2 years later

So, today will be 2 years since Himself died. As expected, I am pretty emotional, which I hate (it’s uncomfortable, but at least there’s no one around to see it so I can be as red-eyed  and soggy as I want). There is so much I am grateful for right now: 30 amazing years with a remarkable man, our 4 sons who have grown up to be fine people, my parents who have come alongside me  with this house that gives me something on which I can focus for the future, friends who let me be awkward, and a wonderful Redeemer God Who has shown me that life doesn’t have to end when a beloved leaves.

I’ve said it before, my life didn’t end, it just took a turn I wasn’t expecting. I guess for the most part I’m ok with that. I might as well be, not being ok with it wouldn’t have changed the path, but it might have made me angry and bitter with it. What good would that do, except to, well, make me an angry and bitter person. The people in my family tend to live a very long time, and if that’s factored in, I might be only halfway through my life. I want to honor God for everything He’s done for me, and that requires a joyful attitude  (A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22), and a willingness to work at whatever (And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 1 Thessalonians 4:11), and take it as it comes, leaning on God for guidance (If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5). 

Thing is, God doesn’t lay our path out in front of us to see the whole thing. We can’t even see what’s going to happen a minute from now. He knows, but we don’t. Can you imagine what it would be like to know the future yet be unable to do anything about it? Ew. That would stink. However, that doesn’t mean sitting on our hands and being paralyzed. We’re supposed to ask for wisdom, and guidance, and work ( And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). My work was always here at home, running a household. Now I need to work somewhere else, and am grateful to have the resources to get some education so when/if (see what I did there? None of us know what the future holds but there’s nothing wrong with planning for it…Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8). Imagine if we all threw up our hands and said “I’ma let God take care of me so I’ll just sit here and wait for everything to fall in my lap”. Pfft. Trusting God also means trusting that He gave me brains to use and a body that functions so I *CAN* work. In the mean time, God has provided me with some amazing resources through the whole ordeal of Himself’s demise.I am frequently awed by that. I’m not meaning the stuff type resources, but the fortitude I didn’t know was there. Something allowed me to grow internally, some seed was planted a long time ago, that has pushed through the hard-packed soil of grief and confusion. I don’t know what it will grow into, but something’s there. (insert metaphor about watering it with tears and a cheesy poem stolen from Chicken Soup for the Soul)

So that’s where I’m at now. 2 years later, I’m in school. I have a grandchild and a move planned in several months. Occasionally I’m angry with Himself for all this upheaval and change, but it’s not like he wanted to do it. Often I’m happy for him because he’s free of the frustrations of this earthly life. I’m curious and a little excited about my future- it feels like taking a trip to another country where I may speak the language, but the culture is different and I have to learn a new way of doing things.  I’ve had to set aside many things I used to do. The garden is completely neglected, though I’m trying to do at least a little bit of it. The way the household functions is completely different now. That’s been a learning experience. Decisions are made in a different way now that there’s no one to consult on them. What’s important has definitely changed. Occasionally I resent it, mostly I don’t.

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Now it’s my turn.

#4 was sick last week, like really, take-him-to-the-doctor sick, which I almost never do. I’m of mind that God made our bodies to handle disease, and fever and rest is part of that. But, he was pretty puny, and his cough was alarming, so I took him there. He also missed an entire week of school, soccer try-outs, and a bunch of work. Now he’s on Winter Break until Tuesday (right now it’s Saturday) (I think) and will spend most of the time playing catch up on the homework and reading other people’s facebook posts about skiing and camping and stuff.

Just as well, now I’ve got it and I’m going to lean on him for the stuff I won’t get done because I’m in the bed being puny.  Except that schoolwork waits for no one and online schoolwork has zero tolerance for not getting things like homework and quizzes (and a big ol’ test) done at the proper times. So I’m trying to bang it out while I can still think. Fortunately the math is graphing and I can handle that ok. The other stuff I’ve got high enough grades in that if I do poorly this week it won’t affect the grades horribly. Yesterday I felt a little weird so stayed up a little later than normal getting the week’s work in 2 classes done and done. Now I have to remember to turn it in and comment on the discussion boards, to get credit for attending. I wrote it down on a large piece of paper in bright red ink and posted it above the computer monitor, so even in a drug induced stupor I ought to be able to get it done.

#2’s Girlfriend works at an organic farm, and can bring home the Uglies (that is, vegs that don’t pass the aesthetic inspection but are just fine anyway). When I got up this morning the dining table was covered with all sorts of fabulous roots, and the sink was full of black kale and swiss chard. Like CHRISTMAS almost! I do love me some root vegetables. All that largess called for a giant pot of soup, especially what with the flu making itself at home, like that weird aunt who smells funny and leaves used tissues all over the place. So, there is soup, which is what one needs when one is dealing with disease and infirmity.

Root Veg Soup

6 quarts (it’s what I had) homemade chicken broth, water to bring it up to 2 gallons

2 onions, chopped and sauteed

12+cups chopped assorted root vegs-roughly equal parts turnips; purple, orange, and white carrots, parsnips, beets

2 whole heads of smoked garlic (something #2 came up with. Yum, y’all), chopped (I know, people don’t have heads of smoked garlic laying around. Use 5-6 cloves of fresh garlic)

3 chicken legs

3 Thai bird peppers, 1 ancho pepper- all dried, seeds shaken out, left mostly whole

big handful of fresh oregano, thyme and rosemary, roughly chopped

couple of teaspoons dried toasted coriander, ground

teaspoonish dried toasted cumin, ground (I know that’s vague but I don’t ever measure, just kind of pour some in until it looks right)

a few bay leaves

some black pepper and salt

cook all that for a while, pick out the chicken, de-bone it, chop the meat and put it back in. (an Aussie friend suggested cockatoo but chicken’s cheaper unless the cockatoo has learned to insult you and you’re fed up with it)

after that’s all cooked for a while and the veggies are nice and tender, chop up a bunch of kale and swiss chard- I think I put in about 4-5 cups after it was chopped.

The secret to really yummy soup is to use a good broth. I make mine because it’s easy and cheap. And tastier than the stuff in a box.  Also, use lots of seasonings. LOTS of herbs and spices. Many layers of flavor from different herbs and spices make for a rich and palate pleasing stuff. Parsley would be good- I just didn’t have any. I almost never use dried herbs. Fresh is so good. If you don’t have an herb garden, and you can find some in large quantities (check a farmer’s market), you can freeze it and have it to use like fresh any time.

Here’s how I make broth. If you have a crockpot, use it!

Whenever you roast a chicken, or buy one of those rotisserie chickens, save the bones. Put them on a cookie sheet with an onion cut up (just chunks, don’t even need to peel it), a carrot broken into chunks, a couple of cloves of garlic, and maybe a couple of stalks of celery cut into big pieces. Roast in the oven at 400F until the vegs are brown (maybe 45 minutes) and dump it all over into a big crockpot. Add a few whole black pepper things, and some fresh herbs. Fill the crockpot with water, turn it on low, and forget about it for 3-4 days. when you remember it, scoop out the solids, and bag the broth in ziploc bags or quart plastic containers, and freeze. Use it for making rice and soup, or anything else you’d use broth for.  Usually when I roast a chicken for supper, I’ll cut the meat off to serve it, and throw the bones and vegs in the oven while we eat. About the time we finish, it’s done roasting, and goes into the crockpot.  You don’t have to cook it for 4 days, but I have found the longer it cooks, the richer the broth. You can do the same thing with beef, pork, or lamb bones. To really don’t have to peel the vegetables, not even the onions. Just cut them all up in big chunks.

A while back, I was smoking some chickens, and #2 opined that smoking garlic would be interesting. So, he acquired some really fat heads of garlic, drizzled them in a little olive oil and put each head in the cup of a muffin pan. This went into the smoker (low, cherry wood) for 3-4 hours. The garlic was like roasted garlic- soft and caramelized, with a lovely smokey flavor. Like roasted garlic, you can use a whole head in something without causing a disruption. He put the smoked heads into a bag and stuck them in the freezer. I happened on them when I was pulling out chicken legs. That’s why they’re in the soup.

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Poor babies

No really, no sarcasm there at all. #4 has The Flu With a Vengeance. I, to be honest, am kind of thankful he has it now, and not in a month during Spring break. He is taking a 2 week school trip, for which I have been working and he has been saving, to Europe, and I am figuring if he’s sick now, he’ll be chock full of antibodies and maybe won’t be sick then. I also went down the vitamin and supplements aisle at the store and got all the ones labeled Immune Health, and am pumping him full.  Not too full, as one can overdo it, but full enough based on what the label and Dr. Google says.

At first (because he seems to catch every single thing that erupts at school) I panicked and thought he had some sort of immune deficiency and of course Dr. Google is aces at making worried mothers panic about their babies. Then I pondered the other kids at the school and how they ALL get sick a lot and realized what really needs to happen is a big tent over the school and a bleaching of it all. Not very practical so I’m going to start with the handsful of pills, chicken soup, and motherly sympathy.

I remember growing up and being allowed one, maybe 2 days to be sick. Anything beyond that was probably malingering. Then, at the beginning of the 8th grade, I got mononucleosis. Be rest for a month was required and this was back in the day when there was only 4 channels on tv and daytime was either soap operas or PBS little children’s stuff like Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.  I remember Dad being very frustrated, because I *appeared* well enough- nothing gross was coming out of my nose and there was no cough, I didn’t have much of a fever unless I did something more active than watch bad daytime tv or eat jello. It was great for about a week and then I went stir-crazy. To this day, I get impatient with anyone (including myself) who’s sick for more than a day or two, since they’re probably malingering.

But #4? He’s got the Netflix and the Amazon Prime and a whole stack of DVDs at his disposal. He can watch every sort of documentary online, while eating my homemade chicken soup and drinking hot tea. I don’t have any sort of regular TV reception (Why would I, when I can watch all the tv shows without commercials?) (Just a year behind) Lucky kid. Well sort of. He’d rather be at school then at soccer practice or work than sitting in a recliner covered in blankets and doped up on Theraflu. Isn’t that how it is? If he were at school he’d be wishing to be at home with soup and TV.

I am seriously hoping I don’t catch the epizootie.

  1. 1.
    relating to or denoting a disease that is temporarily prevalent and widespread in an animal population.
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(High school counts as an animal population, right? I think it does)


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Art Appreciation

One of the courses I’m taking this semester is Art Appreciation, in which the instructor gets to attempt to pound the language of Art into the heads of a class full of Welding Students With Trucks. It’s fun to sit next to Chase and Jordan in their camo jackets, aromatic with the scent of grease and welding flux, as she explains the sensuality of Picasso’s painting of prostitutes and why they’re wearing African masks. Currently we are on the language of art, stuff like the difference between abstract and nonrepresentational, and hue vs chroma. (not a wrestling match, btw. That would be Hugh vs Kroma). The class is interesting to me, which is enough. I am not concerned with welders, unless it’s#4 learning from Mr. Joe
Anyway, we have a project due Feb. 20. (which I need to start on). We are to make a collage, using magazines, etc, and replicate a Master work (that is, something by someone for whom everyone have heard)(is it “have heard, or “has heard”?). I’ve chosen Picasso’s First Steps.


Pablo Picasso First Steps

It’s one of the few Picassos I actually like- mainly because it seems to capture all the awkwardness of a toddler learning to walk. Today the plan is to go to the school print shop- where I can get a color 11×14 print of it for 35 cents (provided I can find my jump drive and get the .jpeg there). The bits of paper (or whatever) have to be no larger than a postage stamp, and completely cover at least an 8.5×11 piece of foamboard (available at the Dollar Tree for $1). I have glue. She made a strong point of telling us how cheap it would be, even providing a stack of magazines from the library (things like Funeral Directors Weekly, and Diesel Truck Times. O the irony of making a copy of Girl With A Pearl Earring out of coffin pieces and internal combustion engines).

So, this morning, before my 1:00 appointment with Charles The Infant Math Tutor (seriously, his facial fuzz is both minimal and adorable), I am going to have the image printed, get to the $1 store for foam board, and to the StuffMart for deodorant (#4), velcro (boydog panties)(not my boydog- for a rescue society), and cast a brief and hairy eyeball onto the current algebraic systematic mockery of my intellect. (polynomials, the kind with the stuff raised to the nth.) (way too complicated and will never be used but ’tis a hoop through which I must jump and will, albeit with much complaining).

All in all, school clucks along nicely, like a contented hen who’s laying the daily egg. Whether or not those eggs will hatch into something (I consider) useful remains to be seen. My basic Calvinist worldview holds well at the moment- that is, that everything has it’s purpose, and God’s got a good plan for the whole thing (even if the plan differs from my plan, God know I didn’t really plan for Himself to heigh off to the heavenly realms so soon) and my job is to do what’s in front of me right now and let Him handle the future. I’m ok with the current situation being full of glue and magazines like some sort of 3rd grade situation, and the 4x to the nth times 3x to the power of i, because I have recently met a bunch of Millennials who give me hope for the future. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

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A to the 3 to the xyz

So, I’m taking college algebra this semester. As an online class (rather than in person with a real human teacher, just a guy who’s available to help if we have an issue of which I have myriad), I have a textbook and a pat on the back and a good luck with a thumbs up and a snicker. I haven’t done any real math other than balancing a checkbook in 30+ years. The last time I did any real math was when Mrs M was patiently waiting for the geometry to stick in my head long enough to take a test without embarrassing myself.  Now, my attitude is different. Previously 30 years ago, I was content to pass. A 70 was fine. Even a 65 and begging for some last minute extra credit was ok with me. I didn’t care. I knew I wasn’t going to be an engineer or anything.

Now though, it’s different. I want to do more than pass. I want to make an A and that 30 on the quiz (that’s not 30 out of, say, 45. No. It’s a 30%. Which is bad.) says I probably won’t. However, a while back, when I knew I would have to take some sort of entrance thing and do well, or else have to take Remedial (“we don’t call it that here because some people have issues with it”)Math, Dad got me  the Great Courses Algebra 1 and 2 dvds (this is an entirely uncompensated endorsement) and I’ve been watching them this weekend. The guy on them is GREAT at explaining the complexities of the assorted ways to solve quadratic equations- you know, those x²+13x-590=13x²-43, solve for x types of problems.

I see them and I think WHO CARES! BUT I CAN MAKE BISCUITS WITHOUT A RECIPE AND I KNOW HOW TO MAKE MY OWN LAUNDRY DETERGENT and all that is way more practical than whatever the square root of whatever might be.

However, it is a requirement in order to get the degree. I don’t HAVE to take the algebra, I COULD just take regular old business math but then all I’d get is a certificate that says I took some business classes, and not a degree. And I want a degree. Granted, it’s not a bachelor degree business from Harvard or Vanderbilt or anything, it’s just an associates degree from a local community college…but it is mine. Or will be. Hopefully. If I can pass the math.

In between solving for x and sobbing, No seriously, I got so frustrated with it at one point I was actually crying (and embarrassed I was, too) and ready to throw things, but didn’t throw anything and recovered my dignity before anyone saw it. (I think) and am still determined to solve for the x and not be scared of y’s.

I’ve also learned (well you see it enough on TV, what with people needing the safe places and all) that coloring helps relax my mind. I got a coloring book of mandalas, that also came with a CD so when I color them all up I can print out more and do it again. It is supremely relaxing and the opposite of solving for things that are supposed to be numbers but aren’t.

Part of the course involves a discussion board, which right now is mostly people complaining about math and how hard it is. One person made the point that it is like learning a language. I though (but didn’t say) “Right. But, I’m being told to read a novel in this language when I can barely ask where the bathroom is.” That’s sure what it feels like, anyway.

After getting the stinker of a grade on the quiz, I threw myself at the mercy of the instructor guy, in an email where I said “I DID HORRIBLE! If I go see a tutor for an hour (the school has free math tutoring, which means I’m likely not the only one with issues) may I retake the quiz? Is that a stupid question?” to which he replied something that kind of implied he may either drop the grade or let me retake…I don’t know which but after the tutoring session I’m going to email and beg. I’m not ashamed to do that. I’ve been on the President’s List for 3 semesters now and if I do poorly in the math I won’t make it this semester and you know what THAT means?! DO YOU?! It means absolutely nothing. But still.

However, between the Great Courses and Khan Academy and a bunch of YouTube videos I’m kind of figuring out the different between solving for a square and some other stuff. But right now I’m going to go color a picture and watch TV.

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Here’s what I think…

(somewhat political statement ahead. Since this is my personal platform, I’m going to say what I think and while I recognize your right to do the same, you don’t get to tell me I’m wrong. Get your own blog if you want to do that.)

I don’t write politics. I just don’t. In general Politics (the ones with the capital P, instead of the lower case one) don’t affect me much. I tend to ignore them mostly, except for maybe an occasional *tsk* and eyeroll when some federal-level politician gets caught sender wiener photos to an unpaid intern. What was he thinking? Apparently his parents didn’t say anything when they found the Penthouse magazines under his mattress when he was a teen. Or maybe it isn’t their fault at all, and he’s just too full of himself to think he’d get caught.

Anyway, this time around, I’m still hunkering into my own personal space and pretty much wondering how the Politics will affect me. Probably some, maybe a lot. While I wasn’t a big fan of the last administration (frankly, I haven’t been a fan of any administration that I can recall. They’ve all had their shortcomings), I was (and still am, for as long as it will last) grateful for the ACA (Obamacare), and concerned about what’s going to happen with it and how it will be replaced. I’m not the only one there. This is a thing that will directly affect me. However, like everything else, I’m going to see what happens before I get spooled up about it.

I have that luxury. I’m not a school teacher who will be affected by whoever the new Education Secretary will be. Nor am I really anything else that will be affected directly, unless there is a Department of Widows and Retirees. Will I lose my Pell grant, that’s paying most of my tuition? If I do, I’ll find something else to do. I am, to be honest, in a Very Good Place and have the privilege of not worrying too much.

(Here’s where I get Religious and Philosophical)

I think, since God is the one who puts our leaders in place:

“It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.” (Daniel 2:21)

“With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please.” (Jeremiah 27:5)

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

and God will give us the leaders we deserve:  Judges 8:33-9:21 (It’s long but appropriate),

I think it behooves us to recognize that, as a nation, we have the president we deserve because God put him there. Whether or not I approve or disapprove is moot. I also think that we have every right to protest, to argue and complain, to write our congresspersons, to do what we see fit to attempt change where it’s needed. I’m not real sure how much that will affect the decisions being made, but it will surely affect them more than if we do nothing. I am grateful to live in a place where such goings-on are legal, and I hope you are as well.

But I do surely wonder what the next 4 years hold.  I do not, however, wonder why we get the leader we deserve. Because I think that much is obvious, no matter what your political leanings say.



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Weekend in Alabama

Since Monday was a holiday (no school for any of us), I went to Alabama on Friday, to work on The New House and see assorted family and friends. It was a most successful trip.

Updates on the house at A New House . Dad and I worked on it.

#3 and Fine Wife are making plans to rebuild. It’s exciting! The community where they live has been incredibly generous, and they have started gathering up furniture and household items. I’m impressed at how frugal they are, and they are obviously having fun with it. Grandpunkin, of course, at 18 months old has no clue what’s going on, as long as there’s macaroni and cheese to eat, and a dump truck to shove around.

Saturday night we had a fairly spontaneous Gathering On The Front Porch. Mom and Dad’s house has a massive wrap-around porch (literally it goes around all 4 sides of the house, and is 8 feet wide) full of rocking chairs. #3 and Friend W/Kids showed up after a gun competition, and a 6-pack of Corona materialized. Soon after, Fine Wife and Grandpunkin appeared (all this resulted in 4 pickup trucks parked in the yard). FW also had a tiny, tiny baby goat (born 10 days premature and rejected by it’s mother) and a bottle of colostrum that she was feeding it a few drops at a time. The dogs were loving attention by one of the kids, 2 of the other kids were running around the porches, and trying to keep Grandpunkin from face-planting off the stairs. 4 generations of people were talking and laughing and running around, dogs were scratched, beer was consumed, all for a couple of hours. At one point a car came in (one does not accidentally go down this road, what with the gates and all, and it is pretty obviously a private road) that no one recognized and the younger generation of grown men got up and looked threatening (not to mention all the trucks and dogs and beer on the porch rail) and the car turned around and left. We have no idea who it was but were not happy about it. The gate had been left open but diligence in closing it commenced right after.

It was a good weekend. AND the house here in Georgia was NOT a disaster when I came home!


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