Monday, March 31, 2008

In Which Cara Displays an Appalling Lack of Tact

It was a busy day for me.
Turns out it was busy for Cara too.
She's got an essay to write on Canterbury tales comparing the Parson to another charactor. She's got a test.
She's struggling with government.
"The teacher hates me."
I'm the mother of Dylan.
He was not a great teacher's favorite. He's kind of lively.
Got good grades, but merely endured school. He used to say things like that.
This, however, is a first for Cara, though.
She's a pretty likeable kid.
So I make tut-tutting noises.
She says, with heat, that he's the stupidest teacher she's ever had,
that he doesn't know anything about his subject.
He also generalizes EVERYTHING.
Um. Cara generalizes too. A lot.
Cara can tell she's losing me.
"Mom. The man said that the Magna Carta was signed in 1856. I told him he was wrong. He argued with me and said that our Declaration of Independence was modeled after the Magna Carta."
I'm a little shocked.
The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.
Even if he didn't realize that he had his Magna Carta date wrong, he should have been able to figure out, when challenged by a spunky senior, that the Declaration of Independence could not have been modeled after a document that he was claiming had been created 80 years later.
I said, "Well, maybe if you'd have simply shown him something to prove your point."
She said, "I did."
"Oh. And what did he say?"
"Let us say that he got very snippy."
I tried to think of something helpful to say, but it was getting harder to disagree with her.
Cara said, "Then I told him he was stupid."
"Um. Cara. I think that I have pinpointed the problem here.


Well, the second performance of the play is done. The first day, I was nervous, as were the rest of the women, so we ran our lines as we got dressed and made up. The second day, we chattered about the first day as we got dressed. After that, I spoke with my 'husband' James as he sat silent on the dark stage looking solemn. That is his way of preparing. The cast congratulated me on my impromptu speech the previous night during the tea. It was eloquent and impassioned, and it struck them all as something that would have burst out of the real Lucretia Mott. "Five minutes to curtain', the stage man whispered. And we took our places. And suddenly it occurred to me that I did not know my lines. Any of them. Everyone else was still whispering, and I sat frozen, trying to remember those lines. And couldn't. Not a one. I nearly had a heart attack. 'I can't remember my lines,' I hissed. And one of the other women said, "You'll be fine..." and patted my hand. "Geesh. Your hands are freezing." Panicked, I said, "I'm not kidding. I can't remember my lines. And the darn curtain went up. And the first line came. And suddenly, my line was in my mind. The dialogue went on through act one, and my lines flowed into my head clearly and effortlessly, and so the play was done.
By the time that it was over, and we took our last curtain call, it was a little sad to be leaving the group. We'd been practicing together, and had gotten to know each other. The first woman lead is a seasoned professional, and she was wonderfully patient and wise, a mentor to all of us. 'There were no divas,' she kept saying with wonder. No wonder. The second female lead was too scared to be a butt. The others, just too darn nice. It was hard to just hang up the costume and leave, but I couldn't stick around. I had to come home and help my sister fill out her application for financial aid. I've helped the kids with theirs. She's never done it before. My sister is going to college.
My play was all about a group of women who were moved by the plight of poor women in 1848. Their frustration led to the formation of the first American Women's Rights Convention. My sister would be one of those women that my charactor would have striven to assist. She's had a hard life. She is a year younger than I am, but is regularly mistaken for my mother. She cannot work because she is legally blind. Poor medical care, chronic health problems, abusive men, and, I am convinced, a sense of futility and defeat, have aged her drastically. I've convinced her to color her hair.
It was completely white.
This is probably the most stable life my sister has ever had. She lives in a small but nice apartment in a subsidized housing. Her medical conditions are pretty well in check. She does not have to worry about making ends meet. She's figured out that men are not the solution to her problems. I am relieved for my sister. We are getting to know each other for what is, really, the first time. We both moved away when we graduated from high school. And now she has been given the chance to attend college on a full scholarship.
I help her fill out her paperwork. I would never say it aloud, because truly, I am glad for my sister. I want her to succeed just as desperately as I want it for my own children. But I will tell you a secret. I've never attended college. I wanted to, badly. At 18, I thought that you had to have the money in hand to go to college. That's what my parents told me. No teacher ever told me otherwise. My parents made it clear that it was a waste of money for a woman to go to college, that I would surely marry and stay home with my children. This was not uncommon in 1975 in our rural area. I went to work, and began to save money. For two years I saved, and each year, I checked the prices of college, to see if I had saved enough.
I never had enough money.
Eventually, I did marry. I did have children, and although I was able to stay home with them for a little while, I was also working and putting my husband through graduate school. I was supposed to have my chance when my youngest child started first grade. One week after she hit first grade, our apocalypse took place. I worked like I've never worked in my life. The thing is, I couldn't stop. And then the children began to go to college, and now, here I am. I'll be 51 in May, and I never got the chance for my own college education. People tell me it is not too late. I know this. But I cannot bring myself to say that my own needs are more important that the needs of my children. It is time for their educations.
Tim and I feel that it is our duty.
I'm a lucky person. I have a good job. I got it because of my military training. I got my part of the education coordinator's job, because our education coordinator took a teaching job at a local college. We could not afford to hire a replacement. I am smart. I am driven. I do the very best that I can. My boss knows this, and she gave me a great opportunity, one that I will be grateful for all of my life. So I've been lucky. I've been given great chances in my own life.
I count my many blessings.
I am so ashamed to admit it, but it niggles at my mind:
So why am I jealous of my sister?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I Broke a Leg

Tonight, I broke a leg. It didn't hurt at all.
It was opening night. It started out with a Victorian tea. My 'husband' James and I, Lucretia Mott moved from table to table mingling with guests and talking about our abolitionist activities. My sister tried to trick me up by asking me questions not in my time. I looked at James and said, "She speaks so strangely. Do you suppose she is afflicted?" I fretted because as a Quaker minister, I should have been a bit more adept at the 'thees', 'thous' and 'thys'. I kept forgetting. At our last table, I questioned a guest as to if he supported our cause. "Half and half." I turned to 'Frederick Douglass' and said, "Your life story is so inspiring. Perhaps the telling of it would persuade him to our cause." I think Frederick Douglass was ready to kick my ass, but he gave a very moving soliloquy and so the guest was persuaded. Fred swore to put him on our mailing list. This led to a very fiery and fine (and impromptu) speech from Lucretia to the effect of 'Can thou look upon the face of my dear friend, Mr. Douglass, and the face of any other white man, and see any less honor, dignity, or worth? We must all take up the cause of the abolitionist.'
The play went fine. No lines were lost. I am glad it's over. One last show tomorrow.
I'm sitting here in full stage makeup. I look like a Quaker tart. (Which sounds like a breakfast pastry.) Although it went well and no lines were lost, I'm glad that one show is down, and only one remains. I'll be glad when its done. And now that I've crossed this off of my list of things I've never done, I'll never have to do it again.
And I thank thee, God.

What's in a Name.

I like a lot of different kinds of music, but when I'm in the car and can pick my own station with no protest from the minions, I listen to a local classic rock station. I like to listen to music from my teen years, those years when I was isolated, and quiet, hidden away in my books, and full of dreams about the life that was waiting for me when I escaped my angry home. Now, 35 years later, I have the kind of life I hoped for. Sometimes I'll hear a song that drags my heart right back to myself when I was 15, and I wish that I could have had a glimpse of what my life was going to be at 50. I'd have been very comforted.
The station has had a 'station identification' blurb that they've used for years, when all the kids were still at home.
It goes something like
"Rock 103.1! We're not your mother's radio station!"
This never failed to have the kids rolling around in the car.
They were the ones always pleading with me to turn the station.
They hated Rock 103.1. It WAS their mother's radio station.
But I digress. After the boys went off to college, a strange thing happened. Dylan began to listen to classic rock. And it wasn't long before his laptop was filled with downloaded classic rock tunes. He called me one time.
"Mom, did you name me Dylan because you liked Bob Dylan?"
Now there's a loaded question. If he asks me, I'll say yes, he was indeed named after Bob Dylan, that eccentric charactor who could not sing a lick, but wrote wonderful poetry. I'm a big fan of words. 'Tangled up in Blue' remains one of my favorite songs of all times. However, if Dylan was to ask his father about his name, his father would tell him he was named after Dylan Thomas, the drunken Welsh poet. His father was well educated in Ivy League schools, and very proud of this fact. I decided that since he was talking to me, I'd tell him my version of the story.
"Yes, Dylan, you were named after Bob Dylan."
I could hear that Dylan was pleased with this fact.
He had some facts of his own though.
"Mom, did you know that Bob Dylan was a real druggie?"
He acted as if, now that I knew this, I'd be trying to re-name him.
I said, "Yes. I knew this."
It was a strange time in our history. Drug use was pretty rampant in that era. Seemed like everyone was smoking dope. I've always been pretty open about my own experimentation. I was a pot head for 6 months, and then got over it. I didn't like feeling stupid. I'd gone from 1st in my class to third from the bottom. I quit smoking dope, and graduated 3rd.
Dylan says thoughtfully, "So where did 'Christopher ' come from? We don't have any relatives named Christopher." He's hoping that his middle name can be ascribed to something equally as 'cool'. I said, "You were named after Christopher Robin in 'Winnie the Pooh' ". And I recited the line: 'But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.' I get teary eyed every time that I read this perfect description of a mother's memories of her grown up children's childhoods.
Long pause as Dylan digests this news. He's not nearly as pleased with the middle name as he was with the first name. "Um. Mom? We'll just make this our little secret, okay?"
And I've never told a soul.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Some of the People in My Life

Reflecting on my life because Jeanie and the Pencil Writer tagged me, I began to count my blessings and wax sentimental about the people in my life that I love the very most. I collected their pictures. I'm not clever like some. I thought it would be cool to have Genesis playing 'Turn it on Again' but have no clue how to do it. You will have to have to hum it in your head.
Begin now.

This is my husband Tim, the changer of my world. Our last name is, ironically, used in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It is the safe retreat in the mountains. Tim is my safe place. We live in the mountains. I've been secure in my safe place for nearly 10 years now.

This is my oldest daughter, Brianna. She lives in Michigan. She is beloved and the focus of earnest prayers.

This is Stacey. She is in Basic Training. Yeah. We're doing a lot of praying for Stacey, too. She's 25, one year younger than Brianna.
And this is Mike. Mike's 22. He lives nearby. He's a forester, but cannot find employment in that field so he works in a local steel mill. He regaled us with a horrible industrial accident he witnessed. It involved severed body parts. Gak. We pray a lot for Mike.

This is my son Dylan. He is 21. He lives on the other side of the state. He is hilarious. He has uncommon good sense, except for the whole tattoo incident, but he's a boy with a zest for living. He grabs life by the horns and runs. There's plenty of breathless praying for this one as well.

And this is, of course, Cara. She is 18. On the verge of greatness, grappling with choices, stepping out into the world. Hilarious, strong willed, smart. Oh my God, how we pray for this one!


And these are the people in my life.


You can stop humming now.

I've been Tagged

The idea started on bookbabies site at
The idea is to create a glimpse of your life in six words.
This took me a couple of days.
Choosing to emerge from the wilderness.




And because I cannot stop at 6 words, ever, I will explain. I was raised in a harsh family. Clearly defined roles. Limited options. Violence. Anger. I left. Discovered a whole new world. But that new world was disrupted by a cataclysmic life change, a paradigm shift. Upon bringing my children back to the woods, I found that I no longer fit into my family. I had to choose whether to revert back to that which I was before I left, or to plan a new life of quiet isolation: raise my children, and grow old alone in a little house with nice gardens and cats. Tim came along with yet another vision for my life. This picture was taken just over 10 years ago, when I was wrestling with these choices.


And 10 years later, I can say that I chose wisely. It was time to emerge from the wilderness.


I'm going to tag Mike at Ifs of Og,

Mary at Jumping off Cliffs,

Mikey at The Horseshoeing Housewife,

Susan at the Painted Promise Ranch,

and Scotty the Frog Prince.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I had the best day. I helped stock trout. I had a crew cab full of folks and we followed the fish truck from site to site, and hauled buckets of trout to the creeks. They told you to throw them way out into the water. I didn't have the heart to do that. By that point, I'd begun to feel kind of maternal about them. I waded out into the water to pour them out of the bucket gently. Until the current nearly ripped the bucket out of my hand and the lid went floating away, snagged by another guy with a bucket of fish further downstream.
It felt good to be outside again after a winter cooped up in the office doing office-type work, behaving all professional-like.
Pretty much professional most of the time.
Except for that time I answered the phone.
The man requested to speak to my boss.
So I said, "And can I tell her who's calling?"
(Very professional don't you think?)
He said, in a jaunty voice, "Well, you can tell her it's her mystery lover."
Realizing that it had to be her husband Matt,
who was a fellow known for his outrageous sense of humor, I replied in kind.
"JOHN!! Heather's told us soooooo much about you."
And Matt laughed.
Now in my defense, I'd like to point out that I started this phone conversation in a most professional manner, until Matt got all unprofessional, so I think that's excusable.
But then there was the second call.
A couple days later, I answer the phone and a man asks to speak to Heather.
I recognize Matt's voice.
I cheerfully sing out in a most unprofessional way,
"Shall I tell her it's her mystery lover?"
Long pause.
Way too long.
Then the voice says, "Um. No. Don't tell her that."
I realize it is not Matt at all.
Now mind you, Heather is reaching for the phone, and she's got a big smile on her face because she believes she's about to be speaking to her honey.
"Heather, it's not Matt."
She looks at me with a grin.
She knows I'm a big kidder.
"I'm serious, Heather. It's not Matt."
Her grin starts to fade. "Who is it?"
"Shit if I know, and I'm not asking, either."
Chairs slide back and heads peer around partitions.
Quiet gasps, whispers of 'what if its a commissioner?'
Heather answers the phone.
It is a a good natured soul from a friendly agency who realizes that the longer he's on hold, the more hysterical we are. He's roaring by the time that Heather cautiously says, "Helloooo?" And he tells her, "Really should get a handle on your staff." And the next time I see him, Wes tells me a story about a previous director who answered the phone thinking he knew who was on the other end. "What's up dickhead?" Yeah. He wasn't talking to who he thought he was talking to either. Luckily the guy from DEP had a good sense of humor as well. Wes is like that. He always tries to make you feel better about your screw ups.
Long story short...I'm very professional on the phone now. I don't assume I recognize anybody's voice. And I'm professional around the office too.
Pretty much professional most of the time.
Still, it felt great to get out in the field. I forgot how wonderful it feels to be running in the fresh air, working, and laughing with others, swapping stories, viewing nature close up. It's going to be nice to get back to my outside job, get away from the office.
It'll probably make my boss breathe just the tinsiest bit easier as well.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


You know,
I don't think that there is any trouble that cannot be eased by taking the time to laugh with a friend.
Even better is laughing with a room full of friends.
I'm pretty lucky.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

Did you ever get the urge to try something that you'd never tried before?
For no other particular reason than that:
that you had not done it before?
You start out all excited at the novelty of the situation.
You work at it, excited to find a side to yourself that you never even realized existed.
Then suddenly, you're on stage.
In a hoop skirt.
A line is spoken.
You know your line is next...
and you draw a blank.
I now understand how a deer in the headlights feels.
What the hell was I thinking?
From now on, I 'll just pay for the ticket.


I got my package in the mail today. This is my new sister. She is a 24 year old married woman from Rwanda. Her name is Esperance Uwambagimana. She has a little girl. Her son was killed. I am her sponsor. I can write to her, and send small gifts. She can read and write only her name, but will be able to dictate letters back to me. Letters are important, the paperwork tells me. Many of the women carry their letters with them wherever they go. Even if they cannot read, the letters and pictures from their sponsors are sometimes their most prized possessions. $27 is taken from my credit card each month. That $27 will give Esperance an education and vocational training. I'm getting ready to send Cara to college next fall. The one thing that I know for sure is that it's going to cost well over $27 a month, so Esperance's education is a good deal.
I cannot save the world.
But I've been sponsoring my 'child' Badani for a couple of years
Now I have Esperance.
For the price of a cup of coffee a day, I am saving my piece of this world.
Esperance means hope.
I look at their pictures.
I have a hope.
I hope that I am making a difference.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Extreme Home Makeover

When Tim and I got married ten years ago, it was a real blending, not only of family, but of tastes. He was raised in a home where all the furniture was cast offs and hand me downs. (Side note: When I visited his parents, I saw a houseful of antiques. Some of which I'd have given my eyeteeth for, much to Tim's horror.) So as a rebellion against this homelife, he had modern furniture. A leather couch, all square and boxy, a dining room table that was metal, glass, and (gasp) plastic. The worst was his bedroom outfit. It was black lacquer. The best way to discribe it was a faux art deco. There was a sort of a fan inset that was so glossy you could see your reflection in it. It was queen size. The first thing I thought when I saw it gleaming with its burgundy velvet comforter was "Ew. This looks like a porn movie prop." Being that I'm a person who pretty much says what she thinks, I looked square at Tim and said, "Ew. This looks like a porn movie prop." He was amazed. He loved his queen sized bed.
Well. I loved mine. It was a four poster bed, and it came with a mirrored dresser, a highboy, and a matching vanity. It was made in the 1920s. I know this because the tickets are still on the back. It is walnut and it had been very well cared for in its first 60 years. When I looked at it, gleaming solidly at the antique warehouse, I fell in love. I am a great imaginer. I imagined a life for it. A young newly wed couple bought it new in the 1920s, and slept in that bed for all their married days. It weathered thick and thin, good times and bad. It was a place where new life was created, and when the time came, it was the place where life ended. I wanted that bedroom outfit something awful. I wanted an enduring relationship that weathered thick and thin, good times and bad. I wanted a marriage where new life was created, and when the time came, I wanted to die in my own bed surrounded by love. So I bought me a bedroom outfit.
Life doesn't always turn out the way you dream, taking strange detours and side roads. This is how it came to be that I am 40 years old, staring at my 40 year old fiance, who's telling me, "I just don't like antiques." So we worked a barter. My oak dining room for his bordello bedroom outfit. I wasn't happy with this but I figured only he and I would be seeing the bedroom outfit. I also knew that you made sacrifices when you got married. This was a big one for me. I'd been sleeping in my own bed for quite nearly 15 years. But what could I do? The man had put a second floor on his house to turn a three bedroom house into a six bedroom house with a second bathroom. And so the deal was done.
We hauled the black lacquer dressers up to the master bedroom on the new second floor. We hauled the bedframe up. We hauled the headboard up. There was no footboard. All the better to set up the cameras. Gak. I really HATED this bedroom outfit. We lugged the mattress up. And then (cue the angelic choirs!), in hauling up the queen size box springs, we discovered it was not going to happen. They would not fit. We wrestled with them. We grunted, we turned them this way and that. And Tim said, "Well. I guess that settles it. We'll have to use yours. We can get a full mattress up the stairs." (Cue the Hallelujah chorus!)
So it came to pass. Our bedroom outfit has weathered thick and thin, good times and bad. We've created no new life except our own, but four of the five offspring are springing off into lives of their own. The fifth teeters on the edge of a life of her own choosing. When the time finally comes, I expect that I will die in my own bed, surrounded by love.
During the 10 years, a strange thing has happened. Tim has begun to love antiques. He brought home a antique treadle sewing machine that looked brand new. We both fell in love with a leather living room set. I fell in love when I saw it. He fell in love when he sat down. Now we're rehabbing a 120 year old house. Tim gets more excited than I do.
Life does not always turn out the way you expect, taking strange detours and side roads. I'd already figured it out. I think, however, that it took Tim completely by surprise. He was at his parents' home one day. When he came home, he said, "You know, those bookcases in Mother and Father's living room would be great at the top of our stairs..."

Saturday, March 22, 2008


I love Easter.
I love the religious significance.
'Alleluia. The Lord has risen.'
The answer comes: 'The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia.'
I love the holiness of the morning.
Sunrise service.
Easter hymns.
I also like chocolate bunnies.

Friday, March 21, 2008


My friend M called. She's having a discouraging time of it, and I got the chance to be the encourager. That's the nice thing about having friends. We swap roles regularly. I cry on her shoulder and she says the right things. She calls with her aggravations and I am the comforter. What do people do without friends?
She was aggravated at her husband. They'd discussed a situation, and then when it came right down to brass tacks, she stuck to the plan and her husband bailed, leaving her to defend their decision by herself. She was not happy.
These two are well suited and they have been married a long time. The marriage is not in jeopardy. This is just one of those rough spots that happen in every marriage. A good friend recognizes that and does not make the situation worse. I wouldn't dream of making D look any worse than he does. I would not dream of turning her against him. I love them both dearly, and cannot imagine one of them without the other. My job is to comfort my friend. The argument was already on its way to becoming one of those bygones that you let be bygones. Her husband felt bad, and apologized. She, however, was still feeling hurt and betrayed. She felt bad because she had lost all patience with D.
I recognized that humor was called for here. I pointed out that D was merely man, and was subject to the brain farts that affect all men, bless them, especially in times of great emotion. I shared with her the time that Tim and I had a great conflict early in our marriage. I try very hard to be a reasonable person. So I sat down with him on the couch, and I began to put forth my thoughts on it in a very reasonable, logical way. And he listened intently. Emboldened, I went on. He never took his eyes from my face. I felt so much better. I felt like he was hearing what I had to say. I felt validated. Like I mattered to him. Finally, I ran out of words and stopped. He continued to stare at me. Finally, he blinked a couple times. like a man coming out of a coma. And he said, "You know what I was thinking?" I eagarly waited to hear his thoughts on the subject. Tim said, "I was thinking about fox hunting...." The rest was lost in my frustrated shriek. "Mary," I said, "I would not waste a lot of time feeling bad about losing your patience and yelling. It's easier to resolve the situation once you get his attention."

Thursday, March 20, 2008


There is one thing that I don't talk about. It is my daughter Brianna. She is beautiful, but erratic. She is good hearted but can resort to deceit if she feels pushed into a corner. She loves others deeply, but is very selfish. She is bipolar. She is also an adult. This means that if she decides she doesn't want to take medication, she won't.
She doesn't want to.
It is painful to be the mother of a child that cannot be helped. I can't help her. I can't really talk about the situation to others, because others tend to try to figure out where you've gone wrong. I have 'helpful' family members who will tell me what I have done wrong with Brianna. After a while, you just learn to shut up,
hold on,
pray hard.
I was at an career symposium. My table was set up across from two very nice ladies from the library. We got a few minutes to talk. We talked about the kids we'd met that day, and then the talk naturally turned to our own children. One woman began to tell about the rough times she'd had with her daughter, now in her 30s. She mused, "She does so well for awhile, but you can never let your guard down..." and I knew. It just burst out of me, despite the fact that past experience had taught me that I should avoid speaking about it altogether. "Is your daughter bi-polar?" And we stared at each other. Without saying a word, we knew the pain of the other. It was huge. And there was no need for talking. Without asking for comfort, I was hugged. "The worst part is the guilt," I said. And the guilt was understood. "There is no perfect parent, but you did not 'make' her bi-polar." We discussed the fact that alcoholism is a disease, but the alcoholic either drinks himself to death, or he quits drinking. Bi-polar people also have to make a decision. They either work to control the chaos, or they can let the chaos rule their lives. You've got to encourage them to make the proper choice, but the choice is ultimately theirs, as much as you love them.
I avoid speaking about Brianna. Not because I'm ashamed of her, but because people cannot understand. Sometimes they are cruel. To her. To me. They cannot understand unless they've dealt with it too. In the middle of a crowded gymnasium, two people understood completely. And both were comforted.
And, for once, I was glad I did not avoid speaking about Brianna.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thanks, I Needed That

Sometimes, around the holidays, it makes me sad. When you don't belong to a family, you don't have family gatherings at Christmas. No big meals at Easter. None of it. While I recognize that it's for the best that I avoid getting together with them, still it makes me sad. Relieved, but guilty, free, but lonely. And the ambivalence runs on forever.
My mom sent her sad e-mail inviting her family for dinner. I felt guilty as I read it, just like I always do. Today, at the grocery store, I met my mom. "Hi, Mom," I said neutrally. And she looked through me as if I weren't there and pushed her cart on by. For some reason, it just really pissed me off today. I broke my own cardinal rule. I turned around as she passed by and I said, "You know, Mom, you say over and over how you want your family together for the holiday. How can I come to your house when you can't even speak to me in the store?" and I went on about my business. I got back to work and had myself a little fit in the lunchroom with good friends who make you feel better about life in general. I got over my fuss-tration. But I got home to an obscene and angry e-mail from my brother telling me what an awful person I was, and it started all over again. I had myself a good cry, accepted, one more time, that there are things that I can not change, and gave myself credit for knowing the difference. And then I took my red eyes to play practice.
My Easter was supposed to be Tim, Cara, and my sister. Good enough. But suddenly things began to happen. I got a call. Dylan is coming home after all. I was glad. Tim said that his parents had called as well. They accepted our Easter invitation. Meanwhile, my sister was also calling. Her two children decided to make the trip up from South Carolina with her granddaughter, Amaya. After calling me to see if I minded having three more at the table, she called my sister-in-law, another family outcast to share her excitement. Mandi was excited too, wanted to see everyone. My sister invited her over. Mandi was concerned about her brother and his wife. They only have each other, and she was afraid that Shawn and Angela would be alone on Easter if she and her daughter came up to our house. My sister, ever generous said, "Debby doesn't care. Their house is big enough. Bring them along too." If son Mike joins us, it will be 16 for Easter.
Several of the other nieces and nephews got wind that three of their cousins whom they had not seen for some time were coming home. Soon the phones were ringing off the wall. We've now got a Saturday night potluck in the works for the folks who can't make it Easter day because they've already got plans. My nephew Jim, wounded in Iraq, back home now, his wife Sarah, Kellie, Dave and the new baby, Kristi and Mike and her two boys, Dylan, Cara, James, Pam, her daughter Amaya who just won the National Cheerleading competition for her age group. My other nephew Bill is fresh home from Afghanistan. He and his wife Ange will miss the shindig by a week. My supportive auntie got wind of the hullaballoo. She hasn't seen the new baby, or several of the kids, and she and her husband are trying to fit another activity into their own busy holiday schedule.
Suddenly, I find myself up to my armpits in family. Not sure how it happened. I have myself another good cry. I thank God for my big house.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bear Feet

I went to reach around Tim the other day, and got a sudden sharp jabbing pain in my toe. I looked down at my bare feet and waggled my toes, unsure of what caused my discomfort.
Tim was also bare footed. This doesn't happen around our house a lot, because it is still cold outside. We're usually wearing socks, and/or slippers or moccasins or the like. This is why it escaped my notice up to that moment. These toenails were like bear claws. They probably could get him arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in 45 out of 50 states.
I rubbed my poor stabbed toe and proceeded to demand that he disarm (dis-toe nail?) himself immediately. At that very moment. I fetched the toenail clippers and a trash can to insure that he did not move on to another project and forget this vitally important thing. An oversight like that could result in my death. One false turn in bed, one slashed vein or artery, and I'd be bleeding to death in my sleep.
So he sat there clipping his toenails, laughing at me.
I just could not get over the length of these toenails.
He does not miss a thing. How could he not notice this?
I'll tell you what I noticed.
I noticed that all of his socks had developed holes in the toes.
I had been grumbling about their poor quality.
Socks are cheap enough to replace.
I suppose I should count my blessings.
Thank God that he wears steel toed boots.

Learning Curve

Conversation with youngest daughter, who is 18:
"Cara, you might want to make back up plans for a summer job. Just because you applied at the historical society doesn't mean that you will get that job. I see Whirley is hiring kids for the summer..."
Before I can finish, Cara is snapping that she is NOT going to work at Whirley (a local plant that makes plastic cups). She is going to have a job she likes. She tells me that if she doesn't get the job at the Historical Society, she is going to work at a church camp. She hasn't applied there either. She makes the absurd statement that they get paid minimum wage for 24 hours a day because they live there. This means that she has not applied here. She knows nothing about it. I know for a fact that the struggling church camp is not paying 30 or 40 counsellors $1000 per week. I also know that they are already beginning to hire for the summer, that the people with first preference will be the people who worked there last year. By the time that Cara finds out whether or not she has a job with the Historical Society, it may well be too late to get a job at the camp. I try to tell her that she can apply for multiple jobs now, and then pick from them later, but Cara has her mind made up. I try to tell her that if she waits until the last minute, she may well wind up with a job she doesn't like at all, with not enough hours.
But Cara is 18,
and she knows everything.
She starts to get angry.
Cara is going to learn it the hard way, it appears. The cardinal rule of life, that we all pay our dues. If she doesn't earn enough money over the summer, she's going to have to work while she goes to college. She hasn't learned that sometimes you do what you have to do. She has not learned that her summer job will not define her life, but that if she persists in her insistance that the most important thing is enjoying herself, well...that attitude will define her life and it will not be a good thing. She sounds self indulgent and willful, believing that all that really matters is her desires and her needs. She hasn't learned that sometimes experience is the best teacher and that her parents are just a tad more experienced at living.
Cara is setting out to learn a few lessons the hard way. I love her enough that I'm going to stand back and let her learn them.
And the one thing that I solemnly vow is that
when she runs up hard against life,
and she turns to the safety of home,
there will be a hug waiting.
There will be comfort.
And not one person here is going to say, "I told you so."
Even though we did.

Monday, March 17, 2008

New Life

I met a woman who was divorced. The choice to divorce was not hers. She was a single mother, and although she loved her children, she was stressed. She was working full time and trying to be the best single parent she could. She was tired from the demands of the job, and the house, and the kids. She was angry at her husband. She was bitter because as hard as she tried, she could not put the pieces of her life back together again.
I could relate.
Been there.
Done that.
Don't want to pull that T-shirt out of the drawer again.
But there was one thing that I tried to explain. She can't put the pieces of her life back together again. It will never be like it was. Pieces of that life are now missing. Instead of clutching those pieces close to her chest, trying in vain to force them into a picture that no longer exists, best to throw them all high into the air, letting those pieces of her life glitter in the air momentarily before falling to the ground. Re-arrange them into a mosaic of a new life that is uniquely hers. There is no point in being bitter. A terrible thing has happened, and sometimes life will, as they say, suck hind tit. But it's still HER life, and she has every chance to turn it into something marvelous. She can still raise wonderful kids. She still has opportunities in this country that other women in other countries would give their right arm for.
It will be harder, but there are great rewards.
Bitterly, she told me that I couldn't understand what it was like.
"Your husband loves you," she snapped.
She turned away to yell at her children before I could say anything else.
I wish that I could have made a difference.
But she wouldn't allow it.
I feel sick for her children.

Monday Morning Laugh

Okay. You all know that mornings are not my best time. Some mornings are worse than others.
So here's a laugh for your Monday morning.
A pirate captain is standing on the deck of his ship with his cabin boy when the first mate rushes up to tell him that a hostile pirate ship is approaching from starboard. The brave captain calls out to his crew, "Man your battle stations..." and snaps to his cabin boy, "Argh, boy, run down to my cabin and fetch my red shirt, boy."
So the cabin boy does. He gives the shirt to the captain, and cannot stop himself from asking, "But why the red shirt, sir?"
The captain says, "My job is to inspire my crew. If I'm fighting at their sides, they see my own bravery and continue to fight, even to the death. However, if I were wounded, if they were to see the blood flowing against the white of my shirt, they would be come fearful, disheartened...the battle could be lost. So I wear my red shirt. Even if I am wounded, they will not see my blood. They will not be afraid. And we will fight together until the battle is won."
The boy stands proudly next to his captain, sure that this must be
the bravest captain of all of the seven seas.
The first mate rushes up to the captain yet again to report that now there is a second hostile pirate ship approaching from port. The captain looks down at the cabin boy and snaps,
"Argh, boy, fetch me my brown pants."
Okay. It's your turn. What's your best joke?
(Aside: Sorry for the re-run, Mary and Scotty)
Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


In light of yesterday's post, I've a confession. I went to a fast food restaurant today. We were celebrating with my sister. It was her choice. She likes their salads. So do I. I always get a salad here. However, today I saw a picture of a burger with two patties, pepperjack cheese, chipotle sauce and jalapenos peppers. I love peppers.
I got me one of them, and lo, it was good.
Not excellent, but good.
I got a side salad instead of french fries.
I got an unsweeted ice tea instead of soda.
Is this penance adequate?
Or am I going to hell for this?

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Today I went to a program. I listened to a chef discuss a recent 'Hot Pockets' (a microwave meal) commercial. It shows a teenage boy in bed. The alarm goes off and he drags himself from bed. He had slept in his clothes. The chef discribed them as 'singularly unattractive', offering the world a pleasant view of his boxers. The boy grabbed his books, ran downstairs, grabbed a hot pocket from his mother waiting with a supercilious, doting smile on her face,
and bolted out of the door to school.
The chef wondered what would happen if it was portrayed differently. He wonders what would happen if the commercial showed the mother going up the stairs to wake her son, to send him off for a shower? What if he came downstairs scrubbed, in fresh clothes, maybe wearing a belt even. What if they had showed the mom dishing out some eggs, bread popping out of the toaster? What if it showed the two of them sitting down to have breakfast together?
It's true. Convenience foods are not all that convenient in my opinion. We've been fooled into believing this. They are more expensive. They are less healthy. I've long believed that when you don't put any effort into meal preparation, that meals become a mindless chow-down, a process that has you eating too quickly, so that by the time your brain realizes your belly is full, you have eaten a few extra bites. When you prepare a meal, you savor the meal, you discuss the meal, you take pleasure in the meal.
Fast food has its place, I suppose. Sometimes, I throw a frozen pizza in the oven. But really, what do you think would happen if families began to cook?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Home Sweet Home

This is the woods behind our house.
Where the deer
and the bear
and the coyote play.
The kids used to, but they are all grown up.
The saying, "You can't see the forest for the trees"
was created here.

This is our neighbor's pond. He doesn't mind that
old arthritic dogs swim in it on hot summer days.
Ken and Pearl are the salt of the earth.
Notice how the mountains go on and on.
It is winter right now. It is cold. White.
But spring is coming.
(Yes, Mikey, I know. You want to see winter. I'll get to it)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mikey made me do this.

This is my dog Buck. His eyes glow like this at

This is Cara, my youngest. Isn't she a cutie? She
and Tim seem to have resolved their differences.
Stressful couple of days. I was ready to knock both
their stubborn heads together. I guess I will let them
both live. Geesh. She's going to be a history teacher.

This is son Dylan with a pint sized baby Beck.
Dylan is afraid of babies.
I like to scare Dylan.
I figure I owe him.
Dylan is my cyborg son.

This is Mike. Mike is a carnivore. He will hunt for food.
Mike is one of the quiet ones.
Wait. He's the only quiet one.
He takes after his father.
More pictures will follow as I get the hang of things.
This post is for Mikey. Mikey nagged me to blog.
And then she nagged me for pictures.
I finally got DSL. I'll be figuring things out for a good long time.
Like how do you adjust the flipping spacing?
Advice and handy tips cheerfully accepted.

If Mama ain't happy

Foreign policy?


It could solve domestic issues as well.

It is also cheaper that a two hour four dollar coffee.

Every home needs a diplomat.

However, the truce is still holding here.

Any questions?

You take one bull-headed German.
Add one hormonal teenage semi-woman.
This picture explains my happy home.
Yesterday, I yelled at both of them, and then left the house for a two hour, four dollar coffee.
I feel better.
Shocked the snot out of both of them.
A detente has been reached.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wisdom Distilled from the Daily

I've got to tell you the most amazing thing. For many years now, I've been picking up a book, 'Wisdom Distilled from the Daily'. I've read this book in its entirety, and in bits and pieces, way too many times to count. It is written by Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun. I picked the book up a long way from home, but I thought it was interesting that the book was written by a nun from Erie, about 1 1/2 hours from where I grew up. The book is about living your days in this world by the rules of St. Benedict. It is one of those books that, regardless of how many times I read it, I don't feel like I'm 'getting' it all, but the idea of living a life within the boundaries of the sacred has always fascinated me. As I get older, I feel as if I am understanding this book just a little bit better.
Last summer, a friend that I've never met (is the internet not a strange bond?) sent me a web site which was given over to one of his latest hobbies. This gentleman had taken up shaving with a straight razor, and was quite devoted to his badger brush and his shaving soap. Given the fact that I am not a morning person, this routine struck me as suicidal. I mean, for heaven's sake...a straight razor!!! Anyhow, I looked through this website, trying to understand the point of this. It really fascinated me for reasons I couldn't even begin to fathom.
When I went to bed that night, the shaving site continued to niggle at the back of my mind. And suddenly, it was (ta da!) *epiphany!* All these years of my life, I've been struggling to hang my life on some sacred framework, always looking for that sacredness outside myself. What if, what if, I'd been doing it bass ackward all these many years? What if the sacredness came from within my life, instead of outside my life? What if I looked at the routines of my life and really tried to turn them into rites? Jeremy had turned his routine morning shave into a rite that brought him great satisfaction. I had my own morning rite of brewing my morning cup. I brew the coffee, froth my milk to which I have added one spoon of sugar and one drop of Haitian vanilla. I love my morning coffee. What if I began to look at all the routines that I'd been plodding through on a daily basis, what if I changed my perspective, what if I began to pour the same care and attention to detail that I put into my morning cup into those routines? Would my life not be transformed from the inside out? Could my life become an act of worship? Excited, I got up from bed, and got my book from the shelf and began to read it yet again, with a different eye, with a different perspective. I still don't 'get' all of it, but I understand it better than before.
What the heck does this rambling have to do with anything? I've got a point. Hang with me here. Okay, I was at play practice today. Our director is a former seminarian. He did not complete the program. He did not take his vows. He went to Erie today to listen to Mr. Clinton stumping for his wife. On the way home, he stopped in to visit with his friends, the Benedictine nuns. The hair on the back of my neck began to prickle a bit. Seems that they are quite enthusiastic about the play Mark is directing, and some of them are planning to attend. I could scarcely believe my ears. I had to ask. "Do you know 'Wisdom Distilled from the Daily'? and he said, "Joan Chittister." I have never in my life encountered someone else who knew that book. I asked if she would be attending the play. And he allowed that she might. He did not know. But he did not think she would mind signing a well thumbed copy of her book if she were to show up.
I drove home tonight thinking of the remarkable coincidences that have led to this day. I find a book in a quiet corner of a bookstore a long way from home. The author is from 'my neck of the woods', as they say. The book strikes a resonating chord within me, puzzles me, fascinates me for all these many years. I have an internet discussion about shaving that leads me to a deeper understanding of something I could not understand. I work with a girl who enjoys acting. I decide to do a play simply because I've never done one before. I meet a director who has a tie with an author who has unknowingly created a hunger in me to understand. Am I going to meet her? I don't know, but I would not be surprised. What a strange wheel life is, turning and turning in circles that link and intersect in the most astonishing ways. How can you doubt the divine when you find yourself in the midst of a miracle?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Still Learning

I answered the phone at work today. The fellow on the other end said that he knew me. Seemed quite enthusiastic about talking to me, which sometimes is not the case when people actually know me. I suck at names, and did not recognize his, but he launched right into his spiel. He was setting up an environmental program for the general public and wanted to know if we wanted to do a presentation. "Sure," I said. He didn't seem prepared for a quick yes, but he was very happy. So I asked about what sort of programs they were looking for. Turned out that they were taking what they could get. I suggested that he sit down and write up a 'dream list' of what programs he would like to be presented. I told him that we were an agency trying to promote ourselves as an educational resource, and we'd be glad to see what we could do for him. He was a pretty happy guy. I gave him a couple more names of people who I thought would be interested in promoting their environmental initiatives, and he was asking for spellings and scribbling it all down. He said something that tripped a memory, and I said, "Wait. I know you. You're Rick's friend..." and we laughed. Anyhow, he said, "You know, I knew you'd be the one to get in touch with. You're so forward thinking and enthusiastic about everything. You're just a really fun person."
The one thing that most people cannot see about me is that I have some seriously low self esteem that I cover up with humor. I say what I think for the most part, and my directness annoys some, so I have my share of people who'd like to see me disappear. I've been writing my humor column for the paper long enough that I get fan mail, but those people don't know me. They just know that I'm funny, and that I'm a sap, and these things strike a resonating chord. I know that I am popular with my co-workers, but I have a tendency to shrug their compliments off with the thought that they are just being nice because they work with me. I'm a hard worker, too goal oriented sometimes. This makes me not as patient as I could be. I've got friends at church. They have to be nice. That's what real Christians should do. My husband thinks I'm beautiful. But hey, the man likes to eat, so it pays to compliment the cook. I've gotten pretty good at explaining away almost every compliment. I know what people see when they look at me, because I see my own faults very plainly. However, today was a surprise. This person had no reason to say a nice thing. And I found myself wondering, "I wonder if I am seeing myself differently than how the world sees me?"
Like I said, my school days are long gone, all but disappeared in the wispy memories of the first half of my life. But I'm learning the greatest lessons of my life in the second half of it, and nary a school house in sight.

Monday, March 10, 2008


My friend, Laura showed me a quote: You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'
Eleanor Roosevelt said that.
I am doing a job in which I feel woefully inadequate. I've been working on four major projects since the first of the year, and stressing greatly about them. One of them was done on the last day of February. Another was done a week later. In the midst of those preparations, I have been doing other smaller projects, most of the projects also shorter trips into places I've never been before. It's been hectic and worrisome. I wake up in the night to fret. But as I tick these projects off my list, one by one, I'm discovering that I have quite a few successes, despite all of my fears and misgivings. And the (blessedly) isolated things that are not glowing successes are the very things that I learn my greatest lessons from. I'm learning to organize, and to delegate, to curb my impulsive tongue and be tactful, to think logically even (especially?) when I'm most frustrated. My boss, Heather, has great confidence in me, and I work all the harder because of it. I could not bear to let her down. My co-workers give me honest feedback and seem to think as much of me as I think of them. All these things make the tough times bearable.
With each project I complete, I do breathe a sigh of relief, and I find myself looking at the next project a little less fearfully. It seems odd to think that I am learning my greatest life lessons during the second half of that life.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I was driving in my car. I was listening, on that day, to classic rock. I heard Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. They were singing 'From the Beginning'. 'Trilogy' was one of the first albums I'd ever purchased. And so I was driving down the road, radio blaring, singing 'It's aaaaaaallllllll clear, you were meant to be here, from the beginning....' Is there anything more wonderful
than that? Singing a memory?
Anyhow, I was watching PBS a couple days later. They had old rock and roll performed by the original bands. The musicians have not aged nearly as well as their music, for the most part. The music was fine, but the bands...good gravy, there was a musician who looked like my grandpa, and I had a hard time picturing my grandpa cavorting wildly with a guitar. And they kept panning across the audience. Gray hair, wrinkles, and thick waistlines abounded.
I remember album covers. I remember different faces from the grizzled rockers in front of me now. I can't bring myself to say what is running through my mind over and over again.
"This is just weird."
And the reason I can't bring myself to make one comment is simple. Were there people driving past a silver Intrigue a couple of days ago watching me singing and jiving to
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, thinking
"Man. Look at that old gal rocking out...that is just weird!"
So I shut my eyes, listen to the music, and keep my thoughts to myself. Cara walked into the room. She's lately become a classic rock fan herself, so the music stopped her, and she stared fixedly at the TV.
"Man," she said, "That is just weird."
Rotten kid.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Over on, BB has been talking about her dog, Cosmos, who's gone on to run in the canine version of elysian fields. Any person who has a dog who suffers from arthritis will be comforted by that picture.
My dog is a big old stray that I found and hauled home. We don't know much about Buck except that he is a very well trained dog who's been abused. He's still suspicious of men. I don't understand that. Who spends so much time training a dog, and then abuses that dog, ultimately dumping him off along a country road? Anyways, I found him trotting down the middle of the road as cars swerved to miss him. I went home for a bucket of dog kibble. (My own dog had died just two days previously - how strange is that?) and followed this dog for some distance. Finally he stopped, and at a church. I parked the car, placed the bucket of dog food about 10 feet from me, and pulled up a piece of ground. The dog was hungry. This kept him close. I began to talk while I waited. I told him what a fine dog he was, and how smart he looked, and I told him about my dog Kooj who died. Eventually, he dared to come close enough to begin gulping food. Now people say that I could carry on a conversation with a stump, and that particular day it came in quite handy. He wolfed food, and I talked on about this and that and whatever else came to mind. Eventually his hunger was sated just enough so that he was able to stop wolfing, and to chew his food some, studying me while he chewed. I talked on. The time came when he was full. I was still talking. He stood there staring at me. Suddenly, he came over to where I was sitting cross legged on the ground and stood staring at my face. I stopped talking and I stared right back. Without warning, he buried his big old dog head in my neck making nervous whistling noises.
This is how I got Buck-the-amazing-wonder-dog. He is the best dog I ever had. There is something profound and binding about watching another being make that decision to trust you. I could never break that trust. He knows it.
Buck struggles up the stairs to sleep outside my bedroom door. Tim still makes him nervous after all these years. He wants to be close by in case Tim decides to act up in the middle of the night, I guess. The thing is, I've been trying to convince him not to come up stairs. Buck's getting old, and he's getting stiff. He fell down the steps three times this week. I give him his pain relief that does not seem to work all that well, and I feel a little sick inside, because I know what happens next is going to break my heart. But I was looking in his eyes when he made that decision to trust me. I love that dog, and when the time comes, I will do the right thing. And I will hold his big dog head in my lap, envisioning him running in the canine version of elysian fields.

Fair's fair

After all my frustration with Verizon,
it has finally happened.
We have DSL here in the back woods.
Quite a difference from dial-up, that's for sure!

On Our Own

Tim and I have been on our own for a week now.
We have discovered that it will be different when the final child leaves home.
We have also discovered that we are able to entertain ourselves.
Even without her.
(This will probably come as a suprise to her.)
Cara will be home in two more days.
We'll sure be glad to see her.
Know what I'll miss?

Thursday, March 6, 2008


I'm not a big TV watcher, although I don't have so much charactor that the thing remains off 100% of the time. But our favorite night for TV viewing is Saturday night. I love the to watch 'As Time Goes By'. It's a British comedy that PBS airs. Tim likes the Canadian 'The Red Green Show'. He gets a kick out of Red's world where the duct tape assumes it's rightful place in the great scheme of life. He also laughs every time that he hears the Possum gang reciting
'the Man's Prayer'.
"I'm a man.
I can change.
If I have to.
I guess."
My sister spends most weekends at our house. She likes to watch cooking shows, and so that is how we got hooked on 'The Great Chef'. This past week, the three chefs/judges were sampling the offerings sent out to the table by the two competing young chefs. One judge complains about the size of the helpings. "Too much meat," she sniffs. "Very 'housewife'." There is more discussion about the seasonings, and the presentation of the meal, etc. And again, the meal was referred to as 'housewife'. I sat there thinking of all the meals that I put together, meals for teenagers that had to be hearty and filling or lives would cease right on the spot. Teenagers need big helpings. Your choice is to feed them, or to worry that the dog might suddenly come up missing. Tim is a small person, but he works hard, and the man eats. One of his favorite things about me is that I cook. He was on his own for 8 years before he met me. As near as I can tell, he lived on hotdogs and frozen pizza. So whatever I'm making, he's happy with, and he partakes with gusto. He'd rather eat at home than at any restaurant he knows of. My boy Dylan misses home cooking so much that I freeze leftovers for him when he comes home to visit. He brings an empty ice chest, and fills it when he leaves. The girls ask for recipes. So I watch this show, thinking that while my cooking would most assuredly be referred to as 'housewife', 'housewife' cooking keeps my crew happy. Tim was on the computer during this program, reading, but on some level he must have been listening to the show. He turned to look at the television with an astonished look on his face and then looked at me.
"I don't get it," he says. " 'Housewife' isn't good?"
He's got a standing invitation to dinner here. The chefs are on their own.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Home Repairs

Today, Tim and I were working down at the new house. The new house is old. The support beams in the stone basement are hand hewn barn beams, scavenged from an even older barn that was being torn down as the house was being built back in the 1880's.
I like house rehab because it gives me a chance to daydream. My mind is free to traipse from one topic to another, because I don't have to think about what I'm doing. I can wonder about the beams, and who made them, and ponder how the world has changed since those beams were trees growing in the forest Today, ripping down cheap paneling, we found old newspapers. One was from 1954. In Titusville, a three year old boy witnessed his father stab his mother 5 times. I find myself wondering about that boy. He'd be six years older than I am. I wonder what happened to him, what sort of a life he had after that horrible day.
Does he have a wife?
I find myself praying for someone I've never met.
Also under that cheap paneling, we found lovely woodwork around the windows and the doors. We found wallpaper with its intricate antique patterns. It was in wonderful shape. It's neat to peel back the layers of a house to see what lies beneath. I feel the same excitement about getting to know people. I find myself feeling a little sad for the house. At some point, the house went from loved and cared for to being considered a liability.
People stopped caring.
Little repairs were not taken care of.
Gradually the house fell into disrepair.
I know people like that too.
The people in their lives stop caring.
They are seen as liabilities.
Gradually they stop taking care of themselves.
That's a sad thing.
But there are such a thing as second chances.
Our house is becoming something once again.
Every person in this world should have that same opportunity.
I think on that for a while.
I find myself praying that I give people the same chance that I give this house.
As I tore away debris, I wore a dust mask. When you get working hard, the mask gets annoying, and it is hard to breath though the filters. I thought of my dad, dead for going on 8 years now. He died of lung cancer. We were all at his bedside as he slowly suffocated. It was awful. I quit smoking on the spot. I'd quit before, sometimes for years, but this time it was permanent. I've never had the slightest craving for a cigarette since. Just the thought that I might see the same grief and horror on my childrens' faces that I saw on my brother and sisters' faces as we helplessly waited for my dad to die was more than I could bear. I think about my dad, and the muddled mess that my family is today. Feuds and bitterness and maternal favoritism has broken our little family up. I can't fix it. I can only wait to see what God does with it. It makes me sad, but then I start thinking about all the people that have moved into my life, in effect become my family, and I find myself thanking God for them.
There is something very soul satisfying about mindless hard work. My mind wanders from topic to topic freely. I pray, and I praise. I ponder heartache and life's griefs. I think about my own life. The life of people I've never met. My mind dances through the years of my life, and then to times before I was born as we make discoveries in our house and try to set a date to what we are seeing.
I work hard. And I think.
What a satisfying day!

This, too, shall pass

We are winding up a two day ice storm.
No phone service for awhile.
I keep thinking of that one robin I saw on Sunday.
I'll bet he's not happy.
I have some words of wisdom for him.
"In the depths of winter, I learned that within me there was an invincible summer."
I'll betcha he's feeling much, much better with Camas rolling around in his little bird brain.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Second Hand Lions

I watched a movie that sort of summed me up although it was a story about a young boy coming of age. He was receiving part of the 'What every young man needs to know speech' from his uncle. I'd seen the movie years ago, and loved it then. Has Robert Duvall ever been in a bad movie?
Anyways, the uncle prefaces his speech with "It doesn't matter if something is true or not. If you want to believe in it, well, go ahead and believe in it." And he tells his nephew this: "Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most.
That people are basically good.
That honour, courage and virtue mean everything.
That power and and power mean nothing.
That good always triumphs over evil.
And I want you to remember this...that love, true love never dies.
Remember that boy...remember that.
Doesn't matter if it is true or not, a man should believe in those things,
because those are the things worth believing in. Got that?"
I believe that a woman should believe in the same things.
I do.
Even when these things don't seem to be true at all.
Especially then.
How can you deal with life's rough patches if you have no faith or optimism?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Customer Service, Verizon-style

I spent nearly 1 1/2 hours on the phone today, trying to sort out our telephone situation with Verizon. I talked to a woman in India who asked me to verify my billing infomation, and then repeated it back to me again. She asked me if I were Timothy. "No," I answered. "Well, she wondered, "are you authorized to make decisions in his name?" I was starting to get ornery and this always sparks a sarcastic inner voice in me. The inner voice snarled, "Hell, yeah, I can make decisions in his name. I've decided that he can't sleep with Shania Twain and so he doesn't." Outloud, I simply assured her that I could. This woman patiently listened to the problem, parroted what I said, but lo, there was no resolution. She saw the problem, but could not help me, and transfered me to the fellow who could. That fellow verified all my billing information again and then asked if I were authorized to make decisions in his name. My inner voice bellowed, "By gosh, when I told him that he was not buying a Mazzerati, that was that. I've got real authority, bub." But again, all I said was "Yes. I can make decisions." And explained the whole flipping thing again. And he explained to me that I needed to call another number. I called that number and for the third time verified all the billing information, and assured him yet again that although I was NOT Timothy, I was authorized to make decisions in his name
(*&^%$$%^!!!!!!) And this man explained that I was speaking to a premium operator. I was not authorized to speak with a premium operator. There was an extra charge to speak to the PREMIUM OPERATOR. I had not paid for premium service. I thought of all the times Verizon had assured us that we were valuable customers. Verizon lies.
I used to be a customer service person. I hated to speak to angry customers. Now I was one. "Listen, " I seethed. "I'm pretty mad right now, and want to kick somebody's ass. Unfortunately, the only one here is my dog, and I'm really quite fond of my dog. I'm not mad at you, but I'm telling you right here and phone service has been screwed up since February 20th, and we are going to resolve the situation right here and now, or we're getting a new phone company. I'm trying to be as nice as I can. Now why don't you tell me what you're going to do to solve this problem for me."
I was on hold for 25 (TWENTY FIVE!) more minutes. Finally an operator came on. He sounded as if he were from India. He verified my billing information again. I spelled my name. He spelled it back, incorrectly. He wondered if I had permission from Timothy to make decisions in his name. I gritted my teeth and assured Verizon (yet again) that I could. And then amidst profuse apologies, he told me that he could not help me. Their computers were down. They could not access the customer information.
Ye gods. I need a good stiff drink.

A frickin' elephant

A young reader was avidly reading his book of animals. Suddenly he says, in great excitement, "Look, mommy! It's a frickin' elephant."
The horrified mother takes a deep breath and says, "What did you just say?"
And the boy looks at her and says, "It's a frickin' elephant."
Mommy says, "We don't talk like that in our house."
The little boy looks confused and says, "But it says so, right here in my book."
And he was right.
There it was in print.
A frican elephant.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


I saw a robin today. That harbringer of spring was hopping around in 14 inches of snow.
I'm taking it as a sign of better weather coming.
Only encouraging comments allowed.
I'm sick of winter.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

What in God's Name

There is a story that I cannot get out of my mind since I heard it yesterday. I saw an old acquaintance at a career day that I was presenting at. She was presenting too. We used to both attend the same church. We both left, she and her husband for another Episcopal Church, me to embark upon the road to Methodism. So I asked her how they liked their new church. Awkward smile. The story followed.
Her husband has only one sister. His parents are deceased. This sister is all the family that he has. Their families were very close, always have been. The sister was diagnosed with cancer, and after a very long and courageous battle, the young mother left this world. The two families were devastated. Her two children were young teens. There is no good time to lose a mom, but the teenage years are hard enough without this.
This young mother had planned her funeral. She asked her brother to sing a song that she loved. He said, "I won't be able to sing at your funeral. Please don't ask me to do that, because I won't be able to do it." And she assured him that just playing that song from his latest CD would be fine. She just wanted this at her funeral. And so he agreed. She wanted bagpipes. Her brother is in a Celtic band, and they promised to provide the music. There were other plans, and other promises, but they were between her husband and her, and I did not hear that part of the story.
It was a long fight, but it ended. She died. And family went to their priest with the her funeral plans. And the minister said, "I am not comfortable with bagpipers in my church. The band can play in front of the church, but not inside." The song she wanted for her final trip out the door of the church was nixed. The priest would not have recorded music in his church. There were other restrictions. The preacher had a very strong idea what a funeral should be like, and he did not like the 'personalization' of this one. The young widower turned to his brother in law and said, "I can't. I just can't deal with this" and he walked out of that church.
Long story short, a Methodist preacher in town heard about this, contacted the family, told them that the funeral was for the family, and for the friends, and he opened his church to the family. He did the funeral just as the family wanted it, reading the burial mass from The Book of Common Prayer, even though he was of a different faith. Anne had her bagpipes. Anne's brother's recorded voice sang a song that promised that they would all meet again, even as her brother wept for his sister. There were so many people there that it was lucky that it was held at the bigger church. They all would not have fit in their own.
I listened to this story and it made me so very sad. Both families have left their church. A teenage boy is enraged at the faith that abandoned him when he needed it the very most. This will probably change, profoundly, his view of religion as a whole. This is the saddest story that I've ever heard, and I wonder over and over, what in God's name was this young priest thinking?