The words you gave me

We apologize for the delay. The proprietor of this blog wishes to state that she was temporarily flattened by pizza sauce, sweet corn, and birthday parties.


Aw, you guys are so fun!

It’s chancy putting a game out there and not knowing if anyone will want to play. I loved watching you dig into your bookshelves. Your booklist was charming – reference books, all-time favorites, and even one of my dad’s titles – ranging from serious to slapstick. There were some classics, some inspirational, and some dry as toast, with a splash of whiskey (not recommended at home). Your kindness to me and each other was delightful. Thank you.

Did you know that one of you arranges her books by the colors of the rainbow – which pleases me to no end?

And these words…!

My friend Sheila emailed me to say that she checked four bookshelves hoping for something good. Four! and found “of” twice. “It’s a random word, dear, not a Message From Jehovah,” I told her. Her next email made me laugh. “At least it rhymes with love, she says, straightening.”

My friend Cris found page sixteen completely blank, between the introduction and part one of a medical tome. Very significant, that. If only I knew in what way.

We ended up with two main characters, Pat and Charles, besides dad and God. Your “boring” words held everything together (theoretically), and you had some winner nouns even though they didn’t know how to play nice with the other kids. The washstand and the R.R. were particularly unwieldy.

The following paragraph uses each of the words given me to date, and only those words, although some of them are used more than once.

Those schemes for the back door breakfast analogy you want will have dad as God. I want more green smoke for you. Pat schemes to have Charles for early breakfast. The washstand is in the windy October world. Charles is packing. Pat helps. I said I loved today. Charles had that last o’clock of life. The R.R. voices will have soul’s word in it. In Pat’s defense, I observe that Charles will have loved God.

I mean honestly, guys, it’s not a thing of great beauty. You can do better than this.

Are you sure you checked the right bookshelf?

Okay.

Well, that was silly and fun. What would you compose from our word list?

The fourth word on the page

Confession: This past Sunday morning I was trying to impress my Sunday school kids with how smart God is.

He knows how many hairs are on your head, I said, even counting the ones that fell out while you were brushing them this morning.

He knows how many leaves are on that tree.

He knows what’s going to happen next.

He knows what you’re thinking inside your mind, whether or not you’re listening to me. (I can’t tell.)

There is no question you could ask him that he wouldn’t know the answer to.

You could say, Think of the Meadville Public Library, upstairs, tenth book on the top shelf, page sixteen, what’s the fourth word on the page? And he would know just like that.

I could tell they were listening then; their mouths opened.

I didn’t really expect that to say that. I guess it’s true. Is it true?

Okay, but ever since then I can’t stop thinking about those books. At home, I went to my nearest bookshelf, pulled the tenth book from the top shelf, opened to page sixteen, looked for the fourth word. It was –

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I thought it would be fun if you told me what yours is. Maybe it’s a secret code. Maybe together we would spell out something of great beauty. It would be fun to try.

At the very least, if we said what book it came from, we could compile a delightfully random to-read list.

An open letter to Bill Gates

I wrote about Heinz Gaugel, German artist by way of Holmes County, and his daughter and great-granddaughter showed up to leave a comment. I wrote about Anthony Kleem, painter of our favorite puzzles, and he stopped by the blog to say hello. At that point, I decided I would write only about people I admire. You have not seen me writing about politics, for example, since then [cough]. So here is my letter to Mr. Gates. I have every hope he will see it by end of day tomorrow.

Yes, that was a joke.


Dear Mr. Gates, Sir:

My son is in love with your business policies, especially the ones that produce billions of dollars. He is sort of waffling between two ambitions for his future career: qualifying for disability so he can sit around watching TV and eating Pop-Tarts, or buying a lime-green Ferrari and a large motorhome so he can spend his life driving around the country with his wife and fifteen homeschooled kids.

He is nine years old, but I feel he has great promise for a future in business strategies, and I was wondering if you would take him under your wing and steer him. Forgive the mixed metaphors. I am not sure if he is an egg or a ship or a cow in that analogy. (We come from the country, and there’s just so much literary fodder right out the window.)

He wrote you a letter today, which I have enclosed below. In it you will see his obvious talent coming out. He is a great writer. He invents creative solutions to financial predicaments. He is focused and to the point. He bonds quickly with people and could make a great salesman for sure.

Dear Mr. Bill Gates,

Could we be friends? I would be very flattered to be a friend of such a kind, brilliant, rich, handsome, gentleman like you.

Sincerely,

Your friend?

Regan Zook

He is also patient beyond his years. I believe he only intends to hit you up for more, um, material benefits in his third letter or following, so he’s taking a while to plow the field. Under the circumstances, I think that shows a certain greatness of spirit.

Alright. I will close with that, and if you could see your way clear to lend him a hand we’d be happy to join the throngs currying favor with the richest man in the world. Excuse me, I meant the next richest man in the world. Bye for now, he needs me to prepare him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Gratefully,

Shari Zook

Our favorite pizza

Confession: We always have pizza on Saturday nights, unless we are away from home. It’s a tradition I grew up with in my family, and now my children count on it.

The soft and delicious crust is a recipe passed down to me by my mom.

Pizza Dough

1 scant Tbsp. yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup warm water

— Stir together and let rest 5 minutes.

1 Tbsp. oil
½ tsp. salt
Garlic salt to taste
Oregano to taste
2 ½ cups hi-gluten flour

— Add, and knead with dough hook attachment in mixer until dough is soft and elastic, no longer clinging to sides of bowl. Let rise till double, 30-45 minutes. Pat into pizza pan.

Sometimes I shake extra herbs into the dough – sage, thyme, parsley, basil. Or I use half a cup of whole wheat flour and two cups of hi-gluten.

Recently we’ve been stuffing the crust. We cut string cheese in half the long way and wrap the dough around it – or use equivalent size strips from a chunk of bulk cheese.

Then we butter the top of the crust (only the stuffed part) and sprinkle it with garlic salt, to make basically a stuffed breadstick. Now the crust is the best part of the pizza!

We add pizza sauce and our favorite toppings – usually a pound of bulk sausage, browned; mushrooms (on all but two slices); shredded mozzarella; and lots of pepperoni. We bake it at 375° for 30 minutes, and enjoy together.

Yum.


Do you have food traditions for certain days each week? I’d love to hear them, and give them a try in our family.

Also, just FYI – I let Kelly comment on my last post to give an update on how she’s doing. By now she’s as active as ever, having to be reminded of the doctor’s orders to go easy on her tummy until her follow-up appointment. Thanks for your kind words to her and to me.

Last Thursday

August 17, 2017

She showed up beside by my bed at three a.m.

“Mommy,” she said, “I am having great pain.”

That is an odd phrase, I thought. And I got up and asked questions and chose her some medicine, and scooted over to make space for her in the bed. She slept with me the rest of the night, but when she came downstairs in the morning it was worse. She lay on the couch for the next half hour, crying out, increasingly distressed, caught in the pain, chilled, screaming sometimes, vomiting.

“You can pinch my arm hard,” I said. “Ouch.”

We phoned and phoned. Our new doctor was out of the office for the day, and our old doctor’s office said “Since it’s within 24 hours of onset, just have her drink sips of water and wait for the virus to pass. I mean, if she really needs to come in, you can call back to schedule.” I wanted to yell at them.

That doctor called back within minutes to say, “I’m sorry. I was busy with another patient when the office girl spoke to me. What kind of pain is your daughter having? Okay, she needs to go for a scan. I’d recommend the emergency room.”

We had promised ourselves last December that if this happened again, we’d know the signs, and we’d drive her to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ourselves. We’d skip the extra hours of waiting, the ambulance, the double doctor and hospital bills. Our hospital does very little with peds, and transfer was near-guaranteed.

So we loaded my daughter into the van. I called around for a sitter for my baby. I grabbed hasty supplies – a toothbrush, a change of clothes for Kelly, a Bible, my breakfast. And my little girl and I set out for Pittsburgh, an hour and forty minutes away.

All the way down, as she dozed and retched in the backseat, I second guessed myself. What if it was a stomach bug? But when I could see her again, I knew we were in the right place, and may I say something else? That hospital is amazing. We were met by great staff, checked in immediately, and called back to an ER berth within ten minutes of arrival.

And so the long and the short of this story, several tests later, is that my daughter had a second ovarian torsion, exactly like the first one last December, with this difference: it was her left ovary instead of her right one. The chance of a torsion happening at all in a pre-pubescent child, without a cyst or other “cause,” is very small. For it to happen to the same child on opposite sides is just crazy. The managing doctor in the ER had never seen it, and even after the scans, the surgeon was not convinced it wasn’t the same ovary just pulling a number on us. Until he looked for himself.

Once again, I called and texted frenetically to keep her father informed. Once again, I signed release forms for laparoscopic surgery. Once again, I kissed her goodbye and watched them take her away. She was hardly awake enough to know what was happening, even before the anesthesia. That is what her body does in this kind of pain: vomits and sleeps.

But oh, bless Jesus. While they were in there, they stitched both ovaries in place to keep it from happening again. The release form said they might. “Please,” I said. “If you can do it, please do.” The surgeon looked at me. “Like a time bomb waiting to go off, huh?” he said. You got it, sir.

Her timing is awful. Last time, we were four days from her first Christmas program at school, and she healed up just in time to participate. This time, I was twenty-four hours from leaving for an overnight trip to a ladies’ retreat – one of the highlights of my year, and the only event to which I never take a child. And no, I didn’t make it. I kept watching the clock, thinking of what They All were doing without me, feeling wretched for being so selfish and minding so much. That is my confession.

As if she could choose, poor darling.

Worse, it is our third emergency room visit in nine months, and eats up the money I was hoping to spend to visit my sister in Israel when her baby comes. That is a loss I do not know how to fix.

Although there was worry and sorrow, there was far less stress in round two. There was no talk of a mass, a teratoma or a cancer or a rupture. We had a precedent.

I am so grateful for superior medical teams who knew what they were doing, grateful my daughter’s fertility is still intact, grateful to live in a generation when it is possible to look inside the human body, and to enter it to fix what is wrong, and to do the entering so unobtrusively that the patient can be up and walking (almost pain-free) within hours. I am grateful to my husband and my bestie and my mom, who kept things running smoothly in my absence and who were all around flexible and wonderful. I am grateful to Kelly for being such a trooper. Most of all, I am grateful this part of her story is, Lord willing, behind us.

The only good thing about hospital stays: ordering whatever you want to eat and chain-watching Richard Scarry movies.

“My life has so many miracles,” she says.

And I say, Amen. And please, honey, let’s have no more for a while.


There’s little information I can find even on the internet about ovarian torsions, either because they are rare and unstudied or because they are usually accompanied by another condition, such as a cyst, which receives the greater attention and official diagnosis. They’re easily missed as mimicking something else; and uncorrected, they’re both excruciating and dangerous. The speedy intervention of surgery was a godsend both times. Thank you, Jesus!