Friday, June 25, 2010

Joe's 15-Year Project

While preparing for Adam's graduation party, I discovered some pictures from the spring of 1995, the year we moved into our house.

Our lot really was a sandbox sort of place, and not a single tree graced the two and a half acres though there tons of trees and bushes on the golf course behind the house.

Our famous digging lab died in November.  Since there isn't more to do with our grass as it already looks more and more like a putting green, we decided it was time to add some color to our yard.

It all began last fall when Joe and the boys started to remove the stuff we thought would make good landscaping in 1995.  By last fall, we knew it didn't.

Having been able to finally replace siding damaged in the 1997 storms, our newly "greened" house needed something different out front, so we put the boys to work.  Jakob most enjoyed the heavy equipment he used to pulverize the original sidewalk.  Adam and Joe moved all the brick landscape block that made our original bed in front of the house.  The end result is a wider bed to the right of the front door, a narrower and prettier path to the front door, and a larger bed to the left of the front door.

Most of what we've now planted will be virtually maintenance-free in coming years, and we are so excited to watch it grow.

Bed just to the east of the driveway/pathway.

Bed in front of house. 

West of the house.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater...

Yesterday I learned there is a pumpkin shortage in the world.  Really!  There is!  Who would have guessed????

One of my favorite seniors asked for pumpkin bars for his Sunday graduation party.

Guess what?

There is no canned pumpkin to be found. 

I went to Cub last night to pick up the two ingredients I needed for the pumpkin bars - canned pumpkin and vegetable oil.  Couldn't find the canned pumpkin, so I asked a staff member.  "Oh no," she said, "we haven't had canned pumpkin for almost a year.  There's a shortage, you know."  I didn't know, obviously.  "I think I heard Coburns has some." 

I called Coburns.  The young lady on the phone put me on hold and came back with a happy answer, "Yes," she said, "it's in aisle four."  Yippee!  Pay dirt!

I drove to Big Lake and went to aisle four.  There, on a sign posted strategically where the canned pumpkin ought to be, was the same explanation.  "There is currently a pumpkin shortage and we're not sure when more canned pumpkin will be available."

This morning I called Byerly's.  They don't have any either.  "There's a pumpkin shortage, you know."  I do know now.

One of my favorite seniors is going to have to be happy with carrot cake.  It's probably really all about the cream cheese frosting anyway.

Nice that I don't need to purchase a single ingredient to make carrot cake.  

Of course knowing that there's a shortage of pumpkins makes me long for a few pumpkin-themed desserts (and I don't even eat dessert).  So, next fall I'm going to make some pumpkin stuff to freeze and use for bars.  It's really simple according to Worth the Whisk blogger, Patti. 
  1. Rinse off the pumpkins, plop them on a baking sheet, roast at 350 degrees F. for 90 minutes or until tender.  
  2. Let cool for a while.
  3. Slice in half, scoop out seeds and pulp (seed making post upcoming).
  4. Peel off the rind. It’s like working with a large, super ripe avocado, so using my fingers helped not lose chunks of rind in the mash.
  5. Put the meat onto a cookie sheet and mash with potato masher.
  6. Scoop into freezer bags in one-cup portions. Store up to six months in the freezer.
Noted Robin, a commentor, on October 21, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Patti, good to see you using the sugar pumpkins. Another yummy way with these little gems is: cut off top, scoop out seeds. Fill cavity with big stale bread cubes, shredded Gruyere and some bacon or pancetta or diced ham……season some heavy cream with salt and pepper (and a pinch of nutmeg, for me); drizzle over bread stuff…..return lid to pumpkin. Set on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 oven for….about an hour and a half (until quite tender, but it will still be holding its shape). Remove from oven, remove lid and let cool slightly before slicing into pretty wedges to serve.
And I agree with other comments that any winter squash, cooked, smashed/pureed and put in freezer is SMART (I’m still cooking with squash—Long Island Cheese and Fairytale, both huge varieties—out of the freezer from last year. On 2nd batch of pumpkin bars, 2nd pumpkin pie and also a pumpkin cake.)
 Don't know about y'all, but I think I have a new plan for next year's stuffing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

All the Wisdom in the World

Seems like I often come across exactly the right word or passage or quote or person when I most need exactly what's being offered.

Today, G.K. Chesterson popped in my line of sight:  “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”

I am having a love affair with my faith.  Just like in any love affair there are high moments and low.  I'm stunningly passionate about and protective of my beloved.  Every day I come to a greater intimacy and knowledge of my beloved.  I want to share the best things about my beloved with the rest of my beloveds.

And yet not everyone is on the same journey. 

During the weekends I sit at the piano bench, I can see the faces of hundreds of people I know and have known for years.  After all, this has been my home parish since 1969.  I cannot remember ever once looking at another person and thinking "you don't belong here" or "what a hypocrite."  When I'm at Mass, my sole focus is on my own relationship with the Lord, what it is I need to lay on the altar, and how I fit in this church family.

Apparently there are others there who do look and see who is taking the Eucharist and "shouldn't be" or who is sitting next to his wife when he's been having an affair or who is just there to be seen by others.

What a waste of time.

In other news...

Did anyone read about the problem with tampons?  We're putting pesticides inside our bodies?  Are you serious???

This deserves a rant and I'm too tired.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Things that Make Me Happy

My therapist asked me a question at the end of our last session:  what makes you happy?

I wasn't sure.  Not even a little bit.  I know what things I enjoy doing - how to have fun.  But what is it that makes me happy?

I've been thinking about that question ever since. 

I think I found something.

The puppies and I were out in the garden working today.  They don't make a very good work crew to tell the truth, but they are enthusiastic.  Wally, the cranky Chihuahua, constantly tries to establish who is the Alpha doggie.  Luna, the lunatic Pug puppy, lays on top of all the plants and tries to eat the garden tools.  La, the one-eyed Boston Terrier, tries to be prepared for Luna's habitual pouncing.  And they do all this right at my feet.

We found some treasures outside this morning!
The day lillies are in three stages of development.  Some have early buds, some have buds about to burst, and one has the first bloom.  They're beautiful.

Then we checked the peonies.  I'm going to have to study how to make peonies remain upright when the blooms are at their peaks.  Bursting with color and fragrance, the heavy flowers bend the stems until the flowers are all on the ground.  I saw someone using frames for them, so I think I'll have to find some.  I don't really know much about tending them yet.  I think it will be a worthy study.  We harvested the blooms this morning and filled a vase before cleaning much of the petal debris from the mulch.

We found some storm damage to clean and some to observe on the golf course.  The lunatic enjoyed the hike to look at the fallen tree the most.  The other two doggies stayed home.

I've found the best way to manage a new puppy is to use her kennel.  Luna is hilarious in hers.  Trust me, she's not anywhere near as sad and pathetic as she looks.

This was a happy day.  I'm excited for Joe to get home and see all the changes in the yard and enjoy his doggies.  He's going to love how the plants are growing.  I also think he's going to enjoy the lunatic.  I'm going to love having him home to help solve my weed problem and to help tire out the lunatic every day.  Only two days to go.

In other news...

Helping friends makes me happy too.  S's graduation party was a success last night and K's will be on Friday.  All the work makes for healthy, healing sleep at night.  The work itself is a joy; there's nothing better to lift spirits than being among women with a mission in a kitchen.

I paused briefly in front of my fridge this morning and saw my reminder magnet.  It reads "Do one thing every day that scares you."  I did.  I cleaned my car.  Nearly too frightening for words, but done!  Woot woot!  I guess had I wanted to be completely terrified, I would have cleaned Adam's truck too, but lacked the courage to tackle that one today.  I was able to open the doors and clean out the food wrappers and trash that have been sitting there this entire week.  Smells like aging trash in his truck.  Wonder if he'll enjoy the aroma when he returns home Monday. 

Off to celebrate more graduates!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I have a new favorite lyric.  It's from a song I first played in Buffalo at St Francis a couple weekends ago.  I brought the music to practice the next Thursday and SALT sang the song while the communion distributors were taking communion. 

My favorite line is from the third verse:  Such a marvelous mystery!  Listen to the song on youtube.  Personally, I preferred the SALT-y version.  :)

I find myself humming the phrase over and over again.  I think maybe it's the perfect summation of all that is and was and is to come
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven's mercy seat.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings!
You are my everything and I will adore you.
Filled with wonder, awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus, your name is power, breath, and living water
Such a marvelous mystery!
The entire second verse, not printed above, is worth a listen too.  I play it over and over on my iPod.
Clothed in rainbows of living color -
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder.
Blessing and honor, strength and glory and power be
To you the only wise king.  Yeah!
This is a great song by Gateway Worship.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Best iPhone Function

I take photos of everything since discovering how handy the iPhone cam is. 

Last night I took this photo of the ring Mari and her family gave me.

Then this afternoon I used the function that lets you take a photo of the iPhone screen to record the Tofte weather forcast.

Now I'm going out to take photos of the flowers that are about to bloom.

Fun times.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

30 Things I Might Have Said...

1.  You are, in fact, stupid.  Make it work for you.
2.  Try to understand parenting, rather than befriending.
3.  He doesn't want you.
4.  Obsession is a bad thing.
5.  Stop calling that child a bitch.
6.  Work, honey.  Work. 
7.  Don't do it.  Not even for a minute.
8.  Yes, they make you look fat.
9.  I'm not your friend, I'm your _____ (insert wife, parent, child, sister, etc.)
10. You are acting like a slut.  Stop it.
11. Hiding things is the same as lying.
12. Life is not about your pleasure; life is about finding pleasure with and for others.
13. Being mad is okay; getting even isn't.
14. If you were actually smart, you wouldn't have run out of fuel.
15. Accepting something for free means you are a freeloader.
16. There are people smarter than you are.
17. Personality matters.  ALL.  THE.  TIME.
18. Being valuable is about more than being acceptable.
19. You are ridiculous.
20. Stop drinking and spend time with your amazing daughter.
21. You are being too hard on him/her.
22. Cut your hair.  It looks like rotten straw.
23. Get rid of your "friend" because he/she is NOT good for you.
24. Try acting like an adult.
25. Sometimes it's not about YOU.
26. You cannot be the mother AND the father.  Choose one or the other.
27. It's not about what makes you feel good, it's about what's right.
28. What feels good isn't always right.
29. Try to achieve balance despite your passions.
30. Subject yourself to the passions of others; doing so defends against lonliness.

And there you have it. 

The Art of Being Thankful

We made some personalized stationary for Adam to use while writing his thank you notes.  There's a box describing his plans for next year, blank space for his note, and a picture of Adam in his cap and gown on the front.  The back is full of pictures from his senior year.

Adam's been writing thank you notes since the week before his party on June 5.  I've been annoyed with him because it's taking him so long.

Typical conversation over the last few days:
Me:  Adam!  I'm tired of saying it.  Get the "thank yous" done.  Now! 

Adam:  Just relax.  I'm doing it. 

(Adam sitting on the living room floor.  TV blaring.  Cards spread all over the floor.  Thank you stationary all over the floor.  Envelopes all over the floor.) 

Me:  They must be done before you leave for the Boundary Waters.

Adam:  Just relax.  I'm doing it.

(Adam playing baton-girl with his pen.) 

Me:  Adam!  These people took time from their lives to celebrate you.  Write!  Write!

Adam:  Relax.  Geez, Mom.

(Adam turning on the COD game.)

Me:  GRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
This conversation happened many times.  One day I posted the following status on Twitter:  "If my sons advise me to relax one more time, someone might get conked on the noggin.  Just sayin'."

And then I ran into a couple people who received their thank you cards from Adam.  They gushed about his note.

Friend from St Henry:  Kari!  Your son wrote us the nicest letter we've ever received.  He said "I don't know you very well, but my mom said you're big fans of SALT.  We appreciate that because my mom loves SALT."

Long-time employee:  Let me read Adam's letter to you.  "I remember you from when I was little.  I've always thought you were so nice.  I'm glad my parents surrounded me with people I could look up to and learn from."

I'm not going to nag Adam very much anymore. 

He's writing beautiful, thoughtful, grateful letters to people.  A well-written thank you letter is a lost art, and Adam's gifted with it.

Of course if they're not done the week he gets back I'm driving over the COD dvd with my car. 

Just sayin'.

(Not in the know?  COD is "Call of Duty."  One nasty, murderous game.)

My Challenge List

My big plans for this week begin today.

*accounting project @ work
*clean bedroom and bathroom closets
*pack boxes to donate
*make monster cookies for grad parties
*laundry (Adam's college linens first)

*finish accounting project @ work
*deliver donation
*cook four turkey breasts for grad parties
*pack Adam's linens

*kindergarten project @ work
*help at S's (w/Staci)
*basement project, phase I
*meet w/bride @ St Henry

*finish kindergarten project @ work
*help prep at S's
*basement project, phase I
*grad party

*basement project, phase II
*deliver goodies to C's and J's
*grad parties

*finish laundry
*basement project, phase II
*grad parties (bring goodies)
*groceries and prep for Monday dinner

*set up unloading areas for returning campers
*prepare dinner
*welcome campers
*family dinner! (w/Gilles)

Add to each day:  phase II of elliptical plan and potty train Luna. 

I now feel completely accountable for completing all my tasks.  Hope it works.

Monday, June 14, 2010

And the Journey Begins...

Joe and the boys just left on the annual camping excursion to the BWCA.  This year I'm staying home.

I was a little sad to watch them leave with the fifteen other campers.  A little sad because we won't be able to communicate even a little bit for the next week.  A little sad because I'm staying home alone for the first time since we had babies.  A little sad because there's something special about trips to the BWCA.

I have big plans for the week though.  A couple of my friends plan to celebrate their graduates over the next couple weeks, and I'm going to help them get ready for the parties.  I love planning and executing parties.  It's so much like planning and executing weddings.  Both offer ample opportunity for being bossy, and I can be bossy with the best of them.

I hope the boys have an exceptional journey through the wilderness.  I suspect that by this time tomorrow the campers will feel like they've been to hell, but that by the end of the week they'll be happy they make the journey.

As for me?  I hope I cross off all the things on my list this week.  It would be nice to be list-less when the boys arrive home Monday.  Last on my list is a reminder to prepare each person's favorite dinner for Monday night.  Jakob will be looking for spaghetti, Adam chicken with potatoes, and Joe pork chops with broccoli.  Better plan on a little weekend prep so everything's ready in time. 


In other news...

Today a great friend told me about a song a coworker sent her husband via youtube.  Check out this link.  This is so "not just friend" material.  How smart is her husband to share it with her immediately?

Looks like Mari's staying until July 13, 2010.  Thank goodness for all the Rotary experts!

We have a third doggie staying at our house while the boys are gone.  I'm hoping for La and Wally to lead by example.  We'll see how it goes.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Today is the Day!

This is the day.

Sometimes we worry and wonder about what tomorrow holds.

Other times we worry and fret about what has happened in the past.

All I can trust is that today is the day.  It rests upon yesterday.  It is the groundwork for tomorrow.  And yet today is only today.

What a healing and healthy thought!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Creepers...

Mari tells the best story about her arrival in Minnesota.

The girl is charming.  Her stories, told in Minnesota-speak with a Brazilian accent, always make me giggle. 

Adam, Jake, and I went to get her at the airport on the day of her arrival.  Construction make a mess out of the usual path to the airport, and it took us far longer to arrive there than it should have.  I was also almost out of fuel - not unusual for me at all.

I pulled to a stop at the sidewalk and shoved the boys out of the car to go find Mari.  Equipped with my iPhone-size facebook open to her picture, they gamely went to look for her.

She was looking too - a little nervous, very excited, and not expecting her family to be late, she sees two young men staring in her direction and then walking around her to stare from another angle.  All the while, they're checking the phone photo.

Her thoughts?

"I thought OMG my brothers are creepers!"

They kinda are. 

Sun Signs and Relationships

Yesterday my therapist gave me two assignments:  study our sun signs and think about what makes me happy.

I've done a cursory study of sun signs - enough to recognize the topic bears more research.  First reading only about my sign (Virgo) and then Joe's (Sagittarius) and what the signs say about our relationship, I was a little startled by what seemed to signify.  In other words, I recognize us in the descriptions.

The meticulous part of my nature forced me to examine other signs to see if I felt like they applied too.  Not only did they not apply, but I recognize my sons in the descriptions of their signs too!  Adam's definitely a Scorpio and Jakob an Aquarius. 

But is it acceptable for a Christian to study sun signs? 

Good question.

There is relevance in parallels, and there is an obvious one between the signs and the tribes of Israel:  there are twelve of each. 

God created the stars ("lights in the dome) to mark fixed time - the days and the years - and as luminaries (Genesis 1:14).  The heavens are the "work of God’s fingers" (Psalm 8:3) and "declare the glory of God" (19:1).  God has all the stars numbered and named (147:4).

According to one website (
Much has been written of the meaning of the zodiacal constellations, including theories that they comprise an ancient display of God’s redemptive plan. For example, the constellation Leo can be seen as a celestial depiction of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5), and Virgo could be a reminder of the virgin who bore Christ.

And yet the bible also cautions against worship of the "host of heaven" (2 Kings 17:16) and teaches that it is God who knows what is in store for us.  Trying to assume the role of God seems a risky proposition.

My conclusion?  There may be some merit to this study I plan to undertake providing it doesn't become a new form of worship.  Knowing myself better and coming to a better appreciation and understanding of God's plan for me is good, and I think using any tool at my disposal is a wise choice.

Who knows.  It may help me find the answer to the other assignment:  what is it that makes me happy?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Contemptible Familiarity

Having the luxury of long-term friends, working at the same place my entire adult life, and a twenty-year marriage, I sometimes consider whether there is truth in the old adage, familiarity breeds contempt.

Friends from a lifetime ago remember a different me than I am now.  I remember them as they were, and rejoice in the people they've become.  I'm sure they would say the same about me!  I once studied the ethic of care during my undergraduate tenure at the College of St Catherine.  The philosophers concur:  evolving from the one cared for and becoming the care giver impacts how a person relates to nearly everything in the world.

My employment in a family business has long been a struggle in surprising ways.  The work is one thing.  The family component...  I've often thought my parents look at me and see the same me they saw when I was a child.  I know when I make a mistake, they responded in the same ways they would have when I was a minor.  The dynamic of the family home carried over to the work place for decades, and really only changed when mother left first the business and then her marriage.

And then there's my twenty-five year relationship - twenty-year marriage - with Joe.  We are so not the same people we were when we were sixteen and seventeen!  Yet vestiges of those people remain.

Joe continues to play baseball.  He loves sugar in any form.  He has the best work ethic of any person I've ever met.  He can do anything, anything he chooses to do.  He loves deeply and quietly.  And the man accepts people as they are - valuing individual strengths and ignoring weaknesses.

My first loves, education and stories, remain.  I have always loved balance in the things that matter to me, and my priorities never changed:  faith, family, and friends.  I can never hold anger, and am the first to offer forgiveness when hurt or mistreated. 

The marriage preparation courses we completed prior to marrying indicated an unholy trinity that would cause us the greatest distress over the years - finances, religion, and communication.  At the time, we thought the "testing" was silly; looking back, we're a little impressed with its accuracy.  Perhaps knowing those things would be an issue was pre-warning of sorts that allowed us to weather some upheaval - not always prettily, but successfully nonetheless. 

There is no one more familiar to me than Joe.  That wasn't always true.  The babies that grew in my body were as familiar to me as self at a time when Joe and I were still learning to know each other.  Of course the babies I so cherished have grown into men separate from me, even their scent their very own and no longer that milky merging of each of them with me.

I know what Joe loves and hates.  Who he was and who he will be.  Where he's been and where he wants to go.  There is no separating that knowledge from the fabric of our lives.  I can no longer look at him and see a stranger.

I don't find contempt in that kind of intimate familiarity. 

I find contentment. 

I hope he does too.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Can Jesus Be Enough?

I played the piano today at a new church with a different group of people.  What fun!  True, it's a triffle nerve-wracking to play thirteen new songs at an unfamiliar keyboard with a bunch of new people in front of strangers. 

The Mass was the usual celebration of Jesus.  On Sunday the parish was also celebrating its graduates.  Father's sermon spoke to the Gospel - Jesus feeding people... feeding us... Same old same old Good News really.  Nearing the end of the homily, the priest addressed the graduates planning to leave for different cities and people leaving for summer vacations and people moving for new job opportunities.  He urged them to find a new parish not based on how much like their home parish it is, but because each new parish celebrates Christ.

"Can Jesus be enough?" asked Father. 

Is He?

Can we do without fancy buildings?

Can we do without icons and stations and crucifixes?

Can we do without music?

Can we do without uplifting sermons?


We can because at the root of it all, at the root of the Mass, we find... Christ.

Christ who said, "Do this in memory of me."  He also said, "Take and eat.  This is my body."  And then He said it again.  And again and again and again.  He said it living.  He said it resurrected.

I take.  I eat.  I worship.

I also enjoy the warmly welcoming beauty of St Henry.  I love the carefully crafted Stations of the Cross.  I make music to enhance the worship experience.  And I certainly think about what Fr Tim says each week.

But I know I can do without any of that.  Jesus is enough for me.

I was thinking about Adam moving to Morris in the fall.  About how he'll choose to spend his Sunday mornings.  While he registered for classes a couple weeks ago, Jakob and I toured the town.  We found Adam's new church located within walking distance of campus.  I pray that's a walk Adam makes at least once each week.

In quiet moments I feel a certain sense of panic at the thought of Adam's departure.  I haven't taught him enough yet.  I haven't fully prepared him for the world.  I haven't given him all the tools he needs.  I need a little more time! 

I think I need to rest in my conviction that Jesus will be enough for Adam.

Today I was talking to a young woman who graduated with Adam.  She told me she thinks Adam is one of the few "men" in her class who is ready for the world.  She spoke of him as someone who can befriend anyone, enter any conversation, enrich any friendship.

Know what?  She's absolutely right.  

I observed him Saturday at his graduation party.  He hosted with Grace.  He warmly greeted every person who stepped in our yard, and there were many.  Many.  He made eye contact with them and thanked them for coming.  He engaged them in conversation and made them welcome at his party and in his home.

Is there anything better than knowing you raised a man who is worthy of praise?  That you surrounded him with a community and a family and friends - a vertible village - fit to help you raise a man worthy of praise? 


Nope.  There's not a single thing that would give me more joy.  Not a compliment or an honor or an award.

We - all of us - are so proud of Adam! 

I still want a little more time.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Five For Friday

Five things that made me cry today:

1.  Ironing Adam's graduation attire.

2.  Cooking the last of the taco meat.

3.  Thinking about sitting at graduation.

4.  Shopping for the last of the groceries.

5.  Writing the itinerary for tomorrow.

I'm hoping there aren't any tears left for tonight.