Saturday, December 19, 2009

"...she was counted too"

There are moments with my kids that sneak up unexpected-like on an ordinary day and parade by with a slight wave or a faint smile of acknowledgment. Then, if I am fortunate, they wake me up early so that I will savor them. This one woke me today.

El got a letter yesterday from Margaret, her eight year old sponsored child in Kenya. Margaret's letters are dictated so this one is filled with quotations. "She says" this and "she asks" that and in the end, "Bye, bye and God bless you," she concludes.

This part - "She informs you that in Kenya last month there was a census where people were counted and she was counted too. "Have you ever heard of a census?" she asks." - got the biggest 'awww' from El and prompted her to write back immediately. El told Margaret that she first learned of censuses when he learned the story about Jesus' birth. She told her she was glad that Margaret was counted in the census.

So sweet. She was really saying that Margaret matters to her.

She counts.

Grateful #257

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Indignities of the Day

"And now...Indignities of the Day! Brought to you by your sponsor, Perry Menno Pause. What do you have for us today, Perry?"

"Well, Stefanie, first someone - we would never say who - won't be able to see that pesky chin whisker due to their failing eyesight! They'll have to tweezer that bugger by feel!"

"OK, I'm sure they can handle that, that's nothing new."

"There's more! Once they yank it out and hold it at arms length so they can see it, they'll find that it's THAT color."

"THAT color, oh no!"

"Yes, Stefanie, and to further make their day undignified, they won't be able to remember if THAT color is spelled with an 'e' or an 'a'!"

"Thank you, Perry! Thank you!"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Harley, you've been talkin' for a thousand miles!

I started writing this a month ago, and left it in draft because it wasn't going anywhere. Perhaps it hasn't gone anywhere yet, but I feel a need to complete something, even if it's just a bunch of related/disjointed thoughts.

***

I'd bet our family has spent more than the average amount of time in the car. Our extended road trips are a result, some would say punishment, for moving so far away from family. One of our first long trips was Utah to Iowa and back when the girls were four and two years old.

It may help to interject here and now that both girls were early talkers. I know that everyone thinks their kids are the smartest ever, the most highly advanced, blah, blah, and blah. But really, our kids started talking early. Mo's first word came at nine months when the 'b' sound she was experimenting with became 'b' words. Ball, button, balloon, bottle, baby - 'bah', 'buh-n', 'buh-nnn', 'ba', 'beh'. I counted her words on her first birthday, and the more than one hundred words in her vocabulary included strawberry and butterfly. ('BAH-deh-lee-deh-lee' and 'BUH--deh-lee-deh-lee'. They count. Yes, they do.) El's trajectory was similar to that point, though not as diligently documented since she is second.

Maybe all those 'b' words should have been a warning bell, a beam lighting futurity. I come from a quiet family. In my memory, dinners were often silent until I grew weary of only hearing silverware clicking on plates and faint eating noises and did something about it. I was the youngest, so there must have been noisier times in our home, but many of my memories begin about the time my older siblings reached the sullen, silent teenager phase. I had, for the most part, control of the noise level for a considerable number of years. I liked it that way.

***

The ramble above was a result of what follows.

Steve just looked over our phone bill. Keep in mind we were gone for ten days in Italy.

Texts sent last month:
Me: 31
Steve: 102
Mo: 241
El: 2118

Assuming that the bill is for around 20 days, that's further proof El talks nearly 70 times more than I do and close to 10 times more than her sister.

And Steve talks three times as much as me.

***

We've started a new Bible study at church, and this one is about the tongue. Someone brought up the 'fact' that women speak 3 times or 4 times or however many times more words in a day than men do. Familiar with that theory? It does not hold true with Steve and I. I even said so, out loud, but I don't think I was heard. I am most often the silent one. Not always, but often. In some ways my silence is my defense against saying something I will later regret. In spite of the fact that I am quiet by nature, I am still quite practiced in speaking, then thinking. This study should be good.

***

When we were in Iowa, on that road trip when the girls were four and two, my mom gave El a Happy Meal toy to play with. Pluto (or Goofy?) was on a little boat and a big blue fish was wound up to the end of the boat by a string. Pull - I can't think of a good sound for that - the fish, and whirr, the fish went back to the boat.

The drive home, for me, is characterized by two things:

PULLLLLL
WHIRRRRRR
PULLLLLL
WHIRRRRRR
PULLLLLL
WHIRRRRRR

And:

Steve, as we neared Roundaboutthemiddleofnowhere, Wyoming quoted Jimmy Stewart in The Cheyenne Social Club: Harley, you've been talkin' for a thousand miles!


***



Some journeys require a lot of miles and a lot of words. You can quote me on that.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Choices

You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
You have reached us during a high call volume.
If you would like to leave a message please press one,
or please continue to hold.
Please hold.
We are answering calls in the order received.
Please remain on the line.
We'll be right with you.
We welcome this opportunity to serve you.
Someone will be speaking with you momentarily.
RINNNNGGGGG!
RINNNNGGGGG!
RINNNNGGGGG!
Dr. Someone and Someone Else's office, can you please hold?

(Sure.)

Your call is very important to us.
Please stay on the line....
...
...
...

Elie is sick. Steve lit up her throat with a flashlight and pronounced, "STREP!"

I make the call.
I am on hold.
I need something to do.
I make two right eared phone calls while the home phone asks my left ear to make a choice.
While hunting and pecking.
I am woman, see me multi-task.

After twenty minutes of the above, we have an appointment.

I congratulate myself for making the right choice.

Now, how to stop the annoying phone music in my head?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

256th Grateful, and more on our trip

is at Steve's blog.

We're home.

Last minute packing, Naples, Rome, Newark, and then driving home took about 20 hours. We all went to sleep shortly after 8 pm yesterday and we were all awake by 5 am. How often are our two teenagers awake by 5 without having set their alarms? Only once. Today. So we had a Jetlag Party. I made my first (lame) attempt at cappucino and we had Nutella on toast. We laughed as we remembered the funny things we said and heard and saw over the last 10 days.

I'm thankful we got to go to Italy together, that the seminars went well, and that our families enjoyed each other so much.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hello/Ciao

Hi all!

I am in an office at Il Faro listening to the kids practice a Christmas skit while Jacki is in a meeting. I'm waiting for my camera batteries to charge so I can download some pictures and enjoying a bit of alone time.

I've wondered what to write about the trip so far. Italy is amazing. It's beautiful. The weather has been divine. Traffic is insane. The food is delectable. We've smelled sulphur from a dormant (?) volcano. We've seen the port Paul landed at so many years ago.

God is at work.

There are so many great things going on here, and I find myself frustrated by my inability to communicate. Even though we worked on a few phrases ahead of time, I still find myself tongue tied and completely blank when I meet someone new, even the people I've gotten to know. Just a few minutes ago I greeted Claudia, one of the youth workers with, "Hola!" Fortunately, she's quick and responded with "Hola! Como estas?" Sigh.

Here at Il Faro, you're just as likely to hear either English or Italian. It was fun to sing in both Italian and English during the church service. I loved hearing the translation of the two languages whenever anyone spoke. It takes twice as long to say anything!

The kids are still practicing their skit. I can hear that laughter is the same in every language.

Monday, November 16, 2009

fifteen


green girl

arrived early morning the appointed day
screamed nights into oblivion
captured hearts
defended the downtrodden
chose the less traveled way

significant
fiercely loyal
lovely beloved
determined
timely

word lover
welcomer leader
sister (pester!) persister
seeker tester
adventurer smiler

green girl, mine

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Shortest Drama Ever: A Brief Conversation

Steve to Teenage Daughter: Have fun!


Teenage Daughter: Don't tell me what to do.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

enhanced gratefuls

253. White accents - the pinecone's finishing touch.

254. Coffee and a bite or six of chocolate.

255. Seeing my daughters hug their daddy. Getting hugged too. With a little bit of back scratchy.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

For the Birds Gratefuls

249. Sunlit yellow leaves.

250. Birds chatting it up when there is finally a break in the rain.

251. Momentary lulls in bird chatter.

252. The cheeseburger bird. There's a bird (actually many of them) that has a call something like 'chee bugga chee bugga chee bugga chee'. We've never caught a glimpse of it. We call it the cheeseburger bird.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let's hear some virtual applause

Sometimes I feel like I'm being dragged along by technology.

A few months ago, I was in the church parking lot to pick up Mo from youth group. I didn't feel like getting out of the car, so I sent her a text to let her know I was there. She answered, and then I texted back to let her know that I was at the front door. The trouble is, my second text consisted of a single word.

"Reply"

She did.

"?"

See, I had planned to reply with an actual message. But my old brain got confuzzled.

It kind of happened again the other night. I thought of a brilliant status update for facebook. I got my phone, hit the facebook app and 'wrote something' -- directly to Mo's wall. Apparently the app opens facebook at whatever you were doing last. Mo would probably say I had been stalking her. But she would be wrong. I had been looking at her wall and there is a difference, thank you very much.

I got the giggles. Somehow I explained what was so funny. She thought it was funny too.

Stefanie "would like to take this opportunity to offer a round of virtual applause to the inventors of the following: crock pots, corn bread, and garbage disposals."

Stefanie "Oops that was supposed to be my status! Hahahaha"

Mo "Why, thank you mother! No other person has ever commented me on my many inventions!"

Mo "Reply"

Stefanie "tee hee"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

H2O Gratefuls!


242. We have running water in the kitchen!

243. No more washing dishes in the bathroom sink! No more drinking water from the bathroom faucet!

244. Dishwashers are magical! My new one works! And it sounds like a little waterfall!

245. Perfect frozen quarter-moons fall into the freezer at regular intervals! And they know when to stop falling!

246. Filtered water tastes fantastic!

247. A little filtered water with my glass of quarter-moons tastes even better!

248. The garbage disposal no longer threatens to jump out of the sink and devour me whenever I use it!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Everyday Gratefuls

236. A few forkfuls of the perfect ice cream to apple pie ratio.

237. Every day brings us closer to having running water in the kitchen.

238. Loading my friend's dishwasher after she made dinner for all of us.

239. Watching the morning fog being burned away by the sun.

240. Crazy prayers prayed for me and mine.

241. Anticipation.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Spinning

I wrote a facebook status this morning that sent me awhirl thinking about seasons and life and change and crap.

It's official. Autumn. I've traded shorts for sweaters, itchy allergy eyes for equally itchy eczema spots, and pesky afternoon bees for wet morning cobweb slaps across the face.


What have you traded?


It bothered me afterward that other than 'shorts for sweaters' which is a positive trade (or at worst neutral) since I am usually ready for seasonal wardrobe changes, the trades could be perceived as one negative for another.

Since then I've wondered what bothers me most about that. More whirling thoughts, but different. Is it that someone may read something that may seem negative regardless of intent and think badly of me? They may think I am always negative or they may think that I am in a crappy mood. Can a pastor's wife be in (or say she is in) a c-word mood? Is that what this is about? Is it about the things I say and the way I say them?

They may be upset that I would use the word crappy. Even though I did not actually use it, I just thought they may think it. They may suspect that my crappy language hides a deeper propensity to use worse-than-crappy language. I admit that I used to use way-way-worse-than-crappy language, but I no longer (ok, extremely rarely, and usually only when I am quoting someone else) do so. Evidenced by the fact that I now worry if my language languishes for a while at crap level. Even when it doesn't yet, until I worry about it and then it does, and I use the word crap or a derivative thereof precisely eight times, and then go up to the first sentence and put it there too because suddenly my meaningful thoughts (and the thoughts I have placed in other people's noggins) have taken an unexpected detour to the crapper. Is it wise for me to admit that this paragraph just made me laugh out loud? Probably not.

Did you ever go to a fair and pay $1.00 (you would have to add the cost of inflation over the last 35 years or so if you were interested in trying it out now) to make a spin painting? My friends and I made them every year at Cattle Congress, our town's local fair. Yes, it was really called Cattle Congress. I can smell the Tom Thumb donuts and cow crap (my apologies, I did think I had moved on) right now. A thick piece of cardboard was affixed in some manner I cannot recall at this time to the bottom of a deep cylinder that could spin with the mere flick of a switch. The painters had a few color choices in squeezy bottles at the tips of their fingers. Several painters could be at work at the same time. The secret to a beautiful masterpiece was short bursts of pure color and not too many of them. Paintings were clothespinned to a line to dry. The really wet ones dripped and the colors dulled as they were ruined by gravity. What was intended for the edges gradually forged an ugly path down the middle. Those were usually left on the line, unclaimed at the end of the day.

I stand above the canvas carefully choosing colors and placing them in layers. I try so hard. I pin the results on the line proudly sometimes knowing they are good, but more often I suspect the colors will bleed. I reach over and add a bit of red to yours without asking and I think you've squeezed some red on mine out of spite. Only you are unaware of the red from me and I can't see the red that's supposedly from you because they are not really there. Because those colors are not real. Here's what's real. I've managed to give my own painting a double shot of muddy brown. A really real one.

We've begun a new Bible study. It's about our thoughts, the things that we tell ourselves that no one else hears, and truth. Here's one. I'm not nice to me. I suspect others of thinking of me what I think of me, but I forget that I am hardest on myself. I don't judge others as harshly as I judge me. I can assume others don't judge me as harshly as I think they do. I think you are probably too hard on yourself too. Do you put words in other people's heads that aren't there? Maybe you've put words in my head. Trust me, I'm not thinking them. I'm too busy thinking I think I know all the bad stuff you are thinking about me.

I hope that my work, even the crappy stuff, makes yours better. I hope that it helps you see where you can place your own colors. We can hang it all up to dry and pass it on to someone else to enjoy and add their own color and spin. Your work, your lives, do that for me.

I'm thinking that I still have a lot of trades to make. I need to rid myself of a load in exchange for pure color. Regularly. Care to go for a spin?


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Intangibles

What is the value of a dog?

My answer would have been different a week ago. "A dog is just an animal," I would have said. "There is no reason to sink a boatload of money into saving a dog's life." I no longer agree with that week-ago me. I did not know myself.

~~~

As a girl - like most girls - I was an animal lover. My mother was not. No dogs allowed. No questions, no arguments, no dogs. Period.

When I was eight, my friend Steph with a 'ph' dared a group of us to go pet her St. Bernard, Peter. We were on our way to a tumbling competition in Illinois, and Steph's was the last stop before we hit the road for the weekend. Peter was outside, leashed to a stake in the ground. I'd been to Steph's house several times and Peter had always been a sweet, drooling fuzzball. I had no reason to suspect that Peter would be any different that fall afternoon. Steph knew though. Peter hated to be on a leash. Peter was dangerous when he was tied up. The other girls must have known too, because they giggled when I took the dare. I was confident in my Dolittlian ability to speak with animals. I took the dare. I approached Peter, and just as I reached my hand out to pat his head, I saw the teeth. There were his teeth and I heard his growl, and I did what any eight year old girl would do. I turned to run away. His front paws grabbed me by the shoulders before I could run, and he bit me. I was wearing a pink cotton t-shirt (not the thin baby tees my kids wear, but the thick 1970's kind of t-shirt that was made to last) and my favorite jean jacket. Steph's dad, a doctor of apparent unDolittle variety, put eight stitches in my back for free.

We went on to Illinois later than expected and I competed the next day. My mom patched up my jacket and I continued to wear it proudly with hope that someone would ask about the stitches in the back. Peter was euthanized after he bit the mailman the second time. I no longer believed in my ability to converse with animals.

And I avoided big dogs.

~~~

When we got Caspian five years ago, we decided the following:
1. We were not going to pay for pet insurance.
2. If the dog got cancer or some other expensive condition, we would not treat it. We cannot afford treatment, and we would let him go as comfortably as possible.
3. Probably nothing else would happen.

Five days ago we learned:
1. Pet insurance would have been a good investment.
2. You cannot know ahead of time what you will decide.
3. Other things happen, lung torsion and pyothorax to name just a couple.

~~~

It's been eighteen years since I got a degree in Economics, but I still remember the principles of Cost-Benefit Analysis. Life gives plenty of opportunities to practice the principle. A sick dog also gives opportunity. In Cost-Benefit Analysis, the costs of a proposed action and the benefits of the same action are listed, quantified when possible, and compared. The tangibles are easy to identify and quantify, but a decision made on the tangibles is incomplete and can be the wrong decision. It's often the intangibles that can tip the balance and change the perceived net present value of the proposed action. Intangibles are often virtually impossible to quantify.

~~~

Caspian's Intangibles:

He barks when people come to the door. Friends, foes (well, I am assuming here), and UPS deliveries are all greeted with barking. He doesn't ever bark at the mailman. I've grown to appreciate the barking as means of telling us that something is happening. I've left my kids alone at home countless times and never worried about their safety. The first few times we left them alone were much easier because I considered the dog to be a protector.

He barks when he smells smoke. He will wake us if there is ever a fire.

He makes Steve exercise. I would say he makes us all exercise, but that is not true. Steve is his man, and Caspian must have a walk, or at minimum a game of catch with Steve or his day is incomplete. Any exercise benefit the rest of us achieve is purely of our own initiative.

He keeps our minds and wits sharp. He is a sneaky, crafty thief. We've learned to think like dogs, and take protective measures to preserve our food, trash, and toilet paper. He has sparked our creativity.

He feels a bit like a monstrous Beany Baby. His black hair is soft and never rejects the moisture of a tear.

He comes when called, mostly.

He knows how to put his ball away in the toybox when playtime is over, he knows his rug is where he receives treats, and he goes to his crate willingly when we leave - as long as peanut butter is there for him.

He still remembers how to bring in the newspaper, even though we cancelled the paper years ago and he only gets to practice with the free paper that comes occasionally. We get to laugh because he happily prances into the house with a shake, shake, shake of the paper, drops it, and runs to the rug for a treat. Job well done.

He's become a member of our family.

I am no longer afraid of dogs.

~~~

The intangibles tipped the scales, and Caspian is home.

~~~

Call me crazy. I would have.

Grateful Number 235

235. Caspian is still alive.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gratefuls in the midst of destruction and restoration

In the last couple of weeks, we've had our kitchen gutted and begun filling it back up with good things. Flooring and cabinets so far. It may be three more weeks before we get a counter top and running water in there, but progress it is.

There is, well there was, an old farmhouse along the road just past our church. It sat watch at that farm corner with its outbuilding or two and its cute little porch out front for more years than I can hope to have for myself. Of course it was white once. Absolutely. It was holding tight to the remainder of its grayed whiteness just this week, in sharp contrast to the plywood blinders someone slapped over the windows a while back.

I've had a long intrigue with this particular house for some reason. I think people lived there when we moved here ten years ago. There were signs of occupation anyway, the type of occupation an aged home gets from renters. I saw in that place a bit of my childhood. Green grass growing clear through from the yard into the ditch and up to the road. Cornfield cutting off the yard from two sides at a right angle. Gravel driveway. I've never lived on a farm, but somehow I carry farm life deeply. This decrepit farmhouse at the edge of suburbia gave me daydreamy moments. Over the years I've wondered what it was like inside, and who built it for whom, and why was it not loved anymore? I wondered if I could save it. I knew I could not.

I drove past the house in the morning at the moment the machinery took a swipe at the roof and the walls caved in on themselves. Two men wearing hard hats and big bellies stood there in the grass, faces upturned. There is no place to stop and watch, so I drove on to work. Later, trucks drove away with the debris. They left behind a green square with a hole-side driveway. I suppose even the hole is gone by now.

There will be no new farm house to keep watch at the corner. The finality grieves me.

Maybe the destruction of my kitchen and the destruction of the farmhouse was just a coincidence. My kitchen had to be torn apart to remove the mold from the water leak a couple months ago. And mold there was, between the layers of flooring and in the newspapers stuffed behind the cabinets. Newspapers? Why? Some things we'll never know, like why a farmhouse is neglected into oblivion.

Neglect, intended or accidental yields similar results. Destruction is fast and loud and messy and disruptive and so shocking, but it's only part of the story. Restoration begins with slow and painstaking work toward the long awaited mysterious end. There lies the hope.

228. Being reminded of the day El sang "That's Amore" while vaccuuming.
229. Being able to do something for someone without them knowing it.
230. Getting a fabulous deal on rugs.
231. Putting down the rugs today.
232. Watching the boxes clear out of the living room day by day.
233. Watching the kitchen get closer to done every day.
234. Hearing the laughter of the three people I love the most.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

End of Summer Gratefuls

215. Cool days. Cool nights.

216. The full moon. New every time. Wondrous.

217. The tomato plant that could. And did. And still does.

218. A good start to school, all told.

219. A kick in the pants (mine). Tears. Effort. Success.

220. Long afternoon light.

221. Feeling better after a short-lived cold.

222. The feel of Caspian's hair after a grooming.

223. Unexpected e-mail.

224. A book.

225. Lunch with a daughter.

226. Water ice with a daughter.

227. Dinner with a husband. Well, that's tomorrow. Grateful in advance.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Firsts

She
packed her bag the week before
posed happily for a picture
said "kiss kiss hug hug love love!"
bravely boarded the bus
met Co the first day
and they are still friends


She
packed her bag last week
worried
packed her lunch last night
worried
did not throw up
slept all night mostly, yeah
did not want her picture taken
talked her dad into a ride
will eat lunch with Co
and other friends
will make new friends
and probably suffer a friend realignment
or two



She
did not know I stole her picture anyway
has a bright future
is beautiful
is smart
is adored
still says, "kiss kiss hug hug love love!"
occasionally
but each time still feels like the first


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

For me, I am so-so

Last week I was in Haiti. It was a personal journey for me. I went with a friend; she's now a dear friend. I didn't tell many people beforehand. We returned last Saturday.

While I was gone, I wrote emails every day. I've decided to share parts of them here, but now that I sit down to do so, I am reluctant. The part of me that did not want to talk about it ahead of time still does not want to talk about it afterward. I'm just a girl. I can't change the world. I was scared I would not succeed, but I did not know what success would be. I went with only one week to give, to do only what was in front of me. We stayed at an orphanage, Maison de Lumiere, which means The Lighthouse. We organized supplies in 'the depot' and my friend cleaned some rooms in preparation for them to be classrooms in the coming school year. We got to be a part of the neighborhood feeding progam three times. I saw kids who were rescued from the streets of Port Au Prince now serving other hungry, desperate kids. We played, made crafts, laughed, talked, and learned more about our amazing God. I also saw the orange hair that comes with malnutrition and heard the cries of a child being beaten. I saw the makeshift toys and the cramped cinderblock homes of the families that live in the ravine. I saw.

Knowing me, this may be the only time that I do share. So, if you'd like, if you really want to 'hear' what I had to say, I'll email the emails to you. Otherwise, be satisfied with this small part of what I wrote on Wednesday and after I got home.

Wednesday
...I helped in English class today. Their assignment was to write a letter to a friend or a sponsor in the US. Bethany, the English teacher, will mail the letters when she goes back to school at the beginning of Sept. It was fun to read the letters and help the kids with their grammar and spelling. I learned something of their phraseology. They don't begin their sentences with 'I'...and that's the way they talk, too. They would have said, "For me, I learned..." It was hard to make them change their wording since it was so conversational. Some of them were excellent letter writers. I should write more by hand, I think...

I've been thinking alot about the "For me..." that I read so much that day. One of the boys began his letter with:
How are you doing? For me, I am so-so...
I loved his honesty.

Home again
Bill and Susette asked us Friday night what we had learned from the trip, and someone else asked me nearly the same thing yesterday. I'm not sure yet that I know what it is that I was supposed to take with me. Maybe some big revelation will come later...maybe not.

I do know that I don't need nearly as much as I sometimes think I need. I can be content with the amount of stuff that fits in a carry on bag. Probably less. How does that apply in my 'real' life?

I know even better than before that people, especially kids, can change before your eyes when you smile, and touch, and engage them for even a moment.

I know that I will never look at rice and beans the same as I did before. I used to think of them as a cheap meal. Now I see them as the difference between malnourishment and health.

Twice when I was feeding the neighborhood children, they stopped eating and I could tell by their body language that they had seen the cups of water being served to the other children. They would not take another bite. They were desperate for the water. Both of them reached shakily for their cups, held on with both hands, buried their faces in the cups, and drank half of it without stopping. They took a deep breath and then drank more. In John 4, Jesus is at the well with the Samaritan woman and says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." I'm reminded it's a desperate thirst people have for Jesus.

Many told me that I would be leaving part of my heart in Haiti. They were right. I'd go back tomorrow. Want to join me?

peace to you,
stefanie

How am I doing? For me, I am so-so.




Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Gratefuls

I've neglected the blog.
I don't know exactly why.
I just have.
It's summer.


211. Our daughters were camp counselors last week.
I got to be there to see glimpses of them in action and hear some great things about them:


welcoming

responsible
loving
friendly
thoughtful

accepted
complimented
valued
admired

exhausted


212. Mo got her driver's permit on the first try, and Steve is teaching her to drive.

213. I have eaten one grape tomato from the plant I bought in May. It was delicious. More tomatos may follow.

214. It's summer.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mid-July, Mid-Life

last
tigerlillies
lightning bugs
firecrackers
surprising
pop

azalea growls
flashes tardy bloom
behind
cleome bursts



(leggy mums hidden
bide their time
awaiting the next)



first
locusts
sunflowers
fallen
yellow
leaves

bees doggedly
pursue the mower
of
slow growing grass

Monday, July 20, 2009

Story Problem

I always hated story problems in math. They hurt my brain. There were always too many details to sort through to find out what the important information really was. Here's my own story problem of the day.

Question: If a basement pipe drips one drop every 20 seconds, and the drop lands on a half full box of dryer sheets, how long does it take to saturate the box and the dryer sheets and start dripping through the shelf to the dryer - the one someone just gave you because yours died - below?
Answer: Put a bucket under the drip and go upstairs, leaving it for your husband who is currently at a baseball game to solve. And try to forget that you just hit a deer on your way home from shopping. A baby deer with spots. Go snuggle your slightly traumatized teenagers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Birthday Gratefuls

208. Hearing my girls laughing together yesterday.

209. Knowing that I need nothing. I do not need a birthday gift, Steve. I want no thing. Thank you for all that you have given to me.

210. Being reminded in church yesterday that Worship does not equal Singing. This list is one of my own acts of Worship.

Monday, July 6, 2009

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

CAN YOU HEAR ME?
PARDON MY YELLING.
IT'S LOUD IN HERE.

WE GOT HOME LATE FRIDAY NIGHT.
I STEPPED ON A DAMP RUG GETTING MY NIGHTLY GLASS OF WATER.
WATER I LEAVE BY THE BED AND USUALLY DON'T DRINK.
I LOOKED UNDER THE RUG.
I NOTICED THE FLOOR BOARDS WERE WARPED AND DAMP.
THE DISHWASHER HAD A SLOOOOOW LEAK WHILE WE WERE GONE.
WE WERE GONE 10 DAYS.

CAN YOU HEAR ME?
I CAN'T HEAR YOU.
IT'S LOUD IN HERE.

WE FOUND WATER HAD DRIP DRIP DRIPPED DOWN TO THE BASEMENT.
IT SOAKED A FEW THINGS WE DON'T CARE ABOUT.
I'M GLAD THERE'S A CLOSET BELOW THE KITCHEN.
I'M GLAD MOST OF WHAT WAS IN THE CLOSET IS IN PLASTIC BINS.
I PRETTY MUCH LOVE PLASTIC BINS.
THE HUMIDIFIER LEAKED TOO, IN THE SAME WET CLOSET.
IT'S A COINKEYDINK, THEY TELL ME.

CAN YOU HEAR ME?
THE NOISE IS DEAFENING.
I SAID IT'S LOUD IN HERE.

CERTIFIED RESTORATION'ERS ARRIVED TO SAVE US.
THEY TORE UP THE WARPED BOARDS AND DRILLED HOLES IN THE FLOOR.
THEY LEFT A DORM-FRIDGE-ON-STEROIDS HUMIDIFIER AND A BLUE-KETTLE-DRUM FAN.
BOTH SOUND LIKE AIRPLANE ENGINES.
I HAVE TWO AIRPLANE ENGINES IN THE KITCHEN.
AND I HAVE TWO MORE DRUMS AND A FRIDGE ROARING IN THE BASEMENT.

TIL THURSDAY.

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
GOT IBUPROFEN?
WHAT'S IN YOUR BASEMENT?
CALGON, TAKE ME AWAY!





Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thi sblog

I took a lot of Spanish classes in college. One of the classes that I grew to love was a pronounciation class. There were only a few people in the class. I liked that. It's a lot easier to try something and mess it up good when just a few people are listening.

Maybe that's why I haven't told many people about this blog.

One of the requirements of pronounciation class was that we practice a particular passage during the week and record ourselves on a tape recorder (yes, the old fashioned kind) so that we could hear ourselves and improve our diction and theoretically quit sounding like Americans Speaking Spanish. Each week we brought our first-time-through recording of the passage along with the best recording to the teacher for a critique. It was intimidating.

The first time I recorded myself, I started and stopped several times due to an uncontrollable fit of the giggles. When I am uncomfortable with something new, I giggle. This applies especially to things that involve my mouth. I nearly got hysterical the first time a hygienist used that sucking hose thingy at a teeth cleaning. More recently, when a hygienist told me to get a ultrasonic toothbrush so that I didn't have to go to a peridontist in a few years (yes, getting older does not mean that people quit telling you what to do), it took me a few tries before I could brush my teeth without taking a break partway through. Trying new foods? Giggles. Kazoos? Harmonicas? Humming? Forget it.

I learned in pronounciation class that eventually you reach a comfort level where the 'r' rolls naturally and no longer feels weird. One begins to be able to hear and speak individual words as a bunch of sounds rather than as each individual word. Native speakers in any language run words together and leave out the sounds of some letters at the ends of words because the sounds at the beginning of the next word are similar. Sometimes the beginning or ending sound of a word is unspoken for no reason at all. I was fascinated with the concept. I'm r-r-ra-r-r-ra like that.

Today as we were driving home from church, El mentioned that she doesn't have to do homework today. She thought of it, I think, because it's the first 'regular' Sunday for us since school let out. Last week we were on vacation and the week before that we had a big Father's Day event at church. So her teenage mind must have shifted into the habit of reviewing what homework she needed to do as we were driving home today.

And I said that the last time we were here it was Father's Day. And remembered out loud,

"That's right, it wasn't a regular Sunday."

Then for some razón rara I explained to them that I hadn't said,

"That's right, it was an irregular Sunday."

Even though they mean the same thing essentially, I wouldn't have known what to write if I was in English class and had to take dictation.

Maybeethi sis why yi ha ventold mannypee polabou thi sblog.

More Traveling Gratefuls

201. Seeing old friends.

202. Seeing old friends.

203. Seeing old friends.

204. Goodbyes. Tears. Sadness that is good.

205. Safe home.

206. Being thanked by my teenager for not being like the mother of four on the plane. Bless her heart. She'd had a rough day.

207. The damage from the leak could have been worse.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Traveling Gratefuls

189. Mo's arm entwined with El's while the plane landed and Mo saying with glee, "We're in Colorado now..."

190. El and Mo running to greet Grammy in the airport. Then running to greet Papa Jack in the parking garage.

191. Lying on the front deck flat on my back at 8am watching a hawk glide across the sky without flapping it's wings.

192. The big blue sky of the west.

193. The tamale vendor who gave our daughters a free tamale because they had never eaten one.

194. Running from room to room to get the best view of the storm.

195. Standing outside (in a safe place - believe me?) to try to get a picture of lightning.

196. Listening to thunder and watching a thunderhead build while eating on the deck.

197. Seeing the regrowth and renewal that occurs after the devastation of a forest fire.

198. Eating lunch while viewing Pike's Peak.

198. Pink in a sunset.

199. Orange in a sunrise.

200. Extended family.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

NOW! has arrived

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gratefuls in the Sixth Letter

183. First fireflies of the year.

184. Friendly faces.

185. A few minutes alone.

186. Fast approaching summer.

187. Fresh basil fetched from the planter out front.

188. The fantastic f in the middle of my name.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam

Someone who simply goes by the name 'me' is really getting on my nerves. 'me' needs to find something better to do than ask me spammy questions. How long til 'me' gives up?




So, 'me', to answer some of your questions: I am on facebook...no, I haven't seen your keys...still haven't seen your keys...I definitely did not ask for you, your updates are of no interest to me, and yes, I am currently online...wow, that is the age-old question right there...unfortunately, I do have your links...wait, I have a question for you - how can I be disqualified already when you just invited me to join?...no thank you...and a big no thank you on the vomiting video.

On the upside, I learned how to use the snipping tool so I could share my spam folder with you. I promise to use my new power for good, not evil.

And thank you, Google, for the link to the Spam Fajitas there at the top. I appreciate the permission to add extra salsa.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Honeysuckle Haiku



You're never too old
(Honeysuckles grow in pairs!)
to learn something new


Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Clean, Well-Lighted Memory

Three times in the last few weeks I've remembered pieces of this, a small, deeply buried piece of who I am. First, in an airport conversation with Robyn, second, in a facebook exchange with a new friend, and third, in some photos I saw here on Chris' blog.


She quietly makes the rounds. She's learned already to be invisible. That's how you hear the best grown-up conversations. That's how you get to eat lots of potato chips and dip without getting in trouble. You lick the dip from the chip and get more dip til the chip is soggy and stays behind in the dip and then you get a new chip and start again. There's squishy red pimientos to suck from green olives and green olives to admire at the tips of all ten fingers. They don't quite fit though, even on her tiny three year old fingers. They split at the sides and the saltiness drips and she gives in, eating them thumb to pinky then pinky to thumb. She doesn't leave any salt to dry on her fingers or wipe on her shirt. She keeps her fingers in her mouth until they taste like fingers. She moves on to the bottles and drinks the last half-sips of beer in each one. She's learned early this flavor, this drink and it's smell that already encircle her.

She begs to go along with her dad well, he's her step-dad and the only dad she has memories of living with and her uncle well, he will be her uncle when he marries her aunt even though everyone says he is nearly as old grandpa when they decide to ride the motorcycles. Begs until her mom nods. She smiles inside her gold flecked bobble head helmet as they kick start the bikes and push forward to flip up the kickstand and she knows it's time to climb up. She just knows how to avoid burning her leg on the hot side and for the first time she hears him call her 'Monkey'.

She rides behind so she can hold tight with both arms and she never lets go. Her first crush begins then.

They go fast. There are flashes of green everywhere and there is the brown river first on one side and then the other. The sun is bright. It's over too soon. She is lifted off the motorcycle and away from her almost uncle.

She does not want to be invisible anymore. She brings him the bowl of dry-roasted peanuts and offers the olives, shiny-smooth and black this time, from her very own fingers. She confesses her love for him simply, "I love you!" and climbs uninvited onto his lap as she wraps her arms around him again this time face to face with no bobble head between them.

He unwraps himself and looks her in the eyes and says,

"Monkey Face, let me tell you about love."

He speaks and she listens. She does not understand his words, but she understands his voice and she sees that his words are not meant just for her. He is looking at her aunt.

She forgives him then for marrying her aunt. For loving her more.

Monkey Face climbs down and disappears under the table with the jelly filled mints that look like little white pillows and wonders why some melt in her mouth right away and others need to be broken on the outside by her teeth before they will begin to melt.


My aunt married a dentist. It was the second marriage for both of them and he was much older than she was. He was a true outdoorsman. He camped and hunted with a procession of Brittany Spaniels in an old aqua truck named 'Thumper'. He made fly rods and tied equisite flies. His hair and his beard turned white as the years went by. He spelled his last name with one 'm' just like Ernest and the family resemblance, though distant, was striking. He taught me how to mix his drinks and I knew he wanted another when he said, "While you're up, Monkey Face."

I adored him.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Honeyed Gratefuls

181. Honeysuckle.

182. Honey wheat bagels.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Life After Home

Our church hosted a discussion last Sunday evening called Life After Home. My husband Steve interviewed Dr. Tim Clydesdale, a professor at College of New Jersey and author of The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens after High School. Since a number of people who could not make it to the event were interested in the subject matter, they made an audio recording.

I think you should listen.

Send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I'll direct you to the link.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Giving Gratefuls

171. Surprising someone.

172. Meeting a neighbor.

173. Root systems.

174. Dirt under my fingernails.

175. An abundance to share.

176. Dog kisses that do not make contact, but communicate the sentiment anyway.

178. Daughters who made dinner and dessert while I dug.

179. Steve swooping in to dig out the last few things when my strength was gone.

180. Sitting on the concrete bench in our newly rearranged, de-tigerlillified little garden using a big spoon to eat melty orange sherbet from a Christmas mug and examining the small butterfly that landed on my aching thigh.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gratefuls in Balance

161. Walking together.

162. Celebrations.

163. Loooong weekends.

164. A beginning. Belonging.

165. Spider conquered.

166. Impromptu lunch with a crowd that grew. Outdoors on a Sunday afternoon. With much laughter.

167. The word impromptu. Impromptu use of the word impromptu.

168. Impromptu small purchases.

169. Kind words.

170. Balance. Being told that someone on the other side of the world thinks I'm a genius. In this particular narrow situation, I just may be. Then having to ask how to fix the view in Excel because I can't figure out how to make the slider bar display. Balance.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Which came first...

...the wakefulness or the urge?

Since I am vertical now, I might as well get my horizontal thoughts out.

Last weekend we took a trip to New Castle, PA for a church conference thingy. We flew to Pittsburgh and then drove to New Castle. This isn't about the meetings. Stay with me.

I found a book in the airport on the way home. I bought it based on the title - unreviewed, unrecommended, unheard of (by me) until that moment. The Girls From Ames might not have grabbed your attention the way it did mine, but then again you may not have grown up in Iowa with a tight-knit group of girlfriends that you've known so long you can't even remember when you met. I did. When I saw the book I said to my friend Robyn,

"Someone wrote my book!"

Ya snooze, ya lose.

Robyn told me I should still write my book. I love that. She said this book is not my book because it's not my story, and she's right. It is parallel though. That's why I bought it and read it in four days and wrote notes on nearly every page. I could have read it all in one sitting. I think you should read it even if you didn't grow up in Iowa and it could have (should have) been your face on the cover.

It's a book about friendship.

Read it. I need to discuss.

Now that I got that out, I have to say that this isn't even really about the book, though the book is marinating in my subconscious, and may have directly influenced my wakingupinthemiddleofthenightneedingtopee thoughts.

My thoughts followed a progression that began with something that happened to me as a teenager. Many teenagers in Iowa get summer jobs detasseling. My friends and I detasseled. It was hard, filthy work. It was also fun.

Ten years ago, as we were thinking about moving our family here, people were amazed that I was 33 and had never seen an ocean. They thought I was some kind of deprived. But I've spent hours in an endless ocean of green with my friends, riding the waves of leaves, often completely immersed. It's an immersed you can breathe under. I've heard the ebb and flow of popping tassels, each one a distinct, plaintive cry. I've dived in as one person and come out another. Who's deprived?

Sometimes detasseling was not fun. Our crew cleaned up the fields after the machines went through. It was our job to get the tassels that the machines missed. Some parts of the field were easy while other parts of the field were untouched. That's called 'full pull'. Sometimes I got a bad row, and my friends went on ahead.

I was alone in my row, all about pull drop pull drop pull drop, when I turned and came face to face with a huge spider. A huge spider with a huger web spanning my row and blocking my way. I was just inches away from the spider; it was at eye level. I'd seen thousands of spiders and whacked down thousands of webs with tassels, but this close encounter left me paralyzed. I must have screamed because suddenly there was a crowd in my lonely row. One of the foremen had to lead me between cornstalks to another row to pass by the spider.

Then there was this.

Shortly after Steve and I got married, we were going somewhere in our little red Ford Escort when a spider crawled across the windshield. It made it's appearance on the inside of the windshield and on my side of the car. The same paralysis took me. I must have screamed because suddenly Steve smashed the spider right there on the windshield. It was at eye level. He was angry with me for nearly causing an accident. Rightfully so.

I was angry with myself too. Even though we were newly married and we were not even considering having children at that point, I vowed to never let my children see how terrified I was by spiders. I've done pretty well, I think. I suck them up in the vacuum. Or I get a piece of paper and try to coax Spidey to take a ride to the great outdoors. Or I calmly yell for Steve. Practicing not showing fear has made me less fearful.

So what was I really thinking about?

One of the biggest lessons of parenting that I know well and I am still learning and am not sure I can even wrap my mind around is this.

I must let my kids live their life.

I have a hard time keeping my big mouth shut when they choose something that I don't agree with. I'm not talking about the bad choices. I'm talking about when they decide not to do something that I can see would be good for them. I can advise and I can coach and I can teach, but they have to face their own eye level spiders. It's their choice whether they will run from spiders, or whether they will deal with them.

Still, you can bet that I would gladly take my girls by the shoulders and direct them to a new path or squish a spider with my bare hand if need be. All they have to do is scream.




Birds begin chiping here at 4:24 am, FYI. And the urge has returned.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

sixteen


We played our game last night at bedtime. We do it every year.

I said, "Good night, fifteen year-old. I love you."

And she woke up sixteen.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The end of the middle

El is nearly finished with middle school.

Next year the girls will go to the same school for the first time in four years. They have individual interests and activities, so I doubt that their comings and goings will coincide every day, but I'm looking forward to the occasional coordinated departure or arrival. The thought of no more separate back-to-school nights sends thrills of delight down my spine.

One of the things that mystifies me about middle school is the schedule.

In elementary school the teacher writes each days activities on the wipe board. High school students receive the schedule on the first day of school and it stays the same all year. The electives meet on opposite days, but the classes meet at the same time each day.

Middle school students have the most complex schedule I've ever seen. When Mo came home with her 7th grade schedule my eyes crossed. My eyes may have spun. Visual overload.

Want me to explain it?
No way. Do you understand it?
Yes. Maybe.
All right then.


Over the last four years, osmosis has granted partial understanding. Talk of 3B White and 5A Red days with a split lunch and double Team Time no longer causes heart palpitations, just the same kind of general anxiety I get when I hear someone order a drink at Starbucks. Not only are there several periods a day, but the classes meet on a rotating basis. So if yesterday she went to period 1 first, today she would go to period 2 first, and so on. There are six six-week arts courses that rotate throughout the year. Since I have not mastered the concept of how to discern when double classes occur, I cannot even fathom the complexity of double classes that meet over lunch. It might depend on the color code of the day.

I wonder why 'they' would subject middle schoolers to such craziness. Do you remember what it was like to be twelve, thirteen, fourteen? It seems to me that it's a cruel joke to play on kids whose emotions are swinging out of control and whose bodies are set to full morph:

Let's give them schedules that by nature have no predictability.

It's a probability lesson gone haywire. Like middle school students amped up on Starbucks.

Ah, now I get it.

More coffee, please. I take it black.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What's wrong with my skin?



I'm not a quick thinker.

I'm a processor, the tortoise who manages to finish behind the hare, a slow-poke. I'm behind the times in many ways, often socially oblivious, a dreamer.

Imagine my surprise (a few weeks ago, you know, the slow processing translates to slow writing) when I woke up to the reality that I am living in middle-aged skin. Over time, my skin has changed as slowly as I process information. The reality smacked me in the eyes and heart right there in the JC Penney dressing room.

The one by the Old Lady dresses.

Where I was shopping for my first dress in many, many years.

The last time I got myself a new dress was for Brian and Sharon's wedding. They have four children now. Obviously I am not a big fan of dresses.

I shopped three times for something to wear to Steph and Paul's wedding. The first two times, I did not find anything worth removing my comfy clothes to try.

I did not like anything.

Until I went to the Old Lady section.

Of JC Penney.

That should have been a warning of sorts, but you know, I am a slow processor.

So I tried on two dresses. I liked them both, but I didn't much like what I saw in the mirror. There were bulges and saggings and genuine jiggles.

On my body.

Under my skin.

Affecting my appearance and overall mood.

And then something even stranger happened. Like the time over a year ago when I unconsciously moved the menu a foot further from my face so I could see it.

I considered the merits of a girdle.

A break in the weather gratefuls

154. Strawberry cheesecake before dinner.

155. Steak of my choosing wrapped in brown paper.

156. A package delivered - a silly surprise for me!

157. Having an entire day alone. Devoting an entire day alone to cleaning.

158. Brand new green against rain darkened bark.

159. Water droplets.

160. Steve saying "I should let these bananas go bad."


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

ba-na-na-na

I bragged on facebook about the incredible banana cake I made today. Karen, my friend since childhood, asked me for the recipe. No, she told me I HAVE to share it. So I did. I e-mailed it to her. As I finished the e-mail, I decided I needed to blog it. It is that good.

Thank me.


Kar,

Banana Loaf
Adapted from Flavorful Favorites of First Baptist.

I had a friend in college who was studying nutrition. She said that you could call a recipe your own if you changed at least 3 ingredients. I may not have changed 3 ingredients, but I think I adapted it enough to call it my own.


Original in regular print
My comments in italics

Baking with Stefanie is always an experience. You have to understand that baking is an inexact science for me...I put this banana bread in a small cake pan and it took a lot less time than I expected. I have no idea what would happen if you follow this exactly. I recommend that you make it however you want to. Make it your own.

Sift together:
Mix in a big bowl:
2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Pretty easy so far...

Blend:
Mix in a smaller bowl:
1 1/2 sticks soft butter - mine melted in the microwave, 35 seconds was too long for softening
1 1/2 C sugar - wow that's a lot of sugar, no wonder it's good
2 eggs, beaten - seriously? just crack 'em and mix well

Stir in:
Then stir in the next 3 ingredients and blissfully ignore the following instructions about the last 3 ingredients:
1 C mashed ripe nasty bananas that no one will eat. I used two nasty bananas, it was a little less than a cup.
1/4 C milk
1/2 tsp vanilla - or just pour some in, who measures vanilla?

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir in last 3 ingredients just until blended.
Add the small bowl stuff to the big bowl stuff. Now is when you may notice that you weren't aware of the whole 'just until blended' thing a moment ago.

Pour into greased and floured loaf pans (1 large, 1 small).
Huh? There are different sized loaf pans? Put the batter in whatever you have and hope for the best. I have a small pyrex dish measuring something like 6x8. I sprayed it with store brand cooking spray. Canola oil. All natural. Do people still flour pans?

Bake for approximately 1 hour at 350. Test for doneness.
It was more like 40 minutes and I didn't preheat. I think preheating is a waste of time. Ok, honestly - I just plain forget to preheat most of the time. It was done when it was all golden brown everywhere and the top didn't look wet and it smelled good.

Eat while warm.

You can substitute mashed strawberries for bananas.
How about strawberry banana next time?

Sorry you asked?

I'm blogging this.

stefanie.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

please don't use that word, mom in the bookstore

El's been looking forward to today's release of the latest Rick Riordan book, The Last Olympian. I took her to our favorite local bookstore a while ago so she could purchase their last copy. She says that she finds the twist on Greek mythology 'entertaining' and she sure knows more about mythology than I do. She's on the phone with a friend talking about it right now. I find her side of the conversation 'entertaining'.

And I'm thinking El has a small crush on Percy Jackson.

We survived Mo's crush on Edward Cullen last year; this too shall pass.

So, we are in the bookstore and this mom comes in and asks for a certain book. They show her where to find it, and as she walks past us on the way to the cash register she says out loud to anyone who cares to hear or maybe (as in my case) doesn't care to hear, "I got it and the one that comes after it because she reads through them so fast, it's retarded."

Huh? I pause for a second to wonder if I'm hearing right.

El whispers in my ear, "That's a bit of an oxymoron."

Ya think?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sprung

Steve and I were doing some errands yesterday and he said, "Spring color here is just as amazing as Fall."

And it is.



I spent Monday morning at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve with my friend Deb.

When we were driving there she said, "I want to make sure we get to the pond to see the turtles and the frogs."

When we got there we mapped the route to the turtles and the frogs. We started walking.

I looked up.



I dilly-dallied and I dawdled.

"Let's make sure we have time to get to the pond."

I looked down.




We made it to the pond. It was a worthy goal.




I'm glad we went to the pond and saw the turtles and frogs.

Sorry, Deb, that I move at turtle pace.

Discerning Gratefuls

153. My Bible study group just finished Priscilla Shirer's Discerning the Voice of God. I want to remember these things (these are my impressions from her teaching, some thoughts new and some reminded - they're probably not her exact words and if they are her exact words I hope she will not mind my using them):
  • If I press into Him, I cannot go the wrong way. If I press into Him, I will learn as I go. I can move forward with Him even when I don't have the answers.
  • When He speaks, it's not enough to listen. I should obey.
  • I can expect to hear Him. Saying you talk to God is widely accepted - but saying you hear from Him? Not so much. So be it. I've heard Him in the past. I will hear Him today. I can expect to hear from Him.
  • I can expect Him to confirm what He says through His word, through wise people's words (that includes R, L, and Cam, I Am who spoke at our retreat last weekend and confirmed many of the things in this list), through prayer, through circumstances, through my Spirit-influenced conscience, through peace.
  • When I hear from Him and obey, I will have to adjust my plans. This was the key for me. I have been holding on to something for ten years. I let go of it this week. It's hard. I will probably try to grab it back. I'm writing this right now to remind myself that it's not mine to have; it's right to let it go. There is peace in this release. I want to move forward, pressed into Him, letting Him lead. For that, I am most grateful.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Barefoot Gratefuls


149. Dipping my toes in the ocean.

150. Dipping my toes in the ocean with friends.

151. Being still. Reflecting. Listening. Seeing. Responding.

152. Warmth.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Do something (Part 2)

I wrote this back in October. I watched a video that reminded me of it today.

I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I live in a wealthy suburb. I go to a wealthy church. I can choose to keep myself separate, sheltered from the ugly reality of poverty and starvation. I can do that easily. I can close this draft because it's hard for me to write when I am uncomfortable with myself. I'm not going to. This is going to come out choppy and awkward and I don't care.

You can click away right now, but I hope you won't.

I want to know. I want to help when I can. Here's a way I can do something.

I read Licia's Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center blog. It's hard sometimes. The pictures and stories of real people that they minister to are brutal and beautiful and they make me want to weep. I am amazed by the work they do.

Licia linked today to a video on her sister Lori's blog that I hope you'll watch to the end.

Listen to their dad.

Listen and do something.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Couple of Weeks of Gratefuls

137. Being included in the Wedding Hoopla.

138. Wedding.

139. The word hoopla.

140. Some answers to Steve's dietary issues.

141. Safe travel. Mo had an awesome experience in England.

142. Good news for El. She gets to play her oboe in the high school orchestra next year.

143. Prayer as an alternative to worry in the middle of the night.

144. An idea as an immediate answer to prayer.

145. The color green.

146. The color green after the rain.

147. Images in the words before and after "winter unfrozen" in this song:




148. (Re)Learning things. Learning to embed video (again). Though you may not be grateful I (re)learned it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Columbine Pensieve

My friend Star at Laughing Through Parenting wrote her memories of Columbine this morning. Her thoughts and pictures took me back to that day ten years ago. I remembered some things that I had forgotten, so I am pulling them out of my head for you. Here they are: my silver strands of memory to add to the Pensieve...


Stefanie drove out of the Denver Seminary parking lot just before noon, turning right onto University, heading toward work. She didn't like the song on the radio, so she clicked over to the next station.

A panicked female voice described the unthinkable. Students with guns, dead bodies, confusion. Where? The voice sounded so young.

Stefanie heard sirens.

She turned right on Hampden, listening intently, teary eyed, tight throated, hearing the words: Columbine High School, guns, library, now. The words pounding again and again, different voices, the same shock.

She wondered whether she should turn around and go home, but decided to go anyway. Ami lived just a couple miles from Columbine. Ami was in the middle stages of Alzheimer's and Stefanie was her companion a few afternoons a week.

Another woman lived with Ami; between the two of them and Ami's daughter, they were able to give Ami more time to live at home. They kept Ami fed, and dressed, and accounted for. Ami was dearly loved.

When Stefanie arrived, Ami made it clear that she wanted to go out. Stefanie and the other woman used code language to agree that Ami did not need to hear what was everywhere on the news. Ami 'put her head on' - she put on her wig - and they went out for ice cream.

Stefanie was briefly thankful that Ami's hearing and awareness was not what it used to be. Even the ice cream parlor was hushed. The owner and a couple of customers and Stefanie strained to hear the news on the radio.

Every face registered shock. Grief. Disbelief. Ami was blissfully unaware. Ami finished her ice cream.

Ami mentioned the sirens.

Stefanie's older daughter was in Kindergarten. All the local schools were in 'Lock-down'. Stefanie was glad that her daughter was also blissfully unaware of the day's events when she got home.

Stefanie and Steve decided not to watch any news coverage with their kids. They explained what they thought the kids needed to know, and left out the details.

After the kids went to bed, Stefanie did watch the news.

Many, too many, images burned into memory. One in particular.

A stream of terrified kids running from the school. A young girl wearing a tee-shirt imprinted with one word, "LOVE".

Stefanie did not know any families directly affected. She had friends who knew and ministered to kids who had been there, and heard second-hand stories of terror and miracles.

One to avoid crowds, she accommodated her daughter's need to add flowers and her own note to the makeshift memorial at the park near the school. They added their offering to the thousands of flowers, stuffed animals, notes written by children and teens and adults.

She was a participant, a witness to the community's outpouring of grief, love, and forgiveness. It seemed to stretch on for miles.

A couple weeks later, Stefanie stood in line at Michael's craft store. The clerk described a return she'd had to process. A mother had returned graduation party supplies. Her child did not make it to graduation.


Those are just my memories -- I was just a member of the community somewhat near Columbine High School. I have no perspective of it's long-term impact. We moved away a couple months later.

My kids have grown up and now attend schools that get the occasional bomb threat. My daughter arrived in England in the middle of the security nightmare surrounding the G20 Summit. There are registered sex offenders in my community. The world holds it's dangers, but I will not live in fear.

I will do what Al Velasquez says to do in this video: I will spend time with my kids. Today.