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.]