Time With My Sister … Thoughts on Gratitude

I know everyone can’t have a sister like mine, but if you did, you’d spend a lot of time laughing.

Carol and I met for lunch in central Iowa today. She brought her dogs and some cookies for me; I took junk to her. It’s a good life I have. But here are a few thoughts I had on the drive home.

My sister is a dingbat. An all out, full-blown dingbat. I adore her, but she makes me laugh. She brought her dogs along so I could snuggle the pups (more on that in a minute), so I picked up pork tenderloins at Culvers in West Des Moines and then drove on to meet her and we sat in her car under a shade tree.

After she got everyone adjusted (mad dash to the bathroom, another mad dash with the dogs to a little park area, dogs in the back seat … on and on), we passed out the food and then she went to push her glasses up to the top of her head – a very common Carol move. She let out a yelp and just howled with laughter. She’d put her hand up to her eyes and couldn’t figure out what in the world was going on. Carol had put her reading glasses on OVER her sunglasses – having no clue that she was still wearing sunglasses. Yep, two pairs of glasses and no idea. She’s the one who talks to me on the telephone while wondering where her phone is. This behavior is also quite standard for my sister. Never a dull moment.

She told me about a conversation she had with a business person last week. Carol needed to ask a question but knew it was probably something most people wouldn’t ask … they’d just inherently know. She prefaced the question with: “I drive my sister crazy with these questions, so it’s okay if you are internally annoyed with me …” Yeah. She’s a nut.

~~~

13620262_10209362935212370_8122273210789334341_nI don’t have dogs any longer, just three wonderful cats that I adore. But there is something about a dog’s love and affection that you just can’t beat. Carol’s dog, Henri, spent a couple of weeks with me the first year they were together while Carol traveled and I love that little thing. After we finished eating, Henri climbed into my arms and then flung her little head onto my shoulder and relaxed against me. I melted. Dogs are just so genuinely affectionate. And Winston? Carol’s cockapoo? She kept telling me how tiny he was. His pictures don’t really do him justice. That dog is miniature! And so affectionate. It was a wonderful time to spend with pupperdogs.

Luckily, my cats were glad to see me when I got home. I sat down on the bed to take off my socks and change my clothes and within seconds, all three were beside me. TB loves to rub his head against my toes, Earl turns into a floppy, lovey boy and Grey wants to be close. Whew. They aren’t dogs, but they love me.

~~~

My drive home is much nicer than Carol’s. Hers is faster, though. She drove the interstate all the way back to Omaha, while I turned north onto a state road seven miles from where we met. I called her and we chatted for a little longer (Seriously, do all sisters talk for as long as we do? There’s always something more to say.) I commented on the hot young farmers who were driving their tractors down the road without their t-shirts on (Today was beastly hot). She commented on the fact that she was in the middle of a whole bunch of trucks.

Yep. Between the young farmers and the gorgeous fields (see, I appreciate all things in nature), my drive wins.

~~~

IMG_5861The final thought and my real purpose for writing this post was one of the gifts Carol brought to me today. She teaches upper elementary in Omaha and on Fridays, her classroom spends time talking about gratitude. One of the practical ways they approach this is she expects them to write thank you notes. The first few weeks of the year, they write a note each week, then because it gets a little unwieldy for her to manage, the kids are expected to write a thank you note every other week. They practice letter forms with salutations and dates … the whole bit. It’s pretty cool.

She brought me seventeen handwritten notes from kids in her classroom. I’ve done some silly things for the kids throughout the year (shouldn’t every classroom have moon pies on Pi Day – March 14)?

The kids put thought into the notes. Some made me laugh and others made me say ‘awwww’:

From one girl “I’m pretty sure you guys have had fights but that’s pretty good that you two have a good relationship by now.”

Another girl “I bet Ms. Greenwood is happy she has a sister like you.”

From one young boy “I wanted to write you this so you would know you are very appreciated.”

“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the things you have done for my class.

At the end of the school year, I sent Carol a box of pens with fuzzy tops. Now, you also have to realize that they all know I’m an author. I also gave the kids some tips as they wrote a fantasy story earlier this year. So, one of my favorite sentences was a very descriptive look at the pen she received: “Thank you for the soft feather pens. They feel like little clouds on a pen.” She’s using a great descriptor!

The kids don’t realize how much I treasure these notes … how special a thank you note is when a gift is given.

There are a lot of words and phrases we should use every single day: I love you. I’m sorry. Please … and THANK YOU! It is so important to build a habit of saying and writing those words. A person who feels appreciated will always strive to do more. How do we not understand that?

I’m back in air conditioning now and I don’t know who to send a thank you card for that. Maybe it’s time for another thank you note to my garage for fixing my Jeep’s A/C a few weeks ago. The trip would not have happened today without it.

I’ll bet there’s someone you should be sending a thank you note to. It’s never too late. Seriously. Never too late.

I Believe in Love

I pray that we …

– choose joy rather than despair
– look for beauty rather than trouble
– risk ourselves for others, rather than run in fear of them
– have faith in something bigger than ourselves, rather than be limited by what we know
– see the best in others rather than expect the worst
– lift others up rather than show off
– cover mistakes rather than expose them to ridicule
– express love rather than judgment
– are kind rather than selfish
– hope for something better rather than speak constantly of disaster
– trust rather than doubt
– persevere rather than give up
– set ourselves aside, rather than beg for attention
– dream rather than cower
– forgive rather than punish
– learn rather than teach
– build up rather than tear apart
– listen rather than speak
– love rather than hate

Heart 43The familiar words of Paul to the church in Corinth resonate loudly in my heart today.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

I believe in love. Let it be our greatest goal.

I believe in love.

Machines and Fabric and Threads, Oh My!

Book 14 100 dpiFirst of all, Book 14 – Reflecting Love’s Charms is now available. You can go straight to Amazon to purchase it by clicking on the book’s cover.

I’m pretty excited about having this finished. During the weeks leading up to publication, my mind is set firmly on the task and it’s difficult for me to do much creative writing. Once it gets out into the world, my mind releases it and all of a sudden, story lines start flowing again.

No worries, though. Book 15 (no title yet, are you kidding me?) is already underway and will be published September 25th.

Last year, I re-discovered my passion for sewing. When I was pretty young, I learned to sew on an old treadle machine that my mother found. She figured I couldn’t get it moving fast enough to really hurt myself. Mom hadn’t learned how to sew until she was married. Dad’s sisters taught her and she took to it like she took to every other creative thing she did – mastery in no time at all. When we were children, our Christmases were incredible because of the things she sewed for us. I had the coolest fake-fur maxi coat that I wore for years. Carol remembers an amazing white floppy dog that Mom made. There were so many great things that came from her sewing machine. And the frogs? Oh, Mom made a bunch of those.

But alas, for me, life took over and things got in the way. Literally. My sewing machine (actually, Mom’s sewing machine) kept getting pushed further and further back, until I just quit looking at it. But oh my goodness, how I loved to sew.

One day last year, an incredible deal showed up on Amazon and I grabbed it. A new sewing machine came into my life and it was all over. Love had bloomed. Fabric is everywhere I look nowadays. I’m so happy, it’s just silly.

Another thing that I always wanted was … an embroidery machine. Last year it was a ridiculous idea. Since it had been at least fifteen years since I’d last done much sewing, I needed to find my confidence again. But I started researching the machines anyway. You know, just in case something ever showed up.

Last week, something interesting showed up. How many of you got funds from Amazon for that Apple class-action lawsuit? The amount I got was a big deal (we shouldn’t discuss my reading habits). I didn’t want to fritter it away on things that I’d buy anyway and considered just what I might desperately want. I remembered. And I grabbed it.

I was so glad to have all the pieces together and figure out how to hoop my fabric and get it on there. Whew!

I was so glad to have all the pieces together and figure out how to hoop my fabric and get it on there. Whew!

Believe it or not, that crazy machine showed up yesterday, right while I was in the middle of desperately working to get the email newsletter put together, a vignette written and the book formatted and published. Are you kidding me? What’s a girl to do?

I didn’t leave it in the box, but brought all of the bits and pieces inside and placed them around me, to taunt me and push me into working as hard as possible to finish that book. Then I put the machine together and stared at it. What in the world had I done? I know nothing about embroidery, except that I want to be able to do this.

Because of course the first thing I have to do is my name! Haha.

Because of course the first thing I have to do is my name! Haha.

Today has been an adventure. The first thing I learned is that I don’t even know what I don’t know! I’ve watched videos on YouTube (some of these people crack me up). I’ve read blogs and yes, I’m the chick who reads her manuals.

Other than what came in the box with the machine, I have very few tools to actually do any embroidery. Stabilizer? Well, there’s some interfacing in that drawer. It will at least allow me to do something. So I tried it out on a piece of fabric that will be beat to heck by the time I’m finished with it.

The second thing I had to do was the kitty cat! Can't wait for the right stabilizer to deal with that puckering.

The second thing I had to do was the kitty cat! Can’t wait for the right stabilizer to deal with that puckering.

I got so overwhelmed this afternoon, I finally had to take a nap so my brain would shut down (okay, the nap was imperative since I was up so early chatting with readers who were looking for the book – I’m a night person!).

It’s good to learn new skills, and this is going to be a blast. I have lots of ideas and plans – only a few which will probably come together. Pretty soon there will be just as much thread in the house as there is fabric – I’m sure of that.

So many things to create! No reason to stop now!

Lessons from a Lanyard

Lanyard07130083cOne of my favorite times of the day (I have many, this is just one of them) is found in the moments between waking up and crawling out of bed. I often extend that time because my mind is working out a problem or a thought. When I was working in the real world, I had a tendency to wake up about a half hour before my alarm went off, then spend time thinking through all of the things I had going on, making sure I was ready for anything. I still do that, because once my feet hit the floor, my mind starts running on overdrive.

This morning I thought about Vacation Bible School (VBS). Friends are posting pictures of what’s happening in their churches and it just makes me smile.

But Bible School was really just the launching pad for my thoughts.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have pre-published glorious extravaganzas. I tell you what, those have been a real gift to churches, both small and large. They made VBS accessible in a time when churches considered setting the week aside because it was so much work. And VBS was a lot of work. Okay, they’re still a lot of work – I’ve been involved in too many to not realize that truth.

Anyway, in our little churches, VBS planning started early. Dad gathered people who were interested in making it come alive and when they got the literature from Cokesbury, they started the process. Mom usually ended up chairing the whole thing and loved turning it into a grand time for the kids. But she was always exhausted about halfway through VBS week. The children loved it all.

I’m getting too far from my thoughts.

VBS only went up to fifth grade, so Dad did something different with the sixth graders. Each morning of VBS, he packed that group into a van or two and headed for one of the various state, county or city parks – a different location every day. In between fishing, hiking, other outdoor games, and crafts, kids learned more about their relationship with God.

I could not WAIT to be a sixth-grader. I’d listened to Dad plan that week for years, heard older kids talk about it and when it was my turn, I could hardly stand it, I was so excited.

The first day was one I knew would be the best. Nametags with gimp lanyards. Dad had a huge inventory of wooden discs that he used for the name tags. A church friend had found two inch diameter branches and sawed off thin discs. Dad also had five or six spools of colored gimp, a plastic lacing cord. We each got our wooden disc and, using markers, made personal name tags. Then, Dad taught the kids how to tie different patterns with gimp to create a lanyard. I was beside myself with anticipation. THIS was what I’d been waiting for all of those years.

That day, I was just finishing the decoration of my wooden disc when Dad pulled me aside and told me that I wouldn’t be making the lanyard after all. He hadn’t realized how depleted his stock of gimp was and there wasn’t enough for everyone. If one person didn’t do the project, there was enough for everyone else. He didn’t ask if I was okay with it, he just told me I wasn’t doing it. I can still feel the heat of my disappointment and anger. It wasn’t fair. Just because I was his daughter, it shouldn’t mean I was left out. In fact, I should be the first person to get the best, right?

When I protested, he gave me a look. I knew that look and sat back down at the picnic table. Everyone else gathered their colors and started working to create their lanyards while I got two limp strands of gimp to tie a necklace. I can’t imagine that I was very pleasant that day, I felt my week had been destroyed. Dad never said much more to me and Mom pretty much just told me to get over myself when I complained to her later on.

That event stayed with me for a long time (apparently until now, even). I worked through Dad’s choice and my reaction over and over again. It took a while before I finally asked myself: Who else would I have chosen to miss out on the project? The answer was obvious. Nobody but me.

Lessons that really mean something are difficult to learn, but that day I learned quite a few, even though I protested with as much emotion as I could muster (and at that age, I could muster a lot of emotion).

I learned about selflessness. There is no thing (read no … thing) that is as important as another person. Not a gimp lanyard, nothing.

I learned about sacrifice. I certainly didn’t like it, sacrifice is never easy.

I learned about self-control. In many areas of my life, self-control is still lacking, but when it comes to expressing negative emotions around others, I was expected to rise above the moment and maintain dignity and self-respect.

I learned humility. I just wasn’t that special. Oh, I was very special to my family – that’s not what I mean. But in the bigger scheme of things, I was no more important than the other children in the group. Dad wasn’t there to make my day perfect, he was there to make everyone’s day perfect and if mine had to be a little less so, he was okay with that. He was raising children who would know that every person was significant.

Counselors

Dad is sitting on the ground in front, his lanyard name tag around his neck.

And … I began learning that day how to take the long view of life. You see, three years later, I was at another summer camp with Dad. This was a much bigger group and we created the same type of name tags. It wasn’t lost on me that he had more than enough supplies for everyone there and took the time to make sure I had the colors I wanted for the lanyard that day. It was just as special as you might imagine. I wish I could pull it out and show you a picture; it’s packed in a box somewhere.

The thing was, those lessons weren’t only taught to me in one singular moment. They were reinforced over and over by my parents. Selflessness, sacrifice, self-control, humility, taking the long view. Those weren’t the only lessons they taught us, but they were certainly important.

~~~

JUNE 17 – WINE & TRIVIA NIGHT (6-11 pm) on the Bellingwood Facebook page. Come join us!

JUNE 25 – BOOK 14 (Reflecting Love’s Charms) will be published! It’s nearly here.

Bellingwood Vignette – Book 14, #3

Poor Earl insisted that he be allowed on the table with TB and Grey. That required a little assistance.

Poor Earl insisted that he be allowed on the table with TB and Grey. That required a little assistance.

I spend a lot of time in Bellingwood and though I generally write from Polly’s perspective, there is an entire community that lives on, even when she isn’t paying attention. Sometimes, they rise up and let me know that there is something going on, so I take a minute to step into their lives and write a short vignette.

A new vignette is published in each of the newsletters (which come out on the 25th of every month), but as I get ready for the publication of a new book, more of these seem to come up.

Book 14, Reflecting Love’s Charms, will be here before you know it (June 25) and Book 15 is already in process. But while you wait, here’s a quick look at Marnie Evans and her family. Marnie works at the veterinarian’s office with Mark Ogden and Dr. Seth Jackson. It seems that even when she’s home, animals find their way to her.

Never Say Never

“Do you hear something?” Marnie Evans asked her husband, Dave.

He was already up and heading for the kitchen. “Sounds like somebody at the back door,” he replied.

She shook her head. Barrett and Ella knew better than to have people over after nine o’clock.

“Marn?” Dave called out. “You wanna come out here?”

She put her tablet down on the table and groaned as she stood up. It had been a long day at the office. Trouble always seemed to come in waves and today was a day filled with trouble. She’d even had to call Doc Ogden back in because they’d been so busy. Dr. Jackson had been stuck in emergency surgery most of the morning with Mrs. Denoro’s young dog. Poor thing. He’d gotten into the trash and busily ate everything in sight while the woman had been at work. She’d come home to find a dog that got sicker throughout the night. This morning, Mrs. Denoro and Dooley had shown up as Marnie opened the front door. The day had gone downhill after that.

“What’s up?”

“Someone needs to see you,” he said, looking down.

She followed his eyes. “Devon Rittenhouse, what are you doing out at this hour? You should be home and in bed.”

The little boy lived two houses away, but his mother never paid attention to where he was. Marnie had sent him scurrying home many a night, making sure to watch until he waved at her from his front door.

“Mom said I can’t keep it.” He held out a small orange kitten. “She said I had to bring it to you.”

Marnie glanced up at her husband who gave her a mock scowl.

“Where did you find it?” Marnie asked. “Were there other kittens?”

“No, just this one.” His lower lip puffed out. “Well, we all took one home.”

“Who is we all and when did this happen?” Marnie reached out to take the kitten from him and began running her fingers over the little body, checking for anything that might be a problem.

“After school. And it was just me, Gabe, Luke and Hunter. There were four kittens and four of us.”

The kitten looked old enough to have been weaned from its mother, but Marnie still worried. “Where did you find them?”

He looked up, bright-eyed and excited to tell her the story. “Somebody left them in a box at school. You know, under that big tree on the corner? We just knew it was for us.”

Dave reached over and put his hand on Marnie’s shoulder, fully aware that her anger would be rising. There was nothing she hated more than abandoned animals. Either neuter your pets or be responsible for their litters.

“Did you see who left the kittens there?”

“Oh no,” he said. “They’d been there for a while. We saw the box when we went out for recess, but couldn’t go look at it until after school. Somebody had to take them home, didn’t they?”

“Yes they did, and I’m glad it was you. That was a really good thing to do. Have you fed him anything?” She turned the poor kitten upside down to make sure she had gotten his gender correct.

“He ate some milk. That’s all we had. I named him Chester.”

“That’s a great name.”

“Will you keep him?” Devon asked. “If I can’t have him, somebody nice should.”

“Somebody nice will keep him, even if it isn’t me,” Marnie said. “Now you go on home and tell your mother that he’s safe. Do I need to go outside and watch you walk home?”

“No, I’ll go. I promise.”

“Devon?” Marnie said.

“Yeah?”

“When you see your friends tomorrow, tell them that they need to bring their kittens in to see the doc. And if their mothers say they can’t keep them either, tell them to bring them in anyway. We want these babies to have good homes, okay?”

“Okay. But their moms aren’t as mean as mine,” Devon said.

“Just make sure to tell them what I said,” Marnie replied and stood at the back door as he opened their back gate and headed home. She watched until he crossed into his own yard and then stepped back inside.

“Marnie,” Dave said. He only needed to say her name. She knew what he meant.

“Don’t you think it’s time? Slim died two months ago. This place is lonely without a cat.”

“We have two dogs. We don’t need a cat.”

As if they knew someone was talking about them, Rocky and Groot came racing into the kitchen. Barrett had chosen their names after watching the movie. Both dogs had come into the vet’s office one day; a bonded pair. Groot was a Great Dane mix and Rocky, a Papillon. They couldn’t have been more different. When their owner died, the son brought the two dogs in to have them put to sleep. He wasn’t taking them and didn’t want to spend time trying to find a home for them. It had seemed quite obvious to him that the only option was euthanasia. Fortunately, Doctor Jackson had been in the office and Doc Ogden had been out on a call. Marnie was certain that Mark would have done something unspeakable to the man. But Seth Jackson had asked the man to surrender the animals to him without putting them to sleep. As long as they were someone else’s responsibility, that was fine. He’d signed the papers.

The dogs had lived at the office for a few days until Marnie couldn’t stand it. It had been a couple of years since they’d had a dog in the house. Slim was enough. As the kids got older, they’d gotten busy and hadn’t pushed for another pet. One night after work, Marnie dragged Dave down to the office and introduced him to the dogs. He’d fallen in love with Groot right away. It wasn’t really fair. Dave didn’t have a chance. He’d always expressed an interest in having a Great Dane. The two dogs had gone home that night with them and settled right in.

Barrett had been beside himself with joy and immediately gave the two dogs their new names. Ella tried to act as if she didn’t care; she’d been quite attached to Brando, but it didn’t take long for her to fall in love. Rocky usually slept on her bed, while Groot couldn’t be persuaded to sleep anywhere but beside the man who chose to bring him home. Dave had finally built a bed for Groot to put beside his side of their bed. Otherwise, that big ole thing insisted on sleeping between Dave and Marnie. Groot just couldn’t be too far away from his favorite person. Barrett came in a pretty close second for the big dog, but hadn’t yet convinced him to leave Dave’s side at night.

“I’m going to check the gate that kid came through,” Dave said. “Tonight is not a night to chase after lost dogs.”

Marnie opened the pantry door. She hadn’t yet thrown away any of Slim’s cat food. In fact, she probably still had some kitten food in here. There should still be a nearly full box of litter and she’d cleaned up Slim’s litter box and put it on a shelf in the garage. There was no way she’d be without a cat for very long.

“Here you go, Chester,” she said, taking out a box of canned kitten food.

“What’s all the noise down here, Mom?” Barrett asked, coming into the kitchen. He pulled up short when he saw what she was holding. “Did we get a new cat? What did Dad say?”

She chuckled. “Dad’s outside with the dogs. He hasn’t said much yet.” Marnie popped the top off the can of kitten food and gestured with her head toward the cupboards. “Get me a fork and a plate, would you? And put some water in one of those little white bowls.”

Instead, Barrett walked back through the door he’d come in and yelled up the stairs. “Ella, we have a cat. Get down here.”

Marnie shook her head. “Food and water first. And you know better than to yell.”

Thundering feet on the stairway announced Ella’s arrival.

“We have a cat? Where’d it come from? Does it have a name? Can we keep it? Let me hold it.” Ella had started talking before she even got into the room. That was standard Ella. She was Marnie’s live wire.

“Barrett,” Marnie spoke a little more sharply. “Please with the fork and plate.”

“Can I hold it?” Ella asked again.

Barrett opened the drawer and took out a fork, then reached up and pulled down a plate. A complete opposite of his sister, the boy moved slowly and deliberately, something that nearly drove Marnie to distraction some days.

She shoved the cat into Ella’s arm and crossed the room, taking the plate and fork from him. “Slow as molasses in January,” she muttered, then said aloud. “A bowl of water, please.”

The kitten had been mewing all this time as it smelled the cat food. Marnie emptied the can onto the plate and mashed it up, then slid it across the table to where Ella had sat down. “Feed him up here,” she said. “The dogs will be back in any second.”

“Can we keep him?” Ella asked.

Marnie made a quick decision. “Yes. We’re keeping him.”

“I heard that,” Dave said, coming in the back door. “But I draw the line at moving out into the country so we can open an animal rescue, got it?”

Marnie grinned, then reached up to kiss his cheek. “You really shouldn’t lay down ultimatums. You know what kind of trouble that always causes.”

He laughed. “Oh yeah. We weren’t going to live in a small town and we were going to stop having children after Ella. And when Brando died we weren’t going to have any more dogs.”

Barrett looked up at his parents in shock. “You didn’t want to have me?”

“I wasn’t thinking straight,” Dave said, ruffling his son’s hair. “I wouldn’t have missed out on you for anything.”

Groot pawed at the back door and woofed a plea to be let in. “And I wouldn’t have wanted to miss having those two around either.” He leaned forward and rubbed his thumb down the kitten’s back. “It looks like Chester is part of our family now.”

“Yay,” Ella said, jumping up. She sat back down quietly when the kitten startled. “Sorry, little baby.”

Marnie sat down across from her daughter as Dave opened the back door, letting the dogs in.

Groot was always interested in what might be happening at the kitchen table, so rushed over and set his chin beside the cat’s dish, trying desperately to be inconspicuous.

“Groot, down,” Dave said. The dog picked his head up and looked at Dave, then back at the cat, while Rocky yapped and danced around Groot’s feet. “It’s going to be a long night,” Dave said to Marnie.

Today had defined chaos and it looked like it wasn’t finished with her yet. Tomorrow would be better. Marnie reached out and Ella gave the kitten back to her. A satisfied tummy brought out quiet purring as Marnie snuggled the kitten to her chest. She hadn’t realized exactly how much she had missed having a cat in the house. A little chaos tonight would be worth it.

A Peek at my Mother’s Life

One thing about living as a transient pastor’s family is the risk you face when moving into a home you may have only seen once; a home over which you have no control and one where you’ll have to adapt all of your belongings in a very short period of time.

Living with my parents, we learned to adapt quickly and laugh through the foibles we encountered. Dad fixed what he could and he could fix a lot. Mom painted walls, covered countertops, cleaned out closets, did what she could to make it nice – and we learned the stuff-shuffle. For the most part, it was loads of fun, but there are always stories to be told. And really … where would I be without stories?

Mom thought she should start a journal. It looks as if she did so because she had no other way to deal with her frustration. However, it’s funny. The journal didn’t last any longer than the words you see here. They make me laugh.

The Move from Gravity, IA to Bussey, IA, June 16th, 1961

Moving:
Frank gone to Conference – me alone with sick child, ear infections, no doctor, telephone or car. Finally, Diane cured, piled boxes of books in guest room, packed and packed – absolutely exhausted one hot night lying on bed with no sheet covering me – sound asleep. Suddenly mouse ran up my bare leg – screamed, shook him off and unable to sleep for rest of night. Sprayed all around with moth spray in great hopes that it would be effective on mice also.

After much heaving, packing, throwing and burning – got much stuff packed – Frank arrived home on Friday afternoon. I’d strained my back and had cramps in it that night. Had to keep yelling at Frank to awaken him to pull my back straight.

Great moving day.
Van arrived at 11:00 a.m. Amazed at such a small truck to carry our great load. Frank loaded VW and Studebaker. At 2:30, we took off. Frank had 3000 pounds of books, one goat and a petrified white Tom cat. I had Diane, more books, a black kitten, 3 goldfish and a turtle. I also had a flat tire 5 miles out of Knoxville and a useless jack. Things straightened out and we arrived in Bussey. The previous minister still loading – great hoards of people piling trash into pickups. Finally the man and his family left and the van gone, too with the promise to return and collect the rest of their belongings. Amazing amount of junk. I sat around on the living room floor with eight or ten of our new parishioners till 10:00 p.m. or so. Our van not in sight. Took a tour of our new house and nearly cried. Molding and mopboard in living room painted half-white and half cream – someone had lost interest in the middle. Living room floor refinished around a lovely little square where there had obviously been a rug, great jagged crack in the kitchen sink – the plumbing leaky and corroded – no electrical plug-ins upstairs – only bare hanging bulbs – no toilet upstairs – one downstairs. Kitchen unbelievable. 4 feet of counter space – linoleum worn thru to floor. Besides these small things, the windows, six footers with springs – not pulleys, kept falling down since the wood was worn out at the springs – most propped open by various lengths of wood. Coal furnace, etc.

Margie & Diane 1961 3At first glance, this was all I saw – but knew there was a great deal more I didn’t want to see. At 11:30 still no van. The last of the loyal people left – with many invitations for bed and board – but we still had hopes of van arriving. At 12:30 a.m. we gave in – dragged car seats in from VW and curled up in them. Diane very uncomfortable, but asleep – Frank & I extremely so – but young enough to think it funny. Our new friends had stocked the refrigerator with eggs and pies and homemade bread and rolls – our neighbor brought us coffee and rolls and since the minister’s wife before us had neglected to check the bottom of the stove, we had a plentiful supply of pots and pans the next morning.

At 10:00 a.m. our van arrived – seems the movers didn’t get the van packed till 3:00 a.m. However we later discovered the biggest reason was not the small size of the van as they claimed, but the constant little breaks the two movers kept taking at the local tavern. Naturally, it would be difficult to fit a large load of furniture in a small van especially if one couldn’t see straight.

At about the same time on Friday, the parsonage committee arrived – all set to find out the major and minor repairs we would like. Frank told them very bluntly that he had lived in parsonages all his life – but had never seen one in worse condition. They appeared surprised – but after a tour of the place agreed heartily. Several suggestions made – and by Monday night at the official board meeting, the church people decided almost unanimously to build us a new house before Fall.

After that it didn’t seem so terrible to live in that dreadful old house. At least we had the prospects of a new one within 4 or 5 months.

The first Sunday after taking up occupancy was a hectic one. Frank had to hurry off early in order to find his way to the other two churches. As he passed thru town, he noticed a body lying partly in the gutter. Being a good Christian gentleman, he stopped to see if he could help. Our neighbor’s 17 year old son was lying there dead drunk. Aid soon arrived and I caught sight of him later being dragged unconscious onto his front lawn – where he was rather unceremoniously left lying for at least 4 hours. There was no sign of hide nor hair though when the sheriff arrived later in the afternoon. This, of course, wasn’t a very happy portent of what our neighbors were like, though I later found the rest of the family to be very pleasant. I never have discovered what the head of the house looked like. He always had a layer of coal dust on his face.

1961 - Rachel & Diane. Mom really tried to help us be friends.

1961 – Rachel & Diane. Mom really tried to help us be friends.

Meanwhile, our goat was a great attraction to all the children in town – and the adults too were fascinated. Rachel was a very friendly goat – except that she was jealous of my two year old daughter – she tried to knock Diane down every time she turned around. Diane soon was scared to death to go out without me. The goat had a fatal complex – she thought she was human. I’d raised her since she was a week old – and she had been allowed to sit on my lap and be petted like a little child. The fear my daughter had developed finally forced me into giving Rachel away – a sad day for me, but a joyous one for Diane.

(Aside: I refused to say the goat’s name – Rachel. It was Zhuhbee for some reason. And for as many years as Mom was alive, she always insisted that Dad had given her a choice that day – to get rid of the goat or her daughter. She said it was a difficult choice. This was living with Margie Greenwood!)

A little earlier, our big old Tom Cat had developed some dreadful disease and Frank finally had to dispose of him. I had given away the 3 goldfish and the turtle to the neighbor children – they smelled so and we were left with the small kitten. Diane took care of him. She beat him up regularly till he was the meanest small kitten one could ever find. You had to be careful how you walked, because he would stalk you and pounce on your ankles, kicking, biting and clawing. He went the way of the rest of our pets – I gave him away too, along with 10 cans of cat food.

Diane decided to help keep things active, so she proceeded to eat some aspirin and had to have her stomach pumped out. Then she ate some medicated hand cream – who knows what else she managed to get into – I locked everything up after that.

Work on our house was progressing rapidly – it was started at the beginning of Sept. and we were in at least partly by November 1st.

November 1961 Family in Bussey 2

The Oskaloosa newspaper came to Bussey to do an article on the new parsonage … and the new, young pastor’s family.

~~~

A funny story from last year about the first Mother’s Day after my mom died. We really do find humor in the strangest things. 

Mother’s Day, Pt. 1

And then, there is this bit that Mom wrote about being a minister’s wife. You’ll love it.

Mother’s Day, Pt. 2

I Am Not the Christian You’re Looking For

In 1974, I walked down the aisle of my church, knelt at an altar and made the choice to commit my life to Jesus Christ. From that point forward, it’s been a crazy journey – one I would never choose to have missed.

However, what I didn’t know in the innocence of my choice that day, was that the most difficult times ahead would often come because of those who attempted to define how I walked that road with Jesus Christ. I lost my mother when I was 28 … that didn’t break me, it only made my faith stronger. I dealt with other personal struggles – none of which were impossible because my faith gave me strength.

No, the worst faith crises came from those who called themselves Christians and insisted on telling me that I wasn’t doing it right.

Do you want a list? Oh, I want to give you one, but these are just highlights and barely scratch the surface of how others have insisted I live out my faith.

1. Let’s start with my mother’s death. Believe it or not, during this entire ordeal, the most outwardly holy and pious Christians we knew told us that our faith wasn’t strong enough and that’s why she died. If we’d had faith as small as a mustard seed, she would have been healed. Thank heavens for our own strong faith and will, as well as an outpouring of love from people, both Christian and non-Christian.

2. Then there was my denomination. I grew up as a United Methodist. Somehow in the midst of the raging political and religious conservatism of the 90s, that denomination was vilified. If you were a Methodist, you couldn’t be a Christian because the denomination was too liberal. Nothing else mattered, the label was enough. To this day, I encounter pious Christians who hold themselves above others based on denominational choices.

3. During the 1990s, I was told that if I was not a Republican, I couldn’t be a Christian, because only extreme conservatives understood what the Christian walk looked like. Any other choice and I was apostate. I even had one person tell me that making a choice for a specific Presidential candidate revealed a person’s Christianity. We still base our judgment on a person’s faith based on their choices for political office.

4. Believe it or not, there continue to be people who insist that unless I read scripture from the King James Version, I can’t possibly be a Christian. There are still certain versions of scripture that when used will cause you to be named as a heretic. The word of God is not to be defined by one interpretation. It is much too big for that.

5. Then there was a day I stood in the sanctuary of my church and was told that no one was really a Christian unless they spoke in tongues. I’d heard this before, but was shocked at the accusation being tossed out at me. I had to be a little more pointed, I could tell, so I looked the person straight in the eye and asked if they were telling me that I wasn’t a Christian. A philosophical belief had just become very personal for him and he had no good answer.

6. The essence of my faith is disparaged by Christians on a regular basis because of disagreements regarding interpretation of Scripture. When I began attending seminary, I knew for certain that I would be exposed to centuries of various interpretations and I’m so grateful for that. What I learned was that there is nothing new under the sun. Even the hottest issues we argue about today created hatred and dissension within faith groups years ago. We’ve learned nothing. It is still easier for a Christian to hate … even me because I choose to believe differently … than it is to listen and to love.

~~~

While I say very little about this publicly, I am weary of having to justify myself as a Christian because others define my faith with narrow boundaries.

Jesus Christ came to change that behavior. He exploded the faith of Jews who had created a narrow, negative religion. They had a rule for everything and their rules were more important than the people they were to serve. It was a faith of dos and do nots. It was not a faith that could make great changes in or offer salvation to the world. They had become insular, tightly protecting their beliefs, not trusting that the God of creation could possibly be in control. They were so caught up in their definition of faith that they lost sight of God’s true purpose for them.

We are not here on earth to piously set forth the rules and regulations of Christianity. Even as you quote Paul’s words (which is where you find nearly all of those highly vaunted rules and regulations of Christianity), you miss Paul’s purpose.

The apostle Paul pointed to Jesus Christ in everything he did.

And Jesus points to God.

As Christ-followers, we have to stop insulating our faith – protecting our beliefs. We must trust that the God of creation is completely in control and HE DOES NOT NEED US TO FIGHT HIS BATTLES.

One lesson we should have learned from the Old Testament Israelites is that when they stepped back and allowed God to be in control, the battle was always won. When they asked other groups for help against a particular foe, they lost. When they tried to do it on their own, they lost horribly.

And when they decided to rule themselves using their interpretation of rules and regulations from Scripture, God sent His Son to turn the world upside down. Jesus didn’t come to earth because of some enormous sin that the outside world was committing. God sent Jesus because his own people were so caught up in piously living out their faith that they’d forgotten how to love others … to love those inside and outside their faith structure.

The Israelites were to be a light to the world (Isaiah 49:6). They were to represent the one, true God. They lost their way. Instead of representing God, they presented Him in their image, according to their beliefs.

Jesus said no. To a people whose lives revolved around the Law, when asked which law was the greatest, Jesus told them to love God and love each other (Matthew 22:37). When challenged by those who spent their lives reading and interpreting the Law of Moses (Pharisees), Jesus lived out love.

Love is not narrow. Love is expansive. Love is not defined by rules, it is defined by God who created things we have not yet begun to see, much less understand.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:4-7, NRSV)

I will never be the Christian I’m expected to be. I just can’t do it. I’ve made choices that cause others to question whether my faith is what it should be and that’s okay. Because in the end, I don’t answer to them. The one thing that God promised me from the very beginning of our relationship was that as long as I relied on him, talked to him and loved him (and others), he would help me on the journey. He’s always been right beside me. He’s never failed me. I have sinned and been on my knees asking forgiveness, but love defines our relationship.

So I trust God … yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He’s removed rules and regulations and replaced them with love. He defines my faith. I don’t have to prove that to anyone else. I simply have to live so that others see His love in me.

As you define what a Christian should look like, how they should act, what they should believe and how they should respond to the world, know that I will never live to your standards. My life … my faith is in God’s hands, not yours.

Stop defining faith and start living it. Our faith is love. Perfect love. We can’t let ourselves become Pharisees who shut out the world in order to have a perfect and true religion.

Being a Christian limits me.

Following Jesus Christ who is the beginning, the middle, and the end of my salvation, my faith, and my life … allows me to live in love, without limitations.

~~~

It is completely unnecessary for you to attempt to comfort me or stroke my ego for making choices. I’m not looking for sympathy or accolades. This isn’t that kind of a post – it is simply my story and the thoughts that come from living it. My confidence lies within me and is based on one greater than anything I can ever be.

~~~

Picture 2Waiting for the cute cat picture?

There were a lot of words in this post, but since y’all are readers, I wasn’t too worried. Apparently I had a lot to say.

Here ya go. This is every one of them snuggled up against my leg. It’s pretty wonderful to wake up to this.

Grey is tucked between Earl (on his back) and TB. I’m just out of room.

Diane’s Tote Bag

These tote bags are fun! And they’re pretty simple to make. The best part for me is that they use up some of my stash, opening up space for more fabric!

IMG_5233      IMG_4621

The frogs in the first picture are another favorite pattern of mine. You can find that pattern here.

To make a tote, you’ll need:IMG_5244

Two (2) Fat Quarters
Sixteen (16) 5″ squares
Fusible Interfacing

Four fat quarters and most of a charm pack will make two tote bags. I use nearly a full package of 20″ x 1 yard Heat n Bond Fusible Interfacing for a single tote bag.

IMG_5246OUTSIDE OF THE TOTE BAG:
From one fat quarter, you will cut:
2 – 2.5 x 18″ strips
3 – 3.5 x 18″ strips (1 for base, 2 for the handles)
1 – Leftover strip (for the base of the lining)

After you’ve chosen the 5″ charms for the body, sew them together (1/4″ seam allowance on everything). For this, I used the Island Batiks and decided to do a ROYGBIV (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet) theme with grey stripes. I love the bright colors! Be sure to iron all of your seams as we sew along.

IMG_5248Sew a 2.5 x 18″ grey stripe between the two charm strips you’ve just assembled, for both the back and the front of the bag. Sew them together with one of the 3.5 x 18″ grey stripes.

If you’ve done the math, you’ll notice immediately that 4 – 5″ charms sewn together (with seam allowances) equals 18.5 inches and your fat quarter stripes are only 18 inches. Don’t panic. It’s not a crisis.

Cut fusible interfacing to fit and iron it to the wrong side of the bag. Fold the bag in half, right sides together and sew outer seams (1/4″ seam allowance).

If you want to trim the excess before sewing the outer seam, do it for a cleaner look (that no one but you will ever know is there).

(Now that you have your fusible interfacing on the cutting mat, you might as well cut out the pieces for the handles. You need 2 – 2.5 x 18″ strips.)

IMG_5251INSIDE LINING:

Cut the second fat quarter in half – approximately 10″ x 18″ pieces. Now, this is where you need to do some fuzzy math calculations. You need to end up with a 25.5″ x 18″ piece. Fat quarters are rarely an exact size. The leftover strip from the outside fat quarter is probably six inches wide and that will more than likely work just as it is. Sew it to the two panels as the base of your lining.

Fold the lining in half, right sides together, and sew outer seams (1/4″ seam allowance).

IMG_5253BOX CORNERS:

If you haven’t done these before, they are amazing. There are a couple of ways to do them, but this is my way.

IMG_5254After ironing open the seam, I fold the corner so the outer seam is centered, then sew a straight line 1.5″ from the tip – edge to edge.

Snip the corner off, being sure not to cut into the stitching you just did. Voila. You have a nice straight edge for the base of your tote bag. Do this on both the outside and the lining of the bag.

IMG_5256HANDLES:

Iron a 2.5 x 18 piece of fusible interfacing to the center of each of the 3.5 x 18″ fabric strips.

IMG_5257Press a half-inch hem on each side of the interfacing, wrong side to interfacing, then fold the fabric in half for a 1.25 x 18″ handle.

Top stitch (over stitch, whatever you like to call it) close to the hem, then top stitch the opposite side, just so it looks pretty. Leave the ends open (they’ll be tucked into the bag).

IMG_5255FINISHING:

Turn the outside of the bag right side out. Tuck it into the lining (still inside out) so right sides are together.

Match up the side seams of the outside and the lining (maybe pin them together to keep things straight), and match up your top.

IMG_5258Tuck the handles in on each side. I pin them at the outside edges of the inner two 5″ squares.

Sew around the top (1/4″ seam allowance), leaving an opening for turning. Be sure that at the beginning and at the end of the seam, you run a few stitches back and forth as an anchor, so it doesn’t pull apart when you turn the bag inside out. I like to start on the inside of one of the handles and sew all the way around to the inside of the other handle.

IMG_5260Pull the bag through the hole and once you’ve done that, stuff the lining inside and iron the top flat. You’re making sure that the hole edges are ironed down.

Then … top stitch around the top of the entire bag. These stitches will also help anchor the handles in place.

Believe it or not, you’re finished!

These are wonderful tote bags. Enjoy!

IMG_5263

 

No Exceptions

IMG_4927I drove through Campus Town in Ames today. It’s always fun to see kids starting their lives, rushing from class to class. I don’t miss those years at all, but I do like watching from a distance.

As I drove past a church, two handwritten banners hung in their front windows. The first read: ‘God Loves You’ and in the next window, ‘No Exceptions.’

No exceptions.

My mind was absorbed for the rest of the drive home. This is exactly what the Kingdom of God should look like here on earth. No exceptions.

As we journey from the cross to the Resurrection this weekend, those two words take on more significance. No exceptions.

God’s son did not die on the cross for some of the people. He didn’t die just for the Jews or for Christians; for people who go to church on Sunday mornings or those who seem to live perfectly holy lives. He didn’t just die for Americans or Catholics or Protestants, or for those whose belief systems – political, religious, or philosophical – line up with ours. He didn’t just die for white folk or rich people, those who can afford health care or who have a good work ethic. He didn’t just die on that cross for those who have their lives all together and whose children are brought up the way we believe they should behave. He didn’t just die for those with no mental health issues, or the families who can afford homes.

No exceptions.

Jesus Christ’s life on earth, his death, resurrection and his living presence are for everyone – no exceptions.

My heart aches at the ugly behavior and talk coming from those who proclaim their Christianity louder than they live it out. Mom always told me that actions speak louder than words. But we scream and yell our hatred and bigotry in the name of Jesus so that the words will seem louder than actions, and those who are as angry and hateful can hear the nasty words and support those ugly beliefs.

When Jesus was asked which commandment was the most important, he gave a simple response. Summed up, he said: Love God. Love Others. He didn’t place any exceptions on that. He didn’t tell people to love God and then love only some of the others. Jesus stated that we are to Love God and Love Others. No exceptions.

We’ll move past Holy Week and Easter Sunday and return to life as it always has been, giving little regard to the incredible passion that changed the world. The passion that came about because of exceptional love for all of humanity.

We are called to perfection as Jesus is perfect. That perfection comes from love. God’s love. When we live out that love, we find that we no longer need to scream and shout; our actions will be louder than our words and no one can drown them out.

Let this be the moment you decide to love, knowing how much God loved you.

No exceptions.

Bellingwood Vignette – Book 13, #3

TB loves the heating pad under my desk. Apparently he was plenty warm!

TB loves the heating pad under my desk. Apparently he was plenty warm!

Vignettes are published in the newsletters that come out each month, but every once in a while, I will write one that comes out before the 25th.

The vignettes are very short stories that fit within the context of the books, but aren’t necessary to the story. They might enhance something that you’ll read  in each book, but generally are just a quick look at some of the characters from their own perspective rather than Polly’s.

Book 13 is just around the corner (Friday, March 25th – only a couple of days away) and while you’re waiting, here is a quick look at what the kids are doing after school one day.

And They Call it Puppy Love

“Wait up, you guys,” Kayla yelled.

Mr. Smith stepped in front of her and she pulled up short. “No running in the halls, Miss Armstrong.”

“Sorry,” she muttered.

Rebecca had stopped in front of the girls’ bathroom to wait for her friend. “Slow down, Andrew. We have to wait for Kayla.”

“Whatever,” he muttered. “I’ll just be at my locker. Find me when you’re ready to go.”

She turned and watched him walk away. “What’s his problem?”

“Where’d Andrew go?” Kayla asked.

“I don’t know. His locker, I guess.” Rebecca shook her head. “What did Mr. Smith want?”

“Told me not to run.” Kayla huffed a laugh. “Like I run. I hate running. Why would I run in the halls when I don’t even like to run in gym?”

“I know, right?” Rebecca said, laughing. “Let’s get rid of some of this stuff.”

The two girls walked down the hall and turned the corner. Andrew was at the far end, leaning against his locker, watching them come his way.

Rebecca stopped in front of hers. “You go on. I just need to get my coat.”

“I’ll be right back,” Kayla said.

“Stupid boys,” Rebecca groused. She opened her locker and put books on the shelf and shoved things around so she could get her coat. It made her laugh. Polly was always complaining about how messy her room was. If she could see this, she’d go bananas. Kayla’s was way different. It was clean and really cute. She had Disney paper on the inside of the door and a sweet little white board and even a calendar hanging there. All organized and neat. Rebecca yanked on her coat and pulled it out from under the books she’d jammed in there all day, then dug around for her scarf.

Even there, Kayla was smarter than her. She always pulled her scarf through the sleeve of her coat so that she could find it right away. There it was. Polly would have a cow if Rebecca came home without it. No, that wasn’t right. She’d have the cow in the morning when Rebecca tried to leave without it on. She wrapped it around her neck twice and shoved her hair out of her face.

“Are you ready?” Kayla asked.

“Not hardly. How’d you get your stuff so fast?”

Kayla just laughed. “You should let me do up your locker for you.”

“You’d have to do it every week. I’ll just make a mess again.”

“Why don’t you hang any pictures up? Or even some of your drawings? Those would be really cool,” Kayla said.

Rebecca bent over and dug around on the floor of the locker, underneath a pile of folders. She pulled out a bent and broken corkboard. “Because everything breaks. I don’t even know where the pins are for this. Polly bought me some cute cat pins and they’re somewhere.”

“You should just throw that away.”

“Here, throw it away.” Rebecca shoved it at her friend.

Kayla took the three steps to a trash can and lifted the corkboard high, then let it drop. “See how difficult that was?”

Rebecca looked down at Andrew, still standing beside his locker. He was doing his best to ignore them. He spoke to some of the boys who were putting coats on, but kept a steady eye on what she and Kayla were doing.

“What did he do to you?” Kayla whispered. “Did he say something stupid? Are you guys breaking up?”

“No. He didn’t say anything stupid and we aren’t breaking up.” Rebecca kicked the bottom of her locker. “I hate this thing. I can’t find anything in here.”

“You really should let me clean it out for you. I could at least get you organized,” Kayla pleaded.

“I’m just going to throw everything away.” Rebecca bent over and picked up a stack of paper.

When she started toward the trash can, Kayla jumped in front of her. “No. You’ll be mad if you throw away some of your drawings. And there might be pictures in there and some of your stories.” She pulled out a piece of music. “And was this supposed to be turned in before Christmas.”

“They don’t care.”

“Yes they do. I was in the band room when Lisa and Sheena were sorting things. They were missing a bunch of parts. How are we supposed to play that again?”

“Then take it back.”

Kayla held onto it. “I will. Is there more in there?”

“Here.” Rebecca held out the stack, waiting for Kayla to extend her arms. When she did, Rebecca pushed everything at her friend. “You do whatever you want with it. Throw it out, color on it. I don’t care. Just get it out of my sight.”

“Why are you in such a bad mood?” Kayla asked, following Rebecca back to her locker. “What did Andrew do?”

“Who said he did anything?”

“I said. You only get like this when you and him are fighting.”

Rebecca shot a glance down the hall, turned her back on Andrew and bent into her locker. “It’s embarrassing when he gets all lovey-dovey,” she said in low tones, checking the hallway around them. Most of the kids were gone by this point. “I don’t want people teasing us because he’s always trying to sit beside me or…” she kicked the bottom of the locker again. “Whatever.”

“I wish I had a boyfriend try to get all lovey-dovey with me,” Kayla said. “You’re lucky. You shouldn’t be mean to him. What if he breaks up with you because you aren’t very nice.”

“I’d still have you,” Rebecca said.

Kayla didn’t respond, but looked down at the stack of papers in her hands.

“I’m mean to you, too. Is that what you’re thinking?” Rebecca asked.

Shaking her head very slowly, Kayla just smiled at her friend. “You’re never mean. Just a little volatile.”

“Where did you get that word?”

“Stephanie’s word-of-the-day calendar at home.” Kayla laughed and then looked worried. “But I didn’t think of you when we talked about it the word at breakfast. I promise.”

Rebecca took the stack of papers back from Kayla and jammed them into the bottom of her locker. “You can fix this up if you want,” she said. “But not tonight. Everybody else is gone. We should go.”

“Are you taking this?” Kayla asked, holding out Rebecca’s sketchbook.

“Yeah, I better.” Rebecca pulled her coat on, slung the backpack over her shoulder and then took the sketchbook from Kayla. She reached back into her locker and picked up her pencil case and kicked the door shut. “We’re leaving, Andrew. Are you coming?”

He trotted down the hall toward them. “Are you going to be mad at me all night?” he asked.

“I’m not mad,” Rebecca responded. She shook her head when she caught him giving Kayla a look. “I’m not,” she repeated. “Let’s just go.

They walked out of the front door of the school and she shivered as they hit the cold air.

“It’s cold,” Andrew said. “Let me hold your hand.”

Rebecca held up her hands, one with the sketchbook and the other with the pencil holder. “I have stuff in my hands.”

“You could put it in your backpack.”

Kayla laughed. “No she can’t. There’s no more room. Will you let me clean that out sometime, too?”

“At least let me button up your coat for you,” Andrew said.

“Fine.” Rebecca stopped in the middle of the street, planted her feet and turned to face him. “Button my stupid coat.”

“It’s really hard work being your boyfriend,” Kayla said. “He needs a medal.”

Rebecca watched her two friends try hard not to laugh and she shook her head. “I’m high maintenance?”

Andrew and Kayla looked at each other and then turned to look at her, innocence pasted on their faces.

“Of course not,” Andrew said.

Kayla spoke over him. “Not all the time.”

“But I don’t want to be high maintenance. I hate high maintenance girls.” Rebecca slumped her shoulders in defeat. “I’m sorry. You guys are my best friends. Here.” She handed the pencil holder to Andrew.

He took it and frowned at her until she held her hand out. “Oh.” Andrew smiled and took it in his.

“But just until we get to the highway,” Rebecca said. “I don’t want Polly to see it.”

He nodded. “This is good enough.”