterday. One of the funniest memories I have of Mom was an evening after putting up corn, and she ate what seemed like a half-dozen ears just herself, with butter dripping down her chin and wrists, content beyond measure. The conversation that night, just like every other year, always turned back to Mom marveling at how so many people ate such bad corn, and how they never would again if they had ever tasted sweet corn as good as this.

Sara was too small this year for much more than pulling and shucking an ear or two, but the tradition will go on. Rob has added his own twists, and over time Sara will graduate to helping with the blanching and shocking and cutting. As for me, I will always spend this one day a year being so grateful for the generosity of my family, so exhausted by the effort, and so happy to spend a few hours dwelling in the past with memories of my parents who instilled in me the sense that, somehow, this was important.

Truth be told, I was sort of dreading yesterday, with all of the work and the heat and the running around. But when it was all said and done, it really was one of the best days. I spent time with some of the people I love the most, lived out one of our family rituals, and got to remember a few of my fondest memories of Mom and Dad. And yeah, the corn was pretty fantastic too.

This is how I always imagine our lives to be: Full and happy, with memories both recalled and created. Come next February, when it is cold and grey and we are anxious for Spring, I will pull out some of this sweet corn and remember today and the time spent with those who helped make it such a great one.

I'm already looking forward to next year.

RIP Atlas

In the midst of our corn-storing day, Rob and I took advantage of nap time to run some errands, including a stop at the new Fresh Market on 54th street. Truthfully, the only reason we stopped is because Rob has been infatuated by the rooftop parking lot for months now. Plus -- a couple of hours to burn together while the child sleeps? Bring on the new store!

Actually, I have had very mixed emotions about the Fresh Market for some time now. As a Broad Ripple native I was beyond disappointed when Atlas closed and had pretty much decided to boycott whatever new grocer might try to fill it's void. Like almost everything these days, I have lots of fond memories of the place: it's ridiculously narrow aisles (no small feat wheeling a triplet stoller through that place, let me tell you), Sid holding court on the platform that allowed him to oversee the entire store, browsing the aisles for new treasures, knowing that, no matter how obscure the ingredient, I'd be able to find it at Atlas. And of course, the famous Atlas meat counter that was ultimately it's undoing.

But if I've learned nothing over the past few years, I have most definitely learned that life has a way of going on whether you like it or not. And so rather than begrudge the new kid on the block, I tucked away my fond memories of Atlas and stepped into the Fresh Market.

Well, I didn't actually "step in." To be more precise I "rode down" into the Fresh Market from the rooftop parking deck. It was kind of cool. And I have to say I'm glad I did. Although the place continues to be packed by people like me just wanting to check it out, there was plenty of stock ("fresh," no less) and all of the staff was helpful and pleasant. The new meat counter, while nothing like Sid's, was pretty awesome. I finally found a close source for fresh raw-but-already-cleaned-because-really?-who-wants-to-bother shrimp, which we bought & had for dinner last night (with... come on now.... sweet corn!). Their dessert case was just as impressive and could prove quite dangerous -- I told Rob he needed to move me along.

The place is heavy on unique/organic items, a lot like Trader Joe's or Wild Oats, but also carried a few token major brands (so if you absolutely must have your Doritos, you're in luck). They've got a case stocked with a couple dozen varieties of cold, quirky sodas (Frostie Blue Cream Soda anyone?) and the bulk bins are like nothing I've seen before. And to top it all off, Rob found - and quickly grabbed -- a bag of Peet's coffee, which you really ought to try if you haven't already.

So yeah, we'll be back. It's definitely not going to replace my staple shopping and I'm going to have to save my pennies before I venture back in (or down, whatever). But it's a nice place to pass a half an hour and grab a few things for an extra-special meal. You know -- one fit for my Uncle Paul's sweet corn.