“A single crocus blossom ought to be enough to convince our heart that springtime, no matter how predictable, is somehow a gift …” —David Steindl-Rast
Have you, too, been watching your crocus bed like basketball bracketology? As if tiny blossoms guarantee your team achieves NCAA basketball glory?
While not everyone pairs crocuses and basketball, this Hoosier always will.
Blizzards may morph the combination into a reluctant threesome. Benedictine monk Steindl-Rast’s quote above resonates with me. Yet, Indiana inhabitants understand our March is as fickle as a referee’s calls.
Still, when crocuses, tough little optimists, push through snow, I want to turn somersaults. Although I prefer not to spend spring in a body cast.
Perhaps ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Minoans also had to resist somersault temptation, as they loved crocuses. The Romans gave us their name, derived from the Latin adjective “crocatus,” meaning “saffron yellow.” Spice derived from an autumn crocus was used extensively by ancient chefs. Fashionistas used saffron to color fabrics and hairdos. Others swore it cured Grandpa Kitanetos’ rheumatism, Grandma Isis’ headaches and even Uncle Flavius’ habit of hitting the wineskins too often.
Not surprisingly, the plant appeared in early civilizations’ mythology. Somebody was always falling in love with somebody else, rousing a god’s jealousy. In retribution, remorse or pity — or all three — deities, nymphs or humans were turned into crocuses.
In contrast, God, in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, celebrated the flower with an outrageous simile: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus” (Isaiah 35:1 NIV).
The Judean desert? I’ve been there. Even cacti run screaming from that burning wilderness.
At that time, God wasn’t dealing with depressed sports fans whose team blew it. He was speaking to war refugees who thought God had given up on them. Instead, He promised Jesus would come, bringing forgiveness and healing that would make miserable lives blossom like the crocus.
Today, as snow falls, the crocuses and I don’t give up hope. Tiny buds are reaching for the heavens, proclaiming Jesus’ Resurrection never quits.
Because of Him, we can always have hope.
Even if our team loses in the first round.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do crocuses say to you?
Lord, thank You for my big brother. Not only is he older than I am (yay!) but he fashioned walnut wood from his acres into a lovely bowl for me. At one point, it was filled with yummy chocolate. But OMG, both You and he knew that wouldn’t last long. …
Standardized tests and I have always crossed No. 2 pencils.
During the 1960s, we Hoosier children took Iowa tests, though Indiana teachers already gave too many. Iowans loved math (yuck). Nobody in the test readings solved exciting mysteries like Nancy Drew.
Little did I know the SAT lurked in my future. Today, SAT cheering sections rah-rah second graders. Preparation courses guarantee not only top scores for high schoolers, but complete acne cures.
Fifty years ago, I almost forgot about the SAT.
My OC boyfriend saved the day. “Got your test ticket?”
“Um, I think so.”
“SAT’s Saturday! If you don’t take it on time, college is out!”
I rolled my eyes. “Were you born in Iowa?”
“Des Moines.” He blinked. “Why?”
No wonder we didn’t last until prom.
I found the crumpled ticket under my bed and took it to the test center.
Nowadays, kids bring laptops, caterers and masseuses. I brought two No. 2 pencils. (Has anyone ever seen a No. 1 pencil?). Also, a headache from staying out late the night before.
Reams of story problems met my bleary eyes. Sue rode trains to Detroit at 65 miles an hour. Her friend Gertrude traveled at 50 mph. These tests never asked important questions: Why didn’t they go together? Why would anyone go to Detroit? This had to be about a guy. Sure, Sue had a great body and flat-chested Gertrude, like me, read Jane Austen. That didn’t mean Gertrude didn’t deserve Kevin, the California surfer visiting his Detroit grandma.
The only answers offered: a) x; b) y; c) x + y; and d) 2,578 1/2. Heartless!
The first analogy question appeared more promising: chocolate is to vanilla as brown is to: a) fudge; b) mint; c) white; and d) 2,578 1/2. I chose b. Nothing topped chocolate mint ice cream. Sundae fantasies drifted through my mind. …
Amazingly, colleges accepted my scores. But a scholarship? Doubtful.
During my era, students took the SAT only once. I could, however, take Achievement Tests. I retired at 9:00 p.m. the night before and brought five No. 2 pencils. I banished all thoughts of trains, Sue, Gertrude, boyfriends and ice cream.
My scores moved me up the scholarship ladder. Those standardized tests proved accurate, after all.
Maybe they were clapping for me in Iowa.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Were/are you good at taking tests?
Eternal Father, outside of time, You know how the invention of the clock complicated our world. Not content with that, we not only invented Daylight Saving Time, but “spring forward” in March, re-darkening hopeful Midwest mornings to December gloom. OMG, I agreed with babies brought to church yesterday. While some changes are necessary, this isn’t one of them.
Socks? How can socks rank with global warming, European peace and Lady Gaga’s hair?
I, too, underrated these essentials that keep our world from getting cold feet.
Unfortunately, 3,005 unmatched socks inhabit my laundry room. A Sunday sock. A striped soccer sock that fit my son three decades ago. A romantic sock printed with a red rose. Along with hundreds of others, these languish, lonely and unloved.
Maybe not so lonely. They multiply faster than rabbits. However, my socks never produce identical twins. Sigh.
My husband’s socks are paired by weave, wear and color (brown in the top drawer, black in the second, folded, with toes facing the same direction, thank you very much). While I relegate gift socks to stocking-stuffer status, Hubby considers them special. For his birthday, I gave him Smartwool® bicycle socks, guaranteed not only to prevent blisters, but to increase mileage and double IQs.
Not only do smart cyclists (and their smart spouses) purchase specialty socks, but runners, golfers, snowboarders and fishermen swear by them. Manufacturers speak in scientific sock terms like “moisture and thermal management” and “dissipation of friction.” One hockey company sells “sanitary socks” — as if all others are unsanitary? Still, motorcycle riders from one survey should buy them. The riders admitted to wearing electric socks three winters straight without washing them.
Even corporate types struggle to maintain nice socks. One CEO, attending a Japanese tea ceremony, politely removed his shoes. His toes erupted from a shabby sock like pimples. His new mission: to sell “sockscriptions,” mailing periodic boxes of socks so businessmen won’t experience similar trauma.
Fine socks are available for every occasion. Silk monkey socks for posh trips to the zoo. Glittery sushi socks for Japanese restaurants. Mint Chocolate Chip socks for Ben & Jerry’s grand openings. I can buy cute socks for my daughter’s dog, Rufus, that coordinate with designer coats, collars and chew toys.
Who am I kidding?
I’ll continue to purchase bunch-in-a-bag socks that preserve my circulation and budget. And if I don’t deserve fancy socks with matching chew toys, darned (pun intended) if Rufus does, either.
Finally, I bless your socks on, because with March’s unpredictable temperatures, I certainly will not bless them off.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How many singleton socks live in your laundry room?
Birthday cakes boast a long, illustrious history. According to the Huffington Post, Greeks and Romans commemorated births of gods and men with candlelit cakes. As wine flowed at birthday feasts, the honoree occasionally set his toga on fire.
Birthday cake traditions still are regarded as sacred. Abstainers offend the family/office/church Cake Queen. (Watch your back, or she may stuff you into her oven.)
So, for survival reasons, I eat birthday cake. Thankfully, lighted candles suck out all calories.
On my upcoming birthday, however, I will indulge in raspberry pie. À la mode? Of course, à la mode. Do you think I’m an idiot?
Don’t answer that. You, either, Hubby.
Obviously, this crucial subject demands discussion. Though my sweet tooth welcomes sugar, regardless of origin or creed, I have always liked pie best, especially my mother’s — fruit-plump, with ambrosial juices bubbling through golden, flaky crusts.
As a child, I loved reading about pie. Almanzo Wilder, in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, reverently scanned hundreds at a county fair: “When he began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else.”
Mom would have made me birthday pies, if I’d dared requested them. But tradition ruled. I blew candles out on cakes.
Pie Heaven does exist on this earth. My brother practiced optometry where Amish patients gifted him with luscious offerings. Amazingly, he once shared his birthday shoofly pie with me … which made me suspicious. Had he stuck bananas up my Ford’s tailpipe? Informed the IRS I never had the three children I claimed? Volunteered me for a ten-year mission in the Sahara? I still wonder. …
Some opponents caution that deviating from the cake custom opens the door to chaos. Only at one’s wedding does one deal with cake-in-the-face. But birthday pie increases pie-in-the-face risks exponentially.
And their point is?
The lemon cream pie that once smeared my visage caused no dire effects. Fellow conference-goers, however, fussed about my suit and hair as if I’d suffered a blast of radiation.
When globs of luscious pie are within licking distance, who cares about my hair? Some people should get their priorities straight.
Did you hear that, Almanzo? I know you’d bravely take a pie in the face. And choose birthday pie, too.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which would you choose, birthday pie or cake? Which kind?
O Lord, my sweet mother-in-law could actually find and use the many lists she made. Me? I just found one I made three years ago in a shoe. Yet she loved me like a daughter. OMG, I’m thankful she’s now with You, maybe making perfect lists in Heaven. But how I miss her!
I recommend a tried-and-true cure that works for all ages: baking bread.
Years ago, I was pregnant, diapering, potty-training, or all the above, laboring under a blizzard of “Mo-o-m-myyyyy!”s.
After coloring 147 Smurfs, we needed a different creative experience.
Baking bread worked.
My preschoolers stared in wonder at yeast particles. When we gave them a warm bath, I explained, they blew up tiny balloons that made the bread rise. (Hey, you play Mr. Wizard your way, and I’ll do it mine.) Everyone took turns measuring flour and salt. With luck, we didn’t reverse the quantities.
I needed to knead bread. The rocking rhythm soothed my soul. The children clobbered dough instead of each other.
We made the best bread on the planet — if we let it rise. Like a drying sidewalk, a blob of dough begs for kids’ fingerprints. So, the bowl rested on top of the refrigerator.
When the dough finally rose, we punched it down together. The final step: shaping loaves and twisty rolls. Only culinary experts age six and under can create these little masterpieces.
The baby swallowed the little lump of dough I gave him. The sisters rolled and cut dough into strips with plastic knives. They added cups of flour when Mom wasn’t looking. It whitened the dough, an improvement since one chef decided the floor made a great cooking space. I helped them braid segments and persuaded them to allow each magnum opus to rise again.
Scraping dough off kids, I began to reclaim the environment. One child had showered us with a bag of flour. Another washed dishes to “help.” After rocking them to sleep, I scraped goo off walls and ceiling. Redid the “clean” dishes and mopped. Could I finish a cup of tea before little voices called, “Is it time to bake twisty rolls yet?”
I opened the oven 14 times so they could supervise! But who cared? Heavenly fragrance swirled around us like warm love. Gray, alien lumps miraculously baked into little golden braids. Each kid slathered warm twisties with butter and devoured them while watching Mr. Rogers.
Half a big loaf of bread disappeared too.
Everybody felt lots better.
Decades later, half a loaf might cure cabin fever too.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your cure for cabin fever?