Monthly Archives: April 2011


This week:

  • Two finals I feel woefully unprepared to write.
  • One presentation I haven’t even looked at the rubric for, let alone downloaded the actual assignment.
  • Teach son to drive so I don’t have to pay yet another $40 for the third attempt at Drive #1. Or the other five drives. (How do I know they aren’t failing him, just so I have to pay another $40, every time they test him? Hmmm? Bad, bad system.)
  • Clean out fallout zone in my laundry room/kids dressers. Again. I’m thinking two outfits/child. One to wear, one to wash. Burn the rest?
  • Etc.

Next week:

  • Major field research project due.
  • Definitely something else in… that other class which ends that week, and I haven’t done a single thing for. As in, not even cracked the syllabus enough to know what’s due. But definitely something, but most likely things.
  • Plant a garden so we don’t starve.
  • Etc.

Chances I will steal candy from somebody’s easter basket today in a desperate search for inspiration/reasons for procrastination even though I am absolutely not supposed to eat sugar or processed foods:

  • 100 percent.

Chances I will blog again before May 9th:

  • Somewhere around zero.

A Perfect Storm

Good news everybody:

I’m still younger than the average American. Just spent a lot of time combing through the 2010 census looking for demographic data to back up my position on certain, ahem, sensitive topics of discussion in an academic forum and while I was there, I also discovered that the average American is 36.8 years old.

That is good news, right? I mean, younger is better, if only because… wait… I can’t remember why younger is better. I know that the media tells me it is, and that for some reason all of my clothing looks infinitely better on my teenage daughter than it does on me, but aside from that, I can’t remember any hard and fast data that will back me up on that particular assertion.

I know the toddlers don’t buy it. Or the almost old enough to date/drive/etc teens. Or anyone on the brink of retirement age, for that matter…

My husband, however–did I rub it in yet tell you he turned 40? Yup, we are on opposite sides of that chronological hill.

Speaking of age differences.

My youngest brother is almost exactly ten years my junior.

I was poised to follow that sentence with some direct quotations from my ten year old self regarding the cosmetic deficiencies of my new baby brother.

But that will have to wait, because right… there…. on the brink, I remembered that I got a wedding invitation from another brother this morning.

Also a younger brother.  That… might… possibly be younger than the one I just labelled my “youngest brother”.


Mostly because I really have no idea how old this particular brother is. We did not grow up in the same house, and we haven’t had much contact. I thought about making a guess at his age by scrutinizing the photograph, except that there isn’t one. Invite to wedding: check. Registration card listing various department stores: check. Map insert with directions: check. Invite to dinner party: check. Invite to reception and dance, etc, etc: check.

But no photo.

The really awkward thing, is this means it’s entirely possible for me to mistakenly show up at a complete stranger’s wedding and not even realize it. Yeah. Unless that stranger happened to be, I don’t know, Asian or something. I fairly certain that my brother has a distinctly Aryan flavor.

Not that I’m actually going, because:

  1. I have class that day.
  2. They are getting married 832 miles away, and by June, I won’t be able to afford enough gas to transport myself to the college via my own personal automobile, let alone Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada.

I thought about going (of course, I also thought about running away to Malaysia, too, and looked how that turned out) mostly for illogical reasons related to the shirking of one’s duty to work, children, etc, but also because it would be so absolutely unexpected. And, you know, seeing as I am both younger than the average American and therefore have the impetuous nature of youth on my side, and yet I am also approaching that proverbial middle age  wherein you can blame such things on a fleeting mid-life crisis, I figure it’s a perfect storm of excuses. No?


Really though. Somebody needs to invent a cheaper form of travel.

If only so I can show up at a complete stranger’s wedding and introduce myself as his long-lost sister and see the expression on his mother’s, or his father’s face. Depending on which one is more suspicious of the other. Could make for some memorable moments.

(PS: I know this was supposed to be a post about gratitude. And I am–grateful, that is, because I finally finished and sent off my sociolinguistics literature review today. Uhg. May you never, ever experience English 535 and you, too, will have reason to be grateful eternally.)

Redefining ‘Slave’

Oh wow.

Just read this comment that was quoted in a financial blog post:

“I think the biggest mistake that women make is ‘staying home to raise the children’… It is essentially SLAVE Labor, which no one in our country can truly afford to pay for. We don’t notice it because it seems like it has always been so. We need to redefine work and benefits.”

I have just one, loaded question. Which I would elaborate on, if I didn’t really, really need to get back to my own slave labor:

Who (or what) so mercilessly compelled the writer of this comment to have children?

Who is she enslaved to? Her libido?

Just…  saying.

Elijah Frosting

You know that last bit of frosting that’s left in the can after you cover the cake? Too much to in good conscience throw away? At least not until after you have stored it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, right?

That little quirk of unbalanced cake-to-covering ratio proved to be fortuitous today. We’re talking, an Elijah can of frosting, people. It was amazing.

Because I had to take cupcakes to pack meeting. In less than an hour. Two dozen of them. In between work (and no, contrary to what you might think, you cannot make cupcakes while at work, even if you have a workplace like mine, unless you do not have toddlers at your work, as I do at mine) filling my tutoring assignments, the baseball game (Which we won with a grand slam, bottom of the ninth, and yes, thank you, I do know what a grand slam is. Now.) and the million other things that had me wanting to pull my hair out today. Make, cool, frost cupcakes. Sprinkles, too, thank you.

Which we all know is not that difficult, thanks to Betty Crocker. The difficult part is making them look edible. So that your children are not embarrassed to be seen carrying them in.

So as I was standing there, weighing my choices (run away to Malaysia/take naked, almost cool cupcakes/whip up some frosting and be late/etc, etc) I had this thought–oh, ye of little faith; maybe… maybe there’s a can leftover in the fridge? And literally, by some miracle, there was. Ha, and like most miracles in life, upon close examination, I discovered that the thing was also almost empty.

I peered into that can and thought no way is this going to cover six of them… but maybe if I frost them really, really thin? Lots of sprinkles?

But then the Elijah factor kicked in, and it covered every last cupcake.  No kidding. Right to the edges. Who says that the day of miracles has ceased? Pshaw.

On Education

I’ve been doing classroom observations of different second grade classrooms during the ninety minute reading block, this past week–during naptime, on days where I have just a child or two at my place.

I have two words for you:



Make that eight words:

Maaai. Nnn. D. Nnn. Ummmm. B. Eee. Ng.

I totally respect what these teachers are up against, and what they do, with so few resources, and I should clarify that some teachers were better than others, but really, folks.

There has to be a better way to teach our young people.

I, for one, would last about two days in some of those classrooms before I lost my mind. Not to mention my will to live.

And I could see it in the eyes of the students in those rooms, too. Just doing their time. Because what else can you do?

But seriously, what else can  we do? I am not asking a rhetorical question here.  I would love to hear your solutions…

Home school them? I bet more than half those kids don’t even have two parents in the home, let alone one who can stay home full time to teach them. Today, 39 out of 40 students I observed in the Othello district were first or second generation immigrants. Their parents and many of them don’t even speak English–let alone read and write it. We need public schools. I’m not arguing that.

But we need more effective public schools.

Far more effective. And how do you fight the status quo? How do you even formulate a new theory to improve a system men and women have been trying to improve for hundreds of years?

Unsolved Mysteries

Watched Freaky Friday last night with my kids. The one that is as old as me.

Yes, they had color television the year I was born, dear ones.

Do you ever thank God it is physically impossible to relive your past? True, there could be a bit of fun had, sitting in junior high, interacting with teachers who I now know were just poor, confused, fresh out of college schmucks themselves, playacting at being grown up.

But ugh. To really relive it?

For four months now, I have been reading my journal entries from each day twenty years previous to the one I’m now living, and let me tell you it’s a trip. Beyond a trip. I was one unorthodox teen.

Maybe they’re all like that, and I’m the only one who took time to write it down, but I don’t think so. I don’t see my children agonizing over the intricate issues of life and death that consumed my every waking moment.

Seriously, what fifteen year old that you know owns dozens of journals, filled with years of  unsolved philosophical questions?

(And why haven’t I solved them yet?)

Then Sings My Soul (Part II)

Every summer after my twelfth birthday, I spent a week at girl’s camp, backpacking and hunkering down in tents we pitched ourselves in places like  Waterton International Peace Park and Banff and breathing air that looked like this:

We did our fair share of marshmallow roasting and cheesy campfire skits, but the real highlight every year was a torturous experience the adult leaders provided us under the guise of a “hike”.

The “hike” always involved heavy backpacks, not nearly enough water, treacherous slopes, and a half or three-quarters point at which we were begging to turn around. At which juncture we would be informed that a retreat would take just as long, if not longer, than pushing on to the bitter end.

Sometime after this, when the blisters were oozing and our legs and lungs were burning, and we were faced with what I sure was a suicidal crossing of sheer rock face, I would begin pleading with God.

Let me survive this hike, and I will never, ever, pretend to be asleep when my mother calls me, again. I will be nice to the kid that sits behind me in science.


Alternately, make my death swift and painless? 

At which point He would take away whatever cloud cover we might have been enjoying or send an entire colony of giant red ants swarming up our pant legs.

You got the feeling He might have been laughing.

But always, there was that moment of triumph when the goal was realized, the water bottle refilled, and we were perched on some granite peak that overlooked half the known universe, and the feeling was indescribable. We were so glad we hadn’t quit.

And somewhat awed that we hadn’t. The most fervent prayers of gratitude I ever uttered were probably delivered flat on my back looking up at a Rocky mountain sky, or while hunched on a windy peak, my arms around my knees and a granite boulder at my back. I remember one year, another girl collapsed on the shale beside me and we were looking out over this incredible valley and there were birds singing and a glacier behind us, and we looked at each other and there just weren’t any words for it.

The next day at church we stood to sing the closing hymn, and I was dumbfounded to realize that there were  words for it and that Carl Gustag Boberg had written them more than a century before I was born:

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

I looked over at the girl who had shared that wordless moment on the mountain top with me,  and we smiled, because we knew what it was to look out over God’s creation and feel our souls harmonize with the universe. And then, while my soul was wide open with the realization that God was indeed a creative Being, the rest of the song rushed in, carrying with it the knowledge that he was a merciful and a just God, also. That he was not laughing at my blisters and my ant bites and my poor, empty canteen on that mountain that day, or at any other treacherous, painful moment of my life, but that He knew me intimately enough to recognize the melody of my soul no matter what it was singing.

That hymn became one of my favorites, and provided me with some interesting experiences later in life.

This afternoon while I was lying outside in the playground bark, with various snot-nosed toddlers clambering over me and pointing out airplanes in the sky, the song was on a perpetual loop in the back of my mind. I finally closed my eyes and faced directly into the sun and paid attention to the words and the music and it was amazing how many associations and how much momentum one song can gather as it accompanies you through the years.

I looked up the lyrics today–to see if Boberg really wrote the words I thought he wrote, and I came across a translation I had never read before. You might like it:

O mighty God, when I behold the wonder
Of nature’s beauty, wrought by words of thine,
And how thou leadest all from realms up yonder,
Sustaining earthly life with love benign,

When I behold the heavens in their vastness,
Where golden ships in azure issue forth,
Where sun and moon keep watch upon the fastness
Of changing seasons and of time on earth.

When crushed by guilt of sin before thee kneeling,
I plead for mercy and for grace and peace,
I feel thy balm and, all my bruises healing,
My soul is filled, my heart is set at ease.

And when at last the mists of time have vanished
And I in truth my faith confirmed shall see,
Upon the shores where earthly ills are banished
I’ll enter Lord, to dwell in peace with thee.

Braiding Grass

I realized, last night, that I have probably never seen a baseball game. I mean, I’ve played t-ball or something of that sort in elementary school. Somebody was holding a bat, and there was a red-stitched ball and maybe some orange cones representing places you were supposed to run or throw the ball to, should anything ever actually happen.  Mostly I think we braided grass in the outfield.

But as a cheering fan–I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. Probably the closest I’ve ever come was on a commuter train in Ontario, Canada the day the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series. When the conductor announced the win, the entire train of bored urbanites erupted. It didn’t matter where your stop was, or even if the train was fully stopped–everyone poured off the train, into the streets–you didn’t even have to move your legs. You just tried to keep your head higher than your feet and rode the human wave of jubilation wherever it took you. Every citizen in the entire city must have been on those streets in that moment. I’ve never seen so many people, or so many flags.

Or enormous, red-shirted, dancing blue-jays. After the initial, mad crush began to loosen and the masses of humanity began to seep back into wherever they had erupted from, I had my picture taken with one of the dancing, tattered jays.

Which is fortunate, else this morning I wouldn’t have known to Google “1993 blue jays” in search of that curious term “World Series” so I could write this post.

I know; it’s bad. I am probably the worst person to invite to your first baseball game. Even if I am your mother. Not that anyone else really seemed to know what was going on, either. There was this moment, when the batter actually made contact with the ball and sent it soaring… over the pitcher’s head… and into the second baseman’s glove.

And everyone sort of froze.

Then our coach was yelling, “Throw it home! Throw it home!” and the other coach was yelling, “Back to base! Back to base!” and the poor kid with the ball in his glove was just staring at it and finally I think he threw it to somebody else who was just as bewildered as himself, and by some miracle, we got the third out we were waiting for.

The final score was five to zero, and not in our favor, but they got cool hats and long red socks and so everything was okay.

The thing is, I watch these kids spend all this time practicing the mysterious arts of sport, and it seems a little bit… I don’t know–I love the fact that they are out there, moving, learning new skills and ideas of discipline and respect–I just wonder if it’s not all as much of a distraction from real life as it is a preparation for it. There is a fine, and artificial line we have drawn there, living as we do in a country where we can afford to sit on the grass and watch our children chase after a bit of leather and string. We have to manufacture challenges to occupy their free time, because they do not have to get up with the sun and scavenge for food until it goes down. We have to invent elaborate rules for team play because working together is no longer essential for their physical survival.

I’m not complaining. I just find it strange.

What if all that energy on the streets of Toronto, or on the ball fields all over this nation could be harnessed into something greater? What if those kids were out hoeing beans and weeding potato fields for a food bank four and five hours a week instead of swinging bats, and instead of going door to door begging for cash selling candy bars, they were going door to door delivering food to the needy?

Where would we be?

My Magic Garden

Once upon a time, we took our house off the market. Nobody was buying, and we were comfortable enough to stay put.

Within days, a car was idling in the street, its driver looking lost. She was new to the area, looking for property. We sold her ours, and began building down the street.

That was nearly seven years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since. She’s one of those neighbors that used to populate small towns and talked to your grandmother at the hardware store. She sends us zucchini and acorn squash and strange, funny email missives.

A couple of years ago, she got chickens.

And infiltrated my pathetic excuse for a garden with flowers, on the sly. Yep, one day I caught her, out there, planting bulbs. She ordered too many, hoped I wouldn’t mind. Every spring since then, they surprise me. And they are either multiplying rapidly, or she planted more when I wasn’t looking:


On Quiting My Job… and Other Things

Went to my son’s last soccer game of the season this weekend. For which I had to not only hand wash his uniform, but remove the water therefrom with my hair dryer. In addition to some help from the cranked up heat vents in the van, because it wasn’t quite dry before we had to leave.

And took child #2 out for his first hour and a half of driving.

I totally deserve mother of the year, just for that. (Do I really have to do this five more times? Forget about the cost of a college education, people: if you’re weighing the pros and cons of giving birth to actual people, you should consider that in a civilized country, you are going to have to teach them how to drive. Every one of them.)

In other, but possibly related news, I officially quit my second job about a week ago. I wrote my resignation out a week before that, and my cursor hovered over the send button a full ten minutes before I saved the email in draft mode. And then I agonized over it for another week. In the end, I sent it anyway.

And felt like a new person. Gleeful even. For about six hours. Because with the click of a button I had just erased something like twenty five deadlines and immeasurable headache. Not to mention a considerable amount of simmering fury.

And then serious ugh hit. Which surprised me; I didn’t realize how much I rely on super-pressure as motivation to get things done.

I got over it in a day or two.

I might have to cancel the phone, the internet, and the car insurance for the summer, but it feels right.

We could totally go au naturel. All eight of us. Sweat out a Moses Lake summer with nothing but paper fans to cool us, and eat oatmeal and wait… let me check… irregular peaches in heavy syrup bought in that really cheap case lot sale last fall.

Can you just see me herding my six children, five of them in their suits and ties, down Potato Hill Road every Sunday on the way to church? Come on…. it doesn’t get above 110 degrees here. Very often. And it would be so character building.

(Remember walking to church in Portland? It was fun… you’ll back me up on this, right?)

Kidding, my dear sweet children, if you are reading this. You know I wouldn’t make you do that. For very long. And besides, we have those Rice Chex and the green beans and there are those boxes of apples we could make into sauce, should they get very much mushier.

Why doesn’t my blog have a selection of emoticons to place here?

I was going to put a big yellow smiley face.

So very disappointed.

Now I need a frowny one…