December 30, 2006

Re-educating a Poseur

We had friends over for dinner last night. These are intelligent friends, academic friends, well-read friends, friends who can crack jokes about faux book titles written in the style of P.G. Wodehouse.

P.G. Wodehouse?

I consider myself an intelligent, well-read individual. I have never read any P.G. Wodehouse. I funk it (and quite badly, I might add) when I play the booklovers' edition of Trivial Pursuit. One would think I had never heard of a classic or read any book written since the mid-20th century.

Last night also brought me a new lesson about myself: in the company of intellectual friends, I turn into a poseur.

Much of my thought process revolved around frantically trying to think of erudite authors I could introduce into the conversation. I dropped more $5 words last night in casual conversation than I have in the preceding year. I think I was still myself, but I tried too hard to project myself beyond my humble Midwest surroundings. I didn't want a bland meat-n-potatoes meal that relied on salt as the sole seasoning, so I made pasta with a puttanesca sauce and a raspberry trifle. We drank white and red wine with the meal, had a long and intense conversation about wines, teas (full-leafed, if you please; no humble tea bags for us) and talked for several hours about topics ranging from the Greek scholarly interpretations of the gospel of John to incredible books (e.g. Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, Leif Enger's Peace Like a River) to any number of topics.

I enjoyed the time and talking immensely. My feeling of out-of-place-ness is that it feels so far away from who I am now. It wasn't until after we went to bed after midnight that I realized... I missed Nathan, who went to bed shortly after our friends arrived. He wouldn't have contributed anything to our conversation, but it was the first time in months (years?) that he wasn't any part of the conversation topics, either. So many of my friends these days are friends in life stages similar to my own.

Conversations with moms can be disconcerting: "I couldn't believe that this thought was articulated - No, we don't lick the dog back... I don't care if he licked you first - so beautifully in language - Because I said no! No licking - and leave his tongue alone while you're at it - that felt like it could have been my words. He put my thoughts on that page, and it was wonderful to read it." Schizophrenia seems like it is often peeking around the corner.

My life focus has changed as a mom. I had many people say I should enjoy reading before Nathan was born, because I'd never have time to read afterward. I saw friends unable to converse about anything other than safety studies, development stages or the latest toy recall and how their adorable Squizzle-bug was now in tears that a beloved whizz-gig had to be taken away.

For those without kids, be not afraid. I read just as much now as I ever did before Nathan was born. -He is a compliant child, but it's also that reading is that important to me. My husband and I still have deeply satisfying conversations about French cuisine, compare Russian authors, or discuss my feelings on Rosetta Stone's ability to teach Arabic effectively. We are still the same intellectual, multi-dimensional people we always were.

The difference for us now is that Nathan is as much a factor of life as Trent & I are. A trip to the grocery store is dependent on Nathan's naps, his eating schedule or other factors I cannot completely control.

Yes, it's a struggle to relinquish more control in my life. It's also been an immense blessing to have the excuse of my son to set aside tasks I once considered imperative (clean this, organize that, finish this, check the list entry off) to sit and watch. I never remembered until this week that there was a time in my life that I, too, was frustrated that I couldn't fit a large toy through a small hole. Sometime in my life I learned that magnets don't stick to wood and books don't stick to walls.

I only remember these things if I'm willing to set aside the busyness of my life to watch Nathan discover his. Watching Nathan learn about this world is helping me remember it, too. This year has been good in so many ways, yet I always hope the new year will prove to be even better.

October 08, 2006

Monday on a Sunday

This week my Monday came on a Sunday.

I fully intended to go to church this morning, but everything imaginable conspired to get me frustrated and distracted from hearing and learning anything.

After bathing & dressing Nathan, loading him and his stuff - and my stuff - in the car (already running late), I couldn't find my keys. I dug through my purse two or three times, then dashed back in the house to ransack every place I thought they might be. No keys.

In an interesting juggle, I moved the dog from the garage to the house (to prevent him running away) and opened the garage door so I could get out my bike and hook the Burley to it. I got it hooked up, the garage door closed, all our stuff transferred from car to Burley, inhaled the rest of my coffee, and took off for church.

On the way there, the safety flag fell off the Burley. When I turned around and got off my bike to retrieve the flag, the wind blew my bike over. I reattached the flag, righted my bike and calmed Nathan down, and (finally) got to church. When I got there, I realized Nathan's diaper needing changing before I dropped him off at nursery. Once I got the diaper changed, Nathan deposited at nursery, and grabbed my stuff for the service, I needed to hurry and write out the check for the offering. I had finished the check and was putting the checkbook back in my purse when - lo and behold: my keys. In my purse. The whole time.

I still don't know what all the distractions were supposed to distract me from. Maybe it was a time for me to see how much I've grown spiritually - I felt frustrated and even tired, but there wasn't any anger in any of this morning's activities for me. There wasn't a time in there where I felt almost hysterical that so many things were going wrong. My peace was ruffled, but not ruined.

Maybe it was so I could listen to a vision of the church as the body of Christ, each member serving and building each other up. I know what my spiritual gifts are; I've focused quite a while on using them and being a wise steward of them. Maybe this morning it was that I needed to hear that they aren't "my" spiritual gifts, but "ours." Maybe I needed to hear that I don't have the option of withholding them from being used in my community. My role is to offer what I have, even if I don't know where or how it will be used, believing that it is better to start dancing in my own way, singing my heart's song to God instead of waiting for the event to be organized and tickets to be sold and rehearsals held so that my dance, my song, can have a definite impact.

I've thought so often that, "Lord, I'm trying..." So much of my life has been a wrestling to quit trying to please or pacify God and instead respond to him. I rarely "try" to respond - I just respond.

September 21, 2006

First Birthday

Nathan's birthday was almost two weeks ago, but as you can tell from the pictures, a good time was had by all... especially the birthday boy!

Opening and playing with birthday presents...

Introduction to sugar, via cake and frosting...

Why didn't someone tell me about this stuff before now?!

Garcon! More, s'il vous plait!

The Ecstasy

Despite the dog's help in licking chocolate frosting off some of Nathan's skin, the boy still needed two baths to clean him up for bed. Bath #1 in the utility sink in the laundry room to remove the chunks of cake and frosting; Bath #2 was in the bathtub with soap, etc. to get to that "clean baby" smell again. He left chocolate rings around both tubs.

As for us? We're trying to keep up with his increased walking, increased babbling, greater curiosity, and still keep pace with the other events in life. I'm involved in three semi-weekly activities plus the usual house/boy care that our family needs. Trent is works from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday until the middle of next month; he's also trying to finish off the chain-link fence around our back yard, finish the trim in our bathroom, help with a scheduled Network seminar next month and (as of last night) replace our roof in his spare time. We thought we could wait to re-roof until next spring, but recent rainstorms gave us water spotting on several ceilings. Sometime in the next month we'll be reshingling.

Bright spot #1: Trent's dad is in the roofing business, so materials will be inexpensive for us.

Bright spot #2: We don't have shake shingles underneath the top layer of asphalt on this house - faster tear-off time.

Bright spot #3: We shouldn't have to replace all of the plywood sheeting under the shingles, unlike last time.

Bright spot #4: The pitch on this roof isn't nearly as bad as our last house; we can walk on it, rather than rapelling over the peak with ropes tied off to our front porch.

I'm trying to be upbeat, but this definitely wasn't anywhere on our radar for now.

-One last thought: I don't miss having the internet until I try to play catch up. Dealing with email and blogs and such in one shot is a long session! : )

September 05, 2006

Internet Deprivation

Egads... Four days after my last post, we moved the bulk of our belongings from storage into our house. Five days after that post, we spent the first night in our new home.

The following two weeks are a blur of cleaning, unpacking, organizing, arranging, decorating, flattening cardboard boxes and playing swap shop with my parents ("Here, these are yours..." "I found these in the bathroom you were using here and thought you might need them...").

One week after we moved out, my sister-in-law-to-be's parents arrived to stay with my parents prior to the last wedding of the Jongewaard kids. One week after that, Trent started a new job with another electrical company in town and relatives from both families from all corners of the globe arrived for the wedding itself. Having been warned ahead of time by my sister-in-law (not the one who just joined the family; the other one) that family members like to trek through the latest family property, I set that week as my goal for being completely unpacked.

As I said, it was a blur, but somehow I actually met the goal. -Ok, the basement is still pretty cluttered and messy, but still: no cardboard boxes left on the main floor. Considering our library of books is somewhere between 1200 and 1400 books now, that's a HUGE accomplishment!

We're still working on projects here and there. Tonight I touched up places in the laundry room and back hallway that got paint scraped off in the moving process; Trent's digging the post holes for the chain-link fence he's putting around our back yard.

Nathan's first birthday is this Friday, and it'll be a family dinner: eight adults and the three grandkids. I'm hoping to have the basement done before then (in the midst of meetings and making applesauce for the freezer and cleaning and caring for Nathan and...).

This post is meant to bring you up-to-date in a rush, but also as an apology. We don't currently have Internet access at our house, and don't know when we'll have it. My access to Blogger is entirely dependent on a trip back to my parents' (like now). I have no way of knowing how long it'll be between posts. My apologies, and I will try to keep up with email and this when I can.

Back to the basement!

August 08, 2006


Saturday, August 5th: 17 hours of tiling my first job - our new shower. Talk about a learning curve... I got home after midnight with my fingertips throbbing from all the thinset cement contact.

Sunday (6th): helped with set-up and take-down at church (8 a.m. to around noon), then hosted small group at night (5:30-8:30)

Monday (7th): up at 5, over to the house to mark lines for the faux finish painted stripes in the living room. Home by 6:30 a.m. to talk with Trent before he left for work, went through the morning routine with Nathan (up, change, feed, read, play, feed) and back to the house with Nathan and my mom. Nathan napped, I tiled and Mom taped in the living room. Home to do laundry, tried to cut the one remaining tile I needed cut, back to the house to paint a bit in the living room, home for supper and back to the house to continue tiling until just after 10.

Tuesday (8th): up to talk with Trent, morning routine with Nathan, then back over to the house to (finally) finish tiling. Cleared space in the living room for carpet to be delivered, then home to spend the afternoon with Nathan. Friends came over for supper, and Trent & I went to the house after supper to check over things and make lists for a (hopefully) last trip to Menards, etc.

Wednesday: During Nathan's morning nap, I'll be painting at our house; after Nathan's in bed at night, I'll be over at the house grouting the shower tile.

Thursday: carpet can be laid, and Trent & I drive 45 miles with Nathan to get things from Menards, etc.

Friday: carpet laying finished, items moved from my parents' front room and some of Nathan's room into our house.

Saturday: a crew of unknown size will be at our house at 8 a.m. to help us move all of our items from storage (where they've been since a year ago last May) into our new house.

I have no idea if I'll be able to find sheets for us to use to sleep at our house Saturday night or not. Why is it that no matter how much planning you try to do, everything lands at the last minute?

August 03, 2006

Last-Minute Renovating

This last week has been a slew of home renovation-related tasks, and I suspect it will continue to be this way up through the 16th of August. We need to move in to our house before the 17th/18th of August - as in, two weeks from tomorrow.

As of 11:00 this morning, no flooring material was permanently installed in any of the rooms, only the microwave/fumehood is installed of the sundry appliances destined for kitchen or laundry room, no furniture is anywhere in the vicinity of the house, and the garage is a confused labyrinth of cardboard boxes (some empty, some not) and torn-out counters and old housing paraphanalia.

Two. Weeks. From. Tomorrow.

This week? Two trips (~1 hr's drive each way) to Home Depot and/or Menard's for various supplies, vinyl flooring being laid in three of the rooms, ceiling fans and other electrical fixtures installed, furnace vents being cleaned of their foot-deep accumulation of dust, rooms being painted, plumbing hooked up, and (still to come this week) tile installed in the shower, new circuitry being run and laminate being laid in three more areas. Carpet, the last bit of painting and moving are all supposed to happen next week. -Oh, and my mom's helping me refinish the dining room set in the meantime. Plus figure out window treatments. Plus watch Nathan.

Did I mention that I'm the one who will be laying the tile in the shower? I volunteered in a moment of bravery that I might later regret. Neither Trent nor I have laid tile before, so we're starting at the same skill level. He's got so much to do and so few Saturdays to do it... This seemed like a big job I might be able to do instead of him. I've purchased my materials, read up on techniques and do's and don'ts, and have invited two girlfriends over for moral support on Saturday.

If you read a news story this weekend of a woman in the Midwest who tried to slit her wrists with a shard of tile, it might be me.

August 02, 2006

Killing Superwoman

From Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis:
I meet so many people who have superwhatever rattling around in their head. They have this person they are convinced they are supposed to be, and their superwhatever is killing them. They have this image they picked up over the years of how they are supposed to look and act and work and play and talk, and it's like a voice that never stops shouting in their ear.
Bell goes on to say that they only way to avoid being killed by this superimage is to kill it first.

I realize this is true for me. However grisly and macabre it might sound:

Supermom, you who never let your child utter a second wail before you are crib-side with comforting words and an always adequate milk supply, who always sets aside any task from clipping toenails to disarming a nuclear bomb in order to play with your tot in mind-building activities - I place my determined hands firmly around your throat and happily, gleefully choke off all rivulets of air making their way to your lungs.

Superwife, you who can still wear every perfectly-mended item of clothing from your size-4 days in college, who looks alluring enough to draw other manly gazes yet never the slightest bit indecent, who answers sweetly to every request and never, ever, ever refuses to fill any perceived need of your husband's if it can be accomplished within the laws of physics, who knows intuitively when to speak and when to be quiet, who never manipulates to get her own way and lives only to serve others - I have a gorgeous hollow-head bullet with your name on it. I savor the clicks as I lock and load the gun, then pull the trigger without hesitation, aiming right between your eyes.

Superhomemaker, you who maintain a spotless domicile with glossy floors that never see more than a week between in-depth cleanings, who has perfectly matched furniture sets and costly, coordinated decorations in each room, who always stays within budget for groceries and makes even breakfast a well-balanced, home-cooked meal - I gladly entwine my fingers in your hair and embed my fingernails in your scalp as I push your perfect head under ice-cold water and hold you there until the bubbles stop coming to the surface.

My superimages have been killing me.

August 01, 2006

Afternoon Delight

With Nathan down for his afternoon nap, I thought I'd get on the stick about finally painting the rest of the dining room set I'm redoing.

Immersed in my task, I suddenly heard baby chortles over the baby monitor.

Funny... he was silent just a moment ago.

Silence again.

More baby chuckles.

-This continued for several minutes, until my curiosity was piqued. I trekked upstairs quietly, brush in hand, to see if it was a stuffed animal, ceiling fan or something else that had him so amused.

None of the above. He apparently had the hiccups and that sensation was what was making him laugh.

[Hiccup] baby belly giggle

I love those laughs.

July 29, 2006

Carpe Vita

Somewhere in the craziness of pulling long hours for the sake of home renovation this last week, I realized something.

I've been thinking, If I can just get these rooms painted, the flooring in, furniture moved in, family settled - then I can focus on what's important again.

There isn't much I can do about my canine buddy Jasper sleeping alone outside in my parents' shed right now. I can't even say I'd love to have him indoors with us; I'd be too paranoid that something would happen - it's not our house, after all.

Spending time with Nathan and Trent, though, that's a different story. All too often this week I've tried to push through the task at hand with Nathan - c'mon... eat faster! - or put him down for naps early, get him up later. I'm trying to get through this list of tasks at hand so I can get back to living my life.

That's my problem. There will always be tasks. There is always something else begging to be done, to take priority over what I tell myself is most important to me. Every moment like this that I have is an opportunity to set aside the task and live my life.

Nathan won't always be eager to spend time with me.

July 14, 2006

Blog School

And here I thought I was somewhat cool because I have a blog and didn't require the further explanation from long-suffering individuals that it meant "web log".

Once again, I am humbled.

I have no way of knowing if anyone even reads what I write. The chances of someone just happening to come across it are small to none. I've considered putting a counter on the site just to see, but that could just confirm to me that no one but myself and my husband read these posts. If I don't try to find out, I can convince myself that many people wander through the witty verbiage of my phrases, marveling over this or that well-turned word.

Nah... I'm what Electric Venom would call an iso-blogger.

-If the numbers of readers were just about this site, it wouldn't matter quite as much. Writing is primarily for me; it's a safety release. That purpose is accomplished just by thwacking keys on a keyboard.

Trent and I want to generate some income if we can through reference-type sites, though, and let's be honest: building a better web site doesn't make the world beat a path to your door. I'd love to believe we'd hit the Truth-Laid Bear's list, but I don't see it happening in this lifetime.

Wonder how long it would take me to become proficient in Perl or PHP...

July 13, 2006


Nathan stood up for himself for the first time yesterday!

He's been working his way up to it for a while. He'll play with toys on the floor, then push up to a legs-extended crawling position reminiscent of Mowgli in the Jungle Book. Yesterday he pushed himself up to a standing position, legs spread wide enough that we could slide a small dog under him, and arms wavering back and forth in mid-air to maintain his balance.

He's been practicing his new skill regularly ever since. He gets such an excited and pleased grin when he succeeds. It's "I never knew I could be this tall!" crossing over into "I can see my house from here!"

Ten months old. I'm sure walking isn't far behind...

July 11, 2006


I was upstairs sleeping when I heard someone at the garage door. By the time I got downstairs, our neighbor across the street was halfway back to his house. I called after him, and George asked if he could use our phone, since they don't have long distance service.

George is the epitome of a Midwestern American farmer. His kids and grandkids are everywhere in this town. This man taught me how to walk beans the summer I was 14. I was riding in his pickup truck over bumpy country gravel roads when the news came over the radio that United Flight 232 had crash-landed 45 miles away in Sioux City, IA.

More than a decade later, this man still helps out on the farm that was his for many years. It's his pickup truck my family borrows when we have hauling to do. He's the one who uses his snowblower to clear neighbors' driveways, edges their lawns for them (he's out there anyway, he figures; why shouldn't he do it?) and helps pull out stubborn bushes or trees with a chain hooked to his truck. I don't know how old he is, but he must be in his 80s by now - and his energy level puts my generation to shame.

He came over this morning to call a family member; he wanted his wife home, but he didn't want her driving at an unsafe speed. He got the news this morning that the brother he was closest to was killed this morning. Pete was 10 years younger than George. Though he gave the farm over to his boys last year, Pete said he'd still come back and help them out. He was there this morning driving a tractor when he got too close to a ledge. The tractor rolled backwards on top of him. It's possible that he had a heart attack and was already gone when the tractor rolled, but it's still an unexpected shock for his family.

It hit me hard because of how it hit George.

Don't ever make the mistake of thinking farmers are dumb hicks. They're among the smartest, most hard-working, and most reserved and controlled people I know. They think long and hard about things, and most of them have huge amounts of determination and capability.

This morning was the first time I've ever seen George cry. It wasn't sobbing, just tears making tracks down his cheeks and a slight quaver in his voice as told the person on the other end of the phone that his brother was dead.

We talked for a very brief bit, and he went back to his house to wait for his wife to get home. I went over later with Nathan to see if he wanted company while he waited, but he said he was fine and could take care of himself. He was courteous, but there was steel and decades of reserve behind the courtesy. He's a wonderful man, the sort that not only fought in WWII but managed land and family after coming home.

I'm glad I was home this morning, even if there was little I could do.

July 07, 2006

Unheard of

I'd heard of it happening once before, but I've never seen it happen before. Apparently it's even more flabbergasting to the people around my hometown. I doubt they've ever seen it happen.

"So wait a minute... you're saying he likes his job, he likes the people he works with, he just doesn't like the time away from his family?"

No, that's not the unbelievable part. This is:
"He's looking into other job possibilities so he can be with his family more?"

Utterly incomprehensible, especially in this Dutch ghetto, we-work-80-90-hour-weeks-on-the-farm-and-we-thrive-on-it area of NW Iowa.

Me? I do have some concerns, but mostly I'm proud and humbled, too. I'm part of the family that my wonderful husband wants to be with more often.

I think even my parents are shaking their heads at times over us, in thought if not in reality. I hope for their sake as well as our own that we're able to finish the work on our house (mudding, painting, flooring, appliance installation, lighting, trim work, and then moving in) SOON.

[The obligatory picture is of Nathan, happily banging on the piano]

June 29, 2006

Sweet Relaxation

Home improvement tip for free: if you should ever have sheetrock with the paper covering ripped off, and if you should decide to attempt putting joint compound (also known as "mud") over the said exposed sheetrock rather than replacing it--seal the paper down with a liquid primer before you mud.

Not that I'd know from personal experience or anything.

Today has been a day of black paint & chocolate. Black paint because I'm painting the chairs for our steal of a dining room set, chocolate because... well, because. Who needs a reason to include chocolate in their day?

Come to think of it, chocolate has bled into my day in several forms. I'm re-reading Mort Rosenblum's book on chocolate (highly recommended); I've downed a few dark chocolate candy sticks to console myself this morning; and my mom made the most divine chocolate mousse. Anything with 17 egg yolks, dark chocolate and a quart of heavy cream is OK by me!

In fact, I'm off to live in a chocolate world for a while - book, mousse, and maybe even a luxurious soak in my cocoa bubble bath later this evening.


June 27, 2006

Inauspicious Beginnings

Today didn't begin well. The inauspicious rating was mostly due to the time it began: 4 a.m. I woke up from a dream and fully intended to get back to sleep. The cricket who lives near the gas grill on the patio below our bedroom window decided last night's late-night concert wasn't sufficient and required an early-morning encore. I kept hoping his legs would get tired or eventually fall off, neither of which happened. When 4:40 rolled around (cricket still chirping, Susan still fuming), Nathan woke up. I changed and fed him, put him back to bed after a brief snuggle time, then dragged my sorry self downstairs.

As I said, it wasn't a good beginning. Thankfully, it improved. We managed a 90-mile round trip between 8 and 10:30 a.m. to purchase the last [fingers crossed] out-of-town home renovation supplies. One bathroom sink and 17 sheets of 4'x4' birch ply underlayment later, we came home. I've had a quiet afternoon, sorted through old clothing and (the icing on today) fit into many of my pre-pregnancy clothes. Woo-hoo!

I love my mom dearly; her inestimable way with words makes me laugh. I tried on the dress I hope to wear for my brother's August wedding, and showed my mom. Her encouraging response was, "Well, you still have two months before the wedding."

I'm glad it made me smile rather than feel miffed. OK, then, sit-ups it is... : )

June 26, 2006

Only Children

I'm a lonely middle child in the midst of only children. Trent's an only, Nathan's an only, and now Jasper's an only dog - and loving it.

In the last couple days we've spent more time with him than we have in a long time. We knew it would happen; there's something about having two dogs and a baby that cancel each other out when it comes to outings. One dog and a baby on a walk? No problem. Two dogs and a single walker? OK. Two dogs and a baby controlled by a single person? Never gonna' happen, my friend.

I'd avoid brushing either dog because I couldn't get the time to do both of them, but didn't want to make either feel left out. Same with walks, play time, treats... Jasper's gotten more attention and more peace & quiet since Sugar's gone to her new home. That alone could account for some of the change to his personality, but not all of it. We feel like Jasper's a different dog - so happy, playful, relaxed, obedient. He's acting more like a Lab now than he did before. He was more irritated and snappish before, always looking for an escape route.

So... apparently we find a new home for one dog and both dogs are happier. Who'd a thunk it?

Bedtime for me. I did final demo on our bathroom today - pulling out plastic tile, old adhesive, old flooring, and yanking up insanely long staples meant to hold old linoleum in place a long, long, long time. It's done - depressing that I can only showcase a bathroom sans any bathroom applicances for five hours' work. Peh.

June 24, 2006


I feel a bit like singing Mike Wazowski's song from Monsters, Inc.: She's out of our hair... And just when we dared... to care...

Sugar's gone.

This past week I finally called the vet's to make an appointment for putting her to sleep; I was pretty controlled through most of the conversation, then started crying when the scheduler asked if we wanted them to take care of the body or did we want it. Fighting tears, I said we wanted to bury her at our house. I sobbed when I hung up the phone. I felt like a traitor whenever I fed her or put her to bed the next several days.

Last night while talking to friends, they asked how the search for a new home for our four-footed girl was going. We told them about the appointment. One of the wives was so aghast at the thought of Sugar being put to sleep that she said she was going to talk her dad (a local farmer) into taking her after all. We took Sugar out to our friend's parents' farm tonight so they could meet her--and we drove away without her.

Neither Trent nor I thought tonight was going to be the final goodbye, but... it's probably better this way. Now I don't have two or three days of thinking, In two days Sugar is no longer ours... Tomorrow Sugar is no longer ours...

I'm happy beyond words for her. There's so much space to run, there's another farm dog she can race and play with; there are even ducks for her to investigate! We can still drive out to see her, which is a definite plus... Watching Jasper to see how he adjusts may be interesting the next few days. He's been her protecter and quasi-older brother since we brought her home four years ago.

I'm just sad for us. If it were Jasper who was gone, I'd be inconsolable tonight; he's the one I've always considered my dog. Still... Sugar was such a sweetheart.

I love you, sweet girl. Run like the wind and be who you were created to be.

June 22, 2006

National Geographic

Hungry Wadsworth Longfellow is my parents' cat. The name was chosen by my mom, a former English teacher. He showed up as a stray, was fed a meal by my soft-hearted mother, and has stayed ever since. He sleeps in my dad's woodshop or the garage, is litterbox-trained and Purina-fed (with a can of Fancy Feast on Sundays), and has a full set of claws. He allows us to be his family; he has no need of us. I've seen this cat climb trees for fun.

We call him Wadsworth - and the cry of, "Wadsworth! Here, kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty!" is a familiar one in this neighborhood.

Since there's a leash law in our town, my dad came home several weeks ago and laid down the law: Wadsworth couldn't be outside unless he was on a leash. This is one of those ideas that's good in theory, but not in practice. The cat escaped from not one, but two different types of harness leashes my mom bought. Since he won't succumb to a leash, he's stuck being shut up in the shop. Stuck in the shop and mm-row-ow-ling most of the day.

Mom (and I) feel sorry for him, since he basically went from the run of the neighborhood to being in solitary confinement. We try to be judicious about it, but both of us have let him out to run at some time or another. We usually wait for afternoon so birds and rabbits have a better shot at escaping him.

Today as I was cleaning the bathroom, I heard Wadsworth meowing loudly over something; I'd let him outside before I went to the grocery story around noon. When I heard him I just hoped his loud voice wouldn't wake Nathan up from his nap.

I went outside to put something in the recycle bin, and surprised Wadsworth in the midst of a feast. Apparently he killed a bird in my honor, brought it to me as a thank offering, then decided to start without me. Feathers strewn everywhere near the door and under my car's front bumper; very purrrr-y kitty maw-deep in avian dissection. I yelled at him, pulled him away from his kill, and hauled him back to solitary (trying to scrape his front paws off on the garbage can edge, since they were clutch-full of feathers). Sweeping up the remains and bagging them to put in the trash can had me literally gagging. I haven't been that close to throwing up since the first trimester of my pregnancy more than a year ago.

Wadsworth is a very cool cat, and I like that he's still a "functional" cat; he could fend for himself pretty nicely. I still want him to keep his wildlife documentary material away from me. I don't care if it is denial.

June 21, 2006

Subtle Seduction

He'd passed it before, and it never failed to catch his eye.

Today he saw it out of the corner of his eye when he was en route elsewhere, and it called him back once... twice... three times. He finally gave up all pretense of resistance and stopped directly in front of the silver-cloaked temptress: the little boy in him responded to the allure she offered. He'd never been able to forbid himself anything having to do with progress... technology... toys for men.

He stopped in front of the object of his desire and gazed helplessly at the controls and mystical, flickering blue splashes of light. This machine was crafted for him. Its design, its performance... he could go anywhere and do anything with this piece of equipment. The world would be his to command.

Drawn closer by its siren song, he lifted his hand to caress it, to feel the throaty hum of its engine--

--and was pulled back by his mother and told not to touch the computer for the umpteenth time.

Unbelievable. Only 9 months old and he's more drawn to computers than his uncle, the computer science major.

June 19, 2006

Trying to Listen Rather than "Finish"

Friends of ours are in the process of adopting a child (or children) from Africa. The dossier's completed, they've been fingerprinted, had their house visit--now they're waiting. The hope is that they might travel to Africa yet this summer. While they wait, one spouse is planning: books on Africa purchased from Amazon, running through possible names to whittle down the ultimate list, trying to calculate for what might be and how to respond to it. Spouse #2 is trying to live in the moment, not setting up expectations that could be disappointed. Focus on the 2-yr-old in front of us and let God take care of however many family members we'll be adding.

I myself am a planner. If Trent dies next week, how will I feel? What would I do? How would I help Nathan know who his dad was? (Sorry for such a downer example; it was the first that came to mind!). I'm usually planning for things I can't control and that involve lots of potential emotion.

Today I had a mental slap upside the head about this mix of plan vs. live in the moment. Why don't I live in the moments of my planning? I often shift into task mode; complete this task to move on to the next one, etc. I live when the 'to do' list items are crossed off... I realized today during my devotions that life should be more about listening, not finishing. When I do chores around the house (doing laundry, folding clothes, loading the dishwasher), am I trying to listen, to see God in whatever it is I'm doing? More often than not, I'm more likely to be pushing through this task to get it finished. I operate as if I only hear God in certain situations. Who am I to say he doesn't communicate to me while I'm scrubbing out the shower? Just because I haven't heard him doesn't mean he isn't there; it's more likely that I'm not listening.

Time with Nathan makes it easy for me to listen for God - Nathan's vocabulary is pretty limited. His smile sure makes up for a lot of it, though!

June 15, 2006


I was in a pretty good mood--a straightforward good mood--and then I came home to find my brother's fiancee watching Larry King Live. The debate topic (never something innocuous) was about homosexuality in the church.

Words won't express for me how much I dislike the whole topic. I've never seen a debate change anyone's mind on it, and tension builds and builds for me (as does anger) until I'm left in a mental steam.

In the manner of "We Believe", here's the pith of my thoughts and wrestlings with the topic -
- I do believe homosexuality, consensual or otherwise, is a sin. I won't get into scriptural references, because that line always gets muddy. I just believe that it's a sin. Right now my thoughts have me pondering the whole human body design angle... I find it hard to believe that God would create someone for a purpose of a particular relationship if (by acting in that relationship and within the body's design) no further generation was possible.

- I believe people can have a genetic propensity toward homosexuality, but not a genetic trait of homosexuality. My family has a propensity toward addictive behavior that makes drinking alcohol a really dangerous idea--we don't stop when common sense says we should.

- I have a good friend who is gay, was in a long-term relationship for a number of years with another man, and who is not a Christian. We've been able to talk honestly about some of our issues, and still be friends. I value his friendship and don't at all consider ignoring him because he's homosexual.

- I wrestle with what Jesus' response would have been - not to les/bi/gay people who didn't claim to be believers, but to those who did. I feel angry--sometimes even feelings of rage--at the comments of, "I feel sorry for you, that you can't believe in a God who loves everyone."

I feel angry because this displays a childish lack of understanding about God. I don't consider him an angry, white-bearded old man trying to hurl lightning bolts at us from heaven. I also don't think he's the sort of being who will ever pat me gently on the shoulder and say, "There, there."

There are accounts of people dying, on the spot, for treating God's holiness with less respect than it deserved. Cherubim - not roly-poly cherubs with dimples and golden curls, cherubim with multiple wings and four faces - are in charge of protecting God's glory and holiness. I don't have the smallest percentage of a clue how ably God ensures and protects his glory. If I'm able to say anything at all when I'm finally in his presence, I'll be amazed.

I believe in a God who loves everyone, but I do not believe that love to be a blanket of fuzzy blankets that hands out bon-bons and barricades us from pain or consequences. He loves me fiercely, and he gave me the free will to choose to surrender to him or not.

That list in 1 Cor. 6 that the NIV translates to contain "homosexual offenders" among those who won't see heaven? I'm elsewhere in that list - slanderers, idolaters. The crux point for me comes down to this: in my sins, do I acknowledge them as sins and try to surrender them to God as often as needed - or do I insist they're part of who I am and how God made me?

See? I told you I dislike this topic. I end up all fractious and irritated.


June 14, 2006

Happy Thoughts

Trent & I had an episode of "intense fellowship" last night (as one of our friends has labeled it). The pith of the matter was that I was whining about how my day went as opposed to how I wanted it to go. Most of the blame for this was laid at Nathan's door. Trent (though less graciously than he might have, since he also was tired after a long day) pointed out that I make more negative comments about my days with Nathan than I do positive ones.

There were tears and martyrish remarks in last night's response, but I realize today that he's right. I think about the positive things, but I don't often articulate them.

As a means of fighting that, allow me to share this positive moment with you: my unbelievably active 9-mo-old child crawled around his grandparents' gargantuan leather sofa, rounded a carved piano that belonged to his great-grandmother, and (working past the cardboard box of his uncle's Nintendo games) found his toybox. I try to rotate through his toys fairly often. He just found the mother lode of plastic and fuzz fabric. When I pulled out his toy elephant, which shakes and plays music when you pinch its nose, he practically bounced as he hyperventilated.

How great must life be if the best part of your day is getting to gnaw on a musical elephant's shaking ear? -Oh, wait: he just pulled his other musical toy out, a key that plays interminable versions of "The Wheels on the Bus".

What a kid... : )

June 13, 2006

Paint Spots

Painting houses is filled with adventurous moments. Every trip to a mirror results in a new discovery. Hmmm... how did paint get just there on my elbow? You might find that paint has somehow migrated through the clothing you were wearing and implanted itself on your right thigh. Perhaps you find that spot of paint on the tip of your nose when brushing your teeth before bed - after a day filled with errands. They don't come off easily, either. Showering alone with soap and water doesn't seem to remove my paint spots, despite what latex manufacturers tell me.

I feel like journaling is the same way. I think I know myself so well, and then - wham. Spots where I least expected them.

I try so hard to manage the image I project. I want my writings to be clear, thought-provoking, coherent, pithy and piquant. Piquant I can usually get without trying, but linear is a hard-fought battle that's often lost. It's only clear to me this morning that teachers are the ones who try to make things linear and coherent. In my times with God, I am the student - not the teacher. If I journal with the hope of someone else reading my words and learning something, my primary focus isn't on learning or sorting through new thoughts for myself, but on teaching someone else. It's akin to learning that pushing the yoke forward makes the plane go down, then turning to a student sitting next to me and demonstrating how a plane can dive - without knowing how to pull out of it.

I need to be willing to seem foolish, to be focused on learning and the humility of learning, the receptivity of it. I'm too focused on appearing pulled together and instructive. As my friend Jeff Shrout often said, writers (particularly those who want to be instructive) must be the first learners of what they write.

June 12, 2006

Dog Tired

I saw the date of my last post, and my shoulders slumped. I hadn't realized it had been so long since I posted. I'm in the midst of Paint World 2006 these days, and days pass quickly when you're actually working with paint instead of watching it dry.

I've Kilzed (if it wasn't a word before, it is now) most of the upstairs surfaces that might have been considering harboring mildew or mold. That took 7 hours last Thursday. I intended to paint some of the ceilings this last weekend, but Trent had a cold and Nathan was snerfy, too, so I stayed home with my men. Down time. Much needed.

Today I went back over to finish up priming a closet interior and pull all the staples out of Nathan's bedroom floor (curse those carpet layers who actually want the flooring to stay in place, using 50-bajillion staples to do so). It actually took me over an hour to pull every single staple out. An hour of yanking staples individually with a pair of pliers. I must be insane.

I finished my day around 5:30 this evening by (finally!) painting our bedroom ceiling.

The plumbers came today to put shut-off valves on everything that didn't have it (which was most of the water-related aspects of the house); a flooring specialist took a look at our floors and told me I was going to hate him. If a flooring specialist ever tells you this, don't ask him why. He'll actually respond.

Turns out we need new vinyl underlayment. For all of the rooms where we want vinyl. All. of. the. rooms. Laundry room plus hallway plus kitchen plus bathroom equals ~250 square feet... Underlayment comes in 4'x4' sheets at $8 a sheet... If the vinyl isn't laid correctly, you can detect even a grain of sand underneath... -Trent heard this last comment and told me to ask the guy how much he'd charge to lay it for us; Trent doesn't want to lay it under that kind of pressure. So... underlayment plus labor cost plus needing the money on hand because the guy would do it on his own time and (of course) couldn't take a credit card payment... Final sum? One swirling mass of misdirected mental mess.

Bed. Now. Me--and my scratchy throat.

June 06, 2006

Motherhood as Customer Service

Since I got caught up in watching Pride & Prejudice last night, I went to bed after 1:00 this morning. My late night was somehow transmitted to Nathan's consciousness via pheromone--that's the only explanation I have for him waking up half an hour early this morning. I desperately need a nap.

For this sacrifice of my sleep, multiple diaper emptyings or changings, and several meals which I fed him between 6:30 and 8:30 (when I finally put him down for his first nap), I was wept over, crawled after, scaled, and screamed at. By the time he's 18 I'll have a master's degree equivalent in customer service.

Babies' crying gets harsher and more annoying as they get older. Newborns have a rusty-sounding cry, as if they're squeaky and need oil. Pre-toddlers like Nathan usually cry in a way that makes me want to laugh; it's so piteous-sounding--until he starts screaming. Then his crying could peel paint off the walls. He's in bed now; my ears are safe for another hour or so... which sounds like the perfect length of time for a nap!

June 04, 2006

Spiritual Check-in

I'm astounded how God leads me from head knowledge into actually understanding and fully believing things. Five years ago I sincerely noted that "in the next five years, I want my financial security to be rooted in God, not in the amount of money I/we have." This last year I've often wished I could revoke that request; I've felt like I was just asking to be put through the wringer of financial woes.

The bizarre thing about it? Racking up credit card debt to prep our house for the market, losing the insurance coverage for my pregnancy, getting a $14,000+ bill for Nathan's birth, finding monthly budgeting is so tight that I'd be better off growing our fruits and vegetables than buying them--in all of that or rather, because of it, my faith has grown. My worries about where the money might come from to cover this or that has lessened.

I believe that God has given me all I have: income, family, abilities, etc. I've only seen lately that he gave them to me and I started looking at them as mine. Mine to have, mine to use--mine to protect and/or lose. That feeling of needing to protect what's important to me or it will be injured or taken has been (painfully) peeled away. God has given me all I have, but now I'm closer to remembering every minute of every day that it is still his. His to call out, his to leave silent or seemingly unused, his to use--and his to protect when and how he chooses.

Now that this unbelievable weight of responsibility for "my things" is off my shoulders, I can focus on more important things, like ... biting into a huge strawberry and savoring every iota of the taste and texture on my tongue, the smell of it, the feel of it in my fingers. I'm off to be a hedonist. Don't wait up. : )

Social Climber

Nathan made a new discovery this morning: stairs.

He's pulled up to a standing position on them before, but not since he started performing his dog-with-a-fire-hydrant act. He keeps trying to lift one leg at a time to put a knee up on things now--he hadn't succeeded before this morning, but he keeps trying!

I coaxed one of his knees up to step #2 this morning (with my dad counseling me from behind that I shouldn't be teaching him to climb stairs; he'd learn it fast enough on his own). The delight emanating from his little body when he hit step #3 was unbelievable: "You're kidding me--I can climb?! I can actually go higher by doing this?!"

He made it up four stairs this morning before trying to play with medicine bottles residing on one of the stairs; he got interference from his mother in that little act and lost interest in climbing any more stairs. He wanted to be held and cuddled--and fed his 8 oz. of cereal with applesauce!--instead.

I'm glad our house is a one-story floorplan. I can shut the door to the basement stairs--and I'm certainly not going to teach him to open doors!

June 02, 2006

Running Room

I'm not crying over spilled milk; I'm crying over Sugar.

We've known for a while that we have to find a new home for Sugar. The back yard at our new house is smaller by quite a bit than our old back yard - and even that one was too small for her. She must be part greyhound or part whippet; it's a gorgeous sight to see her run: ears flat back against her skull, hind legs curling and uncurling in mammoth leaps... She's been going nuts shut up in small spaces or (at best) tethered to a stake in the ground on nice days.

It was writing up a flyer for the local vet's office that got me started crying. I know she's a dog, not my daughter. I just can't help thinking that if she were lost, I'd make flyers to find her; I can't bear the thought that someone might think her unlovable or unwanted. If we were moving to an acreage, we'd gladly keep her and let her run as much as she wants. Trent told me this morning he felt fatalistic enough to want to set up an appointment with the vet to put her to sleep. If we can't find a home for her soon, we'll end up doing that anyway.

Now is when I remember Casey, the dog my family had when I was little; he died when I was in high school. For weeks afterwards, hearing a jingling sound anywhere near made me look up to see if he was coming. Cats may have more attitude than dogs, but I never cried over any of those past felines (five of 'em) like I have over Casey and now Sugar.

Jesus, please find this sweet golden girl a new home - even if she only lives another six months, at least they'd be six months she could run like you created her to...

June 01, 2006

Kill Me Now

I'm developing my powers of conscious hearing loss. My husband just muttered the phrase, "Kill, kill, KILL!" off to my right.

My youngest brother and his fiancee are at it again.

I don't agree with the song, "Beautiful Lovers".* Lovers are not beautiful. They're stupid. They're a support advertisment for ear wax, ear plugs, cochlea-ectomies... I remember using stupid voices myself in that pre-engaged to pre-married arc, but around other people? -Around our family members? Not meaning it as a joke?

If Smurfs had head colds and spoke in saccharine phrases, I'd believe these two were possessed by Smurfs. I swear that they've forgotten each other's names; all they remember in terms of addressing each other is "My Sweet". With vocal intonations, it comes out high-pitched and sounding more like My Twe-e-et.

Phrases like rug butt burn - "Oh, that's just too cute!" - and discussions of how they'll be the most affectionate couple they know after their wedding - "Since Trent & Susan have already reproduced, they don't have a reason to be close anymore." (Yes, this last was a pointed joke, since we were in the same room.) It's the voices that make me want to gag the most.

I thought my brother was leaving to go home and sleep, and I heard the faint strains of the Hallelujah chorus begin in my head - but that was 10 minutes ago. They're still saying good night in the kitchen. After all, they won't see each other for two days.

Kill me now. I'm never gonna' make it until August 26th.

*[For those of you familiar with grammar rules, I'm adopting British format; it makes more sense in non-dialogue situations. Get over it. I put that period outside the endquote on PURPOSE.]

May 31, 2006


First of all, a vent is in order: ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! I've been trying to post to this blog for a while now, but every time I've hit 'create new post', the session stalls. I've waited for upwards of 10 minutes for it to come back with no success. An email to blogger about the problem (because of course I could get other places in the blog; I was only excluded from making new posts) got me a generic form email in response - "We regret we're unable to respond personally to all requests for help; please visit these links for possible solutions to your problem!"

Never mind that I visited the FAQ's before I sent the email; it's simple courtesy to do that before screaming to support staff. I have family members who have done computer support work. It truly is as bad as Three Dead Trolls & a Baggie make it out to be.

After poking around and trying various combinations, I finally got to the new post editor. I better wrap this up - my internet session is sure to close on me as the web powers that be seek revenge for my outwitting their dastardly schemes.

Before Nathan was born, I had some fears about whether or not he'd enjoy learning. The prospect of having a child who didn't like reading seemed anathema maranatha to me. I have no such fears these days:

At the age of eight months, this child already enjoys a morning time of reading together - and turns the pages of his board books himself! Woo-hoo!

Spoken like a parent who has a long-standing addiction to reading. : )

May 11, 2006

A Toast to...

- My sister-in-law, for cleaning up her four-year-old son's offal from the bathroom floor (then scrubbing the floor, toilet and every other stationary surface in the bathroom with Clorox)

- My friend Heather, for attempting to paint all rooms in the new house despite having 4-yr-old and 8-month-old daughters Velcro-ed to her appendages

- My sister, for flying off to a conference <=10 hours after flying back home from the Midwest; may your new dresses and other purchases knock the socks off the other E3 attendees

- Me, for writing this in the same room as my youngest brother and his fiancee (Never before have I heard "My Swe-eet!" in such saccharine falsetto voices; our entire family ought to be getting hazard pay until their wedding - I am this-> <-close to ramming my fist down my throat. Fingers alone are insufficient.)

Of Golden Threads

"You're my anchor, my mainstay. You're... you're the sandbag for my hot air balloon."

"I'm your sandbag?"

"No, no, it's a good thing. Without your presence in my life, I might otherwise flit and be lost."

"Did you just say, 'flit and be lost'?"

"Are you making fun of me?"

"It just sounds like a derogatory comment you fling at someone: Oh, go flit and be lost already."

May 09, 2006

On Writing

Tonight I found this in an old journal entry; I usually need distance from my writing before I can appreciate anything about it. This is more than two years old, but tonight it helped me somehow. It helped me know there's something there... I don't know how long it will take before that "something" makes it on a printed page, but someday.

Philip (the main character in Somerset Maugham's book Of Human Bondage) is contemplating leaving behind his artistic life because he fears he’ll never be anything more than a second-rate painter. He has an intellectual appreciation for certain paintings and can parrot others’ critiques very well, but he doesn’t have a visceral, emotional response to a painting instinctively. He speaks to a colleague about it, and the colleague’s response is this:

"The artist gets a peculiar sensation from something he sees, and is impelled to express it and, he doesn’t know why, he can only express his feeling by lines and colours. It’s like a musician; he’ll read a line or two, and a certain combination of notes presents itself to him: he doesn’t know why such and such words call forth in him such and such notes; they just do. And I’ll tell you another reason why criticism is meaningless: a great painter forces the world to see nature as he sees it; but in the next generation another painter sees the world in another way, and then the public judges him not by himself but by his predecessor. So the Barbizon people taught our fathers to look at trees in a certain manner, and when Monet came along and painted differently, people said: But trees aren’t like that. It never struck them that trees are exactly how a painter chooses to see them. We paint from within outwards – if we force our vision on the world it calls us great painters; if we don’t it ignores us; but we are the same. We don’t attach any meaning to greatness or to smallness. What happens to our work afterwards is unimportant; we have got all we could out of it while we were doing it."
The first section gave me a feeling of recognition. Like a comment from John Howe (a Tolkien illustrator who was a designer for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy) said – seeing the work other designers did simply fired you with the desire to take a crack at it yourself. If I have a thought, the brass ring is finding the right words for it. The brass ring is always ephemeral. Sara Groves wrote in one of her songs that she could hear a distant singing, a song that she couldn’t write, but that it echoed in what she was always trying to say. It’s like trying to trap wind. I can create wind in an enclosure, but it’s a facsimile of wind. I can’t enclose the real thing. I can intuit a beautiful, glorious thought – and how bald and crude and clumsy it looks on paper. Merely trapping the idea in words removes some of its inspiration – and yet words are my most flexible and familiar medium. Simply reading the quote above fired me with the impulse to write this, to try to articulate my own feelings about it. Maugham didn’t include writers in the passage above, but he might as well have. An artist reaches for his paints, a musician for his instrument, and the writer for his vocabulary.

I had a brief thought somewhere in copying the passage that God equips every person to see his creation and himself in a slightly different way – God hasn’t changed, but the angle of viewing has. If I have prepared myself and surrendered completely, the gemstone of my life will refract his light in ways unseen before, to bring further beauty and glory to his name. Again, there’s a vast difference between the thrill in my heart at the realization and the pragmatism of words that communicate the realization. Someone may read this and also consider it an amazing thing, but my words only show me the gap between what I felt and what I wrote.

Maybe it’s someone else’s artistic pursuits that teach me; it’s the hope of finding just the right words someday that (tonight) drives me. I can’t look at the sun for more than a moment; I can stare at the sun’s reflected brilliance and be amazed by the moon for hours on end. I feel like I fall so short of communicating the right words for my thoughts or ideas, yet I can be amazed at others’ words or reflections of God. Others may be astounded at a phrasing, but it’s only after a period of time and distance that I could have enthusiasm fired again by my own writing – it’s more like reading someone else’s writing if enough time has passed. In the moment of writing, I’m still too aware of how far my effort is from my intent. Is writing, too, a sort of striving for holiness? Reaching for something, an ideal, that’s set apart?

I remember reading that the mere label The Fall showed the magnitude of it; Man Stubs Toe isn’t headline news. We don’t refer to it as The Trip – it’s The Fall. We choose self over God, then spend the rest of our lives trying to A-believe we’re better off, or B-try to reflect a perfect image from a fallen, fun-house mirror. Well, my writing represents The Gap to me. Comparing what I wrote to what I wanted in the moment is like holding a high school art project next to a Van Gogh. You may enjoy the art project on its own, but when you hold it by the masterpiece… what comparison could there possibly be? The project falls so far short as to be unworthy of notice.

I don't know how or why, but maybe something in these long lines of thought will help you, too.

May 06, 2006

Teaching Truth

I still remember one of my first times "teaching" someone something. A friend had problems understanding our math homework in 4th grade. Somewhere in my memory, I'm still there, lying on my stomach next to her on the living room shag carpet, poring over a math book. I can still hear her voice in my head, telling me I'm good at this, at explaining things.

Patience isn't one of my strong points, unless I'm trying to explain something to someone who truly wants to understand. Few things annoy me more than complaining that goes nowhere. I don't like complaints about something unless there are steps toward a solution - and I found a reason for it in (of all places) the Bible:
God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
~John 3:17, The Message
This, this is the true heart of teaching. Meeting someone where they are, coming alongside them with humility, identifying with them, sharing truth and insight, sharing a different perspective of the situation, then helping them see the next few steps of the path ahead.

Teachers should not be proud, contemptuous, scornful, harried, condescending, or self-righteous. They should acknowledge at all times that they can only teach what they themselves are willing to learn, that they don't have a corner on truth, that they can't see all truth the way God can - and they can only present the next few steps.

You cannot force someone to make a choice and expect that they will have learned the lesson. Learning anything requires surrender of self. The best teachers are those who are most surrendered to learning themselves.

We're all human. We all get tired. We all make mistakes - I'm keenly aware of my own. Despite frequent failures to uphold this standard myself, I feel strongly that any teacher who approaches a teaching opportunity without humility and a willingness to also learn from that opportunity will be held accountable to the last jot and tittle.

Don't ever treat teaching or being a teacher lightly. What happens in that moment is a supreme act of trust by the listener. Don't betray that trust because of pride.

May 02, 2006

Amazing Beauty

I have a little more than a hour to shower, wake/change/feed Nathan and prep all things Nathan-related for Trent before my sister-in-law picks me up ~6 for a girls' night out. We've agreed that once we've gotten away cleanly, we may never come back.

So... this post will be shorter than I orginally hoped (curse those internet blogs and the time sucked up by reading them).

Sunday my mom and I drove east to walk through an open house by the most amazing stained glass studio I've ever seen. They simply blow right past Tiffany lamps - even art glass auction houses classify their work as Tiffany-grade.

Bogenrief's Studio started in 1978 by a couple who worked at a meat-packing plant. During a labor strike, they decided to make a stained glass window for their Victorian house. They never got the window made, and they've never looked back. They're currently in an old high school building with different stages of the process set up in various former classrooms.

The window off to the right (known as the Jungle Window) is an example of their work. This piece is 9 1/2 feet wide by 11 feet tall. Yes, you read the dimensions right. Over 20,000 pieces of glass and 400+ shades of green, if I remember correctly. It hasn't been sold yet, but the price tag will be somewhere between a quarter and half a million dollars.

It's seeing art like this that just leave me speechless. I look and just want to halt my thoughts and actions... I just want to absorb.

Maybe someday we could save enough money to purchase one of their smaller blown glass art objects. I like the idea of the art in our home being by local artists or artists we know personally.

What I wouldn't give for our friend Matt McNary's MAP picture... (Never mind that it sold for somewhere in the neighborhood of $500) [sigh]

April 29, 2006

A Date with my Destiny

I am such a geek.

Office supply stores are among my very favorite stores in the world - who needs shoes when you can buy folders? and four-color pens? and a labeling machine that will help me see that this clear box holds markers?

Since this is the case, it makes perfect sense that buying a daily planner sent me over the edge into bliss. Not only can I write down appointments so I won't forget them, I can tell you what I'm doing at 9:30 a.m. on December 17th of this year. My schedule's currently wide open on the 17th, but if I was busy that morning, it'd be written down!

The downside to all this organization is that I'm blonde. I have brain lapses entirely too often. The path of my destiny leads through a severe dose of humility. Case in point: writing in all the dates from now through a year from now, I hit April 24th (of next year) before I realized that my numbering (in ink, of course) put the 24th on the same day of the week as it was this year.

It took some in-depth searching and flipping of many pages, but I found the problem - I forgot Halloween. I went right from October 30th to November 1st. In my defense, I can only offer that when I was numbering I actually thought it was November 30th to December 1st, but being wrong about what month I was on sounds a lot worse than forgetting a single day.

Now my enticingly new planner has unsightly scribbles from October through next April. I am not allowed to enter dates in daily planners while talking on the phone ever again.

April 24, 2006

Re-generating Reading

My reading material varies widely - candy-coated, saccharine, mindless romances one day, Show Boat or The Brothers Karamazov the next.

Lately I've been reading Strauss & Howe's book on the Millenial generation, entitled Millennials Rising. I myself am a Gen X-er (born 1961-1981): I'll care about an issue if I want to care about an issue. Don't try to make me believe the government knows what it's doing and will take care of me; I'm too much of a realist to believe you. Defining moment of my generation? I remember seeing the Challenger blow up on television over and over again in an elementary school classroom.

I'm much more of an individualist than a team player. So there's no "I" in "team"? Big deal; there's an "I" in "win".

I am actually enjoying the book; it helps me understand why my generation is so cynical vs. the Millennials (born 1982-2002), who were raised with "Baby on Board" mottoes in the windows of their kid-friendly minivans.

What surprises me is the resentment I feel. My parents are still happily married to each other; my mom was at home when I needed her, not just through grade school but through college; and I never felt like I was the reason Mom or Dad didn't achieve their "full potential" career-wise. My anger is for the nebulous group of Boomer parents who woke up and realized what their ideals of rebellion and individualism did to us - but it was too late to do anything about the disenchanted Generation X, so they focused instead on the Millennials.

I'm hurt on behalf of my generation that we got written off. I agree with Deanna Beppu:
I sort of feel bittersweet about all this attention and praise that the Millennials are getting. If we Gen Xers probably share one common memory, it's how the adults in the world just forgot about us in terms of education, structure, values, and family support. And it does seem ironic and cruel that now the new kids are getting all the attention because suddenly the adults woke up and realized that we Gen Xers didn't turn out right. It's like our elders conveniently forget that they were supposed to be there for us, too.

Think about the issue of school bullies. I remember being tormented a bit by older kids - and I remember my sister having run-ins with an older, bullying girl on the school bus. The response was a "suck it up and deal with it" attitude by authority figures. These days, we're so concerned that bullies not simmer to the point of enacting another Columbine that students get yanked into the principal's office according to "Zero Tolerance" policies if they wear an overly opinionated t-shirt. I'm not arguing this change is all bad; I'm wondering why it wasn't important before.

I don't want a victim mentality. I don't want to hold grudges. I just want to understand this social grouping I've been with since birth. I want to know how to use who I am to serve following generations the best way I can.

April 23, 2006

And Then There was One

For the first time since its inception, the Stanley family will be decreasing in size.

The year we got married, Trent & I got two dogs: Jasper (a lab/Shar-pei mix) in March and Sugar (a lab/hound mix) in April. We got two so they could keep each other company while we were both at work. The only time they were separated was when Jasper ate part of his polar fleece blanket and subsequently had to have surgery to remove 12" of his small intestine. [FYI: Polar fleece doesn't break down in the digestive system the way other fabrics do. Keep it away from all animals and small children with a proclivity to chew and consume those chewed objects.] For the 4-5 days Jasper was at the vet's, Sugar was inconsolable.

The house we're moving to here has a back yard that's 1/3 the size of the one we had in Kansas City, and even that yard was really too small for Sugar. She loves to run and coils tighter and tighter like a spring if her movement's restricted for too long. Living in an 8'x10' shed and a 10'x10' run has been torture for her. Every chance she gets, she runs off. She always returns wearing an apologetic expression, as if to say it wasn't her fault that her legs ran away; she was just along for the ride. Sugar lives up to her name: she's hyper.

Our hope is to find a farm in the area that would be willing to take Sugar. As Trent said, we'd rather she have six months of being able to run as much as she likes than another seven years penned up in small spaces. Jasper should make an easier transition to being an indoor dog. He's good-sized (~70 lbs), but much quieter and thrives on affection.

So... the two shall be separated.

Today, however, it isn't Sugar that's giving me fits; it's Jasper.

I headed outside to put them on their leads, keeping a firm grip on Sugar's collar but (in a stunning display of blonde trust) letting Jasper out on his own. He betrayed my trust and ran off around the neighborhood. I had to track him down eventually, and I let him know that he'd just axed any chance of being released on his own recognizance in the near future.

Apparently he took me at my word. I looked out the window a while later, and his lead was lying on the grass, empty. Somehow (don't ask me how) he'd escaped the latch on his collar and was off (again) roaming the neighborhood. At first I thought my mom might have taken him along on her walk, but a loud cacophony of barking from the next door neighbors' (who own two springer spaniels) debunked that daydream.

I marched Jasper back over to his lead, let him know what I thought of him and told both of them (Sugar was barking left and right in very excited fashion) that they were inches away from spending the rest of the afternoon in their kennels.

Now Jasper's sitting with his back to the bay window. He's really developed the art of canine sulking... it's almost cat-like.

April 22, 2006

Eyes on the Past, Not the Future

Despite the gorgeous weather outside, today has been somewhat frustrating.

Further garage sales yielded a few finds, but the right-size, drawer-full $20 dresser I found had (of course) already acquired a "SOLD" sticker with someone else's name on it.

Discovered the backsplash of the longest stretch of cabinets in our kitchen has a 1/2" convex bow to the wall... If the backsplash of the counter is flush to the wall, the two ends are close to 1/2" away from the wall.

Today is a "should"-y day. So much of my time is spent pushing away thoughts of all I "should" be doing, paralyzed by what I could be doing instead of whatever task I am doing - any expended energy or effort feels futile. After all, reasons the snippy perfectionist voice in my head, I didn't complete this task or that one, which was truly the important one.

These are the days when it's more important to look back over my shoulder and view the past, rather than look at the future and feel my shoulders slump. Did the bed linen get changed or cleaned? Did the rooms get decluttered? Did I sand down any more of our garage sale finds prior to repainting? Did I take that intended walk? Have I spent time lavishing affection on our two dogs? Did I empty the dishwasher in my mom's absence so she didn't have to? Did I avoid unhealthy snacks and discipline my appetite?

"No" to all of the above. But... I did get a load of laundry done, situated the dogs outside on their leads with a wading pool of water between them, have changed/cleaned Nathan three times already today, fed him four times (with two still in front of me before he goes to bed), ran out to two garage sales, ate two meals myself, played and wrestled with Nathan, encouraged his crawling across varied surfaces, sang to him, read a significant portion of a book, and (now) have posted here.

It may not seem like much to some people, but I'll rejoice in my small steps of progress. I was actually dressed in real clothing (not pajamas) by 9:00 a.m. That, especially when joined by eating breakfast and lunch myself, is an accomplishment.

April 20, 2006

Eat or Be Eaten

I came as close to a Lord of the Flies experience today as I ever hope to come: the spring city-wide garage sales in our local hamlet.

I need a personality implant to compete with some of these people!

Though the paper says such-and-such a sale will open at 3, it opened at 1:30 and all the good stuff was gone long before your arrival.

Enough of these "near misses," and I finally started stopping wherever I saw large groups of vehicles clustered, gambling on the off chance there was a garage sale nearby. I actually drove into a cul-de-sac populated by a score of pickup trucks for that very reason. Once I was in the cul-de-sac, I realized they were all contractors' trucks; some homeowner was in the midst of a good-sized remodeling project.

Some rules I've learned concerning garage sales:
1 - Open your garage door, and they will come. It doesn't matter what your posted start time or even your start date is.

2 - Lock up the things you want to keep, or they may be sold inadvertantly.

3 - Talk with no one while waiting for the garage door to open. The very person with whom you're most compatible is probably there for the very item you want. You don't want feelings of friendship to stand in the way of a good bargain.

4 - If you find any item at a good price in good condition, for heaven's sake buy it. Even if you don't need it yourself, surely you can find someone who would use it.

I haven't got a prayer of finding a baby buggy to tie on the back of a bike; people show up 30-60 minutes early and sit in their cars in hopes of finding a baby buggy. I ran into a set of grandparents out searching for one. They didn't need it, but their daughter did. I consider this a violation of fair play. Those with extended families in the area have an unfair advantage and can communicate strategy via mobile phones.

It's as bad as the Tickle Me Elmo or Cabbage Patch crazes - and it's only Thursday. Friday and Saturday could be even worse.

New Skillz

Nathan taught himself a new skill yesterday.

He's been able to pull himself to a standing position for several weeks now, but it was a dead-end skill until yesterday. Many times he'd wind up stranded in a standing position with no pain-free alternative. He had to take a fall or die standing.

It was fascinating to me to watch his little brain at work yesterday. Holding onto the exersaucer with one hand, he bent his legs gradually, wobbled down into a lower and lower squat, then (when his diaper-clad butt was a few inches above the carpet) let go and landed with a bump in a seating position. He looked so pleased with himself I just had to laugh.

What made it even more interesting to me was that he crawled a short distance away, then turned back to the exersaucer, pulled himself up, and immediately went through the whole balance-squat-fall routine again. He did that a few times, practicing his new skill until it felt less like an accident.

Just like in the picture below, he looked for all the world like a baby mechanic working over his ailing vehicle as he gummed the edge of the upper tray, crawled around it, pulled himself up on it and made sure the tray toys were all in working order.

"Want me to check th' oil for you, too, ma'am?"

April 17, 2006

Joyful Surrender

I've been thinking about surrender lately. I'm very much a type-A personality: organization, detail, control, rules-based. I
like control.

There's been a series of circumstances the last several years that have required me to let go. Let go of my ideas for my career, my income level, my plans, my dreams - even my ideas of who I am and what value I have. I sometimes feel like a piece of furniture that's getting layer upon layer of grime and varnish get stripped away.

Frankly, it sucks. It's painful. It leaves me feeling vulnerable. Caring for Nathan means days of feeling like I don't exist except as a response to Nathan's needs. I'm learning to surrender - which is why I like this first picture. It's a painting by an artist in my area, and I love the way the little girl in the picture is simply being; she doesn't care what anyone thinks of her or even what she thinks of herself. She's completely caught up in enjoyment of the moment.

-Speaking of enjoyment of the moment, Nathan (or Bug, as I often call him) had his first swimming experience this weekend. Trent & I took him to the local indoor pool, adorable in his baby way and small swim trunks. He wasn't quite sure what to do with the water, but it was the noise and all the things to look at that tired him out in about twenty minutes.

I do hope he likes swimming - or at least isn't afraid of the water and knows how to move in it. Ain't he cute?

April 14, 2006

From a Friend of a Friend...

I've decided that motherhood should be like golf: I deserve a handicap rating.

Doing laundry may not be that difficult a task, but keeping track of a crawling baby and doing laundry ought to be rated higher on the complexity scale. It should be influenced by the number of kids (though beyond a certain number that factor should work against you; older kids help take care of younger ones in large families), age of the kids, what the kids are capable of doing (whether it's making creative messes or actual increase in skill/independence), how large the house is and how clean you need to keep it.

It's a new sport: molfing.

I usually roll my eyes at the stories that happened to a friend of a friend of a friend; this one's too good to miss, though. My mom heard it from the lady who taught at a quilting retreat she attended yesterday. The instructor's daughter is friends with the person this happened to:

A gal in the Omaha, Nebraska area sat down to eat with a friend and shared about a recent day at work. She works with a daycare program for mentally disabled individuals, and on this particular day she helped take several teenage boys to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. The boys were responsible enough to allow them to go through the zoo themselves, but they were told to meet at a certain place at a certain time so they could leave together.

When that time came, one of the boys didn't show up at the designated spot, so the woman simply asked zoo security to keep an eye out for him. Zoo security found him, but they passed along the message that the boy was completely wet and they didn't know why.

In order for the boy to change clothes before returning to the daycare program, the woman dropped him off at his house and watched him go in the bathroom with dry clothing.

The boy didn't come out. When the woman knocked on the door to see if he was OK, she discovered that he had run water into the bathtub and filled it.

Each of the boys was wearing a backpack for their trip to the zoo. This boy had put a penguin in his backpack and brought it home.

Yes, you read that right: a live penguin.

The bird was returned safely to the zoo, and all is now well again.

And you thought you had an interesting job. I think there are several fraternities that would want to recruit this guy to do some pranks for them... : )

April 11, 2006

Lowered Expectations

I realize men could feel that they've never done enough, that their work is never completed. I think there are more women who feel that way, though. How many females out there have actually sat down on an afternoon and thought, "Wow... there's nothing left for me to do here at home."

I don't remember the last time I had anything approaching that thought. Laundry, cleaning, "quality" parenting time, caring for Nathan, rescuing him from predicaments like being trapped in his Exersaucer* - I'd love to take a bubble bath, but the planets never seem to align that direction. I really only enjoy bubble baths if I've showered recently, I don't have a time limit (read: don't need to jump up and take care of Nathan), and I have a good book to read.

Such a coincidence of circumstances hasn't happened in several weeks.
There's just too much other stuff I choose to do.

Today's task? Laundry. All four loads of it. I'd love to say I'll get the checkbook balanced, but really, I think that's being overly optimistic. It's already 4 o'clock.

*Note: What kind of parent am I? I'm the kind of parent that sees their child in a predicament and runs for the camera, that's what.

April 10, 2006


Immigration issues are plastered all over the news - particularly today, because of recent protests and marches. Even our small town (<10,000) had a gathering at one of the local parks.

I'll be frank and upfront and say that I'm a bigot. I don't mean that I think that one race (especially my own) is better than another. What I mean by "bigot" is that I have to fight looking at a stranger from another race and not making assumptions. I don't tend to have any problem when I know someone personally. My friends are not limited by gender, race, age, etc.

Controversial issues make me feel uncomfortable. It isn't because I don't care about those issues, it's that I dislike conflict. I feel tense and uneasy in personal conflicts unless I'm fighting someone on behalf of someone I love who has been wronged. I can be ruthless if it comes down to loyalty...

Immigration issues make me feel tense because there isn't an easy answer. Declare all illegal immigrants to be citizens or give them all visas? OK, and how do you respond to the people from other nations who went through the process to obtain a US visa but were turned down? Should the US remove all border/immigration requirements and let whoever wants entry to come? The current social systems can support that (housing, economy, defense, treasury, labor, education, transportation...).

Do you say some can become citizens and some cannot? How do you decide who can and who cannot?

Do you say they're all illegal and no one should be allowed in the country illegally? If this is the option you select, I seriously question how much you know about the immigrant laborers that propel the agriculture, manufacturing and service industries. Many immigrants are willing to do jobs we Americans (with our pride and inflated sense of entitlement) are not willing to do.

As I said, I don't see any easy answers. No matter how things happen, no matter what decision is made, people will be angry.

I'm glad I'm not in the position to actually make a decision on this.

April 08, 2006

Shopping Struggles

My sweet, adorable, tiny baby boy has become a squirming, squealing 18-lb. lug.

My mom and I went shopping last Thursday and (of course) took Small Boy. Mom, in her infinite wisdom, suggested we take a stroller. I voted for the front carrier, but deferred to her experience. For Petsmart, the first instance of pull-Nathan-from-the-car-seat, I figured it was a short errand; why not just carry him and save myself the hassle of the stroller?

Problem #1: It wasn't a short errand. Petsmart's ID tag machines are cool and all, but engraving isn't fast in any sense of the word. Each character takes two passes. Go ahead and imagine how many characters there are in a dog's name, reference address, and home phone number. Now double that (we have two dogs, after all).

Problem #2: Nathan wasn't the calm, observant sort he used to be. We weren't done with Tag 1 before he started squirming and hyperextending in my arms. Since he discovered his ability to move on his own without parental intervention, he strongly disapproves of that option being denied him. He rocked back and forth; he tried crawling up my rib cage and over my left shoulder; he tried twisting his head and upper torso from side to side to escape the dreaded motherly arm enclosure. When all these failed, he expressed himself in the sort of high-pitched scream/squeal/wail that only ever happens when he's positioned just perfectly to pierce my eardrum.

Problem #3: By the time Tag 1 was done, I had to go to the bathroom. I pushed in the tokens for Tag 2 and proceeded to dance the recognizable "I have to go to the bathroom but am being forced to delay the action for now" dance while holding an 18-lb. squirming mass in my arms. Both tags finally done, I crammed them into a pocket and tried to calmly, coolly walk to the back of the store while desperately scanning the aisles for the rescue portal labeled "WOMEN". Since I wasn't up for trying to hold Nathan while going to the bathroom, I put his burp pad on the poured cement floor, put Nathan down on top of it, then did my duty - all the while trying not to think of how many dogs had been on that floor where my son was now playing. Correction: the floor where my son was now crawling, crawling to the floor drain (conveniently located in the stall I had chosen). I finished, pulled up my jeans, fastened the necessary toggles, and swooped Nathan and his burp pad back to my shoulder just before Nathan stuck his little fingers into the alluring holes of the drain.

I'm not up for the describing what it takes to wash one's hands while one is holding a 7-month-old. Life is too short.

I never thought to revel in going to the bathroom by myself before I had children. I didn't know having a child would remove that experience from my life. It's not something they tell you in premarital counseling or childbirth prep classes.