Monthly Archives: February 2011

The View From Here

Found an old thumb drive last night while I was cleaning. Plugged it in this morning to see what was on it, and this was the first file I clicked on:

My youngest and my third, two and a half years ago. Does anyone else feel like they are looking directly into your soul or is that just my mother baggage?


Don’t Answer That

Does it ever occur to you that if your deepest, most honest views are forever inaccessible to anyone outside yourself, that maybe everyone else’s are, too?  That none of us really know anyone else at all?

Yes, somebody had a little bit too much think time yesterday. Drove three hours so that a doctor could flip through my chart and ask why nobody has ordered a CT scan yet.

‘Cause they couldn’t have done that without me there.

Not the most productive afternoon ever. I did however, get to eat an entire pound and a half of blueberries all by myself. It’s all about keeping the eyes open and the car on the road. And yes, I ate them unwashed, right out of the carton; if there is something freaky going on in my gut we can blame it on that.

As for Take it Easy Tuesday, can I just observe that a conscious effort at infusing more relaxation and fun into one’s life isn’t really…. fun?

What if there are some people who really just don’t enjoy kicking back? I’m afraid that my idea of a good time involves doing.

That’s not to say I don’t take whatever shortcuts I can:

  1. I refuse to wash my car.  What difference does it make if I spend twenty hours or zero hours a year cleaning it? It’s not like I eat off the hood. I can’t see the outside of my car when I’m in it, and when I’m not in it, it’s hidden away somewhere in the great outdoors. You’re the only one who will benefit from it’s sparkling beauty, and I don’t really care what you think. (I know, I know, supposedly there is something about corrosion involved, but I really couldn’t care less if I drove a rust bucket because when I’m in it I can’t see it…..etc…)
  2. Ditto the inside of my oven. Whatever is on the inside of my oven affects the quality of my life how? I don’t spend time admiring the insides of it, and if some previous spill is scorching, I either scrape it out or wait until it burns off–depending on the volume of smoke issuing therefrom. Isn’t the basic principle behind a self-cleaning oven?
  3. I don’t own clothing that needs ironing.
  4. I don’t have any body piercings or own any jewelry. Just think of all the time I haven’t spent organizing, looking for, putting on or taking off the stuff over the last 35 years. And yes, this is absolutely a principle of time management for me. Flat out don’t have time for ornamentation. A wedding ring is my one concession.
  5. Ditto elaborate systems of clothing coordination. I have shirts and I have pants. They pretty much all go together.
  6. I don’t make my bed. Mostly because the Mr. always has. But I can’t guarantee that I would start, should he go on strike.
  7. I almost never answer my phone; if it’s important, you’ll leave a message.
  8. Take a look at my yard; this is a shortcut I’m not proud of, but it’s one of those straws that I simply cannot get my back under without the danger of a serious breach developing.
  9. I may or may not have read any of the assigned chapters in my last literacy class. Seven hundred pages of fine print about developing literacy curriculum for grades I will never teach? And even if I was, I’d never remember anything then that I read now. I have the book; I know where to find the information should I ever need it.
  10. I don’t sort my silverware. I take the basket out of my dishwasher, and I dump it into the drawer. What? You can’t visually pick out the difference between a spoon, a fork and a knife at one glance?
  11. Ditto my children’s socks. If you want your socks to match–you sort them.
  12. And just in case you think my life is a complete disaster, might I point out that some things are worth organizing; you should see my rolling can shelves. They are the ultimate shortcut–your canned goods organize themselves by expiration date.
  13. I deal with most health problems by ignoring them. Almost everything clears up on its own whether or not you spend hours on end in a clinic waiting room. Which is one of the things I was thinking about during  my drive yesterday. What, really, is all this driving around and bloodletting doing for me? If it weren’t for the itching–which I’m learning to ignore except during the most mind-numbing of meetings–I really do feel pretty normal. Can’t I just go back to my regular life and let my body do its thing? What’s the worst that can happen?
  14. Don’t answer that.

Birthday Parties and Color-coded T-shirts

Last Thursday, I gutted my daycare room in a massive dejunking effort, and cleaned even the sludge from the tops of my kitchen cabinets.  On Friday before I had to leave for class, I  gutted every cabinet in my kitchen upstairs.  (Since moving up there a year or so ago, I’ve just been throwing dishes and groceries into whatever cabinet happened to have room. It would take me longer to find a paring knife or a cheese grater, than to make an entire dinner.)  Saturday, I was in class until four in the afternoon, and then had meetings from six thirty until nine thirty that night.

Naturally, I decided to have company for dinner on Sunday, exploded cabinets notwithstanding. They were my parents and my youngest brother; they can handle it. Although, there’s something about having company over for dinner that will get the organizational juices flowing again and subconsciously I probably realized that. Still not finished, but the counter tops were clear, I can tell you where my pasta is.

Anyway. The occasion was my brother came down from Canada and he was twenty five on Saturday–still single, but starting to think about the significance of that fact.  He’s eight days short of being precisely ten years younger than me and therefore his is the only birthday of all my siblings that does not require mental  math on my part. (Although, for all my groaning about math over the years, I began a new class this weekend about teaching math to little people, and I’m surprised to like it as much as I do.)

I meant to take pictures, I really did, but we’ll have to settle for one from a reunion three and a half years ago–two of my siblings are missing, we’d been camping, and we are all decked out in identical green t-shirts, but since I was too lazy to retrieve the camera let alone get all Nazi with it yesterday, this is as good as it gets. He’s the half-breed:

Kidding about the half-breed bit–he’s just always looked the part. He’s as Caucasian as the rest of us. You have to admit, I look more like my brother than my sisters, no? My youngest sister–Curlylocks, on the right there, lived just down the street from me  and shared dozens of the same acquaintances and friends for years before they figured out that we were related.

I took this brother out for lunch last year when I was in his college town taking my entrance exams and found it a little disconcerting to drive along behind someone whose reflection in their rear view mirror looks like my own. Just in case you were wondering what’s up with our fashion sense, take a look at this:

Yeah. That’s the idea. These are the grandparents with 97 (possibly 98?) great grandkids and the powers that be wanted to color code us for the family picture. And no, they aren’t all there. The greens are my parents and siblings and and our kids. That strange little logo on the shirts (ours was on the back) is a silhouette of Chief Mountain, which my grandmother has painted in acrylic for decades. You can see it on the horizon in this photo I took from the top of Grandma’s hill:


On Fence Posts

Heard a lot of whining lately from various individuals about the pointlessness of life; about how we work in order to eat in order to work, etc. How it’s all one big rat race. How we’re all slaves to some nebulous “them” who manipulate and take advantage of, from behind the scenes. How the only way to thwart the “system” is to do nothing at all until “they” come to their senses, until “they” fix things, until by some miracle the life we are faced with every day maybe looks precisely the way we think it should. How maybe even God is some omniscient, sadistic being in the same class as the kid who liked to pull legs off flies in the second grade.

Here’s the deal:

I don’t care how corrupt your employer is or how how uninformed you think your teachers or neighbors or elected representatives are; nobody else–no, not even God himself–can make your choices; you do that. Not the choices that make you a worthwhile human being. Not the choice to get up every morning and love your children or serve your neighbor or learn something new. Those are the choices that make you a flesh and blood person, not the choices that are made for you by the legislature or the idiot in the car in front of you.

And if you can’t see past the choices that are made for you–the nitty gritty inconveniences of life–to the larger choices that when made have the power to form you into a living, breathing, larger-than-one-isolated-life of a human being, then you run the risk of disappearing entirely, of becoming merely the detritus of the big machine you so despise.

No! It’s not easy to be a flesh-and-blood person in a world full of sharp corners and ragged edges and impossible inclines. Of course not. Because even a fencepost can sit in one place and wait for the world to change. I believe that to exist is to do–whether or not that doing has precisely the results you anticipated.

Because hard things are worth doing, not because you are guaranteed success at doing them, but because the alternative is to do nothing at all: to spend your life waiting for some more likely opportunity or greater goal. It is to reduce yourself to less than even that fencepost–which at least marks a legitimate place on the map. Where you are sitting? There, in your self-satisfied place of superior knowledge about the way the world has gone to the dogs and is no longer worth engaging yourself in? That place doesn’t even exist outside of  your own mind, and if it did, nobody would want to mark it down on a map or revisit it after once having the misfortune of passing through.

Get up and do something–anything! I won’t even mind how loudly you complain about life, if you are also participating in it. Don’t imagine, for one minute, that sitting there on the sidelines qualifies you to critique those who are.

You know what?

That’s… all I’m going to say on the subject.

Zip-it-lock-it-put-it-in-your-pocket.

End of story.

Amen.


Meg

I don’t know if you remember my apple picking debacle last fall–the one in which I blithely forgot that most important first date of my oldest daughter.

I finally got my hands on a photo disk from that evening and found out who was driving that car:

He’s the kid in the black shirt and the pale grey tie. This was my daughter’s homecoming group. (Homecoming, right? That’s the big dance ya’ll have in the fall down here?) If I remember right they made an appearance at the dance, and then went out into the middle of a cornfield and watched a movie about… aliens… landing in a cornfield… Or maybe that was some other dance, with some other group of kids. There are a lot of them her age.  We are blessed to live in a town with so many youth who support each other in making good choices. She’s the one that’s still taller than almost every other girl there, even though she’s wearing flats:

Meg is my oldest. When we brought her home from the hospital, she didn’t have a middle name. One day my husband suggested “Adeth” and everyone else in the room cracked up. I didn’t get the joke. Then again, I’m not sure I’d ever heard of that group. (Meg-adeth? You follow?) Meg has the same quirky sense of humor her father had, and also his height, mathematical ability,  and really good teeth.

She’s also my artist. I was going to hunt down one of her paintings and take a picture today, but the college has a ridiculous number of hallways, and I couldn’t remember where she said it was hanging. Honestly, my favorite pieces are the pictures she does in church–while she’s sitting there doodling. She has an incredible sense of perspective, color, pattern and balance.

I know, I’m her mother and I’m supposed to think that, but she really does. Wait, I’m going to go look through my church bag, I might have something….

Nope. Nothing. Which is weird, cause I thought I had several. Maybe next time round I’ll have some.

Meg’s always been quick. I remember the first time she uttered a sentence: she was halfway up Grandma’s stairs, and I was following along behind to be sure she wouldn’t forget what she was doing and take a tumble. She paused, looked back over her shoulder and blithely strung together a proper sentence. I was so stunned–that this little critter could speak. By the time she was old enough to register for Kindergarten she was already head and shoulders taller than her peers and reading chapter books. I called the school and they kind of brushed me off as an ambitious parent. They said I could take her in and have her tested if I wanted, but their policy was to always start children in the correct class for their age.

I took her in to visit the Kindergarten teacher. The principal happened to be there and handed her a book–which she read fluently. The kindergarten teacher sort of raised her eyebrows and gave him a look like, Seriously? You want me to have this child in my classroom? And he gave us permission, right there, to move her up into Mrs. Buckley’s classroom for the next fall. Bobbie Buckley–I loved that woman. She retired not long after teaching Meg. (No connection, I’m sure…)

Now she’s sixteen, doing Running Start, driving her own car, and making pretty good choices for herself. It is so strange to watch your daughter morph overnight from tweenish to nearly adult form. To realize that there are things they know more about than you do, and to be able to ask their advice about some of those things. She’ll graduate from high school and college at the same time, when she is seventeen years old, and she’s already making bigger plans and she’s more than capable of accomplishing anything she sets her mind to.

Seems like just a few months ago she was chattering about Elmo’s World and falling off of furniture. I have proof of that, by the way–the falling off of furniture part:

(Weird picture, I know. I found it on my hard drive the other day. I like the colors.)  See that dimple? She wasn’t born with that, believe it or not; that’s some kind of internal scar from slamming her face into the leg of a rocking chair, if I remember right. It swelled up something crazy, and when it went away, the dimple remained. But it suits her, n’est-ce pas?

I have no idea where the French just came from. The other alternative was “eh?” which I backed my cursor up over instantly. Apparently when I’m tired, I revert to my childhood.

Someone needs to go to bed.

Did I mention that she’s got her own car?

Which means that now, she is never, ever home. I wait up until I hear the tell-tale growl of the engine, and the tinny slam of the door and then I’m asleep before she walks in the door. I know, I’m supposed to stay up and have heart to heart chats about her evening. You do what you can. I probably trust her way too much, but God knew I’d need one I could trust to start out the teenage years. Cause you know the rest of them are coming, and coming fast…

 


On Carpet Snorting and Building the Character of Teens

Got on my treadmill last night at 7:30 pm. Got off  three times in the next twenty minutes. Got back on. Wanted to throw myself headlong on my bed and never get up. Or maybe get in my van, drive-thru some poisonous fast-food joint and negate the entire last six months of effort.

Because I didn’t feel any stronger last night than I did six months ago. I committed to ten more minutes. And then two more. And finally a good, angry song came on and I jammed my thumb into that up-arrow and I ran a mile and a half/hour faster than I’ve ever set that thing. Ran hard because I was angry at a body that could possibly betray me like that.

I committed to one more tenth of a mile and then another and finally I hit my usual goal and then I kept running. Because I’m not giving in, not after this long, after this many months and hundreds of miles. My elbows were dripping when I finally stopped, and I paid for my arrogance during cool down–my usual three sets of twenty push-ups became one set of nine, one set of three–followed by a lengthy session face-first on the floor with bits of shag carpeting fluttering up my nose as I tried to catch my breath–and then three more. That was it–that was all I had. I didn’t feel tired, so much as I just… couldn’t… do it.

May I point out that these were modified push-ups? My knees planted firmly on the ground?

The first set of sit-ups were five shy, and then ten shy, and the first one of the final set would have been easier to do than convincing an entire room full of toddlers that silence is a blessed thing. I got about two inches off the floor, then curled up in a fetal position on my left side. I eventually made it over onto my stomach at about 11:30 and lay there, pecking out a facebook status with my pinkie finger about listening to morose and sentimental tunes when I should have been in the shower.

Getting out of bed at 3:55 this morning wasn’t much of a picnic, let me assure you.

But I’ll be back on the belt tomorrow after class. I’m blaming the arm weakness on all my dejunking and kitchen cleaning activities–you know that gunk on the top of your kitchen cabinets? Yeah, I cleaned that yesterday. Went through almost an entire bottle of 409, doing it. The top of the fridge awaits. I think I’ll leave the inside and the underneath of it to one of my teenagers. It’ll be a  good, character building experience for them…


Beyond 647

I think it’s interesting that I have lived in two homes that burned to smoking ruins, and yet I never dream of losing everything I own to fire. I do, however,  have a recurring nightmare about having too many possessions: I am required, on short notice to pack up my family (usually including not only my children but  young versions of my siblings, too) and evacuate a house that represents everything I have ever owned. Every piece of clothing, every toy and craft stick and crumpled receipt; they are all there in a jumble, and I am hip-deep in it, and I am trying to sort out what is most crucial to take along.

I’ve had this dream for as long as I can remember. The only thing that changes is the sheer volume of stuff. I don’t know if it’s related to what I perceived as many spur-of-the-moment moves during my childhood–coming home from school on a Wednesday to a moving truck, and driving away on a Friday. I was always glad on some level; moving was a reinvention–of self and possessions and place. When I was sixteen, the moving truck was empty and Mom was working full-time. My brother and I filled three dumpsters with things we deemed non-essential in the still of the night–sneaking across the street to another apartment complex when ours were full.

I started dejunking my place this week. Not only dejunking, but de-everything-not-absolutely-crucial-to-survival-right-now. That means I am not keeping any car seats for that nebulous time in the future when I might have to transport a small person. I am throwing away the rosemary and caraway seed. If a recipe ever calls for them, I’ll pick another. I’m not keeping my fat clothes.

Just to keep myself honest, I texted my sister-in-law: Give me a number between 100 and 1000.

She answered: 647.

So that was my goal, the magic number of things I needed to part with–though I thought it unlikely I had that much to get rid of.

Silly me.

Said sister-in-law is now helping me out: I stack everything in my front hall, and she comes along and hauls it off. I don’t know if it will help with the nightmares, but at least when I’m awake I’ll be able to locate my cinnamon. And if REC ever explodes, or a rail car turns over in my backyard spilling toxic waste from Hanford, my life should be easier to condense into a space the size of my lap. I almost kept my crock pot, I admit. But then I remembered I have an oven-safe pot.

We’re way past 647, and I’m not counting anything made out of paper.

You remember that scripture in Malachi? About how if you pay your tithing the heavens will open and pour you out a blessing so great you will not have room enough to receive it? I must have been paying way too much tithing, because the excess is ridiculous. BUT, I must point out, that I am blessed–and always have been–to have everything I need, and more. I have never truly gone without, not even when our home was a smoking pit of ash or when I slept, five to a twin-sized mattress in a filthy apartment complex in Portland, Oregon the year I turned six. There was always enough, and always a lesson we needed to learn.

I know that God loves us. I know he wants us to have all the good things we desire. I also know that we don’t always want what’s best for us, and we end up with a hallway full of unneeded and unnecessary items that we once thought would bring us happiness. He knows this, but he allows us our agency, allows us the exquisite schooling of trial-and-error, and lets us try again.  Thank God for all that, and for every spotless tomorrow.