Sunday, October 31, 2010

Indomitable Spirit

She almost electrocuted herself this week that after she pinned herself under a printing press. This one seems poised for action.


290. The moon-shaped bruise on Lulie's chin -- all that's left after Janie muscled the press off her sister.

291. Jane's careful blink-blink at me when I tell her, "You're earning trust, honey."

292. Jack's nuzzle in my face when I say I'm not mad, puzzle pieces forgotten.

293. The smudgy outfit Myra wore to church.

294. The crew of kids that pulled me past breakfast bowls and into the car this morning, drippy nose and head cold not withstanding.

295. The carpet husband unfurled in the basement for me, the re-roll and cut to fit part included.

296. His gravity defying will to keep doing nice things for me.

297. Our warm fire and popcorn-picnic.

298. How the children cheered when I suggested dilly beans.

299. Another puzzle. Yup. 500 pieces of the Rocky Mountains reflected in a mountain stream.

300. How the children find puzzle pieces for each other to put in. "Here Lulie, you can push this one in."

301. Sudafed. The real stuff.

302. Baby who nurses well and can say a whole sentence in an eye-blink.

303. A good, good life full of all the important things. The way good things make you feel rested inside even when you're exhausted.

holy     experience

Friday, October 29, 2010


"My dad kept his Model-T's in the garage. I must have been two."

His first memory. "What color were they?"

"Black. All the Model-T's were black," he says. "They didn't make colors until the Model-A." I see his little boy hands stuffed in pockets, bare feet in the garage.

The depression. "Kids wore canvas shoes back then. Converse. The girls wore pink ones, the boys, black." We trundle up a back path, dog and kids in tow. Lulie thumps by, pink converse laced up to the ankle. I picture Grampa's ten-year-old hands lacing up black ones.

Back in the cabin we settle in. Wide arm-chairs, a cup of coffee, "I drove her to her appointments," he says. His mother. Breast cancer.

"So it was pretty big when it came back?" Grampa was 21. I see his hands there on the steering wheel taking Momma to the city.

"It's not the size," he says.

"Just how far along it was?"

He strokes Paddy-dog. "The stage." Paddy closes her eyes. Afternoon sun warms her black coat and Grampa's hands. Doctor hands. "When I was practicing," he says, "sometimes we'd see something called a spontaneous remission. Never could explain it." Paddy nuzzles his hand, "Unless someone upstairs, was lookin' out for ya."

Upstairs. It hangs in the air. Someone upstairs. "Yup." Wish I could have met his mother.

Later he says Great-Uncle Alan went to the war, took a bullet at the Battle of the Bulge -- shattered his arm, wrist to elbow. A year later, he left the hospital, one arm forever shorter. He never played the clarinet or the piano again.

Grampa picks up rocks for the kids to try and skip. He rubs the dirt off, holds Paddy's leash, leans into the pistol holster across his shoulder. "Here you go, Jack." Little boy kerplunks it in the deep water.

Paddy-dog pulls us home, to the mountain cabin.

The days leaf by. A month away now, I miss Grampa. Wish we could sprawl the table with three games of solitaire and see who wins more. I'm hungry for more stories.

A good man is hard to find.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boy Talk

"Watch ya thinking?" I ask.

Jack pops a pretzel in his mouth, crunches it. "Nuffin."

"Wow. Nothing?" I raise my eyebrows, "HOW do you do THAT?"

"I dunno. Just," he shakes his head, opens both eyes wide, "like this," little boy stares at a plant across the room, crunches another pretzel.

"That's all? Just like that?"

He pauses, cocks his head, "Momma," he says, "ya have to not talk."

A smile tugs at the corners of my mouth, "Oh."

I pass him another pretzel, pick one with lots of salt. We crunch them together and watch my house plant grow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


"I'm just a good running and jumping boy," Jack slaps his knee, stomps a cowboy boot. He clack-clacks up and down the hallway, jumps and stomps, "Running and jumping boy is here," he says and flops onto the couch.

"Jack, shhhh, the baby is nursing," little boy trundles into the kitchen. Daddy flips a pancake and grabs his elbow, "Shhhhh," he says.

"O. K." He tip-tiptoes back on the hardwood, opens both eyes WIDE. "Can I kiss her, Momma?" He pokes her toes, gentle, and strains in loudest whisper, "Can I KISS her?"

I smile, whisper, "When she's done." He tiptoes back to flip pancakes.

Dinner. 14 pancakes, baseball size. Just for me. I love pancakes.

"Thank-you, Momma," Janie says, "Thank-you so much!" I hand her the whip cream, "I just love doing that," she pokes the cream spout, "because it makes me feel older. It's just like pushing on that and the whip cream comes out, makes me feel older." I pass the cinnamon and we shake a puff on top.

Every day, a little older.

Monday, October 25, 2010


"I wanna see Jesus hanging on the cross," she sings. "I wanna see Jesus hanging on the cross." I sneak down the hallway, step around squeaky boards. I hear it again, "I wanna see Jesus hanging on the cross." From the top bunk she sings in the dark.

"Watch ya singing?"

"Oh, just that I want to see Jesus hanging on the cross."

"Why is that?"

"I'm just singing it like a song."

"Pretty amazing what he did for us, huh?"


"I love you, Janie."

"I love you, Momma."

"I'm glad you're my daughter."

The night trails off and I hold onto her song.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wild Boy

"So," I say, "now, what are you going to do?" I grab his little hand. He wiggles, looks at the ceiling. Dinner guests mill around. "Jack-Gordon?" I raise my eyebrows. "Gordon?"

He seesaws between feet, grins, "I'll NOT be wild," he says.


"I'll NOT be wild."

"No," I shake my head. "No, that's wrong. You have to be LOVING. BE loving to your sisters." I lean in, blink at him.

He shakes that mop of a head, slaps his hands together. "I'll BE love," he shouts, slaps his hands again and announces to dinner guests, "I'll BE love." Before I can corral all that love. His manners explode into whoops and gallops. The evening slips away and children scream merriment through the house.


272. Whoop-hollers and wild redheaded son.

273. Janie on the look-out for brother and sis while they make riot-fun with friends.

274. Her fierce spirit quick to correction -- most times. Her furrowed-brow determination to harness all that will into obedience.

275. Chocolate mustaches.

276. Mountains of popcorn and grapes, the clatter of cups and cousins.

277. Black beans and coconut milk.

278. Salt.

279. Lulie fully dressed, diaper changed -- by herself!

280. Rosie-posie kicking baby feet, pounding the floor to pull me from chores.

281. Rain boots, red like summer poppies in the grey rain.

282. Climbing to bed early to steal more sleep from the night.

283. The fullness of a whole night's sleep inside of me.

284. The soft blanket husband bought me for the winter.

285. Yup. Another puzzle. 1000 pieces of lightening strikes.

286. Train tracks and leggos gathered into bins and toy box.

287. A book in the mail. The green color and book smell.

288. Grammar.

289. That Lucy only cut up her own clothes this time in a tangle with Mommy-scissors.

holy     experience

Sunday, October 17, 2010


"So what do you love about your life?" Coffee and a date. A big red couch and cinnamon roll.

"You and the kids," he turns. Blue eyes capture me. "I'd do anything for you guys."

Later, 11:00 pm and we argue the night out long. I cross my arms, mascara smears down my cheeks.

"Bethany," he says, "Kyle cheated me at cards FOR YEARS since he was five years older, and I owed him all those wishes," Craig raises his eyebrows, "I still didn't give up." He stares at me, "I still kept trying to WIN. I don't give up," he makes his eyes round, "Even if I have to be just be your servant, I'll never stop trying to love you."

Never stop trying to love you. Never give up.

We dig in our heels and make the frayed ends of days turn into love.


255. Husband, stubborn as the day is long.

256. Black grapes.

257. Husband's words to me, I'd rather have a messy house and have you care about people.

258. Janie's obedience, I don't want to, but I'll obey you, Momma.

259. Fellowship with Cerissa on Sundays. And how she teaches her sons they are protectors.

260. A new baby in the family due for Thanksgiving.

261. Her eager parents.

262. Littlest brother grown man who hunts puzzles for us in his spare time, you know, gives us all his doubles while he races to collect more than us.

263. Sleep. The putting down of the important to sleep. Rest. And prayer that God will grow our small offerings into great miracles.

264. Another puzzle spilled out on the coffee table, the edge pieces separated out. And, how the pieces snap together snug.

265. Loyalty. Husband's family that will love you forever. Period.

266. And my parents who will love us forever. Forever.

267. How they both find ways to like us too. Little kindnesses.

268. Husband's shoes unlaced and in the middle of the floor, him home.

269. A camera for Janie to practice pictures on.

270. Vines of cherry tomatoes picked just before frost.

271. Cold mornings, sunny days.

holy     experience

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Marzipan Date

"If everybody would just obey every rule at one time, everything would be perfect," Janie says. I turn the car into traffic, flip the wipers on.


"''It's just like, I'm wanting everything perfect, but my way." She licks a smudge of chocolate off her finger.

"What makes things perfect for you?" I ask.

"Mostly just like, hmm," she tilts her head, wrinkles her brow, "like if I'm pulling this box and it's really full of things and I'm pulling and PULLING and I finally do it, and I'm just like THAT is PERFECT, because I DID it." She crumples the chocolate wrapper, slides it down next to her seat. I bite the last bit of marzipan in half, press it to the roof of my mouth.

"So what do you think has been the hardest thing I've done lately?" I pass the last crumb of marzipan back to her. She nibbles it up.

"Hmm," she says, "probably not getting mad in situations where you think you should, but then you're like, 'No,' instead."

"You know me pretty well, Janie," I say.

"What's that mean?"

I reach back and grab her heal, smile to her in the rear view mirror, "Means I never even told you that, but you KNEW because you KNOW me."

"Actually, you did tell me," she says, "just not in those words." A red car whizzes by her window. I signal to the left lane, press into the brake. Just not in those words. I flip the wipers off. For a moment there I see it, my every gesture a thesis. She knows them all -- by heart.


239. Another impossible puzzle that husband and I do together.

240. The volley of conversation and rhythm of silence as we lean over the puzzle and press pieces into place.

241. A date with Jane.

242. Rowdy boy cousins (the good kind of rowdy) who come to play trains and disturb nary a puzzle piece.

243. Baked. Potato. Soup. My hugest stock pot full up of baked potato soup.

244. Piles of fabric organized into stacks of color and stripe.

245. A clock, a new clock! The old-fashioned face kind.

246. A couple of new shirts in sensible black and white.

247. Another day with my children -- healthy, whole, content.

248. Cereal and coffee every morning. The kind of cereal with pecans in.

249. A morning run again and again. Every day. But Sunday.

250. The way my children sword-fight and fight-the-bad-guys still for pretend.

251. The children's new toothpaste, same as when I was a kid. Mmmmm. Sorry Mom, I used to eat it straight out of the tube. So far I've only caught Lulie "brushing" her teeth that way.

252. Stripe blue knee socks turned into baby leg warmers.

253. Children played out all tired-to-the-bone and now asleep after the cousins drive home.

254. The miracle of good work turned exhaustion turned sleep.

holy     experience

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Father's Love

"Da-da," she says, "I'm all done. I want OUT."

So, he scoops up. Strong arms carry her down the stream and home.


Sunday, October 3, 2010


"I'm gonna tell you something, Momma," Janie says. "Well, well," I watch her raised eyebrows, "it's kinda SCARY," she pauses, "but I had a stick, and Jack had a sword. And there was a BEE'S nest," she opens her eyes real wide, "with bees STILL in it. And Jack just kept hitting it and hitting it. And I just poked my stick in it, and SHOVED it off, and RAN!" With that, she grins and bounds out of the kitchen into the yard.

A moment later, at my elbow, "You have to be really BRAVE to do this, but I'm gonna do it a SECOND time. A second time, Momma." She lopes out of the kitchen, Jack on her heels.

"We did it AGAIN!" they cry as they pitch the back screen open.

"Nice job fighting the battle," I say. "Wow. Don't get stung now."

"We won't," Janie shrugs, "because we RUN."

"Yeah, we run," Jack repeats. "And we're brave enough."

"We're brave enough. You can tell Daddy that," Janie calls as they trundle out again.

"Be careful," I call, "Bees will come out and attack you."

"REALLY?" Jack stops, makes his blue eyes round like marbles.

"Yeah." I copy his eyes.

"Well, we already did it," he says.

"And well, we're brave," Janie adds.

With that they timber out the back.


219. A big mountain of popcorn in the huge silver bowl.

220. Cinnamon rolls. "It's the sabbath," they say, "the day Jesus rose from the DEAD. Can we celebrate with cinnamon rolls?" Lulie insists the cinnamon is chocolate.

221. A road trip to Grampa's cabin.

222. A late night of cards with Grampa and how we all played Solitaire.

223. How a brown bear that tried to break in to the cabin while Grampa was gone, hasn't come back.

224. A lock on the front door, the one with teeth marks from the bear.

225. The pistols Grampa and Craig carry on our walks.

226. Jack's laugh of relief when I tell him Daddy and Grampa will bring their guns.

227. The sound of, "Hi, Great-Grampa," as our children tumble out of the cabin loft while Craig and I sleep.

228. The pictures our children make for Grampa all on their own. And how Janie slips in to hide hers on Grampa's pillow for him.

229. The stories Grampa tells me about being a boy in the 1920's.

230. The converse tennis shoes we've found at thrift stores. They look just like the ones Grampa wore when he was a boy.

231. The generations of right living passed on from father to child to child until great-great-grandchildren of good men hold on to a legacy.

232. How Grampa hands me paper towels when Lulie throws-up on the cabin stairs. And how it's just water she barfs, and then it passes, and no one gets sick.

233. Coffee. Did I mention the coffee? Grampa brews us coffee in his fancy coffee machine.

234. Husband who drives all legs of the journey, packs the car, carries everything in, re-packs the car, and hauls it all back inside at home.

235. Husband's strong arms that carry Lulie when her small feet grow too cold to wade.

236. How husband collapses into a beanbag at the end of long days and still makes conversation.

237. That this steady rudder of a man never gets angry. Oh, how I've tested him in this. Still, he never responds in kind.

238. How I am humbled by his kindness -- to me. Many, many kindnesses.

holy     experience