Monthly Archives: March 2009

Blessed

About four years ago, after seven years of faithful scrapbooking, I quit. Packed it all up and quit. I even felt a little bit sheepish, honestly, about that row of scrapbooks on my shelf.

But last night one of the boys wanted to know what time of day he was born. He got down his book, which precipitated all the kids getting down their personal books, family books, all the books. They wanted to know if reading scrapbooks counted for homework reading and spent the next hour immersed in the details of their own younger selves.

I don't remember writing those things. I don't remember those things–at all. I don't remember the spilled milk, the smashed fingers, the stray dogs.

Cheesy embellishments aside, I am so grateful I made those books. So grateful I took the time when I had it. So grateful that I don't really even have room for guilt over the past few years which have gone undone. I got the important years of new babies, new changes, new homes, teeth, schools and time.  All that time I was blessed to spend at home with my children before they started school

Thank you. To everyone who made, in any way, that possible. To M, for working fifteen, sixteen, eighteen hour days to pay the bills. To his sister for getting me started with my very first album and keeping me supplied all those years. To M for shelling out for film and developing and a new camera when the old one worked perfectly fine. To God for giving me the years, the people and the patience.

Thank you.

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About those faults of yours . . .

Stephen  E. Ambrose, in his book about the building of the transcontinental railroad during the civil war era, makes this observation: "The men who founded the Union Pacific were like Lincoln's generals, some of them good, many of them bad, most of them indifferent."

I read about men like Theodore Judah, so scrupulously honest that when California sent him to Washington and New York, he came back having spent $2,500 of his own money, and charged the state of California only $40 for the printing of his report. Judah, more than any other man, made the railroad possible and yet he died far from his home, overworked and underpaid. Reading about his life you could almost believe he was created for that one purpose; from a very young age until his last breath, the transcontinental railroad was his passion, his genius, his one obsession.

There were other men who wouldn't hesitate to submit expense reports in the thousands of dollars, to fabricate institutions and award themselves contracts. I think we've all been taught that "the Big Four" were evil men on par with modern day CEO's.

But at the same time, I look at how everything worked together to make this nation–the good men, the bad men, the triumphs and the appalling atrocities of civil war–and I wonder if there was any other way. I would like to believe that there is always an effective high road; the very foundations of my moral framework demand it.

But.

I don't know. I don't know that in an imperfect world that there is any viable alternative to incorporating the full participation of imperfect people. And when good men err on the side of tact or timidity, maybe it takes bad men to barrel through and get things done. 

From the very beginning we see God working through Man's error. Eve's partaking of the fruit was a flagrant violation of law–but had she obeyed, could she have borne children? And if not, would it really have been better if just one man and his wife wandered about the garden alone indefinitely–obedient, but stalled?

I wouldn't presume to blame God or Fate or any other ethereal entity for man's misuse of his agency, or attempt to justify the criminal–I just . . . I wonder how well we really comprehend the big picture. 

English author John Ruskin said, "The first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean, by humility, doubt of his own power. … [But really] great men … have a curious feeling that … greatness is not in them, but through them. … And they see something Divine in every other man … ."

I wonder if there isn't something Divine in even our frailty, faults and failings. If somehow my life would not be as rich were you more perfect, tractable or perceptive. Perhaps we would all find a larger measure of greatness if we not only acknowledged every bit of good apparent in those around us, but bore with the faults, too–acknowledging that what we perceive as error might be courage, far-sightedness, or maybe just the only way to get the job done.  

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Wooden Hands

Woke this morning without any feeling below my shoulders.

"My hands are asleep!" I said, after several futile attempts at turning off the alarm.

M snickered and put the pillow over his head.

It was like one of those nightmares where you are trying to run or scream or, well, move a tiny little switch into the "off" position, and your body refuses to obey. 

I stood there banging my arms together, hoping to knock some life back into my hands.

Very disconcerting. Happens a lot lately–only if I sleep on my back, side, or stomach. I haven't tried sleeping standing up.

Yet.

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Use it up; Wear it out

Hey, do you want to go get some new shoes today?

     Um. I don't know. Why?

Don't you need some?

     Not really.

 

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Going Digital

Can I help you?

    Uh, yeah. The Office of Anesthesia sent me over to fill out release forms for my children's dental records.

When were they last seen?

    February 12th of this year.

Okay. Um. Do you know if they had any xray's done? Because as of the 16th, we went digital.

    I think they did.

How many forms did you need?

    Six.

Okay, fill these out for me.

    Do I really have to fill out an entire form for each child?

Yes, I'm sorry–I know it's a lot of writing.

    Twenty minutes and six forms and lots of snapping gum from the receptionist later, I hand the release forms back.

Alright–looks good.

    I filled out everything I needed to?

These are great.

    So now you send their files over–there's nothing more I need to do?

Well, we can't actually send anything.

    Pardon?

We went digital on the sixteenth.

    And?

Well, they were seen on the 12th.

    Meaning . . . .

All our records are digital, Ma'am. If they had been seen on or after the 16th, we could have emailed their records over, but they were seen on the 12th.

    So what happens to records you made before the 16th?

They have to stay in this office.

    We can't get a copy?

We no longer have the equiptment to make copies. It's all digital.

    So . . . you have nothing at all–no xrays, no records–to send.

No. 
    You have no information to release to the other clinic?

No.

    So I didn't really need to fill out those forms.

No.

I stood there. She sat there. We stared at each other. She honestly didn't see the problem.   

      

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Pearls

Hey, Mom,

     Huh?

New Beginnings starts at seven.

     Seven, as in twenty minutes from now, seven?

Yeah. You have to wear a dress.

I knew that. Really, I did.

So I pin my hair up–with a ballpoint pen–and I put on a skirt that matches my shirt. I sit there in the chapel with my fourteen year old and the program lasts no more than twenty minutes. Concision at its best. I'm seriously impressed.

The president gives a short analogy relating the formation of pearls to the formation of a girl's character, and then she introduces the activity portion of the evening.

Oysters.

I kid you not–they imported oysters from Japan. One for every young woman. The oysters smelled like ninth-grade biology and didn't look anything special, but they held a promise. Those girls pried and wrenched and ewwed and bloodied their fingers and finally ahhhhhed as every one of them found a pearl. White and cream and every shade of pink; silver and black and navy blue. Amazing. 

New beginnings.

I sat here this morning bogged down in concern and I saw again those pearls emerging from the muck. Those girls with their gooey, bloody hands discovering pearls in unlikely places, rinsing them off and placing them in silver, hinged pendants and wearing them over their hearts.  

I took a deep breath and I was okay.

Because I have to believe that no matter how long it takes or what currents I travel–I have to believe there's whopper of a pearl forming somewhere deep here. 

And who knows what it'll look like? 

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Fickle Phone

I loathe the pinewood derby.

I know; I know loathe is a strong word.

That's why I used it.

I would have used the H word, but there are four preschool children sitting on and around my lap who likely would go into shock if they actually managed to sound out any of the words on my screen.

          Kimber, we don't use that word at our house!

                What word?

          The hate word.

                Well, yes. You are right. We don't say hate to people.

          We don't say itchy, either.

                Really?

          Nope. That's a bad word.

Yeah. So anyway, the derby.

We've had ten cars come through our house in the last few years. We have filed nails, sanded wheels, poured on the graphite, strategically positioned axles and weights; and enlisted the help of fathers, grandfathers, aunts and complete strangers.

Every year, the Lybbert car comes in last.

Every time.

The pep-talk at my house goes like this:

No matter what you do, this car is going to come in last. Even if you were Harry Potter and had no scruples about using your powers to cheat–your car is going to come in last. Every heat, every time.

(Someone came up with this great idea–let's run the cars in like one thousand heats so every kid in the whole district has a chance to beat the Lybberts' car several times.)

I tell my kids–just make your car really, really cool. Don't worry about making it fast. One year my son made a pick-up truck and loaded it with logs. It came in last–but it was cool.

There's all this lip service paid to the idea of the boys doing the building–but it's a block of wood, folks! A big, rectangle block of wood. A couple years my kids went at their cars with pocket knives and they did a pretty good job but how many eight-year-olds do you know have that kind of patience? For most parents, unless you are willing to entrust a power saw to your eight-year-old, your options are pretty limited. Volkswagen bus, anyone?

Although–a boy actually did that one year. I saw this sharp-edged, hand-painted monstrosity sitting up there at the top of the track next to our sleek little blue racer and I thought, YesFinally, we aren't going to be last!

I kid you not; the block won.

This year we tried an entirely new approach.

We left the car in the box.

It is sitting on my son's desk right now. One block of wood, four nails, four wheels. I know this because about a month ago when he brought it home we had drama because there were only two wheels and three nails; like the derby Gods didn't think our cars were bad enough with four. Conscientious mother that I am, I secured replacement parts for him. Brand new even–although I was tempted to just swipe them from last year's model. 

But that's as far as we got. Last night I got this voicemail. "Hey! This is your den mother calling! We're down here at the pinewood derby and didn't want to start without you! Are you coming?" Mercifully I didn't hear the message until long after the derby was over or I might have been guilted into bringing my son and his block to the race because it's all about fun, not winning, and stalwart members like us of course support, support, support the program. 

The news was probably spreading like wildfire; Oh no! The Lybberts didn't bring in the losing car this year to cushion the rest of the boys' egos! Aaaack! What if—what if ours comes in last? 

You know the phone call had to be made.

God bless my fickle phone. 

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