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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

This week’s photo challenge is intriguing because it guides the eye towards seeing a little closer from a distance.

And vice versa.

It’s like wearing progressive lenses and making your head go up and down in order to see the same thing in blurred, broader, narrower or focused perspectives.

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Close up…

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…and from a broader perspective.
Here, the crew is prepping the balloon for inflation and subsequent takeoff into the sunset.

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…in the most unlikely of places, just when you’re feeling buried. When safe shielding turns into suffocating sequestering, a kaleidoscope of hope will ALWAYS come.

There is always a crack where Hope can shine through.

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Always, friend.

(For the record, this is the makeshift sunshield over a new shark tank soon to be open to the public…even sharks need protection…and hope!)

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Many dear friends here know that I spend about two hours commuting on any given workaday. Much of it is dreamlike, flying over expanses of cerulean waters capped with tangerine skies, with other-worldly cloud formations.

Sucky photo which doesn’t do justice to the thunderhead yesterday, but captures a typical artistic distraction during my flight:

12.4.12

I often drive with my middle finger (not what you think! click the darn link!), do my best thinking and reverie-ing, and enjoy some of the most pleasant moments of my life. Mysterious and distant cargo ships, playful dolphins and close calls with dive-bombing pelicans are not uncommon.

Sure, the usual hazards of commuting present themselves on a daily basis – outdated traffic reports that land me in a veritable parking lot on a bridge with no way out, the idiots who tailgate at 80 mph or use the “2 car-length” rule as an opportunity to dart in front of me causing a mile-long trail of brake lights.

And don’t forget the uncovered dump trucks which spew windshield-knickers, Bubba in his pick-me-up-truck who didn’t bother to toss the trash before he attained higher speeds and the morons who bumble along in the left lane going 50 who fail to observe the “slower traffic keep right” flashing signs all across the loooong bridge.

These things don’t make me flinch anymore, nosirree Bob. I know I’m supposed to be watching the road, but as a writer/photographer, this gem from this morning is the type of road hazard which most gets my grammatical goat and induces editorial road rage:

Commute from Hell

Dear God, may Jesus be Lord also of proper spelling and editing…

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…pulled into the driveway of the nice neighbor up the road to get some Satsuma oranges (cross between mandarins and tangerines). Funneled $5 in jug and grabbed bag top-middle and used shredder at home to make orange zest to throw into cranberry sauce the second it came off the stove…

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Captured this sunset on the commute home, because there was a 2-car accident on the sure-fire alternate route to avoid holiday traffic, and another couple of smash-ups on every other viable route home. God bless the slow-n-steady…I got home safely and savored the colors in the sky in the process:

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Came home to this sight…. (friends, study the spud)

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Yes, I have a jar of shells (or fifteen) around the house, including on the kitchen counter. I have never, however, had an army guy sticking out of a potato greeting me upon walking in the door. This was a first. I noticed the children parked the army-guy-in-potato near some of my cookbooks (which I rarely use). I believe they were trying to tell me something which I shall analyze tomorrow, probably and unfortunately after the fact. In the meantime, I will take the hint that there may be heavy combat in my kitchen between now and Black Friday.

In other accomplishments today, I:

~Reassured a young child why his mother’s cancelling his home pass for the Thanksgiving weekend due to his not-that-negative-behavior days before (even though he did his level best for a whole day prior) and her perception of inconvenience was justified…have a heart, ma!

~Reassured a set a parents why their child’s insistence that they did not want to go home for Thanksgiving because they can’t stand the fighting between Mom & Dad, was justified…knock it off already, y’all.

~Tried to help a 9 year old understand why he could not go home just for one day for Thanksgiving because his mother preferred to have men with meth over for Thanksgiving instead of complying with Child Services’ request that she attend family therapy so that the child might come home for a home pass…and we wonder why the world is going the way it is?!

~Explained to an 8 year old why Mommy was more interested in preventing domestic violence by going by boyfriend’s wishes to have her all to himself instead of 8 year old coming home even for a few hours on Thanksgiving…put ‘cher big-boy-boxers on, dude. Really.

~Comforted a seven-year-old about why Mommy can’t be with him because she has to work the ‘hood selling her body instead of being with him tomorrow. No comment.

God bless the owner of the bowling alley who offered these children a discount diversion for the day of Thanksgiving, and the owner of the skating rink who opened his business and heart to them the day after Thanksgiving, just cuz.

And the only reason I can’t take them all in myself is because it would be a gosh-darned ethical “conflict of interest,” and besides, my mother with Alzheimer’s is spending the day – and she’s mad as a freshly-uprooted fire ant right now right now because as POA I stand between her and her every dime she wants to give to every unscrupulous charity which hits her up at every opportunity by mail and phone. If only I could bring home the kids and feed them all and let them play on our Wii and pick out their favorite shells and stuff, Grandma would be amply diverted and fulfilled in the giving of her time and energy, and we’d have a big ol’ time.

Somehow I fantasize were HIPAA and privacy laws not such a barrier, everyone would get their physical and emotional needs met and be provided for, just fine thank you very much, the down-home way.

Kind of like the Honor Jug above.

Thanks, God, for the ways You help even when we feel helpless, for the ways You move in the lives of others that we can’t see in our finite glimpses. Thank You for making everything right when things can seem so wrong. Thank You, Lord, for the ways You meet the needs of those who are the neediest in Your eyes, not ours. Thanks, God, for teaching us to give thanks for all things, even those we can’t fathom.
God, thank You for meeting the needs of the dear friends here, too, needs which may be overshadowed by man’s perception and definition of “needs.” Thank You for loving us all as we are in our various stages of need, and for cutting through all the red tape we put between You and us. Thanks for knowing our hearts, even so…

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Growth: Earth & Sky, Cotton & Clouds…

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We all watched with awkward attention and stifled amusement to see how the officiant was going to recover the somber tone of the Good Friday service after The Great Disruption. With an ear-shattering crash in the ancient, echoey cathedral, the Very Reverend Dude’s cell phone slipped out of his swishing, toe-length black robe and busted into three chunks in front of the altar, just prior to the Veneration of the Cross. The rest of us had put our meager petitions before the cross, which was shrouded in a black veil; our fearless leader had sacrificed and presented his iPhone – in trinity – to the good Lord.

It was almost as much fun to behold as it was to experience God sending the direct message that men are men, life is life and that what counts is our direct line to Him that we ourselves maintain, apart from man-made rituals. And that death signals life.

It was a message of freedom; an unyoking of worldly hangups.

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The call had come at the 11th hour earlier this week, after a frenzied voice mail was unable to be returned. The father of the children was discovered slumped over, dead. Too young. Too unexpected. And just when things were getting good. They knew he’d been stressed out about his children, and had been grieved at their ongoing waywardness. He had done everything he’d known to do, even promising to save them from every monster and evil that dared haunt and taunt, proving his power and love in so many ways, but still they strayed. It seemed the more opportunities he gave, the more sick they became, the more trapped in dysfunction.

How bittersweet it was for him – and them – and those who loved them – to see that the only way they seemed to get better, to thrive and grow upright, was for him to remove himself altogether.

He couldn’t do it himself, it took the one who held authority over their disposition, and over his desire for them to heal, to hold firm in drawing a line. The line was drawn very clearly – gradually over a few weeks, but very distinctly – and it became clear to all that in order for success in growth, the cord had to be cut. It was said figuratively – the last thing that was said to him, in fact…but had they known that was the last time he would be seen alive, would they have done or said anything differently? Would the hug have lasted a lot longer? What would the last chosen words have been, instead of the words used under the assumption that there would be a tomorrow?

When someone dies, the grief process seems universal…the shock, the sadness, the denial – is this for real? – the bargaining. Replaying our last words on the phone. And in person. The last voice mail, the last text. Hanging on for dear life…wait, was it something I said or did? why him? Why not me, Lord?

The authority had an inkling that the intermediary had a soft spot for these errant children who fed into the intermediary’s soft spot. Had he not been there for them, like them, he might not have felt for them as much, but it had to be. But the authority saw through the fleshly feelings and the perpetuating sickness, and commanded the cord be cut.

There had to be separation in order for there to be unity and harmony.

There had to be baptismal suffocation, drowning and death in order for there to be resurrection, growth and new life. The baptism as crucifixion, yielding to perfection, renewal and eternity.

The anguish of the one imposing the necessary separation was very great, but there was no choice. When one does their best job, when one assesses a situation and determines the best course of action and executes the plan, it is difficult, but the affirmation of righteousness counterbalances any sense of regret.

For when you know a painful ending represents and yields a fruitful beginning, you know right has been done.

Will you have the mettle to get through the pain, with the promise of a new beginning? What kind of faith does that take?

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Back at the cathedral, the stately priest had passionately inserted into the ritual an unholy “Oh, NO!” as he gathered his long robe in one hand and sheepishly collected his cell phone parts with his other hand. The elderly ladies stiffened with anxiety upon his departure from the words in the Book of Common Prayer;  the younger adults gently strained to see which version of the iPhone he had just demolished. And she, near the back, contemplated that had he not dropped his phone in the middle of this serious occasion, holy day preceding holier of days, could she have otherwise have been so aptly reminded that men are just men, and that He came to us to be one of us? That He died for us, so we could have eternal life?

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The one child threw her arms around and thanked, strangely relieved and released. A totally unexpected response. We had prepared for the worst, with extra support, emergency response ready and all manner of funereal protocol.

But the child sang. She sang of how had there been no death, she would not be able to move forth. This young child who was too young to be privy to such concepts, communicated her freedom and joy in knowing the death was real and true, and it moved her. It moved her forward. She had great plans to no longer be wayward, and looked ahead to a new beginning, a new chance.

How do we get caught up in the ways of the world, that we forget and neglect such basic truths, as how death yields to birth, how dormancy produces life, the dead of winter begets the birth of spring? And a shattered iPhone will necessitate the purchase of a newer model?

There must always be a Great Disruption in order for things to get better, lest we slumber and bumble along down the wrong path.

I have no doubt the Lord used the death that rocked my week to draw me closer and remind me of a few important things. That is so cool how He neatly ties everything together in the end, even if we can’t fathom how or why something happens.

Death becomes new life…what better reason to celebrate?

He is risen! Happy Easter, my friend.

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She bounded past the ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, rounding up the walkway, vaguely hearing a fountain gurgling in the courtyard beyond. Like a rebellious child arriving late to school, she came tripping past the heavy doors which stood open facing the busy avenue. The doors were, as she was taught in preschool, purposely shaped like hands clasped together, praying and pointing Heavenward. They were also ominously dark; she was grateful they were welcomingly wide open. Had they been closed, she might have turned away.

She sat in the very back of the cathedral, the very last pew. For once she wasn’t late, but nonetheless was still the last to arrive and did not wish to be conspicuous. Everyone occupied the rear pews…no one sat in the first several pews. In fact, those in the “front” were still halfway to the back of the vast, echoey sanctuary. She was in good company; no one wanted to appear overly zealous to be repentant today, Ash Wednesday.

Making the sign of the cross as she genuflected, she quietly pulled the kneeler closer and obediently dropped down for brief prayer. As she caught her breath, she never got around to praying because the bell tower loudly proclaimed it was 12:00 noon. This proclamation took longer than she had time for prayer, and as soon as the twelfth bell bonged, the officiant appeared from nowhere and everyone abruptly stood. Rats, inadvertent noncompliance again. She quickly rose with the masses.

She noticed that the graceful trusses several stories high overhead sported a design of the Star of David. The stained glass at the front and around the sides looked ashy like the day outside, gloomy and humid. Warm, but dismal. Her eye was not drawn to the detailed pictures on the stained glass, but rather to the things that had nothing to do with why she was there: the creaky old hardwood floors, the sad reality that not enough bulletins had been printed for today because they didn’t expect as many as might should attend, and the discrepant accents of the officiants (one was notably Yankee with nasal tendencies in reciting the NeeCeene Creeeeed, the other drawled through the service with perfect Southern dialect, complete with a multisyllabic AH-may-yen).

They exhorted her to put away her thoughts and memories of days now behind.

They can make the entire float rock when they rock together in rhythm with the music...

It was a freak cold that night, but the next day was in the 70s. They keep the Christmas lights on the trees downtown through Mardi Gras.

Parades rolled night and day for the past month.

Dig the beer can on this dolphin's nose...

And don't forget the TaTas...

Secrets to catching the good stuff include holding an upside-down umbrella or hat, standing 2-3 deep (the maskers always tend to be looking into the crowd, not directly below in the front row of people), and having a handicapped child in tow.

Mardi Gras Booty (from ONE parade)

It was a drive-by service, to be sure – in and out in 25 minutes flat. There was even a monk-like sung Psalm – she at first thought it was piped in while they strode forth to the altar to receive a cross-shaped smudge of ash on their foreheads. But after she had been dutifully ashed and turned the corner to make her orderly way down the outer aisle to return to her pew, she saw it was an actual dude in a black robe up in the balcony holding the Book of Common Prayer, singing Psalm 51, just like the Psalms were meant to have been sung. Cool!

The hypocrisy did not evade her: she was painfully aware that the slap-quick service included, as is customary, an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading…which included the verses about Jesus teaching that we are not to appear as though we are openly fasting or suffering or giving alms or whatever it is we should do in secret to the Father…and the irony of receiving an ashen cross on the forehead, being sent forth for the rest of the day to bear this mark in public. LOOK AT ME! I WENT TO CHURCH MID-WEEK AND ENGAGED IN A HOLY ACTIVITY! DID YOU?! And yet, she has seen each denomination do some of the same thing in different ways, and each denomination find scorn in the other (smug one-upmanship). Or find comfort in the one that challenges them least, then they get stuck but think they are secure.

She thought, too, about how some denominations pooh-pooh the ritual in some churches, and likewise, how the ritualized churches pooh-pooh the loosely-structured, more casual worship of non-denominational churches. But they all do the same thing…basically. One cannot say that a ritual like, say, communion, is more meaningful when it is done less often, or that those who take communion each week have fallen into a meaningless routine. Meaningless routine can sneak upon us like a thief in the night, in whatever way we (WE!) think is best to worship Him.

She then thought of her spiritual journey which brought her from this very church at birth, to other denominations and churches through various phases of her life, and remembered that He hasn’t changed, His word remains as is. Man can create their variations of worship, but it all boils down to our relationship with God, from our hearts, and man is not to judge. There is no way he possibly can. God gives us His Word to go by…and in that we can know what He expects – and it is okay to worship this way or that way – it is our heart He sees, our intent. An ages-old ritual can be tired or fresh, depending on the participant…just as can the more modern, less-structured formats can incite zealous fire yielding to years of unhealthy comfort.

To her, it was old ritual seen anew, with refreshed meaning in the act of repentance…an exercise in evaluation the journey past, the current state of the heart, and the intentions for the future. The message was the same whether coming from an evangelical bent or a formalized, old-church ritual.

What’s old is new. And vice versa.

Man is naturally a hypocrite (Paul summed it up nicely in his exposition of doing what he willed not to do and not doing what he willed to do). As long as men and women worship Him in any fashion, there will be hypocrisy. It is the curse of human nature…unavoidable, and certainly no excuse to avoid Him.

She knew God was looking at her heart, though, and there was nowhere to hide. She had to take inventory of the ways she had erred to excess in worldliness, in sin, in indulgence, in thoughts and feelings and actions…and it was high time to turn the steering wheel back over to Him, to apologize and sacrifice. Those who don’t believe in God, surely find themselves in positions to do the same with those whom they’ve disappointed. It is only human to humble ourselves when we reach a point of over-indulgence in folly, and folly is never known until hindsight. It is how we little children grow and develop, and is quite natural, and good. He rejoices in our growth process.  It is how we draw nearer to Him. It is how even our stumblings are occasion to celebrate.

So what did she give up for Lent?

That shall remain between her and Him!

What she wants to know is, what in blazes (no pun intended) was burned to create the sticky ashes glued to her forehead?!

All she knows is it is Her privilege to sacrifice so little for what He sacrificed so greatly, for us all.

Are you stuck? Change! Move! Vamoose! You may move, but He won’t, so don’t be afraid.

He will be wherever you land, waiting for you, as always.

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Hey, God…thank You for getting my attention Tuesday night when You sent that bolt of lightning. I guess I ignored You the last few posts and forgot to give You the credit. Thanks for getting me through that 13.1. Thanks for giving me the chance to even still be here to post about it. And thanks for whatever hand You had in restoring our internet service yesterday. I had always surmised that AT&T was an agent of the devil, but Your “act of God” sort of trumped it all, regardless of the agents’ mischief. As usual, you took evil and used it for good.

Well, God, thanks for acting. I love a good whiz-bang event. I dunno about football scores and divine intervention (and thanks for my neighbor who dares fly the LSU flag at half-mast), but I don’t doubt You have a hand in the big stuff that’s beyond our power. Bigger than SOPA, anyway, which curiously coincided with our home’s outage. For a day or so I thought it was more than a few sites blacked out.

Heaven help us should we have a long-term electronic blackout. Mayhem surely would ensue. Pretty soon businesses and the young people running them won’t comprehend the meaning of a check, and will think archaic forms of non-electronic payments are as nostalgic as a trio of Widespread Panic concerts before the band goes on hiatus.

Yeah, our router got fried…lost the land line, lost internet, lost wi-fi, lost my not-too-smartphone, lost our patience. One big bolt was all it took, not long after I drifted off to sleep – it was a terrifying drop down back into bed after finding myself clinging to the ceiling fan. Amazing the power! Okay, okay, You have my attention! You always have…were you worried I slipped away? I am here. Slipped, well, yeah, I guess. I’ve been slipping for a while. Don’t we all cycle through seasons of hot & cold, off & on, in & out? I like that You’re giving us warmth this January, that I could sleep with the windows open all week long. Tuesday was a restless, kick-off-the-covers kind of evening to begin with, but I hear ya…

Static. That’s what the guy said. Our line had more “noise” than it should. So I asked, “Whaddya mean, noise? Like static, or what?” Yeah, like static. Not coming through clear. Interference. A “third-party device,” he said. Wth?

As if to get in on the general household malfunction the next night, a battery-operated toy began singing the ABCs at 2 am from atop the toy box in the children’s room, with its cheery laugh at the end of the song sounding more eerie than cheery at that hour. Not to be outdone, the fearless Buzz Lightyear chimed in immediately after the other toy when the child he was sleeping with, rolled over: “THIS IS AN INTERGALACTIC EMERGENCY!!!” Buzz authoritatively bellowed to us all in the dark of the night, at the top of his Duracells.

Funny, God, the state of the electronic capacities around here this week seems commensurate with the recent activity level of  my faith…static and disconnect – too ironic. Something has gotten in the way. You are only showing me in my terms where I’m at with You. Perhaps where we all are with You. Egad, Buzz was correct, this IS an intergalactic emergency. Draw me nigh…

I have allowed so many other distractions to come between us. Too busy to go to church, too tired to read the Bible, too distracted to pray, and too often tempted by wrong. But I’m listening. Thanks for understanding how life gets in the way. Thanks for knowing that I am still me, still here, still Yours. I will not let You become “Somebody That I Used To Know.” I don’t always understand Your timing or how things work, but I appreciate Your unmistakable ways of eliminating all the static, all the interference, all the hindrances caused by third-party devices, whatever those are.

So what else is a girl supposed to do with no internet? She went for a run, longest since the race and totally “In a Daydream,” stopping only once to reconnect with a neighbor who lamented the cost of upkeep for his beautiful, sporty, red mid-life crisis and gave her something to pray about with his ailing family members, and thus she found herself praying for most the rest of the run.

She rejected all-things-Kindle and, for the first time in over a year, resumed her leisure reading list by checking out the last of the Charlotte Brontë books she had not yet read, Villette. She enjoyed the feel of the pages, the smell of the paper, the comforting experience of reading words that did not emit a glow and a hum, causing her to stretch her mind, restore her imagination and prompting her to dust of her Bible to look up a vaguely spiritual reference that caught her attention in the book.

She pruned her roses, thought about the man who taught her how to prune roses and how God prunes us, and then had a close encounter with this fine creature, who narrowly escaped the clippers:

She actually slowed down long enough to take a nap – a rare event to be sure – and replenished the sleep stolen by the storms… and rested in Him.

She capped off the day with a long walk on the beach, hearing thunder in the distance and finding unusual treasures and casting driftwood back into the water, wondering how electronics ever came to dominate our lives to the point where we lose our perspective of what’s important and how to stay healthy. One curious find was a small magnetic decagon with faded words, the only visible word being “geospace.” Despite its mysterious importance in the past, whatever it was, it was no match for the elements. She thought about how God, the inventor of electronics and all things digital throughout space and time, allows us to use His stuff for good, but if we veer off, how He can so quickly remind us Who’s Who and what’s what.

She thought about how the simplicity of the ABCs always holds the keys to resolving intergalactic emergencies.

She forgave herself for veering and hoped others could also forgive her, for she knew that He had already forgiven.

She thanked Him for the great power in keeping things simple and relaxed. And focused.

On Him.

Thanks, God, for everything.

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This is what happens a couple of days after a birthday in a family in which each member covets corner pieces:

Birthday Dregs

You know which pieces will go next. The “Birthday” shall ultimately stand alone…and will be destined to become the Polite Piece which the Frosting Freaks will benevolently purport they are foregoing out of courtesy to others. And then it will go dry in the fridge until it quietly disappears on the next trash day…

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For my new followers from the last post, welcome – and allow me to confess that the heart-wrenching style with which that post (and several preceding it) was written, is only half of me. The other half is the ghost of Erma Bombeck, albeit merely a wish for a sliver of her master wit. Like the big, red clown nose one of our nurses wears on the children’s unit, humor is one sure way to counterbalance what otherwise would be very difficult profession for one’s heart to manage.

And I have not been very funny lately, since about Labor Day weekend – come to think of it, those were the last funny post out of my fingertips – because there was nothing all that funny while I was furthering my education and cramming for a national exam during the past three months. A grim undertaking at best, it is over. It was about as much fun as untangling my bra straps fresh out of the dryer.

I am beyond happy to report that I passed, have achieved a new and improved professional stature which only my colleagues give a rip about because few others can recognize the futile, haughty jumble of alphabet soup behind our names, anyway. Doesn’t really matter…I never hang my credentials in my office anyhoo…one, who cares, as long as you get the job done, and two, it’d be just my luck to hang ’em and have some kid go into an aggressive rage and break one the day after they were hung.

At any rate, I am finally starting to regain feeling in parts of my numb skull (no comment), which was due in full to said academic undertaking. I am vaguely aware that I have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger award, for which I am most honorably flabbergasted, but I will not be able to fully acknowledge nor make good on my responsibilities for this until I altogether come to. This acknowledgment shall be forthcoming, I promise.

Besides, I have yet to sit down and master the fine art of linking in text here. I suck at reading directions. And I’ve limited patience for fiddling. Yes, I’m the one who’ll be responsible for the off-balance, cockeyed tyke bike under the tree Christmas morning, the one with the handlebars coming out of the side of seat and the horn attached to the spokes of the wheel. And hauling my bleeding kidlet to the ER shortly thereafter.

That is, if it weren’t for my left-brained, instructions-guru husband, who tirelessly crouches and grouches over the assembly-required items at 11pm on Christmas Eve, while I innocently sip hot cider in bed playing online Scrabble. Rest assured our respective roles in this matter were decidedly determined after our first child’s Christmas, when we battled it out for which way was right, Cog A into Slightly-Off-Center-Grommet-B (“damn the manufacturers, gimme the drill”). No, sweetheart, go to sleep…that wasn’t Daddy and Mommy, just Santa’s reindeer on the roof. After that first Christmas, our roles were clearly defined in this department. Bless this one-flesh of mine…he has mastered the assembly details to where he now comes to bed within 30 minutes of the young masses falling asleep. Cool.

As I rub and blink my weary eyes and insert myself back into my life as I knew it in September, I have awoken to the results of the sole female in a house of six, turning her attention elsewhere for a season. I have opened my eyes and behold, entered the season of destruction. Season’s greetings, ya slackin’ mama! Thankfully, the Christmas tree and accompanying decorations have managed to materialize. The children made it through another semester, husband has been sufficiently trained not to expect me to cook for him anymore, and the houseplants resemble a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, but alive – nothing a little Miracle Gro can’t help.

On the flip side, the pantry is filled with man-snacks, as though I have irreverently entered a remote hunting camp, minus the skinned and hanging deer. I am being asked to believe that the floor was just swept two days ago when dust bunnies the size of Texas loom underneath the buffet. And the teenager responsible for doing the dishes has managed to chip every last bowl, plate and saucer in the cabinet. Evidently, hollering out from behind my book in the bedroom clear down to the kitchen, “I SHOULDN’T BE HEARING ANYTHING CLINK WHEN YOU EMPTY THE DISHWASHER!!!” wasn’t enough.

During my mental hiatus, I am quasi-aware of some less-than-intelligent conversations which took place. Monday afternoons found me chauffeuring the children to piano lessons, which take place in the town’s most upscale subdivision where lonely, looming Munster-like but manicured mansions abound. You rarely see people in them because they are elsewhere, off fetching the salaries they need to pay for the homes they barely get to enjoy. Except, that is, for our piano teacher, who has cleverly set up shop in her parlor.

Each Monday I recall being talked into letting them roll the windows down while we waited for the last one to finish his lesson, and each Monday I recall having to shush all of them getting verbally rambunctious, their playful shrieks from the backseat echoing off the stately homes surrounding us. One Monday I wised up and the windows remained up. But last Monday, it was unseasonably warm, so down came the windows to enjoy the sweet breeze. Within moments, they were back to their shrieking shenanigans, and I absent-mindedly joined them: “Y’ALL STOP ACTING LIKE A BUNCH OF HOODLUMS IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD…WAIT’LL WE GET HOME, OKAY?!”

Driving off after the lesson was over, I found myself wondering just what I meant by that.

Another intelligent conversation transpired yesterday while I held my 13-year-old captive on a drive to and from a nearby island:

Me: “So what else do you want besides an Xpensive Box?”

Him: “Well, I know what I want.”

Me: “Well, what do you want?”

Him: “I’m not sure.”

Brilliance. I suppose the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

In other waking observations, I see the three-year old has not been adequately disciplined to date. I submit to you Exhibits A, B and C:

Broken beads, balls & Buzz

Exhibit A: Freud missed a stage; the proper stages should have been Oral, Anal, Nasal, Phallic, Latent and Genital. Here is the Mardi Gras bead (from the string he broke) which he inserted into his nose last night, another bead he was ABOUT to insert into his other nostril, and the crude but useful implement Daddy fashioned in order to extricate the offending orb Made In China. We escaped an ER copay and the child escaped Daddy’s operating expertise, when a small miracle (the forceful snort the child emitted when we had him pinned to the bed to examine the problem) caused the bead to descend on its own out of his nostril. I do believe Daddy and Mommy were more concerned, because as we frantically considered our options, Snuffy, bead up nose, nonchalantly asked for an animal cracker.

Exhibit B: Behold the multitude of broken Christmas items. Each child is allowed to pick a new ornament each year. The little one took it upon himself to locate each and every shiny, red icicle, the ones chosen by eldest brother, and snapped them all into at least two pieces. See the shards of the remains of another brother’s hand-painted (glass) ornament. And somewhere in that melee of mess is a lone jingle bell without its ribbon. We thought we could get away with not having to put all the ornaments halfway up the tree out of reach this year. Apparently not. He may have a future in advertising when the guy in the Allstate commercials retires.

Exhibit C: The top off a Matchbox race car. No clue how he pried it off so clean – he’s going to make a fabulous burglar someday. The little duckies from the farm set – baby duck ripped from its family, mother duck absent altogether, no telling where he put her. He probably ate her. And last but not least, Buzz Lightyear. Note the dangerously exposed wires where his left hand used to be. Left hand is now unceremoniously filed in the kitchen tool drawer of no return – you know, the one that has no actual tools in it, but instead has scores of broken household parts we mean to get to “some day.” Buzz’s amputated hand now holds the spring which held his hand in place where the wires now dangle. He still talks with authority when you press his buttons; he’s just not as believable anymore. Maybe the mishap occurred when he crash-landed by mistake, that’s what we’ll tell ’em.

Of unrelated interest is the distressed coffee table on which the exhibits lie. It did not become distressed until we first became distressed and gave up trying to keep the kidlets from playing on it “to keep it nice” (for what?! coffee?! made a much better surface for wood-scratching toys like Legos and cars). Luck of all luck, the “distressed look” came into vogue right about the time I was about get a new coffee table. Always me, fashionable by default, like the boots I bought in 1984 which came in handy 20 years later. I suppose I will postpone the purchase of a new coffee table until  (lessee, 18 minus 3…) um, 15 years from now.

As if these gems weren’t enough to collect in one day, I present to you Exhibit D:

Crunchy Christmas

It is our custom to decorate the children’s bedrooms with Christmas lights each Christmas. We had just put him down to sleep last night, and within 20 minutes, we heard an unearthly choke followed by a blood-curdling wail. Running in the room, he was spewing red and orange glass from the Christmas lights he tried to eat, all over his jammies and the floor. He had inquired as to their taste earlier in the season, and we lectured him thoroughly on the dangers of consuming Christmas lights. He stayed away from the lights the rest of the time, and we’d had them hung high on the top bunk and near the ceiling, not anticipating Curious George to climb up, pull them down and chomp on one. No, not one, but two. I wonder if he liked the taste of the red one so much he had to try the orange. The happy news is, no implements or ER trip necessary, once again everything came out just fine on its own fairly quickly. Lesson learned. Lights removed. We’ll try again next year.

Lastly, I submit Exhibit E:

Christmas Cow-Tipping

Yes, the naughty little shaver had to go and mess with baby Jesus after breaking his brother’s nutcracker, placing the head where the star should be on the manger scene, and tipping over the cow for good measure.

It’s a wonder we haven’t had a third incident involving the septic tank this year, as busy as he’s been. I guess he’s gone from putting things down the toilet to putting things down his hatch, breaking big things like plumbing systems to breaking small things. I will consider this a blessing, and progress.

The only thing keeping him from getting a lump of coal in his stocking was what he urgently said today as he noticed all the leaves had fallen off the maple tree out front: “We need to get more leaves for the tree for Christmas!”

Ah, the season of destruction just may yet yield to the season of giving!

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