Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Her name... the way - and I'm not making this up - is J.C. It didn't occur to me the irony of the moniker until late last night.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I didn't plan to take my three year old out to lunch today. I didn't plan to go out today at all. Had my 12 year old not forgot her library books at home, I would have stayed home. And being out and about gave me a chance to take our old car battery to the car parts store. Had I not done that, I wouldn't have had 12 dollars in cash so that I could say "yes" when my three year old asked if we could go get something to eat.

Because of this series of coincidental events, I was one table away when she dropped her full cup of ice tea she was trying to balance on her tray as she placed her three year old son into the chair beside her. Unlike a paper cup would under such circumstances, the styrofoam cup split from top to bottom. I could see her wither inside when it happened. I hopped out of my seat picked up the cup and what ice I could, and then walked over to grab a pile of napkins so that I could help mop up the mess.

When I came back, I saw that she had thrown her single napkin on the tea. It was swimming in the puddle. I threw my pile of napkins on the puddle too, and she said, "Oh you don't have to do this, but thank you."

"Don't worry - it's not a problem at all. I've spilled lots of stuff in my time."

"Really?" she said in a tone pregnant with relief. "I knew it was going to happen. It's been one of those days."

"Yeah, I know how that is."

We mopped up the puddle together. "Why don't you ask for another drink? This kind of thing probably happens all the time. I've done as much before. Most places are happy to comply. It's just a drink, after all," I suggested.

"Oh, I would even pay for it again if I had to. Do you think I should tell someone so they could mop this up?"

"That would probably be a good idea."

I stood with her son and helped him unwrap his straw and put it in his drink.

When she returned, I went back to my table and finished eating lunch with my daughter. She and her son only spent minutes at her table; most of that time she spent receiving cell phone calls from various people. She and her son went into the play area, and she paced back and forth as she continued a serious phone conversation.

Eventually, my daughter and I gathered our things and went into the play area too. I stood off to the side and played with my daughter in order to give the woman privacy. We entertained her son too. I tried not to eavesdrop, but I couldn't help overhear bits and pieces of her conversation with school officials regarding her children and the soon to be ex-husband.

After she wrapped up her conversation, she came over to where we were playing - her son, my daughter, and I - and said, "You must think I'm a crazy person. I'm sorry you had to hear all of that."

"Don't worry about it. Somtimes life is rough."

"Well life has been pretty rough for me lately."

"I've learned not to judge. We've all been there."

"Me too. Unfortunately, I had to learn that the hard way."

We chit-chatted a little more. I introduced myself. We talked about her three boys and my four girls, their ages, etc.

When she left, she looked into my eyes and said, "Thank you for helping me today. I really appreciated that."

"It was really nice meeting you. I'll be praying for you."

"Oh, thank you. I really need that right now. I really need that. Blessings to you!"

And then she left.

Lately I've been thinking about change. Not about changing myself or my circumstances in particular, but changing my world and the world around me. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with the task. I think, "What can I do about poverty and sickness and pain? I have a hard enough time just making it through the day some days. I am only one person." When I ventured to articulate my frustration to an older, wiser friend recently, he responded with this: "You change the world one person at a time."

One person at a time.

You need to know I don't count myself as a saint - I'm far from that. More and more, however, I'm convinced that we are put into situations where we can offer hope or grace (and one not need aspire to any particular faith or believe in God to do that). But if I believe that God is in the business of transforming his kingdom in the here and now, then it's my job to open my eyes and make the most of opportunity when opportunities arise. My main obstacle in carrying out this quest is me - I'm afraid. Sometimes I'm apathetic. Sometimes I'm pathetic.

How will change happen if it doesn't start with me? I think I'm finally beginning to understand this truth. You just never know how much a person might have needed to see a smile or have someone listen sympathetically. Even if it is only a split cup of tea that needs to be cleaned up in a restaurant, I can take a moment to extend grace to that one person in that one moment. You can too.

Responding. This is living out the gospel.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Speaking of Poop...

My three-and-a-half year old is not on *my* potty training time line. That frustrated me at first, but I know that to shame her or make her feel bad about her decision *not* to poop in the toilet will only cause more problems. I know it's a contol issue with her. I understand control issues. So I've backed off a bit.

Still, we seem to have this ongoing conversation about poop.

This morning, when I noticed that familiar look of surprise on her face, I encouraged her to finish on the toilet. And once she sat down on the toilet, she did nothing...

...except say, "Mom, I already did a big one last night."

"I know. I had to clean it up."

"It was gorgeous ."


"Yes. Big and gooooooorgeous ."

Sunday, February 24, 2008


"All my troubles seemed so far away..."

Actually, on Saturday I spent most of the day testing (7 hours? - it could have been more). As in "fill in the bubble and write this essay" type of testing. Look out, Texas. They just might license me to teach here too.

It could have been worse...I could have been getting a root canal.

Wait a minute...

In hindsight, last week wasn't a very good week for me.

Friday, February 22, 2008


I'm supposed to be studying for a test (so that I can be certified to teach in Texas), but instead I was preoccupied with writing this piece of prose for a writing contest at Jason Evan's blog "The Clarity of Night" . Thanks, PJD for getting me hooked. Enjoy your Friday!


In obscurity, Aveline peered out her bedroom window. One quarter of an inch she raised the slat on the blind. That was enough. At first, only the paint chipped away from the slat. Now, a half-moon shaped itself on the spot where her thumb and forefinger rested nearly a thousand times a day. On that spot, the worn wood felt like the smoothness of stones that tumbled for a hundred miles or more from the mountains all the way to the creek out back.

When was the last time she gathered stones from that creek? Fifteen years ago?

On stifling August days when her hair and shirt melted into her skin, they used to roll up their trousers and wade in the creek hand-in-hand, all the while collecting flat, smooth stones until their pocket seams threatened to unravel. He wanted to let go and skip stones even though the current greedily tugged at his little legs. “Hold onto my hand, honey, or you’ll be swept away,” she would caution. Undeterred he would squeal, "Didja see that, Mommy!" as another stone skated across the water until it trickled into nothingness.

The solitary tree – a requiem for her son - stood up on the hill. Encircled by the heavens, the tree waited as Aveline outlined it again by sight, tracing every branch, every twig, every bud. Soon the grass beneath the tree would be green again, and pregnant buds would give way to leaf. She knew it, and she felt it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bad poetry pickled in pain

From the start - what a day - completely unfunny.
A fog infused morn took away what was sunny.
Off to the dentist for appointment at ten
To fix my poor tooth that was rotten from within
The crown. Then my dentist, to work, she was late
As her dog retrieved cat doo; that little ingrate!
Full grasped was her hand around the small turd,
When epiphany struck: not a leaf! So absurd!
Full showered again - full scrubbed north to south;
Sanitized completely 'fore she reached in my mouth!
Painlessly I weathered two shots in the jaw
And soon became numb; I felt nothing at all
As she cut, pried and pulled that porcelain away
And uncovered a tooth stump ravished by decay.
"It's down to the nerve," was her serious tone;
Continued, did she, and the drill bit did drone
On and on 'til well passed hour one. This is not good
I thought to myself. Root canal. Ah! I understood.
Half done with uprooting when she finally said,
"There was no other choice as the tooth was half dead."
TV I watched whilst nodding at her commentary
Of entire root removal; it was quite bloody,
I heard, way into hour two. Thank God for the fare
Of cable show wonder, TLC's "What Not To Wear."
Finally, three hours from the start to completion.
Off went I to Target to fill my prescriptions.
Penicillin, Ibuprofen - four times the pow'r,
Off-brand painkiller, too - the pill of the hour.
Then to home I drove fast so my husband could leave
To attend "because you work here" weekend retreat.
Now I'm left with bad rhymes and my jaw it doth hurt.
Does a root canal mean I may eat more dessert?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

By Request

You have to read this account of yet another APP. I assure you, the story is all true. Though it's difficult to choose, I think my favorite line is, “Get up! Do jumping jack. So you stop crying. I can’t work like this.”


Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I'm not really an "Anti-dentite." Actually, I'm an anti-pain person(APP)- particularly of the kind that involves shots in the mouth and exposed tooth nerves. Because of that, I'm practically obsessive about my teeth. In fact, I'm probably one of the few people in America that flosses nightly not only her own teeth but also her children's teeth. And let me tell you, that is no small task being that I have four little munchkins to supervise during said nightly teeth-brushing-and-flossing ritual.

So it was no surprise to me that I didn't have any tartar build up when I went in for my annual teeth cleaning (even though I haven't been able to get in an annual teeth cleaning for two years). Clean teeth - check. No gum disease - check. "Bizarrely straight teeth for someone who hasn't had braces" - check. No surprise there. What was a surprise is that I have a cavity - through no fault of my own - or so I'd like to think...

Let me take a moment, first off, to blame my parents for not instituting better teeth cleaning habits, for letting me eat candy, and for...whatever else they did that made me cavity prone. Of course neither of my brothers ever had a cavity when we were kids. Perhaps I am a genetic anomaly? Nevertheless, I was their child. Whether it be via nature or nurture, somehow, my parents are to blame, right?

Anyway, one of my molars had work done on it 30 years ago, and eventually that tooth cracked two years ago. Which meant I had to get that tooth capped. To get the tooth fixed, I went to the same dentist I've had since I was eight years old (he probably fixed that darn tooth in the first place). He used to be a young and competent dentist. Of late, his eyeglasses were getting thicker and thicker. So much so that I couldn't bare to look at him directly in the eyes any more...without laughing. And after the usual minimal pain dulling, he capped the tooth (thank God that Lamaze breathing finally came in handy for something).

But the capped tooth looked kind of strange from the start. For one, there was clear tooth cement hanging over my gum, as if he over-estimated the amount of cement needed (or glue...or whatever they use these days) to adhere the fake tooth to the exposed nervy stump of the existing tooth (did I mention he didn't numb me up for that part of the procedure...that he said it would only "hurt a little bit"...didn't I blog about that before?). And two, the gum never came up snuggly around the tooth as it should have. I went in for a check up a few months later and explained my concern. My elderly dentist explained that he couldn't "see" anything wrong with my new cap.

Fast forward two years, a change of dental insurance, and a visit to the new, young, technologically equipped dentist. Although it didn't take all of the fancy x-ray machines to clue her into the fact that there was a problem with this tooth. She could "see" that there was a problem with this tooth. Because of the geriatric dentist's failure to properly seal off the cap, bacteria got under the cap. Now I have a cavity under the cap. That's right. A cavity.

To make a long and boring story shorter, I have to get this tooth fixed (aka re-capped) on Thursday. Oddly enough, the dentist office called to confirm that appointment while I am writing this post.

I'd really like to deck the geriatric dentist, but he retired last month - lucky for him. Hopefully, this new dentist considers the value of pain killers. Lots and lots of pain killers. And, hopefully, she won't be anything like the Russian mobster dentist of Ch@ndy's past. Power to the APP!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Once again, I ate peas.

But that isn't the subject of this post.

Last night I had a dream that I wrote a play. It was a slap-stick comedy sort of play to be performed at some type of theme park (this is the third dream this week, btw, that a theme park was in my dreams - although this time it seemed to be Knotsberryfarmish rather than Seaworldish). In this play, the type that might be performed by Jr. High students in drama class, I was the main character.

I can't recall what the play was about exactly, but I do remember that in the last scene as I stood alone on the stage that the janitor character was supposed to join me on stage. In my dream, this actor was played by a Grey Panicka, the doofus ex-husband of childhood friend, Glory Panicka. I was worried that Grey might not be able to deliver the lines correctly - and that the scene did not take into account his weakness: reading. Luckily, actor Tom Hanks took a few minutes to help me re-write the scene in order to guarantee loads of laughs even if Gray completely messed up the dialog. Just in case, I wrote out the dialog on a piece of paper, and had Grey read from it on stage.

In any event, the play was a hit, and Grey reading his script right there on stage was hilarious.

And then I woke up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Let them eat cake.

I didn't want to look, but I couldn't help looking - help *staring* - as I drove by the twisted, gnarly wreckage.

This is how I felt, anyway, as I was flipping channels last night before I went to bed. The teaser - a cute boy saying to another cute boy, "I won't deny that I have feelings for you." "Yeah, but I'm married." WHAT? Wasn't this supposed to be a show about models vying for the "kahuna" of all models spot?

So it was! And not only was this a show about models modeling, it was a show about how models practice to BE models. It was Zoolander, only it was REAL.


Guys strutted back and forth in their room working on their "walk." Girls and guys were chastised for not having the right walk. And, I swear, I think I saw one guy flash "Blue Steel" on the catwalk.

At one point, a model was upset because he "lost his walk." Whoa. Baffling. How does one "loose" a walk? Another girl was taken to task because she "gained inches." (Of course there was the token shot of her eating cake instead of dinner one night.) When the other models were asked about "Kadie's" lack of progress, one boy was quick to suggest that although Kadie thinks she is working hard, she actually is not following through with the model regiment. "One time, I saw her eat bread after a workout."

Oh my Lord. Not *bread*.

I've decided, after watching part of this show, that it is very difficult to be a supermodel. Not only should one know when to eat bread (which is probably *never* if you plan to be a supermodel), one must also know how to walk in different ways (though all walks must look eerily similar) for different types of fashion. And, most importantly, one should *care*.

I'd like to get on my soapbox here and rage on against the shallowness of it all (and how shows like this do nothing to promote health over beauty), but it is Valentines Day. Instead, let me say that you are loved - even if you eat bread and don't know how to walk to save yourself from elimination.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

When I feel stressed, my face gets pimply. Right now my face looks like that of a teenager, only I have wrinkles. Pimples + wrinkles. It's a lovely sight.

Shut up. I'm going to go eat some chocolate now.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Okay, my house is not the cleanest house on the block. For once, though, I would like my daughters to NOT say, "Wow, the house looks great! Who's coming over?"


While I am waiting to hear from the school where I applied and for other randomness to be settled in my life, I am completely undone inside.

*Yesterday, I told Poetroad that I no longer want to be a parent. It seems as if I am always frustrated with the kids of late, and I am tired of being the disciplinarian. To be a proactive parent would be the smart way to handle their typical "kid" behavior, but instead, I am a reactive parent.

*Today, Poetroad learned about what our Nicaragua mission team accomplished on their most recent trip. They built a house so that the children who live in the city garbage dump don't have to live in the dump any more. They will go back and work with an organization that is building a place to house daughters that were forced into prostitution by their parents - all for garbage. For the price of one daughter, the garbage men will deliver the trash right to your door step, and then you can sift through the trash so that you can repurpose or resell what was once thrown away.

*Today, I learned that these daughters have AIDS and other countless STDs. They will die young. Many of these girls have already died or are waiting to die right now - most - if not all - are under the age of 15.

*Today, I decided that I still want to be a parent. Yes, my kids are probably ruined, but at least I'm not forcing them into prostitution.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sweet Ride

Back to the bike ride at Reimers Ranch .

At the gate where we paid the day use park fee, the ranger/park attendant gave us a copy of the trail map and explained the codes for the different trails. Much like ski runs, the trails were color/shape coded. So the "beginner" trail was marked with a green circle, the "intermediate" a blue square, and "advanced" trails were marked with single and triple black diamonds. No problem, we thought. Just stay away from black diamond markers altogether.

Hannah asked how long it would take to ride the less challenging trail, and the ranger said, "About an hour." I asked how difficult the "add on" intermediate loop was that looked like a straight line going around the back side of the hill, and the ranger said, "Well, people tell me that it's one big long coast." A coast? We could do that!

His assurance sealed the deal: we would start out on the beginner trail, take the intermediate trail around the back side of the hill (an "easy coast"), and then finish up on the beginner trail. In all, our ride should cover between 8 and 12 miles of territory. We thought our plan should be easy enough to execute, and since I am a novice mountain biker and it has been a while since Hannah has tackled the trails, we didn't want to over-do it. If it were only that easy.

If you look at the map , you'll notice two blue stars in the middle of the map near the word "Reimers." Those are the entrance and exit points to the trail. Important information. [Incidentally, the ranger map didn't look like this colorful map complete with elevation markings. Having those would have helped.] When the ranger/park attendant showed us a black and white simplified version of the park map, he inadvertently traced his finger in a clockwise pattern beginning with the first star. In actuality, the trail starts at the star on the right and goes counter-clockwise around the hill.

So although we figured out where to start our ride just fine (the trail is a single track that is "one way" clearly marked at the beginning of the trail), we hardly made an informed decision regarding which trail we would tackle. We were thinking that it would be a fairly easy jaunt up hill, and then the majority of the switch-back work would be down-hill. In actuality, we had to navigate through the "intestines" part first. Up hill.

To make a long story short, it turns out that the "intermediate" ride is a combo blue square/black diamond. We did see offshoots to the super duper expert trail, and it was hard to comprehend what else a rider would be required to navigate on that jaunt. Already there we were jumping one to two feet off of rocky slopes, speeding into hairpin turns, and navigating roots, logs, rocks, and larger rocks - mostly wedged between two oak trees that, sometimes, were only a bike width apart. Between five or ten times, we had to heft our bikes up two to three feet ledges. I'm sure there are bikers who could easily jump their bike that high. We couldn't.

All in all, we had to stop quite a bit, but still we had fun. The memorable moments were me almost puking from exhaustion (Hannah was merely exhausted and not puking exhausted; did I mention that Hannah is training to run a marathon in April?), egging Hannah on to take the "sweet jumps" (she never complied), and taking in the spectacular view of the cool blue-green water of the Pedernales River set like a jewel in the bottom of a limestone canyon. We screamed a lot, particularly when going down and back up a hill shaped more like a narrow "U" than a skate board ramp. And we never did find the trail that coasted down the back of the hill. Luckily, we eventually came across a "bail-out" path - which doubles for part of the "race run."

Toward the end of the ride two hours later, I seriously contemplated getting off my bike and walking the last mile. But when I saw the parking lot, I decided to stick it out - especially since I didn't want to humiliate myself in front of fifteen other riders who probably wouldn't be this affected by such an "easy" ride.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My buttocks hurt

Yes, it will be a nice mountain biking ride...a nice little jaunt...I can get out into nature and spend time with my friend...

Wow. I must have been delusional when I thought that. Actually, I did have fun. And it was nice getting out into nature. I just didn't realize how painful that would be.

My much younger and more in shape friend, Hannah, and I conspired to go for a bike ride yesterday morning. We decided we would drive out to Reimers Ranch - located in the beautiful hill country west of Austin. When we arrived at the ranger station and checked out the map , we decided that we could take the beginner trail, ride a section of the intermediate trail, and then finish the last few miles on the beginner trail. I think it was called the "Race Track" loop. That should have been our first clue that we were headed for trouble.

Anyway, this is just a teaser. More about my biking adventures tomorrow...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I'm not gonna lie

[Wow - now you know that I cannot qualify to be a politician...unless of course I am lying, and then I guess I would qualify to be President].

But that's neither here nor there. The main point is that this has been one of the more challenging weeks of my life. Only with less crying. I've had to face some stuff head on, which is good. And (the exciting part), I've applied for an online teaching job. The great thing about this job is that I could live anywhere and still work for this school (unlike when I lived in Oregon, as that school required me to keep regular office hours).

So filling out the application for this school was more difficult than giving birth. At one point, I had to explain what my "Educational Philosophy" is AND why I would be a great fit for this particular 100 words or less. Wow. Don't they know I'm an English teacher, for gosh sakes???!!! My first attempt - which was the "brief" version - came in at 188 words. It took me a half an hour to whittle that baby down to 98 words. I felt like the end product said something to the effect of, "I like to teach kids. I want to teach for your school."

Anyway, I really *want* this job.

Oh, and we might move again. No details yet. Just throwing that out there.

Monday, February 04, 2008

blah, blah, blogging

Man, oh, man (or woman, oh, woman). January is in the dust. February is here. Been here for one, two, three, four days. What have I been doing? Hmmm. Well, the youngest has been sick with some kind of virus that keeps her coughing all night. Luckily, her sleep patterns are lengthening as each day goes by. Thursday night, I slept three hours, Friday night I slept three and a half hours, was awake for three, then I slept for three more hours. A chunk of four and a chunk of three Saturday night, and so on. I'm crossing my fingers that I wont have to be awake at all tonight.

Hmmm. I read a friend's novel - it is in the 2nd or 3rd draft stage. Four days later, and I am still thinking about the setting and the main character and wondering what she is doing. Now that's saying something!

Came to some decisions about my life. It was a difficult week in that respect.

All in all, I feel content.