The Only Way a Towel Can Kill You

At the advent of swimming season this year I considered my options for sanity and decided that one way I could save on a lot of laundry would be to buy each child a vastly different print of beach towel so that there can be no question of whose is whose. If you are wrapped in the one with gaudy pineapples and it belongs to your sister, you are out of line. Yours has palm trees. Even the most absent minded can remember that, even though you apparently cannot remember that white bath sheets do not ever go to the pond bank, not even when Mama isn’t looking. What’s more, I can tell at a glance who hasn’t hung up their towel to dry because there are no hibiscus flowers on the line.

There was a day of intermittent showers and sunshine, the kind of day where raindrops just squirted out of the sky with little warning. The children had a blast dancing through the puddles and wiping out in the grass. I looked on indulgently because this is a rite of childhood, after all.

Suddenly everybody was chilly. The beach towels, one for each child, their assigned towel to take care of and hang up to dry after every wet episode… Well, they were all either hanging on the clothesline or sprawled across our canoe trailer from the swim in the lake the night before. Five bath towels got handed out and everybody dried off. I failed to make sure that all these towels got hung on hooks. They didn’t. After all, we have plenty of floor for towel disposal and I, the mother, was retreating for an hour to read and relax behind a locked door.

There was a knock on the door. “It quit raining! May we go swimming in the pond? It’s really warm. We checked. Please???” All five scampered off, little ones dragging life jackets and what was that I saw draped around their necks? MORE TOWELS? Clean bathroom towels for drying off from the pond? But the beach towels, one for each child, their assigned towel to take care of and hang up to dry… They were undeniably wet from hanging on the line during the rain.

I sighed and gave it up. The only way this can kill you, lady, is if you knuckle under and let it smother you, after all. I saw myself, one feeble arm reaching out from a mountain of soggy terry cloth. “Help!”

No, I am tougher than that. I would remain chill about it.

An hour later they all trooped up on the deck. “We’re cold! Can we have baths?”


The Feeling of Daddy


She was a very little girl in a great big world. Her mama had told her she could walk out to the farrowing barn where her daddy was working. Peeking in the barn door, past the rows of brood sows, she saw him beckoning her to join him. That meant there was probably a new litter of piglets that she could look at. But the aisle between the two rows of pens for the sows looked a mile long, and the pens themselves were higher than she was. Should she dare it? Walk between those rows of snuffling grunts all by herself?

“Come on, you want to see this,” he called, so she plucked up her small courage and started walking down the long trail to where he was standing. There were little peep-holes in the pens, where she could glimpse hairy backs and sometimes a beady pig eyeing her as she sidled past.

Then there was a cranky sow who was having a bad day and objected to short people walking through the barn. Just as the little girl was walking by, she reared up and scrabbled her hooves on the edge of the pen, woofing her pig breath out in a terrifying series of snorts. Panic-stricken, the child froze in place, not sure whether to retreat or fly past to the safety of her daddy. The sow woofed again and there was nothing for it but to abandon all dignity and wail for help.

Her daddy came running to the rescue, put his hands under her arms, and lifted her up, way up to his shoulders. She was far above where any old pig could reach. He comforted his little girl, wiped her face, and said, “Would you like to go see some new little pigs?” She sniffled, “Yes,” and looked down from her vantage point at a whole row of little pink bodies lined up beside their mama. She stayed there out of harm’s way on her daddy’s shoulders until they were out of the barn, away from all the scary things.

It was one of her earliest memories. She never forgot that feeling for the rest of her life. It was the feeling of daddy, and it was safe.


This is what I wrote for my dad instead of a card today. Because I forgot to buy the card in the busy rushing of the past week. I post it here for all the dads who are present, who care, who work and provide for their families day after day. You are the unsung heroes, but today is your day and we thank you!


Easy Peasy Peas

The title is misleading, since anyone who has ever grown peas knows there is nothing that easy about either growing or processing them. If you have planted a substantial amount of them, and you have picked the rows, you stand up with a genuine case of pea-picker’s back and make your annual vow not to do this again. Ever. But you said it last year too. What is it that brings us back for more punishment every year?

It’s the flavor, the sweet, bursting orbs of brilliant green that you simply cannot get any other way than by putting in the work yourself. Well, if you happen to live near Amish country, you might be able to buy a few bushels that someone else raised and picked. If this is the case, you should never ever make them feel bad for the price they are asking. But I digress.

The easy peasy processing that I grew up with is a mystery to many of my friends. Since I love you all, I will share with you a detailed step-by-step to help you out. Of course, there may not be anyone else out there that wants to improve on the pea experience, but on the odd chance, I will give it a shot.

You start with the pods you just picked, obviously. After you have rubbed your back and had your tardy cup of coffee and sustained yourself with a little something, of course. (disclaimer: many unedited cell phone pics coming up)

bushel of peas

That black holey kettle is a steamer basket, which you fill to the top of the holes with peas. Hopefully you have a responsible big boy who started the steamer kettle boiling a half hour ago so that you do not have to wait for it. But if not, you can have another cup of coffee.


When the water rolls like that, you are ready to gently lower the steamer basket into it. Don’t plop it in or you will have overflow and a stained stovetop to contend with when you are done. And yes, this water has blanched a few batches already, hence that interesting browny-green color. But you use the same water for the whole batch, only topping it off with some fresh water when it boils low.

Set your timer for exactly four minutes. At two minutes you select a long-handled spoon and give the pods a stir. If you don’t do this, the bottom ones in the basket will hog all the hot water and the top ones won’t blanch properly.

stir halfway through blanching

Bonus points if your spoon matches exactly.

When the timer goes off, slowly lift out the steamer and dump the blanched pods into a cold water bath to shock them into submission. I mean, so they stop cooking and don’t get squishy. Once they are cooled down, (and depending on how cold your water is, you may need to drain and repeat) drain off the water and start shelling.

Now I have no quarrel with traditional shelling, but what I don’t like is this: pea blossoms

See that vast countertop? But what I want to show you is the blossom ends on the pods. When you shell them dry, they fall into the shelled peas and you get to pick and pick and pick and wash and wash and sort and sort them out. And then you still have to blanch the peas and cool them before you put them into the freezer. If you blanch the whole pod, they float off into either the boiling water or the cooling water. You eliminate that whole fussy step of cleaning the peas. And you don’t have to blanch them. They are ready to go once popped out of the pods.

I do mean popped out. There are several methods. I prefer a twist, which my son and I had fun trying to catch on camera. It sort of looks like you take a pod by either end and twist it into an S.

how to pop peas

It’s a law of science: you apply pressure and something has to give. Only it takes just a teeny amount of pressure, since the pods are pliable. Here is a tip: you want to make sure the thinner edge of the pod is pointing down into your bowl, unless you want a faceful.

Children find it easier to just slide their fingers along the pod and strip all the peas out the end. It’s really fun!

Addy shelling

You will want to have a good audiobook that engages the attention of all while you do the shelling. We like Winnie the Pooh, narrated so incredibly well by Peter Dennis. “Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, about last Friday…”

The last step is to corral a charming little girl whose mother did not comb her hair before the operation began, tie an enormous kerchief around the wispy curls, and give her a measuring cup to fill your freezer containers.

Liv with peas

I am quite certain that this step-by-step will not convince anyone that peas are actually easy-peasy. But for those who already raise them, give it a shot. I am guessing you will thank me. 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Convoluted Thoughts about Love and Keeping On

I am sitting at my parents’ house, on call to help my dear mother if she needs anything in the night. The last month has been more than trying for her. First she suffered through the painful weakness of a shingles case. Just as that was starting to heal, there came a severe double sciatic inflammation and now she has a case of Bell’s Palsy on top of it all.

Yesterday I taught the preschool Sunday school class about Job and his steadfast trust. I suppose my mom and dad will never know if there were conversations between the devil and God concerning their faith, but it has certainly been sorely tried. I have watched my dad with something like awe as he took on the role of patient and kindly nurse. I didn’t even know he had it in him, and there he is, day after day, night after night, helping Mom get comfortable and praying for her when she simply cannot be comfortable. If you have some space on your prayer list, put them on it, please?

It’s June! Have you noticed? Here in central PA that means just about perfect weather. It means strawberries and peas and cherries. June is wonderful! The thing that happens is the constant busyness and running, running. It takes a conscious effort not to parch one’s soul in the host of good things to do.

A few weeks ago we had an especially crazy stretch of days and a sweet friend asked me after church, “So what has the Lord been teaching you this week?” I had been gulping small sips of “Streams in the Desert” and running along for days, and all I could say was, “Well, I am experiencing the fact that the cares of life choke out the Word.” (Mark 4:19) Just venturing a guess here that I am not the only one who has experienced the unfruitfulness that comes from lack of water. It reaches into creativity as well. When I am running dry, I just do what I have to do and there is nothing left to make something fresh. So maybe this is what happens when there are weeks of no writing. Or maybe my mom is sick and I am spending time at her house.

Gabe and I had an engagement anniversary (15 years) last week. I already told you the story of when he proposed. We were thrilled that we would get to change the world together! The week before our wedding, we were praying one evening and we both got a really strong sense that our marriage was meant to be about much more than two happy people. (Hello! I know this is basic, but it is quite easy to forget when you are young and in love.) There was this odd feeling that we were going to face hard times, not in spite of, but because we were casting in our lot together. This is a bit of a jolt when you only ever want to live together forever. We stopped praying and looked at each other. Did you get that too? Is this worth the risk? But of course. We were in love and we would be together and all would have to be well.

There is a quote by Jimmy Meacher that I have always liked:

“A wife is a spiky, complex creature brought into conjunction with another spiky, complex creature. For the rest of their lives they will be working out how to fit into the small world of marriage without damaging each other.”


(you can buy these hedgies here)

My friend Joy, who just celebrated 5 years of marriage, wrote a very wise post about the perfect marriage recently. You should read it, especially if you are realistic enough to know that love is kind of hard sometimes, you know, in the middle of the plush hearts and chocolates.

This morning we got up early and picked peas as the sun was coming up. Gabe set up a speaker and we listened to love songs while we picked. It was so ordinary and such a funny way to change the world. My opinions about middle-aged people have altered, obviously, since I am quite close to that category myself. I still don’t think that it is okay to live solely for the pleasure of a cute little family and all the stuff that can be accumulated to make it happy. But I think that middle-aged people who do the next thing, the right thing, the unselfish thing, might just be the fabric that holds society together. What if everybody was always traveling, keeping up with fashion, eating sushi in every city, and not having children because they are too much trouble and expense? While I do not begrudge these experiences (in moderation 🙂 ) to those who are unfettered by responsibilities, I see the potential extermination of the human race right there.

I am listening to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich  when I pull weeds in the garden or have to do anything kind of unpleasant, like mending. It’s great, because it makes me mad and that gives me energy. At the same time I have been learning a bit about Winston Churchill and how he was consumed with concern for the welfare of others, even though his forceful personality and way of showing his care often made people dislike him. Talk about prickly! He had a saying when he was tired of it all and wishing to throw in the towel, “We have to just KBO.” His family and all his staff knew that this meant, “Keep Buggering On,” that he wasn’t giving up. I am sort of adopting this as a life motto. There are verse fragments that mean the same thing, “Don’t be weary in well-doing,” etc. but KBO is so easy to say and it makes me laugh at myself.

So, the cares of life, they are real and the worries that attend them. It’s not just the children anymore. In this stage of life it’s the parents too. It’s all part of the responsibility and the circle of life. And here we stand in the middle with all this stuff to do. That is why we have to focus so specifically on the things that really matter. My husband just did a study at church on meditation and it has encouraged me to stay hydrated.

  1. Soak yourself in the water of the Word of God!
  2. Bear fruit that nourishes others.
  3. Give freely.

(Fruitfulness is not just about having babies.)

Ice Cream from Heaven

The young boy sat outside the country store on a bench. He was supposed to wait there while his mom ran inside to buy ice. She said he couldn’t come in because it was Memorial Day weekend and the store was jam-packed. Plus, he was wearing muddy rubber boots and jeans with big holes in the knees. He didn’t think anybody would care about that, but his mother objected to the overall urchinly look, and it was his own fault that he had lost his sandals and now traveled in rubber boots. It would be just a minute to buy ice.

He sat there beside the window where the ice cream cones were ordered. It was bright and sunny, kind of hot. He wished, oh, how he wished for a nice big cone. He was pretty sure his mother wouldn’t buy one because they were in a hurry. Also, all four of his siblings would cry foul if he came home with ice cream and they didn’t have any. But he decided to pray for ice cream. It never hurts to ask.

Only a few seconds later an elderly gentleman sat down on the bench beside him and asked, “So, what is your favorite ice cream flavor?” The little boy’s heart beat fast, because he knew that his prayer was going to be answered right then. Being a modest little boy, he shrugged and said, “Oh, I just like them all.” And then that elderly gentleman got up and ordered a raspberry cone and handed it to him. The little boy’s freckled face beamed, “You don’t have to do that, but thanks!” His new friend said, “Tell your mom it just fell from the sky,” as he walked to his vehicle.

When his mom came out of the store, she was a little surprised to see her boy licking a huge ice cream cone with the most delighted look in his eyes. “Where did you get that?” she asked. “From the sky,” he replied. “Well, actually, from a kind old man,” and he proceeded to tell his mother how he had prayed for ice cream. “Are you sure he was a real man,” his mom asked, “or maybe he was an angel?”

“Well, he had a wife and a car. That ice cream just made my day, Mama.”