Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow is a wonderful thing

Maybe I am just noticing it more, but it seems that snow is on the increase everywhere.  One is tempted to joke about global warming.  The other day someone asked where Al Gore was with all these frigid temperatures and snow.  I replied maybe he was hiding in a pile of snow.  Truth is, I don’t understand the whole global warming thing and take a very simple approach to these things.  As the song says Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be.  I do my part to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  That’s about all any one individual can do. 

I have at least two “hometowns.”  One, of course, is my beloved Brooklyn.  The other is Columbia, Missouri.  I love them both but in different ways.  Both have some wonderful memories as well as some pretty sad and awful ones.  I have snow memories from both hometowns as well.  I’ve written about Brooklyn snow and you can find it here.

I am thinking about Columbia snow today because I see on Facebook that Columbia got a lot of snow and is getting more.  One of the first times I drove in snow was in Columbia.  I was a late driver.  I didn’t get my first license until I was married with two children and 19 years of age.  I was living in North Carolina.  A mature neighbor of 30 saw herself in me and told me I could use her car anytime to learn to drive.  It was just enough to give me courage and shortly I was at the testing station at Fort Bragg.  Second try and I had a license.  There’s a story there too, but I’ll save it for another time.

I drove a 69 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon that I purchased for $300.  It was after my beloved 69 Volkswagen had been put to rest.  It was a luxurious tank.  It was also rear wheel drive.  It was great for the three kids who could crawl all over the “back-back.”  The car was terrible in snow.  I was a single woman with no clue how to put chains on the tires so I fishtailed everywhere.  One time, in a snow storm in Columbia, I was trying to maneuver Hitt Street near the Brewer Field House heading to the Medical Center.  I shudder to think of all the cars my fishtailing hit.  I just kept going. 

Another time I took that car to run away to visit a friend at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  I don’t know how I made it alive as I fishtailed south onto back roads finding her home.  I was running away from love.  I was scared.  I was falling in love.  I had been hurt so badly before that the most logical thing to do was just run.  We’d dated less than a year.  Marriage was discussed.  Fear of being hurt as well as other critical factors caused me to run and hide. 

The snow kept coming that year in Columbia.  Eventually I made my way back to Columbia.  I lived in the projects but to me it was a glorious 3 bedroom townhouse apartment.  It was early February.  That year, like this, Columbia got a fresh dump of snow.  Another foot was added to what was on the ground.  It was so bad that even the University of Missouri cancelled classes.  In my project apartment, I was making Spanish rice with hamburger in it.  The electric skillet was hot and the aroma filled the apartment.  It was a cozy snowy day.

There was a knock at the door.  Shocked, there stood the man I was running from.  He lived nearly 3 miles from the Columbia Square Apartments.  He had no car.  There was no sign of a cab and the buses weren’t running.  How did he get there?  Why was he there?  He was there because he loved me.  He was there because he walked those 3 miles stopping only once at a grocery store to buy early valentines candy for my children and I.  He smiled and said, “I didn’t want you to not have a Valentine.”  This was only his 3rd Valentine’s Day as his native Pakistan didn’t celebrate this day of love.  Like something out of a romance novel, there stood the man I loved and ran from, shivering from a long walk in the snow, just to give me candy for Valentine’s Day.  I knew then, I couldn't run anymore.  I was caught.

That was 33 years ago.  I wish I remembered the exact day.  I do remember that by February 14th we had decided to get married.  By February 25th, the snow had melted along with my fears.  I said “I do.”  He said “I do.”  We still say “I do” today.  Snow is a wonderful thing.  It brought me the love of my life.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Go Ahead, Make My Day

What does it take to make some one’s day?  I guess it depends on whom that someone is.  Usually it doesn’t take as much as you think it might to brighten a day.  I wrote yesterday about finding old friends.  That always makes my day.  Actually, I’ve been excited about finding these folk after all these years for three days now.  Depending on how much it made their day, it might even go on a bit longer.

I’m now in the mood to think about people from the past.  I get like this a lot.  And cold snowy days in South Dakota seem to make it worse.  I do wonder if ten years from now I’ll be wondering what ever happened to people I have met here in this land of snow.  I imagine I will.  Some people here in South Dakota are worth remembering and finding if we ever lose touch.

Today I wondered about the doctor who delivered my daughter Bethany.  His quick action medically saved her life.  Equally important, his kindness was exceptional.  If you haven’t read that story, you can read about it here and here.  I took a notion to see if he was still in practice.  He is.  I even found a picture of him by googling Google images.  I thought yep – there he is – then I looked for another doctor, and yet another.  I had a different doctor with each delivery, something I do not recommend.  Half were not memorable, Drs. Halverson, Colter, Trumbower and Memkin were.

I thought for a moment about Dr. Halverson.  I wondered if he knew.  I wondered if he knew that I still remembered his name.  I wondered if he knew how much his kindness meant to me. 

He was still a resident then.  He probably wasn't much older than I was at the time.  I wondered if he’d be surprised to find out that the welfare mom and high school drop-out who sat scared in that exam room so many years ago, pregnant, deserted by her husband had finished her college degree because of tears shed that same day he saved my daughter’s life.  I also wondered if he’d remember or care.

I followed my gut.  I would never pick up the phone and call someone out of the blue, or someone from the past.  Heck, I have a hard time calling people I am friendly with now.  I have some odd aversion to phone calls.  However, I have no aversion to sending emails.  I think part of it is that there is no rejection potential other than never getting a reply.

His email was right there in front of me.  Why not?  I sent a brief email.  I told him I remembered him.  I gave him a link to my blog.  I thanked him. 

I think I made his day.  He replied.  He said he had tears in his eyes.  He said he remembered that day.  He said my words meant a lot to him.  That made me well up with tears as well.  It made my day.

Sometimes I think my memory is a problem.  It is too good.  I remember so many things that so many other people forget.   Today I am glad I remembered.  I am glad I took a few minutes to make someone’s day, even if it was 35 years later.

It doesn’t take much to make someone’s day.  Whose day can you make today with a smile, a touch, a call, an email?  Really, that’s all it takes.  And guess what?  You might get a reply that makes your day as well!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Perfect Rice

I’ve cooked a lot of rice in my life, probably 100s if not 1000s of pounds of it.  That’s a lot of rice.  My mother rarely cooked rice.  She relied heavily on Minute Rice when I was kid.  I’ve used the stuff but it just doesn’t compare to good cooked rice.  It wasn't my mother who taught me to cook rice.  It was a friend I met by chance many years ago.

Last weekend our son called me and asked how to fix rice.  He bought a five pound bag of Basmati rice after obtaining instructions on rice cooking and recommendations on kinds of rice from me.  I understand he has cooked six or seven batches since I told him how to cook it.  I love it when my kids call me and when they seek my knowledge, that’s even better.   But this blog isn’t about my kids, it’s about rice.  Well, sort of…

My older children, who lived through the days of poverty, food stamps, and trailer living, will tell you that they loved it when I fixed a rice dish.  Why?  Not because they loved rice but because it was one of those things that I never had to ration.  They said they could fill up on it and eat as much as they wanted.  If there were leftovers, in the morning they’d have it again with sugar and milk for breakfast.   If not, I’d be found at the stove in the morning cooking cream of rice, cream of wheat, oatmeal, or maybe Malt-O-Meal.  

Next to that stove was a clean gray 33 gallon plastic trash can lined with a clean trash bag.  Inside, when full, was 100 pounds of rice.  I had discovered the economy of shopping at Asian ethic groceries.  A 100 pound bag of long grain white rice was cheap.  Paired with Textured Vegetable Protein or lentils, the meal was a complete protein without meat.  I even learned to make meatballs and meatloaf from TVP which was cheaply obtained at the Food Co-Op.  Meat, usually hamburger, was served only once a week.  No we weren’t vegetarians, we were poor.

In addition to the amazing poverty driven culinary skills I developed, rice makes me think of friends.  I don’t know about you, but I like to look at my friends pictures on Facebook.  Even friends who aren’t that close anymore.  I even look at pictures at times of people I don’t know, especially vacation pictures or beach pictures.  They let me dream about a vacation at the beach.  

The other day my scroll on Facebook showed a picture of a cute little girl.  She was connected to someone I used to know, back when I was poor.  I guess I’d still consider them a friend, but for a variety of reasons our renewed friendship on Facebook has not led to a glorious reunion.  As I perused her wall, I saw some Christmas pictures.  As I scanned those pictures I thought of rice.  There after all these years were the faces of people who once came to my home with rice. 

We were all young.  We all had some sort of connection to internationals.  We were four young couples, one Dutch with Indonesian ancestry, one Taiwanese, one American married to an Indian, and us, the American married to a Pakistani.  We had a potluck in my little kitchen in Hallsville Missouri.  We all brought chicken and rice.  I asked my Facebook friend who wasn’t there that day about these now older faces who once were my friends.  She replied.  I still don’t think there will be any face-to-face reunions.  Some people just move one, others do but like to look back and connect.  That’s me.  I’m the connector. 

After my son asked me about rice, I remembered someone else.   I remembered the woman who taught me the formula for rice that I had just given my son.  I set out on a quest.  Certainly if I keep googling I’ll find them.  I did.  I found a beautiful young woman in whose face and eyes I saw the sweet little girl who played with mine.  We had met them by chance in a city park.  My oldest son walked up to them saying “As-salamu Alaykum.”  Shocked and smiling, they replied.  From that day on, they were our friends. 

I emailed the daughter not even knowing for sure it was her.  She responded immediately.  I was shocked, she remembered us.  Warm greetings followed from her father.  They remembered us.  They remembered our friendship.  Gifts of friendship should never be forgotten.  In their small campus apartment, they’d serve us pistachios, oranges, and sometimes rice.  Her rice was perfect and she shared her secret with me.  I’ve made perfect rice ever since thanks to that friendship.  I hope we share a meal over rice again.  I hope this leads to a glorious reunion.  They live in California; I might get the beach as a bonus. J

Friday, January 7, 2011

This Little Light of Mine

My mother loved children.  Perhaps because of her own lack of self confidence and self-esteem she found it safe to be with children.  She blossomed with the care of children.  She cared deeply for their souls.  Her life can be told through countless Sunday School lessons, Released Time sessions and Vacation Bible School.  At 80 she was back in a nursery serving the “cradle roll” as she had so many years before in the basement of our beloved church, Salem Gospel Tabernacle.

There are photos in my memory of her with Sunday School classes of young girls holding their Bibles.  There were other photos of these same girls smiling in our backyard as she hosted them for a picnic.  Later, came leading the “downstairs” Sunday School, Released Time, serving at Camp and helping on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with the mission work of her friend Sister Jacobsen. 

Curriculum and music had to pass the Elsie theological tests.  She wasn’t a particularly deep thinker theologically.  However, nothing got presented that she didn’t weigh against her understanding of theology.  One of her tests was that the song didn’t glorify the devil.  She never wanted us to sing about the Devil being a sly ol’ fox – that just gave the devil too much credit.  Nevertheless, I learned this ditty and occasionally someone would let us sing it.

I love Sunday School choruses.  I wonder if children today know what they are missing not being able to sing “Deep and Wide” with the motions.  Or do they know what it is like to “fly o’er the enemy” and be in the “Lord’s ar-me, Yes Sir.”  I guess they don't climb sunshine mountain where the heavenly breezes blow anymore either. One of the songs that we sang a lot was “This little light of mine, I’m goin’ let it shine.”  Even though it had a verse that sort of glorified the devil by saying we won’t let Satan blow out our light, it passed the Elsie’s theology test.  I know the song is going through your head.  Be careful, if you sing it, it will get in your head all day J!  But that might not be so bad. 

I’m sure you’ve seen the video.  If you haven’t you can see it here.  Ted Williams, the man with the God given gift of a golden voice.  Imagine all the people that passed this formerly homeless man and laughed at his cardboard sign.  While I always try to give to the homeless when I can, I probably would have chuckled inside at the sign.  I would have thought it was just an interesting way to get attention.  I would have missed his light.  I would have missed his gift.

Then there is the sensation of Susan Boyle.  Remember the audience as they jeered and laughed when she first appeared on the stage.  The judge’s sarcasm and skepticism was blatant and obvious.  How easy it would have been to miss the gift.  I was listening to Susan sing on my iPod this morning singing How Great Thou Art.  Amazing!

Ted and Susan have something in common.  They both have a gift from God of a golden voice.  They are both like diamonds hidden in obscurity.  Their gift could have stayed under that “bushel” like the light in the song of my childhood.  But they said NO – they said “I’m going to let it shine.”  They held their dim light up until the world noticed.  They didn’t let the devil blow it out by discouragement or circumstance.  They didn’t hide it saying no one will care.  In spite of hard circumstance and harsh words, in spite of disbelief by those of privilege, in spite of arrogance, jeers and derision, they held their light out. 

Now the world sees their light.  I take hope in their stories.  I do not have the voice of either of them.  I doubt the world will ever know my name nor will I contribute to the world on the same scale as they did.  But I have God given gifts and talents.   I have a light.  I have something to contribute.  I can’t control who sees it but I can keep it lit.  I can keep using what God has given me.  And maybe at 80, like my mother, I’ll still be in obscurity.  But for all the babies whose diapers she prayerfully changed and all the children who know the Bible and know Jesus because of her, she wasn’t obscure.  She didn’t hide her light under a bushel.  I am not going to hide my light under a bushel.  How about you?  Where’s your light?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome 2011 - Good riddance 2010

It is a new year.  I am more hopeful about this year than I’ve been in a long time.  There are so many reasons why, some I can share, some I can’t.  Most I can’t.  The last time I felt this hopeful about a new year it didn’t turn out so good.

It was the year that we closed the coffee shop.  I had a feeling even before we opened the coffee and deli shop that it wasn’t a good idea.  I had talked about this for years.  Finally, too late, my husband thought he’d give me a dream.  His heart was in the right place but he hadn’t noticed that I’d moved on.  He hadn’t noticed that I didn’t talk about this dream the way I once had.  I was more excited to be in school and be learning Hebrew.  I discovered that I had a near unquenchable thirst for knowledge.  I was an excellent student.  I had come alive.

Instead, we opened the shop in spite of the nagging in my gut.  I determined the year we decided to close that I’d never ignore my gut again.  I’d never sign papers against my gut.  I’d never make a decision against my gut.  So far, that determination has not been challenged.

As hope for 2008 grew, I was ready to move from Trevecca to Lipscomb.  I wasn’t changing denominations but Lipscomb gave me an opportunity to alter my path just enough, without losing credit to pursue a Masters of Divinity.  This was the path to a Doctor of Ministry.  The long postponed doctoral degree was coming in focus.  Lipscomb also offered me a 60% scholarship throughout the program as long as I kept my GPA.  It was an amazing opportunity.

During the month of January 2008 I began to recover my health that had been so beaten down by the work of owning and running a coffee shop and deli.  I did it nearly single handedly.  My daughter had a daughter and she was less help.  My husband had a job and besides money, his biggest contribution was to mop the floor at night.  I did the buying which meant multiple trips to Sam’s Warehouse and Sysco during the week.  We had no food truck.  I prepped and cooked all the food.  I waited on all the customers.  I washed their dishes.  I dreamed up new ways to get people in and please them.  Day after day I’d watch people chose a greasy nasty meat and three that shared the parking lot get customers while I sat praying for relief of any kind.  My body and soul was nearly destroyed.  Our finances have still not recovered.

The hope of 2008 didn’t last long.  My husband interviewed in South Dakota that fateful year.  It was February 25, our wedding anniversary that the call came.  My life that was going to change for the better was now trumped by an offer he couldn’t and wouldn’t refuse.  I should have never gone.  I should have stayed.  I should have went on to Lipscombs.  But love does funny things, I’ve always chosen my vows and my husband over anything else.  I don’t know if that’s right but it is how I am. 

It’s the dawn of 2011.  Soon it will be February 25th again.  It will be our wedding anniversary, the anniversary of a fateful invitation to SD and the anniversary of my mother’s death.  I will never celebrate my wedding anniversary with pure joy ever again.  I wonder what life will be like by then.  Like milk left on the counter, I wonder if my hope will be soured and curdled.  I don’t know? No one knows.  But this one thing I do know God will be with me and He’ll give me the grace I need to deal with all that 2011 has to offer.