Friday, January 31, 2014

Kitchen Project. Day 9.

Oh wait.

Yes.  It was Day 9... in the same respect that tomorrow (Saturday) will be Day 10 and Sunday will be Day 11.  Meaning: nobody came to work today.  Lots of pipes are bursting in and around central Illinois, creating lots of emergencies to draw constructions workers in many directions.

Of course, this means that we are another day behind schedule, which prolongs the agony, but at the same time it mitigates the agony.

If they had come to work today, they would have put the sheathing down on the floor, the whole floor, including the laundry room floor.  And to do that, they would have taken my washer and dryer out of the laundry room.  Right before the weekend.  Right after the electricians got insulation on everything in my closet, and my insulation-contaminated pajamas made it into my bed, also contaminating my sheets.

In other words, it will be very nice to be able to do laundry this weekend.

Also, Shawn came home and vacuumed like a champion last night, and... his vacuuming has stood firm!  Tomorrow, we can start from where he left off, rather than starting all over.

I am also happy because I was able to leave the house today, which felt even better than I expected.  It was tremendous.  I'd not realized how wearing it is to hunker upstairs during the construction process, sheltering two insecure and traumatized little dogs.  During the work hours I don't clean, because that would be like trying to staunch Niagara Falls with a bath towel.  I can't do laundry, because I'd get in their way.  I can't cook, because obviously.  After I shower and make my bed, there isn't much to do besides write, read a library book, peruse Facebook, and occasionally duck outside with the dogs (as quickly as possible when the temperature is below zero).


It will be OK.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kitchen Project. Day 8.

One week ago, we started the demo.

Today things started to look a little like they are going back together again.

Yesterday, I hurt myself trying to vacuum all the insulation that workmen tracked all over my home.  When I had my surgery, the doctor told me no shoveling, no vacuuming.  She said, "You are a new car."

But chunks of pink insulation taunted me from all over my floors.  Pink insulation isn't something I can let lie.  When they went through my bedroom closet to get to the attic to put the lights in my bathroom, they got a lot of insulation in there too.  I vacuumed it three times, but I still went to bed with insulation all over my pajamas (I realized too late), and I found yet more insulation behind the closet door this morning.
I did a great deal of necessary vacuuming yesterday, and then I told Shawn, "I think I have dented the new car."

Today, I laid low, in hopes of avoiding the need for surgical reconstruction. 

I wrote 4323 words on a book I will never publish and nobody will ever read (or maybe I wrote half of those words yesterday).  As the sky turned pink with sunset, Microsoft Word cursed my formatting and the margins mutinied, so I did a "save" and "close."

I gave up on nutrition , sloshing a can of chicken and dumplings into the crockpot with some token cans of mixed vegetables, a feeble attempt to shore up a meal based on carbs, gluten and MSG, three things I try to avoid, but my heart is just plumb-wore-out.  Licked.

Oh.  And the guys doing the work said their boss's timeline is not realistic.  The cabinets will not be installed by Tuesday.  Seems reasonable, based on what I can see.

Our old refrigerator lurks uncomfortably in the midst of a changing world, holding just enough food to beckon us down when we are desperate.

The lights, switches, outlets and sheet-rock are in place, over plumbing and duct-work, which are also in place.

The dust is heavy, but I am lying low.  If I clean tomorrow, it will last all weekend.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kitchen Project. Day 7.

Today they did electrical.

I went down this morning to get a light bulb out of the laundry room (don’t ask).  There were approximately 329 workers standing on short stepladders in my kitchen, sawing at the ceiling with power jigsaws (I made that up; I have no idea what tools they were sawing with, and also I am using hyperbole; there were less than 329 workers, perhaps 73).  A six-foot pile of pieces of putrefied pink insulation loomed in the center of the floor; they were pulling chunks of it out of the rafters.  They had arrived a full hour earlier than expected.  I am trying to look on this as a good thing.

It is very cold in here today, on this 7 degree day when all the insulation has been extracted from my kitchen ceiling.  There is so much dust in the air, my eyes sting and my throat is sore.  The dogs sit with their front feet splayed, looking up at me, their faces a mixture of perplexity and terror as the floor beneath them in this upstairs bunker goes, “Boom, boom, boom!”

Usually, as soon as the workers leave, I get out the vacuum.  But today, in this haze, I wonder if there will be a point.  Most of the dust hasn’t even settled out of the air to a surface from which it could be suctioned up.

[Aside]  I wish I could go to my sister’s house, sit in her beautiful kitchen and look at her beautiful things.  A pear.  A piece of driftwood.  A rustic wooden box.  I would like to sit with a hot mug of coffee garnished with steamed milk (because she has a Nespresso milk steamer), and not hear rough voices, bangs, crashes, drills, saws, thumps and a radio station not-of-my-choice.  Or, I would like to go to my parents’ house and eat dinner, real dinner, a hot casserole pulled from a working oven, served with salad made of vegetables that were washed in the sink and sliced on the counter, in a house where there is almost no dust, ever. But wishes aren’t fishes and fishes can’t fly.

I spoke with the contractor today.  He thinks the cabinets will be installed by next Tuesday (February 4).  Then the countertop people come and measure, and it takes a week for the countertops to be manufactured.  So a week later, on February 11, we might get countertops.  After that there are a few more things:  the backsplash, installing the appliances.  The contractor said, “Unless we run into any hitches…”  Unless we run into any hitches we might be done by February 17 or 18?

Dare I hope?

Eleven years ago, when we did our other kitchen, it took three months.  However, it was never like this.  I can’t remember clearly, but it was almost as if that guy took out one cabinet at a time and replaced it, allowing me to move my stuff as he went along.  I do remember that there was only one day that I didn’t have a kitchen sink, and that he literally cut the old counters out a strip at a time so I always had at least some countertop to work on until the old cabinets were all gone.  But then, it took three months.  The old band-aid analogy may apply here.  I hope this is the quick rip. 

I hope the fluster, flying dust, flurried activity, racket, booms and crashes will pay off here.

It was a very long day.  In fact, they are still cleaning up downstairs, and the sun is setting.  I won’t be able to get pictures of the kitchen, but mostly their work involved repositioning the old can lights and changing around the light switches.  It was a long day, and messy, loud and difficult.


They put lights in my bathroom!!!

There is still a gash in the wall where the original light was.  The carpenter will fix that on the day he does drywall in the kitchen.  But in the meantime, I have lights in my bathroom for the first time in six months!

So, I am happy.  Overwhelmed with dust, but happy.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kitchen Project. Day 6.

Today the water was turned off for most of the day, which meant that I could not have any tea, nor could I wash my hands after I ate an orange.  I couldn't use the bathroom either, but I guess that wasn't much of an issue, since I wasn't drinking any tea.

The plumbing got rerouted, which was good.  We have shiny new copper pipes in the ceiling and walls now, where they should be,

and a drain pipe was moved back into the wall as well.

The closet has been framed in.  That was another piece of "bad news" yesterday... that the closet would be smaller than originally planned.  Frankly, I didn't care.  As long as it is a closet and it holds my vacuum, I will be happy.  I suppose the door will be really expensive now though, since it isn't a standard size anymore.  Here is the closet, underneath the beam that cannot be moved, the soffit that will remain.  Schubert gazes curiously from behind a plastic sheet.

They moved the random heat vent that used to be in the middle of the room.  You maybe saw it in some of my earlier pictures.  It used to come out under the peninsula cabinets, where it kept my canned goods toasty warm all winter.  When they removed the peninsula, it looked like a toilet drain.  Now it is in the corner, and eventually it will come out under the sink cabinet and shoot hot air on my toes while I am peeling carrots, which, in theory, should be very nice.  We are talking theoretically because we are not in a mood to count chickens before they are hatched.

I also found out how much our replacement cabinet will cost.  No.  Nobody but us is going to pay for it.  We are keeping the cabinet that won't fit.  Any suggestions for what we should do with a random 42x42 oak wall cabinet?  Perhaps I will have a really snazzy home for my lawn chemicals in the garage.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Kitchen Project. Day 5.

I am counting total days.  This was the third day of work, as days 3-4 were over the weekend.  But I want to know how many days the project took when we get to the end, so this is how I am counting.  Day 5 of living in a construction zone.

Today was not a stellar day.  Here is what happened:

1.  They scraped the rest of the glue from the tile off the floor.
2.  They finished removing the soffits.
3.  They told me a bunch of bad news.
     a)  They need to reroute plumbing (I guess we knew that).
     b)  They need to reroute electrical.
     c)   There is a load bearing beam in the soffit over the butler's pantry.

I am particularly unhappy about the load bearing beam.

We had asked the contractor to come out before we ordered the cabinets, to drill into the soffits and see whether there was anything inside them that would preclude our ordering 42" cabinets that would reach to the ceiling.

He came and drilled.  He hit solid wood when he drilled over the butler's pantry, but he told us he didn't think there was any problem, to go ahead and order the 42" cabinets.  So I did.  But the hole in that soffit haunted me, deading out as it did into solid wood, not an open black hole like the other holes he'd drilled.  We looked at those holes all through the holiday season, but they were supposed to be our insurance that the cabinets we ordered would fit.

I ordered the cabinets a couple weeks ago, and they will be all built and ready to install tomorrow.

Except I have to re-order those butler's pantry cabinets in the 30" height now.  And I doubt that the company will give us back our money for the 42" ones.

Swallowing hard.

It is a pet peeve of mine when contractors make mistakes and I have to pay for them.  Once in NY, a contractor was doing a bathroom for us, and he mixed up all the grout for the shower... but forgot to add the waterproof additive.  I watched him dump the entire batch of grout into the trash before he went back to the store to buy more cartons of grout powder.  Guess who paid for that?

Swallowing hard again and hoping it works out.  Hoping somebody else ordered this style of cabinet in this finish, and can use the cabinets we can't fit.  Hoping against hope.  Soon I will be back to being a realist, as these hopes are dashed.

Always try to end on a bright note.  The ceiling looks a lot higher with (most of) the soffits out.  It's nice.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kitchen Project. Day 2.

We are not used to this yet, although we are finding ways to cope.

I still have a crazy optimistic hope that we will not have to cope for a terribly long term, because coping is not super comfortable.

We have a "kitchen" in the boys' room.  This is actually a banquet table placed against a wall, over an outlet, and covered with all manner of things that I had to get out of my kitchen and that I thought might come in handy.

 (That isn't bread flour, it's homemade hot cocoa mix)

Since we are doing food upstairs, I threw a bunch of old rugs around to try to protect the carpet.

It was a good idea.

This morning I went down to the refrigerator which is the only thing left in the kitchen.  With nowhere to set anything, it was a precarious proposition to pour myself a glass of orange juice and scoop up a bowl of yogurt.

Then the contractor arrived and wanted us to move our vehicles.  I hurried upstairs to set down my "breakfast" in our makeshift "kitchen."

Unfortunately I tripped on the top step, fell, and spilled orange juice and strawberry yogurt all over.  Thank goodness for that old braided rug I'd put the top of the stairs.  I think I got most of the orange juice out of the carpet.  Piper helped me get the yogurt off the rug.

Shawn had to move my van for me.

Lunch in the "kitchen."  Apple slices and almond butter.

We do dishes in the bathroom sink.  We make coffee there too,
and tea with our new Hot Pot.

This shelf of "provisions" is in the basement.  Very sensible, right?  "Kitchen" upstairs, refrigerator on the main floor in the middle of the construction zone, and canned goods in the basement.  Not sure where the can opener is at present.

I suppose it will all settle out.

It will need to.  They found plumbing in a soffit today.  I wonder how much time that will add to the job?

The plastic over the doorways may have cut down on the dust.  However, there was a lot of dust at the end of the day.  I vacuumed as thoroughly as I could, but it all needs to be wiped down with a damp cloth.  And then they will be back Monday.  One wonders how much cleaning it is prudent to do.

On a bright note, the tile is all gone.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kitchen Project. Day 1.

They were three hours late.

This is understandable, since it is one of the coldest winters on record and sub-zero temperatures have contractors busy-out-of-their-minds with frozen pipes and dead furnaces.

Last night we were up well past midnight trying to get everything cleared out of the kitchen.  Had we known they would be three hours late, we might have slept in a bit.

However, they are nice guys, hard workers, and polite.  They got a lot done.

Here are some "before" pictures of the kitchen.

This is essentially the first view I had of the kitchen, when I first entered the house from the garage, through the laundry room.  Lulubelle, upon viewing the scene, instantly remarked, "Why is the refrigerator there?"

Here is the little hallway that goes off behind the refrigerator to the left.  At the left end of it, there are 13" of dead space, which we will be reclaiming, combining with some of the counter run, and making into a broom closet.  This is Shawn's personal coffee kitchen, and he will still have it, although it will be a few inches smaller.

This is what the kitchen looked like from the eating area.  I am no lover of peninsulas.  I've never had a kitchen big enough for an island, but somebody is always trying to crowd a peninsula in where there is not enough room.  You may be able to see that this peninsula ends 30 inches from the front of the refrigerator.  A significant problem.  Had it not been a side-by-side refrigerator, one would not even have been able to open it.  As it is, whoever was looking into the refrigerator always had his backside plastered against the end of the peninsula, and obviously nobody could get from one side of the kitchen to the other while that was going on.

If this picture continued on to the left, the refrigerator would be there, once again.  This is a view of the original cabinetry in the eating area of the kitchen.  We are removing the desk and replacing it with a large double pantry.  We are also removing the soffits.  Well, the construction guys are.

This is a view of the kitchen from the little hallway with the little sink.

This is the corner sink.

This is the stove wall.
Also, those are boxes I was packing the kitchen into for the project.
They have not been around since we moved in.

So today they arrived at about noon and tore the thing apart.  I huddled with the dogs upstairs, listening with trepidation to squeaks, jabs, loud exclamations, and house-shaking thuds, followed by the tinkling of many small pieces of something shardlike.

It was very cold, minus 7 or something like that.  They had to keep going in and out, so it was very, very cold.

If my furnace gives up the ghost, at least I already have contractors on site.  Right?

This is what my kitchen looks like now:

I think it will look better when we get rid of the tile and the soffits.

I will leave you with a picture of Piper that I just found.  It was this Christmas, and he wasn't feeling very good.  Poor baby.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hoping hard

Tomorrow they are coming to tear out my kitchen.

I have not even started shopping for appliances.

I am trying to breathe deep and slow, staving off a panic attack.

I emptied a lot of cabinets yesterday.

Last night I broiled steak and we ate it with mashed potatoes and collard greens.

No plan for dinner tonight, but I am going to try to make something on my last night with a stove.

The flooring arrived on Monday, early, but with a lot of damage.  It came on one small pallet, the only freight in the entire 80 foot FedEx delivery truck.  Wow.

Schubert is still having trouble with his sore mouth.  The vet gave us a disinfecting gel to apply to his gums, but it has Vitamin C in it.  I think it stings his sores.

Yesterday I hurt myself working too hard, so I was not up to going out on errands with Shawn in the evening.  It was too cold and slippery for me to go by myself during the day.  Today is cold too, but perhaps not as slippery.  I may drive to town after I take Schubert to the vet.

I thought we had paid for my breast biopsy, but we got another bill that is 75% as big as the original one.  Sigh.  I wonder how many separate bills we will receive for the hysterectomy.  Do they think it hurts less if they break it up into three or four separate bills?  Maybe it does, at least at the beginning.

I hope I can find good appliances that are reasonably priced, reliable and durable.

I hope the kitchen stuff I picked out looks ok when it is assembled.

I hope the flooring works out, and we get enough replacement flooring to be able to finish the job.

I hope my kids are all ok in their far corners of the country, but I am glad that they will not be here while the house is torn up, for their sakes as well as mine.  Perhaps I will be able to visit some of them.  That would be a huge blessing!

I hope the kitchen is done by March 1 when Jon and Laura come home for their break.  Oh, how I hope.  Is it even safe to say such a thing?  Or am I just inviting calamity and catastrophe?

I hope we can find health insurance.   I have started trying to find some, but it is confusing, frightening and daunting.  I hope God will help me.

I hope a lot of things.  Does this mean that I am a hopeful person?  And if so, does it mean that I am becoming optimistic in my older age?

Can you be optimistic and still have a severe stomach ache?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kitchen again

I should be packing up my kitchen.

They are coming to tear it out either tomorrow or the next day.

Yesterday when I should have been packing it up, I found myself blissfully cleaning a toilet.  The wonderful thing about cleaning a toilet is that you just cannot, cannot feel guilty for doing it.  I swished the toilet brush around with the minty blue toilet cleaner, scrubbing every last crevice, and I felt downright saintly, even though I wasn't packing up my kitchen.

Today rather than packing my kitchen, I find myself tending my blogs.  There is a good deal more guilt in tending blogs than in cleaning toilets.

Some day we will be through this.

Lupus is so weird.  Sometimes I wonder if I really have Lupus, or if it is Celiacs, or depression.  The symptoms seem to be the same. 

The older I get, the harder it is for me to make decisions and to focus.

Somehow God got me through the move out here.  I hope He will also get me through this kitchen renovation.  I should be full of excitement and thanksgiving, but I am just paralyzed by the fear that I will lose bills and hotel reservations and my favorite utensils, and end up with a mess from which I will never recover.

I keep telling myself, "I just need to get it out of the kitchen.  I don't have to move it anywhere.  It doesn't involve any travel."  This should be a great comfort.  Should.

It's bitterly cold once again.  Apparently it's too cold for the kids to go to school.  The net result: they are playing in the neighborhood (read: in my yard) in their ski suits, and Schubert is barking out the windows like a maniac.  I guess if it's too cold to go to school you send your kids outside to play, in IL.  They didn't do that in NY.  Midwesterners are tough.  Hardy.

I will go work on packing my kitchen.  I will.  I will move a bunch of things out to the sun porch, things that are not in danger of freezing and cracking.  I will take a box of snacks and dried fruit and nuts up to Shannon's room for when we have no kitchen.

I don't have a plan for saving my kefir grains over the month I won't have a kitchen.  Nor do I have much of a plan for how I will eat gluten-free.  David told me, "Buy a bunch of apples and bananas and eat them with nut butters."  Good advice, that, but I don't know if I can subsist on apples and almond butter for a whole month.

I wish we had a sink in the basement.

I guess I'll get to work packing.

I think I'll do some laundry.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jesus heals

Again, I find myself writing over on Seeking Wisdom Craving Grace.  I think that's a good thing.

Friday, January 17, 2014


I wrote about thirsting on my other blog.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why do church kids leave the church?

Have you ever noticed how kids who grow up in church often leave the church?

Have you ever noticed how the moms and dads who go to church and take their children are often people who came to faith in college or early adulthood, and not people who grew up in church?

Have you ever wondered why?

In my past life, besides being the overwhelmed mother of four fantastic kids, I was a Sunday school teacher.  I taught a lot of Sunday school, years and years of it, and I loved it.

However, I can tell you: all Sunday school curricula are not created equal.  There are Sunday school curricula that I loved using, and those that I literally choked over.

I think if we carefully evaluate some of the most popular and widely used Sunday school program materials, we will come to an understanding of why a lot of young people grow up in church and don't stay.

I'm not going to name names here, of bad resources (although there are some bad resources out there).  Instead, I'm going to lay out a guideline that teachers of Christian education should carefully consider.

Many, many Sunday school programs see themselves as the "mother's helper" in terms of teaching children good behavior.  This is the problem with them, and this could be why their graduates do not stick around.

The main points I often saw in Sunday school lessons were things like,
  • Jesus wants you to share your toys with others.
  • Jesus wants you to obey your parents.
  • Jesus wants you to make peace with others... the way Isaac did when the others kept taking away his wells (this one drove me crazy, because it also took the story completely out of context and it rolled around like clockwork every three months, at the exclusion of many other significant Bible stories).
  • Jesus wants you to tell your friends about the ABC's of salvation and bring them to Sunday school.
The focus was on manipulating the children's behavior because "Jesus wants you to do this."

There are three glaring problems with this emphasis:
  1. It is all about works, not about grace.  (Are you behaving well enough to keep Jesus happy?)
  2. It is all about what we do and not about what God does. (They questions revolve around, "What have you done for Jesus?" rather than, "Do you know what Jesus has done for you?")
  3. Children are expected to want to please and obey Jesus, without ever having been adequately introduced to Him.
Children grow up having a sort of "Jesus" crammed down their throats, but not the real Jesus.  They are pounded with a Jesus who wants them to do all sorts of things that they don't naturally want to do, and he is apparently sad if they don't do these things, and happy if they do them, but he always wants more, more, more.  They are supposed to take delight in pleasing this demanding Jesus, but they don't understand why.  So they start to hate him, and to try to get away from him, and to avoid thinking about him... even though they never really knew him.  All they knew was a sad misrepresentation of him.

When I taught Sunday school I found that kids love theology.  Love it.  And what I mean by that is this:  you start talking about God with kids, about His attributes and His character, and they light right up.  Not all of them, of course, but a lot of them.  I'd even dare to say a majority of the kids in my classes got really interested when we started discussing, for instance, what it means that God is omnipresent, or that He is sovereign.  If you teach them about an almighty, loving, perfect, righteous, sovereign God, and you show them verses in the Bible that explain these concepts and qualities, then you are feeding their souls.

ahhhhh.... out of time

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Over here THIS if you want to read what I wrote today...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


I got nuthin.

This 500 word challenge that I signed up for is the worst thing I've ever done.  It's given me the worst writer's block I've ever had.

I just have a headache and a sense of dread, nothing to say.

Perhaps it is best not to try to write when one has nothing.

I could make a list:

I hate Downton Abby and am increasingly disgusted with the plotlines.  It is just like a daytime soap opera, except that it is British and shown in the evening once a week.  It is not classic, and the writing is really bad.  Sometimes I do enjoy picking it apart while I watch, but that makes the other viewers angry.  Also, Mr. Bates has always given me the creeps, and I think he's going to commit a murder pretty soon.  Not that he shouldn't, but it won't go well for him.

Our neighbors' house flooded while they were in Mexico.  They went south to escape the Polar Vortex for six days.  First they endured flight delays at the airport.  When they finally got to Mexico, their luggage did not join them.  Three days later when their luggage was recovered, hundreds of dollars worth of items had been stolen from said luggage.

Then, when they returned home, the pipes in their master bathroom had frozen and cracked, causing hundreds of gallons of water to pour through three stories of their home.  Their first clue was when, upon driving into their driveway upon their arrival home, they pushed the button to open the garage door and water gushed out, down the driveway, as the door lifted.  Their second clue was that a soggy heap of garage ceiling (sheet-rock, insulation, etc.) buried the hood of the car they'd left at home.  I wish we had discovered it for them in time to have lessened the damage. 

Laura made some decisions and got some things done for her wedding this week.  She does an excellent job.  I think this wedding will be nice, and fun too.  No letting cats out of bags with secrets and spoilers, though.

We ordered some stuff for our kitchen this week.  I alternate between feeling excited and feeling depressed.  Sometimes it seems like nobody liked the things I picked in the end, and everybody will think I have an ugly kitchen.  Apparently I must have liked what I ordered, because I ordered it, despite feedback to the contrary.  I don't even want to talk about it.

The whole thing gives me a sick feeling in my stomach.  And the money.  Oh my.  The money is not settled.  It is going to cost more than we had budgeted, that's for sure, and that makes me feel sick, too.  I shopped for appliances today and didn't like anything about the things I saw, from the features to the designs to the prices.  Spending money is not fun for me.  Spending money is about as enjoyable as throwing up.  I must really hate the kitchen as it is, to be putting myself through this.  Why should I have the right to so hate a kitchen, just because I, personally, think it is ugly?  The people who planned this kitchen liked it.  And possibly nobody besides me would think the kitchen I am trying to plan is any good either.

The guilt.  The guilt is paralyzing.  How can I justify ripping out serviceable cabinets and appliances when there are so many legitimate needs in the world?  I should be giving this money to charity, supporting a missionary, feeding starving children, paying for my lupus blood tests, something worthwhile.  Instead, I am ripping my house apart, making a huge mess, doubting and fearing my design choices, and opening up an expense account with a black hole for the bottom line.  I can say, "At least my house didn't flood," but if it had, there would be a justifiable reason for the renovation, and an insurance settlement to cover it.

Well there.  That is probably more than 500 words, but they are words that make me feel ashamed.  Except #3.  I am not ashamed of #3.  Then again, I was quite circumspect in #3.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Not 500

I did not write 500 words today.  I didn't have 500 words worth sharing.

However, I did share something worth sharing over on Seeking Wisdom Saving Grace.

But (ha) it is not 500 words.

They lie like dogs

Most mornings, Shawn gets up and makes our coffee and tea.  While doing so, he usually feeds the dogs and takes them outside for their morning "constitutional."

Today he had to get the car in for an oil change, which left dog-duty to me.  I made sure to ask Shawn what he had and had not done for the dogs before he left, because they lie, trying to get extra breakfasts, every chance they get.

Piper never lets you forget anything for long.  Seriously.  He won't drink water from his bowl unless it is literally filled to the rim.  Since each drink he takes reduces the level of the water to below-rim-level, this means that every time he wants a drink, he scratches the floor by his bowl and barks tunelessly (because he is deaf in his old age) until someone comes and tops him off.

He also scratches at the cabinet door when he wants food and scratches at the real door when he wants to go out.  He barks like a maniac as soon as he comes back inside, because he is desperately afraid that we will forget his puppy treat otherwise.

This morning, alone with the dogs, I immediately felt the pressure of Piper The Needy.  I hurried to get the bucket of dog food out of the cupboard.

But it was not there.

No.  The dog food was not in the cupboard.  We have a very specific place where we keep the dog food, which was, at that moment, perfectly empty.  It was too early in the morning for me to come up with other ideas about where else the dog food might be.

I called Shawn.  He was at the garage with the car, after all, and not at work, so I figured it was excusable to call and ask him for ideas about where to look for a large bucket of dog food between my kitchen and mud-room.

As I waited for Shawn to answer the phone, I heard a thump and realized that I'd left the door to the cupboard ajar.  It is a lower cabinet, beneath the little sink in the hallway to the dining-room.  I remembered that the box of puppy treats was inside that cupboard, and that the lid is permanently open on that box.  I swung around to check whether the dogs were raiding the puppy treat source, but it was there, untouched, next to large plastic bins of flour and rice.

"Did you look on top of the dryer?" Shawn was asking me on the phone, so I looked, and there was the dog food.  I thanked him, said good-bye and fed them.

Immediately after eating, Piper began to scratch on the door to go out.  Somehow, usually, it is Schubert who is around at outing times, and I have to chase Piper down and wrangle him onto his leash and out the door because (1) he is deaf and cannot hear me call him and (2) he hates going out in the cold.  But this morning, Piper was desperate to go out.  Schubert was nowhere to be seen.

"Shubert, " I called.  "SCHUBERT!!"  No response.  This was very strange.  Schubert is always by my side, raring to go.  The only time he doesn't come is if he's gotten himself stuck somewhere and can't.  I sighed and began the pilgrimage through the house to search for him.  Through the dining room, across the front hall to the living room and there he was, crouched over something on the living room rug.

Oh no, I thought.  Did he have an accident?  Did he throw up?  What is going on?

He hunched his shoulders over the pile that lay on the floor beneath him and looked up at me with woebegone eyes.  As I drew closer, I saw that on the floor in front of him lay the plastic bag of charcoal biscuits that I keep to feed the dogs when their stomachs are upset.

He had chewed through the plastic and was starting on biscuits.  He had stolen them from the cupboard while I was searching for his food, creeping off with them to the least used room in the house.  He was guilty, and he knew it.  He was Adam in the garden wearing a fig leaf.  He had heard me call, but he had thought, "Never mind me.  I'm otherwise occupied.  No, really.  Don't mind me!"

That bad dog. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Let the children

Today, in my head, I've had the Bible story about some parents who brought their little children to be blessed by Jesus.  The disciples tried to send them away, but somehow Jesus got wind of what was going on, and He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16 NIV)

In Mark, it even says that Jesus was indignant that the parents and children had been rebuked.

Jesus loves little children.

This is why it so saddens me that churches do not always seem to love little children.  Children are the “problem.”  They make noise, and messes.  They are the hitch in every program.  “Oh no,” we say.  “What are we going to do about childcare?”

Nobody ever wants to serve in the nursery.

Nobody wants to teach Sunday school.  And if they get their arm twisted, they say, “OK.  But no preparation.  I don’t want to do any preparation.”

I have seen Sunday school classes where the main portion of the lesson involved eating powdered doughnuts.

I have seen Vacation Bible Schools where there were not enough bodies to handle all the children that came, so they put the children under the charge of sulky teens who were mostly interested in flirting with each other and wouldn’t have dreamed of singing those stupid songs or participating in the motions.

I have heard people say, “It doesn’t matter.  They are only kids.  They won’t notice.”

But it isn’t all bad.  I have also seen people who worked very hard to prepare lessons and communicate God’s message to little children.

I have seen retired women dedicate the latter half of their lives to ministering to little children, with love and wisdom.

I have seen teens carefully trained, rehearsed and tested before they were ever put into a class of children.

I have seen a church where the pastor himself ran an evening program for children and their parents to learn together through solid teaching and fun activities.

Children are important.  They are important to God.  Jesus said that anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

Churches that focus on adults to the exclusion of children will not be healthy in the long term.  Running lots of busy programs does not count as focusing on children.  Children don’t need more prizes, candy and games.  Just like big people, children need Jesus.  They need Jesus, and love, and truth well handled. 

Children’s programs should not exist so that parents can drop off their children at Sunday school and go out for breakfast.  They should not exist so parents can have a date night in the middle of the week.  They should not exist simply to clear the ruckus so the parents can concentrate on their exclusive adult Bible study.

We need to minister to children because Jesus loves children, because He told his followers to let the little children come to Him.

If we are administering the children’s programs, we need to make sure that we only use God-called, loving, prayerful, conscientious people to staff our ministries, even if it means a smaller ministry.  If we are the staff itself, we need to remember the high calling we have and never abuse the role.  We need to pray and plan, and plan and pray.  We need to love the children, and feed them on the Bible, teaching them that God’s words are… “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:10, NIV)

And one last thing:  children’s ministries are not a chance to lecture children about good behavior and how they ought to have it.  That might come up, but it must be a corollary.  The central focus needs to be on God and His Son Jesus Christ.  Children need to learn who God is, and what His attributes are, and about the miracle that He loves us; He loves His children.   They need to hear the gospel, the deep sacrificial love that Jesus poured out for us, because without Him we were utterly helpless and lost.

If we spend more time thinking about and knowing Him, the behavior will follow.  Conversely, teaching about good behavior does not lead children to God; in fact, depending on how it is done, it can hinder children from knowing God.

Jesus did not want the children to be hindered.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A big splash

It has been bitterly cold.

I think this is one of the harshest winters on record.  We are glad that we didn’t sell our snow-blower-on-steroids before we left NY.

A couple of days ago, my NY friends were (gently) taunting me because of the weather we’ve been having here.  It’s been below zero, the snow’s been falling, and if I had kids in school, we’d have been enjoying a plethora of snow days.

We live to the west of NY (well, most people do).  But.  That means the weather we get usually eventually migrates to NY.  This is happening.  They are getting extreme cold. (What did the weatherman call it?  A polar vortex?)  Also, while we may have had 5-6 inches of snow, they are expecting – I kid you not – 80 inches.  I’m waiting to hear how that pans out.

In the meantime, I tried to do a load of laundry today.

An hour or so later, when I went to put my clean socks and underwear into the dryer, imagine my surprise, distress and shock to find the laundry room floor under an inch of water.  The basement below was all wet, too, and most of our board games.  Jon said, “Unfortunately, the ones we play the most were on top, and they were the wettest.”

I was so thankful to have Jon and Laura at home, because I’ve had a recent downturn after my surgery.  They kicked into high gear and Lu worked on cleaning up the laundry room while Jon salvaged board games and inspected the damage below.  I moved shoes and tried to find the box of old towels that I had not thrown away when we moved.  Good decision, that.

While drying the laundry room, Lulu found my wedding dress hanging in a plastic bag in the back of the closet.  The bottom of the bag was damp, so we thought we’d better take the dress out and see what kind of shape it was in.  It was a lot cuter than I remembered it being, and it was in better shape...

…and it fit Lulubelle.  Looked pretty sweet on her, actually.

Shawn, who had come home from work to help us deal with the catastrophe (since it involved a frozen pipe), got all teary and used his phone to take a bunch of photos of Lulu in my old dress.

Lulu said, “Well, if anything happens to my dress, now I have a back up.”  This is because earlier we had been discussing a story about a girl who was working in a bridal boutique one day when two middle-aged women burst breathlessly into the shop and said, “We need a dress, off the rack!  Right now!  Our niece is getting married in an hour, and the make-up artist just spilled a whole bottle of foundation down the front of her dress!”  Lulu had been saying that she didn’t want a make-up artist and she wasn’t sure if she would even wear foundation, since she doesn’t usually.  Of course, if she does decide to use foundation, she will put it on before she gets into her dress.  Duh.

I, I myself, solved the pipe problem.  It was the pipe that carries the water away behind the washer, and the gooseneck had frozen in the outside wall.  The spigot from the washer just rests in this pipe, so I lifted it out, and used the top off a spray bottle to get the water out of the top (holding it in the open pipe and spraying the water into an empty pickle jar).  After bringing the water level down, I poured in a half a carton of salt.  Shawn, who was downstairs examining the pipes for cracks, said that shortly after I poured in the salt, he heard water begin to run through the pipe.  We chased it with two teapots full of boiling water anyway, to make sure we were safely back in the laundry business.  Whoosh.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Feeling weak

I don't know if I have 500 words today, but I'll do my best over here.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


It is snowing like a beast outside.  The screen on my window is caked with snow, and I can’t see anything beyond a shadow of the naked tree in our front yard, certainly not the house across the street. 

The wind howls.

Church was cancelled.

We studied the Bible at home, in the living room, and we brought in the space heater from the sun porch, as the sun-porch is far too cold for any space heater to remedy.

The wind howls.

One thing about living where it is very flat and wide open: the wind whips across the earth with a power that can be quite frightening.

The day we went to pick up Jon and Laura from Chicago for Christmas, it was sunny and clear.  They’d snagged a ride home from college to Chicago with a friend of Laura’s who lives there. I used Google maps to find a reputable looking Chicago Panera in a safe area where their driver could drop them off and we could pick them up.

It was December 18, a day shy of two weeks after my surgery.  I was in a certain amount of pain, but all the other stars aligned to make dinner at Lou Malnati’s a possibility.

We drove to the Lou Malnati’s in Naperville.  Naperville is quaint and subtly swanky.  The downtown reminds me of Hanover, New Hampshire, where Shannon and I went to visit Dartmouth when she was selecting a graduate school.  Naperville is, of course, more Midwestern than Northeastern, which serves to make it friendlier and less exclusive.  Once we finally found a parking spot (a challenging endeavor), we walked through the charming downtown, which was tastefully bedecked for Christmas—real snow, evergreen wreaths, sparkly white lights—and filled with ritzy little shops opening white-paned onto the cobbled sidewalks.  Before long, we found Lou Malnati’s.

I was limping and pale, the cold night air cutting me harshly as I bent to accommodate the post-surgical pain in my midsection, my ever-thinning hair falling out of a feeble bun and whipping around my face in strings.  I felt ugly and underdressed.  But our server at Lou Malnati’s never let on that there was anything amiss, and he treated us far better than I expected to be treated, based on the difference between my appearance and the appearances of the other women I saw promenading through Naperville in Burberry boots and scarves.

It was dark before dinner, so it was certainly dark after dinner.  We still had a two-hour drive.  Heading south toward home, we drove under clear, starry skies.  Not a flake of snow had fallen all day.

Imagine our surprise as we traversed the country road that took us the last hour home, coming upon deep snowdrift after deep snowdrift.  Shawn gripped the steering wheel tightly.  The drifts always seemed to be worst at curves and (perversely) when there was traffic coming from the opposite direction on this two-lane highway.  Shawn says you can’t slow down too much in those kinds of drifts, or you will get stuck.  But you can’t go too fast, or you will wipe out.  It was a scary drive.  Who knew that a road could change from perfectly-clear-and-dry to buried-under-almost-a-foot-of-snow when no snow had fallen?  This is the power of the wind blowing across flat, snowy fields on a cold day.

Today, I watch the snow amass on the window screen in front of me, and I listen to the wind, and I think I have not yet seen the last of this.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

January Challenge

I joined a challenge to write 500 words a day, every day in January.

Except, of course, I already messed it up: first by joining late in the day on January 3, and then by starting on January 4.  So I am already 1500 words behind.

Also, there is no way I am going to be writing on Sundays, because that just feels like Sabbath desecration to me… unless I write exclusively on Seeking Wisdom Craving Grace on Sundays.  Maybe that would be ok.  I will consider it.

However, I think the point of the challenge is to develop a life habit of daily writing.  And if that’s the point, and if the hope is that I will continue to write 500 words per day after January has passed, then I think it is not imprudent to pare the goal back to writing 500 words per day on 5-6 days per week.  (That last sentence was really bad, but I like it that way.)   I think I could do 5-6 days a week indefinitely.  Maybe.

Why am I doing this?

Because I have nothing else to do. 

Well, I have lots and lots of cleaning and organizing that I could do.  I used to not write because I never felt I deserved to write, what with all the cleaning and organizing I needed to get done.  But guess what?  The cleaning and organizing never got done anyway.  I just didn’t clean, organize or write.

So I am giving myself grace to write, whether I have the right or not, for a month, and I will see what happens.

Maybe daily writing will give shape to my day, hone my craft, and help me finally (after 6 years) to find an audience for my blog.

Or maybe life will continue as it has, except I will have many more words on record.

(the rest of my 500 words, plus a few more, are on Seeking Wisdom Craving Grace)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year's Resolution

I am going to write on Seeking Wisdom, Craving Grace more often.

I started today.  You can check it out here.