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Monday, October 31, 2005

An Epilogue

I know you're dying to know - how many drinks did you have tonight? Well, three very strong ones (I'm having a VERY hard time typing). But at this point, it only makes me want more. (Don't worry for me... rEALL":Y!)

Okay. So here's the rundown of what FINALLY got accomplished today (as I listen to people tortured by animate scarabs in the background - Bruce is watching "The Mummy").

I made FOUR different kinds of cookies today! (Thumbs up to "glass-is-half-empty" obsessive-compulsives!)

Loads of laundry washed: 3. Loads of laundry folded and put away: 2.

Kids survived another night of trick-or-treating: 4.

Parents who survived another night of trick-or-treating: 1.... I mean, 2. (Damn that Jack Daniels.)

(I think I'm hilarious right now. I'm also T.Y.P.I.N.G V.E.R.Y. S.L.O.W...)

Okay. Pulling myself together (grin nothwithstanding).

Oh yeah! Cookies made were: molasses crinkles, lemon bars (the burnt edges were darn good), Linzer tea squares, and almond cardamom cookies (more like, almond-cardomom-DROPS, if I do say so....).

Need to by copious amounts of semi-sweet chocolate baking squares before embarking on PHASE II of the GRATE COOKIE CAPER. Imean, GREAT Cookie Caper.

(I'm REALLY crackin' myself up tongith.)

I wonder if Costco carries such a thing.

Anyhoo. also wanted to share that Jack LOVED his room. There I was, all set up for tears and carrying-on, and he (and Sabrina, for some strange reason) were thrilled!!!! I AM the best mom for 30 seconds! Cool! i'LL tAKE IT!

Okay. I think I'm done. Back to my book. I may not be able to comprehend it in this condition, but at least no one but me and God will know.

t Worry about me!

I'm very happy1!

(Jeff, we don't need to have "a talk.")

Trick or Treat?

The following is a copy of the email that I sent to my mom tonight regarding our Halloween. So much for confidential family correspondence...!


We had a nice time tonight, and in the end, there wasn't much to it. Not many trick or treaters this year - I bought 3 huge bags of candy at Costco and told everyone "only one candy per customer" because I think we came close running out last year. But this year we MAYBE went through one bag, and that was after we started giving out two per person.

One unfortunate incident (I can't help but revel in misfortune - it's the glass-is-half-empty side of me) was that our neighbor's son, Mitchell, was "held up" at knife point in the green belt behind our house and was forced to surrender his stash of candy. That would explain the police car in our culdesac. Too too bad.

Evan had a fabulous time, but we only let him do the culdesac. He was NOT pleased to be forced to come back in the house. (The duck costume was a last-second loan from Lucy who had made it for Hayden) He had just figured out that rather than entering each person's house and having a visit, he was going to receive treats and move on. However, once back inside our cozy home, with cheeks filled with KitKats, he discovered the joy of answering the door. By that time he was wearing the giraffe costume. He made an especial point of waving "bye bye" to each person as he or she left. There was good ju-ju in our house this night of ghosts and ghouls.

Ellie and Sabrina only lasted an hour. But their pumpkins were half-full (or half-empty, depending on how you look at it). I put Ellie right to bed (a more tired girl, you've never seen). She almost fell asleep with a sucker in her mouth.

Sabrina was the door monitor for awhile, with a pillow and blanket set up on the floor while she "waited" for customers. She was downright manic with excitement and purpose.

Jack managed to fill his pumpkin all the way to the top before he gave in and gave up. He spent his last half hour touring the neighborhoodwith Gus and Hayden.

Now it is 8:41 and it is totally quiet. The pumpkins have been turned off, as have most of the lights. For the first time since we moved in, the living room blinds are down. I am sipping my third drink of the night and am feeling warm and self-satisfied having made four different kinds of cookies throughout the course of the day. (I assume you've read my blog, so you realize the significance of this.)

Wish you'd been here, but really, it was kind of anticlimactic. Glad we don't spend a lot of time agonizing over costumes. It's hardly worth it.

Now we get to look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yee haw!

Love, Linda

A Day in the Life...

A hodge-podge of thoughts and occurances:

Every holiday season, like every other place on earth, Anchorage is chock-full of bazaars. One of the best is at Rabbit Creek Elementary where, coincidentally, Jack and Sabrina go to school.

Each year at the Rabbit Creek Bazaar there is a cookie fund-raiser. It’s called the Great Cookie Caper. Students and their parents are encouraged to donate as many homemade cookies, cupcakes and confections as possible.

This year, I’m in like Schwinn.

Following is the list of cookies I plan on throwing together this week:

- Santa cupcakes (cupcakes decorated to look like Santa)
- Peppermint snowballs
- Chocolate crinkles
- Fudge
- Brownies or brownie cookies (probably the cookies)
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Nanaimo bars
- Molasses crinkle cookies (made a double batch this morning)
- Lemon bars (in process – crust is baking as I write this)
- Linzer tea squares (may also make these tonight)
- Almond cardamom cookies

(I never said I wasn't obsessive-compulsive.)

I figure if I pace myself, I can get it done. It means three kinds per day. That’s reasonable isn’t it? I don’t have much scheduled this week, so why the heck not? Sure makes the house smell good.

Things I need to pick up at the store to finish the process:

- Lots and lots of butter
- Miniature marshmallows
- Peppermint candy
- Cream cheese
- Marshmallow crème
- Chunks of semi-sweet baking chocolate
- Vanilla pudding
- More powdered sugar

Appliances I could not live without during this process:

- Kitchenaid mixer
- Cuisinart
- Lots of bowls
- Lots of cookie sheets
- Wax paper
- Pampered Chef 1” scooper

Meanwhile, I am working on pulling out costumes for Halloween tonight. The children will be dressed as follows (yes, another list):

- Jack: Happy-ghoul-faced Jedi knight (did you know that the word “Jedi” is in Word spellcheck?)

- Sabrina: Princess with Marcia Brady-hair (dress to be worn over snowsuit; hair will suffice for head-covering)

- Ellie: Elephant in pink tutu (see pic above for proof). (Her comment on seeing her picture was, "The people are going to laugh." Oh yes, dear child, they are.)

- Evan: Giraffe

The high temperature today was supposed to be 25, but at the airport it's up to 28. This means it will be chilly for trick-or-treating. Last year it snowed. THAT was interesting.

This morning, still on the “old” time (before we gained that darn hour), I awoke before 6am and got up. Auroras were fainting glowing to the northeast. Woke Bruce up to see them, but they were already fading. Both girls were already awake. Happy joy. When Ellie started screaming over something, I said to Bruce, "I cannot deal with that at 6:30am." He took care of it.

In other news:

I am reading our next book club selection right now – “Possession” by A. S. Byatt. It is very good and I wish I could spend my uneventful week ensconced on the couch reading it.

Gosh, what else? There was something, but Ellie, and the smell of something burning, interrupted me. (I hope it really is okay for wax paper to go in the oven – the recipe told me to.)

Oh, I know! I also mega-cleaned Jack’s room. It looks so great he’ll probably cry when he sees it. “Where is my Imaginext?” In the closet, where it belongs.“Why is my dresser in a different place?” So it’s not blocking the door anymore. “Where are the rollaway and crib mattresses that I kept in the play area under my bed?” Put away to make room for the table and chair I put there instead for a private art area. “Where aren’t my books stacked on top of my dresser and scattered all over my floor anymore?” Because they are now neatly arranged in your closet, where I saw fit to add the other adolescent and young adult books I’ve been saving for you. And, I suck as a parent.

So overall, its been a productive day. The only problem is, there is no way I’m going to want to make dinner tonight. Waaaaay to much work.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

White Delight

The delight of our weekend was about an inch of snow, to which we awoke on Friday morning. Fortuitously, Friday was an in-service day, so the kids had it off from school. Despite my plans to sleep in, the whispered word, “Snow!” in my ear by my husband at 6:30am was sufficient to propel me from bed.

A cup of hot coffee and a newspaper when the world is pristine and white is downright luxurious.

Because our mornings are so dark now, I had to point the snow out to them. They were all very excited. Within minutes, by 7:30am, they were dressed to go outside.

Jack ended up being outside almost all day (from approximately 7:30am to approximately 4:00pm). He never gets cold. Meanwhile, Ellie and Sabrina go in fits and starts. I got Evan bundled for a snow-outing and he seemed to enjoy it, but I had his hands so bundled up, he couldn’t grab anything, which I think really cramped his style.

You know your kids have started to acclimatize to sub-arctic conditions when they wander out into the snow in their bare feet.

You also know your kids have acclimatized, when at 25 degrees, they are shedding coats and hats. One of the neighbor kids was wearing her snow pants with a short sleeved tshirt. Crazy.

Oddly, I always find it a little warmer when snow it on the ground. (When outside with Evan, I wore loafers, cords, and a wool sweater. It was perfectly fine. When we came inside, the house felt HOT.) I’m not sure if this is a psychological phenomenon or if there is a scientific reason for it. Bruce said something about solar rays bouncing off the snow. He’s only guessing, but it sounds good to me.

Anyway, it is a delight to see white. There is just something so… soothing...? peaceful…? about it.

I am eager for more, and have been watching the radar both carefully and obsessively. Last year our snow was very disappointing because the temperatures kept rising above freezing and it would all melt.

So this year, I’m doing a snow-dance. I’m employing the same method that I used two years ago for our first winter in Alaska. Aloud to God, or the clouds, or whoever makes weather decisions (a butterfly in Africa, perhaps?), I taunt, “I don’t think it really snows in Alaska…. Prove it.”

That year, we almost met the snowfall record for Anchorage.

“I don’t think it really snows in Alaska. You’re just making it up… Prove it!”

(This year, lets break that record!)

Friday, October 28, 2005

My Tiger Cub

Jack is in Tiger Cubs, an introductory level of Boy Scouts. With our schedule the way it’s been this year, I was not excited when Bruce signed him up. I told them, “This is your father/son deal, so leave me out of it.” How snotty is that? I feel like a turd.

Nevertheless, last night it fell upon me to sew some patches on Jack’s uniform. Would you believe this was the single biggest objection I’ve always had to scouting? (That and hiking in the bear-infested wilderness.) How the heck is it done? Are they actually sewed with a machine, rather than by hand? What kind of stitch? Wide or a straight line? They’ve got this coating on the back – can’t they just be ironed on? How do I do a sleeve?

But, I was feeling guilty for my lack of participation anyway, so I agreed and tried to be cheerful about it.

But first: the guilt. The guilt really began with a cake.

Bruce had told me that he and Jack needed to take a cake to their next meeting. It had to be one of three themes: Halloween, Harry Potter, or outer space. Bruce asked, pleaded, would I please just bake the cake? They would do the rest. I grudgingly agreed, wondering why they had to make a theme-cake when it was just a snack for the den. But bake it I did it, and it was relatively painless.

Then Bruce comes home, and he and Jack undertook to decorate the cake. Bruce had bought a bag of Starburst jellybeans.

Bruce pulled me aside and said, “Now, Honey, since this is a cake auction, I need to know how much Jack is allowed to bid on a cake.”

Cake auction? What cake auction?

Bruce explained that the cake they were making was not for a snack, but a fundraiser.

Aaaaah. The guilt began. I couldn’t imagine them pulling off a cake that anyone would want to buy. The wheels started turning with all the great cakes I could have made. Too late now.

But, back to the bidding budget.

Money has been tight lately. “Five bucks?” I suggested.

Bruce was quiet. Then he gently replied, “Uh, this is a fund-raiser. They go for quite a bit more than that.”

I was irritated and guilty. “Do what you think is best. I’m clueless about all this stuff.”

So, there I stood, watching Bruce and Jack agonize over getting the frosting the right shade of orange. Meanwhile, I was thinking about how my baby’s cake had to be sold before it would be eaten – that I should have known this; I should have helped; I could have made a kick-ass, robo-, million-dollar cake. If I’d been even slightly more engaged and interested, I would have known about the auction, and things would have panned out very differently.

Once frosted, Jack, using nothing but jelly beans, decorated the cake, making pictures of ghosts and pumpkins. He was so proud of it. I offered to whip up some meringue ghosts to put on top, pulverize some of the chocolate cookies I’d just baked to make “dirt”, but he declined my guilt-offering. He was perfectly content with imperfection. He didn’t even realize what he was doing was “imperfect.” He was just proud of doing it himself.

I was touched and convicted on so many different levels, I could hardly speak.

That was on Wednesday night. Last night, Thursday, I was expected to sew the patches on Jack’s uniform. I hauled out the sewing machine and its instruction book (I can never remember how to thread it), and went to work. Things started out okay, but quickly went sour. Mis-threaded machine, sleeve sewn together, crooked den numbers, bird’s nests of thread. Ugh. It was awful. I was so discouraged and frustrated. But finally, they were all attached. I took the shirt to Jack.

“Son, I’m really sorry. But the numbers are crooked.” And I showed him where I’d screwed up (again).

Jack looked the shirt over and shrugged. “Looks fine to me. You did a great job. Thanks!”

I was insistent. Can’t ever leave anything alone. “Jack, it really is pretty bad.”

Jack got mad. “Mom! I am going to ‘talk-back’ you now, and you are just going to listen to me: the shirt is great, you did a fine job, now quit saying bad things about yourself!”


So, he put on his shirt with the substandard sewing job, and took his prized cake to the auction. I hunkered down and waited, filled with anticipation and dread.

When they came home, Bruce told me that Jack’s cake received the lowest bid of the night - $6. (The highest bid of the night was $55.)

But then, the $6-guy, who originally won Jack’s cake, put it back on the auction block, where it later went for $17. So the total collected for the night on our cake was $23. Not too bad.

Jack felt great about his evening, and was thrilled about the $25 cake he “won.” Especially, because of the toy monster truck that was stuck on top. After licking the frosting from the wheels, he slept with it next to his pillow.

I have to admit, I’m still feeling a bit guilty for not being more involved. Especially in the face of Jack’s extraordinarily gracious attitude. To have my shortcomings and negativity met with such love, gentleness, and affirmation from my own child is a lot like getting a glimpse of the face of God.

Saturday, November 5th, is Jack's first pinebox derby. It’s at 9am clear across town. Also that morning is the semi-annual book-sale at the library, and the best holiday bazaar in town, which happens to be at Jack and Sabrina’s school. This I know for certain: whatever else happens that busy day, I will not be missing the derby.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Reading Rules!

Book Club met last night for the first time since last May. It was great to be together again, and against all odds, most of us were there: Kathie, Darlene, Virginia, Lucy, Bruce, and me. Missing: Joe.

We spent the evening eating delicious food and talking about what to read for the next six months. Food included homemade hummus and flatbread (made by me), homemade salsa a la Kathie, and cream cheese-olive spread by Lucy. Also, some chocolate-chocolate chip cookies. I was the only one to imbibe in a glass of red wine.

Our reading list for the next six months:

Nov. ‘05 “Possession” by A. S. Byatt
Dec. ‘05 “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
Jan. ‘06 “Paradise of the Blind” by Duong Thu Huong
Feb. ‘06 “Of Human Bondage” by W. Somerset Maugham
Mar. ‘06 “Quite a Year for Plums” by Bailey White
Apr. ‘06 “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

Great choices. I am very excited and somewhat intimidated. I haven’t been reading very fast lately. Each morning I think to myself, Today I am going to spend all day reading. And then, of course, everyday, I don’t.

It was Kathie’s idea to establish a reading list, and a very good one. That way, people can plan their reading, see what we’re doing and where we’re going. It gives time to obtain the books from the library or second-hand, but it’s still short enough of a time frame that as we think of new ones to do, we can set them aside for next time we make a list.

We discussed some of our faves from over the summer, with Kathie citing “Paradise of the Blind”, a book translated from Vietnamese, and Virginia referencing the timeless classic “The Secret Garden”. We’re hoping a few more people join us this year, though some of our selections are intimidating.

Lucy, who joined us for the first time last night, said, “Wow, you guys don’t do light and fluffy.”

No, we don’t do light and fluffy. Here’s our reading list to date:

“Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton – Feb. ‘04
“The Brothers Karamozov” by F. Dostoyevsky – Apr. ‘04
“One of Ours” by Willa Cather – May. ‘04
“Walden” by Henry David Thoreau – Jun ‘04
“A Town Like Alice” by Nevil Shute – Jul. ‘04
“Dracula” by Bram Stoker – Aug. ‘04
“A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams – Sep. ‘04
“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad – Oct. ‘04
“Phantastes” by George MacDonald – Nov. ‘04
“All the King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren – Dec. ‘04
“How the Irish Saved Civilization” by Thomas Cahill – Jan. ‘05
“Personal History” by Katharine Graham – Feb. ‘05
“Ordinary Wolves” by Seth Kantner – Mar. ‘05
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley – May ‘05
“The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis – Jun. ‘05
“An Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” by Mark Twain – Jun. ‘05

Well, I’m inspired now. Off to drink chocolate milk and read.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Do I Really Want to Blog This?

Last night, Bruce and I attended a prayer meeting at church. Our church is going through some “growing pains” right now – divisiveness, wounded relationships, struggling – things typical of any close-knit group. Pastor Jeff felt moved that the church attendees commit to a time of corporate prayer one night a week for six weeks. There is no agenda, no specific goal, just availing ourselves to God, opening ourselves to hear His voice as a group.

Now, as I general rule, I hate (is that too strong a word? – no, I don’t think so, if I’m honest) corporate prayer. I am a very awkward pray-er – I don’t do the “lingo” very well, and I kind of stumble on my words, sounding like a fourth grader writing to a non-English-speaking pen pal: “Dear God. How are you? I am good. You are cool. Thanks for being my Friend.”

There are also the issues of drawing attention to myself and my short-comings. Yes, this is definitely the worst part. So, then I sound like: “Hi there, Lord. I really screwed up this time.” Hey everyone! Look at me! I’m about to outline 101 more reasons to shun me! Listen close, and you’ll realize why I may not be your first choice of confidant! “Lord, I confess: I am secretly jealous of my friends, and wish they would fall off the monkey bars every once in awhile. Just like me. Then I wouldn’t feel so stupid all the time.”

There’s also the problem of really being able to concentrate on God when you’re in a group. I can’t help but be hyper-aware of every little rustle, sniffle and scraping chair. I am constantly opening my eyes to check out the action.

When I pray alone, which is when I do most all of my real praying, I can get very, um, into it. By that, I mean, I am loud, crying, singing, prostrate, and yes, sometimes even dancing. It’s very embarrassing behavior even when alone, but in a crowd – forget it. I mean, I don’t even like talking in front of other people.

In a nutshell, I refuse to let down my guard in the presence of others. Not a good way to be a part of a praying group.

In the past, at the end of corporate prayer, others would talk about what a profound time they’d had, how God’s Spirit had moved among them, making them of one mind, and I would be thinking to myself, Hmmmm. At least I got my shopping list written.

Okay, so back to last night. Didn’t want to be there. We started at 7pm, which is bedtime for Ellie and Evan, who, with Jack and Sabrina, were in the Sunday School classroom with a sitter. I was a little anxious that God might actually try and speak to me. I was a little anxious that the “prayer warriors” in the group, as they are often called, would get all emotional, and carry on, and then I would be really distracted.

So, at the beginning, after a couple songs, one of which I didn’t know, we started praying and I tried very hard to ignore the rustles, sniffles, and chair-scrapings of the 20-odd other people that were there.

Dear God, I am very sleepy, and distracted, and worried about my kids upstairs there, and I wish I were at home reading a book. Help me be open to hearing from You tonight. It would be really cool, but if not, that’s okay too. If I’m the only one here who doesn’t feel all “spiritual” at the end, it’s okay. You and I know it won’t be the first time.

So we’re sitting there, and we’re all kind of tense and closed up, but little by little very general “safe” prayers are floating about. I’m working very hard to ignore the exterior noises and just get comfortable enough on my chair that twitchy legs and an aching back don’t become a distraction as well. Other people were already on the floor, but I was a little too self-conscious of my butt sticking out, so I stayed seated. I was wearing a low cut sweater (bad choice) so I had to be careful about bending over at the waist.

Suddenly, I got this picture in my head of a dog cowering in a corner. It reminded me of all the people I know who are hurt and wounded and weak, but are so accustomed to those wounds that they don’t even know they’re there anymore. I thought about people who have lots of dysfunction in their lives and how not only do they not know how to behave outside of those dysfunctions, but that after awhile the dysfunction and the hurt becomes comforting in its own pathetic way.

We fuss at our sore spots, closely examining them and poking at them. They don’t necessarily get worse, but they don’t heal either, and we carry them around, favoring them, using them as excuses to avoid climbing a little higher or pushing on a little further. It is easy to see this tendency in deeply hurting people, but even the most “together” people I know are prone to this, myself included.

So, I didn’t want to share this “vision” with the group, because it seemed incomplete and possibly accusatory. It seemed negative, pessimistic, and I didn’t want to be discouraging. So I kept my mouth shut.

And I thought about myself as this dog, afraid and cowering. I thought of my friend Lisa challenging me the other night, commenting that I seem to “worry a lot.” I thought about how fear has often crippled me in life. But then I thought about my response to Lisa: that actually, I think I’m doing pretty good in the fear department; I’ve come a long way. I relocated to a foreign place, I’m writing, I do (sort of) public-speaking, I’m learning a new job (art sales), I got my nose pierced, I helped start a ministry at church (M.I.L.K.), I am trying to raise four kids. Most of those things I would not have done a few years ago. Though I am still fearful of certain things – airplanes, sick kids, bird flu, bears – I commend myself for the strides I’ve made. So, I continued to discount the dog-image and tried to think about other things.

But the picture kept coming back.

Prayer went on for awhile, it was getting progressively more open and vulnerable. Tissues were being pulled from the strategically placed boxes. I was slightly less distracted, though increasingly sleepy. I hope I don’t doze off and fall out of my chair.

Then I said a silent little prayer: God, is there something more you want to tell me about this dog-thing? Is there more to it than that? What’s the deal?

Another image grew slowly in my mind. This time it was of a man walking, though I could only see the hem of his tunic and his sandaled feet, and crawling behind it was the same cowering dog, following behind the man, but cringing and shaking as it went.

And then I knew. The dog is me. The dog is afraid. But it isn’t cowering because of bears, flying, or death, it’s cowering from Jesus, even while it follows Him. And I realized that this is an absolute, complete truth about me. I love God, I have experienced His reality and profess to want to follow Him, but I am terrified of Him – who He is and what He might ask me to do. I have struggled with this for years, and have again and again, despite deliberate effort, have been unable to overcome it.

I had a very strong sense that this fear of surrendering fully God is affecting all the other areas of fear I grapple with. Being afraid of God is the root of the issue. This was a gentle though convicting epiphany for me.

Wow, God, that’s, uh, kinda cool. You actually were able to speak to me in a group, in spite of the distractions and fatigue. It’s a first. Thanks. But, let’s talk the implications of all this when I get home. This is very personal.

God wasn’t done with me yet. He sort of impressed on me, very distinctly, “You need to share this with the group.”

But I don’t want to share it with the group. I’ll stumble over my words, expose my weakness, and maybe even cry.

“I can’t help you unless you speak it.”

Why not? You’re God! You can do anything! What difference does it make? I can surrender my pride in private! Pleeeease!

“I can’t help you unless you speak it.”

Oh, for Pete’s sake!

So, I spoke it. And I didn’t stumble, and no one laughed, and though I did cry a bit, it wasn’t too embarrassing. I told it like it happened, just like I described it above, and then I was done. Bruce put his hand on my knee, and the lady beside me rubbed my back. A few people prayed for me, and that felt both good and awful. They thanked me for my courage, but I kept thinking, But I wasn’t courageous. God told me to. Jiminy Christmas! What else was I going to do?

So, that’s my story from last night. I think I will post this on my blog for all the world to see. I don’t feel like I shouldn’t. Maybe it will encourage someone. But it does feel a little vulnerable and scary.

Yesterday morning, I went to the High Places to see if I could find God (see previous posting). Last night, He brought the High Places down to me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It’s a Beautiful Morning… I Think I’ll Go Outside for Awhile…

Life, lately, has been an exercise in perseverance in the face of discouragement. I don’t want to go into any details, but it’s fair to say that the Norovirus (the technical name for “kittens”) is largely to blame.

Being sick knocked us all down, and in my case has left me feeling vulnerable to every other minor or major setback in life, of which there are some daily.

But life goes on, as they say, so I continue to do laundry (a LOT of laundry), do errands, talk to friends, and go to work. This is a good thing. Getting out of bed has been hard the past couple of weeks.

Creatively, I feel a little dry, but I have at least a vague awareness that are three or four people who read this thing regularly (i.e. Lisa, Liz, Kaylin, Mom, Elaine – okay, at least five), so I feel I must perform for my “audience.” This is also a good thing. Having people to answer to (other than the kids) also helps me get out of bed every morning.

Yesterday morning was a beautiful one, with excellent visibility stretching the entire circumference of the horizon. The sun was diffused through a sheer curtain of pale gray clouds, casting glorious colors in every direction. Overhead were ribbons of lavender, pink and gold clouds. McKinley and Foraker were rose-colored, and Susitna and the Alaska Range were brilliant white. I was itching to grab the camera and go take pictures, but the kids were grumpy (especially the pre-kitten Ellie) and it was getting on lunch-time. (Should NOT have fed Ellie that strawberry-flavored ice-cream bar.)

This morning again dawned clear, so, reminded of yesterday’s foiled yearnings, I went picture-taking today instead. It was about 20 degrees at the Glen Alps overlook with about an inch of quickly sublimating snow and a sparkling coat of frost. The lighting wasn’t quite as good as yesterday, but the view was beautiful nonetheless. Ellie, resistant towards getting her picture taken, and Evan, who was consciously experiencing snow for the first time, had a great time thumping around and scraping the icy ground.

No great profound epiphanies struck me during this time surrounded by magnificent creation. The pictures I took didn’t turn out as good as I’d hoped. It was a struggle man-handling Ellie and Evan into their snow clothes, then maneuvering them around on the icy path. Nevertheless, it was a worthwhile outing. There is something about space and water and mountains and snow – things that are much bigger than I am – that is comforting. I may not feel different, but I can't help but believe I am a little better.

“And after [Jesus] had sent the multitudes away, He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.”
– Matt 14: 23 (NASB)

“It is He who sits above the vault of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”
– Isaiah 40: 21

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the Lord surrounds His people
From this time forth and forever.”
– Psalm 125:2

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From whence shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.”
– Psalm 121:1-2

Despite living in the lowlands, I realize I can go visit the High Places any time I want. And even if I can’t accurately reproduce for others the beauty of them using words or pictures, I carry them inside where the High Places continue to stir me.

Whether fogged-in or awaiting the dawn, even in the dark, I know they are there.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Very quickly...

Snow didn't stick.

Ellie finally sick.

Wish I had more rhymes

So I could do a trick.

Saturday, October 22, 2005



Severely Tested

Ronnie's Strange Math Test
Originally uploaded by rae.
This morning, even before coffee, while Evan was still in bed, the children started testing me.

Sabrina was first.

“Mom, okay.” She held up a sheet of paper, the writing of which only she could see. “What number?”

Mind-reading abilities not withstanding, I admitted I needed more information.

“Okay. Mom, what number comes before 4?”

And so it went, until…: “What’s the first number?”


“Okay. Right. What’s the biggest number?”

“There isn’t one.”

A pause for consideration. “Okay…” Then: “What number has a one and a one and a zero?”

“One hundred and ten. But that’s not the biggest number.”

“Right.” She again considered the digit she had written. “One hundred and ten. Okay.”

And so it went.

Then Ellie started to test me. She was sitting on my lap breaking a brown crayon into small pieces.

“Which crayon? Brown or orange?”



Then Jack designed a math quiz for me. I did all the problems. Bruce came down from bed just in time to correct it.

“You got one wrong.”


“The answer is –894, not 906.”

“Well, that depends on which direction you read the problem. Jack told me to read it from top to bottom and towards the left.”

“Aha. I was reading it from right to left and bottom to top.”

How you look at a problem makes all the difference in how you solve it.

Bruce recalculated my score. “You got them all right.”

What a relief. Another series of tests successfully surmounted.

Poor Bruce, now it is his turn to be severely tested.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I'm Fried... Can You Tell?

I spent all day writing. I have 12 pages. Doesn't sound like much, but I'm happy with what's there. I will not go into any detail about it. When it get's published, you can read it. That way, if you agree with me that it's mostly drivel, then at least I can counter with, "Yeah but at least someone thought it was worth publishing. "

I can't imagine anything feeling more vulnerable than someone critiquing my writing. Not even the pushing stage of childbirth.

But reality check: this purge will last approximately 3.72 days, then I'll be dry for another three months. Furthermore, once I put it down, it's not likely I'll ever return to it. For that reason, I feel I must not sleep for the remaining 3.12 days so that I capture as much as possible.

Speaking of which. I returned to my tome of last spring (the one that caused my summertime dry-spell) and re-read the whole 51 pages. Not completely worthless. Does need complete rewriting, though. Be warned - it is still sub-standard chick-lit. Ah hell, I'm a chick, right?

Hope springs eternal. Carpe diem, baby.

The Creative Process in Action

Well, we seem to be done with the stomach bug. Ellie never got it (knock on wood, cross fingers, thank our lucky stars, etc.). All seems to be returning to as normal a state as you ever find around here.

I am finding it very hard to do much this morning. I told Bruce I was going to sit around and read all day, but I'm not even doing that. Rather, I've been ignoring Ellie and Evan unless cries erupt. Meanwhile, I've been floating through the house in a kind of detached daze.

Last night, I woke at 3am and decided it was a good time to put Ellie on the potty. Her success staying dry at night has been erratic. She has been waking early in the morning (sometimes before 6am), I think due to either having wet pjs, or being dry but having to potty badly. So, I figured an early morning visit to "The Pot" would fix both problems: dry in the morning and an empty bladder to boot.

It worked great except that, then I couldn't fall back asleep. My mind swung and danced around all kinds of different thoughts: needing to email info to the Anchorage Daily News so that they'll print info for our next M.I.L.K. meeting (still haven't done it); needing to start preparing for the next M.I.L.K. meeting; will Ellie ever throw-up or are we truly done?; what happens if my kids get bird flu?; I really need to start taking Sabrina more seriously; how am I going to get through another day with Evan getting into EVERYTHING? I only fell asleep after making up a movie in my head - one I thought had a great deal of potential for the big screen, starring Dennis Quaid, James Caan, and undecided about the female lead.

Ellie came into the bedroom at 5:30am with a bloody nose, just as I was finally drifting off. Bruce, veteran of many bloody noses, got up with her.

Ellie came in again at 6:45am, bright-eyed and sunny to tell me something which I couldn't hear due to my earplugs. I bellowed at her to leave.

A few minutes later, Sabrina came in to tell me something which I again couldn't hear due to earplugs. Again, I bellowed that she leave.

At 7:15am Bruce came out of the bathroom, all fresh and clean, and approached my side of the bed for a quick kiss good-bye. I bellowed at him to leave me the hell alone.

I finally got out of bed at 7:21 and started my day. While putting on makeup (a rarity over the past week) I suddenly had an epiphany: why not write a book about the "movie" I imagined in my head as I was trying to fall asleep the night before? It might become the next bestselling chick-lit book!

Now, I have to tell you, this exact same thing happened to me last spring. I daydreamed a plot, feverishly wrote 50-pages, then abandoned it because it was so embarrassing; truly sub-Danielle Steele. I was so discouraged I didn't write anything for three months.

So, here I am again, with another stupid idea that I just can't resist dropping everything to write about.

So, the kids are being neglected, the phone unanswered, the laundry undone. Evan is coloring on the walls while his poopy diaper goes unchanged. Is this what it's like to be a writer? It's crazy, it's erratic, it's an emotional pendulum!

I love it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Avast! More Kittens!

Over the weekend I cockily went about washing kittens from the kids’ bedding (see previous blog entitled “Kittens”) knowing that I had already been sick, and that I didn’t have to worry about my own kittens anymore.

I was wrong.

Last night, I went to bed at 8:30pm (I was very tired from being up with Sabrina’s kittens the night before). I awoke just before midnight and something was wrong. I could feel it in the pit of my stomach – a visceral gut reaction.

Even then, I told myself, “Pshaw! I was already sick! It must be something else.”

Nevertheless, Bruce fled the room in alarm to sleep downstairs.

Within the hour I had an exorcist-like encounter with kittens.

Even then, I told myself, “I can’t be sick again. Nobody gets the same virus twice in one week.

Except me.

Bruce stayed home again today to help with kids, and fortunately I’m feeling quite a bit better, but I think I’ll be avoiding the leftover pizza from dinner last night and will stick with Gatorade and Jello for awhile.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Two Years Ago Today...

Two years ago today, our little family – Bruce, myself, 5-year-old Jack, 3-year-old Sabrina, 17-month-old Ellie, my pregnant belly, and two terriers - boarded a plane at Sea-Tac International Airport to relocate to Anchorage.

I can’t believe it’s been two years.

Two-years is the magic length of time we ever live anywhere. During our 13 years of married life, the only exception to that was our first house in Bothell, Washington, where we lived for four years. Bruce hated that house. But that’s another story.

Every other place we’ve lived has only lasted two years, give or take a couple months. Here’s the rundown (I’m doing this for my own sake, not yours, so don’t worry about being bored):

’93-’94 Apartment in Lynnwood, WA
’94-’95 Apartment in Seattle
’95-’97 Townhouse condo in Edmonds, WA
’97-’01 Split-level house in Bothell
’01-’03 Two-story house in Snohomish, WA
Oct. ’03-Oct. ’05 Two-story house in Anchorage, AK

Well, two years is up and I have very little desire to move. Reason alone to celebrate. I love our house, our neighborhood, and this part of Anchorage.

Last summer, I was asked to share a few words at church about what kinds of things God was doing in my life. I proposed to my pastor that I talk a little about the profundity of moving to Alaska.

Pastor Jeff paused, kindly considering his words. Then he replied, “Linda, you’ve been here more than a year and a half. Don’t you think that particular subject is old news?”

To everyone but me.

Of course, he was right. Nevertheless, the fact that we are here is still a bit of a shock to me. It hardly seems possible that we’ve lived in this house as long as we lived in our last house. Our last house seemed to be the center of the universe, anchored to a reality and clarity of mind that I had been waiting for my whole life.

Then we packed our kids and dogs and deliberately walked into the unknown.

We really like living here and neither Bruce nor I have any inkling to leave it yet, if ever. However, I do find myself daydreaming every once in awhile about other places in the world. Ireland or England would be cool. Or maybe Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Or maybe somewhere in New England…

Shake it off, Linda.

I guess, ultimately, it isn’t so much that we moved to Alaska, but that we moved anywhere. Bruce and I really are risk-averse people, and I’m realizing more and more how much I like being cozy and safe and boring. In the act of moving, we both found that it’s possible to take chances, to make a change, to breakaway from all that we thought we were, in order to grow and, hopefully, be more.

I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly;
I’ll do what it takes ‘til I touch the sky…

Out of the darkness and into the sun;

But I won’t forget all the ones that I love…

Sunday, October 16, 2005


A trio of kittens
Originally uploaded by Evil Genius Society.
There are moments in every woman’s life when she realizes she has indeed grown and matured beyond her wildest dreams. For me, this epiphany came tonight when I realized I had a great weekend.

The entire family was at home together. None of us had anywhere in particular to go. We alternated between doing house- and yardwork, reading, and playing. I got a lot done around the house. This morning, Sunday, Bruce and I slept until 9:30am. I never bothered to put on contact lenses or makeup. I finished one book and am well into another.

There was one hitch, however. It was one that, in times past, would have ruined the whole weekend for me. But now, perhaps because the past six-weeks has been so frenetic, any reason to slow down was a welcome one.

Yesterday, the stomach flu paid a visit.

(Out of concern for the faint-hearted for the remainder of this piece I will be referring to “vomit” by a kinder, more gently evocative name: kittens.)

I have never been particularly fond of kittens – mine or anyone else’s.

I can remember having an epiphany in my own early childhood: some day, were I ever to become a mother myself, I would be dealing with kittens. Kittens are inevitable with children, and for more than a brief moment, I was shaken to the core. I was pretty sure that the certainty of never having to deal with kittens was reason enough to not ever have kids.

One of the points of pride in my life thus far is that between early adolescence and young adulthood, I went a ten-year span without ever kittening. This record was abruptly broken as soon as I got married. Had I but known…

Anyway, since the marital bed contained the occasional kittens, there didn’t seem much reason in not having children. So, have children we did, four of them, spaced approximately two-years apart.

Until the kids entered preschool, we did well in the kitten department. Though rumors of kittens always put me on edge, we mostly fought sinus and ear infections rather than kittens.

That gradually changed, and now we probably pass the kittens around about twice per year. When this pattern first started, I would become almost catatonic with dread and anxiety. After the first kid kittened, I was sure my own kittens were imminent. Bruce would roll his eyes at me, and insist it was not a virus, but just something someone ate. Eventually he would be proved wrong (every time he would be proved wrong), but every once in awhile someone in the family would escape the inevitable attack of kittens.

(As a quick aside, I suspect that part of reason Bruce is so stuck on food-related kittens, is that several years before we started the process of procreation, we both had a nasty case of food-poisoning that has stayed indelible a part of his psyche. Having to be hospitalized might have had something to do with it.)

I could tell you lots of stories of my experiences with kittens. Here are a few:

Once, on the evening of December 23rd my daughter had violent kittens. While standing in the sub-freezing backyard hosing kittens off Sabrina’s comforter, I thought to myself, “Man, when I bail out on Christmas Eve dinner my family is going to be really pissed.”

Another time, several days after bringing Ellie home from the hospital, the two older kids had kittens. I was very postpartum and very terrified that if I had kittens of my own, it would affect my milk supply, so when I started getting queasy a week later, I made Bruce take me to the E.R. in the middle of night for an IV and some anti-kittens medication.

Oh man. Then there was our first trip back to Seattle after having moved to Anchorage. We were visiting for three weeks, and in the end, only five days of that visit were kitten-free. The first person afflicted was Ellie, whose kittens decorated the pristine white couch and carpet of my writer friend, Stephanie. That was our second full day in town. The next person afflicted was myself, then Sabrina, then Evan, then Bruce, then Jack, and finally, after giving it to my mom, to wrap things up poor Ellie had kittens again. That trip, we canceled almost all of our social engagements, and were unable to see many of our beloved friends. We spent most of the trip at my mom’s, who felt having kittens was a worthwhile price for spending more time with us.

So, last Wednesday, I was bedridden with an intensely uncomfortably stomach flu, but thankfully, no kittens. Then yesterday, while deep-cleaning our family room sofas, both of which have seven-years of accumulated dog-grime, dander, baby spit up, urine, food particles, and several litters of kittens, Evan started to cry. I was feeling really good about finally tackling this project and was taking so much satisfaction from the muddy-brown water emptied from the machine’s reservoir, that I took my time going up to check on my baby. I just really wanted to finish making the loveseat clean.

When I finally went up to check Evan, there were kittens everywhere. On the carpet, the mattress, on all his blankets and “blueys”, and of course, all over him. Clucking my tongue in sympathy, I stripped him down, then stripped the bed, and cleaned the carpet. In a flash, I remade the bed, shampooed Evan, and redressed him in cozy pjs. After settling Evan back to bed, I rinsed the kittens off the soiled bedding, threw it in the laundry and, with barely a thought, went back to deep-cleaning in the family room.

In the end, Evie made kittens four unlovely times, but today he was fine, eating like a fiend, and happy as could be. That I didn’t fall apart and cry, that I didn’t panic, deflate or become catatonic, is a huge victory for me. All I really did was sigh and cheerfully say to Bruce as I wistfully observed my newly clean sofas, “You know what this means, don’t you? The family room is going to be bombarded with kittens.”

That someone like me could eventually come to accept kittens as a part of life is evidence of a Higher Power at work in the deepest places of my psyche.

But then, it’s not over yet. I’ve had my go with this virus, as has Evan. Tonight, it seems to be Sabrina’s turn. Two down; one getting started; three to go.

Poor Sabrina. She often begs me for a kitten, but I’m pretty sure this is not what she means.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Top 50 Things I’ve Been Doing Instead of Writing

1. Sleeping.
2. Babysitting other people’s kids.
3. Deep cleaning seven years of grime from the sofas using my Bissell.
4. Ordering replacement parts and more cleaner for my Bissell.
5. Lying in fetal position for 24 hours with a nasty stomach bug.
6. Laundering master-bed sheets.
7. Finding a large hole in the master-bed fitted sheet.
8. Buying new master-bed sheets at Costco.
9. Buying new pillows from Costco.
10. Cleaning all the bathrooms.
11. Visiting with dear friends.
12. Wiping dog-poo off the kitchen floor.
13. Wiping dog-poo off the bottom of my slipper.
14. Rinsing dog-poo from the dogs’ paws.
15. Laundering sheets soiled with baby-barf.
16. Cleaning carpets soiled with baby-barf.
17. Cleaning baby soiled with baby-barf.
18. Preparing meals for other families.
19. Night-time potty-training Ellie.
20. Changing and laundering Ellie’s bed sheets.
21. Mopping three-months of grime off the kitchen floor
22. Wiping six-months of grime off the family room windows.
23. Vacuuming mosquito corpses from summer off the living room window sills.
24. Taking Ellie to a classmate’s birthday party attended by people entirely new to me, but who have known each other since grade school.
25. Daydreaming about how I’m going to spend our first-ever PFD.
26. Paying the VISA off with our first ever PFD.
27. Daydreaming about how I’m going to spend our second-ever PFD.
28. Making a spreadsheet on Excel to track the number of bags of leaves Jack has raked.
29. Taking Jack to ToysRUs to spend the $25 he earned raking leaves.
30. Taking Sabrina to on a surprise visit to see her best friend Abigail.
31. Returning books to the library.
32. Checking out books from the library.
33. Staring at the library books I’ve brought home that are going unread because I’m trying to get through a couple of my own books.
34. Making lists and daydreaming about all the things I wish I had time to write.
35. Reading and filing away yet another rejection letter from a publisher.
36. Crying on the shoulders of my Writing Group buddies.
37. Preparing a devotional for M.I.L.K.
38. Preparing an activity for M.I.L.K.
39. Preparing a breakfast casserole for M.I.L.K.
40. Going to M.I.L.K.
41. Listening to Bruce vent about work.
42. Encouraging and advising Bruce in regards to his work.
43. Rejoicing with Bruce over improvements at work.
44. Checking the weather forecast for snow.
45. Daydreaming and making lists of all things I’m going to do when it snows.
46. Yelling at the kids for being disobedient.
47. Yelling at the kids for being too noisy.
48. Yelling at the kids for being too slow.
49. Yelling at the kids for being too messy.
50. Hugging and kissing the kids for being so gracious and forgiving.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Best Part

Tyler and Kiley.
Originally uploaded by Day&Kave.
Every night at dinner we play a game called "Best Part/Worst Part". We go around the table and one by one, share the best part of our day and then worst part.

It started as an attempt to draw information out of the children, who sometimes are secretive or have trouble communicating difficulties in their lives.

Well, at dinner tonight, MY best part is a no brainer.

My good friend Kaylin called me today from Seattle (hi Kay - I know you're reading this!). While I was on the phone with her, she booked tickets to Anchorage for next February! Hooray!

While she is not convinced that we'll be able to tolerate them for nine days, I am more worried that she and Dave, her husband, won't particularly enjoy more than a week sleeping on a double bed.

They will be here during Fur Rendezvous and so we have many exciting events to look forward to, like Sled Dog Racing and Sled Dog Weight-Pulling competitions. There's also a carnival with rides - I forgot to mention THAT part to her.

The above picture is of Dave and Kaylin's two kids, Tyler and Kiley. I am hoping Jack and Tyler can reconnect over Star Wars and Captain Underpants, and Kiley and Ellie will bond over.... well, over whatever two three-year-old girls bond over.

Meanwhile, I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Stranger

Once, I stood in a group of people. Maybe we were at some sort of a party. Maybe we were in a hospital. I don’t know.

Across the heads of my companions I noticed a startlingly handsome stranger with a flawless physique and chiseled face. From my vantage, I saw not a single flaw in him. My heart desired him, but I knew such a magnificent person would never be interested in someone of my limited charms. It was enough for me to admire him from across the room, and so I did.

Then, amazingly, after a time, he looked my way.

I went to him and let him whisper things in my ear –things he would show me, things I would experience with him. Like any smitten woman, I believed every word.

So, I ran off with him, never imagining that when he got me far, far away – from all I have ever known – I would learn he had many other lovers, of which I was only one. But because I thought him so beautiful, I forgave his infidelities. When we were alone, I felt certain it was me he loved most.

Only then did I begin to see other aspects to his character. There was a dangerous side to him. Despite being so beautiful and tender, he was also temperamental, sometimes shaking, crushing, suffocating, chilling, or shredding those who found themselves in his power. And yet, somehow, these cruelties seemed small in comparison - much smaller than his love.

Consequently, I learned to fear him only slightly less than I loved him. I also learned that this dance of dread and delight was shared by every one of his other lovers.

Despite my trepidations, I knew he had many more sensuous secrets to share. And so I determined to stay with him as long as circumstances allowed, encouraging his freedom to sway and seduce others. I am his co-conspirator, whatever that may bring.

His name is Alaska.

When he breathes in, it is summer.

Then, there is life in abundance, bursting forth from a formerly dead and frozen world. During the summer, every living thing – people, animals, trees, earth – quivers in an ecstatic orgasm of color and form.

When he breathes out again, the world becomes colder and quieter. First, it brightens to yellow and gold, then ebbs to brown, finally fading to white. All things are drained of life and color. But under a crystalline frozen blanket, all things are purified and renewed.

Including myself.

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