Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Adam

Says the boy twin, "If the day before Christmas is Christmas Eve, then shouldn't the day after be...?"
And so, Christmas Adam is born.

Christmas has come and gone for another year.
We attended the Christmas Eve service at our home church, where (as mentioned in previous post) we wave red glow sticks at the end of the service during Silent Night.

The first time this happened, I was so glum I looked up an emergency late night Candelight Service at the Episcopal church and attended.
All by myself.
It was lovely. I slipped in the back door and sat in the back row.
During the Eucharist I stepped into the aisle and joined the solemn people up to the front. There were robes and candles and a wine filled goblet. A processional and a choir in the balcony. And real candles.

There's something so deliciously dangerous about fire in church.
The little kids tilt their candles until the wax pours down the sides,
and they point their fingers into the flame and pull it back and giggle
at each other while their parents sing above them, earnestly oblivious to their little pyrotechnic progeny below. I just love watching this.
I crunched across the dark parking lot afterwards,
shivering on the outside, but so warm on the In.

This year I decided to go to a nearby Catholic church. I was nervous especially because I was late, but there was another woman on the sidewalk outside the church, just about my age. I tried to look like I knew what I was doing until she said, "Do you know where the entrance is?" Here I thought I was the only one who dodged into strange churches in the dark on Christmas Eve.

I followed her in, but she disappeared quickly and I was left on a folding chair in the back. Suited me. I grabbed a prayer book and figured out the whole scheme in pretty good time. We bowed, we genuflected, we kneeled, we sang, we chanted. There was a "smoking bong" as the husband calls them, but it filled the church with a sort of...chokey kind of holy smell if that makes sense. A choir, a pipe organ. The place was packed. I liked it.

And now it is Christmas Adam, the Day After. I never feel depressed this day, I always feel so much as though it is the time for something new.

A new leaf, I guess.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Up at 5:30am.
No lights on except for the tree, and the village, and the outside Christmas lights.
I have stuff going through my head.

NPR report/interview about Sweeney Todd
Douglas Coupland's JPod
The order of Christmas present openings, to avoid clues that would spoil surprises.
Making a deal to buy each other one present only, which the husband has broken and I just now know about.
Solo on Footprints and new bassline for Stolen Moments.
Don't forget the low C at the end of the Schumann chorale.
What else am I forgetting?
When is it too late to remember?
Glowsticks at the candlelighting service and how much that just wrecks the whole thing for me.
The Big Present I am so excited about.
Fish and the Nutrition Action newsletter.
My children do not eat enough vegetables.
The refrigerator is disgusting. But it's low on my list.
Forgot to pay my Visa.
What else am I forgetting?
Sent about two Christmas cards and then got bored with it. How lame is that?
What else haven't I done?

Coffee buzz, ahhh.
It's morning and dark and quiet and I am alone for now.
Blank sheet of paper.
Making a list for the day.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Some Things Stay The Same

This morning I am up really early, before anyone else, with just the Christmas tree lights on (oh and the soft glow of the computer monitor...), and my cup of fresh coffee, with vanilla spiced rum creamer in it. Yummy.

I love mornings like this - outside there is most definitely a beautiful "blanket" of snow, and it is sooo quiet and dark. It's a day to stay home, wrapped in a quilt, watching "The Bells of Saint Mary" or maybe "Holiday Inn". Something black and white for sure.

But, we have the Children's Christmas Program to attend this morning, with an angel and a shepherd who have "pieces" just like in the olden days when we were young. They line up next to the microphone and either crane up or stand stooped with neck hanging down, because that microphone remains at one unvarying height, and nobody thinks to adjust it until they get to the children who are nearly in junior high and are desperately wishing that the whole thing would be over with so they could get down to the punch and cookies in the Fellowship Hall....and so one particularly dear, but tall girl begins her piece and at that moment the Director lady decides to make her move, adjusting the mic stand with the girl hovering over the top...everyone is sure she will get a bloody lip when it is finally jolted out of its place into a new height.

My angel likes to stand in the back when they all crowd to the front of the platform to sing, "Away In A Manger". I can usually only see the top of her head. My shepherd places himself prominently in the front, singing loud and clear, just happy as a clam to be able to have a good view of the congregation.

Speaking of "Away In A Manger", this year they are performing it in a key that is way too low for the children. The sound sort of disappears at the ends of the phrases. Then the Director lady, who doesn't understand music, approaches from the side and gives them the urgent direction to "Sing Louder!" and they all notch it up about a fourth...taking them into an entirely new key. The guitarist can't adjust and just continues to strum with a pained expression on his face.

Ah, some things are so beautifully predictable. I sit in the back row, with my knees hugged up to my chin, and I just grin and grin.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Ends Of Things

I use up the ends of things.
Like toothpaste. When it gets difficult to squeeze out,
someone opens a new tube.
I use that old tube, squeezing out every last drop.
That old, flattened toothpaste tube becomes my very own
personal paste because nobody else will wrestle with it.
I use it until the new tube gets flat.

Same with slivers of soap.
Same with an inch of morning orange juice left in the cup.
Same with pizza crusts.

I'm like this big hungry Hoover that roams the house using up
all the Restuvit.

"Here, Mom, you can have the restuvit," they say.

The husband has been living in Detroit for nearly two months, training
for his new job. He's back for good now, and he brought with
him all these tiny little shampoos from the hotel.

What's cool about them, is that they are brand new.
I am the very first one to use them, and I am the very last one to use them also.
It's like I have this very satisfying, full and complete relationship
with a product in my home.

Together from beginning to end.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Good Mom Award

And the winner is....ME!

This morning I walked back into the house after dropping off the children at school. This morning everything was sane, we were five minutes early and nobody forgot to wear their shoes. (This has happened - I have to look in the back seat to be sure that they are completely clothed). I was about to do the "ahhhh" thing, when my cell phone buzzed.

I had missed a phone call from the middle child, who had forgotten to have me sign her weekly progress reports, which is a big deal because every month, if you remember every single week, and you never miss a homework assignment, then you get to go to the "Breakfast Club", which means coming in early to school and eating pancakes with the teacher. Like I said, a big deal.

At the end of her message, it was very forlorn. Her voice shook just a little bit, because of course 6th graders don't cry at school over missing out on the Breakfast Club...

"Well, it's almost 8 o'clock, so you probably won't get this message in time, so, well, goodbye."

All of my senses were suddenly alerted - my eyes darted to the oven clock - it was 7:56. She was right, I was probably too late. I stood frozen in the middle of the kitchen for a second to calculate the odds of actually pulling off this manuever. I decided to go for it.

The next few minutes held a series of rapidly unfolding dilemmas and instant decisions...adrenaline was surging through my system. It felt like my morning coffee had suddenly kicked in and I solved every problem with a startling clarity of mind.

no shoes, I see clogs.
child's clogs, don't fit?
just slip them on.
will the bright green color
horrify the 6th grader?
I think because they're Crocs it's okay.
Should I call the teacher to alert her?
dial while driving.
Rats! Orthodontist.
Try again.
Voice mail.
Leave a message with the teacher?
Practically there, hang up.
Parking space too small?
You can do it.
Lock the car?
No time.
Pen? She won't have one.
Got it.

I slip-skidded into the hallway, and rounded the corner.
The Crocs were only covering the front half of my feet,
but I managed a shuffling half-run down toward her classroom.
The bell rang but there were still so many kids in the hallway.
I craned my neck and spotted her. My coat was flying behind me
and I was dodging Volunteer People. I waved madly to get her
attention and she looked up, surprised. And she grinned.

Oh she grinned so big.

Breathless I slid up to her while she pulled out the papers.
I signed with abandon. Wherever she pointed her finger.
I didn't look at the grades, I just slapped my name on everything.

"Thanks Mom!"
She really meant it,
because she saw the tiny Crocs, the pen, the clock...

Sometimes there are no rewards, but you know,
sometimes there are.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch.

The three words that best describe you,
are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."

Ah, it's Christmas-time.

The tree is up and decorated.
The stockings are all hung.
There is a smattering of packages under the tree.

Christmas is love and warmth and family.
Peace and Joy to all the earth.

Then why do I wake up in the middle of the night,
heart racing,
mind reeling,

It's these kids, you know.
They have those shining eyes.
They believe in magic, in Santa,
and still in my infallibility.

They dance around these mornings
like little elves with their weird skinny legs
and rooster tails of hair sticking up...
poking those packages under the tree,
giggling and smiling with eyes
glancing sideways at me.
Giving me this knowing look that says,
"We know what you've got in store for us,
Mom. We know you have something special planned."

That's just it.
Nothing planned.
Only about half the gifts purchased.
Nails bitten down to the nibs.
Time running out.

It's like this every year.
Husband working long hours,
extended family pulling for gift ideas
and Time Spent Together,
gift exchanges at school,
Christmas program at church,
television commercials with moms
baking cookies...

And now I'm sitting here trying to
pull this post together with a positive
twist at the end. An "and yet Christmas
still seeps into my soul" sort of ending.

I know it will happen, because somehow
it does every year.
But for now, can you let me wallow in a little
bit of Christmas un-cheer? A little bit of
selfish yammering about having way too much to
do, to buy, to give?

Oh my.

Sometimes I am stunned by the breadth of
my own selfishness and ingratitude for all
that I have.

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splot
With moldy purple spots,
Mr. Grinch.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I am home alone in the quiet after Thanksgiving Day.
The children and the husband are staying overnight,
and I am home
because the dog needs me.

I have been working,
for two hours straight.
speaking aloud,
uninterrupted in my flow of thought.

I might be tempted to think that it would
be nice to work like this all of the time.

But I think that without the Others,
I would only begin to talk to myself more and more.
And eventually, the conversation being uncontested on every front,
I would stop talking.
And then writing.
And then moving.
And then breathing.

It's quiet in this house.

It's better with them here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Mom's The Teacher

Well the twins have been bugging their teacher to please, "be absent so our mom can be the substitute teacher." She complied today, and I have just finished 7 exhausting hours of trying to keep 30 eight year olds quiet, involved, on task...

I bow to school teachers everywhere.

Thing is, all of the children are good. Really, how can an eight year old be evil? But combine them in groups of over...say...10, and you will find it impossible to have all of them facing forward at the same time. So explaining an assignment becomes an exercise in thespianism. Face animated, voice clear and bold, wide, sweeping hand gestures...

When the boy twin sidled up to me with furtive glances left and right, I bent my head to hear his secret.

"Mom. You're talking different."

"What? Is it bad? Do I sound mean?"

"No, you just don't sound like you do when we're at home."

He slipped back to his seat, and left me pondering my transformation.
See I'm a good sub. The children usually love me. I waltz in and Mary Poppins my way through a day, leaving admiring little girls and boys behind every single time. And so far, when the twins and the middle child have seen me in the hallways, they have grinned proudly at me and boasted to their classmates that I am their mom. I thought today would be the pinnacle of my elevation in their eyes!

But later, alarmingly, the girl twin lowered her brow at me and said,

"Mom. You're acting weird."

I was crestfallen! Me, weird? Yes, I might be a little strange, a little surprising -- a little out of the ordinary as far as substitutes go...but that's what makes me interesting to the children! I can say the alphabet backwards! I can do foreign accents! Heck, I can SING!

Okay yeah I can see the problem.

Thing is, I usually don't lose my coolness factor until they get to be around twelve. Here I have accomplished it in one day of 3rd grade.

Oh well.
Tonight both of them re-emphasized that I should just act the same at school as at home. I said maybe nobody would hear me if I spoke that softly.

And then I realized what a good thing it was,
that the mom they know at home,
is the one they want.

Monday, November 12, 2007


She is sad.
Her tummy hurts.
She is not hungry.
This morning we go to the doctor for a follow-up to the CTscan last week.
A needle, some blood, weight, height, some questions.
Pretty routine, I guess.
But when she's eight years old,
when she's yours,
nothing like this feels routine.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Lesson In Coolology

Let's say you walk into a cool coffee place, and you find yourself at the front of the line before you are really ready to order. Not that this happened to me today or anything. Let's just "say".

A piece of advice. Wave the next guy through. Let the guy behind you go up and order. Let the women in heels and makeup and black clothes go in front of you too. If you are not prepared to order, step aside.

Remain cool. Don't look around yourself nervously at the growing line and the toes tapping impatiently. If you want to maintain an air of coolness, do not, and I repeat, do NOT fumble around in your purse for Exact Change. This is what old people do. Not the young, chic people who frequent coffee shops.

One more thing. In the process of extracting your Exact Change, and holding up the long line of Business-type people by not knowing what you want to order, do NOT, under any circumstances, slide your finger so far into your little change purse that the non-coinage spills out onto the counter. This would include not spilling out your driver's license, your receipts, your ticket stubs unless they were for something cool, and last but not least, two super-size tampons. Not one, but two.

Count them. Look at them rolling out onto the glass counter for the man behind you to pretend not to see.
One large super-size tampon.
Two large super-size tampons.

Granted, this is all a completely hypothetical situation that you will probably never find yourself in, but just in case, now you know.


My New November resolution is to write more. This is as opposed to my New October goal of eating 6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I can't last a whole year with my resolutions. I can't even remember them for that long. But I might be able to do one thing for a month.

Life should be easy. We make it too hard. We're so hard on ourselves. Eat right, exercise, learn something, don't lay around. You know, maybe today is the day to just lay around. What's going to happen if I do? Will my brain shrivel up from extreme non-use? Will I get fat or or will my house fall apart?

What if I, just to be completely out-of-the-box crazy, were to write a post that is just a little bit of ramble, and stream-of-consciousness, and imperfection? Using way too many commas in one sentence just for the heck of it? Would it send me down the road of laziness and sloppiness and a general disarray of the mind?

Or might it possibly do the same thing that laying around the house every once in a while does? Gives my mind and body some rest. Recovery from emotional distress, or busyness, or the need to be tidy and perfect.

I'm doing it. I'm going to free myself from the binds of trying to write something Meaningful. There's a time for an essay, and there's a time for just letting it all hang out.

I am giving myself permission to take it easy.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Heart and Soul

I was in my studio last night, playing Heart and Soul on the piano. The middle child has discovered this at school and wants to learn it. The children were all upstairs watching the Friday night movie, and I was just noodling on the bass part. I was thinking about all the ways it can be played differently, and how to teach her something about music through it.

The boy twin appeared, jumpy and excited. "It's too scary for me!" he says.

I patted the bench and he sat down close. I said, "Here is C. I'm going to play a song where C is Home, will you play with me?" When he nodded, I think his whole body lifted and settled -- what were they watching upstairs? He was twitchy and vibrating.

So I whispered in his ear, "C is Home. You can play anything you like, and you can go anywhere you like, but just keep coming back Home.

And don't go too far away, or you may get lost.
And don't forget where Home is.
Right here, next to the group of two black keys."

He nodded, bumping on the seat to begin, so I played, and he played above me, with the courage and the freedom of an 8 year old boy.

Seconds later he was gone, attempting the excitement of the movie again. I kept exploring how to move from C to A, to F, to G...

Five minutes later he was back and resumed his position, playing high and strong and now trying with both hands, then he disappeared.

For the next half hour, I kept on a steady pulse of a simple song in the basement studio of the house. He came and went without speaking, adding his free-wheeling melody to my soft structure.

I thought about him leaping up from a particularly alarming scene on the television. Excitement propelling him down the basement stairs, through the dark play room, toward the light coming from my studio door. Toward the murmur of music that was just the same as when he left.

Seems like that is what Home is all about. A constant drone of familiarity that you keep coming back to. A hum in the foundation of your world that is always there, in the back of your mind, for when life gets too scary.

Heart and Soul playing on and on.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wait Up

There's this phenomenon that happens to me sometimes, where I am unable to feel a thing fully. I am not quite sure how I am supposed to feel. I need some sort of validation for a feeling, it seems, before I can really enter into it.

Sometimes I get that validation from myself. I go for a walk and have a complete conversation with myself, or I act out a scene where I am sharing my concerns or fears or my joy and by the end of it, I really feel what I feel.

Sometimes I get it from others. I broach it to friends in an e-mail, and I say how I think that I'm feeling, explaining the circumstances. Their answers have a way of quantifying my emotions. How bad exactly do I feel? Or, how good exactly do I have a right to feel?

What a strange idea -- to deal with emotions in such a complicated way. I have this picture of me standing still, face frozen, and then reaching into my chest and pulling out my heart. Looking down at it, I see that it is pulsing with sorrow, or pain, or loss, or passion or pride. I hold it up for passersby to see, watching their faces for a reaction. Or I hold it up to a mirror until my expression matches the depth of the emotion that I see.

What do I feel?

I often don't know. There will be an unsettled-ness inside of me, and that is the only thing that tells me I am feeling something deeply. I think this is okay. I've always been a slow thinker, and a late bloomer.

I was a late bloomer physically. I was the smallest child in the class for most of my elementary years. I didn't show any signs of puberty until about age fifteen.
I think that is why I am feeling something deeply about a situation I was in today where someone made a joke of a sexual nature about me.

It was very public, and inappropriate, and it was said by a man who was in charge. I felt immediately diminished by it. But then came the rush of all those thoughts -

how should I feel?
it was just a joke.
why should he have this power?
what are others thinking?
why do I feel so small all of a sudden?
it is only words, he is an idiot.
am I the only one who feels this way?
I am so tired.
don't look hurt, make your face normal.

Coming home there is a feeling of deadness about me and at the same time a stirring of some emotion. But I don't know what it is now. And I have this thought that no one can tell me how I feel. I'm the only one. I'm really the only one who knows.

When it comes to me late and fully-formed, I will be safely separated from the event. And I will not excuse any of my feelings, or apologize for them.

Because what I feel will be the real thing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Full Throttle

My pastor likes NASCAR.
I like my pastor anyway.
He is so full of passion!
Thrills! Spills!
The lost are saved!
I really like him.

And I have always loved the church. There is something about the Church - the corporate body of Jesus - that seems magnificent to me. I used to get very caught up in serving at church. Not for any of the right reasons. Just to be part of it all - the Thrills, the Spills!

I soon found I was so worn out from serving that I started not to care very much anymore. The same sorts of things kept happening. Like a revolving door the same issues and questions came around again and again. The music was too loud. The nursery was disorganized. I became critical. Nothing was good enough for me. I wasn't good enough for me. I just sort of felt like sleeping in when Sunday rolled around.

But I kept attending. I kept seeing those lovely faces. And those lovely moments that surprised us all every time. The altar call. The testimony. The renewed committment. The great big thermometer with mercury squirting out the top! Lovely.

It helped so much to step back. I didn't step out, just back. One step. I slowed myself. I breathed. I thought. I stopped. No longer a Mover or a Shaker, I felt content to be a helper. It was a life-changing thing for me. To let the others thrill and spill. To walk gently among them. Quiet. Peculiar. Slow.

We arrived at church last Sunday to find that the annual fall mobilization is on. The vision has been cast. The direction plotted. And our motto for the year is this:

"Racing Into The Future Full Throttle"

The husband smiled at me and I smiled back. Kindness. It is very nearly the exact antithesis of my philosophy of life!

For a few days after hearing it, I walked around the house saying things like, "Okay you, slow down there. Why are you racing into the future full throttle? Let's all just speak quietly and move slowly." We laughed and I shook my head.

And yet, there is a sort of style in the whole thing. The banner across the front of the sanctuary. The pastor in full NASCAR gear. The countdown clock running. It is not really about beauty. But it is about hearts set on a prize. It is about resisting inertia. It is about passion and love for those lovely lost.

And I am right in the middle of it. Oh, maybe standing toward the back. Maybe listening instead of speaking. Maybe playing my bass just a little behind the drummer. Maybe I'm just the one who stands holding the door.

zoom zoom.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lost On Me

I guess I missed a rather dramatic moment just now.....

I had had a little discussion with the girl twin about the condition of her bedroom, and left her upstairs with two big tears streaming down her cheeks. (No I didn't yell....but I said no computer game tonight....).

Then, unsuspecting, I went downstairs and got online to check out the prices of the oldest boy's birthday wish list. It was very quiet in the house, and I assumed all was well everywhere and that she was up earnestly cleaning her room.....

Then I heard the outside door open and saw her standing in the doorway.
I said, surprised, "Well HI!"
She kicked off her shoes in disgust and cried, "You didn't even know I was out there???"
Then she slumped passed me muttering, "I was sitting out there just SITTING on a rock for a really long time!"
I said, "You were??"
She flipped her ponytails at me and marched into the family room saying, "And I had my face in my hands the WHOLE TIME."

I could just picture her out there waiting for me to notice her forlorn self.
How very sad! Truly I would have given her some sympathy if I only would have noticed...

Friday, September 21, 2007



I was thinking this morning, as I roused the children, how special Fridays are when you are a child. They roll out of bed with grins and anticipation of all the special-ness of the day. They have looked forward to it for so long.

To a child, a week is such an enormous length of time. Once my dad explained this phenomenon to me by saying that when you are 2 years old, one year is half a lifetime. By the time you are 4, one year is only a quarter of your lifetime. And so on.

It's no wonder that one of the things we lose as we age is the appreciation for looking forward. It's as though there is a point on the horizon of the time-line for our lives, and our eyes are fixed on it. As we come closer to that point (a mid-point?), we begin to see only what is in the present. As we begin to age past that point, more and more we look to the past.

When you think about it this way, who are the ones among us that have the most far-reaching gaze? It seems to me that it is the very young and the very old who have the natural capacity to look further, either forward or back, than the ends of their noses.

Perhaps through the eyes of my children I can recapture a bit of the wonder and mystery of what lies ahead. Like Fridays. It's pizza day. Movie and popcorn night. The end of a long week.

And when my parents visit this evening, maybe over supper I will ask them to let me borrow their view of Fridays long ago.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Failure to Deliver

Hi. This is the qmail-send program at
I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.

Sorry, it didn't work out.

I've given up.

This is an actual failure-to-deliver message, just received today.
Friends and I commented that it sounds so fatal. we're breaking up.

Clear communication is so vital in relationships. Have you ever tripped over words because they are so full of meaning and emotion? Or been paralyzed in the delivery of bad news...unable to spin it in any way that will not cause pain? I have. Sometimes I think the only way that I can really communicate my true feelings is through the written word.

My tongue is a wild thing. I speak too quickly and assume that I've spoken some of the words already going through my head. Or I think aloud and my listeners assume I have come to a conclusion when I may end up, at the end of my speech, completely contradicting myself as I finally realize how I really feel. I become tongue-tied and self-conscious in the strangest of situations - sometimes it is just because of the way another looks at me.

But I love to write.

I love to back-space.
I love to read-over.
I love to do-over.

If I find an error I pounce on it, and then I have to start over reading from the beginning. I like to have other people (friendly, dramatic, expressive people) read what I write. Aloud. And they must put emphases on the correct words, and they musn't read it too fast.
And if they flub a sentence they should begin again.

Writing is a persistent thing. You keep trying until you get it right.
No giving up -- more working it out.

No breaking up.

T#s4X failure notice: I am so very sorry. I have tried everything that I could possibly think of to get your mail delivered to this recipient, and nothing is working. After a while I just re-wrote the e-mail myself, paraphrasing your general message (and correcting your grammar), and I sent it under a new hotmail address that I opened in your name. I hope you don't mind. LOVE: MAILER-KULIO.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Big Jesus

On a road trip down I-75 this summer,
I saw Big Jesus.

I stared, gape-mouthed, out the window of our SUV at the immense and oddly proportioned statue of Jesus on the side of the highway. This Big Jesus had thick arms raised to heaven, and behind him was the church that built him.

I wondered if the statue turned out the way they thought it would.

I wondered, because for one thing, the statue is terrible. And I wondered because I have often made big plans and then watched them grow and grow and grow into something much bigger and much worse than the grand idea I had in the first place.

I thought about those church people in the conference room of the church, planning something new. I thought about the first person who suggested it, and the others who excitedly joined in, and the pastor who endorsed it. I thought of all the reasons these good people had for building a big Jesus in front of their church. Most likely honorable reasons. Most likely for the glory of God! But I think that God's glory is a bit out of our control as humans.

We tend to think of God's glory, when we're working in the church, as a little bit of a public relations opportunity. So we write a song that will help everybody really capture the idea of his greatness. We construct a building that will mirror his immensity by its size. And we create a church service that is all fashioned around drawing people in to feel his welcoming arms, and his love.

What's wrong with that? Nothing except when we start thinking that maybe he actually needs a little help with his glory. Because God's got the glory already, you know.

We're just the ones wandering around trying to think up the best ways that we can to tell the world about it, that's all.

And as long as we're human, we'll be writing cheesy songs about Jesus, and we'll be awkwardly Welcoming people to Jesus, and building expensively huge churches for Jesus. And it'll be all wrong, and clumsy, and out of proportion and off-key, as long as we're human.

I think Big Jesus can handle that.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Becoming Night

Today I have been by myself, except for the dog. The husband took the children away and will stay away all night, and all day tomorrow. He does this for me when it is time for me to be alone.

So I have been quiet today, not moving too much, not thinking too much. I looked out the window for a long time. I took the dog for a walk. I baked a cookie when I was hungry. I made tea.

And tonight, as the sky began to darken, I decided to let the night come. Instead of turning on lights, I have just let the darkness fall inside and out. I have a candle beside me, the computer monitor glows...but everything else has become dark. Shade by shade.

I like the idea of living that way every day. Opening my eyes when the morning comes, closing them when the sun goes down. And in between, when the heat makes the air thick and wet -- slowing and stopping, until the evening breeze blows it away.

I wonder how long it would take for my body to adjust. Most likely quicker than my mind. Even now I am writing because of an artificial assistant. Could I live with the quiet instead of trying to mute it with noise...and accept the gift of darkness instead of hiding it with light?

I wonder if I lived this way, how different I would be.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Send It Down The River

Tonight the boy twin pulled me to his room to talk. This one is always speaking, and needs listeners all day long it seems. I was tired at 9:30, and just wanted him asleep.

I said, "Maybe this is a time for listening and not talking." I said, "You have so many secrets inside of you, but if you are never quiet, you will never hear what they are." He had a thousand questions about secrets. Who tells them? What kind of secrets? How will I know it is a secret?

I hushed him and told him to close his eyes while I held his hand. I whispered that each night he should sit by the river and watch the boats come by. And see what is in the boats. And take the things out and look at them, and then send them down the river. And when all the things in his mind are sent away, maybe another boat will come, and he will find a secret.

He was very quiet for a long time. Then he said, "There is a boat coming."
"What is in it?" I asked.
"It's filled with boxes," he answered.
"Pick one. Pick the one that seems right to you. Send the rest down the river."

"I have it," he said, "but it's nailed shut."
"That's okay. Maybe it is just a difficult one to open.
Or maybe, it should be set aside and opened later on.
You're the only one who knows."

"I think I should open it. And I have a hammer."
I smiled. There was another long pause.

"Okay, it's open."
"What is inside?" I was dying of suspense.
Another long pause.
"Don't put anything into that box.
Don't put what you want me to see, and
don't put something silly in there to make me laugh.
Just look and tell me what you see."

"It's empty." He sounded sad.

"Oh! But that's wonderful!
That could mean anything!
Maybe it means that it doesn't really matter what you found,
it was all about just opening the box.
Or maybe it is a gift, of emptiness and space,
just for you."

"Or maybe," he said, "it means that
you don't always find what you're looking for."

Bedtime with a mystic.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


The amount of junk in my house is reaching an all time high. I'm feeling thwarted in my attempts to clear out. It's the stuff coming in...getting tucked into corners, under beds, in piles here and there...that is never-ending.

I think there is some sort of psychological pull about bringing things home that is really difficult to acknowledge. Whenever we go out, it seems, we have a need to get something and bring it back. Maybe it's something to distract us from our worries, or a temporary lift to our spirits to have something new.

We go to the library, and we bring home books. And we return less books than we check out (I know this because I have a copy of our library fine record). We go to the mall, and we look around for what we might need. Now think about that. Sometimes, yes, we make a list of the things that we need, but even after checking off the items on that list, still we look.

What are we looking for?

This morning, before church, I thought about the things that the children would be bringing home with them. I thought about the magnetic frame that someone would make in Sunday School. I thought about the plastic sliding puzzle, or the bookmark that might make its way onto the kitchen counter, and into someone's treasure pile where it would sit and gather dust for weeks and weeks.

So I brought the children together before church, and I asked each of them to take something out with them, and not to bring it back. They were a little confused, but it was an interesting idea. My oldest brought a CD to give to our drumming friend in the band. The next one brought a fleece shirt that had been in my basement since give back to its owner. The twins found a stuffed kitten no longer played with, and a book off the bookshelf.

None of these things came back home with us, and when I walked back into the house, I felt a bit lighter. It's only four things, but I have this idea, that...well, we leave the house quite a bit. We will be giving tiny gifts to cousins and grandparents. We will be returning books to the library. We will be watching for mothers with toddlers in their shopping carts at the grocery store. And when the mother turns to pick something off of the shelf, she will turn back and wonder at the new little toy that her child is grasping. Four things by four things, we will eventually rid this house of pounds upon pounds of stuff.

That's my idea anyway.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


The truth is, cherries have worms in them.

It's one of those things that you don't really want to know, but if you find out, you feel obliged to tell.

Our neighbors have a cherry tree - big, beautiful, with drooping branches that the husband despises because they almost knock him off of his riding lawn mower come spring. Every year the wife watches for cherries, sees them arrive small and green, and then one morning wakes up to a bare tree! She has no idea what happens to those cherries, but she strongly suspects the birds.

This year, I came home from a walk to see a ladder perched under the tree, and only her legs visible as she harvested red cherries by the handful. I ran and got a bowl, and wandered around underneath, looking for the low ripe ones, filling my bowl, and popping some into my mouth as we chatted.

She said her grandpa used to own a whole orchard of cherry trees, and she remembers picking them as a child. She also remembered her grandpa saying to the children, "If you find a worm, don't worry, it's just protein!" She laughed nervously. But, overcome with the bounty of that tree, the birds hassling her with flapping, indignant wings from above, she picked cherries and planned cobbler.

I took my bowl home and announced free cherries to all (organic!), but somehow they didn't attract too many buyers. I decided that maybe I would try a cobbler too, since they were a bit sour and I could clobber them with plenty of sugar. De-pitting the cherries was a doubtful job, with the insides looking...not quite as pretty as the outsides.

The third cherry held the prize. A fat, squirming, segmented white worm, pointed at both ends, writhed at the sudden light. It was half an inch long and if it landed whole on your tongue, you would know it. Scraping the beginnings of the cobbler into the trash, I resolved not to tell anyone. What is a little protein? I would be the stout farmer's wife who grew sturdy, healthy children, who were not the worse for wear from a little worm now and then.

But I would not eat another.

I recently read the story of an Eskimo, who asked the visiting priest, "If I did not know about God or sin, would I go to hell?" The priest answered, "No."

"Then why did you tell me?" he said.

Why, indeed.

My daughter happily popped another cherry into her mouth and I watched her chew, and spit out the pit, and I couldn't do it.

"I found a worm in a cherry," I said. She was crestfallen. She's not eating them anymore either. I have successfully ruined her for wild cherries, picked from our neighbor's tree, for all the springs yet to come.

The truth about cherries is something I sort of wish I didn't know.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Not Much Goin' On

I watched a spider crawl the wall,
and I expected him to fall
when he slipped and lost his step,
but he threw out a thread instead.

A single, silver, saving line,
and twisted on it for some time.

Then he resumed his sure advance,
inching 'cross the vast expanse.

Today I watched a spider crawl,
to him, the world,
to me, a wall.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Silly Putty

There is no escaping the tangible qualities of life.

I sat down this morning to write an essay on The Art of Play. I had been walking in the early summer chill and reflecting on the idea that we do things, most of us, because we enjoy doing them.

It seems an obvious concept, and yet so many times we stop doing the things that we enjoy because we realize that they are good for us. As soon as I say to myself, "I need to walk everyday," I stop wanting to walk. I have forgotten the element of Play that prompted me to walk in the first place.

I forget what I love about walking. The early morning smell of dampness and the tempered brightness of the sun. I forget about the edge of coolness and the quiet at that time of day. I forget about the feel of my leg muscles lengthening and stretching, and the awareness of my body that comes from moving it.

I started writing about this, ready to explore the implications of why we are so drawn, as adults, to abandon Play. Somehow we feel compelled to measure the productivity of everything that we do. We are uneasy with the idea of playing for the pure pleasure of tactile sensation, or scaling the mental monkey-bars of daydreams just because it is fun. So we immediately discipline it into a form that is respectable to someone else. We make it public, we receive affirmation for it. And then we don't really like it anymore.

Play is pure, fleeting, temporary and un-formed. There is a time for play but you cannot schedule it. There is a time to stop, and you cannot prolong it past that time. It is personal, and shared only with those who can play along without dissecting or directing it too much.

I started to write about all of this, but my daughter has reported to me that there is Silly Putty stuck in her fleece pajamas.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Word Infallible

My word,
the breath-sound of my life
is the mirror
and the light
and the truth of who I am.

My vibration,
the hum of my soul,
purrs with gentle power
furrowing pathways ahead,
leaving a wake behind.

My tone,
the energy of all my creativities,
the voice of all my love,
paints my world and defines it,
colors my word into song.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I am not one for bookmarks. I own them, but I never use them. Whenever I get a new one from the library I insert it cleanly into the vertical lines of my over-desk cubby (the one chock-full of thank-you cards without matching envelopes, expired coupons, un-filed pictures and a small Klutz book on juggling.) This cubby holds just a taste of all that I will never get around to doing. Learning to juggle is at the top of the list, but that's another post.

Bookmarks. I don't think they're for people like me. I think they're for organized people...those who read one book at a time, one chapter at a time, one evening at a time. I think such people borrow one book from the library at a time (and quite possibly return them on time.) I imagine these bookmark people yawning at the close of a particularly exciting chapter, even though the heroine is dangling at the edge of a cliff and the crocodiles in the gorge below are snapping their jaws in anticipation.... I imagine this tidy reader settling the stiff rectangle of card stock neatly into the crease of her book and then snapping it shut with a settled sense of satisfaction that I'll never have.

Her bedside table doesn't have a leaning Tower of Pisa book pile, three water glasses and some wadded Kleenex balls littering it. She doesn't cast around, when stopping for the night, for a scrap of paper or an old Reader's Digest open inelegantly on the floor. I do. I rip off the back cover, the one with the drawing of American Life on it. And I place it in my book. And I put the book in a pile of other books, all half-read, with jagged pieces of postage-paid postcards, magazine ads and thank-you note envelopes sticking out of them.

Then I collapse into a deep sleep. Because I could never stop at the end of a chapter. Never. I always stop somewhere mid-way through a chapter, a strategy I adopted from my habit of reading until I could not keep my eyes open any longer. Midway through a chapter, I've found, there is quite predictably a lull in the action, or a long, descriptive paragraph. On these small safe islands I can rest before plunging onward with the crocodiles the next evening.

I love to read. I love the smell of libraries. I love books and people who love books. And honestly I love the idea of bookmarks. They suggest, kindly, that one might want to stop reading sometimes, to go to sleep, or to eat dinner, or to feed the cat. They stand, poker straight, in the free pile at the library, or slip quietly into the paper bag along with a new book purchase, or lie, forgotten, in my vertical file of things that I will never do.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Last Day of School

They're home!

The whole day, spread out in front of me like the unblemished skin of a new jar of peanut butter, is something long gone.

Now it's gonna get crumbs and jelly in it.

Ah, the mess of summer. I love my days alone, so for the life of me I can't figure out this childish excitement that wiggles in my stomach on the last day of their school.

It's something new, I guess. And my life slows a little. They don't sleep in, but they play quietly in their bedrooms all morning. They are outside for a while and then we bring naptime back from the antiquity of their respective infancies, and life is very good for an hour or so. The witching hour of suppertime returns, and boredom appears, bedtimes are relaxed, popsicles show up in the freezer again...

My girlfriend had an interesting dream - she said she had three babies at the top of a hill, and she sat each one at the top and then pushed them gently down. They slid to the bottom of the hill and bumped up gently against a fence that was there. She said to me, "I don't even know who those babies are!"

I said, "Well they are your babies," (she has three adolescent children), "and they're no longer little, but they're still safe with you. You've let them go, but not all the way."

That's how I feel at the beginning of a new season for my children: two third graders, a sixth grader and a freshman in high school! They are my babies, but I'm letting them go, little by little, year by year.

I'm glad that they're home, still within my grasp,
still bumping into that fragile fence.

Welcome Summer!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Buddy Bolts

And he's off!

Someone has left the door to the garage open a half-second longer than necessary, without the required body-blocking of the space to keep our mini dachsund from hurtling himself through and out to freedom.

The entire family explodes from the house - I follow the distressed middle child, who chases him toward the road, not noticing that he keeps looking back to see if she is continuing the game....the girl twin skips along happily with us, slightly worried but mostly excited from the drama, the boy twin is already in the front yard, beelining it, glancing down to be sure his stride is indeed as lightning fast as he thinks he is....the husband trips out the front door and hollers as they near the driveway, and the oldest avoids running over the dog with the mower, jumps off and joins the fray.

From the back of the pack, I yell, "Stop CHASING HIM!" and somehow, after three or four tries, they hear me over their own cries of joy and terror, and stop. Buddy immediately lays down on his tummy and wags his tail, ready to re-ignite the chase with any encouragement. He lays still long enough for someone to pick him up, and when we all turn back, relieved, that's when we see our neighbors up on the hill.

It seems we have achieved a standing ovation in only about 45 seconds this evening! "Yeay for the Show!" they call from their deck. Waving back, I say,

"be back in about a half-hour folks."

and we probably will.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Field Trip

This morning my middle child (squashed between the oldest and the twins), left for Greenfield Village with her father. I was feeling a little queasy at having wiggled out of this one....and every other field trip of the year. How did I do that?

The last field trip I attended involved riding a school bus, and from the moment we rattled down that dusty road, an open window ahead blowing my hair flat, and 60 voices singing something loud and off-key....eating a soggy sandwich in the middle of the grass, trying to keep the plastic from flying away and the bug out of my hair, listening to the chatter of the 10-year-olds and the drone of the presenter at the museum, smile pasted on my face, warm juice-box in hand....I promised myself I would never be trapped like that again. I survived the whole school experience years ago, and I don't want to go back. I really don't want to go back.

But this morning, I felt uneasy. I had spent the year neatly side-stepping those chaperone requests, and apologizing to my dear daughter about my inability to fulfill this particular duty of mommyhood...and with two days left of school I was suddenly guilty.

Momentarily chastened and ashamed of my lack of involvement, I looked up at the husband and offered with a thrust of confidence, "well, next year I may do a field trip..." and he turned slowly to stare at me. He knows me, this man.

"I LIKE this sort of thing," he says.

Well glory be to God. I'm off the hook.