Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Books and Zucchini and Overheard Conversations

I've been working on my next book, Footprints on the Ceiling.  It involves finding all my columns of the past three years, copying and pasting them into one document, grouping them by type, editing out all the stuff that made people mad when they were first published, and giving them titles.

I really am terrible at titles but I don't have a choice.  Numbering the chapters doesn't really work for a collection like this.

I also don't have a choice about editing.  There's something really torturous about reading your own work over and over again.  About the second time through, the little voices start up.

Jane Kirkpatrick calls them the Harpies, the little gremlins that sit on your shoulders and chatter in your ear.  "Boring boring boring."  "Nobody wants to hear about this." "TMI!"  "Cliche!" "Too wordy!" "Too choppy!" 

["Too beady, too bumpy, too leafy, too lumpy," as the hat book says that I used to read to the children.]

This is why I sometimes don't read my own books for a couple of years after they're published, and why I am astonished that nice people buy my books and read them.  I love you readers, more than I can say.

*     *     *     *

In Goodwill the other day I overheard a conversation between a younger lady and a woman my age.  The older woman was the wise-soothing-mentor type, and she was catching up with the younger woman's life.

Younger woman: I left my job at the courthouse.  I was tired of pushing papers.  I wanted to help low-income people.
Older woman: Well, good for you.
Younger: And I divorced my husband.  He just wasn't supportive.
Older: Oh?
Younger: [starts crying] Yeah, he just wasn't supportive.  So I divorced him.
Older: Well, you can't waste your life on people who aren't worth your time.

I came home and recounted this conversation to my patient tribe who puts up with their mom overhearing Goodwill conversations and repeating them at home, followed by a 3-point sermon.

Jenny said, "Do I sense a blog post coming on?"

Well, yes.  But I've found that if you write a blog post on divorce, you get emails and comments saying, "You have a good man.  You don't know what it's like.  I had no choice.  You don't know what you're talking about.  Nobody should have to live like I did."

No one ever says, "Wow, if you've stuck it out for 30 years, one sinner married to another sinner who is opposite in personality, surely you've had to find your way through some tough challenges and had some really hard conversations and made some interesting sacrifices, and yet you seem happy together today.   So teach me, Oh Wise One."

They never say that.

So.  I will just say this.  If you are the sort of person who feels that "not being supportive" is grounds for divorce, maybe you shouldn't bother getting married.  Because you are both going to have times when you think your spouse's latest scheme is insane.

*    *    *     *     *     *

Garrison Keillor wrote about zucchini a few times.  He says July is the only time Minnesotans lock their cars in the church parking lot, to keep people from putting their extra zucchini in the back seat.

Minnesota is somewhat limited in the things it will grow.  Cherries and peaches and okra do best in other climes, but corn and ground cherries and zucchini do astonishingly well there.  Keillor had a great line about zucchini lying there, snuggling quietly under the cool green leaves and growing to the size of beached whales.

Which is what mine are doing these days.  I was late getting a garden in and didn't have the best seeds, so the carrots are sparse and 75% of the tomatoes died.

But Oh, Reader, the zucchini.  I turn my back for a day or two and then, while hoeing in the vicinity I sweep back the large bristly leaves and there they are, enormous and quiet, cool and green, swollen to the size of baseball bats, sea lions, hippos.

Today Jenny made two loaves of zucchini bread and also liver and onions with zucchini.  She didn't even use up one squash.  Naturally, she found the recipe for the zucchini bread in the cookbook from my folks' church in Minnesota.

It also has a second zucchini bread recipe, two recipes for zucchini muffins, plus zucchini apple pie, zucchini jam, and a "squash casserole" that takes 3 cups of grated zucchini.

*     *     *
Matt was home for a few days, thanks to an assignment that took him to the Kitsap Navy Base in Washington, close to where we had gone for our anniversary trip.

Matt and Ben had long, extended arguments about such things as what would have happened to the Blazers if Brandon Roy and Greg Oden hadn't been so plagued with injuries.  And whether it would be better to meet a grizzly bear or a black bear if you had only 30 seconds to react.

Each of them will take one side, and they will argue with congenial intensity for a long time, quoting more statistics than you had any idea existed on the subject, and bringing in principles of physics and engineering and calculus, in addition to tidbits of history and finer points of geographical knowledge.

I couldn't hold up my end of such a conversation for three minutes, but I enjoy listening to them.

Quote of the Day:
"They're not poofing so well.  Sorry!  I'm speaking your language and not my language.  Their volume is not increasing as they get hotter."
--Ben, about the frozen marshmallows over the campfire


  1. Zucchini apple pie?? Where is the recipe??!!

  2. You can also make zucchini relish(to put on hotdogs,etc.)It is good and it uses up a significant amount of zucchini! :)

  3. Over-abundant zucchini here too! I'm trying to be grateful because I know that as soon as frost hits - I'll be struck with a craving for zucchini casserole!

  4. I enjoy reading your posts so much. I did not know ground cherries did well in Minnesota. I'm from northern IN and never see them in produce sections of the store or at roadside stands. My grandmother used to make ground cherry pie, which is a favorite of mine...if I can ever find it.

  5. must be a banner year for zucchini everywhere! I didn't even grow any and I still feel a little swamped with it. I just did a blog post on some ways I use up zucchini:

    I would take marriage advice from you anytime, O Wise One. I've read and loved your books dearly.

  6. No zucchini here. It gets all sorts of nasty fungus diseases here in the south so we don't even have the zucchini in the car or on the doorstep either.

    I saw an interesting recipe though that I would try if I had the zucchini or squash problem. Saute 1 pound diced zucchini or yellow squash in 2 T oil until crisp tender. Add i cup black beans some diced ham and salsa to moisten. Heat through and serve in tortillas with cheese. I think any leftover meat would be good in these.

  7. I like every part of this post--the anticipation of your new book, the quote from "Old Hat, New Hat" (that I think all our kids can still recite by heart), the zucchini dilemma which we have this year too, the great marriage advice, the boys debating...keep those words coming!
    Sue R.
    (My Minnesota upbringing also knows that tomatoes grow great there--sold hundreds of pounds at a little roadside stand with my sister.)

  8. I love what you are saying about marriage! And I think your comment that no one says should be said to anyone who has been married a while and still enjoys being together! It's hard work and God's grace all wrapped up together in one package ... and needs words of affirmation! -Renita R.

  9. I love the flotsam and jetsam of your life.

    When I was trying on bridal gowns a decade ago, the girl next to me found a dress she liked and checked the price tag. She sighed heavily. "Mother," she said to the lady next to her, "This time I'm marrying for love, but next time it will definitely be for money!"

    My mom and I like to think she was joking.

  10. Wonderful tidbits! Although, as an Alaskan, I will say that 30 seconds would be a rather generous reaction time in a bear encounter. :) Also, as the wife of an engineer and the sister to two businessmen, I am all too familiar with that type of debate-conversation your sons had!