Monthly Archives: January 2006

Seven Years

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Seven years ago today, the O.R. nurse laid a squalling, purple human being in my arms and my last coherent thought before passing out from exhaustion and anesthesia was, “So…that’s who’s been kicking me.”

Seven years ago today, the two of us became the three of us, and things like dinner reservations, airplane tickets, and trips to the grocery store became infinitely more complex, but it didn’t seem to matter.

Seven years ago today, as a tiny fist curled around my finger, I saw the next fifty years in a blinding flash of scraped knees, new dresses, first dates, and grandbabies, and I prayed that time would slow down enough to hold all the giggles and all the tears and every treasured moment of solemn happiness ahead.

Seven years ago today, I gave birth to one little girl and a million questions—some of them hers, but most of them mine. The one I can never answer: Am I doing this right?

Seven years ago today, my life and my heart stretched in directions I didn’t know existed, and it hurt. A lot. It still hurts, all those hopes and fears jostling for elbow room, and the love, too big for my heart’s bounds, spilling all over everything and making a glorious mess.

Seven years ago today, the man I married became a Dad, and I fell in love with him again over dirty diapers and Lego towers, our romance deepened by 2 a.m. feedings and playdates at the park. The way his eyes softened when he first looked at her is burned sweetly into my memory.

Seven years ago today, life as I knew it ceased to exist, and something richer, fuller, and more perilous took its place. I don’t know what’s around the next corner, but whatever it is, I’ll always be glad I came this way.

Seven years ago today, she took the stage–and now I’m standing in the wings, breathlessly waiting to see what happens next.

Happy Birthday, Katie.

February 1st

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I can’t help making New Year’s resolutions. There’s just something so compelling about that sense of starting over. As Anne Shirley (with an “e”) says, “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.” I feel like a newly-minted penny, and, for a few weeks, at least, I’m pretty shiny.

My problem is endurance. A year is a long time. My New Year’s resolutions usually make it about three weeks before gasping their collective last breath on the battlefield between good intentions and Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

So this year I’ve decided to make New Month‘s resolutions. With February 1 fast approaching, I can be a bright new penny again. For three weeks, I will eat right, exercise, read my Bible, get more sleep, catch up on my correspondence, take more chances, watch less TV, give generously, entertain company, spend more time with my family, and do volunteer work for a good cause before my motivation flags and I collapse in an exhausted heap. And after just one week of discouragement, decadent dessert-shoveling, and idle self-indulgence, I can do it all over again on the first of the next month!

Stop rolling your eyes! It might work.

Just keep the Breyers away from me. I’m not Superman, you know.

The Perfect Purse

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I hate purse shopping.

Hate it.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Other women happily fill their closets with expensive Prada pocketbooks and Gucci totes, accessorizing with their outfits and switching out handbags as often as they change their underwear. I just can’t do that. I form a bond with my purse. I choose one bag, usually black or brown, cram my assorted rubble into it, and carry that thing with me everywhere, from the grocery store to dinner at the White House (still waiting for my invitation, actually), until the day every seam simultaneously disintegrates and it bursts open like an overripe melon dropped from a skyscraper. Then I have to go shopping for a new one.

This always makes me grumpy. The pressure is horrible. I mean, I am choosing a constant companion here–a personal assistant, a pharmacist, a nanny, a banker, a secretary. This bag will be entrusted with important documents, large amounts of money, and a legion of irreplaceable Hotwheels cars. It must be big, but not too big, because everyone knows that junk expands to fill the space it’s in. It must be stylish, but not too stylish, because, while Paris Hilton can cast her $3000 Louis Vuitton in the trash the day after she buys it (when it’s no longer “hawt”), my bag has to make it for the long haul, and the faux fur trim and zebra print pockets that look so fun today will mark me out for ridicule when I’m still carrying it to playgroup next summer.

As I was explaining to my friend, Marci*, shopping for a new purse is a lot like dating. With each progressive handbag you buy, you learn more about yourself and just what it is you’re looking for. Before long, the scrunchie-wearing teenage girl who bought the ill-advised tiny leather backpack purse (which didn’t have room for more than a pack of gum and enough kleenex to fill out a training bra) has become the thirty-something-but-still-sexy mom who walks into Macy’s with a list of demands and eliminates most contenders on sight because experience has taught her that, cute though they be, they know nothing about a real woman’s needs.

This past month I noticed that the leather loops holding the strap onto my purse were starting to split and fray, and I nearly cried. You see, I had reached Purse Nirvana with the purchase of this bag. It had everything I wanted. A pocket for my cell phone, room for my wallet and PDA, zippers in all the right places. At last I had found a purse I really loved, and already, just nine months into our blossoming love affair, it was threatening to abandon me. Drying my tears, I decided to make a preemptive strike. To take the pressure off, for once I would replace my ailing purse before it became unusable.

At first, I was optimistic. I started at Target, where Perfect Purse and I had first met. But alas, there was nothing there to tempt me among the gold sequins and crocheted catch-alls. Store after store, aisle after aisle, I drove the length and breadth of town in search of beauty and practicality, coming up time after time empty-handed and broken-hearted. I began to despair of ever again finding my match, increasingly certain that I was doomed to wander the earth purseless, my keys and wallet haphazardly slung in the bottom of a Walmart bag.

Paul, bless his heart, didn’t really understand the dilemma. “What is it that you want?” he finally asked in exasperation.

“Well, look at this purse,” I started, holding up the Perfect Purse for his perusal. “See how it has a structured shape instead of just being a big, loose bag? I love that. Also, I like that it has one wide strap instead of two straps, or skinny straps, or short straps. It fits just right on my shoulder. And see how it has this beautiful faux alligator texture? I get compliments on it all the time. It doesn’t make me feel like Frumpy Mommy Lady. And it goes with everything!”

“So…what you’re saying is….you want the purse you’ve already got?” he ventured.

YESSSS!” I wailed. He nodded and then, not surprisingly, wandered off in search of some activity that didn’t involve accessorizing, women, or weeping.

I have to tell you, I almost gave up. As my Perfect Purse moved closer to collapse, I was resigned to just stepping into Ross and grabbing the first subpar bag that I thought was big enough. Then my sister called.

Amber works at the Target in the valley and, being sympathetic to my woes, had located two purses that she thought might meet my high standards. We drove out to her store and I did my now-familiar once-over of the bag section before she led me to one of the purses she was contemplating. I looked it over, trying not to feel too hopeful. Hmmm….pocket for my cell phone–nice. Good structure. I like the color. Zippers for securing expensive items inside. Ahh…it even has easy access outer pockets for keys and sunglasses. I like that…. I poked and prodded and hmmmed, explored and touched, and, for the final test, asked a wandering salesperson if she thought it looked like a Mommy Purse. She said no. I was falling in love.

Purse in hand, mind nearly made up, I followed Amber to the sale shelves where she said she had seen the other one she liked. She couldn’t find it, but as I was helping her look, something jumped out at me from the bottom shelf.

There, with a 50% off tag attached to it, was an exact duplicate of the Perfect Purse. I couldn’t believe it! How had it come to be here, on the sale rack, on the very day I was shopping in this unfamiliar store? All I can think is that someone, somewhere, purchased it back around the time I got mine, never used it, and then returned it. (Who in their right mind could have returned such a treasure?) I didn’t care how it had happened, it was mine and it was fifty percent off! I lovingly caressed its familiar faux alligator lines.

It was then that I realized I was still holding the new purse on my arm. Logic told me to put it back on the shelf and rejoice in my good fortune. But still, we’d made a connection, and I couldn’t just walk away from that. What could I do?

I bought them both, of course.

New Purse is now sitting in its bag in the back of my closet, patiently waiting for the inevitable day when Perfect Purse II finally goes to that sales rack in the sky. As for me, I’m content. The day will come, of course, when I’ll have to meet a new purse, but, thanks to Amber’s keen eye and Target’s open-ended return policy, that day is a long, long way off. And who knows who I will be by then?

Maybe someone who likes gold sequins.

Now that’s hawt.

*Friends are precious gifts. Friends who will actually listen to a ten minute rant on something as ridiculous as “the theory of purse shopping” without making you feel like you’ve slipped a bolt are downright miracles.

Penalty Kill

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Last night was Girls Night Out. There were six of us, so we decided to balance out all that estrogen by going to a minor league hockey game. (Actually, this was an emergency GNO, hatched in an effort to keep one of our number from crashing her ex-husband’s wedding, making an emotional scene, and possibly spending the night in jail for stuffing the wedding cake down the bride’s dress. We figured a hockey game–preferably one with lots of body checking, high sticking, and a fight or two–would be a good legal and moral alternative. And it was cheaper than posting bail.)

I have this to say about hockey: it’s brutal. I mean, the penalties have names like Slashing, Hooking, Spearing, and Charging. Fans of other sports collect souvenir t-shirts and giant foam hands. Hockey fans collect teeth.

Despite that (or, in all honesty, because of it), it is really fun to watch. Fast moving, energetic, a poetry of grace and fury–other than football, I can’t think of a sport I’ve enjoyed more. I actually heard the blood rush to my head when the Spokane Chiefs sank their first puck into the net. About halfway through the game I realized I’d lost my voice, but it hardly mattered in the frenzied thunder of the crowd. We were one mind and one sound, bent on victory.

I’m sorry to say that, in the end, the sacrifice of my vocal cords was for naught. The Chiefs lost, 4 to 2. In the final twenty seconds of the game, tempers flared and two players threw off their helmets and gloves to clash like padded titans out on the ice. Just before the referees pulled them apart, the Chiefs player pinned the Kootenay player to the ground.

The crowd roared as if we’d won.

As for us, after the game we drowned our erstwhile bloodlust in swirls of ice cream sprinkled with candy and wrapped in hot fudge. Never underestimate the healing powers of dessert.

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“Ice hockey is a form of disorderly conduct in which the score is kept.” ~Doug Larson

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Further Up and Further In

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I have started reading The Chronicles of Narnia again. Every few years, I pick up The Magician’s Nephew and, over several days, wing my way through to the last page of The Last Battle, which never fails to capture my imagination and fill me with longing. It amazes me, as it always does, to recognize myself there on the pages of those books, always in a different place, caught up in the same adventure loved by children everywhere. I see myself so clearly then, walking in lock step with one character or another as they live out the story of my walk with Christ.

Sometimes I’m stumbling along with Edmund, lost in my own selfishness, unable to see the big picture until I crash hard upon the rocks of my mistakes.

Sometimes I’m Digory, so full of wanting something that it hurts my insides, knowing that God could provide it and not understanding why, in His love, He would withhold it.

Sometimes I wander, like Jill, intending to keep His words before me and the goal in sight, but instead I get tangled up by the distractions and diversions of the world until I forget what I’m doing here in the first place.

Sometimes I’m Caspian, up for whatever glorious adventure awaits and full of trust that, if only I keep sailing towards the sun, I am sure to find what I seek in the end.

And always there is Aslan. Seen or unseen, inscrutable in his ways, asking the impossible and looking nakedly into the dark corners of the heart, where all lies are stripped away and reasons and motivations lie open before him, he is the Voice that can only be accepted or rejected, never ignored. He cannot be bidden or manipulated, and yet his heart is moved by simple love. Sometimes he levels mountains to make our way easy and our path straight, but sometimes…he doesn’t.

After all, it’s not as if he’s a tame lion.

Much has been written about the Christian themes in The Chronicles of Narnia, with a few critics openly hostile to the idea that the books represent anything other than well-written children’s adventure fiction. Even C.S. Lewis himself admits that he didn’t set out to write any sort of allegory. In speaking of the books, he says, “At first there wasn’t anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.” In a sense, the result is even more wondrous—it has the feeling of an irrepressible truth, written on the hearts of mankind, striving to make itself known.

My recent foray back through the wardrobe doors was propelled, in part, by the much-anticipated cinematic release of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Sitting in the darkened theater, I was tranfixed and delighted with the faithful translation of book to screen. The director did not, as I feared, attempt to remove Christian elements from the narrative, nor did he place undue emphasis on them. As Lewis did, he merely set the story in motion and left the audience to draw from it what they would. As the battle raged onscreen between the forces of the White Witch and the outnumbered Narnians, my heart swelled with the fierce happiness of knowing that I have chosen the right side (are we still allowed to say “right” and “wrong”?) and the feeling that I could gladly ride to conquest or calamity at the word of the One who gave all to save me. At the same time, I ached for those who don’t have that certainty, and inwardly I resolved to be more courageous in reaching out to them with the Lion’s invitation. More than anything, I wondered about those who missed out on the symbolism altogether, who truly saw nothing on the screen but talking animals and flashing swords. Are they just waiting for someone to come along and help them fit the pieces together? Some are, I know. Others, though, are like Digory’s Uncle Andrew, of whom Aslan said, “he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”

If you’ve never read The Chronicles of Narnia, or if it’s been a while, I encourage you to pick them up, no matter what your age.The story is fantastic, but it is our story. And if you want to hear the Lion’s voice, you will.

“And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Getting There Is Half the Fun

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This will come as no surprise to those who know me, but I have an obsessive personality. When I find something new to like, I like it with the mad, passionate intensity of a bullet train on a no-stop run across the Iowa flatlands. Everything else becomes scenery, a passing blur on the sidelines of a single-minded pursuit. Scrapbooking, computer gaming, blogging (not to mention a rather embarrassing brief love affair with X-Files fanfiction which I will not go into here)—in every case, a casual toe dipped into the water gave way to a full body plunge of thought and resources.

I haven’t been around for a while. You see, a new obsession has me in its grip. It has me scrambling over muddy embankments and poking my fingers into places I wouldn’t normally think to poke them. It has me climbing trees, scaling fences, peering under park benches, and digging around under fallen logs in search of elusive treasure. It has drawn me out from behind my computer and into explorations of unfamiliar woodlands and countryside, eyes open—as if for the first time—to all the amazing detail of the world around me.

The obsession?: Geocaching.

And it all started with a new toy.

On Christmas morning, we opened our big present from my mom and dad: a new GPS receiver and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching.

Simply stated, geocaching is a sport that marries technology and nature. Individuals and organizations hide caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS owners can then use the latitude and longitude coordinates to find the caches. A cache is a weather-resistant container that holds, at the very least, a logbook for successful seekers to sign. Often it also contains small trinkets and prizes, known as swag, for geocachers to trade. If you take something from the cache, caching courtesy dictates that you put in something of equal or greater value. Common “treasures” include small toys, decks of cards, magnets, keychains, and dollar store finds, to name a few things. Many geocachers trade signature items, such as poker chips or buttons emblazoned with their geocaching nickname, which make great collectibles for the hardcore geocaching crowd.

I first read about geocaching in an online technical article and thought immediately of my dad, who had traveled across the country on his motorcycle using his GPSr to navigate. I emailed him a link for the website and forgot about it until he called me one Saturday a few weeks later.

“Guess what your mom and I are doing!” he challenged when I answered the phone. “I’m scared to guess,” I joked. “We’re geocaching!” he exclaimed, the excitement in his voice carrying easily across the phone lines. It was clear that they were hooked. And, as any obsessive personality can tell you, phase two of a growing obsession is all about spreading the fever to others.

A few days after Christmas, new toy in hand, we accompanied my dad on a hunt and he inducted us into the ranks of official geocachers. We found six caches that day, several of which required considerable hiking to discover. I can’t describe the elation and accomplishment I felt when we spotted our very first cache, a camoflaged army surplus ammo box, stuffed into a hollow amidst the roots of an overturned tree. We posed for proud photos of us holding the cache and sifting through the prizes inside. One surprising find that day was on the back side of a fence encircling the parking lot of a convenience store. It was a “microcache”, a tiny cache (in this case, an Altoids tin with a magnet on the back, although we’ve found other micros in 35mm film canisters or prescription pill bottles) with only a log to sign and no goodies to trade. Microcaches are common in urban areas, where concealing a larger cache would be impossible. Other cache types are multi-caches, which require you to go from cache to cache getting clues for the coordinates of the final big geocache, and puzzle caches, which ask the seeker to solve a riddle or puzzle in order to figure out the location of the cache.

The anticipation of the hunt, the exhilaration of discovery–it’s a heady brew. By the time I stepped off the plane back in Spokane, I was fully infected with the geocaching bug. It has rained every day since we returned, but neither rain, nor sleet, nor dead of night can stop a truly obsessed geocacher. I feel like I’m aware of my surroundings on a whole new level, and my appreciation for the beautiful places all around me has intensified. Also, I have to confess, there’s a certain exciting Mission: Impossible feel to all the sneaking around and deciphering clues to find the treasure. Geocachers try hard to be discreet when on the hunt, to avoid arousing the suspicions of nearby “muggles” (a name borrowed from Harry Potter books and used to refer to non-geocachers.) Part of the fun is making sure that the fun can continue for other people.

So there you have it. Geocaching is good exercise, it stretches your brain, and—once you’ve made the initial investment on the GPS unit—it’s practically free fun for one person, a couple, or the whole family.

Just don’t get arrested.