Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Friendship in the Age of Texting

Dear Rebecca,

Please tell Daniel that I’m glad he was not at all interested in helping me trim my goat's hooves and I do thank him for letting me know that hoof trimmers trim hooves for a herd of animals, not one goat.  I will remember this going forward.  It was for the best though because as it turns out, you can learn anything from YouTube.  Annnnd…you wouldn’t believe it unless you’ve already tried it, but trimming a goat’s hooves is even more fun than cleaning out built up hair from the bottom of a vacuum cleaner.  And if you wonder if cleaning the bottom of a vacuum is really fun, then maybe we just aren’t meant to be friends.  I came away from the whole experience with only a small nick along the side of my thumb which didn't really hurt, but the bleeding was enough to make me put the trimming shears away.  It was for the best because I was starting to get a little carried away as is the case when I start a task such as this (read: Christi's eyebrows).  Plus, the smell-although very very foulsome-reminded me of my childhood and the time my dad threw an old cow horn to me and made me smell the worst thing I’d ever smelled, promising me that I wouldn’t be able to get rid of the smell for three days.  He was right.  

Also, do you have any openings for a haircut in the next couple of weeks?


Your friend Christi
I didn't mention this in my text message, but if you can
 learn anything from YouTube, you can do anything
if you have an Aiden who is the. best. helper. in the
whole world and who received a shearing himself
shortly after this photo was taken.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cheer Mom

If only I could go back in time to meet my 18-year old self.  Just for a minute.  I’d love to see my younger me's reaction when I informed her that in 20 years she'd become… a Cheer Mom.  Yes, young Christi, the anti-cheerleader, someday you will be coaching young girls on the proper way to clap.  Then, I’d sit myself down for a quick lecture on sunscreen and a heart to heart about Jesus before heading back to the present. 

It’s true.  Cheer coach.  Me.  Turns out, the absence of any cheerleading or coaching experience, a wardrobe limited to gray and black, and an introverted personality are not disqualifiers when it comes to being an assistant cheer coach.  Imagine my surprise.  Also surprising is my inability to say ‘no thank you’ when asked to volunteer for  anything at all.  Now, before you think ‘poor children’, I’d like you to focus on the word ‘assistant’ and remember that there is someone who actually knows what they are doing that is really in charge.   And she is really good.  I’ve been learning so much about cheerleading...just at a much slower rate than the actual cheerleaders.   Recognizing this, Real coach printed this visual aid to help my brain remember where the girls are supposed to stand on the court.  I love her.  She's the ultimate cheerleader and says things like, 'Wow-you look SO young for your age!'   So cute.

‘Coaching’-if that’s what you’d call the frazzled lady hovering behind the squad with a baby on her chest-has proven to be a difficult challenge-although not how I initially expected.  There is, of course, the familiar struggle of stepping out of my comfort zone.  Add to this the task of managing to grab a two-year old by her leggings just before she escapes onto a basketball court week after week.  However, the unexpected challenge I'm finding is with navigating the delicate balances of parenting: providing opportunities for learning but not overscheduling; raising independent thinkers while fostering obedience; discerning a behavior problem from a bad day.  A challenge I'm up-close and personal with as I coach my eight-year old daughter in a brand new experience for her.

After I had written these words, I reflected for a few days (weeks), neither knowing how to grasp this balance nor write about it.  Then came an unexpected gift in my mailbox from a friend.  A book (I love books!) with answers to my unspoken parenting questions complete with diagrams that despite hours of effort will not appear straight on this page.  Please be understanding and tilt your head.
If only all prayers could be answered so literally. It was the guidance that I needed to help me in my parenting intentions.  Balance is essential and stumbling is to be expected.  And how this balance plays out in our day to day families is fluid with ebbs and flows.  Here I go sounding all coach-y, I know.  But, I was reassured.  Reassured that while I may have missed out on the experience as a teenager, there may be no better season in my life to be a cheerleader than during motherhood.  Although I'm quite lacking in the actual athletic part of cheerleading, one can't be too critical with oneself.   Not only am I enthusiastic as a result of coffee running through my bloodstream, but I'm an encourager-, just as is every other mom who manages to coax sleepy children from warm beds to the school bus each morning with minimal dramatic outburst.  More importantly, I am a teacher and a student-and coaching has been a humbling opportunity to practice both.  

But, in all honesty, next basketball season I will stick with milking my goat.  

Monday, January 9, 2017


Anyone who has ever owned a dog and lost it knows the feeling.  I can search for the words to describe it or I could just write--the feeling of losing a pet after 15 and a half years together--and those who have been there will feel the little twinge in their heart and understand.
After 15 and a half years one would think I'd be prepared for the inevitable, but a little part of me thought Spencer might have figured out how to be the exception to this silly little rule of life.  I know that he will never ever be replaced, but I've learned it's best to keep my eyes forward.  So, I went out and got a new dog...Hazel.  She's no Spencer, but anyone who helps cut down on our grocery bill is welcomed in our home.  

It seems all that they say about goats is true.  She's cute, friendly, and noisy.  And in less than two weeks, through no fault of her own, dear Hazel has wrought havoc in my family.  Let's pray this does not escalate, but so far we're off to a rocky start in the goat farming business.  For one, I suspect my in-laws now find me to be ridiculous as they are real farmers and I have one goat.  They haven't said so.  They don't need to, I am fully aware that dairy farmers carry the street credit in these parts and I am filled with shame for my yuppy farming ways.  

Additionally, I've discovered that my husband will not lower himself to milking an animal by hand.  I did not know this about him until now and sort of wish it had come up in conversation during our courtship.  There is no need for a milk machine for one goat.  Milking takes all of three minutes. Granted, we are only getting about a half cup of milk, but we get it in no time at all.  I give this half cup of milk to Ella, who last year was diagnosed with a cow milk allergy.  I am hoping that in a few years when Ella becomes a teenager and hates everything in the world she will remember the time her mom went out and bought. a. goat. for her to have milk each morning and feel loved.  Ella finds goat milk to be delicious whereas everyone else in the family finds it to be somewhere along the spectrum of kind of palatable.  She proudly carries her little thermos of goat milk to school each day.  Today she came home from school and reported that the milk was a little warm at snack time when she drank it and by evening she was curled around a toilet vomiting up goat milk smelling yuckiness.  So there's that.

There is a learning curve to farming that I am slow to climb.  Chad has brought up the word impulsive a time or two since Hazel showed up at our door.  And with all respect to my husband, he is wrong.  There was much thought given to all things goat for months before Hazel was purchased.  I believe the word he is looking for is unprepared.  Because I am that.  I will remind him it is part of my charm.  I have made it through most of my life so far by winging it and each day find things like the weather to be such a surprise.  I'm in no way saying this is a good thing, and as I speed read through goat books I realize that a little preparation may have helped here.  At least with regards to preventing the possible listeria my daughter may have picked up (ugh!) which she may very justly hold against me during her teenage years.  I suppose I have plenty of time to get prepared for that.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Christmas That Poppy Caught On Fire

A few months or so ago there was a guest caller on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.  She was a mom.  I know this because when asked what she did for a living she listed her job as a mom first, then mentioned her other full-time job which I don’t remember because she listed it second.  I liked the way it sounded and made note to do the same going forward, although I have yet to practice this as I rarely engage in conversations with new people...or any adults for that matter.  But, it’s definitely on the conversational itinerary for future interactions.   What I also remember about this mom caller is that she got an answer to one of the game show’s questions wrong.  I don’t recall the actual question, but I remember her perfectly timed response when she found out that her answer was incorrect: ‘Well, that’s not my fault’.  I chuckled, but  Peter Sagal only paused, then moved on to the next question-for despite his wit, mom humor appears to be lost on him.  I don’t know why I’m being such a copycat of this random NPR guest, but I’ve since taken to using the 'not my fault' mantra right along with my 8-year olds. And I don't mean it with a deeper context of carrying burdens beyond the cross kind of not my fault.   I've just found it's much more entertaining (to myself) to parent with sarcasm.   Burn dinner: It’s not my fault.  Late for everything: It’s not my fault.  Children grow up to be entitled with no awareness of accountability: I may have to own a little bit of that one.  So, I guess I’ll have to stop and go back to plain old mom’ing-which is fine…I’m not that funny anyways.   

Before I completely abandon the blame casting, I will quickly mention that it’s not my fault that Poppy caught on fire this Christmas.  She's totally fine. It's just unfortunate that we have to remember this season by such an event.   If she hadn’t caught on fire, I might otherwise have remembered this Christmas as the one where Harlyn was born and my heart was more filled with joy than I ever imagined possible.  And if not that, then I might have marked it as the Christmas that I started wearing the same shade of pink lipstick that my Grandma George had always worn.   Milestones.  Instead, we have to remember it as the Christmas that Poppy caught on fire, which as I mentioned wasn’t my fault.   I do accept partial responsibility which Chad is more than willing to share; reminding me as we walked out of the warm church into the night’s icy parking lot that ‘We really need to be more careful with her’.  To which I reminded him that I am careful with her and would never give a two-year old fire thankyouverymuch.   But, I was happy to take some of the fault as Chad felt very horrible about the whole thing and also had noticed my new lipstick earlier, placing him in my good graces.  I should have intervened.   Watching an adult hand over a burning candle to a two-year old…any other mother would have stepped in.  But, I felt there was a real spiritual moment going on between a father and daughter: the congregation singing Silent Night, lighting their candles one by one, the overhead lights flickering off and being replaced with the soft glow of candlelight, their eyes fixed on each other.  The traditions of my Christmases being etched into their memories.  So, I refrained.

Perhaps what I interpreted as a spiritual moment was really just Chad’s love of fire as I am apt to read a little too deeply into things.  Either way, Poppy held out her trusting little hand and accepted the candle from her dad only to immediately snatch it back in a reflexive action.   Very unfortunately though, the candle was still in her hand and before I could react, her golden hair caught on fire in a quick burst of flame, which Chad denies ever happened and I would believe him if it weren’t for the unforgettable smell of burning hair that accompanied the spark.  I grabbed Poppy, rocking her tightly in my arms as her howls echoed through the church, drowning out the chorus of Silent Night.  Thankfully, her crying appeared to be mostly out of fear as there was just a small wax burn near the corner of her left eye which I kissed, leaving a bright pink lipstick mark on her face, just like Grandma’s.  Except that Grandma never actually had to kiss a burn on my face because my parents never gave me candles to play with.  Not that I’m blaming anyone.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Developmental Norms

Some reflections about language development if that's okay?

A child’s development is marked by different levels of play.   In the very early stages of play a little one will find absolute joy in aimlessly scattering the toys (and food) in front of them only a few months later to become fascinated with putting these items into--or in my children’s cases mostly taking out of--containers.  These progressions continue throughout toddler-hood, eventually culminating into imaginative play which further expands as a child’s language skills develop.  It’s an absolutely fascinating process to watch unfold in children-similar and yet unique in each little body.   Oftentimes my job involves reassuring parents that these seemingly strange types of play are in fact important stages of learning and helping them see the awe in these little milestones.  Sometimes, however, a child can get ‘stuck’ in a developmental stage and a 2 ½ year old will still be quite focused on sorting and lining up toys.  While this was an appropriate skill ten months prior, the child now disregards his or her world around them in order to focus on this type of play.  This calls for intervention and the need to ‘teach’ a child how to play appropriately in an effort to get back on track with their development so that all of the other skills can fall into place as they should. 

Poppy is in the sorting and grouping stage of play.  With the fervency of a worker bee, I watch as she moves and organizes her toys from one pile to another, redirecting briefly to distribute items to family members, then collect them back and reorganize them on the floor.  She will imitate different types of play: feeding her baby dolls as she has seen Ella do and driving tractors along the floor with her brother, but given a bucket of toys to explore on her own, this is how she will spend most of her time playing.

As I watch her, I wonder how my own day to day routines would look through the eyes of an observer.  The repetitiveness of my daily activities.  My sense of urgency about what is in the big sense quite insignificant.  Are there any developmental norms that continue into adult-hood?   If an expert in such things were to observe my daily routines and behaviors, would they reassure me afterwards,  “Oh, this is a completely appropriate behavior at your stage of development.  Over the next several years, you will begin to prioritize what is actually important and develop more patience for the people that you love.”  Or, perhaps they would comment, “Some of the behaviors observed are a little…what we call ‘atypical’, meaning you are showing some skills that are appropriate, but others that we would have anticipated you would have moved past by now.“   I suspect it’s easier to get ‘stuck’ in a developmental stage as an adult, but that's likely because I am an adult and find adulting to be quite difficult at times.

Earlier this year, I began to focus on Scripture memorization.  This has shown to be a real in-your-face way to become aware of cognitive decline.  Not that memorization has ever been a strength of mine, but taking six months to memorize two verses is a bit ridiculous.  I reassure myself with the reminder that this is my children's fault.  But, I keep on and fiiinally, the words chisel in there to stay.  Nestled deep into the sulci of my brain where they can absorb and do their work, the verses rise to my consciousness--my own little Intervention team--helping me get back on track when I become too focused on this world around me and begin to disregard the things of the Spirit.

Within the birth to three population, 'therapy' looks more like play-a not infrequent complaint among parents.
 But, blowing bubbles catches a toddler's visual attention, guiding little eyes to mimic an adult's smile and mouth movements for speech.  And singing 5 Little Monkeys (my jam!) connects the right hemisphere of the brain with the left, helping a child stimulate the neural circuits for speech.  Lots and lots going on under the surface.  Similarly, memorizing a few words many not seem like an important use of very limited time.  But, to know God's purpose for me in everyday circumstances and to hear His word rise up and answer my questions as I ask them has been an invaluable tool.  And that's the best sort of therapy I’ve found.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  Romans 8: 5-6

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Love Thy Neighbor

Brad and Phylis before milking
Perched on a hill alongside their barn on a road named after the family, Chad’s parents, Brad and Phylis sit in the grass before milking time, soaking in the summer shade.  So peaceful, I think, but when I comment so they inform me they're just waiting for the fumes to clear from the fly spray so that the poisonous air doesn't burn their lungs quite so bad.  It's how they've spent every afternoon and morning for the better part of their lives, milking cows together-for better and for worse.  Chad and I dream of such a romantic life, but thus far his parents have staunchly refused our requests to take over the job of milking when they retire, claiming it to be a miserable and grueling existence.   So cynical, these two.  We are determined to win them over someday, but in the meantime are quite content to help ourselves to gallons of delicious fresh milk and buy their bull calves to raise in a few calf hutches put up in our backyard which is just across the road from their farm. 

The family farm is nestled in the rolling hills of northern Boone County, one of the most serene places I’ve seen in my life.  The only downside to living in this beautiful farmland is that other people-namely real estate developers- have also discovered this secret oasis.  Several years ago, long before I came around here, the sunset views to the west became slightly clouded as a subdivision of sprawling McMansions popped up.  And the road directly to the north is now peppered with enviable country homes, a smattering of acne across what was once clear, porcelain skin.  Many neighbors to the north are friends who have farming in their families.  But several of the homes are occupied by suburbanites who were searching for a life in the country but have no understanding- or desire to understand- farm life.   They love the views, but have disdain for the manure smell and lack the patience to wait in their cars as the cows cross the road each afternoon heading from the pasture to the barn for milking.

This summer, we’ve decided to expand from being small-time beef farmers to medium-time and are in the process of having a small barn of our own put up.  We’ve also had an influx of bull calves welcomed into our world.  Our calf hutches are full, Brad and Phylis’s barn is full and having no more room, the latest little calf has had to spend a few days tied to the grain elevator outside of the barn while awaiting a hutch of his own.  He’s a little red and white Holstein whom Aiden has appropriately named ‘Cute’.  The kids have really taken to the little guy and now that they're on summer break from school spend their spare moments feeding and checking on him throughout the day.  Someone else took notice of him, too.  Our neighbor, who lives on the road just to the north of us.   I met this particular neighbor shortly after moving to my new home when he called my cellphone while I was out at an appointment with my children.   


“Hello.  I believe I’ve found your dog.  Your number is listed on the dog’s tag.  Spencer?”

“Yes, that’s my dog…is he okay?”

“Well, he’s here outside at a house”.  He read off the address.

“Oh.  That’s my house.  He’s at home.  We just moved in.”

“Well, it’s way too cold for your dog to be outside.”

I paused.  “Oh.  Well, he let himself outside.  The garage door should be cracked for him and if you like, you can put him inside.”

This time he paused. “Well, it’s way too cold for a dog to be in a garage.  I tried to put him in my car, but he ran away from me.”

“That’s because he’s at home.  He has a heated bed in the garage and a heated water dish in there.  He really should be fine, he actually likes it outside.”

“What time will you be home?  I suppose he’ll be okay for another hour or so.  But, this is my phone number so please call me when you get home so that I know he is safe inside?”

Now, there is nothing that riles up a mom more than someone insinuating that one of their own is not being cared for properly.   Especially when they are being properly cared for.  But my freakishly ingrained social graces prevented me from responding as I should have. And yes, I even called him when I got home to let him know Spencer was safe and warm, kicking myself for doing so.  I wish I could say this was our only encounter over my old Spencer dog.    It wasn’t, but this was the conversation that replayed in my head as I saw Neighbor going for a walk by the barn one day, turning his head to study the little calf tied to the barn.  And later, that evening as he rode by the farm on his bike.  And again the next day, as he drove his car down our road.  His thoughts were visible across his face. 

Sure enough, he stopped by to pay a neighborly visit with my in-laws. 

“Did you know that you have a calf out?” he asked, peering into the screen door of the kitchen, where Phylis sat eating her lunch.  Luckily for Neighbor, Brad was resting on the couch and decided to stay there as he listened to the exchange going on in the other room.

“Where?  Across the road?”

“No.  Just outside here, tied up to the barn.” 

“Oh...yeah we know he’s there.  We tied him up there.”

“Well, I think his rope is too short.”  Phylis, who my dad describes as the salt of the earth, explained in a patient-but not meek, apologetic way as I would have done-why the calf was outside, why he was okay there, and why he needed a short tie rather than a long rope to tangle and choke himself on.   After his questions were sufficiently answered, he lingered on making idle chit-chat while Phylis attempted to finish eating her chicken.

Neighbor would have been wise to have left the issue alone after speaking with Phylis and taken his cause up in other places, such as finding suitable shelter for the wild turkeys or trying to cage up all of the rabbits running rampant across the country roads.  Instead he persisted and the next day as I saw him driving south past our house I had a troubling feeling.  I didn’t hear Brad’s shouts from inside my house, but Phylis did from hers and quickly moved out of sight so as not to get caught in the middle of an argument.   Because, there’s not much that riles up a farmer more than calling into question the care put into his animals.  And considering that Brad has worked seven days a week since he last took a day off in 1990, he’s got a pretty short fuse for such nonsense.  I saw Neighbor’s car hastily retreat back home shortly after it initially passed by.  A minute later I heard the four-wheeler start up and a very angry looking Brad peeled into our driveway with a large bull calf across his lap.  He drove around the house to the backyard, and as he stopped the calf tumbled onto the ground.  Brad promptly tied him up to our deck.  Our problem now.   He heatedly recounted the story of Neighbor’s insinuating visit,  

“I mean, do I go to his house and question why his dogs are locked in a kennel all day?!” he fumed."I should have gotten my gun,”  Now...just a second Brad.  This seemed a little extreme.  I know Neighbor had crossed the line with his nosiness, but... “and shot the calf right there.  Then asked him if that was better, if the calf seemed happier now.  What would he have said to that?”  His light blue eyes squinted as he and Chad laughed and laughed and my stomach turned.  Worried that this internal response to a joke swayed me more into Neighbor’s category of person, I went ahead and forced a little chuckle.  Not that jokes about shooting baby animals are all that funny, and not that Brad would ever do such a thing (at least I'd really like to believe this), but my instinctual response left me wondering if I was more like Neighbor than I wanted to admit.  And No.  Because, while I clearly lack the grit required to be a real farmer, I am well aware that farming is only idyllic on the surface.  It's idyllic exactly up until the moment you get a tail full of manure flicked in your face or an unprovoked kick to the head from a pretentious cow.  I know that I can not make the difficult decisions that go along with farming.  I can barely make a decision about what to eat for breakfast.  But, I am able to make peace when these decisions are made by those who know better even when they don't initially sit well with me.

Cute has his cozy straw filled home now and the excitement has slowed on the farm for a bit.  Now, if I could just convince my dog to come inside we could fly under the neighborhood watch's radar for a minute.   

"Spencer, come here!  Come here, boy!  Come inside!" And no. 


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Thoughts Caffeine Gives Me.

Over the past several years-in an effort to be more financially responsible-what were once near daily stops into coffee shops, have decreased to no more than a few visits each year.  I’m quite okay with this as I’ve come to love my own brew from my own mug on my own couch the best.   That said, I was not disappointed that a post-Christmas collection of Starbucks gift cards necessitated a trip to my old stomping grounds on a recent rainy morning.   The aroma welcomed me like a warm hug as I walked in, flicking drips of water from my coat, and headed towards the register.   I placed my order and was handed a cup of coffee which I slid down the counter, along with my banana to wait for my cup of ice water.  I continued to wait-apparently the shift from coffee making to pouring water had thrown the baristas off of their game, so I snuck off to the bathroom in the interim.  As I returned towards  the counter to pick up my completed order, I saw a man holding and inspecting my coffee.  He had a beard (redundant to write I suppose, because coffee shop) and thick glasses and I smiled patiently as he glanced over his shoulder at me.

“I’m just trying to see…”  he offered.

“Oh, it’s my coffee” I responded, assuming he’d also just arrived at the counter and had mistaken it for his.

“Oh, but I just am…”  he continued to study my cup.

“No, it’s my coffee” I reiterated, and if I sounded a bit harsh I didn’t mean it.  It was just that he was the only obstacle preventing the caffeine from being in me. 

“Oh, sorry” he said, not sounding very sorry at all.  He set my coffee down and stepped to the side to allow me room to pick up my snack.  Confused, I saw that there were now two bananas on the counter.  This puzzled me for longer than it should have, on account of not having had enough caffeine.  My friend, the coffee stealer, offered his observation,

“Oh, I got a banana too.”

Of course you did.  “Which one is mine?”

He chuckled, “Well, that really doesn’t matter, does it?” 

I paused.   Now, this was the kind of comment that deserved a long sit-down conversation over a cup of hot coffee.  But, doing so would result in my being quite late for work, a risk I just couldn’t take despite the potential philosophical learnings behind such a statement.   And so, with a glance, I grabbed my banana--the early yellowed one, still with a hint of green along one ridge, likely of the California variety and left behind the larger, but more golden-hued banana with flecks of brown and a small bruise developing near the stem for my friend.  In that half-second I also thought about leaving him with the better of the bananas, an instinctual mom response, but decided against it.  I bid my friend a good day and headed back into the rain towards my car.   

One obvious component of a job in home-care is the immense amount of driving time involved.  This would be your answer if you find yourself wondering how it is that I harmonize so well with Justin Bieber.   In addition to radio karaoke, when I allow, these drives also give me some quiet time alone with my thoughts.  Imagine, up to twenty minutes at a time of uninterrupted thinking:  my children, where I might have left my checkbook, what to make for dinner,  my future, my past, my to-do list, the book of Hebrews,  the Kardashians, the environmental implications of plastics, which country I could move to if Trump is elected president,  my prayer list, vacation dreams, work thoughts, and who I can get to babysit this weekend.   These thoughts float randomly in and out of my head as I merge between traffic lanes, unless I am thinking about focusing in which case I try to just concentrate on that.  

But, not on this day.  This rainy December day, I thought about the Starbucks guy who implied that one banana is the same as the next.  That really doesn’t matter.  Can you imagine?  Certainly, there are many things that matter more;  I’d give him that.   But to imply that choosing a banana is the same as picking a stick of gum out of a pack?  I'm sorry sir, but no.   Likely, he was just being polite, having been caught off-guard by my interrupting his attempted coffee lacing.  Or, maybe his super-thick glasses were an indication that he wasn’t able to see the subtle variances in the fruits and really believed them all to be the same.   Possibilities ran through my brain as the wipers squeaked back and forth across the windshield in a gentle cadence. 

A few days later, my caffeine buzz wore off (no more Starbucks, Christi!), but not before I actually googled bananas and discovered to my dismay that they are, in fact, all genetically the same.  (Here's the part of the blog where we learn something!  http://piecubed.co.uk/bananas-facts/)  I was quite embarrassed to learn this given my earlier rant and waste of precious thinking time.  But then, I remembered a few years back when I was shopping for groceries in the Dominican Republic where I was on a mission trip.  The man working at the market apologized for the state of their unsightly bananas as he handed them across the counter to the missionary I was shopping with.  They were already speckled with brown, smelling all fragrant and banana-y.

"Wait about a week to eat these, please", the grocer pleaded with the missionary who later explained to me that in the Dominican, they wouldn't so much as consider selling a banana with a hint of green on it.

This recollection turned my stomach a bit, but helped me to circle back to my initial thinking which is to say that: I am right.  I'm not going so far as to suggest that a banana is better if it is less or more ripe (although we all know...); I'm  just saying there is a difference for crying out loud!  Even if genetically they may all the same-which is pretty strange if you ask me-they are still unique.  Just as is each beautiful sunrise that rises each morning by the same sun in the same sky where I watch from my couch while drinking my coffee.