Sunday, April 30, 2006

A poem

The Experiment

Morning means just Risk- to the Lover-
Just revelation- to the Beloved

Epicures-date a Breakfast- by it
Brides-an Apocalypse-
Worlds- a Flood-
Faint-going Lives-Their Lapse from Sighing-
Faith-the Experiment of Our Lord-

Emily Dickinson

What does morning mean to you? Any of these things? Is dawn the beginning of a new experiment for you? Or will things stay just the same as the day, the week, the month, the year, the life before?

Does daylight bring hope, sadness, guilt, or something else quite different?

I took my first pause over the first line "just Risk- to the Lover"; An anxious lover who meticulously plans out in his head, each second of the next passionate meeting with the woman he'd like to be intimate with just now.

The second pause came for me at "revelation- to the Beloved". I am so loved by the One I longed to be loved by. I feel all that love at this moment, giving me freedom to see that which I've never known before.

A third stop at "epicure". That was the delightful breakfast we ate perfectly baked blueberry scones with lemon curd and freshly whipped cream.

The longest pause for me came at "the Bride- an Apocolypse". Is this the morning after her wedding? Does apocolypse always signify something regrettable? If so, is it the loss of innocence in the case of a new bride? If an apocalypse is simply a dynamic discovery, then what does this morning speak to her?

Faint? I do not experience the morning in this way, and I'd sigh for sure if I did.

What do you think of Emily referring to morning as "Faith- the Experiment of our Lord"? Does this offend or ring true?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Writer's Award

You know that prickly and tingly, this-is-going-to-be-the-best-writing-I've-ever-produced feeling you get when you are about to write something which qualifies as genius?

I don't have it today.

I'm going to Dollywood!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Educating Esme'

Educating Esme’ Diary of a Teacher’s First Year
Esme Raji Codell

She’s a fifth grade teacher with panache.

A true story, Esme’s diary of her first year of teaching should be a must read for all educators. Hat tip to Meredith Lee for the book recommendation. Never mind the colorful “F”, the “B”, the “S”, the “D” words spattered throughout the text. Esme’ follows the child instead of the rules to create a love of learning for thirty-one inner city children from Chicago.

Though her style is not mine- I’d rather eat staples than live in a classroom with a time machine (aluminum covered refrigerator box stuffed with interesting history books) topped by an operational flashing red light all day- she wins my praise by being her best self with the children.

Esme’ does what the greatest of all teachers do- inspires.

Here are a few passages:
I read in Melanie’s journal that her birthday came and went without a cake. She had to remind her mom that is was her birthday. So I got her a cupcake and a candle and gift-wrapped a little purse. I had her wait in the room after school, while I picked up her little sister outside. We had Melanie cover her eyes. When she uncovered them, the candle was lit. We sang “Happy Birthday” to her. She looked moved- kind of a weird thing to see in a ten-year-old- quiet, thoughtful, smiling. She said thank you very nicely, very sincerely. I was glad, because I think she understood that I did it because I care about her.


Mr. Turner (the principal of Madame Esme’s school and the villain of the book) walked in as all thirty -one kids were on the floor, laughing, cutting, and coloring in a fabulous mess. They didn’t stop when he entered.
“There’s no control!” he mourned.
“There absolutely is!” I raised my thumb, which is the signal for attention, and like a magic trick, within twelve seconds every mouth was closed, thirty-one thumbs were in the airto show they got my signal, and all eyes were on us.
“Just checking” I explained. The kids went back to work.

It’s not that I’m so great or that they love me so much. It’s just that I’m consistent, and they know if they don’t follow my guidelines, I will be a dragon lady. Still I loved seeing Mr. Turner’s face just then.

Esme’ had me in stitches and tears in the few hours it took me to pour over the 194 pages. I’ve taken notes and made a booklist to read with my own children from her book.

Peace and Silkie

Exit Rooster

Please forgive me. I'm about to post yet another pretend farmer entry.

I woke up this morning feeling a tinge of guilt. After Frankenbelle, the evil rooster stalked me in my garden again and then went after Wise One while he was feeding scraps, I gave Frankenbelle away yesterday to the real farmers, the Green Jeans, next door, “Do with him what you will, but please don’t tell my children if you decide to EAT him.” I can imagine Mr. Green Jeans rolling his eyes over the phone line. Why have a farm if you won’t eat your own chickens? He will never understand that all thirty-nine in our flock are pets who kindly give us eggs in exchange for our friendship.

So first thing this morning, I hear our pitiful Silkie rooster “crowing” his good mornings for us. He doesn’t exactly crow the strong and manly Frankenbelle’s “ER, ER, ER, ER, ERRRR”; Silkie’s is more like a weak woman’s fading scream. It’s quite the sight- a rooster who looks like a black teacup poodle bird proudly belting out a girly holler.

Tator rode over on Mr. Green Jeans four wheeler with Frankenbelle in a cat carrier in his lap. He sighed when he came home with the report, “I feel sorry for Belle. Mr. Green Jeans put him in a little cage (about the size of a large dog crate). What if Mr. Green Jeans doesn’t let him out to run like we do?” My less than brilliant answer, “Son, we can’t have animals around which hurt people on our farm. Mr. Green Jeans will be nice and take care of Belle, as they do with all their farm animals. If he let’s Belle go free, Belle will march right back up here to rule again.”
Besides, and not to worry, Belle is probably the father of all the chicks peeping on our home school table under warming lights. Who knows how many will end up being just like him. Sigh.
We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Know how children say adorable things you know they'll outgrow and you will miss when they grow up?

When he was three, Tator used to say yesternight, as in "Yesternight we went to Grandma's house", but he won't anymore. I miss that sweet phrase. When I found yesternight in Shakespeare years later I remembered my boy as an adorable toddler.

Here's what Pooh Bear has been saying and what we've been reading every night for the last three weeks:

"Momma, it's time for my bednight story."

When she outgrows bednight and bednight stories, she won't be such a little girl anymore. Childhood is so fleeting!

Uncle Silas, Jr. Remembered

Seventy-six years plodding on this muddy clay earth

Towering man

Big feet, big hands
My little girl hands lost in your venus flytrap double handshake

Most like my grandpa than all my other uncles
A true junior

White military hair

Soft scratchy voice,
Bellowing thunderous laughter

Black glasses across your black shining eyes

Father of tall thin twin girls, long brown hair and dark skin

Husband of Eleanor, a most southern woman

Sunday Suit wearing Baptist
I picture your Bible as well worn

Least known to me of all my father’s ten siblings

I’ve never visited your home though in my mind’s eye I see it as a tidy, welcoming,
Pleasant place

I know absolutely none of your food preferences
But believe you'd not be picky given your humble beginnings on the Cohutta farm

Warm Smile

Oldest uncle
May you find rest, peace, love, joy in the everlasting arms of Jesus on this day you are buried

Sunday, April 23, 2006

What not to read in the park

Just a word of advice. Do not take this book to the park to read while your children chase others about on the playground.

You just may end up sobbing on the wooden bench in the midst of shiny happy little people. The stranger next to you on the park bench may feel increasingly uneasy with the intensity of tears and move away from the obviously emotionally disturbed person you've become.

It's probably best if you read Kite Runner next to a full box of tissues in a room all by yourself.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


My group of dear friends discussed the Submission chapter from Richard Foster's Celebration of Disciplines book last night. Here are some of my thoughts.

The word submission used to make the hairs on the back of my feminist neck prickle and raise. Mostly because of the abuse of power I'd seen and experienced in the hard knocks of life. While I'm still a feminist, now I have a different perspective on the word. My life is my own as far as God sees fit to give me another day, another breath, and I have the power to choose where I go, whom I spend time with, who comes to my home. I also freely choose to whom I submit and, believe it or not, do so mostly willingly. To me submission is laying my will down for another, and I just so happen to have lots of will. The key to why submission doesn't pain me anymore is in the fact that those I put myself under desire good things for me; they are looking out for my best interest. On the rare occasion I find out otherwise, that someone does not care for my well being, I don't take what that person's counsel seriously any longer. It's not that I won't do what the person in this situation wants, I most likely will, but they've lost my heart.

Maybe not forever though.

Here's a story of submission I'm particularly wowed by lately. Buck has been in a situation where one leader keeps saying and doing all the wrong things...To Buck. My husband, however, has not given in and walked away from the relationship. Fortunately, Buck didn't take my poor advice to voice his outrage. Instead, he's bowed his knee in service to the person. Suddenly Buck is taking part in creating the person he wants his leader to be. It's simply transforming.

Thinking on this matter makes me aware of my leadership roles. Do I treat those I lead under me with respect? Am I looking out to accomplish my goal or for others best interests? When I set out to teach, do is it the person or the lesson I care most about? Do I make submission easy for those under me?

Furthermore, I believe God is good, so I have no trouble in submitting when I know God's will. The trouble for me is taking the time to center and seek God's will.

Is this the same for you?

What do you think about the word submission?

I'm in leadership over my children. Do I lead well? Or am I a tyrant with my agenda that they must follow? I've a quote by my computer I've been contemplating lately- Parenting without joy is tyranny.

I'm looking for the joy.

How about you?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Worn Out

Buck tilled True Vyne Gardens for me while the children and I moved pathway rocks around last week. Buck and the children mulched with mushroom compost while I was away last Friday. Today I planted one zillion tomatoes and peppers which I bought from my favorite nursery in Knoxville. Peace planted a gazillion Impatiens in the shade of the goat shed section. While we worked, I explained to him as a girl his age, I did not appreciate the garden my wicked step father made me weed. Of course, my step father wasn't really wicked, he's a good man who happened to ask me as a teenager to help around the house and yard sometimes. Peace replied to my story, "Mom, I think gardens and planting are fun. It's way cool to grow your own food. I wonder why you didn't get that until now?" I wonder too, son.

I also started some Petunias, lettuce, Nastursiums, Marigolds, and Basil sprouts in a mini greenhouse. My garden buddy, Shepherdess, gave me sprouted yellow mint, parsley, leeks, an Early Girl and Beefy Boy tomatoes, a marigold, cosmos, a begonia, and another shade flower with a name I can't remember. All of which I planted today.

Pooh Bear took on the role of sowing queen. She helped me dig little holes, stuff in seeds, and cover them up- zucchini, sweet corn, cantaloupe, watermelon, sunflower seeds, marigolds, onions.

Wise One watered the seeds for us.

Tator cooked dinner of burgers and broccoli.

It's a family affair.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter 2006

My family woke up to Easter baskets full of surprise in the morning. Books, of course, were the greatest hit. I gave One Grain of Rice by Demi to Pooh Bear. If you don't know that story, it's one my favorites- a lesson in math and compassion. How to Talk to your Dog and How to Talk to your Cat went to the two oldest boys. Wise One has thoroughly enjoyed Dragons. When we loaded up for church, the books came along too.

Our Easter processional was full of surprises as most things of the arts nature are. The dancers were already a bit on edge realizing from practice Saturday, that a live band is not as easy to follow as a CD. As much as the worship pastor hoped to stick to the original, music is a living and free form thing. So Kelly and I talked about cueing to the words and filling in improvisationally in between. During Easter services, I saw the girls I've been working with grin when an upcoming chorus was skipped over and followed by something completely different- they danced so confidently, noone watching was the wiser to the changes.

I know this may sound silly, but my favorite part of the whole thing, besides watching it all come together, was when the pastor suddenly switched up the processional from last to first during the second service, and I got to round up stray dancers. Instead of the planned leisurely sit with families to wait, Kelly and I dashed around sending the dancers to their starting positions. I even got to take off my shoes and sprint up to a dancer working the nursery welcome table in a far away building. I don't remember ever having a chance to run all through church before!

A poignant moment for me during the sermon occured when the pastor spoke of God being like the lifequards at Seal Beach. How they'd post warnings not to go beyond a certain point into treacherous water, patiently wait till the disobedient swimmers stopped struggling to save themselves from drowning, and then go after them for the rescue. Pastor Brad's words went something like this, "God waits till we are out of our own strength and fight to save ourselves, desperate for Him, then he'll come in for our rescue."

Did I mention my dear husband and Peace looked after my Sunday school class for me? And there were tons of visiting of which couldn't stop talking about Mr. Buck.

After church, my family was invited to feast at a friend's home. What an incredible blessing. All we had to bring was a zillion candy filled Easter eggs and our hosts cooked a delicious middle eastern meal of cous cous salad, another fresh veggie salad with scrumptious red peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower, corn casserole, and lucious variety grilled meats. The men hid the eggs while my lovely friend, Sky and I finished dishes.

One tradition our families have kept together, has been the golden egg as part of our Easter egg hunt. One plastic egg, spray painted in shimmery gold, gets hidden among the 200 other eggs. Inside are dollar bills, so this is the most sought after egg. Peace, my oldest has found it the past two years, so it was definately not his turn again. However, Sky and I exchanged "Oh, no!" looks as we watched Peace lift the large green egg from the porch swing which he did not know secretly contained the golden egg. He handed it to the toddler, Eli announcing, "Eli, now you get the biggest egg." Peace looked stunned when Eli opened it up to reveal the golden treasure. Peace summoned an I-meant-to-do-that posture after the initial shock. Eli kept opening and closing his egg to show us his money.

Afterwards, all I wanted to do was take an Easter rest, so Sky and I laid around and chatted on the porch all afternoon into evening.

On the drive home, I called Mom on the cell phone and all the children shared their Easter stories with Greemaw. I love that lady.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The best day in the world

Pooh Bear proclaimed the last few days the best days in the world. The baby chicks have begun hatching, emerging as tired wet creatures and transforming into fluffy peeping bundles of cute. My husband joked about how difficult it is to keep the children on homeschooling tasks while surrounded by baby chicks. The children are distracted by one of the greatest educational experiences in the world- birth. Buck finally did bring the momma hen, the unhatched eggs, and the chicks inside the homeschool room for the night and put them all under a heat lamp. All the children slept in the room with the chicks. Precious!

So I suppose, without any planning of our own, we have been given another way to relish Easter in gently holding yellow fuzzy living gifts.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

City Girl verses Rooster

I went out to my garden to take pictures for my blog this morning while my family remained fast asleep tucked in their warm beds. I got to the entrance and paused to capture the whole space in my camera lens when Frankenbelle the rooster came and puffed himself up in front of me. “Odd” I thought to myself. He’d never done this before.

“Hi Belle. Are you showing me your masculinity this morning? I know you must be very proud as a male and all.”

He stepped closer and closer pecking the ground while I focused the camera on a shot of the garden, and suddenly, like a whirlwind, he flew at me aggressively twice. What’s a city girl to do but beat him back with an expensive digital camera?

“What is WRONG with you? Having a bad day or something?”

I quickly decided I’d rather take the photos inside the safety of my garden fence. However, Belle stalked me outside the fence, so I was distracted and couldn’t decide what pictures I cared about more than another attack from an angry rooster. As soon as I lined up one photo, Belle had flown on the fence was contemplating his next move to take me down. I picked up clay pieces which took three progressively harder throws to knock him over. Then I dashed to the house.

I ran to my computer and wrote an email to my uncle who grew up on a farm to explain this strange aggression to me. I was afraid Pooh Bear would really be harmed if I didn’t do something about Belle. The thought of a rooster tearing at my little girl helped me revisitin my mind a section from a farming book about ways to wring a chicken's neck.

My children had risen and were munching waffles at the kitchen counter.

“Children, Belle is acting very strangely. He came after me to hurt me this morning and now I don’t want Pooh Bear going outside without a brother guarding until we can figure out what to do when Daddy wakes up this afternoon after working all night."

Tator’s eyes grew wide and he shed his brilliant ten year old wisdom on the situation, “Mom. He’s just guarding the baby chicks about to be born in the shed. The garden is right by the shed, and you were in the way of his patrol.”

Golly! Isn’t that boy sharp as a tack? My children are safe to play as long as it’s not anywhere near the shed. Now there is just the trouble that I all I want to do is be in my garden and am not interested in a rooster fight each time I approach my sugar snap peas and asparagus.

And watching the baby chicks hatch is out of the question for the moment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Easter Preparations

During Lenten season, I try to observe ways to prepare for the celebration of Easter in some meaningful way. This year, though I don't know how or why, I was asked by the choreographer, Kelly, whom I'd never set eyes upon before, to help with an Easter processional at my own church. I knew if I became involved in the project, it could be a chunk of time away from my family, but could become just the path to set my heart on a jubilant Resurrection. And to my joy, I've become the Girl Friday for Kelly. Meeting with Kelly, learning choreography, sending emails, labeling costumes, finding and collecting banners and dancers.

The shabang required a boat load participants, so I got on the phone, "I know we've never met before, but a friend of a friend of a friend mentioned you might be interested billowing banners for our Easter processional. I know you've never done it before, but we'll teach you everything you need to know. Sign up with the church office if you are interested." I (and others who dragged their friends along for moral support) rounded up 13 blessed women. Only two of them have ever stood in front of the congregation before in something like this. So it's a gigantic stretch for them to step out, risk, and give this their all for something completely new. I admire their courage!

Thing have fallen into place naturally. While Kelly has worked with the eight long flowing banners on when to wave, ripple, wind in and out, carousel, billow slowly, I've had the privilege of "cracking the whip" with four great ladies who've agreed to dance in formation with moving silky fabric squares in the middle down front and also on stage. They have the hearts of little children, free spirits, playing tag with one another, giggling, laughing at themselves, whirling around. This last practice, they moved from planned mechanical movement into the freedom of the dance.

Words fail to describe the deep emotion inside me of watching the development of this work. Our church now has thirteen bravehearts willing to boldly dance with abandonment for God. Make no mistake. It's all about Him and His day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Farm Lessons

Pooh Bear collected eggs this afternoon. Though my chickens have dozens of laying boxes, Buck finally gave in and built more in the shed where the hens laid sometimes anyway. It must have been a long while since eggs were gathered from the shed, because one fell to the ground from Pooh Bear's overfull hands. Together we all watched blood and a fading yet miraculous little life struggling under the broken shell. My son Tator lifted the egg to expose an almost fully developed chick which eventually stopped breathing. Pooh Bear became visibly upset, "Mommy pray for it!"

I spoke softly, "I have, Honey. It just wasn't ready to be born yet, and it's shell broke open too soon, so God just took it up to heaven to be with Him." Anyone want to argue my theology presented to a five year old?

"What do we do, Mommy?" they both inquired.

"I'll just bury this one. And maybe if we leave the other eggs alone in the shed, chicks will be born one day soon."

Tator exclaims, "I want to watch them be born, Mom. Can we take them inside the house and put them on the homeschool table to hatch?"

"They have to be kept very warm, so let's just leave them there for the momma hen to take care of."

We've never had roosters before Buck bought some unsexed chicks in August 2005, so this is our first potential spring for baby chicks. Some of those chicks may grow up to be roosters, and then we'll have to make a few serious farm decisions. Hens are fabulous, but too many roosters is a big problem for the compassionate farmers Buck and I are known to be.

An half an hour after the chick's death, Pooh Bear brought me a drawing she'd made. It was a picture of a recognizable little yellow chick and the word "Rome"scawled across the top. Last week, the boys became interested in studying Rome again and have conducted a self directed unit study; thus Pooh Bear learned to spell and write the only word she knows, "Rome". On the drawing, there was a little red around the chicken which I presumed correctly to be blood.

Her cheeks were wet with tears when she explained her art response, "Rome was a really horrible place, and what happened to that baby chick was horrible. I will never feel happy again."
I suppose that tender hearted fairy girl will be happy again after a piece of gum and a few storybooks on my lap. I must go try.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cat Resurrection Update

Whiskers the cat, the star in the Resurrection post below, is now completely healed and home purring on Helen's lap today. Turns out he was paralyzed and convulsing as a result of too much flea and tick medicine, and truly was at death's door if he hadn't have been found.

Whiskers never used to sit on Helen's lap before his brush with the grim reaper, but he is eternally grateful for her heroic rescue and subsequent trip to the vet. The vet did a cat cleanse which saved his life and a tender little girl's heart from despair to boot.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

It's official

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating about the bizarre color of my hair, I got proof positive today that something is awry.

A four year old boy, Andy, from my Sunday school class ran into my arms this morning for his usual greeting hug, and then stepped back with a puzzled expression on his sweet face, "Miss Twue, your hairwa wooks diffwent."

"Yes, Andy. It is different."

And Claire's teenage daughter's comment on my new somewhat maroon locks is classic, "Miss True, you just look all the people who work at Earthfare (swanky organic and health food store)."

Ummmhmmm. I do.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A thank you

I peeled open my reluctant eyes this morning carefully squinting to avoid the brightness of dawning sun. First thing, I found myself eye to eye with a new book on my bedside table- a publication I‘d received as a gift Saturday. I hadn’t even opened to flip through the pages yet. The title confused me and appeared complicated, daunting. I mistakenly thought the title read The Bridoe of Stars, so I avoided the book thinking I’d need a Webster’s dictionary to figure out the meaning of burdoe before I could even jump into the book. Instead of seeking the dictionary, I propped up my fluffy pillows and sat up, and cracked open the large volume partway through to this:

An offering of time
Lord, I have time,
I have plenty of time,
All the time that you give me,
The years of life,
The days of my years,
The hours of my days,
They are all mine.
Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,
But to fill completely up to the brim,
To offer them to you.

Michel Quoist , France

Don’t know about you, but I fight the tyranny of the immediate- daily, hourly.
This poem snapped me out of “busy” into a peaceful way to begin a day. Oh, yes, I have time to sit in the silence of the morning. Before my children wake up and start banging out breakfast slams of the fridge and cabinets. Before I need to collect the laundry from the night before and stuff it into the machine. Before I unload the dishwasher to load what is waiting in the sink. Before I straighten the scitter scatter throw rugs, put caps on toothpaste, and pull the shower curtain to in the boy’s bathroom. Before I throw library books strewn across the couch into the proper basket. I can sit here under the warmth of my quilt, breathe, and let the quiet surround me like a fog pouring over the mountains.

After a long while in the stillness, I made my way to the forward by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and laughed at myself when I realized from his writing the curly script on the book cover read The Bridge of Stars. I happen to already know the definition of bridge, so I won’t be needing a dictionary after all to figure out this book.

I promised myself to only take in one more poem for today, because I clearly see the book as a treasure to savor with diligent slowness. I want to try on and wear each entry like a favorite loose fitting cotton lavender dress in a closet lined with hangers of gorgeous and comfy garments I’ve never worn before.

On Rising

The beauty we love
Today, like every day,
We wake up hollow and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Reach for a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
Jalil al-Din Rumi, Persia

After reading this poem, I showered yesterday from my skin. “Reach for a musical instrument” translated for me to “do something which will wake me up artistically”. So, I rummaged for a particular song on a CD and danced to the dawn of a new day before beginning my morning chores.

Thank you, Woody for this present.
With love and deep respect back at ya.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

One more for Ira

This is on the opposite side of the curious house on the way to Deer Lodge.

Come on, Ira

There is a house on my way to Deer Lodge which has about twelve little houses not quite as tall as me arranged in a unkempt village of sorts in the side yard. Yesterday I wrote to Ira Glass from This American Life begging him to tell this story, whatever this story might be.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


My eyes flew open the morning of my forteith birthday to sunlight streaming through white sheer curtains beside my bed in Helen’s cabin, the other guests sound asleep. Tears welled up as I recalled the intimate moments shared with dear friends the evening before and the overwhelming thoughts that the day held much more in store. At home, my darling husband was preparing a magnificent surprise party for me of enormous proportions. “What I have here and now is enough, God. How could I possibly take in any more?".

I grew restless under my cozy blankets and knew finding dreamy sleep again would be impossible. In order to burn off anxiety and redirect flooding overcoming feelings, I prepared for a run. I muffled the Velcro sounds of my ipod armband and stealthily slipped on my crisp new white and blue Asics running shoes. I inched my way to the floor silently to stretch my tight calves and aching legs. I stepped onto the wooden board cabin porch and marveled at the perfect day spread before me, deeply breathing in lung fulls of the fresh mountain air.

I prayed, “What is that You want to teach me for the next forty years? I’m putting myself on alert to Your ways and words for me this morning.”

After my first footfalls down the winding gravel driveway toward the country road, the first song in the ipod shuffle caught my attention and my heart “You are mindful even when sparrow falls”, in a soft song by Fernando Ortega. I considered this to be the beginning of an answer to my prayers minutes earlier, and took it in as my theme song for my forty-first year.
I set a slow distance run pace past new spring growth and dew covered cobwebs waving from budding trees lining the road, and the energy exerted after a few miles took the edge off the angst building inside me.

Back across from Helen’s driveway I slowed to a cool down walk, and I noticed that a neighbor’s chocolate brown horse acknowledge me as he sauntered my way just short of petting distance. I paused at his fence and spoke to him, “Were you coming to wish me a happy birthday?” He huffed a nice wet lip blowing snort and took the remaining step within my reach. I stroked his muddy neck and long fuzzy nose and wondered aloud, “Is it your birthday too big fella? Thanks for greeting me.” When he tired of the affectionate exchange, he clopped back beside his other horse buddy standing aloof in the field.

I found Elaine awake inside the cabin and invite her to join me on Helen’s deck overlooking the mountains at the main house. She slapped on some clothes and we hoofed it down to the driveway to find chairs wet with dew. I brought out towels from the kitchen and wiped a morning perch mostly dry to observe the brilliance of nature. Elaine identified bird calls for me as we watched the fog fading from the hollows. Helen’s daughter, Abigail, walked by, flashlight in hand, and a sullen look. “What’s wrong Abby?”

“I’m looking for my cat, Whiskers. She always comes to breakfast and she’s been missing since yesterday.” Prayer flew up for a meow to make it’s way to the food bowl before this family left on vacation the next day.

Claire and Susan joined Elaine and I on the deck for a short while. After a while, I announced my need for breakfast and I scooped up the damp towels and carried them to Helen’s laundry room. The gals were nowhere in sight or in calling distance when I walked back outside, so I assumed they’d made their way back to the cabin, so there I trailed. I turned on the oven in the empty cabin and went in search of my missing friends.

In the peaceful walk, I heard a brief strange noise in the distant woods. “Doesn’t sound like Whiskers, but what if it is?” I thought. I briskly entered the woods calling, “Kitty. Kitttttyyyyy. Is that you?” I paused from crunching leaves under my feet for a response.


“Just a little further” I say to myself, “And then I’ll head back to the main house”.
“Kitty. Whiskers. Here kittttyyy, kitty” I heard a far away dog bark and another bob cattish noise. Suddenly I questioned the wisdom and safety of me walking alone in the woods toward a wild cat noise. “It could be Abby’s cat. I’d better keep going". I didn’t hear anymore noise and I realized I could no longer see the main house or the cabin. I pondered a feeling of internal leading in my gut. Off in the distance, up on a hill, I spied Jake, Helen‘s Springer Spaniel. When he realized I’d seen him, he barked, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, his woof instantly reminded me of Lassie’s the-boy-is-trapped-in-the-well-scene. “Do you have the kitty, Jake?” I called out. He barked again in a “Yes” reply. I took off running over fallen limbs and trees. Jake did’nt move a muscle to come to me. When I reached him, I saw he was guarding a suffering half dead cat. It had pelted rain all night and thundered like nobody’s business, and there lay Whiskers on his side wet and severely convulsing on the ground behind Jake. He couldn’t lift his head to respond to me. I hesitated to touch Whiskers for fear of disease or snakes , and I tore off in the direction of the main house calling to Helen’s husband, Clay. It took a while to reach him in the laundry room and I urgently whispered, “Get your gun and follow me. Don’t ask questions till we get outside.” When we were outside and out of range children’s listening ears, I explained the situation. On the long haul he asked, “Where exactly are you taking me? And please explain how it is that you’ve found our cat so far into the woods.” Clay shook his head in disbelief looking down at Whisker’s pulsing body. He did not touch the cat either but turned him completely over with a stick to examine the cat’s fur for bites or tears in the flesh. He turned to me and murmured, “No way I can shoot my children’s cat. They’d never forgive me. Please find Helen for me, so I can figure out what to do.”
Helen brought a blue terry cloth towel and gently wrapped up Whisker’s shaking form and held him in her arms. “He purring”, she solemnly announced. “Let’s take him to the vet as a symbolic gesture and let him put him to sleep and out of this misery.“ I took the gun from Clay, turned, and let tears roll down my face as I walked heavily back to the cabin staring at the ground as I stepped. When I raised my head, Elaine, Claire and Susan stood waiting on the porch, “Did you find the cat? Is it dead?”
“Not yet, but it won’t be long.” I replied. Claire, always full of hope exclaimed, “I just can’t see God showing you that cat in the middle of the woods to have it die anyway.” My half hearted prayers echoed the same without the faith to back them up.

I was responsible to fix breakfast and was glad to have a chore to get my mind off the situation. From the kitchen window I saw Helen and Clay zip by in their truck on the way to the vet.

Abigail came up to the cabin steps and I invited her inside. Her parents had let her say, “Goodbye” to Whiskers, but she had no interest in seeing her cat put to sleep. Abby and I chatted about school and movies while my friends took over the breakfast chores. Soon Helen’s other children moseyed up the driveway to join us at the breakfast table in the cabin.

Forty minutes later, Helen called asking to speak to Abby. I averted my eyes from Abby as she spoke with her mother.

What happened next, I did not expect. Abby informed us all that Whiskers had probably had an overdose of flea medication, that the vet had seen cats survive much worse poisoning, and Whiskers was more than likely going to be fine after flushing his system out with IV’s over the next few days.

Joy flooded the room. I’d had experienced a true birthday miracle. Hope in the midst of hopelessness. A resurrection. I was certain this experience offered further fulfillment of the earliest prayer of the day to consider my upcoming lessons with God.

Then I out of nowhere, I was overtaken by terrible pangs of guilt. My mind flashed back to the moment in which I asked Clay to shoot the cat to stop its suffering. When Clay returned home I flew up to meet him at the barn and apologized. He graciously accepted.

As we cleaned up from breakfast, the family invited my friends and I up to the barn to see my birthday present. I joked with Helen, “If my present is in your barn, it must be you’ve fixed up the antique BMW you keep there for me. Thanks! You shouldn’t have.”

The present wasn’t the BMW after all, but something of which I‘d never dreamed. Helen and Clay had totally refinished a gorgeous antique cedar lined chest for me that had once belonged to Clay’s mother. They hauled it in their truck to my house for the party.

The hour and a half drive back to Loudon from Deer Lodge helped me recover from all the emotion of the morning and allowed me to collect my thoughts for the upcoming celebration.

The cedar chest is now sitting across the room from me at the foot of my bed reminding me that I am loved by the dearest of people and a God who is mindful even when a sparrow falls.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

To my mother

I carefully open the dainty pink ribboned birthday card. I gently touch the pressed pink flower on the front under the word Daughter in swirly script. I stroke the inside pressed paper with perfectly torn edges and read over American Greetings author’s word. As usual, you underline the words you see fitting me most, fitting like a white gauzy summer dress curling over my bare legs in a warm light breeze. I’m suddenly connected to you as if you are sitting beside me on my mossy green couch. I drink in the familiar handwriting I’d recognize over any other. I’ve seen the swoop of the “M” a thousand times before on countless other birthday or “thinking of you” cards. It’s the same pleasant lettering from signed report cards, school absence excuses, checks for college, and chore lists. “Love Mom”. Yes, you do love me in your very own particular and tender way. I know when I look deeply into the eyes of my children, they’ll never fully grasp the height nor depth nor width of my love for each one, but you must have the same…for me. What is it about this love that I can’t understand for myself…from you?

My eyes trail to the precious few words etched blue ink at the bottom of the card and I ponder, “P.S. Please pursue the writing, I believe you are very talented!!!”

I melt.

You ask of me what I’m asking of myself. To write. To write most everyday. To give pause to the moment. To give fluttering wings to the caged secrets of my longing heart. Yes, with only a blessing a mother can give, I will write.

Lessons in Friendship

I do not mean this as an arrogant tribute to myself, but hope to create a work which I may look over and treasure. It would hurt my heart if anyone thought I was seeking anything more. In a way, I want to honor those who have loved me so well by saying, “Yes” and “Thank you” for your unbelievable words to me. Perhaps if I write your words down, they will sink deeper into my soul and make me into the best me.

I’m piecing together words. Words about me. To me. Poetry. Kind words. Funny. Deeply penetrating. Inspirational. Words of life. Words that utterly stun and confound me. Miraculous.
All captured in a in a scrapbook presented to me at my fortieth birthday by Helen.

I so much treasured having you for a friend.

I value your wisdom and perspective.

Wild dancing woman who won’t stop praying singing laughing inspiring loving questioning giving seeking until we dance together in parousia.

From Buck who planned this incredible day:
On this, the first of April 1, 2006, as I look around at the myriad of amazing friend you’ve accumulated in the first forty years of your life, I can not help but be honored and humbled that you call me your best friend.

You are probably one of the most Christ-like people I’ve met in my life.

We knew she was a risk taker, by her beliefs she firmly stood. Once we came to visit she was living in the ‘hood.

My thoughts take me to the times you spoke into my life and gave words of encouragement that God knew I needed.

We are very different from each other and sometimes I wonder how we were the best of friends- but I think our differences brought us together…you had a life of freedom and I had a life of boundaries.

The light that shines from you onto others and us is a blessing and touches everybody where it counts.

Thanks for having both TRUTH and GRACE.

You have taught me about being passionate.

You are a genuine, sincere, strong, gifted and loving person.

As the music played. Words were sung. His banner over me. Context discussed. Message whispered . Smile spread. His banner over me.

How liberating to have a friend so dear and true. What can I say but I cherish every day we have been friends.

What are my favorite qualities of yours?
Your instinctive and unmitigated honesty….Your all encompassing maternal instincts….Your salt of the earth reliability…Your patience with eccentric behavior and inborn compassion for all who entered this world with bizarre and vexing familial relations.

God bless you and keep you on this special day of celebrating your birth and all the days until all will be one in God at Parousia.

A loving parent and wife, an educator, a writer, a dancer, an environmentalist, a children’s advocate, , a feminist, a goat midwife, and of course a friend.

When we were teenagers, to keep whomever she was with on track (honest) and in stitches with her ingenious, really, I-want-to-know-what-that-means pollyannaish ness. But a “polly-anna” in a good way -- a very ingenious, and genuine way. She was oddly mature (and direct and honest) for her years at that point, it was always fun to be around her, and she laughed harder and louder and less self consciously than any other teenager I remember knowing, including myself.

Thinking of her brings to mind someone who could effectively bring a group of teenagers who took themselves much too seriously back to reality with a goofy laugh or a wry comment.

She was and still is I suspect a free spirit…. Fortunately for all of us- she drove earlier than the rest of us. Unfortunately for us, she didn’t believe that it was necessary to look merging into traffic on I-75. I’ll never forget her direct quote “they will get out of my way.” She forgot to add -“if they know what’s good for them“.

You have taught me so very much, not only about catechesis, about children and the way they learn, but you have shown me how to rest, to be quiet, to wait on the Lord.
I see in you a woman who follows hard after God.

If you want the rainbows you have to put up with the rain.

A mom is a person who cares for you, someone who really loves you. Than you for being with me for ten years. I hope you have a great Birthday mom!

To mom: I like you your kind good lovely loving. Look at 40 mom.

What a remarkable thing to be “life” friends, what a blessing from our God.

Happy 4teaith birthday, mom.

This handmade jewelry was made especially for you to celebrate your fortieth birthday. The individual beads are not perfectly round but are flattened, bent and generally imperfectly shaped. Yet strung together, their irregularities fade and the beauty of their unity is seen.

You are one of those friends who challenges me to examine and question my assumption, things I take for granted. The ease with which you can worship and connect with God at once intrigues and annoys me.

As iron sharpens iron, you encourage friends to go deeper, see more clearly, and follow after God.


And to all of you I say, “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us!“
I am undone.