Goodbye “Uncle” Pete

goodbye “uncle” pete

Originally uploaded by M e l o d y

It was Christmas eve. The kids and I spent the day making and decorating sugar cookies. The kids had so much fun. (Of course we told them to slow down with the candies on top, or no-one would want to eat them!) Emma and I took a few cookies over to “Uncle” Pete, our neighbor.  He’s a widower and lives on one side of a duplex next door, his daughter and her family on the other. They were traveling and it had been “pretty quiet” he said. We rang his bell and as we handed over the plate Pete said, “Oh that will brighten up my table! …. We’re still on for pie tonight?” He was coming over that evening, after Christmas Eve church service, for pie.

That was one of my last conversations with Pete.  He did indeed come over later that night, and enjoyed “cheesecake with the drippings!” as he called it.  He laughed with my kids, asked questions about our traditions, and shared some of his own like the opening of the presents.  He talked about a friendly squirrel that visits outside his porch, which his daughter Layne has named.  He seemed kind of down, or quiet, or extremely tired.  But I was so glad that he came.  My mom was there as well and we had nice dessert tastings.

While he was here, I invited him to eat Christmas dinner with us the next day. He wasn’t sure, as he was trying to finish up a project for Layne & Andrew.  He called the next day around 1:00 to say that he was actively working on the project for his kids and wanted to finish it. Later that night, around 6:00 (I don’t exactly remember?) pm I called over to see if he wanted a plate of Christmas turkey, stuffing, etc and/or to come over for more pie. He declined as he was tired, happily full from where ever he had just been. He mentioned he was weary from waking at 4:00 am and he had to get up early for his conference. He had spent the morning writing, he was happiest when he was writing.   He sounded exhausted, but at the time I wasn’t concerned in any way, just disappointed that he didn’t come on over.

I had woken Christmas morning with the flu, and had a whole day on the 26th of more preparations and the Hanson Christmas celebration. I wonder if I would have gone to check on him if I hadn’t been so distracted by things.  But really, Pete travels all the time and if he’s gone or here, his car is in the garage. There is no way that I could have known.  I snow blowed their driveway on Sunday, but nothing seemed amiss.

The next day, I ate that plate of food I had made up for Pete. By that time, I think he had passed away.  Sometime that morning.

My friend, “Uncle” Pete, passed on to be with the Lord (likely) Friday, Dec. 26th, in the morning in his home.

Around 11:00 this morning, an InterVarsity staff person came by a bit alarmed by the fact that Pete hadn’t shown up at a conference on the 26th. (The one he was packing for.) I found him.

I still can’t believe it. Sometime soon, I will write my thoughts about Pete. Right now I am in shock, just stunned and shocked that he is gone.  I’m writing all this down, because Pete often reprimanded me about not writing more.  After my father died, I did not write things down and I have forgotten a lot of the detail.

Goodbye Pete. I miss you already.

Peace to You

This holiday season, so far, I am baking, baking, baking and Tom is cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  Today has been busy with baking two pumpkin pies, a cheesecake, and a Key Lime pie and cranberry sauce.  Tomorrow it will be sugar cookies and a Cherry pie.  Perhaps a Pecan.  And then it is on to preparing for a traditional Turkey dinner (mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, etc. for eleven on Christmas day.  And spiral Ham, scalloped potatoes, etc. for 17 the next day.  It seems typical that we have one sick child and one on the mend.

It’s all wonderful and fun to cook and it will be great to have everyone in our home.  And Tom’s cleaning is stellar.  You’d think he owns a cleaning company or something! :-)

I hope your holidays are filled with good food and people.  If not, give me a call.  We’ve got plenty and you are welcome.

We are grateful for our abundance and the love which surrounds us.  And on this day, before the day before … we are grateful for good friends who have enriched our lives this year.  For the true meaning of Christmas, for us, the birth of Jesus.

Be warm!

I Wish: Thoughts on Life

I wish, I wish.  I wish I knew what it meant to really accept yourself; to like the person you are and who you are becoming.

I wish I could remember what real joy felt like.  I can’t remember the last time I felt it, if ever, which can’t possibly be true but … I just can’t recall it.

I wish my father wasn’t dead; that I could have really said good-bye while he was cognizant of me and remembered my name.  And more importantly, that I could still have him – here – to learn from, know, grow with.  Too many lost opportunities.

I wish I knew how to love my Mother, to accept her for who she is, just as I want to be accepted for who I am.

I wish I was a better friend; I want friendship but I’m just no good at it.

I wish that the cloud of depression, the sink hole, wouldn’t pull me down so often.

I wish we didn’t have so much stuff, which just creates a cycle of want, acquire, move, clean, dispose of, replace.

I wish I had confidence that my kids are going to be okay, that my mistakes and who I am won’t hurt them.

I wish I could remember positive experiences from growing up, because I know that growing up wasn’t ALL BAD, but I can’t remember.

I wish, I wish.  All I can do today is wish, for although I am up and out of bed, my head is screaming in pain and my heart is heavy; all I can do today is wish.


I am Underground


I guess I’ll make my poetry public again.

12/18, 2008

My poetry has gone underground for a while.  I have said some things, and written some things, that have hurt people I love.  I don’t want to be culpable, but I am.  So it’s put away in a “drawer” for a season.

But here’s one called Hum, by Ann Lauterbach.

The days are beautiful

The days are beautiful.

I know what days are.

The other is weather.

I know what weather is.

The days are beautiful.

Things are incidental.

Someone is weeping.

I weep for the incidental.

The days are beautiful.

Where is tomorrow?

Everyone will weep.

Tomorrow was yesterday.

The days are beautiful.

Tomorrow was yesterday.

Today is weather.

The sound of the weather

Is everyone weeping.

Everyone is incidental.

Everyone weeps.

The tears of today

Will put out tomorrow.

The rain is ashes.

The days are beautiful.

The rain falls down.

The sound is falling.

The sky is a cloud.

The days are beautiful.

The sky is dust.

The weather is yesterday.

The weather is yesterday.

The sound is weeping.

What is this dust?

The weather is nothing.

The days are beautiful.

The towers are yesterday.

The towers are incidental.

What are these ashes?

Here is the hate

That does not travel.

Here is the robe

That smells of the night

Here are the words

Retired to their books

Here are the stones

Loosed from their settings

Here is the bridge

Over the water

Here is the place

Where the sun came up

Here is a season

Dry in the fireplace.

Here are the ashes.

The days are beautiful.

Ann Lauterbach is the author of five collections of poetry: If in Time: Selected Poems 1975-2000 (Penguin, 2001), On a Stair (1997), And for Example (1994), Clamor (1991), Before Recollection (1987), and Many Times, but Then
(1979). She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation,the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine C.
MacArthur Foundation. Since 1991 she has taught at Bard College, where she is David and Ruth Schwab III Professor of Language and Literature
and co-directs the Writing Division of the M.F.A. program.

How Important is Water?

At church our kids were asked to bring in something for an offering which will dig wells for the poor. Later that day, as my boys were counting their money (to spend on a toy) I said I wanted them to think about what water means to you in your life and let me know how much you might give in the offering. After consulting one another they decided … they’d give $1. (They have $16)

(pregnant pause)

To say the least I was disappointed! And barely containing it, I asked them to rethink their amount. They came back upstairs to say, “It’s still $1. Everyone else is going to give Mom, why should we?”

(another pregnant pause) — which does come in handy as a Mom, to collect your thoughts. I knew that it was a perfect time for an object lesson. Think fast!

At dinner, I put a large glass of water in the middle of the kitchen table along with post-its, a pencil, and we were off naming all the ways that water is important to us. As the days went on our list grew (from serious to silly) and I hope that their awareness of and appreciation for good, clean water has grown.

I haven’t had the courage to ask them if their donation is going to change.

Here’s the list developed by my 11, 9 and 7 year old kids:

water balloons
baths (gallons)
washing clothes
car washes
flushing toilets
washing your hands
coffee (okay that’s mine)
soccer water
p o o l
brushing your teeth
putting out fires (they are aware of the news)
water guns
the drinking fountain at school
snow -)
water is good for you (the 7 year old)


Femmes arabes sur baudets.

The New York Public Library has shared old photographs to the public commons of flickr. I was intrigued by these really old images from Syria and Egypt and this one in particular. It made me think of Mary, Jesus’ mother, possibly riding in to Nazareth, exceedingly pregnant. She would not have been veiled, but in every other way this image takes me there.

I just love old images and thoroughly enjoy scrolling through them.

On a slightly different note, has a kid ever asked you things like “Why is Santa called Santa?” Or, I’m trying to remember some of the stranger questions I’ve gotten over the years…. about various Christmas customs?  Have you ever wondered why a tree is used to celebrate Christmas?  I have.  I found an interesting website explaining why we have certain Christmas traditions and fascinating to me, how Christmas is celebrated  in various cultures.  Christ followers celebrate the birth of Jesus and if you’re curious, read the full Christmas story here.

And, being a step-parent, I found this rendition of the story of Joseph to be interesting.  It’s found on an Anglican Church website.  Being a step-mom was one of the most difficult roles I’ve ever found myself playing and it isn’t a game.  Every day, with an instant five year old child was personally challenging and tested my character and strength.  I’m afraid I many times came up short.  But I never considered the fact that Joseph was raising a child that wasn’t his own blood.

I hope you will enjoy the 19th century images.  And perhaps learn something you didn’t previously know about the customs of Christmas.

Things I Gave Up For the Recession (Updated)

One one of my current favorite websites, The Huffington Post, has a new section, Blogging the Meltdown.  Here’s my entry for how the recession has impacted me.  It’s updated from something I wrote a month ago.

Ten (or so) things I gave up because of the recession:

Not in order of importance.

1. Coffee shops. Though I still drink good strong (usually fair trade) coffee at home, I no longer stop for it when I am out and about.  (Sorry Starbucks.)  And I’ve vowed to use up all the tea I have at home.  Somehow I like buying tea (they come in beautiful boxes) but don’t seem to drink much of it.  That’s changed.

2. Books. My husband swears I could read for two years or longer on the books I currently own, but I have given up purchasing books.  That’s a compulsion that is hard to change but important way to save big dollars.  I will visit my local library which means I have to be much more organized and less spontaneous about my reading preferences.  (Goodbye Borders.)

3. Neighborhood grocery store.
I love the beautiful atmosphere including classical music, but I’ve given it up for the prices at Trader Joe’s and a warehouse store like Woodmans.  Again, I must be more organized.  Frankly, I don’t miss seeing wine on every corner associated with all the good food I like, since I gave up drinking in July.  (That’s saving us a bundle.)

4. Shopping for entertainment.  Okay, don’t judge.  It is something that I enjoy(ed.)  But we’re not shopping at all.  Only what’s absolutely needed and in the budget.

5.  Eating out. We just don’t do it. And we used to eat out three or four times a week, sometimes as a family of five, sometimes at lunch from work.  It was a way to stave off boredom, an antidote for laziness, and somehow a ‘reward.’  Again, planning ahead is required to eat every meal at home.  Tom just got eight cans of Progresso Soup for $10.  Now that’s a deal!

6. Cambodia. I had planned a trip there to take a photography course, but this is postponed indefinitely.

7. Our Dishwasher. It broke, burning out in a blaze of glory after probably 30+ years and it won’t be replaced for a while.  Things we don’t need, won’t be repaired or replaced.  We wash our dishes by hand which has caused me to use more hand lotion.  But funnily enough, I have quite a bit.

8. Furniture in our Living Room. Our cat George has issues (related to peeing) and we’ve lost furniture, rugs, pillows, etc. all because of it, I mean him.  They won’t be replaced for a very long time.  He may get the boot!  Though that is under debate.

9. Gourmet cheeses (and things like it.) Yummmmm.  The older the better.  Stick to grocery store brand Sharp Cheddar.  Oddly difficult for me.

10. We’ll be canceling all of our magazine subscriptions (except PASTE magazine, which is awesome! And you get a CD of cool new music each month.  (By the way, no more CD purchases!)

On the short list for what’s next: Piano tuning won’t happen this this winter or vacations & travel of any kind.  We’re considering cutting Cable, although we’ve had an ongoing family debate over this.  The Persian rug in our den will not be cleaned.

We’re still investing in retirement, the kids are still in soccer and music lessons, we eat well, we are in no manner suffering. The biggest sacrifice has been what we perceived as financial “freedom.”

It is interesting how our priorities change as we deal with the fact that we must bring down our debt and increase our savings.  The recession was basically a wake up call for my husband and I who have been living as if we can buy and do whatever we want whenever we desire.  If we can’t afford it this month but we really want to do it, we put it on credit.

We now live on a budget and track each category (almost) daily.  What we thought was freedom was bondage, and now, we are free. It will take us four years on this restricted budget to be completely out of debt.  It is ironic, but by the time Mr. Obama is running again, we will be in a place to afford vacations, send our kids to college, and have a little more real freedom.

The recession is a blessing disguised as a burden.

For us, that is.  For many people it is much more dire.  Just spend a few minutes on the Huffington Meltdown site reading the stories of the homeless, uninsured, jobless, … yes, in my America.  Your America.

It makes my little list of “sacrifices” seem so silly.

Living On A Budget

bead bokeh bling

Originally uploaded by M e l o d y

I discovered a really strange phenomenon when I visited the 12th annual fair trade festival with Emma today.

It is hard to spend a little money, it’s easy to spend a lot.

I had my limited cash and a list of family that I wanted to buy for, my budget in mind and off we went!

Emma and I walked the hall twice, as well as the indoor farmer’s market. There were hundreds of gorgeous items and they really were not that expensive. In my former life/budget I would have likely spent at least a hundred dollars on trifles, cute jewelry, beautiful bags, fun imaginative animals, blankets, amazing, beautiful dresses that were made for American Girl dolls, and fun instruments.

But I was overwhelmed. I was completely flustered by having a limit to what I could spend and I spent, …. nothing.

Other than Dolgo Crab Apple Jelly from a flickr contact’s company Pamplemouse Preserves and $2 worth of potatoes and $2.50 on two donuts from the farmer’s market. The preserves were $15 which felt really steep, but she’s a small business owner, making everything from locally grown fruit, and that’s good enough for me. Lastly, it cost $4 to park at Monona Terrace which was not on the Fair Trade website. $23.50 for the hour and a half.

I was going to say it was a miserable experience. I guess that’s not quite it. I was just so aware of my limits and it was a strange place to be in, and it made me really grumpy and slightly down.

No shopping high was found today. And I’m left with the realization that I am an extremely spoilt person.  Spoilt thru and thru.  For as long as I can remember I have been able to be spoilt rotten and now, because we’ve decided to live on a budget and completely get out of debt, I can’t.

Boo hoo, poor me.  Time to grow up Melody.  Most people in the world struggle to put food on the table and strive to meet their families needs; and I’m whining about living on a budget (a very comfortable budget in global standards.)


It is not good to get in this mood.

I am dangerous.
I hurt others. I hurt myself.
I have no words, a heart full of gravel.
I will retreat,  for now.
I will search out the truth.
I have been called needy. Manipulative.
It is too much to face.
For now I will retreat. Reseal my heart, so that
I cannot hurt or be hurt.
I know this is fragmented truth, but for now
it is all I have.


There is No Just War

I went to bed a few hours ago and woke with this ringing in my ears:

“There is no just war.”

I’ve no idea where it is coming from; it seems totally out of the blue.  Sometimes things come to us from what we were reading or talking about before we fell asleep.

I was reading Henry Nouwen’s book Lifesigns.   It has nothing about war, but rather is an invitation to Intimacy, Fecundity (which sounds rather like a dirty word to me, but isn’t …) which is openness to a life of change and growth, and Ecstasy, the fullness of joy!

And before that I cleared my email.  I did a little research on “poverty in the US and the world” for my essay written for my church’s blog Advent Conspiracy.  Before that, I was reading about different women’s roles in the development of the early male philosophers. (Don’t ask me why.  I’m sick.  I can read whatever I want.)

I’ve been sick for three days and my bed has been my constant companion; sleep, as well, at times but more often then not I am left with the warm covers and my cold thoughts.  The “I should be doings” ringing in my ears.  It’s good that this doesn’t happen to me too often (getting sick, I mean) because I don’t do sick very well and I have a propensity for getting Pneumonia.  Thankfully this doesn’t feel like Pneumonia just a simple flu.

Anyway, “war” is ringing in my head right now and I don’t know why, but when this happens I can’t help but go to my bookshelves and see what I have.  If I find nothing I go to the web but I was looking for a little book I knew I’ve had for years, but haven’t had the courage to read.  It is titled: WAR: Four Christian Views.* I guess I know what I’ll be doing for the next few hours.

Why does it take courage to read about war?  Well, as a Christ-follower I have to face that the Church doesn’t exactly have the best record on war.  Neither does the Bible.  And, I just hate hearing what some people (Bush/Cheney) say to justify certain wars.  How they justify the Iraq war is beyond me.

But now that my spirit has been nudged.   I am going to read this book once and for all and then see what I am thinking.  I’ll let you know.

* WAR: Four Christian Views.  Edited by Robert G. Clouse with contributions by Herman A Hoyt, Myron S. Augsburger, Arthur F. Holmes, and Harold O.J. Brown.