Wednesday, December 15, 2010

what happened to my day OFF???

I'm supposed to be working on my manuscript today.

You can obviously see how well that is going.

So far, on my one full day per week to write, I have had to: finish hemming my daughter's skirt for her concert tomorrow (after a 10 minute search for where the kitten had batted the spool of thread I was using), narrow down speech meet choices for my son from 50 poems to three, pick up after the morning tornado, finish my homework for group tonight, email my daughter's math teacher about her grade, and make my to-do list for the rest of the day. It includes: working out so I don't gain even MORE weight, ironing my daughter's outfit for the concert, helping Buddy pick one of the three poems, making stops at Kohl's, Walgreen's, and Kroger, talking to my daughter about breaking the garbage can lid in a fit of anger (without having a fit of anger myself), supervising my darling children as they empty and re-load the dishwasher, getting a shower, and reviewing my materials for group tonight.

Ah, motherhood.

Who the heck signed me up for this?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

lucky 13

In my whopping 13th post of the year, I thought I would update everyone on the state of affairs 'round here.

First, turns out Latte is a HE, not a SHE. We ate a lot of crow for that one. He is still holding a bit of a grudge. Here he is, all filled out and healthy:

Next, in a moment of sinus-infection-induced insanity, I allowed my daughter to bring a kitten home from our mother-daughter weekend. Falls under the "It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time" category. Here is Zipper, or the Kamikaze Kitten, as I've taken to calling him. (He also responds to "HEY!!! GET OFF THE TABLE!!!!!" Though not very well.)

We went to New England this summer--did Niagara Falls, the Adirondacks, the White Mountains, and Acadia National Park all in about 12 days. Here is our family at Acadia:

Finally, I turned 40 this year, on the beach at Sanibel Island. Not a bad way to go.

I've been writing, though not for the public eye just yet. My manuscript is at 45,000 words. The goal is between 70 and 80,000. My desire is to get back to blogging, because I miss it. Twice a week in 2011 is my goal. Was my goal for 2010, too, but who's counting?

So, that's the last six months in a nutshell. Bub is still flip-flopping at the gym, sings in a Christian rock band (I know, she's 11--craziness, right?), and is in middle school. Buddy is in Taekwando, loves him some Legos, and is in 2nd grade. The hubby has a new job, I still have a job, we still have a house, and all is right with the world.

Here's to getting back to writing for no other reason than just because.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

he gives and takes away (though not necessarily in that order)

In loving memory: 1993-2010

We got them almost on an impulse. Though I'd been desperate for a cat for at least a year, their actual acquisition was, well, not exactly planned. That seems to be the way things go around here.

They fulfilled their purpose with incredible success—bringing me comfort at a time when I needed it most. Deeply depressed and struggling through my first year of marriage, I knew, I just knew, I would feel better if I only had something I could hold. Turns out, I was right. That seems to be the way things go around here.

Both incredibly affectionate and gregarious, Max and Ruthie were the kind of cats that even the most die-hard dog people couldn't help but love. They brought an immeasurable amount of joy to everyone around them—well, except maybe Beth. But she was a good friend and tolerated them both, and her daughter found a great amount of joy from being around them, so that sort of made up for that. To everyone else, they were "the nicest cats I've ever met." And we would concur.

Ruthie was the first to go about five years ago—breaking my heart in the process. The only thing that got me through it was that Max was there, waiting, when I got back home. With Ruthie gone, our affectionate boy got downright needy, and in his desperation finally made friends with my daughter, who requited his love enthusiastically. Which made his passing this past week all the more difficult.

Seventeen years old this spring, Max had begun losing the spring in his step, as well as a significant amount of weight, a few months ago. I knew the end would come, and come relatively soon. I just was not prepared for it to come quite as quickly as it did. About a week after returning from our vacation, Max took a sudden turn for the worse. Not eating, barely drinking, and unable to walk, he laid around the kitchen looking like a sack of bones for a week before I finally made the decision no one who owns a pet ever wants to make. I made the appointment to have him put down.

Though I'd cried every night for a week, that night was by far the most difficult. I lay on the floor long after everyone else had gone to bed, stroking his ears and thanking him for loving me, and for letting me love him. The next day my daughter, because somewhere along the line he'd become as much her cat as mine, held him in the car on the way to the vet, choking back the kind of tears that take your breath away. "It's okay, Max," she'd croon as he cried, never one for the motion of the car. "It's okay." I flashed back in my mind to a ride some nine and a half years earlier—she is one and a half and we are moving to a new city. Max is in a carrier on one side of her car seat, Ruthie on the other, and neither are happy to be there. My daughter croons to them the entire three hour drive… "S'okay, Max. S'okay, Ruthie. S'okay…" It is not okay, today. Tears fall fresh and I blink them away, breathing deeply and focusing on the road. We get there all too soon.

I cannot begin to describe how difficult it is to watch your child grieve the loss of a beloved friend, especially as you grieve your own. Mercifully, we have a wonderful vet, and she was gentle and tender with all three of us. We brought him home and took turns rocking him in the glider, holding him one last time, baptizing him with tears that flowed from that place where love and sadness reside together in strained compromise, two sides of the same coin forced to live back to back. We buried Max that night, on the opposite side of the raspberry patch from Ruthie, and prepared ourselves to grieve for a good, long time. What we were not prepared for was what God did next.

She crawled out from under our deck this weekend—dirty, skittish, and underweight, but quick to warm up to our attention. We fed her out of compassion, and that was all it took for us to somehow get adopted. We named her Latté—her creamy tan coat the color of milk and coffee—and wondered if she would stay. She did. We wondered if she would take to the house. She did. We wondered if she would take to us as much as we had taken to her.

She did.

We've gone back and forth in our minds about this decision—questioning if we've minimized or somehow disrespected the loss of Max by allowing another cat into our homes and hearts so soon after his departure. What I've determined, after much soul-searching, is this: we did not go looking for this cat. This cat came looking for us. Somehow, God in his infinite wisdom seemed to know that there is a certain grief that can only be comforted by holding something warm and soft and purring, and he sent us that comfort. We are choosing to be open to receiving it—because, after all, what a better tribute to Max and Ruthie than to have loved them so fully that we would be open to loving that way again, in spite of the pain such a love will inevitably bring.

We will wait a week to see if any lost kitty signs pop up, and to see how Latté acclimates, and if all goes well, we will take her to the vet after that time and we will make it official. We will, in turn, adopt the cat who has adopted us. Almost on an impulse, we will open our hearts again to loving and being loved.

Because, well, that seems to be the way things go around here.

Latté, on Bub's lap this evening...

Monday, May 10, 2010

working the soil

(wrote this the last morning of my retreat as i watched robert, my new parish farmer friend, prepare the ground for planting. it is both metaphorical and literal. you may interpret it whichever way you please...)

Clay is not the
best soil within
to plant seeds.
Dense and unyielding to the
touch of mere hands,
it resists all
advances, rebuffs all
attempts to turn and
And yet, the gardener toils on--
the back-breaking work of
redemption, worked
clod by heavy
Overturning that which is
on the surface (revealing
how shallow are
its roots),
the earth is laid bare--barren
broken before all--
vulnerable and
Reverently and tenderly, the
gardener persists, nurturing this
valuable plot of
mattock in hand, patient and
There is much to be done--
much that is missing, much to
be reintroduced in this
restorative work.
He applies the refuse of our
lives to the
surface, working it into the
soil, trusting it will provide what
is needed. Trusting that--
in time-- the ground will soften
to his touch and
receive the tiny vessels of
life he is eager to
Trusting that--
in time-- all will be
redeemed and the
soil in his
care will

Sunday, May 09, 2010

grinding gears

The transition from writer back to mother and wife is not going smoothly--I've ground a few gears along the way and was afraid I might have dropped the transmission at one point yesterday. Transitions aren't easy for me anyway, but this one was a bit harder than I expected. I keep seeing images of The Convent superimposed over my life--faces at the table, the view out my window, my happy little desk with my happy little laptop--I can't seem to be fully here yet. I don't want to be fully here yet.

I want to go back to that space--that space where I was free to write for hours on end without interruptions, where nothing at all was required of me, where all that was in my head finally oozed out my fingers onto paper and I was free of it and it of me. I liked that space. I liked the person I got to be there. There is no space here. What am I going to do about that?

There is much work to be done. Next on the agenda is creating a macro or master document, then printing the manuscript in its entirety. Then the first round of revisions begins, and then a second printing, this time to give to a few trusted friends to tear apart, hopefully with grace and a great deal of tenderness. (Any volunteers?) While they rip my baby to shreds, I will create a formal book proposal, and then I will do another revision and then send the proposal and a few sample chapters out to the wolves to be devoured and eaten. Sounds like a good time. Remind me again WHY I wanted to do this?

I need to go to bed. Tomorrow we hit the ground running--43 hours of clients to make up for being out for a week. The past week already feels like a distant memory--remember that time, like, three years ago, when I went on that writing retreat? I should really do that again sometime.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

now what?!?!

I am finished with the entire rough draft, with two and a half hours left until dinner. As I am too over-caffeinated to take a nap, I don't know what to do with myself!!!


Almighty and Eternal God,
So draw my heart to you,
So guide my mind,
So fill my imagination,
So control my will
That I may be completely devoted to you.
Then use me as you will:
Use me always for your glory
And the welfare of your people.
This I ask through Christ. Amen.

May this be realized in me today, Lord, as I work to bring the first portion of this process to completion. Amen, and amen!!!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

the midday office

Direct me, O Lord, in all my doings with your most gracious favor, and further me with your continual help; that in all my work begun, continued, and ended in you, I may glorify your holy name...

I have written six chapters, three and a half of them in the last two days, and yet I still sit down to my computer every time with the fear that I will not be able to write.

Come, Lord, come! Chapter seven awaits!

Monday, May 03, 2010

evening compline

What a day. I have already informed my husband I am not ever coming home. Ever. I wrote for seven hours today, and I'm still sitting at my computer. I wrote two and a half chapters during this time, which means I have five out of eight completed. I am so excited I can't stand it.

We talked around the dinner table about the fear we must overcome to put words to paper. I felt that this morning, to be sure. The fear that I would sit down to write and nothing would come, and I would have set aside this time and paid this money and forgone a week of income for nothing. And though that fear was unfounded today, the fear remains for tomorrow. A fresh chapter, a fresh blank page. Will I be able to fill it? I can only attempt in my weakness to trust that God will use and direct that time as he sees fit.

I hope he sees fit to write another chapter.

morning prayer

Breakfast behind me, I return to my room, nervous and uncertain. I place my hands upon the keys—feel the wind though the window, hear the birds, the dogs, the motorcycles, sense the expectation in the air, in my body, in my spirit—and I wait.

Lord God, meet me here. In my quiet, in my typing, in my thinking, in my not-being-able-to-think. I invite—I implore—you to come.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Hit the road this afternoon for a five day writing retreat to work on the manuscript I promised myself I'd write before I turned 40. The skies were clouded with rain and my thoughts were clouded with insecurity. What could I possibly have to say that hasn't been said before? This is what played on radio as I left home behind...


I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined
I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten

(lyrics by Natasha Benefield)

I've not written for almost six months--lost in a black cloud, unwilling to think, much less express. I am willing now. It is time to live my life with arms wide open.

Today is where my book begins.

Monday, April 26, 2010

you've come a long way, baby...

Out of pocket cost for broken arm: $3000
(Including four months of physical therapy)
Physical therapy for weak ankles: $660
Monthly gym tuition: $260
USAG fees: $150 annually
Mandatory summer camp: $320
Sparkly team uniform: $180
Sparkly team warm up: $50 used
Leotards for practice: $40 per leo
Goop for hair: $10
Sparkly spray for the same: $8

Learning how to overcome adversity, handle disappointment with grace, get back up again when you fall, conquer fear, be tenacious, develop concentration, work hard, be humble, manage time, gain balance, have grace under pressure, be a good sport, overcome the thought life, exercise determination, develop both physical and mental strength, take direction, value sacrifice, be satisfied with one's best, and end the year as ALL-AROUND STATE CHAMPION:


Sunday, January 10, 2010


Forgive me, but I'm going to be an obnoxious parent for a moment. Particularly given that Bub's last meet did not go so well...

36.525 (Finally--the necessary 36!)
First place vault
First place beam
Fourth place floor

There were no tears this meet. THANK YOU JESUS. Which was a particularly good thing, given she had four friends from school there and seven family members!

She and her buds claimed the podium for all-around. Above you have first, second, and third!

Thank you for your patience. We now resume normal programming.

Oh wait, this IS normal programming...

Sunday, January 03, 2010


Of all the Christmas movies we've collected over the years, I would have to say the one that impacts me the most is the one I least expected. The obvious inspirational choice would be The Nativity Story. The obvious tear-jerker would be The Little Match Girl. Our favorite comedy is still, even after all these years, A Christmas Story. And for an all-around feel good movie, White Christmas, staring my beloved Bing Crosby, is my all-time favorite, hands-down.

We bought The Polar Express because Buddy had a thing for trains. Period. That was my only interest in the movie, and that minimal interest was only by proxy. I didn't see it in the theater, because Buddy was too little to go, and, as already mentioned, I wasn't really that into it. The hubby and Bub went alone. The following year it appeared in Buddy's stocking, and the first year they watched it I wasn't even at home. I don't remember when I finally saw it for the first time, nor do I remember my initial response. But I eventually grew to find enjoyment in the movie, and in even more time, great insight. As in, this year it smacked me upside the head. Hard.

The Polar Express chronicles 8 or 9 year old Hero Boy's angst and adventure filled Christmas Eve. Hero Boy, having been raised in a "believing home," is experiencing, on this fateful night of all nights, his first major crisis of faith. Anxiety clouds his once-innocent face, for now, for the first time, there is Doubt. And Doubt, as we all know, is a Fearful Thing.

Hero Boy wants to believe. Desperately. You can see it on his face. It is evidenced in his running to catch the train, in his conversations with the creepy apparition he continues to encounter, in his frantic effort to make it to the square before midnight. Hero Boy needs for this to be true. But he is desperately afraid it is not.

He is afraid it is not true because Confusion has entered the picture, introduced by older, more "mature" boys, eager to destroy youthful dreams for a good laugh. Confusion introduced him to Suspicion, Suspicion brought his twin brother, Doubt along, and the rest, as they say, is history. Innocence is lost, Faith is shattered, Shame soon follows, like a tag-along younger sibling, eager to be included with the Big Boys. Hero Boy is, as we might say, a hot mess.

Once aboard, Hero Boy's shame grows as he encounters other children. There is the poor boy who almost doesn't make the train—Christmas has never come to his house before. What reason would he have to believe? His doubt is legitimate. He waits until the very, very last minute, as the train is leaving his home, to attempt to come aboard. While his doubt is warranted, his hope wins out. Hero Boy, recognizing Hope, pulls the emergency brake and the child is able to come on board. Hero Boy remains perplexed. Hope and Doubt battle it out internally. Will Hope secure the victory for Faith? Or will Doubt take him down, scoring another win for Unbelief?

Next he encounters a whiny-voiced bespectacled boy who annoys Hero Boy with his endless questions and even more endless answers. Hero Boy appears frustrated to not be able to answer with certainty, a fact that does not go unnoticed by his nasally counterpart. The more he presses, the more Hero Boy's shame grows. He knows what he's been taught. He knows the "right answers." Why can't he answer these questions? And if he can't answer the questions, does he even deserve to be here?

Then there is the movie's heroine—a beautiful, serene African-American girl with a wise and peaceful manner. When tested, time and time again, her faith does not diminish, but instead, it grows. Hero Boy beholds her with quiet wonder and a little bit of awe. He appears to not quite be sure what to make of her, yet obviously admires her, and, in the end, grows to trust her, and her judgment, as well. But until then, she makes him uneasy and uncertain about himself. Were her own certainty not growing throughout their adventure, this could have proven fatal to them both. Fortunately for each, she continues to press toward Faith, leading the way, should he choose to follow.

These four children find themselves, eventually, at the North Pole, though not where they are supposed to be. A harried attempt ensues to find the Square and make it there by midnight. Hero Boy's anxiety is at near-fever pitch. Not only is he worried what he'll find (or not find) when he gets there, he's now worried he won't even get there. Doubt and Confusion have brought along their friend Chaos, and the children barely make it to the square in time.

While one would think that finding oneself not only in the Square, surrounded by elves, but in Santa's sleigh itself (in The Bag no less) would begin to ease Hero Boy's doubts. But Doubt tends to have a tenacious hold, and it is not letting go. As the clock nears midnight, the crowd whips into a near-frenzy. "You better watch out…" The reindeer begin to pull at their harnesses. "You better not cry…" Hero Boy's eyes are wild with fear. "You better not pout…" Have you ever heard such a beautiful sound? the heroine asks of the bells on the reindeer's harnesses. Hero Boy looks at her, incredulous. Hear the bells? "I'm tellin' you why…" A bell comes lose from the reindeer's harnesses, rolling across the square and landing at his feet. It makes no sound. "Santa Claus is comin' to town!!!"

The door at the top of the stairs opens, and the crowd goes WILD. Hero Boy is frantic. Even in a crowd of elves, he cannot see. He jumps and leaps and springs, darting in and out of the crowd, looking for a spot between heads from which to catch a glimpse of that which once seen will bring Believing. He is crazed. All around him, people believe what he cannot. People see what he cannot. People hear what he cannot. You can see in his eyes that he just might become acquainted with Hysteria that night—he is that close.

He brings the bell to his ear again. No sound. He stares at it for an instant, then glances back through the crowd to the bobbing red hat that draws near. Near tears and breathing heavily, the crisis is fully visible on his face. But Hope hasn't left him, now whispering in his ear above the din. He hears her, and he obeys. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and makes his profession: I believe... I believe... I believe.

He opens his eyes, beholding the bell with anxious anticipation, and he raises it slowly to his ear and shakes it.

The bell rings.

The rest of the story is irrelevant to me, save the lessons each child learns, neatly punched on their tickets for each to consider. (You'll have to watch the movie to discover them—I can't give away everything, after all.) For me, the scene in the square is not only the climax, but the resolution. Hero Boy has seen (and heard) and believed. Crisis over. Faith restored. Ah, but how does that pithy little saying go? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed...

This scene epitomizes, expressed in a way I could never articulate, my own very personal struggle with faith. I know what I've been taught. I know what I believe to be true at the core of my being. But time and time again, I find myself surrounded by excited, bell-hearing believers, and I stand there, shaking the bell, chanting "I believe," and time and time again, I hear nothing.

I would love to be one of the blessed. I would love to simply believe, without the blessing-stealing benefit of sight. I would love to "know that I know that I know" about God's love. Not for you—oh no, I believe it for you. You, after all, hear the bell. No, for me alone, in my twisted little neuroses, is the bell silent.

For Hero Boy, Hope prevails and Faith wins. Saying it becomes meaning it becomes believing it becomes hearing it. In real life, it doesn't always happen that easily. Part of my ramblings this year will be my attempt to make friends again with Hope, having given up on her sincere but ineffective entreaties over the past several years. While the fundamentals of my faith are all there, there is much missing in its personal application and experience. Hope is my first step. I take it tentatively, bell in hand (or in pocket—the one without the hole), and brace myself for the ride.

All aboard—the train doesn't wait forever, after all. Got a schedule to keep. Midnight is around the corner…