Thursday, May 31, 2007

For Fun

Thanks, Wandering Coyote, for the link to this. It was amusing.

A teeny-tiny, illusory ego-boost at the end of a long school year.

Even used the Pythagorean Theorem, which Cassie and I reviewed a few weeks back.

You Are Not Stupid

You got 10/10 questions right!
While acing this quiz doesn't prove you're a genius, you're at least pretty darn smart.

Really, though, if 'acing' this quiz is construed as Pretty Darn Smart........sheesh. Who's in charge around here?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Heart Gardens

We cut down a couple of trees a few months ago leaving circles of just plain, unplanted, brown dirt.

While we have taken our time deciding what we wanted to plant in the vacant soil, huge weeds have moved in. Not just a couple of big weeds either, but several, and all different types. A potpourri of weeds you could say.

We uprooted living things and never replaced them. The void left fertile spaces - for opportunistic weeds.

We know a sweet mid-teenage girl who is from a broken home, left to fend for herself for large chunks of each day. Lately, preoccupied with their own separate romantic pursuits, the adults in her life have been neglecting her, creating a gigantic void within her tender heart.

She has changed. Too quickly. The parental wisdom which has always guided her, the nurturing, the watchful attention, have been removed, leaving a certain emptiness. Just as fertile soils don't remain barren, but avail themselves to whatever comes along, wanted or unwanted, so our friend's careful upbringing has been replaced with, well, weeds. Drinking, parties, sexy stuff, vanity, mindlessness, illusions, dreamlessness, and lemming-like crowd-pleasing. She's headed straight for a cliff.

A good object lesson, sure, but a life off-track nevertheless.

It's hard to watch.

I'm going to dig up our weeds and plant something pretty in the dirt. Hopefully someone will garden the thirsty heart of our young friend, as well. Maybe we'll be privileged to help.

God knows all of our hearts can benefit from a little creative gardening now and then.

Monday, May 28, 2007


During dreaming last night my mind quietly observed that dark icky corner that has for some time been jabbing, burning, and boiling chaotically over a 'situation' that has long plagued me. Conclusions were made, a course of action set, and while unconscious, my subconscious performed the final sorting and cleaning of that dank, oozing space.

Long plagued have I been. Since my teen years, through young adulthood, and beyond. Why be bothered to the point of anguish in my determination to be rid of this blockade? Because when it flares up I weaken, lose motivation for things that are important to me, crabbiness and lethargy ensue. More dastardly is that everything and everyone I love becomes diminished when the sticky, stinky, toxic goo of my infection leaks out, contaminating the treasures of my heart. To be the cause of yet another form of grief inflicted into this life, a form that I am certain can be eradicated, pains me all the more. This enormous, menacing abscess must be lanced, entirely exposed to air, sanitized, dried, and allowed time to heal! For all our sake.

Recently the wound has festered. This morning as I mulled over the content of my dreams, read a little Merton and mulled some more, I discovered that, due to a very recent, bloody battle with this 'thorn in my flesh', something has shifted. My perspective. Headway was made, ground recovered, weapons dropped, heaving sighs and fatigue allowed.

What once was a torturously painful, swollen, infected, raging wound has become a point of surgery, a removal, an incision cut and neatly stitched by a Physician who knew what he was about.

The years of doubling over in distressing anguish were important. They caused me to search for help, to express my lack, my struggle, my abuse. They forced me to notice that something was terribly terribly wrong.

For decades the pain has been with me in varying degrees of misery. I have been agonized but not killed. Thrashed, but not broken. Abused, but not demoralized. Lost only to be found.

To be found. To be picked up, placed in the hands of those who would love me back to health however long and nasty the restoration process. To be nurtured with wisdom, encouraged with insights from sources unbelievably varied. To be given the space to strain and groan, to flail and spit, to whimper and weep during the withdrawal of something that was sucking the life right out of me.

And then this morning, to awaken from surgery, blink, focus, and discover restraint-busting lucidity.

The ache felt now is a diminishing ache. The gentle burn of the incision, the tug of the stitches, the warmth of cells madly working to restore the order of new flesh, new skin, new life.

May this be the end..........and the beginning.

It's been a long time coming.

"I've heard your anguish, I've heard your hearts cry out. We are tired, we are weary, but we aren't worn out. Set down your chains 'til only faith remains. Set down your chains. And lend your voices only to sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery, and you shall lead.....a life uncommon."
~~ Jewel

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Little o' This, Little o' That

More strawberries from the garden - thinking of the little samurai.

Tomato plants IN THE GROUND!

Herb garden weeded.

All four kids home for the weekend - bliss - and lots of laughter!

Cassie updated her blog.

Caroline did, too!

Happy weekend, all!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007


One income, but we make it stretch.

One way, used cars. Tom's a mechanic after all. It works, for us.

We haven't made car payments for over 20 years. I think we only made payments for about 9 months, in triplicate, to pay off a little used pickup. Other than that, yep, 27 years of used cars. Not hideous used cars, no. Ours have been sweet, accommodating, dependable, pretty, tidy, comfy, safe, and sometimes even sporty 'previously owned' cars.

We bought Joe's 4x4 Trooper from him over a year ago, maybe two. Can't remember. How I love that little red rig! It has a manual transmission, with a 5th gear. Drives like a dream. Neither Tom nor I have ever placed a decal or bumper sticker on a car of ours, but Joe wanted to express himself, and it was his car first, so Pete, our Trooper, bears several little window decals stating those in-your-face sentiments.

YOU all laugh because I'M different, I laugh because YOU'RE all the same.

It's better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not.

Don't interrupt me when I'm talking to myself.

He gets that talking to oneself habit from me, from my mom's side of the family. (My grandma always said, when we'd catch her muttering away to herself, "Sometimes it's the most sensible person to talk to." True. True.)

Anyway, back to Pete.

There's a Primus decal, featuring Old School Skeeter, on the lower right corner of the back window, where all the decals stick. Primus. The band that is counterculture, or is it counter-counterculture? I don't know. I DO know that I get a lot of waves and smiles from twenty and thirty-somethings because of that Primus mosquito. And a lot of scowls on the faces of people passing me in expensive cars, their expensive shades perched stylishly on noses which are sticking up in the air. Whether that's from the mosquito, the other decals, having to work so hard to pay off their expensive cars, or just indigestion, I don't know, but it makes me laugh. I don't much like Primus, but I love Joe, so the decal stays.

A white Apple sticker makes known to all who drive or walk behind Pete that we "Think Different."

Cassie, Caroline, and I carefully added a Bob Dylan decal. Yeah. It looks good there. We love Bob! (Today is his birthday! We sang to him. Wonder if he heard. If he did, he probably smiled.......or covered his ears. We are known for being terrible, though gleeful, singers.)

Are you wondering what Tom added? He's our resident Republican, fifth-generation Oregonian, gun-toting, yes, you guessed it, NRA member. He put one of his NRA decals on the car, and Pete shuddered. I swear. I thought Old School Skeeter would sting the heck out of it. But he didn't. On a 4x4 rig which gets a lot of off-road use (Cassie and Joe LOVE hitting the rough roads!) the NRA sticker seems fitting, I guess. (Don't get me wrong, I enjoy guns and target practice, too, but the NRA, well, it's become sort of, well you know.........Tom's gonna leave a comment, I feel it in my bones.) Funny thing? The frame around the license plate states, Happiness is Being Norwegian. Another contribution from Tom.

We drive around town with this conflicting message about who we are. We are 'all of the above'. We are young, we are middle-aged. We are psycho-rock, we are classic rock, and we are just plain classic. We are conservative, libertarian, American. We talk to ourselves, fling our opinions around, and use those types of computers. We are eclectic.

To drive around in Pete is to drive in contentment. Windows down, music on (Primus? Jewel? Bob Dylan? Mozart? Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty? Hannah Montana? Depends on who's driving, and who's listening.). Pete has character. Pete makes me happy. In a de-skilled world, where skill has been removed from just about every 'activity', to drive Pete is to participate in a travel experience. Rather than traveling one-step below Jeeves chauffeuring you around, driving Pete is more of a sport. Not a spectator sport, an active sport where you use both legs and both arms, a full-body sport, one where you win every time! It's ridiculously fun.

And best of all, paid for.

Lest We Forget

Memorial Day is coming up. Here's a short history of how the observance came to be. I don't care what day it falls on, but my family and I do regularly decorate graves and have a celebration of appreciation for lives remembered. However you observe the occasion, may it be meaningful and safe!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

'Outside the Box'

Back in March, in a post which describes my experiences with Snowball, my kitten, I wrote:

By intruding upon the indifference of our given environment He provides special means of nourishment for our hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits, while watchfully caring for and guiding us in ways unknown, though appreciated, to growth.

When those who ought to care do not, when differences seem too complicated to sort out, when ignoring comes easier than effort, from 'outside of the box' can come God's merciful hand to set things right, his own way.

He makes all the difference.

It's been a long time since Snowball was part of my existence, but it is now that I am again witnessing the hand of God, from 'outside the box', intruding into my pain, and setting things right.

Never doubting that he is there, nor doubting that he cares, still his merciful hand at work sucks my breath right out of my lungs. Why am I surprised? Because I don't pay close enough attention?

On a weblog were spilled my vague utterances. On a weblog came special means of nourishment from God, via the comment forum - 'outside the box'. Again, he, this time through cyber-friends, has made all the difference.

When we were flying from Eugene to Seattle the other day, while I had my nose smashed against the airplane window to see all I could of the view, I noticed the sun brilliantly reflected in hundreds of pools of water from small ponds, to creeks and rivers, to large lakes. Gradually as we flew north, as if raising their heads to greet us, the sun brought each of these otherwise ordinary objects into startling view, reflecting itself upon them. Squinting was necessary, so bright were these numerous reflections, and still my eyes teared.

Thinking of Moses with his shining face, I had a weird thought. "If God were to sort of float over the earth, would he see his reflection in us as our hearts, recognizing his voice, would cause our heads to tilt toward him, exposing our faces, like flowers following the sun? Would we reflect his glory back to him, in the same blinding sort of way that these waters, large and small, were reflecting the sun?"

It was a nice thought, comforting somehow.

Then Struggle and Funk happened, which compelled kind, deeply compassionate people to come to my aid, at a moment's notice this week. Like light-reflecting waters, they cast back the truth, clearly pointing my way to me, gently lifting me from despair.

Together they became the hand of God, from 'outside the box'.

He does indeed make all the difference.

My heart bows to yours, dear friends, in deepest respect, and thanksgiving.

"...but God intended it for good...."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The funk continues.

There are sentiments one cannot post on a blog. Kindness dictates that the page remain empty.

Rock-heavy heart, swollen tear-ducts, unanswered questions.

To ask, "Why me?" isn't my way.

To ask, "How to process this?" that's my folly.

Strangers read words which cannot be shared with perpetrator loved ones.

What sort of madness is this?

"We are healed of a suffering only by expressing it to the full."
~~~ Marcel Proust

If this is true, how shall I ever be healed?

God, have mercy.

Monday, May 21, 2007


How badly do I want to know the truth?

Enough to learn - and believe - a dark, ugly aspect of truth as true, or would I rather remain in my self-concocted hallucination where a softer, yet false, landing awaits my heart?

The numbness of shock wears off. The beginnings of unrelenting pain ask me, “Are you sure? Do you honestly want to proceed where this pain will only intensify? Turning from this truth is an option, turning, absorbing pretense, cranking up the morphine drip attached to your mind for sweet relief. Are you sure?

Yes. ........YES! I’m sure! I want the truth, even though it be excruciating, even if it feels like tearing, exploding disintegration, like annihilation of all that is me.

As the sinking, splintering, searing pain begins to wash over me, reaching every cell, every thought, I weakly smile. Because honest, hard truth reveals more truth, shattering, scattering the lies.

Lies destroy. Truth heals.

Freedom awaits the courageous, the sincere.

I long to be whole.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Ah - Delicious."

“Mama,” Cassie said in a strangely calm, quiet voice for the boisterous girl she is. “Here’s the very first strawberry of the season. I just picked it from the strawberry patch.” Her reverent tone and sparkling brown eyes made me smile. The girl loves strawberries. She could have popped it into her mouth, no one ever to know, but here she was, offering to share it with me.

Thanking her, I nibbled a bit, and gave the rest to her. We shut our eyes, relishing the pleasure, as the flavor smeared over our taste buds, ripe-from-the-garden strawberry flavor bursting sweet and tangy, lingering, sliding down our throats. Delicate elixir of life!

Cassie’s berry reminded me of this, from Tom Crum:

In the Orient, there is a story of a samurai who is being chased by a bear. He literally runs off a cliff. As he’s falling, he grabs a branch.

He looks up and sees the bear leaning over the cliff, clawing at his head, missing only by inches. As he looks down to the ground below, only about fifteen feet, he sees a lion leaping up, missing his feet only by inches. As he looks at the branch he is clutching, he sees two groundhogs gnawing away at it. He watches as his lifeline disappears, bite by bite.

As he takes a deep, long breath, he notices, next to his branch, a clump of wild strawberries. In the midst of the clump is a great, red, juicy strawberry. With his one free hand, he reaches over, picks the strawberry, puts it in his mouth, chews it slowly and says, “Ah - delicious.”

With discouraging junk happening in recent yesterdays, and hard work looming in upcoming tomorrows, I am struggling to remember this adage, to take a deep breath and enjoy the quiet of this present, this weekend, this eye-of-the-storm, calm moment in time.

Easier it would be to worry, carry the ugliness of yesterday into the looming work of tomorrow, bypassing the glory of today.

The choice is mine.

Set down the aches of yesterday.

Savor the strawberry.

“Ah - delicious!”

Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Birthday Girl

Balancing on Caroline's head is a stuffed prairie dog Cassie gave her for her birthday. Still needs a name. Suggestions?

Well, she did it!
Caroline turned 12 today.

"Happy Birthday to you!"

We are so glad you stayed.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Out of the Mist

Past experiences normally hover in misty memories while the present seems to plod or whoosh along. Work days, plod plod plod. Weekends, vacations, special moments, whoosh. Mist, plods, and whooshes.

But sometimes, sometimes, synergistic moments present powerful, pensive, awareness. This synergism lends itself to seemingly time-warped experiences which stir up intense, emotion-packed reflections that flood the senses and yank the tears. Unforeseen clarification results.

Disneyland, 1966, I was ten, joined by my parents and three siblings. My dad’s favorite ride was It’s a Small World, where riders board little, low-sided, turquoise boats which slowly float into a huge building magnificently colored with animated, costumed dolls representing children and objects from around the globe, while children’s voices repeatedly sing the Small World song in complementary languages. As a ten year old it was the boat and the water which excited me most. My little fingers were happily compelled to flick the cool liquid in delight, as my body gently rocked to the floating rhythm. The little doll-children were pretty, the colors and postures of the dolls fun, and the music cute. Enjoyable.

Disneyland, 2007, I am fifty, and joined by my husband, and daughters (15 and 11). “We have to go on Small World! It’s my dad’s favorite ride and I want to see if it’s the same,” I enjoined.

"Life must be lived forward, but understood backward," according to Soren Kierkegaard. This is how I tend to operate. I was about to have one of those moments.

We boarded the boats, entered the building, heard the song. Cheerfully, I began to sing along as my girls smiled, thankful I’m sure, that the music of the ride drowned out my voice.

I found myself remembering certain dolls, then my mind pulled, out of the mist, the memory of my dad, as a 39 year old man, sitting at the back of the boat next to 10 year old me. I remembered the pleasant look on his dark, handsome face, and his outstretched arm and finger pointing here and there. Suddenly, I visualized my entire childhood family overlaying my present family. Somehow, this Disneyland ride was experienced from my ten year old and fifty year old minds, simultaneously. Vividly.

Forty years had passed and here I was again, possibly in the very same boat, with my young daughters. As I pointed things out to my girls, I recalled my father pointing the same things out to me. My exclamations of delight paralleled Dad’s. My laughter joined his.

Overwhelmed in mind and heart, I began to cry. Sitting in that gently swaying, bumping little boat I cried, for the good times. I cried in thanksgiving that my siblings and parents are still alive and in good health. I cried in gratitude for the three dearly loved people sharing the boat, and moment, with me. I cried for ten year old me who was having such a good time then, and for fifty year old me who was having an even better time now.

And I cried because it seemed I had entered my 39 year old father’s mind, and I knew that he'd had a joyful experience on this ride, in 1966. I absolutely felt his love for me then.....and for me now. I experienced the love he demonstrated to me which I didn’t fully grasp or appreciate at the time. I completely understood his happiness for the first time, while experiencing my own.

It was a strange and beautiful thing not adequately conveyed in these feeble words of mine.

But I want to remember the moment. So I write.

And I reflect. On family. On life. On God. On higher ways.

And I wonder, what foggy aspect of my present reality will come into crisp synergistic focus decades from now.

Life. Deep, deep, astonishing, mysterious life.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


"Come to the edge of the cliff," he said.

"We're afraid," they said.

"Come to the edge of the cliff," he said.

"We're afraid," they said.

"Come to the edge of the cliff," he said.

They came.

He pushed.

They flew.

~~~ Guillaume Appollinaire

Friday, May 11, 2007

Joe's Excellent Adventure

My son, Joe, chose to get a full time job after a few terms of college left him frustrated. He worked at Safeway for a couple of years, then for a huge local building supply company.

Discovering that full-time work at entry-level wages would not pay the bills when he had a wife and kids - one day - he decided to go back to college. He gave his two week's notice, then began to look for a flexible part-time job to help with tuition.

The freedom he felt that Friday, on his last day of work, went to his head. Literally. No more dress codes, no more hair-cut restrictions, no more workin' for the man. Joe went to a friend's house and convinced him to shave his (Joe's) head, except for a centerline strip a couple of inches wide from brow to nape - a Mohawk.

Now Joe has a round head, deep cheek-dimples on either side of his smile, and large brown eyes. He's my (6'1") baby boy! When he came walking up the sidewalk toward the front door, grinning his huge white grin, with this this this thing on his head, I about had a stroke, which pleased him to no end, of course.

Cassie and Caroline hooped and hollered, and petted his fuzzy little Mohawk. I began to laugh in a few minutes, once I got sort of used to the idea of a critter on my son's head. "It's only for the weekend. I just wanted to have some fun, and to go to the mall to see if people look at me differently." (They did.)

Joe's best friend worked at a small, locally-owned market which was in need of a stock boy, immediately. A glowing report from this friend, listing Joe's work experience, honesty, work ethic, and straight-laced personality, inspired the boss to set up an appointment for an interview with Joe the following Monday.

Perfect! Flexible hours, low-stress job, piece of cake.

Monday rolled around and Joe headed in for his interview, wearing a baseball cap to hide his Mohawk, with plans to shave off his new pet afterwards.

The boss LOVED Joe! (Who wouldn't?) She said, "You're hired! Here's the paperwork, sit here and fill it out."

He did.

His new boss said happily, "I'll get your time clock set up for you today so you can get to work now."

"Wha...?" Joe was confused. "Isn't this just an interview?" he thought, nervously tugging on the bill of his cap.

"First rule: no hats," Karen, the boss, said matter-of-factly.

"Huh? I thought I was just supposed to fill out paperwork today?" Joe asked, beginning to panic now, knowing what was under his hat. Like I said, straight-laced.

"I need you for the 10 - 4 shift today, so, take off the hat and you can get started," she kindly smiled.

Oh boy. Panic seized Joe, but, he's an honest, smart kid, so he told her, "Well, uh, you see, I have a BAD haircut."

"Ah, that's okay. Take off the hat and let's see," Karen said in a friendly tone, eyes now curiously on the hat.

Joe turned red red red, as he slowly removed his cap, and grinned sheepishly at Karen. She simply shrugged, saying, "Heh, it's not so bad," and walked away, leaving him to stock shelves for the next six hours, on his first day of work, with a Mohawk for all the customers to see.

Funny thing, no one teased him. A couple of teenagers and two little kids told him his hair was 'cool'. Joe and I learned a valuable lesson that day: loosen up, man.

We HAVE both loosened up since the Mohawk entered our lives.

Rock the Mohawk!

(Joe worked at the mart for three years, quickly working his way up to checker, and all-around valuable employee. The market was sold the fall that Joe began Gutenberg. He quit to devote his time to his studies, but the market, and the friends he made there, will always hold a warm spot in his heart.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Use Words if Necessary

Becoming interested in a person or topic causes me to root around in it until I come to the end of my curiosity. Thomas Merton has been my person and topic for awhile now, and I’m still enjoying the process of discovering him. It’s been enjoyable knowing that others have had the same enrichment from his life and writings.

I found this quote in the book I’m currently relishing, and it hit home. Whack! It was part of a letter written to Etienne Gilson.

"Please pray for me to Our Lord that, instead of merely writing something, I may be something, and indeed that I may so fully be what I ought to be that there may be no further necessity for me to write, since the mere fact of being what I ought to be would be more eloquent than many books."

Such single-minded aspiration takes my breath away.

Especially when I come across its opposite.

Shortly after my morning reading, breakfast, and chores, I read one of my favorite blogs, where the blogger presented her reading list. She inquired if anyone had suggestions of books to add. In the comment box I read some replies, taking notes as many of the recommendations were new to me. I love stuff like this! People sharing their love of literature.

Then I noticed an ‘anonymous’ comment, suggesting simply, the Bible.

I’m not sure why, but I got a bad mojo vibe when I read it. It felt somehow judgmental.

This intelligent, kind, sometimes sarcastic blogger wrote back that it was too bad because she’d burned all her Bibles years ago. I smiled. Whether she actually has burned her Bibles or not, I have no idea. It was her quick wit that made me chuckle.

‘Anonymous’ wrote back, “That explains all.”

“What a jerk,” I thought.

But his or her snide comments have stuck with me all day today. Gandhi’s words came to mind: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

A few months of regularly reading the blog I’m referring to have revealed its author to be bright, sensitive, insightful, compassionate, funny, opinionated, determined, wise, and vulnerable. She’s a seeker, a quality person.

Reading only five words from ‘Anonymous’ leaves me without any evidence as to his/her intentions. Maybe it’s a friend who’s playing a joke, I don’t know. The slam seems genuine enough, through these eyes that read many comments.

Even if it’s not, I have encountered genuine slams from 'Christians' too many times. I've been the third party witness to such rudeness, as well as the recipient. It happens. Often. How can insults and condescension produce relief or goodness?

In the past I have, without conscience and to my shame, peddled down-the-nose, smelly sanctimony to those who don’t share my spiritual beliefs. I hope that unenlightened, stupid part of me has been put to rest once and for all. The deeper one seeks, the more apparent becomes the shallowness of his progression. I have a long way to go. Who am I to judge another’s journey?

Bothersome it remains to be a truth-seeking, gospel-believing Christian while the term ‘Christian’ is slopped around by posers as though it were a pair of giant, spiked, clodhopper boots designed for climbing over the indiscriminately crushed souls and ideas of ‘unbelievers.’ It hurts my heart.

For those faux-Christians who, in the name of Christ, can only insult, judge, ridicule, slap, spit, and strut, I say please examine your hearts and actions. If you can't find compassion for others, then for God’s sake, shut up...until you can.

For the rest of us, St. Francis has good advice, “Preach the gospel everywhere. Use words if necessary.”

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Easing and Cooling

After a night on fire watch at the abbey, Thomas Merton wrote this paragraph, among a chapter:

At eight-fifteen I sit in darkness. I sit in human silence. Then I begin to hear the eloquent night, the night of wet tress, with moonlight sliding over the shoulder of the church in a haze of dampness and subsiding heat. The world of this night resounds from heaven to hell with animal eloquence, with the savage innocence of a million unknown creatures. While the earth eases and cools off like a huge wet living thing, the enormous vitality of their music pounds and rings and throbs and echoes until it gets into everything and swamps the whole world in its neutral madness, which never becomes an orgy because all things are innocent, all things are pure. Nor would I have mentioned the possibility of evil except that I remember how the heat and the wild music of living things drive people crazy, when they are not in monasteries, and make them do things that the world has forgotten how to lament.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lean Not on Your Own Understanding

April 1979, I unwrapped my ten fingers from around a five year dream, letting it drift away from my heart and mind.

Alone, on my knees, beside my bed I prayed, “God, if I am never to marry that is okay with me. I am weary of the strain, of wondering each time I meet a new man, ‘Is this the one?’ I’m sick of it. If you don’t have marriage in my future, I accept it. If you do, whenever it may be, that’s great. I’m not going to look anymore. You’ll have to just plop this man directly in front of me. Thanks, God. It sure feels good to let go. Amen.”

And it did. It felt like freedom.

Unbeknownst to me, a young man in Medford prayed a similar prayer, around the same time.

Living alone in a brand new house built just for me was bliss, as solitude is something I crave. A new Fiat had been paid off in triple payments from the income earned working an enjoyable job. I had friends. I taught children’s groups at church and hosted an adult Bible study in my living room.

Five A.M. each weekday morning found me in shorts, breathing through fifty sit-ups and various stretches. A twenty minute run, a shower, and a bowl of hot cereal preceded a fifteen minute drive to work. Each night I breezed through two hundred more sit-ups, yoga, tennis, swimming, walking, or entertaining friends. Weekends held ski trips in the mountains, beach combing at the coast, or otherwise relaxing by myself or with others. It was a good life.

However, for the first time I understood loneliness. Surrounded by work associates, family, and friends, still, there was an ache, a void. But the way things were going, it looked as if aloneness was another method God would use to teach me. Resolved to learn the lesson, I quit fighting.

Yes, I prayed, and two weeks to the day of that releasing prayer, Tom walked right into my living room. He was the out-of-town son of a middle-aged couple who had recently joined our small Baptist church. The fact that they had a son was news to me. He was in town, transitioning for two weeks from a job in Medford, to a job in Portland. Someone who knew he was in town invited him to the study in my home.

Long story short, he listened to me, really listened. He was intelligent and genuine. Our long, lively conversations were easy and enjoyable. He says I was smart, pretty, spunky, and interesting. We hit it off immediately. A long distance romance, weekends together, a summer trip to Alaska for him, a promotion at work for me, and soon it was summer's end, 1980.

We decided we couldn’t stand being apart. It was making us crazy. So we announced our engagement, planned a wedding in a month, and were to be married in September, 1980.

Our pastor was happy to marry us after the six mandatory marriage counseling sessions were completed. Okay. Not a problem. Stupid, we thought, but we’ll do it.

Session #1: We each filled out a lengthy questionnaire meant to pigeonhole personality.

Session #2: “I’ve tallied your tests, Tom and Cherie,” said Pastor Wilson. “I’m sorry, but according to the results, you two are completely incompatible. A marriage between you would never last. I’m so sorry, but I can’t perform your marriage ceremony.”

Huh? You’ve got to be kidding!

Now, Tom is a fairly passive person. I am the decisive one. But this day, he stood up, the knuckles of his closed left fist gently tapping Pastor Wilson’s desk, which was between his leather chair and ours.

“Pastor Wilson,” Tom said without blinking, “we’re getting married, one way or another. We’d like you to officiate because we know you, and this is our church. But if you won’t, well, we’ll find someone who will.” Tom reached for my hand as though to leave.

Pastor Wilson married us, as planned.

But he was right about one thing. We are completely incompatible, on the surface. We thought we were going crazy being apart. Ha! We have been driven to CrazyTown so many times since being together that we can meander our way there and back, eyes closed, whistling a happy tune.

The pastor was also WRONG about one thing. We HAVE lasted.

See, tests can lie. This test measured only what we thought we knew of ourselves, not what was untapped within.

We are both tenacious, willing to be corrected, opinionated. We are nonconformists, share a bizarre sense of humor, and are charmed by simple living. The test confirmed these things, sure. But the thing we share deepest, the thing the test couldn’t measure because we were unaware of it ourselves, is that our intrinsic, core perspective of life is identical. Our vision, our faith, our very hearts were made the same. We long to know God, in truth. And we long to be good.

Because of that deep spiritual understanding between us, there is solid, centered love, love that melds us together despite our nasty temperaments and habits.

It took awhile to discover this deep love, this sameness of perspective. Perhaps it has grown while we weren’t looking. Perhaps it was uncovered bit by bit as we have struggled and fought and forgiven. Superficial, romantic love is easy to see, and easy to doubt when the going gets rough. But when the going gets impossible, the deep love holds fast. It has saved our marriage more than once.

Tom, with sincerity and gentleness, said to me a few months ago, when once again we had come face to face with our deep frustration and deep love all at once, “You may not be what I want, but you are what I need.” I nodded with complete understanding.

He wanted a church lady, a submissive, yet spunky, doormat, who would adore him, never cross him, fulfill her duties. I wanted a poet, a romantic, a man who would worship me, say all the right things. Neither person ever appeared. Their opposites did. But the people we wanted would have stunted our growth, spoiled us, left us asleep in the trance of mediocre superficiality.

What we needed was to be brutally challenged, to be forced to think, to question, to evaluate, to tolerate, to struggle, to be defeated and built-up again in order to inwardly transform. These needs are currently being met in the safety of a like-souled marriage.

Sometimes what looks from a human standpoint to be a certain failure in the making is, in actuality, meant to reveal the higher ways of God, the often hard ways we humans don’t normally stick around to witness.

Grace of God.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Back to Basics

In my favorite photo of myself there I am, gleefully hugging my three year old knees while sitting on a slatted wooden bench on a dock which floats atop a pristine lake. Priest Lake. I’m wearing my brother’s hand-me-down jeans, rolled at the cuff, and held up with a tiny, brown, leather belt. A red tucked in t-shirt, under a little unbuttoned brown corduroy jacket, comfortably hugs my petite body. Red-plaid canvas Mary-Jane style shoes cover red socks which keep my tapping feet dry and warm. A ‘swimmer’s cut’ bob of naturally red and gold highlighted brown hair is lifted and mussed by the wind which also whips the water into white caps.

Dark, heavy, gray-black clouds advance toward the pebbly shoreline casting asymmetrical black shadows across the clear lake. Rain is imminent. The water is cold, but I am not.

My dimple-cheeked face wears the most free, wide, happy, excited grin imaginable, most of my perfect pearly-white baby teeth showing. My eyes are full of ecstasy! My countenance wears the look of exhilarated watchfulness. Pure joy and freedom.

This is the true me.

I haven’t been me, since I was three.

But I’m on my way back. And the way back is forward. And the me I am becoming knowingly appreciates the me that I was, far deeper than a three year old ever can.

Life is full of wonder in its inner connectedness.

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." ~~~~~T. S. Eliot  

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tag! I'm It!

I've been tagged by Pam to come up with ten interesting habits or facts about myself in a friendly game of "Chinese Freeze Tag."

I'll start with Number...

10. Because of over crowding, I went to three kindergartens when I was five.

9. I have to have all the closet doors in my bedroom (there are six) neatly shut before I can go to sleep. If Tom opens and doesn't close any of them while I'm still even slightly awake he'll hear a slurred, "Please close the closet doors. Thank you......." What a pain I am! Is this a leftover Boogy Man phobia?

8. When I was six I was nearly drowned in an irrigation ditch on a farm; my feet were being sucked into an underground culvert by an electric pump. My older brother held my hand and kept my head above water, screaming for help, until my dad and uncle rushed to help him save me. I held onto my dolly with one arm the entire time, though my brother commanded I let her go. Afterwards, Dad hung her upside down, by her pajama foot, on the clothesline where she dried in the summer sun. (He and mom toweled me off, instead of hanging me by my socks, for which I am grateful.)

7. I can flip my lower lip in and out so quickly that it's a blur - Tom, my siblings, and my kids call it Flipper Lip. I've met only one other person in my entire life who can also do this amazing feat, and he can only do it at half my speed.

6. I love water - I love being in the presence of water, I love to be IN water, any water. Rain, under waterfalls, in rivers, lakes, oceans, ponds, mountain lakes, pools, bathtubs you name it - I can spend hours on end swimming and playing in the water. I think I am an otter underneath it all.

5. I'm just finishing my 20th year of home tutoring my kids. Still have at least five to go!

4. I hate olives. Tom hates olives. Whenever I get jammed up and think I married the wrong guy, I remember our common olive-repulsion. A match made in heaven! (All four of our kids, Ben's girlfriend, AND our beagle hate olives, too! We're thinking of starting our own state.)

3. I was born with the hearing of an 80 year old man. (Come to think of it, I was also bald, toothless, and soon wearing a diaper....hmmm.)

2. From my forehead to the nape of my neck I frequently run my fingers through my hair. Without thinking about it. One palm, two palms, it doesn't matter. It makes me smarter.

And the Number One Kinda Interesting Thing About Me is:

1. When I was nineteen, I pushed my father's nearly brand new red Chevy pickup over a steep hill, where it rolled a ways as if in slow motion, until it finally crashed with a loud, sickening, crunching, thud into a mighty oak tree, which stopped it from taking out the chicken coop. It was an accident. He has forgiven me...... I think. :-)

And that, dear readers, is my quick list of sorta interesting stuff about a rather ordinary woman.

I'm supposed to tag ten other people, but I'm not going to do that today. I'm going to go play tag with some other children instead.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wisdom from an Eleven Year Old

Yesterday while Cassie was driving and I was supervising, Caroline was studying her newly purchased candy bar. At a stoplight between the fire station and the elementary school we heard her little voice pipe up. "You know.......only girls and women should eat Hershey bars. They say HER and SHE. I mean, that's twice. Even though it says HE it mentions girls TWICE!"

How can you argue with that........?

Another One Bites the Dust


Lump in my throat. Single tears find their way from my eyes to my chin. Sobs drum against my chest, above my very heart. Back and forth shakes my head in denial.

My mind knew it was coming.

My heart held out hope that they'd find each other again, find that the proceedings were all a mistake. There is love, deep down. Life crusts over truth. Emotions lie. Fear manipulates. Selfishness destroys.

Outside a storm brews, gusts shake the window. Tom and the girls sand cabinets. College enriches Joe at this hour. Ben sets up his new photography studio. Sammy sleeps, dreams, in his dog bed.

And here I sit, weeping, frustrated at the dark side of this world, just so very very heartbroken..............sad.

Fierce clicking of hail against the sill interrupts, entices a tiny smile. Blasts of wind clear my head.

Suddenly, clarity reveals anew the depth of my love for Tom and my children. Heavy sadness lifts fresh determination from my mind and heart, planting it squarely before me, within me. We must skillfully battle the evil that would destroy. It must never ever know victory over our sacred union.

To completely experience this sadness, for my loved ones, is a conscious choice this moment. The passing of a once good marriage, like death, deserves a tender, sorrowful, heart funeral.