Sunday, November 24, 2013


"Are you stirring for me?" Craig bellows over Christmas music and Saturday night clean-up.

"I'm stirring." I turn a scoop of cranberries over on itself. They hiss steam, blooming carmine. I force buoyant ones down, spongy under the spoon tip. They bobble back.

"I'm doing a little CPR on our vacuum here," he says.

Jane at my elbow, the evening storyline spooling behind us, we watch an iceberg of sugar melt into scarlet juice. Then time snaps back. Laundry envelops us in it's voluptuous arms.

And then there's Craig. "Look at all this hair," he touts, a semi circle of pupils gathered around the vacuum underbelly.

"Eww." I witness the de-brining as I cart clean unders to the bedroom.

"Gross, huh?" They nod, eye contact all but abandoned in the dust curls and bristles. "Trash can," he commands.

"Uh, what?" The magic momentarily punctured.

"Trash can," he says again. Jack sprints to the sink and back, me a slalom flag in his path.

"What's THAT?" Myra points to a rubber strap.

"That's the belt. When you press this down here," he pokes the ignition, "it makes this spin around here." He pokes the belt. "It makes the BELT spin around." He taps the belt again, Myra's curls lilting.

"Jane, can you stir the jam," I toss over a shoulder somewhere in her vicinity. I turn another sock right ways, fold it into it's pair.

"Have to put this back on here," Craig continues, snaps a plastic clip over the beater bar.

"Do you have to be really STRONG to do that?" Lucy asks.

"Little bit," Craig smooths his fingers over the seam, "so when it spins, it turns stuff and it sucks in over HERE." He razzes the bristles bar. They nod, brows furrowed in devotion.

A fizzle of jam, "Could you turn it down to medium?" I call to Jane.

"Ok, I need the dust mop," Craig decides. Joey, three paces out, dust mop clenched, breaks for the hall. Caught and undone, the mop flops free. In an arc of love, Craig swoops dust, dirt, and hair into a smallish heap.

"Daddy, I put the screws in!" Jack triumphs, the mouth of the vacuum open over his knees.

"I knew you'd do a great job on it," Craig banters, arms length now from the spluttering jam. He swirls the crimson waves, quells the splatter.

"I'm weak with chocolate fever," I badinage, the children tumult and clatter at our ankles. He laughs, chocolate bullion stocked in our cupboard next to salt and pepper.

"Are we ready to start?" he calls to the fray. They hush, assess the pillage.

"Yeah," I shout. I snap off a row of chocolate, flourish onto the couch. "I'm assuming the position," I say and prop both feet on the coffee table. I chaw a corner off the chocolate.

Craig jaunts past bubbling jam and laundry towers, "Want me to fan you with one of these?" he says. In exaggerated jest, he snaps a branch from our banana plant, swoons it over me.

And I grin. Mirth. I can't help it. Cranberry tang, the vacuum resurrected, bricks of chocolate, an unremitting tide of clean-up, and it all fades. Devotion rises. Devotion wins.


4992. The dining room lamp dies. Jane hauls the schoolroom lamp up to dinner, sets the spread, and calls us.

4993. Jack cycles all the kids' laundry into big billowing clean piles.

4994. I scorch two gallons of Mexican gumbo and rescue it from demise.

4995. "I love you," Myra says and frames my face in her hands. "It's just nice being here with you."

4996. "I just get a flashlight to get the eggs and haul wood," Myra says. "I'm BRAVE," she blinks. "Buuuut I need someone to come with me to get the eggs 'cause I'm afraid a chicken will BITE me. I don't want them to bite me open."

4997. "Would you rather live an the middle of the dessert of the middle of the arctic?" Craig asks at dinner. "Elephant," Myra announces, determined to participate. "Say elephant," she whispers to Lucy.

4998. "Maybe when I am six my vision will get really good," Lucy confides curled into my lap before bed. "Maybe," I say, "I pray for your eyes all the time." I kiss her forehead.

4999. Jack rubs my back while I sing to Joe before bed.

5000. Jack and Lucy fry eggs for the family each morning. "Which one do YOU want, Momma," Jack says.

5001. Peppermint bark popcorn.

5002. A new skein of apple green yarn.

5003. A pinwheel quilt. I sew the stresses of the week into the arms of a pinwheel quilt.

5004. Craig unpacks the bowels of his shop and crafts a new age of order.

5005. "I found where someone spilled the butter," Craig announces, wiping the sole of his foot.

5006. "Jack could I help make bread?" Myra pines.

5007. "The plebeians are actually more important than you think," Jane concludes as we study ancient Rome, "'cause they can get together and be stronger than the strong people."

5008. A friend reminds me that the best discipline happens when your eyes are kind. I press this into my mind. Memorize it and the love with which it was said.

5008. We circle the gate of another week. Spindrift of socks and knit sweaters, playing cards, a silver mechanical pencil, a green plastic cup, Myra's brown monkey -- we orbit a universe of overflow. We excavate minutia, splendid and elephantine, into piles we can manage. We outline order. We trace it's face. And in the end, gentle and warm, we find devotion curled in our lap.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


"Mom, 'Tunia's laying an EGG." Red hair a firestorm, Myra trounces through the back door. Dolly under one arm, she clatters navy wellies over the hardwood.

"Her chicken's in the nesting box," Jane says, self-appointed diplomat two steps behind.

"Yeah, 'Tunia's in the NESTING BOX," Myra blusters.

Paraded through the kitchen and now humped up on the back of the black couch, she presses her cheek to the window, leans her chin out, eyes glued to the coop.

Joey clangors around the couch arm. He makes eyes at Myra, grunts his approval, then whops the couch with a rogue Tinkertoy.

"Joe-Joe," Myra chimes.

With agility that defies the navy wellies, she hops off the couch, snaggles Joey's hands and sashays over the old wool rug. Tinkertoy lost in the burst, Joey stomps his feet, howls disapproval.

I prop a foot on the hearth, loosen a gray running shoe, ease free, shed my sock inside out, drape it over the shoe. It's the running liturgy. Myra promenades Joey into a bear hug. Jane retrieves the orange Tinkertoy, wheedles it into his hand. I wrestle a white running jersey over elbows and hair-sticks, then reassemble it to normal shape.

"Joey likes Rhode Islands," Myra assesses. "Joey just LIKES Rhode Islands," she says.

"Oh," I say trying to remember if the Rhode Islands were the red chicken or the goldens. I flop the limp running jersey over my shoulder.

"I like BLACK chickens," Myra continues, "'cause I can pick them up."

I hook my fingers through the mouth of each shoe, iPod and cotton running gloves forgotten on the hearth. I start for the bedroom.

"I pick them up, and they just WIGGLE their toes," Myra narrates. "And they just FLY out of my arms." She flies her arms open. "Some time we have to cut off their wings so they can't fly any more." She nods in a chairman sort of way, chest full with wing-clipping knowledge.

I dispatch my running shoes in the closet, sprawl the jersey over the end of our bed. I shuffle the covers straight, puff the pillows, shamble them into place.

"In the morning if him's done laying an egg," Myra says, "I can get it 'cause him's a nice guy. My 'Tunia's a NICE guy." She gives a spontaneous hop to punctuate the niceness. I toss the last pillow in place, pat the red fringe.

I pull shearling slippers up to my shins, ensconce my toes in soft warmth. Perpetual almanac at my elbow, I catch her willowly hand. It folds up like a paper crane in my palm, those slight fingers lined up edge to edge.

She grins. I smile, the narrative broken. Her blue eyes huge and merry, I swing her into my arms, tiny pleat of a girl. And with soft deftness, she folds into me, all the diagonals align, perfect origami against my chest.


4973. "Don't give me the STINK-eye," Myra warns Joe.

4974. Veteran's Day. Sacrifice on my behalf -- I feel the weight of this gift.

4975. Family pictures! Rose Emily posts our family pictures.

4976. "That white shirt," Jane says as I swoon over the photos, "is terribly uncomfortable. I have no intention of ever wearing it again. The sleeves pinch your arms in half, and I had to keep pulling it down. As soon as I got home I changed." Then we laugh and smile over the love in each picture.

4977. We finally meet together for Tuesday at Mom's after a whole month absent. Libby nourishes us with white bean chicken chili. We rejoice in our the bond.

4978. "Can I draw you a picture?" Lucy asks. "It's gonna be a really pretty one. I'm gonna try to make it look like something you really like."

4979. Dad and Mom come for dinner. Pizza, kale salad, Dutch butter cookies, Mom fresh home from Kenya, the rest of us fresh in from the daily grind, we feel it again, that bond, the deep roots of family.

4980. "Mom, Mom," Myra shouts, Joey fresh out of the bath and tottering through the living room. "Joey gots him's TAIL on," she says.

4981. Joey wakes up in the night, cries, then mumbles Jesus Loves Me to fall back asleep.

4982. Spearmint rosemary bar soap.

4983. Green dye.

4984. Pine scented icicles.

4985. A whole fresh book of Christmas piano music.

4986. Coffee, almond croissant, the talking, the hours, the special bond of love -- Mom and I catch up after her trip.

4987. Our dear Miss Lynne invites us to dine with her and her family. Sparkly beads, a stone falcon, books, and stories, and guitars, pizza and salad, lavender cake -- the framework of friendship is visible for a night.

4988. Quilting fabric, more fabric. Marion-berry honey. Primrose soap.

4989. We have dinner on the farm. Spaghetti. Can you believe some of our kids didn't know what it was?

4990. Jane finishes Miss Frisby And The Rats of NIHM. In search of a new book, I read aloud the first bit of the original Wizard of Oz. "So what do you think?" I ask. "Sounds like a really good one," Jack says, "It's usually a really good one if the starting is sort of boring."

4991. Boring. Yes, the best things often have unimpressive beginnings. I take this to heart. Boring, the gentle lull of ordinary. I embrace my ordinary life. It encircles me with love.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Due South

"I'm kind of in the mood to read, I thought I might read this to you," I wave Malcolm Gladwell's new book toward Craig.

The weekend grocery trip in full unloading fervor, he hastens past, slews a box of onions and sweet potatoes onto the counter. Flakes of onion flutter to the ground. Fifty pound bag of chicken feed beetled over his free arm, he sidles around the bottle neck by the fridge.

"Hey, did you check for eggs?" Jack says. Jane pitches two rotisserie chickens next to the box of groceries.

"I got six," Lucy shouts.

"Craig?" I say.

"I'm kind of busy with something right now," he says. He lifts the feed bag over the kids' heads and eases around a cupboard bank that hems us into the small kitchen.

"I know," I say, "I was just planting a little bug in your ear."

"What's that?" Jane, zeroes in on the crisp hardback, lifts her chin to read the title. As if on cue, Jack and Lu halt the egg conversation, curiosity furrowed between their brows.

"David and Goliath," I read, "Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants." By this time they're a semicircle of jostling. One person slides the celery on to the counter. Another snaps the egg carton shut and elbows around someone else to slip it into the fridge.

Jane unmuddled by the entropy, takes the title in, digests it, nods approval.

"The Art Of Battling Giants," Jack quips from somewhere to my left, "I can't wait."

And then as if by quorum the group nods, moves on, shuffles more groceries from suburban to counter to cupboard or pantry. The consensus is reached. We shall read it together.

And so we do. Sixty miles an hour due south, straightaway to the farm, the seven of us read and listen, unroll idea after idea, history, science, probability. The children chime in on Marcus Manlius, the Peloponnesian War, Israel, the Philistines.

We unfurl a whole skein of ideas and elbow to elbow begin to knit them together. Fiber after fiber, we weave a whole world of shared knowledge; we form an identity, a camaraderie. Loyalty rises. Quietly, unannounced, something like devotion unfurls its wings, encircles us all.


4952. "I really like history," Jane says. "It's something that really happened that's like a mirror, but a little blurry, of things that will happen. I like to look at the blurry parts and try to see them."

4953. The kids suit up for the season's first snowfall, goggles and all.

4954. Myra goes on a date with Gramma.

4955. We read about the temptation of Jesus. "It makes me think," Jane says, "that God expects us to act good even when we're hungry -- as good or even better than usual."

4956. "Thank-you that we can be here, and thank-you for Bobble study," Myra prays. Craig and I smile. We will miss it when she starts to say Bible study.

4957. "You look pretty," Myra grins, my long hair down after a shower. "But you look like someone else."

4958. I get to know my cousin's wife over fb.

4959. Lucy goes on a date with Gramma.

4960. Miss Lynne brings Miss Caroline for ASL this week. She captivates us with stories of growing up as a CODA (child of a Deaf adult). At every turn she embraces life with affection and joy. As she leaves I'm certain I've underestimated the goodness of life.

4961. "Mom, look how big I am," Myra says. "Do you think I'm gonna get heavy like a mommy?" she pines.

4962. We watch again the art of hospitality. Down on the farm, table heavy with roast and fresh bread, squash and salad, peach pie, we trace the old time way of laughter and just being together.

4963. Craig's mom shows me how to pull a knit stitch 15 rows back, fix a flaw, and pull the dropped stitch back up.

4964. Jack picks a grocery bag full of apples up in the orchard.

4965. My dad comes for dinner. We track Mom's flight back from Kenya cuddled up on the black couch together. We eat chicken and sweet tater fries, play Yahtzee, have apple crisp. The evening drifts by in plumes of happiness. Perfection.

4966. "Mom," Myra says, "if my hands are cold in the morning, then what are you going to do?"

4967. "Joey's up to my neck," she says. "Him's almost bigger than me."

4968. Joey eats an apple, core and all.

4969. My mom returns safely from Kenya.

4970. We finally hit our stride with the perfect schedule for this season of life.

4971. We learn again the wisdom of being stubbornly immovable. We raise the bar. We watch the children swell with satisfaction when they jump far higher than they ever thought they could.

4972. We come in for a Sunday landing, affection and love the fruit of our labor.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Luke 2

"I guess I never realized they circumcised him on the eighth day." Jane tilts her head, squints, half-smiles. She clatters her spoon, her elbow propped on the table.

"Oh, yeah," I say. I trace the feather-thin page of her Bible. "You know why right?"


"'Cause of the vitamin K."


"When you circumcise a baby they can actually bleed to death. Vitamin K makes your blood clot and form a scab. It stops the bleeding. There is more vitamin K in your blood on the eighth day than any other time."

"Oh." She nods. Her forehead wrinkled, eyes tranquil. Her gray t-shirt, blue jeans, I watch an exchange of information, a tipping of dominos there behind her eyes. The small pebbles of an avalanche shift and skitter. I note how important moments often happen in casual clothes.

"So the chances of dying are way less," I say. We hold each other's eyes. All that pleasant blue, I smile. "All those thousands of years they just did it on the eighth day 'cause God said to, but he actually had a reason." I raise my eyebrows, face drawn up in tenderness. My coffee cup lukewarm, I palm it, take a sip. Jane troughs a skiff of egg nog into her oatmeal.

"One thing I've found," she says, "is that God always has a reason for what he says." She pops the carton spout back in place. A drip of nog seeps out. "And if he has a reason," she says, "it's a good one, not just like he feels like it. Like how they circumcise on the eighth day because of the vitamin K." She circles her spoon in the oatmeal, absent-minded, as if realization had been there all along.

"Yup." I swirl my coffee, circle up all the fine grounds in the bottom. I slosh them down. "So what's your take-away?" I say.

"Obey," she says, "even if you don't understand 'cause if someone you respect said it, there is a reason." We nod, smile affection into each other's eyes. Obedience. Respect. A simple horizon.

Bible study. We do Bible study over oatmeal and coffee, egg nog and blue jeans, and end up with the horizon of the world right there in our lap.


4934. A dear friend gives birth. James Michael is born.

4935. I thrift shop with the kids and return with more books for the library.

4936. Mom arrives safely in Kenya.

4937. We repurpose an old wardrobe as a game and puzzle hutch.

4938. We rearrange the library.

4939. Craig buys me new slippers. They keep me warm to the shins. I feel like an eskimo.

4940. We buy new socks for the kids.

4941. Lucy and I go on a date. We run errands. She embodies peace. Peace. I wonder if this is the soft side of courage.

4942. The kids make us apple crisp.

4943. We play Yahtzee as a family.

4944. I knit the last of my purple sweater. I finish it with black glass buttons.

4945. Craig builds a huge fire almost every day, makes our house a tropical paradise.

4949. The girls and I go shopping for yarn and return to find Craig and Jack have hung the new chalkboard down by the fireplace.

4950. We celebrate Reformation Day. My dad comes for dinner, tells us stories of God's great work.

4951. We trace again the importance of consistency. Consistent discipline. Consistent encouragement. Consistent devotion. The rhythm of faith. The rhythm of love.