Sunday, March 31, 2013

photo memories

Today we celebrated what is probably our last big family holiday in this house.

This week we will probably put our house on the market.  Or next week.  We need to put it on the market.

I don't want to put it on the market.

But homes are not as important as families.  Today we celebrated family.  We were all here, all together.  It was so nice.

Here we are in our living room.  All of us.
This makes me extremely happy.

I've been wanting to post some picture of me with my kids.  It started when Shawn and I went to visit Shannon a couple of weeks ago.  Here is a picture of Shannon with Shawn:

And here is a picture that I just really love, of Shannon with me:

I am about 5'6" -- not particularly short.  As you can see, Shannon is quite a bit taller than I.

I wanted to post these pictures, because I really liked them.  But I wanted my other kids to know that I am crazy about them, too, so I went looking through my picture files to find pictures of me with the rest of them.

Such pictures are difficult to find.  Perhaps this is because I am the one who takes most of the pictures.  I had to go back to the beginning of the school year to find a picture of Jon and me:

It was Jon's first day of school, and I had a teachers' workshop.  You can see the scabs on Jon's forehead from his wearing of the mascot costume for the local baseball team (his summer job)... the head is not constructed quite right, and being tough, he just wears it anyway.  This got me thinking about another picture of Jon and me:

Proud mama at the stadium.

Try as I might, I could not find any pictures of just David and me or just Laura and me.  Today, since we were all here, we took one of each:

David and me.

Laura and me.

So those are my kids, my fantastic, phenomenal, fabulous kids.

Here is my husband (and my dog):

And my other dog:

So that is my family, intact, all together in our home where we have lived for 18 years.

The calm before the storm.

Here's hoping the storm is just a rain-shower that freshens and brings new life.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Never do this

When you make a to-do list, never put, "Laundry," on it.

You can put something like, "Wash the towels," or "Wash, dry and fold a load of socks and underwear so Dad has what he needs for his business trip." 

But never, never, never just write, "Laundry."

Laundry is never-ending; you will never be able to cross it off.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rambling and pastels

Sometimes when you need to clear your head, it feels really good to go for a long, meandering walk through the neighborhood.

In a similar way, it can feel good to write, just write, not compose or prove or delight or convince or entertain, but just write, to get things out.

Since Shawn has been working at home, it is harder for me to find space in the day to write.  There is plenty of time to waste, and I waste it like a champ, perusing Midwestern house after Midwestern house through our new realtor's website.  I have 58 houses cataloged away now as "my favorites," but (ironically) I don't like most of them much at all, and there is only one that Shawn and I are both mildly excited about, and even that one bears little or no resemblance to my "dream house."

So today, no houses.  I made a pact with my eyes, which were burning and stinging by the time I quit last night, that I would not look at a single house online today.

It is strange that I cannot find a peace to write in.  It is as though I have other obligations that I must manage before I write, and I do, but I don't (manage them).  I feel slightly insane as I tiptoe around the house, trying to keep quiet so as not to bother Shawn at work in the dining room.  I keep washing tupperware in the kitchen sink, starting laundry and forgetting it, wiping off the counter in front of the coffee maker, letting the dogs in and out, wiping their feet, giving them treats.

We are currently installing a prefinished oak floor in our bedroom.  This means that our mattress and box spring are in the living room, leaning diagonally against the sofa while the foot-board from our bed leans on the love seat.  Topsy-turvey is not my favorite.  I derive a great deal of pleasure from rooms that are put together, neat and aesthetically pleasing.  Order and aesthetics bring me a sense of peace.  Perhaps this is why I so rarely feel peaceful.  I am trying to be a trouper, but most the people around me would probably not know that.

It is cold for March.

That's what the boys keep saying.  It's bitter cold.  Of course, March is notoriously cold, and there is nearly always a blizzard during college basketball's March Madness.  But still, it does seem especially frigid, icy.

Yesterday was a rare sunny day, bright blue above, gorgeous.  But other than yesterday, the sky has been white-gray, the air full of drifting snowflakes, very soft, even when the wind blows.  It is quiet, except for the roar of the wind and the sounds of teenagers coming home from school at 2:45 p.m.

The thing about March is that the days are noticeably longer.  I love the light.  I love the whole half of the year when the days are getting longer rather than shorter, just because they are.  There is an enchantment about the evenings in March as I stand at the kitchen sink (I spend so much time at my sink) and look out the window which a month ago would have been black beyond, simply reflecting myself back at me through the cobwebby screen that I ought to pull out and clean.  But, as if the thawing of God has begun to spread divine fingertips of spring across the land, my evening view is now pastel.  Sky that hung white-gray and snowy all through the day, just before twilight lightens to pale, crystal blue as the delicate, white clouds separate, glowing with peach and golden tinges of the setting sun all around their edges.  The gentle colors bathe my eyes in healing hues, and I feel as though God is swathing the world with bandages, comforting our community after the crime, stroking our souls with His beauty to let us know that He is here and He cares.

With our bedroom all in disarray, Shawn and I are sleeping in Shannon's room where the spring pastels continue.  Pale pink, white, ivory all envelop us in walls, ceiling, fluffy pillows and comforters.  It  feels good in this room, innocent, simple, uncomplicated if flowery.  Schubert loves to get out of his crate in the morning and nestle with me amongst the bedding while Shawn lets me sleep in and later brings me a mug of tea to drink while I read the Bible with the sunrise streaming through the windows behind me.

There is so much, so much.  And yet, this morning, wrapped snug in a rosy comforter that was inexpensive to begin with and then laundered too many times, I felt so thankful, so very, very thankful.  God is good, and spring is coming, and even if I have to sell my house and pack and throw a graduation party and move halfway across the country, I have moments when I can be still, feel beauty and enjoy the presence of God.

Friday, March 15, 2013

On self defense

Another heinous crime has taken place.

The librarian from the elementary school where my children attended was taking her 10-year-old daughter to gymnastics last night.  The class was at the mall.  This is the local mall, the tame suburban mall, the mall I always tell my kids to go to because the city mall is not safe.

On their way out to the car after the class, a man hi-jacked them, drove them to a country road behind the mall, raped the little girl and stabbed the mother to death.  The little girl somehow escaped from the car and got up to the road, where a passing car assisted her.

The man was a 29-year-old with a degree in computer science.  He'd been arrested in January, this January, 2013, two months ago, on multiple, multiple charges of child pornography.  On his multiple computers, police found over 500 illegal videos and over 3000 illegal images of child pornography.

So the judge heard his case, issued some rules about parole, and let him go with an ankle bracelet which the perpetrator quickly learned how to disarm.

Thank you Mr. Judge.  An entire community trusts you to protect us from wicked people, and this is what you have done.  I hope you know that the blood of this mother and the fate of her daughter rest squarely on your head: yours and the rest of the perverse, liberal and ineffective justice system in this land.

There is no such thing as a one-time child sex offender.  They cannot be rehabilitated.  We need to come to terms with this and start taking the safety of our children seriously.  A justice system that enables these sorts of things to happen is a broken justice system that needs to be fixed.

Since we obviously cannot hope for protection from those who ought to be protecting us, we need to defend ourselves, and I will repeat here what I have told my daughters before and will tell them again and again...

1.  If anyone ever accosts you in a mall or in a parking lot, scream and thrash around and holler and push the panic button on your key fob.  Do as much as you possibly can to raise a ruckus.  If he is threatening to kill you, if he tells you, "Be quiet or I will shoot you in the head," be as loud as you can possibly be.  He probably won't really do anything to you there anyway, in a place where there are other people and he is sure to be apprehended immediately.  There is at least a 50% chance that you will call his bluff and he will run away.  However, if he gets you away to a secluded place, there is no longer any way to attract attention or help, and no telling what awful things he will do.  It's much better to be shot point blank than to fall into the hands of a wicked person in a secluded place.  Also, in real life (unlike movies), there are no soliloquies where the perpetrator talks and you have an opportunity to figure a way of escape.  So if someone ever tries to grab you in a public place, fight immediately.  Fight to the death if you have to.  It will be preferable.

2.  When you go to fight someone in a situation like this, go for his face, particularly his eyes.  He will be expecting you to struggle and push him away, so if you surprise him by coming in close and grabbing his head, you may be able to catch him off guard.  Grab the sides of his head as hard as you can.  Pray to God to help you, make the most of the surge of adrenaline you will have, and jam your thumbs into his eye sockets for all you're worth, twisting as you go.  Think, "My mama always said to scratch his eyes out.  As God is my witness, I can do this." He will instinctively let you go and try to protect his eyes.   Make sure you do as much damage as you possibly can to his eyes as quickly as you can.  Then, if you have a chance, jam the heel of your hand upwards into his nose, driving his nose bone back into his brain.  Fight like an animal, and use your fingernails, your teeth, your elbows and your knees.

3.  Even better: carry a concealed handgun.  I am not even kidding.

Friday, March 8, 2013


I made these up yesterday.  A friend, a young mother of three, invited me over for morning coffee, and I decided that I would take some muffins.  I made mini ones.

Her two older children were at preschool.  The darling baby went down for a nap, and was still asleep when it was time to pick up the others, so I volunteered to stay with him in order that his mother would not have to wake him up.

When the children arrived at home with their mother, they saw the mini muffins on the table and began to eat them immediately, one after another.  The little boy, a beautiful three-year-old with dark brown eyes encircled by amazing, thick black lashes, looked sideways at me over his third muffin, smiling, and said, "These are really good!  Will you make them for me again some time?"

If I'm-a-gonna make them again, I better write down what I did before I forget.  My heart is full of smiles, and that probably sounds dorky, but it's how I feel.  When people like my cooking, it makes me really happy.  What a delightful morning that was.

Tasty Oatmeal Muffins

Stir together in a rather large bowl:
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
1 egg (beaten)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a separate bowl, mix well:
1 cup white flour
4 tsp. baking powder

Stir the flour and baking powder into the other ingredients.  Do not overstir.  
Quickly spoon the batter into greased mini muffin tins.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes.  Makes 24.  
I have no pictures to show you, because they disappeared just that fast.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Positive Self-Talk

Before they changed the format on Facebook, my wall displayed this statement:

Trying to learn about grace... the grace God has shown me, the grace I need to show others, and the grace I have permission to give myself. I think. Do I?

I have trouble giving myself grace. The problem is--I am finally learning, now that I am nearing 50 years old--when I fail to give grace to myself, I also tend to fail to give grace to others, and this is not a good thing.

At the risk of making the entire world hate me (well, really only about 3 people, since they are the only ones who read this blog... whew), I will tell you a story about what a bad mother I used to be.

One day, approximately 21 years ago, I was the 26 year old mother of a one-year-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old, and I was pregnant.  I was very, very pregnant, approximately seven months pregnant, and when you consider that the baby was born when I was eight months pregnant, that is even more pregnant than it sounds.

It was a hot day near the end of August, probably, since the baby was born the beginning of October. We lived in a stuffy little cape cod style house, and the refrigerator was in the dining room.  This bothered me more before we moved in and ripped out the carpets, at which time the refrigerator had been parked on gold, sculpted carpet in the dining room.  After we got rid of the carpet, the refrigerator was on hardwood, which was not as objectionable, and I could tell myself, "It isn't really a dining room.  It is the eating part of an eat-in kitchen."  Never mind that it was in clear view of the living room.

On this particular late afternoon, the heat settled over us after nap time, and I felt bloated, sore and miserable.  Baby Davie was crying, because he usually did, especially during the everlasting stretch between naptime and dinner, which I could never serve until Daddy came home between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.  My back was sore, and portions of me were feeling the intense downward pressure of the third baby in three years, who didn't seem like she was going to hang in there much longer.  Leaning over to pick up Davie, I had to psych myself up for each movement I made and push myself to completion.

"Mommy, I'm thirsty," Shannon announced.

"Just a minute," I told her as I settled Davie on my hip, trying to wipe his nose and find him a toy.  I knocked a stack of mail off the counter and it fluttered every which way across the dining room floor.  "Stupid," I hissed at myself, "stupid, stupid, idiot."  I sighed and tried to prepare myself mentally for some time down on my knees, picking it all up.

I did not notice that Shannon had opened the refrigerator and begun to pull out a pitcher of apple juice.  It was a plumb full pitcher.  I had just mixed it up from frozen concentrate.  She pulled it out, and her two-and-a-half-year-old arms were not enough to support the weight.  Down it went, spilling apple juice, sticky apple juice, all over the inside of the refrigerator and underneath the refrigerator on the hardwood dining room floor.

Down on my knees on the opposite side of the dining room table, awkwardly reaching for scattered pieces of mail, Davie crying in my ear, I despaired.  I don't remember exactly what I did, but I'm pretty sure I started to yell at Shannon.

She dropped the pitcher askew in a pool of juice, came over, and patted my shoulder.  "Don't worry, Mommy," she told me. "It will be OK."

And this is the reason I am really ashamed.  This is the proof that I am one of the worst mothers in the world.  When Shannon told me that it would be OK, I completely lost it.  "No!" I told her.  "It will NOT be OK.  It IS NOT OK.  I am tired, and I am in pain, and now I have to clean the entire refrigerator and even MOVE the refrigerator, and your brother is crying, and I need to make dinner, and Daddy won't be home for hours and hours, and IT IS NOT OK!"  Then, because I am a wicked person, and I sometimes scream when anybody else in the world would cry, I repeated it, "THIS IS NOT OK!  DON'T TELL ME IT'S GOING TO BE OK.  IT ISN'T!"

By the grace of God and nothing else, Shannon is a happy, healthy, well-adjusted person today, and she actually has happy memories of her childhood.  She has even said to me, "You wouldn't believe how many people I know who have had unhappy childhoods.  We had such a happy childhood.  I'm so thankful."  Where does this even come from?  Not from me, certainly.  It is the grace of God.  If it were not so, I never would have dreamed of telling this story.

Since then, it has come to my attention that my automatic default for much of life has been to negative self-talk myself.  If I turn the the wrong way on a drive, I berate myself for the rest of the trip (and beyond) over the gas I have wasted. If I forget to buy something at the grocery store, I tell myself that I am dumb.  If I drop the soap in the shower, I castigate myself for my clumsiness.  If I miss an appointment, I denounce myself for being stupid, unorganized and unreliable.  The voice in my head is intensely critical and accusatory.

The travesty of it is: when I speak to myself this way, I am more likely to speak to my children this way.

Understanding the high cost of negative self-talk has come to me slowly.  I thought it was my duty to do this, to punish myself, to make myself pay for my mistakes.  About two years ago I had a breakthrough.  I realized that I could forgive myself for making a mistake, that I did not have to punish myself, that it is not a sin to be gracious to myself.  This was an amazing thought to me: it is not a sin to refrain from yelling at myself when I make a mistake.

But really, if God forgives me, if Jesus died to pay the price for my forgiveness which has already been purchased by His priceless blood, who am I to refuse to forgive myself?

So now, as I face the uncertainty of the future, the move, the need to sell our house and our land, the necessity of starting over from scratch in a completely new community, as I face my fears and my lack of faith... I am trying to use positive self-talk.

"It will be OK."  This is my new mantra.  "It will be OK."

I lean my head against the bathroom wall after being sick, and I say, "It will be OK."

I get to bed an hour later than I meant to, and I say, "It will be OK."

I see that a house I'd thought might work for us in the Midwest goes off the market, and I say, "It will be OK."

I hear that we are likely to lose big money on both the sale of our house and the sale of our land, and I say, "It will be OK.  God is in control.  It will be OK."

My shoulder pain, that I've had for a year now, continues, and I say, "It will be OK.  This world is not my home.  There's no pain in heaven.  It will be OK."

I think of the way Shawn's former boss treated him and withheld compensation from him at the time he left the company, and I say, "It will be OK.  God has always taken care of us.  God will still take care of us. We will have enough.  It will be OK."

Not only will it be OK... it is OK, today, now.  It's OK.

It's OK.

"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31b, NIV)

"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19, NIV)

"...for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." (Matthew 6:8b, NIV)

"The Lord is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?"  (Psalm 27:1, NIV)

"Some trust in horses and some trust in chariots [or jobs, bank accounts, guns, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution], but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."  (Psalm 20:7, NIV)

"And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:3, NIV)

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'" (Revelation 21:3-4, NIV)

It will be OK.  It is OK.  I am getting better at saying this to myself.  I am getting better at believing it.