Deep within all orphans, there is a quiet longing that never fades. We never get over the loss of a parent, no matter how old we may be, or how sick they may be. This is the great secret of the club. The grief just burrows deep within us, but it never leaves. I want to tell my friend that the love from our fathers never leaves us, they transition to something more powerful, more accessible. But, the grief is buried underneath our Everyday Face.Read More
Today I met 7-year-old Naomi, the daughter of My Music Man’s old high school buddy. She was delightful and quickly brought out my inner little girl. As we chatted about the snow on the ground here in Iowa, I told her that I very much wanted to create a snowman and she volunteered to be my “partner-in-crime.” Last night, while we were sleeping, a steady snow fell and over 4 inches accumulated overnight. I am told this is only an average. Some places got more, some less. I am sure we got more. The snow was beautiful, very fluffy, and piled up everywhere. There was so much snow, the snowplows were working around the clock. I can’t imagine how tired they must be of this cold powder called “snow.” For the last 24 hours I have seen more snowplows, John Deere tractors with attachments, and little “mini plows” than I’ve seen regular cars.
And I've learned something I never knew - not all snow is created equal. Snow has certain properties, depending on the outside temperature. This is a noteworthy fact because the temperature never got above 20 degrees today. It was so cold that the snow did not stick together at all. It was like holding very cold talcum powder. Try to make a cohesive ball out of talcum powder. It simply doesn’t work. This flies in the face of my old believes about snow. I used to think that snow was snow. Can’t you always make a snowball with snow?
I have heard that in the Inuit culture, they have many different words for what we simply call “snow.” After today, this makes sense.
My ultimate objective was to make my first snowman in over 2 decades. I innocently thought that with all the snow that had fallen overnight, there would be plenty…and there was! I just couldn’t make it stick together enough to make a simple small snowball! I quickly learned that I had to take off my (warm) gloves and hold the snowball in my warm-ish hands and blow to bring it up to a temperature that would cause it to stick together. This only worked for a short time because after a couple of small snowballs for the body of the snowman, my hands were frozen. I didn’t know how badly they were frozen until I went inside to use the bathroom. Suddenly, I felt a great deal of pain in my fingers and a throbbing warmth that felt like my bones had been set on fire.
The final result was a beautiful little “mini” snowman that Naomi named “Frosty.” We searched the land to find the important accessories that all snow people must have -- the buttons, the arms, the eyes, the pipe, the nose (we imported a raisin for this), and, of course, the hat. He started out bald and we decided that he had to have a hat, or hair, however the observer wanted to interpret our art piece. The search for these snow-fashion-accessories was an adventure all by itself. We knew that we would have to be realistic about the size of our precious snowman. He would have to be small or we would get frostbite.
“Frosty” was about 8 inches tall, and he played hockey. We found him a wonderful hockey stick and a hockey puck that looked more like a soccer ball (that is if you were to calculate the scale of our new friend). He had precious red berry buttons, eyes made from the pods, which created an “eyelash-y” look. His hat was made of an evergreen pine bush and Naomi insisted on finishing our creation with a dusting of snow over his head.
The snow feels and looks like the sand at Dillon beach a couple of miles from my house, and it behaves about the same way. I couldn’t make a “sand ball” with the sand there, but I could try to make a sand castle and that is the very logic that I used to make “Frosty.” Basically, adding water (in this case, damp heat) you would make the crystals stick together.
While I tediously worked on the little guy, Naomi made snow angels in the front yard. Given the amount of snow and the powdery consistency, it was far easier to make a snow angel than it was to make our snowman. She was obviously a veteran.
As the afternoon peaked, the sun sparkled on the snowy ground. with in weather that is too cold to even contemplate, there was no chance of melting and I knew that “Frosty” would guard their house for a while, given the promised weather forecast. By tonight, it would dip down to some number with a negative in front of it and the temps forecasted in the coming weekend didn’t bode much better.
To say that I’m glad to be heading home on Monday would be a given. Yet, this adventure is full of fertile education. I have learned a lot about snow, things I never knew, and things I thought I did know have been up-ended. I’ll never think of Iowa in the same way, heck, I’ll never think of snow in the same way. It makes me want to learn all those Inuit words that describe all the many types of snow that exist and find out how to make a snowman out of each and every kind.
But, most of all, I learned that I never want to waste a good snow. I'll never pass up the opportunity to make a snowman with a sweet little angel named Naomi, even if it means I get frostbite.
"Don't be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends." ~Richard Bach
It was a small thing, really. I'm not sure she ever knew what it meant to me. It was a note passed to me secretly in class that I held onto over the years. My elementary school years were not happy ones. Trouble at home cascaded into trouble at school. While I made good grades, the other kids teased me incessantly, often resulting in a beating at the end of the day or on the playground during recess. My flat chest, big feet, and buck teeth were the stuff that bullying was made of. I was the fodder for their fun. Memories of the daily taunts still bring a gripping feeling in my gut, even these many years later. Most of the girls in my school were cruel and dishonest, promising friendship but instead bestowed betrayal, duplicity, and deceit. I had come to believe that friendship had conditions, that I had to be someone else in order to fit in.
So it was when I was 12 that I decided life wasn't worth it. I couldn't make it another day. I didn't have the strength, the courage or understanding to know how to stop the daily abuse, so I figured that God would let me start over. Obviously, I failed in my attempt to end this life because I'm here now to write about it. Which brings me to the note.
Before text messages and email, there was the plain ol' note written on lined paper, folded in triangular shapes and tucked, ever so neatly in the palm of your hand. They were passed clandestinely, sometimes intercepted by the teacher. To our extreme embarrassment, they were often read aloud. But, this one made it to me safely. This one simply said, "You are so smart and special. Thank you for being my friend," signed "Debbie."
As I left childhood behind, I became a connoisseur of many things. One of those things is friendship. Looking back, I've had the extreme privilege of redefining friendship and have gathered a treasure-trove of friends along the way. Now, 5 decades into this life, I've worked hard to leave those childhood bullies behind. I'll bet that they've grown up themselves and left their own "stuff" behind, most likely forgetting all the vicious tormenting and threats. People like Debbie taught me how friends should behave and offered the promise of how they give our lives such meaning and joy. I wouldn't know how to live on this earth without them.
Debbie was one of those optimistic people. I can still hear her voice, bright with encouragement. I looked up to her, admired her. She was an inspiration in so many ways. A loyal friend from the beginning, she never let me down.
Together, we tried out for the school drill team together. Night after night, we practiced hard. She spent many nights at my house helping me to learn the routine for try-outs. I made the team, and she did not. But, this only made her proud for me. Yes, I knew she was disappointed, but she never took away my delight with her own feelings. She only supported me.
Years later, our friendship still blossoming, I watched her become a successful business woman. She kept her body healthy with dedicated exercise and watching what she ate, always keeping an eye on her weight. I don't think I ever told her how much I admired her, that the note she sent me years before stayed with me. Debbie's encouragement throughout these decades were part of my own success. She was a role model, a bright star in my sky. As I write this, I realize that she was more than just a friend, she was a beacon.
What I didn't know was that she spent her whole life battling an eating disorder that eventually killed her. Truthfully, I felt I had let her down. Her death was a shock I never saw coming.
There are Pie People and there are Cake People. My Music Man and I are confirmed Pie People. I simply love pie. I’d rather have pie than cake. It’s not just a matter of taste, it’s a matter of substance. Pies are efficient, pies are practical. Cakes are fanciful. All that icing seems like such a waste. I know there are those who would argue this point, but I'm solidly sure of where I stand.
Tonight in our little corner of the world, the “Academy Awards of Pie” went off without a hitch. The Annual Live Pie Auction served up thick with slices of cheesy Americana. It just doesn’t get any better than this. In our small town, homemade pies are treasures born of hands in dough, fresh fruit from back yards, baked with love, and decorated for those of us who understand the fine art of pies.
27 precious pies were auctioned off to raise money for the local Valley Ford Volunteer Fire Department. Even though it was our neighboring town, Valley Ford, that hosted the event, in our neck of the woods, anything within 10 miles is local. The little schoolhouse filled to the brim, shook with such a ruckus in the back that the auctioneer had to tell us to "Shush" so he could hear the bids. Unaware of all the back room deals, he only sensed the behind the scenes cahootin'. Those of us standing in the back like vultures were eying the pies on the back table, strategizing, how to get our prized pie, knowing there was competition, knowing they were strategizing, too.
We had chosen two pies. Each with its own unique winning strategy.
The first pie was ours. Strike fast, strike early. The bidding had yet to really get heated up so we were thrilled when the pumpkin pie went for a mere $17.50. What a deal. We had won The Stolen Pumpkin Pie. The pie maker confessed that the pumpkin used for this pie had been stolen from her neighbors yard…”Well,” she said coyly, “It was almost in my yard, so I took it and decided to use it for a pies.” The neighbor, sitting patiently on the long bench, didn’t seem to mind, seemed to say with his quiet smile, “Yeah, it’s okay, I had enough pumpkins, anyway…” I suspect he received his own pie in exchange for his silence.
As the pies rolled by, the bidding became heated reaching a feverish pitch. At one point, the auctioneer sold a very special ginger pumpkin pie for $115.
This development brought me to the edge of my seat. I had my eye on a three berry pie, a gorgeous “peek-a-boo” cut crust, sprinkled with sugar. This beautiful pie had been saved for the final round. It was one of the only berry pies, rare among all the apple, pear, and pumpkin pies. We were sure to be outbid.
The bidding commenced and after some active volleying, we won the prized berry pie for $50. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much for a pie before, but it was going for a good cause…and it was beautiful. I was happy, I had won my pie and was looking forward to eating it.
Earlier in the evening, as the auction began, my Music Man met a couple from Alaska on a cross-continental bicycle trip heading for Argentina. They'd just happened upon the Live Pie Auction while on their journey. It turns out they had also been eyeing the triple berry pie. After we won, my Music Man informed me that not only did they have designs on that pie, had lost the bid on it, but the day before had been the guy’s birthday...so, what could we do? We cut the pie in half and presented it to him unflinchingly. We couldn’t let him go without some pie for his birthday. The look on his face was priceless, and it felt good in our hearts, too. Pies are made for sharing.
It’s not about the food, although the food is wonderful - fresh ingredients, together with a priceless home-made, lusciousness. We didn’t come to compete for the pies, provided through the generosity of our neighbors and friends. We came for the sport, for the warmth and to support our local folks, and we came away with so much more - precious moments overflowing with laughter. For some, it was the pumpkin, others, the apples or the pears, a few craved the berries, but we gathered tonight to pay homage to the pies of the season, to celebrate that which is better than cake, an abundance that only pie can deliver. With this year's Live Pie Auction behind us, there was no doubt it was a huge success. We never figured out what a Dead Pie Auction would look like, but we were all relieved they decided to auction off the Live Ones.
“Let them eat cake” only means that they get what’s left over...cake can never compete with a well made pie. For me, I’d eat a pie, crust and all, lick the plate clean and leave the cake behind. I’m deliberate like that.
Listening to Hans' guitar penetrate our morning brought a slow sweet sob effervescing from inside the core of my heart. It was one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I had ever heard and watching my lover sleep, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the couple next door and the love they expressed with a simple song.Read More
These tracks are far from the busy highways, crisscrossing the miles the way they always have. They are partially abandoned, discarded by our speed-drenched manic lifestyles.Read More