Tuesday, November 24, 2009

God and applesauce

Cooking isn't something I enjoy, so I do it as seldom as I can get away with. Fortunately, Jim is understanding and we eat out a couple of times a week and each prepare our own meals most of the rest of the time; when the weather's good, we frequently barbecue and make a meal together. This singular behavior is something we both learned during our individual times of living alone, and it suits us well. Oh, he or I will cook for the other on the odd occasion, but truthfully we're both quite comfortable with our arrangment.

I do enjoy "event" cooking - holidays and other special occasions - and periodically I'll be consumed with the need to make a special meal. Jim likes my lasagna, and a freezer full of clams will occasionally call my name, turning into delicious clam chowder. I do bake Christmas cookies every year, a holdover from when my boys were small and something they still look forward to having. I don't really enjoy baking cookies, though, and anticipate that some day one of my daughters-in-law will take it over. But I'd probably miss doing it, even so.

In the fall, however, I find that I want to make applesauce! Now, applesauce doesn't really qualify as cooking; it's too easy. The prep is the difficult part for me - not hard, mind you, just stultifyingly boring. The coring, peeling, cubing - well, my mind wanders on to Deep Thoughts and before I know it (usually), the task is done and the easy part is upon me.

This morning I set upon about 10 pounds of apples with paring knife in hand. As I peeled each apple, I thought about how nice it would be to take the scraps home to put in our compost bin, and how soon - amazing, how soon! - they would mingle with tree and grass trimmings, coffee grounds, eggshells, leaves, and all the other biologic detritus of yard and kitchen, becoming a rich addition to the soil for next year's garden.

Since my mind tends to take strange and not always obvious turns at times like these, I was soon reminded of a book about space that my youngest grandson carries around and reads to anyone who will listen. It mentions in there that everything that exists today had its genesis in the instant our universe came into being. Science tells us that matter cannot be created or destroyed, only changed. And so, in some mysterious way, the apples that I peeled this morning are as old as the universe; in the process of composting their trimmings, I will be part of the process that will change them into something else!

As I continued along this seldom-traveled path in my mind, I thought about us - you, me, all the people we have ever known, all those who wish us well and those who wish us harm. We, too, were there in that instant of Creation, Big Bang - whatever you choose to call it. We are made of recycled parts, as are our children, grandchildren, people in other nations, people from other times. We don't even have to wait to die to become a part of this continuum; our bodies shed cells constantly, hair falls out, fingernails are clipped, and our own body waste returns to again be used through this mysterious (to me, anyway) process.

My final hairpin turn (the apples were in the pot and on the stove) was one of those moments that have just been waiting somewhere in my brain for decades! Why, given this natural process of which most of us are aware, and to which most of us subscribe, do some of us reject the concept of Evolution? Is it not just another example of how matter changes? If my apples in Oregon were once a pterodactyl on some other continent, then why could I not have once been an emerging single-celled sea creature? Oh, I know the analogy isn't exact, but the concept is valid.

I happen to believe in a Creator; not everyone does, of course, and others believe in a Creator to the exclusion of everything else. But I like the idea of a God who recycles and re-uses. In Psalm 139 (one of my favorite Bible passages) we read:

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.

How remarkable is that?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Feeling good while feeling bad

I'm sick. Nothing serious, I think, but a sore throat, a cough, a mild headache, and sneezing and dripping. It doesn't feel like the flu - swine or otherwise - but just one of those illnesses that enervates and makes you glad you don't absolutely have to do anything!

I had the foresight yesterday to bring in enough firewood to keep the woodstove going until Jim gets home in the wee hours on Monday. I have a pot of homemade clam chowder to soothe both body and soul, I've got the remote in easy reach, a comfy sofa to doze on, my computer close at hand (obviously!), and with Jim out of town, I have the luxury of thinking of no one but me.

So, of course, being who I am, I'm thinking about my family - specifically, my middle and youngest sons and their wives.

Jason and Lisa were married on my birthday in 1996. They had been friends for several years before romance blossomed, and I first met Lisa when I was moving to Oregon in 1994. One of my fondest memories of that trip can still evoke strong emotions in me: Lisa had changed the startup sound on Jason's computer to say "I love you, Jason." Every time he turned on the computer, he was greeted with that affirming statement, and it resonated with the sentimental in me - and thrilled the mom part.

Jason and Lisa are the parents of three absolutely wonderful boys: smart, loving, handsome, funny, and all of those other superlatives that grandparents apply to their grandchildren. Of course, in this case, they're all true! They're a busy, happy, involved family. They play with the boys, they tease, they participate in scouting - generally doing all the things that good parents do.

But more importantly, they love each other - and it's obvious. Every couple of years I board an airplane and fly to the midwest to visit them. For several days, I'm right in the midst of their daily lives and get to experience their relationship up close and personal. They are such a perfect match and it warms my heart to be around them. I'm also privileged to be their "Friend" on Facebook, a medium where it's not uncommon to see see the comment
Jason > Lisa: I love you
Lisa > Jason: I love you, too

Jason and Lisa: I love you both. Thanks for being friends, lovers, excellent parents, and wonderful role models on how to make marriage work and make it fun at the same time. You make it look easy.

Ben and Briana celebrated their fifth anniversary this summer. I first met Briana when they were both in college, and was immediately drawn to her - not only because she's a warm, loving woman, but because she and Ben so obviously loved each other. And how can you not love someone who gives your youngest child that wonderful glow?

One memorable summer, they, along with my oldest son, shared my two-bedroom condo with me. It was a great opportunity to really get to know Briana and to observe their relationship. They are now the parents of two smart, loving, funny children: a boy and a girl. They, too, are good parents, and I love to watch them as they raise their children to take their places in this world. (Although Drew is still just a baby and her major focus is currently bubble-blowing and getting her teething ring into her mouth - she excels at both activities!)

Again, though, their biggest contribution to their children's well-being is the love they share and the time they make in their busy lives to reinforce that love. I am a more intimate part of their lives simply because I've been Granny Nanny since their oldest was only two-and-a-half months old. I'm in their home several days a week, and I see them at the most stressful times of the day - leaving for work in the morning, and coming home in the afternoon. We also have family events that we share, and I'm always thrilled to be a part of those. In times both stressful and relaxing, busy and laid back, their love and caring for each other shines through.

I'm also their Facebook "Friend," and love to see:

Ben: I'm making tea for my baby wife.
Briana: I'm curled up with my hubby watching old movies.

Ben and Briana: It has been and remains one of the great joys of my life to watch your love grow and to see the many ways you complement and care for each other. You reinforce my belief in marriage, and set an example for those who are privileged to be an intimate part of your life together.

Could I ask for more? I think my headache has even gone away!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Personal Best!

Today I have set a new personal standard for sloth. Not something to brag (or blog) about, you might think, but I've had a day that I get to enjoy only once a year, and the kind of day I used to dream about when the kids were small, and throughout my working career.

First, I slept till after 7:00. It meant I missed my local morning news, but I did get to watch Good Morning, America, which I enjoy.

Next, I read the newspaper, front to back, at my own pace, intermittently watching news, checking email, reading blogs, and drinking coffee. The only difficulty at this point was that I had to walk the 15 or so feet to refill my coffee cup periodically, and the bathroom is upstairs. If I'd had the foresight to move the coffeepot to the family room and rent a potty chair, I'd have been in hog heaven!

I then ate breakfast, watched a few t.v. shows that I had recorded, and resumed surfing the 'net and stoking the fire in the woodstove.

In the early afternoon, I actually went outside and brought in firewood so that I could keep myself warm while I loafed (it gets chilly when you aren't moving around, you know!), and watched some more television.

I had frozen fish filets and peas for dinner (yes, I did cook them), and then made clam chowder from the razor clams Jim and I dug last summer. I'm having dinner with Ben, Briana, Addison, and Drew tomorrow night, and had offered to bring food. It looks (and tastes) really good, and I'm proud of having found a good use for the clams since Jim doesn't care for them as much as I do.

I then sat here and watched 90 minutes of videos on YouTube that my oldest son had sent for me. They were all Wanda Sykes' HBO special, and I laughed so hard my sides hurt. She's a very funny lady, and if you don't mind some heavy-duty language, I recommend them highly.

I've had a couple of cups of tea, a glass of wine, and as soon as I finish this, I'm going to watch Grey Gardens, which I recorded in September. (While Jim's off hunting, I take advantage of the time to watch all of the shows I've saved that he isn't interested in!) After that, I'll be off to bed, and maybe I'll sleep in tomorrow, too.

The truly slothful part of this day is about to be revealed: I am still in my nightgown! I did put on my bathrobe to get firewood, but the only neighbors who could have seen me are out of town, so even that concession wasn't absolutely necessary. I'll put clothes on tomorrow.

Several weeks ago, at a family gathering, d-i-l, jr. and I had a brief exchange:

ME: I have the best life of anybody! (I was enjoying the family and especially being with Addison, Ada, and Drew.)
D-I-L, Jr.: No you don't. I do!

I win! (But I'm glad she feels that way!)

Night, all.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I've never been one who sustains long-term friendships. Oh, I still have one friend from my high school years, but we were out of touch until about three years ago, so that probably doesn't count. And my sister is my friend, and we've known each other longer than either of us would like to think. And I count my daughters-in-law among my friends - and probably always will! - but, if not for my sons, I wouldn't even know them! There are a few others, female and male, who I've known for several years, but not in sustained relationships, just the kind that you call each other every year or so and catch up.

But let me tell you about Jim and Tom.

Last month, both of these "boys" celebrated their 65th birthday. Tom's wife was out of the country, but he attended Jim's bash, and on Tom's birthday, we had him over for dinner and conversation, along with a tiramisu with candles for dessert.

Tom and Jim met when they began attending Jesuit High School at the age of 14 (that was when Jim still had hair, I'm told!). Each of them has been heard exclaiming recently, "Fifty years! We've known each other for fifty years!" It's nearly as amazing to me as it is to them, even if for different reasons. I can't imagine knowing anyone I'm not related to for that long, and they (bless their hearts) can't really, deep down, imagine that they aren't still teenagers getting into some kind of mischief!

Their friendship has survived Jim's stint in the Navy back in the 60s, Tom's job move to Memphis in the 80s, marriages and divorces, raising children, travel, and most recently Tom and his wife living in Mexico for most of the year.

But every fall, without fail, finds Tom here in Portland for their annual elk-hunting expedition. After days and weeks of planning, organizing, discussing, reorganizing, packing, and double-checking their equipment and shopping lists, they're read for adventure. When Tom lived in Memphis, most of the packing up and preparation fell to Jim, but these days they work together.

This morning at about 6:45 the two of them, along with Tom's son Jeff, headed for parts east, reminding me a lot of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn! Jim's son Mike will join them tomorrow and, although I'm pretty sure it's less and less about the elk each year - at least for the two old guys - the friendship always benefits from the time they spend together at elk camp.

Happy hunting, Jim and Tom! May there be many years of it left for you to share!