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One year ago –

3 Oct

One year ago today was a Wednesday.  I remember because it was a confirmation night and we were painting the to-be youth room lime green.  A couple youth and parents stuck around after class to help paint.  It’s then my iphone dinged with a new email.

Wouldn’t I consider auditioning for the reality show Master Chef?  They’d seen my cooking videos [check out the youtube link in the right hand column if you must] and were recruiting people to come to Minneapolis to try out.  And so began my crazy October of cakepops from scratch, VIP auditions, and everything Master Chef.  I look back fondly; as I think of turning 30 in just a few short months, auditioning for a reality television show goes in that look-at-the-fun-things-I’ve-done-in-these-first-30-years column.  It was crazy in a really fun way.  [Until I quit the process, of course.]

One year ago today also marked the eight year anniversary of my dad’s death.  Which makes today year nine.  The tradition is to watch Back to the Future [a mutual love for Marty McFly and the space/time continuum was one of the strong bonds my dad and I held] and drink a coke; today the plan might have to be falling asleep on the couch to Back to the Future as Paige and I have theater tickets to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Austin at the community college tonight.  I may not be able to stay awake to see Marty return from November 1955 but I’ll at least watch him go there at 88 mph to end up in Old Man Peabody’s barn after being chased by Libyan nationalists who shoot Doc for giving them a shotty bomb made of used pinball machine parts while stealing their plutonium.  And hopefully long enough to watch his own mother call him Calvin because it’s written all over his purple underwear when she puts his pants on her hope chest.

*clears throat*  So let us raise our cokes.  To John.  To Spanky.  To the best dad who would help us make the most elaborate snow forts, chase bats from my bedroom in the middle of the night using a broom, and help me decorate sugar cookies for all my friends with their names on them in his perfect printing.

The Stolen’s Museum.

15 May

I went home this past Sunday for one quick night after a full weekend of work and a busy Sunday morning.  I went home to join my family at Geep’s.  We gathered at Grandpa Sid’s house to clean it out.  It was not the ideal way to spend time together, going thru Grandpa’s cabinets and out buildings and packing up boxes.  Not ideal at all but we found some fun moments in the midst of it.

Grandpa Sid labeled everything.  Everything.  Need a broom?  Naturally, it’s hanging on a nail that above it in pencil is written BROOM on the wall.  A key?  It’s on a nail with the word KEY written and circled above it.  Wonder what that light switch turns on?  It’s probably labeled.

Need a hammer?  No need to label those by writing on the wall because they were located every five yards.  I bet we found thirty hammers.  Hammers everywhere.  Never more than a few steps from anywhere.  I talked to the Alaska brother, Ben, on the phone the day after and he asked how it went, not being able to be there himself since he was – you know – in the arctic.  We found a lot of hammers, I said.  I bet you did, he chuckled.  It really was no surprise.

What else did we find?  Admission prices to the Stolen’s Museum.  See, the garage/shed on my Grandpa’s property used to house, oh, 30-some restored gas pumps and old, classic tractors.  I actually invited one of my school classes there for a field trip one year in elementary school.  There were also vintage cream separators and classic metal gasoline and tobacco signs.  It was very nearly an actual museum.  According to the perfect printing in the cement on the floor of the museum – done by one father, John, who wrote in all pieces of wet cement – it was closed on Sundays.  And now it’s nearly empty.

I picked rhubarb from Grandpa’s patch and came home with a china set of Grandma’s.  [A pattern of china which, oddly enough, I drank coffee from on a home visit today.  I’d never seen the pattern before Sunday and now it seems to be stalking me.]  I think my Grandma would be happy to know that her Pyrex bowls will continue to live on in my kitchen, and that the mason jars from the cellar are finding new homes too.

It still is indeed sad to think that I may never again set foot on that property.  I’ve known it all my life.  I would walk down the waterway and across the creek to visit and steal fudgesicles from the freezer in the summer.  As us kids got older, we would ride our bikes around the block and Grandma and Grandpa’s was always our stop for water before we attempted to ride up the hill home again. It’s the porch on which I placed a May Day basket on many a May 1st, and the kitchen table at which I chatted with Grandpa over an open atlas.  And there was always a hammer available when you needed one.

It snowed.

3 May

Like hella snowed in Austin on Thursday.  The sky opened up and dropped deep, heavy snow.  This is the kind of snow that kills people while shoveling, yelled the guy who came to plow me out from across the yard.  I couldn’t hear him really well so I think I responded to that with a laugh until I processed that what he said actually hadn’t been funny at all.  It was also the kind of snow that took down tree branches all over the place.  My poor arborvitae were bending like crazy.  Cancellations and delays were the reality of Thursday morning.  The morning I was to leave for a retreat in northern Wisconsin, mind you.  Luckily, by the time I got plowed out and ready to go, the roads were but wet.  Happy May 2nd, people.  [Along with that comes a happy birthday, Dad.  I wish you were still here so we could buy you new socks to celebrate.]

father & fruity friends.

3 Oct
This post is about two things that begin with the letter D – Dancing Bananas and Dad.
Today is my d-day.  Seven years ago my dad died.  It’s an evening that I can play over and over in my head, nearly minute by minute.  It feels like it was yesterday … and yet it feels like longer than seven years.  It can’t be described.
This date is burned in my head.  I mark it each year with a ritual of sorts.  I watch Back to the Future.  You well know by my consistent referencing that this is my favorite movie.  It happens to be a movie I grew up watching with my dad.  He liked it too.  [But not as much as The Shawshank Redemption.  That was his favorite and I’ll admit that I’ve never seen it.  Shame, I know.  *throw tomatoes here*]  And so Marty McFly and I spend some time together every October 3rd simply for ritual’s sake.  Today will be no exception.
Now for the fruity friends.  You also well know that the Dancing Bananas are the six of my closest friends.  Jenni, Kay, Kim, Krissy, Allison, and Lynn are my besties from high school and still we remain close.  We email regularly and it’s not uncommon for me to get a phone call a week from a few of them too.  There are emails going around today – emails in which they send me virtual hugs and share their favorite memories of my dad.  Here are a few of the memories that have been shared –

  • One Halloween in high school, I baked pumpkin cookies to take to my friends.  I ended up running late that morning and so my dad took to frosting them for me as I rushed to make it out the door in time.  Not only did he add the orange frosting, but he wrote my friends’ names in black frosting, one on each cookie.  [He had the neatest handwriting.]  He even put Mrs.Hoimt’s name on one cookie – my high school language arts teacher who had also been his teacher.  [And people wonder why I do weird things.  It’s in my blood.]
  • It was not uncommon when we drove past golf courses that my dad would lay on the horn just as people teed off.  How convenient that Highway 51 to Stoughton cuts right through Coachman’s 18 holes.
  • My dad was a farmer and pretty notorious for wearing work boots and shorts.  This made for amazing tan lines in the summer.  It often looked like he had white socks on when really, he was barefoot.
  • Krissy mentioned how my dad would often encourage us to do the things that my mom would ultimately disapprove of; she listed no specific examples but I can see this being true.  He was a trouble maker.
  • My dad was always willing to drive a bunch of high school girls to concerts, including Ricky Martin in Milwaukee.  We were crazy and I’m sure he knew this when he said yes to my plea; therefore, by default, he was also crazy for accepting such a task.  [I remember holding signs in the car and lots of screaming.  Oh my.]
The Bananas are so sweet and full of love to help me remember this day and hold me [virtually] through it.  My dad was always sweet and full of love too.  Be sweet and tell your family and your friends that you love them, folks.  Do it.

holy auction, batman.

30 Jul
This was the third auction my family has hosted in my lifetime.  The first, when I was 16 and we were moving off the farm.  The second, four years ago at my grandpa’s, selling the gas engines and gas pumps that my grandfather and dad had refinished as a hobby for so many years.  Now today, the third.  My mom was looking to downsize and now that my brother does not live here, there was a shop filled with tools and tidbits to sell.  [I had no idea how much stuff was in that shop until it was emptied.]

the one holding the gun?  he slapped my butt.
tobacco lathe.
grandpa with cousins mike and brent.
It was a hot sticky day but the crowds filled our yard and our driveway beginning at 8am this morning.  The gas pumps [that my grandpa has refinished since the previous auction four years ago], the gun collection that has lived in the gun closet in my mom’s bedroom for years and years, and a couple tractors on the bill, in addition to furniture, a few lawn mowers, and tobacco lathes, brought the people.  The people included lots of my dad’s family, Einstein [or a man who greatly resembled this scientist], and the amish.
It was a stressful and crazy couple of days preparing for my mom and my brother, but once the day arrived, things fell into place nicely.  The auctioneer and auction specialist ran things in an orderly fashion, and the head of the auction company only slapped my butt once.  [And I’m pretty serious about that.  Yeah, he’s like 60.]  I teared up only at one point, when Ben climbed onto the John Deere to start it for the crowds.  It was a tractor that we used each year in tobacco harvest, and that would be the last time someone in our family started it.  Sad story.  But such is life.  The tractor must continue on to make another farmer a happy tractor driver, as is every tractor’s dream.  Go, John Deere, fulfill your tractor destiny.


21 Jun
I’d like yours.

When I first started working at Trinity in Stillwater, I took the Clifton Strengths Finder strengths inventory.  I loved the focus that this congregation placed on peoples’ unique designs and each person’s given strengths; it has formed and shaped me and my theology since.  This inventory gives you the top five themes that come out as you answer questions.  One of mine, in addition to developer and learner and two more I can’t recall at this specific moment, is input.  I’ve never quite known what to do with this signature theme.  What does it even mean?

According to the Strengths Finder book –

So I’m a pack rat and that’s okay.  It’s part of my created being.  Can this be my excuse to keep these?

My dad collected matchbooks.  Not like actively [he belonged to no club and subscribed to no magazines] but as he went about, he’d grab a matchbook and keep them all together.  My mom wants to put them on the auction.  I told her I want them.  Her response?  “And what would you do with those?”  
I don’t know.  But I want them.  I think they’re interesting.  Who knows when they might become useful?  I feel like the possibilities could – quite possibly – be endless.  I have a few projects tucked away, but any ideas for me?  How do I convince my mom that I want a rubbermaid bin filled with old  matchbooks and that it’s a good idea?

senior awards.

26 May
My sister and I are both seniors and graduating, me from seminary and her from high school.  Last night was the senior awards night at Edgerton High and my sister not only received scholarship awards, she also gave one.
You see, my family presents a scholarship to a graduating FFA [Future Farmers of America … oh yeah] senior each year in memory of my dad.  In the years past, my mom has presented the award at the banquet night.  Last night, with my sister already sitting on stage as a senior, she presented the award to one of her fellow classmates.  I love that she did this and wish I could have been home to see her both give and receive scholarships. 

She sent her little speech to me to proof and I couldn’t even read it without crying.  I think she did an awesome job.  Here is what she said:

“Good evening everyone,
My name is Emma S– and I am a senior here at Edgerton High School and I’m here to present the John S– Memorial Scholarship in memory of my dad, John.
Growing up, I lived on a farm with my three older siblings, Matt Ben and Lindsay, my mom Leanne, and my dad John. On the farm we raised cattle and grew corn, soybeans, and tobacco. My dad learned to work hard from his upbringing on a local farm. I remember helping my dad with chores around the farm. My dad was a hardworking farmer who taught my siblings and I responsibility and hard work. There was always the time of year when the whole family and friends helped plan and harvest tobacco in the fields. Sure there were those times when my siblings and I didn’t always feel like helping out; but it was those experiences that have helped shape who we are today. I will always remember harvesting the crops with my dad. We would go out in the fields in the combines to harvest the crops. He would let me ride along inside and sit on his lap.
When I was in sixth grade, my dad suddenly passed away. He was the hardest working person I knew. He was funny, considerate, and the greatest dad I could ask for.
My dad was a member of the FFA at high school here in Edgerton. He continued his involvement with FFA by being an active member of the FFA Alumni. One of the primary purposes of that group is to provide financial support to current FFA members.
To remember my dad for who he was as a farmer and friend, and on behalf of the S– family and Edgerton FFA Alumni, I would like to present the John S– Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $500, to my fellow classmate …”

money is dumb.

2 May
I wish it didn’t matter.  I’d like to believe that it doesn’t.  Money is a necessary evil, one required in our society to survive.  Money is what buys the things we need to live.  Those basic needs we learn in elementary school social studies – clothing, shelter, food.  We need money for those things.  gross.
But beyond that, what really do we need?  I know, I know.  I sit here, typing on my MacBook that’s charging my iPhone, surrounded by a closet of way too many clothes, next to a bathroom easily containing at least $100 in product/makeup, and lots of stuff.  [The gnomes on the shelf are excluded.  They are not stuff; they are gnomes.]   If this weren’t a public blog, I would call it shit.  [Whelp, just did.] Who am I to talk?  I can’t. 
As my classmates and I move farther and farther into the interviewing/call process, salary negotiations happen.  I’ve shared with a very few of you that I had a second interview yesterday.  If they decide to extend a call, the next step would be going over the salary packages and I feel completely ill-equipped to be on one side of that table.
Ill-equipped and very uncomfortable.  I find myself wondering what I need, and I think I’m easily going to be the push-over because, in all honesty, I don’t need a lot.  There is such a fine line, simply not wanting to be taken advantage of and honestly evaluating my needs.  The synod guidelines for pastor salary include a designated amount for books, periodicals, etc.  Do I need that?  I’m quick to say no; I can easily pay for that out of my general salary.  Do I fight for my cell phone bill to be included in my salary package?  I’m quick to say no; I’ll make it work.  I go back to my childhood-taught line, “Don’t ask for money,” but then contrast it with being a professional with a master’s degree who deserves such-and-such a salary.  I can’t find the balance in my head.  Will this lead towards poor thinking, financial management, and planning on my part?  Some pastors would say yes; some would say no.  
I’m leaning towards not, probably lots due to my dad.  Today would be a celebration of his 52nd birthday and there is no doubt that were he still here, my mom [in collaboration with us kids] would hand over standard packages of white tshirts, socks, and underwear as his gift.  And he would be happy as a clam.  It’s all he needed.  He had a house, food on the table [and chickens in the yard], a job, a shirt on his back, and a family.  What more is there?  He taught me what’s needed in life, though most of the times I forget.
What’s needed right now?  A little Marty McFly and a DeLorean.
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