Tuesday, December 3, 2013

be our guest

 SO TODAY marks a very significant day for me: I am guest blogging at some other place. TheoCult is a blog run by a circle of Quite Elite People that I mostly don't know (I know one of them, having met her once in person a hundred years ago) and they write on all sorts of interesting topics blending Theology and Culture. See what they did there? Catchy. Anyway, I was asked to guest blog. Wow. I mean, wow! That made me feel a little bit important and a little bit timid and a little bit like I forgot how to get dressed, because it's one of those things that you need to get right or everyone notices and laughs at you. So in the middle of all those nerves I decided to focus on all the perks of being a guest. Here are four of them:

1) You get to use the spare bedroom.
2) You are offered coffee after dinnertime.
3) You are instantly the Favorite Person Ever of the host/hostess's children, who suddenly carry on like they've never had any attention from anybody and surely you will be entertained by them hopping on one foot and in a circle.
4) Also, sometimes an enchanted candlestick and his friends sing to you.

But for all the perks of being a guest, there is also an outstanding rule of thumb as far as guest etiquette goes, and this is it:

1) Don't wear out your welcome, and abide by the rules of the house.

In this case, the welcome and rule of the house I was given was a cap of 1,500 words and oh, that was sooooooooooo hard. That was like saying, "Hey, you can take FOUR FULL BREATHS today and THAT'S IT." Frankly, I should go about introducing myself to people by saying, Hi, my name is Corrie and I LIKE WORDS. I like using them and I like hearing them, but I don't generally prefer limits on them.

But guests need to be polite too, so I slid in with a meager, courteous 1,493 words on this one because I was not about to commit a breach of etiquette by wearing out my welcome and bringing shame to the one rule of the house. Some people (I guess. I mean, I'm married to one of them) prefer, at any and all given times, far fewer than 1,500 words and I was not about to be sent packing because I stayed 5 minutes late or 8 words too many.

GOOD GRIEF. Enough on that. I'm getting entirely sidetracked. Case in point: my post, when short legs happen to good people is posted here. Hop on over to TheoCult, friends? I'd love for you to see what all the fuss is about. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

things that are NOT FUN

Okay, first off, I need to confess a gripe that I have. I am really just sick to death with just about anyone in the world (who has ever read their Bible) for judging Martha and carrying on like her sin was having a clean house.

That.was.not.her.issue. That's not what Jesus called her on the carpet for. (Though, no doubt, I bet she had nice vacuum stripes on her carpet.)

I'm really just a little fed up with everyone using it as a platform to judge people who (1) like having a clean house and (2) are kind of good at keeping a clean house.

To be fair, both sides of the Mary v. Martha tend to be a little judgey. But let's review a few reasons you might have a sloppy house, and a few reasons you might have a super-clean house, and a few reasons that your house might be in any condition at all.

Disclaimer: these are not exhaustive lists, nor do they claim to be definitive. If you feel defensive or have your feelings hurt by these lists, that's not my intent. If you plow into this choosing to take it that way anyway, just stop reading now, please.

Reasons Your House Might Be Super Clean
1. you don't have any kids.
2. you are a control freak. so it's kind of a personality flaw, really.
3. you don't have anything better to do than clean
4. you don't have any causes to support with your money other than paying a housekeeper to clean. and if that's the case, can I be one of your causes and spare you a housekeeper?  you can send your money to me.
5. your mother scarred you for life because she was super clean and it's psychologically tied to a need for acceptance and approval. do you clean your electrical outlets with Q-tips? this is probably the reason.

Reasons Your House Might Be Better Showcased on 'Hoarders'
1. you have kids.
2. you don't have a good sense about how to sort, organize, and throw away junk, even if you like the idea of being tidy. (totally legit.)
3. you look for other things to do because your house makes you feel like a failure.
4. your mother didn't teach you how to pick up your crap. either because she picked up your crap for you, or she didn't pick up her crap, either.
5. you are lazy. also a personality flaw.
6. you are one of those creative people who need clutter in order to function. not so much a personality flaw, but I sure don't understand it. OR you are a creative person who needs all of your craft stuff (like, every bit of it. even for Unknown Crafts of the Future) spread out all the time right in front of your face. have you ever said, "don't throw that away, I want to use it for a craft?" and not had either (1) a legitimate, specific craft in mind or  (2) a legitimate, specific time frame to make said craft? this is you.

Reasons Your House Might Be Somewhere In Between These Extremes:
1. you like the idea of tidy, and you have generally decent ways to go about keeping it that way.
2. personality quality: you realize nothing is perfect, but stay somewhat disciplined with a good measure of grace for where stuff just falls through the cracks. or spills through the cracks. and dries there and ends up sticky and then you find it a month later because right when you were about to clean it up right away your kid walked in the door carrying a fuzzy glob of something that smells like poop or a dead animal or both. yes. lots of grace for that.
3. sometimes your house may be pretty clean and other times it may be pretty junky, but you inevitably end up plateauing somewhere in the middle.

The reason my last list only consists of 3 reasons is that it borrows reasons from the other 2 lists based on the individual. Make sense? Good.

So this is where I need to state that I am a little picky about my kids' toys and MISSING PIECES. Oh my gosh. Missing pieces make.me.crazy. My mother whole family thinks I'm crazy. They don't know what my deal is. HERE'S MY DEAL. Missing pieces make something NOT FUN. A puzzle IS NOT FUN when there's a missing piece. Mr. Potato Head IS NOT FUN when he only has 3 parts of his face and no arms. Monopoly IS NOT FUN when half of the deeds and most of the money is gone. Captain Jack Sparrow understands this. Why doesn't my family?

The other night, I was squawking about this to my mom because I mentioned one of our Strawberry Shortcake girls had gone MIA.

Seen her? Orange Blossom, about 3 inches tall. McDonald's Happy Meal toy from September 2010. Yeah. GONE. Mom looked at me like I had three heads.

"Well, honey," she said, all patronizing like. "Let's say you have six. Just let the girls play with the other five- - "

"We have TWELVE, Mom. Twelve. Six from both rounds of happy meal toys. And yes, they play with the other eleven. But I want to find THAT ONE because it's a MISSING PIECE and MISSING PIECES AREN'T FUN."

Seriously. Why don't they get this?

"It's just a missing toy," she said.

"IT'S A MISSING PIECE, MOM." Sometimes when I get upset I have to speak in all-caps, like maybe I'll be understood that way. "MISSING PIECES AREN'T FUN."

I picked up a Barbie doll at the table.
"This, this right here?" - and I snapped off the head - "This isn't fun any more."

not a fun thing.
 Mom's eyes widened. She started to giggle. She started to wheeze. She was laughing at me. She tried hiding the Barbie under a cloth napkin so my kids wouldn't see that I'd just murdered a toy. But I wasn't done yet. I grabbed a horse with only one foot. Its three other feet had broken off long ago.

"See this? This horse? This isn't fun. It only has one foot."

She cut me off. "Nope. Your 3-year-old had fun with it," she said. "See right there?"

She pointed at about eighty little tap marks INDENTED INTO HER TABLETOP where my maniac-named-Scout had pounded it repeatedly.

"Good. Good, Mom. That's just great. My kid is destroying your table. Also, she's insane. AND, if that were a real-live horse with only one foot, they would shoot it. A dead horse IS NOT FUN."

not a fun thing. unless you're 3.
I sighed.

"I just want to find that Orange Blossom," I said. "I don't know why people feel like once you start counting pieces or keep track of your toys that you're crazy for having a tidy house. It's like that's the platform they use to make themselves feel better about being a slob, maybe." And then I said that funny thing about people judging Martha, and my mom laughed some more. Then she tried to do this thing that was just so sentimental it made me want to puke. I may have openly rolled my eyes at her. She was still laughing. But she was showing me all the marks and scars on her table that have come from people living real life and putting knicks and dings in stuff and how it's just stuff and doesn't last but she's thankful for all those memories BLAH BLAH BLAH.

I really love my mom. Also, I really want to find that missing Orange Blossom. Also, it'd be nice if we all could just cut Martha a little bit of slack and quit judging her for having a clean house.

Monday, November 4, 2013

my house of dreams

Ain't no home like a home in the country, unless it's 707 Main Street, and that's how I've always felt.  Daydream with me a little? Because that's what I've done for about 25 years now and somehow, surprisingly, I've found out that daydreams can be voracious and vicious and a little bit bitter.

There's this house I fell in love with when I was about Freckles' age, and my whole-entire-life I've really just believed two things about it:

1) This house and me, we were really kinda meant for each other and belonged to each other on a heart level
2) If you own a house like this, you never give it up, so this results in a dream that's just a daydream out of necessity because WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would sell that house to me? A House O' Dreams doesn't really happen unless you're Anne Shirley. And I may be the Anne-Shirleyest of anyone I know, but sometimes even a house of dreams looks a lot like clouds in my coffee - everything beautiful and nothing of substance.

Our town is good at having a lot of random parades down Main Street and we always sit across the street from this house and so several times a year I pretend to be interested in a parade when really I'm just gazing across the street and cultivating memories for the future. I've pitched some significant daydreams to myself over the years, to be sure - and though there's a lot to be said for the difference between 'home' and a 'house,' and these dreams can and do manifest happily wherever I am, I just always hoped it would be here, at 707 Main Street.

 This house would have rooms that my children would grow up in and fill with laughter and happy stampedes and books and late night whispers under blanket-tents pitched with old quilts and dining room chairs.

 It would have a drafty attic to poke around in bravely, and a snug basement to hunker down in during storms, and a sun room where our dog would nap, curled up next to a potted lime tree.

There would be an old wooden staircase with an old wooden handrail that's guided countless hands gripping or brushing over it through the years.

And the doorframes! Some doorframes would be arched. Some doorframes would have French doors. And one good doorframe, the sturdiest and most favorite one in the house, would be the place to exclaim "My! How you've grown!" with a pencil mark to note those significant centimeters and 6-inch summers.

Our house would have a welcoming kitchen where you spill long stories, a comfortable fireplace where you sit and string up long strands of popcorn and cranberries for the Christmas tree, and a hallway leading like a long path to rooms of warmth and comfort and peace - and all of those long things - stories, popcorn strings, and hallways- are welcomed because there's no sense in staying just a short while.

This house would smell sometimes like an old book, sometimes like an apple pie, and always like a memory that makes you feel whole and healed and wanted just as you are.

Outside there's a wide front yard good for football on Thanksgiving day and jumping in leaf piles raked up from the maple trees that drop fragments of gold and crimson blush. The deep stone porch has steps to park a pumpkin or two or fourteen, or sit with a cup of hot mulled cider clasped between your hands, steam curling up, on a foggy November morning.

 And speaking of across the street, of course, there's no other chunk of heaven but the library itself. Lumberjack recently asked me if my house of dreams is made even more ideal by the fact the library is just across the street, and while this may be the case, I realized that the opposite is also every bit as true: the library itself is made more wonderful by knowing my house is just across the street. It's only the very best things that have an equally positive effect on each other in places improvement could not even be thought possible.

Because I'm some kind of creepy, I don't really have a problem knocking on a random stranger's door and asking if I can come inside to see their house out of sheer curiosity. I've done that before and sometimes I'm welcomed and sometimes I'm stared at and I guess my theory is that the worst they can do is say no. (Well. I guess the worst they could do is say yes, and then murder me once I'm inside. But that hasn't happened yet, so I keep on asking whenever I feel like it.)

When I had a birthday two years ago, I told Lumberjack what I really wanted was to celebrate twenty-eight by seeing the inside of 707 Main Street. So I talked to the owners and they were really nice and were very willing to let me come look around but they were out of town and then we were out of town and it all just sorta fell through.

Two weeks ago, a For Sale sign popped up in the yard, and I felt an ache in my chest because we are not in the position to buy that house, and life happens and it doesn't matter that my girls are just the right ages for moving into my house of dreams, this house of wonder and hopes. I realized just how much time I'd given freely to daydreaming about this since I was five years old and how I had no idea, until I saw that For Sale sign, how tightly I'd wed my emotions to the idea of living there. I told Lumberjack I hoped it would be ten times our price range instead of just a little bit more because I would rather miss out by a whole lot than a tortuous just-barely-a-little. It ached because I knew, deep down, there was just.no.way.
 I stopped counting how many times I cried that day after my fourth bout of tears and I hated myself a little for being so broken up over something so very, very temporal and insignificant when I have rarely - or maybe never, truth be told - cried over someone not having a house at all. I called and asked the owner about coming to see the house anyway. I knew it would probably be my only chance, ever, to hold reality up to imagination and see how they compared. And the owner, he recognized me as that girl from two years ago, and yes, of course, I could finally come see the house. And, mercifully, the house was not just a little out of our price range, but exactly ten times.

We go on Wednesday to walk in and explore. I am still a little put out with myself for feeling just so sad and hope I don't cry the whole time, because it's JUST A HOUSE and all of my memories of living there are only imagined, anyway. One of these days I plan on not getting worked up over silly stuff, but I will give myself through Wednesday to cry this one out. After all, the Christmas parade is in a month, and I can stand there and still be vaguely interested in it while glancing across the street from time to wistful time. Also, I'm going to advise Freckles to start saving for a house now, because they are very expensive.

Friday, October 25, 2013

in which 2 anecdotes give a good glimpse of our Real Life

I have two anecdotes to share with you, and then I need to go lose my mind. Like bookends, they clamp together all the events this week that WOULD ONLY MAKE SENSE with these two things on either side. Speaking of sense: children mostly don't have any.

Anecdote #1: 
Tuesday night, I checked my email at a friend's house because our computer is dead. That took about 8 seconds. Maybe less. Then I stayed to chat, and that took about two and a half hours. Maybe more. By the time I left, it was about 10:15 PM, and I decided to take a McDonald's apple pie to Lumberjack, who was at work. Well: really, I decided to get a coke, and enough apple pies for Lumberjack, me, and one for Scout and Freckles to split. That's $3.18 of late-night goodness right there.

And then I was handed a coke, and the drive-thru attendant said, "Have a nice night!" and closed the window. I said "Apple pies?" like that's what you normally say to someone who's just told you to have such a nice evening. There was some confusion behind the window. It popped back open.

"So..um..I accidentally gave your pies to the car in front of you. Is there anything else you want instead?"

Mistakes happen. No big deal. But this one would take eleven minutes to correct (by baking up some fresh pies), and it was already late. I smiled, got a refund instead, and drove away with a coke. Clearly my children had no idea what had just happened. They had no idea, being well past their bedtime and all, they'd just been cheated of apple pie. Approximately instantly the moment they figured it out, Scout began wailing.

When it's just so far past their bedtime, you do the only thing you can do. You offer an Oreo instead.

So there they were, eating an Oreo, when there was more wailing. I popped my head into the dining room.

"Girls! What is the deal?!"

Freckles spoke dryly, not even glancing up. "Mom. She's crying over a crumb."

Scout upped the volume. "I WANTED THAT CRUMB!"

Moral of the story: When you're three, and it's way past your bedtime, and someone robs you of your apple pie, a single Oreo crumb becomes a BFD. Please don't ask me to spell that one out for you, Mom. Google it.

Anecdote #2:
Today Scout put on underwear that was a little baggy. She put on pants that were a lot baggy. We went to Wal-Mart. We spent an hour and a half there. And in one simultaneously mortifying and hilarious moment, I looked down to see her pants AND her underwear down around her knees while she walked alongside me. I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, scream, or cuss, so I went with an interesting combination of all four, and tried to leave as soon as possible.

Those are my anecdotes. If it's hilarious or horrifying, it's probably happened sometime in the last 3 days, capped on either side by lunatics who call me Mom.

Also, I told Lumberjack that I'm not going to the Fall Party we're planning (and helping host) tomorrow. I told him I would be on vacation. BY MYSELF. Both girls asked if they could come. And Freckles asked when I'm going to grow another baby. Just as soon as I retrieve the fragmented parts of my mind, my dear, just that soon.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

facing my fears

The thing about irrational fears is that you either die from them or you have to live with them until you die. A third and very likely option is that you will just die from the anxiety of living with them. Double-whammy. That being said, there are approximately three things in the world that I am afraid of to an irrational degree, so I fully expect to have an anxiety attack in triplicate one of these days and just keel over cold.

#1: The Ferris Wheel.

 Here’s why this one is irrational. I’m not afraid of bolted cables, which is why I can ride in an elevator without losing my mind. I’m not afraid of heights, which is why I can smile while waving from the balcony of a hotel room on the 18th floor. And I’m not afraid of circles. SO. It must be some eerie combination of all three. And let me tell you, the 7-minute Ferris Wheel at the Navy Pier in Chicago was every bit as awful as my 28-hour labor with my firstborn. Not something I need to repeat. Also, in one particularly scarring memory from my childhood, there was a Ferris Wheel I rode on with my older brother and it was kind of a rickety, rusty thing and so old that the benches weren’t caged in with seatbelts like they are nowadays. We were at the top and it had stalled to let someone off and my brother started rocking back and forth. And maybe that has something to do with this fear and maybe it doesn’t. I just wanted to share that story.

#2: Storage.

Yes, storage itself. The noun and the verb. Whoa-dang. I got to digging around in a storage shed of my parents’ last weekend and that was just twenty minutes of heavily compacted terror. There was an old roll of paper towels sitting on a shelf that had been mutilated into a pile of shreds. How did that happen? You tell me. My guess is a demonic bobcat. Also, spider egg sacs and piles of unknown grit kind of freak me out. I finally concluded that my incessant drive to get rid of stuff is because the idea of saving and storing it actually scares me. And look, I don’t care how clean and tidy and organized someone’s storage might be. Stuff that sits in a storage bin just gets scarier the longer it sits and starts to smell.

To that end, I also sorted through a box of my parents’ love letters and cards they sent back and forth to each other for like three years, and I have two things to say:

1. No, I did not read any of them. Seeing “To my Schmumpity-dumpkins” written in my dad’s handwriting was reason enough to just leave it be. Gross.

2. I also realized just how genuine and precious these letters were because they were written across distance and time, and that’s not something a digital age really affords anymore because texting is more convenient.  (And the thing about texts is that you don’t have a box of them to look through in 35 years, and even if you save them for 6 months you may drop your phone in a puddle and that’s the end of that.) But texting is also more impulsive, and there’s something very rich about waiting a couple of days to get a letter that says “I love you.” That’s a little bit sacred, I think, and another reason I didn’t want to read the letters.

Finding this box of letters did not make me feel any less terrified of storage, but it did make me feel thankful I’ve saved all the cards and notes Lumberjack and I have written to each other. To be clear, I am not storing them. I am just keeping them.

#3: Jalapeno peppers.

I generally feel it is best to avoid preparing a food that has the ability to blind, melt, or paralyze me. A Jalapeno pepper can do all three. I’ve heard horror stories of people just touching a seed and then touching their face and then spending the night with their arm packed in ice because the seed juice burned their hand. Oh, and by the way, they can’t see anymore, either, because there was Burn Transfer from hand to eye, so not only are they packed in ice but they’re also blind and probably won’t have the facial-muscular strength to even raise their eyebrows ever again. No.Freakin.Thanks. I couldn’t prepare a Jalapeno pepper if my life depended on it because my life depends on not preparing it. Unless I’m wearing a HAZMAT suit. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. I want gloves and a breathing mask and utility goggles and that is the bare minimum I’m putting on for the event. I also want a long wooden back scratcher so I can scratch my face with something if my face starts to itch right after I’ve cut into the pepper, because THAT WILL HAPPEN AND I REFUSE TO GO BLIND OVER A PEPPER. I will scratch my face from an 18-inch distance from myself. When I imagine talking to you and you’ve handled a Jalapeno pepper, the rest of that scene is that you’re probably in the hospital.

In conclusion, irrational fears suck. I’m glad I only have three to worry about. In full disclosure, I am genetically predisposed to longevity on my dad’s side and eternal fertility on my mom’s side, so if I had to pick a fourth irrational fear, it would probably be having a baby when I’m 92 years old. While I can absolutely envision being trapped on a Ferris Wheel with a storage tub full of Jalapeno peppers and no safety goggles, I do my very best to not also project into that nightmare being pregnant at age 92. There’s only so much anxiety a body can take.

Friday, October 4, 2013

stayin' alive

I'm a big fan of Baby Steps. Small, reasonable Goals. Achievable stuff. I don't make New Year's Resolutions because I don't need reminders that I suck. I refuse to give in to a system that thrives on reminding me I'm a failure by the middle of February.

That being said, if you're reading this and you make Resolutions, I have just a few kind, gentle words for you. So cozy on up and let me whisper in your ear:
Don't play that game anymore. 
Don't be that person. 
It's not too late to turn back. 
Don't be stupid.

There, now. Don't we all feel so much better about the issue?

I had an appointment earlier this week at the Health Department. That's one of my favorite places to be. I love it so much I almost regret not working there anymore as a breastfeeding advocate. (None of this paragraph is true except for the parts about having an appointment and the fact that I used to work there. Let me spell it out for you if sarcasm ain't your thing: I hate being at the Health Department. H-a-t-e it.)

So there I was, at the ol' HD, and I didn't even bring the kid with me that apparently I was supposed to. So after we took only eighty-five minutes getting that whole mess straightened out, I sat like a bedraggled lump of bitter scorn and defeat in the clinic room.

"Step on the scale, please," the RN instructed. So I did.

"Oh my! You've lost ten pounds since your last visit."

I started to mumble my usual response.
"Um, that's not surprising. I'm skinny, it's in my gene pool, I have a high metabolism, and I'm breastfeeding...that's five hundred calories a day right there..."

JUST IN CASE you thought discussing weight problems were reserved for Big Girls with plump curves and extra inches, let me tell you that in my experience, health professionals relish  the opportunity to make a Skinny Girl feel like a healthless, hapless, waif just one saltine cracker shy of an eating disorder. But I digress.

She cut me off. "Well, it says here in your chart that last visit you set a goal to maintain your weight."

"Wait, what? That was actually A Thing? A Real Thing? Like there was a Real Goal set?"

My head was swimming. I vaguely recollected the previous visit. A foggy, fuzzy, distant memory, too many sleepless nights back to remember with clarity. I'd just had a baby so my uterus was still blobby and OUT THERE and my boobs weighed 15 pounds apiece. The dietician, my old co-worker, no less, had happily said, "Well, now! Your weight is looking good, how about if you just try to maintain that?" I'd laughed her off. Who was she kidding, anyway? I didn't realize I'd just made A Real, Actual Goal and that it went into my chart and that I had proceeded to fail meeting this Goal with the weight of a ten-pound punch.

The appointment continued and Scout was up next. She was measured, weighed, No-she's-not-around-any-second-hand-smoke, No-I-don't-heat-up-lunchmeats-because-who-does-that-anyway, Yes-we-limit-her-fried-food-and-desserts, yada yada. And then:

"What Goal would you like to set for her?"

I stared at her.

She cleared her throat. "What three-month Goal would you like to set for her?"

I narrowed my eyes. Surely this wasn't happening. So I calmly collected every piece of I'm-in-charge-here dignity about me and said coolly,
"I'd like her to be tri-lingual in three months."

It was her turn to stare.
"Um. Excuse me?"

As much as I love being at the Health Department, they're good at keeping me there for three hours on their own, so I had no real need to drag this out any longer.

"Look. I don't know what it is you want. What do you mean, A Goal?"

"Well. She's three...so...it could be potty training, or knowing her colors, or singing the ABCs...you guys homeschool, right?"

"Yes. And she potty trained over a year ago. She knows all of her colors, all of her letters, and can write many of them. What does this have to do with a dietary health goal? How about if we set A Goal for her to gain or maintain her weight?"

That was satisfactory and we were mercifully dismissed from the appointment a few minutes later. I don't know what she typed, but "Gain or maintain weight" sounds a lot just like "Staying alive," which honestly - especially after today's trip to Wal-Mart - seems about the only reasonable Goal I can tackle in my life as well as the lives of my children.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not without purpose. I'm not without drive. And I'm certainly not without gumption. But I am obstinately without the need for someone whose name I can't even remember setting A Health Goal with (or for) me just because it's the next step in their computer program. And, in an especially combative move, I would like to point out that EVERYBODY IN THAT BUILDING SMOKES CIGARETTES. If we're going to get all intimate and discuss personal Goals with people we don't know, I'd like to include Avoiding Stage Four Lung Cancer in that discussion.

I have since decided to start compiling a List of 3-Month Goals to take with me to future appointments. These include, but are not limited to:

1. Becoming the Supervisor for the Tupperware Replacement Piece Hotline
2. Growing an eleventh toe. Man, the things I could do with eleven toes.
3. Learn to tie my shoes using only my elbows
4. Rally for the city council to give approval on the keeping of hippopotamuses as domestic pets
5. Never go to Wal-Mart again
6. Spend fewer minutes than most-of-my-life at Health Department appointments
7. Time travel, and something about world peace

I will submit one of these Goals, and if they don't like it, then I will submit No Goal Whatsoever. Or just "Staying Alive."

And DON'T THINK that Staying Alive isn't a Real, Valid Goal. If it weren't, there wouldn't be a song about it. Also, Staying Alive takes real effort. It takes eating, and sleeping, and some scrap of sanity, and trips to the library, and clean underpants. It takes dignity, hilarity, and making sure my kids aren't eating their boogers. It takes learning to read, learning to let go, and learning to face fears. It takes teaching my girls about Jesus and also cicadas. It takes figuring out which housework I should do after the girls are in bed (Two answers are acceptable here: 1. No housework, and just collapse from exhaustion or 2. Mop, because there's no one awake to spill anything sticky.). And it takes teamwork with Lumberjack in the check-out lane at Wal-Mart - him to take the girls to the van and get them buckled in, and me to pay for the groceries so he doesn't have a coronary when he sees the total. It takes failing - but leaning on and living in grace. Staying Alive is a good Goal. We practice it well. We practice it with passion and absurdity and mishaps and missed naps.

I still wish I had an eleventh toe. Maybe it will have sprouted in three months. Maybe in three months I won't care. Maybe in three months there will be Bigger, Better Goals to occupy my time. Maybe for the next three months we will just Stay Alive...and I'm good with that, too.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

in which Rosie departs from us and Grassy joins company

Snowball didn't last a day.

I mean: really, that cat did not stick around 24 solid hours. Perhaps he didn't like having his name changed to Rosie. Perhaps he had no appreciation for the Welcoming Party who dressed to the nines for his arrival:

Whatever the reason, that cat left and I can't say I cried. Still, we continued to put out food in his dish because whether we believe in preserving our children's feelings [when said children don't realize THE CAT IS ACTUALLY COMPLETELY GONE] or we believe in feeding wild animals who make their way up to the porch is beside the point. If you keep putting food in a dish and it keeps being eaten during the night, you can really affix the conversation of "Where did Rosie go, anyway?" to a far-off point in time indeterminate.

One day I asked Lumberjack: "So. The cat food bag is empty. How long are we going to keep buying cat food for a cat who isn't there?"

He paused. "Let's go through one more bag."

Let me tell you. Preserving your children's feelings is worth a few bucks on a bag of cat food you're really feeding to raccoons. Also something you don't always find out about parenthood until you're actually doing it without thinking.

The very next day, a stray wandered up. I have very strong feelings about strays. They go like this:

I don't like them.

The thing about strays is that if you go out to pet them, you end up being compelled to feed them. If you feed them, you end up naming them. And if you name them, you end up keeping them.

This particular stray had a flea collar wound around his neck and one of his legs, rubbing it painfully raw; another leg was puffy and he limped. Great. Diseased little wretch. Lumberjack, of course, having a heart of golden baby angel wings, cut the collar off the cat and had a nice little chat with him. The cat sat on our porch and stared at us. The next morning, the cat was still there. I sighed. Why wouldn't he go away? I had a moment of conflicted insanity and I checked for a single can of tuna I knew we had sitting in our pantry. Couldn't find it. I did, however, find a can of chicken gravy that I had NO idea how THAT got there since I make my own gravy. Whatever. Stalwartly believing that beggars canNOT be choosers, I figured a stray cat could not possibly object to chicken gravy even if it weren't homemade, after all. I wondered how I was going to confess this act of charity to Lumberjack. I decided to barf it all out in one messy puddle of a sentence.


Lumberjack stared at me. He slowly responded in a sentence that didn't come out as a barfy puddle in the least.

"I gave him the can of tuna earlier this morning. That cat's not going anywhere."

I fully believe that some animals have the capacity to express, in some form, a level of gratitude or affection after being rescued. I've never known cats to exhibit this level of decency or indebtedness. That is, until this cat. He's friendly; he's affectionate; he doesn't pee on our outside stuff.

Our girls, by the way, were flat out overjoyed a new cat had joined our company. It was then and only then they asked, "So, do you think he'll get along with Rosie?"

Sometimes you just have to sit and stare at your kid and HOPE TO HEAVEN that somebody asks again for the eighteenth time in an hour how old they're going to be on their next birthday and if you can rent an elephant and a circus tent. Those things are so much easier to answer.

Freckles commenced to naming the cat immediately, suggesting Rosalie as the new moniker. I'm telling you, my kids are NO GOOD at naming things. They are imaginative little minions in all sorts of things but this is a chief failure. If it starts with Ros- ...that's it. Rose. Rosie. Rosalie. Rosetta. Roosevelt. (Yes. Roosevelt.) RoseannE. RoseannA. Rosemarie. Rosalinde. Rosabelle. I'm sure there are about a dozen other variations I've missed.

In a moment of sheer brilliance, Scout overthrew the Rose Empire and pronounced this new cat to be named Grassy.


Grassy it is. And Grassy he's stayed, no longer limping, no longer puffy-legged, no longer raw-necked from a poorly placed flea collar. And now a permanent fixture on our porch, irritatingly affectionate. Of course, I have a second name for him and that's Dusty Miller because my life is no good if I can't have a literary tie to basically everything. Go and pick up Anne of Windy Poplars and read all about Rebecca Dew the housekeeper and her treatment of Dusty Miller, or "That Cat," as she calls him. Let's just say I put out some leftover chicken scraps earlier for him but I made sure he didn't see it was I who did it. I wouldn't want him to get the wrong idea or anything. I believe one day soon he may make a bold dart for the kitchen while the door is open and he will meet a swift boot right back outside if he does. After all, I really don't like cats, and he is no exception.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Man Crush

First of all, I am terrible at consistent blogging. There are a lot of things I am better at being consistent about. I am good at feeding my kids on a regular basis. I am the best laundress I know and consistently have no stray socks. And I frequently and consistently take harmless remarks as insults. (I get that trait from my mom. No doubt when she reads this parenthetical statement, she will be offended.) But when it comes to electronics and plants, I usually leave them to die and then wonder what happened. One of these days maybe I'll be better, but who knows. Honestly, why do plants require SO MUCH WATERING?

Tonight's topic is The Man Crush. First, I'll lead in with talking about Irrational Crushes. An old slave-driver of mine - actually, he was sort of an employer but somehow I got sucked into giving nine weeks of my life away for free so that's kind of like being in slavery except it really was such a terrific summer - once talked about Irrational Crushes and what exactly those are. He considered it a good ice-breaker topic in getting to know strangers by asking, "So, who's your Irrational?"  For instance, he's a happily married, heterosexual man and his Irrational is Ellen DeGeneres. Another friend of mine claims her Irrational is (or used to be, anyway) Martin Luther. Obviously, your Irrational can be somebody dead. (That's one reason it might be Irrational.) When I was 17, I fully admit to professing an undying love for Steve from Blue's Clues. I cried during the episode he left for college, and that's a true story. I may or may not have written him a letter asking him to marry me. I never sent it, and I'm glad I didn't. (So much for undying. I was 17. What did I know of love?) I like my guy now, and he doesn't even wear a green striped shirt.

Along the scope of the Irrational Crush is the Man Crush. A Man Crush is a crush that's on a man from a man who isn't gay. Lumberjack is the frequent, unwilling victim target of being the Man Crush in our circles of friends. I've taken it upon myself to determine why, and I think I've got some pretty good reasons. He believes it's all hogwash and wants to go live in a hole.

Reason #1. He's a guy's guy. He does manly things. See Reason #3.

Reason #2. One time he almost cut off his finger when splitting some wood and he splinted it with another piece of wood and didn't go to the hospital. See Reason #1.

Reason #3. He doesn't play video games. He does rugged things like fix stuff, build stuff, and explore stuff. When he builds things, he draws his own blueprints. When he fixes stuff, sometimes he consults youtube videos first and sometimes he doesn't. Like the time he was out in a john boat and the motor died completely super-far-away from the shore. He MacGyver'd a metal clip from one of his stringers (I barely even know what a stringer is) to rig the motor and get back to land. No time to consult youtube for that, and I highly doubt an arsenal of video game experience would've helped much.

Reason #4. He's the strong, silent type. He kind of believes he doesn't need a lot of friends, or maybe any at all except for me. He's unaware that this comes off as an elusive, hard-to-get personality, and that in not needing a social life he actually attracts clingy people. He'd probably throw up if he knew.

Reason #5. He's ruggedly handsome. And if you're wearing black socks with your sandals, well, you sort of need someone ruggedly handsome to stand next to.

Reason #5a. He looks like Ben Affleck in Argo wearing Kramer's lobster shirt and looks just right in that combination. If he's not wearing that combination he's probably wearing flannel and dirt.

ben affleck

kramer's lobster shirt
lumberjack's lobster shirt
Reason #6. Most of what he does is effortless. He's effortlessly funny. He's effortlessly helpful. And he has no desire EVER to try to be in the limelight and in fact dies a little when anybody makes a big deal of something he has said or done. Being the subject of a blog post like this is enough to make him go into hiding for a good eight years or so. He loves me a whole lot, so he has consented to the blog post even though it's very painful for him. Case in point: when you come off as effortless, people flock to you.

He's also effortlessly kind to those guys who stand close enough to wrap their arms around him or nuzzle his neck even if that's not really his cup of tea. Please don't take advantage of this point. And please don't ask him to play video games with you. He would sooner hold hands and sing Kum Ba Yah.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

confessions: so this is real life

There are just some things NOBODY TELLS YOU ABOUT when it comes to parenthood.

I mean, let's get real. Everybody knows you're going to have some sleepless nights. Everybody knows that babies have poopy diapers and that's kind of gross. Everybody knows not to hold a baby above their face or else they'll get puked on. [And yet, some people do it anyway. The kind of people that are idiots?]

Here's something NOBODY TELLS YOU ABOUT. That sometimes, you'll go to a restaurant that has one of those ball pits that you have to take your shoes off for. Your kids will probably have their shoes off by the time you get into the restaurant even if you're nowhere near the ball pit. If you survive the E. Coli and your kids do too, then inevitably they'll need to put their shoes on before you go home. And because your five-year-old of course picked THE MOST COMPLICATED SHOES ON THE PLANET, just getting them back on her feet is like trying to get out of a straightjacket, except in reverse.

So you squat down and use both your hands to try to help her with the shoes. I specifically mention both your hands because you had been using both your hands to hold your baby who can't do anything on her own except smile and poop, and sometimes both at once which means she probably has a very good future as a multi-tasker. So where is your baby at this point? Remember you're squatting? Well, you have said baby compressed between your knee and your collarbone. Right as she's about to LOSE HER MIND squawking because really, that's not very comfortable for anyone as evidenced by the fact we never see anybody positioned like this at their leisure, your five-year-old FREAKS OUT because you've just apparently amputated her pinky toe while trying to get on a shoe you've cursed under your breath about 872 times in 3 minutes. Who even knows where the three-year-old is at this point. She might be eating off some stranger's plate. Or digging in their purse.

Feel enlightened, friends. Who else is gonna fill you in on the real facts of life? I've got your back. I've got your back like it's a towel I need to wipe up some graham cracker puke with.

In closing, I should mention that sometimes my kid licks the Walmart cart and that's worse than a ball pit.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

why you are where you are [part 2]

[I'm not afraid of getting a little vulnerable and messy. So here's a story about a very real, very important, very crucial chapter in our lives.]

Seven years ago, my sister - I'll call her Palindrome - said she had to go to Africa.

She was holding a magazine with a notice about mission trips to orphanages in Liberia. And this was what she was meant to do.

My parents have always been into equipping their kids and encouraging them to TAKETHEPLUNGE.

"You want to dye your hair blue? Sure. I like blue. It's a good color."

"You have a life dream of being a soapmaker, you say? Let's get started." [and that life-dream lasted all of 1 day.]

"You want to go to Africa? Go for it."
but wait -

"For TWO YEARS? Um, no."

So she went for two weeks instead and she met this girl, this girl who changed our lives. 

 D - and that's her alias here in the River, because even though her name is really Deborah I have always, always called her D and so nothing else fits here on this blog - was 14. She and Palindrome bonded instantly. On one of Palindrome's phone calls home, my mother talked briefly to D and loved her from the moment she heard her voice.
And, long story short: my parents tried to adopt D and there were obstacles from the very beginning. I stood in our community and asked for prayers - I have a sister in Liberia - and she needs to come home.

But it all fell through, and D went to another family, and our family's collective heart was broken and so very, very sad because this didn't seem like the way it was supposed to be. But a call is a call and sometimes life just doesn't look like what you thought it might. My parents were still willing to do what they always do, and that's welcoming children, even if it's different from who they thought it was going to be. So then they got these pictures:

And, longer story even shorter, my now-youngest two siblings came home.

They were home for all of 6 months when my parents got another call. It was from D's adoptive family. They were on the verge of disruption. That's adoption-speak for "Things REALLY AREN'T WORKING OUT and our family is being destroyed and if you don't take her, she's going back." 

[Disruption in adoption isn't a casual thing. It's a really big deal and my heart truly goes out to anybody who finds their family in this position, this place of seeing only darkness all day, every day. If that's you and you're reading this? You are not alone.]

So they got a call asking if they could take D. And smack in the middle of their own adoption-adjustment, they said yes, and she came. I was so angry the day she came. Not because she was here, but because of how she was dropped off. Her adoptive father laughed and joked in my parents' driveway and then formally signed over legal guardianship over pizza, smiling the whole time. Hearts are such fragile things, and you don't just hand over a hurting, angry one in a business transaction over a piece of dessert pizza.

D met her match in my parents. They are strong people, but tender people, and they are wise and humble and have a vision into heart-problems that is unmatched in anyone I've ever met. They rarely address what seems to be the issue but pray to see the root of it because usually the root of the real problem doesn't look anything like what's actually coming to the surface. But in working with the root, the whole plant is changed, and my parents know it. They're not perfect, and no parent is, but every imperfection is laid at the foot of the Cross. They live the gospel. In my parents D found a boxing ring of love, squaring off never as her adversary but as her ally and sometimes you need to ram yourself up against a boundary to find out how tough it is and if you're actually loved. My dad, probably quoting somebody else, likes to say that children ask 2 questions in all of their actions - "Do you love me?" and "Who's in charge?" and that those questions should always, always be answered, "Yes," and "I am." D found those questions answered in my parents and their thoughts were that they already had some grey hair, and what's a little bit more?

Conflicts and resolution were meted out on the orangey-brown couch in their living room. For the first of those conflicts - and there were many-, D sat with her face covered, all but her eyes, with couch pillows. Sometimes a couch pillow is all you can grab as a shield to protect you from the rejection you anticipate. That rejection didn't come, and never did, and with each conflict the couch pillow didn't come as far up on her face, and eventually she just held a pillow in her lap. My mother spent months working and walking and talking D through her anger, her hurt, her pain from her past and met each of those moments with bravery because my mom just doesn't back down from too much and she knows how to love hard and scrape away ugly layers. When I think about hurting, wounded people, sometimes I think they need a tough-nut who knows that healing doesn't come from just being pitied and sometimes real love is tough love and we're going to walk this dark road together until we find what's worth finding. Because that's what real compassion does that simple pity fails to do. My mom didn't pity D; she loved her...and they walked that dark road.

D found healing in my parents' home. And one day she found Jesus. My dad had the greatest privilege he could ask for - getting to baptize her.

And then there was a week almost 9 months into it when 3 people in our family all heard the same thing: It's time for her to go back. And my parents knew that the hard thing and the right thing were the same thing - and sat on their orangey-brown couch and she just sat there with the couch pillow in her lap this time, eyes brimming up and nodding.

So she went back. Her adoptive family kept in touch, because frankly, they were a little scared of her return. But they reported she was a changed girl. She was different. The change was authentic and undeniable. Their family was at peace. And I remember my mother showing some weakness to me and saying I just don't understand what that was all about and why it had to be that way. 

My mother claims I said something very brilliant to her at that point. It sounds vaguely familiar but at the same time I think, Wow, I said that? That's pretty good stuff. and I half-don't-believe it was actually me who said it. Anyway, I apparently said something like, Mom, if God is the master crafter we don't get to pick how he uses us. We don't get to pick what kind of handtool we get to be. Mom and Dad weren't her parents, but they were the handtool being used to reconcile her to the people who were.

D stayed in touch, and she came to Palindrome's wedding a year and a half ago, and there she met Lightning AND THAT'S NOT AN ALIAS, THAT'S ACTUALLY HIS NAME. Whoa-dang, right? Anyway, D and Lightning were both from the same orphanage in Liberia and all of our adoptive families are kind of in the same circle and so Lightning's family was at Palindrome's wedding too - and so he and D somehow managed to reconnect there.

Well, one thing led to another and Lightning and D got married last weekend. Her Liberian father managed to fly in to the States to be there for her. My own dad had an aisle seat as she walked by him between her adoptive and biological fathers and I don't think I've ever cried so much at any wedding as I did at hers.

 The officiant told their stories - of their adoptions and of  how they met, and now how they're here, and of their salvation and when he got to that part in D's story he said soberly, "Deborah, you said you had a rough patch for awhile and that's when you went to live with this family, and that's where you met Jesus and were baptized."

What's a story's resolution without the conflict in the first place, anyway? What's being found without knowing what it meant to be lost? So of course that was part of her wedding story. Of course that's what it was all about, and why it had to be that way, because there wasn't another way for it to be.

During the reception, I found D to grab a picture with her. She flung her arms around me and the hug was sweet. She has always been my sister and I've always referred to her as such. But as I held my hand out to Lightning, I didn't know what to say. Here, in her "real" family's front yard, I didn't know how to name our relationship. So, of course, I naturally fumbled.

"Hi. Congratulations. I'm so happy for you guys. I'm Corrie. I'm - well, I'm..."

D cut me off. "She's part of my story."

I turned to D. "Thank you - for what you included in the ceremony - about Mom and Dad..."

Her eyes glistened and a grin split across her face. "It's because of her that I am who I am. She's the reason I'm here today." 

I hate the 'why' questions, actually. Why did this happen, why didn't this happen, why did it shake out this way...as if there was really another Plan or a choose-your-own-ending. It was always the Plan. This. was. always. the. Plan. It was always going to be like this. 

But I burrow my face into the peace of knowing, gloriously, that because Palindrome went to Africa and met this girl that another family adopted her at the price of our pain. And because she didn't come to our family, my parents went through with adoption anyway and brought home two others who we wouldn't trade for the world. And because our names were on the table with D's adoption, her family knew who they could call when things weren't shaking out. And because she came here for that short time, she came back for Palindrome's wedding and met Lightning. My family's home was her rehab, her in-between, the place she found Jesus and healing and became a new person.

It's not the story we would have written, but it's not a story in which I would change a single detail. We're just hand-tools, after all. We don't get to pick what kind we get to be.

Monday, July 8, 2013

why you are where you are [part 1]

 [old journal-stuff coming full circle in my life these days. names changed.]

I wake up on Mother's Day thinking about fruit, and outside the sky waters seeds I don't even see.

I gaze out the kitchen window and marvel at the daylilies springing up in our backyard, bursts of defiant orange against a grey, drizzly backdrop. What will bloom today? I marveled too at the spirea, the honeysuckle, the poppies, the kanzan cherry tree all pink and frothy, the irises, the azalea, the lilacs...all wondrous and all planted decades and decades before we got here, the labor of someone's hands or even just a seed on the wind that multiplied in the soil.  Every day is like Christmas - what will open up today? I wouldn't have guessed all those wonderful blooming surprises were in hiding when we first laid a curious foot out here in November. Sometimes you plant and sometimes you reap. Sometimes you're just the in-between. This hundred-year-old farmhouse, it's seen some days and a lot of change over time and tiny sprouts grow into thriving, full bushes and trees. This farmhouse, it's patient and I could learn a few lessons.

The rain continues and I'm thankful. The seeds and the farmers who tend them, they need this rain. But my mind wanders and I feel a melancholy deep down. Fruit, fruit...did I do any good? Could I have invested any more? Could I have given more, in any moment? Two years of working so hard to build a friendship and now goodbye and did it really do any good? Do I really believe what I've always said about my little community, that we're good about reaching out and loving on people and sometimes we're a stepping stone and sometimes we're a rehab and am I really okay with being that in-between, that place of planting and watering and maybe never seeing the fruit of what God's growing from this?
My mind jolts back to December. And that lady said on a visit back home, that lady who was a student here when I was two years old and she and her husband were loved on and welcomed and cherished, she said - I want to thank you. Because back then, we just were lost. And all you did was love us. You didn't try to change us -- you just loved us and helped us with our baby. And on our last Sunday here so many years ago, I stood and prayed that God would help me love people like you loved me. And now I stand here and tell you that all of my adult children walk with the Lord and love other people because you loved us and showed us how.

Those people who loved them, they couldn't have known what seeds they were planting or how it would affect future generations. They just loved who was in front of them and saw that even Paul said, 'I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow,' and they were happy in their own skin of being seed planters because they knew God's Word does not return void. Sure, it's the reapers who may see the seats filled and baptisms every week but sometimes that's not your thing because it can't be your thing and in a transient town, all you can do is embrace the person who's here for just a little bit and it's the person who comes back after twenty five years who tells you what a difference it made in her life that keeps you making that difference. Seed planters have to understand that it takes depth and darkness and death in the soil before anything is made from it, and that there's never a field white for the harvest without someone first planting seeds in the dark and in the depth.

We drive to the church building on this rainy Mother's Day and I sit behind her. I've seen the back of her head so many times and fought to really see her face and get to know her heart. This girl who had a way with silence that gave my way with words a run for its money and I've never worked so hard to get to know anybody in my life. Countless meetings at the park, only to sit in awkward silence. Sometimes drinks from Sonic would be in hand, like a peace offering for a scared little animal. Will you be my friend? And I'd get home and he would ask me: So, what'd you guys talk about? And I would shrug helplessly and say, Well...nothing. And he would ask me why I was bothering and I could never lay my finger on the answer why, only that I had to. And then sometimes in the middle of the night she would text, frantic, that she didn't know where her husband was and he should have been home hours ago. Or expressing deep, lifelong doubts about her own faith because of some bad theology she'd absorbed somewhere along the way and I'd try to pull some weeds. Those dark nights, seeds were planted then and sometimes that defined the depth of our friendship, if she knew she could wake me at 2 am with fears and doubts. Darkness of night, depth of conversation and by nature all those seeds would also have to die but I was believing on faith that something could come from it all and banking on a lot of hope that something actually might.

Church announcements ramble on. I bite my lip and the self-interrogation continues. What can I pack into the next 72 hours? What can I still invest? What still even matters, because has any of it mattered? The firing squad is interrupted by another woman, unrelated to my friend, standing up across the room. She says, I want to thank you. My daughter has been here off and on in the last couple of years and I want you to know how much it meant that you reached out to her and loved her and supported her. She was in a really bad place, and one day she came and heard about forgiveness and she was saved that day. And her life hasn't been the same. She moved recently, but she's getting married in September.
And she talked more about how this girl's very sick, very special-needs boy is still being fed through a feeding tube but how he's happier and functioning better now and how much the prayers and support meant to her daughter. And how her daughter felt like who would ever want to marry a single mom with two boys, one of which was so sick? And how all we did was reach out and love her and how that made a difference, and she just wanted to share that with us on Mother's Day because sometimes we don't get to see how things turn out or if any fruit comes from the seeds we plant and water.

The interrogation inside my mind is silenced. She had spoken to the whole room but it felt like it was aimed directly at me and it shot a piercing bullet more accurately than all the questions swirling around relentlessly since waking up. I blink a few times, fighting a rising gate of water. And then a man rises and says, "You know, this is Andy and Kayla's last Sunday here, and we need to send them off proper," and everyone gathers around because this is what we do and I'm asked to start the prayer. I try to swallow the lump down hard but it doesn't work and the rain that's been watering seeds all morning now moves inside. I don't usually close my eyes when I pray. I tend to fall asleep that way. So I glance around at those gathered around and I see those precious hearts who are so good at what they do, just quietly planting and watering and reaching out and loving deeply and helping with babies so a mom can finish her degree. And I realize it's hard work, this faithful job that doesn't fill the seats or see results in numbers but we get reminders that what we're doing matters, right when we need it.

I let a few tears slip, wipe my nose on my kid's shirt, and I pray. I ask that they be led to another community who will love them, encourage them, and challenge them. I ask that they will get connected in real relationships where they can give as well as receive. I ask for their steps to be guided so that wherever they go, somehow they are drawn closer to the heart of Jesus. And I quietly express my thanks, while others speak, that we've had the opportunity to be their in-between.

I don't hear the sermon. I sit in the nursery with some other moms on Mother's Day, playing with babies and my friend who is saying goodbye brings in her little boy who is eleven months old. He camps out on my lap the whole time, eating crackers and smiling at me. I squeeze him a few times and kiss the top of his head. I didn't need to hear the sermon. The message I needed was heard loud and clear. I take him back to his mama after the service ends.

Over lunch, I glance outside and the clouds are parting and moving on. The sun is breaking through, shining down on seeds planted and watered. Today was a watering day, an in-between day. But I see how this model works, this planting and watering and nurturing, and I text my friend because she hasn't moved yet, and I ask her if she wants to join us at a TBall game tomorrow night. I can embrace and give value to this in-between day. I wonder quietly to myself, What will bloom tomorrow? and have every confidence that something beautiful will spring up from these hidden seeds.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I kinda hate meetings.

I can pretty well be friends with anybody, unless you're a planning-meeting, and then I hate you and we will never be friends.

I don't know what it is about meetings and maybe it has to do with whether I'm left-brained or right-brained. You know those tests you can take to figure out if you're in your right mind? Well, I'm not, but I'm not in my left mind, either. I'm a big squiggly blob right down the middle of my brain in the frontal lobe that hates planning-meetings with the fire of a thousand suns.

If you do a google-image search on right brain left brain you get all sorts of returns that are kind of similar to this:
very informative but also kind of confusing. can I just be the side that's brightly colored INSIDE the lines?
Yet, EVERY TIME I see one of those charts I am endlessly thankful that having equal traits on both sides is a relatively easy problem. It's a lot easier to cope with than, say, the problem of being named North West.

So, really, left-side/right-side mumbo jumbo doesn't do a lot for me. And neither do planning-meetings. In fact, a planning-meeting is essentially a demonic floor-puddle from the pit of hell itself in which I am forced to step sock-footed. Have I ever written about my peeves? Stepping in a puddle while wearing socks is top of the list.

The difference between a planning-meeting and an informational-meeting can't be understated. A planning-meeting, especially a poorly-conducted one, usually serves no purpose other than to run late and have everybody sit around fluidly thinking out loud. Informational-meetings, on the other hand, are just about a teaspoon more tolerable and I can get through them without feeling rugburned on all sides, as long as they only last about 20 minutes. I don't mind an informational-meeting every now and again as long as it has a worthy reason and serves an obvious purpose, but in order to qualify as something I willingly choose to spend my time on, the following criteria must be met:

1) It must be short.
2) It must be to the point.
3) It must have a goal, fulfill a purpose, be productive, AND efficient all in one.
4) There must be snacks.
5) You must either provide childcare I approve of, or be coloring-book-and-lots-of-interruptions-and-potty-breaks friendly.
6) See number 4. Preferably cookies. And a big drink from Sonic.
7) Why are we having this meeting again?

One of my friends gave me this magnet for our fridge. I look at it daily to remind myself how much I dislike meetings just in case I ever forget and accidentally find myself in one.

the picture of the duck is just a bonus.

My best form of planning is to either think it all through myself or talk it all through at a non-meeting [that is, we just happen to be together with no agenda in mind] with up to eight thousand people until they start to annoy me, and then I need to get back to thinking it through myself. When I 'talk it through,' I really mean have a wild conversation where ideas overlap, people have to shout to be heard, and usually somebody is laying in a pool of their own blood by the time it's over. That's basically a normal conversation any day of the week with my Gigantic Family, or anytime we discuss Christmas plans, and unfortunately Hyperbole is usually right in the thick of it. I say 'unfortunately' because this is one area where she inevitably starts to annoy me right away. I am having my own private, unofficial planning-meeting tomorrow night with Hyperbole and her short-little friend, Steampunk. There's no way around it, really. Hyperbole texted me and asked if they could come over and I had a slight panic attack before replying. I mean, I guess so. If there are no other options laying around. Can't I pick being slowly being eaten alive by vultures? Or being poked in the eye with a hot stick?

My survival tomorrow night is determined by the fact I already have my coping strategy lined out. It goes like this:

1) The meeting is at my house.
2) I will have cookies.
3) Hyperbole will bring me a big drink from Sonic.
4) I can tell her to leave when I just can't take it anymore.

As a last resort, if she won't leave when it's time for her to go, I will either go over and spontaneously puke in her lap or claw her eyeballs out and throw them at her. Win-win. She wants to leave, I want her to leave, I still have part of a drink from Sonic to work through, and I can still finish off the planning-meeting by myself in the big squiggly blob right down the middle of my brain. Boom.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

playing cat and mouse

We got a cat.

I have liked, for lack of a more accurate term, approximately two cats in my lifetime. They're both dead now, and I did actually feel a little sad at their individual passings, so I leave that fact in your hands to prove that hell can in fact freeze over, pigs can indeed fly (unless they are mucking around in a river and incapable of much else), and hope might actually float if the boat is watertight and it is a seaworthy craft.

I don't like cats. I'm a dog person, but our last dog died too, and I'm the sort that takes a good 30 years or so to grieve before I'm ready to bring another dog into my life. And I'm only 29, so obviously I'm not ready for another dog just yet.

Freckles' first pet was a fish named Judith. Judith was a nice little fish that was an orangey-pink cichlid and in fact, the sickliest cichlid I've ever seen because she up and floated to the top of the tank within about 2 weeks. Just a tip, here? If you're ever someone's birthday pet, especially a 4-year-old little girl's, don't go and die within 2 weeks. Not the best idea, really. Still, the funeral was nice.

The girls happened to be playing dress up when Judith the fish was buried, and Scout, who was 2, kept repeating solemnly: "Beesh. Die. Beesh. Die." You can't really see Judith in this picture, but Freckles is digging a hole while Lumberjack has the Beesh on a plate.

Our backyard is home to a happy little family of wild bunnies, and frankly, I don't need any more pets than their magical presence provides. They are loved from afar, and that is good enough for me. We're ant-farm people. We're goldfish people. We're backyard-bunny people. We're not cat people.

But we get this boy-cat who Scout immediately names Rosie, abandoning his previous (though hardly more masculine) name of Snowball. We got Rosie not as a pet, as the children believe, but primarily with the utilitarian function in mind of mouse catcher. It was also a mercy move, as Snowball previously lived with Whirligig's mother and she needed to decrease their 2-cat household by one, and somehow do this without breaking Whirligig's heart. So Snowball came here, changed his identity, and I expect as long as I never have to talk to him we will all be quite the happy family. He looks mean as hell.

When you live in a 100 year old farmhouse, it's pretty hard to dissuade the critters who also live here that it's really not their home anymore. It's been in the family for decades. Their family, that is, and they intend to stay. Things live in the walls here. One day Freckles said, "Go get Daddy. There's a bear in the wall." I suggested to her that it might be a squirrel, but she said, "No, Mama. Squirrels don't have claws." Now: I know that Freckles knows that squirrels do, in fact, have claws. I simply know that what she really meant was Squirrels don't have claws like that, and, frankly, I was inclined to agree with her.

But this story is about mice, not about squirrels, or bears, or other demons in the walls. In our first few months of living here, we caught and killed countless mice. One night, Lumberjack was at work and there were 2 mice landed in one trap and I simply could.not.bear. to move them outside. So I called up Hyperbole, because I stop at nothing in my rights as an older sister, and had her complete the task of bludgeoning the mice to death with a curtain rod while I sat atop the kitchen island garnishing the situation with plenty of dramatic squeals.

Before you accuse me of having no business even living in the country if this is how I deal with mice, I would have you know that among the creatures to get in our house there was also once a SNAKE, in our very living room, and I picked it up with my very hands and moved it outside. No gloves, no heart palpitations, no trembling. Snakes are okay. Mice are not.

In recent months, we have found two entire mice (on separate occasions) drowned in the toilet. How they came to be there, I know not, but I suspect foul play, or a love triangle gone sour.

Furthermore: one cold night back in January, again when Lumberjack was at work, I had the misfortune to realize a mouse was caught in a trap near my bed. My plan of attack was to first throw a towel over the tunnel-trap to keep the mouse from moving it further than the 12 inches it already had. Then I bravely took an ammo box and lobbed it at the towel pile. I felt very satisfied and courageous until I heard the mouse squeak, at which point my only recourse was to balance myself atop the ammo box and jump up and down several times. This actually happened, by the way, and if we used snap-traps like my sister in law Ranger J prescribes I wouldn't have much of a story to tell. When at last I crawled back into bed and covered myself with my children as a shield, I continued to hear more mouse-chirps and that sent me over the edge.

Near hysterics at this point, I called up my older brother, begging him to come over and dispose of it. I simply was not going to sleep in any room with a half-dead, mostly-crushed, paralyzed mouse who might still attack me. So, said brother came over, considerably disgruntled in spirit, and found I'd managed to fully contain the mouse inside the glue trap before said bludgeoning occurred, which also happened to be effectively flattening, then took it outside where he peeled it apart and found that there were actually TWO MICE together in there. And then he formally killed them. Lumberjack, by way of text, wanted to know how long they suffered before actually dying. [He is extremely considerate and humane in his disposal of any animal, even if it is unwanted.]

And now that I've brought up Lumberjack's merciful spirit toward suffering animals, it leads me to show you Exhibit A:

That, my dear ones, is a mouse Lumberjack rescued from drowning and set it up with a veritable feast of cheese bits and strawberry caps. This incident remained unknown to me until I was flipping through pictures on our camera and came upon these. I demanded to know when he planned on telling me about this event. 
He said after rescuing it from a barrel of water it looked so roughed up that he just couldn't bear to kill it off because - 

"There's such a thing as kicking something when it's down, honey, and can't you just see how pitiful and soggy this poor mouse looked? After I fed him I set him loose in the wood pile, and gave him very clear instructions about not ever, ever coming inside."

And in return I mustered up, "Oh. What a sweet, sweet thought you had there and I'm sure you think it's very cute. Did you also include in your very specific instructions to not ever make little mouse babies, considering of course we have every reason to believe this mouse is going to listen to you in the first place?"

"No. I forgot to tell it not to have children."

Let it be known, friends, when you have a sister who has sworn off mouse killing with a curtain rod, and a brother who has sworn off coming to your aid at 11:15 in the evening, and a husband who FEEDS THE ENEMY, there's little else to be done but to get a cat. 

Our Rosie better catch some mice or I will like him even less.