Saturday, September 26, 2009

Little Big Foot: The Fall Festival

The pungent fragance of smoke wafted through the woods from the many wood-burning stoves of the area. The honking of Canadian geese on their way south filled the sky, the night air was cool and the trees had donned their colorful fall garments. Little Big Foot’s summer tourists had mostly disappeared for the season, but the stores, restaurants and business establishment were decorated for the season nonetheless with cornstalks, hay bales, scarecrows and pumpkins.

The Episcopalians had already begun practicing for their annual Christmas drama. Dee Anna had heard that people came from all over the county to see their beautiful production. The Lutherans were planning their annual Lutefisk supper. The Catholics had begun a campaign for Thanksgiving food baskets and all the churches were participating. Autumn had arrived in Wisconsin’s north woods.

North Woods Chapel was having a festival.

The water was colder than she had expected, and Dee Anna came up gasping. The crowd around the dunk tank applauded and cheered loudly. Catching her breath she called loudly, “Okay, those of you who said you’d pay to see me get wet, remember you owe the youth missions fund some big bucks!”

“We have the coolest pastor ever,” said one teen girl who was dressed as a butterfly. Her friend, a tall lanky girl who was outfitted as a vampire, grinned, showing her fangs. Dee Anna didn’t think she had ever seen her before.

“Make that the coldest pastor ever, and you’ll be right,” she called as a grinning Deacon Chad helped her out of the dunk tank and Lorene Johnson handed her a large beach towel. Madelaine was standing to one side with a school friend she had brought to the party, a short round girl with long braids. Both girls waved to Dee Anna as they munched on pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies.

The wide back lawn at North Woods Chapel was crowded with people—children, teens and adults. One side of the lawn was filled with food and the buttery aroma of popcorn mingled with the sweet scent of the funnel cakes that Lorene’s husband Jim was frying in a large vat. There were Nesco roasters full of hamburgers, hot dogs and bratwurst with sauerkraut. Crock Pots contained baked beans and German potato salad. Coolers held cans of soda in ice and one long table supported two large coffee pots and several jugs of hot cider.

The other side of the lawn featured a blow-up jumping castle and a row of booths that contained various kid’s games. A group of boys pushed each other and laughed as one of their friends shouted loudly that he had landed his wooden hoop over the top of a bottle. Dennis and Marla Whitewater stood together in another booth with fishing poles and helped children hook toys from a “pond.” Lee Coats stood in the next booth, helping a group of smaller children take turns trying to pin the nose on a Jack O’ Lantern. His booth also contained a large pumpkin bean bag game--in the same shade of glowing orange. Dee Anna smiled to herself, remembering that when she had brought the can of orange paint up from the parsonage basement Lee had agreed that the leftover wall paint would make a fine pumpkin color. He had seemed surprised to learn that the orange color was left over from someone’s previous paint job in the parsonage master bedroom.

Dee Anna aimed for the back door of the church, navigated through a kitchen full of junior high girls making candy apples and climbed up the stairs to the front entry and her office where she had stashed a gym bad containing a change of clothes. Slinging the bag over her shoulder, she headed for the women’s restroom.

North Woods Chapel’s new pastor was wet and her teeth chattered slightly, but she was happy. She had been in Little Big Foot for about two months. Madelaine had started third grade at the public school, and to her mother’s relief she had made several friends, the "best" of whom was Dana, the plump girl with braids. Dee Anna, Madelaine and the dog, Charlie, had settled in at the parsonage, and Chad and the Whitewaters had helped her paint the rooms more reasonable colors. The pizza-patterned carpet remained, but after bringing in their furniture, it was less noticeable. Madeline’s room was lovely, and the beige walls of Dee Anna’s bedroom were passable, but the orange closet remained. She planned to get to that soon.

Dee Anna had been busy getting acquainted with the people of North Woods Chapel. She had already visited most of the congregation in their homes and things seemed to be going well. The first meeting with the deacon board had gone off fine, she mused, and she had met with other ministry teams during the past weeks. So far, so good.

She peeled off her wet flannel shirt, put on dry underclothes and pulled a sweatshirt over her head. A few minutes later, she emerged from the restroom wearing jeans and white sneakers and with her red curls mostly dry. She was thinking happy thoughts of how well the Fall Festival was going. The attendance had been better than expected. They had planned a fun night that would conclude with a short time of worship and an autumn-themed story with a gospel message.

She peeked in the sanctuary doors. Mary Coats and another woman were arranging some props that Dee Anna planned to use during the story. Mary placed a scarecrow on a small chair, and then she smiled and beckoned, but she didn’t look happy. “What do you think, Pastor?”

“This looks great, ladies!” smiled Dee Anna. “Thank you so much for all your hard work.” Mary smiled and nodded but said nothing. Her companion was Mary’s neighbor, a small thin woman with a sharp nose who had recently started coming to church at Mary and Lee’s invitation. Dee Anna had only spoken to her briefly and now she struggled to remember her name. Betty? Bernice? Something with a B…

Her thoughts were interrupted as the woman crossed her arms across her chest and said, with a frown, “Pastor, I know I’m new here, and maybe I should keep my opinion to myself...” She paused and glanced at Mary, who was looking miserable now. “But I just cannot keep silent in the face of such goings on.”

“Uh oh,” thought Dee Anna as she said, “Is something wrong…um…Bonnie? You and Mary have done a wonderful job in here.”

“Scarecrows and hay and cornstalks in a church are one thing,” the woman snapped. “But…” she turned and gestured toward the direction of the back lawn. “Jack O’ Lanterns? Don’t you know those are pagan?”

Dee Anna sighed inwardly, thinking involuntarily of her mother. “Well,” she began, “actually…”

“And another thing,” Bonnie continued, stabbing a finger in Dee Anna’s direction, “Did you see those costumes? There is a vampire, a witch, and even….” she sputtered, “A devil costume! I simply cannot believe that any church that preaches the truth would condone such things.” She frowned at Dee Anna, who took a deep breath and spoke softly, keeping her voice even.

“Yes, I know that some of those costumes may be a bit questionable…”

“A bit!” the little woman snorted. “Do you have any sense?” Mary gasped and patted her friend’s arm, “Please, Bonne, Pastor Dee Anna means no harm. She…”

Dee Anna smiled reassuringly at Mary. “It’s all right, Mary. I’m sure your friend doesn't mean to be disrespectful.” She turned to Bonnie and began again, “I am glad you feel strongly about spiritual matters. When we planned this event we knew there might be a bit of controversy, but children are going to celebrate Halloween one way or another, so we thought it would be good to have some fun right here at the church where we can also share some good news with the…”

Bonnie snorted, “So you are going to mix a gospel message with all this…this…evil? Don’t you know that light has no fellowship with darkness?

Dee Anna sighed softly. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Bonnie. I hope that when you see how we end the evening you will be reassured. My daughter, Madelaine, and most of the church kids are not wearing costumes or they are wearing less, um, less dark ones. But we are happy to have children and teenagers come here who might not show up for Sunday worship. Their moms and dads too.”

Bonnie interjected, “I don't much like fun and games in a church. Still, I was happy to help Mary decorate the sanctuary for a story and some singing, but when I arrived and saw what is going on here…well…I can tell you the ones who are happy about what is going on at this church right now are the demons in Hell!”

Afterwards Dee Anna could never understand how she had spoken the next words aloud. Mary had stared at her, confused, and Bonnie’s mouth had dropped open.

Dee Anna had replied, “Actually, speaking of Hell, I think the demons might mostly be happy about my bedroom closet.”

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Fall Friday Five

The Autumnal Equinox has just come 'round again. I took a look back at our Friday Fives and noted that it always seems to make the Rev Gals and their Pals think of changes.

There is something so nostalgic about this time of year, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. The nights grow cooler, crops are harvested, for some of us the leaves are beginning to change colors. The scent of smoke is in the air, pumpkins are in the stores (or on wagons, or in roadside stands for those of us in the country). I'm thinking of putting away my summer clothes and pulling out the sweaters. And I have a tub of Fall-themed items that my husband just lugged up from the basement. I'm looking for my scarecrow.

For this week, let's share some memories along with some hopes and expectations.

1. Share a Fall memory.
My mother loved Fall, and it's not a season that happens much in California where I grew up. Sometimes we would take a trip up the the mountains where the air was crisp and the leaves were showing some color. I remember one Autumn weekend at Yosemite National Park, roasting marshmallows (which I do not like, but like the smell) with my sisters, singing songs, smelling smoke and pine trees. I experienced an all-too-rare sense of peace and serenity. It was one of the last fun times we had as a family.

2. Your favorite Fall clothes--(past or present)?
Fall was when the Spiegel catalog arrived. Californians don't really need warm clothes, but I loved looking at the wool coats, hats, scarves...who knew that one day I'd live in snow country? I still like getting out the fall clothes, sweaters, boots, my brown corduroy skirt. I just wish that the need for fall clothes did not turn so quickly into needing WINTER clothes.

3. Share a campfire story, song, experience...etc.
One of the things I love about reenacting is what happens around campfires at night. People talk, sing, reminisce--there is something very companionable about sitting around a fire. Think of how many generations people have been doing that!

4. What is your favorite thing about this time of year?
The changes happening in nature are very evident here. I'm starting to take the camera with me in the van--there are so many beautiful things to see. The fields are ripe--corn, beautiful golden soybeans, wheat, bright orange pumpkins. The grasses are taking on the hues of fall, and the sounds are changing too. The Canadian geese are getting excited and starting practice flights, honking excitedly in small "Vs" which will grow larger as the time to depart arrives. I love the sound of geese in the sky! I do not love being in the north (still a bit of a California hot-house flower, I suppose) but I do love this time of year.

5. What changes are you anticipating in your life, your church, the season changes and winter approaches?
Kris and Daryl are busy harvesting from their garden and their apple and pear trees. Kris is loading her basement shelves with canned things. She recently made pickles. Yesterday she made jam from the Concord grapes that are on their property--beautiful things as the grow purple in the sun. Next comes salsa making. It's fun watching them on their little hobby farm, and seeing the fun Trinity is having as she learns about life in the country. I don't know what is ahead for me...still hoping for ministry opportunity but enjoying the work I'm doing for a small financial firm. As always I'm thinking of change as the season turns cool. I do not know what to expect. But it will be good to celebrate Thanksgiving with Kris and her little family, Ken's brother, Kevin, maybe our son Josh. Fall seems to be a "gathering in" time, doesn't it?

Bonus: What food says "AUTUMN" at your house? Recipes always appreciated.
Apples! Kris and Daryl have LOTS of apples. It is lovely to see them ripen on the trees, to smell the applesauce cooking, to think of pie baking, apple bread, other things that call for cinnamon and spice!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Remembering Mary Travers

This video is how I remember Mary Travers--that strong, deep voice belting out the music, tossing that blond hair back out of her eyes...singing for all she was worth and Paul and Peter harmonizing too...amazing harmony.

I am a Peter, Paul and Mary fan from way back. Oh sure, I came of age in the '60s so we all loved folk music to some degree. But Ken and I own every album they made, including one very non-folky one. I know ever word to every song they sang, not just the well-known ones that made the Top 40. We also own Paul Stookey's solo album (love it) which is simply titled "Paul."

Peter, Paul and Mary were singing during many memorable moments of my life. That sentimental song, "Puff the Magic Dragon" brought tears to my eyes as a kid. I was kissed under the stars at the famous Hollywood Bowl while listening to PP&M sing. After another concert a friend remarked, "Listening to those three is almost like they are in your living room giving you a personal concert." It was true. I don't know how they managed it, but with their guitars, voices, lyrics, gentle humor and passion for justice they connected with their audience in a way that was uncanny.

Our kids love them too. Actually, our kids can quote the entire "Paul Talk" track--side two of the "Peter, Paul and Mary in Concert" album. I laughed so hard the first time I heard it that I nearly fell off my sister's couch.

I sang "I'm in Love With a Big Blue Frog" and people thought it was about Ken. My late sister, Darlaine, our friend Rod Turner, and I sang their songs, and others, at a few Valentine's banquets! I recall many evenings when Rod and I sat in my living room singing and singing...PP&M, Ian and Sylvia, and Dylan. I was so very young then!

I am saddened to hear of Mary's passing, and it almost feels as though I lost a personal friend--yet another reminder of the brevity of life in this world.

Halfway Down the Stairs Friday Five

Jan from Rev Gals shares a unique Friday Five today.

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn't any
Other stair
Quite like

I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
So this is the stair
I always

Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up,
And isn't down.
it isn't in the nursery,
it isn't in the town.

And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
"It isn't really
It's somewhere else

— A. A. Milne
“Halfway Down,”
When We Were Very Young

Thinking of your childhood as a stairway, when did you feel (and how did you feel then)?
This is a difficult one, but I'll make a brief attempt at it.

1. at the bottom?

The first of many times feeling "at the bottom" was in Kindergarten. I did not realize, being mostly loved and sheltered at home, that I had some physical difficulties that most other children did not have. So the nearly blind and very clumsy and pigeon-toed me was completely unprepared for the cruelty I encountered in my first classroom and playground. The most "bottom" thing about this was that I knew quite clearly that my teacher, whose name and voice I recall very clearly, did not like me and had no clue what to do with me.

2. at the top?

The most uplifting times for me that same year were in church. I loved everything about it. My teacher, Mrs. Newbill, loved me and saw that I was longing to learn about God. I recall her voice as well, and also her face. That lets me know she got close enough to me for me to see her, which would have been quite close in those days. I loved my pastor, Brother Polk, our classically trained pianist, Paul Zizanis, my friends, the choir...well, you get the idea! No wonder I love the Church. Other "up" times were on camping trips (think Giant Sequoias, Redwoods, waterfalls, and mountains). Camping trips were the times my family acted most like a normal family.

3. halfway?
Just out of high school, feeling half-adult, half-child, feeling miserable about my disintegrated family, but excited to be out of school for a while, feeling freedom coming, feeling frightened. A very tumultuous time...that half way place is an odd one. Maybe I shouldn't have used this one since it wasn't exactly "childhood."

4. At this point in your life, where would you place yourself on your own stairway?

Always climbing it...always seeking to go higher.

5. Identify a place for you that "isn't really anywhere" but "somewhere else instead."

This year. Right now. Not elaborating on that one today.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Present From My Uncle Sam & God

As I mentioned in a previous post, Ken has been rated 100% disabled (for purposes of the US Veteran's Administration). We are not yet quite sure what the dollar amount of our monthly disability check from our Uncle Sam will be, but we did receive a little back payment of funds that dated from the day he contacted his VA Representative.

One of the concerns we had when I left Jubilee Church (who just installed their new pastor this morning) was our vehicle. I won't go on and on about our financial situation, but it has not been happy. I'm driving a beat up van with about 200,000 miles on it. I've been concerned about what I'd do when the van finally died and lately I've said a prayer almost every time I drive it. 'Nuff said?

So when our VA check arrived we knew that one thing we would have to do right away was find a drivable vehicle. Yesterday we went van shopping. Everything that was in our price range had well over 100 thousand miles on it. We talked about whether to put down half and finance another chunk so as to have a newer van that would last longer. We didn't really know what was the prudent thing to do. Of course, a "newer" used vehicle would be good, but we are already in way more debt that we want to be, so what to do? We went to sleep last night without really resolving our thoughts.

This morning (in the shower--I do some of my best praying there) I laid it all out before the Lord, once again. I asked for direction, for wisdom, for blessing. Yes, I think it is fine to ask for blessings as long as I don't start thinking I'm entitled or can "claim it." ;-)

I decided to get specific. I said, "God, you know our situation. You know we have faithfully given to the Kingdom even when we really did not have money to give. You know all about it, and you know what I need to drive. The most important thing is not to have lots of repair bills. Please help Ken and me be of one mind on this, whichever way we need to go. But since I'm asking, I really would like it to be red--and to have a CD player." (Our current one is champagne, a color I hate. We always end up with neutral colored vehicles, and I'm not a neutral color person. And none of the vans in our price range had a CD player either.)

I felt a little silly, but I added, "And God, you know I would have chosen for Ken to be healthy and never to receive this little money gift from the USA. But it isn't a lot, and we do have lots of needs. So...could we get it for no more than $6,000?"

Off we went to church. On the way home Ken suddenly said." Hey! Go back to the Kwik Trip." (Wisconsin's version of a 7-Eleven type store.) "There is a nice-looking van there with a FOR SALE sign on it." We drove back. Yep, a nice RED van (the picture doesn't show it, but it is kind of a candy-apple red). I had a funny feeling--ever had a feeling that God is grinning at you?--and I said, laughing, "I'll take it! Call the phone number right now."

Ken looked at me funny. "Right now? You don't want to go home and at least get a checkbook?"

Ken dialed the number on the sign. No answer.

But about 20 feet away on the sidewalk was a man walking with his wife and baby. His eyes met Ken's.

"Did you just call about this van?"


"Well, that's my home phone. I'm not home. I'm right here."

Turns out that he had just happened to be out for a walk. He parked the van there earlier today. He was asking $6,500, already well under "Blue Book." We drove it (and during the drive I said to Ken, "He'll take $6,000)."

We loved it. It's a Town & Country and so is longer than some other mini vans. Long enough to stow Kevin's wheel chair in back.

Ken asked the guy if he'd take $6,000. He hesitated, saying that $6,000 was his rock-bottom price and adding that a guy was coming over to look at it...then, a bit reluctantly, "But since you are standing here with your check book in your hand, I'll take the $6,000."

It has higher miles than I'd have liked. But I think it is going to be a good buy. What do you think?

P.S. It's a 2003. And it has a CD player. It's "loaded."

Monday, September 07, 2009

Last Summer Days

We just returned from the last fur-trade rendezvous re-enacting camp we will be at this summer. We had such a good time with Kris, Daryl, Trinity, Kevin and good friends Eric, Darla and Bob, and Cindy and Tommy.

The weather was wonderful (actually a bit hot, so maybe Kris and Daryl can have ripe tomatoes after all), and the company was good. Ken was in pain, but he says he'd be in pain anyway so he might as well be having fun...I'm not so sure, but he did win the archery competition. Meanwhile Kris won the woman's tomahawk throw. was 2nd in the skillet toss, and she came in third in the firestarting--and pie baking competition. I came in second, edged out of first place by ONE upstart first-time pie baker received 100 pts. to my 99! Imagine! Actually, it was fun to see her surprise, and we all hooted and hollered and whistled. Here is a picture of Kris and me on our way to the competition. Kris' pie was apple/pumpkin and mine was strawberry peach. (The winning pie was apple. Go figure.)
A good hot shower felt great, and now I'm going to have a bowl of sherbet and climb into bed!

P.S. I'll go over to The Owl's Kitchen and post the pie recipe. It will prove that sometimes simple recipes are best. I made it up on the spur of the moment. :-) But I'm going to make one again while I can still get fresh peaches and strawberries.