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Thursday, April 27, 2006

My Little Enigma

Parent-Teacher conferences were last week. After last fall’s performance, I should have insisted Bruce attend with me. He must be sufficiently confident in our two oldest children that he doesn’t feel the need to bother. But, I tell you, never again will I face a teacher alone.

Really, both conferences went well. But Sabrina’s revealed certain idiosyncrasies that I’m still processing.

In Kindergarten, certain tests are administered to measure a child’s learning style and aptitude. Two of the areas these tests measure are whether a child is an auditory or visual learner.

I can’t remember how Jack scored on these tests. I’m assuming it was fairly well, because their results don’t haunt me one year later. (Hard to believe Jack was taking those same tests only a year ago, and now we’re faced with putting him in a school for “highly gifted” students.)

Anyway, Sabrina’s test scores were high on the auditory scale and erratic on the visual scale. This basically means that she’s a strong auditory learner, and weaker in the visual areas; which means areas of difficulty could involve symbolic reasoning (math) and reading.

This made some sense to me. Bruce and I often joke that if you want to get Sabrina to learn something, make a song out of it. (That’s how Bruce ultimately pushed her over the edge with potty training.) She’s always loved music and sings very well.

But, Mrs. Kruse said, the visual thing was strange. If you showed Sabrina a symbol, and then asked her to draw it from memory, she had a hard time. Sabrina, however, has a fantastic memory, almost photographic. Furthermore, Mrs. Kruse noted, despite the test scores indicating she should be doing otherwise, she is one of the best readers in the class. As a student who struggles with visual clues and symbols, she shouldn’t be reading as well as she does.

Hmmmm. An enigma. It makes me wonder.

I sat down with Sabrina tonight and we talked about reading. I had the same talk with her that I had with Jack a year-and-a-half ago. I indicated my thousands of books, and said, “Sabrina, you know how to read. You could read any one of these books [with a little help]. The world is your oyster. Reading is the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe.”

Her eyes widened and she became very excited. She insisted on trying to read a bit of an adult book. We looked at the preface to “Two in the Far North” by Margaret Murie. She read two paragraphs slowly, but amazingly well.

I think back to when Jack learned how to read just over a year ago. He was at a fourth grade level by the end of Kindergarten. He was a wunderkind to his teachers. And though I’ll be the first to admit that he has an above-average intelligence, he was also almost a year older than many of his classmates. When most of his classmates had just turned six, he was going on seven.

In contrast, Sabrina is just turned six, and she is already reading better at six-plus-three-months, than Jack was at the same age.

I’m not sure why I’m even writing this. I know I shouldn’t compare my kids. Jack’s academic abilities are a hard act to follow, especially for his girly-girl, uber-fashion-conscious, blond-haired, blue-eyed sister.

I admit to feeling a bit defensive of Sabrina. I have worried about her academic abilities. I worry about her self-image. Secretly, I think she's a genius.

I can’t help but think that many of the tests used in schools these days only go so far in measuring innate ability. Clearly, there is more to Sabrina’s current reading level than test scores can begin to measure. There is more to intelligence than copying symbols and seeing letters point in the right direction.

What test measures a child’s ability to manipulate his or her environment in new and unusual ways; to think outside the box? What test measures emotional intelligence, or creativity? What test measures technological aptitude?

I don’t mean to criticize the school system at all. They can only do so much. And it is true, Sabrina is an obviously auditory learner. This is essential information. But if, as a mother, I confined my opinion of my daughter’s abilities to an aptitude test, I would be sorely short-sighted. As her parent, it is my duty to see these test scores as merely a piece to a much bigger puzzle.

Yes, Jack is a genius. Yes, Evan is talking earlier than all my other kids did, and already displays an unusually quick, sophisticated wit for a 2-year-old. Yes, Ellie still has that “wizened soul” that she emerged with from the womb. But Sabrina, as unconventional as she is, is the one I watch. More than all the others, I believe in her and her ability to do great things. Why? Because she is truly different than her siblings. She has her head in the clouds, and yet sees and hears the minutiae of life. She inspires me.

Tonight, she read to me “Guess How Much I Love You?”, and I watched her not only know most of the words, but follow the meaning of the story, and, as she read, affect different voices for the different characters.

My Sabrina is made of moonlight, rainbows, and unicorns. She has challenged her father and I. When she was a toddler, we used to lay in bed and wonder how we were going to love her. We used to sing our own adaptation of a familiar “Sound of Music” song: How do you solve a problem like Sabrina? We have endured goofy comments, clumsy motor skills, and a great deal of screaming and crying. But in the end, Sabrina continues to blossom and amaze.

As she read the last page of “Guess How Much I Love You?”, I silently echoed back to her the words she read to me: “Then [Big Nutbrown Hare] lay down close by [Little Nutbrown Hare] and whispered with a smile, ‘I love you right up to the moon – and back.’”

Yes, yes I do, my darling girl.

Cross-Dressing Two-Year-Old

After a recent bathing experience, Ellie saw fit to dress her little brother all by herself. Although, he did make a point to say, "Cute!" when unveiling his new look to me, I am only moderately concerned about how much Evan enjoys wearing dresses. Later, his father said, "Son, you don't need a dress to be cute."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Curious Package

There was a book-sized box left on my front doorstep this afternoon by the postman. Though I am expecting boxes from Old Navy and Birthday Express, this wasn’t from either of those vendors. I didn’t recognize the sender; it was partially covered up by a zip code sticker.

Hefting the box, it was clear it contained a book. I was baffled. I didn’t remember ordering a book. I’ve been trying to be good, and read what I’ve got for awhile.

Before even opening the box, I peeled back the sticker covering the return address saw it was from CAIR, the Council on American-Islam Relations.

Ah, yes. I remember. The box contained my own personal, brand-spanking-new copy of the Quran.

For just the slightest moment, I hesitated opening the box. What if the CAIR is just a front organization for Al-Qaeda? What if, when I opened the box, there was anthrax or a small bomb inside?

Thinking such thoughts shames me. It just goes to show how destructive and insidious fear can be. When I shy away from the organization whose sole purpose is to educate and break down barriers between Muslims and non-Muslims, it is definitely time to make nice and ask some serious forgiveness.

Out With the Old Part II

Bruce asked me to write this posting. He wants me to let everyone know that we sold our Ford Explorer today. He worked hard on marketing it, and is very pleased to have it gone. It will give him a great deal of pleasure to call our insurance agent tomorrow and ask her to remove it from our policy.

The guy who bought it was fourth in line to see it this afternoon, behind three other motivated buyers. It must have been meant to be with this guy, though, because he really wanted it, could pay cash, and, amazingly, the deals with the three people before him fell through.

So, car-selling is done. Now all that remains is to pay off the exceptionally nice man we bought the trailer from (which we will do when the deposit from the Subaru sale clears), and take possession of it.

Meanwhile, I am mulling over stocking the trailer with towels, Comet, and canned chicken, and Bruce is thinking about... guy-stuff. And we are plotting out our trip schedule for this summer.

My mom, who is traveling in Greece at the moment, will be (I hope, happily) surprised to hear we will be spending three days camping with us in Seward over Memorial Day weekend.

Since the kids (Ellie and Evan in particular) are so young, we won't try any big trips this summer. A couple nights here, a couple nights there. Get used to things, figure out what the heck we're doing, and maybe in a year we'll get more adventurous. So, I will finally get to Homer, and perhaps do some fishing on the Russian River.

Well, enough of that. I hope I've satisfied Bruce's ego adequately.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Heaven and Earth Part II

So, the marriage seminar was good. Some things to think about. But, in the end, the providential tugging helped satisfactorily accomplish another project Bruce and I have been endeavoring towards.

We bought a travel trailer.

It's really kind of weird how it happened. It is the perfect layout at exactly the price we wanted to spend. But for the marriage class that almost didn't happen, we would not have found it.

After the class was over, I casually mentioned to Bruce that there was a trailer for sale across the street from church that I was curious about. We checked it out. It was small, but could fit 6 sleepers, so we made an offer which was summarily turned down.

We didn't feel too bad about that, because a supposedly identical trailer was for sale on the "lemon lot" up on Elemendorf A.F.B. for half the price. So, I headed home in one car, and Bruce headed up to the base in the other car to check things out. I was grumbling that Bruce hadn't already written down the phone number for the trailer's owner during a previous visit, but in the end it was the best thing that could have happened.

He called me from Elmendorf to say that this particular model had one less sleeping bunk, so that it would only fit five. I was disappointed, but we agreed that the right thing would come at the right time and that our patience would pay off.

Five seconds later, it did.

A guy pulled into the "lemon lot" while Bruce and I were talking.

Bruce asked the guy if he was selling: "Yes."

How much? For the exact amount we had budgeted.

How many does it sleep? Up to ten!

So, we bought it. It has the exact floor plan we had most liked, but at half the price of the models we had previously seen.

We are very excited. But, its 10pm, I still have to watch a movie before going to bed. Go to go chill. Will write more later.

Heaven and earth, baby.

Moving Heaven and Earth

Heaven and earth have been moving in mysterious ways lately.

Upon our return from Spring Break in Seattle, we discovered the adjoining lot directly behind our house had been razed of trees to make way for new construction. I had known it was coming for some time, but that sudden dirty void was a shock nonetheless. I had kept secretly hoping that the lot would be determined too small for a single family residence (like a minor obstacle like size that would ever stop developers). I was not pleased about losing the trees, and consequently, our privacy.

The loss of trees was bitter, but at least for a few weeks their absence would allow me a view of the Kenai Mountains out my bedroom window, and a great deal more sunshine at the back side of the house. I would be able to enjoy sun and mountains for as long as it took the house to be built. Then, once the second story and roof were in place: hasta la vista, baby. My temporary view would be blotted out forever.

From my bedroom window, I watched the earth be cleared, graded, a foundation built, then floors, first-floor walls, and then… oh my gosh!…. can it be true?!… roof joists?…. roof framing?…

It truly seems too good to be true, but it looks like this house is going to be a single story. In a city with very little buildable space left, where optimizing square footage is the rule of day, the new house I’ve been dreading is going to be rambler! This is truly a miracle. I can still easily spy the mountains from my bedroom window!

Meanwhile, the heavens are heaving about, unsure which season it really is. Yesterday we “Seattle snow” – enormous, fluffy flakes that melt on contact; one second erasing visibility, and the next vanishing as shafts of sunlight illuminate the gunmetal-gray yard. On days like that, when it is snowing and sunny at the same time, I wonder: is there such thing as a snow-rainbow? I’ve yet to see one.

Last night I had the pleasure of announcing to Bruce that Sunday night we could expect two inches of new snow (keeping in mind that winter’s snow is largely gone; we have been outside a great deal despite unseasonably cool temps). This morning I chuckled to see that the forecast had been modified: now only one inch expected tonight, but up to three tomorrow, for a total storm accumulation of four inches; on the 24th of April no less! I love it!

The grandest miracle of all was this morning. I had gone to early church service because Evan has a cold and we didn’t want to take him to the nursery, thus infecting all the other kids. Bruce planned on attending second-service.

This afternoon, between 2-5:30pm there is going to be a “mini” marriage seminar, which until this morning I hadn’t given much thought to. But, this morning, I became quietly convinced that this was something we should try to get to; a great opportunity for Bruce and I, who have been trying to “tune-up” our relationship lately. Childcare was provided for kids up to age 11.

Evan’s cold
Jack and Sabrina’s invitation to Hayden’s birthday party between 2 and 4pm.
Bruce having to be on Elemendorf A.F.B. at 1pm to show the Explorer to a prospective buyer.
Evan’s daily nap at 1pm.

I called Bruce from ToysRUs (yes, we still have ours) and expressed a strong interest in going. I told him I was willing to go alone if necessary. Not surprisingly, he pooh-poohed me, citing the day’s obligations and obstacles, and firmly stating that no matter the opportunity, the timing was very, very bad.

Unhappily, I acquiesced to his wishes. I pouted, but then, recognizing another typical instance of my expectations not being met, of being disappointed, and thus angered, I decided to let go of control.

Instead I prayed.

“Ok, God. If you want Bruce and me to go to this thing, You are going to have to move heaven and earth [I was thinking specifically of Bruce’s resistance]. I’m willing, but I wash my hands of ‘making’ it happen through my own efforts.”
Thus freed, I felt calm and peaceful while shopping for Hayden’s gift. Ten minutes inside of ToysRUs, the phone rang; it was Bruce.

“You know, I’ve been thinking. If Lucy and Gus don’t mind keeping Jack and Sabrina for a bit longer, and if Evan gets an early nap, I don’t see why we can’t go to the marriage class.”

The earth shifted, the heavens parted, the angels sang.

So, it has been arranged. We are going. Evan will get an early nap; Jack and Sabrina will hang-out at Charley and Hayden’s house for a bit longer; though Evan is still a bit stuffy, he is cheerful and perky and not at all feverish. I guess God really does want us to go; He must have something significant to teach us.

Uh oh. Perhaps by day’s end, heaven and earth will be moved yet again.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Best Book I Never Read

Young moose Bruce recently snapped in Eagle River.

I am a notorious reader and book collector. I’ve got two full-sized bookshelves double-stacked with things I haven’t read. What with those shelves reaching maximum capacity, I’ve my collection now overflows onto my nightstand, under the coffee table, and on the end tables of our living room. No matter how many books I buy and/or read, I can always be counted on to find one more I cannot live without.

The latest addition to my must-have list is a book about writing by Lynn Freed. It’s called “Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home” and it is reviewed in the January/February 2006 issue of Bookmarks magazine.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Bookmarks, it is a book-magazine on steroids (in a good way). It features author articles, composite reviews of new books, and various genre and readers lists of long-time favorites. It’s a bibliophiles’ dream magazine, and I take to each new issue with a pen, marking what I have read, feeling elation with each checkmark, and despair over what remains undone.

“Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home” is a must-own book (as versus something I might check out from the library). The Bookmarks review starts with a quote from Ms. Freed: “If it is done right, someone will be hurt.” She is referring to the craft of writing, which she calls an “unforgiving, violent affair.” (Already I’m identifying with her.) She also says that writing cannot be taught, and that mere intention does not make a writer. (I’m glad I’m slightly past the “intention” benchmark. At least I am doing some writing.)

When a mere 200-word review evokes in me the desire to turn off the phone, cancel all my appointments, turn on the TV for the kids, and just WRITE, then either it has the potential of being a profoundly formative book, or it is an exceptionally evocative book review.

I know that I will never learn the craft of writing by reading books, or perhaps not even by taking a class (Freed should know: she teaches writing). The appeal of Freed’s book is that her lament of the difficult and enigmatic writing-life, will somehow validate for me that I am doing something right, because sometimes sitting down at the computer to write is more painful than having a toenail removed. (I should know.)

Anymore, when I write, it is an act of faith. At some point in the past, I have felt a calling, and so I write: even when unmotivated, even when consumed with doubt, even when I have absolutely nothing to say.

If, in the process of saying nothing, something is actually said, then a mystery occurs: the words becomes “flesh”; they are seen, heard, and felt by others. It is for that reason I carry on; hitting keys faster, then slower, then faster again. And sometimes, when I am done, I go back and reread, and something even more mysterious happens: I believe.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Oh, Poop

Spring is an interesting time.

For six months I have been able to forget that I have a yard. Suddenly I am confronted with last fall's leaves, abandoned toys, and scum-covered grass.

Furthermore, while winter's snow helped me forget the unaddressed doggie poo that has accumumlated since mid-November, April's mostly-above-freezing temperatures has startled me to reality.

In much the same way that my internal agonies are being laid bare (see previous post), so are Juneau and Seamus' various "businesses."

While most of our snow has melted (including the inch we woke up to on Monday morning), the pile in the "dog yard" is still large, and peppered with doggie bombs. It's sufficiently bad that Juneau and Seamus both refuse to go there. (Good for them! - they're smarter than I thought!)

This, however, does cause problems. Especially when, out of an instinctual aversion, business is attended to indoors.

So, while Bruce is spent a day and a night in Dillingham (an Alaskan fishing haven - sadly, he isn't there to fish), I scratched my head and thoughtfully stroked my chin while studying the problem.

What with the daytime temps reaching a scorching 47, I determined it was the perfect day to re-hookup the hose. That accomplished, I aimed at the imposing and nauseating mound of tainted snow in the dog yard, and let loose a powerful stream of water.

I learned a few things:

* Beware of back-splash

* Half-year-old poo is satisfyingly structurally unstable

* Melting snow is surprisingly porous and absorbant (hooray!)

* Darn-it if standing half-an-hour squirting water at a mound of icy poop didn't actually make a difference!

* The dogs aren't fooled, and still won't go back there (Good for them! - they're way smarter than I thought!)

Give me a few more 47 degree days (not in the forecast, incidently), and we might make some progress. Meanwhile, the Bissell is primed and pumped for on-demand carpet cleaning.

Happy Spring cleaning to you, too!

Growing Pains

"End of the Hunt" by Fred Machetanz

The further Bruce and I get into “Inside Out” [a “self-help” book we are going through together], the less I am inclined to write about my journey. I imagine anyone reading about it would be bored. They would be thinking, “Get over yourself, already.” And the deeper I delve into my layers, the less I want other people to see them.

Consequently, the fount that had previously been my muse, has dried up. So, I write this, with little to no intention of sharing it, but only for the exercise of writing; because our “assignment” this week for Writing Group is to spend at least half an hour each day writing.

Bruce and I had an “Inside Out” time last night, and it was very hard. In some ways I was mentally unprepared – there were no protective layers, or idealistic verve to soften the difficult words we shared with each other. I found myself cringing as Bruce invoked earlier “Inside Out” conversations, and I have to admit that though certain things have been laid out and made known, I detest their presence. I was getting comfortable with the elephant in the room, even so far as “forgetting” some of things we’d shared.

So last night was a dose of reality. When he said, in response to the question of feeling loved, “I feel love from the kids. I feel mostly irritation from you.” That hurt me deeply. I felt my defenses go up instantly. But, he’s right. I make excuses, but its true. I shared how difficult it is for me to accept him the way he is, in certain areas, inconsequential areas, like how tidy he is.

Then a common theme emerged. My key area of weakness is in the area of disappointment with other people. They constantly disappointment me, which leads me to anger and even, at times, resentment and wishing ill upon them. Why do they disappoint? Because they don’t meet my expectations. And what are my expectations? That they be an extension of my own will and desires.

This common theme is surfacing in almost all areas of my life; it is one of the common denominators of all my “issues”, and it is both surprising and surprisingly painful. It is something so deeply entrenched as to be almost invisible to me, and when the deepest thread of who I am is so fouled, it feels very hopeless.

I still sense God’s will in this path. Though it was only once, and several months ago, when I heard him speak directly to me, I had a very strong sense of His presence (He said, “Trust me,” and that was enough). He hasn’t been patting me on the back or hand-holding me or downplaying my responsibility, but has allowed the armor to crack, perhaps even so far as messing with my hormonal cycle. Much that I might otherwise have been able to keep hidden, is come pouring out, uncontrolled.

But what I know now, as I stand on the edge of a void, is that the pain is there for His good purposes. (From “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”: “He is not safe, but He is good.”) In almost every allegory of the Christian faith, the warrior must go into battle, must face overwhelming odds, must face the pain of death and defeat, and must abandon entirely the luxury of self-preservation.

I have long feared this battleground. I have sensed it out there, and have hid from it. I have felt in awe of “warriors” who seem unconcerned with losing themselves during the fight. I thought the field of war would be external, but I find it is internal. And it is a far uglier place than any I could ever see out in the world.

Last night, I had the impression of entering the forest. While I can still see the path behind me, leading out of the woods, turning back is not an option. The sun, what there was of it, is setting, and should I go back, it might never rise again. The only way to see the light of day again, is to move forward into the blackness. The first place the dawn will reach is the far side of woods.

It is hard to imagine ever finding freedom from the shackles I wear. As the light dims, they begin to become more apparent. I never knew there were so many.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Out With the Old, In With the New

In the space of this one day, we sold our faithful Subaru and purchased, what we hope will be, a faithful Suburban.

Barely an hour after parking the Subaru up on Elemendorf A.F.B.’s “lemon lot”, Bruce got a “hot” call from a prospective buyer.

The buyer is a serviceman out car-shopping with his parents, who were up visiting from California, and we going to buy him a vehicle. Our car was exactly what they had been looking for. So, after a quick spin and minimal dickering over the price, the deal was done.

During the course of conversation during the deal, Bruce came to find out that the California-dad is a pilot with Fed-Ex. He is a colleague of, and acquainted with, our friend and neighbor, Gus, who, if you’ve been following my blog recently, just taught Jack how to ride his bike. Small world. But hey, that's Alaska for ya. And, we also know his money is good. Ha ha.

So, for several hours, we were down to two vehicles, one of which we are also selling. We both startied to feel a bit under the gun about finding something to replace the Subaru and Explorer.

For the past week, since we decided to pursue the Alaskan dream and trade up to an SUV, and eventually purchase a travel trailer, we have been borderline obsessed with learning as much as necessary to make an intelligent buying decision.

What we found is though Suburbans and Tahoes are a dime a dozen up here (like, every fifth car on the road), very few on the secondary market have the wheaties we feel we need. (Admittedly, we don’t know what kind of towing capacity we’ll really need, but we wanted to err on the side of more power, so that we don’t needlessly contrict an already tight RV market.)

The few Suburbans and Tahoes we found in our price range either had ridiculous miles (hard-earned by someone else living the Alaskan-dream), or weren’t powerful enough.

So, I was cruising the internet checking out various now-familiar websites for new listings, shying from the dreaded 5.7 liter Tahoes (talk about a dime-a-dozen…) and eagerly coveting 5.3L.

I finally found a listing for a 2000 Suburban, priced slightly lower than others we’d seen, though still just a tad more than we wanted to spend. I told Bruce about it and he indicated that he’d seen it, it was perfect, but the dealer absolutely wouldn’t budge on the price.

So, we bought it. (See above picture. Isn’t it a pretty color?)

It drives absolutely beautifully. Its way nicer (in terms of bells and whistles) than I felt I needed (it has a sunroof and leather interior). I’m pretty sure it’s quite a bit smarter than I am, because there’s all sorts of buttons and lights on the dashboard that I don’t understand yet. But it least it doesn’t talk.

So, our next step is to sell the Explorer.

I guess when a person knows what path you want to go down, you might as well just go. You check and re-check your suitcase to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything, but I’m not sure it does much good hemming and hawing once you know what you want. Just do it. Right?

Well, tomorrow is Easter, and though I was sad we aren’t hosting or being hosted this year, I now feel relieved to look forward to a quiet day tomorrow. Today was enough chaos for a month.

Since we missed the church’s Easter egg hunt today, we’ll have to do our own tomorrow. I did have enough foresight to buy the kids treats for their baskets, and today, before I knew how crazy our afternoon would be, I made “bunny-buns” (loaves of bread in the shape of rabbits).

So, now that this phase of the “car thing” is out of the way, I can do what I really need to do – reflect on Easter, on the risen Jesus, and why, when it all shakes down, cars, kids, and “bunny-buns,” though all wonderful, still break, barf, and burn.

And so, good night.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Day of Firsts

When I woke up this morning, I was convinced that it would take a miracle to get me through the day. So tired and foggy did I feel, I persuaded Bruce to take a sick day and help me with the kids.

I didn't anticipate then how good of a day it would be.

Jack learned how to ride his two-wheeler bike today! It has been a long time coming, but he did it! Just minutes before this picture was taken, he was still using training wheels.

Also, for the first time today, I was able to say to Evan, "Honey, would you let the dogs out?" Yes, Evan has figured out how to open the backdoor all by himself. Good thing its warming up, because now he let's himself out onto the deck in his bare feet. (sigh)

In other departments: Evan continues to show and interest in potty-training. I'm going with it, baby. Ellie continues to show in interest in potty-training Evan. I'm going with that too.

Those darn kids; they just keep growing and learning. What a flippin' trip.

Juneau's health is noticeably better than its been in months. We have her on a non-FDA approved med that seems to be doing the trick. I did, however, tell her vet that I would not be opting for the $1,500 knee surgery.

We bought a document-shredder today. While making an afterschool snack for the kids, I could hear Bruce in the next room shredding away. After a bit, I came into the office to check on him. While I could clearly see him shredding docs, the box of stuff to be shredded was no where to be found. However, next to Bruce and the shredder was our box of home mortgage records, which was to be archived in the garage.

"Uh, Bruce, please tell me you not shredding the stuff in that box."


Finally: "This isn't the stuff that needs shredding?"

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. "No, honey, that's valuable information, like closing documents, title insurance, and other proofs we own our home. That stuff most definitely should not be shredded."

"Oh. Huh."

So, oh well. We don't really know what he shredded, but ignorance is bliss, let me tell you. He was remorseful, but I think its actually pretty humorous.

The snow is almost gone out of the backyard. The temps are cool - lower 40s - but its brilliantly sunny today and feels closer to 55 or 60.

Ah, life.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Why, you might be asking, doesn't she write, anymore? Doesn't she love us? Doesn't she care? Has the passion that fueled earlier letters died in the lingering cold of winter?

NO! Fear not! I yet write!

Sort of.

I have been doing all kinds of fun, rewarding and wonderful things, like work, cleaning out our home office, attending Jack's pinewood derby, deciding we need a travel trailer, etc. The following posting includes pictoral of moments of the past week or so of my life, about which I am mostly pleased.

Life is so weird. I've been dreaming about re-vamping my office for weeks and weeks, but last weekend pushed me over the edge into a manic kind of rearranging/organizing frenzy. Two events help to push me: our neighbor/friends' garage sale on Saturday and our decision to buy a travel trailer at some point in the imminent future.


Saturday was one of those momentous turning points in our lives. Jack was competing in the Cub Scouts pinewood derby that morning, so I was instructed by Bruce to be at Rabbit Creek Elementary at precisely 11 am for the festivities.

Prior to our leaving, however, I noticed our wonderful neighbors, Sarah and Andrew, were having a garage sale. Sarah and Andrew, about whom I could say a lot, but won't, had just sold their house on the corner, and had last weekend to empty the house of every last possession. Naturally I wanted to profit from their relocation to distant Dillingham, Alaska, so I made Sabrina, Ellie, and Evan come with me to the garage sale where at I purchased many things, including a desk for our home office.

Prior to now, our computer desk has been an old dining room table with the leaf in - way too big for its intended purpose, and a magnet for dusk and detritus. I was excited, because for a long time, I had been dreaming about cleaning out our office, which truly, is the junkiest room of our beautiful home. I fantasized about it being a cozy santuary. The first step in the process was to get a new computer desk. While I had intentions of a "armoire" type deal with doors that would close upon the chaos, I couldn't pass up Andrew's old office desk. It is smallish, but more than adequate and very nice-looking.

Later, being the submissive wife that I am, we [Ellie, Evan, Sabrina, and I] arrived at Rabbit Creek Elementary at precisely at 11am for the pinewood derby race. I was delighted to see friend/neighbor/fellowchurchmember Mary at the race with her husband and two sons. We chatted, and, even though I was wearing glasses, I was happy.

(Me on the left with Sabrina and Ellie; Mary is on the far right trying to get her camera to work. Note the cast on her leg - poor Mary.)

A little while later, Tara showed up. Tara is mother to Sean and Chris - both friends of Jack - and is/was Jack's first grade teacher. She is the one who suggested I bop Jack up to 2nd grade this year. For some reason, she really seems to think highly of Jack. Not for that reason, but just because of who she is, I think highly of Tara.

Anyway, I happened to ask Tara what she and her family were planning on doing this summer. She mentioned their travel trailer and pretty much being out of Anchorage for the whole summer. She raved about how wonderful trailer life is, and I started to get that weird, yearning feeling I sometimes get that preceeds all kinds of problems.

(A pivotal moment in my life: talking to Tara, and realizing we NEED to get a a travel trailer so that my family and Tara's can party together during the summer. To her side, 2nd grader son, Chris, who is in Jack's class.)

Fast forward to lunch at McDonalds to celebrate Jack getting 2nd place in the derby, and to avoid my having to make lunch:

(The "cubbies": I don't know any of their names, except Jack is second from the right, and Zachary, Mary's oldest son, is second from the left.)

My words to Bruce at McDonalds: "I've had an epiphany."

The typical response to my making this statement is for Bruce to refer to horse-excrement, and sit heavily in the nearest available chair.

I explained to him, in what I felt was extremely reasonable logic, that instead of selling our Ford Exlorer as we had been planning, we should keep it, throw caution and sense to the wind, and buy a travel trailer instead, so that we could experience the real Alaskan lifestyle.

Bruce was very quiet as he munched thoughtfully on his french fries.

Suffice it to say, by the end of the day we had: been all over town "kicking" travel trailers with absolutely no success; visited various car lots looking for SUV's with more "wheaties" than our Explorer; and determined we were pretty much going to have to sell not only the Explorer but also our Subaru Outback in order to get a car capable of pulling a trailer.

So, that was Saturday.

Sunday, immediately after church, Bruce cruised through town test-driving SUVs. By the end of Sunday we had determined: we should sell the Subaru privately due to high demand, better profit, etc; it will be a miracle if we can find a travel trailer to suit our needs in Anchorage - we may need to go out of state to find one; crazy though this tangent seems, this is definitely the right direction to go in.

So, while Bruce was out test-driving, I was home pacing (as if waiting for a baby to be born). I decided right then and there to redo the office: post haste.

The new desk was in the garage (Bruce didn't feel able to bring it inside the house because he'd thrown out his back.) So, with the help of Jack's skateboard and 9-year-old Charley, from two-doors-down, I managed to scrape and heave the desk into the house.

I worked solidly on Sunday with rearranging furniture. Monday I went through cabinets and drawers, tossing the superfluous and saving the necessary. Today (Wednesday), I caught up on two years of filing, and tossed or archived many years of unnecessary documents. (Now we need to buy a shredder.)

The following are pictures of the "after" of the office. If you've never seen the "before" before, then it won't mean much. But I know my Mommy will be proud.

(This corner used to have a kitchen table that was piled with papers. That table is now in Jack and Sabrina's bedroom. )

(This credenza/base cabinet used to be covered with books, cds, and other miscellaneous crap. Much less cluttered-looking now.

(Here is our new desk - note the apple-tini to the immediate left of the keyboard [thanks Kaylin!]. Note the orca painting by Grandma Pat.)

(The living room, now that the arm chair is in the office. Very cozy. Please, come have coffee with me!)

And now I'm done. The office looks great. I have yet to curl in my armchair and rest my feet on the ottoman while sipping coffee and working my way through "Don Quixote", but it will come - maybe even as soon as tomorrow.

(Me, reading [still] "Don Quixote", and trying to avoid having my picture taken. Shot taken before re-model of office - otherwise I would have been snapped in cozy armchair in office.)

Meanwhile, Bruce and the two older kids are watching "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," and are completely entralled. I, in contrast, am writing this.

As I look out the office window I see fence, bare birch trees, and a progressively thinning swatch of snow. It is only a couple feet wide at the moment. Each day, despite cool temperatures, it shrinks back a bit more. I am ready to feel the sun on my face; to lie almost-naked in the backyard; and maybe even swat a mosquito or two.

Enough. I am done for now. I hope you've enjoyed the pictures.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Prehistoric Fairy Eggs

Each day in Alaska offers a new adventure. Especially in spring, when you’re never sure until you wake up and peek out the window whether it is still going to be spring, or if the world will have regressed back into winter. Yesterday morning, for instance I awoke to two inches of new snow. Didn’t even know it was coming. During the winter proper, I carefully watch the forecasts and radar in eager anticipation of snow, but this time of year, I just assume its going to be partly sunny and mild every day. I don’t mind snow in April. Our days are 14 hours long now, so light is not an issue, and the likelihood of snow sticking around is highly unlikely.

The previous day had been a beautiful, quintessential April Anchorage day. What with the time change, the kids have been out-sleeping me, so I am awoken by the sun, rather the scraping of kitchen stools and blood-curdling screams of clashing childrens’ personalities. The morning was spent in a long walk with Darlene the end of which had us both peeling off gloves, and zipping open jackets. Darlene’s husband Jeff called to say he spotted the first mallard of the season. I commented that my avian harbinger is the ever-familiar seagull, which I haven’t yet spotted.

The afternoon was spent reading “Jane Eyre” – the April bookclub selection. I could hardly put it down. It’s so exciting and so romantic that more than once at the end of a chapter I was left sighing heavily and wiping tears from my eyes. It is, truly, the most romantic book I’ve ever read. (Sigh) Anyway, enough of that.

Bruce and I ate a late dinner due to an error in judgment regarding how long it would take to make the chicken. My roux took almost an hour to brown to an acceptable level, so we didn’t eat until almost 7pm. Then, it was little kids to bed.

I’m not sure how the rest of us all ended up outside in the culdesac, but there we were, still almost two hours from sunset, with neighbor Gus trying to teach Jack to ride his bicycle (he still hasn’t figured it out sans training wheels). Sabrina was also zipping around with the help of training wheels, and Bruce was staining wood for the dressers he’s assembling for Ellie and Evan.

I wandered about the culdesac, crunching over the remaining hills of slush, hunting for the b-b’s a different neighbor’s son likes to shoot with his friends. My kids, especially Sabrina, love collecting the used b-b’s. They are all different colors and kind of fun to discover. So, I was busying myself with collecting, followed by Jet, Gus’s black lab, and Charley, Gus' oldest son.

Charley wanted to know why I was collecting them. I explained that lately Sabrina has been collecting items discarded by fairies. Sabrina believes evidence of fairies is everywhere, like a rogue swatch of iridescent ribbons, or a tiny tumbling feather. I figured these balls must surely also be fairy-stuff, with their bright colors and tiny proportions. Maybe they were fairy eggs.

“They look kind of prehistoric to me,” Charley observed.

“Hmmm. They do, don’t they?” I agreed. “Maybe they’re prehistoric fairy eggs.”

Charley and I gave each other conspiratorial grins.

Despite Gus’ most earnest efforts, we ended the evening little closer to Jack and Sabrina being able to ride their bikes properly. But, we had found evidence of many, many fairies: a certain enchantment, the promise of warmer days.

Sabrina is keeping the prehistoric fairy eggs in a plastic cup in the basket of her bicycle. As soon as this morning’s snow melts, I hope they will work their magic on teaching her to ride without training wheels.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Whole Lot of Nothing

I've been having a mini-breakdown lately. My head has felt a bit like one of those snowglobes that's been shaken up. But I'm really okay, and actually kind of happy, just a bit tossed around and confused. Imagine the snowman inside the snowglobe, with its smiley little face. That's me.

It doesn't help that it's April 3rd, and as I sit looking out the window, springtime snow is falling. For someone born in California and raised in Seattle, that is definitely confusing. But its all good. It certainly can't last very long (can it?). The two inches we got Saturday night and awoke to on Sunday melted right away.

For several days last week I was kind of manic, making all sorts of plans for my life, dreaming big dreams, shouting "carpe diem" out the window at the shirtless workman next door (no, not really). I had visions of starting an online bookstore out of my garage by subscribing to Alibris.com's bookselling service (worldwide exposure on places like bn.com, Amazon, etc. - how could that go wrong, baby?)

Also, I've been dreaming about theater. I've always enjoyed acting, and since no one is knocking on my door begging for me to be in their movie or play (other than my 7-year-old son, Jack), I thought, "Heck, why don't I produce a play?" So, I've been researching play production, and dreaming those big dreams that have a tendency of popping the very first time I mention my idea to someone a little more earth-bound than myself.

With my bubble burst (only temporarily, thank goodness), I was a bit blue for a couple days. I was wondering once again, "What is wrong with me? Why am I so different from everyone else I know?" I mean, I don't see Lisa producing plays. And Gillian, reader that she is, isn't starting an online book-selling business. Sigh.

On a whim this afternoon, while sitting at the computer trying to read "Don Quixote" while Ellie and Evan fought, and sipping a glass of wine before leaving for work, I happened upon the website Darlene saved on my "Favorites" several months ago. It is about the "INFP" personality type. INFP stands for Introvert-Intuitive-Feeling-Perceptive. I re-read this little snippet and was delighted to see that I'm PERFECTLY NORMAL! Perfectly normal for an INFP, that is.

It so happens that only 1% of the population are INFPs, so when a typical INFP (like me) feels like they're just a bit different than everyone else, and feel like they don't quite fit in, it's because IT'S TRUE! We are the least represented of all the personality types, so we really are the odd-men (and women) out.

And this made me especially tickled (and reassured): INFPs love quiet, solitary activities like reading (hmmmm); and they love to perform in theater (hmmmmm!); AND they make excellent novelist and writers (HMMMM!!!) So, I am normal afterall.

Most of my beloved friends and family have tried to tell me I'm okay for many years, but I can't quite get it through my thick skull. I tend to be very hard on myself (that's the idealist in me). The reality is, I don't quite see the world the way most other people do, and it really is confusing at times. I make decisions based on feelings and passion and want to conquer the world, and then I sink into morbid depressions of self-doubt and uncertainty. Most of the time, when I'm around other people, I'm faking fitting in. It's taken many years and much practice, let me tell you. The downside is that this only perpetuates a feeling of not fitting. Oh well, I'd rather be different.

Hey, I have an idea. I should start an INFP support group. I know two other INFPs off-hand who might benefit. Elaine and Jeff, what do you think?

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