Monday, August 31, 2009

Dinner tonight

I'm marinating a couple of chicken breasts in plain yogurt. In a bit I will add some rice with a little water to the yogurt marinade, put the chicken on top of that and bake it at 350 for half an hour to 45 minutes. It's kind of a recipe I stole (and modified) from Drew Kime at "How to Cook Like Your Grandmother." He added fresh ginger to the marinade and I don't have any. I might add some ground ginger to it along with the salt and pepper, since I don't think Drew would hunt me down and thwack my hand with a measuring spoon for not using fresh. I sure hope he wouldn't drive all the way from Ohio for that!

Yeah, cooking season has started again at my house. I was getting tired of the nightly runs to Sonic or the other fast-food places, and of course my home cooking always tastes better than that stuff anyway, usually.

I just needed something easy tonight, and there's not a whole lot that's easier than putting chicken in a baking dish, plopping yogurt on top of it, putting the lid on the baking dish and letting it sit in the fridge while other stuff is going on. (I'm running some cleaner through the dishwasher, OK? We have very hard water here and it's time to demineralize the appliances. It's hard work.) Just a word of clarification -- Drew marinates his chicken for 8 hours, up to three days. Check out his blog for "Drew's way." I don't have that much time tonight.

I'll let you know how the chicken turns out. Right now, though, I think I'll get some salad because I'm hungry! Too hungry to wait for anything else!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I didn't mow!

I did not mow this weekend, and I think it's OK. The lawn hasn't grown much since last Sunday. I might see if I have a free evening this week to tidy up the front, though it really looks pretty good.

We've hit a cool patch -- Temps dropped down into the 60s this evening and there's a definite little coolness; it's almost cool enough for a long-sleeve light T-shirt. Darkness is creeping in noticeably earlier, too, closer to 8 p.m. than 9 p.m. If I say that my favorite season has arrived, I will jinx it and wind up with another long string of 100-degree days. I'll hedge my bets and just say I'm glad to have this preview of things to come.

I spent most of my non-working hours this weekend sleeping. I just seem so tired lately. I blame the diabetes, of course. When I woke up after an afternoon nap today I couldn't figure out what day it was. For a brief moment I thought it was still Saturday and was so disappointed when I realized it wasn't.

There are house projects I need and want to tackle, mostly of the cleaning/organizing/decluttering type. I'm not making any visible headway, but I am at a point where I am "almost" keeping up with dishes, at least better than usual. I do laundry often enough to keep clean clothes at hand every day, though I'd like to have all the different piles done and put away instead of lingering in strata like an archeology project. Scientists will be investigating my house for years after I'm gone trying to determine if this is a "fold" pile, an "iron" pile, a "wash" pile or a "give-away" pile. Maybe I should make signs. Or get huge boxes that are appropriately labeled so there's no guessing. Or, you know, just get stuff taken care of.

I promised myself I could watch a video tonight if I de-crudded the fridge, and I did, so now it's time to go make a selection from the six videos I rented tonight. Then I'll be back in my favorite place -- bed!

Here's wishing you all a good week ahead.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thunderboomers take their toll

Last night's storms got a bit ferocious around here. We had some serious damage, less than a half-mile from my house.

And I slept through it.

There's a chance that the storms included a funnel cloud or two, based on what some people say they saw. But since it happened around midnight, it is difficult to say that those reports are reliable. Whether tornadic or straight winds, the damage was ferocious. There's a defined area that suffered heavy losses of old, old trees (which fell on houses and cars).

We got about 4.25 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, which brought with it localized flooding, too.

The winds, in whatever form they attacked, overturned vehicles, took roofs off a couple of houses, downed an electric transmission line, blew some structures off their foundations, destroyed carports and garages and generally caused mayhem. They even sent porta-potties scattering downtown.... yeah, nice landscaping!

Residents of the most affected areas came up with the same description over and over: It looked like a war zone.

I drove through the hardest-hit areas this morning and tend to agree with them. I have seen more damage, after an Oklahoma City ice storm and of course during the May 3, 1999 Oklahoma City tornado that went on for miles and miles.

You know what? That doesn't matter a bit to the people here who wound up with trees coming through their roofs and crushing their cars. Their losses are enormous.

I'll tell you a little secret, too. One of the people I interviewed this morning was a man I had known all through school, clear back to kindergarten. In fact, he was the first person I ever called on the telephone. After I watched a tow truck right his travel trailer (it had crushed an SUV when the winds flipped it on its side) I told him how good it was to see him, though I wished it had been under better circumstances.

His response: "Does it really matter, so long as you have the chance to get together again?"

Profound words from someone who has figured out what's really important in life.

Monday, August 17, 2009

One of those days

This has been one of those yuck days you'd like to be able to scrub off of yourself -- using sandpaper if necessary. Things just aren't sitting right.

We had great thunderstorms last night, so getting up was hard this morning. Then I got to work and found that my co-worker has marked the work calendar to take off the next four Saturdays. That would oblige me to work four Saturdays in a row -- I can't quite see myself working four weeks with just four days off, so I mentioned it to my boss, who agreed that was perhaps not the best plan.

Annnnnd then, the co-worker's dog died at lunchtime, so that discussion is off the table for a bit. I'm so sorry for her because I've met her dog, and it was a cool dog. And I know exactly what it's like to lose a beloved pet especially when a parent is sick, as hers is.

I'm trying not to be or sound heartless, but we've spent the past year trying our best to make accommodations while she has taken care of her mother, who has cancer and other health problems. We cover when she's had to drive to Oklahoma City for chemo sessions or when she's had to take time off for medical appointments and procedures. But there's not been even the smallest glimmer of gratitude -- rather, it's been more a parade of her misplaced rage that we've been handed in return.

I've been there and I know how isolating and overwhelming it is to be the caretaker for a sick parent, 24/7. I hope I wasn't without gratitude for the help I did get and the friends who helped support me during that time. If I neglected to thank anyone, I am sorry. I want you to know I wouldn't have made it through without you.

The day was rainy, off and on, which I love. I especially love rainy mornings and thunderboomers at night. We've got more tonight, so I will sleep well again.

Not much going on here because of that weather. I crashed hard on the bed when I got home and slept for a couple of hours. I've been daydreaming about a vacation, but that's all it's going to be with doctor and hospital bills being what they are. I might have a weekend trip to my aunt and uncle's farm in Missouri when the weather is consistently cooler. We'll play it by ear.

There's some nice thunder right now so I think I'll hit the sack and call it a night. I have not been feeling well for a while, so I know that has added to my limited patience. That's a sign I need to withdraw and sleep. Night, all!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fighting the yard

It was so much easier tonight, my struggle with the yard. I just mowed the front yard and it took me about 40 minutes, I would say. It wasn't terribly thick, but the grass had put up a bunch of those Y-shaped seed heads, so it looked bad.

It would be great if I had a weed eater or edger, but I do the best I can with the tools I have.

Last week was a huge struggle with the back yard. It had gotten both long and THICK, and the mower would die after a few strips and not restart until the following day. All in all, it took me four days to get it all done. Last Sunday I finished the last of it and actually was able to go over the whole lawn once more to even it all out. It still looks OK tonight, so I didn't "sweat" mowing it again. (hahaha).

I did spy a patch I missed next to the peonies, so I will have to get after it sometime this week, and do another once-over the whole yard just to keep a grip on things. I cannot let it get out of control again.

With each mowing, I've also been hauling limbs and branches to the alley to be picked up. There are a lot of trash trees around the property, and a lot of fallen branches from the huge oaks in the front yard with some of our recent heavy weather. I wish I could afford to hire someone with a chain saw and a truck to take them all out at once and haul them to the dump, but that is definitely NOT in the budget with all the medical bills I have sitting on my desk. I hate to think how bad it would be with a more serious medical condition!

Anyway, I keep chipping away at it, while it keeps growing back. I hold on to the truth that fall will come in the next couple of months and this foolishness will pause for a while. If I had the energy I would love to plant some fall flowers -- mums and pansies. I'm just not at all sure I can do it any more.

Whether or not I mow in the next day or so, I will have to get the Round Up out again and spray the patio before it is lost to the elements forever.

Aha! I just heard some thunderboomers moving in, and the windows just shook! I got the front yard just in time. I will sleep well tonight, no doubt. Here's hoping you do, too!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Driving into the darkness

About 8:30 tonight I felt an overwhelming need to hop in the car and head to Sonic for a cold drink. I was also suffering from RSS -- restless spirit syndrome -- so after getting my cherry diet Coke I headed down the road to the highway and turned east.

As soon as I crossed the river bridge into Osage County -- which is also the Osage Nation Reservation -- I knew I was bound to fly through the darkness. The sun was setting to my back and the lights around me became fewer and farther between, until at last I passed the last green glows of farmhouse security lights and entered the total darkness of ranchland.

Every once in a while I'd encounter another car, but in the state's largest county with a small population, speed limits mean nothing and they soon disappeared into the blackness.

There's a freedom to being on the road, alone, in the night, especially on a weeknight when such foolishness is neither expected or well-tolerated by others. Yeah, I didn't much care. I was free and left my tiny boxed-in world behind for an hour or two.

Even though I couldn't see them after night sunk around me, I knew there were other beings out there in the rolling hills and tall grass. There are miles and miles of cattle ranches -- you can't always see the cattle but the nose never deceives you when they are out there somewhere.

And I know of ranchers out there who keep herds of wild mustangs -- caretakers of the animals for the Bureau of Land Management. Hundreds, if not thousands, of untamed female horses (females only, to keep the populations under control) running wild and free. I may not be a mustang but I felt myself a kindred spirit with them as I followed the white line into the night.

Eventually I reached the end of my leash in a small town. Nothing there to see at night with all the stores buttoned up. I made a turn-around in the parking lot of a dollar store. Like a stone flinging from a slingshot I headed back through the darkness, less alone than before.

In the distance, I wondered how I had missed so many street lights lining the way; then as I got closer, I realized the "street lights" were really groups of cattle trucks bouncing along in convoy to some of the large cattle ranches. Their lights were arrayed in a single line because they were around a long curve and up an incline from me.

Two or three groups of trucks passed as I made my return. Not all were cattle trucks. I imagine some were from the major retailer in the area -- Wal-Mart -- and I felt a tinge of sadness as I imagined others were moving trucks taking families from my town and transplanting them to our rival city. There's a lot of bad blood between my town and the oil company that is shipping out 750 jobs. It was easy to forget that in the darkness, until the trucks rolled by.

Crossing back through the ranchland I noticed the sky was not quite all black as I headed west. There was a swath of navy blue just above the horizon, the last hint of any light from the day. And then, in a moment, even that was gone.

The next lights I saw were from the refinery -- the lone piece of the oil company that we've been told will stay here. I'm not alone when I say we have our doubts about how long that promise will be kept. Word is that in a couple of weeks we'll hear something different on that front.

The refinery torches have always been a marker on the prairie -- a nightlight for the town, showing travelers the way home from dozens of miles in any direction.

If the refinery leaves, too, I want to tell the town there's nothing to be afraid of in the dark. Come out and see.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

We need to talk

And what we need to talk about is prayer.

Some interesting things have been happening this week as a result of a revival at my church. I'm spending a good chunk of time thinking on them in my heart.

The evangelist for our revival was a man named Wesley Putnam. He's a fine musician, a fun story teller and all that. But most important, he's a man with a caring heart. (See his site at

Here is something I need to share with you.

The revival started a week ago Sunday with the morning sermon. I had about made up my mind that I wasn't going to come back for the evening services because Wesley talked about raising our children to know Jesus. Having no children, and having a bit of an attitude, I was having none of it. Until Sunday night, when I went back for the church supper and the evening service, despite myself.

And you know that God worked on my head as well as my heart. I wound up going to all the evening services, Sunday through Wednesday.

Tuesday night we had a really severe storm. I left the office at six after hearing a lot of sheriff's department traffic on the scanner talking about the severe weather with rotation west of town, heading my way. I walked out the door and was hit by the deluge. My umbrella turned inside out in the 10 steps from the door to my car. I struggled to get in the car and get the door shut.

I pondered skipping revival but dismissed the thought, mostly because the church was closer than my house. I drove the four blocks over to the church and sat in the parking lot for a few minutes because it was raining so hard. I couldn't see anything once I parked -- none of the cars that I knew were there from when I pulled in, none of the houses in the neighborhood, nothing but sheets of rain.

The wind was blowing at about 70 miles an hour -- enough to start rocking my car. I was afraid it could flip the car the way it was getting underneath and lifting it. So I decided to make a run for it. I thought I would be a lot safer if I could make it across the street and into the church.

Well, the wind nearly knocked me down and the rain was coming down in sheets, soaking me to the bone. The water that ran through the street was already knee-deep on me. I made it to the steps before my umbrella was destroyed. I looked like I stood in the shower in my clothes.

I was able to grab a sandwich in the fellowship hall and stood under the blower in the rest room to dry myself enough so I wasn't dripping. I was still completely wet, but at least things weren't clinging to me -- too much.

The revival service was pretty remarkable. But it's what happened later that really made an impact. I met up with my friend, who is the organist, after the service and we started talking. She's always been very sympathetic to me and truly is concerned about me, unlike anyone else in this town.

We were the last two in the sanctuary as we talked, and I rode in the elevator with her. It's a brand new elevator, but it moved incredibly slowly while we talked. We got a lot said before it made it down one floor.

Well.... the door opened on my floor and we stood there, face to face with Wesley, the evangelist who was doing the services. He was still wearing the costume of his character from his presentation. Sue, the organist, said "Wesley, this young woman is at a crossroads. I need for you to talk to her." And with that she pulled him into the elevator. The door closed and then the back door (into the sanctuary) reopened and we went to talk.

He listened to me -- really listened, as I summarized briefly what the last two years have been like. He acknowledged that I am a wounded soul. I told him how much I miss my friends, my old church and the fracture there, and my life before I moved here.

He agreed that it sounded like my life is there. And he told me that when he has been in similar situations, his best advice was to "follow the peace."

I immediately was struck with the release of tension throughout my body. He held my hands and prayed with me and told me he wants me to stay in touch. He gave me his e-mail address.

I went home then and got a hot bath and put on my nightgown, and felt good like I have not felt in a long, long time. There was no tension in my body and I felt completely at peace.

Then the power went out. Oh, the storm was long over, but a transformer blew and plunged my whole section of town into darkness. People were out in the streets with flaslights trying to figure out how widespread the outage was. I was forced to go to sleep early and slept like a much-loved baby.

The next morning I asked God to give me a sign confirming what I believe I'm being led to. The sign I asked him to give me was a definite improvement in my blood sugar test that I was getting ready to do.

Now, for months my blood sugar in the mornings has been floating between 250 and 280, consistently. That Wednesday morning it dropped to 205.

The next morning it was 180.

Nothing has gotten these numbers to budge for months -- not starting insulin, not changing and increasing my insulin, not changes in oral medications or anything else.

My levels have bounced around a bit since then, but there is an overall downward trend in the numbers, which is good. It was under 200 again this morning, by a significant amount.

So why am I sharing this story, other than for the fact that I think it's pretty cool? Because I want to talk about prayer.

That simple prayer with Wesley was different, and powerful, and personal. It lasted for a very short time, but had more impact than any pastoral prayer in any service; any call to worship; any benediction that I've ever heard in any church. Why? Plain and simple because it was one person asking God to help another person. No pontificating.

Too often people mistake prayer for a public forum to tell other people what's what. They use it to further their personal political agenda. They use it to make people listen to what they have to say, instead of having a two-way conversation with God, which includes shutting up and listening.

This was intercessory prayer -- effective intercessory prayer. As the beneficiary of it, I know that I WAS HEARD. Not just by God. God always hears, even when all we can utter is a groan. He always hears. No, what made this different is knowing that Wesley heard me -- even through the 1-minute Cliffs Notes version of my distress. He heard me -- he listened without interrupting, even at the end of his very long day. He could understand my pain, my wounded spirit, and identified with me.

And he said that in the times in his life when he's also felt himself at the crossroads, the best advice he had was to follow the peace.

We all of us need to be heard. From one heart to another. The next time you have a chance to pray for someone, don't settle for repeating something someone else has printed. We don't need a lot more corporate prayers, no matter how much we might agree with the cause du jour.

What we really need to do is listen to the needs of our fellow humans. It's about connecting with someone and HEARING them, understanding them, and THEN asking God to work in specific ways in their lives, to meet their needs and ease their pains. After all, PEOPLE is what this whole Christianity thing is about -- individuals who need to connect with one another and with God.

To Wesley: Thank you for listening. I am praying for you, too.