Thursday, July 31, 2008

Life With A Math Nerd

Every parent has experienced at least one of those moments when their child says something that makes you think what the heck is wrong with that kid. Did I do something to damage this kid's psyche so badly that she feels that these things are normal? The bizarreness of such things is multiplied logarithmically when the kid is a math nerd masquerading as a drama queen. Or is it a drama queen masquerading as a math nerd? Honestly, this really doesn't matter. The upshot is still one peculiar teenager.

Here's the proof.

Me: You need to reset your alarm clock. It is not correct, probably because of the pwer outages last night due to the storm.
Nerd: There's nothing wrong with my clock.
Me: Yes there is. It is two hours and fifteen minutes ahead.
Nerd: I set it that way.
Me: Why?
Nerd: Because I like to do the mental math to figure out what time it really is when I wake up in the morning.

Nerd: Will you turn the radio up?
Me: Can you really not hear it?
Nerd: Yes, I can hear it, but it is set on "4".
Me: And . . .
Nerd: It bothers me when the volume is not set to multiples of five.

Nerd: Can I order two pancakes?
Server: They come in orders of three or five.
Nerd: But I only want two.
Me: Well then just eat two.
Nerd: I like my food to be served in twos.
Me: Like Noah's ark?
Nerd: Exactly. Forget the pancakes. How many tacos come in an order?
Server: Three.
Nerd: Can I have a turkey sandwich cut in half?
Server: Mayo or mustard?
Me: Or both?

Around here we have five animals, two kids, and a DVD player that constantly blinks 12:00. Does any of this make me responsible for the idiosyncracies of my little math nerd? I'm proud to claim her and all her weird numeric eccentricities.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is It Real Or Is It A Bad Dream?

Sometimes the stars in the heavens align and there are strange intersections of thoughts and images. So was the case this morning.

Here is the background. My younger child has been in Cozumel, Mexico for nearly a week on a mission trip with our church's youth group. Most such trips are geared towards humanitarian aid. This one, however, is focused on environmental issues. They have cleaned up beaches, helped build for the local SPCA and, the highlight of the trip, rescued sea turtles. (I hope to post some pictures from her trip when she gets home tomorrow.) The kids have been sharing their adventures through daily blog posts. I, like most of the parents, have been reading faithfully and turtles are on my mind.

Here is another piece of necessary information. Contrary to what my pantry fridge looks like, we are not big drinkers around here. Because my house is often the locus for informal gatherings to which people bring their favorite spirits and neglect to take them home with them, there is no shortage of alcohol around here. Rarely do I indulge, but last night I did. Because I don't drink very often, it doesn't take much to do me in. Suffice it to say that I had several cans of beer and I was not anxious to get up this morning.

The important information here is turtles in Mexico and not being terribly coherent early this morning.

The dogs wanted to go out a little before 8:00. I figured they would run around for a while and then scratch to come in. That always wakes me up so I went back to bed once I had let them out. But, it was not the dogs wanting in that woke me up. I had this sense that someone was looking at me. I rolled over and sure enough looming over me was my older daughter, who appeared to have a turtle in her hands. For a brief moment, I thought I was dreaming until she said, "Mama, I rescued a turtle!" Sure enough, the rescued turtle was now looking me in my bleary eyes. Once i realized that this was not a dream, I became fully engaged in this turtle's plight.

Seemingly, Brooke heard a funny noise outside. It turned out to be the dogs, two of ours and the neighbor dog who thinks he lives here, playing Keep Away or some other canine playground game with a turtle. It is not uncommon for the dogs to fetch empty turtle shells from the pond, so Brooke assumed that this too was an uninhabited shell. When she removed it from the dog's mouth, she saw moving legs and turtle eyes, which I must say were much more alert than mine. For some reason, she left the dogs outside and brought the turtle inside to consult with me about what to do with him . . .or possible her. (I'm not sure how to tell with a turtle.) All three dogs were waiting on the deck for Brooke to return to them their morning catch. That was not going to happen.

I let the dogs in one door and she and the turtle went out another, headed for a place of turtle respite, the pond. In the time that Brooke was gone, the dogs settled down and went back to sleep as did I. I'm not sure how long I had been asleep when Brooke again waked me to tell of all her experiences while shepherding the turtle to safety.

She told me about the sounds of many unhappy cows. The cow noises were accompanied by howling so I suspect a pack of coyotes was looking for a Big Mac for breakfast. She also found a partially gnawed on femur, which she assumed was from a previous cow. Then there was the tree frog that hopped across her path. I guess that while living in the big city of Chicago she had forgotten all the wonders of country life. This morning was a reminder. The ironic thing here is that it is usually me who is up early and her that doesn't realize that the morning has hours that are followed by "AM".

All in all, this was a strange picture of happenstance.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I went to Austin Friday afternoon for a meeting that started this morning. Austin has some wonderful restaurants and bookstores so a little extra time in our capital city is aways enjoyable. Austin is also known for having the largest urban bat colony. At dusk, millions of bats emerge from under the bridge in the middle of the city creating a black cloud on the skyline.

I have seen the bats fly several times before so I decided that this weekend I was going to go to the lake Friday night and take pictures. By 8:30 I was among many others with cameras waiting to photograph this amazing sight. As dusk approached, I could hear parents telling their fidgety children to keep watching. The bats would fly any minute now. At the far side of dusk, we began to see a few bats move from under the bridge. With that, cries of "their starting" came. The entire crowd watched and waited, and waited, and waited. The sun had completely set and dusk had officially turned to night. No bats. No pictures.

I really was not in the mood to be disappointed, but that is exactly where I found myself. I took a lone stroll along the edge of the lake and stared across at the Austin skyline. It really was beautiful, but I wanted to see the bats. That was not going to happen.

Before I gave up, I took this picture.

I wonder, was he as disappointed by the absent bats as I was?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Not long ago I was knitting with a relatively new friend (we have known each other since January) and I made some comment about my house being covered in dog and cat hair. She stiffened her back and said, "I didn't know that you have a cat. All you ever talk about is the dogs." The truth is that I have three cats (only two dogs) and the dogs do get more air time. This speaks well for the cats. The dogs usually get more air time because they always doing something bad.

Whatever the reason, I am going to try and give the cats their due time. Like I said, I have three - a female that we got from an adoption event and two male litter mates that Brooke found as tiny kittens abandoned on a soccer field.

This is Blair, one of the boys. He is shy but affectionate. Blair spends most of his time in my closet nestled in the sweaters. He greets me every morning in the bathroom while I get dressed and again at night when I get ready for bed. He is definitely a hider. Every now and then he ventures into my office where all the other animals hang out. Even then, as you will notice in these pictures, he still doesn't want to be seen.

Cambridge is the one female. She is almost too affectionate, always wanting to be in your lap or on your shoulder or in your face, especially when you are trying to sleep. Any time I am at my desk she is right there overseeing everything that I write.
She is also the one who is responsible for all typos and extraneous characters in any of my blog posts. She likes to have control of the track ball. You should try working while the cat is moving the cursor and stepping on the buttons. There are days when what I write looks like some language that has yet to be discovered. Maybe that's it. Cambridge has the next great novel inside and is looking for help to get it on paper.
Spencer is Blair's litter mate. Like my kids, they are like night and day. Spencer is without question an "E" on the Meyers-Briggs. He has to be in the middle of everything - the table, the kitchen counter, the dogs, knitting. He loves hand knit things. When we are sitting at the table with a project spread out, he pulls a little corner for himself to lay on. Wool is his favorite, but in a in a pinch any fiber will do. He loves to play with the dogs. It works OK because if the going gets tough he can always retreat to higher ground. I think that he may have been a dog in a former life because he has more dog traits than cat.
Spencer has a beautiful face. He does not like full body shots because he had an unfortunate encounter last year when he, an inside cat with no front claws, decided to try his luck in the outdoor world. That didn't work so well for him. Spencer found himself about 15 feet up in a Mesquite tree but not before a dog had stripped about a third of his tail. He
ended up with half of a tail. Fortunately he has suffered no self esteem problems.
So, that is the feline family. Equality has been restored.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Writing On The . . .Collar

After the surgery on my arm last week, I was sent home with a list of instructions, some of which pertained to the day of the surgery and others were more long term. Some of their suggestions were:
  • Rest as much as possible in the first 24 hours
  • Don't make any important decisions in the first 24 hours after having anaesthesia
  • Don't get the wound wet for 10 days
  • Don't lift anything over ten pounds for ten days (until the stitches have disolved and the steri-strips are removed
  • Stay out of the sun

Some around me may try to convince you that I am not a very good patient, that I don't follow directions, and that I am stubborn. I don't know how I gave anyone these impressions. I did my best to follow all of the doctor's orders. Really. I did.

When we got home from the hospital I settled myself in the recliner with the hope of watching a little TV. (Obviously I don't watch daytime TV enough or I would have known that this was an ill-fated plan; there was absolutely nothing worth watching.) After Jeopardy, it was downhill. By the time the final jeopardy question had been answered everyone at my house but me was asleep. I did what anyone would do in such a situation. I turned to the Internet for a little retail therapy. I did this in an effort to follow doctor's orders. Let me explain.

The surgeon basically said that any direct exposure to sunlight was too much for me. So I decided that I needed some long sleeved shirts that did not make me look like I was "climate challenged". I am particularly fond of a specific brand of linen clothing. I have bought a few of their pieces in local retail shops, but I wanted to see the whole line. We all know that the Internet doesn't disappoint. I found a great website with exactly what I what I was lokking for. So far I have not violated any rules given to me by any member of the medical establishment. Using the computer requires no lifting. SInce the surgery was on my left arm and I am right handed, the arm in question was able to rest comfortably on a pillow with its form-fitting velcro ice pack attached.

In placing my order, I did not force myself to make any important decisions. Instead of troubling myself with choosing between two colors of shirts, I just ordered two. Decision making process averted!

The shipment came at the end of last week, and weighed less than ten pounds, so again I was well within the established guidelines when I carried it from the front porch to the table to open it. When I pulled the shirts from the box, I instinctively looked at the tags in the collar to make sure that they had sent the correct size, which they had. I noticed that in addition to the label that had the brand name, fiber content, size, and laundering instructions, there was a second tag. It read, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams." This is one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau. I was pleasnatly surprised to find these words of wisdom bound in the neckband of my shirt, but I did wonder when this company started doing this. None of their other pieces that are hanging in my closet have such tags. Or do they? I headed for my closet just to see. (Note: This is seven days after my surgery so rest is no longer being perscribed.) I was wrong, They all had one. Little did I know that each time I have worn these things, I have carried with me a few gems of wisdom. The sayings include:

  • "Simple is superb."
  • "I am not stuck with anything unless I stick with it."
  • "I am legendary."
  • "Love prevails."

Now I notice these tags as I am getting dressed. As I make my way through the day, stopping to breath and reflect on the words in the day's collar helps me to refocus in moments where my mind is wandering. On laundry day, while folding and hanging, I have another chance to savor these thoughts.

Most of us were taught of the necessity to read the care labels on our clothing when we left home. Instructions such as DRY CLEAN ONLY, wash with similar colors, lay flat to dry, wrinkles are a natural element of this fabric, are essential to the proper care and feeding of your wardrobe. With my new favorite clothing manufacturer, reading the labels is also essential to the proper care and feeding of the soul and spirit.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

An Amazing Poem

This poem is also from Jeff Rockwell's book
Making Friends With The Dust.

One thing at a time

Our progress will never make it possible
for us to fly with our arms open
flapping in the air.
What it can do, however,
is inspire us to do
at a time.

Nothing more needs to be said here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Clouds, Rainbows, and Stick Figures

When adult life seems confusing and overwhelming, sometimes it is helpful to step back in time and remember what our world looked like when we were six or so. Life was simple. We trusted most people. We believed we were loved unconditionally. Everyone around us was concerned with our happiness and well being. And, crayons and creativity were a part of every day.

Our simplistic perception of life was reflected in all those crayon renderings of the world around us that were displayed in that place of honor – the refrigerator door. People in our pictures were stick figures. They may be black or green or red or blue. It really didn't matter. Most of them did not have clothes, probably because how people dressed was not a big deal to six-year olds. Our people maybe had fingers and/or toes – somewhere between two and seven on each appendage. Or, maybe they didn't. That didn't matter either. Trees full of ripe apples were often in our drawings. Rainbows, with or without rain, were also common because when drawing a rainbow we could use six of the eight crayons in the box. Oh, there were the kids who had black and brown in their rainbows and that was OK too. If the rainbow was accompanied by rain, the picture had black scalloped-edged clouds with black sheets of rain. Or, rain was also drawn without the clouds. Most often it was then represented by big blue drops that fell on brightly colored flowers that smiled up at them from lush green grass. You may remember that in these drawings, the sun was always smiling and the moon was often sleeping. Most of the time, we only drew half of the moon because if we drew a full moon, it would look like the sun. Did we know about the phases of the moon at six?

After dinner this evening, I was struck by a seemingly sudden change of light. Just as I was about to comment, Erin came in to the room and announced that we were about to have storms. She had gotten a text message from a friend who lives a little southeast of us where it was already raining. I picked up my camera and went outside. (There is no logical explanation as to why this was my response.)

As I looked around, the world looked like it did forty some years ago when I was six but instead of preserving the images I see with crayons and paper, I am now using my camera. In reality, the final product is not much different. Though intellectually I know that nothing is really simple, for a few moments tonight I felt like storm clouds are pretty and frilly, every picture should have a rainbow, and the sun is always smiling.

Though it is hard to see in this picture, I know that the sun that is slipping down on the horizon is smiling.

The rain falls as dark sheets.

Storm clouds are pretty and scalloped.

And, the moon is not round like the sun.

In the midst of mid-life, it is hard to remember this long ago simple world, a life before we had experienced any real hurt or heartache. I am still overwhelmed by the questions that I mentioned in my last post. My search for answers consumes my thoughts, but I do not really feel burdened by the questions themselves. I am trying to be present in each moment. I have faith that in this, the answers will be revealed.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Walking With Questions

Today the Labyrinth Ministry of our church, of which I am a part, had its regular monthly meeting. Up until recently, we have neglected walking the labyrinth as a part of these meetings in favor of having more time for "business". The majority of the group agreed that not walking together was a mistake in that our work together was not firmly grounded in the labyrinth itself.

For nearly ten years, the labyrinth has been an integral part of my spiritual journey. I first walked on a paper labyrinth at our church. Since then I have had the opportunity to walk at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, outdoor labyrinths in Chicago, our own canvas labyrinth in places from Dallas to California, and I was blessed to spend a week on the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France.

Just as every stroll we take down our own neighborhood street or walk we take through the aisles of the grocery store is different, so is every labyrinth walk. The experience can range from "so what" to "Wow!" It can spark fear or laughter. It may call forth tears of sorrow or tears of joy. A walk may leave you with answers or questions. The latter was the case with my walk today. I had so many questions that I had a hard time focusing or even articulating them. When I find myself in such a place, I turn to the words of others to help me make sense of my thoughts and feelings.

It is the poetry of Jeff Rockwell in his book Making Friends With The Dust where I find comfort tonight.

A body of questions

Are all rivers flowing in time?
Are all songs a cry for more?
Are all canyons made of slow-moving gold?

Do all bananas dream of sex?
Do all embraces stretch from head to toe?
Do all highways follow the signs?

Are all stoplights a reminder to breathe, and
should we say, "thank you?"
Are all pretensions as obvious as they mean to be?
Are all dyed-hairs where they belong?

Do all homes approve of their owners?
Do all fears have a purpose in life?
Do all beds drive lovers crazy?

Are all hearts underrated?
Are all missionaries and preachers living their own lives?
Are all mystics out of a job?

Do all footsteps know where they are going?
Do all restaurants in America serve passion?
Do all moments count if no one is counting?

I still have lots of questions and no answers, but I take solace in the fact that I am not the only one who walks around with a head full of unanswered, possibly ridiculous, questions. Perhaps my next walk will be a journey of answers.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July

The Week In Review

Okay, I have not done any better writing this week than I did last week, but this week I can account for where the days have gone.

Monday was spent getting my life back in order after having been gone all weekend. I came back from my silent retreat rested and relaxed and those who spent the weekend at my house (some kind of REALLY messy house guests I think or was it my family??) had their own kind of retreat - a retreat from washing any dishes or clothes, putting anything in the trash can, which negated the need to take any trash to the dumpster, or from putting any of the 6, 347 DVD's (by actual count) that they watched during these brief three days back in their sleeves. I think that maybe they had more of a retreat than I did. I at least made my bed every day and washed my own iced tea glass! So there went Monday. Oh, I think there was a trip to the grocery store in there as well.

Tuesday morning we went out for breakfast and selfishly took a few minutes to sit and do the crossword puzzles before going over to help a friend. She was getting a new puppy from a local rescue agency and wanted some help wrangling her other three dogs while the woman from the agency, who was probably more picky about this dog's new home than CPS is about most foster homes, scoped out the situation. All went well and "Peanut" who is now being called "Petey" has a new home.

Wednesday morning began bright and early. I had to be at the hospital at 6:30 am for outpatient surgery to remove skin cancer from my arm. The procedure went well; all of the cancer is gone and I am left with about a 5 inch incision. I was really hoping for a smiley face scar but because the did not have to do a skin graft I have only a boring wavy line. I think I look like an idiot who did not know how to slit his own wrist. Brooke says it is more like a wound from a defensive move from a knife fight. The bottom line, all is well. I am stitched and taped back together.

I did learn that most hospital staff does not have a sense of humor. First of all, a nurse asked me if I had had a hysterectomy. I responded with a "no". She then told me that she needed a urine sample. I said to her, "You are not seriously going to do a pregnancy test are you?" She said that they have to do one on every woman under fifty who has not had a hysterectomy. Has the medical profession not heard of tubal ligation? Celibacy? Boredom? There are lots of ways not to be pregnant. I did tell her that if I was pregnant that we would all be rich and that if she would smile I might share with her. She didn't smile. And, I am not pregnant. When I got home I had a little Internet retail therapy and played many computer games.

I taught my class on Thursday morning. I managed to play some dictation examples on the piano with my minorly swollen fingers. The one difficulty of the surgery is that I can't get my arm wet for ten days. That makes washing my hair a little challenging. I think that saran wrap, which I loathe as something to use in the kitchen, may become my best friend. I'll have to warp my arm with it to take a shower for the next couple of weeks. If I don't make friends with it, I will smell too bad for any of my human friends to want to get close to me! fortunately, my dogs don't care what I smell like. My knitting buddies did come over last night for a little fun. It had only been a little more than a day since I showered so it was OK. Today may be a different story.

You all know that I like to post pictures here. I do have some options. I could post pictures of my arm with its varying colors, steri-strips (the real stitches are on the inside), and the doctor's marks that say "slice here." However, I think you would rather see this: This is "Petey". He is a four month old terrier mix. This little guy, though he is very young, has had a rough life. He was rescued from someone that was using him as bait to train pit bulls to fight. Despite that, he is the happiest and friendliest little guy and has no problems getting along with other dogs. He was marked as "unadoptable" by a city shelter because of the puncture wounds that he had. A woman from a private rescue agency went and got him on the day he was to be euthanized. She nursed his wounds and then placed him up for adoption. He now has a wonderful human mom that loves him and three canine brothers and sisters that are taking good care of him.

All and all, this has been a good week!