Thursday, January 31, 2013

Things That Make Me Feel Like Less Of A Failure

But first, why these things are necessary. 

I fancy myself a girl scout, although I never made it out of brownies, or daisies or cookies or whatever.  I like to be independent and do things the right way (read, hard way) and don’t need any man to do it for me.  (Unless it has to do with a car or ants, but I digress.)

I learned how to make a one-match fire at girls only summer camp out of grapevine, twigs, leaves, and dead branches.  I got pretty good at it, if I’m remembering right.  But somehow in the last 23 years, that skill has gone dormant. 

Now, when I attempt a fire in our fireplace, it blazes high and hot for all of 60 seconds, when it peters out to nothing and the kids say, “Mama, it’s all done now.  Why is it done?  Can you get it to go longer?”  I imagine myself replying, “It’s done because I SUCK at fire building.  Because all that burned was paper and the kindling.  And no, I’m done with fires FOREVER.” 

#1.  Duraflame.  Magic fire that lasts for at least 5 minutes.  Actually, for 3 hours and the package tells me that it’s even better for the environment than burning real wood and the package wouldn’t lie! 

#2.  Instant brown rice.  Because no matter how long I cook regular brown rice, it never gets past that chewy consistency, when you occasionally bite into a piece that feels like it was never touched by water.  And because cooking regular brown rice takes approximately 90 minutes or something, and I don’t plan ahead that much. 

#3.  Recipes with pictures.  Because they’re automatically shorter and make the whole thing look more manageable and fun.  My all-time favorite recipe with pictures is this one from The Vegan Stoner blog.  Goes well with #2. 

#4.  Jesus.  Bwahaha.  Just had to put the Sunday School answer in there. Seen this?

#5.  Farmers Markets.  Well, this one could go either way.  I’ve accepted the fact that I’m a terrible gardener, so I like being able to get good quality, local produce without watching plants die, or never grow in the first place, in my backyard.  Seriously, what kind of mutant tomato goes from green to brown?  Mine.  That’s what kind. 

#6.  Red-eye reduction.  Because it's just plain disturbing to think you captured a cute moment of your little girl looking at her reflection and then you see this: 

"hehe, look at my funny eyes!"

#7.  Gas tank low level indicator light thingy.  One time I was driving my old Buick LeSabre (I think…again, not too good with the cars) and ran out of gas on I-76.  I hitched a ride with a nice man in a pickup, who took me to get gas at the nearest exit and took me back to my car safely.  I had a good feeling about him, which is why I accepted his offer of help.  Kasey thinks this was a severe lapse in judgment and rolls his eyes when I say words like “intuition.”  He logically points out that if kind stranger was nice enough to drive pretty lady to the gas station, kind stranger should have been nice enough to do it by himself and leave pretty lady safely in the car waiting.  But pretty lady thinks it would have been pretty rude to ask kind stranger to do that.  Thanks to the light thingy, this argument is less likely to come up again in the future. 

How about you?  Got anything to add to the list?  J

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Closure, or Foreclosure

When Kasey and I were looking to buy a new house a year and a half ago, we had a budget and a price range in mind that led to looking at a lot of…um, dumps.  We wanted just enough house, just enough to give us more financial freedom down the road and to have a little for the extras in the meantime.  So nothing was off the table.  $40,000 foreclosure with less-than-impressive photos online?  Sure.  $100,000 foreclosure with way-too-impressive photos online?  Sure.  Mold-infested house?  Sure. 

One evening, our realtor led us through five foreclosed houses.  I felt sick.  I felt angry.  I imagined these houses during their greatest years, the years when the families who lived in them were proud of them, put a new coat of paint on, added a sunroom, planted an extra shade tree for the kids out back.  I imagined the houses in more recent years, when the families who lived in them were proud of them but scraping by, foregoing dealing with that leak in the bathroom in favor of putting food on the table, ignoring the crack in the foundation because who has that kind of money, and mowing the lawn when they found the energy after working a double shift. 

The foreclosures told the stories of so many pained lives that ended with walking away from home, leaving it to decay along with their plans to own it.    

Some of the houses were cared for until the end – they were reasonably clean and water damage was minimal.  One former owner put an open cup of baking soda inside a moldy closet to absorb the moisture and odor – futile, but evidence of care. 

Some of the houses were left angrily, with one last stick it to the man hurrah – cigarette butts and broken beer bottles scattered all over the house, too-big-to-move furniture and garbage bags of trash left behind, mystery stains all over the carpet. 

No one plans to foreclose on a house.  We all intend to have real closure:  to pay off our debt, to eventually hold the title, to be good stewards in the meantime. 

How do I bring closure to events from my past that I have no control over?  When too much time has passed and I’ll never see those people again?  When the relationships have decayed for too long and are past repairing?  When I just don’t have the resources to keep making the painful payments?

Maybe foreclosure is the only option left. 

Maybe I have to walk away with the unsettled knowing that I will never have that satisfying ending. 

I want to be the baking soda in the moldy closet kind of forecloser, though.  The kind that doesn’t fantasize about punching that jerk kid in the 7th grade (what was his name…Jack?  Jeff?) who called me fat.  The kind that realizes that Jack/Jeff probably had some people in his life who were pretty mean to him, too. 

I want to tell that little girl in the 3rd grade who I made up that mean poem about (“…you’re so dumb, you’re so dumb, you suck your thumb”) that I’m sorry; that I was lonely and scared to be starting a new school and my mean poem had nothing to do with her.  And that I sucked my thumb until I was 7 and was apparently feeling a little insecure about it. 

I want to stare at that last “payment past due” bill without guilt or shame.  I want to make peace with that house and my leaving it, to be able to look back on it and remember playing under the shade tree and reading in the sunroom, along with the leaky faucet and cracked foundation. 

Because, pretty soon, a new generation of homeowners will live in that house.  My kids do now, in fact, dwell in the house made up of all of my old homes, those closures and foreclosures.  For them, I won’t have that one final beer bash, even though it might feel good.  I’ll carefully pour baking soda into that styrofoam cup, put it gently in the closet, and close the door.  

Monday, January 28, 2013


"I don't want to diiiiieee!"  Eden cried as she laid in bed last night.

I don't know what prompted these thoughts of death last night... Why do we die?  Will I have my camera and my pointer and my blanket and my Elmo in heaven?  I don't want to get bigger and bigger and then die!

I tried different tactics -- explaining that she'll be happy in heaven no matter what's there, that she's not gonna die for a long time, that dying is part of living -- and then I fell silent.

Because this is not the way it's supposed to be.  Because her fear of death and her longing to live is planted deep in us.  Because as natural as death has become, it was not part of the original plan.

Eden...the garden of perfection, of communion, of the fullest life.  I pray that my Eden will have her fullest life and that she will someday live in the second Eden where death has no place.

Life feels heavy lately.  I feel the weight of 'not the way it's supposed to be' as I hear of cancers returning, adoptions falling through, as I experience my own share of broken relationships and broken people.  I feel seeds of wanting to live a more full life dwelling in me.  Seeds of timshel, of making this life here in the East of Eden as good as it can possibly be.

I think my seeds are sitting in the frozen earth right now, surrounded by the decay and shit that may eventually give them the nutrients to grow.  I am not a good gardener, and I know that not all seeds grow.  I'm praying that my Gardener sees fit to give my family a drip of his grace, that we won't see death for a long time, that our seeds will break through come spring and turn into something beautiful that in turn gives life to something else.

"But the Hebrew word, the word timshel--'Thou mayest'--that gives a choice.  It might be the most important word in the world.  That says the way is open.  That throws it right back on a man.  For if 'Thou mayest'--it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.'

'Thou mayest'... makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice.  He can choose his course and fight it through and win."
     --John Steinbeck, East of Eden