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!