Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Fun of Parenting

Here's my favorite photo from that day at Backbone Park:

Somewhere I read that the reason certain areas are called the "Devil's" this or that (as in "Devil's Backbone Park") is due to those areas having been considered sacred or spirit-inhabited by the Native Americans. There are many land formations in the U.S. with that moniker-----the Devil's Tower in Wyoming comes immediately to mind (only because I've actually been there).
Last evening I felt compelled to do something I've never done a parent with a concern about their child. Usually, I let my kids deal with their situations themselves, but this ordeal of my son breaking up with a girl is getting a bit out of hand on her end. He came home from basketball practice last night saying that she had told him she would "never speak to him again" and that she "hadn't eaten for two days". I told him she's attempting to manipulate him, and he shouldn't fall for it.
Then as we stood there talking, my son received a text message from the girl stating she was "going to run away". That did a parent I would want to know if my child were threatening such an action, so I phoned her mother and told her about the text message. She thanked me for calling and that was that. I disliked doing it......its not my normal modus operandi, but the girl had crossed a line, and it was time to let her parents know. Most likely, she was bluffing, but too bad......running away is a serious matter. She's in my prayers.
Like I said, I've never before had to call another parent in all of my years of being a mother. I once confronted a boy who wouldn't leave my daughter alone, and gave him a hopefully memorable piece of my mind. Those are the times you feel mean and wonder if being a parent is such a great thing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Octopus Tree

I think this is an "octopus" tree growing out of the rocks along the Backbone Trail.

"Bones" of Stone

Here's a photo showing some of the rocky, gray "bones" of limestone on the Backbone Trail, as mentioned in the previous post.

I remember being at the park one time with my parents and grandparents when I was a little kid. We climbed down a side trail to see the "Devil's Oven". I was absolutely terrified, not understanding at all that this wasn't really part of the devil's own kitchen!

January Randomness

What do blogging, thinking, and dreaming all have in common? They can be gloriously RANDOM! Yes, the photo below is a very random choice for this wickedly cold day in late January. Last night the wind was howling when I burrowed in under the covers, but this morning dawned with blessed stillness, enveloped, however, by intense cold. The temperature is exactly 1 degree above zero, and that definitely feels wicked!

One lovely Sunday afternoon last fall, Husband and I drove to Backbone State Park near Strawberry Point, Iowa, and hiked the "Backbone". The trail runs atop a wooded limestone hill above the Maquoketa River. At times, the trail appears to be made of old bones, as gray weathered limestone juts this way and that. Hikers can climb up and down, and occasionally peek carefully over sheer dropoffs on both sides of the trail.

When I was a kid, the park was called "The Devil's Backbone" by everyone, and printed that way on maps, too. But, nowadays, it is referred to everywhere as "Backbone State Park". It is an an area of unusual land formations and forests, existing randomly in the middle of the Iowa prairie.

This tiny scene came into view somewhere along the "Backbone". It was such a gorgeous autumn day, filled with warm sunshine to touch our outer selves and beauty to touch our hearts and souls!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pay Attention!

This will be a story similar to one of my previous posts, "Radio Reminder". This one happened the day before yesterday:

On that day, I had been reading some posts on an online Lutheran discussion board, and was composing in my head a comment to leave there. It was on the subject of the Incarnation of Christ, and I was ruminating throughout the day on certain aspects of Communion......especially the Real Presence.

Late in the afternoon, I walked down the lane to get the mail, and was surprised to find that our neighbor's mail had been delivered to our mailbox by mistake. When I got back to the house, I jumped in the car and drove down the road to give the mail to its rightful owner. As is my habit, I turned the radio on, and the first thing I heard was Mister Mister singing, "'re half of the flesh and blood that makes me whole......" (from their song, "Broken Wings"). Good grief, I thought......that's just what I've been thinking about today, and it went right along with the comment I was trying to put together in my mind to post on the discussion board.

Add up the unusual occurrence of the wrong mail being in our mailbox, and realize that that is the only reason I was in my car and turned on the radio at the exact moment the words of that song were being broadcast. Its fascinating, really. Author Robert Moss says we should always pay attention when unusual and unexpected things happen in our lives----even small, seemingly trivial events----and look for a meaningful message in them.

I have no problem seeing this type of significant coincidence as God's Providence. Carl Jung, of course, called it "synchronicity" or meaningful coincidence, and researched it for years, after noticing it occurring in his own life and the lives of his patients. I think it happens to everyone, but few are paying attention.

Pay attention!!

Blizzard Coming

I mustn't spend much time posting this morning. There are so many things to do all of a sudden. We had a heat-wave lasting all of yesterday; the temperature soared into the upper 30's. The sun was shining, too, meaning there was quite a bit of snow-melting going on. That sounds like a good thing, but what it really means is now we have ice all over the place again. The deep-freeze has returned this morning, and our farmyard between the house and barn is like an ice-skating rink again. There's a downhill decline between the house and barn, so this morning I shuffled slowly and carefully out to do my calf chores.

A roaring northwest wind has picked up, and blizzard conditions are forecast for this evening. Great. After milking this morning, Husband asked me to help with bedding the heifers out in the cattle shed. That meant I opened and shut gates or held them while he drove the skid loader back and forth hauling big round bales of cornstalks into the shed. He opened the bales and spread them around so the livestock have a dry place for lounging.

I was about frozen solid by the time we were finished; my heavy canvas Carhartt coat felt like a thin nylon windbreaker. Seriously, I really appreciate the Carhartt coat-----I invested in it awhile back after spending many years wearing everyone else's cast-offs. It seemed expensive at $90, but its definitely worth it in weather like this. I also spent $60 last fall on "Muck Boots", and I really like them, too. They are rated to keep feet warm down to 20 degrees below zero----last week they reached their limit on a couple of the coldest days.

After scraping the cow's area in the barn and chatting with the milktruck driver, I'm now about to head to town to fill our son's pickup with gas. At 15, he has just a school permit for driving, meaning he can drive only the route from home to school and back. Unfortunately, the gas station is not on his route. So this morning, I had to let him take the Envoy to school.

My son's life right now seems to be running parallel to Jeremy's in the "Zits" cartoon in the newspaper. They're both 15 and have started driving and have had girl problems recently; my son has been trying to break up with his girlfriend, and she's not too happy about it. Oh, my, the drama of high school marriage was the result of such a youthful romance, but was never very dramatic, not as I remember, anyway. We never ever "broke up", so I've never experienced such a thing. Like Jeremy, my son is the last child at home, putting up with his "getting older and more tired" parents, who have lost most of their enthusiasm for school activities and such, and have seen most everything there is to see. Been there, done that. Ho hum. So it goes.

An aquaintance from town just phoned and asked if he could buy 3 bales of straw to bed his dogs' houses, so Husband threw those in the pickup and I'll drop them off, too. I wish I didn't have to go anywhere.....the wind is getting stronger by the minute......the sound of its roaring is giving me chills!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Green Glass "Cookies" Jar

Husband found this "cookies" jar in the attic of his dad's garage. He knows I love green glass, so he chose it......isn't he a sweety. Although, when he handed it to me, he said, "This will be great to put some cookies in....", to which I replied, "No, Honey, I don't think will be for display only."

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Clock

Here is the clock Husband chose from his dad's house. It had belonged to Husband's great-grandparents, who were married in 1905. I don't know much about clocks, but am growing very fond of this one, now that its here. Its gentle tick-tock and chiming adds a comforting sound to the room. I'll need to do some research to figure out where and when it was made.

Let's Talk COLD!

When I ran outside with the camera yesterday afternoon, this was the only half-way interesting photo subject I could find in the few seconds I managed to tolerate the minus twenty degree air. Wow, sculptured snow hanging over a shed roof.

The current cold snap we're experiencing is the most intense and long-lasting one we've had in many years. Husband quipped that if anyone is of the mind to commit suicide, they should just go stand outdoors without a coat for a few minutes and they would be successful.

Car trouble is another occurrence you wouldn't want in this bitter cold out here in the rural areas. Or a car accident.....even if you were only slightly injured, you would probably freeze to death before help arrived. In this sort of weather, cell phones can truly be life-savers! For me, staying home is the absolute best thing to do. And I'm anxious and praying each evening until our son gets home safely from his school activities.

In the previous post, I mentioned that I was showing my blog to my mom. It may have alarmed her----I'm not sure. She's a bit frightened of the internet and probably worried that I'll meet up with a predator or something. I tried to convince her to let me help her set up blog of her own where she could post poetry and stories. She could allow only family members to read it if she wished, I informed her, but even so, she seemed leery of the idea. Over the years, she has told us many tales from her childhood and teenage years, and it would be nice if she would write them down so all the details are included. Hopefully, she will think about doing that soon.

Speaking of parents, it has been a watershed event in our lives to empty out Father-in-Law's house. Clearing out a house is a major operation, and serves to remind me that one of my own goals in life from now on should be to whittle down the amount of stuff in my own house!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Some Cute Quotes

My mom is here beside me; I am showing her my blog and other blogs so she can see what blogging is all about.

This morning an old friend of Father-in-Law's stopped by. He wanted to tell Husband how proud he was of all the boys for how they were amicably able to divide up their dad's household items. This old friend became rather emotional as he admitted that he misses Husband's dad very much. They had been pals since grade school days.

As he was talking with us, he said some cute sayings.......and here they are:

"Live simply so others can simply live."

"Do your giving while you're living, so you're knowin' where its goin'!"

"Everything comes to him who waiteth if he worketh like hell while he waiteth!"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Resolve by Dr. Bimler

Ho-hum, yes, here's another boring frosty tree branch photo. In Iowa, what's a very amateur photographer to do in January except snap scenes of things covered in frost and snow?!

Husband's brother made it to Rapid City, SD, by 6 p.m. yesterday. At around 10 a.m., he left our farm amid well-wishes, hugs, good-bye arm waving, and prayers for safe travelling. His newly-acquired pickup was loaded down with furniture and other items he had chosen from his dad's house. He chose an antique bedroom set and the china hutch as his big items. When he and his wife were here for the funeral, she had asked me about a set of red glass Avon dishes that she remembered our mother-in-law having on display in the hutch years ago. I hadn't seen it since she died, but the guys found the set all boxed up in a closet. I had told Husband that she had asked about it, and her husband chose it as one of his picks. He said she cried when he told her he was able to get it for her. They live near Flathead Lake in northwest Montana......gorgeous country!

On the phone this morning, he said he had headed out at 3 a.m. this morning from Rapid City, and was calling from the Billings, MT, area. He said the pickup was running just fine and that the wind was terrible yesterday on I-90 in Minnesota, but it had calmed down once he got into South Dakota. Before he left yesterday, I reported to him something I had just heard on the news........that the temperature in Butte, Montana, was minus 33 degrees!! Something for him to look forward to!


Yesterday in the mail was a monthly magazine from the Thrivent Insurance Co. Before tossing it in the recycling tote, I turned to Dr. Richard Bimler's "Daily Bread" article on the last page. He usually writes something worthwhile, and this month especially so. Here is an excerpt from his devotional article, "New Resolve".........I feel he showcases here the best part of Lutheran doctrine as far as living your daily life is concerned........he's speaking of New Year's resolutions:

"Resolutions are not bad in and of themselves. It is important and healthy to set personal goals and throw yourself into projects with the best of intentions. The problem with resolutions is this: They tend to encourage us to focus on ourselves, rather than on our faith in a living Lord who loves and forgives us, even when we botch things up------including our resolutions.

This year, before making resolutions that center only on self-improvement, let's first celebrate soul improvement and help each other rediscover the never-to-be-broken resolution that our Lord gives us in Baptism: He calls us as His own, even when we fail!

We are God's people, not because of what we have done or resolve to do, but because of what Christ has done for us through His life, death and resurrection. With this as our focus, we are empowered by the Spirit to share our gifts of joy, peace, patience, kindness, forgiveness and thankfulness-----not because we want to earn God's favor, but because we are His people.

In other words, it is not that we "gotta" do it, but that we "get to" do it. we get to serve God and others. We get to take care of ourselves in order to take better care of others. We get to tell others about Christ's love for everyone. It is not about us; it is about Christ living in us.

A little girl who portrayed the angel in our Christmas program one year summed it up well. As the shepherds came and huddled all around the manger scene, the little angel noticed that the audience could not see the baby Jesus in His crib. With her halo shining brightly, she yelled at the shepherds, "Get out of the way and let Jesus show through!"

Simple but profound words: "Let Jesus show through".......


Have a wonderful day and "let Jesus show through"!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Radio Reminder

Its after 10 p.m. and sleep beckons, but I must stay awake until my son gets home from his basketball game. So I'll take the opportunity to relate this true little happening:

I love it when tiny unusual things take place; the following occurred last Friday evening. Because Husband's brothers would all be here on the weekend, I had gone to town to stock up on groceries. I finished shopping around 6:30 p.m. and phoned home to let them know I was on my way. My younger son answered-----he was home because his basketball game had been postponed due to the extreme cold. We talked for a couple minutes.......he informed me that our older son, Daniel, had called and said he, too, was coming home for the weekend. He lives 2 1/2 hours away, and I thought, "Great......another traveller to worry about in this awful weather." It was not an attitude of faith, but the mother instinct in me pushing forward.

As soon as I was done talking to my son on the phone, I turned on the radio in my vehicle. The first thing I heard was Elton John singing this line, "Daniel is travelling tonight on a plane.......I see his red taillights, heading this way.......". I smiled and shook my head; it was like a reminder that Someone was watching out for Daniel, and I should quit my worrying! He safely arrived home later in the evening.

Snow For Sale!

Snow, snow go away.......
Come again some other day!
(Not for a long time, though.)

Here is Husband in the tractor blowing the powdery white stuff out of the way so his brother can begin a long trip home to Montana. He came to Iowa on Amtrak last week to take part in the divvying-up of Father-in-Law's earthly possessions. He's returning to Montana in his dad's pickup, which he purchased.

I couldn't hold back the tears when this brother-in-law left this morning; he lives so far away and it was hard to say good-bye. He has a very long drive ahead of him in this extremely cold weather. Seeing the pickup disappear down the driveway for the last time was difficult, too, because the vehicle is so identified with Father-in-Law. The pairing of a farmer-----even an old, retired one-----and his pickup, is a special match; they were steady, faithful companions.
This afternoon it was deemed safe for a daughter-in-law to enter Father-in-Law's house, so I spent time helping Husband load out some of the remaining items......mostly junk, at this point. Now, my house is becoming filled with piles of miscellaneous.......towels, rugs, Christmas wrap, tins, kitchen items, baskets, books, knicknacks, etc. All the flotsam and jetsam of someone else's life is now mine, as if I didn't have enough of my own already! But, I'll dutifully go through all the piles and boxes to see what might be of use, or generously shared later as a gag gift!! Seriously, there are some special items that I hope to eventually give away to the little grandchildren and great-grands as a remembrance of Grandpa.
Husband has held up well through the last several days of commotion and disruption of his normal daily work schedule. Its obvious he's exhausted, though. Last evening his eyes were glazed over as he struggled to stay awake after chores to eat supper and visit with his brother. He also admitted to me that he's sad to see his dad's pickup depart. Not that he wanted to have it, but like I said earlier, its so closely identified with its former longtime owner.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A New Old Clock

Doesn't this kitty resemble Santa Claus with a big, white beard!

After chores last night, Husband started telling me about the items he chose at his dad's house. What do you know.......he did get the crockery items mentioned in the previous post. And something rather unexpected.....his great-grandparents' antique clock. I was dumbfounded, because I was sure the antique-loving brother would choose it. Husband said they drew numbers to decide the choosing order. They started with the large furniture items and appliances. Husband first choice was a practical one-----a freezer. The antiquer brother chose the old oak kitchen table and chairs. Another brother chose the china hutch, another the washer & dryer, another a bedroom set, and another the sofa and recliner.
After the large items, the brothers proceeded to things like a converted gas lamp, side tables, and Husband then noticed that the clock had not been chosen yet, so he nabbed it for his next choice. I'm quite sure the antique-loving brother wanted it, but must have forgotten about it in the commotion of the day. The day after Father-in-Law died, one of the first things this brother did was take the clock off its shelf in the kitchen and put it down on the floor in the living room, saying he thought it would be safer there, so I know he wanted it. Well......that's the way it goes. It was all done fairly.
Actually, I've always thought the clock was rather ugly, but now that its here in our house, I'll get used to it. As Husband says, the clock seems to have a mind of its own.......maybe its will randomly start ticking whenever it wants to and then faithfully chimes the hours and dings on the half hour. Inside the back panel someone wrote that it was cleaned in 1967 and 1989. As I said, it belonged to Husband's great-grandparents, who were married in 1905. Maybe I can put one of their photos with the clock.....they are a fascinating pair, both quite tall, he dapper with a moustache, and she kindly-looking with an amused twinkle in her eye. He was a butter-maker, and she a homemaker, of course. I wish I could have known them. Some couples from back then look so stern and serious, but not these two.
Oh me, oh my. I put a long comment on the DarkMyRoad website. He's a Lutheran pastor who struggles with depression and his posts are very interesting and helpful. But, I think my comment was way too long.
Also, I checked the "rhymes with plague" blog. His writing is so impressive!! He 's not afraid to use lengthy sentences. On his profile, "Field of Dreams" is listed as his favorite movie, so I commented that the farm where that was filmed is near Dyersville, about an hour from where I live. Its a tourist site now, called "Field of Dreams", of course, and I've been there several times with my kids' school trips. There's not alot to do there, just walk around and look at the ballfield, take pictures of the house and barn, and browse in the souvenir shops (there were always two shops due to the movie site straddling two farms.....I heard they consolidated into one now, though). The highlight of the visit would be the schoolkids playing a game of kickball on the baseball field.
After posting those comments, I stirred up a batch of cinnamon roll dough, which is raising in the oven right now. Soon it will be time to flatten it out, sprinkle on the sugar and cinnamon, roll it up, slice it, let the slices raise, and then bake them. Usually, this time of year, I get in the roll-making mood which last for a couple of months. No one seems to mind.
No school today in honor of Martin Luther King Day. Son is supposed to have a make-up basketball game tonight, 2 hours away. But, that's iffy since it snowed all morning, but I haven't been listening to the news for the cancellations. Son and Husband are at his dad's house again for more packing of items-----three of the brothers are there again, also. They've been having a great time, playing practical jokes on each other, stuffing each other's pickups with junky stuff like tupperware and other what-nots from the house. They all get along quite well......maybe that's normal for a family of boys.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Reminder of Warmth

To offset today's bitter cold, this photo is offered as a reminder of warmth past and future. The clouds resemble a big rosy dove, possibly. We're looking north, early one morning last fall.


We remain in the deep freeze. When temperatures are this cold, the snow squeaks as you walk on it. If someone was idiotic enough to want to make a snowball, he would be unsuccessful, for the snow loses its stickiness in the bitter cold. There must be scientific explanations for this, but its beyond my ken.

Warmth being my only concern, I sinned and wore jeans to church this morning. Nice jeans, not faded ones. I should have toted a blanket along, too, because the church sanctuary was freezing! Non-LCMS-Lutherans will not know what I'm referring to, but we used Divine Service 4 from LSB this morning. Its an unfamiliar liturgy, meaning that those of us who read music and like to sing felt as if we were singing solos. It was rather pathetic, and made me wonder once again......."How did I get myself into this? Oh, yeah, it was because of that handsome farm boy I met back in high school." Way back then, a church was a church was a church, in my simple mind. Little did I know.

Well, anyway, I tried to sing out, not loud enough to be ridiculous, but enough to maybe help others along. The vacancy pastor once again rushed too fast through the Nicene Creed and the Lord's Prayer. What is the deal with that? Is that some new seminary teaching? I emailed my opinion to him when I got home. He probably won't like it, especially since its coming from a woman. Our deacons seem to be cowed by the authority of the pastor, and won't say anything about it. That's one thing I cannot comprehend about Lutheran laypeople. They are taught to just meekly go along with whatever the pastor does.


This afternoon I tinkered with the header on this blog, and it turned out better than I expected. I finally figured out how to crop a photo to fit and change the color of the wording inside the photo. I'm very slow and ignorant about such things. The header photo shows the road where the dogs and I walk, alongside a freshly cut field of hay. Ah.....memories of summer.......and warmth!! I love those evening clouds in the was one of the first photos I took with my digital camera.

Today I am enjoying an afternoon alone at home because of a once-in-a-lifetime event.......Husband and his brothers have spent the weekend going through all the stuff at their dad's house and dividing it up. None of us wives are allowed to participate, which is a good thing. So I've been providing food and lodging for Husband's out-of-town brothers. Thankfully, it appears they'll remain on friendly terms with each other after this whole ordeal of settling their dad's estate is over. He would be very happy about that!

I'm curious, of course, to see what Husband's share of the household items will include. Already yesterday, they brought one of the things here, a bed to put in our basement room that is being remodeled. One of the brothers slept in the bed last night, along with two of our cellar-dweller cats. He said they snuggled right up to him, and one of them was giving his hand a bath when he woke up this morning!

Secretly, I'm hoping that Husband is able to get a couple antique maybe the advertising crock from a local general store, or the crockery rolling pin, also printed with advertising from that store. I like things like that. I'm not holding out much hope, though, because one of the out-of-state brothers is really into antiques. This was one time to just keep my mouth shut. The whole weekend has been one of listening, listening, listening, and nodding and smiling at whatever is said. The best thing is to stay on everyone's good side. Maybe I'm "cowed", too.........similar to the deacons at church........must be that Lutheran submissiveness rubbing off on me!!

Actually, I've been very proud of Husband and his commitment to keeping peace amongst his brothers. As co-executor he is in a position to do so, and it seems to be of the highest priority with him. Many times, we've heard of families who end up permanently split due to difficulties with estates. Materialism takes over. Husband doesn't want that to happen and keeps saying that the peace in the family is a blessing from God. He's a good husband.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Snowy Mailbox

Yes, this is truly exciting. Our mailbox surrounded by snowdrifts. The rest of the road is fairly clear, so I doubt the snowplow will come by today. Husband is too busy to drive the tractor down to the end of the lane to blow the snow out of the way. So, that leaves li'l ol' me and my shovel to do something about it.

It looked quite messy when I finished, but hopefully now the mailman can pull up to the mailbox without getting stuck. The temperature is hovering around zero today, so the only way one can tolerate being outside in the bitter cold is to engage in frenzied activity, like shoveling snow.


Here's hoping that wherever you are, the sun is shining, and that you can actually feel its warmth!


My blog and I are rather hermit-like, but once in a while I make a forays out into the world, the real one and the blog-world. Here's an interesting blog I found the other day: . His writing style is superb!

Another blog I've been enjoying is . She is inspirational and connected to many other Christian women bloggers.

Here's a blog with absolutely stunning photographs: .

Friday, January 18, 2008

High of ONE today!

Here's a photo fresh from this sub-zero morning in Iowa. Way to the right is a small glow which is a "sundog", testifying to the frigid temperatures. Fortunately we have no wind right now, but the forecast includes it for later today. Our high today is supposed to be ONE degree above zero, and tomorrow they say the high will be 5 BELOW zero. Fun.


Here's a follow-up to that dream I wrote about a couple posts ago-----the one about a woman named "Ellen". I hadn't mentioned it to anyone. This morning as I was rinsing milkers in the milkhouse, Husband walked in and said, "Today is Ellen _____'s birthday. (The wife of the man in my dream!) I replied, "How do you know that?" He told me he had just heard it on the radio in the barn-----the local station he listens to announces birthdays each morning.

Anyway, this dream story is extremely trivial and of no importance, of course, but I'm always curious to know what makes this sort of thing happen. Truly, I hardly know this woman and certainly never knew her birthdate.

When I told Husband about it, he just rolled his eyes!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow Graphics

During the night, a blanket of fresh snow descended quietly here and on much of Iowa, as my daughter who lives near Des Moines phoned and said the school where she teaches has cancelled classes today. Our school also has a snow day, so our sophomore son is home helping Husband with the livestock chores.

After my barn chores were done this morning, I ran outside and snapped as many photos as possible before my fingers froze. The snow artwork etched on the trees is fascinating!

I see a scary face in the first photo below:

Since we're stuck with all this snow, we might as well find something interesting about it!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Subject of Coincidence

I wasn't intending to blog on the subject of coincidence today, but it seems to be willing itself into being. Maybe because I read a chapter from The Three "Only" Things last evening.

This morning upon awakening, I could recall two brief dream scenes from during the night. In one, I was talking to an acquaintance. I had no awareness of what we were talking about, but I kept wishing I could think of his wife's first name, but just could not. In the second scene, I was saying repeatedly to someone, "Where is Beaver Lake?" I'm not familiar with any place by that name.

Anyway, while I was out doing calf chores this morning, I had to walk out to the burn pile. This took me by a pen of older calves, which I rarely pay any attention to. I happened to glance at their pen and just one calf was looking right at me with her nametag visible. The name on her tag was "Ellen"........and I realized right away that was the name of the man's wife in my dream last night. The name I couldn't think of while in the dream!

We'll see if anything comes of "Beaver Lake"! I'm not holding my breath.

When I opened my email this morning, there was one from an old friend who lives in Kentucky. She emails me very rarely. The title of her email was "You Can't Make This Stuff Up". It included a link to a news story about the recent tragic death of a policeman and his police dog in Kentucky. The dog had his own casket, and was buried in the cemetery next to his owner. My friend found this interesting not only because of the unusual story, but also because when she was here in Iowa over Christmas, we had discussed a recent funeral in our community, also involving a dog in a casket! A tragic accident had taken the lives of a young married couple. Shortly before that their dog had been diagnosed with leukemia, so the couple's family had the dog euthanized, and he lay at the feet of his mistress, in her casket! We had quite a discussion about this at our Christmas get-together, and in her email, my friend wrote that it seemed "bizarre" that a similar incident so quickly came to her attention.

Actually, I've never brought up the subject of coincidence with any of my friends, or with anyone at all, for that matter. Its so difficult to explain that one feels nutty trying to do so, which is why I'm appreciating the book The Three "Only" Things. The author does a good job of clearly describing coincidence, synchronicity, serendipity, and their connection to dreams and seemingly trivial occurrences in our daily lives. And he cites many examples from history, important discoveries, and famous people like Mark Twain. To me, the book takes coincidence and synchronicity out of the category of odd and weird, and gives it status as simply something that exists in normal, everyday life.

The first time I ever saw the word "synchronicity" was in Sue Monk Kidd's book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I didn't agree with many things in her book, but the author's description of synchronicity was right on and hit me like a bullet. In my own past are many experiences that made me wonder, "How could that have possibly happened the way it did........just like it was set up, or planned." Hopefully, I can get these experiences out of my head and onto my blog. I have a drawer-full of journals filled with dreams and experiences, and need to take a look at those again, too.

Anyway, I'm just not able to ignore the unusual occurrences in life. Maybe my Christian faith is lacking in some way. I do all the stuff a Lutheran is supposed to do, but am not able to be numb to experiences. If there is one thing I fear most in life, it is not being able to FEEL.

Now, I need to quit this post and go do laundry and load the dishwasher. Then there are checkbooks to balance and tax info to prepare and the never-ending clutter of life to attend to. I have a sick calf to check on, too. The vet looked at her this morning and diagnosed pneumonia. I don't often care too much about any certain calf, but this one was born on Father-in-Law's birthday, which was also the day he passed away, and we named her after him. So I really want her to live and grow up and be around as a milk cow for many years!


P.S. - Another small coincidence from a couple days ago. In some of my recent posts I have vented frustrations about my mom. Two days ago I received a forward from a pastor out in AZ.......(met him on a Lutheran discussion board, and he doesn't know about my blog.) The forwarded email was a lovely one about MOTHERS! Something you might expect to see around Mother's Day. I immediately realized I needed to absorb it and renew my appreciation for my mother. I don't often send forwards on, but this one I sent on to two friends, one whose mother just past away, and one whose mother is very ill with cancer.

Tux & Betsy

Well, I was searching for a close-up photo of our dog, Betsy, but instead found her in the background of this one. My kitty friend, Tuxedo, poses on the pumpkin.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lois Lenski Book & TV Nonsense

Today I'm trying to rearrange and organize my Christmas decoration closet. Its one of those cubbyholes under a stairway, and awkward to get things into and out of. One of the boxes is full of children's Christmas books, from when my kids were small. I was adding a book I got at Goodwill last week, Lois Lenski's Christmas Stories. In the beginning of the book, the author explains how Christmas celebrations were banned by the Puritans in New England in the 1600's. They considered the holiday revelry sinful. Lenski then contrasts this with the German Lutherans' view of Christmas......on page 35 begins a story called "The Pink China Bonbon Dish". Here is the first paragraph (it reminds me that I shouldn't be so hard on Lutheranism and evidently Lois Lenski grew up Lutheran):

"Christmas has always been a period of deep joy and gladness to all Lutherans. It was Martin Luther who first used the evergreen tree as its symbol, and O Tannenbaum has always been a favorite German Christmas song. Many other German customs, including the baking of sprengerli and pfeffernuesse, were the early 1900's. This was before the days of the automobile, when life was simpler, centered around a smaller area governed largely by the family horse-and-buggy. Perhaps one reason why Christmas assumed such vast importance in family life at that time, was the lack of other competition in the way of celebration or diversion. Children moved in small circles, met fewer people, traveled little, and made most of their own amusements out of their own creativity and ingenuity. Premanufactured entertainment was never handed out to them."

The last sentence is an eye-opener. Can we even imagine a world devoid of "premanufactured entertainment"? A couple posts ago, I was lamenting some of the changes that have occurred concerning church activities over the last few decades, and it seems that maybe TV-watching has something to do with it.......certainly TV is "premanufactured entertainment". Lazy minds are probably the result, but who would even be cognizant of that anymore? Our world is so media-saturated.......we're drowning in it.

Last evening, I watched a TV show while Husband went to our son's basketball game. I don't often simply sit there and stare at the TV. The show was OK, but it was the commercials that were so very intrusive. Close-up pictures in your face, quickly changing from scene to scene. It almost made my eyes hurt, so I shut them during the commercials. Why should anyone watch them anyway? Unless you are truly interested in buying that car, or that cell phone, or whatever. What a pile of garbage we allow to be funneled into our eyes, ears, and absorbed into our minds.

And another thing that was ridiculous........flitting by on the TV screen during the entire show were little reminders, telling us viewers what network we were watching and reminding us to watch other shows. Plus, a message about another show stayed in the corner of the screen THE WHOLE TIME. What is up with this nonsense?

My friend Betsy

Here's a good buddy, Betsy, our Australian Shepherd. She loves to trot along on walks, and here in this photo she scans the road ditch for birds or a little critter to chase. She's always ready and willing to herd the cattle, and help with any other livestock chores. She's a great watchdog, too, alerting us to vehicles arriving, or to unwanted wildlife around the farmstead........such as skunks! The cats scatter when she comes their way, and she's an expert mouser, sniffing them out in the feed room at every opportunity. Each morning, she expectantly waits by the door of the house, and escorts us sleepyheads to the barn. A more faithful friend is not to be found!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Frustrations with Mom & Steers

The above frosty evergreen photo was taken on December 16, a cold, but very clear day. Today, January 14, is the first time we've had a clear, sunny day since then. Murky fog veiled our area several times, causing school delays and activity postponements. Mostly, though, the days have simply been overcast with the usual drab winter clouds overhead.
For a Monday, today hasn't been too bad. My step-dad is here working on the basement room project, meaning Mom is here, too. She is drinking coffee, which she isn't allowed to do at home, and reading two books she bought at a second-hand shop last week-----The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, and My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. Quite a combination, eh? She paid 25 cents for each.
This morning as I was preparing to leave to run errands, Mom whispered to me, "Could you please buy me a Mounds candy bar somewhere." Not a problem. But I would go nuts even more than I am if I were in a marriage where I wasn't free to make coffee in my own home or buy a candy bar. That's how it is in her marriage, though, but she knows better than to complain about it to me. Its right there under the surface, though. Two marriages......both to controlling men.
In her first marriage, from my childhood on, whenever things were bad between her and my dad, she would tell me all about it. For years that went on, until it got to the point where it was giving me stomachaches, and disrupting my home life. I finally told my mom, "I've had it. I will not listen to anymore of this. If you want to stay with a man who is abusive, go right ahead.......but don't come running to me anymore." Shortly after that, she left my father, and proceeded through a very bitter divorce, during which my dad, an alcoholic, placed all the blame on ME!!!!
Why am I ranting about this? Maybe because Mom is around here today, and all the old memories come flooding back. Its better for me if I don't see her very often. I know the Bible says, "Honor thy father and mother." Its been difficult at times, and I have absolutely no one to discuss it with. Very few people understand such things.
Let's switch subjects.......this afternoon I had some fun#%!.......helping Husband load steers into the trailer. As always, when we start, I can envision being trampled by the big galoots. With a small scraper as a weapon, I took my position out in the cowyard. Then Husband pointed and said, "You go chase them out of the pen", as if that's my specialty or something. Great. I crept along the fence, ready at any moment to jump up on it to get out of the way if the steers came galloping at me. There were four of them, with big hairy heads staring my way. Fortunately, they seemed rather relaxed, and sauntered slowly out of the pen into the open area of the cowyard. There they kicked up their heels a bit, running around the silo and back, probably wondering what on earth was going on. We had to attempt to quietly coax them, two at a time, into an alleyway that leads into the barn. Our two cattle dogs bit at their tails and hooves to keep them moving. I stood in my spot, doing what you need to do when herding cattle.......make yourself seem large. Spread your arms wide and wave them so you look bigger than you really are. Hollering helps, too. Finally, the task was successfully accomplished. The dogs excitedly ran up to be petted and praised for their hard work. They love it! Wish I felt the same!! I was simply thankful to have survived another session with the steers!
Why won't the spaces work between the paragraphs? Does anyone know? Am I doing something wrong?


There's a "sundog" in the sky in the center of the above photo. The scientific name is "parhelion", defined in the dictionary as, "A bright circular spot on a solar halo, sometimes seen on either side of the sun and level with it." We see these occasionally, only in winter, when the temperatures are very cold, and the sun is brightly shining.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Soul Maintenance

Today being Sunday, I attended the local soul maintenance other words, "church". Back in my misguided Baptist days, worship was what church was all about. For Lutherans, however, church is not something you do, like is what God does. Through the pastor, that is.

So this morning, I dutifully sang and spoke the proper words at the proper times, and listened to the sermon. The pastor's first words were, "In all my years of being a pastor, I've not noticed people being very concerned about the righteousness of God." Huh? He lost me right there. Then he went on to point out that faith is not about "Jesus in your heart". That only opens the door to heaven, he said. Evidently, it doesn't get you through that door. Like anyone has ever reported back on that subject.......besides Jesus Himself.

This afternoon was our church's Annual Meeting, which Husband attended. When he got home, he said, "Our church is falling apart. Nobody cares." (And he was not talking about the church building.) I told him that I've come to the conclusion that our church is not an isolated case. I think we're seeing the spiritual evolution of people raised with television. We are now into the second generation of people raised with TV......and you can also include many other electronic gadgets......which are magnets for people's attention and focus.

Our youth group, which was very active AND led by the pastor, back when I first joined this Lutheran church 30 years ago, is basicly defunct. Everyone is so busy with sports and other fluff, and the last pastor that was here showed little interest in doing youth activities. Not that I blame him, with kids so focused on everything else except church, and parents going right along with it. Husband said the guys at the meeting today were all itching to get home to watch the NFL play-off game.

Times have changed, and there's nothing that can be done about that. Back when Father-in-law was a teenager, the church youth group, called the Walther League, was the main social outlet for young people. They could hardly wait to join following Confirmation at age 14. Their group met with other church youth groups in the area for rollerskating, softball, etc. Many a young Lutheran met their future spouse during Walther League activities, and, indeed, that is how Husband's parents met.

Husband also expressed concern that our church is spending thousands of dollars to refurbish the old organ. With so few people coming to church anymore......he wonders what the point is. I said, "Well, maybe this can be our church's main goal and reason for keep the antique organ in operation." It is quite special, really, as far as organs go. Maybe our church building can become a museum someday. It's over 130 years old, and beautiful in a creaky, cavernous sort of way. But mostly it is full of memories of those who have passed through on their life's way. After 30 years of being there, I've become immersed in the group, like it or not, and often on Sunday I sit there and think about the ones who have died. I remember where they used to sit, and the timbre of their voices when they sang hymns and spoke the Lord's Prayer. I miss so many of those voices, but it seems we're supposed to just forget about them because they're in the heavenly congregation now.

I've read that Orthodox Church tradition includes staying close in spirit to departed loved ones.......the communion of saints, cloud of witnesses.......I truly wouldn't have a problem with that at all. If only there was a church like that handy.

Goodwill Angel

I had to pull myself out of hermit mode yesterday to watch my son play in a JV basketball game. The game was in the town where my mother and step-dad live, so they were there, too, giving me "peeps" to sit with.
After the game, on the way to the grocery store, I made a quick stop at Goodwill, and found the lovely little angel pictured above. For $1.00, that made my day!
On the way home, after exiting the interstate, at a stop-sign I was right behind a mini-van, close enough for me to read its license plate number. In Iowa, our plates have three digits followed by three letters. The license plate on the on the van in front of me had my daughter's birthday (month & day), and her initials! A little bit amazing, considering that that's the only vehicle in Iowa having that particular combination!!! Just a little synchronicity.....nothing momentously important.....but, interesting and meaningful for me!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Milk-Can Still-Life

My daughter----bless her heart----made fun of this photo when she saw it today. But, I rather like it.

Winter Fenceline Photos

Well, you do what you can to find beauty on a cold January day in Iowa. These photos were taken during my walk this morning, with fingers nearly frozen on the camera.

When you're desperate for an interesting photo subject, fencelines and fenceposts can fill the bill. In winter, they stand in sharp contrast to their snow-covered surroundings.

I should take lots of photos of farm fencelines, because they're gradually disappearing from the landscape. Erected many decades ago when all farmers pastured cattle and horses in the fields, fences are now mostly obsolete. The crop farmers of today simply take the fences out to accomodate their huge tractors and combines. As the fencelines disappear, so do trees and bushes which provided nesting places for birds.

On our farm, we do maintain our fences for the times in the summer and fall when Husband decides to pasture cows, heifers, or calves. There's something peaceful about seeing cattle out grazing in a green pasture. Why that is, I don't know.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Flew the Coop

These frosty tree branches were from a couple weeks ago.......they were striking against the deep blue sky that morning. So here they are randomly adorning this post. (I just got DSL hooked up this afternoon, and wanted to see how much faster photos will upload. It took about 1/3 the time as with dial-up.)

Yesterday, I flew the coop-----ran away from my problems-----for the afternoon, at least. My home-from-college daughter had cleaned her closet, so we headed to a town that has a Goodwill Store. Its a town of about 7000 residents. When I was growing up, it was a shopping mecca, with a business district sporting a Penneys, Sears, Montgomery Wards, Spurgeons, Woolworth's, Ben Franklin, and several smaller clothing and shoe stores. When I was a senior in high school, Mom splurged and spent $50 for my prom dress at one of those shops. That was expensive back then!
The main street now is barely a shadow of what it was back then. All those stores are gone, victims of shopping malls in bigger towns, and economic hard times in the area. There is a large Goodwill Store there, where we deposited the bags full of my daughter's closet gleanings, and several consignment stores. We decided to check out a couple of them. First we went to a large antique/thrift shop which had a sign on the door saying the store had gone out of business back in December. Disappointed, we peered in the windows and could see that the store was still full of stuff. I wonder what they will do with all of it. Hopefully, it will reopen someday.
Next, we went into a consignment shop, which if I remember correctly, is where a children's clothing store used to be years ago. Now the store is dim and little smelly, but we took a look around anyway. I like to snoop for old books and antique canning jars. Right away I spotted a stack of old books, and hopefully scanned their titles. The top one was, of all things, a book of magical spells and incantations, so we moved on to other items. There was the usual collection of knicknacks, jewelry, framed pictures, etc. Upstairs were some more old books, and I ended up buying two.
One, a little book of poetry from 1899, Songs of the Treetop and Meadow, had its owner's name written insided the front cover, Olive M. Burrows, 8/20/1906. The other book is Shepherd Psalm, by F.B. Meyer. It seems quite old, too, although there's no copyright date in it. The store had Christian music playing, but besides the spell book, I also saw a big witchcraft book, rather odd companions to the music. I decided I probably won't go back there.
Next we shopped at Goodwill, always intriguing and fun! I found a couple items to give my sister for her birthday, and a pretty Marjolein Bastin teapot. In the book section, I bought two by Robert James Waller, an Iowa author, one the famous Bridges of Madison County. The movie by that name, with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, was rather fruity, although the scene near the end where she's deciding whether to jump out of the pickup or not, just about rips my heart out, for some reason. The scene that cracked me up the most was when Francesca (Meryl Streep) was out driving a tractor and was able to hear the telephone ringing in the house. Believe me, that could never happen.
After Goodwill, we grabbed a bite at Subway, and shopped some more at a Pamida store on the edge of town. We like Pamida.......its like a miniature Walmart.......but minus the exhaustion from pushing your cart through that huge expanse of retail space, and then way out to your parking spot, too. The gigantic size of stores nowadays is getting a bit ridiculous.
Later in the evening, when I was at home reading the newspaper, one of the headlines concerned a bizarre story out of Sioux City------two young girls killed by their stepfather during a ritual. He told authorities he had been "casting a spell that had gone bad". And to think we saw that spell casting book today in that shop. Yikes.

Monday, January 7, 2008

In A Remodeling Funk

Well, I just reread my previous post, written by a person who had stayed up too late. I was posting so late because my computer had crashed.......Windows had gotten deleted somehow. The only unusual thing I had done the day before was use the Sunday School lesson CD to print off an Epiphany activity sheet. Was there something harmful in the CD? Who knows.

Anyway, I put in a phone call to Dell Tech Support, and a nice girl talked me through reinstalling Windows. It took almost 2 hours, but it was successful. Whew!

Thus, today I've been very tired, and feel in danger of sliding into a serious January funk. For one thing, I'm irritated that another remodeling project has been started in our the basement. I don't even care about the basement, or that it looks like a basement, with old exposed wood beams to give it character. But, my step-dad, an extremely gifted and capable person who thrives on projects like this, has the notion that our basement should be finished off. So he talked Husband into it. That means I will have people at my house everyday for who knows how long. Its just my mom and step-dad, which doesn't sound like much, but when they're around, my mood just plummets.

I'm now convinced that my breakdown of a year-and-a-half ago was related to them being here every day of a year-long house project. We built a new room and renovated our kitchen. Redoing a kitchen sounds like a wonderful idea, but it includes a truckload of stress. You still have to provide meals, even though you are without appliances and plumbing for several weeks. Additionally, we live far away from grocery stores and restaurants. I thought I was handling it quite well, but evidently must have been in denial and internalizing the stress, and eventually it blew.

Besides being a superb craftsman, my step-dad is a fabulous cook and baker. He makes everything from scratch, and keeps his kitchen absurdly neat and tidy, with nothing on the countertops......not one speck of clutter. Try having a person like that at your house every day......and cooking for them! And my mom......well, I love her, of course, but as soon as she enters my field of vision, I feel drained. She is sweet and perfect now, but our past baggage together includes issues from her first marriage to my father, an alcoholic. Especially, it affected her first two children, me, the oldest, and my next younger sister. When I was a kid, Mom confided in me, and conversely, took things out on my sister. Fear, anxiety, and strange situations have been companions to my sister and me since childhood, and they just don't shake off. They hang around.

Maybe if I'd had this blog to vent to during our previous remodeling project, I could have avoided the embarrassing and costly mental breakdown. Live and learn.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Quantum Epiphany

Epiphany Sunday manifested itself today, and privileged I was to be a substitute Sunday School teacher, for I enjoy the biblical story of The Three Kings. They probably were not kings, the Bible identifies them as wise men, and the number three comes from the fact that there are three gifts mentioned. There may have two Wise Men......or six, or ten.

The regular teacher had forgotten to include the lesson papers for the students, so we ad libbed. There were three students in attendance......perfect to be the three wise men. I brought along some shiny gold bows and a bottle of perfume to be the gifts. We read the story from the Bible, then set off to find the Christ Child. We tip-toed through the hallway and down into the empty church basement, looking for stars along the way. In the church sanctuary, we spied many stars on the Christmas trees and on banners hung between the stained-glass windows. I had brought along a snow-globe with the Holy Family inside, so that was the Epiphany for us. The children knelt and presented their gifts. Then they pretended to be asleep and have the dream warning them not to go back and report to King Herod. They returned home to their Sunday School classroom by another route, as per the Bible story. Our alternate path took us by the deacons who were getting things ready for the church service, putting hymn numbers up on the board, etc. They smiled when we told them what we were doing.

Later, during his sermon, the pastor burst our bubble of awe concerning the Three Wise Men. He described them as clueless occultists! Thank goodness they did pay attention to their dreams, though! He then chided anyone who might be tempted to view coincidences as something special, or as a message from God. Maybe this pastor who I hardly know has read my mind, and was preaching to me go my paranoid thoughts. But, nonetheless, I'm intrigued by scientific studies of meaningful coincidence. Could it be a coincidence that he preached about coincidence?!

After his sermon, the pastor rushed so fast through the Lord's Prayer that we could not get all the words in. How ridiculous is that? These pastors are so hung up on following all the proper "rubrics" of the service, chanting just so, etc., etc., but then think nothing of rushing through the Lord's Prayer and ruining it for the congregation. On the way out of church, as I shook his hand, I told him, "Good sermon, but the Lord's Prayer was done way too fast."

Back to coincidence.......this afternoon after a Sunday dinner of turkey, dressing, mashed potatos and gravy, I retired to the sofa and read from Robert Moss' book The Three "Only" Things. In chapter 5, "Where Mind and Matter Meet", he writes: "The great psychologist Carl Jung lived by coincidence. He achieved a profound understanding that through the study of coincidence we will come to grasp that there is no real separation between mind and matter at any level of reality------a finding confirmed by the best of our physicists.........the incidents of our lives and patterns of our world are connected by meaning , and that meaningful coincidence may guide us to the hidden order of events..........I want to reclaim the word coincidence because I like the notion of things 'falling together' with the implied action of a hidden hand."

And here's an interesting tidbit: "........the idea that coincidences are important is troubling to some in the psychiatric community.........a Swiss psychiatrist named Klaus Conrad made up the word apophenia to describe a psychotic condition he defined as the 'unmotivated seeing of connections' accompanied by a 'specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness'." (Maybe he was a Lutheran........they're not supposed to "experience" the meaningful in their religious life.)

In conclusion, this sentence from page 109 hit home with me: "When we navigate by coincidence, we move effortlessly into creative flow. When we project our delusions onto the world around us, we put ourselves in a place of blockage and pain." I did that once, and, yes, it resulted in pain. Not physical pain, but mental pain from making a complete idiot of myself.

Somehow, the thought comes that the Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence is an attempt at intentionally setting up a meaningful coincidence. The bread and wine are coincidentally the Body and Blood of Christ due to the Words spoken over them by the Pastor. Maybe quantum physics is involved........Moss writes: "Quantum physics shows us the universe as a dynamic web of connection.........Particles that have once been in contact with each other remain connected through all space and time........Subatomic particles exist in all possible states until they are observed------at which point something definite emerges from the soup of possibilities." When the pastor speaks the Words of Institution, is that akin to "observing" or recognizing the Body and Blood of Christ......bringing it into reality in the bread and wine??

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Homeschooler Relatives

Hey, yesterday's post was my 100th one! I'll celebrate by taking a sip of coffee.

Last evening, I watched the Special Features on Disc 5 of the "Medium" first season set. It was interesting to learn how the show was conceived and developed, how the cast was chosen, and where the weird title music came from. The show's creator, Glenn Gordon Caron, explained how the real-life Allison DuBois, and her family, inspire the story lines. He talked about the importance of the low-key portrayal of Allison's family (right down to the very lived-in house), and how integral that is to the show, almost more so than Allison's crime-solving abilities. They feel the normal family scenes balance out Allison's abnormal adventures, and make for a more believable show. They first pitched "Medium" to ABC, where it was rejected, and then they ended up at NBC as a mid-season replacement in 2004.


Continuing with another thought-line from the prior post: There's more I could say about some of the relatives that homeschool----- Husband's two nephews and their wives. Both families spent time here last month during the days after Father-in-law's death.

One of the families lives in a suburb of Chicago, and their version of homeschooling includes many activities shared with other homeschoolers. That is good......the kids are socializing and making friends. The three little girls dress in the usual way, jeans and tees for play, and nice dresses for church.

The other nephew's family, however, is another story. They live in a more remote area in a southern state, and are involved with a strict Baptist church. The wife and daughters wear skirts and dresses all the time! One of the little girls surprised my daughter with this question: "Why are you wearing pants?" My daughter replied, "Because I like to, and they keep me warm." Making girls wear dresses all the time is just too far out of the mainstream, in my opinion. And it would never be practical here on the farm.

In the past, Father-in-law expressed concerns to us about this grandson of his who would write letters encouraging his grandpa to "accept Christ". That sort of talk is difficult for a life-long Lutheran to comprehend. At the end of one of the letters, the grandson wrote: "There are absolutely no reasons for rejecting Christ. But, whether you accept Christ or not, we are still your grandkids and still love you no matter what." This was a few years ago, and Father-in-law at some point told this grandson that he had crossed the line of propriety between a grandson and grandfather.

Anyway, while the nephew was here, he and I had a couple conversations. I tried, in a brief way, to explain some Lutheran beliefs to him, especially about the idea of "accepting Christ". That you can't talk someone into doing it, because the only thing that can take place is Christ accepting us. I grew up in the same Baptist church that his mother did, so I understand where all his ideas originate. Probably, he heard many criticisms of Lutheran beliefs as he grew up. As are any of us, he was a captive to whatever beliefs his parents taught him.

My main concern, now, after seeing the situation, is that he and his wife are raising their kids with odd beliefs and a negative view of the world. I also noticed that he didn't seem to help his wife much with their four kids, aged 18 months to 7 years. At the funeral home visitation, he just stood in the corner while his wife struggled with the children. I almost went over and said something to him, but decided not to. His behavior seemed strange for someone who is supposedly a devout Christian.

His wife, who used to be overweight, now looks almost anorexic. She told me that she was able to have success losing weight once she became convicted of the sinfulness of her overeating. Looks like she may now have to become convicted of the sinfulness of her undereating. This family is in my prayers. I wish them the best, but I can't agree with much of what they're doing.