Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Morning Thanks--South Dakota geneology


Years ago, I used to take writing classes out to an abandoned house just outside of town, an old four square and strong place with trees growing out the windows, sparrows for residents. I'd walk inside with them and tell them to listen to the stories the old place would tell. 

When the farmer happened along one day, I told him what I was doing and he nodded his approval, then called me a week or two later and said his insurance man had told him letting those kids walk around inside of something that rundown wasn't a great idea.

That was it for the writing classes. We never returned.


But I've wandered through a dozen abandoned farm places at least, all by my lonesome, still do. Once upon a time, I stumbled on an acreage a bunch of miles south and west of here, not all that far from the Big Sioux River, an old place with a barn and more than a couple sheds. I got out of the car and walked up to the broken windows of the house, looked in and found this. 

The stories here had a musical accompaniment.

Barns too, dozens of them in all directions from Sioux County. Not so many years ago, I wrote a story about a young-ish preacher who's lost a goodly portion of his faith after his wife left him. Once a week or so he goes out with his camera to try look for beauty to replenish whatever reservoir of grace he once felt within him. He finds an abandoned barn and goes inside. What he finds there changes him. You can read it for yourself.

So a couple of days ago I had an opportunity I never had before, a chance to visit an abandoned place two hours north of here, a place my grandfather used to visit, his sister's farm, just north of Castlewood, SD.  An old friend and relative had drawn me a map to get there, and showed me a picture of the place, as well as shot of my grandfather with his mother. 

Wasn't easy to find, but his directions were precise, and when I got close I spotted Aunt Emma's from a distance and recognized it right away. To be honest, the acreage looked wasted, the driveway barely that. To get there, I had to cross a creek, frozen in February, on a bridge that looked fearfully hand-made.  Right there I found the street sign.


Calling the driveway a driveway is a complement the path in front of me didn't deserve. To me, it looked like little more than tractor access to the field west, the rutted mess entirely frozen over in February but with any kind of rain, treacherous. I took it.

It was the place all right--same porch, same quonset. 


When I got up close, a truck came into closer focus--you can just see it to the right of the house--and there's another to its right. Enough of the place was in shambles for me to realize that these trucks weren't. They looked parked. 

The house was a mess. It needs a new roof, hasn't had a paint job in years, and the yard is littered with stuff, with junk; but there's a friendly plastic lawn chair on the far right of that porch. That someone still lived there seemed altogether too possible.

I didn't get too close. Fear--call it prejudice maybe--kept me from walking up to the door and just asking if they'd mind someone looking around outside, as if that someone could actually find some trace of his grandfather. It was the middle of the afternoon. If someone was home, he or she wasn't working. I turned around. 

Drove me crazy, really, because I'd wanted so badly to walk around an abandoned farm where some folks from my own family had once called home. I stopped, looked around to see if maybe someone would come out. No.  There I sat on that ribbed dirt driveway like a fool, and I snapped this picture like a coward. It's the best shot I got of the place, but backwards, in the rear view mirror.


Best I could do, I guess. And this is the best story I can write. I would have loved a happier ending.

No matter. Even from here those porch posts are somehow becoming. What I know is that in his later years, my Grandpa Schaap used to visit his youngest sister here on this farm, probably sat on this porch on a hot summer day drinking lemonade. Maybe they talked about their parents and what the two of them may have remembered about their father's ill-fated pioneer days out west. I don't know--even though both of them were born in this country, they may been speaking in Dutch.

I can't imagine that they didn't talk about hogs or cattle or beans or corn, too many dry years out there on those wide open South Dakota fields. Probably they talked about their kids and how their grandchildren were growing, how my grandfather's church in Wisconsin was doing, one war over and another too fearfully on the horizon. 

They couldn't have imagined me or my sisters or their own children married and aged, hundreds of kin hither and yon.  

But there they sat, I imagine, right there on that porch in a couple of chairs, lemonade so cool the glass was slippery in their fingers. Then again, it may  have been coffee, thin brown coffee.  There they sat, an old preacher and his sister. 

Right there on that porch.

I didn't get up close, but I got more than enough for morning thanks.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Saturday Morning Catch--Missouri River blessing


I'm not altogether sure it's a sin--what I've been doing. I mean, I get up in the morning when there's nothing outside my window but tar paper, I long-john it, pull on gloves, a stocking cap, and some jacket not heavy enough to stifle movement, then creep outside in the cold and hope that once I get to wherever I'm going there will be something worth shooting. 

With a camera that is. 


Get out a map of South Dakota, follow Hwy 212 ("the highway to Zell" some guy called it on the radio) and follow that road west until you cross the Missouri into the Cheyenne River Reservation. That's where I was before the sun was up on Saturday, just across the bridge in a little park-ish place no one had visited for a while in such bloody cold. Right there, see, at water's edge, but there was no water. It's all ice.


It's a stark dawn, the sun coming up in fire and between a few mustachio clouds floating up just off the horizon. The clear winter air makes the east so bright it takes a far better camera bug than I am to get the settings right. You try this, try that, get down on your knees, sit on your butt, try to position yourself to get something out of this brilliant sunrise; and when it's over--when you finally quit you're just not sure anything got in the camera. 


Maybe you get a new idea, like this. See that stripe the sun lays down over the ice? I tell myself to use it like a highlight pen. I snap, check the shot--looks interesting, almost as if I just happen to be standing there at the burning bush.

But I'm not sure. I'm just not sure of anything I shoot or shot, and when I jump back in the car I'm disappointed because what went into the camera, I'm afraid, is nothing compared to what I saw--and it's not the camera's fault either. 

There's a sin there somewhere because I have to tell myself that I'm thinking too much about capturing all this beauty, about taking home a piece of it when I should be--my word, this is Lent, isn't it?--when I should be reverentially thrilled simply to have been here on the Missouri River this brilliant late February early morning. And alone, too. Just me and my camera and a bunch of frozen fingers on this old man's late-in-life vision quest. 

I head back to the car, and when I do I turn around and realize that dawn's early light lays honeyed gold over everything around me. It always does. I'm almost blind from looking into the sun, and I've forgotten what's out west where the dawn's brilliance glorifies everything, even this scrappy young tree on the edge of all that water. It's beautiful.


Midas has nothing on the Lord God almighty, I tell myself. 

It's something I have to learn over and over and over again, every single Saturday. Even if nothing in my camera captures the dawn, just to be here was reason enough for thanksgiving. After all, that blessed morning light's gold is all over me too. Here I stand, adorned, not because I planned it or figured out the right technique or dressed up perfectly or shot the perfect landscape--all that gold got laid over me too just because I'm there. 

That's the real blessing. I've got to learn it every time, but that's the blessing worth taking home.

Sunday Morning Meds -- Only Imagined





“Our God comes and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.”
Psalm 50:3

I have pinned on my wall here, a wallet-sized portrait of Jesus, an odd portrait, even though the image is familiar. In fact, if we didn’t already have the image of Christ from which it is drawn—Warner Sallman, circa 1940—we wouldn’t recognize it at all.


Sallman’s head-and-shoulders portrait is memorable: heavenly Middle Eastern—long nose and forehead, high cheekbones, perfectly manicured black beard like an inverse crown running along a delicately pointed jaw. A pale glow surrounds his head entirely as if it were lit from some unseen source, the magical iridescence of a Thomas Kincade, only this radiance comes from within because, if you’d ever harbored any doubt, what you’re looking at is divinity, the king of kings.  You know the portrait, I’m sure.

The one pinned up beside me is that image transformed into a CEO by the artist Clifford Davis, who cut the long hair and pressed those thin shoulders into a Marx Brothers suit and a perfectly white shirt with sharp, starched collar.  Behind that face, he kept the same eternal light, and called his take on the old portrait, “The Conformist.”  It’s the Christ you might encounter at an airport gate, cell-phone at his ear. 

And it’s shocking, really, which is why I keep it.  It’s shocking not so much because it’s impossible to see Jesus Christ as a Fortune 500 CEO—some might argue that, of course—but because the picture itself reminds me of something I need to be reminded of:  that because we don’t know what God looks like (and won’t ever) we need to create an image.  And we do, from our imaginations.

The fact is, right here on the terra firma, short of the second coming, we’ll never see God.  Even Moses claimed God showed him only his backside.  We don’t know what God or Hi sons, our savior, looks like, if he has looks at all.  No one does, and no one alive-and-kicking ever will.  Near-death experiences are speculative and a mixed bag anyway.

No matter how talented a singer and poet, Asaph didn’t really have a clue either.  This psalm is an imagined rendition of an imagined courtroom moment.  What Asaph is reporting here—what he’s singing about—never happened.  He’s makin’ this up. 

As we all do.

And I say that because what Asaph offers us—especially in verse three—is something I can relate to only because I’ve seen the Wizard of Oz.  All that fire and smoke and tempest reminds me of Dorothy and her sad friends quaking before a sham. 

That image may explain why it’s harder for me to quake before this image from Psalm 50 than it was for Spurgeon, for instance, who in his commentary of Psalm 50 really wanted his readers to cower.  I’m admitting here that I don’t shake when I read this; it’s got a little too much of the fraud at the end of the yellow brick road.

The vision here—in this visionary psalm—is what’s central, not the spectacle.  This whole event is made up.  It’s fiction.   

Of course, let us ne'er forget that Asaph may well be right.  When the final trumpet sounds—or when we die—we may well be ushered in to a world like Oz. 

The truth is, no one has a clue and no one ever will until that final day. 

Who knows?—maybe the place will look like a board room.  

He is God.  We are not.  It’s that simple. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Farch


I'm off early, north to southwest Minnesota this a.m., so I thought I'd post an old one--just about seven years old, same time of year, right after my granddaughter's birthday. As you can guess, this pic does a then-and-now thing.  

Anyway, be back soon.
______________________________

After buttoning up his coat, the snow cracking beneath our feet as we left the restaurant, my son-in-law, born and reared in Southern Cal, admitted last night, that he'd been thinking a ton about home. We got two inches of snow the day before, snow no one wanted, and even though it sweetly covered the "farch" look all around us--all that old snow like dead sheep, poet Jim Heynen says--no one thought new fallen snow worth a poem. It wasn't pretty. In November, maybe. In March, no way. I've got to change the pic and the note on this website--"Winter is upon us"--because there is, at least to my notion, a spot of sweetness in the line.

It's March, and winter isn't so much upon us as it still here and can't find the blasted door, dang it. The whole time I shovelled snow I was mad. I dare bet there are sidewalks all over town that haven't been touched--people aren't lazy; we're all just ticked. More snow this time of year--more arctic cold--is a real spiritual trial. I'm not kidding.

"Just think," my son-in-law says, "back home I'd be surfing."

Meanwhile the speedometer cable in the Tracker is making this awful cranking noise it always makes when it's bitterly cold, and I'm thinking the three of us ought to just go west right now. We'd all be better off.

But it's my granddaughter's birthday, and it's a gala and our spirits soon change. We're over at their house, when her little brother pulls a prune face and snarls out something that came from the soul of his envy--yes, the seven deadlies are alive and kicking even in four-year-olds. It's her birthday, after all, and she's the one opening all the High School Musical presents, not that he wanted them. He just wasn't getting his due, he figured.

His mother spooned out some of his sister's birthday cake for him, he groused, and she said, "You get what you get and don't throw a fit."

I thought the line was cute. My daughter says it's a basic rule of thumb at his pre-school, where, with a room full of four-year-olds, I can only imagine the grousing that goes on: "she's got more Cheerios than I do," and so forth, which I'd call childish if I didn't know better. My daughter says it's what gets said a ton at home too.

So, on the way home from the birthday party, my wife and I say it over and over: "you get what you get and don't throw a fit. You get what you get and don't throw a fit."

Good night, what fine Midwestern wisdom. Would that the world would listen. Maybe this country wouldn't be moving into an economic tailspin right now. Maybe there would have been no loan crisis. Maybe people wouldn't go a'whoring after Gucci handbags, the latest electronic wizardry, or silver BMWs. (Sometimes, it's just not all that hard to be righteous.)

"You get what you get and don't throw a fit." That's Lake Woebegone wisdom. It's hilarious. And it's so fitting after an early March snowstorm. "You get what you get and don't throw a fit."

I don't care. It's dang cold, and I'm off to Texas this weekend, thank the Lord.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Morning Thanks--a lottery ticket


Once upon a time out in the middle of South Dakota, not all that terribly far from the Rosebud Reservation, a Lakota pastor was talking to a bunch of white folks. I was one of them, a tour leader, in fact. His message was a testimony that fit into the genre of "once I was blind but now I can see."

But he also talked about tribal affairs and life on the rez, a kind of Lakota 101. He was spirited and gracious, wise and comical. A good time was had by all.

And then a pastor among the palefaces worriedly brought up the topic of casinos--not so much whether they were a good thing or not, but whether they were a good moral thing. 

Our Lakota chief smiled gamely and told the white folks he just couldn't get upset or unnerved by a band of Indians taking loot from a swarm of white folks who were handing it over willfully--you know, given the sad history of what once was "the Dakota Territory." 

He didn't pull out a tomahawk. Basically, he was shucking and jiving, but he was also telling the truth; and there was, on his face, a wry smile that broadcast sheer delight. He wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. We weren't all that far from a couple of casinos, most of them full of elderly grandchildren of northern European South Dakota pioneers.

But our dominie wouldn't be put off. "But you, as a Christian preacher," our reverend said.

The Lakota reverend just shook his head and smiled as if some ironies were a God-sent.

"I don't know how you can tolerate it," our preacher said. He wouldn't let it rest, but that smile on the face of the Lakota man-of-the-cloth didn't disappear. Stayed right there until I determined it was high time to change the subject. 

My father hated gambling, just hated it. I'm not sure why, but I'm guessing he did so in part because his father was a pastor who likely had very strong feelings, too. One of my first moments of existential darkness occurred when I was no more than ten years old. My father, the village President, deeply disliked the raffle that played itself out every Fourth of July. I knew it, and, as a boy, it made me see that particular tent in the village park festival into a kind of den of iniquity. 

But I simply didn't know what to do with the fact that one blessed Fourth, my uncle, my father's own brother, a man totally convinced that if JFK were elected, the Pope would be President, won the cement mixer, one of the grand prizes. "Jay Schaap," the announcer broadcast over half the town, after the fireworks. Dad's own brother had thrown down cash. Just about blew away my sense of righteousness. 

Once upon a time my wife and I went into Winnevegas casino, gave ourselves $20 a piece, picked up what tokens we could buy, proceeded to a pair of one-arm bandits, basically lost every everything in ten minutes, and left. That was it. I couldn't help but hear my father's voice.


But I remembered that Lakota preacher's naughty smile when the news story came last week. A woman named Marie Holmes won a huge lottery, or at least a satisfying chunk thereof--188 million dollars. She's a welfare mom, the kind of unrighteous human being that some on the right think suck up other people's hard-earned wealth. She's got four kids, one of whom has cerebral palsy, and she'd just quit work at McDonalds and Walmart in order to care for her kids.

I know very well what Mitt Romney would think of her, so I'm figuring just about everybody ought to be happy now--those who think gambling's a gift, those who are foot soldiers in the war on poverty, and even those who basically hate welfare moms. Hey, in this story, everybody wins.

She's free. She and her kids could rent Disneyland next week. She could buy an Escalade yet this afternoon with pocket change.

I've got enough of my father in me to stay out of casinos, and the only time I bought lottery tickets was to give them away as gag gifts. But the Marie Holmes warms my heart. She said she's going to donate some money to her church. After all, her mother bought her the ticket one Sunday morning on her way to church. 

"I'm thankful I can bless my kids with something I didn't have," Marie Holmes told reporters.

You know and I know that shipwrecks galore have happened on the rocky shores of new wealth. But just for a moment last week, I got this lovely feeling that all was right in the world, gaming or not.  Ms. Holmes has reason to be thankful all right, and so do I.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Promiscuous pedagogy

A TK photobomb

So our grandson is in Pre-K, which for whatever reason is called TK at school he attends. He's proud as a peacock for being there, largely because he can shoulder his bag in the morning and traipse off with his big brother and sister like the hot shot grade schooler he almost is. 

Anyway, he's off to school now and loving it. What content is getting into his head isn't always clear--I'm sure there is some. One afternoon, his grandma picked him up and quizzed him in the ordinary way:  "Well, Ian what did you learn in school today?" He pulled himself up into his back seat throne. "Science," he said.  Apparently, all of it. 

What's evident, and what makes me laugh just thinking about it, is the way he repeats pedagogy.  I don't know if his teacher has any idea how deeply she's affecting him, but it comes out in his rather extraordinary, ordinary conversation.  

[Please understand that I'm fully capable of being a braying grandparent, but I'm not doing that here. This reflection comes from a teacher who happens also to be a grandpa. Leave a note if you'd like me begin to extol our grandkids' virtues.] 

So just before Christmas, sitting with his best buddy, his grandma, he grabbed a nutcracker (think THE Nutcracker) off the coffee table, pointed at yet another nutcracker up on the mantel above the fireplace, then summoned his grandma's attention.  "So, let's compare nutcrackers," he said.

He's smart, but he didn't dream up that rhetoric. Comparison/contrast is something he lugged home from TK.

Or this. 

My wife was interrupted from their play last Sunday by the casserole of Mexican food she was baking in the oven. They'd been drawing together with crayons, and her distraction was obviously becoming a distraction for him because he took hold of her lovingly and said, "It's time to get back to work." 

By way of her student, his sweet teacher has a presence way out here on the banks of the Floyd River.

And yet another. His grandma has considerable issues with technology and is, he knows, in need of remedial help with Angry Birds. The kid rather loves the omniscience of a being a teacher. Her mind a tangle, Ian looked up at her last week after dinner, then back at the iPad, then pointed.  "Now listen carefully," he said, "because this is very important." 

He's five years old! 

I'm not arguing the kid is a genius. All I'm saying is what comes home with him from TK is more than content he's picking up. He's repeating her blessed pedagogy. Forty years in the classroom, and I never realized I had that much power.  But then I didn't teach TK.

It's so cute, his grandma says. And I laugh too, Grandpa the Teacher.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Morning Thanks--exotic dancers


 
Glory be to God for changes. For bulbs
breaking the darkness with their green beaks.
For moles and moths and velvet green moss
waiting to fill the driveway cracks. For the way
the sun pierces the window minutes earlier each day.
For earthquakes and tectonic plates--earth's bump
and grind--and new mountains pushing up
like teeth in a one-year-old. For melodrama—
lightning on the sky stage, and the burst of applause
that follows. Praise him for day and night, and light
switches by the door. For seasons, for cycles
and bicycles, for whales and waterspouts,
for watersheds and waterfalls and waking
and the letter W, for the waxing and waning
of weather so that we never get complacent. For all
the world, and for the way it twirls on its axis
like an exotic dancer. For the north pole and the
south pole and the equator and everything between.
That's Luci Shaw, a poet, a woman I'm blessedly proud to call my friend. I'm not at all sure when these lines from "Psalm for the January Thaw" were written, but they could have been composed any time in the last fifty years. Her career, which is to say her calling as a poet, has stretched on that long, for which we're greatly thankful.

I'm sure she'd be happy to tell you how she's changed as a poet. I'm sure she could point at poems she wrote in the late Sixties and tell you that she'd likely never write anything quite like that anymore, wouldn't say things in this style or that. If some scholar were to undertake a study of the Luci's oeuvre, he or she could create a Shaw taxonomy, I'm sure.

What hasn't changed, however, is the sheer awe she's always felt for a world that belongs to a magnificently omnipresent God. She may well play more excitedly with "cycles and bicycles" than she used to, or step farther into the darkness than she once dared; she risks more these days, at least I'm sure there are more exotic dancers in her poems (see that pole dancer above?), more "bump and grind"; but her reverence for the immensity of God's love hasn't changed. It may have widened, but it hasn't changed.

Because she has talked so openly about it, I know that just recently she experienced something she says she's never felt before, something that opened her to God's love in such a palpable way that it took her breath away. Suddenly and perceptibly whatever outlines still somehow framed her abiding faith fell away and a broader vision swept in, a blessing in its simple immensity. She felt, quite frankly, freed.

Now that's almost hard to believe from someone well into her eighth decade in this vale of tears, someone whose profession has been praise, someone who could write the lines above. But this brand new sense of the presence of God was there, in spades, she might have said. What she described and how she described it was what we Christians call "a testimony."

I'm sure it was real, this testimony and the experience that composed it. But it reminds me once again of something it's taken me a lifetime to learn--that our use of the word "Christian" as a modifier, as an adjective, will be questionable as long as we live. Is Luci a Christian now and not when she wrote "Psalm for the January Thaw?" Of course not. Is she a "better" Christian now than when she wrote those lines? I don't know, and who am I to judge? Is she different than she was? Sure. But Luci Shaw is the only one capable of making those judgments. Not me. Not you. 

I don't know that we can put the word Christian away, but I don't think it hurts one bit to put it under a bushel more often than we do. Who is and who isn't, or who was and is no more or never was or never will be--those judgments aren't mine. 

"By your fruits you shall know them," the Bible says; but also, "judge not lest you be also judged." As is so often the case with biblical wisdom, somewhere between those two moral goalposts we are left to work and play. 

At 86 years old, Luci Shaw, herself something of an exotic dancer, says she's overjoyed that within her soul she's felt a complete and blessed renewal. I'm happy for her, and I'm glad to hear the news because it allows that change is never really behind us, that the very change she so sweetly celebrates and wonderfully documents in "January Thaw" still happens. This cold February morning, that's a good reason and subject for morning thanks. 

"Glory be to God for changes." That line is itself a prayer.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Erotic Romance at the Holland Plaza



It's getting to be maybe forty years ago now, but one Saturday night, way back then, I walked to campus to see a movie. I don't remember the title, but some film was being shown simply to keep kids around on a Saturday night.

Be ye not deceived. It wasn't a James Bond or a Pink Panther; it was, I'm sure, a film with bona fide "socially redeeming value."  

Anyway, I went, and there, in the back, was intrepid old Harold Aardema, whose Doon Press once had a readership of almost 5000 on the strength of Aardema's renowned quirkiness. Harold spent most of his life in a wheelchair following a bout with polio that he won; and there he was, wheelchair and all, in the corner of a lecture hall at Dordt College. My goodness, I wish I could remember which movie.

No matter. After the show, I found my way over to him. He didn't want to miss the movie, he told me, not because he wanted to see it but because he wanted to be there for posterity's sake. After all, it was just too great a show to miss: a real, honest-to-goodness movie right there at the college the Reverend B. J. Haan had built.

In 1948, Haan, playing Marshall Dillon on the streets of Sioux Center, had held off Hollywood and eventually tossed those evil men and women clear out of town. For generations up to mine and, in some cases, including mine, a movie theater was simply assumed to be a den of Satan. In the denomination in which I grew up, they were not to be toyed with--same as playing cards (not Rook) and liquor, by the drink and certainly by the bottle. Harold Aardema had come to Dordt College that night simply to observe the grand irony of Hollywood playing on Haan's campus.

Aardema loved Haan. The Haan's forever houseguest, Mr. A. J. Boersma, was his bosom buddy on a host of travels around the nation and the world. The voice of the Doon Press wasn't at Dordt College to stick it to the good Reverend. He was there simply to observe what we might call the ironies of moral evolution. Times change.

When my father-in-law returned from Europe after the war, he started farming--with horses. It simply doesn't seem possible anymore. Try to imagine a farmer behind a plow or a harrow being drawn by a pair of humongous steeds. It seems medieval, but it isn't. It's within a lifetime--a long one, to be sure, but a lifetime. Times change.


I snapped the picture above just yesterday, on the Sabbath, in the spirit of Harold Aardema. It's Orange City, not Sioux Center; but it's right here in Sioux County, the reddest corner of a state renowned for its religious right populism. Ye olde anti-movie sentiment died about the same time as the last farm horse, but when you think about the change, it's as huge as a 16-bottom plow. 

After all, what put Haan on Life's cover back then was a battle with Hollywood at a time when the Hays Code was still enforced, as it was as late as 1968. Among other things, the old industry moral standard maintained that putting a man and a women in bed together on screen was plain wrong, even if the two of them looked like Mr. and Mrs. Winston Churchill. 

Yesterday, on Sunday, I could have laid down some bucks, senior rate, and watched a movie, an "erotic romance," that celebrates a genre of sexuality B. J. Haan and his era likely would not have imagined.

Trust me, the "good old days" are that only because, as some wag once said, they're gone; they weren't all that good to start with, so thank goodness they're old.  But the irony was just too fine to let pass, so in honor of my old friend, the country editor, I snapped a picture.

It's a wholly different world today. The movie has been whipped by critics (for the record, that's not good), but it's led the nation in ticket sales for two weekends. The book itself has sold 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages. 

Just in case you're interested, you can get the Fifty Shades in a Large Print edition.  Hey, listen. You know how hard it is to find something for him or Great-grandma? What do you think? 

This one is suitable for Landsmeer, really, or whatever home your great-grandma is in.  Maybe it's there already. I'll check.

These days, you just never know.