Thursday, March 6, 2014
I’ve had a little vacation from my computer when I sent my old one off to Ed in Florida. Lucky me, he transferred all her data to a new one - as long as Ed is around (thank God he is doing pretty well and about to be another “first” in getting a new-fangled treatment for stage IV metastasized prostate cancer) he still keeps our machines rotated and up-to-date. It felt good to have it gone, gone, gone. Like I was free from one of those enslaving robot pets that quack for mama duck all night. I looked at that empty spot on the desk and was happy not to hear the little ploops announcing the arrival of messages. It reminds me that there were days back when, when I still knew how to use paper and pen.
Now she's back. I call her Jane. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s Calamity Jane I’m thinking of - blazing fast and easy on the eye. I quite like her, but I’ve still been avoiding her, distracted as I am about selling, moving and buying the next place in life. It’s the best excuse I’ve had for not writing in about a hundred years. Don’t bother me, I’m sorting moldy tub toys that haven’t been used since my 36-year-old daughter was a baby. Go away, Denis and I are in intense and delicate conferences about finances and futures.
When pressure mounts to brain stroke intensity, I feel like beating myself up all the way from here to Glen Allen, Alaska. Then I realized something important about forgiveness. You need to forgive yourself, Einstein. Stop your ridiculous self-abuse.
I came across this by Ann Patchett and I’m pretty sure it applies to a lot more than writing:
Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this because it is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life. Every time I have set out to translate the book (or story, or hopelessly long essay) that exists in such brilliant detail on the big screen of my limbic system onto a piece of paper, ... I grieve for my own lack of talent and intelligence. Every. Single. Time. Were I smarter, more gifted, I could pin down a closer facsimile of the wonders I see. I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people form being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself. - Ann Patchett, “This-Is-Story-Happy-Marriage"
For me this translates to: I grieve most about lack of diligence. I can’t or don't write as much as I would like, but I can and will write what I can when I can. Does this make sense?
Thursday, February 6, 2014
I have a response pattern firmly woven into my amygdala. It loves to presuppose that Margie should never make a mistake. However small it might be, you are not allowed to get it wrong. If the thing is big, involving another’s well-being, lots of money, losing your keys, or moving your house and job from here to there, well then, there will be hell to pay if you get it wrong or can’t fix it. Matters of less consequence are not exempt from punishment.
Some would say when mistakes are made they are accidental. Circumstantial. Just life. Maybe, but lately I’ve come to believe God is messing with that organ in my brain; perhaps it should be called my heart. Or my spirit. Whatever, where ever it is, He is in that place where the real me dwells beneath miles of protective layers and he allows me to make mistakes. Sometimes he’s there with a wrecking ball trying to get my attention, other times with an instrument so delicate I barely feel the exposure of this ill conceived notion that whatever Margie does, must be done perfectly.
What happened yesterday will probably seem inconsequential to you. Not to me.
I was excited that it’s time to replace my aging computer with the new MacBook Pro Retina Display. Ed sent me the link and told me to go ahead and order the computer and a warranty and have it shipped to him for set-up.
1. I ordered the wrong computer.
2. I forgot to purchase the extended warranty.
3. I was dropped several times before I finally got the warranty purchased. When I purchased it, it was, of course, for the wrong computer.
4. When the receipt was emailed I saw I had even accidentally ordered an extended warranty for a computer I knew I wasn't getting.
5. By the time Ed figured it out, the wrong computer had already been shipped with the added cost of a warranty for a computer they hadn’t shipped and I wasn’t getting anyway. Do you understand this? Good.
It is the most mystifying thing to be a person who can get so many things wrong in one go. It is also humiliating. Shameful. It was time to beat myself up.
Suddenly I decided I’d had enough of that. This is who I am. A person who makes mistakes. Even sinful mistakes. Not one of my weaknesses is a surprise to God. (Not to Ed or to you either.) Being a person who tries to control every thing and every one and fails at the simplest thing and yet is still loved by Jesus? That’s not bad.
In a book I’m reading slowly these days - Barbara Duguid writes in Extravagant Grace: "Paul’s description of himself as chief of sinners (see I Tim. 1:15-16) is not some charming attempt at humility and self-abasement; it is the absolute, glorious truth. We are all frail and fragile children who sin a great deal in our disobedience, but who also manage to sin a great deal in our best obedience as well. Discovering this truth and growing to love it can be one of the most powerful and joyful motivations for change that God ever invented, but it seems that few Christians today ever get there. They have such a hard time giving up their great expectations for themselves and others, and they are left spinning aimlessly in cycles of fear and shame as they try desperately to impose those expectations on the recalcitrant world around them."
May God continue to hammer at my heart. I want change. I want/need joy.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
|Ed Hague, 2007, Rosemary Beach, Florida. That is not a coke.|
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
She has a taste for electric cords - and especially enjoys severing computer power cords. She also likes to scratch and push her way past the barriers that keep her from going behind the couch. She loves treats and comes like a white tornado when she hears the refrigerator opening - which definitely means something delicious like napa cabbage, carrot or apple.
After hopping around to inspect all her nooks, she often settles down for a nap, usually at Anita's feet or snuggled under her arm - as you see here.
|A Christmas nap.|
Sometimes we talk about pets, how they capture our hearts. How they make us laugh. How exasperating they can be, and how when they are sick or injured we must weigh… them, their worth. How much is too much to spend in making their lives better? What can we afford? Animals are grace to many of us. In creation, in the hoppiness of a bunny, the way she lifts her tufted ears, merely being her creaturely self, we see the goodness of the creator represented and are thankful for these small blessings.
I hope there are things in your life that bring you pleasure and the recognition of God's love for all his creatures, including you and me.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
"In the bleak midwinter long, long ago" … Christina Rosetti's poem sang through my head for hours as we drove through the North Dakota prairies this past weekend. The weather was gasping cold for our grandson's hockey tournament in Crookston. We've been looking forward to it for weeks now. Icy roads. Drifts. Currents flowed across the highway, twining, twisting streams of fine snow. Denis and I laughed as we passed miles and miles of buried fence lines. We were remembering that scene from the movie Fargo where the character played by Steve Buscemi buries a suitcase with the money in a snowbank and returned to his partner with only $80,000.00. The character stops his car along the highway, looks both directions, flounders through the snow, and buries the suitcase in a spot that is so like a billion other spots, we know he will never, ever find it again.
|North Dakota power plant|
The land makes you wonder about the early pioneers who made it to the Red River Valley in the fall, and before winter only had time to build a three-sided sod house in the lee of a hill - if they were so lucky to find a hill. Even in our warm car, it felt a little dangerous. When we left Grand Forks for home on Sunday morning, it was 26 below not counting wind chill.
My favorite app is the Starbucks Locator that can lead me to the closest store anywhere in the U.S. - the coffee I count on when traveling. Allowing the pulsing blue circle to lead us to the green light on the map, just over the hill and off the next exit always gives me a small jolt of pleasure. You may not know that my blog name "toadsdrinkcoffee" is not random. We live in Toad Hall, so I suppose you could call us Toadies and good coffee is a burden I gladly bear.
|No buried treasure here|
On that cold morning we found a Starbucks in Grand Forks before we headed south. Along the way I had fleeting thoughts of what it would be like to break down along the road. About 10 miles north of Fargo, we did. Suddenly the rpms dropped to zero and we coasted to a stop. Our engine was still running, but the accelerator wouldn't engage. These days with every insurance company carrying road-side assistance, we knew we'd be okay, but it made Denis very tense, while me, I'm just sitting there sipping my latte, dough-dee-dough. With the engine still alive, we stayed warm. After several calls someone in a far-away, warm climate called a towing service in Fargo, located our position via our iPhone and GPS, and after an hour's wait the tow truck arrived. As he towed us into a Firestone shop, he told us he had pulled 72 drivers out of the ditch that weekend. (There had been a strange sleet that fell making roads even more treacherous.) All of them idiots, he said. He didn't count ones like us who broke down. As we waited for the shop to open, Denis started the engine again and automatically touched the accelerator which suddenly woke up. We quickly decided to take the chance and head to Rochester. On the five hour drive home the engine cut out three more times. It was stressful for Denis, especially when it happened while we were in the passing lane surrounded by semis and me yelling, "Turn on the hazards! Turn on the hazards!" Shutting the engine off and restarting seemed to reboot the system. It's fixed now.
Winter has its bleak side, of course. But to be home safe? To be warm? More than sufficient.
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago. Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign. In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. Angels and archangels may have gathered there, cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshiped the beloved with a kiss. What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him: give my heart. - Christina Rosetti
Friday, December 27, 2013
I've been a long time away from my blog and other forms of social media. There are reasons. Some because of busyness and good things that kept me occupied. Others, well, others because maybe priorities don't include posting pics of our fabulous Christmas dinner, or the beautiful four hour blizzard on Christmas eve after lessons and carols that made you glad you weren't slouching to Bethlehem on a donkey, or I might be discouraged, (depressed?). For days (until two days ago) I hadn't even written in my journal.
But I'm here today dipping a toe back in the icy water.
I've always loved the writing of John McPhee. He writes about the oddest things and then makes you wonder how you could justify never having thought about the shad. He wrote an entire book about them. Last year Anita gave me a copy of The Founding Fish. EVERYthing you'd ever want to know about shad.
The following quote may energize me enough to get started writing again myself.
They (shad) move upstream at first light - an optimal time, when muscles are rested. And resolutely they move in the afternoon, Kynard guesses that the falling light reminds them that another day is ending and they've got to get on with their mission. "That drive to get upstream is strong. It must be particularly forceful when they sense that they are losing light."
This reminds me of what I do all day (nothing). I sharpen imaginary pencils and look out real windows. The light of a computer screen seems far too bright to me. I kill hours, hoping for distraction, and complain bitterly when distraction occurs. Three, four, five P.M. Nothing whatever accomplished. The day coiling like a spring. Nothing is worse than a lost day. Panic rises, takes over, and I write until I go home at seven, thinking like a shad.
When daylight drops in the evening, the fish turn and retreat from rapids, because they can't maintain orientation. "They go backdown, but not far. They find the very first deep slow-water area. That's where they stay. They just kind of settle down to the bottom. Get down to a lower velocity. Get in the current, where they can just maintain position. Let the lateral line take care of keeping them up, and not moving downstream." As if they were treading water, they wait out the night. (p. 32)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
|Stacked Enchiladas ready for the oven|
I have a friend who will soon deliver a new baby - her second child. Liz is also a lively writer and a great cook. She has combined these two skills to make one of the few blogs I regularly read - Carpe Season - "Living seasonally in an under seasoned world." Right now she is trying to prepare her family for an event she knows will change their lives in ways she, well, it is hard to accurately predict what life is going to look like on the other side of second baby, isn't it? I remember someone telling me it's the third one that either makes or breaks you - after that it doesn't matter. She had seven children. I didn't know whether to be relieved or frightened. Even now with adult children I can't say whether that is true or not.
Liz came up with an idea to help her family eat well even as they transit from three to four. She called on some of her friends to send their favorite make-ahead and freeze main dish meals. She plans to make one now and freeze one for later.
I was inspired to send her a family favorite that dates back to our New Mexico days when we lived next door to a Hispanic family. Their Nana made the world's best flour tortillas. Fresh every day. Like it was nothing. Like me toasting a piece of bread. I wish she was still my neighbor. It surprised me that they often made the following dish that was considered lazy, fast, and unauthentic Mexican food. I RARELY, rarely use Campbells cream of anything soup, but for this - I break my rule, unless I have some good leftover chicken broth. This delicious dish can easily be made gluten-free, especially if you make your own cream soup.
This is not difficult to whip up and the ingredients are easily kept on hand for a cold fall day. When served with a side of refried beans, fresh salsa and a simple fruit salad - this is comfort food. Around here, anyway.
1 pound ground beef, browned and seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper
10-12 corn tortillas
12 oz grated mild cheddar cheese
1 can green chiles (optional to use more)
1 small onion diced
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can milk
Butter two small casserole dishes to make two main dishes that will make three servings each. One to eat now. One to freeze. Or use a larger baking dish to make a main dish that serves approximately five and eat it all at once. Number of servings vary according to appetites. (A cast iron skillet also works well for this recipe.)
Brown the ground beef, set aside. Mix soup and milk in a largish shallow bowl. Grate cheese, set aside. Chop onion, set aside.
To assemble casserole: dip a tortilla in the soup mix so each side is drenched. Place in bottom of dish. Sprinkle a bit of ground beef, 1 T raw onion, 1 T green chile, a little sprinkling of cheese. Repeat layers until the tortillas are used. (In a large casserole dish use 1 1/2 or 2 tortillas. Tear them to fit the shape of bottom.) Pour any remaining soup and a generous amount of cheese over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until it bubbles.