St. Paul and his old stories

My four-year-old asked me to spell “Oshkosh” for her the other day. We moved from there a few years ago; it’s a common enough word in our house, I suppose. Weird, but so are kids. I went with it.

“O-S,” I said, waiting for her. “S is like a snake, like this.” I drew one with my finger in the air. She copied it. “Then H.” You get it.

“Look! I spelled ‘Oshkosh’!” she said. She held it out to me: “I miss Oshkosh.”   

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I keep no fewer than 754 items on my coffee table at one time.

Bull-oh-knee, sister.

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The universe is expanding

Two days ago, we thought the heater was broken: a scent like rubber burning pervaded our morning. The repair man charged us $85 to do something vaguely mechanical, the equivalent of making sure the heater was plugged in, turned on, running in MS-DOS mode. “Nothing wrong,” he said. “Maybe it’s not your heater.”

The smell persisted, filled our house. My thumb cranked up the Plug-Ins, put boxes of baking soda behind the couch.  

“Maybe it’s a skunk,” Dave suggested, stupidly naming that which I was content to pretend wasn’t happening. “Maybe a skunk sprayed the dog.”

“Shut your mouth.” I’m always, always a supportive wife. “That cannot be it.”

That was it.

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Can a person deduct library fines as a child care expense? Asking for a friend

I ran the river trail this morning at dawn (which is not as early as it sounds, please hold your applause). A mallard honked at me, a squirrel scolded. I was otherwise alone, dodging icy patches and thinking about how each day now, until June, will be longer than the day before it, a miracle of Read more about Can a person deduct library fines as a child care expense? Asking for a friend[…]

Giveaway: ‘Between Midnight and Dawn’

I’ve lived most of the last year (or maybe my whole life) in my head, and now a small part of it’s about to be out of my hands — it’s less than a month to my book deadline, friends. I may survive, if only I can get a couple more chapters (and a sermon) out Read more about Giveaway: ‘Between Midnight and Dawn’[…]

My white kids with their backpacks

Catholic grade school, mid 1990s. We were prepping for a field trip to a metro art museum: stay with your chaperone; be on your best behavior. And “When you see black people,” the teacher said to a sea of thirty white kids, “you just treat them like anyone else. Just say ‘hello’ if they say hello.”

I remember this because it was weird to me then, two years into living in the rural community. Sure, diversity in that rural area meant you might meet a Lutheran or a Baptist; someone whose ancestors disembarked at Ellis Island from England instead of Germany like so many of us with weird consonant-heavy last names painted on the sides of barns.

I want this to be a totally weird story for my kids, too. I want to someday tell my kids this story and have them go, “I can’t believe that happened.” So to do that, we’ve gotta seek to put ourselves in positions where we may or may not be the only white Christians from middle-class backgrounds in the room, right?

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This isn’t an easy thing to write about, talk about, or live out — especially with kids who right now are more concerned about their Christmas lists (already) than their perspectives on diversity.

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Ten things not to say to a writer as deadline approaches

(I promise this will be the only post I’ll ever use that horrid “ten things” gimmick — until the next book, of course. I know, it makes me vom, too.)

Friends, I’m in the thick of it: writing, writing, wordy word words. The first six chapters of our book has been sent to the editor; we’re rounding out the rest for a January deadline.

And the dishes keep piling, the kids need picked up from school. I’m still volunteering, still working at church, still preaching. We’re reading “The Wind in the Willows” at bedtime; the shower needs a cleaning and so does my hair. The once-golden leaves are past that pretty point; now they’re just dead and brown in the grass and I need to rake. And I have to put them in bags, and I just cannot.

I spend almost all day in prayer and writing things in my mind. And picking up socks from the kitchen floor. I sleep a comatose nine hours a night: my brain is so full. My soul, too.

And people keep asking me questions. And my wrist hurts only when I hold it in the position as if I’m deleting something and still, the questions. Mercy, people.

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Already and not yet, but the hummingbirds are coming back soon

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Earlier today, the girls and I pumped our legs on the swings under a mostly cloudless canopy of blue. Some trees hinted at turning green; others not at all yet. We startled a snake walking to a picnic table to set down our water bottles near the playground at the woods. We unzipped our coats in the sun; put them back on in the shade. Alice picked me a trout lily because I’m her “best mom.” I accepted it gratefully, but left it wilting on the picnic table because I’m not the best mom. I’m tired, grateful for siblings who’ll play when I want to sit.

For a while the playground was theirs alone, but two moms strolled over with toddlers. I busied myself at the table with a pen and a notebook. I tried not to hear their reviews of weight-loss shakes and gym memberships. I regretted not bringing a caffeinated tea, and my mind flitted from my notebook to the sky — the blue sky, obstructed by leafless trees. I want a big blue sky, I wrote in my notebook. A big blue sky. And I want to run. […]