Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yes, Cats Can Tango

We’ve been having a bit of trouble with our ancient water heater. It was in the house when we moved in almost 35 years ago and has served us well, but, man the thing is old. John has been keeping it working, but yesterday when I was in the shower it occurred to me that it could blow at any moment. And then – because I simply can’t let a thought like that go – I wondered how quickly I could get my business done should the water turn to ice. I didn’t think it would right then, but I hurried up the scrub as the specter of facing the world with a head full of shampoo reared it’s bubbly head. And what about all those people trekking across the plains in wagon trains. How did they keep clean?

You know we’ve adopted a stray cat, Sister Agnes. But you’ll be surprised to discover, as I did, that she actually knows how to Tango. The other morning she broke out in high style accompanied by the insistent “meow” that lets me know she’s hungry. She rubbed my leg, I looked ‘round. I stepped to the left, she whipped her tail between my feet. I two stepped forward just as she went right, and before we knew it we were so “tango-ed” we seemed as one. Cat/Woman. EXCEPT. I stepped on her back paw, righted myself, and stepped on her tail, and then it all went south with a yowl that woke the neighbors. Agnes cried out, too. I apologized profusely for ruining the dance and vowed to sign us up for more lessons. Plus I gave her an extra cat treat.

Sitting on the porch with Sierra last week I noticed her pink cowgirl boots were on backwards. It both amuses and annoys me.

So I say, “Uh, oh. Your boots are on wrong.”

“I like it yat way.” She smiles.

“It makes you walk funny,” I say back. “But all little kids do that.” I’m trying to convince her, subtly, that big girls know better. Then I begin ticking off all of her older, wiser, cousins who had committed the same offense when they were small.

“It’s okay. Elaina and Anna did the same thing. And so did your sister, Melodi.” I smile thinking how wonderfully tolerant I am. And then. Little curly top, blued eyed, Miss looks up at me with a pixie in her eye and says,

“And you even did it.”

Bam! Caught out by a three year old.

The moral of these three vignettes?

Learn how to shower quickly ‘cuz you just never know when the water heater will turn traitor. Google “cleanliness along the trail with the Donner party.”  

Cat Tango lessons will probably be pricey, but worth it.

Kids listen and will often call you out, so watch your tongue.

What humbling lessons have you encountered lately?


Monday, April 28, 2014

And now from the archives . . .

Several years ago I thought it would be great fun to gather family stories about food and put them into a booklet as a gift to family members at Christmas. It was a big hit and I thought you might enjoy reading a few of them.

From my sister Pam (who’s twin is Steph).

Steph and I were trying to make a cheesecake once, the kind you refrigerate, not bake, and the recipe called for powdered sugar. We didn’t know if you were supposed to pack the powdered sugar like you do with brown sugar, so of course we did, and it was terrible. The funny thing is (and this is the difference between the first born and last born) that Mom liked it and ate most of it. We didn’t even get into trouble! It was really awful though.

My brother, Tim, remembers.

I have a story about Popeye and a can of spinach I just had to have. After much pleading with Mom for a can of spinach, she opened it and let me have a bit. You guessed it; it wasn’t as appetizing as it was in the cartoon. Mom said, “You wanted it, now you eat it!” I think she made me eat just one mouthful.

Editor’s note: This probably happened the same year he hopped out of the tub and began singing “Mack the Knife” in our tiny bathroom on Thackeray Drive. When he wiggled a bit too close to the wall heater, his Bobby Darin impression earned him a little crosshatch burn on his butt. Quite a moment of high hilarity for his siblings.

And from Bill Silverstein our adopted family member.

I remember once when my mother was out of the house and I was about thirteen or fourteen years old and decided to make oatmeal cookies. So I took the box (remember the round box of Quaker Oats?) and followed the recipe on the back that used the entire box. I had cookies on cookie sheets, frying pans, pots, lids – everything I could find to bake them on. But the cookies were edible and ranged in size from a ½ inch to four inches. Boy! What a mess! Luckily my Mom didn’t kill me.   

Editor’s note: I, for one, am glad he didn’t mess with his Mom’s Honey Cake. THAT would have been a true sacrilege.


Have a super Monday everyone!


Friday, April 25, 2014

Mmmm - Spring

Did you ever wake  up to one of those mornings when everything outside is calling you to leave the inside? Sun’s up, birds are chirping, it’s a little breezy, and a whole host of yard work is waiting. Hmmm. Maybe that last part isn’t so enticing, but no, I think it is. Let’s see . . .

These are some miniature daffodils that I planted after my Secret Pal gave them to me a few years ago. I’m so glad they’re still coming up. Pretty, huh?

This is a shot of the rhubarb hubby planted last fall. Our d-in-law’s mom, Mimi, had her hubby, Al, dig and transport these from her yard to ours, five plants in all. Guess I’d better start looking for rhubarb recipes!

This is a picture from last May. These little beauties will be popping up all over the place in the yard soon. Just the sweetest little thangs!

The garden is going in, the grandkids sports are scheduled (it’s brutal this year with three playing baseball and soccer), and a new patio is in the planning stages.

Spring – don’t ya just love it?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An Amazing Teacher

Today I’m sharing with you my memories of Mr. Prange. He was a real character and the story I wrote about him appeared in Life Lessons from Teachers. That’s the cover of the book over there on the right. Enjoy!

Mr. Prange Does War
By Susan Sundwall

When I was in school there were smart kids, popular kids, not so smart kids and the rest of us. Just like today but going backwards about forty years. All through those formative years I excelled at nothing. And I was quite happy being an okay student whose favorite classes were art and lunch and whose friends were few but loyal.

So when you want to know what teachers influenced me, for the most part, my sentiments are echoed above. There were smart ones, popular ones, not too smart ones and the rest of them. But there were a few who did stand out, among them Mr. Prange, my tenth grade social studies teacher.

He was un-remarkable to look at; tall, dark, middle-aged and balding. When I drag out my old yearbook, there he is on the teacher’s page frozen in time. I smile at the image and the memories of his classroom come flooding back.  

He was one of those teachers who seemed to appreciate personality. There was one girl in class who always cracked him up. Her name was Rosie. She was a giggly faced girl, all braces and chubby cheeks, and her one liners were a delight to him. He freely laughed when she was expounding on one subject or another. There were also a couple of roguish boys who always came up with questions near the end of class that resulted in a story or two from Mr. Prange. Frequently they were personal and always entertaining. He probably knew that those boys were trying to keep him going until the bell rang - he indulged them anyway. And the rest of us hoped he’d forget about assigning homework as the second hand inched towards freedom.

But the most telling thing about Mr. Prange was the way in which he led us through the wars. The American Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars I & II, and the Korean War. Oh – and a few minor wars in between. The War of 1812 comes to mind. There was always a gleam in his eye when it was time to lead us through battle. Once when he was in full cry he threw his fist in the air and hissed, “Do you know why we have wars?” And then he leaned into his answer, fixing us with a knowing glance – challenging us. “Because men love war!”

I will never ever forget the passion in those words. And when I left school and had lived a little I came to agree with him as there seems to be no better explanation. Mr. Prange talked about how war kept life from being boring – or so we thought. It must have been true for him because he waged each battle in the curriculum right there in the classroom. He’d walk back and forth flailing his hands and altering his tone according to what part of the battle he was explaining. I have to tell you, I for one, was riveted.

These many years later I can say that what I learned from him was this; be passionate in whatever direction your life and will leads you. I don’t like war, but I can certainly appreciate a man who can make the horror and destruction of it come alive in front of a bunch of teenagers. I understand what such a passion can be in those who teach. And we’re all teachers sometime or other in our lives.

Mr. Prange’s example also made me realize that a teacher is simply another human being who has answered the call to educate. They’re for the most part older and wiser than those they teach. They are rendering a much needed service, often sacrificing hours that could be spent in more selfish pursuits. They are quite often a student’s best friend in the academic realm. Mr. Prange laughed at and with us, letting us know that we were human beings, too. We would need him for a little while to be passionate about things like wars and their battles, laws and what precipitated them, and most importantly about the people who came before us and influenced our lives.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, April 21, 2014

For Writers - Who's The Boss?,

This is an article I wrote for Writer's Weekly a couple of years ago. I think it still has legs. What do you think? As I re-read it it occurred to me that I should be taking my own advise. May and all it's appointed days looms, though. It's gonna be tough. 

How to Keep Your Job
When Your Boss is You
By Susan Sundwall

Well, that’s a silly title, isn’t it? I chose it because of a little read-in-the-bathroom book a friend gave to my husband last Christmas. In it there was this saying: ‘I became self employed and I still have a jerk for a boss.’ It gave me a chuckle but it also got my gray cells going in the direction of writing. When it comes to this area of my life – and maybe yours – I’m self employed. And sometimes I don’t like my boss. Why? Let me count the ways.

1.    Not showing up for work – I had to force myself to start this article because it’s night time and I’m pooped. I spent the whole day dealing with masses of tomatoes from our garden. I deserve to not write today.
2.    High expectations – I should be making six figures by now and if I’m not doing that I can’t be any good. I should quit.
3.    Empty idea bank. Nobody but me is even trying to come up with things for me to write about. What’s with that?
4.    That ladder of success? I’m stuck on the middle rung and can’t seem to go up, but refuse to go down. It’s paralyzing me.
5.    Editors are judgmental, short sighted, lack imagination – I could go on.

And the worst of it is, sometimes these five points all hit in one morning. Ugh. So I have to pull back and examine each one, coffee and doughnut in hand, and go toe to toe with the boss, me. Here’s what I tell me.

  1. Recognize a few things about not showing up. Just like that sink full of dirty dishes in a bachelor’s apartment, when you finally do show up those nasty, crusted up dishes are still there. Nobody is going to do them for you. C’mon, your Mom told you that. Get behind the sink – uh, keyboard – and do something about it. Start cleaning up and do things writing related every day. That way the dirty dishes won’t reach disastrous levels. Getting them done means getting paid. Got it? And taping your electric bill to the computer screen helps.
  2. Keep shooting higher. It’s a good thing. Any figures are better than none and proves  you love to write enough to stay at it. Pat yourself on the back for being one of those who have hung in there. The glory at the end will be all the brighter; especially when the paycheck grows.
  3. You were created a curious creature for a reason. All kinds of things delight and surprise you. All kinds of things alarm and disgust you. Sometimes the ‘F’ word even comes to mind – fodder – for an essay, a list article, a greeting card, ad copy, a poem, a column, or a novel. Okay, maybe you’ve hit overload and have flipped the situation around to ‘no ideas’ status. That can happen. The brain puts on the brakes with overstimulation and you come to an abrupt halt. What you’ve got to do is put override into play. Pick something, focus, and write.
  4. You may be stuck on the middle rung for a long time to come. Get over it. Remember, someone below you is trying for your spot. Cling to your rung! Only look at where you’ve been if it helps you go where you want to go. Otherwise strive on. Even a toe on the rung above is forward movement. Now think of this; maybe everybody can’t ‘stand out from the crowd’ a nebulous phrase if there ever was one, but sister, you’re in the crowd! You’re standing up there writing and competing with the big guys not down there in that ‘one day I’d like to write’ stage. If you’ve sold one thing you’re ahead of someone who hasn’t. Cut yourself some slack here.
  5. Editors are people with loves,  hates, expectations and a point of view. Each one hopes your submission will be the brilliant piece they’re looking for. Stop complaining and strive for brilliance.

Sometimes being your own boss really sucks. We long for the days when the paperwork, the patient, the dirty floor, the classroom full of kids, were all there waiting for us when we got to the job. But balanced off against the joy of putting your own words on paper, having someone benefit from what you’ve written, and getting paid for it – man, that trumps everything doesn’t it?


Friday, April 18, 2014

Some Friday Things

For those of you who celebrate Easter here are a few things that you may find worthy. First is a poem I wrote years ago. It was a favorite of my mom's.

Then I have two links. One is the powerful "That's My King" by Dr. S. M. Lockridge. The other is a very cool version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

Mary Speaks
By Susan Sundwall

Oh, day of awful darkness
when I cried unending tears,
the very thing I dreaded most
now haunted all my fears.

Where could my lovely child be,
my Savior and my Son?
Who sought to wrench his life away;
what foul thing had He done?

With Peter, James and brother John,
I hid myself away;
as all around a cosmic roar
defined the wretched day.

I did not know where He had gone;
my world was torn apart.
Perhaps I’ll only have Him now
in the cradle of my heart.

Happy Easter!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Glimpses of Heaven - Hurricane

I couldn’t believe I’d slept so long. My eyes popped open when I heard the rush of wind and felt the brilliant sunshine through the window. I dragged my feet over the side of the bed and was pleasantly surprised that my chest didn’t hurt. Not like it had yesterday. As I sat rubbing the sleep out of my eyes the bed became hard, like wood, and when I looked I was sitting on a bench.

I shaded my eyes when I heard her voice. A pretty woman with chestnut curls walked towards me. She seemed to be in a state of happy excitement. I smiled.

“Hi,” she said. “Are you in line?”

“Uh, no,” I said, trying to figure out what she meant.

“There’s always a line here on Hurricane Day.”

“Hurricane Day?”

“Yeah, and this one’s a CAT5. The whole beach is buzzing about it.”

I stood up. What in the world? Where was I?

The woman laughed. “C’mon. I’ll help you pick out a board.”

She took my hand and pulled me towards the big glass doors. Buddy Jones Surf Boards was scrawled across a piece of driftwood placed just so on a huge rock right outside the entrance. We walked in and were greeted heartily by a tall man with a dimple in his chin deep as the Grand Canyon.

“You two have just beat the crowd,” he said with a laugh, oddly familiar.

“I’ll have a Silverado 700, and she’ll have a Turquoise Tortoise.”

We walked out into the wind hanging onto our boards for dear life. The howling had intensifying to an astounding degree and before I’d blinked twice we were at the water’s edge. I knew I should feel terrified, but I didn’t. I could hear the wind and see it whipping up the water, but otherwise the woman and I were unaffected. She squeezed my hand.


I nodded. I couldn’t believe it, but I nodded. And then we were flying over the water, our toes at the edge of our boards, sea foam bubbling up and over. Salt spray in my face. I’d never felt so alive in my life. Why wasn’t I afraid? How could this be a hurricane? I’d barely had time to form the question in my mind when the board dropped away beneath me.

I felt the leathery skin of the whale brush my thigh, but I didn’t scream. The sensation was quite pleasant. And then – the whale laughed. Great bubbles tumbled from his gargantuan mouth, and that’s when I noticed we were underwater. Incredibly blue green water. And I wasn’t drowning. I was breathing. Underwater.

As the whale swam past me I grabbed onto the last bit of him. Maybe I shouldn’t have, because one flip of his mighty tail, and he was rid of me. The next thing I knew I was sitting on the beach. My clothes were dry, my hair was wet and the young woman, who I’d lost track of out on the water, plopped herself down beside me and asked if I wanted a S’more.

I sure did! I was hungry as all get out.

Just then I saw my Aunt Marie, her red hair glinting in the light from the fire pit.  She was playing a guitar and sitting next to the guy from the surf board place who looked over at me and winked.

“Hello, Susie Q.” His eyes were a surreal shade of blue.

The pretty woman was back beside me with a S’more in her hand, and that’s when I recognized her. Mom. The way she must have looked at eighteen or some other age I couldn’t quite determine, but beautiful and full of life.

“Look over there,” she said, touching my cheek so I would. She pointed to a spot just beyond the sand dunes where a silvery pink brilliance shown in the sky.

“What is it?” I asked.

“They’re getting ready for you.”

The air crackled with some kind of energy, like thousands of birds in flight.

“He told me He could only imagine what you’d be like and . . ” Here she hesitated. “I think He’s a little nervous.”

Suddenly the air went out of me. I was going to meet Him.

“I want to tell you a few things before that happens,” she said. “Heaven is never dull. It has no bounds, and you will always feel His love. It takes forever to explore, but you’re going to love it.”

“Why . . . wh . . why would He be nervous about meeting me?”

“I think He wasn’t sure when He called your name that you’d come. But here you are. Yay!”

Mom and her sister, Marie, laughed. And so did Dad. I think his dimple even danced.

Note: Heaven will not be what we expect – at all. Hope to see you there.


Monday, April 14, 2014

A Monday Quiz

Yes, indeedy, spring has finally arrived in our corner of the world. Here’s a short quiz I thought you might enjoy. It’ll kind of get your mojo going after that long, hard winter. Brutal, wasn’t it? Let me know how many of these you get right. Or maybe you'd rather go out and rake the leaves off the crocus. I wouldn't blame you.

  1. What’s the name of the rooster on the Kellogg’s Cornflakes box?
  2. It’s impossible to breathe and swallow at the same time. True or false?
  3. What three sporting events can you win by going backwards?
  4. Which egg spins easily, a hard cooked or a raw one?
  5. What day of the year is Superman’s birthday?
  6. What are the dots on dice called?
  7. A bird called a plover will sometimes use an empty rabbits nest to lay eggs. True or False?
  8. What year did Dodger’s Stadium in Los Angeles open?
  9. Do ants sleep?
  10. Any month where Sunday is the first will also have a Friday the 13th. True or false?

Well there you go. A good way to start a week – with a bunch of random questions. Have fun with them.


  1. Cornelius
  2. True
  3. Rowing, back stroke, and tug of war
  4. Hard cooked. The sloshy liquid in a raw one makes spinning difficult.
  5. February 29
  6. Pips
  7. True. That’s where the Easter bunny delivering eggs idea comes from
  8. 1962
  9. No


Friday, April 11, 2014

Recipe Day - Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate?

Time for a recipe what with Easter coming and all. This one is compliments of my sister, Pam. I  make this and spoon it into pretty cellophane bags, tie up with festive ribbon and give it as a treat for the kids (especially the big ones) or for a hostess gift.

Puppy Chow

6 cups Crispix (or store brand) cereal
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup butter
12 oz bag of chocolate chips
2 cups powdered sugar (may need a bit more than this)
Large paper sack

Melt peanut butter, butter, and chocolate chips together in microwave or on the stove. Stir into cereal. I put the cereal in my big yellow Tupperware salad bowl. Dump powdered sugar into paper sack. Scoop cereal into paper sack and shake until well coated. Warning – this is the messy part! But licking the spoon and eating the crunchy bits left in the bowl is acceptable and thigh friendly. Pam says she adds M & M's and the Easter pastels would be perfect for this time of year. 

Spread on cookie sheets to dry out then spoon it into your containers.  This makes a lot but it goes  fast, too.


Image: freedigital photos

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Glimpses of Heaven - The Healer and the Shepherd

Kenneth Grahame, in his classic tale, The Wind in the Willows, does a masterful job of explaining Mole’s first glimpse of a river in springtime.

Never in his life had he seen a river before – this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again.

This blissful, well imagined, first impression came to mind as I listened to Neal tell me about his  vision of Heaven. Why? Because the good doctor was telling me of his love of  boating, an activity he undertakes with family and friends whenever he has the chance. Skimming the surface of a gurgling and laughing body of water, as cares fall away, does sound quite heavenly.

Water figures in many of the Bible stories we’ve all grown up with. Jesus always had full command of the water. He put water into the void, separated the Red Sea for the Israelites, turned the Nile to blood, symbolically cleanses us with it in baptism, and calmed the raging sea that so terrified His disciples. It’s dynamic stuff

Neal owns seven vintage boat motors dating back to the1920’s. Some have been given to him and some he has purchased. Perhaps a vintage boat is waiting to enjoy with each one as in – In my Father’s house there are many speed boats – no, wait. Anyway, as he cruises along  Neal will be waving at the grandparents he longs to see and I’ll bet a boat ride will be the order of the day. “Hop aboard, folks, glad to see you!”

“You’ve heard the joke,  haven’t you?”

I hadn’t. So Pastor Jim launched into it for me.

Upon arriving at the Pearly Gates the young man learned that there would be a baseball game. On earth this guy was a devotee of this sport, loved the Atlanta Braves in fact, and was pleased as punch to hear this. It seemed as though every dream he’d ever had about eternal life was about to be realized.  

“But there’s good news and bad news,” cautioned St. Peter.

“Oh?” said the young man who couldn’t imagine any bad news about baseball – At All! His face was a question mark as he stared back at Pete.

“The good news is, the game goes on for eternity,” Pete said with a grin. And then, “The bad news is, you’re pitching, starting tomorrow.”

Har, har! There are probably some who think this would be a more fitting scenario in a place known for it’s fiery dens rather than cool drinks  under the palm trees. But to Pastor Jim Heaven is baseball. An endless game where each side scores one run per inning. I could get nothing more from the man, but there’s always a knowing smile when he tells of this Heavenly game.

What could that be about? What is baseball like? Hmmm - let's see.

Jesus as perfect coach, one who occasionally steps in to pitch for the feeble, inept players who might find themselves staring from the pitchers mound at say, Derek Jeeter or even Babe Ruth. Um – that would be me, the inept bumbler worried about breaking a nail – or my neck. Some stepping in would definitely be called for and much appreciated.

The game might operate as a float pool of sorts. Yeah – where  a person could jump into the fray and give it their all – maybe even be the one to score the run for that inning. How cool would that be? No need to be in the game for eternity, but stop by now and then, have a hot dog and enjoy a cool drink under the palm trees. Raise your hand if you’d like to sign up for the float pool. You’re pitching starting tomorrow.

Gathering these thoughts and feelings about what awaits once we shed this earthly coil has been fun and enlightening. Next week, Holy week, it’s my turn.

See you here?  

Image: freedigitalphotos

Monday, April 7, 2014

Yes, Church Can Be Funny

Church is often a place of unexpected entertainment. I’ve belonged to the same congregation for over thirty years and I know this. Here are a few of my more vivid memories.

It was my turn to take care of the altar. I was there a good hour before service and grabbed the two large vases of flowers from downstairs. These flowers are always gorgeous, full, and fragrant. I bustled up the stairs and met a couple of fellow choir members there early for practice. I had a vase in each hand and as I greeted my friends and blabbered away, I failed to notice the water  basin pastor had placed on a small table dead in the center of the aisle I was just about to walk down. As I plowed forward, flowers blocking my view, still blathering away, I was suddenly brought up short when Kaboom! I slammed into the table with the full water bowl.  Holy Niagara, Batman! At first my mind refused to grasp what I’d just done, but thank God I kept a grip on those flowers. What a mess that would have been. Pedals and puddles everywhere. My friends rushed to my aid and we had the water cleaned up in jig time. Yeesh. You don't catch me trying to walk, talk, and carry flowers anymore. 

Then there was the time Blaine, #2 son, was acolyte. He was a young teen and I was so pleased that he’d be walking down the aisle to light the candles. But we sat there and waited and waited and waited. Finally, from way in the back, came his flat almost- man voice, “Has anybody got a match?” I turned and there he stood, taper in hand, and no fire. An usher dashed forward, snicked the striker on his match book, and away Blaine went.

This was in direct contrast to another young acolyte who had too much fire. If you’ve ever seen one of these tapers, you know the wick is very long, encased in a brass tube kind of thing you can push up from the bottom as needed. Well, somebody did a little too much pushing this Sunday, and as Tom began his walk we all gasped. The flame hanging from the end of the taper looked like a dragon’s tongue darting about as he swayed towards the altar. The congregation’s collective breath held as we watched this fiery display. I think there was even a small cadre of young boys a few pews back cheering him on. It turned out okay and most of us were very relieved that nobody’s hair caught fire. Whew!

Another time an elderly gentleman, at the communion rail, decided that maybe the wafer wasn’t as tasty as it should have been so he flung it back into the chalice full of wine.With gusto. Poor guy. He wanted wheat not rye, I guess.

Sometimes the little ones join in a hymn, which is delightful. And one little girl, upon seeing the deacon up front instead of the pastor, asked her mother why God “wasn’t here today”. On occasion our organist, Ted, will drop a book on the organ and give us all a start. No nodding off allowed. You might miss something.

Church is a great place for lots of things and funny isn’t something that comes to mind right away when you think of it. But it’s there because humans are there. The pews are full of humor and heartache, caring and worry. There’s also the occasional gnashing of teeth. But the truth of it is, Jesus is right there with us working it out. I love that.

It’s a wonderful thing.  


Friday, April 4, 2014

Out and About

Well, here I go again, noticing things. It’s all a matter of keeping your peepers open as you buzz around town. And it’s really easy if someone else is driving. Like last week when hubby (I guess I should call him by his name, huh?), John, and I had a few errands to run in Hudson. First stop was the Staples store. We had a coupon for copy paper and I needed #10 envelopes. As he loaded the trunk and took the cart back I noticed something odd on the roof of the bank building. Roughly ten seagulls were lined up right at the peak. All facing the same way, about six inches apart, and still as could be. And then I saw maybe six more on the pavement not too far from the car. Royalty on the roof overlooking the serfs on the ground. Fun stuff.

A few days later I was on my way home from a bank and post office run. We have a roundabout in our small business district and as I sat waiting my turn, my attention went to an old station wagon slowly coming around. Vintage 1980's, red, no hubcaps, back loaded with laundry (maybe), and bungeed to the car roof were two white barrels that looked to each hold 25 gallons or so. And they did. Sloshing around inside was some kind of clear liquid. Please don’t turn down my road, please don’t turn down my road, I prayed. They turned down my road. I followed at a good distance as I didn’t want the (I imagined) highly explosive material to un-bungee, come rocking and rolling my way, and send me to Kingdom Come. Although, from what I’ve been reading here Heaven is a pretty decent place. Arriving in a seismic KABOOM would be kind of cool. The guy did turn at the next corner, though, giving others a chance to meet their Maker - but only if their number was up. That's the way it works.  

Less spectacular things have also recently caught my attention. Like the flock of Starlings whose cheeping assaulted my ears as I walked out the door one morning. Please DO NOT POOP on my car I whispered. If you yell, it sets them off. Then you have to clean poop off of everything including your upturned face. I read a poop study once, though, and the stuff is supposed to clear up acne.  

The cat, Sister Agnes, and I shared a moment. We each had a deer tick in our fur – uh – mine was crawling down my neck. ICK! Had to scratch myself just now from thinking of it. I ran right out and got flea and tick stuff. For the cat, silly!

Do you have any little things to share with us today?


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Glimpses of Heaven - A Tale of Two Nurses

It didn’t hit me until I was hanging up my coat that there was no early choir practice. I’d completely forgotten and gave myself a mental head slap. But then it hit me; Ted and Amy, our choir director and his wife, were upstairs and now I could have them all to myself – to talk more about Heaven.

Ted had told me earlier “I want to be able to play with the best of them – like a Rock Star.” And he grinned. He mentioned musicians whose fingers are fire on the keyboard and I could relate, sort of. I’d like to write like, well, there are too many good writers for me to pick just one, but I knew what he meant. The best are the best and we want to be that.

They both looked at me when I bounced up the stairs. “I forgot there was no practice,” I said. “But now I can talk to you about Heaven, if you have the time.” They did.

Ted and Amy are nurses. I wondered if their profession had informed their ideas at all and figured that would come out as we talked.

Ted focused on science. “When you study science you realize how vast the universe is. I think of all the worlds that are beyond ours. I’d love to explore and find out about God’s whole creation.” As he spoke he gestured with his hands, and his body language spoke to the sincerity of what he was saying and the longing that went along with wanting to know. I listened as he spoke of the beauty of space and how it didn’t seem possible that we were the only ones inhabiting it.

Then Amy told me what she wanted to see again. “My dad’s smile.” I had to smile myself because I'd known her dad, Sam. He was a great guy. She also said, with a little shrug.  “But, I’m not so sure there even is a Heaven. Maybe we just die and that’s it.”

Okay, this was mildly disconcerting. But I’m not such a Pollyanna that I think everyone believes everything as I do and zippity-do-da my-o-my what a wonderful day. Nope, I’ve known my share of doubters, skeptics, and seekers.

So I asked about their experiences with deaths they had witnessed. Amy spoke again. “The most difficult was with Barbara, Ted’s mom. She hung on for so long.” Mom spent her last months in Ted and Amy's home. Amy said she knew when the last day had arrived.

And here we are introduced to the disturbing.

Mayson is a dog, one of two Ted and Amy own, one with guardian angel qualities. He kept faithful watch as Barbara eased towards her end. Amy and another women were there for Barbara’s last  moments and practical, clinical, concerns arose when she’d breathed her last. Was she really gone? We should close her mouth; things like that. Within minutes, as Amy and her friend were assessing, Mayson began to cry. It arrested their attention only briefly until it intensified. The dog began his lament in earnest and went on for quite a while. And then this loyal canine marched to the front door and continued his grieving. When the door was opened he sat down, stilled, and stayed put. Perhaps Mayson didn’t want to bar the way as Barbara stepped into His presence.

As Amy recalled the moment, her face softened. Ted looked at me with his crooked, boyish smile, and quietly said, “I think animals go to Heaven.”

The reason we had no early choir practice was because Amy had a solo that day. I sat and listened as she poured out, in her amazing voice, “Be Ye Glad” by Michael Kelly Blanchard. The chorus brings chills.

“Oh, be ye glad, be ye glad
For every debt you ever had
Has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord
Be ye glad, be ye glad, be ye glad.”

When I commented later that I was moved by power in the song she said, “Well, yes, for me, when you talk of Heaven, that’s what it’s like.”

It sure is.
See the full song here.

Image: Free Digital Photos