Monday, March 27, 2017

Dirt





"I don't even know how you're going to BUY dirt," Jane says.

Jane, Jack, and Lu, bent over pony packs of potting soil, they measure out seeds. Like long legged storks, crouched awkward and elbow-ish, they plant sand-like seeds. They nestle the seeds in 5x5 grids by kind and ripening date. Each grid an installment of 25 plants, they plan. Transplanting will take dirt, lots of dirt, a whole compressed bale of it, a whole $40 bale of it.

"I just don't know how you're gonna buy more dirt," she says.

"Jane," Jack says.

"I have some money," she says.

"JANE," he says again.

" I can LEND it to to you," she says.

"Jane, JANE, Mother is going to have me grow her seeds, and she is going to help me out as payment," he says.







"Oh," she says. "Oh, good." All this time they never make eye contact, eyes fixed on placing each seed from palm to soil nest. "I can't wait," she says. "I just can't wait to sell these and bless people with some good plants."

"One hundred twenty-five," Jack says. "ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-FIVE, I've already done one hundred twenty-five." Now he's looking around, face resplendent, gleeful even, not withstanding dirt settled past his elbows, up on his shirt. "One sixth. I've already done ONE SIXTH of them!" he says, eyebrows a triumphant arc.

"Plus a hundred here," Lu says.

"And eighty five here," Jane says.







"Two twenty-five, three ten. That makes three ten," Jack says. "We're almost HALF way." He grins, but already his palm has another tiny pile of the next tomato variety and he's plucking seed by seed into another grid in another container.

And so we work. More than ever we work. And I see bonds; irreplicable attachments begin to form.  Loyalty springs up between seedlings. Dependence and gratitude hold hands. We race the clock to tuck in seeds. We time germination to prelude planting. And there in the middle I see them begin to let go of entitlement and look for what they can give to success. The sacrifices draw them together.









Gratitude:

6317. A flat tire brings a dear friend and her family to our home for dinner, a spontaneous dinner. "That was so fun, I almost wish they would get a flat tire every time they come to the valley," Jane says.

6318. I can't believe I'm starting to master the art of wrapping George on my back. It's so fun!

6319. Craig and the kids continue construction on our family greenhouse. Jack devotes his free-time as if the greenhouse were recreation.







6320. Jack completes another wrestling season. More tests of character, more strengthening, more pushing himself and encouraging the people around him, we ring in a good season.

6321. George now four months, I find I am feeling more like my good old self.

6322. We begin the process of sprouting seeds. 700+ seeds nestled away for germination, we wait. And we plan. The children begin to author cathedrals of garden dreams.

6323. We begin to plan a neighborhood plant sale. The thought of all of our friends coming together is as fun as all the plants.







6324. The weather gradually orbits into windows of hospitable, even inviting, bits. We eat them up, every last crumb. Spring, it finally feels like it could be on the way.

6325. So many good days, the goodness being a pulpy and nutritious center more than measurable tasks or fancy destinations, we nourish our spirits on these good times.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bouts Of Sun





"There is NO way Dad could build that greenhouse without me," Joe says. I heft armfuls of laundry from washer to dryer. He hops one foot to the other in brown cowboy boots.

"Yeah?" I say.

"Yeah, 'cause I HAD to help him vacuum the cord. He COULDN'T reach it," he says.

"What?" I say.

"Yeah, he had to use the vacuum to suck the cord up," Joe says.

"I had to pull wire down a conduit," Craig says, "so I used the vacuum to suck the cord down the conduit." He tips is head to Joe.

"Oooohhhh," I say.

Laundry transferred I snap the door closed and press start. Joe nods, satisfaction laced between his crossed arms.







Later, dinner come and gone, Dutch blitz cards scattered across the table, Craig, Jack, Lucy, and I snap down cards in bluster and flurry. Joe, slung around Craig's shoulders, watches, his gaze strung down the end of his nose, studious and precise.

"Whelp," he says, "I promise you Dad is gonna WIN." A hiccup from the four competitors, giggles spilt between cards.

"Yup," I say. And what do you know, he does. And there is Joe nodding again in the background.

Finally, the night almost drawn closed, Jane and I transfer more laundry, always more laundry.

"Wait," I say. I pluck a roll-neck brown sweater from the laundry, shake the sleeves free from balled up. "I don't think Joe EVEN wore this," I say.







"He didn't," she says.

"Didn't feel like hanging it up, I guess," I shake my head.

"I'm not saying I'm not guilty of the same sin, but I've SEEN him do this MANY times," she says.

"Hmmm," I say.

Then there's Sunday morning, Joe peeks into my room, me in the middle of a made bed, knees drawn up, Bible open.

"Betsy's breaking a lot of eggs out there," he says.

"What?" I say.

"Yeah," he says.







"What do you mean?" I say.

"She cracked two and then I took them away," he climbs up on the bed as if saddling a horse.

"Is she breaking MORE right now?" I say, my eyebrows raised equal and opposite to his calm.

"No," he says.

"Are you SURE?"

"Yeah. I was cleaning one up and she broke another one so I took-took them away," he says, all the authority of a boardroom there in the tilt of his head.

"GOOD. Can you clean up the rest?"







"I was," he says. "I just get a big-big stack of paper towels and put," he demonstrates on the bed, "put it on it." He presses his hand into the mattress.

"Ooooooh," I say.

"To SOAK it up."

"Oh. Good."

"Yeah," he continues, "She was splattering them everywhere. There were four and she broke two." All drawn up in his nonchalance my words evaporate, and I just watch him retell it again and again. The man that is Joe begins to unfold -- caricatures of wisdom and cartoons of authority.









Gratitude:

6304. I get a bonafide silicone toothpaste tube for DIY toothpaste. Yay, ease dispension!

6305. The Illustrated Life Of Jesus Of Nazareth, scripture and classical art, the juxtaposition leaves me thinking about it for hours.

6306. I continue daily to pluck gems out of J. Newton's and O. Chambers' works -- more scripture, principles, and worldview to roll around in my head.

6307. I make a pot of butternut stew. The children love it, say it may be the best stew yet.

6308. I practice wrapping Joe on my back every single day this week. Suddenly desirous to take on a new skill, I find it easier each time, and fun.







6309. A dear friend blesses me with a buttery soft woven wrap.

6310. Dutch Blits. We start the kids on one of my all time favorite card games. Frivolous, fast-paced, and fun, we eat it up.

6311. Unexpected cheddar, tortilla chips, coconut milk, Trader Joe's groceries fill our kitchen.

6312. I disciplined myself to get more sleep this past week and feel the difference.

6313. I play thrifted piano music, and George lulls to sleep.







6314. We had bouts of sun this past week. Simple goodness poured over our skin, we consumed the nourishment.

6315. I ordered seeds for the garden. The children continue to dream, plan, and lay out the garden.

6316. I let myself rest in the knowledge of God's power, perfection, and love.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Homework





"And they were saying this girl was CRAZY for writing a speech there," Lucy says. Circled up at the big brown table we eat bits of leftovers.

"Oh," I say. I chase a piece of cayenne dusted pizza around my plate while other kids eat eggs, oatmeal, or miscellaneous vegetables. Fresh home from a wrestling tournament, we gather for early dinner, early card games, early bedtime.

"Yeah," Jack says around pizza snookered in his cheek, "but the lunch lady said that you COULD work on homework if you wanted."

"Huh," I say, "you can really see the mindset."







"What do you mean?" Jane looks up from a rectangle of bread and butter, blinks at me.

"Like those kids hating work," I say. "It's too bad. They're making it so they're gonna hate a large percentage of their lives if they hate work."

"Huh," she says.

"Or," I say, "you can teach yourself to love work like we are trying to do, and you make a huge percentage of your life pleasure."

"Why don't they do that?" she says.

"It's hard," I say.








"Huh," she says. "I don't know why they don't." She leans on an elbow encircling the side of her plate. Other heads nod as they begin to exodus for the dishwasher and dish duty. "I can see why they would despise someone who loves work," she says, "but I just don't see why they don't."

An open-aired moment, there, wide like the room around us gathers up as the neck of a satchel, and shrinks down into tasks, plates shuttled to the kitchen, go-fish cards dealt in their place. Like bits of shell, glass, and pebbles, some understanding of work lies caught in that small pocket of time.









Gratitude:

6293. I have my varicose veins evaluated with good results and a treatment plan.

6294. I pass a headache under the gentle care of Craig and the kids.







6295. The children beg to get up earlier to have their schoolwork done by lunch or as early as possible.

6296. I continue to alter, thrift, and repurpose clothing to our needs.

6297. Craig continues to treasure hunt at local second hand stores. He and Jane come home with $200 boots for $10 (for her) and a grins wide enough to circle the whole house.







6298. I continue to add into each day the sweet, sweet joy of knitting.

6299. I figure out how to wrap George on my back. He grins like I'm his new pony.

6300. We continue to organize our schedule into a more normal configuration. At least it's the most normal since George was born.

6301. Doing fewer things, leaving room for margin, we begin to seamlessly move from task to task. I find the art of responding to many things at once easier, even pleasurable.







6302. Jack continues to wrestle. He relays moves and strategy to me with surgeon-like precision. I watch him discipline his mind and body and without knowing it begin to describe things like self-governance and discipline.

6303. I take note of these many, many moments spinning by, filling my world with spindrift, riches flung across every single day. These are good days. I don't think any part of the rest of life will be quite like this.



Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pizza





"Careful," I say.

Jane, reclined on the toy box, the last makeshift seat at the table, balances a plate of pizza on her knees. Knees, bumped up to the table's edge, she leans stork-like over the plate, bites through a meniscus of toppings, misses a chunk of hamburger that then lobs off elbow-side.

"Hey, careful," I say.

"What?" she pulls free of sibling conversation.

"You're spilling," I say.

"Whoops," she half-smiles a shrug rolling down her arm.







"What are you doing?" I say. She sits frozen a moment then fishes an offending meat ball off her lap.

"Getting this," she says now between finger and thumb.

"Why are you sitting like that anyway?" I say.

"I don't know," she says a barb of irritation whipped out like a proboscis then reeled back.

"Are you mad?" I say.

"No," she says.

"Then why does it sound like it?" I say.







A sigh draped over her face, the lines around her eyes relax. "I guess you're just hearing that I'm exhausted," she says.

"Oooh," I say.

"Today was a physically and emotionally draining day."

"Yup," I say, "I know what you mean." Suddenly all the million errands of the day coalesce into one thing, a shared thing.

Words evaporate and we let the delicious pizza Jack made nourish our tired bones.









Gratitude:

6288. Craig gets two new shirts to update his wardrobe.

6289. For the second week in a row we have Asian salad with soup. Delish!







6290. Craig and the girls oversee the first wrestling tournament this season for the club Jack is in.

6291. I finish knitting a wool cap for George. It's nearly too small, juuuust right.

6292. Jack and I go on a date exploring a local grocery store. We leave with a handful of kumquats and a wedge of jackfruit. I've never tasted anything so delicious as jackfruit.

6293. The long days of March surround us filled with studies and chores made longer with wrestling practice and wrestling tournaments. The tired feeling of full days pulls us together. Choosing a soft and kind answer when we most want to snap blooms in deep, deep affection one other.



Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Daily





"Jesus, thank-you that I'm never, just NEVER, being naughty," Joe prays. "Thanks for getting me stronger," he says.

I nod, my eyes squeezed shut, peeking through eyelashes. Stronger not good-er. His face earnest all around squinched shut eyes, I take in his countenance and pray a secret prayer to be stronger myself.

The day wheedles on. We set a board game across the table complete with an infinity of tiny pieces that tinkle to the ground in shifts as tiny elbows try to squeeze in and take a turn.

"Myra," Jack says, "DON'T point with your middle finger. I used to do it too. Looks a little worse than I thought."

"Oh," she says. "Ok." An offense akin to an untied tennis shoe, they nod, pass the dice, and tally up another turn.







Later, pizza splayed across the dining table, crumbs, a pie tin, a paring knife, a jar of pizza sauce spoon still in it, the night blooms in obvious pleasure. The children clear dishes and wipe down the kitchen.

"Here," Jack says. He reaches around Jane and plucks debris out of the kitchen drain; a reservoir of dark water begins to drain.

"Thanks," Jane says disgust drawn up at the corners of her mouth.

"If you had to clean it out everyday like me," he says, "it wouldn't send a shiver down your spine." He grins at her. She rolls her bottom lip into an almost-smile.

Easy. Practice makes easy. And kindness, there, elastic between them, stretches way farther than you'd ever think possible.









Gratitude:

6280. Applesauce, fresh made by Jack (after he finished making a pan of brownies) -- he's a chef in the making.

6281. Summer skirts. Sigh. Optimistic, I know. One can hope.







6282. A huge colander, the kind that can hold a whole pot of cooked barley.

6283. Betsy starts to get the hang of peeing in the potty. Bliss.

6284. Jack continues to work hard wrestling, gleaning character from each encounter as winner or loser.







6285. I live through a bout of mastitis complete with chills, sweats, and body aches.

6286. With herculean effort, I shoehorn in time to knit. Second sleeve on bumble sweater almost done.

6287. Everyone continues to grown in self-discipline. Most of all me. Being the example really is trial by fire.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Folding





"You know," Jane says, "it really works if you FAKE it." She shakes a turquoise sweatshirt free of wrinkles and drapes it over her knee, creases it, folds it, folds it again in half.

"Yep," I say. A floodplain of laundry deposited across the couch, I watch her reach for another shirt.

"When we came out here I was like THAT'S SO REPULSIVE," she gestures to the gully of laundry and plucks a stack. "But now it's like not that bad." Her face awash with a smile, she sits in a small crevice between the clothes and the couch arm.

"That's called fake-it-'til-you-make-it," I say.

"Huh," she says.







In steady increments she folds, stacks, and puts away. She excavates the living room one shirt, one pile of laundry, one library book, sock, shoe, blanket, and broken bow and arrow at a time.

"Ok, how's that?" she says.

"Hmmm," I scan the room. "Not quite," I say. She follows my eyes, a couple of blocks and towels at the end of the couch.

"Oh, the towels?" she says.

"Everything," I say, "down to the last nub."

"Nub?" she says.

"Everything," I say.

"Ok," she says.







Without thinking, we nod to each other, a sort of tipping of the hat, an acknowledgement, appreciation. And then she makes another pass, combing the corners, cracks, and crevices for any remaining detritus.

So there it is, all huff and bluster not thirty minutes ago, now she commands a sense of order. Order, that is the gift. By how she's thrown her shoulders into the work, I guess she took it at face value: grumbling means you need MORE chores, and boy do I have a list.





Gratitude:

6261. Friends invite us to dinner, the whole nine of us. White chili, bread, and caramel pears, it's the perfect matrix for visiting and fellowship.

6262. An afternoon blooms in conversation when friends stop by spontaneously. Joy greets us.

6263. Fajita soup with cocoa and all the conversation, laughter, and genuine life-giving stillness that surrounded it.







6264. We try something new: we practice silence. Dinner dishes still splayed around us, empty and enjoyed, we close the meal with total silence. We ponder God. I practically cry from the profound refreshment.

6265. Two thrifted sweaters, the kind that look nice even if you forget and slouch a little.

6266. Jars. Glass jars.

6277. Popcorn. Butter.







6278. I'm gradually settling myself to not rush and not worry. In the frenzied moments I slow, be intentional. I'm realizing a mistake of slowness is better than a mistake of meanness.

6279. Jack and Lucy prepare popcorn and lay out a game board. We pause to play together. In the rushing river of days, we still the world to play and make memories.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Soup





"No, honey, that soup is for people who go poop in the potty," I say.

"NoOOooOo," Betsy groans.

"That soup will make you go poop and poop and poop," I say. Ham bean soup. "That soup is for potty goers."

"NooOOo," she says, forehead wrinkled, mouth curved in perfect upside down semi-circle. I grin; she drives her eyebrows deeper. Soup. She LOVES soup.







"I know what she's thinking," Jane says, "THIS IS RIDICULOUS. I'M GONNA GO ASK JANE."

"Yup," I say. "She sure is." Jane shines a smile from the far end of the table. We grin across the plane of Betsy's will, weightless affection for that two-year-old reverberating between us.









Gratitude:

6248. "You have to watch Betsy really close," Jane says. "She's at the age where she hasn't really developed the muscle of self-control really well, but she's really capable."







6249. Books. Someone passes on a bunch of books. It feels like Christmas.

6250. Silicone trivets, the kind that store in concentric circles.

6251. A couple of new sweatshirts to update my everyday work clothes.







6252. We watch the super bowl. Joey keeps calling it the super ball.

6253. At halftime we can't help but stare at Lady Gaga. Finally I click the tv off. "My first thought when she came out," Jane says, "was WHY IS SHE WEARING A SWIMSUIT IN THE FREEZING WEATHER? That was ridiculous, appalling, and laughable."

6254. George continues his career as a smiler. We all melt.







6255. The children become obsessed with the Laura Ingles Wilder books and consume them like starving people seeming to memorize every single farming detail as they go.

6256. Chicken dinner with asian salad, rice, chips, and pleasant conversation, better than a restaurant.

6257. We celebrate Craig's birthday.







6258. I find great joy in reading a daily devotional of John Newton.

6259. I make whipped shea butter.

6260. Though I feel ensconced in household chores. I cherish the company, and set my heart to enjoy the tasks at hand.