Lone Leaf

Lone Leaf

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bandwagon Fan?


They say confession is good for the soul. So here it is:

I am a bandwagon fan 
when it comes to the Kansas City Royals.

My son, Brent, is adamantly opposed to bandwagon fans. It irks him when people say they love K-State football and KU basketball in the same sentence. In his mind, you make a commitment: If you love K-State, you love them through thick and thin, win or lose. It's that purple blood of four generations coursing through his veins. Even though he won't concur, he'll respect a person more if they are KU fans full-time - whether in the shoulder-to-shoulder confines of Allen Fieldhouse or the half-empty stands of KU's Memorial Stadium.
Now, don't get me wrong, Sluggerrr. I don't dislike the Royals. I like them better than any other baseball team. But I'm not the biggest baseball fan in the world. (Now I have my parents up in arms. They are big baseball and women's softball fans and watch it all summer long.) I was a big fan of Stafford Recreation Commission baseball when Brent was playing. I was a big fan of softball when Jill was playing. I'm a huge T-ball fan, no matter who is playing, because of the cuteness factor. That pretty much wraps it up. Give me football or college basketball over baseball any day.
But, with apologies to Brent, I've definitely joined the Royals bandwagon during the playoff season.  We got to go to a Royals game in September 2013, though we didn't make a trip this year. So, as the Royals prepare to take on the Giants tonight, I pulled up my photos from our September 2013 trip to the K. (I can't believe the photos never made the blog. How did that happen?)
So, there I was, already on the bandwagon, when I read something that made me even more of a Royals fan. Despite all the crowns on the scoreboards and baseball caps, the Royals weren't named for royalty.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the Royals were named for the American Royal, an annual Kansas City livestock show.
The team's naming was a nod to the city's heritage in the livestock industry. ... A now-deceased engineer named Sanford Porte proposed "Royals" in honor of what he called "Missouri's billion-dollar livestock income, Kansas City's position as the nation's leading stocker and feeder market and the nationally-known American Royal parade and pageant.
The article noted that some city folk would like to distance themselves from the whole "cowtown" image. But, as a Kansas farming and ranching family, it makes me like them even more.
Yes, I admit it:  I'm a bandwagon fan this year. But there's always next year. Maybe I can make the transition to true fan.

Christian recording artist Matthew West was already a Royals fan. He released a parody of the Lorde song last week. I'm guessing Matthew's version isn't getting played in San Francisco this week either:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Beauty and the Beast


As we left church yesterday morning, my eye was drawn to the beautiful fall colors across the street. The bright orange blazed against the clear blue sky.
If I honed in just on the fall colors and how they complemented the red brick facade of the old Stafford High School, I could forget the ugliness of a March fire for just a little bit. I could ignore the fence and the sign: "POSTED. No trespassing. Keep out" from a place that had been designed to welcome the community's children for so many years.
I could look past the rubble to beautiful leaves against a clear blue sky. In all the world's ugliness, it's medicine for the soul to focus on the good and the beautiful.
Then, as if I needed more confirmation, this email devotional from Guideposts appeared in my inbox this morning:

A Time to Think

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore.
There is always something to make you wonder
 in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.
 –Albert Schweitzer, theologian and medical doctor

A Time to Act

Take time today to nourish your soul with beauty and silence.

A Time to Pray

Lord, let me see Your beauty in the beautiful things You have made.
I think it's a good prayer for the week.

If you are a Stafford High graduate and want a brick from the old school, Dale Hearn has procured a pallet of them and is selling them for $5 a brick (more for shipping). Call him at 620-546-4535,  first come, first served.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ingredients for Life

Last Saturday, I helped serve a funeral dinner at our church. Some made "Methodist meatloaf," our church's go-to main dish for funeral dinners. Some made cakes, salads and potato casseroles at their own homes and brought them to be shared by the grieving family. A few of us gathered to serve the meal, pouring out smiles along with hot coffee.
I think the dinners are among the most important services at our church. Our family has been on the receiving end a couple of times. Having a place to gather around a meal after saying goodbye to a beloved family member is a priceless gift.

Marion and Wanda can probably make the meatloaf without a recipe, though they have it all recorded in a massive 3-ring notebook, with the ratios of hamburger to cracker crumbs to ketchup to eggs all broken down in a handy chart. That notebook also holds a record of some of the precious people of our church who no longer share our earthly pews (like my in-laws who always sat in the balcony).

This month, Pastor Ben has been sharing the stories of saints during our Sunday morning worship services. Some of them, like St. Francis of Assisi, are people we've all heard about. Others aren't household names, but they made a difference that reached beyond their little corner of the world. For example, Jennie Fowler Willing , 1834-1916, was one of the saints Ben talked about last week. The Women's Home Missionary Society she founded is a forerunner to today's United Methodist Women. At our church, that's been the driving organizational force behind the funeral dinners, though others contribute to the bounty of food offered to families.

It's good to remember people who have impacted the world. But Pastor Ben has also brought it closer to home. We've had the opportunity to fill out postcards, remembering saints more near and dear to us. It's been good to remember the people who've made a difference in my faith walk. Like me, they weren't perfect people. But they walked alongside me and others in a way that impacted all of us.

For most of us, it's not a big deal to make a strawberry cake or throw together a salad. But, as we cut squares from the cake pans and lined up salads on the serving table, I thought about how we can all do just a little bit and end up making a big difference. Maybe cooking isn't your thing, so you're not on the "call list" at funeral dinner time. And that's OK, too. Isn't it a blessing that we all have different talents and abilities to share?

***

I made this Crunchy Poppy Seed Coleslaw for the funeral dinner. I also served it at the PEO luncheon I was in charge of earlier this month. It won't be the last time I turn to this easy, yet tasty, salad that serves a crowd. 
Crunchy Poppy Seed Coleslaw
Adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up blog
1 (16 oz.) bag tri-colored coleslaw mix
3 tart apples, chopped
8-10 green onions, finely chopped
1 (12 oz.) bottle Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing
2 (3 oz.) pkg. ramen noodles (discard seasoning packet or use in another recipe)
1 to 1.5 cups roasted, salted cashews
Salt and pepper to taste

Note: I used Jonathan apples because I liked the tart red apple for a color variation with the coleslaw mix. Since those are not always available, you may use Pink Lady, Honey Crisp or another favorite apple. Granny Smiths would be good, too, but wouldn't give the color contrast.

Combine coleslaw mix, chopped apples and chopped green onion (white and green portions). Pour dressing over the salad. You may do this part 1 hour ahead of time, but it shouldn't be more than 2 hours before serving. Crush ramen noodles and combine with cashews. (Discard the seasoning packet or use for another recipe). Just before serving, toss ramen noodles and cashews into the dressing-covered salad. Stir; add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Makes about 10 servings.
I served the leftovers from the PEO luncheon to Randy with a hamburger and baked beans.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pie in the Sky


There are no apple pies in the Bible. In fact, apples have had their share of bad press as the poster child for original sin. (For the record, Genesis talks about the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden, but doesn't specify that Adam and Eve actually plucked apples to get themselves into trouble.)

So it may seem like sacrilege that we gave up Sunday School after worship to make apple pies. But the 30 or so people who stayed to peel, slice, toss, roll, crimp and package were "doing church" as we gathered in what is appropriately called Fellowship Hall. Between the laughter and good-natured banter, there was definitely fellowship going on.

The apple pies will be sold at the United Methodist Women bazaar on Election Day, November 4. They are frozen, and buyers will take them home to bake the pies in their own kitchens. 

For the 33 years I've been part of Stafford United Methodist Church, the United Methodist Women have tried to recruit workers by telling them, "Nobody has to make a whole pie." It sounds like an oxymoron. Isn't making pies the ultimate goal?

Yes, it is. But nobody has to make a pie all by their lonesome. It reminds me of I Corinthians 12:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. ...12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 
Everyone had their own jobs, including my husband. 
Several of the guys ran the mechanical peeler/corer station. Randy says there were the inevitable comparisons of running farm machinery and kitchen gadgets - and the ever-present need for tinkering and repairs. 
There also seemed to be a brainstorming session at that table. South Hutchinson UMC has a food booth at the Kansas State Fair. These guys were thinking that we could batter apple skins, fry them, and find some way to offer them up on a stick at next year's fair. We certainly had plenty of them.
Another table peeled apples the old-fashioned way with peelers and paring knives.
We didn't charge extra for smiles or conversation.

Once the apples were peeled, there was a stop at the apple slicing station.
 
From there, they went into the crowded kitchen. An assembly line of workers measured the sugar, cinnamon and flour mixture that would coat the apples.
Among them was Kyle, who would later drive back to K-State to study for a Monday test. His Grandma Bonnie, who passed away earlier this year, always crimped the pies. The family legacy continued.

Our youngest helper, Liam, was part of three generations of workers with grandparents and parents doing their part, too. Liam drifted between jobs, but seemed to most enjoy stirring the flour, sugar and cinnamon mixture into the apples with Jo. 
 
But he was also willing to roll up his sleeves and help his Mommy, too.
Two of the guys were recruited for pie crust making. Marion makes pie crust mix from scratch (using 3 pounds of shortening at a time!) and then just adds water on the apple pie construction day.
These ladies could be heard asking, "Do you need a top crust or a bottom crust?"
After the filling went in, the pie crimpers made sure it all looked good.
In the end, we made 65 pies in just 2 hours. More importantly, Fellowship Hall lived up to its name.
And, there was truth in advertising: Nobody had to make a whole pie. Only a few key people came knowing exactly what their job would be. The rest of us just showed up with willing hands and willing hearts.

And isn't that a metaphor for our Christian journeys, too? We may not know exactly what "job" we'll be called to do today. But we do know the ultimate goal. 

For more photos, "like" Stafford First United Methodist Church on Facebook (as if I haven't given you enough.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hello, Old Friend!


Someone's sitting in the shade today 
because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
- Warren Buffet

The cottonwood tree seems to open its arms as I drive toward home. Its familiar branches wave hello and goodbye as we hurriedly pull in and out of our south driveway. As I come through the canopy of trees to the south, I look up to see what one of my favorite "friends" is wearing.

At a glance, the tree is still dressed in its summer finery. The green leaves still shimmer in the fall morning. But, like me, the cottonwood seems to be pulling out its fall wardrobe, a little at a time.

I love the craggy old cottonwood. This place has been home to Randy & I for 29 years now. For all that time, the cottonwood has been like a faithful sentinel, standing tall at the driveway. Like us, it may not be quite as sturdy as it seemed almost three decades ago. Some of its appendages are creaky, tired and bent. But it still stands, waving and bending in the wind, rain and snow - whatever hardships come its way.

I have a lifetime love of cottonwoods. At the house where I grew up, an old cottonwood also stands near the south driveway. The cottonwood tree has been one of the first things visitors see as they approach the farmstead and one of the last things you see silhouetted by a sunset sky at night.
Cottonwood at my childhood home, Pratt County
Every spring, the cotton from the tree covered the ground. My sisters and I used both the cotton and the green unopened pods to decorate mud pies.
In this photo dated April 1963, I was 5, Lisa was 4 and Darci was 1 1/2. I have fond memories of adding just the right amount of water to dirt and then pouring it into pie tins and buckets. The fluffy white cotton and the green pods were just the right finishing touch. It was all about presentation, even back before knowing anything about garnishing via the Food Network chefs.

The cottonwood tree still stands at my childhood home, where it has sunk deep roots into the Kansas soil for the past 70 years or so.

(Dad - Age 10)

My dad was born at that Pratt County farmstead. When he was about 10, he helped his mom plant six or eight cottonwood trees. They went to the Rattlesnake Creek somewhere south of Dillwyn and picked out some trees growing volunteer along the creek banks.

My grandma was a young widow, and the trees were free. A few of the trees didn't survive the transplanting. Others were removed when my folks built the new house. (It's kind of ironic that we still call it the new house when we moved in when I was 6!)

I've always loved our home and the setting here on the Stafford/Reno County line. Having a cottonwood at the south drive - just like when I was a child - may have a little something to do with that. Our mailbox rests under its massive branches.
The leaves of the cottonwood tree whisper as I walk out of the driveway for a morning walk.
While the cottonwood tree is holding onto its summer wardrobe, a vine offers a touch of red, a contrast against the brilliant blue fall sky. We bought the farmstead from the Johnsons, so I suppose it was one of their ancestors who planted the tree and watered it, just like my Dad & Grandma did so many years ago on another Kansas farm.

And I am thankful.
Perhaps you have noticed that even
in the very lightest breeze,
you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree.
--Black Elk

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Total Eclipse of the Heart

The alarm went off at 5 o'clock. It was only 30 minutes earlier than normal, but I hit the snooze button. I shifted under the covers again and waged an internal battle. "Is it worth crawling out of bed to see if I can see the blood moon all the meteorologists were talking about?" I wondered. "You never get good moon photos. Why waste your time? You've been going 90 miles an hour since the weekend, so maybe sleeping for those 30 extra minutes is the right choice."

But ... I did it anyway. I live on the road less traveled. So, I pulled on tennis shoes, but left the house in my PJs, grabbing my camera and my phone and avoiding the snoozing cats as I charged out the back door. I drove down the road a half mile, made a wide circle at the intersection and headed back north so I could open my window and steady the camera on its open ledge.

The moon brightened the western sky and the bugs serenaded me as I tried shot after shot, hitting the delete button after most of them. "Grrrrrrrr," I lamented. "Just what I figured. These are no good at all."

But, then, as  I sat there in the car with a chorus of birds and bugs accompanying the tunes on K-LOVE, I decided it was me who needed an eclipse - an eclipse of the heart. No, my photos weren't like the ones I'd admire later as I scanned Facebook and Googled  "blood moon photos." 

But it didn't matter. The beauty was there, just outside my rolled-down car window, right there for the taking. It didn't matter whether I got the "perfect" shot of the blood moon on October 8, 2014. I was experiencing it in person.
Psalm 19 (NIV)
The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
Yes, the glory of God was spectacularly in view on a county line road in South Central Kansas, if only I wiped the sleep from my eyes and opened my heart.

I sat there for a long time, facing west, as the moon made its transition from blood red back to pale yellow. As I shifted the car into drive to head back home, I caught a glimpse of the eastern sky.

And instead of heading home and making that pot of coffee I so craved, I drove toward my favorite "sunrise" tree, just a little east of our south intersection. It has witnessed many sunrises with me - and many more before I ever arrived on this earth.
Just like the moon had shape-shifted through the eclipse, the eastern sky changed minute by minute, practically breath by breath. I pointed the car's headlights down the road to illuminate it, too.
Psalm 16: 11 
You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
I used the tree's branches as a frame as the sky lightened even more. And I drove another mile and a half to a windmill I often use as a silhouette for sunrises, watching the sky change as I went.
The sky didn't backlight the windmill this time, and the couple of photos I snapped were out of focus. But my disappointment faded when I turned the car around and again saw the moon setting through the span of our neighbor's irrigation system.
By the time I turned back west, the moon was soon to be only a memory, except for the snapshots from a Kansas farm wife's point-and-shoot camera and the images written on my heart.
And I drove back home to a busy day, changed for the better.

Psalm 8 (NIV)

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

***
I'm linked today to Jennifer Dukes Lee's Tell His Story. Click on the link for more stories of faith.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Sun Sets on Wheat Planting 2014

It was perfect timing:  Randy finished planting wheat at noon on Thursday. After lunch, we made several trips back and forth from the final field, moving the tractor and drill, the seed wheat truck and the fertilizer tank.

Then, it started raining Thursday afternoon. During the weekend, we've collected 3.20 inches in the gauge, and it's still sprinkling this morning. Most importantly, though, it's fallen fairly gently on the planted wheat fields.

And while there is a lot of time between planting and Wheat Harvest 2015 next June, we are thankful for this moisture to give the crop a boost before cold weather hits and it "sleeps" for the winter.
We began planting September 22 and finished on October 9. (Ironically, I looked up the timetable last year: We began planting September 23 and also finished October 9. How often does that happen?)
This intersection demonstrates the difference in growth following planting. The wheat on the left side of the road was planted a week sooner than the field on the right, where you had to look closely to see the tender sprigs of wheat from the road. However, a walk out into the field showed that these little "soldiers" had broken through the barrier of the soil and were marching their way toward their ultimate goal, 9 months down the road.
Wheat is the primary crop here on the County Line.
Here in Central Kansas, we plant winter wheat. It's planted in the fall and then goes dormant during the cold months of winter before coming out of its "hibernation" and growing again next spring, then maturing for a June harvest. There will be plenty of turns and twists as this crop moves toward harvest. That's just the way it is.
Saturday morning, after 2.30" of rain. We got another 0.90" Sunday evening/night.
But it's easier to be optimistic when the crop has just gotten a timely drink of water, especially when we've planted our wheat crop into dust the past two years. We are thankful for this good start!