Sunday, November 29, 2009


"All I want for Christmas is an airsoft rifle and an iTouch," said my 10-next-week son, Sebastian.

"Well, you'll be disappointed, then."

"How do you know that? How do you know what Santa will give me?" He said, voice laced with cynicism.

"I just know. And I will make it known. That assault-weapon-looking guns are not, nor will they ever be, welcome in this house."

Silence. Maybe tense. But quiet, as Sebastian tries to find a come-back, or, no doubt, a defense for his wishes.

Patrick, 5-years-old-next-week joins the conversation. Softly.

"What I would like to ask Santa for? .... Is a machine. ....A machine that could make you one or two. Whenever you went in it. Like a baby.

I would like that."


"Because I would like very much for you to carry me like that again."


"Oh, pPod. That would be nice."


"Yeah," he said, wistfully, "it really would."

(We lived in Florida. There was a hurricane. He bathed in pool water. In a bucket. It was chilly. He was, and is, unflappable.)

Monday, November 23, 2009


Agatha and I led our Sunday school class this week in an exercise about gratitude. We first talked through prayer types again: intercession, contrition, gratitude - then zeroed in on gratitude. Being the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the progression was organic.

To clarify, I am woefully unqualified to teach Sunday school. There are flaws in my religious views, holes in my 'wisdom' and practice.

I have problems with the literal nature of our curriculum. I greet Old Testament stories with skepticism. When teaching that Adam and Eve's Cain and Seth go on to populate the world... presumably with the help of "Mrs. Cain and Mrs. Seth-" I want to know who the women were. Where they came from.

In story after story here is violence and trickery and pettiness with catastrophic consequences - and often rewards. And God is very direct in His communications with the People.

I struggle with it - existing, as I do, in a world where God is far more vague - even in his omnipresence.

I am not good with prayers of intercession. I can't quite give myself over into believing the magic fairy dust element of it - the conceit that I get something, or something is all better, because I am a Good Christian, and I asked - fervently, with an open heart. I know too many better Christians with real problems - sickness, death, crisis, debt.

So I ask God to help give me more faith, or patience, or the ability to observe and find the Good in Bad. I ask for strength, for shoring up. And for more of that patience.

I do OK with penance. I can always admit to a screw-up. And I collect them. Though this Sunday, as we talked through this idea of prayer with the four kids that showed up, I tripped a little on "penance," stopped myself from giving a concrete example.

My son wasn't in class. He got left at home after an epic battle with me that resulted with him, in his room, while others went to church. The bad part was what came before, when I let him push all my buttons - and good robot that I am - I short-circuited in just the way intended. I spent time on penance after that one.

Contrition fuels itself, if you fancy yourself a prayer, and have a conscience.

I have my own religious tenets - things I hold myself to - that give me ample opportunity to fail in small ways, or to fail outright in larger ways.

My grandfather was a farmer. He worked hard, and he was quiet, and humble and Competent in all things. I never knew where he stood with Catholicism specifically, but he went to church every Sunday. He only went to communion when he had gone to confession. Twice a year, I believe. I could never imagine what Grandpa possibly had to confess. And I would try to imagine.

Away from the natural rhythms of the farm, my sins are many. In modern suburbia, there are no consequences for life sloppily lead - for laziness, for unpreparedness, for not reading the seasons or canning when the vegetables are fresh. This is the basis for my guilt, for the religion in my head, for the touchy relationship I have with God, for my awareness of how much I do wrong.

Things for which I kick myself regularly for my own hypocritical approach: I am sure that God would prefer I never stay inside on a sunny day, don't waste food, that I am active in my role as shepherd of the earth, avoid sinful meat not raised humanely, never scream at people smaller than me, don't fritter away time, maximize my gifts. Care for those who have less. Stay aware of injustice in the world. When I fail, I can't quite ask Grandpa to intercede on my behalf - because they are not mistakes he would have made.

And I willfully forget, sometimes, to seek absolution for these daily failings.

But gratitude...that one I can do.

My default is, generally, contentment. Hormone-laced-beef-eating, shouting, time-wasting contentment. I look around and I notice: I am well fed. I have a roof. I have beautiful, healthy, fascinating children. I genuinely love and enjoy my husband. I have extended family and far-flung friends and am estranged from no one. I have a car that runs, and two crazy cats. I can read and I can write. I catch my breath looking out at a great view or looking deeply into the intricacies of a single, perfect fall leaf. I know, intellectually, that from bad eventually comes good, and by strokes of luck in timing, geography and birth, no real bad has ever befallen me. And I am grateful for that, too. For the work of my grandfather that got us all to here.

And on Sunday, I sit in the pew and I try to keep children (those I bring) still and relatively engaged. I breathe deep and I tune in and out of the homily. I sing the hymns. And I give thanks. And I find, invariably, I have lots and lots of thanks to give. And this, in itself, is a blessing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I get stuck in-between. I am there now. Stalled. Needing to plan birthday parties and look for a job and face the holidays and make arrangements for spring break. I have to fight the thing inside that whispers that I can rest now. That it's enough that I applied for jobs, went on interviews, talked about birthdays.

Whole days can go by - in which nothing significant seemed to occur. Kids were fed and collected and bedded and some work got done - but nothing Solid.

On those days, there are massive lists of to do's I can't be bothered to write. And I'm stuck.

And the house is still a cluttered mess. And years into the need, I still don't have a couch. Or window treatments.

Two chairs fell off our deck this weekend - a cat was to blame, ultimately. But they broke. They hit no one on the head, which is good. But there they are. Around my table. And I have to wonder, idly, how long they will stay there. Especially given that you can still sit on them, just avoid the splintery parts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The hat says "APD."

He is holding a flashlight and a "soda pop."

On his (vivid pink) belt is a radio and a billy club.

He needs a shave.

He works for the Atlanta Police Department.

He is my son. And I am proud.

He was given this cutout of this guy, told to make it into him and to assign a career path. The design is all him - exuberant 4-almost-5 YO him.

Not sure which I like best: the orange shoes, the pink belt, or the purple collar.

As legend has it (it was before me), APD turned down my former-marine, recent University of Chicago grad husband on some sort of grounds not entirely memorable (or, for that matter, clear.) No way will they be able to resist pPod. No way.

This guy is made to apprehend criminals, maintain public order, and detect crime. I feel safer just looking at him.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Seaglass. Shells. Bleach-white coral branches. Treasures under your feet, gifts for dropping by.

In far-off rural Connecticut, Mom has thousands of these, sorted according to size and shape and color. Mine are in jars, in lamps, in bottles. I have a table scattered with sea-worn conchs on my back deck. I can't sit down without handling one.

I pick through shells within reach. Wonder what beach, where. Sometimes I know - the ones on the plate, by my sink in my bathroom are from Thailand, and Scotland. Reminders that I have traveled, that I will travel.

The tides ebb and flow and the bigness reassures. The view changes by sea, by vantage point, and by season. Sometimes silver, gray, black, and every shade of blue and green.

Those tides transform the sharp, dangerous, glinting bits of broken. The rougher the tides, the sooner the patient work is done. Tumbling across the ocean floor, glass shards are blunted and matted. Bright, flashing threatening - they become soft. Harder to see. Jewel-like and gentle.

The ocean is the only place that soothes my sharper edges, too. 'Place' is so general that I am not entirely discouraged. This 'place' that spans the periphery. A 'there' that can be hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of miles away.

For shorter, luckier spans, it is the distance of a bike ride, or a window.

I lived near the beach as kid - from 11 to 19. I snorkeled and was mesmerized at the bright, busy world out of view. Each date ended with a walk on the beach, at my insistence. My nervous chatter would cease, and I could affect stillness.

Mom bought time shares, and almost all time was spent on beach vacations. Different beaches, different weeks. An investment that made sense - that bought us ocean views, salt, sea glass, shells.

Back home, I kept a towel in my trunk. I would sometimes go after school, after band, and watch the sun set, alone - when I did so little alone by choice back then. Dateless nights, Tica and I would get ice cream and walk - and chat, and sit.

As an adult, we lived as a family, for four years, a few miles from the beach, a few years back. I could raise my head and smell salt on the air. I could breathe it, thick, on hot days. Closer in, I could taste it on my tongue, on my skin. I could brush the sand out of toddlers' hair. Slather sun protection onto fat little legs. Dig holes, bury limbs, watch kite surfers, envy sandpipers their quick feet.

With Jim and Lisa, we rode tentatively or enthusiastically on the back of the waverunner - exploring further. Visiting sea turtles and dolphins. Learning, intimately, the limits of the waves.

My pinkest, blondest, busiest baby was born a few miles from the ocean. His arrival meant tents and layers and lotions and pack-n-plays. Unwieldy things that interrupted my fandango notion of what beach visits were "supposed" to be.

We hauled stuff, set up camp, chased and watched, slathered and brushed off. Baby powder removes sand from chubby thighs, and even the most stubborn baby only eats a full handful of sand once or twice. We would move him under the umbrella, under the umbrella, under the umbrella - hand him trucks and shovels and grovel for him to STAY under the umbrella. Stillness was not a part.

We went on dates, some, the Big One and I. And like their precursors years before, those dates ended looking at the ocean. We would sit in commandeered lounge chairs, or I would lean against his sturdy, anchored frame. The top of the sand still warm from the day, toes digging to cooler layers. We would solve things. Or forget there were things to solve.

Feeling shardy of late. I could use some softening - some wave-tumbles, a dose of salt, some sand for my edges.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009


The Zombie didn't really believe I was going to pull it off, but had a football game to attend Friday night, so wasn't sticking around to find out.

I went, with the soon-to-be-witch and the erstwhile cowboy, to that final Walmart run (*shudder*) and the Junior League Thrift Store remarkably sturdy grunge-wear run. The Zombie rolled in the mud and destroyed, enthusiastically, the circa 1992 flannel shirt and gray cords that were just glad to be put back in circulation in any capacity.

The Zombie had to be coached to stay off the couch at the friend's who was kind enough to host football -pizza - cocktails before. The Zombie's mud, while dry, was not entirely embedded. Nor was the Zombie's face, for that matter.

The Witch's tutu was more sheer than we counted on, and got a little tangly. But went well with striped tights purchased years earlier for her brother's alien costume (it was an ill-considered detail, saved for later. Used here.) The shoes aren't showing, but are silver glitter flats. She is the Wicked Witch of the West re-imagined. Not, as her uncle suggested, Mae West.

pPod was a pirate all day at school on Friday, and in the afternoon on Saturday, and changed into cowboy for Saturday night. His boots came. And were promptly put on the wrong feet. By me. And fixed. By a neighbor (who assumed he had done it himself - and found it very funny that, in fact, he had not. She does not - it should be noted - have children.) He was coached not to point the capgun at anyone - including himself, after he and Sebastian answered the door for a very shy butterfly (ghoul, plus little brother with gun in his ear. She will be no less shy next year, we can assume.)

There was football, there were friends, and there was loads and loads of candy. Pretty much perfect in every way that could matter.