Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Too much of everything

A few days ago I tried to get my fill of the five grandchildren who live in Chattanooga. It didn’t happen. I mean, I didn’t get enough. Minnesota is just too far away.

Mason turns six next week so I asked him what he’d like for his birthday. He’s a little taller than his older twin brothers, has a raspy husky voice and is extremely suspicious of green food, but he has a sweetness about him that sometimes makes him almost vulnerable. Makes you want to take him in your arms and shelter him from Evil. I figured he’d probably want some sort of computer game, a fast bike, something big and costly that grandkids think their grandparents are good for. I was wrong. He wanted a stuffed shark that he could sleep with and a jump rope. He demonstrated how he could jump forward and backward – one awkward hop at a time. Later that day we were at Old Navy strolling his little sister and him around as Manessah looked for blue jeans. Him mom plopped a hat on his head that he wore until we checked out and he looked so longingly at it and asked if only he could have it and she said no, not today. But I saw it, and I knew it should be part of his birthday present.

Next day Denis and I found a soft, vicious-looking shark with a jaw full of tender teeth. Though I didn’t find a jump rope, we gave the rest to him as an early birthday present.

The gift of watching him open them with shrieks of joy and genuine surprise made me want to cry with delight myself. Too often, I’m bored, worn and world-weary. Sometimes I have too much of everything and it is the role of suffering or deprivation that makes gifts of ordinary life come alive again when they arrive on my doorstep.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sorry, God

We can live with it. But we miss it. Storms took down the huge tree across the street. As it fell our way, it flattened a car sitting on the street right outside the kitchen window and damaged the trees on our side of the boulevard. The top brushed the side of our house. Our largest tree probably saved us but now it looks sort of like a palm tree with all its branches stripped to the trunk. It’s been “condemned,” and soon the city will remove it. The other two were damaged and may also be cut down.

The sun now bakes the west side of Toad Hall and the light reveals peeling paint, dirty windows and a missing screen. Birds visiting my feeder on the second floor just outside my office left poop on the siding. I never noticed. Not charming. The inside feels hot, dark and gloomy in the afternoon. No more filtered green light. I often thank God for things I don’t want to take for granted just because I’m American and drive a Ford. Clean sheets, fresh vegetables, warm socks. Jesus.

Now add the trees that filled our gutters with seeds, dropped sticks and leaves on the lawn, pushed feeder roots into the sewer and swarmed with insects and birds. I never knew how much I preferred them to our neighbor’s crumbling foundation.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Strawberry Freezer Jam

It's time for me to be a locavore again. This is the time of year – at least in the mid-west when local strawberries ripen. They began appearing at the Farmer’s Market last week. They’re a little late this year cuz of cool temps and lots of rain which also makes the berries smaller. But the flavor is still intensely, authentically strawberry. Have you noticed that local berries are always bright red to the core, unlike the supermarket varieties which are all like unwrapping a truffle and finding it hollow?

Last Saturday I made a double batch of freezer jam. Honest, you should try it yourself. Nothing else captures summer like the flavor of fresh strawberries. All winter, if you’re not such a pig you devour it in days rather than months – you can take small jars out of the freezer and spoon it on yogurt, toast, ice cream, pancakes. Anything is better with fresh strawberry jam. Best of all it’s easy. Anyone, even a kitchen idiot can make this. And if you’re into this: it impresses the heck out of everyone else. People think I’m really talented and clever and I’m not even going to charge you for this secret.

First, you need jars. Go to the store and buy a box with a dozen small Mason jars – half-pint size (or so).  Or if you’ve been saving, for who knows why, small glass jars – especially the kind with a built-in seal in the cap, like ones that come on artichoke hearts – recycle them now.

For one double-batch of jam you will need:
Ten-pound bag of sugar. (shut-up. It’s for a good cause.)
2-3 lemons
Box of Certo (brand) liquid fruit pectin
3 quarts fresh strawberries from a local food source!

When everything is gathered. Just follow the recipe that comes in the box for easy freezer jam.

Do you think I could get the slide show posted here? On this post? Never, speaking of idiots. So look at previous post. I don't know what's with the turquoise thumb, didn't think of it at the time. At least one inaccuracy: I said what, I can't even remember! I think I said you need four quarts of strawberries but three will do, if that.

Strawberry Freezer Jam Slide Show & Etc.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Thank God often and always…Thank God, carefully and wonderingly for your continuing privileges. …Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.
             “Take care about the confession of your sins. Be sure to criticize yourself in God’s presence that is your self-examination. Put yourself under the divine criticism: that is your confession.
            “Be ready to accept humiliations. They can hurt terribly, but they help you to be humble. There can be the trivial humiliations. Accept them. There can be the bigger humiliations… All these can be so many chances to be a little nearer to our humble and crucified Lord…
            “Do not worry about status… here is only one status that our Lord bids us to be concerned with, and that is the status of proximity to himself…
            “Use your  sense of humor. Laugh about things, laugh at the absurdities of life, laugh about yourself, and about your own absurdity. We are all of us infinitesimally small and ludicrous creatures within God’s universe. You have to be serious, but never be solemn, because if you are solemn about anything, there is the risk of becoming solemn about yourself.”
 (From The Radical Disciple by John Stott where he quotes Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury on the topic of humility.)

           There is something so attractive, so compelling about people who are humble. Especially when from our perspective they might have cause for pride. I look for people like this to be examples, to be models. Being Christ-like is not something I’m a natural at (who is?) so my desire to be what God wants me to be is nurtured by such as John Stott. He helps me keep walking toward Christ with my humiliations and absurdities dogging me all the way.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Some gardening advice

Perhaps we should plant more iris. (This one is still blooming its head off out back. I think it is called “Midnight.”) I received this rant from dear gardener daughter, Marsena, who read the last Notes From Toad Hall (Issue #2 2010) in which I likened Christ to Lilies of the Valley:

  "I beg of you, don't...I repeat...Do NOT plant any lily of the valley. You will regret it. If you've planted some already, rip them out now, before they have a chance to settle in. (I'm actually serious.) They smell wonderful and are lovely for a few weeks, but they are so invasive, you will hardly be able to believe it. And the berries get eaten by birds and you'll suddenly find them growing and killing your perennial beds on the other side of the house. If you plant them on the boulevard, the roots will travel under the sidewalk and pop up in your lawn. They're so invasive and their root system is so thick and goes so deep, they've killed hostas in my yard, not to mention countless bulbs and flowers. I was finally, after about four years, getting on top of them. But that was after hour and hours of work. And because there are a few beds of them where I left them to grow, I knew I'd be fighting them every season. Buy little bunches of them at the Farmer's Market and let someone else realize that in the yard, they are Satan's Spawn. Better yet, I WILL BUY you little bunches of them at the Farmer's Market. Seriously.”

I know metaphors and analogies fall short. Not that I wouldn’t welcome Jesus’ invasion into the heart of my rot. But I am aware that he does not do it in a way that chokes and obliterates self. Down to my heart and bones his love wants to change me to what I long to be – perfectly Margie. But we’re still a long way from Eden.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More on Parking in the City

I just paid a parking ticket. It made me quite unhappy to send the City of Rochester $32.00 for parking in our neighborhood. Shifting the blame, however: it was not I who left the car parked on the street overnight in a zone that says “No Parking M-F 6am-9am and 3pm-6pm. Except Sat. & Sun.” But I did purposely leave the ticket buried on my desk illogically hoping it might be forgotten by the authorities. (The idea of not being able to park on the street outside our home anytime we want annoys me to say the least.) That was May 10th. Silence until yesterday when a letter arrived from the City Clerk advising Denis the penalty has gone up twice and not only will more penalties be assessed, they will issue a warrant for his arrest and they might impound his car, too. For a Parking Ticket? I fantasized pleading “Not Guilty,” but what argument can you make against a permanent street sign? (unlike the SINGLE, temporary, pound-in-the-ground one I own)  English is not my first language? I take this very personally.

Perspective. I need it much. Something or someone to soothe my hostility. My nastiness is easily exposed by lots of things, but indifferent anonymous authority? Arghhh. However I cut this, there’s tons worse things. Especially remembering times when others were far more justified crying “Facist!” Like when I was staying with my youngest daughter and son-in-law. It was winter. They were waiting for twins to be born any minute. There’d been a big snowstorm the day before. The Emergency Snow Parking laws in St. Paul had kicked in and were forgotten until we looked out the window and saw a wrecker hooking onto their old pickup. Shaun ran out coatless in stocking feet yelling, begging them not to take it. But they paid him no mind and simply pulled away with him standing wet-footed in the middle of the street. They couldn’t begin to afford to pay towing fees and impounded-car penalties. Nor could I. That’s a case way more justifiable as Not Guilty, Your Honor. Way more worthy of hostility.

I give a big sigh. There is suffering so terrible it almost can’t be comprehended. Almost? More accurate: can’t.  From children conscripted into war to the death of the Gulf of Mexico. If we had not the hope of Restoration of all things, well, I hate to think. So I should probably let that ticket and my sign go. As one commenter said on my last posting: And what did we learn from this, young lady?