So, maybe it is just blurred and shaded by the memory of childhood, like how most every day in the summer was a wonderful day, and sleeping out under the stars never was anything other than delightful, even if we did sometimes sleep on the concrete sidewalk. Perhaps the human mind is able to reshape those general happenings into thoughts of joy and happiness – unless of course they are really ugly incidents in childhood, and then they seem to color the past with more ominous tints.
Of course, I’m talking about deviled eggs. Besides Easter, when the dozens of boiled eggs needed to be used for something, and there is only so much egg salad children will eat, Mom would boil up and make what we always considered an elegant off-menu treat for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and a few other times, like when we would all go on a picnic/expedition to Swan Lake park in Sumter, South Carolina. So, besides the meat, and the vegetable, and the bread or starch, like potatoes, fries, rice or the like, Mom would on those wonderful occasions create “deviled eggs.” I never really understood the meaning behind that name, as it seemed something at first we should avoid, being the devil and all – kind of like Devils Food Cake. Who was introducing such demonic and evil things with a smile on the face? I found out later, of course, that deviled eggs were called that because of the spices (paprika, mustard, etc.) that were mixed in with the mashed up yolks that normally would not be anywhere near an egg. I mean, who squirts mustard on you breakfast scrambleds?
Again, maybe it was just the blurred memory of childhood, but I always recalled looking at those deviled eggs, sitting in their little Tupperware deviled egg tray, and they were perfect. Every one of them smooth and shiny, perfectly cut lengthwise in half and then refilled with a tasty egg mixture, and sprinkled with paprika. Mom was a good cook, but these eggs were always just right – and she had to make a few dozen of them to cover the appetites of seven children, and don’t forget Dad…
Of course, Mom is gone now, probably whipping up a batch of heavenly eggs for everyone in heaven, but among the hundreds of other questions I wish I could ask her, one would be – how’d you do it? How did you make those deviled eggs so perfect and looking wonderfully edible? Because I must tell you – that just ain’t the case with the next generation’s deviled eggs attempts.
So, today is Memorial Day, which means steak and corn on the cob – and, as Cheri reminded me… deviled eggs. No problem at all, right? We took a dozen eggs. So far so good. However, after decades of being able to boil eggs with the greatest of ease, for some reason, in the last few years, it’s like trying to putt on the golf course green after missing the last three holes. Instead of trusting in my instincts, I went to the internet to find the way to boil perfect boiled eggs, that would shed from the shell simply and cleanly, and get us on the way to the beautiful deviled eggs from the past.
So, you either put the eggs in cold water, and boil them for 12 minutes, or you get the water boiling, then drop the eggs in, and then shut off the heat and let them sit silently for 10 minutes, or you put vinegar and salt in the water, and just before it boils you put the eggs in, and then dance an Irish jig around the kitchen holding one of your cats over your head, all the time reciting the pledge of allegiance…
So yesterday, I took the dozen eggs, put them in cold water, boiled it up and then covered them and let them sit with no heat for 10 minutes. WE then too the pot over to the sink, poured out almost all the water, and filled the thing with ice cubes, just to chill it all down. Looked pretty good so far. 12 out of 12 eggs with no cracks or whites of the eggs spilling out like poached eggs. We let the ice cube watered boiled eggs sit for the better part of an hour.
Then, it was just a matter of taking the shells off. Now, I can tell you, if I were simply making egg salad, where I would chop up all the eggs, they would have plopped out of those shells like no one’s business. However, somewhere deep in the DNA of those eggs, they got the secret message that we were going to make deviled eggs, and needed intact white, soft and smooth outsides of the boiled egg. Therefore, each and every egg was called to arms to do everything in their power to keep that from happening. They would fight from the hills, the countryside, the cities – whatever it took to spoil the look and integrity of the deviled eggs to be.
It worked. I picked up the first egg, broke the shell all around, like I have done a thousand times before, and then carefully tried to remove the shell from the white, keeping everything just so. I expect it took nearly two seconds before the first peel off exposed the yolk, and a chunk of the white was at the bottom of the sink. Over and over and over – and over again, with each and every egg getting shelled, chunks and pieces of what should be a smooth exterior came off. All. Twelve. Eggs. Actually, eleven, since with the final egg, as I tried to peel the shell, it broke in two, and a big chunk of it fell down the garbage disposal. I sent the rest of it with its partner.
As I looked at the eggs, it was truly pitiful. That’s all that can describe it. It looked like a four-year-old doing brain surgery. I put the eggs back into the refrigerator, promising to work on making deviled eggs tomorrow, which is today, and we will give it a try. I mean, what can go wrong? Well, hopefully we will still have the steaks and the corn on the cob…
I’ll try deviled eggs again sometime. It sure would be nice, however, if Mom would visit me in a dream and give me the perfect secret on how to make those eggs like she always did. Yet, that might be kind of a big waste of a visit from heaven…
So, do the best you can. Very few things in our world depend on things being done perfectly. Certainly we like to do a great job, but sometimes, just sometimes, you have to do the job, and then squint your eyes a little so the result looks pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. And then, give your heart over to doing excellent on the things that truly matter, like forgiveness, and love, and gentleness and joy. Happy Memorial Day.
Word for the day: elegiac. Pronounced ell-eh-JIY-ack. It’s not a word often used, but it is a singularly powerful term. Coming from the noun, “elegy,” it originally comes from the Greek elegeia ode, or elegos, which means “poem of lament.” An elegy, or something that is elegiac, is a particular song that addresses a loss or a death or a sad event – not simply an ode, which often is a song of honor and joy, and elegy reminds us of what is not now, that once was. A perfect word for Memorial Day, don’t you think?
I really like birds. It’s always a thrill when we drive, to see a bald eagle in a tree – sometimes, when they have decided to nest near the river, we even see them flying right over our house. In our back yard, we have seen hawks and owls and of course geese and ducks, but also more than a couple of dozen various species of birds as they take up residence for a time in our big spruce trees. Right now, the blackbird babies are at the age where they act like teenagers after school, and are continually hungry and squawking. And like human parents, the adult birds seem to take their entire lives for a while searching for worms and bugs and such, and then flying quickly to the hidden nests, where there is a huge noise as the babies fight over who gets the delicious morsels. Some evenings, it’s almost hard to sit outside, with all the bird-yelling going on…
One thing I have come to believe, however, is the phrase “birdbrain.” Now, I’m sure there are some species of birds that are highly intelligent, and I know of some that even know how to use sticks and other items as tools to get food out of stuck places. However, there is also a huge contingent of birds that are just plain stupid. No other workable description. Yes, they are often pretty and colorful, but most are just pretty lightweight in the gray matter. When you only have a brain the size of a peanut, there’s not a lot left over for reasoning or much other than imprinted instinct. After all, an arctic tern will yearly fly a migration that is between 40,000 and 50,000 miles. That’s not rocket scientist thinking. You’d think you could find a place a little closer!
The other things that birds often do, is, on a nice sunny day, to see a nice grove of trees, and fly as fast as they can toward them, and suddenly find themselves on the ground because instead of a tree, they found a window that reflected the tree. As I work in my office, it’s not uncommon to hear a “boing!” or a slam against the window, and then watch as a dazed bird flies off. You can almost imagine the conversation it has: “What was that? It sure looked like a tree! Man – does my head hurt! When I heal up a little, I’m going to try that again…”
Unfortunately, this past week, Cheri went outside early in the morning, and found an actual crime scene. Apparently, around dawn, the early bird did not catch the worm – instead, it caught a full-force crack in the head from the dining room window, and then fell about 12 feet to hit the brick patio below. Not a good mix of unfortunate experiences. To quote another bird saying – it was dead as a dodo. Now, they don’t always die, especially if they crash on the soft grass, but this was a real proof of survival of the fittest, or at least, the not-dumbest. Cheri, being in the medical profession, was able to do a quick examination of the bird body, saw no breathing, no movement, and little legs kind of sticking out the way that little bird legs ought not to be positioned. She called time of death at about a couple hours earlier, and then with all dignity and care, took a paper towel, picked it up, and threw the body under the tree – in her words, “So a cat wouldn’t get it.” I didn’t take a lot of time trying to explain that cats can easily go under trees, but that was the gist of our first bird funeral of the week.
Yesterday, once again Cheri went out to our gazebo to close it up before we were to get a good 100 drops of rain, and as she looked out the window, she noticed a little brown shape on the lawn. Going out to investigate, she discovered a little baby black bird, just sitting in the grass, looking kind of dazed. It was big enough to yell for food in the nest, but not big enough to fly back to the nest after it dropped a good 30 feet to the ground. Actually, there are very few things with less brain capacity than a bird, unless you are talking about a baby bird. Cheri left it there, with the idea that perhaps the parent would come and rescue it, or it would have the sense to hop over to under the tree, where it would probably find the graveyard of other dead birds, tossed there by a nurse practitioner.
A couple of hours later, Cheri checked on the patient, and the eyes were closed, it was lying on its side – once again, the paper towel was put in use, and once again, the body was not interred, but rather “in-treed,” as it flew its last flight under the big spruce tree. Back home for all eternity. It’s a bit disconcerting, because they always say that deaths come in threes, and so we are kind of waiting for the next tragic incident.
I’ve done tons of funerals, and been witness to many many different deaths of humans, so death doesn’t disturb me too greatly. However, there is a pang of sadness to see a dead or dying animal. I know it’s the normal course of things, but they seem to be innocent. I always have to repeat to myself that the reason God makes so many little animals is so that at some will survive. It’s just a reminder that our world can and is sometimes a hard place to live in – especially if you are just a dumb little bird. Or a dumb human being, too, I suppose.
So, we didn’t really have a bird funeral – different than when one of our parakeets or hamster or turtle were to die when I was little. Then, we would get a Velveeta cheese box, fill it with Kleenex, place the body inside and go down to the edge of the big sandpile at the end of the street, and bury the animal there – with someone saying a few nice words about the dearly departed. That’s how we first met death, and dealt with ritual. I thought a bit of what a bird funeral would look like, but I don’t want to have to dig up the entire lawn to bury little bird bodies all the time. I suppose we could have sung, “I’ll Fly Away,” or even “The Wind Beneath my Wings,” but frankly, we are just not going to take that kind of time, printing up funeral brochures and setting up lawn chairs for the service. Instead, it more like ashes to ashes dust to dust, and from the tree to under the tree. And it is true, and this I say totally seriously, that God’s eye is on the sparrow – even one that falls or hits the window – and I know God watches over me – and you as well.
For that kind of heavenly, holy intentional love, we should live this day in gratitude. I hope you will.
Word for the day: quiescent. Pronounced kwee-ESS-ent. This is a word that absolutely is what it sound like. From the Latin quies, which means “rest, or quiet,” a quiescent person is someone in a state of inactivity, or quiet. A library is a great location for quiescence, as is a nursery when you are trying to get a baby to sleep. Of course, a partner word is “quiet” and as strange as the word looks when you just stare at it, it harbors the whole essence of a stillness, a calm, or again, an inactivity that is part of the ebb and flow of life. A nap in the afternoon is a great time to be quiescent, so please don’t call on the phone at that time. Thanks.
I took a picture outside this morning of our little lilac bush, as it bloomed a nice group of lilac blossoms – Memorial weekend must be here at last. I remember just a few months ago, as I would look out and see an ocean of white as the snow covered everything with a cold, almost lifeless blanket, as I daily longed for the time when we would move out of that bleakness. Suddenly, it seems, everything is alive once again up here in the North! The trees are all leafed out, the grass is nice and green, and all sorts of flowers and shrubs have – all on their own – decided to make the world colorful and fanciful with their blossoms. Even the rhubarb, full of green and red, has overnight, it seemed, exploded into a huge plant on the corner of the house. It almost looks like Audrey, the Venus fly trap in “The Little Shop of Horrors.”
And as the wind blows, as it always does up here it seems, it’s still not a cold wind, and it’s comfortable as you roll the windows down in the car, to cool it off from getting superheated by the sun hitting it. The late afternoon has found us sitting on our back patio, sunglasses and flipflopped, as we just sit, and talk about things that are worth talking about. Cheri is off from work this coming week, but the quirky thing is that over the past number of weekends, we have accomplished the big projects, or staining the egress window wells, and hanging new shades in the gazebo, and planting the flowers and even trimming back a few of the unruly shrubs and bushes. If I play my cards right, we may almost be able to take this week in a leisurely style. It was a bit touch and go yesterday, however – you could see in Cheri’s eyes and her demeanor that she was having trouble settling down. Her pace at work is so intense, and overpacked, that it becomes nearly impossible for her to just relax. That will be my goal for this week, as it also is much nicer to live in a stroll instead of a sprint.
Rain is expected this afternoon, although it has been a rare commodity this Spring. It always seems to be the same pattern: three or four days out, there is a huge chance of lots of rain – between ½ and ¾ inch, maybe even repeated for two or three days in a row. Then, as we sneak closer to rain day, it suddenly drops to about ¼ inch, and now this morning, we are in the running for .05” – unless of course, it goes north or south of us, which is also not surprising. May and June are supposed to be a bit wetter, but this year is just dry. I guess we will have to water from the ground up with the sprinkler system, since I hate to have the grass look like late August when it’s only Memorial weekend.
The good news about the weekend, however, is that I have two full tanks of propane, and a grill that they bought me last summer, that’s ready to go. Today we are grilling both country style ribs and babyback ribs, since for some odd and weird reason, Adam doesn’t care for the meaty and delicious country style, but instead, likes to gnaw on the little bits of meat found on a baby back rib. Go figure. Tomorrow, then, we will enjoy brats on the grill, even if it’s raining, since it’s that kind of holiday, and the taste and snap of a brat with ketchup, mustard and pickle relish – maybe even some onions – is a treat to enjoy.
Finally, we move to Memorial Day itself, where we recognize and honor those who have given their lives in the military service of our country’s defense. In doing my family history, I have been proud and impressed to find ancestors who have been part of protecting our land since back in the Narraganset Indian war, and even the French and Indian War. Every was that has followed has had a Cross, or a Dow, or other family name fighting. We even have the record of Lexington and Concord, as the men of our family stood the line on Battle Road as the militia sought to defeat the British regulars. I’m not a violent man, and war is not something to be eager about, but to know that even that far back, members of my family, which from then to my father, my brother and my nephew and brothers-in-law have all given their bravery.
I have an actual letter written to my great-great-great grandfather in the 1860s, by a niece, where she talks about “Uncle Abe” being reelected, and how proud she is of her big brother who fights for the Union, and how if she were a man, she would have joined up herself. Of course, it’s out of the Civil War that Decoration Day, and later, Memorial Day found its place.
So, in honor of all that, what else can I do except grill some ribeye steaks and salute not only my family and ancestors, but all the millions who have done what they could to preserve and defend our freedom. The steaks will be medium rare, of course, with corn on the cob, deviled eggs, and a watermelon that is already chilling in the refrigerator. As is my long held tradition, a little sprinkling of salt on the watermelon will make it even sweeter than it is.
So, with lilacs and grilled fixings, and some time to recall who I am through who my ancestors have been, it should be a great Memorial Weekend. Just help me to make sure I can get Cheri to just relax for a weekend at least…
Word for the day: rusticate. Pronounced RUST-ih-kate. Actually, I found the word as part of a newspaper item from my family’s history, where it was stated that my great-aunt Hazel during one week of her life was “rusticating” with her cousins. I found that to be intriguing, and it triggered my Latin background. The word rusticarti, is translated “to live in the country.” We read about those “rustic” cabins. Of course, they are out in the woods, or on the prairie. Anytime you find yourself in the country, or farming or living away from the city, you indeed are rusticating. Not a bad word…
She told Cheri it was too heavy for her to carry. That’s both physically and symbolically true. Cheri’s dad died three years ago, which is hard to believe. It sure doesn’t seem that long. Today is the beginning of the Memorial Weekend, and so we are heading up to Grafton to help Cheri’s mom put flowers on her dad’s grave. Now, Cheri’s dad never spent time in the military, which is what Memorial Day was originally designed to honor. It was in 1868, just a couple of years after the Civil War ended, that there began a movement to called “Decoration Day,” where the graves of soldiers, especially those who had fought in the Civil War, be decorated with flowers, as a way to commemorate their sacrifice on behalf of the country. For nearly 100 years, in small towns and large cities across the US, families would meet at graveyard and cemeteries to adorn the graves. As it turned out, they began to also put flowers on the graves of other family members as a way of “memorializing” their lives too, and so the core purpose expanded as a day of memorial. By the way, just for your information: “graveyards” are those burial places next to a church; “cemeteries” are those places disconnected from an actual house of worship, but consecrated as a final resting place. The Greek word is koimeterion, which means, “sleeping place.” Part of Cheri’s family near Grafton are buried at North Trinity Church, and some at South Trinity. North Trinity is older, and where most graveyards were at the back of the church, theirs is right in front, so that whenever you would go to church on Sunday, you would walk right between the family members’ graves to get to the church doors. I always found that fascinating. Most of my family’s ancestors, at least over the last 150 years, have been buried in cemeteries, either private or public, usually blistering hot in the summer, and bitterly cold in the winter.
Both of my parents are buried in Fort Worth, their final home since 1974. I expect one of my sisters will make sure their graves are decorated, since Dad especially was a Lt. Colonel, and served for nearly 30 years in the Air Force. Of course, that meant Mom served as well, as she helped move the family around the country and the world for all those years. It’ll be a hot day at Greenwood on Monday, for sure.
Cheri’s dad is buried at South Trinity, right below his parents and grandparents. There’s a spot reserved for Cheri’s mom, and we are making arrangements for us to also have that as the place where our ashes would be interred, when that time comes. South Trinity is out in the country right on the curve of a gravel road, but it’s a quiet place, except for when someone is working the fields around the church. Even then, that’s a comforting sound for a farming community as they stand and remember their loved ones.
But the flowers are too heavy for Cheri’s mom to carry out there by herself. So, today we will head up to the Northern valley, have lunch at Grannie’s café, and then head out the eight miles or so into the country, to place the flowers on Cheri’s dad’s grave. We won’t stay long – we never do at the cemetery/graveyard. Still, it’s an odd thing to stand there, while they talk with her dad. It’s not bad – just odd.
In my ministry, I expect I’ve been part of hundreds of funerals and burials, of all sorts. One thing I have come to believe in all of that, is that the body, or the remains of the person being buried is not that person. The spirit, soul, essence of that individual, which animated that physical body, is no longer there – only a memory. The truth is, I’ve seen my dad’s grave only twice – once at the burial, and the second time as we buried Mom’s body. I don’t really know if there will be a time when I will return there – that’s not where my glad heart is found connected to them.
Still, they are important places for many folks. I remember my mom talking about my grannie, and how Memorial Day was almost the most important day to her. That one May, before Mom and Dad were to be married in June, Grannie made plans for everyone to go up to Logan Iowa to the cemetery. Mom and Dad, in love, decided that was not where they wanted to spend their day, so they instead told them they were going to Lincoln for the day. Later that afternoon, as they were driving downtown Lincoln, they looked over and saw Grannie, stomping down the sidewalk. Dad stopped and told her to get in the car, but she would only get in after Mom had to move to the back seat, and she sat in the front. Lots of stories about Grannie…
I’m not sure we have more than another generation before Memorial Day is just a day off. Outside of military families, and some in small towns, that tradition is starting to fade quickly. Still, for this Memorial Day, Cheri’s dad will have flowers in his grave, placed there by his wife and one daughter – and they will remember him. There is something intentionally good and even sacred about that. Have a good weekend. And think of someone you can recall who is no longer with you.
Word for the day: whiffle. Pronounced WHIFF-ul. No – it’s not like the ball, since actually, the ball that can’t be thrown very far, and never leaves a welt when it hits someone is spelled, “wiffle,” a made up name for a game. “Whiffle” with the “h” actually comes from an ancient word, wifle, which is translated “battle ax.” What the word really means is the sound that is produced while waving a sword at high speed through the air, usually as part of a dance. The sound made is a whistling, air-rushing sound, that became known as a “whiffle.” It actually takes a lot of strength and coordination to move a sword to make that sound, even if the word to describe sounds kind of silly as a result.
Shall we call it a quiet day on Meadow Creek Circle South? It’s the Thursday before the start of Memorial Weekend. The boys are back from Las Vegas. It’s cold outside, and looks to possibly freeze tonight – on the Thursday night before Memorial Weekend. I’ll need to come up with something for supper tonight, so we don’t have to order in. I’ll need to water all the plants this afternoon, since even though we were promised some decent rain, nothing except a little atmospheric spitting has occurred. Laundry’s done. The arranging of the room has happened. Not even the news items are worth following on the three different sites I read, except that the fellow who wrote and illustrated “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” died yesterday at age 91. Frankly, that wasn’t one of either boys’ favorite books, but apparently the concept of a caterpillar looking for something to eat was somehow a masterpiece in children’s literature. Ok.
So – it’s pretty quiet today. The cell phone is plugged in and charging, the cats have already had their little tastes of cream cheese to start their day, and the trash is out to get picked up some time over the next hour or so. Like I said – pretty quiet, and on the surface, not much to write about.
Of course, if we go under the surface, a whole host of things are underway already this morning. For example, my stomach – and yours as well – has grown a new lining over the last 3-4 days. Already in your waking hours, you will have blinked 15-20 times per minute, and now that I have mentioned it, you can’t help but blink a bit more, just as if I tell you not to think about your breathing, you can’t help but move from automatic breathing to thinking about it. Also, somehow, someone counted that most humans have over 6000 separate thoughts per day. That’s 250 per hour, or four thoughts per minute. Of course, they aren’t all profound – it might be nothing more than, “Mmmm – popcorn!”
Even more, your entire body will replace its cells every 7-10 years. Some parts take much longer than others, but if you are, for instance, 60 years old, there is a good chance you have gone through an entire transformation at least 6 times in your life. And, to keep it real, you will shed 1 ½ pounds of dead skin cells per year.
Not much to write about? Well you see, for most of us, for most of our days, unless there is something to stimulate part of our brain, we end up moving through life pretty much on autopilot. We may respond to some things that happen, such as a sore knee, or yawning for some reason, but by and large, we have neither the capacity nor the interest to keep track of everything happening inside of us most all the time. Sure, we know when we are hungry, or sleepy, or have to go to the bathroom, but most all else is pretty accidental, which is how we have been created. I guess it’s a blessing not to have to track every slightest bit of what is happening, body-wise. I mean, how many times have you moved your legs, or flexed your toes since you started reading all of this? How many times are you doing it now?
So, instead, we are free to use some of those 6000 thoughts per day to think of things far more enjoyable and thought-full than, say, having to burp or scratch your back. Actually, we can become quite profound, although it seems pretty difficult to think of something that hasn’t been thought of before. More often, memories of the past spring up uninvited, or that song that you haven’t heard or thought of in years fills your mind – or you think about that person, or that pet, or that who-knows-what that simply emerges from a deep fold in the gray matter, and reminds you of what once was.
Yes – there is not much to write about today. Except, when we pay attention to our lives and to the world around us, we find that we are bobbing in an entire ocean of reality that can more than fill our day – and that’s not to say, either, that we have no idea what will transpire before this day is done. Stay awake – except for that delicious nap, if you can – and even more, stay aware. In the words of Aerosmith, “you don’t want to miss a thing…”
Word for the day: cacoethes. Pronounced ka-ko-EE-these. It comes, as it sounds, from two Greek words: kakos “bad” and ethos, “disposition.” Cacoethes is the uncontrollable urge to do something that is not advisable. Often, it’s tied with other Latin words, especially “cacoethes loquendi” – which is the compulsion to speak when it would be better to just not say anything, or the inner need to say just a bit too much more than appropriate. It happens when one gives themselves over to something other than self-control. It’s kind of like, “What a bad idea! When do we start?”
Well, never let it be said that any day is boring. I did some research, and found the following events occurred on May 26 all through history:
1647 Alse Young (probably pronounced Alice) was the first person executed as a witch in the American colonies, as she was hanged in Hartford, Connecticut. We always think of Salem as the headquarters for witch executions, but it all started in Hartford, where actually 35 people were put on trial, both men and women, and 11 were executed.
1805 Lewis and Clark see the Rockies for the first time. If they had only take I-70 from Baltimore, they could have seen it far earlier.
On the same day, in 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned king – of Italy. His conquered countries count was pretty impressive: Austria, Hungary, Prussia (Germany), Poland, Belgium, Holland, part of Russia, Italy, Spain and Egypt. That’s a big empire – to pay for that conquering is the reason he sold the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which then let Lewis and Clark see the Rockies. It’s all tied together.
1868 Andrew Johnson was acquitted by one vote in his impeachment trial. Actually, Johnson was impeached for supposedly violating the “Tenure of Office Act,” passed by congress over Johnson’s veto. The act/law said that before a cabinet member could be removed from their position, the president had to get approval from the Senate (in the same way approval would be needed by the Senate to appoint a cabinet member). Johnson fired Secretary of War Stanton, who was a strong opponent of Johnson’s, which brought about the impeachment. By the way, the one who was put in charge of that office as interim by Johnson was Ulysses Grant.
1896 The Dow Jones Index was established with 12 stocks. At the end of the first day, the stocks closed at 40.94. Yesterday, the index closed at 34,312, which actually was down from the historic high of 34,393.
1892 Dracula was published in England, making Bram Stoker a famous author.
1907 John Wayne (Marion Morrison) was born in Winterset, Iowa.
1922 Vladimir Lenin has a stroke. He actually died in 1924 from a brain hemorrhage.
1927 The last Model T was produced – of 15 million!
1978 First legal casino opens in Atlantic City.
Best of all – in 1977, the first Star Wars movie was released.
So, who can say, “it’s just one of those days…” We truly have no idea what a day begun will look like when it’s over. To just assume that something is “same old same old,” is to ignore the incredible possibilities that each day of life holds. Our intention should always be to live each day, not just slide through. What will make today for you a notable, even historic day in your own life? Seize it, and live it to its fullest.
Word for the day: celerity. Pronounced sell-AIR-i-tee. Nothing to do with celery, or celebrity, the word comes out of the Latin noun celer, which means simply “swift.” The word, swift, itself is one of those prime words that is what it sounds like. It takes so little time to say the word, but it connotes the speed or rapidity of the motion or action of something. A cheetah, running at 70mph is the fastest land animal, while the peregrine falcon can dive at a speed of 242mph. Talk about celerity!
Well, it’s a sunny day at close to the end of May, so it’s a good a day as any for rearranging fever. Perhaps you aren’t aware of this term – so let’s take some time to explain it.
In the earlier years of Cheri’s and my married life, we actually moved pretty often. A year and a half, two and a half years – we did live in Grand Forks for four years, but we lived in three different houses across town. That’s just pretty much how things go for young pastors and families. In those eight years, having moved actually six times meant that we didn’t have much of a chance to get bored with, or tired of the arrangement of the furniture in different homes or parsonages.
However, it suddenly happened that we reached the level of an appointment to a church that held with it the expectation that we might stay for a while. It was actually a nice feeling, to not keep moving all over the country side. However, after about two years in Fargo, where we lived the first time around, there began to arise a sense of – not discontent, but fidgety-ness. It almost felt like it was nearly time to move, but nothing externally proved that out. The church was thrilled with us being there, we were happy, the boys were growing up and very happy with a huge back yard and lots of trees. We just felt, well, kind of fidgety, that’s all.
So, what we did in the midst of all that, was to catch “rearranging fever.” I have to admit we really made it up. Basically focusing on the living room, although the family room, and even the bedrooms were not spared, we began to experiment with moving the furniture around, just to give us a different perspective, or to simply make the room look more interesting. Couch, chairs, plants, lamps, cupboards – nothing was spared from being moved to a different angle, a different part of the room. It frankly helped the wear pattern of the carpet, but it also gave us a chance to rearrange and start fresh, it seemed, with our furniture arrangement, without of course having to pack it all up and move somewhere new.
After all these years, in eight more living spaces, I expect we have “rearranged” about every two years or so. It’ll start out, usually, as we are sipping on coffee some Saturday, that one or the other of us will say, “I wonder what it would look like if…” Pretty soon, we are either sketching out a rough plan of where things go where, or in worst case, we just start tugging chairs, moving rugs, relocating cupboards from one floor to another (not recommended!), and rearranging our lives, at least a bit. It’s always kind of fun, either half way through, or just after we have finished the transformation, to have one or both boys come upstairs, and comment – pretty loudly – “What have you done?” as their normally unchanged world gets spun around a little, and we all get a different perspective.
We moved into our current home a little over five years ago, and have always rearranged for Christmas. This past summer, during the pandemic, we donated our piano to a local church, and that spurred an enormous rearrangement, but opened up the room tremendously, in a good way. Another successful bout of rearranging fever.
About three years ago, in my office, the built-in shelving/desk system on one wall decided it no longer wished to remain where it was installed, and I found one day that the shelving unit was sitting at a 60 degree angle from the wall. Not falling down, but certainly not comfortable. We ended up unloading the entire set of shelves and the contents of the whole desk, and gave it away to someone who would like to secure it better to their wall. In turn, we bought a new desk, and separate bookcase, and so a mandatory rearrangement occurred. It actually looked pretty good, to tell the truth.
When I sauntered into retirement, therefore, last summer, I cleared out the tall imposing steel file cabinet, and switched the arrangement of the other pieces into a completely different setting. Just right, and another rearrangement. I was pretty well satisfied with how things looked – until now, as I am approaching the one-year anniversary of my fourth life, leaving work behind permanently. So, here’s the thing: I have a lot of “stuff” in my office. Also, with clearing out Moms house, taking a number of pieces of furniture and about a half million knick knacks, and then carrying home from Grafton a significant number of boxes that used to be at the farm, but now belong exclusively to Cheri – well, let’s just admit that things may indeed look a bit more cluttered than before. And out of arrangement. I mean, my model of the Saturn V rocket is stretched out above one bookcase/tv shelf, and the model of the International Space Station is across the room on top of another bookshelf. What is next to the Saturn V, you ask? Well, it just so happens that the three Norwegian gnomes (and not cute ones) that Dad bought Mom for their 25th anniversary in 1974 found their way there when I brought them back from Texas. In terms of matching genre, gnomes and rockets don’t go together well. Plus, they also are grouped next to the Major Matt Mason Space Station that our boys gave me to rekindle my childhood memories. The other space station? It is nestled next to the five-gallon stoneware water cooler on top of the bookshelf.
You can easily tell, therefore, that after a year, it pretty well points to the need for the introduction of another round of rearranging fever. So, I’m first packing away my collection of antique wooden spoons, which opens up and entire shelf. I’ll then move the gnomes, eventually giving them the perch beside the water cooler, and flying the space station over between Matt Mason and Saturn V. It’s all rather delicate, and I’m glad we won’t need special permits or such. Eventually, the model of the US Capitol and the White House, along with the Lunar Landing Module, will end up in the open bookshelf, leaving the marble top commode open to having a different display of some sort – yet to be determined.
You can see by now, how rearranging fever requires a great deal of intentionality, in some ways to overcome the accidental placement of “stuff” in a room. It should look pretty nice and even arranged when all is said and done. Then we can begin to figure out where to hang the four new art prints I found this past weekend…
Word for the day: salutary. Pronounced SAL-you-tarry. It shoots all the way back to the Latin, salus, meaning “good health.” When something is “salutary,” it means it adds to or promotes someone’s personal or social well-being. That could be physical well-being, in which case a good meal, or a nice nap both offer a salutary effect. It could also be financial, or even just how the community functions better in more health. I’ve often taught that there are some people, that when they simply walk into a room, the room gets healthier. They are indeed salutary individuals. The word also carries the root of the word, “salute,” in which someone is greeted, wishing them good health. The Spanish say, “salud,” and the Italians say “salute,” with both offering the toast of good health or blessings.
Well, the boys are still in Las Vegas, and after a nice weekend with my bride, she headed off to work this Monday morning. Today then becomes the first day in perhaps a year and a half in which I will spend the entire day alone. Sure, there have been different times when I have been home alone for an hour or so, but to have an entire day that will be mine and mine alone is pretty amazing. As I kissed Cheri goodbye, she said, “Go and have fun somewhere.” My kneejerk response was, “yep – I’m going to stay home all day.” I know that may sound even kind of dopey to “waste” a day just hanging around the house by myself, but to tell you the truth, I’ve always enjoyed that. Sure, I have some different chores that I have set out for myself – I need to marinade the roast before I put it on the grill this evening, and I need to carry some things downstairs to our storage room, but you can see from that list that it won’t be a huge burdensome day. Granted, the plumber is coming in a little while to fix something under our kitchen sink, but that shouldn’t take long. I’ll water the plants in the backyard, and open some windows to get some fresh air into the house, but nothing is earthshaking or requires a huge amount of planning or thought. I’m just home alone, by myself. When we were little, we always asked, when Mom and Dad needed to go out somewhere, “Can I be the boss of myself, and do whatever I want to?” I’m still asking that question, and perhaps today, the answer will be “yes.”
Yet – it is a bit strange. The three cats have all been fed, and gotten a morning treat, and are now hunkered down in their favorite morning sleeping spots (they will move at least twice more before the end of the day, but most likely they will use as little energy as they can, since they are cats, after all. I might shower later and have a few more cups of coffee, and even turn the radio on, if I’m inclined, but what is strange is that really anything I do, no one really will care about.
Now, I’m a born and raised introvert. Not in a creepy way, where I hide out from people or sit in the dark watching my fingernails grow, but after 40 or more years of doing church work, which meant interacting with people on all sorts of different levels, from meetings to worship to counseling sessions to teaching to visits at the hospital and at homes, it’s frankly kind of a nice feeling to not have to do that, if I don’t want (and to tell the truth, right now in my life… I don’t want). In recent years, there has a been a huge upsurge in anxiety in our country and our culture. That atmosphere has to have a release valve, and so we have also had a huge increase in people’s emotional illness and plain dumb behavior. A lot of that occurs when you deal in a church setting, because for some reason, people with issues seem to think that while they may be restricted in acting poorly in the world at large, when they get to the church, they can just put on their lack-of-self-discipline pants, and feel free to say or do whatever they please, no matter who they offend or hurt. As a pastor, you learn to begin interactions with those folks, and especially as a district superintendent, I found that I was “invited” to come to a church often because a person or persons managed to just set the place on fire, and the congregation wanted me to “fix” it. Now, I learned how to put the fires out, but the only way to truly fix that kind of environment is by folks learning to create and live within boundaries – even if that means going off by yourself for a while, until you can figure things out without hurting someone else.
Like I said, after so many years of feeling like I was part of the expeditionary force, or SWAT team, or in charge of a MASH unit to try to heal things and put stuff back together, to no longer do that has been a nice relief. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, or hated it or anything like that – it just finally became more exhausting than fulfilling, and that’s a good reason to retire after all is said and done.
So today I get to spend time alone. Oh, like I mentioned, there are all sorts of little chore and tasks I could do, and I may – or I may not. Nothing is urgent today. Nothing is required today. Nothing is earth-shaking today, and so perhaps it’s time for another cup of coffee, do an online crossword puzzle, marinade that roast and make plans now for a nice afternoon nap. Tell me what paradise looks like to you…
Word for the day: crepuscular. Pronounced kri-PUSK-you-ler. Kind of a cool word, from Latin crepusculum, which simply means “twilight, or dusk.” The simpler Latin word is creper, which is “obscure or uncertain.” A crepuscular animal is one who comes out at twilight to feed, or dance around, perhaps. Most humans are the opposite of that behavior, and when it gets to be close to the end of daylight, they/we find shelter, and call it a day.
Well, it’s been a fun weekend so far here at the Crosses. The boys have been gone since Friday morning, having taken their annual trip to Las Vegas. Cheri had Friday off, so for the past couple of days, we’ve just done what we please. The only ones who have had a bit of a fit about the weekend have been the cats. You perhaps have read how during the whole pandemic months, the animals in many zoos around the world became very lethargic and almost depressed, because the normal activity of interacting with folks visiting was taken away from them. I can tell you that when half the household, which stays home almost all the time, suddenly is gone for two days – and for two nights – cats just don’t know what to do. At 3am this morning, Hermes stood in the stairway, which is a perfect echo chamber, and howled for about 15 minutes straight, trying to wake the boys up. Of course, they were hundreds of miles away, so THEY never heard him. However, the ones who stayed home were privileged to hear the feline middle of the night concert. What a little knucklehead. Even this morning, after getting their pats and scratches from Cheri and me, they still went up and down the stairs, looking for their “boys.” It’ll be a good reunion when they get back on Tuesday, although I wouldn’t doubt but that there will be some pouting and stand-offish-ness from the four leggers.
Anyway, we have had lots of fun heading to all sorts of places in town, especially now that the mask mandate is pretty well over. Yesterday, Cheri stopped at a favorite store, and found three pair of shoes, size 6, on sale, so it was a banner purchase for her. We then headed over to the mall. I haven’t been in our mall for more than a year, to tell the truth, but it’s wide open again, and one of the jewelers is having a liquidation sale as they prepare to move to a new location. We had a good discussion a couple of weeks ago, and decided that we most likely were not going to take a trip anywhere for our 40th anniversary, coming up next month. We do have a few things planned, but the idea of jetting somewhere and spending a few days exploring, when we really don’t know what’s still safe or not made that idea a bit iffy. Therefore, instead of a trip, we decided that we would celebrate by giving each other rings for that special day. The jeweler was a perfect spot, and with pretty good discounts, we now have two rings, nestled away in the closet until June 13th.
We then made our way to Olive Garden, where we finally made use of the gift cards we had received for Christmas, and ended up spending $5 for the tip for the meal, leaving us full and happy.
When we got home, Cheri began to talk about a rug that we had seen in a thrift store the day before, and wondered if it might fit in the uncarpeted large/little room off our family room downstairs. She has been wanting something to make it cozier and more comfortable to walk on, so back we went over to the store, which really carries some very nice upscale things for sale, many donated from estates to raise money for hospice. We had the measurement of the room in hand, and sure enough, the rug was a pretty close fit. I even suggested cutting off about four inches on one end. In looking at the rug, however, it seemed to be very well made, and unlike what you might find in a usual economy store. The price was right, so we purchased it, and began to haul it to the car.
For some reason that I can’t figure out, the rug seemed as though it continued to grow as we moved closer to the car. Usually, I’m pretty good at figuring out space needed for things, but I was way off on this one. We put down half the back seat, pushed the rug in, and it fit, if you didn’t count the three feet hanging out the back. I then pushed the front seat up as far as it could go, and with Cheri then sitting behind me, we shoved the rug up another foot or so, but there was no way it was going to fit into the back with the back door closed. No problem, I thought – it can hang out a little ways, since it was a nice sunny day, and we could take the back streets home to our house.
One of the features of our car that I had never experienced before yesterday is that when you drive with the back hatch not completely closed, it lets you know that by emitting a constant beeping sound, so long as the car is moving. It’s a particularly loud beeping sound, just so you won’t mistake it for being something like not wearing your seatbelt. It’s also amazing that the beeping sound is constant, and never goes off. Ever. Unless you come to a complete stop, the beeping surrounds you, and it also has the ability to announce to everyone within hearing distance that “this car is driving with the hatch unsecured…”
I took as many back streets as I could, listening to the beeping as I made our way home. Small children playing in their front yards all came to a stop, stood and stared at the red beeping car as it drove by. People stopped raking their yards, or working on their cars – I expect they probably were just jealous, wishing they also had a constant beeping car, as it drove down their street.
Finally, after too long, we made it home to the driveway, and I shut off the car, and brought silence once again to our world. The good thing was that the rug was/is so heavy that there was no way it would have slid out of the back of the car. The not-so-good thing is that the rug was/is pretty heavy. As we stumbling carried the rug through the front door way, it felt like we were wrestling a giant anaconda, that suddenly went stiff as a rolled up rug. Making it into the front entryway, we both decided that “tomorrow” would be a good day to carry it downstairs, clean out half the room and unroll it. Tomorrow is always a great day to do something you don’t want to do today.
Still curious about the value of the rug, since it seemed to be so well made, we looked up the manufacturer, and the size and the particular name of the rug (apparently at some point, if rugs are big enough, they get their own names). Heading to the computer, I punched in the information for search, and immediately the information popped up.
Apparently, we got a steal. Indeed, this was not simply some common rug that you might find at Walmart or Target. As we found the brand, then the name, then the color and then finally the size, it turns out the rug that we bought for not much money at all is worth close to $1000! Cheri’s first words were, “Well, I’d never buy a $1000 rug!” I told her, “Well, you just did – you just paid less than 10% of what it is worth…” I must say she was feeling pretty smart for picking out such a great rug. Today is now yesterday’s tomorrow, so sometime today we will give it its new home in the basement.
It’s beyond fun when you try to be intentional about something, and while you are accomplishing that, you end up getting surprised when you realize something you had never seen before! An accident that opens your eyes to something unexpected is always a “good accident” so long as the unexpected is good itself, and not a huge mistake. We’ll take this one, and try to avoid the bad ones, still attempting to be intentional in most everything we do.
We will have to wait a little bit before putting the rug in place. You see, there is at least one cat, with others waiting, who insists on sleeping on Cheri’s lap for now. First things first…
Word for the day: skeuomorph. Pronounced SKEW-oh-morf. As we move more and more into the digital age, we are inundated with “skeuomorphs.” The word is Greek, from two other Greek words, skeuos, “container” and morph “shape.” A skeuomorph is something that is designed to look as though it does the job it’s supposed to do. Not a very helpful definition. Better to offer examples. On your computer, or your phone, you may have an application that functions as a calculator. The digital picture looks like a calculator and as you “punch” buttons, it may even make a clicking sound. Or the camera on your phone, when you “shoot” the picture, clicks the shutter – or when your phone “rings,” or you “push” the buttons to make a call, and we call that “dialing” someone, it’s all a skeuomorph. Even the copper coating on a penny is a skeuomorph, used to make it look like what we expect it should look like. In truth, a penny make today is 97.5% zinc, and only has a copper coating, since it is so expensive. Actually the last time pennies were completely copper-made was from 1793-1837. After that there was always a blend, though not to the extent of today’s skeuomorph.
I’ve mentioned before that when winter comes to the Northland, it’s almost as if everything moves into suspended animation. Sure, there is school and work and hockey and basketball, but so much of outdoor things simply don’t exist. It’s a matter of opening the garage door, getting in the car, driving off, and then coming back home and sequestering inside. Sure, there are Christmas decorations to put up, but often they are left until spring comes around. Kids mostly play inside, treadmills get put to use, and the time of silent winter reigns supreme.
And then, all of a sudden, it’s as the switch gets turned on in our world. This year, it seemed to happen on about May 11th. There were some pre-event things happen, like some folks mowing their lawns, even one or two turning their sprinkler systems on – but those were rarities, and speak more to the obsession of the homeowner. However, on that May 11th, everything broke loose. It was probably because the forecast showed us to finally be out of a night of freezing, because suddenly, every lawn in the neighborhood was mowed, almost at the same time, and leaves from last fall raked up, and shrubs and even trees were pruned, front steps swept off, garages hosed out to get rid of the dirt and salt that had collected on the tires all winter. Different little flags were hung as decorations, that no longer had a snow and ice theme, but now had bright flowers.
And the flowers! The nurseries and plant stores in town were overrun by hundreds of folks with flats of annuals and other plants to plant. It was akin to Black Friday shopping before the pandemic. We participated in it too – gotta get the blooms – gotta make things all pretty. Within days, the fronts and backs of homes were exploding with the colorful plants that will flourish for a good fifteen weeks, until September comes, and they begin to look shaggy and tired, and neglected a bit, because, frankly, if we don’t get the rain, it’s a huge pain to have to daily stand there and water the pots and pots of flowers that you got carried away with in buying…
The other sight – and sound – runs constant from about 7am to 7pm most every day. Driveways are broken up and new ones poured. Large landscaping tears out old evergreens and plant new ones. Garage doors up and down the street are left open all day, as utility trailers sit backed up onto the driveway, and guys with tool belts walk in and out of the houses, transforming kitchens or bathrooms or family rooms or some where else that needs change. You see, it’s warm enough to leave the doors open, without freezing the interior, and the mosquitos have not quite turned out to begin their annual bloodsucking work. So, what we must do – is renovate.
There is of course also the sight of kids on bikes, kids on scooters, kids of roller blades, kids just being outside and yelling and screaming for most of the daylight hours, as they play basketball in the backyard courts, or bounce on the trampolines, or even play street rollerblade hockey, that has to be paused frequently as they gather up their goals and move them to the side of the street to let the cars drive by. People are taking walks, on sidewalks, in the street, where ever, often either pulling reluctant dogs along behind them, or having to walk briskly to keep up with a quick pooch who will, on a dime, go from trotting to a complete stop to sniff a tree or some other intriguing spot on the grass.
And out come the grills, so that most weekends, right around 5 or 6pm, the aromas of brats, hamburgers, steaks, chicken, barbeque and other carnivore delights fill the air. Some folks actually sit in their backyard, but many nowadays, it seems, drag lawn chairs out to their driveway, and sit in the front yard. Always kind of an odd practice, when they have a good ¼ acre of yard behind the house they could enjoy.
On Fridays, if you look out your front window, you will see a dozen or more pickups, hauling the fishing boats from the weekly storage, and loading them up with tackle and bait and lots of beverages and other munchies, as they prepare to get to the “lakes,” which for us are all the spots in Minnesota just across the river. It gets a bit quieter Saturday and Sunday, at least until about 4pm when the boats come back and the kids comes back, and we start the week all over again.
This is the lively part of the year. It’s when we have to cram a year’s worth of outside into about four months, and perhaps even less than that. We know that’s how things operate up here. So, we savor every day we can, filling it full of work and relaxation, with the screen door on, until fall comes and we have to change it out for the storm door before the first snow comes. But for now, there is no chance of snow, and a hope of rain, and lots and lots of sunshine, so you have to leave your car door open for a few moments when you find it in the parking lot, to let the heat out – so you can actually sit in the car without having heat stroke. Those are the day of summer – how delightful.
Word for the day: euphemism. Pronounced YOU-fem-ism. We’ve heard this word often, but may not know its origin. The word, of course, comes from the Greek, euphemizein, which means “speak with fair words.” Breaking it down further, you have eu – “good” – and pheme – “speech.” The Greeks were a superstitious lot, and would work hard to avoid certain words of “ill-omen” in their religious ceremonies, so a euphemism was a gentle word or expression in place of a harsher or more blunt word. “They are going over a bit of a rough patch in their relationship,” instead of “He was caught having an affair, and now she wants a divorce.” You and I use euphemisms all the time. “Well, it has an unusual taste,” instead of “this makes me want to barf.”
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.