Monday, September 30, 2013


"Mom, what do you think I should be when I grow up?" Lucy says. She nudges a foot against Craig's seat, wriggles to sit taller. She peers around the armrest, seatbelt looped over a shoulder.

I knit two more stitches, dark purple yarn, then purl two, knit two. "Hmmm," I say, but I'm not sure she hears. The hot sun, humid ocean air, six of us beached in the car, we wait, the moments elongated and moist.

Craig, somewhere in the belly of Safeway, fetches a few staples: toilet paper, mayo, mustard, potato chips. I debate if I should take off my running jersey or just try not to move and sweat.

"How much longer do you think 'til he gets here?" Jane asks. She pulls an old pink comforter up to her chin, the picnic blanket. She had tripped when the big sneaker wave gushed up on shore, a sluice through her hair. She had spat and spluttered the salty water, and laughed. Oh courage, she laughed.

But, Lucy had jumped, gripping Craig's arm. And he had curled her heavenward, muscled her to the sky, grit and salt a spout around her knees.

"Do you think I should be an artist?" Lucy says.

Swish-click, another knit of purple, "Yes," I say, the invisible stitch between knit and purl.

An artist. Art, it's all seeing, learning to see, to trace the tiny, near-invisible deviation from normal, the one that makes your face, you, and mine, me. An artist, yes she would be good at this.

"Then I can go to gallery meetings," she says, "and paint stuff." She nods, impressed with the minutia.

Then, as if water through our fingers, a whole week on the beach passes by, feet smoothed on sand, faces peached from sun. It's Saturday breakfast and last-minute packing.

"I want to sit in the back on the way home," Jane announces, her green cereal bowl padded with a full-sized paper towel folded down to catch drips.

"I think you have to," I say, swirl my coffee, and take a swig.


"Didn't you sit in the middle row on way here?"

"I did half, and Jack did half," she says.

"Oh. Ok."

She leans a pink sleeve on the table, watches a diving duck out the front window. It disappears. Hup. She holds her breath. One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three... one-thousand-nineteen. Puff. She scoops another square of cereal. We watch for the duck to re-emerge.

"It's nice to sit by someone who is closer to my age," she continues, "so they know more how to encourage me." She rests the spoon back in the green bowl, time a forgotten commodity. "It's not just like saying, You're great," she shakes her head. I watch her curls concuss around her elbows. "I mean, I want evidence,"she says. "Let me put it this way, I want to know they mean it." She nods, lips drawn up, perfect pink.

"Yeah," I say, "me too." I recline, time loose around my ankles.

She dredges the last of the cereal and drinks the milk. She gathers the paper towel like a nest under the bowl and ambles to the sink. Her curls almost waist length, a dalmatian on the front of her shirt, I note the interweaving of child and adult.

And then, the long drive home. It's the shortest yet. We seven squeeze in and unfurl the stories. Narnia: The Horse And His Boy, The Magician's Nephew, The Last Battle.

"No, no, turn it off," Jane shouts from the back when the Shift, the ape, captures the stage. "I can't bear to hear him LIE like that." Lie -- artful, beautiful, horrible lies. They slither, seem alive. "No, I won't listen to it." Her voice visceral, she clamps hands over ears, frowns resolute.

And then we stop, again, all seven of us paused so Myra can pee. Or not, again. "Really? You can't pee?" I say.

"No. I think maybe my tummy was actually hurting because I wanted to snuggle with you," she says. I nod, pull up her pants and hike her three-year-old self on my hip. We head back the suburban. She wraps her arms around my neck.

The drive is long, full. It's the last bite of dessert before you're overfilled and really too full. But we never reach that point, just really, just right full.


4848. "The end of plums is at the horizon line," Jane says as we process plums for freezing. "It goes straight from plums into ocean," she says.

4849. Finally, we pile into the suburban, packed to the gills, and set out for vacation.

4850. I finish knitting Myra's blue dress. She loves it.

4851. The beach house. We arrive in one piece. Happy memories greet us. Peace, like a long sigh, trails through the house. We swell with gratitude.

4852. We walk the beach, Myra's willowy hand in mine. "Why do roly-polies run?" she asks. "'Cause they have legs," I say.

4852. "My pants are rainy," she chatters, slaps her wet jeans.

4853. Paradise-sun. We play in the sun.

4854. Sunset, the kids race the waves and gold light.

4855. Myra dons her new sweater and kicks up the sand.

4856. Jane and I play Quarto! Then we have a dueling playoff with the other kids.

4857. Hot tub. We play on the beach until a core chill settles in, then pile in the hot tub.

4858. We retreat for naps. Craig and I land in the window seat, sun full and bright, waves cresting. I fall asleep in his arms.

4859. We finally circle back home and find it just the same as before. Home, the perfect punctuation.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


"Do you think they have sort of a bad family setup?" Jane, orange long-sleeves and aqua sweater, gestures toward a man we know. He's bald and big in the muscular sort of way, almost towering, a white beard.

"Yeah," I say.

"'Cause," she cups a hand to her cheek, "about the stealing stuff." She frowns down the left side of her mouth, raises her eyebrows.

I smile into the blue iris seas of her eyes. "But God still loves them very much. Just means they're gonna have some harder things in life," I say.

"Just the kind of family that needs to be sewn together by God," she says.

We nod in that magnetic, contagious, way like a schoolyard sea-saw, up and down, down and up. The moment expands, but the wide spaces won't hold anymore words.

"Mom," she pierces the expanse, "can Joey come downstairs?" New scene. New moment.


A half skip and she tritt-trots down the backstair to math and literature, grammar and stories, a deft comma in our liturgy.

I follow. The day weaves, one rightly placed strand after the next. I braid the loose ends, just keep gathering and placing them in the middle. Bad family setup, there in the middle. Jesus, the tailor, there in the middle. Our bobbing heads, the moment turned horizontal, there in the middle. Weave and weave, the moments braid into ropes, long ropes of years. We all grab on and squeeze tight, swing for the sky.

I follow her down the creaky stairs another strand there in my hands.


4834. Myra wakes with a nightmare. "Jesus, make myself not have bad dreams," she prays for herself. "Amen."

4835. Myra perches a roly-poly on her forearm like a parrot.

4836. "I saw a lettuce that is ripening," she confides while we trounce through the garden. "You better pick it," she says.

4837. Mom and Dad come for dinner. Chickpea ham soup, cucumber salad, fresh corn, ice cream with rum sauce, love.

4838. Craig rattles the front door. The children, all waiting, all circled around the table, cheer for his arrival. "He leaves a BIG hole," Jane whispers in my ear.

4839. I fetch bread from the freezer and find some bags of garden tomatoes processed and ready: Jane.

4840. Fall clothes, a new shirt and jacket, little extras, garnishes of love.

4841. Fresh plum jam.

4842. A girl baby shower for Cerissa and her beaming affection even when I muff the time and arrive two hours late.

4843. Sparkling water. Glass water bottle. Two.

4844. "Look both ways!" Jack shouts to Emma and Lucy when the deliver something across the street.

4845. "Did that hurt when they punctured your ear?" Lucy points to my earring while we wait in line at Costco.

4846. Gerbera daisies. Jane and Lu return from Cerissa's with brilliant red and yellow daisies.

4847. Another week looms by. We thank the Lord for a front row seat to all the action: love -- devastatingly full-strength, undiluted. Down-on-you-knees-completely-helpless-but-for-the-grace-of-God-faith greets us. And somehow the ground reaches up to meet us. All along solid rock, just out of sight, we plant our feet and step toward the horizon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Zee Company

"Mom, we're called the Zee Company because we're catching soooo many BEES," Lucy pants. She holds up an empty salsa jar, yellow jacket squirming near the lip.

"Wow." I arch my eyebrows, nod, toss a lone flip-flop onto a bluff of shoes marooned at the back door. "Looks good, " I say.

"Yeah, we catched soooo many BEES." She initiates the nightly epic, a libretto of battles and intrigue,  jars and jars and more jars of bees captured. "SO many, Mom."

"We only just caught seriously bald-face hornets," Jack joins in. He whisks by, a peanut butter jar under one arm.

"Momma, can I have a drink?" Myra lopes into the kitchen. She wrestles open the third drawer on the left. I scuff dried oatmeal off a dish, then toss it in the dishwasher, again. Myra plucks a beryl blue bowl from the cacophony in the drawer. "Mom, can I have a drink," she says, bowl clutched to her chest.

"Yes." I frown at three spoons and a butter knife, dishwasher dregs dried and flaking off. I toss them back in the dishwasher. I glance at Myra. She blinks, grins as if her limbs were noodle-numb. Our eyes sync.

"Um, you may not use a bowl," I say. "Get a cup."

Blink-blink, "Oh. Ok."

The evening skitters on, sleep, finally, like a stone gliding over the water.

The next day, already in motion when I roust my tired self and woo her to wake, tumbles forward under my feet: an avalanche of moments. They clatter together like the engine of a porsche, perfect precision, music. I hold my breath, exhale, savor the adrenaline of spending myself.

"Mom. Mom," Myra charges, "I'm gonna draw a picture of you snugglin' with me." She waves a white sheet of paper like a victory flag. "It's gonna be perfect," she says. "I'm gonna work at my workstation."

We nod in tandem, me, silent for all the words tied up inside, breathless, mute, anchored there at the farm table with me. Her blue eyes alight and flutter, earnest orbs, love.

If a swagger can be completely void of vanity and instead just fullness of heart, a swelling with each step -- she swaggers off as if the motion of the day were inside and spilling out at each stride.

I trace the stride with my eyes, memorize the happy purity, the wholeheartedness. Like a stocking snagged from toe to top, I am undone. The knots slacken. The day contracts and fractures my relentless pace.


4814. Joe starts walking.

4815. Purple running jersey. Need I say more?

4816. Barn spider, belly bigger than the old steely marbles.

4817. Cucumber grape salad with coconuts and pecans.

4818. Art lessons. The kids draw cinnamon-sugar donuts.

4819. Purple yarn.

4820. Almond filled croissants.

4821. Miss Jamie. We pray for Miss Jamie. She wakes up from her brain bleed and begins recovery.

4822. Sign language, and the garden.

4823. The children balk at regular chores, so we skip Saturday recreation and host a family work day. The children cry with anticipation. They sulk. They blame. They sandbag. And they finally rise to the occasion. On wings of endurance, the day soars. And though they miss lunch, they miraculously thank Jesus for the wonderful day working together.

4824. Another chalkboard. Craig makes our schoolroom complete with another green chalkboard. Then he hauls out an old vanity and bumper pool table that never really fit quite right.

4825. A friend offers him tickets to the WSU game. Seats on the 40 yard line, Craig and a buddy take theirs sons to the game.

4826. I fetch some canning jars downstairs and return to find Joe eating out of the butter dish.

4827. Peach rum sauce, boiled and candied to perfection.

4828. I visit with an acquaintance, but shrink inside when she talks down to her husband. I wonder what I should say to her.

4829. I peek in on Lucy. She hums while she dresses her babies.

4830. "I like your face when you smile like that," Myra says and points to a photo of me.

4831. She chooses a blutterfly sticker for her chore chart.

4832. "Jesus, please make us love you more every year, every season, every month, every week, every day, every hour, every minute, every second. Amen," Jane prays before bed.

4833. "Jesus, please help Mrs. Short's cancer to get healed. And, please help us to be able to tell other people about God," Lucy prays. "Amen."

Sunday, September 8, 2013


"I hope Grammie had a good time," I say, a row of tomatoes nestled in my elbow and lined up along my forearm. I squint at the countertop.
Jane paws the red checkered dishcloth looped on the oven door, dries her hands. "I think she did," she says.

I crouch, lean toward the counter, ease the soft spheres. They thump as they bobble off my arm.

"When she thought we weren't looking," Jane says, "I could see that she was smiling."

"Oh, that's good." I scoot the juicy globes back toward the butcher block, their shiny skin grips the surface.

"I think she was trying to set the boundaries," Jane says, "but I thought the smile was good."

"Huh," I nod. I separate the harvest into colors: red, black, green with pink streaks, yellow.

I replay in my mind the time I gave a friend a green tomato, one just streaked, orangish-pink-perfect. I had cradled six or eight tomatoes for her in the hem of my shirt. The children had orbited, tumbled cherries in between the fist sized fruits. They had tugged my elbow and tap-tapped my shoulder, poked and prodded. How they tried not to interrupt. Then finally, "Are you giving her one of your favorite ones?" broke free.

Favorite. Yes. We give our favorites. Grammie, down in the schoolroom, gives art lessons. I, in the garden, give sun-ripe tomatoes. Along the way, the children trace the exchanges, memorize the details, internalize the green tomato and the smile when no one was looking.

Every moment bears weight, every breath, inertia.


4790. "Mom, should I get my water wings and fly?" Myra asks while we pack for a weekend at the lake.

4791. Rosie's invites us for a weekend with her family.

4792. We all go tubing, skipper across the water, squealing, screaming, even Myra though reluctantly. Joe cruises on the boat.

4793. "I'm only doing it because you are making me," Jack narrates as he boards the tube for the first time this year. He turns to me later, "Some things, I'm really glad when you make me do 'em," he says. "Grandad always helped me know which things were going to be like that," I say. We smile.

4794. I watch the many decades of love play between my parents as we slide across the lake.

4795. Dad and I take our annual end-of-summer run. I soak up his wisdom.

4796. We eat hand-patter-out barbecued cheese burgers and a Mt. Everest of kabobs.

4797. We fellowship with family, a cadre of Christians. Refreshment. Strength. Love. Extended family. Our roots run deep. We marvel at the weaving of our Christian faith through all.

4798. The children work like crazy to finish the same amount of school work in a shorter work week.

4799. Tomato basil bisque with sausage.

4800. A Hanna Anderson dress for Myra out of the blue.

4801. We resume the regular Bible study routine for small group, dig deep with warrior prayer and study.

4802. Grammie starts art lessons for the grandkids.

4803. "Your heart is even whiter than this," Lucy points at the cord on the kitchen mixer. "Yep. Shining," I say. "So bright you have to close your eyes," she says. I nod, her repentance complete after getting in trouble.

4804. The kids write a play. The Enemy Of The Bible: Pride. It stars Nebuchadnezzar and three Hebrew boys.

4805. We go to the fair with dear family friends.

4806. Craig preforms another wedding.

4807. "Jesus, help me not see my schoolwork as a burden," Jane prays. "And Jesus, help me to act like an adult. Amen."

4808. We pick golden plums up on the mountain.

4809.Craig's mom makes us a farm meal: potpie, yellow watermelon, blackberry cobbler. Great-grammie joins us with Aunt Carole visiting from Montana.

4810. "Mom, I need a wet wipe," Myra calls, "'Cause Joe eated all of Lucy's tomatoes, and it getted all over him's clothes." She blinks. "It made a big mess of tomato juice."

4811. We rile the house looking for at least one of Joey's sippers and finally find two. We crisscross apologies and settle into their hammock strength.

4812. All the children pray for Lucy's eye appointment to go well tomorrow, the solidarity of the moment like a smooth stone in my pocket.

4813. I observe my parents, Craig's parents, marriages woven through the splendid and the heartbreaking, a rendering of joy. I pray for that kind of solidarity to bear us up, carry us on wings. To Jesus be the glory.