What’s Up With the Bologna?

“I’ll get dressed and take you out, Sam,” Todd says to our dog as he runs up the steps and trips, causing a loud thud. I jump.

Are you okay…? I think but don’t ask. It’s early morning, I’m not really awake yet and Todd is a teaser. He might have planned the clumsy act to draw attention to the fact that I’m sitting on my butt while he’s preparing to walk the dog outside in the frigid air. I never know when he’s serious, even after seventeen years of being together. He enjoys crying wolf. “Do you need a hand…?” I think back to the time I had yelled down the same steps several years ago when I heard a crash in the kitchen.

“Yeah…..” he had groaned dramatically.

I ignored what I thought was his well-rehearsed moaning, “Really…?” and played along.

“Really, I need….” He repeated. “I need help. I really need you, Baby.” Oh riiiight.

When I got to the kitchen I saw that he was clutching his wrist and he was on his knees under the gas jet.

“I think I might need stitches,” he said as he worked to regain his balance and remove his wrist from the pointy spoke after trying to clean the cedar siding of a wall with a bucket of Murphy Soap and sponge. “It’s deep.” Don’t stand on a bar stool with no traction.

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Crooked gas jet since the slip

He almost severed his tendon. We went to ER that day and he went roller blading the next. So, ever since those two layers of umpteen stitches, I  jump up and run. Except this morning—I can see out of the corner of my eye that he’s okay and I push the guilt I feel for not walking the dog myself out of my mind. It doesn’t leave completely but it shifts.

Morning is the time I sit in my chair, watch the sun come up over the neighbor’s roof and turn my thoughts to what’s unseen, if that makes sense. My faith. I read, I ponder, I pray. I start every day with a devotion and several chapters of the Bible. I’d say it’s my coffee to get me going but I need that too.

This morning as I read, the message is clear. It appears three different times in three different places: It’s simple — what we think influences how we live. Then I’m distracted again as Todd starts making the bed. I could get up and help but I read on. I jot down the words …*think love, and love surrounds you and those you think about. Think ill-will and thoughts of ill-will surround you and those you think about. Is it that simple?

“Did you notice that the bologna is all cut up in little pieces?” Todd asks. “I tried to take a slice out for Sam and it fell all apart. I couldn’t even get one to his mouth. It landed on his bandana and got stuck there. He wasn’t too happy about that.”

I listen to him talk about the bologna but stay with my thoughts. I think how easy it is to be discontent in life—to be critical of yourself and others, to make judgments. I spend so much time worrying about what I do, what I say, what I think. Low self-esteem, I suppose you’d call it. It’s just another form of self centeredness. Why is it that I can see the good in others but not in myself?

“I did it,” I answer. “I cut up the slices. Use a spoon. Take a scoop, put it in Sam’s bowl and mix it in with his food. That way he doesn’t snort it down in one gulp.” Bologna is Sam’s treat after his walk. He has wheat allergies. Is there wheat in bologna? I wonder.

“Oh, I see. You don’t want to get your hands slimy.”

“Well, yeah, it’s pretty gross to touch so since he should only have half a slice, I went ahead and cut them. Then I thought, why not quarter them…before I knew it, I had made bologna bits.” Todd’s standing there looking at me. “Use a spoon,” I say and return to my reading. I run through an inventory of the people in my life. I wrap them in thoughts of love so it will surround them. Is it really that simple? Yes, I hear the voice inside me say.

Sam enters the room and lies down by my chair. He simply loves me. Why can’t we always love each other like that? He starts scratching, poor guy. We’re probably giving him wheat and didn’t know it. What if we all became allergic to thoughts of ill-will and started scratching incessantly when we thought them? That would help us ponder what’s good, what’s noble and just, lovely and pure—like I read in Philippians 4 this morning—instead of ill-will.

I close my books and rise from my chair to face the day. Think love, and love surrounds you and those you think about. It’s that simple.

20131210_075822_resized*from God Calling

British Hospitality

There she was, standing on the deck of the ferry looking out over the White Cliffs of Dover, the sea air tossing her new French cut, when a kind Englishman noticed her and her three small  children.

20140105_174618_resized“I had made it across the ocean,” Dad remembered, “traveling for eleven days on the MS Berlin with no sickness. Dolores and Eddie both got so terribly seasick they had to stay up on deck for fresh air. They weren’t able to eat except to go down to the German sausage bar at night. They survived on that sausage. I did end up getting sick though when we crossed the channel from the mainland to England. I don’t think it was seasickness, I was just plain sick.

We’d been all over southern Europe by this time with Amsterdam, Berlin, Denmark, Norway and Sweden still ahead of us. I was down in the men’s room and this Englishman befriended Dolores. He saw her, started talking to her and she happened to mention to him that we were camping.

crossing channel mom

When he found this out he said, ‘Well, you’re not going to live like an American Indian in the Queen’s country! I’m in real estate and I have a vacant flat near my house in the West End I’m going to let you have while you’re in England.’ He didn’t know when he said this that Dolores’ family were descendants of the American Indian tribe known as the Ujamis.

By this time, I had made my way back up to the deck and introduced myself to him. He gave us his address in London where we should meet him after we got off the boat. He said he would probably be detained while going through customs so if we happened to miss him, we should go on to London and meet him there. His name was Mark Finley. He was an importer-exporter.

It did end up that we couldn’t find him when we got off the boat and we really were looking for him. So we loaded up the kids into the car and since I was still sick, Dolores had to do the driving. Now remember, this meant driving on the left side of the road and we were in a German car with the steering also on the left. That is kind of tricky to do. So we were on our way to London and we stopped at a couple places, doing our best to try and find somewhere to stay for the night but couldn’t find anything. Dolores drove all through the night in this unfamiliar place, on the left side of the road, in this German car, with three little kids and a sick husband.

How we ended up finding this guy after all those hours of driving I don’t know, but all of a sudden, there he was standing outside of a nice looking house with his landlady, just raving. “Where are they?” he ranted at her. “Why haven’t they come?!” we heard him say. It was clear he was upset but as we pulled up and he noticed us, immediately relieved.

He welcomed our family in and showed us the apartment he had told us about. I have to admit it really was nice not to have to pitch the tent and set up camp in the shape I was in. Instead, we made up camp on the apartment floor and the landlady brought us hot chocolate.

The next day, Mark Finely came driving up with a truck load of furniture—beds, a dining room table and chairs. He furnished this apartment for us. He mentioned Mom was welcome to stay on there at the apartment instead of camping with me. But I didn’t trust him. I got the feeling that his plans were different than ours”.

“So how long did we stay with this man?” I asked.

“Not long, a week or so. You all came with me on a couple of trips, we saw Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare’s house—Mom would take you to visit things while I did my work.

An interesting thing we learned was that a typical apartment building would be heated to about 68 degrees. Additional heat had to be provided by the tenant with small unit heaters.”

London Bridge

Playing London Bridge in front of London Bridge

“Did you ever hear from Mark Finely again?”

“Yes. He wrote to us. He was going on a trip to South America. He said he’d try to come to see us in the states if he could fit it in but he never made it. That was 1958. Years later, in ‘71, Mom and I went on a tour in Europe of industrialized housing and new towns. The first stop was England. When we were in London, we were walking around to see if we could find Mark Finley’s house. We remembered it was across from Hyde Park. The area looked familiar. Just then, a man in a wheel chair was being brought out of one of the houses to be put in a chauffeur driven limousine. We saw that it was Mark Finley and went over to greet him but his eyes told us he didn’t remember.”

A Spirited Boy

My brother Ed always knew when I was wearing a hat to hide my hair. He’d pull it off.

As kids, I’d ride on the back of his snow mobile across ice covered fields—into ditches, up over high mounds of snow at top speed—and not be afraid. In college, he’d drive me home on his motorcycle—90 miles, against the wind in pounding rain at night—I’d feel safe.

He used to laugh at the way I’d pose for pictures—turn head, lower chin, smile. He tried it himself. It gave him a double chin and a super high forehead.

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Joan, Georgine, Ed, John, and me doing the pose

He was named after Mom’s dad, Edward William Rahn—who loved baseball. Ed Rahn and some friends had gone to a game in Chicago during the summer of ‘51. They were on their way home when a truck was stopped along the highway—the driver changing a tire. The car Mom’s dad was in collided with the rear end of the truck. The trucker wasn’t hurt. The friends were injured but recovered. It was believed that Ed Rahn died instantly in the crash. He was 48 years old—one year after Mom and Dad’s wedding.

Mom never talked much about the accident but she’d tell me how her dad was great at taming a wild horse. She’d sit on the fence and watch, frightened by the brute force of the animal—awed by her father’s strength while he wrestled with it. Roping, wrapping and eventually calming and corralling it in. They were farm stock—stoic and strong.

After Mom’s dad died, her mom went on to buy a small house away from the farm, in town on Main Street. Years of gardening, canning and cooking for family and friends—lots of corn, beans and tomatoes along with slip-downs, dumplings and noodles, prepared her to get a job at the school cafeteria. She never talked to us about the accident—preferring to focus on life’s opportunities rather than her troubles. Her attitude was passed on to Mom and then to my brother, Ed. As our big brother, he was always good at leading the way.

Dad told me this story about Ed on the way to church last Sunday as I grabbed for a pen and paper out of the glove compartment….

“After the Christmas at Keikhever’s log cabin when Uncle Harry closed the fireplace flue at bedtime and nearly smoked us out, Ed told a couple of his buddies about it. Of course, they were immediately intrigued and wanted to see the cabin. So they saddled up three of the horses and Ed led them through the woods.

Follow me

Ed ready for trouble

One of them got the idea to go inside the cabin. It’s no surprise that while we were there, Ed had noticed there was a skylight. He told his friends he thought he knew a way in. Standing on his horse, he could reach the roof and he climbed his way up to the skylight. He was always good at taking things apart and putting them back together again so it was no problem for him to unhinge and re-hinge the skylight. He and his friends made it into the cabin and back out again without too much trouble. That is, until Roy, the property caretaker, showed up at our door.

Roy let me know someone had gotten into the log cabin and wondered if maybe our boys knew something about it. I told him I was sure they wouldn’t know anything because we had just spent Christmas there. But then Roy told me they had found a lot of huff prints in the snow all around the cabin. So I asked Ed if he knew anything about it—he didn’t even have to answer me. I could tell by the look on his face that he did. So I told Roy I would take care of it and he left.

Ed and I had a talk. I told him that this time he had gotten himself into something I could not just take care of. What they had done was breaking and entering. I told him I’d have to report it to the police. So that’s when I called a meeting at our house with the three boys and their fathers. I felt strongly that it was important the boys knew how serious what they had done was and that we needed to report it to the police. Forrest Robinson, the father of one of the boys, agreed with me. The other father looked aghast and said to me, ‘I am not going to report my son to the police!’

I called the police department and told them what had happened. They asked me to bring the boys in so they could talk with them. Ed, his friend Gary, Forrest and I went to the police department. We left the other son out because the father was so opposed.

The police took the boys into a room to talk to them. He told them what they had done was breaking and entering and a serious violation of the law. If they continued with that behavior, they’d probably end up at Wales Reformed School for boys, or when they were older, go to jail. Ed was different after that. Years later, we found out that the son who wasn’t turned in, got into some big trouble for robbery and ended up in jail.”

After Dad finished the story he looked at me and said, “I thought you could tell that story and include the scripture about the importance of disciplining children.”

“Okay.” So I looked it up….

“You mean the one that says, ‘Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule that needs bit and bridle to stay on track’ (Psalm 32:9)?”

“No, that’s not the one I was thinking of….”

How aboutTrain up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it’ (Proverbs 22:6).”

“Yes. That’s it.”

“It may have taken you a little while Dad, but I think that’s exactly what you did.”