Sunday, August 28, 2016


"Hey, honey," I say, phone cradled to my ear. There at a bbq someone lofts a beach ball. It deflects off a picnic table and thuds in the grass next to me. I turn away to focus on the phone. "How's it going?" I say.

"Oh, good," Jane says. A boy in khaki shorts scurries over, grabs the ball, and hoists it over his head. He slaps it back across the yard.

"Everyone being good?" I say to Jane. She, home watching the kids, I called to check in.

"Yeah," she says. "Welllll, actually Joey was being kind of wicked at first, but then he ate and sobered up," she say.

"Ooooh," I say. "Is he being good now?"

"Oh, yeah, he's been being a perfect angel ever since," she says.

The cacophony of adults visiting and children volleying the beach ball all but vanishes as I listen to Jane. She waxes on about Joe and dinner and the kids all helping. I close my eyes and picture our home. Jane, she's a paradox of grace and confidence and yet eager for approval, carefully examined approval.

I'm not sure when the tide turned, but these days she goes after rightness more than pleasure. It's a strange turning, as certain as walking on water, as if everything and nothing depended on our guidance.

Like every great work, we fall on our faces and pray for God to have his way.


6040. Craig starts decluttering the garage.

6041. We get and load the kids' new spelling program.

6042. Our tomatoes start producing well. Jack goes out and picks them everyday for me.

6043. We make salads for most lunches.

6044. I find a new pair of sunglasses to mitigate my light sensitive eyes.

6045. We settle into the school routine like a trail we've traveled enough times to make the turns without thinking.

6046. I connect with a new friend/missionary in Mexico.

6047. Jack makes zucchini bread with produce from his garden.

6048. I finish Plague by Judy Mikovitz.

6049. I finish all but the arms on a new navy sweater for baby boy.

6050. I buy some fresh, high quality cocoa powder in preparation for fall hot chocolates.

6051. We move Betsy to a big-girl-bed.

6052. My parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. What a cornerstone. What a legacy.

6053. The old familiar turns of fall so close at hand we enjoy the gradual turning of the days. Each season rolls in new, fresh, and familiar.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


"Mom," Jack says, "I put some potatoes in the fruit basket for you," his potatoes, his own, fresh dug from his garden. His head poked in my room, bright freckles and a sky-blue shirt, I smile at him.

"Oh, thanks," I say. Perched on the edge of my bed, I've been staring at the open closet trying to extract something that will fit and look appropriate. The children bustle down the hallway behind Jack. Everyone's prepping for a day at work with Daddy.

"You can use them for whatever you want," he says, "like making chips or fried potatoes or WHATEVER you want." I smile, watch his eyebrows curve around those blue eyes. "'Cause, I like to have a little surprise for you any time I'm gonna be gone," he says. That closet full of clothes and nothing to wear and then this.

"Aw, thanks, Jack."

"Yeah!" he says. With that he clicks the door shut, scampers down the hallway, and soon the house is quiet, just Betsy and me.

All day I think about those potatoes. I fry them up for dinner, split them with Craig. We agree, hands down, the best potatoes. Ever. Could have eaten a whole bushel of them. But the nourishment, that was all Jack.


6032. We have a garage sale with Pete and Rosie, a huge success.

6033. The kids help Craig move everything back into place in his classroom after the painting is done.

6034. I finish another sweater for baby boy.

6035. And a blanket.

6036. We finish the first week of school. Memories of the self-discipline required for learning begin to re-emerge. It feels good.

6037. We celebrate my mom's birthday.

6038. We celebrate Craig's dad's birthday.

6039. We land on Sunday tired and grateful for rest. It's the long afternoon nap, laundry forgotten on the couch, and bedtime come early.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


"Can I do a knock-knock joke on you?" Myra says. "It'll be really quick."

There in fleece jammie shirt and pink running shorts, the only jammie shirt/short combination she could find, Myra laces her fingers together and turns her hands inside out. Knock-kneed, she does a half-squat.

"Okay," I say. There at the table, I lean on my elbows, a book sprawled open and half finished between them.

"It's one that Jane always does on me," she says. She rolls her eyes up and to the left as if tossing a pinball over her shoulder.

"Okay," I smile.

"Knock-knock," she says.

"Who's there?"

"Abraham Lincoln."

"Abraham Lincoln, who?" I say.

"You don't know who Abraham Lincoln is?" she says a grin unspooling. I giggle, Abraham Lincoln, but that grin, wide like a tomato split from ripeness, it lingers past the punchline.

"That's a pretty good one," I say.

"Yeah," she says. I stare, there leaned on an elbow. She blooms and retracts like a geyser, a fountain. She blinks, something slow and quiet. And if simple attention could give nourishment, there it is. In a moment, we've consumed something intimate as breath and formless as water. Manna.

"Okay, go get in bed," I say. And she does.


6018. Lucy slices a pile of apples from the neighbor's tree. She hums as she fills her bike helmet with the slices to share with cousins out front.

6019. "Jesus," Lucy prays, "I pray you make our country strong and healthy and whole, but not the kind of strong where everyone is cruel."

6020. The kids clean out Craig's shop.

6021. Then, they help him move all the things in his classroom to the middle of the room so the walls can be painted.

6022. Jane tries to "help" one of the other kids more than they want. "Just wait for him to ask for help," I say. "But he has a little problem with pride," she says, "he will never ask for help." We still grant him the dignity or at least the adult correction.

6023. "Thanks for birthing so many hard workers," Craig says to me. Bliss.

6024. We attend a leadership seminar with all of our kids.

6025. We finally FINISH the library, studio, and all the school supplies for starting school tomorrow. Everyone is so excited.

6026. I get a couple of new shirts that stretch all the way around by growing belly.

6027. Chocolate. The simple note of love that a chocolate bar sends.

6028. We make sleep the priority it should be and schedule it into our days as a strict discipline.

6029. I continue to recover from heat exhaustion. Each day I gain a little strength.

6030. We have a special dinner to celebrate the end of summer break and beginning of school. It even includes mac-n-cheese cheetos.

6031. Another year, another season, I note the gradual turning of the days. It's almost as if I could see the ripening of each child.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


"If you want," Jack says, "you can hold this and look at it." He plunks a black pocket knife on the couch arm. Folded up like origami but, long, heavy and smooth, I pick it up with fingertips.

"Thanks," I say. He grins, arms crossed over his bear chest, hands in his armpits. He unholsters his hands and shows me a small knob on the blade. Just the right stroke on the knob, and you can pop the knife open with one finger.

"Wow," I say, secret knowledge swelling between us. I fold the knife down to its smallest footprint and tuck it's stone-weight in my palm.

The evening whirlwind at hand the children rampage the rodeo loop from old wooden chest at my feet 'round the kitchen, down the hallway, through the labyrinth of jammies, toothbrushes, and clothing that's hopefully tossed in drawers. We set a ten minute timer for all elbows, knees, and shoulder to heap in neat mounds for evening prayer.

"Here," I say as Jack reappears, "I better entrust this back to you." His pocket knife warm and weighty still in my hand, I offer it out into the space between us. "Thank-you," I say.

"Sure," he says, a calloused hand already encircling the knife shell. "Now, you know how to open it with one hand," he says. He winks at me. I smile. Something of immense value exchanges there. And something very other stands before me, masculine. I stare, the difference so pleasant.


6003. Jack turns 10.

6004. We find a CAR to fit our growing family. Craig begins to mastermind the car retrieval: El Paso, Texas.

6005. Craig comes into a steal on hardwood flooring remnants and writes up plans for a new family table.

6006. New essential oils; ginger, marjoram, and lavender.

6007. A doctor check reveals baby boy is doing well.

6008. Craig gets a new shirt.

6009. The garden finally squeezes out a few tomatoes of various varieties.

6010. New bathmats.

6011. Barbecued hamburgers.

6012. New balls of yarn.

6013. Craig and Jane build a Lincoln Log tower. It measures out at four inches from the ceiling.

6014. A spatula to replace the broken one.

6015. We find the last of dregs of summer sopping up well with school prep. We await the first day with anticipation.

6016. Craig helps me rearrange the studio.

6017. Peace settles over the house. We enjoy the play; we prepare for work. Contentment.

Monday, August 1, 2016


"Huh," Jane says.

"What?" I say. A live feed of the Democratic Convention splayed in front of us, I look up at Jane. She's staring at one of the keynote speakers.

"The more promises you make," she says eyes still fixed on the speaker, "the more you're gonna have to break." She says it like a poem.

"Yup," I say.

"The more you make 'em, the more you break 'em," she says.

"Come on, keep working on the library," I say. She cradles a novel in one elbow seesaws toward the L's and slips it in after Lewis. We organize books while we take in the political climate -- another side in their own. Sans the commentary, clarity materializes unbeckoned.

The library gradually takes shape.

"I thought I didn't like school until it was taken away for a season," Jane says. I scan a list of sixth grade literature. "Mom," she says, "I'm just itching to start school more than ever."

"Things that you work hard on you end up loving," I say.

"Yeah," she says, "I'm just like: Oh, I wanna LEARN right NOW."

"Here, this is an extra, go put it in the picture classics," I say. She scoops it up like a child, finds it's slot in the bookshelf by the window.

The afternoon slides by slowly like a shared pastry slowly unrolled and eaten in small bites.

Breakfast the next day, we're on to school again.

"So," I say, "I was thinking you should be thinking about what you want your schedule to be this year."

"Oh, yeah," she says. "I was thinking we should start with the hardest thing in the morning. So," she tilts her head, "like writing."

"Huh, good idea," I say.

"And then like piano and Spanish and math facts," she counts subjects off on her fingers, "and then right before lunch to Saxon Math 'cause I'll be like: Oh good, lunch is next. And it'll be like, like," she pauses.

"Motivating," I say.

"Yeah, and I think we should so reading last, like not after lunch, but LAST," she says. I picture fifth grade, her three hours into silent reading sprawled on the couch and the rest of the afternoon work forgotten.

"That's a good idea," I say. "I want to sit down with you and actually write it all out."

"O-kay," she chimes. I smile. All those unbending hours, all those times of saying again and again, Of course it's not fun. Being GOOD at things is fun. YES, you have to do it anyway -- and gradually in imperceptible increments, here we are. Affections are born just like anything else by pain and toil.


5997. I turn 38. Another year wheels itself around and I find myself more observant, less worried, and increasingly determined.

5998. "The kids could make that themselves," I say of Craig's dinner ideas. "I know," he says, "but they just bless me so much. I want to make it for them."

5999. I get heat exhaustion. Craig and the kids scoop up all the daily details and let me rest.

6000. A friend invites me to coffee, and we exchange writing, editing, politics, philosophy, and scripture observations, tasty tidbits. Two hours slide by way too fast, but neither of our cars get towed.

6001. Mom and I run errands and chat on my birthday. We map all that is precious in the world, noting every detail, every conundrum, every tremor of faith, the hidden life of humility, and joy and satisfaction sprouting from unexpected springs. It's a feast of kings. Plus, we get chocolate. Then the checker at Trader Joe's gives me a bouquet for my birthday.

6002. Craig continues to surprise me with devotion, humor, and kindness. Happy and undeserving, I pray I can grow to be more like that.