Sunday, May 24, 2015

Heading North for the Summer



The cottage voice has been quiet since last fall. Soon, I’ll be back on my pier, nodding at the sunset. As a displaced Hoosier, I will miss some common Texas sights, sounds and such.
This is down south so there are southern habits like saying, “Ma’am” whenever you address a lady. It’s quite nice. I have reasons to venture onto Randolph Air Force base on a regular basis where I get a double whammy “Ma’am” as it were.

You can’t miss the military’s presence about town. Folks in fatigues are a common sight.
Another common sight: most people don’t park their cars inside their garages. This is in spite of a particular automobile injury: paint blisters and curls during the hottest part of the year. It looks to me that garages are standard doubles but most cars are NOT standard issue. We have big cars in keeping with that “Everything is bigger in Texas.” I park my car inside and we could squeeze in one more and the garage would be cozy. However, my car is just average-sized.
The largest auto I’ve seen was: an oversize truck with a back seat and an extended cab. Then, attached to the front bumper was an additional bumper, extending it at least one foot. Then in the back, there’s an attached hitching thing that extends at least 2 feet. So, that’s at least 3 feet longer. But that’s not it. On the sides, this driver installed 3 step-down stairs on each side so the truck width increased 3 or 4 feet. Of course the truck has double wheels so its designed width is more than average. I spied this vehicle in the water utility parking lot where it took up two spaces front to back plus two spaces side to side. Big truck.

Food

The first time I ordered “fresh guacamole made at table side” I didn’t realize that in south Texas, that’s 4 extra words. It’s all fresh; you can find prepared and frozen guac but it’s relegated to the bottom shelf of the freezer, way behind Buffalo wings and frozen taquitos. If dust could settle in a freezer case, the dust would be thick.

Same thing for tortillas. As a friend up north said, “These have never met plastic.” When you walk into the local grocery, you are bathed in the scent of freshly made tortillas. You CAN purchase them uncooked, like brown and serve rolls, but why would you pass on fresh and warm? A side note: from McDonald’s to any pricy restaurant, these folks fold and wrap tortillas like it’s an art.

Mustard
San Antonio’s major grocery chain is HEB, in business for 100 years. Each store has its own personality but each features a pepper bar in fresh produce. This stretches 15 feet with a visual chart above that spans from “GREEN SWEET” to “BURN ALL THE WAY DOWN.” Around town, each store adjusts to its main demographic so we have “regular HEB,” “granola HEB,” and “Gucci HEB.” In that last one, you trapse through a labyrinth of prepared, gourmet entries, exotic imported cheeses, and many mushrooms. The wine section covers half the store with an on-site sommelier, ready to answer questions even at 8:30 in the morning. And then there’s that mustard aisle. Yes, an aisle. In the photo, all of those jars are different. A rough count is 100+ varieties.

As for eating out, I did spy a Taco Bell although I cannot imagine how it stays open. Authentic Mexican or TexMex (not the same thing) restaurants line most roads. Often they are tucked into strip malls with not enough parking. Occasionally, you pass a house in a residential neighborhood which slipped past city planners and got grandfathered in. Many of these places open at a set time and close when they run out of food. This is especially true if tamales are on the menu. My sense is that they do not make extra tamales. There are no left overs.

San Antonio is a tourist spot so, especially downtown, you can find fine dining but for authentic, you hit the little places.

Pass the Rudy's
Quite a few barbecue places dot the landscape. Of those, Rudy’s may be the best. You enter and stand in line across from the brisket slicer. You order your meat (beef or turkey or beef) and your side (creamed corn) and your dessert (peach cobbler). If you order a dill pickle, an amazing guy with an amazingly shape knife slices it into tiny medallions as you blink. Your order is served on a white paper towel nestled into one of those blue plastic trays that 2 liter bottles come in. You enter the eating place, long picnic tables covered with plastic tablecloths. There are squirt bottles of sauce and stacks of white bread to sop up that sauce.

The lines at Rudy’s are long but they move along.
Also, at Rudy’s as well as many other casual places, you walk past the beer trough. That’s a 20 foot metal tub filled to the top with crushed ice. All you see of the beer in the ice is a bottle cap. You make your choice and slip it out of the ice to a nice swoosh sound.

Alcohol sales are a change from Indiana. Texas’ blue laws are different. You can purchase beer and wine on Sunday. You can sit in a bar with a child. You can take that same child into a liquor store. As for that bar, it’s a challenge to find a Cosmopolitan but there are infinite versions of Margaritas. 

Traffic and such

I’ve driven in about a dozen large cities: they all have their own version of crazy. In my opinion, nobody beats San Antonio for dangerous vehicular exhibition.

The city is laid out like a wagon wheel. Two major highways form the spoke and the tire of a wheel. Like many cities, there are rush hour traffic challenges and for those of us who don’t need to be anywhere on the clock, you plan your route at a good time. However, no matter when you are on the road, it there’s an accident, it stops traffic while police and such move the crashes to the grassy middle. At which time, you’d think that traffic flow would continue. But no. Everybody, or at least enough people to matter, ON BOTH SIDES slow down and stop to watch. Sometimes for 10 minutes or more while the cars behind just pile and pile behind each other.
 
A common sight: the across-five-lanes-to-turn-left. Picture a 4 lane road with a middle lane for turning. The car in question is in the farthest lane. He decides he wants to turn into a driveway on the other side of the other 4 lanes. He may (but not always) look for an opening as he edges into the next lane and then the center lane and by now, into oncoming traffic which he expects will stop and yield. He expects this because so often those cars DO stop and let the car cross over. WOE unto those who either don’t see him or just don’t think this should happen. Turning car will give you such a look!

Many of the main roads have that middle turn lane. It’s not uncommon for a driver to use it as his own private lane. Also not uncommon, pedestrians will walk in that lane. Sometimes after dark. It’s unnerving to pause in stopped traffic (accident up ahead?) and look to the left at the guy who’s out for a stroll.

Flora and Fauna

It IS lovely that in December, you find planters with petunias and peonies. And even I can coax growth from plants in Texas. They need to be ‘succulents’ meaning that they don’t require a lot of water or care. But they do, occasionally flower. 

The native wildlife is pretty exotic for this Midwestern gal: longhorn steers and oxen are as common as Hoosier moo cows. If you get away from all the traffic, you may see an armadillo, a snake or a scorpion.

And then there are the birds. You may think that ‘Snow Bird” refers to transplanted northerners and it does. However, where do all those migrating birds go? San Antonio, I’m sure. In deep winter at dusk or sunrise, the roadways remind you of those scenes from Hitchcock’s The Birds. Telephone wires which line the roads will be black with birds.

So I’ll be 1350 miles away for the summer when the heat will blister those cars, the birds will be back north and flowers will wilt if they don’t get a drink. But it will be waiting for me in late August.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Bench

As I’m navigating a life without a partner, I’ve discovered that I can venture out without feedback and it’s OK.

We had the blessing of so much time. Often, we’d discuss a scenario of something that might happen in the future. “What will you do?” he would ask. And he’d wait for me to mull and answer. As we were life partners for 40 years, many of my responses would please him. Once in a while, he’d say, “This is what I’d do.” And then he’d follow closely with, “But I won’t be here so do as you want.”

He knew that we had lined up friends who would/do serve as advisers. So far, so good. Mostly our patterns were set and unified. But I’ve stepped out and made some choices that, together, we might not have made. The planet is still spinning.

The only thing Mike asked me to do: when we walked along The Nickle Plate Trail up north, we came to a resting bench, secured in cement. He said he’d like to have one of those in his memory along the trail so walkers and riders could take a break if they needed to.

After the dust settled on his passing, I kept this one request in mind. However, I found it difficult to find someone connected to the trail who could help me with this. When I marked the one-year date of Mike’s passing, I knew I would be relocating to Texas in the fall and I moved his request to the front of my concerns. So in early summer, I asked my sister-in-law, a runner/biker and general all-around community person to guide me. She suggested a name and I contacted that name through a message on Facebook.

I told him that I wanted to place a bench somewhere along the trail and asked him to direct me further.

I heard nothing for several weeks and then the day before I was coming to Kokomo, I contacted him again.  “You may not remember me but….”

His return jumped off the monitor with enthusiasm. “We’ve been working on this and would like to show you what we have in mind.” Plus directions on meeting up at the city building.  This gentleman is a trail guy; he also knew Mike having met him at The Huddle. He had taken my initial request and met with the city engineering department.

In the months since Mike and I first discussed a bench, the City of Kokomo has undergone a renaissance in the downtown area; this includes the extension of the trails right past the west of the courthouse. Would I like a bench there? Wow.

I smile as I sit here, far away, with the photos: the city has installed a really nice bench along with a plaque right near were Mike practiced law.


I can see his face, nodding and smiling, at how this turned out. Thanks Charley, Terrance, and crew.

Friday, October 3, 2014

TEXAS Y'ALL


I have reasons to spend some time in south Texas. I will miss much of Midwestern autumn, certainly my favorite season. I will miss much of Midwestern winter, not even in the running for favorite season. I’ve been that Midwesterner: the one who says he/she loves the change of season. We even say that as we stand mid-waist in snow drifts, trudging out to the frozen automobile, hopeful that we can escape to a mall, cinema, grocery. Hopeful that the engine turns over after a night out in the garage.

Nope, I’ve heard that in San Antonio, once in a great while, they get a layer of ice on roadways and close down the city:  I’m ready for that. The other day, the temperature dipped into the 60’s. The high 60’s. I slipped on my UGGs and was quite the item wherever I went. “Where did you get those boots? I need those boots.”

So, when you come for a visit, of course we’ll drive downtown to see The Alamo and to stroll along The Riverwalk, both right in the center. San Antonio has, in the verbiage of planning commissions, “exploited their major waterway” for economic gain. It seems that everybody has heard of San Antonio’s Riverwalk. Any and all visitors make sure they have walked along the concrete banks, lined with restaurants, shops and hotels. There’s always live music as you move past other attractions. It’s fun. It’s beautiful. It’s A Place To Be.

As for The Alamo. We’ve all seen iconic images of this famous fortress. When you stroll by, well, you’ll share the communal reaction: That’s IT??? Well, yes. It strikes you as odd that it’s RIGHT THERE, snuggled between parking lots, shops, and hotels. The city grew up around it.

It’s worth the trip and it’s worth the time to enter and explore. It’s just that your first reaction is that, well, yes there it is, right there.

Downtown San Antonio is gorgeous. Park like. Walking trails. Bike sharing stations. Trees and benches. A great place to stop. Nearby you find museums, art galleries, concert stages and live theater venues. And I’m not even a native. I have much to learn.

And then there’s the rest of this place which continues to amaze these Midwestern eyes.

If you look at San Antonio on a map, the roadways resemble a wagon wheel. The rim is 1604, which circles the city.  (Using a different word picture…a clock…I live at about 1:30, inside the rim.) My daily trek involves a 5 mile stretch along Texas 78, a 4 lane highway with a 5th inside lane, a double yellow on both sides. It’s a curious path, heavily trafficked. Weekly, I maneuver around a fender bender along this route, nothing bloody or airbag deployable, but oh so often.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far: you don’t need to pass any sort of Driver’s Ed. to get an operator’s license in south Texas. That explains a lot. All too often, someone on the other side of that double yellow will decide he must turn left and cross two lanes of traffic and he will DO IT. No warning, no measure of oncoming traffic. He will JUST TURN in front of traffic. One must just be aware of him. He’s often driving an enormous truck, confident, I believe, in the fact that in a collision, he will win.

I am happily driving in the Granny Lane, keeping myself under the non-posted, ever changing speed limit; yesterday, he honked angrily at me as I did not see him and so almost didn’t yield. Amazing, isn’t it, that a honk can express emotion? I get several of these a week, even as I am following driving rules like a monk.

As for the speed limit: long-time readers will understand that I have been speed challenged in a former life. I try to be vigilant in obeying speed limits. Along Texas 78, these change and are not posted. I’m not kidding. It’s 50 and then it’s 30, and then 50 again until it’s 45. My little GPS flashes RED when I exceed the limit….Ms. Garmin knows how fast I can drive, even as Texas tries to keep it a secret.

Then there is that curious double yellow lane. What exactly is its purpose? Some people use it for merging. Some people drive ½ mile or more within its confines. Every once in a while, there are painted turning arrows that…guess what... point you to no place to turn. AND, way too often, there are pedestrians that seem to be just hanging out.

I pulled over next to a traffic officer the other day to ask him. He was vague at best. “Can you just drive along in that lane?” I asked.  “We discourage it but it’s not against the law.”  Oh. “What about the pedestrians?” “THAT’S against the law but we don’t ticket pedestrians.” HMM.

I have ventured out into the lane, trying to merge, as I’ve witnessed others doing. Last time, I got another of those angry honks coupled with the driver taking his hands off his steering wheel and giving me the double palms up, like ‘what are you doing???’  (Did you think he was going to flip me off? Nope, Texas. They may drive like maniacs but there’s a modicum of southern manners, even on the road.)

You also have to watch out for semis. The other day, during the going-home-crazy-traffic, I came upon a truck in my Granny Lane, with his flashers on. It slowed traffic and I couldn’t seem to pass him. Then, I saw him get out, walk into a Taco Bell and come back out with a sack o something. Amazing. At least he had called ahead.

There are some colorful road names that, if streets could tell tales, might have something to say:  Gibbs Sprawl, Showdown, Stubb Pass, and Spit.

I’ve been told that San Antonio’s growth exploded without time or concern for any sort of planning. Try to find a Post Office. They are tucked away in curious corners. The one nearest to me is nestled in a residential neighborhood, without extra parking or even some semblance that it’s not just a house. There’s a flag and a sign but you could miss it. Another one is near a high school. There’s a green sign with an arrow but if you turn there, you’re in a gas station parking lot with no side street. You have to turn at the high school, drive 50 feet, turn in the general direction that the sign would suggest and then there’s a flag and the building.

Also, it’s not uncommon to be driving along a residential street when BOOM, one house is a BBQ restaurant with, again, no extra parking. But there’s fragrant smoke seeping out of the roof, IF the place it open. Some of these are open sometimes.

I’m not quite a resident but I can now get around without Ms. Garmin’s aid most of the time, and it’s a lovely place. Amazing to me is that after a week of 100+ temperatures, we get a reprieve of high 80’s and it’s so refreshing. Unlike my other home, where on a hot day, the day starts hot and stays that way, down here the days begin more temperature and then creep up up up into the afternoon.

I’ve yet to see a scorpion or snake although they are out there, lurking. We DO have those lovely reminders that this is NOT Heaven: the fire ants.  We kill ‘em.

So, yes. Come. Or just freeze up there and envy us.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Adventure Begins

My mission to San Antonio is covert: am not at liberty to discuss in it this public venue. Suffice it to say that I am on an adventure, the next chapter I had asked God to open.  Exciting and new.

I AM at liberty to discuss my relocation to this southern city. We took to the road, Ivy and I, a week ago. We’ve done this drive before. Our preferred route, via interstate highways, takes us to Lonoke, Arkansas on the first day. That little city is about 20 miles east of Little Rock and is just over half way to the final destination. Right as you turn off, there are 4 nice dog-friendly hotels that serve a warm breakfast to its human guests so, as in the past, we planned to arrive before dark, get a good night’s sleep, rise and eat, and then hit the road again.

That part went by flawlessly…even in Illinois, the driver did not get stopped for speeding. When we commenced on day two, after I had filled up my tank, I started to click away on Ms. Garmin, GPS, when she began to flash something. What? I don’t know what. I had on sunglasses, not readers. I could make out a middle area that might have said CANCEL. Not sure. But after several punches, she settled down to show my route back on to the interstate so we were off.

STILL not positive what the GPS was saying but I am pretty sure she asked me if I’d prefer to avoid interstates and instead travel on picturesque little roads that wound through east Texas. I believe I nodded that message to Ms. Garmin as electronics are only as smart as those who operate them. And that was my second day drive. As I did not have any other map (!), I didn’t think it wise to freelance. There’s a lot of open space down in Texas. Plus snakes and scorpions if you get lost and venture on foot. I knew that Ms. Garmin had the final address and she also told me when I’d arrive, which was acceptable so I obeyed her as we traveled through Tyler, Plano, and quite a few ‘population 900’ little towns. At one point, I was on the NORTHERN LOOP….Houston? Dallas? Sumpin else?  Don’t know but stayed the course.

I discovered The Texas Pass, a neat little habit down here when you’re driving on 2 lane roads, as I was most of the day. Every so often, a right lane appears and slower vehicles --- trucks and such --- pull to the right, not slowing down, so you can pass. We could use that in Indiana during planting/harvesting seasons.

I discovered lot of traffic lights and when stopped, I could see that many pedestrians wear their weapons on their belts.

When I stopped for gas, I got Yes ma’amed a lot; in the adjacent convenience store, there it was, the 20 foot trough filled with ice and beer, the bottle tops just barely showing. It’s a common sight as you travel into Texas.

And for my long-time readers, I DID get stopped for speeding. He clocked me at 73 in a 70.  Yeah. I think he wanted to check out my car. He certainly wanted a closer look at my license plate. “What state is that from, Ma’am?” (Got a Warning)

Oh, and in fairness to the driver, the speed limits change often and not just in and out of small towns. And the posting signs are few and far between. Further south, you can opt for a toll road and cruise along at 85. I paid that toll.

We arrived, tired and hot, and were greeted by all sorts of special folks. Then a quick night’s sleep and on to the adventure.

I know I said this to several friends: I felt a bit uneasy, uprooting from my cottage for an indeterminate time period. I tried to pack up all that I would need; I had arranged a backup doctor, dentist, hair person, and car repair shop, trying to prepare for all necessities. But I couldn’t really place this nagging feeling until I recognized it from a past time.

When my dad dropped me off at Wheaton College in the fall 0f 1969 (!), he drove away and as I turned to enter my dorm, I realized that for the first time in my life, I was alone. I knew no one. I had no refuge, no friendly face to greet me. It was uncomfortable and it didn’t last: I’ve never been accused of being shy. However, it WAS a new emotion. I felt much the same way as I drove to south Texas.

I have family here but no other acquaintances, certainly no friends. So what? Well, here’s something I discovered this summer. I had spent my entire life, that brief Wheaton moment to the contrary, surrounded by friends. I could find someone to talk to, ride bikes with, walk the path toward, always someone. And I have friends in Winona but what I lacked and knew that I missed: my Christian sisters with whom I could pray and talk and share and learn. Such a simply thing and oh so sweet. A few days before I left Indiana, I was pulling out of my driveway when next door, three young ladies were saying their goodbyes. They formed a circle, held hands and prayed. It surprised me how it made my heart ache. I was tempted to stop the car, get out and join them. Yes, I know it would have been OK, but although I was/am a sister, I was/am a stranger: these were intimate Christian friends.

Philippians 4:19  “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” I know this is true. Right now, my needs involve spiritual nurture. I purposed to find a church. It made sense.

San Antonio is flush with churches. Like so many other things in Texas, most are huge. And though I’m not intimidated by bigness, I wanted…needed…to find one close enough to me that would begin to nurture my heart. I prayed about it and I tell about it here because I know that there are plenty of friends who pray for me.

On Thursday, walking 5 doors down to my place, I saw a man scrubbing an RV. I introduced myself to Frank and his wife Lynn. A quick conversation and I learned that he was newly retired from the chaplain corps so I asked him where they went to church. Smiling, they handed me a card with their churches services. On Sunday, I attended and learned about how we should test the veracity of scripture. I was reminded that the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed a document from 900 AD with 95% accuracy….the 5% involved spelling and punctuation.  Even back then!


Long story short: God has led me to a church. And soon, a new Christian family.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Party on the Island 2014

5 years ago, my friends on Winona Lake gathered at our cottage. We celebrated my husband's birthday.

Earlier in the year, doctors had offered us no hope that Mike would still be around at the end of summer. But God showed up with His miracle moves and we had that party. It was glorious but tinged with a bittersweet scent. We certainly believed that this would be Mike's last party.

But no. 2010 and 2011: each lake season ended with a birthday celebration. And then, in 2012, Mike's long time buddy and his ever-energetic wife offered to move the party outside and open it to any and all who showed up.

So, in 2012, we roasted a hog and invited the town. People just kept coming, everybody pitching in some goodies, and the party grew.

Last year, the 2nd Annual Island Party was even bigger and much more fun, even as Mike did not get to attend. We DID send some Sky Lanterns into the darkening sky, in case he was checking in.

Out my window, right now, there's a big barrel in which some pork is roasting. Soon, a team of ladies will gather around my dining room table and begin to pull the pork and place it in trays. There will be a kettle of sauce simmering on the stove.

The band will set up by 6 and the party will commence. I get to spend one more night with my special friends here at the lake.

Tomorrow I head out for a 2 day drive to my next adventure. But for tonight, the party is ON!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The FIVE --- not the TV Show



My home church began a project at the start of this year. B  L  E  S  S, each letter a prompt for some intentional living. I was in the service but I was not paying enough attention. I drifted after B which is  BEGIN THE DAY WITH PRAYER. No matter what else we should do, that’s got to be a great way to start the day. 

So I purposed to do just that, each and every day. And because I need a little structure (note: not ‘little structure’), I chose to make a mental list of 5 things I would mention to the Creator of the Universe. I also decided that, this time, I would present my list without my suggestions as to how He could meet those needs and requests.

Among the life lessons I’ve been filing: God has a much bigger imagination than I have. I think I know how things are going and how things should go and how things will go, as what makes sense to me. And time after time, He blows me away with something completely different. And so much better.  In fact, pretty close to perfect.  Yeah...well...perfect.

So my daily discipline is to roll over, one stretch, and then my  BEGIN. First and foremost, it connects me with my Father. We know that He delights in our prayers so I’m all about delighting Him. And from my church background, I know I can be as casual and conversational as I choose. “Hi, God. Good morning and here’s what I want to bring before you….”

For all of you who are champions of faith, for all of you who have already discovered this, please enjoy and be refreshed that God’s lessons can be learned at a later date, far down the road of life.
I’ve seen answers. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve had my metaphoric socks blown off my metaphorically sock-clad tootsies. A recap:

Three of God’s children who were looking for a job:  JOBS

Two of God’s children who needed a house and who had hit the wall multiple times with offers lost:  HOUSES

Several of God’s children who were stressing over a test in a difficult course: tests NAILED! (When they asked for prayer, understanding that I’m a teacher and all, they promised that they were doing their part)

Several of God’s children, facing hard life choices, sought clarity.  God supplied.

Several of God’s children, walking the path to the cemetery, asked for comfort. I don’t even need a report on this one: God supplies.

Plus, there are some long-term requests that He's taking His time to address. In His time.

I can testify: this is a great way to build up your faith and to remind you that God IS the one who sees the big picture.

No coincidence: God led me to Psalm 37 yesterday. As Mike was winding down, the one thing he really wanted was to finish his semester at IVY Tech. He lived to meet that goal.

PSALM 37: 3-5



3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:

Thank you, Father for this. And for all answers to prayer.  Including those whose answer is WAIT or  NO, TRUST ME.  

I've grown a little protective of my FIVE. It seems that each time one request gets scratched off the list, another surfaces. If not, I can always insert my own needs but I prefer praying for others.

BTW:  somebody got a job....there's a vacancy on The FIVE.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

King David and the Tomato

This morning’s sermon took 2 Samuel 12 as its text. Here is reported the climactic scene in the story of David and Bathsheba. King David had taken another man’s wife into his bed. This man was the King’s champion, serving on the battlefield. Bathsheba became pregnant, the king tried to cover, the plan failed. So, David sent a note to the front, carried by his champion, that this soldier should be placed in the thick of the battle, assuming he would be killed. Assumption correct. David married the widow and the baby was born.

And David went on kinging and all. Yeah, he was God’s man and yeah, this was messy, even sinful, but now it was over and on we go. Except that’s not the way God works and so the prophet Nathan was tasked with the job of calling out the King. That had to be an interesting exchange between the Almighty and His human voice. You want me to do WHAT??? The prophet had to know that with one flick of his wrist, David could call for his death.

Nathan showed up and told David about a guy in the kingdom who had killed his neighbor’s pet ewe for a party dinner instead of taking one of his own...and he had a bunch. David seethed, but not for long. He proclaimed that this sheep killer should die. And then Nathan made the metaphoric leap:  You are that man.

BAM! David heard the word and felt the judgment. David sought forgiveness and Nathan kept his head. However, and this was the point, David’s sin, though forgiven, still carried penalties. In this case, Nathan told him that the child would die; and there were a few more consequences that, if you believe in biblical history, affected the nation of Israel to the present day.

And then after church, several congregants gathered around a kitchen table and held discussions about guilt and forgiveness in today’s world. One erudite observer opined that it seems that the uttering of “I’m sorry” is seen as a wipe-the-slate kind of thing. Like there should be no consequences. If parental/school/employment punishment is advanced, the rule breaker will whine “But I SAID I was sorry.” Like that should erase any consequences for bad actions. We discussed how things were when “we” were little and how nobody worried about our self-esteem when we screwed up. We also, all of us, have vivid memories of choosing badly, experiencing the consequences and then never repeating the wrong. Folks used to call that good learning.

So, feeling a bit smug…those Things Were Different/Better discussions will do that…I place my hand around a perfect, round tomato on the table. 

Big Eyes: WHERE did you GET that???

Well, as I was strolling through the neighbor’s garden, I spied this beauty, deep, deep, deep inside the tomato plants. Plural as in dozens. You almost couldn’t see it as it was hidden by the lush greenery. But I spied it, slid my hand into the bush and plucked it. It took no effort. It was ready to fall. And this is a friend’s garden. I just figured No Big Deal.
However, apparently at least one at our confab had suffered some distress when she plucked a similar fruit. She had been told she was NOT to do that. “But, it’s ok that you did. In fact, it’s a relief,” she said.

Ok. I don’t know what all that drama was about but I guess it’s purloined spoils but  it’s not like you can put it back.  I also knew that 1) there are so many, so so many tomatoes ready and more coming and 2) it’s not like I was stealing: I’ve been given carte blanche in the same garden for raspberries and blackberries. Although another sermon note is that when we sin or screw up (whatever term you choose), we look for ways to justify what we have done so this is my illustration of that very good point. 

I guess I could apologize but, honestly, it would be insincere.
All of this gave me pause until I walked home, sliced up that beauty and lay it across green beans from some else’s garden. I had a very good lunch. And then, I remembered a poem, which embraces in the taking of fruit, and fake regret.

mmmmmmmm
This Is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold 


Hmmmm. Time to ponder.