Thursday, August 14, 2014

Should I think about it?

"Mommy don't talk about it. It makes you ashamed of everything about our life here. Do what you told me to do. Every time it comes to your mind pray about it, but don't keep thinking about it. "
My 10 year-old daughter's words to me.
What does the Lord think about my reasoning? Should the killing of innocent people because of their faith disrupt my peace? Should I think about it? Should I put myself in their place and try to imagine their unimaginable suffering? What do you want me to do? "Nothing" does not seem like the answer, yet atrocities are happening every day. People abuse their own children in horrific ways. People rape and kill innocent women and children here in NJ. How can I ever feel at peace when I know others are being used so cruelly?
"What do you expect of me Lord? What is my job?"

I want it to be:

     And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.      1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

That just seems like a cop out though. 

    But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.      1 Peter 4:7-11

I need to do something. Is praying enough? How much praying is enough? Shouldn't I be up all night beseaching the Lord for deliverance for these suffering brethren? Yet there is so much oppression on the earth that I should never sleep again.

"Lord have mercy on me in my weakness and give me strength to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart, loving others as I so selfishly love myself. Give me wisdom to know what that love looks like in action and the perseverance to follow through with the truth you will show me. Amen"

Friday, July 4, 2014

Mom's Mood Meter: Day 7

We have a lovely little consignment shop right here in town, which can at times prove to be a little too much temptation even for someone with my thrifty nature. "It's only a dollar (or two or four), so why not get it?"
Sometimes, buying something just because it is not a large investment doesn't make it a good buy and my "Mom's Mood Meter" proves just that. I purchased it thinking that it would make a humorous place to hang my keys. Once I hung it on the wall however, it became clear that it would not function well as a key holder, since it was hung by only one central nail. If I hung keys on the central hook, it rocked from side to side like a rocking chair while scraping the wall in a U pattern. Hanging the keys on one of the outside hooks, the entire thing hung askew. I tried attaching it to a side table with a combination of rubber bands and twist ties but it still flopped forward in a slovenly looking way. Since using it for my keys didn't work, it has been sitting on the side table next to where I set my keys, collecting dust. Looking at it now, I wonder why I ever bought it. Its ugly, plain ugly.
So goodbye mood meter. I am sure throwing you away will improve my mood immensely.
 "Bye, bye you useless piece of bric-a-brac."

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Something worth keeping

 One of the things that I missed most when living in Colorado, was the profusion of wildflowers that grow along the roadsides and woodlands here in New Jersey. Anywhere there is a bit of dirt, you will find something growing. These odd looking flowers in the picture were growing out front of the house where we live, but I have also spotted them when driving. It has been a source of delight for me to observe the various comings and goings of wildflowers as they bloom in a carpet of yellow, white, or purple, only to be supplanted a few weeks later by a different variety. An area that seemed entirely covered in buttercups later becomes a field of daisies. More plants inhabit the same square foot of ground then I would have believed possible.
Before I moved west, I used to pick poesies to decorate my bedside table on a near daily basis. Yet I never noticed the amazing variety of blooms until this spring.
One of my greatest delights has been the pure unique fragrances of each; the sweetness of the honeysuckle or the heady richness of peonies.
I am not sure what the name of these pictured purplish pocket blooms is and to be honest I am afraid to find out.  What if they don't belong here?

There are so many invasive species taking hold and once I realize their presence, I see them everywhere about me and feel compelled to pull them out, wherever they may be growing. On a recent trip to a state park I noticed the forest floor being covered in mustard garlic plant. This invasive species has found a niche in our North American forest floors where it has been immensely successful. Instead of enjoying our picnic I felt the need to start weeding. There was no stopping point however, as the weed was coming up everywhere. When my husband gently reminded me that it was Father's Day, I felt guilty walking away from the gargantuan task.
The unbalance humans have bought to the environment is staggering, but the variety and beauty of wildflowers is a soothing balm as well as a reminder that biodiversity is something worth working for.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The off white shirt: Day 6

I loved the details of this shirt but never liked the way it looked on me. Now, I can look at it's finer points without having it clog up my closet. We donated it to the thrift store when we went. 

The crockless pot: Day 5

A few months ago I made pork ribs in our slow cooker. All the juicy sweet ribs were devoured by my family within minutes, but the crock pot remained on, hot and empty. In my haste to clean up, I removed the crock from the electric base and set it in the sink. As I was turning my back there was a loud splitting sound. The crock had cracked like the Liberty Bell. "Oh well. One less dish to wash, but what to do with the remaining crockless pot?" Unwilling to throw it away, I returned it to the cupboard where it remained, useless but not quite trash.
I had been thinking about which object to jettison for Day 5, when the crockless pot came to mind. I wanted to put in the garbage but shouldn't I really order replacement stoneware instead? Most small appliances don't get recycled but end up filling those giant craters we make in the earth with an ocean of rubbish. I was feeling really guilty about this. I should be part of the answer, not the problem.
So, I checked out the manufacturers website. Searching with my item's model number came up with a blank. I fiddled around, typing in different variations of the numbers listed on the bottom of the slow cooker. Again, nada. So, after fifteen or so wasted minutes I dialed customer service. Immediately, I was placed on hold (apparently I am not the only one who forgets basic kitchen stoneware+warm water=broken crock) but then I was connected to an actual person! Yes, a human being actually spoke to me! To add to this amazingness, he wasn't even rude! After I gave him the various numbers off the bottom of the appliance he informed me that the price for the crock would be about $12.00. Then add on the $6.00 for shipping. Together that is about $14.00 more then I paid at the thrift store for the whole appliance.  I could probably get myself another used one for $4.00 or even purchase a new one at the local warehouse closeout store.  I thanked the customer service representative and I dialed the closeout store. Yes, they had crock pots, and for less then the price of the replacement crock for mine. my attempt to get rid of something I was once again adding extra work to my day. That is why I had put off dealing with it for so long. There is so much to consider when dealing with a mostly broken appliance; "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" for instance. By throwing away this appliance and getting a new one I was creating more garbage. Even if I bought another used one, this one was still going to end up in a landfill. Financially though, how do I justify spending more money to replace part of an old crockpot? It could stop working any day. In fact, now that I was thinking about it, it had always seemed that the low setting wasn't really low, just not as hot as high. Maybe that is why it had been at the thrift store to begin with.
Then I remembered seeing a plastic lid in the bottom of the pantry. Bingo! I didn't need to replace it at all. We had a smaller crockpot that had been in our camping trailer stored away in the attic. For some reason the lid never made it up there though. Now, I could rid myself of the crockless pot with less regret.
I wasn't ready to just throw it into the trash yet though.
A search online yielded infinite options for reusing the crock from a broken slow cooker, but few viable options for the metal electric heating part. My county's recycling center treats them as bagged garbage so into the landfill it would go. There was someone online who suggesting stripping it of the copper, breaking it apart and the taking it to a place that purchases scrap metal. I know I will never do that. The crockless pot will be sitting where it is now, right next to our door, for the next 6 months till my husband gets sick of moving it out of his way and just tosses it.
This had become a complicated ethical question, so I decided to pass the buck. I would donate it to a thrift store when I took the kids out shopping. Who knows? Maybe there is a potless crock out there waiting for a base. One can only hope.

As a post script, I wrote this entry earlier in the week but didn't get a chance to edit it until today. We did take the crockless pot to a local thrift store where they accepted it as a donation. It may of had something to do with the fact that it was handed to them by an adorable 8 year old. Had I chosen to hand it to the volunteer myself, I may not have been so lucky.
While we were at the store, I didn't even look at crock pots.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Letting go of infinite possibility: Day 4

Okay, so it's actually just a sticker for my laptop, but just think of all the different places I could have stuck it, thereby declaring to the world my commitment to extreme physical fitness.
There is one problem with this declaration however, my commitment isn't all that evident by my appearance. I don't feel certain that BEACHBODY wants my body as an advertisement for their product's effectiveness. I did stick the tablet sticker on the back of my tablet, but since I never use my tablet in public, no one will ever see it there. The sticker for my cell phone, which people would actually see me using, got confiscated by one of the children before I even did the first workout. I was keeping this larger laptop sticker to stick to something once I had reached my "fitness goals" (which actually means "lost a lot of weight"). The problem is that I never loose weight. I may get in better shape, but that shape is cleverly hidden beneath my layers of fat. I hold on to these layers despite my (fairly) regular and (relatively) intense exercise regime. I accomplish this feat by consuming thousands of calories more then I should, sometimes all in one day. I have no really good excuse for this sort of behavior either. I know that it is bad for my health, but darn it I bake such yummy stuff and cookie dough and cake batter are too tasty to just wash down the drain and should definitely be licked out of the bowl. Then of course I need to try the final product and see if it is as delicious as the batter or dough promised it would be. (I can only imagine how fat I would be if I didn't walk regularly, do various exercise programs, chase kids around, and do a veritable workout regime of house cleaning.)
I keep thinking that maybe this time will be different. Maybe I will change my eating habits and be able to reach these elusive "fitness goals." Holding on to that sticker was testament to that hope. Maybe I will look like I do extreme fitness someday.
I threw it away. It was cluttering my desk and like a too small dress hanging in my closet, making me feel like a failure. I can still change my eating habits but if I do I certainly won't need this sticker to advertise it if I do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Waterlogged checks: Day 3

"In the confrontation between the stream and  the rock, the stream always wins- not through strength but by perseverance." -H. Jackson Browne Jr.

I am more and more struck by the value of consistent, deliberate, daily practices. With the constant unforeseeable interruptions brought into life by sickness, weather, and the dictates of a full family life, I find it very difficult to maintain the steady regular rhythm to my days that I think would be ideal. My big idea to rid myself of one thing a day for 30 days has already fallen by the wayside, or at least been forced out of the realm of consecutive and into the realm of successive. Due to the busyness of Father's Day, I didn't throw anything away that day. Then on Monday, I decided to jettison the above pictured boxes of checks from our former bank in Colorado. Ridding myself of them proved quite tedious however. Since I do not have a shredder, I decided to cut up the account and routing numbers with a pair of kitchen scissors. After cutting up the first box of checks, my right hand started to ache. By the time I had finished the second box of checks, I was on the verge of blisterdom. So, I opted for money laundering. I soaked the remaining checks so they would tear easily by hand. This meant however, that I had a clear plastic container filled with checks and water siting on my counter for over a day. Each one of my children felt the need to point this out to me. "Uh oh, Mommy. Look what someone did to your checks." This comment gives you a pretty darn good idea of the type of mischief my children regularly get into. Each of them could easily imagine one of their siblings immersing an entire box of checks in water. In fact they had probably considered doing it themselves.
So, after cluttering up my counter for a whole day because I was too lazy to finish cutting my checks by hand, I had finally rid myself of the extra weight of useless checks.
"But why were you keeping checks for accounts that you closed months ago anyway?" I can imagine you wondering. I really don't know. Maybe I was simply too lazy to properly dispose of them. Whatever the reason, I was holding on to them, and now I no longer am. I guess that counts towards one of my 30 days.
Even though it has been almost a week since I started this endeavor, I am only on Day 3. This is simmilar to my current attempt at doing a certain 90 day extreme fitness program. I received it in the mail two months ago, but I am only on the fourth week of exercises. There have been a lot of missed days. Oh, and my daily bible readings are not as "daily" as I would like either. Yet, a continual habitual practice of reading and prayer is the meat of the christian diet, so I will persevere. Writing and singing also require daily practice and for that matter keeping a clean house is certainly not the work of one day a week. Don't even let me get started on the laundry.
It seems that working towards a daily, preferably consecutive, practice will (hopefully) strengthen my self-discipline, making me able to grow in many areas of my life. So what should I get rid of today?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Kitchen towels: Day 2

"One cannot have too many dish towels, can they?" That seems to be the general feeling when it comes to these little necessities. I mean, how often do you find yourself wiping your hands on one, drying off a bowl with another and needing one more to soak up a spill? They don't need to look pretty to do the job either, because the job they do is often not a pretty one. So why would I be getting rid of a significant portion of my collection?
I feel slightly uncomfortable discussing this for fear that some reader will think me wasteful and overly particular. Still, the truth is the truth. I got rid of a whole pile of kitchen towels. I had too many to fit in my wooden boxes that I store them in. When I would take out one towel, three others would pop out with it. This over-stuffing caused the dishtowels to be in perpetual disarray. I also didn't really like a lot of them. I have this irrational distaste for terry cloth dish towels with cute designs printed on them. They don't bother me in other people's kitchens, but I don't prefer them in mine. On the other hand, there are certain dishtowels that make me smile just to see them hanging neatly on the oven door handle. Especially my over-sized flour sack dish drying towels. It is pure joy to hang these crisp white cotton squares on the line while the breeze flutters between them and they glow with the brightness of clean sunlight. The plaid towels and the knobby textured red towel add texture to whatever task is at hand. The woven towels, with their green through red and their pink on pink seem so classic, so kitchen chic.  
So I went though the drawer boxes that were full of towels and rags shoved in at various stages of folding and unfolding. I separated them into three piles; keep, give away and trash.
"But," you protest "you should keep them for rags." I thought about that, half of these dishtowels are only a few washes away from becoming rags themselves. When I need a rag, I will simply choose one of those "near rags".
My ambivalence regarding this decision prompted me to take pictures only of my remaining kitchen towels instead of the discarded ones. This was because someone reading this post may have given one of them to me, or that they may have had some sentimental value to someone at some time of which I was not hitherto aware.

Who knew that there could be so much fear and guilt associated with the purging of a pile of stained and thread bare kitchen towels?

Friday, June 13, 2014

One day at a time, one object a day

"Yet slow and patient work that does not immediately produce a result is no waste of time..."
                                                                                               -Thomas Merton

I recently spoke with my sister about a book she was considering reading. The writer had decided to get  rid of one possession a day for a month. After the month long period she decided to continue the ritual because she found it so beneficial. I thought about this idea for a while, yet considered it unnecessary for myself. I am a purger. If a counter gets too cluttered or a closet is overflowing, I go through it, reorganize it, and get rid of the stuff that no longer serves me and my family.
The thing about this way of decluttering however, is that it is the result of frustration. Clutter makes me crazy! I just can't let it go on that way. This doesn't seem like the most productive way to deal with clutter. Instead of getting agitated, maybe the simple habit of letting go of something each day could prevent some of these agitated outbursts of cleaning.
After some deliberation about where to start, I thought I had the perfect thing to get rid for this first day of purging; my broken Dyson vacuum. I thought the warranty had expired so I had replaced it with a new vacuum that I found at a closeout store for half price! I didn't want to just throw the old vacuum away though so I had it standing in a corner of my kitchen cluttering it up.  I was looking online this morning for a place to resell or recycle it. Well, lo and behold, I came across this fact online: Dyson vacuums have a 5 year warranty instead of the 3 years I thought it was. So, getting rid of my $300.00 vacuum that is still under warranty would be slightly irresponsible of me. Now instead of ridding myself of a piece of useless clutter, I have one more thing to do. I have to get my vacuum repaired by Dyson and then (hopefully) sell it.
So what do I get rid of today? My broken electric toothbrush that has been sitting around in our bathroom? No, I can't find the return mailing sticker so that it can be recycled by the manufacturer.
Maybe I will just have to start small by getting rid of this shiny red insert from the box my tablet came in.

Even though this may seem like garbage that I should have already thrown away when I first unpacked my new device, I had been keeping it for...ummm, something. Maybe it would make a good container for organizing a drawer. Or maybe I should save it to protect my tablet when not in use. Maybe I could use it like scrap paper to jot down notes on (notice I had already started to use it for that). I was seeing the wonderful possibilities of this box and there is some merit to that I am sure. Still, I had to get rid of something today and I was pretty sure this would just sit on the side table in the hallway until the table because so full of random stuff that it was pushed onto the floor where someone walking by would step on it and it would then become garbage anyway. It seemed the logical step to skip that sequence of annoying events and just recycle it now. So it was with some trepidation that I broke the box down, folded it up and put it in the garbage can. 

"What! You didn't recycle it?" I can hear you chastising me mentally. No, I didn't. I guess I am an eco-terrorist after all.

(The guilt is too much for me. I will take it outside and put it in the recycling in as soon as I finish writing this. I promise.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rise and whine!

Over the past month or so, I have made the occasional effort to rise before my husband leaves for work so that I can be up and writing before the kids awake. Imagine early morning sunlight glowing in the eastern sky, a springtime symphony of fervent bird songs, a nice sturdy mug of creamy hot coffee steaming on the side table, and the quiet peacefulness of a house full of sleeping children.
The coffee and the birds have never let me down, and for that matter neither has the sun, but my kiddos don't cooperate. I get up, they get up. It is as simple as that. I can be 5 o'clock in the morning or a very tardy 7:15 am but they get up right along with me. Unfortunately, my children do not share my peaceful, idyllic vision of morning. As soon as their little eyes open they start acting like kids. I mean what the heck? Couldn't they get up and behave like adults for at least a little while? My bare feet haven't even made contact with the floor when I hear, "Momma! Momma!" That would be little Allen tuning in his mom radar to sense any movement from the target, Mom. "She's awake "(well, sort of) and moving so it must be time to ATTACK! Got get to her. I will hang here on the side of the crib and whine until she comes in and gets me. If she tries to set me down with the ridiculous expectation that I should use my own leg instead of limply resting on her hip and pointing at things I want, I will cling to her leg and scream until she gets so frazzled that she will pick me back up again."
All my children learn to pick up on my intolerance of loud noises. They seem to be as loud as possible, as early in the morning as possible in the hopes that I will crumple into a shriveled ball of raw nerves and just put on a movie for them.  It may have worked once or twice...
Yesterday, miracle of miracles, I got out of bed a little after 6am and EVERYONE STAYED ASLEEP! Yes, I know it is nearly impossible to imagine, but it did happen. It went just as planned. I unplugged my laptop, ambled into the living room, placed my favorite chenille covered sofa pillow on my lap and started typing blissfully away. I lied about that part. I am so used to being interrupted and whined at that I had no idea what to write. I started typing but it was pretty useless content. Still, I figured it would be better to have a lot of poorly written sentences about nothing (that I hopefully could rework later) then to just sit staring at a blank blog entry. It was everything I hoped a morning would be, minus the inspired writing. The weather was exactly to my liking as well; a little chilly, overcast skies reminiscent of the rains of the night before and every bird within ten miles was singing it's springtime song to the morning. My husband even brought me a cup of coffee and a kiss before he left for work. Perfect. To make it even more perfect, my kiddos slept until 7:15!
Encouraged by this miraculous event, I decided to get up before the children again today. When my husband came in to kiss me goodbye at 6:30 I attempted to peel myself off the mattress without waking Allen, who was cuddling up next to me. He had awakened in the night. In my sleepy predawn zombie like state I had shuffled into his room and brought him back to our bed, where I had promptly fallen back to sleep. When Allen sleeps with us however, he snuggles into me like a baby bird cuddling for warmth into his mother's brood patch. The removal of my warm body caused him to roll over. This of course woke him up and he wasn't too happy about it either. He wouldn't stop crying unless I was holding him. I still haven't perfected the art of typing with a wiggling baby in my arms (with child number five, you would think I'd have mastered that by now). His ferverent complaining about everything brought all the other children crawling out of their beds and they brought all of their demands with them.
"What's for breakfast? Are you going to make it now? I want hot cereal. I don't want granola. Can I make an egg? I want to sit next to you. I was sitting there first..." and on and on. The whining always seems sooooo much worse when I am trying to do something of my own. Before I snapped and started yelling and whining like an overgrown child myself, I decided to abandon my plans for the morning and take care of the children instead.
That is why I am writing this now at 10am instead of 6:45am. How am I managing to do this you ask? Aren't three of my children still at home? Well, I am using technology to sedate them for me. I hate to do this. Maybe I should try getting up really early, like 4:30, but what if they all wake up then too? I could have hours of early morning whining to content with. There isn't enough coffee in this house to get me though a morning like that. Uhhhh...

Friday, May 2, 2014

My first love

Sometimes when I reread my work, I sound silly to myself; all this ridiculous wrestling with existentialism. Reading about the saints only makes me seem more ridiculous. It rattles me to hear about the many persecuted Christians of the past and present. Do I have a faith that can withstand torture? Do I even want that kind of a faith? Right now my faith in the holy God of scripture is a win/win thing for me. My belief in Him gives me purpose and meaning in our ever increasing culture of fast paced images and information. I have a center. I have peace. I also have a moral code which I know will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling and deeply meaningful existence then adhering to the ever popular scapegoat of moral relativism could ever give me. Devoting myself wholeheartedly to one man for life will give me the best odds for fulfilment that human relationships have to offer. Loving my children and pouring my heart and soul into theirs may lead to disappointment, but loving my children and being with them is food and drink to my often weary soul.
The precepts and teachings of Christianity are the beautiful jewels in the crown the redeemed. That is not enough though. Christ has ought against me...

"Dear Lord, show me your face that I may once again look into your eyes and know that it is not a religion which I love. Help me to remember to do more then hate evil. Help me to remember to love the Lord and giver of all life from whom all goodness and the strength to do good proceeds. Help me to love you. Amen."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tieing together our lives

I recently read that some people become overwhelmed by the intolerable monotony of life. That all the little glories of each passing day become a drudgery to them. I doubt that those people have children.  Each new change in my children is a constant reminder of the passing of days, and I am one step closer to the end of the plank, the day when I step off this little ship of life into the vast ocean of forever.

"My days are swifter then a weaver's shuttle...
 For my days are but a breath."
 (Job 7:6a, 16b)
It is the daily miracles of the rising sun and the sparkle of the light playing on the stream outside my kitchen window, that hold me together. It is lifes little consistencies and small comforts that hold me down and keep my mind from reeling in the immensity of it all; a universe with no end, being beyond time, beholding the face of God.

When I put on my cozy brown wrap-around sweater, I wrap myself in this present moment, this temporary physical reality. It is cotton moss-stitch with flecks of red woven in which has become covered with little pilly spots. These show the wear I have put it through in the two short months I have owned it. It has a pleasant texture despite the pilling, its shawl collar folded up to warm my neck.
My pair of red linen Birkenstock clogs which I wear like slippers but which also find their way with me to grocery stores and walks to school are also getting worn from daily use. I enjoy them so much that I am tempted to put them away, to preserve them for later. But I decide I need them now and when they are all worn out I will not regret the years of fine service they have rendered.
Our white Corning ware peculator belonged to my husband's parental grandmother. Corning ware stopped making peculators and they were all recalled by the company because of a construction defect years before I was even born.  Yet it still works and my husband's father can remember his mother making coffee in it when he still lived at home, over 40 years ago. I love the green medallions printed on the sides, the shiny medal pouring spout and the glass knob top which the coffee "perc, perc, perc"s into so I can watch it splatter inside the roof of the transparent glass knob. At some point in its storied history the glass top must have fallen on the floor, because the sharp broken edge is covered over with clear plastic packing tape, an imperfection that adds the human touch of Grandma Marchese to my kitchen and links me to her in some tangible but sadly impersonal way. I wonder about it. When it fell and part of the glass shattered did she curse? Was she relieved to see that it could still be used? Did she use it anyway and cut herself, or did she think to put on the tape right away? The stuff of stories, my kind of stories at least. The small seemingly meaningless events that tie our days together into a lifetime. There may be grief in our heart but there is also coffee to be made and dishes to be done and probobly a pile of dirty laundry hiding somewhere. For some of us, it is in the doing of these tasks that our redemption from sorrow lies. We are not overcome when we keep order to our homes, rhythm in our daily routine and hope in our hearts.
"I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."
(Psalm 27:13-14)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The backwards spiral of existentialism

It was a wonderful party and I was enjoying myself, celebrating life and joy and marriage. It was then that I was ambushed by despair with a simple passing thought. "In 50 years most every adult in this room will be dead, probably including me."
Moments slip into hours into days into months into years and the wrinkles around my eyes deepen, the skin on my arms looses its elasticity, and my daughters look more like little ladies. Our grandparents were married once too. They too were young and in love. Like my husband and I they had little children and felt all their lives were before them, standing tall and proud, arm-in-arm against the onslaught of time. During their lives they faced wars and economic depression. They were full and busy. They had sadness and joys and they loved; they loved their children with the same fervor with which I love my own, they felt the same passions for their spouse, the same longings for safety and peace, financial strains and maybe even the same fear of death. Did they lay in bed together and discuss the possibility of another baby? Did they argue when what they really just wanted was to be held? Did they cry together over the death of their own loved ones, just as we have cried together over their deaths?
These thoughts are the strong undertow that pulls me down, down, down the backwards spiral of existentialism. At first I am enjoying the swim, immersing myself in the present moment and then I am being pulled under by the strong current of time, awash in the meaninglessness of it all. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die." Tomorrow you die. Tomorrow is coming and one of these tomorrows will bring death. Is death a door into eternity or just the infinite blackness of nonexistence?
I don't want to give into the blackness. I am going to fight my way back to the light. Where is the light? I am suddenly so cold inside my core, so full of sadness and sick from fear of the loss to come. I don't want to grow old and have my children take my place as the parents. I want to fight to the end, but why? Does it matter?
That is where despair finds me, my old foe wearing his muddy garb, ready to pull me down into the depths of all that meaninglessness.
"No" I mutter inwardly "No, I will not let this happen. This is precious and I will not surrender this moment."
"Please Lord, help me. Pull me out of this blackness; out of this fear and unknowing. I need your help. Show me your way of looking at my life."
Immediately I feel myself being pulled out of the blackness back to the light. I put my head down against the weight of time and will myself back to life and away from thoughts of death. When I comes I will be ready, but I will not waste what I have been given by falling down the backwards spiral of existentialism.
I am standing upright again, my head above the water, both feet planted firmly on the shifting sands of time that will invariably pull me into the future. I take a breath and fill my lungs with this moment. Only seconds have transpired since my initial thought, the initial shove backwards. Only a few breaths, a few blinks of my eyelashes, that separated for me the light from the dark, life from fear of death, joy from sadness.

Friday, February 28, 2014

On the theme of sickness

We have been having a new round of sickness every other week, with the recovery period stretching into the off week, thus making everyday a sick day with differing levels of severity.
Our normally soda free house has seen many cans, bottles, and boxes of ginger ale come and go this winter. We have also consumed many boxes of ice pops, some the whole fruit type but mostly the cheap artificially colored corn syrup variety. If any of you have recently compared the price of whole fruit ice pops versus the artificially colored crap pops, and if you have a basic understanding of math fundamentals (just figure 3 ice pops consumed by 7 people a day)  you'll get the gist of why we bought the scary, not really food but still soothing to a nauseous stomach, ice pops.

Yesterday however, no one seemed to have any trace of nausea, so instead of ice pops, ginger ale and saltines, we were eating healthy nourishing food. By this I mean homemade hot chocolate. Hey, I made it myself from natural ingredients, that makes it healthy, right?

Well, before I disclosed to the children that I was going to make hot chocolate, I wanted them to help me finish picking up the detritus covering the surface of the floor in their room. My two older girls were at school, but Isabella, my 6 year-old was home along with her two little brothers. Allen is not always very helpful when it comes to cleaning, being only 18 months old. He can pick things up and put them back in boxes, but it takes direction and I was looking for a speedy resolution to the whole floor covered in books, magazines, blankets, pillows, wooden blocks, stacking toys, dirty socks, toy cars, and plastic fishing game pieces situation.

Reagan however is very helpful for a 3 year-old and usually amazes me with his ability to get things done. Yesterday however was the exception. Instead of just helping picking up, he felt he needed an ice pop and some ginger ale to fortify him for the arduous task ahead. I on the other hand felt he should have taken advantage of this window of opportunity to eat his healthy breakfast before nausea strikes again.
He was clearly feeling fine, but just preferred a straight diet of corn syrup to food that requires chewing.

Amidst his whining, I came across a booklet of collected poetry for children that Isabella had been given by her teacher last year in school (thank you Mrs. Ballenski.) Inspired, I turned my pen to reflect on the events at hand.

"I'm Sick!"

"I just can't help pick up the floor
 I am so tired
I'm sick for sure

 I must lie down, I'm sick I bet
 my tummy hurts
 it feels upset

 Oh, Mommy give me an ice pop PLEASE!"
 he pleads with me
 on bended knees

"I might throw up, I need help now 
Is there ginger ale?
but it's gone anyhow

 I then say out loud for all to hear
"Would you like some hot chocolate
 Izzy dear?"

 The Little Sick One then calls out
"I want some too!"
and begins to pout

Then just as adamantly as before
he claims to be NOT sick

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Another sick day yesterday and the spelling continues...sort of

Madeline is not pictured because she felt much worse yesterday and confined herself to bed exept for an occasional foray into the kitchen to ask if she could confiscate my computer in order to play online math games. I told her to go back to bed and lie down. She was so unwell that she didn't even argue with my decision, usually. However, her persistent nature kept her coming back every hour or so to ask again. I think though, that she was actually relieved by my refusal so she could just lay in bed and rest. 

It was difficult to get a clear picture of Lydia. All this sitting around at home made it hard for her to rest, even though she had still felt sick to her stomach in the morning.
Unfortunately, Isabella doesn't get an alphabet cookie picture of her name. While she was at kindergarten in the afternoon I laid the letters for her name aside on the counter. The "King of the Sneak Attack," Reagan, ambushed the cookies when I wasn't looking however, and unless I can figure out how to spell "Isabella" with the random R's, X's and D's left in the cookie box, her name won't get spelled out till I make it to the grocery store next. That will probably be a while from now considering the rate of sickness per capita in this family and the fact that my husband and I am sharing one vehicle. No complaints however! This is just another chance for me to "make less work!"

Our sick day reading circle. Lydia got out some books and started reading to her siblings. From the picture you can tell that Reagan was obviously feeling much better. Allen's face also shows his mood. He was crabby all day.
It is always so beautiful when the children choose to sit together and enjoy an activity. It is especially lovely when I don't have to orchestrate it. This was a spontaneous moment of cooperation; a much rarer thing then I had imagined before I had children of my own. Although I am not quite sure why because my sister and I fought almost incessantly until I went off to college.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sick Day Spelling Cookies

She has the cough that will not go. Bryan has been coughing for over 3 weeks now. We thought Maddy wasn't going to get it, because all her siblings got it much earlier then her. Unfortunately she finally succumbed to the cough. Trying to get her to rest however is a very trying task indeed. She seems to think that jumping rope over my exercise bands is a new way to rest. Jumping brings on the coughing however. 

He was having trouble not eating his name. Three-year-olds are not often gifted with a surplus of patience. He too has the unrelenting cough although he insists that "the chine you bought" has made him better. He means "the machine" and by that he means the humidifier he now has in his room. Two weeks of more humid sleeping accommodations has helped, but the cough still persists. 
Poor little guy is still unwell in more then one way, as his frequent coughing fits and diaper changes  attest. I miss the rosy complexions they all had while we lived in Florida. Frequent trips to the beach and daily open air exercise made them all tan and tawny. Six weeks in this frozen winter have drained the color from us all, but spring will come again and it will seem all the more marvelous after these icy grim days. 

My two girls not pictured did not eat any alphabet cookies; too sick to their stomachs for that. Not too sick to fight and complain though, so I guess they will be all right.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Pear Tree (an impression)

It has long outgrown its productive height. Tall it stands in the darkness. Lit only by the reflected light of the house's spotlights shinning up on it from the millions of delicate flakes blanketing everything, coloring the ground white. Shaped by years longer then my own, twisting and turning through space and time, branches reaching out to the sky and then turning inward again, but then once again reaching out to the sun, always straining upward to find the light. Now it is resting, slumbering dormant till the sun awakens it's sap with the lengthening of days, calling it to grow again, to rise further from this earth, to reach up and out and away.
Who planted the seed or when, I will never know. How many children have eaten it's fruit or played beneath it's bows is knowledge known to itself alone.
Tonight it waits for another springtime. A springtime when my own young ones will watch with anticipation for the buds to break forth with new greenness, and for the misshapen pears to ripen out of their reach in hopes that some will drop to the ground in time for them to enjoy the imperfect beauty and sweetness.
A shadow with white frosted brightness. A gnarled, bending and overgrown outline against a frozen white landscape. A time worn beauty. A fruit tree in winter.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Before we moved in, my in-laws they were kind enough to install a dishwasher for us. Unfortunately, months later when we loaded dishes into the dishwasher, it didn't actually wash dishes. It was just pretending to do so by making the appropriate noises at the appropriate times. Sorta like when I tell my kids to brush their teeth and they go into the bathroom, run the water, and stand there for a few seconds. Then they run the water over their toothbrush again. It sounds convincing but doesn't accomplish much.
Unfortunately, unlike the kids, we can't just tell the dishwasher to "Get back in there and do it right this time!" I tried it. The dishes still came out dirty, dispite all the swishing noises and mechanical clicking sounds. The lights even switched on and off in concert with the swishing and clicks. Still, the dishes were untouched by water. The remains of food however were baked on by the very effective drying cycle, which managed to melt some of the plastic ware into Salvador Dali-esc shapes.
Today, due to the very cold temperatures outside, Bryan is stuck at home with us. In an effort to keep from going stir crazy due to lack of hard labor, he decided to take apart the dishwasher so we can order the appropriate parts, so it can do more then sound effective.
As evidenced by this picture, he had more help then he knew what to do with.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Am I the Great Weaver

God has a way of weaving together the threads of our lives, weaving intricate patterns, indiscernible as we look up close at the section we can see; the present moment.
I, like Job, am continually asking "Why?" about everything. I desire to see the pattern, to understand how the details of my life, the suffering of others, and the evil in this world are being redeemed, washed clean to make an unstained tapestry. My restless heart chants "Why, why, why?" in rhythm to it's beating, but I am left with the old, old answer. Older then the books of the Old Covenant which record the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, older then the Exodus into the Promised Land, older then all the Law and the Prophets. It is God's first recorded answer to a human question.
Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament, and although they record the earliest human history, they are not the first to be written.
Job is the oldest book of the Bible, recording the oldest human question "Why?" 
All Jobs questions add up to this: "I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me."
God responds with questions himself, but they all add up to this "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me if you have understanding...Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it."
When I question God with the "Why?" of ages past, the "Why?” of my own aching heart, am I actually pointing my finger in accusation? I wouldn't do it this way. I wouldn't let people choose evil. I would keep the innocent free from hunger and oppression, safe from famine and torture. I would stop the evil of the world. I would not let things go on like this.
I suppose I am saying that I know better when I entertain theses thoughts. I am questioning God's judgment. Just like my daughters question mine. But my questioning is far more pathetic. My daughters believe they know what is best for them: unsupervised unlimited access to anything they want; TV, video games, movies, candy, junk food, ice cream, the whipped cream in a can. Denying them anything they perceive as good brings forth the question "Why?" 
What is my response? I am the mother and it is my job to decide what is best for them and how much is too much and when unpleasant discipline is required. When they question, they are just questioning me, another mortal. I question the infinite omniscient One with the same audacity of a ten-year-old complaining to her mom.
"Why not unlimited ice pops all day long?"
"Why not an endless string of happy days full of one pleasure following the other?"
Are either of us really asking "Why?" or just complaining? 
I want this world to be perfect. I want to never grow old. I want my children to live in peace and harmony with no pain, no suffering, no death. I never want to feel the undying ache of loosing my husband, watching a loved one waste away from cancer, or experience the body breaking torture of persecution. I don't want anyone to suffer. Yet that is the state of the world. Do I really think I know better then God how this world should be? 
The ache in my chest that never really goes away, the one that gnaws at me and tells me that something is wrong says, something is always wrong: time is passing and the specter of death hangs over every one of us like Damocles’ sword, waiting to cut us asunder from life, that ache says "Yes, this is all wrong. We were never meant for this. We were created in the image of God, perfect. How could He let this happen? Why?"
I am just like my ten-year-old daughter. I am always asking why and never satisfied with the answer no matter how true, because I want my own way. I want the easy way, the path without pain. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Home in NJ

Well we now call NJ our home again, after 12 years away (almost). Looking for work for Bryan is our main occupation right now. Oh and changing poopy diapers...
It has been a bit of weather shock for me and the children. Seven months of perpetual summer in SW Florida weakened our resistance to coldness and all these cloudy days and precipitation have been a difficult adjustment. Being with Bryan makes it all OK though. We just pile on more clothing and have to cuddle up under more blankets. If we must go outside full snow gear is in order. I used to love the cold and snow and rain and sleet and overcast days that are wintertime in NJ, but my constitution had adjusted to high humidity and heat of Fort Myers Beach, so I am relying on my attitude (mind over matter) to overcome my icy fingers and frigid toes. I have been considering wearing fingerless gloves in the house but I wash too many dishes for that to be practical.
I finally have a computer for blogging again (thank you dear sister and brother-in-law)and once Bryan finds regular employment I will start writing more regularly again as well as looking for a paper that might publish my work. I was so blessed to have The Berthoud Surveyor in Colorado and The Island Sandpaper in Florida. The awesome editors at those papers gave me a place on their staff. Seeing my work in print is a thrill every time and I hope to find a new outlet for my writing. In the meantime I hope to turn my efforts back to blogging again, now that we are settled into our new apartment at Bryan's parents home.
We have been the recipient of so much charity in the past few months. It is a very humbling experience.
Lots to write about but no time right now. I need to get Izzy ready for half day kindergartenand feed her and the boys some lunch all while avoiding eating too much myself. Here's to trying!
Home in NJ, it still sounds wierd to me.