like his sisters

I sat on one of my favorite couches with one of my favorite people and looked at pictures.
A new mom showing off photos of her baby.
We compared noses and eyes and talked about who he favored most.
And it was normal and good.
Just another Tuesday with a friend.
A mom showing me pictures of her newborn.

Except hers was stillborn.
And he wasn’t just sleeping sweetly in these photos.
And somehow I looked.
I nodded.
I agreed.
And oohed and ahhed just like you do with most baby pictures.
Because you can’t help it.
I compared them to his sister’s newborn photos.
And it was normal and okay and good.
And he did look like his sister.
And have amazingly sweet blond hair.
And wrinkled little feet.
I wasn’t pretending or trying.
I meant it.
I wanted to see.

But later in the car.
It hit me.
And I shook with grief.
I had to pull over more than once and gather myself together enough to get home.
To stop crying long enough to see the road.
And when I tried to go to sleep that night.
And for many nights after those pictures haunted me.
Everytime I closed my eyes I saw him.
I saw greif.

But for a few moments on my friend’s couch,
I saw her son.
And his cute little nose.
And tiny fingers.
And he was beautiful.
And that is what I close my eyes and see now.

(participating in Momalom's 5 for's topic: pictures.

wearing them so loud

On vacations and breaks it is easy for me to read a book a day.
I type hundreds of them into my computer.
At parties, I’m often the spewing out the most of them. the loudest.
I pay attention to song lyrics.
I don’t filter the ones that come out of my mouth very well.
And I’m trying to get better at saying the good ones out loud.
I tell my toddler to use hers all the time, rather then just hitting her brother.
I tell her brother to use less of his while the teacher is talking so we stop getting bad notes sent home.
I like puns.
And can tear up a crossword.
I’m a little out of control with the texting.
I can’t write an email that isn’t at least three paragraphs long.
If someone writes me nice ones I read them over and over again at least a half dozen times.
If they say them outloud I try really hard to let them sink in. To believe them.
I probably use twice as many in any given day than my husband. (or more).
I try to be intentional with the ones I use with my kids and my students.
I fill empty spaces with them.
Sometimes I run people over with them.
I try not to use ones I don't mean.
They are really hard to take back.
I am a kick ass scrabble player.
When I am nervous I use even more of them.
I try to say I’m sorry for the times when I am careless with them. (alot)
I know first hand the damage that they can do.
And the way just a few can change your whole day. And sometimes even your whole life.
Sometimes they are my best gift.
But I am also, forever putting my foot in my mouth.
I often misspell them.
I say far too many and don’t listen to other people’s enough.
And sometimes I read a few that I just can’t get out of my head.
Like these…..

And suddenly I am quiet.


nickel and dime

Recently my son wanted to buy something that he had saved up his money for. A lava lamp. And he had the cash for it. The only problem was that most of it was in change. So he filled his pockets with about ten pounds of coinage and we headed to the store.

Now, the easiest thing would be for me to put it on my debit card. With the few other items I of course needed. But I wanted him to own every bit of the process (and learn a thing or two about sales tax). So I glared at the people behind us who were muttering as my sweet guy counted out his change.
All 14.99 + tax of it.
And he proudly took home his new lava lamp carrying it oh so carefully to the car.
Because it was his. He had bought it with his own hard earned cash.
One quarter, dime and nickel at a time.

I haven’t bought anything more than a cup of coffee with change in years. But in high school and college I used to do it all the time. I’d raid my dad’s change box and buy pizza. I’d gather up all the change in my cup holder for a new cd in college. But these days I just swipe my card and hope it goes through.

When I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while and they ask me what is new. I struggle.
Because. Thankfully. The answer is not much. I have been married to the same guy, had the same career, lived in the same house, been the same size and had mostly the same color hair for a decade. Give or take a few. My age creeps up every year. And my kids change overnight. They wake up smarter and taller and with less teeth everyday. While I wake up and realize that the jeans I am pulling on are older than both my kids combined.

And there are changes that I really want to avoid. Like the ones other people make for me. Middle of the night phone calls. Test results. Cut backs.  But other changes are necessary and good.  And we should all be growing and changing, even if we are the same size and in the same place doing the same things with the same people. And I often feel that I am stagnant and stuck and that I am still struggling with the exact same things I was a dozen years ago. Which is sometimes why I do ridiculous teenager-y things like pierce my nose, or get a tattoo, or dye my hair some crazy color. The outside is so much easier to change than the inside.

But I am selling myself short, just like I would have done if I hadn’t let my son pay for his prize himself.  All that little changed added up as long as someone was willing to take the time to count it.

Because sometimes progress, and growth and change comes in pennies and dimes and quarters.  Like remembering to bring my re-useable grocery bags for a change. Not telling a secret. Not buying another shirt I don’t need. Waiting. Listening. Rinsing out my bowl.

And, next time someone asks me what’s new….I just hope they can wait while I count out my change.

and it has been a while but I am participating in this....
click here for more posts on change.

slow twitch

I run a lot. But when people start talking races and especially race times I suddenly go quiet. Because I do not want to have to tell my times. Because they are not particularly impressive. I run a pretty steady 10-11 minute mile. Regardless of whether I am running 1 mile or 10. And actually those first 2-3 miles are the hardest and slowest. If I can push through those I can usually run for several more.

I did not run track in high school. I’ve never subscribed to Runners World. And mostly I don’t even call myself a real runner because I don’t think I am fast enough. Or serious enough. Or skinny enough. When I started all this my husband told me I was “slow twitch” and until recently the longest race I could convince him to run was a 5K, because he was “fast twitch”. He tried to explain this me once, but mostly I thought it was just his nice way of telling me that I was slow – that he did not have the patience to follow me at my slower-than-a-mall-power-walker pace for more than a few miles. Or why I was the last person to finish running her sprints in high school soccer practice, but closer to the front when we ran our two mile warm up.

And this running thing, is about the only thing I do slow. I speak before I think. I eat fast, I talk fast, I type fast, I walk fast.  I talk before I think. I act before I think. I dial and hit send before I think. But when I run, the opposite happens. When I run. I think. And I like that. And I don’t really care how fast I get there.

I have trained. And my times improved only a tad. Mostly, when I train I just run further. Not faster.

So maybe there is something to this slow twitch/fast twitch thing after all. And I am a science teacher but anatomy has never been my specialty.  (I kind of prefer to light things on fire). So I decided to do some research on the most reliable site I know. Wikipedia.
Turns out, my husband didn’t make this stuff up.

“There are two broad types of voluntary muscle fibers: slow twitch and fast twitch. Slow twitch fibers contract for long periods of time but with little force while fast twitch fibers contract quickly and powerfully but fatigue very rapidly.”

Apparently, these slow muscles are more efficient at using oxygen to generate fuel. They are slower, but can work for much longer times before getting tired.  Well, I’ll admit my muscles might be slow, but in terms of endurance that is a good thing. However, clearly my brain is not on the same wavelength.

Lately. I’ve been learning to wait. And I hate waiting. If there are more than two cars in a drive thru I will go somewhere I else.  It took me 3 trips to the DMV before I finally stuck it out and replaced my license. I rarely can wait long enough for my toenail polish to dry and without fail,  wreck a good pedicure before ever making it to my car. I don’t wait for water to boil before adding my pasta. I don’t wait for the oven to preheat before putting my food in. I never wait until things cool before frosting them. I don't even wait long enough to match my socks in the morning.

If patience were a muscle, well let’s just say mine wouldn’t win any arm wrestling matches. It isn’t fast or slow twitch. It is no twitch at all.
But, maybe patience is more like a muscle than I think.  Most research says that we are born with all the muscle cells we are going to get. That we can’t increase the number of muscle cells we have, we can only strengthen and grow the ones that are already there. By using them over and over so that they increase in size and strength. Fast twitch. Slow twitch. Either way, they are sore in the morning.

So apparently, my patience is joining a gym.
And I am feeling the burn.
I just hope I can whip this thing into shape before bathing suit season.

(one of my favorite songs ever. that reminds me to wait. "that this day's been crazy but everything's happened on schedule. from the rain and the cold to the drink that I spilled on my shirt".....)

blue like jazz and breadsticks.the movie review and some other thoughts.

“I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.
After that I liked jazz music.
Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.
I used to not like God because God didn't resolve. But that was before any of this happened.”
Donald Miller.

 Once in college a friends parents came to town to visit. Now, some parents were really great and took not only their child, but also their child’s friends out to eat. And Olive Garden was several steps up from the dorm dining hall so I hastily accepted the invitation. While gorging myself on all the salad and breadsticks I could eat, her parents made polite conversation and went around the table asking where we were from and what our majors were. Until the next question made me almost choke on my breadstick.

“Tell me how old you were when you were saved?”

I considered making up some ridiculous story about being rescued from a burning building when I was 6, or falling through the ice when I was 8, or almost being eaten by a lion when I was 11.  But I wanted them to pay for my dinner and I was still hoping for dessert. So we all went around and talked about church camps or center aisles and anxiously twirled our pasta on our forks, hoping for a much less uncomfortable question next. I was afraid they were going to ask if we were all virgins next or worse, if we listened to secular music. (for the record, the answers to both questions was yes).

I should also add to the story, that at the time I was active in a church, active in a Christian campus ministry, was pledging a Christian sorority and even had a fresh Jesus fish tattoo on my foot. I also knew which liquor stores didn’t card and had a car full of rap CDs (and I am not even counting DC talk).

It’s not so much that I mind talking about Jesus. I totally dug the guy.  It was just the phrasing. And the us vs. them. The in and out. Those clear black lines their conversation seemed to suggest. Which for the first time in my life suddenly seemed  wavy and gray and dotted. (that and I never read about John or Paul or James or any of those New Testament heavy weights asking anyone when they “got saved”)

Last night I wondered off to a movie. Alone. And it didn’t start until 8 oclock, only showing in select theatres. Blue Like Jazz, based on Donald Miller’s book, or as he likes to call it “Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality or as I like to call it “ramblings right up my alley”.  And the movie was low budget, self produced and I wasn’t sure what to expect. And most of it was good and a little bit slow. (but someone please explain the life size rabbit driving the car part to me!) The movie didn’t start til almost eight. On a school night, which might as well be midnight to me. I wasn’t sure how they’d fit his book of ramblings into a plot…and some of it was a stretch. The movie runs for almost two full hours, and 90% of it is his undoing. His strict Southern religious background meets NorthWest liberal college and ideas.

He loses his faith in the NorthWest. And finds literature and beer and girls and a much more open mind.

But then in the last few minutes of a long movie. He finds it again.
But not the same strict lines he used to follow before. But something entirely different. Something way more pure and honest. And still the exact same God.

And I wonder what he’d say if someone in his dorm took him out and asked him when he got saved?
Maybe he’d answer “which time?”

So back to my uncomfortable dinner conversation. I had a clear answer to their question. But I think that maybe a more important one for someone who has been doing this thing for a while isn’t when we were saved. But maybe when was the last time you came undone.
The last time you questioned.
The last time you wrestled.
You doubted.
You wondered.
You got lost.
And you came back.

Because he was waiting. With a robe and a ring and ready to throw a party.
And the prodigal didn’t come back to the same dad.
He came back to a better one.
And I’m doubting the dad changed. 
She did.

 “Believing in God is as much like falling in love as it is making a decision. Love is both something that happens to you and something you decide upon.”  Donald Miller.

Losing Jesus

I think Mary got jipped. I mean she bore the Christ child. In a freaking stable. And I’m betting that the world’s only perfect man wasn’t the perfect toddler. Being without sin, doesn’t necessarily mean that he slept through the night or never went through the terrible twos. The bible never mentions how she rocked him to sleep, or kissed his scraped knees, read him Goodnight Moon until she had it memorized, made his favorite dinner, or got up with him a billion times a night when he had an ear infection.  As a matter of fact the only thing the bible mentions of her parenting (Or anything at all of Jesus’s life from age 1-33) is the not-so-flattering story in Luke where she literally leaves him in another town.

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 
Luke 2: 41-49 NIV

 In other words. They lost him. Jesus. Their son, oh, and also the Christ. And not just for a few minutes. But for THREE days. This is not the most flattering portrayal of a mom who has her stuff together. To add insult to injury, the very first words that show up in red in the bible are a 12 year old son, stating the obvious to his mom. Who was probably frantic and angry and so happy to find him safe and sound, so she could ground him for the next 12 years. And Jesus doesn’t hang his head sheepishly like he just got caught. Or apologize for forgetting to mention his layover. Instead he acts like it was soooo obvious. Because of course, preteens even 2000+ years ago, knew way more than their moms.

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

And I read that, and immediately feel better about my parenting skills. I mean sure I lost my son once in a sporting good store even before he could walk. But it only took me a few minutes to notice and begin searching frantically under all the racks before I finally found him 100 yards away hiding under some clearance ski gear. And another time, the hubs and I split up at the grocery store to knock out our list faster. I find him ten or so minutes later with my hands overflowing with cereal and juiceboxes and asked him where the cart was before I dropped everything in the middle of aisle 7. He looked back at me frantically, saying, “I thought you had the cart”. We both took off running and eventually found the empty cart in the produce section with our sweet 5 month old little girl happily gnawing on the handle. Neither of those are going to win me “mom of the year”. But I’ve never lost my kids for more than say 15 minutes. Much less three days in a completely different town. At least not yet. And this wasn’t just any 12 year old. This was the Christ. And they lost him. They lost Jesus.

 But I do it too all the time.  Maybe not leave my kids in a different city and not notice for a few days. But I’m just as guilty of losing Jesus. Of leaving him behind. Of moving on without him. Of not even noticing that he is gone. For days. Weeks. Sometimes longer.

 And then you have to do exactly what his mom did.

Start looking. Backtrack. Maybe even go back to the last place you saw him. Maybe he didn’t go anywhere. You did.

 This Lenten season I have had a hard time feeling it. I haven’t given anything up. I haven’t written a single thing about Lent. I haven’t gotten up early every morning. Some Sundays I didn’t even go to church. And when my son asked me if the Easter bunny was real. I told him the truth. They will not be waking up to Easter baskets and there are not nice new outfits to slip into.  Easter is my absolute favorite holiday. But this year I’m having a hard time with the commercialization part. Don’t worry, we still dyed eggs and hunted them more than once (tonight in the dark with flashlights which is the best way to do it). But I wondered why we celebrate probably the most significant day of our religion with plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies. And I worry that my kids might be missing the point. And that maybe I have lost some of it as well.

 But I’m starting to think that stuffing plastic eggs with change and candy and hiding them in the dark is teaching them more than I think. Or at least teaching me something.

Because maybe part of Easter is about the finding.
Finding what was lost.
Finding what was hidden.

So happy Easter.
He is risen.
He is found.
He was there all along.

* after posting this, I realized that I stole a smidge of the content from a chapter in Lauren Winner's latest book, Still.  She says it better. But I say it in my words.

technical rewrite. (forget dudleys and PAAS -- how we dye eggs at our house)

I only had to take one English class in college. I was a science major and most of my professors didn’t even speak English, so I guess they didn’t see the importance of taking it. (ok, not really, mostly I just tested out of most of several undergrad classes. I only took one math class too).
My one and only English class was Techincal Writing. Which is as completely as boring as it sounds. Also, my school was trying something new and innovative at the time called a “computer based class”. And my section was the lucky winner.  So I walked into my class room that suddenly looked more like the basement of our school library where we all checked our emails and printed them out on a dot matrix printer than your normal lecture hall. All it really meant was that we turned in our papers on a floppy disc rather than printing them out.
I hated this class. Not because of the computers but because of the content. I was never the big grammar fan, but I do love to read and write and normal a writing class would be a piece of cake for me.
But not when you take out ALL of the creativity and give me strict word limits.
I do not remember a single thing I wrote about that semester. It was all how-tos and instructions and informative pieces. They were painfully boring where format mattered more than content and I never proofread a single one without falling asleep. More than once, I wondered if my professor would notice if I just turned in instructions for the bed I bought at Ikea. But maybe those little bubble people pictures might give me away. In other words, I never got anything higher than a B. If I had turned in paper copies of anything, they would have been marked up with red ink.
To this day I hate that kind of writing. And I also hate reading it. Which is why I pretty much read instructions or labels or boring emails almost never. This may explain why I can’t bake.
This morning, my son was begging to dye Easter eggs and did something crazy and flipped over the back of the box and read the following:
PAAS Egg Dyeing Directions:
1. Start with clean, cool, hard-boiled eggs.  2. Cover work area with newspaper. 3. For Ultra Vibrant Colored Eggs – add a tablet and 3 tablespoons of vinegar to a 1 cup container. 4. Bend egg dipper. Gently place egg in color bath until desired shade is obtained. The longer the egg stays in the bath, the darker the shade will be. 5. Remove egg, drain well and place in drying tray. 
 CAUTION: Children must be supervised. Since this is a dye process, colors may stain some fabrics.

This might have received an A from my technical writing instructor, but an F from any mom.  That and in no way shape of form could the box it comes in with a few holes punched out be considered a drying rack. So, here is my re-write.
  1. I never use hard boiled eggs. Mostly because I am not that patient. Secondly because I still haven’t mastered the art of boiling a decent egg. And thirdly, there are only so many hard boiled eggs we can eat. And my kids make throw-up noises when I mention egg salad. So, skip the hard boiling.  Dye them and put them write back in the fridge for the next time your 3 year old demands scrambled eggs for breakfast. If her eggs accidentally end up pink. So be it, she will like them even better that way.
  2. Strip your kids down to their skivvies. Wrap them completely in saran wrap if they will let you. Cover your work surface with all those papers and worksheets your kid’s school sends home. No one gets the paper anymore (and if you still do step 2b:  call and cancel. That stuff is free online, stop killing trees!). I’d suggest taking it outside, but if your kids are naked this might warrant a few phone calls to the local authorities. Even better plan, dye them at a friend’s house.
  3. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Red wine, fill up those little plastic cups with warm water and a lid full of vinegar.
  4. Throw away that little egg dipper (it hardly works) and the waxy crayon. Neither work well. Use a soup ladle. Or just realize your kids are going to use their hands anyways. And they will be stained pink and blue for weeks. Which makes for an emergency addition to these directions.Step 1b – if you are the type that likes a cute Easter picture where your family is all dressed up and looking good. Take it now. Before they have a big giant dye stain from their elbows to their fingertips.
  5. Drink your wine quickly, before someone dunks an egg in there. Google some egg related recipes. Absolutely do not whatever you do, look up fancy egg decorating ideas on pinterest. It will only frustrate you and increase the time spent destroying your kitchen and staining your kids.
  6. Turns out wine isn’t so bad at dyeing eggs. Next year, just buy wine, sharpies and some stickers.

Don't mess with Texas

so obviously, I took this and not one of my photographer friends. but i think it is from the scissor cutting field I am writing about below, because....I do eventually get to a point :)

It is spring in Texas, which means a few things.
1) It feels like summer, and we have already broken out the white trash inflatable pool and rubbed aloe vera on our first sunburns of the season.
2) I spent a good hour of my afternoon home sick, duck and covering in my hallway yesterday while a tornado tore up the neighborhood down the street. (sadly, I had a case of food poisoning so bad, I almost willingly walked out side).
3) Allergies are rampant. Stores are all out of Kleenex and Alovert and today I even considered putting a clothespin on my nose. Apparently you have to tell them your 3rd grade teacher and show four forms of identification to buy Claratin D these days. (and I assure you I can’t bake a cake – I certainly can’t make meth. Just give me the drugs already!)
4) My 1st grader's social studies unit on our state is in overdrive. Meaning I can’t say anything without him pointing out that it is the official state ___________. Apparently we have an official state mammal (the longhorn, to which I say boo), insect (monarch butterfly, to which I say fire ants would be more accurate) an official state dish ( chili, and suddenly I’m craving chili cheese fritos) an official state fruit ( grapefruit, what are we all 80?) and all kinds of other stuff I’ve never heard of even though I’ve lived here lots longer than he has. I swear he is making some of this up, such as the official Texas slurpee at QT that we should go try after school (red white and blue of course). Tess is even starting to join in and insisting that Justin “Beaver” is the official state singer, and that his newest single…is in deed written about her.

So this afternoon as we headed out on errands, my son got excited and told me to look out my window. I thought he was going to point out another house covered in a giant blue tarp, which my heart couldn’t quite handle. My drive home the last two days has left me in tears taking in the damage. And realizing that these are my neighbors, not just people on CNN. And today, I even had to make my way through a police blockade just to get to the grocery store. But instead, he said, with much enthusiasm, “Mom, look, bluebonnets! They are the official state flower." And then started droning on about the Alamo or something.” We have had this same conversation at least a dozen times just in the last few weeks because the sides of the roads are covered with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes and all kinds of other pretty. And I told myself, once more, that I needed to plop my kids in a field of them and get some snapshots before they are gone. I looked to see where Owen was referring to this time and noticed, that he was indeed right. There were a hundred or so bluebonnets out his rear passenger side window. But unlike, last week, they were much harder to see. The grass had started to grow up taller than they were. And now you had to kind of really look to notice them. Good thing nothing gets by my official state of Texas kid.

I have some photographer friends and one of them used to do bluebonnet shoots. Her first year of this I helped her scout out a perfect location. She made flyers, sent emails and filled up all her timeslots. I happened to be at the same park she was planning on doing her photo shoot at the day before and had to call her with terrible news. The flowers were all still there. They were just covered up by lots of grass. My friend Rhonda didn’t know what to do. It was too late to find a new location and call everyone on her list. So instead she bought a pair of scissors. And got there really early. She literally spent at least an hour cutting individual blades of grass. By hand. Until she had enough flowers to get some decent shots. And when I looked out the window today, I literally pictured her back in that park, bent over, cutting grass with scissors. And to anyone that happened to walk or jog by that morning might have thought she was crazy. I probably thought she was too.

But suddnely, I think maybe she had it right.

Because too often we are quick to plow through what it is good. Or we let the grass take over. And we forget ourselves what is really there all along.

And my God works like this. He is patient. He works one blade at a time to remove the stuff that isn’t beautiful. He uses scissors instead of a lawnmower as to not damage a single gift. Because underneath all that other stuff choking us out, might ust be something amazing.

Well, that, and I’m pretty sure my son would bust him for chopping down even a single bluebonnet.

(I don't post a lot of country, but if you don't like Pat Green, something is wrong with you...)

(I don't know the person who made this video, but it is a student at the highschool of the town I live in....and all this damage was too close for comfort).