erin f. wasinger

stories of discernment, community, & other hard things

One final word about Alzheimer’s, I hope

I started a fire in the toaster Friday morning. Don’t worry: I got Louisa’s PopTart out just in time.

Because I saw the incident coming, I’d already been holding the contraption to the open kitchen window when I smelled the quick death of breakfast junk-food. I unplugged it — “Never stick a fork in the toaster,” my first-grader loudly warned me (“I’m not, it’s a spoon”) — and saved the morning, just barely.

Meaning the preschooler didn’t fall apart in tears. Meaning I could laugh about it and feel borderline Ma Ingalls about my quick thinking under duress. Also the house didn’t burn down, etc., etc.

Chances are, I’ll forget about this by next week. A year from now or later, I’ll read this and try to conjure the memory — what had happened? Why?

Because that’s what a life is, these little moments.

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Book update: Year of Small Things trailer

Around my dinner table Wednesday night, we ate tacos and a whole bag of apples between the nine of us, my Year of Small Things people.

Lest you get a false impression of blissful community, consider the details. I had to ask, twice, for children not to sit on each other. My youngest was crying because my middle child insulted one of her stuffed animals. I started to sing the Doxology as our dinner prayer, my voice rising above the din of children pushing, jumping on, falling off, and generally not sitting on their chairs.

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Very new monastic around that blessed table.

But dinner did indeed happen, just as it did last week and will next week. I forget sometimes how strange it is that for the last two-plus years we’ve eaten so many dinners of pasta and tacos and hot dogs with these same people. Every week (barring stomach flu, fevers, and vacations). I have a hard time committing to five-day devotional plans. Yet we committed to this, and dinner still happened. That’s some sort of transformation already.

Before you can think about the other Year of Small Things stuff — such as the oddity of Tom and Sarah knowing our health (financial, spiritual, emotional, physical) — you have to consider the weight of simply showing up during this weekly time. As you’ll soon read in The Year of Small Things (releasing Jan. 31), it’s Jesus first, then this meal making our small things somehow bigger.

Each week we leave and nothing life-changing usually happens. You have to look at the long view to see the impact that kind of friendship: small, incremental changes over time. Small things: that’s the fruit.

To tell you all those small things would be spoiling the big reveal of the book launch, coming up in January.

Whet your appetite in the meantime by clicking over to the Year of Small Things website. You’ll find an incentive to pre-order copies of the book, skim the FAQs about the project, and feed on other behind-the-pages (?) goodies.

But first — the book trailer. (I’m so excited to share this with you, finally!)

Peace to you, friends.

 

Advice for those discouraged by the election

Dave, Louisa, and I climbed a few uneven cement steps to the door of a stranger. Knocked.

A woman wearing a beautiful teal scarf on her head answered the door with a confused expression. It’s hard to convey “we’re here to mentor you” with someone who doesn’t speak English.

Pause.

For those of you who woke up Wednesday discouraged, consider this moment. Think about what we as hopeful visionaries, Jesus followers, and do-gooders have gained, even in our disappointment.

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My baby: Year of Small Things

Our oldest had colic.

Yes, we tried that remedy. Yes, we tried that other thing your Grandma swore by. People would tell us in the grocery store queue that “it gets better” and “babies with colic turn out to be really amazing people.” Others who saw us clutching books at the library with titles like The Happiest Baby on the Block and 101 Places People Will Never Find You Again would swear their chiropractor nephew could fix ‘er up in no time.

Sociologists call those “well-intended but not helpful attempts to remind parents not to abandon their young.”

I can only tell you colic nearly killed me. Mysteriously, though, I can’t tell you what her cries sounded like: something’s happened with my auditory memory. Now baby smiles are all that register. Here I swore her never-ending shrieks bore so deeply in my brain as to be fatal. Reading through my old blogs from 2008, I want to hug myself. It really does get better, little Erin-zie.

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Turns out I kinda miss holding that little baby in elephant-clad sleepers. She always smelled like baby powder, I think. I wonder if I could soothe her better now that I know her better.

I’m to that forgetful phase now, too, in The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of UsI don’t actually remember the colic, the stress, of writing it. I miss typing those words and, having turned in the absolute last edits, I wonder if I could restate some things better now that I know me better. Writing that book also smelled like baby powder. I think.

Well. Good news: a friend of mine lets me hold her baby so I can have all the good feelings without having a fourth child of my own.

Better news: The conversation about The Year of Small Things also continues at www.yearofsmallthings.com. We’ll be writing about what “radical faith” includes now that our kids are older (and we’re older), and how our love for our communities grows. We’ll have a small-group resource guide, videos of us picking dandelion bouquets (maybe), and more.

This is crucial for me, this ongoing conversation. I’m still evolving. Reading my own book reminded me why I was intrigued by new monasticism in the beginning. This gives us all a place to talk about how we can move from being inspired (and doing nothing with it) to discerning which parts God wants us to do now (and then doing it).

Whoa.

So, join us there. Here.

Consequences of a commute to school (that’s not carsickness, I promise)

The sounds of the neighbor’s air conditioner, a cardinal’s cry, and a big yellow bus’s “pfssht” all congeal in my last-minute dreams during those minutes just before I have to get out of bed. Those sounds are native to Alpha Street at 7 o’clock on any weekday.  

Our windows are open, the blinds are up. From our bed under the window sill, I prop my chin on the pillow to watch the world awaken. The bus turn on its flashing lights to stop. Neighbors start cars, dogs bark. A minute later, I abandon my post to brush my teeth in our attic bedroom’s half-bath.

Usually, I think about my kids sleeping downstairs. How they were supposed to be on that particular bus; how the Lansing school district assigned them to that route as late as last month. How I put that letter in the recycling bin.

That letter was our latest “Instead.”

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Coming a little closer to the fire

We were grilling when our friends called: their daughter had a 104 fever and they needed help. I set my six-month-old in her bouncy chair, kissed Dave, and drove to their apartment about five minutes away. Taking the stairs two at a time, I arrived at their door ready to save the world. Or, um, to help my friends.

I remember feeling so proud of myself for no longer breathing shallowly when the smells from a half-dozen nationalities’ cuisines filled the hallway. (Tumeric? Coriander? Ginger? Curry? All?) So proud of myself that this refugee family, these newcomers, had called my family. I know people from Burma: I thought that a lot back then.

In their tiny apartment, the mother held her lethargic daughter while the dad showed me the tiny bottle of infant painkiller he’d brought from Thailand. “Hot,” her mom said. “Hot.” Very.

They knew what I knew: she needed a doctor.

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Checking in on a neighbor …

I hadn’t seen the neighbor behind our house for a few days, which is rare because she’s got this garden she’s been tending for 40 years now and she’s always pruning, weeding, transplanting. When the humidity is 107 percent and it’s 107 degrees, the 80-some year-old woman is still out there, picking up leaf by leaf, placing each into the yard-waste bag.

Louisa and I took a walk today with the dog, loping past our neighbor’s house — no sign of life. I was a bit nervous about ringing the bell (“Hi, are you trapped under something heavy?”), so I noted which curtains were open and that her recycling can wasn’t out, and we walked home.

In our driveway a few minutes later, dread held me from going inside. “We’ve got to go back,” I told Louisa. We locked the dog in the house and traced our steps around the block her house. The same curtains were open; the house still was quiet.

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