One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Monday, December 31, 2012

How to Get out of Bed

Getting out of bed used to be simple: sit up and swing feet to floor. Eh, maybe roll over and slide down the edge of the bed, feet landing gently on the carpet. Maybe toss back the covers and lay there a minute before turning and springing happily out of bed-OK, I've never been a morning person so I don't spring out of bed, but I'm just saying that it used to be I could spring out of bed if I had wanted to.

Now, however, getting out of bed takes more thought, more preparation, more strength, and more skill. And I'm only halfway through my pregnancy! Bump isn't huge at all. Why, then, is it such a physical chore to fumble to the bathroom in the night or get up in the morning to face the new day?

Pillows, hips, and gravity.

I thought nesting had to do with cleaning the house and getting the baby room ready, but I have lately discovered that what it really means is literally making and sleeping in a nest. Attempting to start sleeping more on my side and to make that a comfortable experience, I have been sleeping with lots of pillows around me. For Christmas my mother-in-law gave me a pregnancy body pillow, which helps a lot for comfort, but I still need a pillow behind my back. Before I launch into the techniques for exiting the bed, let me explain the process of getting into my nest, as this is almost as difficult as getting out of it.

Our bed is tall. I can't just walk up to our bed and turn and lie down. I have always had to climb into bed. My new pillow sleeping buddies only add more height. I can either climb on top of the body pillow and onto the bed or fold it back, and get on the bed. If I am really really tired when I go to bed I wake up quite a bit just from the acrobatics required to get in sleep position. Once in/on bed I have to mold my body around the pillow, figure out what the heck to do with my left arm-stick it up in the air or put it under the pillow?-put the other pillow up to my back, and arrange the covers. Ah, settled at last. If I'm lucky, I fall asleep within minutes. If not, then my hips start to complain and it's time to turn over. Why the hips don't like hours in one nice soft position is beyond me.

Turning over means unwrapping myself from the body pillow, wincing at the new pain in my chest and trying to go easy on the belly so I don't strain more muscles, and then arranging pillows again. I can't easily move the body pillow so that it fits me on the other side. If I tried, I think I would knock Luke out of bed with it. I turn carefully also in my attempt to disturb Luke the least amount possible. Ah, comfort again. Until the urge to pee takes over.

Gravity seems to have concentrated itself right in the middle of our bed. What an incredible force it is, pulling me down into my soft nest. I consider my options. Fall back asleep and wait to pee when it's morning. Push my pillows onto the floor and then roll out of bed for a soft landing- of course then I would have to get up off of the floor. Put the pillows at the foot of the bed, then try to roll over normally and gently ease out of bed. Position my body on top of the pillows, on my left side, reach over to the edge of the mattress with my right hand and grab hold of the sheet and part of the mattress and pull hard, fighting gravity, until I roll just enough so that I can swing my right leg over the edge of the bed and find the floor with my foot then pull myself to a standing position as I move my left leg down to join the right. You guessed it; I tend to go with the last option. Why? I have no idea.

I pause by the side of the bed, listen for Luke's steady breathing, then walk quietly to the bathroom only to return to bed in moments, sighing as I try to figure out how to get back into my nest without waking Luke. Let me just say that he hasn't slept very well lately. (OK, pregnancy snoring has added to the sleep disruption. Too often I end up on my back in the night and, what with all my congestion from colds or just because I'm pregnant, I start snoring like a logger).

When morning comes and my lovely alarm goes off, I have to go through the gravity-defying process all over again. I think it's time to get a night stand so I don't have to reach down to the floor to shut off the noise. If you feel the earth rumble tonight it's probably because I pulled a little too hard on the mattress and tumbled to the floor.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Looking to Spring as the Baby Kicks

Home from a weekend away, we look out our kitchen windows to see a scurry of robins, flickers, and smaller birds tossing aside garden compost and yanking worms from the earth. Yes, no snow graces the ground; do the robins think it is spring? Then I wonder if they are robins. I do a little research and discover that American Robins can be just about anywhere year round. Well, perhaps they are just reminding us of the gift we will receive this spring: a squirmy baby.

Our little bump is halfway to the exit now. My worrying still comes more often than my husband would like, but now that I'm over the nausea I have some time to enjoy the experience with a little more gusto- especially since I can feel the baby move.

All my mother friends and all the websites have called the quickening a feeling of bubbles or butterfly fluttering. Those sensations haven't sounded right for my experience. But over the last week I know that something has been going on inside my tummy. I finally figured out a way to describe it. Imagine a fish inside you, swimming around, then suddenly it bumps into the side of the "bowl". Our little fish truly lives up to the name bump, now!

I want to sing and read and talk to bump, but the series of illnesses in our house keep dragging us along, and now my cough interrupts my voice. Spring health would be a blessing about this time. Christmas is just a couple of days away; however, and I don't want to rush past all the joy of this season just to get to the next.

So bump and I sit by the tree and enjoy the changing colors of the lights and this moment. And I talk to bump in my head and know that the little one hears me when I feel another tap.

Creative Commons

John Benson ibm4381

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Beckon Some Lovely

Lovely choices create lovely actions. Small gestures can make giant happiness. Spread the good news not the bad. 

Make a Lovely Action List

Sing while walking down the sidewalk

Bake Christmas cookies for the neighbors

Laugh out loud 

Give away something beautiful

Listen to a child 

Forgive someone

Ask for forgiveness, then

Forgive yourself

Please go to this link and watch. We need some lovely in this world. Always have. Always will. Won't you beckon some today?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sounds Abound

Noise Within

BilBO Baggins


Digging Through the Trash

Scritch, crackle, clunk, smoosh
brap, pling, thump, "OW!"
Weeng, fuzzle, sloop, joing-

"Where's that stinkin' lottery ticket?"
 Schoolyard at Recess

Tweet! Bam! MINE! Giggle!
Sniggle! Snort! WAH! Hoot! HEY!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful: Never Mind the Cliché

Thankfulness. It's a word you expect to hear this month and next. Comfort comes in the expected. Traditions are all about living up to expectations. Like a new year's resolution, we often say from now on we'll be thankful all year long and not just during the holidays. Yep, just like a resolution we often break the vow. OK. I'll stop speaking for you. I often go back to taking my blessings for granted.

But cliché or not, whether I slip up and break my resolve or not, I'm shouting out thankfulness today and beyond.

(May I be really cliché and make a list? Count my blessings? Name a few of my favorite things? Good. I knew you wouldn't mind. You made your list already, didn't you?)

I'm Thankful for:

1. finding what I seek at the grocery store
2. having a grocery store where I can go shopping
3. having the money to spend to buy food at the grocery store
4. having the freedom to spend the money that I have to go to the grocery store to buy food
(see, I'm not complaining that I have been to three grocery stores in three days getting ready for Thanksgiving!)
5. having a day off from work to rest and get over a cold
6. having a job that allows me to take a sick day when I need to get well
7. having a job that gives me paid sick leave so that when I take a day off I don't lose money
(again, not complaining that I'm sick!)
8. owning a washer and dryer
9. owning a washer and dryer that work
10. owning a working washer and dryer so that I don't have to haul my laundry to the laundromat or to my mother's house
(guess who got to do laundry yesterday?)
11. reaching the end of evening sickness, aka morning sickness
12. reaching the end of evening sickness and entering the 2nd trimester of pregnancy
13. reaching the end of evening sickness while entering my 2nd trimester and enjoying food again
(though experiencing some acid reflux, burping, and continued fatigue)
14. getting a good night's rest
15. getting a good night's rest in fuzzy sheets
16. getting a good night's rest in fuzzy sheets and not having to get out of bed while it is still dark
(hurray for holiday vacations!)
17. spending time with family on Thanksgiving
18. spending time with family over a holiday that includes lots of great food to eat
19. spending time with family for Thanksgiving and actually wanting to eat all the great food!
(thankfully I am not making the majority of the food!)

20. the little one growing inside of me

Next year over the holidays Luke and I get to be thankful all the more as we celebrate with our son or daughter. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Baby Rattles and a New Career

Getting ready for a baby means more than fixing up a room, figuring finances, and forging through a list of names. In our house we have done little of those, except some name hunting. Our current preparation revolves around my body- that and playful banter about who will get to stay home with the baby.

This summer, before we decided to start making a baby, we went to several doctors to see if we should even think about it. Our biggest concern: my past battle with blood clots. (click here to read all about that). An appointment with a hematologist got me breathing comfortably. "Have a baby; kids are wonderful; I have three"- he was supportive. But, there was a catch: Get ready for needle pokes in your stomach again. 

A month of stinging has passed and I'm bravely facing the seconds of pain. This go around I only have to get once-a-day injections and they don't bruise anywhere close to what some of the last ones did. And Luke and I have the routine down pretty well. In fact, I keep saying he's the brave one. No signs of fainting, no hesitation before he puts the needle into my skin. He jokes that he even looks forward to it. Good thing, I suppose, considering we have months and months to go. And as we get close to when I could deliver, I'll get a change in type and dosage and return to the twice-a-day routine. Pretty much one day at a time works for me. As for Luke, he's excitedly pondering other ways he can use his newfound skill.

They say the average person will change careers seven times. (OK, it really depends on the website where you check this statistic. Some say that seven is ridiculous; others say it's really only three.) Ahem. The average person changes careers three times. Well, Luke isn't who I would call an average person, but he talks frequently about changing careers. (How many times can one really deal with the frustration of computers? Actually, how many times can one deal with the frustation of computer users without walking- no, running- away, screaming?) 

Luke's latest and greatest idea for a new career? Phlebotomy. The joy he could have in sticking needles into many people, all day long! With me, he even has a crafty little mantra: Pinch up the skin; stick it in; count to ten. Imagine the clever words he could come up with for drawing blood. 

Yes, I think he's on to something here, especially since it means he would work and I would stay home!  Unless he comes up with a way to open an in-house clinic. Hmm. I better start a new strategy. 

So whatever he decides about a job, right now these syringes and needles are starting to pile up by our bed. We don't have an official sharps container, but the pharmacist told us how to improvise. Of course, we aren't using her suggestion. Our method involves filling empty Gatorade bottles. We plan to seal them tight, with tape or something, and then dispose of them. The problem is that they're clear, so anyone can see what's inside. Of course the safety is activated on each syringe, so the needle is no longer sticking out. 

Looking at these bottles, Luke one day picked one up and shook it. "Baby's first rattle," he said, blue eyes twinkling. Maybe we can go into the toy business?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Go Ahead, Batty; Ask Me Again

The children take up my joy and give more back as I move from classroom to classroom, math to reading. A month of testing behind us, we finally get to focus on teaching and learning from the students. My favorite times involve no structure, only looking at magazines and talking with kids who speak English well but as a second language. We laugh at lizards, stare at whales, hide from hairy spiders popping out at us from colorful pages of Ranger Rick.

"What's this say?"

"Can you read all of this?"

"I need to tell you something about wolves."

My group of three 1st graders presses around me, bottoms rarely staying in their chairs. They raise their hands. They tell each other to listen. They sometimes forget and talk over each other. One little boy has his sleeves all wet after washing up in the restroom. One little girl wants to keep turning the pages before we are finished. They're eager and awkward, happy and helpful, curious and full of answers.

I don't know how they got to me. Maybe it's because I sometimes want to take them home with me. Maybe it's because we never have enough time to read all we want or learn all we want. Maybe it's because I don't always like giving them back to their teachers. Maybe it's because Batty got me to thinking, almost two years ago, when she asked if I had a baby in my belly. Batty's gone now. She transferred to another school. Maybe it's because I miss her.

Ask me again, Batty. I have a different answer.

Sunday, September 9, 2012



All lined up on the particle-board shelf, the glass cats stared back at me, shiny and purrfect. The toys I wanted most. My small hands turned them, my young voice squeaked out words, speaking for the orange tabby, the black kitten. I marched them about—hours of solitary play in my bedroom. 


What I meant to say, when the red anger took hold of my tongue; when the tears spit from my eyes like acid rain on a rampage; while you sat on the green couch not listening—thunder outside not drowning me out—what I should have told you is I'm sorry, but more. Thank you for loving me in my smelliest moments.


"Get out of the bubble," he told me, his Jabba-the-Hutt booming laugh still echoing in his office. Go do something new, stretch yourself beyond the boundaries of this small Adventist community. 

Then he folded me in his bear hug of cardigan vest and ink.

. . . .

And now here I am, no longer a stray but still apologetic and stretching, stretching. 

(from a recent writing workshop experiment).

Meditation While Eating Breakfast

Morning digs into the street behind the park, its crispness orange and reflective. Leaf, feather, and squirrel tail hide my view while I shudder from the tangy peach sliding between my teeth. The yellow watering can on the back patio waits patiently by the flowerpots, but my glance at the clock tells me to rush.

Why, when I have little time do I wish to sit and observe the neighborhood, the back garden, the chairs covered in bird droppings?

More peach, horns honking and hard hats bobbing up and down; more time taking its leave. "It's never the edges of the world that worry"—I remember that line from a poem. I worry, right in the thick of life, the puffy middle like a good pancake. I worry the edges will burn.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Weekend Funnies

*Photo credit: Creative Commons

Back to school for me means back to work testing the little brains out of kids, drilling them to see what they know so my school team and I can figure out how best to support them.

All the tests we administer come with detailed directions that we must read verbatim, even if the kids already know what to do. Part of the directions include asking if there are any questions before we begin the test. To my great joy, the kids this year have provided us with the best "questions" ever.

. . . .

Me: Are there any questions?

6-year-old boy: Yes. I like to jump and I like to run.

. . . .

Me: Are there any questions?

6-year-old boy: Yes. I have these wrist bands. (Then he holds up his arms to show me).

. . . .

Co-worker: Are there any questions?

6-year-old girl: Yes. Look at my new shoes! (Holds up her foot to show off a shoe).

. . . .

Me: Are there any questions?

6-year-old boy: (Nods). I went camping.

. . . .

Me: (to classroom of 3rd graders) Are there any questions before we begin?

Girl: Did you dye your hair?

. . . .

And last of all, while one of my co-workers was timing a little boy identifying numbers on a piece of paper, a fly landed on the number four. The test went something like this:

"7, 12, 9, fly—I mean 4."

*photo credit LizMarie_AK

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Power of Suggestion

I'll text him from the grocery store and ask, as I stand before the bulk section, does he like dates. Yep, he'll reply, so I'll buy a bag of them. At home I'll mention how I think dates look like cockroaches. He'll laugh but eat them in his lunch for days. Then, one day some of them will come back in his lunch bag, untouched. Eating dried apricots weeks later, avoiding the dates in the cupboard, he will laugh and admit that he doesn't like dates. But you said that you did, I'll reply with consternation. Laughing harder, he'll say that now he can't stop thinking of cockroaches.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lune Nonsense

Try these; they're fun. Similar to haiku, this poetry form is short and should focus on concrete imagery. But play with it how you like. Instead of keeping track of syllables, watch words. 3/5/3 is the simple format for the stanza.

Haze chokes me.
What happened to blue freedom
where birds soar?

Jalapeno stings my
chewed thumb, chapped lips, eyes;
more failed salsa.

Broken piano keys
remind me of unfinished songs
humming inside you.

Pizza bakes golden
while I hide away lonely,
waiting for you.

Smell dinner burn,
roasted like fiery potato bugs
camping last summer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cough, Cough; Summer Needs Reviving

I'd love to spend more time here

and no time here

photo credit: Forest Service Northern Region (Creative Commons)

This weekend we made our great escape from smokey skies and traveled through the first photograph.  Today, back home, I look out the window and can't bring myself to find a good reason to go outside and join all the smoke, a gift from the northwest forest fires. Every good part of summer fades in the haze when I realize only two weeks remain of this supposed freedom, and what does smoke go and do but make itself comfortable.

Smoke and heat like to injure summer every way that they can.

Looks as if it's time for me to be counting my blessings again. Maybe I should shout Thank you! to the skies. Thank you for the opportunity to scrub the tile grout; I wouldn't be doing that if I was outside riding my bike. Thank you for time to spend endless hours online; I wouldn't know when my friends were going to the store or getting their legs waxed if I was out skipping stones in the river. Thank you for inspiring another blog post; I wouldn't have anything better to write about if I was hiking a local trail.

Seriously, the smoke and the heat can't leave soon enough! A summer baby though I may be, bring on fall! That is, only if fall will have no forest fires, cooler temperatures, and several rain showers.


*chuckle* How about a summer revival by way of a summer-blessings re-cap, lest you think I will spend all my time complaining today!

*family floating day on the river in a splendiferous thunderstorm
*my first trip to the water park where I screamed (though not as much as my niece) and indeed did not drown, just as my sister had promised
*two camp trips with family, including a breathtaking hike (really, haven't gotten my breath back yet)
*a week of writing camp (which also included biking every day along the river) where I made new friends and fell in love with words all over again
*2nd anniversary celebrated with my husband, during which we braved the heat and explored new places around the city and topped it off with an amazing dinner
*hip hop dance class—we could really rename this Annie's Time Laughing at Herself in the Mirror for 45 Minutes each Week

PLUS: a graduation celebration, meeting up with friends in various places around our city and others, exploring new ideas for our yard, watching our salsa garden grow beyond our expectations, reading, eating ice cream and snow cones, celebrating my birthday, taking photographs, watching my husband get excited about his hobby and take it to new heights (which means antenna growth in the backyard), and

Waking up each day with new life waiting to celebrate!

Photo credit: Forest Service Northern Region

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wanting It All Without the Sacrifice

With every cartwheel on the front lawn, every headstand in the living room, every back bend in school—my little gymnast self wanted to achieve acrobatic awesomeness. I tumbled as a tot and bent my body as a preteen, but then my gymnastics days ended abruptly.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Bethesda Photography

I wasn't out on injury; my family moved and we no longer had a gym or a coach. So what could I do but resign myself to life as a spectator and watch the sport play out on TV? Yeah. I pretty much just quit.

Life went along without too many pangs of heartbreak that I wouldn't make the front of a Wheaties box. I stayed active and pursued other interests but lost any hope of ever being able to compete in gymnastics or even effectively do the splits.

This summer my eyes returned to the screen to cheer on the newbies as they competed for Olympic gold. I call them newbies because I recognized no one. My last heroes were the gold-medal team of '96. That's how this sport is, so physically demanding that you peak partway into the high school grades and often retire before college. These young girls quickly reminded me of the fun of the sport and the awe it inspires. I'm sure I could still stand on my head, but I'm far from flexible compared to the champs and I cringe at the thought of flipping above a balance beam—that always scared me anyway.

But memories of backward walkovers and chalky hands and torturous Mary Poppins stomach crunches awakened my inner athlete. Watching from my comfortable chair I felt short of breath, as if I'd just vaulted with the gymnasts. Yes, I had once wanted it all just like they do.

But what goes behind their talent and skill is more than just years in the gym. The sacrifices made by their families, those made by themselves, are huge. The fact that I gave up gymnastics so easily proves that I never came close to having what it takes. Many gymnasts move away from home at very young ages to live with, or near, their coaches. Parents take out 2nd and 3rd mortgages to fund their children's pursuits. It's lost childhood, money, family togetherness.

I wanted to be THAT GOOD without giving up my "everything else". I didn't want to sacrifice anything to achieve it.

sacrifice, v.

"to suffer loss of, give up, renounce, injure, or destroy especially for an ideal, belief, or end"

When I consider what some people are willing to sacrifice, to make their dreams come true or to make someone else's dreams come true, I ask myself what am I willing to sacrifice? And for what or for whom? I have no regrets about not becoming an Olympic gymnast. In fact, I'm afraid that I would have regrets if I'd tried to go that far and my parents had sacrificed their money—and possibly their sanity—for me. I might feel guilty, even though I shouldn't. I might feel horrible, as if I had only thought of myself. If I'm giving up things in life only for my benefit, does it even count as sacrifice?

*photo credit, Bethesda Photography

Thursday, August 2, 2012


During a hilarious game of Pictionary many years ago I attempted to draw "abundance." What the picture really looked like, I don't quite remember. Big mounds of something or other, I think. My friend didn't guess it, but she gave me a hard time about my effort. How indeed could she have guessed such an abstract noun? (OK I'm sure you all have many wonderful ideas about what I could have drawn. Feel free to share so that I can have a better drawing next time!)

The word itself can't be accessed with our five senses, but many things of abundance in my life don't shock my senses at all. I've grown accustomed to them. Food, for example.

When I walk into a grocery store I don't fall to my knees and weep over the abundance of options available. I go in with my list, rush around to get everything on it, and then get out of there because it is such a bother being there in the first place. What a hassle in my life to have to shop for food.

Well. Maybe you never weep either, but my mom once told me a story told to her by a person returning from the Peace Corps (or some other mission-minded placement) who did in fact fall to her knees in the grocery aisle, overcome by the quantity of food—the abundance of nourishment—on the shelves. Having returned from a country where the people were lucky to get any food at all, this person suddenly saw abundance in very concrete terms.

Photo credit: Creative Commons, markyeg

How, then, can I open my refrigerator and cupboards—especially after returning from shopping—and bemoan the lie that there is nothing to eat? How can I choose to go out to a restaurant because I can't figure out anything to cook for dinner? I find nothing wrong with going out to eat and I don't make a habit of feeling guilty about it, yet I ask myself these tough questions when I realize I've been complaining again. 


Abundance I hope to acknowledge in my life ever more deeply from day to day—besides food—is love. I know I have it—and I see it and am told it every day—from my husband and my family. I also know I have it from God, but mostly I've read about it and people say it is true. Maybe I let it be too abstract and miss the concrete representations. I could say the fact that there is all this food available to me vividly shows God's love, but that sounds a little off somehow. My house, my job, my possessions, my food supply are all blessings that many people don't have. I really don't know what part God plays in them all. So are there concrete—sensory—representations of God's love for me? He acts through people to show me love. Is that the only way? Do I need to see his abundance of love or just learn how to accept it?

*photo credit markyeg

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cabin Writings: Camp 2012

Nothing is Angry Here

The coolness and crows cawing on this cloudy day make up for the unfortunate smear of traffic noise pollution behind and beside me. At the river, sanity returns.

Nothing is angry here. A partial island along the riverbank houses a family of trees. Their feet, clay colored, show how they sometimes wade in the water. I wonder if they feel the cold? The water trickles and gurgles, tripping along near the flow of the river, which does not speak. Tree cotton and spider webs dress the branches in a gauzy tangle, capturing brittle leaves and twigs for accessories. The air smells earthy and damp. I want to bring the dusty, gritty soil to my nose and compare its smell with that of the mud. If I climb out on that branch to lean my face over the river will it still look green?

photo credit: Creative Commons

Upon Eating too Much Candy on Halloween

Crackling like cellophane, they beckoned from my closet. The hairy faceless giants, their rainbow colors calming in the fearful darkness, led me through a forest of chocolate trees. I snatched a twig and tasted the rich brown sweetness. In a patch of light the beasts began to dance. A gumball-spotted smaller one, who smelled of peppermint, cradled me to her chest. When the dance ended, we slid down into warmth where she tucked me into a pile of furs. 


You exit from the top of the spacecraft. How you got inside doesn’t occur to you. Your eyes are too busy making sense of the who. Giants face you with reptilian skin that sparkles like Christmas. What you really want to know is where their mouths are. Why aren’t you scared? Why don’t you use your mouth to scream? But they start swaying, stirring; their color blurs and perfumes the air. And what can you do but join in?

Catching Your Death (this one wasn't well received because it's odd, but if you saw the bears covered in sweaters at the art gallery, perhaps it would make more sense?)

“Wear your sweater; you’ll catch your death!” All his life, his mother’s words before he left the house. She’d have him wear two if he let her pull them over his head. And now, the cold squeezing him. The fire finished. The lights blinking out in the sky so frozen. Cold, but too hot. Had to get loose from the down coat, the long underwear. A growl. A rumble. A bear coming closer . . . wearing his sweater?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Before This Mess

What floods over me is this: Watching "Black Arrow" and running around in the summertime dusk with my sister, banging our staffs together, wielding our bows and arrows, each of us wanting to be Black Arrow. Or racing on The Black, having just watched "The Black Stallion," feeling the thunderous hooves beneath us, carrying us around the track at night. Leaping into the air, knowing the ground couldn't hold us down if we really wanted to soar.

I've mentioned before how captivating the gloaming can be. As a child, that time of day brought every imaginary moment, every thrill and wonder from a great story, to life.

Just last night, out on the back deck, the moon a sliver, the clouds still tinged with pink, the air warm with the sound of children and birds—but a quiet warmth—I caught a glimpse of it as I sometimes do, adult that I am. That feeling of being so alive—more alive than during the dull day in the hot sun with the chores to do and the bills to pay, the work to be worked only for the sake of completing something or fixing something—so alive and ready to create, invent, adventure, discover; it came over me.

It was like a peek into the truth, the truth of how life is supposed to be. Like in the movie "Cocoon" when Brian Dennehy's character tugs slightly at the lower lid of his eye to reveal a bright shining light, a view of who he really is, which is this glowing and mysterious creature from somewhere else; I got that shiver of realization that all is not as it seems.

Something tells me that before, before all this mess of life where we are either getting hurt or trying to fix the hurt or recover from it; where we are either toiling away for the sake of survival or sitting around being comfortable—which really ends up meaning bored—before this we were ONLY creating, inventing, adventuring, discovering, loving and being loved.

And I get tingly with excitement knowing that God wants us in that reality again. It's as if I can see or hear the angels flying around smiling about it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Finding Our Way When the Going Gets Rough

We had the llama droppings to follow. And the sometime markings of a trail. But the numerous water crossings, trees in the path, and potentially dangerous plants slowed us down and caused many detours. A constant recalculating of our route took place on that overcast day in the Idaho wilderness.

Stanley Lake
How it began.

Luke's friend at work heard about our upcoming trek into the Sawtooths and told us about Crater Lake. 

Wait, that's in Oregon, right? The map search confirmed that Idaho has one too, in the White Cloud Mountains. So the coworker told of his three-mile hike with llamas and how we should check it out.

Once into the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, we thought to consult a ranger station for some campsite and trail maps. We asked how to get to Crater Lake.

Crater Lake is in Oregon, a man told us. 

Yes, now if we could just look at a map and show you the Idaho treasure . . . .

They passed Luke the gazetteer and, finding the coordinates, Luke and a ranger found the lake on the map. Then we purchased a couple of maps to show us how to get there. Since it wasn't a "designated trail" we knew we would have to be persistant if we wanted to complete this hike.

But the hike would have to come the following day. First, we found our perfect campsite, set up, and relaxed in and by the river.

While Luke played with his ham radio, I toured the neighborhood.

This fella found me threatening, so I couldn't stay long to admire him, but it was just as well. He might have tried to fly at me as so many of his friends and relations had been doing. I had to keep my mouth tightly closed, as you'll recall my butterfly phobia discussed in this post and in this one.
OK, the adventure.

To get to the Crater Lake trail, we took a back road from our campsite and drove along the river. The map clearly showed how the road would connect to another dirt road and lead us right to a trail. Obstacle one: private property with a closed gate. This made no sense at all, but, undeterred, we backtracked and took the highway to another connection.

We found our road and we found this view.

Our hike would take us along the creek right up that valley toward the snow.

I, supposedly the trusted navigator, thought map consulting was over, so I let Luke drive to the end of the road. Abandoning the guide, I decided I knew exactly where we were. Our water packs on our backs, the car keys lost and then found, we almost went hiking the wrong trail.

Then an unexpected angel happened by to correct our error. Oh, she said. Crater Lake is back that way. Yes, yes indeed. Her map agreed with ours—the one we later pulled out of the car and decided to carry with us. Thanking her, we drove away to find the real stop.

Obstacle two: though the trail had a number on the map, on the actual land no sign pointed the way. We had to guess. Down by a cabin we saw a creek and decided, according to what we knew from the map and the angel, that the trail started in that vicinity. After crossing the water, feet dry for the time being, we hiked up the hill along a fence and found this promising, and friendly, sign.

A trail, a real trail, and we, without dirt bikes or ATVs, happily started what we thought would be a gentle three mile hike to a lake. The assumptions we make in life. Just because we found the trail, and just because the lake was maybe three to four miles away did not mean it would be a gentle experience. I was huffing and puffing at half a mile. At three miles there was no sign of us being close. 

It's the journey, not the destination, I had to say again and again. 

Luke contemplated the little life quest we made, following in the footsteps of others. We thought at times we must surely give up or get lost, but then that little sign of someone who had been there before—that scrape on the log, that horse hoof print, that llama dung—if they could do it so could we. The trials on the trails would not keep us from enjoying the beauty around us and what waited just ahead. 

Breaking out of the trees, we stared up to the switchbacks across the shale, obstacle number three. That's where we have to go, Luke said. Oh my. So many hours into our journey, did we have time to keep going and still get back before late? We both wanted to finish. The idea of turning around sounded dismal. But no one, except the angel, knew where we were and she had probably left for home already. So many creek crossings meant that our feet were no longer dry. And the sky threatened rain.  

Three o'clock and we turn around, Luke decided. 

OK, I said, then let's run!

And we climbed. And we climbed. Colder, colder. Our legs and feet screamed at us.


closer, closer
Crater Lake is nestled among the trees below the peaks

Our view

Where's the picture of the lake? OK, we didn't hike all the way down to it, but after climbing close to 4,000 feet our bodies needed strength to carry us back again.

Rain falling, no more snack food, and a glimpse of the lake through the trees—time to retrace our steps. 

We got back to our car soaked to our knees, with bumps and scrapes. I caught my pant legs on so many trees and tripped my toes on so many rocks that I know not how I didn't sprain an ankle or fall on my face. Once we ditched our wet clothes and made it back to camp, we curled up in the tent, exhausted, and it wasn't even dusk. But as I sit here reflecting on it all, no regrets. Except, perhaps, maybe we should have taken horses. And llamas.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Gruffalo Goes to Summer School

Act Two:
A Recent Encounter

One of the four kids at my table would not stay still in his seat. Engaged in a precise reading curriculum that left no wiggle room, we had to follow the program for an hour before the kids could read by themselves. I asked the boy to sit at the end of the table so that he wouldn’t bother anyone. Even in that spot his body wanted to move. And when he made even the slightest mistake in his reading, he got more fidgety and more contrary.

The other students, quiet and obedient, didn’t squirm so much but their lackluster spirits spoke volumes. One of them did pipe up enough to say that he could read fine and what we did was boring. He wasn’t tripping over his words but having to wait patiently while the strugglers read their passages again and again. Finally, when one student excused himself to go to the restroom, we all took a breather.

When it was time for independent reading, I tried to enforce the section of the library where the students were supposed to get their books. But they wanted to pick up books from anywhere. Then two of them brought me some picture books and asked if I would read to them. I agreed, if they would spend the other half of the time reading independently. We sat on the rug and I opened the first book, The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler.  

The cantankerous squirmer didn’t squirm. In fact, no one moved or made a peep. Entranced by the story and drawings—a book at least one of them had read before—the joy seemed also to be in the sharing of the experience. They knew it was good and wanted me to see how good it was. The other books we had been reading? They were good too, but I’ll bet none of us can tell you anything about them anymore. I have no idea even of the titles. We hadn’t been reading them for fun. Will the kids remember The Gruffalo? No question in my mind. Did they then want to go back and read it to themselves? Yes. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Only the Stupid Go to Summer School

School’s out, and kids get to stay up late, sleep in, watch cartoons all day, or run around outside like hooligans; BUT, the lucky few get to go to that special place called summer school. I never attended as a child, but the three states and three school districts where I’ve gotten to teach during summer school all have a commonality: An academic agenda.

Well, naturally, it is school, silly. Summer camp, Vacation Bible School, Boys and Girls Club summer activities—all these places also include teaching and learning, but somehow they have a little more fun in the program than a regular school district summer school. What’s usually at the top of the academic agenda? Reading and math. Can working on reading and math be super-awesome-best-fun-you-ever-had? Yes. Do many summer schools present it as such? Yes, or they at least try to do so. Have I witnessed it as super-awesome-fun? Only a little.

                         Photo Credit: Otter Mii-kun (Creative Commons)

Act One:
Summer School 2003

Nick looked delighted, like a recent kindergartner should, as he bounced into summer school on that first day. His older sister lingered, patted him lovingly on the head, and told him, in a motherly tone, to “be good.” His blue eyes flashed timidly around the room and he quietly joined the other students in a circle on the floor.

We started the day with reading. The kids were supposed to sit around the teacher and look at the pictures from the book as she read it to them. This was the best part of reading time. Most did need extra help in the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but how many others were out on the streets all day getting to live up their summer free time?

Later, Nick’s busy body wandered the room. I asked him if he would like to read some books or find some more math games to play, like the other children were doing. “No,” he replied calmly and with a toothless grin he lisped; “I justht want to dancthe.”

His teacher later confided to me that this little boy, who was scheduled to enter her first grade class, should really stay home another year. He was bright and eager but she feared that his slower progress in reading would damage his spirits. She was an excellent teacher with her hands tied by the wishes of the parents and the same-age grouping that the system of education puts into place for grade levels.

Nick was indeed a very bright kid. He knew all about whales and dolphins because he had been to the San Juan Islands in his grandparents’ boat. He loved all kinds of animals. Demonstrating how prairie dogs live, he went under the table and said: “Sthee, I’m a prairie dog and I’m underground.”

He had the most fun at recess, saying, “I justht want to run laps.” That and play soccer. I played with him and he told me “time out” and came over and gave me a very serious look as if I had done something wrong. “I need to talk to you,” he says. “You need to kick the ball a little harder.” Thanks, Coach.

Back in the classroom, I told Nick we needed to work on his letters. Suddenly the bright little boy, the one who eagerly taught me so much, put his hands to the sides of his face and looked down with a sad expression. “I didn’t bring my thinking cap today.”

“You can use mine,” I offered, and made like I was taking it off my head and putting it onto his. This didn’t quite get the desired result.

“I’m sthtupid,” he said. 

“Nick, did someone tell you that?”

“No, I justht know it. That’s why I’m in sthummer sthchool.”

“No, that is not true. Summer school is just a place for more learning,” what could I say?

“I can’t do it,” he continued. We practiced a few letters and then I let him quit. He wanted to read the ABC books so I felt encouraged that he wanted to read anything and I let him turn to those without pressing him too hard.

At the end of the day, riding home on my bike I passed Nick and his brother and sister as they were walking. “See you tomorrow,” I yelled out.

He pointed strictly; “Remember, tomorrow: The Championship!” Soccer on the brain. He wanted to be a kid, not a scholar just yet.

*photo credit Otter Mii-kun

Friday, July 6, 2012

Train Up a Vine

My adoption scared me at first. All I had ever known was the warm wet comfort of the nursery. Suddenly hands reached in and pulled me from my bed and placed me, gently, into another black carrier. Happily I looked left and right to see several of my best friends join me. Then we got into an SUV and took off down the road. I had no idea what to expect.

The journey wasn't too many hours, and then the two people who had adopted us took us all out of the car and set us down in an open area. No roof covered our heads. There we sat, waiting and wondering. That night I got to see what had only been fuzzy and dim before. I got to see stars, clear and bright! How can I express the beauty?

For a while, life continued like this. The sun rose and set, more piercing and brilliant than I had ever felt it. We talked, my friends and I, but only at night when quiet settled around us. We remembered what our nursery caregiver had told us we would become. Would it really happen? Would we really grow big and complete our important mission?

Then the two people came for us again. This time we left our carriers behind and sank blissfully into a deep soft bed. We could stretch out a little. After getting drinks, we started to feel warm wet and sleepy, just like back home. I became so very glad that we had left the nursery.

Day after day we got to feel the sun and the open breezes. We drank and took baths mostly at night. And we started to grow. Our adoptive parents liked to stop by and admire us. They got really excited when some of us started to blossom into adolescence.

But before long our home started getting crowded. Some of my friends, now siblings, were outgrowing our bed. They flopped over onto me and made it difficult for me to see the stars at night. I didn't know how long I could take this uncomfortable closeness.

The strangest thing happened one day recently that was both a little painful and later quite comfortable. Our parents came and began moving our limbs around. I was glad to get free of the tangle of bodies I had suffered under, but then my limbs were moved into very different positions and, would you believe, ropes were wrapped around my body and tied up above me! This didn't seem right at all and I couldn't understand how our nice, loving parents could do such a thing! And they were so happy about it, as if it was good for us!

When they finished, I glanced around and saw that we were all in the same situation. Before I could start to complain, however, one of my new brothers said how nice it was that he didn't feel like he was falling out of bed anymore. And then a sister said she was glad he wasn't squishing her anymore. Someone else said how nice it was to just lean back on the ropes and relax. Hmm, I thought. They are right. They are all right. Instead of fighting the ropes I started to relax too. Maybe our parents knew what they were doing after all.

My family

Spare the twine, spoil the vine.

"Train up a [vine] in the way he should go, and when he is [mature] he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Letter to My Husband's Ex: Thank You for Changing Your Mind

Dear ______,

Wow, you let HIM go? Yeah, I know; life doesn't always go as planned. And people change. Or they don't change. Because of your decision, though, some happiness came my way that I hadn't counted on. This is my story, that strangely would and could never have happened if not for you.


I never wanted to get married. Fairy tales and love stories sounded beautiful and made my heart happy, but the lovey-dovey stuff just wasn't in my stars. My dreams included independence—doing amazing things around the world but doing them by myself. As a child I wanted to devote my life to animals. People, with the exception of my family, came secondary.

Close friendships began to show me that people weren't so bad. Then, as I entered the working world, I discovered that children had a lot in common with animals and needed a voice, a champion, so I started devoting my life to them. I was growing in God and realizing that I shouldn't just sweep people under the rug. Still, falling in love was far from my mind—no frog-kissing in my future.

*photo credit: Jennifer Barnard (Creative Commons)

One day, as I was getting ready to launch into a new zone of Save-the-Children / I-am-awesome-on-my-own, I remember telling God that hey, maybe life would be fulfilling going on the way I was (especially since I wasn't rejecting people so much and thinking only of myself) but if there was someone out there who could spark a little fire inside and be my partner on this planet, I could dig it.

Then along came someone from my past. Someone I NEVER expected. Someone who hadn't been in my thoughts and who hadn't been AVAILABLE. (Someone YOU, dear ex, had decided to leave). I think I told God something like this.

     "UM, excuse me. Remember that little conversation we had? Yeah, ha ha ha. I was kidding. You can't have someone fall in love with me. It's just not a good idea. I don't think I have that kind of love in me."

Time went by, however, and this guy became a close friend. I realized I could TRUST him. He brought out the LAUGHTER in me. He was a great LISTENER. I wanted to be with him. Then, the following started.

Yes, it was gradual. I don't rush into anything. But I liked it. I fell in LOVE. Did my dreams change? Did I stop being me? No. I simply ADDED TO MY STORY. I chose to KEEP this guy, and HE CHOSE ME. We each had a hand to hold and the desire to support each other.

Suddenly life had MORE. I gained a(n):

Rockstar                                             engineer        
                         idea man                                                                 builder
     storyteller                      computer genius (aka lovable NERD)      

 walking encyclopedia                 comedian                                              giver

                                      chef                     gardener                     FRIEND OF GOD

What a wonderful gift from God is my husband.


So thank you for changing your mind. Does that sound rotten of me? Am I gloating in your loss? THAT'S NOT MY AIM. Please believe that I want the same happiness and joy that you once had to bless your path again. No, I want BETTER for you.

My story isn't the only one that has goodness and beauty grow after ugly destruction. Does the horrible storm have to happen for the rainbow to shine? What do I know? Is everything all planned out and we just move along as we are programmed to do? I don't believe so. We make choices. $#*% happens. We decide what to do with it. Wallow in it, burn it, bury it, or use it as fertilizer for something GRAND.

* Photo Credit: Jennifer Barnard