Saturday, November 29, 2008


Yesterday on our walk, Tom and I took a swing around Noonan Park to add an extra half mile to one of our same-old-same-old routes. And Holy Zamboni, the rink rats are back!

In another month or so, usually during Christmas vacation, the Park Department will put up the official hockey boards and the official hockey nets—but who can wait until the ice is 100 percent safe and neatly chiseled smooth by the Park Department Zamboni? A few quick cell phone calls, a text message or two—the word is out to bring a couple of shovels, drag two nets out of somebody’s garage—and presto, change-o. Noonan Pond is a hockey rink. All it takes is the sound of one stick smacking on the ice, one puck sailing through the air, and the rink rats start gathering.

They’re dressed in a motley collection of hooded sweatshirts and stocking caps. Usually one hot-blooded showoff is out there in a t-shirt. Somebody parks an old blue Corolla in the street, leaves the door open with a CD blaring Disturb’s “Indestructible,” and the rink rats have heavy metal accompaniment.

Across town at the multi-million dollar indoor hockey facility, coaches hold tryouts. The organized teams in their matching jerseys play at pre-determined times against other teams brought in from neighboring towns in big diesel-burning buses. But at Noonan’s Pond, anybody who is old enough to hold a stick and bold enough to step over the snow ridge on the makeshift rink gets to play.

“The ice is thin!” the authorities warn. “Stay off the ice until the ice is at least four inches thick.” Of course, Noonan’s Pond is knee deep at its deepest; the biggest hazard of falling through is finding yourself up to your knees in goose poop and green algae. But the rink rats don’t mind; their sticks have been taped and their skates have been sharpened since October, just itching for somebody to start a game of pick-up hockey at Noonan’s.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Tom has been volunteering at the local food shelf ever since he retired about three and a half years ago. Clients who frequent the food shelf, Tom has found, are very fond of bread, doughnuts, cereal, macaroni and cheese, hamburger, hotdogs, and frozen TV dinners. Most clients like food that they can eat right out of the package or prepare by putting in the oven or the microwave for the time specified on the package. For whatever reason, many aren’t so fond of food that needs to be fixed.

Every fall, local Alexandria residents have generously brought in garden produce to share with the food shelf clients. They bring boxes of apples, sacks of potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, pumpkins—just about every kind of produce gardeners find themselves with too much of in the fall. The food shelf clients gratefully accept all the apples and potatoes and tomatoes—these are foods they know and understand. But they really have trouble taking home the squash.

Now Tom and I love squash. So Tom has a little trouble understanding why the food shelf clients, when offered a dark green buttercup squash or a sleek tan butternut squash, ‘er’ and ‘ah’ around, not wanting to appear ungrateful, and eventually decline the hard-shelled vegetable. “I—um—don’t know how to fix a squash,” is the most common response Tom gets when he offers to pop a squash or two into their carts.

Tom has even gone so far as to give cooking instructions. You would have to understand Tom’s cooking skills to know what a stretch this is. He does not cook. Period. Yet he tries to get the clients fired up, trying to remember what he’s seen me doing when I bake a squash. It sounds kind of like Ms. Fitzmeyer’s second graders who are asked to tell how to bake a Thanksgiving turkey (“You put the turkey in the microwave for 15 minutes and then put bread in it.”) Tom’s instructions were something like “poke holes in it and put it in the microwave for 8 minutes and then cut it in half and take out the seeds and put brown sugar in it and then microwave it for 8 more minutes.”

Actually, I cut it in half, seed it, drizzle a little sugar-free maple syrup in the middle, put the halves in a pan with a little water in the bottom, cover it with foil, and bake it—time depends on the size and type of squash, anywhere from one to two hours at 350 degrees. The microwave only comes into the picture if I’m in a hurry.

So the piles of squash sit there at the food shelf, lonely and neglected. Tom absolutely hates to see food go to waste, so he brings home a squash or two occasionally. “The man who brought them in said we should help ourselves, too,” he says in his own defense, knowing how I feel about stealing food from poor people. But I fix them anyway. In the past two weeks, we have had a spaghetti squash, a delectia squash, a butternut squash, a buttercup squash, and a sweet dumpling squash. We are so full of fiber that we could pass ourselves off as stuffed animals.

But mostly I feel guilty because I know the food shelf clients are eating that gluey Kraft macaroni with its powdered orange cheese—and Tom and I are dining sumptuously on the lovely golden nutrition of a homegrown organic squash. Life ain’t fair.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


This time of the year, every time I can still get out on the Central Lakes Trail for a walk, it’s like a gift. However, it doesn’t look the same as it did last summer or last fall—or even a couple of weeks ago.

Traffic has really fallen off on the trail as the weather has gotten colder. People are a little wary of any slick, snow-covered streets and paths. For the most part, they’re hunkered down in their winter mode—maybe just waiting for more snow so they can cross country ski or snowshoe. Or maybe they’ve got a treadmill in the basement or a membership at Any Time Fitness. Maybe they’re those faithful mall walkers, making their round-and-round circuits early in the morning before the mall stores open up at 10 a.m.

But this time of the year, it’s easy to be aware of the other die-hards out there on the trail. We all leave our marks—big feet, little feet, man feet, lady feet, kid feet, dog feet, maybe even a few squirrel feet.

Sunday feet on the Central Lakes Trail

We’re the brother/sisterhood of walkers, and we’ll keep walking the trail until the snowmobilers force us to dive for the bushes.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Note: Another Carlisle story told by my 90-ish parents. They really laughed when they told this one.

In 1941 when my father was getting ready to marry my mother, they needed a place to live. My father still lived with his parents on the “home place,” the original farmstead settled by his grandfather in 1871. In fact, my father was even born in that house. But he and my mother really needed a place of their own. Too many Norwegians under one roof has never been a good idea.

On the north edge of the family farm was an old house, about a half mile from the home place, which my grandfather had rented out for 25 years to Martin and Agnes Ugstad. The house was in very bad shape, but Martin was still ‘madder than a hornet’ when he was told he would have to vacate the house and the land he had rented all those years so the newlyweds would have a place to live. He “went on a toot,” according to my parents, and would tell anyone who would listen that he didn’t think it was fair that he had to get out. It was his home, and there were lots of memories there.

One of the memories that Martin probably would just as soon have forgotten was that one of his sons, Olaf, was born in a car. When his wife Agnes went into labor, she announced to Martin that she needed to get to the hospital in Fergus Falls. Earlier, Martin had made arrangements for their young, unmarried neighbor, Harold Skistad, to drive them to the hospital. Martin’s car was an old, unreliable vehicle without a top on it, so Harold had promised to drive them in his car when the time came.

It should have been an uneventful trip; but at the last minute, Martin decided he looked a little scruffy. He didn’t want to go to Fergus Falls to the hospital until he had shaved first. So while Harold and Agnes waited, Martin shaved. To make a long story short, a clean-shaven Martin had to deliver his son Olaf in the back seat of Harold’s car on the way to Fergus Falls.

Poor young Harold. In those days, it wasn’t even polite to say the word “pregnant” out loud. After witnessing Agnes’s childbirth and delivering the baby and parents to the hospital, an anguished Harold drove home to the farm. He was so embarrassed about what had happened that he went straight upstairs to his room, shut the door, and wouldn’t come out. And Martin had to pay to have the backseat of Harold’s car reupholstered. It was a costly shave.

So when my parents got married in 1941, Martin and Agnes were forced to make other living arrangements. They borrowed some money and bought a farm west of Carlisle. The owner was ill and needed to sell, so Martin got the farm cheap. The first summer on his new farm, Martin had a huge bumper crop and was able to pay off the farm in one year. It was the first time in his life that Martin had owned his own land instead of renting it. He later sheepishly admitted that my parents’ marriage might have been the best thing that ever happened to him.

Everyone was relieved because Martin had been so furious when he lost his rented house and land to the newlyweds. Ironically, that house that Martin was so mad about losing was in such disrepair that my parents immediately started building a new house (total cost: $4,000) a few hundred feet away. They only lived in Martin and Agnes’s rented house from June to October. In October, they carried their belongings “one dresser drawer at a time” up to their new house. And that’s how that happened 67 years ago.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Bad pun, I know. But the past few days have really challenged my resolve to walk two to four miles a day. Late last winter, the motor on our treadmill started acting up. It would work fine for about 20 minutes or so, and then the tread belt would stop suddenly, nearly catapulting us over the front console because of our high-speed inertia (all of us high-intensity jocks generate high-speed inertia). After 30 minutes, a strange odor like burning plastic would emanate from underneath the machine.

After each jerky, smoke-filled session, Tom and I would discuss having the machine repaired or even replacing it because of its high mileage. But then spring came, and the weather warmed up, and we would much rather walk outside anyway. All spring, summer, and fall, the treadmill sat idle in the basement. I think we were hoping it would repair itself, like salamanders that regenerate their tiny limbs when they’ve lost them battling in their little salamander wars.

It’s November now. When the weather took a turn for the worse last week, we reluctantly headed down to the basement to start the winter treadmill routine. But surprise, surprise, time had not healed all wounds. The treadmill would work fine for 20 minutes, then stop, then start in fits and jerks, and finally emit the burning plastic smell, just like it had done last winter.

So it was back to the outside walking. Today when I got home from work, the temperature was 19 degrees—which wouldn’t have been so bad except for the 29 mph NNW wind with gusts over 30 mph and a wind chill temperature of 4 below. I put on my long underwear, my thickest sweatpants, my leather walking shoes, a thick pair of socks, my turtleneck shirt, my fleece vest, my wind jacket, my stocking hat, a chin band, a scarf, my hood—and started out for my walk, whining as I went. It was dark, it was cold—but after I got going, honestly, it really wasn’t that bad.

So we’re building a little character these days until the new treadmill is delivered early next week. It’s two to four a day, no excuses.

P.S. We donated the old treadmill to our neighbors down the street who own a pitbull. People have called the police three times to complain about the snarly dog when it's outside, so the police told our neighbors to get a treadmill and exercise it inside. This is a true story: our treadmill is now part of an exercise program for a vicious dog. I love happy endings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Last night I was watching a 90-minute movie entitled “Ten Canoes.” It was an Australian movie filmed on location in an Australian outback swamp, using aboriginal actors speaking in their native aborigine language, and telling an old aborigine story about how to be a better person and live right. After slogging through the first hour, I looked at my watch, realized I was getting older by the minute, and clicked the fast forward on the DVD. Since I was reading English subtitles anyway, I just read a little faster as the aborigines jerkily hurried through the rest of the story in their fast-forward Alvin and the Chipmunks voices.

I felt a little bad, knowing how hard all those aborigine actors had worked to make this movie. But golly, life is short. And they took 90 minutes to tell a story that could have been told in 9 minutes without losing a single element of the story. But that’s not the aborigine way. They’re a slow-thinking, deliberate people who don’t like to rush anything, especially stories about how to be a better person and live right.

When the movie was finally over, I walked to the kitchen to slip the DVD back into its Netflix sleeve. That’s when I saw the bananas on my counter. In the past, I would have just passed by the bananas without a thought. But since I’m 60 now, bananas cause me to philosophize:

Life is like a bunch of bananas you buy at the grocery store. You find the ones that are a little green because you want them to last awhile. The next day, you peel a slightly green banana and pucker your face a bit because it tastes a little sour and woody. But you figure, what the heck—you’re still getting potassium and fiber. The next day, the bananas are a little riper; the peel comes away a little easier, and the sour, woody taste is mostly gone. By the third day, the bananas are darn-near perfect. The firm, yellow peel slides right off, and the fruit is just soft enough to release the full banana flavor. On the fourth day, the peels are a little deeper yellow, but sure enough, the fruit is still succulent and sweet.

It’s the fifth day that you notice the change: the small brown freckles are starting to appear on the peel. The fruit on the inside is a little softer, and you need to be careful not to press it too hard when you’re slicing it on your cereal because it tends to mush up a bit. By the sixth day, the brown freckles have turned to brown spots, like skin cancer spreading over the yellow surface. The banana has taken on an almost sickly sweet flavor, and gelatinous tan spots need to be surgically removed from the fruit before eating it.

On the seventh day, you can smell the bananas even before you walk into the room. The over-ripe aroma smacks your nose as you come around the corner into the kitchen, and you look at the blackened skin of the bananas, trying to muster your courage one more time. Should you eat this shriveled fruit that today resembles the shrunken heads hanging around the front door of the local witchdoctor? You shrug and make a decision, based on hunger and practicality—or on aesthetics. To eat or not to eat, that is the question. Finally, you have to decide—one more morning on the cereal, or mash it up and make banana bread?

Bananas on their way to becoming banana bread

I think the reason I fast forwarded “Ten Canoes” last night was because after I turned 60, I’ve started noticing the brown freckles on my own banana skin, and I suspect that some of my fruit inside is going to mush. So much to do, so little time. Ergo, the decision to fast forward through a movie that’s taking just a little too much of the precious time I have left—before I go to that big banana bread in the sky.

Note: Although everyone who turns 60 tends to philosophize more, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the philosophy will be wise and deep. It might just be looking at banana skin freckles in a new, slightly near-sighted way.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Note: Another long Carlisle story from the nursing home as told by my 90-ish parents. You might want to go to the bathroom first.

“Oh, please,” I pray to Saint Ufdah, the Norwegian patron saint of broken dishware and other minor tragedies, “please don’t let me be the one to break Mrs. Skogen’s bowl and plate.”

When my parents moved from their home to a smaller apartment in 1999, my four sisters and brother and I divided up family treasures that my parents couldn’t fit into their much smaller space. I was fortunate enough to get a cut glass serving bowl and plate that were on the table at every family holiday I can ever remember when I was growing up.

Along with my new ownership of the cut glass bowl and plate came the enormous, self-imposed responsibility of keeping them safe. The dishes had been in our family since June 13, 1941, a wedding gift given to my parents by my mother’s family’s neighbors, the Skogens. The fact that the Skogens truly did not have two nickels to rub together and could not afford such a beautiful wedding gift made it all the more special.

Cut-glass bowl and plate, a 1941 wedding gift from the Skogens

The story starts in May 1920 in rural Carlisle Township, Minnesota—ten miles from the nearest hospital in Fergus Falls. Mrs. Evjen, who doubled as the area midwife and owner of the Carlisle grocery store, was on high alert. On a farm west of Carlisle, Mrs. Skogen was expecting a baby any day.

Even in a rural Norwegian community like Carlisle, where everyone farmed and everyone belonged to Hedemarken Lutheran Church, prosperity did not come equally to all. Some of the farms around Carlisle were rich and fertile, but Skogen’s farm was small and filled with sloughs. Mr. Skogen struggled to make a living for his family. With three children already, Mrs. Skogen’s impending delivery just meant another mouth at his supper table and one less piece of potato lefse on his own plate.

When Mrs. Evjen, Carlisle’s official midwife, was summoned in the middle of the night, she could tell right away it would not be an ordinary birth. Mrs. Skogen was about to deliver twins and the Mrs. Evjen would need help. My grandmother Emma, who lived on the next farm, was quickly summoned. Emma was not a midwife—just a former one-room school teacher with six children of her own. But she had a knack for handling newborns—and with two new babies, Mrs. Evjen would need help.

When Emma arrived at the Skogens, half awake and out of breath, she was immediately aware that something unique was happening. In the tiny one-bedroom Skogen house, there was no private bedroom for the births to take place. Mrs. Skogen lay in labor in the same room where her three older children were sleeping.

Throughout the night, Mrs. Skogen bravely endured the labor and birth of her twins in absolute silence, concerned the entire time about not waking her other three children. The three women worked silently together as a team, and finally two healthy babies were delivered.

When Mrs. Evjen broke the news to the father about the twins, poor Mr. Skogen, without a Hollywood script to read, ensuring that his words would be compassionate and fatherly, sighed and uttered the words that were in his Norwegian-farmer heart: “I’d rather it would have been a bin of calves.”

Emma went home from helping with the births of the Skogen twins completely in awe of the brave mother who hadn’t uttered a single cry during the delivery. Mrs. Skogen became a new measuring stick for bravery at my grandmother’s house. “Was she as brave as Mrs. Skogen?” Emma would ask whenever another baby was born in the community.

In addition to the five Skogen children in this story, a sixth girl was born later. According to my mother, all the Skogen kids grew up and “made something of themselves.” Emma would probably tell you that the children’s success was due to their good, brave mother. She would have given very little credit to the father who would have rather had calves.

So in 1941, when my mother opened the wedding gift containing the beautiful cut glass bowl and plate from the Skogens, she assumed that somehow it was a ‘thank you’ to her mother, Emma. Mrs. Skogen was acknowledging that silent team of women who worked to bring two more babies into the world while not waking the children sleeping on the next bed.

So please, dear Saint Ufdah, don’t let it be me who breaks that bowl or plate. But if I do, please make me as brave as Mrs. Skogen in dealing with the broken pieces.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I watched a movie this week that I’m having trouble getting out of my head. It’s one of those movies that is so strange, so unlike movies I usually watch, that I keep thinking about it, over and over. The name of the movie is Delicatessen, a French movie (had to watch it reading English subtitles) which takes place in a science-fiction, post-apocalyptic setting. But it’s a comedy—well, a black comedy.

Post-apocalyptic times are desperate times for meat-eaters. The stark, burned-out landscape isn’t conducive to raising cows and chickens, I guess. So in a scarred, crumbling neighborhood, the residents of one apartment building, with a delicatessen at the street level, have found an answer of sorts. They run a continual ad for a “handyman”—free room and board included—attracting a steady supply of applicants. However, after a few days, the handyman becomes the Meat D’Jour for the residents, courtesy of the delicatessen butcher.

The cast of characters includes the butcher’s lonely cello-playing daughter; a family of five including a bickering couple, two mischievous boys, and a deaf old mother-in-law; a formerly wealthy man and his chronically suicidal wife; two brothers who make cow-moo noisemakers in their apartment; a diabolical postman; the snail-eater in the basement; and troglodytes in the sewers.

The hero of the movie is the down-on-his-luck, out-of-work, gentle-hearted clown who answers the ad for the handyman and becomes the latest potential victim—unless the butcher’s cello-playing daughter can figure out a plan to save him with the help of the grain-eating, sewer-dwelling troglodytes.

Delicatessen is an older film—1991—directed by the same man who directed Amelie that I wrote about back on May 23 because I loved the movie so much. I hope it doesn’t mean that I’m losing my mental faculties when I am suddenly attracted to odd, quirky French movies with English subtitles. I think it just means I’ve been married to the little Frenchman too long.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


When we were on our Mediterranean trip last summer, we fell in love with chilled soup. Maybe part of it was that it was 100 degrees all the time, and nothing about hot soup appealed to us. Or maybe it was because it was something we had never eaten back home in Minnesota.

Blueberry Soup

Yesterday morning, I decided to recreate our Mediterranean experience by making a batch of chilled blueberry soup. We had it for dinner last night, and here’s the recipe (yes, I realize it was a 28-degree November day in Alexandria, Minnesota, and all the ingredients were out of season).

Here’s how you make it:

Step 1: Change into a lavender-colored shirt.

Step 2: Mix a 16-ounce bag of frozen blueberries, 3 cups of water, ½ cup sugar or Splenda, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. salt, and 2 T. lemon juice into a one-quart saucepan.

Step 3: Bring this mixture to a gentle boil (NOTE: A vigorous boil will send the blueberries plopping and exploding all over the stove—and all over your lavender shirt). Turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Step 4: Pour ¼ of the mixture into the blender to puree. (PERSONAL NOTE: If you fill the blender too full, the thin, scalding-hot blueberry mixture will end up all over your cupboard, your walls, your lavender shirt, and anyone standing in the immediate vicinity. You will look a little like Smurfette in your mushroom house in Smurf Village.)

Step 5: After you have pureed the blueberry mixture, pour it carefully into a big bowl, cover, and chill for several hours. (NOTE: The pureed blueberry mixture has a tendency to have a backwash tidal wave reaction if poured too quickly. Blueberries will leave stains on your formica countertop, your porcelain sink, and your lavender shirt if not scoured immediately.)

Step 6: Before serving, blend in 2 cups of plain or blueberry yogurt. (NOTE: If you are a vigorous stirrer, you may want to continue wearing your lavender shirt during this step.)

Step 7: Ladle the soup into bowls and enjoy the fruits of your labor. (NOTE: You may want to continue wearing your lavender shirt during dinner in case you are prone to shirtfront dribbling when you eat soup.)

That’s it. Blueberries are the #1 antioxidant fruit when compared to 40 other fruits (which means anti-cancer and anti-aging diseases). And the yogurt contributes to intestinal bacterial growth that aids in digestion. So have another bowlful—it’s good for you!
(Blueberry Soup Making Day)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I’m ready. I’ve got my grandma mode ready to go. I’m guessing my daughter-in-law probably has her suitcase packed for the hospital. I suspect my son is keeping his car filled with gas, just in case the baby comes early. And I know I’m ready: got my bling, got my threads.

On the day of my little granddaughter’s birth in December, I will put on my brand new pink t-shirt that announces I am the “New Grandma.” And I will put on my brand new grandmother’s necklace sporting the very first of (I hope) many little baby rings, this one with a December birthstone.

It doesn’t matter what is happening the day the baby is born: wedding, funeral, bar mitzvah, or an invitation to Barack Obama's inaugural ball. Whatever I’m doing and wherever I’m going, the “New Grandma” t-shirt and grandmother necklace are the dress of the day. I’ve got them all laid out, ready to go. Like I said: got my bling, got my threads. I’m ready to be a grandma.

Monday, November 03, 2008


First of all, if you are sitting in Arizona or Texas or Jamaica or someplace like that, you can stop reading right now. What I am going to write about will mean nothing to you. However, if you are from North Dakota or Minnesota or Canada, you will understand exactly what I mean when I say that the past four days have been extra special November bonus days

It could be snowing (in fact, we did have a snow squall on Sunday, October 26, but it all melted again). It could be blowing 30 miles an hour out of the northwest, a good ol’ Alberta clipper—or straight out of the north from Hudson Bay, up near the Arctic Circle.

But it’s not. We’ve had four days in a row of balmy fall weather—and Tom and I have logged around 15 miles on the Central Lakes Trail in those four days. It’s true, the leaves are mostly gone. All that’s left are a few hanger-on-er leaves that are too stubborn to blow away and will probably last the winter.

Balmy November Saturday on the Central Lakes Trail west of Alexandria.

I feel nostalgic right now. If it were to snow a foot (which it could legitimately do any day), the countryside has prepared itself. The final colors of a beautiful October have faded and gone—the reds, oranges, yellows, and maroons have fallen into soggy brown piles under the trees. The trail still has a beauty of its own, but right now, it looks like it’s just waiting, bracing itself for winter. That’s when the snowmobilers take over the trail, revving their noisy engines as they fly down the trail, the scenery whizzing by at warp speed.

I think of the Central Lakes Trail as a live entity; and in my mind, I believe the trail much prefers its spring, summer, and fall users—the walkers and the runners and the bikers—to its noisy winter users.

I’ll think of this when I’m down on the treadmill this winter.

On Saturday, I saw a father and his three little daughters using the trail. The father and middle daughter were pedaling away on an adult/child tandem bike and pulling a child bike trailer holding the littlest girl, singing away at the top of her voice. The oldest daughter, about 8 years old or so, brought up the rear, pedaling to keep up with her dad and sisters. It looked like an ad for the “Father of the Year” award. We met one of my co-workers walking with her daughter and the family dog. We met men and women biking alone or in pairs, some in regular clothes and some in biking spandex. We met an older couple (yes, even older than us) who greeted us and commented on the beautiful day. Everyone was smiling. We were all out there together, enjoying the November afternoon, knowing that any day, one snowfall later, we would all be at home, walking on the treadmill in the basement until the snow melted off the trail again.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


I don’t know if this is strictly a Midwestern tradition, but in Alexandria, Minnesota, whenever a parishioner dies, the head of the funeral lunch committee at the local Catholic church gets out her call list and starts speed-dialing her way down, snapping out the order, “Hey! Two dozen bars and have them at the church by noon on Saturday.”

There’s a sense of urgency in the chairperson’s voice, like an E.R. doctor barking: “Nurse! Get me a 5000-unit heparin intravenous bolus followed by a drip at 1000 to 1200 units per hour—STAT!” There’s almost an insinuation that if we all make bars and if we all hustle them to the church within a prescribed amount of time, that somehow, someway, the corpse will rise from the dead.

Or maybe the urgency isn’t because of the deceased parishioner. Maybe the bars are for the mourners as part of the grieving process—you know, the eight stages of grief: SHOCK & DENIAL; PAIN & GUILT; ANGER & BARGAINING;DEPRESSION and LONELINESS; UPWARD TURN; WORKING THROUGH; ACCEPTANCE & HOPE; and THE FINAL STAGE, HEALING THROUGH BARS.

Tollhouse bars cooling on the kitchen counter, ready for delivery to the church.

So it’s a call to action when the phone rings and the chairperson of the funeral lunch committee urgently requests two dozen bars in a disposable container (no glass or aluminum 9 x 13 cake pans, please, as they just pile up in the church kitchen). What will it be this time? scotcheroos? turtle brownies? caramel dream bars? lemon delites? What recipe will help the family cope better?

That’s our Christian mission: Make those bars and get ‘em to the church on time. If we do, perhaps the mourners’ grief will be lessened as they munch on krispie marshmallow squares in the church basement following the graveside service.