Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween By Any Other Name

Interesting it is to find out that ancient cultures all over the northern hemisphere celebrated or recognized a day of remembrance of the deceased at this time of year. What is it about this time of year? Actually, in observing the seasonal changes that occur in mid to late autumn, I can understand the perception of closeness to the otherworld. Nature seems to gain a voice to speak to us through the rustling of stalks and leaves. The veil between the worlds seems less opaque for a feels like a "thin place".

October 31 falls right between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, so it was a special time for those ancient cultures who were aware of and followed celestial solar events. The Christian Church aptly chose November 1 to be All Saints Day to provide for a smooth transition from the pagan seasonal observances.

Yesterday, I made a jack-o-lantern, and enjoyed every minute of it despite knowing the tradition probably has a pagan origin. Seems like I read once that it had to do with a spell being cast causing someone's spirit to be confined to a pumpkin. If only evil could be dealt with as easily as that......cast a spell and lock evil up inside a pumpkin! It makes me wonder about the old nursery rhyme, "Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater.......had a wife and couldn't keep her.......put her in a pumpkin shell......and there he kept her very well." I also wonder if it has any connection to when we refer to someone "being a vegetable". When I was a kid, I would hear my parents say that phrase now and then......usually about someone lying in a coma from a head injury or something. My childish mind would envision a carrot or squash lying in a bed.

Anyway, Happy Hallowe'en......All Hallow's Even......Holy Evening......Samhain, or whatever you may call this day on the calendar. I'm going to go outside and light the candle in my jack-o-lantern and laugh at his inanely grinning face!

After milking chores are done, Husband and I will bundle up and head off to a high school play-off football game. Brr.....I can hardly wait!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Church and Haunted House

What a lovely Sunday here in Iowa yesterday! Sunshine the whole day long. The colors in our church's stained-glass windows were distilling the sunlight beautifully as our little congregation absorbed the Divine Service. Pastor doesn't chant very well, poor guy.......probably he can't help it that he can't stay on pitch. Husband said later, "Why doesn't he just speak the parts instead?" Good question.

I had attended the Bible class before church. There we continued our study of the "End Times", but today's section was on how the Mo-Synod Lutherans have correct Christian doctrine, and no one else does, evidently. Pastor also read a declaration put out by the Synod in the 1930's stating that we hold no belief in millenialism, the rapture, etc. That is fine with me. Dwelling on those weird beliefs can cause myriad problems for people.

It was also Reformation Sunday, so one of our hymns was Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" of my all-time favorites. Even as a Baptist kid, I loved that hymn, although a different version of it than what we sing here in the Lutheran church. These words from that version in our Baptist hymnal have always stayed in my mind: "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing." The words are different in the Lutheran versions, probably due to varying translations from the original German.

Little of the day's sermon comes to mind right started out with something about the right to bear arms, the 2nd amendment to the Constitution of the U.S. After that, I must have become distracted by the cute babies in front of and behind us......we had entered the service a bit late, so we sat in the back, in the "zoo section", as Husband calls it. It brought back memories of when our own four children were little, and we sat back there every Sunday, surrounded by other families with babies and toddlers. Fathers in suits with shoulders supporting chubby baby faces, every now and then a toothless smile and burp, followed by spit-up oozing down. Mothers rummaging in diaper bags, looking for a favorite book or some Cheerios, or a little notepad and pencil to give to a pouty older child who had scooted to the end of the pew. Occasional squawking and screeching, and the sound of a book or toy hitting the floor......those were special times.......all far in the past now. Most of those babies have grown up and left the area, although a few remain. In fact, the brown-eyed baby girl in the pew ahead of us was being held by her father, who once was a cute baby himself who would peer at us from over his own father's shoulder! Ah, the cycles of life.

After our Sunday noon meal, I headed out into the gorgeous sunshine for a nice, long walk. Our two dogs trotted happily along with tongues wagging and smiles on their faces. Even a black and white kitty, Tuxedo, joined in with our ragtag little troop of walkers.

Late in the afternoon, my sister dropped off her three kids.......I had called them earlier to see if they would go to a haunted house with me. It was being put on by the ELCA youth groups in our nearby town to raise funds and collect canned goods for the local food bank. The youth leader is my son's girlfriend, so I wanted to be supportive and attend the event, but I had to round up some kids to go along with me. My oldest niece is fifteen, so she didn't come in a costume, but her younger sister, a fifth-grader, and brother, a second-grader, were dressed as a witch and a cowboy train-robber, respectively. My nephew was very excited to be going to a haunted house.......he said he wanted to get really, really scared!

The haunted house was set up in the basement of the old dance hall on main street. It was the perfect old, dark flight of stairs led down to several scenes of macabre mayhem. A bizarre dentist's office......a creepy cemetery with heads, arms and legs reaching out of graves.......a ghoulish dining room with horrid things on the menu.......a glowing monster rising out of a casket.......all accompanied by spooky howlings and growlings from here and there, and cobwebs everywhere! I laughed and laughed----it was such great fun. My little nephew, however, announced afterwards, in disappointment, that he had not been scared at all! So after some trick-or-treating on nearby streets, at whatever houses still had porch lights lit, we decided to go through the haunted house again! By then, quite a crowd had gathered and we had to wait in line for our turn, which was not so bad------it was great to see the good turn-out for some community fun. My son's friend had spent a lot of time planning the haunted house and setting it up, and I was happy for her that it was a success!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Heifer, Soaring Bird, and Old LP's

Moving away from my grumpy opinions of church, let's see what fun this week has brought......

I've survived TWO steer sortings, managing not to get trampled or do anything to get yelled at for. Hooray! One big galoot got away from us on Monday, but it wasn't my fault-----he just wanted to live a bit longer!

Tuesday I colored my hair.....exciting, yes. As long as I can cover the gray easily and with little cost, I will keep doing it. Clairol Natural Instincts is the coloring I use and have been satisfied always with the results. It costs me about $7 every three months, and takes about 30 minutes to do. Not a problem, in my opinion. Some folks might argue that I should just leave my hair alone, that God wants me to be gray, but I would argue that God must also want me to tolerate blurry vision from the nearsighted eyes He gave me. For that I wear corrective lenses.

Recently, we've had several new heifer calves to think of names for. The mothers' names are Chess, Buttercup, Muffy, and Solstice, so we chose these names for the calves: Miss Muffet, Yahtzee, Eclipse, and Yogurt-----you can probably figure out who belongs to who.

Last evening we had to have the veterinarian out for a rare visit-----a first calf heifer named Mildred was having trouble calving. The vet examined her and said she had a twisted uterus. I watched as he reached inside her to attach chains to the calf's feet. Then he attached the chains to a rod which he then twisted around for awhile to accomplish untwisting the uterus. It looked painful for the heifer, but she just stood there chewing hay as if nothing was going on. When the vet was done, he said her cervix needed to dilate overnight, and then he left. Later, after chores and supper, Husband went back out to the barn to check on her and found the calf's feet coming, but the head bent down backwards. He was quite sure the calf was dead, but it needed to come out soon for the sake of the mother. So he called the vet back out. Ouch......we will have a big vet bill coming! Yes, the calf, a bull, was stillborn, but Mildred is doing fine this morning, thankfully, and milked well.

Yesterday, we baled big round cornstalk bales. I drove the AC 8030 tractor pulling the stalk chopper......a fairly easy task with no need to worry about using hydraulic levers when turning on the ends of the field, since the chopper can stay at one level. So I zoned out to the radio tunes blaring in the noisy cab. One of the first songs was one I haven't heard for years, "Alone Again, Naturally", by Gilbert O'Sullivan. It was from the late 70's, I think. It's a sad song, and I did cry a little today as I listened to it. It seems to me that the singer took his own life eventually, but I will need to look that up to be sure.

When I was finished with the rows that needed chopping, then I had to switch to the John Deere 630 to run the rake to gather the stalks together for the baler to pick up. That required me to go back to the house and fetch my winter coat, since the 630 is a cabless tractor, of course. It was a lovely, sunny day, but the north wind was cool and brisk, making for a very invigorating experience. Needless to say, I slept very well last night!

Before starting the fieldwork yesterday, I took my daily walk. After sorting through some jeans the other day and finding several pairs that are just too tight around the waist, I have renewed incentive to take longer walks (and hopefully eat less). As I headed down the field drive, far up above was a large, soaring bird. Probably a hawk. His outstretched wings were completely still and he was gliding effortlessly to and fro on invisible wind currents. For a time, he seemed to glide in big figure 8's, and then in spirals, all the time never once flapping his wings at all. It was amazing to watch. How wonderful that would be to have such moments, soaring high, effortlessly, on invisible support. Of course, the bird had to use his own wing power to get up to the level of the wind current he was enjoying.

For the rest of my walk I tried to apply these thoughts to human experiences in life. The invisible wind current is like the invisible God that we believe in, supporting us as we float along in life. Of course, He gives us our "wing power", but we have to make choices to make the effort to follow that upward path to where the true support (salvation, sacraments, whatever) is.

Watching that bird up there reminded me of a song I hadn't thought of in years....."Let Everything Else Go", by Phil Keaggy. Later in the day, when I had time, I rummaged in a cabinet to find my stash of old vinyl LP's. Yep, there it was, on the album entitled "Town to Town" (1981, Sparrow), with a cover photo of Keaggy's band trying to get into an old yellow cab in a rainstorm.

"Let Everything Else go" by Phil Keaggy
Chasing down hot air balloons
On Sunday morn
In pace with a familiar tune
I reach for nothing less
Than something more
All the day
And the wind is at my back
Most of the way
Holding conversation with a friend
I know is there
Great anticipation fills my soul
It fills my heart
It fills the air
All the day
And the wind is at my back
Oh, I can't wait to see you Jesus
Face to face
Nothing in this world
Can take your place
All the pride of man laid low
And all his works of gold
Nothing can compare with what you are
Let everything else go
Let it go
Anyway, its a nice little song, and the words of the chorus are worth remembering. Years ago, I liked this song well enough to buy the album. Back then I listened to contemporary Christian music quite a bit. In my old LP collection there are several Evie albums, a couple Amy Grant, an Andrew Culverwell, and a Chris Christian, among others. Probably, I should relisten to them while I still own a working record turntable.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Another Communion Gripe

While the subject of Communion is still on my mind, here's another gripe I have......the wafer. How did our church ever come to use that very artificial, paper-like wafer for the Communion bread? I've seen Communion done at the nearby ELCA church (the Lutherans on the wrong side of the tracks, supposedly), and they use a loaf of bread, which seems more like what Jesus did at the Last Supper. Their pastor breaks off a little piece for each communicant. A lady from their congregation bakes the loaf of unleavened bread.

The confessional pastors in our synod have a fit over the mention of other denominations that use grape juice instead of wine, but these same pastors have no problem in using that very unauthentic wafer. It makes no sense to me. What if they were marooned on a deserted island and had to use coconut juice and coconut meat for the Communion elements........would it matter? The main thing is the Words the pastor speaks over the bread and wine, anyway, right? By those Words the bread and wine become the Real Presence of Christ's Body and they say. Presto.....chango.

The "Real Presence" is a bit of a stickler for me because in growing up as a Baptist, I never heard of such a thing. The bread and grape juice were symbolic of Christ's Body and Blood. The Catholics, Orthodox, and Lutherans view the bread and wine as being literally the Body and Blood of Chirst, required nourishment for a Christian. They take the words of Jesus, "This is my body.....this is my blood", literally literally. Baptists take those words symbolically literally. Both sides can be said to take those Words literally, in my view. Real theologians would not agree with me, I know. And Lutheran theologians will argue that their doctrine of the "Real Presence" differs from the literal presence of Catholic belief......but I think it is basically the same.

I try to figure out why each side holds so strongly to their beliefs on the subject. The Catholics, Orthodox, and Lutherans seem to believe that Communion gives salvatory benefits.......taking Communion keeps salvation intact or updated. That's probably why in our church there are certain people who attend church only on Communion Sunday once a month. Baptists hold no such view that Communion itself imparts salvation to the recipient.

I've read that the Orthodox view themselves as sinners who are sick and in need of "the medicine of immortality", which is Communion. Lutherans view themselves as dead in sins, so Communion imparts life, I guess. Baptists believe salvation comes by believing in Christ. Honestly, I don't know which side is more right. I didn't join the Lutheran Church because I thought they were more right------I joined simply because I was marrying one of their members. When I receive Communion now I just pray for God to use it to do whatever He wants it to do for me. Its impossible for me to know for sure what's really going on.......that's why its called a mystery! I think its a shame that there is so much arguing and disunity amongst Christian denominations over what Communion is all about. Why can't we be unified in agreeing that it is a divine mystery. Ah, humans have that overwhelming need to be right so they can revel in their rightness. God must be just shaking His head in consternation.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Church and Communion Thoughts

I was a substitute Sunday School teacher today in the "upper grades" room. Our attendance is so small that 4th through 8th grades are lumped together-----there were six kids there. Our lesson was about Moses and the burning bush, from Exodus chapters 2-4. The kids took turns reading the story from the Bible, and I tried to spark some discussion here and there. At the end of classtime we had a litany prayer.......I asked each child to say a sentence, such as "Dear Lord, thank you for my family", etc., and after each one spoke we all said, "Lord, hear our prayer", in unison. The kids seemed shy to say anything-----typical of Lutherans!

During the church service, we sang the hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" for the third Sunday in a row! Pastor must really like it. Did I mention that this hymn was often sung in the Baptist church I grew up in, but we have only now begun to sing it here in our Mo-Synod Lutheran church, because it is in our new hymnal, The Lutheran Service Book. I should inform Pastor that its a Baptist hymn......then he would probably quit putting it in the service!

Today being the third Sunday of the month meant that our church service included Communion.....or the Sacrament of the Altar. The confessional Lutherans make a huge deal of it, and that's only right, I'm sure. But, I have some gripes which have been with me since I joined the Lutheran church many years ago. For Communion, we congregants have to traipse up the middle aisle in groups of eight, stand there in the aisle and wait our turn to go up to the Communion rail. Pastor has to take the time to say to each one of us, "The blood of Christ given for you." I know he wants everyone to look at the wafer as he says those words, but I have never done that. It seems right to keep my head bowed. To be symbolically correct, we should probably have the wafer put right on our tongue, but we hold out our hand to take it, thank goodness. I would not feel comfortable opening my mouth for the wafer to be placed on my tongue by the pastor. No, thank you. Actually, to be totally symbolically correct, the pastor should probably pry our mouths open to put the wafer in, since sinners are unable to do anything on their own to receive God's grace.

Honestly, I have never cared for the Communion process here at the Lutheran church. Usually, my main concern is, "Is my hair sticking I walking to the correct side of the rail......I don't want to do anything wrong". In the early years, I would worry about being the lead person of my group of eight, in case I might turn the wrong way and lead them astray! Needless to say, often I wasn't thinking at all about the true meaning of Communion as I downed the wafer and wine. (It may not matter anyway.....what you're thinking about, that is.) And then you have to walk in front of everyone again to go back to your seat. I just don't care for it. I don't watch the other communicants as they walk up to the altar and back, and I hope everyone returns the favor and doesn't watch me either.

In the Baptist church, the ushers would pass the little plates of bread pieces and grape juice to the congregation in the pews. Once everyone had their bread, Pastor would speak the Words of Institution and everyone would eat their bread at the same time. Ditto for the grape juice. To me that was more meaningful in a way than all the traipsing around we do in the Lutheran Communion service. If our church ever goes to weekly communion, I hope they figure out a different way to do things.

Today we sat in the balcony, so I couldn't have watched anyone even if I'd wanted to. The lovely stained-glass windows over the altar were all I could see. Three tall pointed windows, the middle one being the tallest, all facing the eastern morning sunlight. The design looks almost like a luminous quilt pattern, little triangles and squares of red, blue, green, gold, purple. Near the top of the middle window is a circle containing a gold Communion chalice. The window to the left has a circle with a golden sheaf of wheat in it, and the right window's circle contains a cluster of purple grapes. I've always considered them amazingly beautiful windows. Some sunny morning I should take my camera there and get some photos. As long as I can sit there and contemplate the beauty and meaning in those windows, annoyances in sermons and chanting are tolerable.

Our church building is quite old, having been built in 1873. The windows described above were installed in the 1960's, however, during a remodeling project. The other stained-glass windows, tall ones on either side of the sanctuary, are from the original construction, I think. It's truly a lovely old church building, built to accomodate the large farm families in this neighborhood in the late 1800's. Since that time, farming has changed drastically, along with family sizes, meaning that many empty pews are in view during church services.
Sometimes I wonder how long we can survive as a congregation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Saints of October

While in the murky mist of waking up this morning, a list of people needing prayer went through my mind. One was a friend named Audrey who would be flying out west on a plane today. The thought of flying makes me nervous, so I prayed for her safety. I subscribe to a daily email of obscure historical facts and saints' days.......and today is the feast day of St. Audrey! So I was quite sure my friend on the plane would have a safe flight.

We Protestants miss out on knowing the stories of the saints, unless, like me, we get interested in them as we get older, and do our own research. I have a calendar from the Fellowship of St. James which lists the historic church feast days for saints and important people from the Bible. On today's date, in the Western Christian tradition, the honored person is Ignatius of Antioch (a bishop martyred in 115 A.D.). In the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, the Prophet Hosea is honored. Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Luke the Evangelist.

Last Monday, October 15, was the feast day of Teresa of Avila, a Roman Catholic saint who lived in the 1500's. She was a Carmelite nun in Spain who became intensely interested in prayer after having a vision of a heavenly castle. Another Carmelite Catholic saint of a similar name, Therese of Lisieux, in France, had her feast day on October 1. Last week on a chilly, rainy afternoon, I huddled on the couch under a quilt and watched a DVD movie, "Therese", made in 2005, starring Lindsay Younce in the title role.

The movie relates the story of Therese Martin, who was born in 1873 and grew up with four sisters in Alencon, France. Her mother died when Therese was just four years old. All five Martin sisters ended up becoming nuns. Amazing! Therese was fifteen when she begged to join her older sister at a Carmelite convent. Therese died at age 24 of tuberculosis. Before her death, she wrote down her life story, the method she had found to grow closer to God. It was called "the little way"----doing little things with great love. Mother Theresa of Calcutta's famous quote, "We can do no great things----only small things with great love", must derive from these writings of St.Therese of Lisieux.

Near the end of the movie, Therese on her deathbed says, "I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth." Supposedly she also said, "I....after my death, will send down a shower of roses." This prompts people to ask Therese in prayer to "send a rose" as a sign that their prayer requests will be answered.

The more I read of saints and the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions of praying to them for intercession with God, the more I believe Protestants have really missed out on something. Something very comforting. It may all be tied in with attitudes toward the afterlife. We Protestants seem to bury our dead and then forget about them. It seems I read somewhere awhile back that when Christian missionaries establish churches in African tribal villages, they end up accomodating some of the native beliefs about ancestor spirits----that these spirits come back to aid their loved ones in times of trouble. It sounds similar to the saint system to me, and sounds like something I could be comfortable with.

The booklet that came with the "Therese" DVD included the following definition of a "saint": "Saints are real human people who showed in their lives a great love for God and who are now in heaven. They had lives every bit as happy and sorrowful as ours; they faced challenges and some of them committed serious sins. Some lived lives that drew the world's attention and others were absolutely ordinary. There is every variety of persons in the catalogue of saints. What they had in common was a great love for God----in the end that love was the defining thing in their lives."

Recently, also, I read a booklet from the Orthodox Church, explaining their belief in praying to saints and departed loved ones, who are now closer to God. The departed ones retain love and concern for their loved ones still on earth, and they are in a position to provide intercessions to God on behalf of earthly brethren. I find these concepts very comforting, and not at all a "worship" of saints, or something that threatens faith in God. If anything, it is faith-strengthening. Maybe I look at this all very closely because I feel I may have been acquainted with a saint. There was just something that struck me about the person from the first moment of our acquaintance to the last moment, and I can't shake the feeling that this person is still very much involved here.

I might be called a heretic by some. As I get older, some things just seem very right, and some things very wrong. The idea that our departed loved ones want to be remembered and are waiting for our prayers so they can intercede with God on our behalf seems very right to me. The Orthodox booklet claims that these beliefs were part of Christianity's earliest days up until the Reformation when many Catholic traditions were discarded in the new Protestant doctrines that were formulated. The Orthodox, of course, were not involved in the Reformation, and thus have always held on to their ancient traditions.

Anyway, in closing, the month of October has the privilege of beginning with the feast day of Therese of Lisieux, is supported in the middle by the feast day of Teresa of Avila, and ends with All Saints Eve......or All Hallows Eve, better known as Halloween. In today's newspaper, an article states that some public schools are now dropping the word "Halloween" because it has a religious connotation. Its instead called "Orange and Black Day" or "Harvest Day". Can you believe it??

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Lutheran "End Times"

We awoke to rain this morning, as had been forecast. I snuggled deeper under the comforter, relieved by the fact that all our lawn is newly-mowed. Prompted by the wet weather forecast, I had spent all of yesterday's chilly afternoon bundled up in winter coat and scarf and bouncing on the lawn tractor. My stiffness this morning is a testament to that.

Our church has a adult Bible class before Sunday services. I heard they are studying the "end times", something Lutherans rarely discuss, so I decided to go this morning. Yes, the name of the study is indeed "End Times", part of the "Lutheran Difference Series", by Mark Brighton. I have no idea who he is.....probably a LCMS pastor or professor. This week's chapter was entitled "The Mysterious Veil"----that veil being death. The first paragraph said, "Lutherans begin their study of the end times with a topic that many people hate to discuss: death. The Bible describes death as a veil or a burial shroud (Isaiah 25:7). Sooner or later all people face this mysterious veil. Until Christ reappears, death remains the entry point for the end times."

Great, here I thought this would be a study of prophecy or something. Actually, when I was growing up, my parents put too much emphasis on end times speculations. It wasn't so much a part of the Baptist church teachings, as just something my parents were interested in, I guess. We attended a Bible study with some people from another church who were really into Revelation prophecy at that time. It brought alot of fear into my life when I was a teenager, because I believed the world was going to end soon. I would often look to the eastern sky to see if there was any sign of Christ coming in the clouds. For some reason, I feared that my family would be "raptured" without me, and I would be left behind to experience the "tribulation". Needless to say, I have never had any desire to read the "Left Behind" book series! When I became a parent, I vowed to never instill that kind of fear in my children, hence our household has been free of end times discussions, which also fits with the Lutheran way of doing things.

So, this morning's Bible class was not quite what I expected, but it was enjoyable. If nothing else, just to interact with fellow church members. As I stood chatting afterwards with a friend, another lady came over and gave me her bag of Sunday School materials, as I will be the substitute teacher for her class next week. I put the bag on the shelf above my coat there in the church basement.

I should have taken my coat with me up into the sanctuary, though, for it was freezing! The pastor announced, "Oh, by the way, the deacons couldn't get the furnace to start this morning". Wonderful.....we shivered all through the service. Our pastor, who is not really our pastor since he's filling in as a vacancy pastor, preached his usual heavily confessional Lutheran sermon, basically a sales pitch for the Sacraments. My attitude about his sermons is probably a sin, but his preaching really grates against my old Baptist sensibilities. About halfway through his sermons I feel like beating myself over the head with my hymnal.

Today's Old Testament reading was Ruth 1:1-19, which tells the story of Ruth and Naomi. Pastor said, "This reading is not really about Ruth and is all about Jesus". But, he never did point out how so. Ditto the Epistle reading, 2 Timothy 2:1-13.....although it made slightly more sense to say this reading was "all about Jesus". His preaching got very intense as he explained how God formerly had resided on earth in the Holy of Holies of the Jewish temple, but then when Jesus came to earth, God resided in His earthly body. Now God resides in His Word, preached by pastors in sermons and handed out by pastors in the Sacraments. All of his sermons end up on that same basic note.

After yakking a bit with church people after the service, I went to the basement and grabbed my coat and headed for home, five miles away. Halfway there, I suddenly realized I had forgotten the bag of Sunday School materials, so I turned the pickup around and went back to the church. By then, everyone was gone. Down in the church basement, though, all the lights were still on! Turning them off gave my forgetfulness a least that's how I'll view it. Wink!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Autumn Appointment

My 15-year-old son had an orthodontist appointment this morning. I rode along while he drove, ala Josh and his mother in recent "Zits" cartoons. My son does well driving out on open roads and highways, but I'm not totally comfortable yet with his city driving. He needs to slow down as soon as he sees brake lights come on up ahead on busy streets, and he needs to pay better all-around attention to what's going on around him. We had one close call while turning through an intersection----we had a green light, but not a green arrow, and he failed to yield for an oncoming car. It didn't help that we were following in the wake of a big square Frito-Lay truck, which prevented us from seeing oncoming traffic, but that's no excuse. Also, I had looked away for some reason, and didn't see that the car was coming. It had to brake for us, and the driver honked, probably in great annoyance, understandably.

After the orthodontist appointment, Son and I made a quick dash through Target, grabbing a few needed grocery items, and paper towels for washing cow udders in the barn. Normally, I don't ever get to Target at the time of day we were there, 9:00 a.m. I noticed several tired-looking dads with babies or toddlers, shopping for groceries. Maybe after working a night shift, they take care of their little ones while their wives head off to work a day shift job. Bless them all. I'm thankful to have been able to stay home with my kids.

Later, back at home, while I was picking the last red raspberries of the season, Husband showed up and asked if I would make a trip to pick up some supplies. He needed netwrap to make big round cornstalk bales, and tines for the hay rake. He didn't need to ask me twice. Quickly, I headed to the house to make him some sandwiches for lunch, and grab my purse, also tossing in my camera for good measure. The New Holland dealership I had to go to was about 45 minutes away, in a hilly area that might provide nice autumn scenery.

Being asked to run for parts is not a problem----long, solitary drives are one of my favorite pastimes, and they don't occur often enough. Such a wonderful time to think and be aware of random thoughts that float in. My route took me past many fields where combines were dustily chewing their way through brittle rows of corn. In the end rows of the fields sat waiting tractors and wagons, or grain trucks. Nowadays, too, there are often semi-truck-size grain trailers also in the fields waiting to be filled up. With an ethanol plant nearby, some farmers send their corn right in there for processing, or to the waiting storage bins on farms or at the co-ops in each town. When the co-op bins get full, then corn will be piled up in bunkers on the ground.

After the netwrap and tines were loaded into the pickup, I went and got a turkey sub at Subway and headed to a roadside park high on a hill nearby. When I was a kid we used to stop there often on Sunday drives to enjoy the nice patchwork view of surrounding farms and, down in the valley, a little town with a twin-steepled church to catch the eye. I ate my sub on a park bench which had a metal plaque indicating it had been placed there in memory of someone named Jeff, 1957-2000. Maybe he had enjoyed the lovely view from this vantage point, too.

The autumn leaf colors did seem rather dull and muted, however.....possibly it will not be a season for bright fall foliage, as in past years. The unseasonable warmth and humidity of September and early October may be a factor. I did find a few bright sumac branches bordering the park to take close-up photos of, though. Then hopping back into the pickup, I headed down the road toward home, savoring the pleasant memories of the day.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

October Chill & Sychronicities

October inches onward, the chilly weather finally kicking in a couple days ago. Last weekend was very warm and humid, which felt absolutely wrong for October. At church Sunday many comments about this were heard, considering how the favorite subject of conversation amongst parishioners is usually "the weather". Rain fell most of Sunday afternoon, which I spent pleasantly curled up on the porch reading a book. By Wednesday morning, the north wind was blowing, and temperatures plummeted to more normal levels. I bundled up in a winter coat and scarf for my morning walk today and yesterday.

To quickly update, our crops are all harvested now. Soybeans were combined by our neighbor last week, and on Saturday our remaining corn was combined, too. Husband decided a few years ago to hire someone to plant and combine our corn. It saves him the stresses of trying to maintain a planter and combine, both very expensive pieces of machinery. He has enough to do with taking care of the cows each day, and worrying about baling hay in the summer and filling silo in the fall.

This afternoon I'm baking two pans of bars to take to the weekly Thursday night football team supper at the high school. Pumpkin bars and Mississippi Mud bars, with candy corn sprinkled on top of the frosting for a seasonal touch. As I was putting the beaters in the mixer to make the first batch of frosting, my cell phone beaped indicating an incoming text message. The message was from my college daughter, saying, "thanks for the beaters."! My first thought was, "What"!? Did she know I had just put the beaters in the mixer??? But, she was referring to the "wife-beater" t-shirts I had sent her in the mail because she told me she needed some. (I don't really care for the nickname "wife-beaters", but that's what the kids call the shirts.) Anyway, it was a cute little coincidence.

Another interesting little synchronicity/coincidence occurred last week. My older son, who is in college two hours away, recently found out he has mononucleosis. He had been having headaches and running a temperature. Then last week he also had the very sore throat that can be part of the mono experience. We talked on the phone Wednesday evening, and I could tell he was miserable, his throat very swollen and sore. He had been to the campus clinic and was given antibiotics and a steroid to help with the swelling. As I lay in bed that night I thought about making a batch of tapioca pudding for him, something I used to do quite often when the kids were little. By Friday night, though, he was feeling much improved, thankfully. On Sunday afternoon he called and as we were talking he said, "Hey, Mom, guess what I made........a batch of tapioca pudding."! I said, "You're kidding!" He has never made tapioca pudding before, and I had not mentioned to him that I had thought of it. He actually had bought the kind of tapioca that has to be soaked overnight, so he really made the authentic version. I had always used the quick tapioca that needed to soak for only 20 minutes.

Anyway, it was interesting. We had not discussed tapioca pudding at all. Were thoughts moving from me to him, or from him to me? I wonder who thought of the pudding first......was it me as I lay in bed that night? Or did my son think of it first that night and somehow his thought was transferred to my thoughts? I find all of this fascinating even though I'm sure many people would scoff.