O Lord, thank You for giving me three generations of special guys. Not sure why You granted them legs twice as long as mine or 100 times my energy. Nevertheless, OMG, thank You that we can hike and love Your creation together!
“Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day!”
Some preschoolers let weather spoil play-outside plans. But one warm, rainy spring day 60 years ago, my brother Ned and I begged to play outdoors. Mom, seeing no lightning — and desperate for peace — dressed us in bathing suits she’d sewed. Mine was the most beautiful suit in the world, with ruffles on the rear.
At the neighboring playground, we danced through God’s sprinkler system. Ned and I soared on swings, welcoming rain’s laughing pitter-patter. We experienced the joy of mud, chocolate-brownie-batter stuff we smeared on the merry-go-round and watched the rain scrub clean. We worried less about our own state. Mom almost locked us out.
Later, having sworn off mud baths, I still loved awakening to rain rhythms plunking on the roof. I sometimes avoided sibling anarchy with an early morning walk in the rain. At 10, I didn’t run outside in a homemade bathing suit with a ruffled butt. Instead, I ducked raindrops until I found an umbrella under the swing set, where my brothers had conducted parachute jumps.
I strolled along wet, black roads where iridescent oil jewels gleamed. Silence ruled the slumbering village’s lush lawns and rainbow flowers. I breathed newly washed air and listened to raindrops skittering across my umbrella. Sometimes I talked to God. Sometimes neither of us said anything. I counted it a major triumph to return before my family awoke. We had managed this secret rendezvous, the rain and I.
During young adulthood, love often turns to hate. I attended a college under a huge rain cloud with a permanent “on” switch. I spent a bundle on umbrellas because dastardly thieves stole the hundred I forgot in cafeterias.
Noah floods with 30,000 gloomy students wielding 30,000 umbrellas didn’t charm me like my childhood walks. Elevators, where we absorbed each other’s wet-dog fragrances, became danger zones. When the film, Singin’ in the Rain, was shown on campus, the student body flew to California and staged a sit-in at Gene Kelly’s house.
Now an (ahem!) mature adult, I’ve shed youthful habits. I don’t lose umbrellas in cafeterias because I am the cafeteria. Loading groceries into my car amid a deluge, I gnash my teeth and weep.
Yet even on this dreary April day, rain calls to me.
I probably won’t play in the mud. Nor will I wear a bathing suit with ruffles on the rear. But before the nearby school erupts at three, I grab my umbrella.
I know where deep puddles hide. Where wet tulips and daffodils will listen to quiet, spring songs in silence.
I know the perfect route for my rendezvous with the rain.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you love a rainy day?
This post first appeared on March 16, 2016.
As I walk past our nearby elementary school, I search for the first fuzzy yellow dandelions. Although I want them out of my yard, deep in my grown-up heart, I still like them.
As a six-year-old, I heard God sprinkled dandelions on lawns like manna. Sometimes, He turned them to gold during the night. The financial possibilities made it worth a try.
The gold coin story did not pan out, but I still welcomed dandelions. Softer than my baby brother’s hair, they dotted the gray-brown Indiana landscape, reminding me better than any catechism that God loves color.
I showered my mother with bouquets. She never turned them down.
One evening Mama surprised my siblings and me. We would pick dandelions for supper! I did not realize they were good to eat. Or that our old refrigerator was empty. Mama acted as if we were going on a picnic.
“These look good.” She bent and nipped off leaves.
Grown-ups rarely made sense. “Aren’t we going to eat the flowers?”
“No. Some people make wine with them, but we’re eating just the greens.”
“Can’t we make wine?”
Mama’s eyebrows rose. “Probably not a good idea.”
My pastor father’s congregation might not take kindly to a bootleg wine-making operation in the church basement.
My seven-year-old brother grabbed the big greens first.
“Thank you.” Mama shook dirt from our offerings. “But little ones are best.”
Ha! My spindly greens topped his!
I asked, “What do cooked dandelions taste like?”
I’d never eaten spinach. But on TV, Popeye’s spinach helped him clobber the bad guys!
Maybe dandelions possessed the same magic. I insisted on a big bowl for supper. Muscles would pop out on my skinny arms. I would teach Kevin, the mouthy kid across the alley, some manners!
I took my first bite.
Maybe we should have made wine.
Though I gulped several spoonfuls, I didn’t hear Popeye’s happy music. My arms still looked like plucked chicken wings. Maybe if the dandelions had come from a can instead of the churchyard, the spell might have worked.
Decades later, dandelion greens, no longer a dubious alternative to going hungry, are chopped, pickled and curried in hundreds of international recipes.
I take home the fresh, green pile I’ve gathered. When I find the right recipe, I’ll dine on four-star fare for lunch. My personal skeptic insists I’ll be eating weeds. Ignoring her, I search the Internet for recipes.
Who knows? Chopped in my repent-after-the-holidays salad, dandelions might make me as skinny as Olive Oyl.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you have a favorite dandelion recipe?
This post first appeared on January 13, 2016.
We Midwesterners share a rich heritage of blizzard stories. Deprived tropics dwellers can’t appreciate our anticipation when The Weather Channel threatens wild winds, arctic cold and snow up the wazoo. Nor do they understand the joy of swapping lies — er, stories — of bravery amid Snowmageddon. A lifetime Hoosier, I have plenty to share.
A preschooler during my first blizzard, I recall my mother’s positive thinking. Despite three days in a two-room apartment with three little ones, she described the trees as “chocolate with white icing.” The Frosty we built resembled a malnourished alien, but we waved at him from our window. It seemed a friendly blizzard.
The second blizzard wasn’t. Winds howled like wolves, savaging electricity for several days. Cupboards emptied. Fortunately, shivering neighbors brought groceries when they came to enjoy our gas heat. Thirteen shared our three-bedroom, one-bathroom house. Survivor had nothing on us.
But we nine kids — playing infinite games of Monopoly, Candy Land, and the unofficial but essential Freak the Grown-ups — considered it fun. Our parents, with extended therapy and medication, finally recovered.
A young married couple when the Big One hit in 1978, our car refused to navigate three-foot drifts. My medical student husband hiked to a police station, catching a ride to a hospital. For three days, he, another student, and a young resident physician — aided by stranded visitors — cared for little patients on a pediatric wing.
Meanwhile, I baked bread. A nearby fellow medical student wife, whose husband also was missing in action, helped eat it. Walking home, I foundered in a sea of snow-covered landmarks. Only a faint traffic signal in ghostly darkness sent me the right direction. Then a tall shadow blocked my way.
Gulp. The only rapist crazy enough to be out in this?
“How’s it goin’?” he rasped.
“F-f-fine.” I squeaked.
He passed by. I slogged home. When the snow finally stopped, my husband appeared, fell over like a tree and slept.
Not content with that harrowing weather, we moved north near South Bend, Indiana, where blizzard stories abound even more than blizzards. Babies and emergencies ignored storm warnings, expecting my doctor husband to show up. How rude.
School snow days brought hungry hoards incapable of studying algebra, but well able to conduct snow wars outside our house. Once, I was trapped with snow-dueling middle schoolers, teens armed with boom boxes, and soon-to-be-separated college sweethearts — along with remodelers who braved the storm to sledgehammer walls.
Blizzard days two decades later prove far less traumatic, but can stop our lives cold. Yet even if I must search for leftover Christmas candles to light my longhand efforts, I’ll do my usual January thing: tell blizzard stories.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite Snowmageddon tale?
I measure the distance between extended family in states rather than miles. The lone exception, my brother Ned, lives in another part of Indiana.
A year apart, we played together like twins until I started school, where he acknowledged my existence only by a raised eyebrow.
Fortunately, he no longer regards sisters as threats to his manhood. We phone occasionally, but not often enough. I recall several years ago when we met halfway between our homes for breakfast.
We chose a mom-and-pop establishment, where we could indulge in illegal eggs over easy, crispy bacon and infinite cups of curl-your-hair coffee. Or the mortal sin of biscuits with gravy.
Entering, I saw no sign of Ned. As I walked toward a vinyl booth, I expected — and received — the who-are-you-stranger? once-over.
Homeland Security should catch onto this resource, one that could revolutionize national safety procedures. We don’t need metal detectors or X-rays. If the government would pay a tableful of these locals to drink coffee at security points, no terrorist in his right mind would try to get past their scrutiny.
Born and raised in rural Indiana, I knew I’d broken the rules. No woman eats breakfast alone in a strange town. As a sweet-faced waitress brought me blessed coffee, I pulled out my Bible and read while I waited. Eye-lasers clicked off one by one. Their owners swiveled back to their breakfasts. They gave Congress and the weather their morning cussing and analyzed high school basketball with an expertise that would put ESPN out of business.
Until my brother walked in. Immediately, the force field returned. As Ned headed toward my booth, question marks formed in the air, visible as if smokers had blown them.
“Good to see ya, Sis!” Ned trumpeted. He knew the rules, too.
The diners returned to their vivisection of basketball referees, as the waitress took our order. She brought us waffles, eggs and ham. Biscuits and gravy.
With bowed heads, we asked God to bless the cholesterol. Our words filled and warmed us as much as the steaming, delicious food. We solved our kids’ problems (if they would just listen!). We cheered the utter perfection of our grandchildren.
All too soon, our separate worlds called to us. We promised to connect sooner next time.
Before we separated, I demanded a hug, just to give the town conversation material for the next few weeks.
Ned’s eyebrow went up. But the hug happened.
It can’t happen today, in 2020.
But after this blasted COVID crisis ends, I’ll collect every one of those hugs that have piled up in the meantime.
Even if he raises the other eyebrow.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Whom do you want to hug post-COVID?
O Lord, not a normal Christmas! We exchanged gifts with family, not around our Christmas tree, but met in a park we’d never seen before. Sharing fervent, but distanced love and hot chocolate to combat chilly Michigan weather helped, but — crazy!
What’s that? OMG, of course, You’re right. The first Christmas was pretty crazy, too.
O Lord, when I was a kid, gratitude didn’t come easy. Mom would prompt, “What do you say?” and I’d mutter the “Thank you” that got grown-ups off my back. In 2020, it doesn’t come easy, either. Still, OMG, thank You. Thank You. Thank You!
O Lord, thank You for grandsons whose energy output could light Chicago. You know that not too long ago, I easily outraced them. Now, however, my slow legs and weighty derriere always bring up the rear. OMG, even the two-year-old — especially, the two-year-old! — leaves me in the dust.
O Lord, thank You for the joy of picking blueberries with our son and his sons. Though, OMG, You’re so right! For accurate payment, we should have weighed the two-year-old before and after. No blueberries in his bucket, but plenty inside.
O Lord, Hubby and I are still chock full of Thanksgiving — in more ways than one! We are grateful for a wild, wonderful time with four generations of family. And, OMG, we thank You for the morning after, when it’s just we two 😊.