Katie Andraski

Machetes, Mean Speech, And Genocide

Sep 11, 2018

The machete slices through the weeds, the stems bleeding milk, a plant toxic to my horses. When I read about people calling President Trump and his supporters Nazis, I hear the opening credits to Hotel Rwanda -- “The Tutsi rebels, they are cockroaches…we will squash the infestation.”  

 

The Other Side Of The Blade

Aug 7, 2018

 

Aren’t wind turbines graceful, like gymnasts doing cartwheels? Don’t they make environmental sense, better than smoke stacks burning fossil fuels?  

 

Dorothy's Gifts

Jul 3, 2018

It seemed like all my friends were getting married and I was always a bridesmaid. 

I was on my way to graduate school. A family friend, Dorothy Harro gave me two gifts. 

The first was a set of Pfaltzgraff dishes that I still use today. She didn’t want me to feel left out with all these weddings. She said she was proud of me and my independence.

The second was a day trip to go canoeing on Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks. We marveled at how mysterious a black line of rain looked. 

Some Things Matter More

May 29, 2018

“You suck. You suck. You suck,” hammered my thoughts as I stood in front of a class that did not want to talk. We were talking about Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

I appreciated that Rubin talked about how money contributes to happiness, a common-sense slant that people often forget. While they sat, silent, I remembered a missionary talk I’d heard back in the 70s. Tom Little was a local optometrist called to work in Afghanistan.

Working On The Dream

Apr 17, 2018

I am my younger self’s worst nightmare. I am proof that not all dreams come true -- even dreams you want so badly you can taste them.

I am proof that maybe they shouldn’t come true -- like that boy you wanted to marry so badly, but then you both grew up and you shudder at the thought of spending your life with him.

Years ago, I was driven to be a successful writer. I hoped my novel would go to auction, that my hard work, my very self, would be vindicated by a six-figure offer. Maybe then I’d be worth something.

Don't Let Inertia Limit Your Life

Mar 13, 2018

Now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation. Preachers quoted this scripture at the end of sermons, hoping to entice us to walk up the aisle and accept Jesus. “You could die any time, lose out on eternal bliss. Decide now.”

Even though they talked about a spiritual path in life-or-death terms, I think there is wisdom here for our daily lives. We think we have time to get things done, but we don’t. I’m not just talking about death sneaking up on us. I’m talking about accepting good things here and now.

A Friend Can Help Ease Guilt

Feb 6, 2018

Sometimes a week goes so far awry -- your routine is disrupted, your work doesn’t get worked -- that you feel helpless as a hog on ice, struggling to get purchase, but your feet slip and slide. Guilt and shame rise. You feel like God’s enemy. You feel like your own.

The lectionary takes you to an epistle that reads, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” Well, you have your own ungodly passions -- like screen addiction. You can’t even seem to do simple acts of love like unloading the dishwasher.

Find Your Epiphany To Restore Soul

Jan 2, 2018

Even though the days are lengthening and my horses will begin shedding by the end of January, we are at the beginning of the bleak time.

The ratchet up to Christmas is over. Lights pushing against dark nights in the countryside will come down. Our decorations will return to boxes. We no longer look for a white Christmas. Snow becomes hard work and a risky drive. There isn’t much to look forward to between now and when crocuses bloom.

Planners May Not Be The Answer

Nov 28, 2017

Last year I bought a couple of expensive planners, hoping they would nudge me out of days wasted on Facebook.

I started with a daily shaped around the Christian year. I moved to a weekly that gave me space to write down yearly and monthly goals as well as enough lines to schedule my days. I abandoned both, because checking off the task didn’t motivate me.

Both planners were too big to carry in my purse or to be present when my “to do” list fired off in my brain.

A Feast Awaiting The Visitors

Oct 24, 2017

Ever since we moved to the farm, I’ve wanted to set out our housewarming gift, a cedar bird feeder. I wanted to see blue jays, gold finches, rose-colored grosbeaks, and cardinals fly in to eat. As a child, I’d watch for these birds. All that living color.

Denise said that, with bird feeders, you get to see varieties of birds lighting up your yard.

“What kind should I get?” I asked.

“A Yankee Droll, because they know how to set them up. Fill it with thistle seed,” she said.

“What about squirrels?” (We call our one squirrel Stub Tail.)

A Sweet Discovery In The Wall

Sep 19, 2017

As I opened the gate to let my horse out, I noticed bees buzzing around a knothole in the milkhouse wall. Behind the wood they hummed like violins. With the dire news about colony collapse disorder, they are rare, valuable.

Another Aspect Of Loving Neighbors

Aug 15, 2017

This whole “love your neighbor” business isn’t as easy as it looks, because it’s easy to hurt people’s feelings -- even easier for our feelings to be hurt. I have heard stories of grudges that go back 50 years.

We fired our neighbor from doing our hay. Putting the whole cutting -- 600 bales worth -- in our barn, or even trying to sell it off the field, has gotten to be too much. As Bruce says, every time we do hay it’s a fiasco. Every time, I remind him, help arrives. This year we found a guy who will do our hay in shares; he gets half and we get half. His guys would put it up.

Loving Your Neighbor Can Be Easy

Jul 11, 2017

One thing loving our neighbor means is watching out for the other guy. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as the Good Samaritan stopping to tend an injured man’s wounds. It can be as simple and significant as making a phone call.

I was sitting on my couch on one of those tired mornings when my phone was more interesting than doing chores. I’d left the gate open, sure the mares would stay in the pasture.

Lessons From A Wandering Friend

Jun 7, 2017

“Cat sighting!” I called out to Bruce when I saw the black cat stalking through our field.

As the weather cooled he worked his way up to our barn. We felt rich with this free cat coming closer, catching mice. He’d meow. He’d hiss. He’d meow.

We kept our distance because you can’t force yourself on a cat. But he worked his way toward our hands. Every time I drew water, he hopped up on hay bales we used to insulate our house to let me pet him.

Planning Ahead Can Be A Gift

May 2, 2017

I think about dying often now that I’m on the other side 60, the year my mother died. Since I’m one of these people who likes to get things done ahead of time, I want to clean out some clutter, decide who gets what, and see a lawyer to get our estate figured out.

I remember well how my parents’ lawyer told my brother and me that he had encouraged our father to get his things in order, but my dad didn’t. He died and left my brother and me with an estate in common, and a memory of my mother’s warning, “Don’t let your brother cheat you.”

Thoughts On Light And Shadow

Apr 4, 2017

When the sun appeared after a month of pewter skies, I was startled to see the beauty of our shadows gliding along the ditch, the incarnate dogs and shadow dogs trotting together, my shadow stretched long. That night under a quarter moon, I delighted in my shadow as I walked across the yard from chores.

Last year Laura Brown’s Facebook pictures taught me how to see light flashing on our walls, hinting that there might be magic in the slants of light shining between the slats of our blinds. When I was a child, this light tuckered me out, a heavy weight bearing down.

Generous To A Fault?

Mar 7, 2017

One summer we harvested a gorgeous crop of grass hay. We counted 334 bales -- a year’s supply -- but I told a friend I’d sell her some if there was extra.

With one more wagonload to put up, my crew asked, “Do we put it up in the loft?” I was hot, empty, undecided.

I said, “Leave it out,” because I gave my word. The second cutting would grow. But the summer stayed dry and clover bloomed, the hay worthless for my horses. We gave it to a friend for the cost of getting it out of the field.

Afghan Provides Extra Warmth

Feb 7, 2017

Whenever I crawl under the afghan Bruce’s grandmother knitted, I feel her love wrapping around me -- a firm, warm hug -- though I never met her. Perhaps she prayed for me, the woman who would marry her grandson, while her needles clicked and looped the gold, lime and white yarns in repeating chevrons.

Extra Kindness Can Mean So Much

Jan 10, 2017

Booker was so ill, he needed to get to Madison for a biopsy and possible treatment.

Dr. Yocum made arrangements for us to get in on an emergency basis, that week before Christmas. I was so distraught they showed me to a room while they ran their tests.

Dr. Clare sat down next to me. Her eyes sparkled, but I couldn’t meet them. “I have good news,” she said. “It’s a prostate tumor that grew backwards into his abdomen. Neutering will fix him. He will be fine.”

This Season Of Expectancy

Dec 13, 2016

"Therefore you must be ready, for the Son of Man will arrive at an unexpected hour." Matt 24:44--a Jesus saying from the gospel on the first Sunday of Advent.

Advent is a quiet time for Christians who wait in the dark of December for Christ’s arrival both as a baby and a King.

The idea of Jesus coming unexpectedly, like a thief, scares me -- especially since I was raised in a tradition that described a terrifying God. I don’t like surprises. and that image of a thief…well, who wants a thief in the night?

When The Road Seems Unfamiliar ...

Nov 15, 2016

Suddenly the road did not make sense as I headed home after dark.

It’s one thing to see your landmarks, knowing you turn left at the stop sign, turn left again after the tracks and then the first right that slides off the road like a mini exit, but once night falls those cues disappear. I turned on roads that seemed familiar but weren’t. Finally I turned into a subdivision, stopped.

I did not like my fear, or how I felt frail and old, or how my sense of direction and the many times I’d visited this place failed me.

Places Mark Our Memories, Lives

Oct 18, 2016

On our way to Grubsteakers, newly opened from being smashed by the EF4 tornado, Mr P said, “That was the farm where I delivered a propane tank. Everyone wanted theirs delivered first, but I couldn’t be first for all five people. I just left it. The owner wasn’t happy.”

I looked at the barns, thinking about how people who stay put can point to the places where their lives took place. I thought of the Aborigines, how the land itself was the language for the stories they told.

Learning To Trust About Love

Sep 20, 2016

When I was a young girl, preachers terrified me when they shouted about damnation and hellfire. Even Jesus’ words aren’t so gentle when He talks about outer darkness and gnashing teeth. I have wondered what is good about this gospel, this “good news.”

Recently, Pastor John Seraphine explained a passage I’d skimmed over that startled me: “If the master finds his servants watching when he arrives, even if it’s in the middle of the night, he will wrap a towel around himself and serve.”

Serve? God will serve us? Seraphine explained that, if we watch for God, He will help us.

Machines Add To The Magic

Aug 30, 2016

Bruce and I joke about how you can tell we’re country people because, when we hear the coyotes sing, we stop and watch the train.

We look down the belly of our neighbor’s field for the headlamp, bright as a small sun, looking like a mystery, miles away. It’s so small, so fine, we think of a model train set up at Christmas instead of the real thing.

We see the signal crossing and brake lights from cars parked, blinking on and off, on and off. We hear the roar of the engine’s horn, each engine honking a different voice. The train’s rumble rises then falls away.

A Potluck Is More Than A Meal

Aug 9, 2016

In Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer says the church potluck binds us together. He talks about how one church used potlucks to help people fix their troubled neighborhood.

He says there would be a short agenda, but, “More important was the chance they gave parishioners to catch up on each other’s lives and to tell personal and public stories that range from painful to hopeful to joyful, stories that create solidarity and energize action …”

Do You Dare To Be Happy?

Jul 19, 2016

“But the truth is, my worst nightmares are someone’s present reality. What right do I have to be happy in a busted-up world where people are weeping over graves right this second?” says Jennifer Dukes Lee in The Happiness Dare.

“I dare you to be happy,” she writes, while acknowledging happiness is one of our most vulnerable emotions because those nightmares can happen in flash.

Help To Get Past The Hurt

Jun 28, 2016

What do you do if you hurt someone and you’re pressed nose to glass by your own pettiness, meanness, hypocrisy? Shame wells up like a bad smell.

What if the person is so furious -- rightly so -- that they won’t hear you?

Make space for your breath -- for their breath -- to calm down. Make space for your emotions -- for their emotions -- to settle. Wish them well. Wish yourself well.

I Thought I Was Going To Wait, Too

Jun 7, 2016

Soon after Booker died, some puppy pictures caught my eye, so I asked the breeder if she had any adults. She did -- a bitch who’d been returned. When I saw Little Dog’s picture, I was a goner. 

Bruce murmured, “I thought you were going to wait.” Well, I thought so too.

I saw Bruce’s face crumple when I first held her leash, asking, “Are you sure?”

He shrugged, “If that’s what you want.”

Your Voice Can Make A Difference

May 17, 2016

The Great Lakes Basin Railroad will cut across three states from LaPorte, Ind., into Milton, Wis. Frank Patton has not ruled out quick-take eminent domain, which means the project could take people’s land if they refuse to sell, if the Surface Transportation Safety Board approves his project.

These days a billionaire serving the public good by saving time for trains coming through Chicago and creating jobs seems more powerful than ordinary people.

Bread Offers A New Metaphor

Apr 5, 2016

Oprah exclaims, “But I can have bread” when she talks about a popular diet, and I think about Eggsclusive Café’s sourdough loaf slathered with butter, and the yeast rolls Bruce bakes to a crispy crust and air pockets of floured goodness. The house smells sweet.

I think about how Jesus called himself the bread of life, how -- even if you don’t believe in Jesus -- there’s something to this bread image that is ancient and holy. It’s what holds our peanut butter and jelly together.  

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