Until change finds me

31 August 2012


I read her post today, and she poses a question that hurts and hopes in equal measure:
What does one do with all these half-painted dreams?
I wish I knew.

I put mine in a box, stored high on a shelf in our closet, visiting infrequently, afraid to look in. I see them in maps and pictures, displayed in a ratty apartment I can't wait to break free from. They call out to me, taunt me, frustrate me... "You're not there yet," they say.

I look to those clouds of change, after a hot and dry and unbearable summer, bringing in wind from a hurricane, dying down in our plains. Rain half-heartedly falls in desperate spits. "Go, please go," they say.

What does one do with all these half-painted dreams? I pray, I sing songs (slow, tearful notes of hope), I go to the grocery store, I fold laundry and pick up legos and make my bed. Every day... 

Until change finds me.

Five Minute Friday
Today is Five Minute Friday, where we join the lady formerly known as Gypsy Mama and write it out. 

Give it a go. It's great, cheap therapy.

A diamond jubilee

30 August 2012

Four years ago, my mother and I climbed a large hill; many hills, actually. She came to visit us in Ireland, and we walked and walked, visited the sea a dozen or more times, drank tea and ate scones. All of my favourite pictures of her were taken during that trip.




As you can see, we kept her on Ella Duty.



Thank you for helping me become the mother I needed to be, for sending me where I needed to go, for showing me how to be simultaneously independent and wholly dependent on God. 

We wish you, Queen of our tiny tribe, a happy diamond jubilee. And many more.


I'm being committed (to Compassion)

28 August 2012

I'm being committed.

Join the Compassion Blogger NetworkWait, that's not right. I mean, I'm about to commit to something. You all know how terrible I am at that: committing, staying faithful, following through, and finishing well. But I'm gonna give it a go again, for Compassion.

The thing is, I'm a terrible Compassion blogger. I get the newsletter telling me what my assignment is, and I sit paralyzed in the nice, clean chair at Starbucks, wracking my brain for anything of worth to say about poverty, about the orphaned, about Jesus in the the less-frequent-than-ought-to-be letters and drawings and family photographs I lick and stamp.

I am bereft of words. I am afraid of digging deeper into discomfort. I am lazy. And I am happy to just sit right here, drinking my latte, in a comfy Starbucks chair.

But we are in the business of challenging people, pushing them gently past their comfort zone, partnering with us in going and sending and sacrificing. So, really, it shouldn't be this hard for me to put my hand to the plough for these little ones (ok, maybe just my laptop keyboard; i'm not even entirely sure what a plough is), children we may never meet but still know through the short, shaky handwriting of a 6 year old or the intelligence and prayers for wisdom from the growing teenager.

So next month, with these two brilliant children in mind, I'm going to commit to Blog Month at Compassion. There's only four I really need to write, so should be easy-peasy, no? The kicker, the great big bonus, is that Blog Month has a goal: 3,108 children sponsored between Sept. 1 and Sept. 30. The most ever for any September ever. And that is worth writing about, worth digging deep about, worth praying and fretting and hand-wringing over.

It's the least I can do. For the least of these.

If you give to Compassion, you should blog about it. And if you don't have a blog, you should start one. And then you should join us here for the blogging month. There may or may not be prizes. Ok, there are prizes. 

The grand eczema experiment of 2012

27 August 2012

Our girl has eczema. Severe eczema. This is nothing new, but it comes and goes in waves, in accordance with the weather or the location or the food touching her sweet pink face. I've got it too, but I could live with it - the itchiness, the pain, the oh-so-attractive red bumps - if it weren't for my little twin, staring back at me, scratching every part of her tender body.


As a newborn, this was her forehead, eventually spreading to the rest of her face and body...


At this point, we began a fun twice-daily regimen of bathing her, covering her with lotion, hydrocortisone, and aquaphor. She became quite slippery and had a glow about her:

aquafor face

For most of her five years, variations on this treatment sufficed. And we began to discover things she was sensitive to: peanuts, strawberries, fragrances, soaps, animals, dust, etc, etc, etc... We treated her like any allergen-contaminated specimen, adjusted her diet, made our own laundry detergent, and bought every fragrance-free dermatologist-recommended body wash imaginable. Some years, there were many more good months than bad. But this year we've had several bad months. Patches on her neck, shoulders and legs became so scaly and infected, nothing we did to her or for her seemed to help. I rang the doctor three times in a week, desperate for answers. And this is what she told me to do.

Wrap her in saran wrap.

So twice a day, we lather her up in the good stuff (TAC in Aquaphor), wrap her legs and arms in damp towels, cover the towels in saran wrap, and wait. I've heard similar variations on this experiment - damp clothes, wrapping overnight - and one week later we are seeing her infection die down a bit (thanks also to some strong antibiotics).


She is a trooper, this girl. On our first bout of wrapping, she sighed as I pulled and tightened, saying, "I just want to be normal." But as I put the finishing touches on her saran wrapped arms, she looked up at me with those big, brown, hopeful for normalcy eyes, and said, "I. AM. A. RO. BOT... I can't wait to show Dad!"


It seems that eczema is more common than I knew - nearly every parent friend of mine has an eczema child. What do you do for yours? Any advice on soaps, detergents, foods? 

Vintage cursive loops of faith

22 August 2012


Do you know what's amazing? Two grandmas circling 90, with a few dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren between them, remembering to send a birthday card on time - nay - early, even!

Eleanor and Gail, two women who had their own set of dark curls back in the day. One gave me the strong will and the outspoken nature. The other gave me the maternal spirit (some might call it "fretting") and the super sensitive skin.

Apart from the curls they are as different as night and day, but I belong to them. I bear their image and carry their legacy. Resilience and hope, courage and humility, grace and mercy.

I don't think I deserve them. In fact, I know I don't. I don't send birthday cards, I can be ungrateful, I am impatient with my children, and I am prone to wander. 

But they point the way. Imperfect and true. Vintage cursive loops of faith.

I open one of the cards and out drop a handful of pictures: me and my grandpa, grandma laughing, matching grandbabies in receiving blankets. Her gift to me on my 34th birthday. I tell my sister and we sigh together, remember grandpa's laugh, think how perfect and generous it was for her to send them to me.

"Although..." my sister says, suddenly very suspicious, "I am kind of worried she's starting to dole out her precious belongings."

Well, yeah, there's that.

UPDATE // I'm forced to print a retraction: one of my dear grandmother's is only circling 80, not 90. But that would've made my sentence longer, and not as flowy. You know, poetic license and all that. Besides, as my sister says, she's circling closer to 90 than she is to 20. :) 

Margin, boundaries & breathing room

19 August 2012

As you can see, I've been messing around here a little bit. This is what happens when I'm overwhelmed with things (namely things I should be writing about, but somehow can't)... I move things around, play with design, add white space. I guess you could say it's my own version of therapy: adding margin, finding boundaries, making breathing room. 

Or maybe I'll just buy a premade template off Etsy.

But now, in honour of these last few hours of summertime, we're going to our happy place: Loose Park in the city. Maybe we'll see you there.


So how do you find margin, boundaries or breathing room? I could really use some pointers!

The piano wall

09 August 2012

piano wall

It is finished.

18 months in the making (give or take), my husband has finished the piano wall; the crowning masterpiece of our baby grand deconstruction.


Why on earth would you deconstruct a baby grand piano,
you ask? Well, because my mother was moving and it was old and fragile, unable make the move with her. Professional piano movers refused to move it, saying it would be better to take it apart and salvage the parts before they would risk it.

My mother grieved in her driveway, said goodbye to the antique mahogany piano that had brought her new life, and phoned us with a strange idea. We would dismantle it ourselves, and Matt would salvage it, redeem it, make it into something - several things, actually - beautiful again.

So we did.

IMG_8467 (2)

With every bit of piano we unscrewed, lifted, separated and removed, our hearts broke a little bit. A man's hands built this. Maybe several men. It is thick with artistry, heavy with shape and form. We undid each shoulder, each ligament, each leg, until it literally lay in pieces in a wood shop downtown.

piano wall

And then, very slowly, it came to life again.


Oh, and it is for sale. In case you need new life, too.

Dislocated in the garden

07 August 2012

In Lauren Winner's book Still, I discover a term I've never heard before. Dislocated Exegesis. "Where you read changes how you read," she says. It feels eerily unsettling (apparently, that's the whole point): I worry about taking God's Word out of context.

But still, I think I might like it. It speaks to me. Going to a prison or an art gallery or a bank, opening and reading Scripture, speaking to that very place.

So today, after a hot walk where my shins ache because I did the very same walk yesterday (faster, unadvisably), I sit in the garden - our happy place, where we take our children after they are born and introduce them to the roses in the city - and read:

Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God's lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God's blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.
Hebrews 12:14-17 {the message}

I keep an eye on my weeds, I reach to pluck the thistles, I see the gift: there is a garden everwhere I look.


Here, in five

03 August 2012


Here is not
where I draw a line in the sand
the hill I will die on
where I queue up

Here is not
where the voice of angels
speak without love
where He would stand
I don't think

Here is not
where it matters who is right
where I have the answer
can fix you
can fix us

Here is
where I have only Jesus
when I know nothing am nothing have nothing
where He says
turn your cheek
come and die

Here I wait
only for Him
to save us all.

Five Minute Friday
Today is Five Minute Friday and I didn't think I have the words or the time. 

But I did. 

Maybe you do, too.

On this day, you are

01 August 2012



On this day, you are fast; so fast I can't keep up with you, and neither can your chubby legs and the wide feet tripping over slightly too big crocs as you stomp off toward the nearest escalator. You are loud, banging the sides of your crib and along the walls with whatever will suffice as a drum stick. You are too big to be caged in, but not yet big enough to be trusted in a real bed for a whole night. You are smiling and laughing and crying and talking, all at once or never at all. You are affectionate with a mild, infrequent streak of meanness, which you regret as soon as it appears and cover with kisses and snot, all over my face and yours. 

You are going to be three in 23 days, and I cry; grieving the baby you were, savoring the boy you are.



On this day you are rebelling, squealing, screaming when you don't get your way, which is several times a day including this very moment. You are fists clenched tightly at your side, brown eyes wide with rage, quivering lips of remorse. You are wild, flailing movements of exuberant joy your lithe body cannot contain. You are a ninja warrior in a world filled with princesses. You are a fighter, a builder, a wrestler, a runner, sprinting and winning and finding your way along a very narrow pink road. You are going to school soon - Kindergarten in America - against your will because you'd rather be in Ireland, rather be a Senior Infant girl, rather match the boys in a navy blue jumper.

You are seeking me out, every night, close enough to touch but never needing to, because you are all your your own; a mysterious, beautiful creature I am still trying to know.



On this day you are so good; the absoluteness of this goodness sometimes leads to dissidence. You are so sure of what is right, that the logic behind quiet times or naughty steps or the inconsistency of your mother just doesn't add up. You are starting most sentences with, "according to my calculations," learning and maturing faster than we can keep up. You are running out of space for imagining, you say, and I know you are aching for room and for freedom. You are entirely reasonable, listening and hearing everyone, ready to engage us all, if only we'd just be patient enough.

You are anxious and I am so sorry; you got this from me, the fears and the worry, and we pray together to trust enough so the anxiety doesn't become who we are.

On this day, who are you? What are you waiting for, living for?