Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Tree

How long do you think I can (decently) leave my Christmas tree standing?

It's still wintery out there . . .


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The Truck in the Living Room

Some guy had a seizure the other  day while traveling down Yonezawa Blvd. If you are familiar with the area, you'll recognize Yonezawa as the four million dollar folly built by the town of Moses Lake several years ago. Big, four-lane thoroughfare with a tree-lined median that didn't end up attracting any retailers because no matter how prettily you pave the roundabouts with brick, no self-respecting national chain does business for long with a town council like ours.  They try, but eventually all throw up their corporate hands in despair.  

Point being.

The truck driven by the seizure-suffering man veered out of a roundabout, plowed through a back fence, coming to rest entirely within the walls of somebody's house.

I'm trying to imagine what I would do if a truck decided to park in my living room. Although, a train is more likely, given our neighborhood . . .

Do you have the same sort of stuttering response to catastrophe that I do? Your husband is backing up and there is a six foot wide redwood behind your bumper and you think, ooh, that's going to be tight, but surely he sees the TREE. He knows it's there, right? Thunk.

Nothing comes out.  Not one intelligible word.

The other day D slammed the sliding door shut and it bounced back open. Boo, seeing her chance, stuck her hand in the crack. These little ones have learned that if they can get some leverage, a slightly open door can become an escape hatch. D, however, noticed his error and raced back to correct it.

I'm sitting six feet away, watching this unfold in slow motion. Baby's hand in the door, six year old child braced, pushing on the handle—yelling to his friends, so it hasn't registered that maybe he should investigate what's impeding the door's progress.

I'm saying something  incoherent. D can't hear me. Boo's mom doesn't seem to understand.  Or maybe she's afflicted with the same disability I am. When faced with danger, I can't move. I just gesture and utter incomprehensible commands.

What would I do if I saw a train coming?

Would I have the presence of mind—and the mobility—to haul my kids or myself out of the way? Lucky Yonezawa area dweller had just gotten up to check her baked potato, and this saved her hide. Which is possibly how God would have to get me moving. Permit me to light another towel on fire just to get me out of the way, maybe.

But I think he would get me moving.

I'm beginning to suspect that our lives are one great escape after another. Most of the time we just don't know what could have happened; what great calamities we have avoided because we did one thing and not another. When I was four years old, my mother took me to town instead of laying down for a much needed nap. When we came back, the house was a steaming pit of ash.  Chesley Sullenberger just happened to be flying the airplane that lost both engines shortly after taking off out of the New York airport last Thursday. Maybe you turned right instead of left on the way home from work today for what you thought was no reason at all.

God may permit a lot of anguish in this life; I wonder how much we don't realize he prevents. Quiet, unrecognized acts of mercy.

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Lessons from Mathew

Received two letters from DSHS today informing me that I have been issued two overpayments for the months of June and October totaling one hundred and sixty some dollars. I have ten days to get my response into their hands. 

So, after two hours of fuming and searching my records and reading the fine print of the Washington State Administrative code governing billing practices, I came to the conclusion that although I did bill incorrectly in one instance, it was because they invoiced me incorrectly in several instances, and if we really took the whole thing to the mat and re-invoiced and re-billed, they would end up owing me a total of ten dollars and nine cents.

I started in making photocopies and composing icily polite and pointed letters which would most assuredly start an entirely new and drawn out comedy of errors (and lots of postage because I am required to send all documentation and responses by certified mail) all while keeping two babies and three preschoolers happy and changed and redressed and fed and redressed, and nasally clear.

My head was splitting and little Boo was slapping at the power button on the computer and I was mentally uttering profane declarations of getting out of this business entirely, when I arrrived at a brilliant conclusion.

"Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him."

I wrote a check for one hundred and sixty some dollars, stamped the envelope and put it in the mailbox.


I'm six inches taller and the air is clear.

Totally worth $162.

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I have made six loaves of bread several times a week for something like ten years. I take the raised dough, I divide it in half, then thirds. I did this flawlessly Monday.

This morning I stood there, staring at the ball of dough, wondering how in the world I was supposed to figure out fifths.

It wasn’t until I had carefully formed five—oddly large—loaves that I began to wonder where the number five fit into the scheme of things. I had, after all, greased the same six pans I always grease. Heated the same oven I’ve heated for ten years. That fits six loaves if you load it just . . . so.


When I forget the salt or the yeast or the dough itself and it oozes all over the cupboard—these things no longer concern me. This is who I am. I once lost the M volume from my friend’s encyclopedia set. It was the only thing in my hands and she lived two blocks away. When I retraced my steps an hour later, I found it laying on the sidewalk.

I was fourteen.

But five? Random numbers imposing themselves on my consciousness impelling me to attempt difficult mathematical feats? Really?

This could possibly be part of a larger theme.

On New Years day, 2009, I was standing at the sink, writing. Really. You’d be amazed at how well people respect your space when they think might need help cleaning the kitchen. I had this thought. Clear as anything:

Look at the stove.

Lo and behold there were flames. Tall flames. A veritable bonfire.  I looked again, and the inferno proving itself not an apparition, I clapped a bowl upside down over it.  Took the whole steaming mass outside where it reignited in subzero weather and burned merrily for a good half hour. The cat was intrigued.

A simple matter of turning on the wrong burner, and setting down a dishtowel in passing.

On January 7th, I cleaned off the burners and surrounding countertops, turned on the vegetables, and checked the scalloped potatoes. While waiting for the veggies to heat, I changed D’s diaper.

Why aren’t those vegetables getting hot?

Remember the dishtowel?

Yeah, that was pretty crazy. I must be losing my mind.

Sigh. Look at the stove

 Haha. Very funny. Now that would be really crazy.

There is a pillar of smoke rising from the stove, billowing across the ceiling.

Flame resistant hot mitts don’t actually produce any flame, but they burn hot.  As in, half an hour on the porch doesn’t even begin to cool them off. If anything, fresh air feeds the glow.

Having cleaned up the mess and set out a glowing example of my culinary skills to aromatize the neighborhood–and, of course, turning off the wrong burner–I turned the right burner on. Right rear, to be exact, and once again began my vegetable warming vigil. Emphasis on vigil.

Oh wait. I turned the wrong burner on AGAIN.

And no, I haven’t recently acquired a new, difficult to operate stove. The lady who bought our house sent it along  to our new house as a sort of housewarming gift.

I have recently become very organized and on top of things. In preparation, as it were, for acquiring two new babies—a two month old in February and another in April. I can find my pens, my measuring spoons and Sunday shoes for six children. You can safely eat off the floor in my bathroom (children attempt things like this, it pays to be prepared) and my closets are clean. The state of my mind, apparently, doesn’t mirror that.


The good news is that the bread turned out. All six loaves. By the time the kids get home there will only be five.

It occurred to me, as I proofread this for spelling errors, that I don't smell the ham. It should be done enough to smell.  I set the temperature for a good 325 degrees, just exactly right so it'll be done as the kids drag themselves over the threshold, starving and weak from their afternoon fast. Look, kids–fresh bread and honey glazed ham.  Sandwiches from heaven.

Only I didn't actually turn on the confounded oven!  

Great galloping Gadwalloffing buzzbungs!

Doesn't the house smell nice and clean kids? That's right, just kneel down and sniff–smells like lemon, doesn't it? No?What's that, the smell of clorox makes you queasy on an empty stomach? How about some graham crackers?

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The Birds

Speaking of birds, FD, we had an invasion last month that was surprisingly disconcerting. One of the babies was making a fuss at the window, so I went to see what the excitement was all about and found my lawn, trees, and everything in sight covered with these small black birds. There was a thick fog obscuring pretty much everything beyond the houses opposite us. Gave it an eerie sci-fi quality. Colors a bit off, since I had to adjust levels in photoshop so you could see the birds through the fog.




When I opened the door to get a shot unobscured by fingerprints (have you ever tried to wash the outside of your windows in sub-zero weather? Note to self: Windex does not contain anti-freeze) the birds on the lawn took off and flew right at, then up and over the house. Scared the bejeebers out of me, so I only caught the tail end of the flock coming toward me:



Isn't there a Stephen King or a Hitchcock movie about birds invading like this?  

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Be ye therefore

If you have ever attempted to hack your way into my computer, you might have come across an error message informing you that your password is incorrect. Then, in case the hacker is me, and I just can’t remember  the relevant password, Windows displays a password hint, “My Goal”.

It probably says something about me that I recently downgraded from something like “Win the Boston Marathon by 2007” to “Survival”.  I know how to change the password, but not the hint.

I didn’t actually have any delusions  about winning the Boston Marathon, or even running all the way to the mailbox in this life, but I can’t tell you the real one—I have some dignity.  Point being that my goal was lofty and I didn’t even come close. My current password really is Survival.  (I can tell you this because I’m going to dispense with the password tomorrow.  Go back to thinly veiled threats. Get off my computer before I break your skull. Something kind and motherly like that.  I’m tired of hacking into my own computer.)

Considering the New Year and all the ramifications therein, I thought, you know, I could do better than Survival, can’t I? So I’m lying there in bed this morning reviewing twenty odd years of goal-making history and decided that realistically, I should probably just pick one goal. One little thing. Of course, having failed so brilliantly so many times, I want to pick a good one. Realistic, worthwhile, maximum priority.

So I pray about it. I get out my scriptures. I do the ole flip through, see where you land thing. First thing I read, blocked out in red pencil:

Therefore I would that ye should be perfect, even as I, or your Father in heaven is perfect.

I kid you not.

He ain’t cutting me any slack.

Just one little thing, God. That’s all I asked.

Perfection, really? That’s what you want out of me this year?

Although it occurs to me now that in the verses immediately prior to the statement he made in Mathew, he was talking about loving people no matter what—that God sends his rain and sun on the just and the unjust alike.

Maybe he just wants me to love perfectly.

That’s a little easier to swallow than imagining myself keeping the entire preceding chapter, which lists mercy, meekness, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, purity, peacemaking, valiance in the face of persecution, saltiness, illumination to the world, good works, kindness, harmonious relationships, communication skills, generosity, and humility as things I might, in seeking blessedness, want to work on.

Love, perfectly.

Not as easy to quantify as “lose ten pounds” or “paint the baseboards”, granted, but the plan of action and the pattern is clearly laid out there.

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, an despitefully use you and persecute you.”

 I don’t actually feel like I have any enemies.

Maybe I’m going to acquire some.

Or maybe I withhold the full force of my affection from individuals who do nothing to earn it; maybe I need to be more magnanimous with more people. Not just ones who I think will reciprocate or appreciate or even just notice my kindness. Maybe I need to be more a loving person independent of how that affects or does not affect others. Like the sun that shines on the evil and the good and the wastelands in between where no creature dwells. Just shines because that’s what sort of creation the sun is.

Perhaps we see our own behavior as a tool to change someone else in some way. And when our kindness is mocked or shunned  or unnoticed, we think we have failed or that somehow love itself is faulty.



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