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  • Jane

    December 31, 2013

    When my mother-in-law dozed off, I shut the door to her room at the assisted living facility and looked for some place where I could sit unnoticed and NOT think.

    When you are visiting a place such as that, you can only really think one thought:  Life is a river flowing in one direction.  Eventually – and more quickly than the mind can conceive – the river empties out into the great delta of geriatric unpleasantness.

    Unless one capsizes mid-journey and is swallowed up by the river, the delta is our destiny.  The great contradiction of the delta is this:  No one wants to go there and at the same time no one wants to not make it there.  And so we spend most of our lives pretending we can outsmart the river.

    I found a little sitting nook in front of a window outside my mother-in-law’s room that overlooks a little courtyard and I pulled out my iPad hoping it would put me into an electronically induced coma of sorts or at least that it would serve as a Do Not Disturb sign and no one would stop to chat me up.

    Within minutes, I sensed her rolling up behind me, chopping her slipper-clad feet at the carpet to scoot herself forward.

    “Please oh please don’t stop,” I thought to myself, “Please just keep going.  Please don’t talk to me, please just let me be.”

    But she didn’t keep going.  She stopped. She rolled up beside me and didn’t say a word.  I looked up from my iPad and out the courtyard windows, and there she was, her reflection next to mine, both of us gazing beyond the window and down the river.

    Finally, because it was all that could be done, I turned to her and said hello.

    “What is that you got there?” she asked, pointing to my iPad.

    I told her what it was and that I was playing a game on it to pass the time while my mother-in-law napped.

    She said she always wanted to learn how to use a computer but never did.  And now it was too late.

    Then she told me her name was Jane.

    Jane had big round blue eyes and a mostly clear mind.  She had been a high school English teacher in the west Texas town of Odessa.  Jane was a little more tart than sweet and it didn’t take long to fall in love with her.  For the next hour, she recounted scenes from her life in Odessa all while folding and unfolding a piece of paper in her hands.

    When she ran out of stories or just grew tired of talking, we sat and stared at ourselves in the window.

    “Would you like for me to read you a poem?” she asked unexpectedly.

    “Yes, I would love that,” I said honestly.

    She sat up tall in her wheelchair and in her English Teacher’s voice, she read:

    Only Now –

    This is the best time

    The only now that

    we have time

    and soon, much too soon

    Now will become then and

    will start all over again

    Negotiating

    Pulsating

    Vibrating

    Celebrating

    Now!!

    When she finished, I asked her if she had written it.

    “Yes, I did,” she said, “In 1981.”  She handed me the paper.  I re-read the poem and noticed her pretty youthful handwriting.  I saw that she had written down the date and even the hour that she had written it – March 14, 1981, 2pm.  I wondered what she had been doing that day, what in her life had brought her those poetic thoughts and why she wrote them down.  On that particular day in 1981, I was barely 21, at the headwaters of the river.

    Jane1a

    Just then, AD and other family members found me and set up camp in what had been my private nook and began chatting and sharing news as though nothing special had just happened.

    When I turned my attention back to Jane, she had quietly slipped away and was scooting down the hall with her poem folded up in her hand.  I watched her scoot all the way down the hall and around the corner.

    And I wanted to go with her.

    Jane2

    The Year of the Blonde

    March 24, 2010

    Last year was the year of The Brunette. This year, it is apparently the year of The Blonde. What can I say brunettes, the times they are a’changin’.

    Last year, Sean was in love with his teacher Ms. Vicky, who is a drop-dead gorgeous Latina.  I must say, Sean’s taste in women is exquisite, much like that of his own father who didn’t find anyone exquisite enough to marry until he was 41.

    Ms. Vicky’s daughter was also in Sean’s pre-K class and every day Sean would come home from school talking about the two lovely brunettes.  He would sometimes compose a letter to mail to one or the other; other times he would draw a picture for one of them and stuff it into his backpack to take to school.  The television commercials would have you believe that women want flowers or diamonds. No. They want pictures drawn in crayon which have been folded seven times and maybe have milk stains.

    Be that as it may, kindergarten has brought in a whole new crop of babes and this year Sean has had his eye on two girls who by description, are about the same – Christie Brinkley in miniature — bright, beachy, athletic, long blonde hair.

    The other day, as we drove home from school, he chattered about the two girls and how he was trying to decide which one he should like to marry.  I asked him what he liked about Kate and he cited her slim shape, her long “silvery” hair and that she was smart.  I told him that I thought it was good to know what you wanted in a mate and that those were some good qualities.

    I also said that I thought I would grow my hair out long, just like Kate.  He said, no, he didn’t think that that was a good look for me, that I was “too thick” for that kind of hair.  Okay. Very well then.

    When I asked him what he liked about Maddie, he named the same things – she has a slim shape, long silvery hair, that she is smart, and she is the fastest girl in the whole school.

    A fast girl in kindergarten is fine, a fast girl in high school, not so much.

    “And she includes everybody,” he added.

    I had to sigh. Oh that every kid was taught to include everybody.  Wouldn’t our schools (and world) be a better place?

    I was delighted that Sean recognized that including others is a wonderful quality in a person — something to appreciate and admire and something to which he should aspire.

    The Christmas Bonus

    December 18, 2009

    One of the things I miss the most about having a toddler around the house is the spontaneous and exuberant affection.

    As a toddler, Sean was given to fits of passion.  Without warning, his teeny tiny heart would seemingly erupt with unrestrained and irrational love.  All that slobbery affection had to go somewhere and I was his favorite target.

    PhotobucketI miss the days when he would stand in my lap, giggling and bouncing on fat little legs.  I miss how he would wrap his ams around my head and gnaw on my face.  I miss the leg hugs.

    It seems the days of unfettered expressions of love are gone forever, but every once in a while one will come out of no where.  And it’s like getting a bonus — a little end of the year reward for all the hard work of motherhood.

    Last night Sean and I were sitting side by side on the sofa reading through a stack of Christmas books. He had already had his bath and was in his robe and jammies and was extra warm and snuggly and smelled of lavender shampoo.  Y’all, that is like catnip to a mommy.

    The book we were reading, Santa’s Stuck, always sends him into fits of snorting giggles.  I started laughing at him laughing.  And then we were just laughing and had no idea why.

    When I closed the book and set it aside, he threw himself into my lap in a fit of passion.  He wrapped his arms around my neck and chicken pecked my face with kisses while making chomping noises.

    He was two again.

    Then he stopped and pulled back. He looked into my face, his eyes still sparkling.

    Then his expression changed.  The moment was over as quickly as it had begun.  My six-year-old was back.

    “Stop goofing off mom,” he said seriously as he rolled out of my lap. “Let’s read another book.”

    Maybe if I keep up the good work, I’ll get to stay on.  And maybe I’ll get another bonus next year.

    Lick The Bowl

    August 17, 2009

    Yesterday morning, Sean decided that we should make muffins for breakfast.  I told him I thought that was a great idea and that he should do that; he should make us some muffins.

    Sean has been my sous chef since he was old enough to stand upright on his own.  I love having him in the kitchen with me. It always seemed easier to me to give him something to stir or maul with a dull knife than to run him off or park him in front of the TV.  Sure,  early on it was a bit of trouble and mess, but now it’s paying dividends. He’s grown into a good helper in the kitchen and cooking is what we do together.

    So yesterday morning, I got a package of muffin mix out of the pantry while he grabbed a mixing bowl and a big spoon and climbed up on his stool to reach the counter.  I handed him the mix and the half cup of milk that the package called for and told him to go to town, let there be muffins.  I pre-heated the oven while he mixed it all up satisfactorily and filled the muffin tins.  I popped it all in the oven and then we waited.

    While we were waiting he asked me if he could lick the bowl.  Since no raw eggs were involved, I didn’t see why not, so I said sure, lick the bowl.

    I sat down at my desk in the kitchen to check my email and when I turned to check the timer on the oven, I saw a skinny little pajama-clad boy standing on a stool in my kitchen with his entire head in the bowl.  He was licking the bowl.  I guess I sort of assumed that he would lick the bowl with his fingers or the spoon, but instead he opted for the more direct route.

    “Dude!” I laughed, “What are you doing?”

    When he pulled the bowl away from his face, he had muffin mix on his chin, on his nose, across his forehead and in his hair.

    “What?” he asked. “I’m licking the bowl!”

    I couldn’t think of one thing to say, so I just looked at him and tried to memorize the image of my boy chef with muffin mix on his face and in his hair.

    And I thought, if I could capture these golden delicious days, I’d put them in a bowl and then I’d stick my head in and lick it clean.

    Photobucket

    Cooking at Cousin Judy’s in 2007

    And Dingo Was His Name-Oh

    June 30, 2009

    There was a farmer, had a dog, and Buddy was his name-oh!

    Then one day a new family moved in up the road. Buddy paid the new family a visit to welcome them to the area, as is the custom in East Texas.  Buddy liked the new family. In fact, Buddy like the new family a whole lot. Buddy spent the night and the next day. And the next day.

    The new family did not know Buddy’s name and so they called him “That Dingo Dog”  because, in fact, Buddy looked like a Dingo.  Dingo fell in love with the children and the children fell in love with Dingo.

    Every couple of days, the new family would load Buddy into the car and take him back to his owner.  But the next day, or sometimes later the same day, Buddy would be back hanging around, trying to blend in.

    One day, Buddy’s owner came and got him. They were moving to a new farm, 10 or 15 miles up the road.  Buddy jumped into the truck and the children cried and waved goodbye to Dingo Buddy as they drove away knowing that they would never seem him again.

    But. The next morning Buddy-Dingo was sitting by the back door.   A call was made to Buddy’s family and they came and got him.  Once again, the children cried and waved goodbye to Dingo Buddy.

    The next morning, when the sun came up, Dingo was laying by the back door, thumping his tail and waiting for the children to come out and play.

    And that was the end of Buddy.  Buddy’s family never came after him again and no effort was made to return him.

    Buddy became Dingo and is now living happily ever after in the East Texas country side with three children who adore him.

    They say you can’t choose your family. Unless you are one lucky dog, then you can.

    Photobucket
    And Dingo was his name oh!

    Time Out Or Time In?

    June 24, 2009

    I keep this list of things that I want to write about.  Right now this list is about three pages long and four years old.  Like a good stew, I just keep adding new stuff to the top.

    This morning, I was looking at that list and decided to scroll to the very bottom to see what was on my mind four years ago and what I saw was this:  “Time Out or Time In?”

    If someone were to find this list after my death, it would lead to the only logical conclusion. She was nuts.

    I remember the day I typed that sentence. It was at the end of a long day with a very busy and very curious toddler.  He was at that stage where he was into everything and trying to dismantle my house and my life bit by bit.

    He was not quite two, but on that particular day he was being very two. I had a playpen set up in my breakfast room which functioned mainly as a toy bin or a temporary holding cell for the boy should something arise which desperately needed my attention.

    At some point in the day, it all became too much for me and I plopped his little butt down in the playpen.  And then I sat at the breakfast table with my head in my hands. I would have probably cried but that would have required more energy than I had.

    Clunk!

    “Wheeee!”

    Clink!

    “Weoeoeoooo!”

    Clounk!

    “Ooooohhhweee!”

    When I looked up, he was systematically dropping plastic toys over the edge of the playpen onto the tile floor one at a time. And having a fantastic time.

    I realized at that moment that he was in Time In. I was in Time Out.

    He clutched the sides of the playpen and bounced up and down with glee.  He looked at me with that goofy drooly smile and squealed the squeal of pure delight.

    “Mahmahmahmahmah” he cooed to me in baby baritone.

    He reached for me with his fat little hand. My heart melted.

    I leaned towards him with my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands and marveled at this exasperating, perplexing, intoxicating angel/devil child.  I breathed long and deep and I smiled back at him and tried not to cry.

    And then he threw a block at my head.

    Hinsley

    May 2, 2009

    On Friday, I picked Sean up from school, and as usual, I was sly and wily in trying to extract information from him.  Sometimes I have to resort to waterboarding to get anything out of him, but that day he was in a particularly forthcoming mood.

    “Who did you play with on the playground?” I asked.

    “I played with everyone.”

    “That’s good,” I said, “I like to hear that.”

    “I played with Hinsley,” he added.  I looked in the rear view mirror to see him beaming. His face was aglow.

    “Do you think Hinsley is a boy or a girl?” he asked.

    “I don’t know,” I said, “I can’t really tell from the name.”

    “Hinsley is a girl!” he said, “And the girl I’m going to marry!”

    “Oh really?” I asked, “What is it about Hinsley that you like so much?”

    “Well!” he said with breathy gusto, “She looks good!”

    I tried my best not to laugh. He hates it when I laugh at something he said.   It embarrasses him.  He clams up and that puts the kibosh on my fact-finding.

    “What does she look like?” I asked.

    “Well she always wears a dress,” he said. “She has a dress with butterflies on it and I really like it,” he added.  He went on to tell me she has blue eyes, long brown hair and how she always wears it on the side with a bow.

    And then he sighed a long and dreamy sigh at just the thought of her.

    I told AD about the conversation when I got home and he suggested that we invite Hinsley over for a playdate so she can see the room she’ll be sleeping in when she marries Sean.

    On Finding Joy

    January 6, 2009

    Late last year, I was asked if I would be willing to speak to a group of ladies and if so, what would I talk about?

    I said, yes, and I have no idea.

    So then. I panicked.

    And then I called my friend Lysa Terkeurst (subliminalmessagebuyLysasbooks) who is by far the most dynamic and powerful speaker I’ve ever heard and I prevailed upon her for wisdom. She gave me some great advice about planning a speech and crafting a message.  She also helped me see that the essence of what I write about here is capturing the joy of motherhood. And together we decided that would be a great topic for a speech. Or a book.

    So then, later this month, I will be speaking to a group of ladies about capturing the joy of motherhood.

    As luck would have it, life is not oozing joy at the moment.  Life is peaks and valleys my friends, we all know that, and right now I’m just sort of hanging out at the bottom of the mountain waiting for the ski lift to take me back up to the top.  It’s fine.  There’s a snack bar down here and lots of nice people.

    So the other day as I was trying to put together some thoughts on the joy of motherhood that I could talk about,  I was interrupted 87 times by my child who seems to have a knack for knowing when I need a moment of peace or need to get something done.

    Mom, MOM, mommmm, hey mom, Ma-ahmm, hey mom look at this, mom do you know where, mom have you seen my, mom what if, hey mom, mom will you pour me some, hey mom come see…

    At which point, I shouted not joyfully “DO NOT CALL MY NAME ONE MORE TIME! DO! NOT!”

    Now one of the many things I like about God is how he uses my own short comings to teach me stuff I need to know.  I imagine sometimes that he is sitting up there in heaven with some of those apostle guys saying something like, “Hey Pete, Jimbo! Dudes, come watch this.  You’re gonna like this. Yeah, Antique Mommy again.”

    After I heard the sound of my own voice screeching at my child I was struck by the irony that I was trying to write a speech on the joy of motherhood.  And I had to stop and ask myself what is joy exactly, separate and apart from motherhood? And what business do I have telling others about it?

    After much prayer, research and introspection, I came to the conclusion that joy is not happiness.  It is not glee or exhilaration or giddiness – those things reside on the surface and they come and go with the wind that blows and swirls this way and that at the top of the mountain.

    For me, joy is deep and abiding and resides somewhere up under the sternum.  Joy is as ever present in the valleys as it is on the peaks. It is satisfying and it is fulfilling and it is not fleeting. It’s the certain knowledge that this place in time, this right now — this is good! And that each day of life, each moment,  is a precious and beautiful gift – even when it’s not oozing joy.

    Being Sean’s mom is a tremendous source of joy in my life, even when he’s driving me crazy.

    That is the joy of motherhood.

    A Children Ache

    December 28, 2008

    Every night before bedtime, and sometimes before school, Sean and AD will read at least one chapter from a book of children’s classics.

    Having gone through most of the other more exciting and well known titles, we are down to Pollyanna. But he is just as enthralled with Pollyanna as he was with The Swiss Family Robinson.

    Stepping up to chapter books like Tom Sawyer and Oliver Twist has presented many opportunities to talk about some of the more unsavory and unpleasant aspects of life.  Many of the characters are orphaned or suffer cruelty at the hands of those who should protect them.  And there is always a concern to AD and me over how much of this kind of information is appropriate for a five-year-old.

    But the thing about Sean that continually amazes us is how wise he is beyond his years and how tenderly perceptive he is about the human condition and matters of the heart.  Although we would certainly like to claim credit for that,  it’s simply the way God made him.

    If you don’t recall or haven’t read the story of Pollyanna, she is a young girl who was orphaned and goes to live with her Aunt Polly who is a cold and crusty middle-aged spinster.  Aunt Polly suffered a thwarted romance early in her life which left her bitter and she has never gotten over it.  Aunt Polly has a big house, yet she makes Pollyanna sleep in a hot, stuffy, bleak attic and in general gives Pollyanna no affection.  Nonetheless, as the story goes, it is Pollyanna’s way to see the silver lining in every gray cloud.

    At one point in the story, AD stopped reading and looked over the book at Sean who was lying in bed.  “Why do you suppose Aunt Polly is so gruff?” he asked.

    “I think she has a children ache,” Sean said quietly.

    “Oh Sean,” AD sighed, “I think you are so right. A lot of times when people are gruff on the outside, and sad or mean, it’s because they are hurting on the inside.”

    It’s true. I had a children ache once too.

    What Are The Odds?

    November 25, 2008

    The following statistics are based on my own personal scientific research over a period of four decades.

    If you are wearing a black shirt and you attempt to put on deodorant, there is a 97% chance you will get the deodorant on the bottom of your shirt.  If you attempt to put on deodorant while wearing a black shirt and a blindfold, the odds of getting deodorant on your shirt increase to 97.2%   If you have no other clean shirts to wear and you are rushing out the door to give a speech, the odds increase exponentially.

    If you are drinking coffee while wearing a white shirt, there is 98% chance you will get coffee on the front.  There is a 98.5% chance the spot will be right on your boob.  If the shirt is dry-clean only the odds increase to 100%.

    If you are putting on earrings and the drain in the sink is not plugged, the chances that you will drop an earring into the sink are 89.9%.  The odds that it will disappear down the drain are 99.9%  If it is cheap costume jewelry, the odds decrease slightly.  Unless you really like the earrings, then the like factor cancels out the cheap factor and you are back at 99.9% give or take.

    If you drive away from the drive-through lane without checking the bag, the odds that something was left out are 93.7%

    If you have a dog and an ink pen and a light colored expensive rug, the odds that the three will at some point intersect are 94%.  Ironically, these are the same odds that you could own a dog with a tattoo on her tongue. The odds that a dog would chew up an ink pen on a Walmart rug? Zip.

    If you have a child and an ink pen and textiles of any kind any where in your home, the odds that the three will intersect in an unpleasant manner are calculated using square roots and other complicated mathematical formula — let’s just say very high.

    The odds of choosing the one restroom stall out of eleven that is out of toilet paper are around 87%.

    If you have your hands full of groceries and manage to open the door with your foot, the odds that one of the grocery bags will catch on the handle of the door as you walk past thereby jerking you off your feet and spilling all your groceries are 92%.  Ironically these are the same odds that you will catch the pocket of your best slacks on door knobs that reach out and grab things.

    The odds of dropping your cell phone into the 1/8 inch space between your seat and the console of your car (you know, that space that is too small for your hand) are 82%.  The odds that it will lodge under your seat and you will have to stop the car and push the seat all the way back to retrieve it are 99%.  The odds that your husband will call you while the phone is under the car seat is 99.7%.  The same odds apply to car keys.  Any necessary item of any size will magically be able to pass through the narrow space between the car seat and the console. This space is known to have the same vacuum-like physical properties of a black hole.  French fries with ketchup on the other hand are more likely to land on your white pants than into your car’s black hole.

    If you are up on a ladder in the attic with a box of  heirloom ornaments in your hands and you hear the phone ring and you break your neck and possibly some heirloom ornaments to answer it, the odds that it will be a computer call or a telemarketer are 93%.  However, if you choose not to answer it, the odds are 100% that it will be your doctor calling about that suspicious mole. And he will be out of town for the next two weeks.

    Feel free to report the findings of your own studies.

    UPDATE: The day you plan to take a family Christmas picture, there is a 94% chance your child will fall and get a big bruise on his face. Seriously.