Things that happen when the dad is away

28 April 2013

OK, so background: When I was a freshman in college, my mom and sis were away for a week. I was driving back to KC from school late at night when I started having car trouble. Thinking my sad car wouldn't make it to my dad's house, I stopped by my mom's to let the car rest a bit and gather some things.

At 1am, as I reached to open the back door, there was no handle to turn. The door had been kicked open by a size 9 boot, the house was ransacked, and the front door was swinging wide. Still swinging. As in, they just left, these mean robbers who stole our computer and tv and beautiful new CD player/radio my dad had just given me for graduation. Even the couch was upturned, kitchen drawers ripped out, our cat was missing, and the only thing left untouched was the baby grand piano. And that front door was still creaking in the wind.

I'm not sure I'll ever forget it, this one act of violation. A stranger coming into your home and leaving it bare. I was safe, fine, the police came and my dad rescued me.

But the memory stays.


bedtime "routine"

Well, here we are again. Back to having Matt gone for a few days and I'm staying up way past my bedtime watching shows online waiting for bad men to come kill me and steal my macbook. I always tell him, "No it's fine, go! Have fun! Do what you do! We'll be grand!" But in the end, I scowl at him from the window as he departs, leave him with short kisses, saying, "No, really, fine. Go. Have fun. Whatever." It's the true mettle of life overseas, how well the wife and mom can do on her own for long stretches of time.

It's ok, really. I'm an adult, you know. I have birthed three children and travelled to Israel by myself at 19 and can drive on the left side of the road in bustling city centre traffic. But leave me alone overnight in a new-to-me house and WIND and creaking and three kiddos and no one to make me coffee in the morning or protect me from killers... I mean, really. It's fine. Go.

Anyway, here are the things that happen when the dad is away:

  1. Invite people over for dinner and they bring their own pizza dough! Brilliant idea! Big hit with kids. New friends for life.
  2. Tell man who comes to door working for UNICEF, asking for donations, "I'm sorry, I can't make a commitment right now because my husband is out of town." Well done, Karen.
  3. Wait all night for nice looking (but probably totally crazy) UNICEF man to come back with his other good for nothing UNICEF friends to steal your babies.
  4. Kitchen gets cleaned. Kitchen stays cleaned. I'm not naming names.
  5. Kids are in bed by bedtime.
  6. Watch three episodes of Doctor Who back-to-back until you pass out on your laptop. This is good for staying awake and becoming paranoid. Also, I may have an addiction.
  7. Kids are up way before you are.
  8. Pizza for breakfast (pretty sure this happens when the mom is away, too).
  9. While you sleep in, the three year old demolishes an entire package of custard cremes, only to wake you up at 8:30 demanding more "snacks."
  10. Netflix.

bedtime "routine"

This is only just Day One with the dad away. I'm hoping we may actually venture out of doors, enjoy the sun (?) and build a fort or two. But I'm also counting on delivery from the chipper, diet coke in the fridge and three more seasons of Doctor Who to keep me company until Matt returns home.

At any rate, I'll return the favour next month when I'm away for almost an entire week. To France. For work. Boom.


Are you a home alone person, or a stay up all night waiting for robbers and/or killers person?

Faith in the ink of rebellion

22 April 2013

I had a boyfriend once, whose thick hoop earring and cross tattoo on his back made him quite the object of fascination among us youth group girls. When I finally got the chance to touch those dark lines, I asked him why he did it, the earring and the tattoo. I thought I knew; he was all hard edges and loud music. But he looked at me with such innocence, "I am a slave to Christ," he said, referencing the Old Testament binding of a slave to his master. The boy with the ring in his ear.

This was how I knew I loved him. Faith in the form of rebellion.


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I was looking to add to my rebellion. Getting married at 20 made me feel much more settled, safe and pure than my teens had led my heart to believe. Matt was my match, my calming force and steady hand, sent from above. But I still had a wildness burning within that tandem bike rides along the lake front could not tame. Adulthood had onset with a swift force and I needed one last look back at the years which broke and bore me.

Like any good big sister, I talked my little sister into it, too. It wasn't all that hard; she was - and still is - a willing accomplice. In any case, we took our 18 and 21 year-old-selves and asked for our mother's blessing. She sighed and fretted, but the fact we were doing it together, the fact we had spent the majority of our young lives at odds, the fact we had finally seen one another for what we really were - mirror images, best friends - her fight for tradition and propriety faded away in the face of soul sisters.

And so it was, we took a printed copy of a clip-art image of a daisy into the tattoo shop. Yes. Clip-art. We left imprinted, her ankle and my back, with a white and yellow daisy. My inner rebellion was satisfied by a pure symbol of peace.

Over the years, Matt got the itch as well. His calmness and maturity gave way to a hidden dissenter, asking questions and searching for depth. His soft edges grew stronger while my hardness became less brittle. When the systematic theology and preaching formulas he deferred to for so long failed to make much headway on the uneven and narrow footpath of life overseas, he longed for simple faith in the face of doubt. The calm in the storm.

IMG00330-20100323-2256And so it was, he journeyed to Belfast with a youth pastor friend and left imprinted with St Brigid's Cross. His inner dissenter was satisfied by a symbol of simple faith, folded within with the reeds of long Irish grass.

This is how we belong to eachother. Me and my sister. Matt and I. Us and Christ. The story is written on our skin and when we are asked, we tell it. Faith, hope and love in the ink of rebellion.

There are more stories to be shared, and we dream up the designs and the placement. A pair of strong hands cradling the tree whose leaves hold the names of our children, Yahweh written like a wreath around my wrist, the ring of black with my name on his finger ("You know it's permanent, right?" my mother asks, aware more than others that some things tattooed on our hearts do not last).

We shall see... whether these stories are written on paper or skin or heart. We shall see, the shape it takes. We shall see if it fades away.

joining the syncroblog at A Deeper Story on our Embodied Stories...

Tossed about and wild

18 April 2013


We've been to the edges of our little island. Such cold and windy days, we have to be careful from falling straight into the sea. On these daredevil patches of land and rock and sand, I try to open my eyes to it. The gusts, the force, the might. I stand on a field of baby white flowers, they barely notice it. It's all I can do to keep upright.

Even on our road on a mild spring day, the wind knocks us back on the balls of our feet. There's a breeze INSIDE my house, my friend says, and she speaks truth. Rattling our windows and moving our curtains. The wind here is wild. My hair here is wild.

This week, headed into the city, we ran in place. Reaching for the bus with the wind holding us back, moving so slow but with so much exertion. It wasn't our lack of will, but the resistance. Arms of nothingness reaching round us.

In Kansas the wind brings storms, thunder, green skies. The humid warmth of them telling us secrets, "It's coming," they say. We'd open windows to the gusts, smelling the air. Thunderstorm day and we'd run out to chase it.

No thunder here, though; at least not today. Hardly even a drop of rain with these winds. It's just where we lie, up against the jet stream, surrounded by waves. And out my window I see the leaves, the buds of flowers. A tree already in bloom, tossed about and wild. I wonder how they hold on, these pale pink blossoms on the gale force days. How do the newborn leaves survive, the trees bent back, running away from the sea?

God made them this way. Trained for millenia. It's the only answer; it's in their roots. We've no idea how strong they really are.

anything tossing you about today?

wordless wednesday {Dublin Edition}

Why we cannot bear it (the Kermit Gosnell story)

13 April 2013


It's a strange thing, no longer living in America. News and life and things happen in your old homeland and you see passing glimpses of it, but never the stories underneath. It's ok, really, this disconnect. I enjoy not having to make some sort of statement or have some sort of response ready when the Supreme Court hears a case or an election is being had or my favourite team loses in a tournament. We've got some distance now, some persective, and it's nice being a casual observer from afar while we try to dig deep where we're at.

This week, though, I'm seeing a trend, running through Twitter and Facebook (which, yes I know, it's my own fault for following such things). A terrible, grotesque, evil story of humanity is being played out. And we want to see it.

I remember when the story first broke two years ago and it's all you wish would never happen anywhere in the civilized world. Of course, we know it happens all the time, behind closed doors and back alleys and far off lands. As long as it's hidden safely away there, we can go on, pretending things are fine and normal and America is the height of personal liberty and individual freedoms. As long as what's literally right in front of us is on the up and up, a good story of success we can attribute to hard work and clean living and the ten commandments, we go on as if the evil isn't lying underneath, waiting to be exposed.

So this story of an abortionist gone completely unchecked and out of control rips wide a chasm. We gasp and cry and turn off the news because we just can't bear it. We pray and plead, God, make it stop. And we turn inward wondering how women can feel so desperate and men can go so mad. Years and years of vileness is finally met with the hope of justice, and he is arrested.

The story, it was reported then in 2011, and we moved on. Because that's what we do. There's always a new story to cry foul about.

He's on trial now, this man. But according to my Facebook and Twitter feeds, no one knows about it, can hear or read about it. It's a black out, they say. Liberal media. Conspiracy. Pro-choice agenda. And you know what, they're probably right. Because really, who wants to hear or read or see such things?Who can bear it?

I can't.

But Twitter and Facebook and social media sites and networking... it's all made up of people, sharing stories. They're reporting it, because they want you to see. My friends, rightly shocked at the thought of it, are reporting the story. They want you to see it, to read about, to hear it. Over and over again, I'm inundated with the same lurid facts, the same despair, the same deep soul pain. They say, the media isn't reporting it so we will. Which is fine, but I will tell you why I think the media isn't reporting it.

Because we just can't bear it. If this story came on the news, I would turn it straight off. I can't imagine my child overhearing, even my mother overhearing. I would want to protect them from the evil within, from the men (and women) who perpetrate this violence on babies. They were once babies, too, and who can bear it? And maybe it is a conspiracy, too threatening to the status quo and Roe v. Wade and all that. I believe it, I cannot deny it exists.

I'm struck, though, by those of us who need to share it, who must pass it on from page to page, emails and tweets and links and videos. Why? Why do we hit share and sensationalize this? They say, look at this shame and sin up close. They say it's not reported because we are fine with it, because it's a slippery slope and we've removed God and this is a mirror to us, to what we've allowed to happen. "The bloody altar of human sacrifice", a friend of mine said. He asks me to consider if I'm responsible for it. 

This is why we want to see. To expose the world and sinners for what we really are.

I will tell you this: I cannot bear the thought of it, of this happening, under our noses and in our neighbourhoods. I cry out to God to make it stop, but I cannot look at it. I won't. This story, it is being told, and justice will be served. God is seeing to it, has exposed it, He will make it right. I trust that.

And maybe I am a party to this, responsible for this existing in the world. I cannot acquit myself to it. Because I'm a sinner, a daughter of Eve, living imperfectly and selfishly and confusing love and lust and riches and contentment and robbing God of what is His and clinging to my rights, of what I think is mine. I'm a liar and a thief, misusing His gifts and forfeiting His grace. I do it all the time.

A sinner of sinners.

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst."

Jesus... He did not hold a mirror to my face, saying, "Look what you've done, what you're responsible for." 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

And at the end, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

I am weary and heavy laden. I will not see it, hear it, read it. I cannot bear it. So instead I go to Him, I cry, "Father, forgive me," and find rest.

*Click link with care. I've not read the entire article, but it's the one I see most frequently referred to and shares graphic testimony.

In the garden, where we mine our hearts

08 April 2013

Nine months pregnant with Asher and I'd sit in a bed of weeds. 

Matt would grab hold of my arms and lower me down as I could neither bend nor reach over my belly to the ground. He would check on the veg, plucking and pulling what was ripe. I would weed anything within 12 inches and 360 degrees of my extreme roundness, turning on the garden pad (a soft yellow sunflower, reminding me of Kansas summers). Ella was usually nibbling on an herb of some sort - fennel, mostly - or elbow deep in mud. Jack manned the watering hose.

We would talk things over there: how we were doing, what our hopes were, where we had run short, what middle name we should give the baby. He'd be named Asher years before, and we needed a suitable follow-up. There was a long list of Irish names I couldn't settle on. Cian, Eoin, Niall, Liam, Rhys (this one was Welsh, but a favourite of mine).

In the end we gave him his grandfather's name. Jared. But those conversations in the garden weren't all for naught.

I never pictured myself here. Blooming with child on Irish soil. Matt was the gardener, the outdoorsman, the lumberjack. I was the city girl, happy with a book and a lamp and air conditioning. But in the garden, everything was up for discussion, and in turning the soil ("I'm working the land," I'd tell my mother-in-law, who laughed at the thought of it) we plucked our brains and mined our hearts for where the truth lay, where our spirits settled, where tears and contentedness met under cloudy skies and ocassional sprinkles. It was Ireland, after all, and no trip to the garden left us untouched by rain.

When the harvest was done, and the baby born, and the peas and green beans and lettuce and parsley eaten and used, we had nothing left but beet root. The beets just kept coming. Time was getting on and we were soon returning to America. The garden we'd have to let go of, but we were trying to outlast the beets.

I don't care for beet root. Don't like the texture or the colour or the taste, but it was a big hit among our friends (and children) here. We had beets for dinner, beets for company, beets in baby food, beets for dinner parties. We'd show up to a new house with a steaming plate of roasted beets, solidifying our post as favourite American guests among our crowd (at least, I like to think so).

We never saw the end of the beets. Had to give up the land before the last of them found their way to our plates.

It had been months since I'd been to the garden. Those days I did my pruning and weeding in a rocking chair with a baby at my breast, mining my heart for him who could only reply in full sighs and fragrant burps. We were leaving and the garden was no longer ours and this surprisingly beautiful moment had passed. Matt wanted to drive by it one last time, parking the car in front of the allotment, the beets now gone and the land tilled, lying in wait for the next gardener to dig deep.

I hate to admit it, but the truth is we cried there on that farmland, silently, so as not to alarm the children.  And then we drove away.

Yesterday we spent hours in the back garden. It was overgrown and messy, in need of a sharp handsaw. The seeds - sprouting in egg cartons and toilet paper rolls - were in need of a new home outdoors. Asher ran round in his pyjamas and wellies, Ella working a tiny hatchet on the remains of a pine tree. A rosebush had rerooted and webbed itself around several times. A mystery tropical plant (like a palm tree, but not) overshadowed a humble hydrangea, ready for spring.

Matt handed me the garden shears, "Do you want to prune back the dead blooms of the hydrangea? It'll make way for new growth."

The weight was heavy, but the burden was light.

"Yes, yes I do."

Blogkeeping (or Housekeeping for the Blog)

06 April 2013

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Hey friends! Quick Saturday post to share a few things with you.

1) The sun has been out for like 3 days straight, in keeping with the time change here in Ireland known as Irish Summer Time. I just hung out laundry for the second time this week! True story.

2) I'm still slowly stumbling through the blog design e-course and while I am loving the process, I'm so impatient to implement changes to the blog in style and format. Thank you for being patient with me as I write randomly, change up the layout frequently, and post sporadically.

3) The most beautiful thing I read all week: You are as Valuable as the Orphan by Amber C Haines. Read. It.

4) I can't remember number 4. If you're so inclined, you can meet me over on Facebook. I've got a wee page with some loyal friends (and if you have already "liked" it but aren't seeing my posts, make sure you click "Show in News Feed" under the like button).

5) I'm contemplating writing a post and/or series on parenting a child with low confidence, anxiety or fear issues. Me and a number of my friends have one (mostly boys, surprisingly) and I'd love to hear your story if you find yourself coping (or not coping) with this. You can comment here or email me at karenohuber (a) gmail (dot) com

6) This weekend marks 3 months back in Ireland. While I miss my friends, my sisters, this awesome musical festival happening in Kansas City this weekend, and our church families, I'm so thankful to be here. Thank you for coming with me.


What's on your mind this weekend? Big plans?

Low budget writing nook

01 April 2013

Since moving, my writing has been a bit... er... irregular. My trusty macbook fizzled nearly as soon as we landed on Irish soil (bad battery, bad charger, dying motherboard, etc.) and our desktop is stationed in our office/library/playroom, so it's been taken over by a 3 year old with an addiction to Netflix.

I had this vision for a place to write in the bay window of our bedroom, away from the bustle of the kitchen and the laundry, looking out on that one tiny mountain in the distance. But, you know, feeding the kids and getting car insurance and other such adult responsibilities take priority, so I sighed a lot. Pinned a lot of things. Made a very hefty to do list for Matt ("you know, whenever you can, no rush...(sigh)"). But tonight, a flurry of activity behind closed doors. And three children pulling me upstairs, "Close your eyes!" And voila, a writing nook.

1. Leftover piece of plywood
2. Old macbook resuscitated by a new cord charger.
3. Cuppa tea in my favourite Pride & Prejudice Penguin Books mug.
4. Cadbury Dairy Milk (mint crisp)
5. Thank you cards to be written
6. Matt's workshop sawhorses
7. Thrifted chair "borrowed" from the kitchen table.
8. Lovely view at dusk
Not pictured: Mood music courtesy of Sufjan, the man and three children who made it possible, and a whole lot of junk on the bed having just been moved from under the window to make space for a nook.

Sometimes, you just make do. Or rather, sometimes others will make something special out of seemingly nothing at all. Just for you.

My one word for this year is HOME, as in, we are making one. Here... again. Not just things, but a people and a place and a life. Do you have a word for this year? Or how are you learning to just make do?