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Rushing In

31 Jul

Guadalupe River

I laugh when I see it up close, this picture snapped quickly from the banks of the Guadalupe.

Your brother and friend, cautious waders both, are still gingerly stepping over pebbles.

But you are already coming up for air — wet hair shellacked against your face as you surface, well into your adventure while they still test the waters.

You hurl yourself into the stream with abandon, examine globs of frog eggs, chase minnows, climb cliffs.

And watching, I regret the 30 years that separate us.

I think, at 11, we would have been great friends: back when I was the cliff-climbing, rock-skipping explorer of tadpoles and tide pools,  not the bag-carrying, book-reading packer of snacks and sunscreen.

Middle school lies in wait just 23 days away. And I want to tell you, as it comes rushing with all its treacherous rapids, to wade in carefully. Watch your steps, take your time, guard your heart that you offer so readily.

But as I watch you throw yourself over and over again into the current of the Guadalupe River, I resolve to shout no such warnings from the bank.

To tell you instead,  you are strong and brave enough to rush in.

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Waiting at the Door

15 May

He has never been a dog  to rush at the open door, hoping for a break at freedom. He waits with the leash on, sits as the other two whine and wiggle as if they had never been on a walk before.  In this, as in all things, a very good dog.

But something has shifted this week. Now, he stands at the door, determined to come along on each trip to school. He rides shotgun as I drop the children off each morning, pick them up each afternoon.

 quince

He spends more time at my side, too, tucking in beside me on the bed or couch. I type on the laptop with one hand,  pet him with the other. And I try, as I scratch his ruff, not to feel the hostile alien lumps  just below the surface.

But there’s no avoiding them, or the reality. Acute lymphoma, not curable. Maybe a month or two if the steroids stave off the angry, intruding cells.

I took him in Tuesday, because he  was coughing, and his throat felt swollen.

 “He must have something stuck in there,” I said. “I don’t know what it could be, he’s not a chewer.”

The vet was quiet. Feeling his throat, then his other lymph nodes, her tender eyes belying her hopeful words.

They took samples from the swollen places, flew them to a lab. Maybe, she said, it was a reaction to a tick’s bite on one of his hikes through the woods, maybe some fungal allergy. But probably, she said, aggressive and fast-moving cancer. She was so very sorry, and hoped she was wrong.

She wasn’t wrong, of course. She is as intuitive and skilled as she is compassionate, and honest enough to tell me if he was hers, she would do exactly as we are doing. Skip the hard drugs that won’t change the final outcome. Keep him comfortable. We’ll know when it’s time, she says. 

What I fear I don’t know is what I’ll do without him. In a year the big screen has celebrated the incorrigible hound, he is the anti-Marley. In all things, a very good dog.

puppy quince

We bought him from a sheep farm, his corgi parents named Elvis and Priscilla. In a litter of fat adorable short-legged puppies, he  stood out, the markings on the back of his neck looking like a #1.  Our daughter wanted one of his roly-poly siblings she dubed “Chubby,” but it was my call, my dog. I named him Quince, Spanish for 15 because he was a fifteenth anniversary present.

We went to the farm once to pick him out, a second time to pick him up, and my husband made two additional trips in the dead of night because our daughter kept leaving her beloved blanket in the barn. I suspect she hoped Chubby would find his way into our car.

At obedience school, the assistant called him lowrider and speed bump. He stole the show with his perfect proud walk and the way he tore across the room when I called.

Running Quince

We somehow ended up with another corgi, one found wandering the freeway that we were just going to rescue “for awhile” until we found his home. They had fights that looked like midget wrestling, raced around the room until our border collie grew weary and tripped them, and became the darlings of the dog park.

two corgis

Then, a little over a year ago, we welcomed another addition to our family, an 8-year-old boy who had spent his first years anchorless, tossed in a sea of drug-addiction and abuse and bounced from children’s shelter to foster home to relative to foster home again. The first night, as we tucked in a child that was afraid to hug or trust, Quince climbed up and settled in at the at the foot of the bed. The puppy from a sheep farm was ready to stand sentinel. He has been there every night since, only sneaking back to our room once our son is fast asleep.  In all things, a very good dog.

couch corgi

Five years is hardly long enough for a dog like this. He was supposed to grow old, see that once-scared boy off to college someday. I know there are greater tragedies than this in the world, I have faced many of them. But that perspective is no pain-killer for the ache in my heart.

I’m grateful for a few more days, as long as they are. Days to feed him cheeseburgers from Sonic, to let his make his rounds on the path at the dog park,  to find him standing at the door and waiting to head to the car.

Days to tell him a few more times that in all things, he has been a very good dog.

20 Years

29 Apr

4-29-2009-113432-am1

His ring in that picture? Lost mowing the lawn.

The diamond in mine? Flew off the mounting while I was putting gas in the car and never found.

Nonetheless, we’re still holding hands.

The One I Didn’t See Coming

26 Mar

She likes me. Right now, she likes me.

The very beautiful and talented Ingrid at Baseball, Baking and Books has given me my first-ever little blogging award. Isn’t it pretty?

She was just sharing the love all around, and in this post she also names some other lovely bloggers that you should check out.

kreativ_blogger_award_thumb1

If I was not a total dork (look, I learned from President Obama, I did not say “in the blog Special Olympics!”), I would put the pretty graphic in my sidebar. But I don’t actually know how to make that happen. I just joined Twitter a week ago, people. And I told my mom and dad all about my blog. I am an AMATEUR.

(Aside on the mom thing, I love her so much and she and my dad are the awesomest. But I may have actually *died* when she called this week after reading a post and asked why my dogs would call each other douche. Lesson learned there. Also, I may have suggested urbandictionary.com for her BEFORE reading the douche entry. And now I may be disowned. Another lesson learned there.)

Anyway.

Ingrid is so sweet, and she along with a number of other food bloggers have really welcomed me to this whole blogosphere thing.

Starting, of course, with my long-time friends Elle from Elle’s New England Kitchen and Nikki from CanaryGirl, who linked to my blog and tweeted and everything when I only had like 3 posts up.

These women are the sisters I would have chosen if God had asked my opinion. I like to think He purposely didn’t give me any sisters so I would find the women I needed in my life to make me a better friend, mother, wife, daughter and yes, help me better understand the gift of His Grace.

Have you ever seen those amazing mosaic pictures made from a thousand other pictures? When I take a magnifying glass to my picture of who God is, I can see Nikki and Elle. They, along with some other amazing  women, came into my life at a time I was deeply struggling with my sense of my value and worth.

I know the verse that we are all God’s treasure in jars of clay. But I met these women at a time that jar was shattered, and I didn’t really believe there was much treasure left. And they, even when they knew about all the cracks and the sharp edges and everything else, found treasure.

Showed me. Reminded me. Saved me.

And even though they don’t all blog, Jane and Bethany and Claire and Molli and Juanita and Deb and Denise and Shaye and Jen and Ginny and Shannon and Kerrie and Lizzie and Amanda and Sherri and Hae and Vicki are in that picture. All women I met on this crazy thing called the Internet.

And she doesn’t know me aside from a few comments and tweets, but I want Yvonne from Joy Unexpected to know I find her in that picture of God, too. I came to a post about the queen of aerobic dancing, and stayed because of her willingness to flay her own soul open and show the struggles inside.

I see this laughing, beautiful, insightful woman, and when she is heartbroken, I pray that she would see herself as precious as God sees her. And sometimes, Yvonne, in those prayers, I realize He wants that for me, too. So I thank you for that.

I feel the same about Jennifer Mattern at Breed ‘Em and Weep. She has the kind of insight that is only gained through excruciating heartache. I wish her warring heart peace, but I am grateful that in the midst of its battles, she opens it up and creates such achingly beautiful words.

The whole idea of these blog awards is to pass them on, so I offer this list, not exhaustive, of some women and one cool guy I have “met” since I started writing a couple months ago. Already, in some way, they are in my mosaic.

Neil Kramer at Citizen of the Month

Kelly Pea at Sass and Veracity

Jenn C. at Unmarried Wife 

Dawn at Vanilla Sugar

Cathy at Where’s My Damn Answer

Mrs.Messiness at This Blessed Mess but WordPress is giving her site fits today so be patient.

RJ Flamingo at Flamingo Musings

and Casey at Butter My Kitchen

Note: I know there are people I should have put in here and I’m just an airhead who’s running out of room.  And also, I went on a big sentimental grateful crying jag while writing this and my eyes are too puffy now to see your link. So I’m sorry and I’ll write another post about you and what a doofus I am.

Love,

lettergirl

To a Spider, as Spring Comes

2 Mar

We watched you all summer, and into the fall. Spinning, catching, growing fatter as you feasted.

Daily nose prints marked the kitchen window as children checked your progress. Sage bushes went untrimmed so as not to disturb your glorious web, woven new every night.

If I woke early enough, I could watch you finish as I drank my coffee, double-weaving the center of your web.

Then one week, the web grew tattered. You remained enthroned in the center, but paid no mind to struggling bugs caught in the silk. You seemed withered, frail.

I scanned the garden — finally spying your magnum opus. Not white like your web,  but soft brown, an egg sack the size of a shooter marble blended into the corner of the brick where you’d secured it.   The promise of another spring, even as the first days of fall began.

I cringed at the realization of what that meant for you, though. I’ve read Charlotte’s Web, of course. 

So I braced the children for the inevitable.

And then, the next morning, your web was back to its pristine glory, your hapless prey once again mummified and drained at lightning speed.

Apparently, you were not yet finished. You remained the guardian of the garden, and would build two more egg sacks.

Then one morning, you were simply not there.

 So I trimmed back the sage, re-mulched the garden. We raked leaves, hung Christmas lights, and took them down again. Hunkered down for the season of long nights and short days.

But now, new leaves sprout on the Clematis vine. The lemon tree’s blooms draw bees to the back patio. Birds whistle their wake-up calls.

And this morning, as I sipped my coffee, I saw the faintest stirring.

In the sunlight this March morning, your egg sack has become nearly translucent, wiggling with the promise of baby spiders, and I am grateful.

For spiders. For spring. For hope in the most unexpected places.

spider

Dear Facebook Friends…

26 Jan

Stop. Tagging. Me.

There are not 25 random facts about me that need to be on the Internet. But yet, I feel rude ignoring you.

OK, fine. Let’s get this over with.

1. I have pretty blue eyes, but when I was a freshman in high school, I was obsessed with getting green contacts because a stupid boy told me “you would be “really gorgeous if you had green eyes like Jacklyn Smith.” 

2. I say boy, but he was 24, and he stopped telling me anything when our youth minister’s wife told him I was 14. Which really annoyed me at the time.

3. KISS was my favorite band in junior high.

4. Then my mom went to a “listen to records backwards” seminar and decided that KISS stood for “Knights in Satan’s Service” and took all my records away.

5. Then I went through a stage where I thought Jesus only approved of Amy Grant, Sandi Patty, Michael W. Smith and *possibly* Petra.

6. I sang with Sandi Patty a couple of Easter Sundays ago when she came to our church, and she is a lovely woman.

7. I have “A  Morning Like This,” on my iPod.

8. Although now I also have Kanye West and The Cult on there, having gotten over my earlier concerns.

9. When I was a kid, I climbed out on a rock to see the tide pools, and then the tide came in and I was stranded out there.

10. My mom says her first thought was “my mother is going to kill me for moving to California and letting one of the kids drown.”

11. Fortunately, my dad was not paralyzed by thoughts of parental disapproval and just swam out to rescue me.

12. They are the coolest parents in the whole world. And yes, I even thought that as a teenager.

13. My dream job is doing the fake news on Saturday Night Live.

14. I told my mom  repeatedly that I was  not getting married or having kids.

15. I got married almost 20 years ago.

16. And the kids are 11 and 9.

17. I also said “we are not getting any more dogs.”

18. Then we got a JACK RUSSELL TERRIER PUPPY. Who may be the anti-Christ.

19. I am not making any additional blanket statements.

20. I was recklessly fearless as a kid, and used to terrorize my friend Wendy by walking across the rickety railing of a bridge that was a good 40 feet above a creek gorge at summer camp.

21. Jesus probably only spared me because I was humming Amy Grant tunes.

22. We were packing to leave the hospital with our infant daughter when her pediatrician thought she heard a “little murmur” and had us stay for an echo-cardiogram.

23. That “little murmur” turned out to be hypoplastic left heart syndrome. And in that moment, all the fear I hadn’t felt for 29 years hit me like a tsunami.

24. After 4 major heart surgeries, she’s thriving. And I am grateful every day.

25.  Before I die, I am definitely going to go zip-lining across the Costa-Rica rain forest and snow-shoeing in Canada.

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