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Hollow Head

I’m reading Kelly Monroe Kullberg’s Finding God Beyond Harvard while I ride my exercise bike at night.  She was a Harvard chaplain who started Veritas Forums, “university events that engage students and faculty in discussions about life’s hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life.” 

Reading about this sort of intellectual activity, not to mention the retreats and late-night conversations, makes me feel like a hollow tree.  If you cracked my skull open, I’m sure you’d find my dusty clumps of cat where my my brain used to sit.  I don’t harbor a single profound question about the origin of the universe or about my purpose in the grand scheme of things because every single thought in my brain centers around questions of survival.  No angst, no intellectual debate, no scintillating theories.  Just mundane stuff like:

Will I pull together a healthy meal tonight?

Did I match up all the socks?

Is that cat poop on the ground?

When can I get out of this house so people will stop asking me for stuff?  And interrupting me? 

And why can’t I fish a single thought out of the murky puddle that used to be my brain?

I’m empty, people.  Dry as the cat’s bowl.  Barren as the ivy-strangled bush in my front yard.  Disconnected from community, unplugged, turned off, burned out.

The big questions are settled in my mind.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that my mind is so full of minutia that I can’t think of anything interesting to say.

And I’m lonely for the me that used to have a thought in her head that didn’t have to do with dirt removal or drain unclogging.


And we didn’t melt!


Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Yesterday, on an afternoon filled with autumn blue sky, I decided I’d take the kids to the pumpkin patch today.  The boys have finished up their school work early because a friend is coming over to play this afternoon.  Because my husband is out of town, I have the Disco Van at my disposal.  And going anywhere on a weekday is better than a weekend.

I slept with the window open last night and woke to the sound of rain this morning.  However, the weather guys on television say that the “showers” will stop and so, we’re going anyway.  Plus, we aren’t made of brown sugar–we won’t melt. 

I’m trying to work up the energy to pick up the scattered detritus that this week produced.  And I need to think about dinner and laundry and paying bills and going out into the driveway to pick up the newspaper in its saoked plastic bag.

My husband returns this afternoon at 3:30 p.m., but by the time he gets his luggage and deals with traffic, it could be hours before he arrives home.  Tonight, I have to take my son to the weigh-in for Judo so he and my husband can spend tomorrow at the YMCA for the Judo tournament.  What joy.

I really loathe when the weekend is already full and I can’t see a single opening in which I can escape.  Maybe tomorrow night.  Maybe Sunday?  Maybe never.

Meanwhile, I have to clean off this desk so I can think straight.  I bet I can get a lot done before we trudge through the pumpkin patch mud.  If I get up.  Now.  Yes, I’m going.  Okay.



All right.

I’m gone.


See you.



I am getting up. 


I mean it.


More Questions and Answers

Sandy Says: I hope I’m not too late, but… Who has been the most influential teacher in your life and why? What did they do that helped you the most…?

Miss Brittingham, my third grade teacher, loved me.  At least I felt like she did.  I felt safe in her classroom and smart.  Mr. Ainsworth, my physical science teacher in junior high, taught me enough to pass a college physical science test that I failed to study for.  Ms. Westering, in high school, taught aerobics and made it seem fun.  All these teachers had such a passion for their topics and for teaching that I remember them even now.

The most influential teacher in my life, though, was a college English professor who not only told me I was a writer, but also became a close friend.  She recognized abilities in me that I didn’t believe I had and for that, I am indebted.  

carrien Says: Do you lean more toward openness theology or Calvinism.

Calvinism (aka Reformed theology).  There’s a really interesting article about Reformed young Christians in Christianity Today:  “Young, Restless, and Reformed.” 

chewymom Says: In what denomination is your husband a pastor? And is this the same or different denomination in which you and/or he grew up?

He grew up in the Pentecostal Church of God in Texas.  (I grew up in the Assemblies of God.)  The church we’re with now is an independent, congregational church that broke away from the United Church of Christ some years back.  My husband is a affiliated with a smaller denomination that is conservative and congregational.  (We kind of morphed from Pentecostal Arminians to Calvinists over the years.)

My Husband

And so yesterday afternoon, my husband telephones to tell me he has to fly to Houston right away.  I said, “What happened?”

The teenage daughter of one of his high school classmates died from cancer. 

He flew out this morning.  That’s the kind of man he is.  He’s the kind of person you want to be in the room when you get really bad news, the kind of person you call when you just don’t know what to do next.  He’ll give you anything he owns without thinking about how much it cost originally.  He picks up the phone to check on people and visits people right before they go into surgery to hold their hands and pray.

And sometimes, in the morning, while I’m still scowling at the very idea of being awake, he’ll say, “Tell me the truth.   Do you think I’m better looking today?”  He wakes up happy.  He’s a champion napper and a devoted football fan.  He makes me laugh and he thinks I’m quite amusing.

I’m happy to loan him out for three days, knowing that he will make a difference wherever he goes.  He will make the situation there, that terrible loss, a little better.  He knows the things to say and how to sit with people in their grief.

That’s what loss can do if you let it.  Loss can create a deep reserve of kindness and empathy and compassion.  My husband draws on that reserve and shares freely.

My heart goes out to his friend . . . I cannot even imagine that loss.  Pray for that family, if you are the praying type.  And hug your children tight.  

A Few More Answers

mrs darling Says:  I’ve often wondered how much you do as a pastors wife. Our pastors wife is so busy. She teaches Sunday school, children’s church, school, sings in the choir, sings in about 2 other special groups, cooks for seventy five seniors every Thursday right in the middle of her school day, is nursery director, teaches a Little Bear club on Sunday evenings and oh my I could go on and on. Do you do all of that stuff too? I guess I’m wondering how much does the role of a pastors wife color your every day life?”

I don’t do all that stuff.  My first priority is my family and since my kids are spread out, I’ve had someone younger than four around for thirteen years now.  So, I choose not to be gone a lot, doing church-work.  I am capable of playing the piano, leading worship, teaching classes, organizing events and all the rest, but I don’t.  I am not indispensable and so, when I don’t do everything, other people get the opportunity to serve. 

I organize and direct Vacation Bible School every summer.  I teach a preschool Sunday School class.  I used to sing in the choir and I occasionally play the piano and lead Sunday morning worship.  But that’s it.  Right now, I’m in a different season of life and I don’t do a lot at church. 

Mary Says: I hope I don’t step on your toes… But… Why do you let your daughter watch so much tv in the morning? Don’t you worry about her being up and unsupervised in the mornings? Or maybe someone else is already up with her?
Sorry, you SAID we could ask!

My daughter usually wakes up at 7 a.m.  She either has a bath immediately or watches t.v. until the rest of the family is up and moving.  Her bedroom is across the hall from mine and she has a small television in there, so I can hear her–plus, she comes into my room every ten minutes or so. 

Her brother gets up at 7:30 a.m. (my husband and I do, too) and leaves by 8 a.m.  So, for that one hour while everyone’s getting ready, she sometimes watches some t.v. . . . she is my child who is least interested in watching television, actually, so I often wish she’d just sit down and watch more.  She might watch a show later in the afternoon and usually watches half an hour before bed . . . I don’t think that’s very much television, but maybe it is compared to other people. 

On Saturday mornings, if I’m trying to sleep in, she does watch more television (if I’m lucky), but I don’t think that will turn her brain to jello.  And generally, while it’s on, she’s busy playing with her dollies, too.

Ginger Says: What Bible story disturbs/irks you the most, and why?

Tough question . . . probably the story of Abraham and Isaac.  I think I understand the point of the story, but it’s a difficult one for people unfamiliar with theology to comprehend.  The story makes God look irrational and cruel, although I believe He is neither. 


I thought it would be easiest to answer these questions in a new post.  So, without further ado, answers: 

Quinn Says:

Okay, here’s one. Of all the ill-advised things you’ve done (and I am guessing that’s about 1/800th of my current list), what would be the hardest to explain to your kids?

I’ve been pondering this.  I am quite possibly the most boring person on the face of the earth because I could not come up with one ill-advised thing I’ve done that would be hard to explain to my kids . . . unless you count attending Bible College.  I ought to have taken my good grades and my brain and gone to a real university. 

Lori Says:

How did you and your husband meet?

During the summer of 1985, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s “Heritage USA” theme park hired college students to work for the summer at Heritage USA.  My husband and I were each hired from our respective colleges.  I met him there after my roommate and good friend pointed him out to me.  We dated part of that summer, broke up over the fall (I actually sent him a “Dear John” letter) and then we dated again the following summer.  He’s from Texas; I’m from Washington state. 

His family still can’t believe he married a Yankee.

QuietPlease Says:

You are a pastor’s wife and a mom of four. Everyone must want a piece of you. How do you maintain your sense of self?

How do you put up good boundaries? If anything, my boundaries are too solid, too protective.  I just don’t bow to the pressure to be a particular way or do a particular thing and I’m blessed with a husband who backs me up.  Once, in a job interview, church members asked him about me and my abilities.  He said, “You aren’t hiring her.  You’re hiring me.”  And he refused to discuss it further. 

I maintain my sense of self by writing.  If at all possible, I try to get out of the house alone once a week–I go to movies frequently and visit thrift stores.  I also read a lot which helps me think and give me perspective.

Chris Says: 

What is your favorite place for a vacation with the family and the place you would go if you could go alone?

We hardly ever go on vacations with our family, but we’ve really had fun at the beach when we’ve gone.  (The Pacific Ocean beaches.)  If I could go someplace alone . . . well, that’s hard to say.  I like cities a lot, but I love the ocean, too.  I dream of going to the ocean for a whole week alone . . . . long enough to really relax.

Nancy Says: 

I am awed and entertained by all the things you write about. How do you keep your house in order with so many things going on there? Do you have housekeeping help? (I realize this is a very tacky question. I would totally understand if you didn’t answer!)

I am by nature an organized person, so even if my house looks a little cluttered or dirty, the underlying structure is in place.  Every once in a while, I have a spontaneous organizing streak or decluttering frenzy–this summer, I cleaned through all my kitchen cupboards and over the weekend, I sorted through my entire scrapbooking desk.

I have pretty low standards for housekeeping.  I thought about hiring someone to help me, but I just can’t do it.  It seems too frivolous.  So, I just keep up as best I can.  I clean in bits and pieces because I don’t have a whole day or even a half-day to devote to cleaning . . . unless I clean on Saturday, which is my only “day off.”  I leave the house on Saturday, if I can.  That helps me stay sane.

Now that you’ve had experiences in life and been a mom and; such, if you could choose to have a dream career outside of the home, what would you choose to do?
I wish I’d gone to nursing school and been a labor and delivery nurse, or gone to midwifery school and been a midwife.  I was lucky to meet a midwife as a young woman who influenced me to have two homebirths–I wish more women were able to have that experience.  I also wish I’d studied journalism and/or creative writing in school.  What was I thinking?  (I went to Bible College and thought I’d be a spinster missionary somewhere.)  
Yvonne Says: 
So what made you decide to tell us that your daughter’s name is Grace (and by the way, once I knew that, the name just totally fit!)
I didn’t plan it in advance, so I can’t tell you.  I just decided to say her name.  I’ve become accustomed to not using my children’s names due to privacy concerns.  On the other hand, I don’t suppose it matters too much, so I may throw in a name here or there, depending on my whims.
anisah Says: 
What Happened To The Kool-aid Experiment?? Its Really Fun
I may have lost my mind because I have no idea what you’re talking about.  How about a clue?
Seafoam Says: 
Who are the kids in the pictures at the top of your blog? I recognize your daughter and the last picture must be you and your husband. The others must be your sons but which is which? And who is the dark haired little girl?
I tried to find silly photos of my family . . . from left to right:  me, as a young girl; twin A; twin B; youngest son; daughter; twin A plus twin B; youngest son; me and my husband, in the week before our wedding.  I have a penchant for pictures of preschoolers–almost all the photos seem to be of kids at age three or so.  
Seafoam Says: 
What does your husband think of your blog? Does he read it? Does anyone at your church know you have a blog?
He didn’t read it for a long time and even now, he reads it infrequently, I think.  He only started reading it after I started the ClubMom blog.  He told me that he was trying to give me a private space, which I appreciate.  No one at church knew anything about my blogs until after the ClubMom blog started.  Then, I figured I’d become more public and have gradually let slip that I write a blog.  I know that a few people read it, but not many.  It’s been strange to go from feeling very anonymous to feeling aware that people I know might read here.
Suzan Says: 
What’s your most embarrassing moment…EVAHHH?!!?!??
I was just telling my husband last weekend that I don’t have a good story to use when this question comes up.  I mean, one time at Weight Watchers, I leaned over to pick something up off the floor and farted loudly, unmistakably, but that’s hardly a worthy story for this question!  I must block embarrassment from my memory banks because I can’t remember much.  Oh!  In middle school, I dressed up like a hippie for the Gong Show and sang The Merry Minuet and got gonged.  That was embarrassing.
Mom Nancy Says: 
What are some of your favorite ’sneaky Mom’ tricks that make your kids think you have the All-Seeing Eye?
I do have an All-Seeing Eye.  What do you mean?  ;)  (I can’t think of anything at the moment . . . but I am very good at picking up clues and noticing odd behavior.)
Tiffany Says: 
MY turn?! Ha! hummm something witty, chatty, and interesting. Not right now. So I ask how are you doing?
Still quite sneezy.  Allergies.  Bah.
Amy Says: 
What was by far the most difficult thing you ever had to do out of love?
Huh.  What a question!  I suppose the most difficult things I’ve had to do out of love have to do with letting people make mistakes and not intervening.  People I love have had to learn some lessons the hard way, which is tough to watch. 
judy Says: 
Besides fear itself, what do you most fear?
I fear damaging my children somehow by being a horrible mother. 
Stacy Says: 
What is your current guilty pleasure?
People magazine.
Shalee Says:
What one moment in parenting do you really wish that you had a do-over? 
The 100th day of kindergarten when I accidentally made my son late to school–he had been chosen to be the helper, which is the biggest, most exciting event in kindergarten, but because we were late, they chose someone else.  I had to take him home because he was so upset . . . he told me on the way home that he would never forgive me.  That’s the first thing that comes to mind. 

Knowing your kids as they are right now, what do you think they’ll be doing as a career in their future?

Twin A:  Chef or cook. 

Twin B:  Teacher?  I’m not sure.

Youngest son:  Doctor.

Daughter:  Too soon to tell . . . she’s only 4.

What is your most proud (in a good sense) moment as a Christian- something that you feel that God looked at your doing and smiled?

When I bought that homeless woman food at the grocery store awhile back. 

What’s your favorite color? Mine’s “blue– NO! RED!! Ahhhhh….” (Name the movie and you win one of the donut holes I’m eating. I, of course, will eat it in your honor.)

Purple.  I don’t know the movie!  Drat!

jo-less Says:
Are your twins identical? If so, how long did it take before you could tell them apart?
No, they are fraternal.  One has blue eyes, one has brown eyes.
Cindy K. Says:
I think you mentioned that you homeschool your twins, but your other boy goes to public school? Is this true? And, what led to this decision?
They attended our local public school from kindergarten through fifth grade.  One had academic struggles, but kept getting moved on to the next grade without really mastering his work.  The other, as it turned out, was being bullied and socially ostracized.  We didn’t want them to struggle in middle school and so we brought them home.  They are still enrolled in the public school, but do school through a virtual academy.  Our younger son, in third grade, is well-suited to public school and gets excellent grades and has lots of friends. 
We aren’t black-and-white about homeschool versus public school versus private school.  We try to make individual decisions that meet the needs of our individual kids.  In this case, our oldest kids needed more attention and nurture than the public school could provide.  (And they never, ever want to go back.  They love doing school at home.)

Ask Me a Question: I’ll Tell You No Lies

Today, I’m asking you to do all the work.  That’s right.  Ask me a question in the comments and I’ll answer it.  This is your chance to be nosy, to ask inappropriate questions, to satisfy your curiosity.

(This will also be potentially embarrassing if no one says anything.  So speak up!)

Judo Tonight

My son takes Judo at the YMCA.  He runs off to his class while I head upstairs to lift weights and run (run!) around the track and follow that up with a cardio machine to keep my heart-rate in the not-quite-dying zone for another twenty minutes.

Tonight, when I finished sweating, I walked down the hallway to the gym where Judo takes place.  My son, a white-yellow belt, was fighting (grappling?  wrestling?  practicing?  I have no idea what to call it) with a girl, a yellow belted girl who was taller and faster and more aggressive than him.

She kept tripping him, which is practically the whole point of Judo.  I wanted to march right over to her, grab her by her ponytail and fling her to the ground myself.  However, I exhibited my extreme self-control and only watched from a distance.

I think I might have been good at Judo in my youth, for beneath my calm exterior, I am a tenacious, easily annoyed person who could use an outlet for my irritation.  And throwing people to the ground and holding them in place with a choke-hold seems like mighty fine therapy to me.  My son, though, is an even-tempered, kind person who doesn’t have a killer instinct. 

My son’s first tournament is Saturday.  He confessed that he is nervous because some of the other children have led him to believe that a generous amount of pain will be involved in the matches.  I wanted to say, “Honey, you don’t have to do it, you know,” but I held my tongue.

I consoled myself with the thought that at least it’s a double-elimination match, so after he loses twice (hopefully without snapping his spinal cord in two), he’ll be out.

(Can you see why I never played sports as a child?  And why I hate board games?  And why you should never, ever mess with my sweet 8-year old?)

I declare it, so it shall be.

My husband has a cold and so this week feels like the last week of my life.  I try to tell myself that I won’t get sick due to my daily exercise and my healthy diet and my skin-drying constant, obsessive hand-washing, but I know I’m lying to myself.  I’ll wake up with a sore throat Friday afternoon and suffer all weekend.

But no!  I won’t accept that!  I will not get sick!  I don’t want to be sick!  I refuse to get sick.  Sickness is forbidden to take ahold of me.  I won’t allow it.  No sickness here!

My husband is napping right now, sleeping away his weekly day off.  I will resent his nap when I am unable to nap next week when I have my turn.  (No!  I WILL NOT GET SICK!)  Because as we all know, moms do not have sick time.  We just muddle through, ignoring our fiery throats and our pounding heads and our mucus-dripping noses.  But not me!  No, sir-ee-bob, because I AM NOT GETTING SICK.

My only biggest accomplishment of the day is in the clean refrigerator.  Not only did I clean out the refrigerator (please tell me why I keep buying cabbage, but never cook it?), I also prepared a turkey meatloaf and peeled potatoes so dinner preparation will be a snap.  Of course, because I frittered (mmm, fritters) away the morning (when the boys were at P.E. at the YMCA), I didn’t answer the emails that are cluttering my inbox and jamming up the whole internet.  So, if your internet connection seems slow today, you can blame me.

Well, naptime has come to an end.  And I think I’ll go drink another vitamin concoction because I WILL NOT GET SICK.  No way.  No how.  No.

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