Lost weekend

Our neighborhood had its annual garage sale on Saturday.  Grace and I walked the mile and a half loop, searching for treasures among our neighbor’s garages.  It was just like trick-or-treating, except in all the ways it wasn’t.

She found some cute stuffed animals–because when you already have a billion stuffed animals, what’s two more?–and books and a shirt.  I bought some new place-mats and a book.

Then, we came home to find our dog stir-crazy and I realized that although I’d already had a walk, she really, really, really needed to have a walk, too.  So I walked another mile and a half loop with her.  It’s true what they say: a tired puppy is a good puppy.

Then it was just about time to get ready for Grace’s soccer game.  This was the first game in which I felt chilly–and when I mentioned to my husband that I was cold, he reminded me of all the games I watched when we lived in Washington.  I used to sit beneath a leaking umbrella, covered in a blanket, wearing a heavy coat and  mittens suffering through 40 degree temperatures.  I don’t know how the children didn’t get hypothermia.

So, 65 breezy degrees wasn’t really freezing . . . but that didn’t stop me from wishing I’d thought to wear something warmer.

The girls won the soccer game.

After a few hours at home, it was time to leave again, this time to attend a professional indoor soccer game with Grace’s teammates and parents.  We drove into San Diego, shivered in the parking lot while waiting for everyone to arrive, then watched the fast-moving game.  It was fun but we returned home late at 10:20 PM.

Then it was Sunday, time for church followed by a nap.

A little grocery shopping, some television (Amazing Race) and four hours of work . . . and the weekend’s over.

And now, a picture of the baby elephant we saw at the Safari Park last Thursday.   You’re welcome.



Ten-year old Grace chatted as we walked the dog this morning.  She is usually chatty and I’m usually groggy.  Maybe because she was so busy talking she didn’t notice the bunny until after I’d yanked the dog off the sidewalk.  I didn’t want her to see it at all but it was too late.

All at once, she saw the bunny laying in the vines and dirt next to the walkway.  I looked closer, too, and saw that the bunny was still wiggling–at least its head and upper body were.  The rest of it seemed broken.

My heart sank.  Grace stared at the bunny.  She begged me to help it, she wanted me to use the pink plastic bag I carried for the dog’s waste to scoop up the stricken bunny so we could carry it back to her bedroom where she could nurse it to health. She suggested we wrap gauze around its legs to help it feel better.

I wanted to look away from the bunny.  She wanted to draw closer and help.

“Grace,” I said, “There’s nothing we can do.”

Circle of life and all that.  I told her the bunny would probably be hurt more if we moved it.  I told her we didn’t have a safe place for a hurt bunny.  Finally, I said we needed to move on and continue our walk. I hugged her and she cried a little and then we walked on.

After we looped around, we came back to the spot where the bunny was.  It wriggled its paws and moved its head a little.

We noticed a patch of fur on the road and a bit of fur on the sidewalk.  I speculated that the bunny had been hit by a car and then crawled off the road and across the sidewalk to the comfort of pine needles and vines.  Or maybe it had been snatched by a hawk and then dropped.  At any rate, it was alive but gravely injured.

Grace begged again for me to help the bunny, to carry it to safety.  She wanted to feed it, offer it water.  I really didn’t know what to do.  Finally, aware of the clock and an impending appointment, I told her we’d go home and do a Google search and find out what to do.

So we hurried home and did a search and found a nearby place that rehabilitates injured wild animals–from hummingbirds to squirrels but not rats or mice.  Just in case you wondered.  Then the doorbell rang and the appointment person arrived and I worked for an hour and then the lady left and I rushed upstairs to shower.

Grace asked for permission to go check on the bunny and I said she could go if her brother went with her.  So she woke up one of her older brothers and went down the street while I got ready.

I was almost ready to go when she came back and reported in a matter-of-fact voice that the bunny died.

“Died?  How do you know?”

She said the bunny was stretched out and had his eyes wide open and he didn’t move.  They poked him with a stick but he was dead.

We went back to the bunny.  She wanted to be the one who picked it up with a towel and moved it away from the sidewalk.  She placed it a few feet back from the sidewalk in the midst of the leafy ground-cover.  I gathered some pine needles and covered that little furry body.

It was sad, so sad.

Maybe she will never believe me when I said there was nothing we more we could have done.  I tried to convince her that even if we’d scooped up the bunny as soon as we’d seen it, by the time we delivered it to the wild animal rehab place it would have still died from serious injuries.  If it were just a broken bone, I told her, it wouldn’t have died so quickly, so easily.

I had a box, towels, an address and would have driven that poor creature to San Diego and not just to save the bunny but to save that soft place in my daughter’s heart that cried when she encountered a small hurt being who needed someone bigger to help.

I wanted to keep faith alive in my girl, even though I doubted.  I didn’t think we could make a difference to the bunny but I knew it would make a difference to my daughter.

Rest in peace, Mr. Fluffigans.  (She named the bunny posthumously.)  We will never forget you.




For three nights, I slept in a strange bed, in a room not my own while my in-laws slept in my bedroom.  (And by “in-laws”, I mean my 82-year old father-in-law and his new bride.)  My dog was confused and kept barking outside of my bedroom door as she is accustomed to sleeping on my bedroom floor.

Then the time changed Saturday night and ever since I find myself dragging through the days as if I were a newborn baby who had days and nights mixed up.  I want to nap every twenty minutes.

I’m reading a memoir–“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed.  I’m racing through it, really, reading during commercials of “Survivor” and whenever I can keep from napping.  I love a good memoir.  (What’s your favorite?)

I’d write more now if only I could sleep-write.

I will remember . . . not much

I have house-guests arriving sometime tomorrow.  They will stay three nights.  What time tomorrow?  Who knows?  What will we do all weekend?  Who knows?  How does one prepare for unknown contingencies?

One goes to Costco.

Yesterday, I realized with perfect clarity that I needed two specific items at Costco.  I grabbed the gigantic cart–our Costco has brand new gigantic carts which are really a wonder to behold–and flashed my membership card, passed those colorful knives I’m always tempted to buy (see also: Dull) and thought, “What did I come here for?”

I knew I had come for two items:  Halloween candy and . . . uh, hmmm.

I stopped by the neatly stacked toddler-sized fleece jackets and pondered this mystery.  What did I need?  Candy and . . . *blink*.

I decided the second item would become obvious when I walked by it, so I began to push my gigantic cart.  I filled my cart with all manner of items that I hadn’t known I needed:  a broccoli salad kit, twenty-pounds of potatoes, eggs, mayonnaise.  That one elusive item, however, remained just out of mental reach.  What was it?

I couldn’t remember.  I spent $160.00 anyway.

Today, I said, EUREKA!  The item!  It must have been tea bags because I like to buy them at Costco–three separate boxes, all packaged together, good old Lipton, essential for homemade sweet tea.

So, I went to Costco.  Grabbed a gigantic cart.  Flashed my card.  Wandered through the store.  Picked up napkins and paper towels and oh YES, I need coffee for my father-in-law, and oh, look, pumpkin cupcakes!  I spent $61.00 and as I headed toward the door to have my receipt checked, I saw that I had no tea bags.

I unloaded my items in my van, moved it to a closer parking spot and went back into Costco to get the item!  TEA BAGS!  I found them, bought them (along with some popcorn).  I congratulated myself on my triumph.

Yet, something wasn’t quite right.  Tea bags were vital, sure, but were they The Item?  They must have been. Right?

Tonight I needed to print out a form.  I looked at my printer and saw it is out of paper and with a blinding flash of memory, I realized the elusive item was printer paper, one of those giant boxes with reams and reams of paper.

I don’t have a single piece of blank printer paper in my house.

I’m kind of afraid to go back to Costco, though.  What will I decide I need if I enter that warehouse again?  A five gallon jar of pickled herring?  A porcelain snowman?  A twelve pack of albacore tuna?

I miss my memory.  I wish I could remember where I left it.


Halloween 2008

I remember the days when the boys jostled each other to get to the doorbell first.  The argued as they ran and after the “trick-or-treat” and “thank you!” they argued again.  “It was MY TURN to ring the bell!’ Sometimes someone would cry.

That happened at every house as we circled our neighborhood.

Now, of course, they don’t even come outside on Halloween night.

Tonight, it was just me and Grace and the dog.  I stayed near the road with the dog (who wore a Bad Dog striped convict’s costume) and Grace marched up to each door, rang the doorbell, said, “Trick or treat” and “Thank you!” in her confident girl’s voice.  Sometimes I heard her say, “I like your shirt” or “your dog is cute” . . . and I’d hear the grown-ups say, “Are you alone?” and she’d say, “No, my mom is here.”

How different life is from decade to decade.  Two decades ago, I didn’t even have a kid to take trick-or-treating.

I’m not even going to try to guess what Halloween will look like in ten years.

Halloween today:

Pumpkin carving:  Zach and Grace each crafted their own jack-o-lantern faces.  I was barely involved.  (Hooray!)
Pumpkin cupcakes:  Purchased from Costco, put in the garage fridge and . . . forgotten.  Oops.
Dinner:  Turkey enchiladas.

Trick-or-treating:  Took the dog and Grace around our neighborhood, maybe 1.5 miles total.  About a quarter of the houses participated.  We came across several groups of grown-ups gathered in driveways, sitting in lawn chairs.  One group offered us hot chocolate at a table with a banner that said, “Parents Pit Stop.”  Temperature was about 68 degrees.
Candy consumption:  As a good and dutiful mother, I made the ultimate sacrifice and ate all the fun-sized Almond Joys.
Candy distribution:  14-year old son dressed as injured Santa (crutch, sling and bandaged head) to pass out full-sized candy bars.  Reportedly only three kids came to our house.  (We do not live on the main loop.)
Costumes:  Grace was a “Cute Witch” and the dog wore a striped Convict’s uniform that said “BAD DOG” which she is.

Important life lesson imparted to daughter:  Always pee before you leave the house.

Important dog lesson learned:  To ensure perfect evening dog behavior, take dog for a mile and a half walk at noon, then take dog trick-or-treating for two hours while covering another mile and a half.  One hundred percent money-back guarantee.

My friend Barbara Curtis of Mommylife.net went to heaven

UPDATE: Her husband wrote a tribute to Barbara on her blog and describes her last day.  See here.

* * *

In 2005, Barbara Curtis started her blog, Mommylife.net.  I commented on her very first post here.

Within a couple of weeks, she sent me an email and we began to establish a friendship.  She thought I was funny, encouraged me to write and made me laugh.  I loved her immediately–her honesty, her colorful background, her no-nonsense attitude.  That same year, she mentioned a writer’s conference at Mt. Hermon.

Two years later, I finally made it to that conference and met her.  We hung out and talked and sat side by side, blogging.

She taught me a lot.  (She helped me connect with the editor at Christian Science Monitor who published my article mentioned in the right sidebar).  She knew so much about everything: raising children, writing articles and books, movies, politics, history, music . . .

I never could imagine how she accomplished so much in each day.  She had twelve children, a bunch of grandchildren, a husband she was devoted to, a super-busy (mostly) political blog.  She wrote a stack of books, including one she just finished writing in September. She wrote articles for magazines and just last week went to World Journalism Institute to learn more about writing. Did I mention that  her four youngest sons have Down Syndrome–and three of them were adopted?  Once while channel-surfing, I saw her on a news program, commenting on some political issue.  She was devoted to the pro-life movement and practiced what she preached.

She was my friend, an encourager and an example. She made me laugh and she made me think.  She was a good listener.

On Sunday, she has a fatal stroke.  She died earlier today.

I am so sad.

I will miss her.

We talked about going back to Mt. Hermon last Spring . . . she said this, “I will be there next year and we will visit the ocean again!!!!”

But we never made it.

My heart goes out to her family.


My kitchen knives haven’t been professionally sharpened since I took them to the mall in Bellingham in 1991.  I wish I were kidding.

Sure, I have a home sharpener which I occasionally pull out of its hiding spot, but those knives are dull.

If I need to cut open a lime, for instance, first I have to stab the lime with the point of the knife so I can push the blade through.

One of my 19-year old sons has been begging me to get the knives sharpened.  He looked online and found a shop with raving reviews and sent me the link.  That was several months ago.

Finally yesterday I found myself with a few free hours.  I decided to deliver the knives to the shop so they could be sharpened.

I put the address into my GPS, drove ten minutes and . . . found myself in a residential neighborhood.  Was the knife sharpener guy working out of his garage?  I don’t know but I was not comfortable with the idea of knocking on a stranger’s door with a bag full of knives, asking for help.

So I used my phone and found another knife sharpening shop, entered the address into my GPS, drove ten more minutes and . . . found myself in another residential area.

At that point, I posted on Facebook (from my phone) asking local people if they knew of a place to get knives sharpened.

As it turned out, my next-door neighbor left a Facebook comment and told me that a knife-sharpening guy is at the Farmer’s Market every Saturday.  So I guess that’s where I’ll be on Saturday.

How funny, though, that all this technology–Google, my iPhone, my GPS–led me to my next-door neighbor.  Next time I’ll just go into my backyard and shout over the fence.

Make me a servant

A million light years ago when I was twenty, I used to sing a song with these words:

Make me a servant, humble and meek,
Lord, let me lift up those who are weak,
And may the prayer of my heart always be,
Make me a servant, make me a servant, make me a servant today.  

(Song by Kelly Willard)

As it turns out, I had no idea what I was singing.  I meant it, but decades ago, before I had children and a husband and a dog who will tear up three brand new boxes of tissues if you leave them on the kitchen counter after carrying in the bags from Walmart, I had no idea.  What I had, way back in the olden days, was a dorm room and a bunch of classes and a roommate who was so neat and tidy that she kept her hot rollers in the original box when she wasn’t using them.

I volunteered my time, of course, for various charitable causes.  I spent my Spring Breaks riding in vans to work in inner-city churches, helping as much as a middle-class white girl can.  During summers, I stacked chairs and followed orders and one summer, worked as a nanny for a stay-at-home doctor’s wife who had four children.

I thought I had experienced servant-hood and it wasn’t all that hard, so singing that song was a pretty way to express my ardent devotion to God.

But now?

Now I hear myself saying things like, “What am I?  The slave around here?” and “I am not your servant girl!” and “Why am I the ONLY ONE who does ANYTHING AROUND HERE?”

I hear myself.

I know that my life is blessed.  I know that I am among the world’s richest.  I have running water and modern amenities that so many people around the world can’t even imagine.  My kids are healthy.  My husband is funny and calm and an all around awesome guy.  I really have nothing to complain about.

My heart is kind of whiny, though.

My heart is not a servant’s heart.

And I’m afraid to sing that song because what does it really mean for me to be a servant?


I’m tired.

If my life were a treadmill, I would definitely push the button to slow it down.  I would, in fact, abandon the treadmill and find a comfortable couch where I could curl up and read until I fell asleep.  (This also describes why I really need a personal trainer because when the going gets tough, I prefer to get off the treadmill.)

If I were a juggler, this would be the moment when all the balls (or flaming torches) would tumble to the ground (and set me on fire?).  And so on and so forth.

So, yeah.  That’s how things have been around here.

Yesterday, I sat on my bed for ten minutes between soccer practice and an evening meeting.  The rest of the day I was in a frantic whirlwind of obligations.  (Walk the dog. Work.  Soccer practice. Procure dinner. Meeting. Work.)   But when I put it that way, it sounds serene, my day.

I don’t feel serene.

I feel obligated and tense and boring.

Today, I woke up and walked the dog.  Walking the dog for thirty minutes each morning has become essential.  That bit of exercise changes her attitude dramatically and really, unless I want a Tasmanian devil jumping at my throat, I dare not skip the walk.

Then I worked my five-hour shift.

After work, I took the dog and the girl to the pet store to buy a . . . dog birthday cake.  Don’t judge.

Back home, I started cooking dinner.  Finished cooking and eating dinner and only a few minutes later, it was time to deliver my daughter to AWANA at church.  The sky turned all shades of cottony pink as we drove so as soon as I dropped her off, I rushed to the beach and practically ran down the stairs to see the colored sky.

I took dozens of photos with my iPhone until the sky darkened and the moon brightened and then I climbed back into the car and returned home where I watched Survivor and then worked another three hours and wrote this blog post and yawned and yawned and yawned.

As I said, I’m tired.  But the sunset was absolutely glorious and the cold sand beneath my toes and the curling, crashing waves felt like a promise.



My Blog’s Birthday is Today!

I started writing this blog on October 11, 2003.

Nine years later, here were are.

[Insert actual thoughtful blog post here.]

Help yourself to a (pretend) cupcake.  I made them myself.

















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