Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The most wonderful time

I'm the first to say that Christmas is too commercialized.

I'm the first to complain about the focus on Santa, on spending, on the perfect gifts.

I've also been known to speak ill of too much concentrated family time, of the chaos, of crabby little brats and tired, embittered adults who fill each Christmas season.

But now I must speak of the other side: the reason we observe this day.

There was a babe born, laid in a manger, adored by strangers. There was a star that guided them there. I believe these things; they are not mere stories. Does it really matter whether it happened on that particular day? That the season in which we celebrate may or may not have been determined by pagans? That the baby might not have looked the way I picture Him, or the way that thousands of other artists have depicted His royal countenance? The point is this: He came. Here. To be one of us, because it was the best way to be "with us."

With us. Emmanuel.

If you don't know this King, I pray that you will. I pray He will come into your heart and stay. But—you must invite Him in. He will never force His way, will never pry the lock on your distrusting soul. It takes a small step by you, and a giant leap by Him.

Don't let Christmas in the land of materialism harden your heart. Hear that babe knocking. Picture Him, like any other little one. But not like any other: so much more. He is our greatest gift of all. He is hope. He is love. He is your savior, your friend, if you let Him.

Merry Christmas to you. It is merry, in spite of whatever is happening right now. We have a Savior. His name is Christ, the Lord.

P.S. Here is a link to a blog for a pastor at our church; it has a neat little story about Handel's composing The Messiah. Check it out!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The boots that kept on giving

All this thinking about Christmases past brought yet another memory to my mind—several, in fact. I started to recall certain gifts I'd received that stood out for some reason or another: one year it was a Ballerina Barbie, another it was a fuzzy musical bear that was presented to me early because I was deathly ill over the entire Christmas holiday (I still have the bear), and yet another Christmas it was a ski vest of sorts that I immediately wore ice skating, that very day, on the frozen creek across the road from my childhood home.

But the most memorable gift was one that kept on giving, months and even years after it had been received. The oddest thing is that the gift was not even given to me. It was given to my sister, L.

L. was older than me, was becoming more fashion- and trend-conscious, and had been pining for what were called "moon boots." (Do you remember them, too? They were bigger, awkward, early versions of the sleeker styles seen now. And remember, this was back in the day when giant, plodding boots were uncommon on young girls.) Moon boots were huge, thick, nearly-knee-high padded footwear; they truly resembled the giant barges that our own moon explorers sported as they tripped the light fantastic across the surface of that cheesy orb. Sis L. really wanted some of those boots. I do believe they were the top item on her Christmas list.

Happily, she received the yearned-for moon boots. Lo and behold, she unwrapped them on that shining morning; they were incredibly bulky and electric blue. I think they might have sported some sort of thick stripe on them? The details elude me now; it's been too many years.

Now, I was the youngest kid in my family. And my feet were smaller than my sister's. But, just as my son loves to clomp around in my Bean Gum Boots, I occasionally would slip on the moon boots for just a few minutes. To go feed the cats and dogs outside, perhaps. To toss grain or hay to the ponies. To shovel a quick path out the back door. Each time a chore loomed, there were those crazy blue boots, so ready, so available. I even wore them a couple of times to go out for lengths of time. We all did. I am pretty certain my mom fed the birds in them, and I have a vague recollection that perhaps my dad even slipped them on one time? We all marveled at the boots, which weighed practically nothing but were so warm you could wear them without socks and still not have cold feet. They were universally pulled on and into use...and they were universally appreciated.

I cannot recall whatever happened to the beloved boots. I know that we adored them so much, they eventually began to break down a bit. But it was long after they'd met countless outdoor feet needs for pretty much the entire family. They were every bit as ugly as today's stumbly, clumsy Crocs and knockoffs—and they were every bit as delightful, too.

A strangely fond memory of an unlikely subject—but there it is.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

At the meadow

Christmas memories are always littered with the same mental images for me: crowds of people at my parents' home, the tree in the same corner because that's where it fits best, bags of presents stacked under and around it, my grandma "bellied up" to the dining room table, declaring with nearly every large bite that she just doesn't have much of an appetite any more... But for some reason, one Christmas Day stands out more clearly than the rest.

It was an unseasonably warm day, probably in the 60s, clear and mildly sunny. (I was probably in upper elementary school, perhaps 5th or 6th grade; I'm not sure, and it really doesn't matter.) We'd opened all the gifts hours before, had sifted through them multiple times, tried on the clothes, played with the toys, snacked on unhealthy cookies until we were all half sick. And someone had the idea that we should walk to the meadow.

What is the meadow? It is exactly as it sounds, a vast expanse of verdant lushness that sits high atop the hills behind my parents' house. We walked to it a couple of times each year, as I recall, perhaps not quite so often. Mid- to late-spring was the best time to go. It was a bit of a hike, and as summer progressed, the climb took more and more patience and stamina because of the seasonal (and yearly) increase of weeds and scrubby shrubs on the hillside. The path was steep, not even really defined; the effort required that you avoid the grabbing undergrowth, face-slapping branches, and sticky burrs. Lastly, you crossed a dilapidated barbed-wire fence and walked along the side of the hill on a rudimentary road of sorts.

Even when the road ended and you'd gotten to the top, saw the green stretching out before you and thought you'd arrived, you still had some walking to do in order to reach the crest of the highest rounded peak. You trudged along, tired, probably scratched from briars, thirsty if you hadn't remembered to bring some water (I don't recall ever doing so because we knew we could steal a drink from the natural spring on the way back down). You walked some more. You kept your eye on the prize.

Then, you were there. The tip. The pinnacle. The zenith. Boy, was it worth all the trouble.

All the way into the little town you gazed, and you were looking down on the world. There were neighbors' cottages tucked away, more crowded neighborhoods farther away, the big red brick hospital... I think we could even see aspects of the nearby coal mines. You stood atop the world, looking down on creation as the song goes, and you heard nothing. Only the breeze, sometimes rather brisk because you were out of the valley at last. It was heady, to say the least. The descent was more leisurely, of course, being downward-sloping and broken by a cold stream of spring water that spurted from an overflow pipe next to our reservoir.

And that Christmas Day hike was no different. I think I remember it so clearly because it is the only time I recall making the hike in the "off" season. The climb was less taxing because nothing was growing. The view, although more brown, was no less spectacular; in fact, we could see even more of the miniature world that lay far below. There we were, at the end of December, with our light jackets tied around our waists, standing in peace and surrounded by balmy openness. It was as if we'd carried the joy of the day with us, carried it all the way into a misplaced breath of spring. It drifted up from us like a kite, buoyed by light winds and our good spirits, dancing overhead.

Truly a Christmas to cherish.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An update

Hi, all. Nothing much to report here. The pace of life has suddenly increased in speed and intensity, probably because of the time of year and the sudden crappiness of the weather. I don't have a lot to say; I've vacillated among writing an angry, involved segment about how women make Christmas happen, or another about how poorly people drive the closer we get to the holiday, or a third nasty post about health insurance in general.

In the interest of remaining positive, I've ruled against all of those posts—for today, at least—and have opted instead for a quick, happy note to wish you a stress-free (yeah, right) pre-Christmas week. Remember to leave the credit cards at home, and have seconds of the salad instead of all the stuff you really want.

Now, if I could just travel back in time and get those salad seconds instead of... Oh, never mind.

I'll be back soon with some sort of Christmas memory. I'm in the process of dredging them all up now, and sorting through them so as to toss out the ugliest ones that require therapy. We'll see what remains after that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The infiltration

My boss loves to bake and cook, as do I. Many Mondays find us exchanging casserole samplings or baked goods, the occasional cookies, etc. It's fun, and a nice way to break up the monotony of eating meals at work, which can get pretty dull.

Recently, a new week began and I found a lovely pumpkin muffin awaiting my return to the office after a weekend. There it sat on my desk, pretty and browned, wrapped in clear cellophane, beckoning to me. I was strong and left it sitting next to my keyboard; I had plenty to eat already that day, the office traffic was frenetic, and as I bustled about talking to clients, I thought about how it would brighten the following afternoon.

The next workday came, and a couple of hours into the day I looked longingly at the muffin. It would be tasty with a cuppa tea... and then I saw it. Crumbs near the wrapper. I eat so many things at my desk that I assumed my own messy nature had brought about the crumbs; I'd probably dribbled them from a recent cookie or bread. But no. A closer look revealed something in the cellophane wrap that made me shudder: a hole.

A nibbled hole. A small, rough-edged entry, further marked by an indentation in the muffin itself. A perfect little proof of rodent infestation.

I looked. I looked again. I turned to my boss, who sits behind me. "How concerned should I be about this?"

She glanced at my computer screen, assuming I'd managed to invite yet another virus into the office server. She looked pointedly at the monitor, perplexed. "What?"

"No, THIS." I indicated the hole in the muffin with a disgusted finger.

She looked, and looked more closely. Her face changed completely; the inquisitive, confused expression was suddenly repulsed, her mouth twisted involuntarily, her brows rose and her eyes widened. "Oooooooooh!"

"Oh, yes." We looked at the ruined muffin with shared horror. She mentioned some earlier indications from months ago, where she'd wondered whether there was an issue but had blamed the bad-mannered, sloppy students. Now, though, we knew: sloppy though those students may be, they were not to blame for shredded candy wrappers. Oh, no.

I threw some of my now-contaminated food stash away, and left only a lone granola bar and a foil-wrapped bag of rice crisps. Mice couldn't eat through foil, could they? They couldn't get inside the desk drawers. My goods were safe.

The next morning, I am saddened to say I learned I was so very wrong; yes, they eat through foil, and yes, they can climb inside desk drawers.

All the food has since been banished from my clearly penetrable desk, straight into the work-kitchen garbage. And the traps sit, waiting. Poised to catch a mouse. Set to snap on an unsuspecting, treat-seeking critter. A sly, sneaky, hungry pest that, if I saw it, would likely charm me with its cuteness.

But I have not seen it. I see only the evidence of its filthy, thieving ways. When next I see it, IF next I see it, I hope it is caught.

Truth be told, I'm hoping it realizes what it's up against and just moves elsewhere. I really don't want it dead. I just don't want it in my desk. OR in my baked goods. YUCK.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Don't give my regards to Broadway

So, we were watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. For a little while, at least. I turned it on, thinking I'd get a brief kid-talk hiatus in which to prepare sweet potatoes in peace. It had worked on me when I was a kid, hadn't it? Lots of floats, huge balloons shaped like cartoon characters, hordes of people, the occasional band marching... at least that was how I recalled it.

Not so these days. We flicked on the television and chose whatever station featured the least vapid and dull-witted commentators. First they blabbed, sharing prepared quips with all the natural flair of a water buffalo passing through a narrow gate. Then, a ridiculously corny cast of Hair performed a song... holy cow, how old is that show? It's still running? I was not amused but it seemed harmless, so I left the costumed fools prancing and crooning their decades-old song and hurried into the kitchen.

Within a few minutes, the kid was calling me into the living room. "What is this, Mom?" I returned. This time, kids were bouncing around the stage alongside a poorly acted dance instructor who rolled her eyes with gusto (part of the performance); the wise, witty commentators informed us that this fine number was from the play Billy Elliott. Huh? That's a play? Movie, yes. Play? News to me.

I scurried back to finish mashing potatoes, but only a few minutes passed before I heard, "Mom, you gotta see this." I peered back in. Where was the parade? I'd seen one Snoopy balloon, and...that's it. One balloon. In all that time. And on the screen now? Why, a bunch of grown people dressed as characters from the movie Shrek. A man decked out as a heavy-haunched donkey was stomping about madly, singing (or pretending to sing) "I'm a Believer." A green-faced fellow—Shrek himself,of course—sang along with his bride. Another guy was dressed as Pinocchio. All of them were shimmying, shaking, twisting and turning, grinning like mad, all while adorned in the most ludicrous costumes.

So, Shrek is now a Broadway play. Say it isn't so! Is nothing sacred? Broadway used to be more serious, didn't it? Wasn't the stage where "real" actors performed? These days, high theatre has fallen to meet the demands of the unschooled. Todd and I watched the costumed animals cavorting to the music and shook our heads. We wondered aloud: Do people who long to perform on stage all start out in such silly works? And if you land the part of Pinnochio, do you say so on your resume? Do you admit to such a role? I'm guessing you would, that any lead would be a step in the right direction. But at what cost to your pride? What is the price when you consider that your own self-image might be at stake?

If these folks are really enjoying what they do, then I guess it's worth it. But on Thanksgiving Day? To be dressed as a fairy tale character that may or may not be a beast? Knowing that you'll be wearing that disguise many, many more times, dancing the same falsely gleeful dance over and over? I don't know if I can buy that it's terribly fulfilling.

I can't remember if the parade was always this sappy and pro-NY culture, but if it was, I have to believe the plays were better when I was a kid. Every time I think the people can't reach a new low, they exceed my expectations. We've passed from the days of Annie into an age when any movie is fair game for stage interpretation—even those that shouldn't be. And the parade itself has all but disappeared, plowed under by dumbed-down commercialization.

Even my 4-year-old declared, "Time to turn it off!" when three sassy, big-haired gals appeared to perform a song from the new stage production of Dreamgirls. Enough is enough. We know when we're being force-fed the stuff of the masses. Give me Arthur Miller, give me August Wilson, give me turkey instead of more stuffing, and for cryin' out loud get some floats and balloons moving through this route, PDQ.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stupid is as stupid does

On Friday, I did something so stupid that I am ashamed to write it.

I bought a $5 greeting card.

That's right, a piece of medium-weight card stock with a small image of flowers on the front and some pretty words inside and out. A card. A friggin' piece of paper. The only thing that made it unique was a small piece of ribbon that was threaded through some little holes at the top of the card. The holes for the ribbon were not gnawed by poverty-stricken children, as far as I know. They were not hand-punched in a foreign village with the disembodied claw of a rare native creature. I don't believe the ribbon itself was created on foot-operated looms in the mountains of Tibet; it appeared to be rather ordinary, a single color, no pattern, no texture other than the expected lined pattern seen in many common ribbons.

I also bought a gift bag (aren't those great?! and reusable!!!) and carefully noted the price of the bag before selecting one. I never even glanced at the price of the card. I hadn't bought one in a long time; it didn't even occur to me to look. When I got to the checkout and the girl told me the total, I nearly fell over. I had to ask—why was it so much? Did I get a more expensive bag than I thought? No, she informed me, it was the card. The card cost $4.99. That's right, twice as much as a good-sized, sturdy, useful bag with handles. TWICE AS MUCH AS THE BAG.

The most ridiculously stupid part of this story is that I didn't immediately return the card for a refund. I didn't return it at all. I was in a hurry, and I was crabby, and I stared at her in disbelief as I paid for the *!?$&$ purchase and left the store. I've made a point of hand-crafting most of my cards for several years now, have stocked up on printed paper and blank cards and stamps and markers and the like, but up until Friday the main reason was that I figured I could say what I wanted to say without the help of sappy, emotive corporations. But now? Now I'll make all my own cards just because I'm a cheapskate.

Except for the very affordable blank notecards that I get at the craft store: 8 for $1. Now that's more like it.

Can you believe? What is this world coming to? And what am I coming to when I pay it, just because I need to get it done and get it home and wrap the present, and there's no time to make a card?

Not my proudest moment, that one.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wow, I'm old, but it ain't so bad

This past weekend was full of surprises.

I'd been denying my advancing age for several weeks. I figured, if I don't mention it, no one else will remember it. We're all busy, I'm not the kind of person who demands a big fuss, money's tight, etc.

I was wrong.

I was completely bamboozled over the weekend when I walked into what should have been a music rehearsal and found instead an assortment of family and friends who lay in wait with cake, presents, and shouts of "Surprise!" And Sunday was spent at, of all lovely things, the symphony. Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

So, being an ancient hag has its advantages. I don't recall anyone going to this much trouble when I was 20. Not even 25. You have to hang around much longer than that to earn a big shindig like this.

I wonder, if the Lord's willin' and the creek don't rise, what might happen when I turn 50?! I'm not going to rush to get there, but hey, it does change the way you think about it.

Happy tidings to all, and thanks goes out to those who participated in any way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bald-faced Mel-isms

This was an unexpectedly busy weekend, with some nice surprises. I'm still sorting it all out, so I'll write about that soon but not yet. Meantime, I'll just drop some bombs from the top of my head.

• I feel more and more certain that at least 65% of the general population of children in the United States could benefit from a sound beating. At least once, daily. Yes, even the smaller kids. If the sampling of the child population is located in a comfortable suburb and filled with kids who have no real needs (other than discipline and a chance to achieve boredom), then that percentage rises to at least 85%.

• I can hardly read the newspaper anymore without becoming livid. (We gave up MSM network television years ago, partly for that same reason.) Why are so many people dancing around the obvious? This Hasan guy in Fort Hood was an extremist working within our own ranks. He was the enemy on the inside. He should have been watched and researched and removed from duty. He spoke up against his own troops, for the bombers, vocalized his support, spoke the language of terrorists. Why is our so-called leader not naming this act as it was? Oh, that's right. He probably funded the jerk. Or received funding from him. Or prayed with him, or bowed with him, or discussed the most efficient means of takeover. Covertly, from a position in which you are snugly nestled amidst the enemy. Sound familiar?

• Why do we hear so much more about extremism in Islam than we do about extremists in other religions? Especially outwardly directed extremism? Every religious group has radicals, but so few of them do as much major damage to unbelievers as the extreme Muslims. I'm certain the media is not ignoring related instances, since they so eagerly embrace anything that helps to whitewash the current crazies. I just figure it must not be happening, or it's kept inside the tribe. Either way, I feel like that's a whole lot better than the subtle and not-so-subtle wars against us that we're witnessing these days.

• On a much happier note, I am honestly amazed nearly every day that my son is mine. He delights me. He is such a special kid that I can't believe I hatched him, nor that we're blessed enough to have him with us.

• I cannot believe how being forced to do something you love starts to make that beloved task feel like work. Cooking, tidying, planning the shopping. All of them fine, even fun—until I must perform them, in a restricted period of time. Then? Work.

• My husband, family, and friends are far sneakier than I ever imagined. And, I'm sad to report, I am far more gullible than suspected.

• I think for the most part that wedding registries are stupid. I believe they are left over from a bygone era when people got married and then moved from their parents' homes into a home together without most household possessions. It just ain't happenin' that way anymore, folks. Not happy to say it, but there it is.

• I have to keep readjusting my definition of old, because I keep on attaining the pre-adjusted definition.

• My husband has this way, when he's asked how he's doing, to reply with the words, "Better than I deserve." And many times, it has kind of irked me for reasons I can't really express. However? Some days, like today? I think I know what he means.

• My church is not perfect. Yet, it's doing a lot of things right. I must be more thankful for that body of believers.

• I am going to try really hard to be more positive and hopeful. And to trust completely that God's got it covered.

Well wishes to yinz,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

She's a grand old flag

I finally made it to a parade in our fair city.

The best parade of all.

Only patriotic songs burst forth from the bands, heroes were abundant, and our lovely flag flew with pride and joy from nearly every available paw and perch. It was honestly inspiring. ROTC kids, men, and women in uniform, plus a bevy of older veterans from every recent war of note marched one after the other. Some of the most frail rode in cars, a trolley, a DUK, and even on buses. We clapped for one and all.

My only question is this: why doesn't this parade draw as many as the sports championships parades?

Those parades are fun too, I'm absolutely certain. Yet, I'm a tad ashamed of our definition of hero sometimes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stripped, someday to be blurred

I go back and forth about subjects for this blog. I have many that I would like to tackle, but end up shelving because I'm either not certain what I want to say, or I fear that the topic will be too depressing to address. Today's post is one that I've been toying with for days. And hey, I'm a reasonably honest person and this is my forum; if you find it disagreeable, no one's holding a gun to your head—at least not about whether you read this mindlessness.

We're in a period of our lives here, in my home, that I suspect will be blurred in my memory. It's simply not a happy period. It's not bad, not painful, not terrible, we're not suffering, we're trying each day to be thankful and look forward while still enjoying many blessings. But I'd be lying if I said this was a comfortable, contented season. It's full of uncertainty, of instability, rife with worries (even though those aren't biblical, I know) and just generally disconcerting. We have enough, even plenty in the eyes of most of the world. We have a home. We have work and money coming in. I'm writing this on a computer which is for the most part a completely unnecessary toy in that home. I have a stomach full of breakfast food. I am sitting in front of a heater that emanates warmth on a chilly morn.

But this is not a season of joy. I'm trying to find the joy, but many days it eludes me. And I know from experience that in the future, I'll look back on this time and a lot of it will be unclear. I'll have let the sharp memories slip away to soften the intensity of the emotions associated with them. It's been shown that we humans store memories alongside accompanying emotions, and that each time we recall that moment or event, we relive the feelings that we felt then. I have many clear, distinct memories of wonderful moments, turning points in my life, dear fragments of existence that changed me for the better. On the flip side, to be frank, a lot of the feelings of this long, current moment are not desirable to me, and therefore will render the memories less than precious. Good things are still occurring during this time, but they're hidden among lots of other garbage that I'll do my best to toss out when given the chance.

It's funny, how instability and uncertainty are always present with us, but unless we are forced to confront them daily, they seem less powerful, easier to set aside. When the illusion of stability is stripped away, we must face what was always there: the reality that we have no idea what the next minute will bring. It's always that way, but job losses, big changes, concerns, illness and fears bring that reality into stark focus in a way that happy, carefree times never will.

I talked with a friend last night who'd attended a burial. She was deeply disturbed by the fact that at said burial, as the casket was lowered into the ground, jutting up against its resting place were several vaults* that had shifted slightly from erosion and the construction of a road nearby. There stood the mourners, looking into that hole, confronted with undeniable evidence that the bodies planted near this spot were, indeed, still hanging out under all that earth, beneath a slab of concrete. Why was it so disturbing? Between us, my friend and I determined it was simply because the illusion of preservation was suddenly gone. There's no denying that a body placed in the ground will eventually turn into something very unlike a body; it's hard to argue with that when you're looking at proof that the holding tanks are still there, years later. Not to be gruesome or morbid—it's just the truth.

So, we've been similarly stripped of illusions here at my place. And I plan to blur this reality as soon as I am able. I'll keep portions of it, because as I said, there are many blessings within the uncertainty. But the rest I will jettison into the surf like the flotsam that it is. And I will pray, and pray, that this is not the new and permanent reality.

* A vault is the concrete "box" that holds and protects a casket. Yes, I'll admit, I am stupid and did not know this until last night's discussion.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nuances of phlegm expulsion

So, it's the sickly season and then some. H1N1 is striking with germy venom, regular run-of-the-mill colds and viruses are leaping onto new hosts with glee, and the air around is generally so contaminated that one is afraid to take a breath. And don't scratch that tickle below your brow, for goodness' sake—the urge to rub your eye will be far too strong. (Although I'm still not certain whether viruses can enter through the eye, I consider it to be an orifice of sorts, albeit plugged with your eyeball, and I'm not taking any chances.)

But the ill surroundings have made me aware of an uncanny ability most of us have by the time we're adults: we can read a cough. Sometimes we can read it superbly. I sat in church today, and a baby coughed behind me. How did I know it was a baby? I don't know, exactly, but I did; I even suspected it to be a female baby. Then I turned later to confirm it, and sure enough, the cough was coming from a tiny child, about 6 or 8 months old. A little girl with pink Mary Janes. What made her small cough different from others? The timbre was too high to be an adult's, and the little noise she made didn't sound as if it had traveled very far on its way out. I don't know how else to describe it, but I think you'll know what I mean.

Church is a good place to test this theory, because it's a rather quiet space and there's a large sampling of humanity from which to draw data. I remember a few years ago that Todd and I both noticed the same insistent, seemingly endless cough that we heard week after week. We both knew it was a woman before we'd located the back of her head, and we both noted that the cough was a rather wet sound, indicative of something chronic. Lo and behold, we met her last year—a lovely, charming miss who happens to have cystic fibrosis.

Think about it: can't you usually guess correctly the approximate age of the cougher? Often, even in children, the sex of the coughing victim? Can you not often predict whether a cough will be accompanied by a nasty, snotty nose or watery eyes? Sometimes you can even tell how many days or weeks the person has been coughing, because those lingering, dry coughs of the late-stage head cold are so easily identified. It's quite amazing, really, the amount of overwhelmingly accurate information you can garner from merely listening to someone as they attempt to clear their lungs or stop a squirrelly bronchial spasm in its tracks.

I really did hear the message today, too—I wasn't just listening to sickies and trying not to breathe. But one can't help noticing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A trashy melmoir

Writing about garbage in my last post—yet again (since I also wrote about it here)—reminded me of garbage at my old family home.

We lived in the country, or what most people (other than genuine hill people or mountain-dwellers) would call the country. Yes, there was a busy road running in front of the house, but the yard was large and rolling, with an extensive garden patch, surrounded by too many trees to number and lots of steep hills behind. Acres hovered around us on pretty much all sides, and when I was small, those acres were empty. The neighbors' homes were visible, but just barely; you never heard a conversation at regular volume from either of their places; they were just too far away.

Which meant we were not in a neighborhood. And therefore, no garbage truck rolled up to our place on a weekly basis. When there began to be a regular "garbage day," I was well into my childhood, and the makeshift garbage person was a private contractor of some sort. A rather dilapidated pick-up would arrive the same morning each week, I think... it's all fuzzy now. I believe that's still the current arrangement for my parents, who happily continue to dwell in that childhood home of mine.

The important part of this story, however, is that in those early, pre-contractor days, my family had a burn barrel.

Ever heard of those? Perhaps you're one of the other kids who had one at home? Or, it's possible that you still have one, out of the way, in the back corner of the yard. They're increasingly rare—unless you count the sudden popularity of chimineas: could they be a pretty, covert burn barrel for the modern age? Hmmmmm. The burn barrel wasn't pretty, but it wasn't about form: it was pure function, baby. At one time it had probably held fuel, oil, some toxic liquid; periodically it needed to be replaced because its sides became quite thin and flaky after lots of use. It sat on a level stone surface some distance from our back door.

I don't recall ever having the pleasure of starting a fire in the burn barrel. Being the youngest, I suppose it was out of vogue by the time I could be trusted with flammable materials and a rusty barrel full of combustibles. When I grew old enough to earn burn-worthiness (say that a few times quickly), the little contractor guy had started showing up and most of our garbage was taken away without incident.

We knew, as kids, that certain items were forbidden in the burn barrel. Occasionally, being irresponsible and goofy as youngsters are wont to be, we forgot. Some items were forbidden because they did not burn, others because they created hideous smells and/or smokes. But some were forbidden because they were explosive.

Like I said--we forgot sometimes.

I remember one such memorable occasion, when one of us—who knows which?— had thoughtlessly tossed an empty aerosol can into the trash. There it lay, a time bomb hidden among Sunday papers and junk mail and empty breakfast cereal boxes. The fire was lit by one of my older sisters, and we all watched the barrel begin to glow. (It was usually a fun-filled time, the burning of the barrel—I seem to recall that for this event, the weather was autumnal... again, it's all quite fuzzy now.) And we stood around the barrel, probably pushing each other or engaging in name-calling or just being silly because when you're a kid standing near an open fire you must be silly, and then


Yes, I am fully aware that it's grammatically incorrect to use that many exclamation points in a row, but I feel it necessary to express the shock of that moment, when a fiery hot, semi-destroyed aerosol can was suddenly airborne over our heads flying to God knows where and landing, thankfully, away from us in a harmless spot unoccupied by any human form.

My father was not happy. Of course the noise brought him with much speed, and I recall that he was wearing a grim face that was replaced by anger and frustration once he'd ascertained that we were all physically unscathed. No wonder. Poor man. All those girls in the house—even most of the pets were girls. And one restroom. And then, an exploding burn barrel.

I wish I could say that it never happened again. I feel certain that it did, at least once or twice more, but I do think that incident burned into our little brains why it was important to monitor what one placed in the garbage can. I am hoping so very much, but truly cannot recall, whether it was one of my hideous cans of AquaNet hair spray that caused the problem. I think not, since I did not begin to proudly sport that putrid, unnatural product until at least middle school; I pray that by then, incineration had been replaced by other means of disposal. But I'm just not sure. My family may read this and set me straight.

I apologize if that flying can happened to be my responsibility. But each time I remember, I shake my head and stifle a giggle at the same time. Now that I know we all survived, I wish I could travel back and see our faces when it happened; the expressions had to be priceless.

Ah, childhood.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I could never be a garbage man

I couldn't be a garbage man, because I'm not a man, of course. Yet, nor could I be a garbage woman. I could not collect other people's trash.

Why? Am I a snob? I doubt it. Would it be too smelly? Certainly, it would be malodorous. Summer days, flies buzzing 'round the piles, stink emanating from every open container... Would the garbage be too heavy for a delicate flower (like me) to lift and hoist? Most assuredly, there would be at least one or two items on every street that would faze my feeble strength. Would I be able to pass the CDL test in the first place? And would I ever, in my wildest dreams, be able to maneuver the oversized truck through tiny nooks and skinny alleys? Between double-parked cars and adventurous plastic cans and their straying, rolling lids? I truly don't know. I can drive my small car, can parallel park like a pro most days thanks to Dad, but a garbage truck? On a suburban street?

In truth, it is none of these reasons that deters me from the sparkling career path of garbage expert. It's the waste.

Not the waste itself, silly. It's OUR waste. It's the amount of perfectly good, even great, stuff that is thrown away weekly in this ridiculously spoiled, self-centered country. It breaks my heart. It makes me feel ill. It makes me ashamed, makes me ponder moving to another place—yea, to another time; I suspect that short of embracing poverty, starvation, extreme civil unrest, or all three, no matter where I move I'll soon encounter more examples of materialism. I'd have to travel to another era to escape it now.

Drive around an even remotely comfortable neighborhood near any city, indeed in most small towns, and be horrified and appalled by what you see on the curb on trash day. Fully functional toys, perfectly useful furniture, books, clothes, the like. Yes, there is some junk. But oh, my goodness, there is a lot of stuff that's just fine, except that it's been set out with the trash. And for those of you who remember Seinfeld, "Adjacent to garbage is garbage."

What an unfair stigma, in a place where many charities will come pick up the goods at no charge, in a day when most people drive vehicles big enough to transport multiple children plus all their friends, but just can't find room to haul the perfectly good stuff to a second life somewhere. Yes, it is inconvenient. But there is a price for convenience! We're seeing it now. A society where people feel no awkwardness meeting strangers online, exchanging photos and details, sometimes even sharing intimacies with them, yet balk at the idea of acquiring a used table or chair, a "worn" shirt. So wash it, so clean it. It's fine. And I realize I am talking to myself about this much of the time.

Funny, isn't it, how nothing is too personal to "share," but truly sharing the icky stuff, like easily removed sweat or oil or dirt, is far beyond many folks' comprehension. And here we are, in this greedy, grasping place, on garbage day. And I want to weep.

Perhaps I could work for the garbage company, but I'd be the horse-drawn cart in front of the truck, scouting for goods that are still good. I could hurry ahead, throwing the desirables in my cart, saving them for another go-around. Even if we gave them away, that would be better. Anything would be better than the disposable mindset that permeates this modern country steeped in success, sinking into its own mounds of unnecessary newness.

Can anyone give me directions to the 40s?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Satan's favorite playground

You probably know I'm not a fan of Facebook. You know I find many of today's techie, gimmicky communication tools to be annoying, low-quality methods of keeping in touch with people you may or may not give a rat's behind about. I don't think any of you would be surprised to hear me say these things (or read my online rants about them—of which there have been at least a couple, like here and here).

But Satan's playground? Come on, Mel. Facebook's not so bad. It's harmless fun. It's just a place to "talk" to people, and a nice way to find people you've lost contact with, and a funny platform for keeping everyone informed about your every last trip, event, conversation, zit, or intestinal illness.



There's a reason you didn't keep in touch with many of those people. Or, in the case of some folks' amassed online "friends," there's a reason you were never really friends with those people to begin with. Maybe the reason was that you grew apart; maybe you and that person were only acquaintances when you crossed paths, and now you remain acquaintances with a more friendly title but no more intimacy than before. Perhaps you never knew the person at all, and he/she is a psycho-freak who is stalking you. Or it's possible, just barely possible, that you and this person haven't seen or talked to each other for over a decade because there's no reason to do so and it's just too much trouble to search for a phone number or write a letter.

What's feeding my spew? Well, let me tell you: one of Todd's ex-girlfriends sent him a friendly little note via Facebook. First to strike up conversation, and then to try to dredge up the distant in, the time when they were dating. She happens to have befriended a family member of his, so she's fully aware that he's married, knows he has a child, and yet she sent these little messages along into cyberspace. To top it off? She is also married. To a service man, or so she says, who may or may not be serving his country overseas at this time. She is also a parent.

I ask you: what good can come of such a contact?

I have never been able to remain friends with any past boyfriends. It didn't seem kosher, or one of us started dating someone else and there were jealousy issues to consider, or one of us had been dumped and there were broken hearts added to the mix. I don't wish those boys and men any suffering (okay, maybe I do wish harm to one or two), but I also don't see the point in pretending to be friends with these people whom I once cared for but no longer think about. We're not in that place anymore, we've moved on, the feelings are no longer the same. No good can come of it.

But along comes modern technology, and suddenly you can keep tabs—semi-public tabs, no less—on everyone and anyone you ever wondered about in a passing moment. Everyone you ever had a sentimental thought about, especially after a fight with your spouse. Everyone you might still carry a torch for. And not only can you keep tabs: you can reach out and "poke" them! You can even communicate without your significant other knowing! You can send them private messages. You can, so easily, resurrect things that should have been left buried deep in the ground. It's like the Pet Sematary of the internet. And I have to think that Satan loves it. I'm not even touching on the insults and cheap shots that are exchanged there, nor the lascivious details that normally shy people share in that setting; I'm not mentioning the boldness of rude comments and inappropriate images, not venturing into the weird, predatory meetings that are often spawned there. I'm just hitting on the marriages that this subtly destructive tool has likely undermined.

I'm happy to report Todd is off Facebook. I stand by my statement: No good can come of it. Don't look for us there.

P.S. Am I a hypocrite, since I blog? I can keep this forum a bit more private, I think. And I'm not using it to reach any old boyfriends. Thoughts?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The little church that could

When we first moved to our current neighborhood, we couldn't help noticing a slightly dilapidated little church at the foot of our hill. Nor could we miss the scant and dwindling group of worshippers leaving there each Sunday morning. We would pass them as we headed to our own service, at our own church, and I was guilt-stricken thinking that here we went, driving away from a perfectly good little church building within a 2-minute stroll of our yard. We embarked to our own popular, booming, busy city church, and all the while this sad, small congregation in our own community grew weaker and weaker.

Eventually, it closed up shop. The little church gave in, locked the doors, and left a hopeful "Peace on Earth" message in its glass-covered sign board out front. But then some hoodlums broke the glass one night, and the letters fell bit by bit until the message was a meaningless "n Eart" and the whole thing just depressed me tremendously.

The empty building sat for a good year or two, and Marcus and I would talk about it as we drove past. "There's that little church," I'd say, and he'd pipe up, drawing on previous conversations, "That little church needs a family." I wondered many times if it would be torn down; it was obviously old, with an original flagstone foundation that was beginning to crumble into powder, and the siding grew increasingly gray with age and grime. The whole place was tucked into a tiny valley next to a creek, which didn't help matters at all, what with the creek's flooding tendencies—and it had no parking to speak of, and no sidewalks on the road where it sat, which pretty much made it inhospitable and dangerous... I waited, fearing its doom. Yet it stood.

And then. Oh, then. One day over the summer, cars were parked alongside the dirty building. Work vans joined them a few days later. The church's doors were open at times when we crept past, revealing things under construction inside. Friendly-looking, happy people trooped in and out, carrying things and looking determined and purposeful. Men hoisted heavy boards, bricks, and pipes; ladies sanded and painted railings and door frames. How would they do it, I wondered? Could they overcome the poor location? The ancient structure itself? The lack of parking?

Silly me: Of course they could! The last week of August, we watched a woman and young boy make their patient way down and up our fair street, carrying what appeared to be literature of some sort. Fearing they were of a certain sect that falls into the cult category at our home, we avoided the door and watched from the bedroom window (I'm not proud of this, folks). And the lady and youngster left a flyer in our door, which we surreptitiously grabbed and read as soon as they were out of sight. Lo and behold, we'd been way off base: the pair was from the little church! They were going to start holding services there in one week!

We had commitments at our own church on that momentous weekend, and our services started earlier than theirs, so the church was still quiet when we left that Sunday morning. But upon our return, my heart swelled to see the doors open, and a smiling, tie-sporting fellow greeting worshippers as they made their way inside. Even better, I noticed with glee that three separate businesses, all located within a few steps of the church's doors, had allowed church parking; all the lots were clearly marked with folding signs and were, even better, populated with a more-than-respectable number of cars. Best of all: the broken-down sign had been replaced with a new one that hung invitingly, beckoning visitors.

Why was I so happy about this? Have I even attended a service there? I'm not sure why, and no, I haven't yet trekked down to see what it's all about. I want to. In time, I will. I did check their website (it was listed on the flyer), and was pleased to see a similar mindset to my own—a simple, no-frills philosophy about faith in our powerful God and His son. I suppose I was, and continue to be, uplifted by the church members' hard work and success, by the way other locals have contributed with parking opportunities, by the much-needed reminder that God Makes a Way. You see, I forget sometimes about His authority. We're here in this world, it's all screwed up, people are sick and dying and pursuing evil and making horrible choices... but here comes a pint-sized army of faithful people and suddenly, there's hope again in a once-abandoned valley.

There's always hope in that valley. Isn't it wonderful?!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The wi-fi facade

Hello, folks. Yes, I've been MIA once again. Sickness has descended on our humble home and has made its miserable way through each and every family member. Yet, we have not entirely succumbed, work has continued, life has continued, school tomorrow will continue, and life goes on. Cough, cough, snot, snot, HONK. (That last honk was me blowing my nose.)

So, I know I'm really old when the whole "wi-fi" train has left me behind at the station. Wi-fi in your house? Yes, that makes some sense. You can check various fronts from the comfort of your couch, or from the handy-dandy kitchen office that really swank, huge homes feature (which we lack here). You can be working online while your kids are playing games with kids in other countries. It's all good.

But wi-fi at coffee shops? At bagel stores? Why? I am flummoxed. I know it's cool. I know it's hip. I know that people shouldn't feel confined to office spaces anymore. How limiting. How very 90s. Still, I fear that performing online work tasks at Panera is doing to work what talking on cell phones at all hours in all places has done to the quality of telephone communications. (Hint: REDUCING QUALITY SIGNIFICANTLY.)

Work is work. It takes space most of the time. It takes quiet sometimes. It takes thought-space, ponder room, concentration. It takes a place where you can have a conversation with a person and not be concerned about the undisciplined brat sitting at the next table, throwing a fit over butter instead of jelly. It takes a "professional" atmosphere (do those still exist?!), as it should.

Yes, I visited Panera Bread recently. And yes, I wondered once again how much meaningful work could honestly be performed in such a setting. There are workers taking calls, typing on their laptops, spreading various papers all around them, looking terribly important. Come on, you couldn't do this in your hotel room, if you're traveling? In your own bedroom, if you are self-employed? How much work can honestly be accomplished in such a public, noisy, unregulated environment?

So, yes, I'm old. Yes, I don't take my laptop to a coffee shop to do work. I don't even have a laptop. So call me names. Laugh at me. You know what? When I have real work to do, I get it done. Fast. Efficiently. In a purposeful and focused manner. And no one on a work-related call with me ever has to wonder who is screaming in the background, or why my office features an out-of-control milk steamer.

Thoughts? I know I'm a dinosaur... I can take it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

No longer

Without much warning, after nearly 13 years, I find myself petless.

My trusted kitty, whom I adopted all those years ago from a shelter, has left this spinning orb.

He hadn't been himself lately, and the last visit to the vet revealed some serious things amiss. And he was already 4 when I brought him home. That means, in people years, my sweet cat was probably around 92 or 93 years old. Growing thinner by the day, intestinal issues, digestive issues, kidney issues all confirmed. We went round in circles and finally decided that waiting for the inevitable wouldn't make it any easier when it came. Yet I still struggle with it, this evening, in our too-quiet home that no longer needs food and water dishes at the bottom of the steps: Did we do the right thing? I think we did. But I know that none of us truly has that right, to aid the natural process, to assist the permanent vacation from the body. Am I suddenly a Kevorkian who avoided a sentence because my victim was animal, not human? Do I still have to right to express pro-life beliefs? Should I ever be entrusted with another animal?

I hope that somehow, my good ol' cat understood how hard it was. I hope, on some level at least, he was ready to go. I know that recently, he didn't much resemble the cat I loved all those years. I know that he was not at all well. I know he was, short of a miracle, not getting better. I know he was really, really old. And I know he had a good life.

It doesn't make it any easier. Tonight, the world, our little world, is absent one soft, fuzzy orange mass of fur accompanied by a purr like a rumbling motor. Tonight I will not feed the insistently mewing creature. Tonight, he will rest in our yard and not in his favorite spot in the hall, where we all tripped over him at first and then gingerly stepped over him of late.

There is a hole here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Shoe, fly

Lately, I've become increasingly aware of a strange phenomenon on America's roadways. (Perhaps it also exists on exotic roadways, but since I'm a continental gal, my awareness is decidedly limited.) You may have noticed it, too. It's definitely more prevalent in the warm months, but I've seen it all though the year: Random shoes on the side of the road. Or lying, hapless, on the median.

These lost shoes are not the "pair of sneakers over the wire" stunt. That is a foolish but more traditional shoe folly that I've never attempted, yet it makes at least a little bit of sense to me; apparently, the point of that little trick is to remove the shoes from the owner and cause consternation and frustration in said owner. Like I said, stupid—but meant to achieve an end. Petty, but purposeful.

This is not so with the roadside shoe. In all cases, the shoe is a single footwear item, separated from its mate. It usually appears to be in good repair, and the style of shoe I've seen abandoned in recent months is quite often a heavier, more formal style—sometimes a sneaker, more times an oxford style. (My informal statistics have proven that most often, these orphans appear to be big boys' or men's shoes.)

Now, flip-flops are just an invitation for shoe loss. They don't fit snugly to the foot, there's nothing secure or stable about them, they fly off even as people attempt to walk on level ground sometimes... but oddly, the flip-flop is not a frequent roadside shoe.

I despise waste, and seeing those single shoes makes me sad and angry. It is inarguably wasteful to toss a perfectly good shoe out of a window, thus rendering the other shoe absolutely useless unless the hurler happens to have a peg-leg. (Even prosthetic legs usually sport a matching shoe.)

I try to envision how the loss happened. Was there a battle within a car's confines? Were shoes used as weapons? Was a threat made, a blow delivered before the shoe sailed away? Or were these shoes perhaps someone's favorites that happened to be in the back seat when a cruel passenger flung them so thoughtlessly? Were they meant to be returned to a store and then not accepted, and thus thrown in anger? And if so, why not throw both of them? Or, better yet, donate them to Goodwill so some other unfortunate sod can wear them?

You see what I mean? It doesn't keep me awake, but it bothers me. A small matter, in this big world—but a matter than I cannot let rest.

Keep your shoes on, folks. And if you have insights about this, please feel free to share them.

Friday, September 11, 2009


If you can remember how you felt 8 years ago today—the shock, the sick feeling that washed over you as you viewed the scenes on television, the horror of realizing how many lives were being lost, the uncertainty from minute to minute as to what might happen next—then please display your flag today.

Even if you can't remember, hang it. Please. Do not let the memory blur. Do not let your guard down. Do not ever choose to forget that we live in a fallen world, full of people who are ruled by evil.

And frankly, I still think it's cool to be a patriot and love America and be proud of her. In spite of what our first lady thinks.

P.S. Hey, does anyone else think it's odd that, for all the stupid anniversaries that Google celebrates, they are not observing this one AT ALL? No special Google logo, no mention... Hmmmmmm. Who owns Google? A bunch of frothing libs? Fascists? Reds? Can we tell Google that we think they're lame? Even if they're hosting this very site? Yes, I think we can.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Identifying with Martha

I'll be honest: there are many heavy things on my heart lately. Missing time with my son, missing the predictability of life that I enjoyed for so long, feeling sad for all the children who are hurt or killed in the world every day, sad for the people who want children desperately and have none, sad for every person who suffers pain and ill health regularly, sad for everyone who's lost someone they love. I just don't feel sufficiently stable to tackle any of those sullen subjects right now. I might not be ready for a long time. So, I'm selecting a more simple subject.

Since I started working—nay, since my husband has been home more—I've had an increasingly hard time keeping up with the house. This is partly because it's a tiny house, which in theory should make the task easier but instead makes it even more difficult. It's also partly because three people make more mess than two. And when that third person has an entirely different set of cleanliness standards, the result will almost certainly be a swift shift in the home's state of repair. Add to that truth the fact that I'm now gone for hours and hours several days each week, and the other two family members are home unsupervised... I'm sure you can guess that the condition of the house is becoming noticeably askew.

I'm trying to let my standards drop a bit. Again. I've been doing that since I got married. The standards dipped more steeply when a baby turned toddler turned preschooler joined us. But now? All of us at home? Or, worse yet, them home without me? I'm losing the war, people. Losing it. As a result, I'm losing more than the war; I'm losing my sanity a bit. Because I suspect that, if tested, I'd qualify for a whole lot of lovely alphabetical letters that label me a certain restless, frenetic type who loves to busy herself with tidying tasks—but these days, my tidying is for naught. I just can't keep up. And not only does no one else care as much as is do, they really, truly do not even notice the horror. It fazes them not one bit.

I start to become a tad bitter. Now, realistically, I can't expect a 4-year-old to notice this sort of thing (although thankfully, he does notice sometimes. There is hope.) So, really, I'm mostly amazed at my husband's ability to tune out. Why doesn't he notice? How can he not see? Can't he smell the cat litter? (Yes, but only if he's very close to it. Women have more delicate olfactory senses.) Can't he feel his feet sticking to the kitchen floor? (No.) Does he not see the color of the toilet bowl? (Apparently not.) How can he not be aware that the sink is stacked full of dishes, which could be loaded into the dishwasher if someone were kind enough to relieve it of all the clean dishes therein? (They're clean?!)

And I don't like the fact that we neatniks are labeled nags if we speak up and draw attention to the dilapidation surrounding us. I've tried to explain to my husband that I literally am physically uneasy when surrounded by stacks of stuff. Clutter makes me feel short of breath. My explanation falls on deaf ears. "It doesn't matter." I've been told that so many times, by so many people. Or, worse yet, "It'll just get messed up again. What's the point?"

Then I think of Mary and Martha in the Bible. You're probably familiar with the story: Mary and Martha, sisters, hanging out with Jesus at Martha's house. Mary is sitting, absorbing every word He speaks, and Martha is puttering about readying the house, perhaps working on the meal, simply trying to make things nice. Because it's Jesus in her house, which is sort of a bit deal. (The scene is described in Luke 10, and again in the book of John.) I'm sure there were many preparations to be made—it seems like every home that hosted Jesus was overrun with guests, unexpected visitors, etc., so I'm sure there was much to do.

And yet, there sits Mary. Not helping. Not setting the table. Not slicing fruit or checking the wine and oil supplies. And I have to confess, people, that most of the time I feel a lot more like Martha. I wonder why people aren't noticing the need for hands. I mean, this is Jesus! It's a huge deal to host Jesus! HUGE! There's Mary, like a lump. An honoring, adoring, worshipful lump, but still... Yet when Martha tries to engage Jesus and get some sympathy, she hits a brick wall; Jesus sides with Mary and makes it clear she is in the right. I'll bet that hurt. Martha wanted everything to be perfect and wonderful for Jesus, and He brushed it off. He made it clear that He was the more important matter, not the preparations. Not the meal. Not the condition of the house.

And that is true. Very true. I know it's true.

At the same time, God created me to be a freak about tidiness. He created Martha to be concerned and busy and wanting everything to be just right. He created us, and He also created lazy—I mean, worshipful Mary.

So, where do I draw the line? Where do I let things slide and not worry? Do I wait until the house is so messy that I'm feeling my psychologically induced lung capacity reduction? Do I go acquire some kind of medication that allows me to never be short of breath but also changes me into someone else just so I don't annoy others with my obsessive tidiness? When does one acknowledge one's weirdness, and when does one call it a problem?

I'll keep working on not worrying about the tidiness of the house, because honestly, if even Jesus didn't care about the state of the the place, then I know I don't need to worry about impressing anyone. It truly does not matter to the Creator; therefore, it does not matter. But what if I'm the one to hate it? What if it makes me really unhappy? What is that worth? Should I change who I am, even if I'm not being that way to impress others? Should I call it an issue and try to be different, or should I embrace my inner neatnik and acknowledge, instead, her usefulness and purpose in a cluttered world of too much crap?

This is, obviously, not my biggest concern in the world this evening. Yet it is a concern.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My neighbor, the nurse

So, the day before I started my new job was quite an injurious day for my son.

It began with an unsuspecting fall off the back of the couch. He likes to balance up there, his tiny bum perched on the cushy part where one would normally rest one's head. There he was, telling me some big animated tale, and the next thing I knew his feet were ascending and he was tipping over backward. A large thud later, there were many tears but thankfully nothing more serious than a sore noggin.

Then it was the bike. He and his dad went for a spin, and I checked in on them after a few minutes. He was riding gleefully, little helmet on, showing off for us and anyone else who'd watch, when he cut a turn a tad too sharply—the evil machine went over in a fraction of a second. Bike hit the pavement, boy simultaneously hit the pavement, and more tears flowed in addition to some blood—and as you know, the presence of blood always constitutes a "serious" injury. Add to the drama some lovely grey pieces of cinder inside the scratches, and you have a pretty nasty knee-and-hand combination.

The third event happened when I was inside after the bike wreck—an inexplicable fall down a couple of steps on our back patio. I missed the whole thing and heard about it later as we sat by the fire pit. (I was actually happy and relieved upon hearing it, because then I knew we were safe and my boy wouldn't plummet into the midst of the burning blaze. You know this stuff always happens in 3s; after that third mishap, we could relax because the third event had come and he was still standing. Whew.)

But even before the boy's evening bath, my husband and I were attempting to administer the necessary bacteria-killing agents to the mangled knee in our tiny, cramped bathroom. Blood-curdling screams burst forth from my son, who flailed every limb with extraordinary agility; we had just resorted to shutting the window (to squelch the sound, thus avoiding a visit from Children's Services) and holding his arms and legs immobile, when my neighbor knocked at our door with her customary "Yoo hoo!"

She wanted me to go for a walk with her, she'd heard the screams from the porch, she'd assumed some injury and figured she'd offer her expert services while encouraging me to get off my behind. Todd let her in, telling her what had happened, and she followed him to the bathroom—easy to find, thanks to the shrieks and sobs emanating from within. She popped in her head—"Hey, do you still have your leg? Did they cut it off? Let me see!" The screams stopped and my son actually permitted her to examine the skinned knee. Then she told him to wash it off in the bath and it would heal, good as new. And she tickled him, as is customary—and he laughed!!!

"Why do you calm down for Susan?" asked Todd, a tiny bit disgruntled at the sudden change in kid demeanor.

"Because she's a nurse!" answered my son, as if that explained everything.

Later, as we took our walk, I chuckled with Susan about the brief but revealing exchange she'd had with my boy. "My dad does it, too," she said. "My mom can't get him to use his walker the right way, he complains he can't get up by himself, makes a fuss, and then the therapist visits and suddenly he's hoofing around and standing on his own. And he gets furious when my mom complains to the therapist that he won't do that for her!" We giggled. "And he's 90!"

Why do we put on the brave face for healthcare folks, but resort to murderous yelps for our own family? What is the magic of a nurse, even when she's in street clothes and a very familiar face to boot? How are we able to be strong for one person but feeble for a team of others? It's silly, and I do believe the deception is far more rampant in men. Is it the male bravado? The need to put up the facade for the sake of the man's image in public? Would studies reveal it to be more prevalent in male patient/female healthcare worker situations?

Either way, the kid stopped crying... so I guess the whole brave face is a good thing. But I do suspect it's a silly boy/man thing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Met an old student on the city street" *

Last Friday found the boy and I in the city for a free concert that didn't end up happening. Which was a bit disappointing. But the sun shone, people bustled, various construction projects raged (as is standard in the city)... and once we'd finally found over-priced parking, we observed humanity in all its lovely, hideous, often inappropriately clad forms. (The poor dress code of today's workers is fodder for another, much longer post.)

As the kid and I stood beside the supposed concert location, awaiting any sort of hopeful development, we were pleasantly surprised to see my cousin walking down the street, on the job, on the phone, co-worker beside him—amused smiles and waves were exchanged as he hurried on to his next assignment. More people made their way past, some scurrying, some meandering, most simply walking at an average pace. One young woman caught my eye; she was oddly familiar, petite and fair, with clear eyes that brought me back to another period in my life, a much earlier time that I'd all but left behind me. She studied me for a moment as she moved by, I gave her a glance but tried not to stare, and as she continued down the sidewalk I wondered to myself if perhaps, just perhaps, that was a former student that I recalled well.

She came back. As soon as I saw her turning, I knew it was her. She asked me if I'd taught school—I asked her if her name was A. We giggled a bit, now that we were certain, and proceeded to catch up on what had happened in the past 15 years. I introduced her to my son, she told me about her two little ones, we chatted like two moms (which we were). She asked me what my last name was now, and I told her—and then giggled again. "Do you even know my first name?" She remembered it, although I'd never permitted the kids in my classes to use it.

She had always been an absolute delight, in class and out. I was pleased to have run into her again, to see how she's grown, to see the more polished, educated, settled woman she's become. As we talked, it occurred to me that the last time I'd really spoken to her, it had likely been about an assignment, a term paper, a book we'd been reading as part of literature class. She'd been hanging around with her friends back then, in a cheerleading outfit, discussing games and practice and dances and dates. Now here she was, married, a mother, a professional person working downtown. With some quick comparisons, we realized that we are both right now in our same decade of life.

That was the part that blew my mind. Because I'd started teaching right out of college, and in upper grades no less, only about 6 years separate me from this charming young woman who once was my student. It hits me, that moment, what totally different people we are now from the children we were then, not just because we're older but because she is no longer my subordinate. I am no longer assigning her chapters or essays. We are on the same playing field, comparing notes.

And it was so nice to see her. But a tad disconcerting. I felt old. I am old. She is not yet old, but she's not a kid, either. And although we must look at least somewhat the same as we used to, we're so removed from those roles of the past that aside from physical similarities, I wonder if there are any other recognizable characteristics that remain.

People from your past. They surely do make you ponder, don't they?

* Any one else remember that Dan Fogelberg song about bumping into someone he knew?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The project philosophy as marriage theory

Ahhhhhhhhhh, a few coerced moments on the computer at last. I nearly had to arm-wrestle for access to the *#!?*& thing.

We tackled one of the aforementioned home improvement projects last week. If it weren't raining right now, and if the ladders had been put away and the porch swept back into shape, I'd provide a photo: The front of our home now sports lovely, chocolate-colored railing, trim, and gutters. What a difference! Perhaps next time I'll show you the nearly edible loveliness.

For now, though, all that recent work and (sometimes reluctant) teamwork has me thinking about projects in general. It seems to me that all projects follow a similar course. Professional projects, outdoor projects, remodeling projects, whatever—they all proceed in roughly the same fashion.

• First, the project looms, sometimes larger than life. Even small projects, when examined in detail, can be a bit daunting. All those minute points, hidden complications, the sheer thought of attempting such tasks can deter even the most brave and seasoned worker. What? We'll need a taller ladder than we own? Will we have to rent it? We need to scrape all that first? I never noticed how intricate is the scrollwork on this crazy trim... What a pain.

• Then, the details are wrestled into submission. The project is placed into sections, is ordered properly, different portions are prioritized, and the work begins. A ladder is borrowed, paint and supplies are purchased, work is tackled. At first, it may go smoothly, stay on schedule, follow the expected course... The workers' confidence may soar, and additional projects might even be discussed in the heat of success.

• And then, an unforeseen obstacle. Something unexpected happens, or is uncovered. Darnit, the eaves under this gutter are rotten. And the gutter is leaking and clogged at the same time—apparently hasn't functioned properly in years. We need wood, we need more caulking, we need sealant... But we will conquer. Camaraderie reigns yet.

• The project proceeds. More unforeseen obstacles; even with the dark shade, two coats are most definitely needed. Rain is forecasted, days of it for Pete's sake. And the rest of the household chores are looming—they have no respect for the big job in process. They cry out for attention as well. And the neighbors, those friendly chatty neighbors, keep distracting the workers from the job at hand. Interference! Where's the ref?

• At last, crunch time is reached. A new away-from-home work schedule hangs in the near future, in addition to inclement weather on its way, not to mention that one worker is planning to travel out of town in just a few days. All those factors bring about the just-buckle-down-and-get-it-done mentality in at least one team member, and that member's panic and grim determination eventually bleed onto the other members; work commences with steely force, marked by new intensity. The neighbors sense this and steer clear, recognizing the set of the workers' mouths, seeing and knowing that such a speechless, driven approach can only mean that "Just work, dammit" has become the mindset and small talk, even among the workers, has been set upon a shelf for a friendlier future time.

• And then, achievements accumulate, genuine and observable achievements, and the workers are fueled for the finish. Maybe they're still speaking, maybe not, but work continues at a still-somewhat-breakneck pace because the end is in sight. We can taste it.

• Finally, it's done, or so close to done that it feels done, and life can go back to normal, whatever normal looks like.

And that's the project. Nearly every project I've ever been involved with. And you know what I'm realizing? Marriage itself is a project—a project that happens to contain countless other smaller projects. To say this has been an odd, stressful summer would be an understatement. And I'm seeing that daily, especially in stress, this whole project procedure also describes intimate personal relationships a bit. The initial thought of marriage is intimidating, then do-able, then you plan it, then you take the plunge, obstacles arise and you work through them, more arise, you wonder what you were thinking, you get through it, normal is achieved once again, and this pattern repeats many, many times. Occasionally, the obstacles encountered are mind-numbing, might have kept you from starting the project if you'd known it would involve this... You work through them. You have no choice. It would be nice if the majority of married time was spent in that clear-cut, prioritized period where work is accomplished and people feel good about it. But many days, it's not there. Sometimes it's in that "just work, just get it done" phase where the only thing that keeps you working is that you started it and you'll finish it, by God.

Thankfully, marriage includes many moments between projects—happy, carefree periods of employment, of busy but not frenetic schedules, times to enjoy life and have plenty and take things for granted. Memories that are savored when the excrement hits the fan and suddenly every conversation is short and loaded, when Just Work, Dammit is the phrase on your lips and you have to bite your tongue and keep pressing forward, clinging to the knowledge that you made a promise, made a covenant, and you're in it to stay.

I don't think we'll be starting any new projects right now. Yes, there's time, there's man- and woman-power. But I think for now, we'll just savor this moment between projects. We'll get back on a schedule, we'll simply BE for a bit. Down the road there'll be time for more projects, for discomfort aplenty. And it will come. Oh, it will come.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Value, and values, clarified

In a time of limited supply, of uncertain future, one must consider the true, lasting values of things.

We’re pinching pennies here. And that’s forcing us to consider some things from a new point of view. We’re prioritizing like never before. We’ve done that in the past, certainly, but probably not to this degree—at least not since college or those first poor years after graduating. And not since we had a child and dropped to a single income.

Is a new cell phone necessary? No. Come to think of it, is a cell phone necessary? Nope. We already ditched cable several years ago. It’s like sugar; I miss it less and less as time goes by. Once you’re distanced from the unnecessary item, you can begin to recognize it for what it is: a sweet but shallow substitute for something really satisfying…like carbs. Sigh. (I’ll never stop missing those…)

We’re even re-thinking home projects. Which ones will provide the most bang for our buck? The continued yard re-design? Or painting the front trim on the house? Or the ugliest of all: the remodeling of and wood stove addition to the basement? We’re leaning toward the basement work, which is of course the most expensive project. But we know a long, lonely winter is coming, and we’d rather be ready for that than gazing out upon a lovely, refinished, snow-covered yard. Warmth will likely matter more than beauty. In the end it always does, just like brute strength is always the inevitable decider.

The people of this country are being forced to consider true values of things; that much has been evident in the last few weeks. Yes, my doctor is hard to reach, and sometimes I think he gives me too much medicine… But boy, I like being able to pick which doc I see. I like knowing that I have options when it comes to all that expensive medicine. And maybe, just maybe, there’s a reason people leave Canada to have surgery elsewhere. Yes, sometimes folks leave the States to have surgery elsewhere, but I believe the bulk of those cases involves elective, mostly cosmetic surgery, and I just can’t put that in the same category as surgery surgery.

As humans, it’s our nature to weigh the value of something only when we’re in danger of losing it… or have already lost it. I’ve been down that path with jobs and money recently. I’ve traveled that road with relationships of all kinds, with personal freedoms that are threatened, with both potential and realized losses of everything from friends to “me” time. In jeopardy, we are often forced to wax deeply and philosophically about how important something really is. Thankfully, desperate times give us clearer lenses. Perhaps that’s why it’s taken so long for the American people to wake the #*&! up and rebel a little bit. Times haven’t been desperate enough to stir us to serious thought and action.

It feels like we’re there now, doesn’t it? Uncertainties and untruths abound. Jobs disappear. Control is sought and wrestled for. It’s feeling sort of desperate to me. And as a result, honest and genuine worth is becoming easier to spot.

We sat out on the porch yesterday, watching a storm. Rain misted over us, the boy pointed at lightning, we all jumped when thunder shook, my husband pulled a blanket up over his son’s legs to keep them dry. It was a valuable and worthwhile moment, not to be missed but to be held dear. If we’d been rolling in the money, comfortably ensconced in a job and busy-ness, we probably wouldn’t have been there, perhaps wouldn’t have even been home. We might have missed it, groveling for that extra dime.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to say; I guess I’m just urging us all to savor this moment of clarity and seek truth and wisdom instead of pursuing further distraction. Myself included. Because clarity can be frightening, and may even require some painful prioritization and uncomfortably expressed passion for that which we hold dear. I’m not getting a new cell phone, and I’m not being unpatriotic when I speak up against something that I think is a bad idea. I’m putting my money where I think it belongs, not where the culture tells me. I’m putting my foot down when I see cockroaches under it. I’m standing by what’s really meaningful, what lasts.

We’ll ride this out, all of us, by clinging to the important stuff. Hold tightly to it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Preparing to be turned on my ear

I accepted a job offer today, and will begin at the end of this month.

No, really. I did. You might have noticed my conspicuous inactivity of late in the blogosphere; it's been quite busy here at our place. Freelance work for my hus, and interviews for me. Three of 'em in 4 weeks. And I turned down a fourth option just this morning. There are still jobs out there, people. Don't listen to the news. And these jobs mostly definitely do NOT exist because of that asinine stimulus bill... But that's another entry.

The job I've taken is part-time, at a non-profit tutoring center 10 minutes from my home. The boss is great. The other folks I've met are great. The hours? They stink. Truly. Because guess when tutoring happens? After school, into the evening. Yep. And even though I won't be tutoring much, I need to be there when that's going on.

There are a lot of good things about this opportunity, other than those wonky hours. Mostly, it'll give my other half the time to pursue his type of work; that was the main reason I was looking, after all.

I have fears. Many of them. It's been awhile since I've worked for pay and recognition. And I've never tried to work while I have a family hangin' at my cozy home without me. Yet, I figure if I'm going to do this, I'd choose to do it with these people at this type of place. And those bills... they just keep showing up. So, maybe there's really not a lot of choice about it.

Wish me luck. Say a prayer. Tell me it'll all be okay. Remind me that God is faithful and an awesome provider. Please.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh, baby

Almost every creature in the world looks better when it's a baby. Some look better than others, granted—there are those baby animals that are born hairless, and that's not very cute, goodness knows. But most babies? Cute. (With the exception of some human newborns, all red, wrinkled, and raisin-y. Or any brand-new newborn, I guess, what with all that slime and blood and goo on 'em... Okay, enough about that. We're not talking newborns here.)

I needed this reminder about innate baby cuteness after I'd nearly stepped on, and cursed under my breath at, this little guy's parents. Apparently, when I thought they'd moved on to brighter backyards, they came back to our lovely, rocky hill to take advantage of the deer's sudden disinterest in our hostas, which are beginning to fill in once again. There I was, ready to feed birds, and there came a fat mother garter slithering out onto the rocks whence I wanted to step. And then her slinky mate. Yes, I screamed aloud when I saw the mom--she came crawling up between two large pavers, rearing her black head just a few inches in front of my toe...or so it seemed, anyway.

But the creepiness passed, the snakes hid under the sedum ground cover, and when I thought the coast was clear, my son hollered, "Mom! Baby snakes!!!" And here was this small, slim, harmless specimen curled up in my husband's hand, his diminutive head as shapely and perfect as his folks' had been. All in miniature.

I STILL don't want them around.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Hey, I should've told you all by now that we survived the getaway. No worries. Long trip there, shorter trip back, beautiful weather, and a lovely little inn where we were comfortably housed. Spacious front porches with plenty of rocking chairs, bikes and horse-drawn carriages, sand and surf as far as the eye could see, and a little boy consistently sporting the broadest smile of his life.

One particular small memory will stay with me for some time: I'm sitting under our beach umbrella, comfortable in my low-slung chair, reading a most appropriate title (Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh). The waves are alternately lapping and crashing, other families are set up all around me, gulls are screeching and searching for every available snack, and Todd and my son are out playing in the water. Minutes pass, and I'm half-paying attention, reading a few lines, then gazing out at the water, when I realize that I hear my sweet little boy humming to himself, a tuneless little ditty that he repeats again and again. They must have come in to play in the sand and I didn't even see them, I think to myself.

I look around me, trying to locate my husband and child, following the sound of the innocent little-boy voice as it expresses absolute contentment through music. And then I find the source—and it's not my little guy at all! It's another small boy, not quite as young as mine, and he is sitting near my right side, filling buckets with sand and then dumping them methodically, all the while humming humming humming. His song mingles with the breeze, the gulls, the waves, the melded human voices murmuring and giggling and calling out all around me.

In that moment, I feel so connected to my fellow man. One small boy's song could be another's, one sun-streaked head blends into the rest, our voices form one collective tune as we gather here on the edge of the land to be washed clean and free and unblemished. We're speaking different languages, some are thin while others are fat, we are many different colors and ages and styles. But we've all come essentially for the same reason, seeking respite and renewal. We all are humbled at least somewhat when we stand and surmise the enormous pond before us.

They don't all feel like family—but they sort of are, aren't they?

Friday, July 17, 2009

A-traveling we will go

Very soon, in fact. Going coastal (as opposed to postal). I don't travel quite as easily as I used to. Suddenly, the outing seems more complicated because there is so much more to consider. You know, like those thoughts that float to the forefront of your mind at 3am, the thoughts that are sort of ludicrous in the light of day but not so simply dismissed when you're the only person awake and it's pitch dark... Thoughts like this:

• what if we wreck on the way and the only survivor is my child?
• what if it rains the whole time and we just blew hundreds of dollars for nada?
• what if the dolphin-watching cruise we're taking happens to sink?
• what if I don't use enough sunscreen and my kid gets scorched?
• what if there's an early hurricane?
• what if we get to the inn and they have no record of us even though I confirmed with them today? and we can't find another vacancy?
• what if one of us gets food poisoning?
• what if there's a terrorist attack while we're there?
• what if the attack happens there?
• what if the whole healthcare system collapses thanks to those jackaninnies in DC and I get seriously ill and can't find treatment?
• what if neither my husband nor I ever find viable employment again?

Okay, okay, those last few thoughts have nothing to do with travel. I need to stay focused. ; ) And I must remember to trust, to actually start practicing all those doctrines I so glibly shared with other people during their hard times. We're okay. We have enough for today. We have enough that we didn't cancel this little upcoming getaway. We believe that we're not in control and the One who is in control has never let us down yet. He's allowed bad things to happen sometimes—but He's been there through it and brought us out on the other side. The record is pretty promising. I must hold tight to that, especially at 3 am.

Wonder if faithful, fearless thinking will be any easier in a strange bed, in a strange town, at 3am?

I'm excited to go, truly I am. We all could use the distraction for certain—as evidenced here. I'll let you know whether any of my fears are realized...assuming that I'm able, of course.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Snap, snap

The next-to-last post was officially my 200th on this blog. I missed the momentous occasion, was probably job-searching somewhere and didn't notice the normally note-worthy anniversary. Hence this post, a real, live "melmoir" about—of course—summer.

Summer at my childhood home involved so much wonder and delight. Even picking ticks off each other after a cross-country trek counted as an exciting activity. (The fat, blood-filled ones were the most horrifying and fascinating.) The season seemed to last forever, especially when I was in grade school. One of my fondest memories is napping on my Ma-Ma's old cot, a fold-up metal style with a faded green plaid pattern. I can recall several occasions when I lay upon the cool mesh material, looked up at the dappled sunlight streaming through the tall maple trees, watched the patterns change as a breeze shifted the branches... and woke an hour or so later, befuddled and sporting an odd little pattern on my cheek from the surface of the makeshift bed.

I hoed my big toe once, helping in the garden. That was fun. I had my own little hoe, smaller than all the rest, and I wanted to contribute to the family gardening effort, so I began hacking at the weeds between rows just like my parents and sisters were doing... and then ouch. There was blood, which immediately necessitated a generous application of merthiolate. Does anyone else recall that awful stuff? My father received it for free from his employer, and it was the healing agent of choice at our home. Have a cut or a scrape? Break out the merthiolate! It stained your skin fluorescent orange, and it hurt so much your eyeballs popped a bit. Ours came in tiny double-walled capsules with a cotton swab on one end; you'd break the inner tube, thus releasing the stinging orange compound onto the cotton, where it leaked through to painfully penetrate your injury.

Alas, I digress. I was supposed to be remembering pleasantries. The one that stays with me most clearly is snapping beans. Sure, we shucked corn and threw the husks over the fence for the ponies, and that was fun. And we picked zukes and cukes and tomatoes; even as a child, I loved throwing back a few sun-warmed cherry tomatoes fresh from the vine. But the green beans were an event. We'd descend to the garden, buckets in tow, and pick the beans until we couldn't carry more. Then, up to the patio we'd go.

The patio at our home was, at that time, uncovered; it faced the back yard (and still does), a partly shaded haven looking up at a verdant, tree-covered hillside. We'd sit on metal lawn chairs, big empty pots within tossing distance, and we'd pick the green beans out of our buckets and snap them in preparation for cooking. Snapping beans takes a bit of practice: you have to learn to snap off only the pointy ends, no more, and then break the remaining length of bean into bite-sizes pieces. The trickiest part is keeping the pots straight—one is for finished bean pieces, the other for the discards. My mom was the pro; I watched her sure fingers fly through bean after bean while I struggled with my first. Practice made me better, but I could never touch her for speed and accuracy—she worked quickly and capably, and her bean portions were measured and always went where they should. My older sisters were faster than I was, too. Eventually I caught up, but truth be told, only in the past couple of years have I even come close.

When I snap green beans nowadays, the experience transports me. I am suddenly a child again, with that dappled sun streaming down, the ponies watching curiously from behind shaggy manes, various cats and dogs hanging around us, the fresh green aroma, the bean juice on my fingertips. I'm watching my mom's and sisters' buckets, and trying to keep up; cars are passing out of sight with a whooshing sound, and birds are singing. I snap, and I remember. And when the snapping is done, I'll cook the beans in a big red pot, the very same red pot in fact, with a hunk of pork for salty flavor.

There are some things that a recession just can't take away. I pray you will be similarly transported soon.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bright hope for tomorrow

Well, hello! We're still here. Still unemployed, no miracles yet, but perhaps around the next corner? Because miracles happen every day, don't they. I need to hold tight to that truth.

It's been a busy week. A family member, neighbor, and friend's daughter were all in the hospital (one is home now, thank goodness--and another expected to return home tomorrow) so that added some distraction, as did the holiday, plus the fact that suddenly my husband is home and we're tripping over each other much of the day. And fighting over the computer. Did I mention we have only one computer? Yup. We have another, which was brand new about 15 years ago; it has remained in its giant black zipper case even though I long for a second machine. I suspect that archaic machine will not fulfill my longing.

Other than that, and the ridiculously cold weather, everything is fine. Really. I love Christmas in July. I adore wearing sweatshirts on Independence Day. Isn't that normal? I'll bet our ancestors wore heavy overcoats and shawls as they shivered their way to the first American celebrations, right? Sure they did.

Honestly, we're pretty good, all things considered. In spite of it all, we are richly blessed. I hate the waiting, the not-knowing, but I suppose my very hatred of it should tell me that's an area where I need work. And I've actually gotten back on the horse and sent some resumes into the abyss of a dismal workforce. Again, miracles happen every day. They do.

So, that's why I haven't been around. Just a few short weeks ago, I was mentally composing a blog entry that would explain how I needed to take a break so I could dig in and actually write the great American novel I've been toting in my head for a couple of decades now... and suddenly, I'm barely able to filch a minute or two between the massive two-person job search to even drop a "hello, I'm still alive" post. Sad, isn't it?

Yet, we have enough for today. That's all we need. I saw on the side of a church van these words: "Jesus--strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow." A line from one of my favorite all-time hymns, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." I've been singing that one frequently of late. And happily, He has been faithful, just as the song says.

You can sing it with me, if you'd like. It's practically guaranteed to give you a warm feeling in your heart. At least it does me.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!