Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah

My dad was a Navy seaman aboard the USS Fanshaw Bay when World War II came to an end. He was stationed in Japan after the surrender and wrote home to his parents about his experiences in Tokyo. One night, he and his Navy buddies got tickets to a show where the orchestra played popular American songs.  On December 5, 1945, he wrote, “Much to our surprise, some numbers were even sung in English, like ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘Dinah'”.


My dad was singing my name before I was even a dim glimmer in his eye.

Unfortunately, “Dinah” isn’t the only song with my name in it. Another ditty that I have heard over and over is “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” which contains the lovely chorus, “Dinah won’t you blow, Dinah won’t you blow, Dinah won’t you blow your horn.” The lyrics go on to say, “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strumming on the old banjo.”


I don’t know who this Dinah was, and I don’t know who was strumming on the banjo or why they were in the kitchen.

However, my name is Dinah. I have a kitchen. And with a bit of coercion, I could probably talk PB into strumming a banjo.

“Someone’s In the Kitchen with Dinah” is an idea that is brewing. Why not invite all the best cooks I know to come into my virtual kitchen and share their best recipes? I tried the idea out on a few people — my daughters, my husband, a dear friend and a stranger I was seated next to at a wedding reception. All five thought it was a wonderful plan.

To be fair, Dinah Shore did write a cook book by this name.


My dad had a poster of Dinah Shore on board ship.

Is all this a coincidence?


This idea will simmer on the back burner in my kitchen for awhile.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my eyes open for a banjo.

A Methodist Yom Kippur

This week our women’s Bible study groups wrapped up a six session study on the book of Jonah. Over the past summer I prepared study questions and worked out a schedule for the weekly lessons. As always, God was way ahead of me.

In preparation for leading the final study, my research led me to some fascinating information. Down through the centuries, the Jewish people have celebrated a special holy day called “The Day of Atonement”. In Old Testament times, it was the one day of the year when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and offered a sacrifice for the sins of the people. In our day, the Jewish people gather for special services, in which they read together, in unison, the entire book of Jonah.


This day is called Yom Kippur,

which also happened to be the day

a bunch of Methodist women gathered

to wrap up a study on the reluctant prophet.

God, in His grace, and impeccable timing, allowed us to enter in and add our voices to the Mincha (afternoon prayers) and the Haftarah (reading) of Jonah. A roomful of midwest protestants recited together all four chapters and concluded with the words “I am Jonah”, just as it is done in synagogues everywhere.

I am Jonah.

The reluctant one.

The disobedient one.

The forgiven one.


Lover of Books

“Rereading books,

we said with immense agreement,

was the mark of the real lover of books.”

I came across this quote while I was rereading “A Severe Mercy” (by Sheldon Vanauken), which makes me a real lover of books, evidently.


For the past thirteen years, I have kept a list of all the books that I have read. In 2013, I read twelve books. That was the year I got my iphone. In 2015, I read 55 books. That was the year I got over my iphone.

This quote got me wondering. Of the hundreds of titles on my list, how many had been worthy of a second read? Surprisingly, there was a handful.

  1. “Gift From the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  2. “When the Soul Listens” by Jan Johnson
  3. “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan
  4. “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren
  5. “The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis
  6. “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean
  7. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  8. “Peace Like a River” by Lief Enger
  9. “Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken
  10. “The Holy Bible” by God

I really don’t like to watch movies I’ve already seen.

I don’t care to listen to the same album over and over.

But sometimes a book comes ’round again,

and I just have to open the pages.



The Butterfly and the Bee

Once upon a time there was a Garden. It was full of beautiful blooms and fragrant flowers. Garden creatures scuttled under the brush and winged flyers skimmed over the petals.


Light and airy after a lifetime of crawling in dirt, the newly transformed butterfly was the most enchanting creature in the Garden. It hovered and glided and danced about with grace. It careened through the spikes of foxglove and wove between the wispy cosmos. Its wings caught the sunshine and made the Garden sparkle. Landing for only a second or two, it continued to flit here and there and everywhere. After two weeks it was gone. It had given a measure of joy and frivolity to the Garden, but had not contributed in any meaningful way.


Another heartier breed also buzzed among the foliage. Not as light and airy, not as sparkly or whimsical, the bee was not on holiday in the Garden. The bee was there on a mission. This round-bodied flyer did not have the grace of the butterfly. It did not flit or charm. The bee did no stylish pirouettes. Instead, this one dove straight into the depth of the blossoms, drawing out the nectar, burrowing down into the fragrance. Having done its job, the dive-bomber sped out of the Garden and deposited its bounty into the hive. 


What is the meaning of the story of the butterfly and the bee?

“To get anything from our Bibles, we must plunge in. Butterflies wander over the flowers in the garden and accomplish nothing, but bees plunge right down into the flower, and carry away essential food. We won’t get anything if we just hover over our Bibles; we have to dive right in.” David Guzik, Blue Letter Bible, Acts Commentary   bible

“How sweet are your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103

10 Things I Learned in September

1. My great-great grandparents came to Baraboo in 1851. I came to Baraboo in 2004. Although time separated us by 153 years, their homestead was less than a mile from where we now live. We went to pay them a call one afternoon, but nobody was home.


2. The PBS series “Poldark” is based on a set of 12 novels, each of which is over 400 pages long. The twelfth and final installment has 704 pages. Be still, my beating heart. I think I’ve found my new calling in life.

3. I will never think of the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” in the same way again after hearing Tony Evans’ version during the “Cry Out!” prayer night.

4. We met some of our new neighbors. PB put up a trail cam in our two acres of woods. Lots of little critters have been walking the trail in our backyard and posing for the camera. One big critter ambled by, causing PB to consider bringing the florescent orange out of the mothballs. 


5. We are in the “one-gallon-of-milk-a-week” stage of life. It doesn’t seem that long ago when we were in the “one-gallon-of-milk-a-day”phase.

6. The flannelgraph in my 1st grade Sunday school class might have been wrong. I clearly remember Jonah being swallowed by a whale. As I recall, that flannel fish was smiling and blowing water out of its spout. Jonah was on his knees, praying in that whale’s belly. Except the word “whale” isn’t in the book of Jonah.

7. Every house should have a brightly painted front door. My sister just got back from a trip to Cornwall, England, and she said every church and most every house had a cheery front entrance. What a lovely idea.


8. I can’t resist taking personality profiles. The Enneagram uses a nine category system to understand personality types. I am a “1”. Just for fun, I signed up to receive an email every day with guidance for my type. I love it  when I get one like this: “You need to allow yourself to relax. A therapeutic massage would be extremely beneficial for you.” Oh yeah. I don’t love it so much when the message is like this: “Try not to deteriorate down into being too harsh and critical of others.” Ouch.

9. Hibernation is setting in early this year. I already have the down comforter on the bed, the tea bags stocked and the firewood piled. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long winter.

10. This quote from “Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken seems especially true this month: “We seem unable to get used to time. We are always amazed at it — how fast it goes, how slowly it goes, how much of it is gone. Where, we cry, has the time gone? We aren’t adapted to it, not at home in it. If that is so, it may appear as a proof, or at least a powerful suggestion, that eternity exists and is our home.”


Two Books

In June, I wrote about my son-in-law’s Christmas gift to me — reading four books together in 2016. The first two books were a resounding success so we each made another pick.


My second choice was “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean. It’s a story about a fly-fishing, Presbyterian minister and his two sons. If you’ve seen the movie, you will picture Brad Pitt standing in the river, casting his line, on every page. But that’s ok. Because the writing is so captivating, even Brad Pitt takes a back seat.

Maclean’s phrases are picturesque: “The storm came on a wild horse and rode over us.” “Then the air disappeared from view.” “We were so dry that we could feel in our ears that we were trying to swallow.”

Some more of my favorite excerpts:

“You can love completely without complete understanding.”

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things — trout as well as eternal salvation — come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

“As for my father, I never knew whether he believed God was a mathematician but he certainly believed God could count and that only by picking up God’s rhythms were we able to regain power and beauty.”

“It was here that I started this story, although, of course, at the time I did not know that stories of life are often more like rivers than books.”

My son-in-law, Dan, admitted it was tough at first to wade through all the fly-fishing lingo, but when he finished the book, he sent me this text: “Wow. That book deserves another read-through. Man, that last paragraph. The best ending words I have ever read.”

That’s saying something.

Dan’s second choice was “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken. I’m just a couple chapters in so the jury is still out. Dan and I will talk it over at Thanksgiving.

There Are Days

There are days….

when you’ll miss something if you don’t look up.


There are days when you’ll miss something if you don’t look down.


There are days when you’ll miss something if you don’t look around.


And then there are days….

when you just have to skip down the sidewalk

in your zebra print tutu.


I hope you have some of those kind of days.