Friday, August 31, 2007

F*#% Cancer

Okay, so I put in some different symbols for the aggregators, but here, in my post, I'll spell it out.

I just watched two movies. One, a documentary, called "Crazy Sexy Cancer." And the other, which you've probably all seen, "Little Miss Sunshine."

End result: I have a vision, like from a really funny, crazy movie, that I want to make real, but I know that I don't have the courage, and do have the "modicum of decency" to not create:

But, just for fun, imagine the scene:

Next Spring. Lizard Eater and her family -- The Husband, an 11 year old son, an 8 year old daughter, a 5 year old daughter, and Little Warrior herself, 2 years old ... all walk onto the track of a suburban high school. They are surrounded by a moderate amount of people, there to cheer on cancer survivors. All of the members of Lizard Eater's family, including herself, the seminarian and somewhat-model mom, are wearing hats that say, in capital letters:


Isn't it a great vision?

So what if it won't become reality. The vision still reflects something everyone in my family can get behind. My kids, only 2-5-8-11, can all get behind it. The 5 year old remembers it all -- it's probably why she retreats into herself in this first week of kindergarten. It's grandparents being here, but with worried looks on their faces, and presents given by worried, distracted adults who don't spend much time with her, but instead want to ask her questions about her baby sister. Anyone gets sick now, even the cat, and she asks, dispassionately, "Is it cancer?" Casually. Like it's a cold.

The 8 and the 11 know cancer, remember not being allowed to go to birthday parties or Chuck E. Cheese or the library for-cripes-sake. And washing their hands all the time. And getting attention at school from sympathetic teachers. And grandparents morphing from fun, spoiling people to guys who are like parents, who fuss at you for not doing your homework and make you wear proper clothes to school. And walk around with worried looks on their faces and talk in hushed voices after answering the phone. And even now, they know that "cancer" is a magic, but powerful word, and if they say, "My sister had cancer," people will pull back, and treat them in a way that isn't normal. And they've learned that "special" doesn't always mean "good."

We were a family already. But this has given another layer to that familydom. Which is probably why so many people laugh and cry at "Little Miss Sunshine," and think the movie was made just for them, because they have a completely crazy family that has gone through unique experiences, and know that even though their family is crazy and not the Bradys or the Cosbys, it's still tight, and loyal to each other, and willing to trade embarrassment to protect one of their own.

And the "2" ... Little Warrior herself. The child who acts fearless ... but washes her hands, every chance she gets. She knows what hand sanitizer is for. She knows what a stethoscope is for. She carries her syringes of medicines, three times a day, around to the people in her family, judiciously choosing which one gets the honor of giving her medicine. On vacation, it was "Bops." (Pops.) She wields it like a Queen allowing a privilege to one of her subjects. And she puts bandaids on her stuffed animals, admonishing them, "Shhh, shhhh."

Midnight, it is September 1st. September is "Childhood Cancer Awareness Month."

We're aware.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I want to strip nekkid

... and pour the contents of my PurWater fridge dispenser over me.

No need to adjust your ratings filter. Lizard Eater is just hot Hot HOT. It is mid 90s in the shade, here on August 30. I pushed the stroller up to the school (1/2 mile) and back (10,000 freaking miles), this time the stroller loaded with backpacks and lunchboxes. And I have reached that point, that point that I reach every year around about this time. The point at which I say forget bloom where you're freakin' planted, I WANT A COOL FRONT!

My parents lived for a while in Rochester, NY. My mother recounts standing at the window, looking out into the grayness, the unceasing snow, and just crying. Tears running down her face.

I'm not crying, mostly because all of the fluid in my body has been converted to sweat.

I'm ready for fall. Autumn. Isn't it just the most delicious word, redolent of pumpkin and cinnamon and long-simmered stews on the stove? Granted, where I live, fall can still be hot, but it's bearably hot, not "I'm going to melt right here on the pavement and you're going to have to scrape me up like a gooey marshmallow and how are you going to explain THAT to your father?"

I'm heading for the PurWater ...

Let me share a little of the good stuff

Okay, time to NOT hold back. Many of you have been on this ride with Little Warrior and me through the worst, darkest, scariest times. Reading Another Working Mom's post about her workplace made me realize that gee, I've shared the bad stuff -- how about I share a little of the good stuff?

Thursday, we had the appointment with LW's oncologist to go over the scans. I already knew they were clear, so there was no stress. Well, other than taking 4 kids downtown to the appointment.

Actually, it was all good. The kids were helpful with LW, and they enjoyed seeing the clinic again, especially the child-life specialist. Now that, my friends, is a calling. To be the person who explains, in child terms, what cancer is, what chemo is, and what the heck is going on with your brother/sister/self. She even goes out to the local schools when a cancer-kid goes to school, to explain to his classmates what's going on.

The oncologist was thrilled to see LW. You know that phrase "feasting his eyes on her"? That's what he did. And here's what he saw:

A fat, laughing little girl, with curls over her head, and a very faint scar bisecting her belly. Who was having a ball, jumping off the exam table, into Mom's arms. Over and over and over. And dashing out into the hall. And creating all kinds of mischief. Really, if you look close enough, you can see two little horns amidst the curls. And that's okay. Because it keeps us from wrapping her in cotton wool or treating her as if she's "precious." She is precious. They're all precious. But she ain't gonna let you treat her as such. She's a rough-tough, rum-tum-tugger.

Her oncologist carried her into the lab to show her off. "What the heck did you do to her?" they laughed. She doesn't look like a cancer kid.

Her older brother asked why the doctor was doing that. Why he was showing her off.

"You know how when you do really well on something at school, you want to put it on the refrigerator?" I asked him. He nodded. "Well, LW won't fit on his refrigerator."

That day, LW got to BE the good stuff for someone.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another Fantastic Quote About Worship

The Elder Stateswoman emailed me this. She and I share a similar belief about the holiness of a worship service, which should be treated accordingly.

Worship at its heart is the practice of becoming aware of the presence of God so that we become more deeply and fully human. I judge every worship experience in which I participate by that definition.

John Shelby Spong

"Shut Up" - 5 times a day

I have a new spiritual discipline. 5 times a day, I must shut up.

I don't mean that I need to have a period of quietness 5 times a day. I mean that 5 times a day, I have to stop myself right before speaking.

It's not that I say things I regret. It's just that I sometimes speak when it is unnecessary to do so. Which means that I might be missing out on an opportunity to hear something.

A couple of years ago, I lost my voice. Totally, for about 3 days. I still had to go about my life, though. So, I carried a pen and paper. When you have to write out everything, you only speak when you have something really important to say. And you know what? At the end of it, I didn't feel that there was anything important that I had been unable to communicate.

Like Moxie Life, I've had my struggles with Chronic Sharing. Like many females, I have often offered up sharing as a way to bond. It is the equivalent of showing the soft white underbelly, making oneself vulnerable as a gift.

I think that there are better ways to bond.

Sharing with close friends is one thing. But sharing as a way to establish a relationship that is not already in place often leads to that sick feeling in one's stomach and ache in one's head ... the dreaded Oversharing Hangover.

Obviously, if I'm going to be a minister, I have a whole host of other reasons to cut the chronic sharing.

Last week, we were in the clinic and a very nice lady, a volunteer, came over to talk to us. It turned into her telling me all about her second cousin once-removed and her problems with diverticulosis or some such. It didn't particularly bother me, because, hey, I already knew that Little Warrior had clear scans. Not much bothered me that day.

But what if I had a newly diagnosed child. Or we were waiting to hear scan results. The last thing you need at that point is to have to put on a polite face while a stranger prattles on.

I mentally wrote a blog entry: "If you're a volunteer in a hospital, here's some advice ... Shut up."

It's actually pretty good advice for me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Holding some back

"Be a cool, dignified mystery." I just wrote that in comments to Moxie Life's post about mean girls growing up to be woman haters.

And I go back to my post yesterday about purchasing "The Rules." So, why do I like the book?

At its heart, I don't think The Rules is about "games." Instead, it answers the all-too-painful situation so many of us have seen time and again.

(The following is based on vast generalizations. Of course you know people who don't fit this. But I bet you know some who do.)

Boy falls in love with independent girl. Girl falls in love with him. She then makes him the center of her life, brings him brownies, picks up his dry-cleaning, hangs out with his friends, and tries to provide anything he wants/needs.

Boy says, "What happened to the independent girl I thought you were?"

The Rules is about trying to break females of this "over-nurturing" drive. Have your own friends! Only accept being treated like the unique jewel you are! And for God's sake, hold back a little of yourself!

The latter is good advice for anyone, in any situation. Okay, maybe not therapy. But that's the point ... regular life is not a therapy session for you to dump everything.

As my Southern Belle mama would say, "Keep a little mystery!" I can think of many times in my life I should have followed that advice, whether it was being a little too trusting of an office co-worker, or sharing my insecurities with someone on the second date.

My natural persona is (like you haven't noticed), extremely open, extremely honest. As I have gotten older, I have realized that this has not always served me well. The women whom I admire are those who carry themselves with quiet confidence, quiet dignity. The ones whom, after much time has passed, you learn something about and say, "Wow! She was a race-car driver?" It's not all on display.

It's okay to hold a little sumpin' back.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I'm buying "The Rules"

Prepare to scream, but I stand my ground.

I'm buying it for a young woman friend of mine. Now, I was already well-married when the book came out, and like most everyone of our (liberal, feminist) type, I thought the whole idea was horrible.

Well, a few years ago, I saw it in a friend's bookcase, and picked it up. And read it. And agreed with most of it.

Not all of it. Some is just manipulative. Don't call back, even if he leaves you a message? Pah.

But a whole lot of it made a lot of sense. It was the stuff Mama told you in high school, that you didn't want to hear. Don't chase after boys. Don't be so convenient. If a boy calls you Saturday afternoon for a date Saturday night, say no. "If you would just spend as much time on your schoolwork as you do thinking about boys ..."

Now ... if they would just change the title to "The Rules -- How to Maintain Your Individuality and Keep Your Self-Respect" -- everyone would like it.

Except the playas.

Lizard Eater IS a sign

So, I had my divinity school orientation on Friday. Early on, they decide to go around the room and have us all introduce ourselves. Name, denomination, and the relationship your denomination has with Christ. (No jokes on the last, it's just too freakin' easy.)

I am the first person to speak, and it turns out, the last person to describe my religion. Everyone else just names it -- Baptist. AME. Non-denominational.

Well, even though I am not normally a fan of the elevator speech, here it was needed, and glad I was to have one. Hi I'm LE I'm sure I represent the most liberal denomination here I'm Unitarian Universalist and we believe in encouraging people to find their own path and live by the highest ethical standards. take a breath. Whew. (Do I think this is the most eloquent elevator speech? Of course not. But you tailor your message to the audience.)

So, then, the fellow on my left introduces himself. Hi I'm Joe Blow and The Baptist Fathers Would Be Shocked to See Me Sitting Next to a Unitarian.

No, really, that's what he said. It wasn't anything I didn't expect, so I inwardly just rolled my eyes.

But I had it all wrong.

He and I talked afterwards. He had been going to a very conservative school and didn't like it. "They prayed all the time! They'd start a class with a prayer for George Bush!" I squelched the impulse to remark that if anyone needed praying for, it was Bush. I instead commiserated -- I don't like it when any side mixes politics and religion.

We chatted a bit more and then he said ... "The fact that I wound up sitting right next to you. I think it's a sign from God. I do."

He didn't elaborate. He seemed pleased with the sign, though, not running and screaming. So maybe, somehow, my presence told him that he was right where he should be.

That's cool.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ahhh ... sitting down

Sipping slightly cooler than room temperature champagne, left over from the morning's mimosas.

Okay, so this week:

Kindergarten, Intermediate, and Seminary Orientation:


Various Doctor Appts:

School Supplies purchased:

Hosted a stewardship brunch for the big money-givers of the congregation:


So, school starts Monday. For the kids. My school starts Sept 10.

Brunch Menu:

Green Chile Egg/Cheese Torte
Gingerbread Muffins
Corn Muffins
Triple Chocolate Muffins
Banana Pecan Muffins
Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins
And contributions of:
Noodle Kugel
Cheese Grits
Flavored Butters
Fruit Tray.

My friends also brought an extra tray of cheese grits for meself for tomorrow, and two kinds of homemade-from-scratch soup. What can I say? I've got FABULOUS friends.

And a lot of leftover muffins.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Doctor Called

Clear scans.


Right now, off to the pediatrician. Little Warrior woke up looking very similar to Eric Stolz in Mask. At least, around the eyes. All swollen and puffy. Probably just some bitty allergy ... but of course, "kidney problem" jumps out at me. (Edema is a symptom of kidney problems. Edema usually shows up around the eyes first, since that's the "softest" area.)

But maybe I just need to wash her pilowcase.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vacation's Over

Well, as is obvious by my blogshow of the trip, we had a fantastic, relaxing time. But vacation's over, Baby! No time for transition!

This week, somehow, we're (collectively and individually, depending) going to attend three orientations -- Kindergarten for Bo Peep, Intermediate for The Boy and Seminary for moi. (If you've been gone two years, you have to effectively start over.) AND I have to meet with my academic advisor. AND we have to go buy school supplies. AND .... the Big "And" --

Little Warrior has CT and MRI tomorrow, results appointment is Thursday.

If I close my eyes, I can still see the water rushing over the rocks, see how fast a leaf dropped in the river will whizz away.

Open your eyes, LE. You've got things to do.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Trip Home

Happy 17th Anniversary, Darling.

We’ll, we’ve had anniversaries that were more fun, but if this was the price for a great vacation, it was worth it. It is 10:54, 11:54 on our internal clocks. My father, who is an RVer, has a different route to our home. We tend to prefer big fast interstates. But he is convinced that his way is fastest, so this time, we decided to try it. (Note: he usually takes 3 days to do what we are doing in one.)

Did I mention what time it is? And that we left at 6:45 am?

Suffice it to say, it’s not. But hey, we tried.

Kids 1, 2 and 4 are asleep. Kid 3 just requested that we turn off the 12 Dancing Princesses DVD so she could get to sleep. I think we’re an hour and a half from home.

Ahhh … home. Such a nice word.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Day 5

Last day, and we made the most of it – took the kids to see some Pueblo Indian ruins. After watching the little film at the museum, The Princess asked – “So, did the Spaniards FORCE them to be Christians?” We had an interesting conversation about what it would be like if someone came in and filled our sanctuary with sand (as they did the kivas) so we couldn’t enter, and if they smashed our chalice. We talked about how some of it was religious, but some of it was economic – they wanted to fashion the Pueblos into money-earning, tax-paying subjects. The more things change …

Came back from the ruins to say goodbye to my parents who were returning to their home. They will be coming to my town in September – they used to live there, so they have doctors’ appointments to follow up with. I’m glad it won’t be too young. My parents are (just about) 77 and 78. Even though they are in good health, I can’t help but have that flash when I kiss them goodbye of “Is this the last time …” Choke.

After a lunch of “anything you don’t eat, we’re throwing away,” we took the kids to a lake onk the banks of a Benedictine monastery. No bites, but it was big and spacious, with little grass in the water = perfect for them to practice casting into the water. I had the older two on spinning reels and the younger one on a push-button, and all were impressive at the end of it.

We had some worms and salmon eggs left, so in the ancient code of the brother/sisterhood of anglers, The Husband walked around the lake til he found an old fisherman, there with his grandson. The old angler was very happy to get the bait and they chatted for a while. Those of you who fish, you understand.

Came home and cooked up our fish from the day before. The Husband and I ate, but there were just too many little bones for us to feel comfortable with the koddoes eating them. (These are small, and you have to cook them whole, not fillet them.) So, feeling a bit like the Mom in a Christmas Story, “We’re going OUT for dinner!” Found a whole in the wall restaurant in town that was good. This was after going into one of the other three places in town and taking a look at their menu --- Quail diner, 30.95 … and deciding it wasn’t really a fit for our crew. “That’s where the summer home people go,” I informed The Husband loftily. Those of you who are townies, you understand.

Came home to finish packing everything up. Wrote a little poem in the guestbook, because I’m such a nerd. Took the kids for one last dip in the hot tub, since we’d promised (bribed) it, if they’d packed up their stuff expeditiously. It was completely dark and the stars … well, I miss stars, living in a big city. Even with a few wisps of clouds, the stars were dusty across the sky.

Got everyone in bed, including ourselves. It was chilly, but The Husband acquiesced to my demand for an open window, so I could faintly hear the river as we went to sleep.

Views up the mountain
Under the stars
The Pecos River rushing, shushing
Soothing us to sleep
Healing our souls

We return to real life,
But I know

In our hearts
Again, we will return to Trout Haven.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day 4

Full, fun day! Already though, I am feeling the impending end-of-vacation blues. Tomorrow night, we’ll need to pack up, search under the beds for left-behind socks or toy bits, decide whether we’re going to take the milk or pour it down the drain. I tell myself to shut up, don’t think about it, don’t waste any time feeling sad. What a waste!

But today …

“Pops” came over with his electric griddle, syrup, and pancake batter. His grandkids always astound him with the copious amounts of hotcakes they can put away and he was dog-determined to fill them up. He made four times his normal amount and every single one was eaten. But the grandkids couldn’t have eaten another bite.

All of us went down to a special “kids only” pond for fishing. With Pops’, Dad’s, and Mom’s help, the three older ones all caught their limit of rainbow trout. Came home, cleaned them, and put them on ice. Tomorrow we’ll pan fry them whole in butter.

Rested a bit around the cabin, then had a hot dog dinner. My parents leave tomorrow morning, so this was our farewell dinner.

After they went back to their cabin, I finally broke down and told the kids to get on their swimsuits. Our cabin has a hot tub out back that they’d been clamoring to use. I’m not normally that much of a hot tub person … but this one was pristine, and sliding from the cold night mountain air into the warm water was pretty divine. And then to be sitting their, all 4 kids (even Little Warrior, on our laps) and us, looking up at the mountains … we’ll that’s a pretty terrific combination. Even if our kids did make jokes about the bubbles being giant farts.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Day 3

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 11:44 am
The Husband was very sweet and got the kids breakfast so that I could “sleep in” – til 8:30. We’ve mostly just been bumming around here this morning – the kids are building things with an old box of dominos they found, I walked around taking pictures, we dropped by Bubbe and Pops’ cabin, etc.

At their cabin, Pops showed an entry from the guestbook left in their cabin. The children were delighted to see that the author of Hank the Cowdog and his wife had stayed there and signed the book. Even included a drawing mocking the ballsy hummingbirds.

The Husband is out rigging up our rods a little differently, so that the weights can drop down to the bottom while the hook floats – hopefully this will decrease getting hung so often.

Okay, I have to give a little bit of history about us and fishing. Despite growing up in a coastal town, The Husband didn’t fish when he was young. Just not something his family did. I, on the other hand, grew up fishing at least a couple of times a month. All of our vacations were structured around fishing – out with my dad’s inboard/outboard, in lakes, in streams and rivers. We did so much, in fact, that like many petulant kids, I didn’t appreciate it. Getting up before dawn – ugh! But I had A Gift. Used to make my parents so mad. Heck, get them telling stories and they’ll still get mad. Like the time we were on the boat and my parents were carefully fishing on the land side – since that’s generally where the fish are. I had no interest in getting hung up, so I just tossed mine out into the wide open water. “LE, they won’t be out there,” my father explained. SNAP! My rod bent double and I brought in a big bass. After catching a few more, I was tired of it. I dropped my line over the edge of the boat, the worm dangling a few inches from the water. My parents will swear on their very lives that a big ole bass came up, jumped out of the water and hooked himself.

Well, times change. I grew up and apparently lost the gift, because I haven’t been able to catch a cold with a dirty handkerchief. The Husband, meanwhile, married me and discovered that he loved fish, he loved fishing, he loved it all. He learns from my dad and has a ball. In recent years, I’ve begun fishing again, such as I can with a passel of kids.

There’s only one thing … you know how reformed dieters are? Well, new fishermen are similar.

All I’m saying … if The Husband tries to advise me again about how to fish, as if I didn’t grow up with a fishing pole in one hand, I’m pushing him in, I swear it.


8:00 ish

Dinner tonight: The Husband grilled fajita meat and we made “TH’s nachos: corn chips, beans, cheese, fajita meat, and sour cream, guacamole and jalapeno, garnished as you wish.

It was cold, so we ate inside. This cabin has two fireplaces – one in the living room and one in the dining room. I saw that a fire was already laid in the dining room, so The Husband set it to blazing. A dining room fire – terribly romantic and old timey, isn’t it?

At dinner, I made a toast – This is to my children: when they are adults, may they have as much fun with us as I do with my parents. It was not flattery. They can drive me crazy – what parents can’t? – but I have a blast with them.

The fire burnt down to embers and so we made s’mores for the kids. Gooey smiles all around.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2nd Day

It is COLD here in the morning, before the sun comes over the mountains. The sun is overhead now and I’ve stripped down to a tee and shorts but this morning I was contemplating building a fire in the fireplace.

The Husband went fishing this morning, but it takes a little time to transition from salt-water fishing to shallow-river fishing. He’s fishing with hooks and salmon eggs and lost a whole lot of both on the rocks. We headed to town to get a green chile burger my mother raved about (it was okay, but the poblano cream chowder was FAB) and picked up some more hooks. While there, we ran into my parents who came up today. Their cabin is about 200 yards from ours, which is probably perfect.

While at the cafĂ©, there was a table near ours with 2 grandparently-type couples. They kept looking over at us, in a friendly way (ours were on good behavior) and finally one of the gentlemen explained that they raised 4, too – all girls. After seeing us do all the normal family stuff – help this one cut up her lunch, take these two to the restroom – they had such cheerful countenances that their thoughts were a cinch to read – Glad we’re done with that phase!

I’m excited right now because I found the perfect place for my kids and my father (bum knee) to go fishing. Here in the mountains, so many of the places with access to the river require a bit of climbing down. But this is a wide flat place that goes right up to the water. I talked to our landlady and she said it’s not private property, so we can use it. Booyah.

7:55 pm

Well, my parents love this place as much as we do – don’t you love it when that happens? – and we are all oohing and aahing at the thought of coming here next summer with my brother, his wife, and my sister.

The kids, Husband and I went and scoped out the fishing spot. Buncha teenagers there this afternoon, but it should be good in the morning. In addition to being nice and flat, there’s some nice “holes” that we just know trout are hanging out in. And across the river, there’s a little waterfall. Just to give us something else beautiful to look at.

I’ve mentioned we’re in New Mexico, right? How about this for a state slogan – “It’s not just desert!” Of course, then they’d have to replace their current slogan – “Really, we’re part of the United States!”

Dinner was out on the deck again tonight. Sun went over the mountain at 5:42, making it nice and cool. Mom had made roast beef, so we had cold roast beef sandwiches, some cheap-but-good Red from Sam’s, and the cheese from last night. My parents both looked so pleased and relaxed. Nice. We got into an interesting conversation about marital hard times. None of us have ever threatened divorce, because all of us have known people who talked all about it and wound up getting one. Maybe there’s something about making it an option, we muse.

Not surprisingly, their hardest time was after my brother committed suicide. My dad just couldn’t talk about it. The two of them couldn’t talk at all. Interestingly, it was at that time that they did more together than ever – dance lessons, going to dinner parties. Stuff unusual for them.

The Husband and I had just a touch of that – but at least we could talk about the fact that we couldn’t talk about what all was going on with Little Warrior. I remember telling The Husband, “I think we’ve got a great partnership, but I don’t feel we have a marriage going on.” Thankfully, he didn’t give me false reassurance. He gave me honesty. He agreed. So my feelings were vindicated, the problem was identified, and we could take steps to fix it.

I don’t know how my parents got through it, effectively without each other. Part of it was me – nothing personal, just that they had a kid they had to raise.

And here they are – coming up on 56 years of marriage. Still crazy about each other, even if they get in the same exact fights they have for the last 56 years. A few years ago, I told them that the key to their marriage was, “If it works broke, don’t fix it.” I was mocking them; they took it as a compliment and have repeated it with pride many times.

Still and all … 56 years.

If it works …

Monday, August 13, 2007

First Day in the Mountains

(The following is Lizard Eater’s log of her Trout Lodge vacation. Like watching your neighbor’s slides, much of it will only be interesting to us. Feel free to skip and come back to my blog at a later time.)

We are at our cabin, located in the Pecos Canyon of NM. It is only 1 ½ hours away from my parents little house in Edgewood, but it seems another world away. Rather than desert, we are up in the mountains. I am sitting outside our cabin and nature is very loud. We are just a few steps away from the Pecos river and can hear its quiet rush over the rocks. There is a hummingbird feeder on our porch and there seem to be about 10 hummers jockeying for a turn at it. The buzzing vroom vroom is not unlike a pack of miniature motorcycles. They’re pretty macho, too. Diminutive Hell’s Angels.

The Husband got into town on Saturday and we spent yesterday en famille in Albuquerque, watching the Zuni dancers at the Pueblo Cultural Center and going shopping for our week’s groceries. I had discovered online that Alb has a Trader Joe’s, a mythical land that I’ve heard rhapsodies about, but that doesn’t exist in my part of the country. Love it. Much cheaper than Whole Foods (where we also went, for a loaf of seeduction and some non-HCF sodas). We loaded up on non-trans chips and peanut butter, all kinds of fruit, and several bizarre sounding cheeses. And lots of limes and agave nectar for Perfect Margaritas.

After getting here, we drove up to the “general store” which apparently means that it is a store in only the general sense of the word. Very grateful that we loaded up on groceries, including 2 gallons of milk, before we left. But it was big enough to have what we needed – 2 fishing licenses and some salmon eggs.

Okay, so let me describe where we’re staying. I am thrilled with it. I had found it via the Internet, so who knew what we’d be getting? But it’s lovely. It used to be part of a private fishing lodge back in the 50’s. It has enough character that you can imagine it back in time, but has been kept up enough to be comfortable. They’ve got a guestbook where people have signed gushing phrases about how wonderful this place is and how they want to come again and again. Apparently this a popular place for family reunions. Because the cabin is dated – in a good way – I told The Husband that I expect to go down the path and find Patrick Swayze and some guy with a watermelon. He didn’t immediately get the reference … not being a female who came of age in the 80s.

I’m sitting right now on a flagstone patio. The porch has a load of firewood, should it get cool enough to use in one of the 2 fireplaces. The porch also has a porch swing, one of those simple pleasures that everyone loves. Everyone except my mother. They make her seasick. But I digress.

Inside is a lovely little living room, nice-sized eating room, full kitchen, 2 baths, 1 bedroom for us and 1 bedroom that can hold all four kids. Little Warrior says that she’ll stay there, too, but I am not holding out that hope.

The whole cabin is comfortable, charming, all those things you want in a vacation spot. The living room is filled with board games, books and magazines dating back to the 90s. Aren’t those the best, when you’re on vacation? No mention of current world events to distract you.

The is also a satellite tv, but we’ve already made it clear that its off-limits. Maybe a little in the evening, after it’s dark. Maybe.

No internet, no cell phones. There’s a phone, but no one knows the number, so we’re safe.

From where I sit, I am looking at the side of the mountain on the other side of the Pecos. Over my shoulder, across my shoulder, is more mountain, covered in ginormous pine trees.

The two girls are exploring the cabin and all around it. The Husband is reading Lustbader’s The Testament, sitting across from me and looks more relaxed than I’ve seen him in a long time. The Boy is walking around the property with Little Warrior and trying to convince her to go play something inside with him. He wants to earn some money for a video game, and we’ve told him that if he’ll watch her for a solid hour, we’ll pay him $5.00. Hmm. That’s probably an inflated price, considering we’re here, but we were desperate for a little “non-responsible” time. Those of you with children, you understand.

Isn’t the first day of vacation the best? From where I sit, the week stretches forever. No need to hurry, we can do it tomorrow. No messes we need to clean up, nothing we need to keep track of so packing isn’t so horrible. No need to feel sad at leaving, because today, right now, we’ll never have to leave. It’s 500 days away, our departure, not 5.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Hell’s Angels to watch.

7:05 pm
There is a wooden dock built over part of the river here, with an iron table and chairs. We went out at about 5:15, which was a half hour too early – quite hot and bright. But at 5:45 the sun went behind the mountain and it was perfect.
Dinner: goats-milk brie, smoked jack, and caramelized onion English cheddar with chianti salami, double-devon cream butter and French and seeduction bread. To drink: apple cider for the kids and 3 buck chuck Chardonnay for the parents. (Quite good, the wine. I was impressed.) Dessert: coco-hazelnut spread on French bread.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


My mother and I cried a bit, tonight.

Somehow, we got to talking about the day Little Warrior was admitted to the hospital. We compared the blow by blow accounts of when I went to the pediatrician, when I called them, when I called back to say, "It looks bad, Daddy." She knows that they left the next morning to drive to my town. She doesn't know if she slept that night.

We talked, combining our memories to make one story: This is what I said when I called, oh, that's when I was at the grocery store, this is when your father called your brother. This is when your brother called us and told us it was a tumor.

That night, we were admitted to the hospital, but (I thought) we didn't know anything yet. More tests needed to be run. But of course, the doctors did know something. The Husband noticed what I did not: When they admitted us to the hospital, they sent us to the 9th floor. I must have been more concerned with Little Warrior and looking down at her, so I didn't see what The Husband saw when we got off the elevator. A smallish plaque that read, "Pediatric Oncology Floor." So while I was feeling a teeny bit of relief -- "Yay! We're admitted! We have our own room! We're not in the ER anymore!", The Husband was feeling murderous rage -- "How dare they put us on the oncology floor! That means cancer! She hasn't been diagnosed yet!"

This isn't the first time my mother and I have compared notes. I guess we're still processing. I don't know when it will be all processed.

Our long talk ended as so many long conversations do: "I've got to go pee!" We say goodnight. We marvel at how life changes.

I come back to the guest bedroom. The Husband flew in today; he is asleep in our borrowed bed. At the foot of the bed, Little Warrior is asleep in her popup crib. Her body stretches from one end of the crib to the other, one arm is thrown over her pillow, the other loosely holds her care bear. She looks robust and -- pleaseGodknockWoodThankYewJesus -- healthy. It seems impossible that she is the same baby who caused so much of us so much fear.

Tomorrow, she'll wake up, rooting and tooting. We'll beg her for 5 more minutes of sleep. She'll refuse.


Friday, August 10, 2007

I am lost in the 30s and 40s

Shhh ... don't break the spell.

Last night, my mother and I stayed up far too late, talking about her early life. My father is a natural-born storyteller, but my mother rarely goes back in time. Last night, she did.

And wow, the stories. Born in 1930, she and her parents went to live with her grandparents after the Great Flood of 35, then later lived with them during the end of World War II. She was 11 when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and like those who remember where they were when Kennedy was shot or when the Challenger exploded, she remembers vividly playing with her cousins when all of the adults ran and huddled around the giant radio.

Bastrop's Camp Swift was right by where she lived, so she saw her mother, her grandmother, her other relatives, all take in boarders, mostly the soldier's wives. Her "rich" grandmother also took in boarders; it wasn't about money, it was about doing your part for the war effort.

My grandfather, who had been crippled in an automobile accident years previously, could not go to war. He wound up in charge of the German POWs at Camp Swift. He hated it, because he -- like most everyone at that time -- hated the Germans. But he acknowledged to his wife that they were extremely artistic. Some of the POWs died, and the others build a cemetary for them, with whatever rocks and objects they could find.

What happened to that cemetary, I wonder. The land used for the POW camp came from farmers and was returned to them after the War. Did they simply allow grass to grow over that area? Is it now covered with tract housing?

I can't assimilate that world with the one we live in now. A world where after an attack on our soil by terrorists, the president instructs everyone to show their patrotism by going shopping. A war where the only Americans it touches are the soldiers and their families. Fill up your gas tank. Go about your business. This doesn't affect us.

Meanwhile, back in the world my mother's memories produced, my grandfather is carpooling with so many other men, they are sitting on each other's laps, because gas is so limited. My mother and her baby brother are dragging their little wagon around, collecting for the war effort. Her friends' mothers are living without their husbands, because they've all signed up for duty. The young wives of the soldiers ("I think one was real young -- I remember she still wore bobby socks,") gave my great-grandmother their ration coupons so that she could cook for them all.

Here we are. Just another day in paradise.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

UU Minister Rock Stars

I got to meet my hero and Weight of the World blog-partner, Rev. Christine Robinson today. She knew I was coming, but you know I took great delight in telling the church receptionist, "Tell her Lizard Eater is here!"

She is just as lovely and gracious as you might imagine. 3 of my muppets (The Boy, The Princess and Little Warrior) got to meet here and ask a few questions. I explained to her that in our church, UU ministers are like Sasquatch -- we've heard that they exist, but we're not really sure we believe the rumors.

I restrained myself and was not too fawning, I hope. I did not ask her to autograph one of her sermons. (Momentary pause as LE considers the idea of UU ministers as rock stars, and wonders what the "audience" would throw up in pulpit. I'm sure someone out there has a good idea.)

But of course, rather than lighters, we'd all hold up mini-chalices (chali?) when they led a UU greatest hit.

(Image is replaced by the vision of a darkened theatre of UU's, holding chalices above their heads and swaying to Spirit of Life.)

I think the altitude is getting to me.

In any case, it was great fun. Christine is the first member of the UU blogosphere (those of us UU bloggers who not only have blogs, but also comment and answer back to other UU blogs) whom I've met and I enjoyed it so much, I've decided to tour the country with my brood, meeting all of the rest of you. You'll put all of us up, right?


Sunday, August 05, 2007

My parents' home will always be my home

Greetings from New Mexico.

I am the only one awake now. My parents are asleep in the master bedroom of this, their retirement house. My son is asleep in the living room, Bo Peep and The Princess are curled together like puppies in the guest room - slash- office they call "The Bear's Lair." (The Bear being my father.) Little Warrior is asleep in her pop up crib at the foot of my bed. (The Husband is back home, working another week, and undoubtedly taking advantage of going to sleep at a decent time.)

When I was, oh, in my early 20's, my parents retired, selling off my childhood home and purchasing an RV. They were full-time RVers for a while; a few years ago they picked this permanent home.

What is curious ... interesting ... is that wherever they go, the feeling of being safe and secure follows. I can remember staying with them in their RV in a tiny campground in Florida. There, on a little foldout couch, across from the door, I felt completely and utterly safe. Here, too. I have never lived in this house, or even this state. But I come here, and the cloak of safety encompasses me. I am home.

It seems corny to quote Robert Frost's, "When you have to go there, they have to take you in." But the words never get stale to me, nor does the next line, ""I should have called it Something you somehow haven't to deserve."

I don't have to be here. They don't have to take me in. But we greet each other with hugs and kisses, parent and child, grateful for the time we have together.

And I am home.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Is there a place for a devout Unitarian Universalist?

And by devout, I mean, deriving from the same route of "devotion."

Recent discussions about god-language and UU Christology in the UU blogosphere have me thinking about this.

I know that for myself -- newly rebirthed seminarian -- I have, and have always had, a pull in my heart for something transcending regular life. Something honoring and yearning for what can be found in The Great Mystery.

Benedictine monks chanting, Buddhist nuns doing 100 bows, a Hindu mother creating a small altar room ... these speak to me.

Where is the room for my devotion? The very idea could bring forth ideas suited for ridicule -- a young woman placing a candle on her daytimer or a young man making a mantra "To Whom It May Concern."

Those of us who have pledged ourselves to this religion, Unitarian Universalism, can shrug those off. There are plenty of jokes about "Whiskey-palians" and Baptists who don't recognize each other in the liquor store, too.

But we pride ourselves, so often, on what we are not. We are not dogmatic. We are not illogical. We are not ritualistic.

The unspoken is there ... We are not Silly.

If someone walks into our sanctuary and goes down on one knee at the altar, how do we, in our hearts, respond? If someone were to cross themselves, or bow repeatedly, upon entering, how do we respond?

These actions, in and of themselves, do not go against our UU principles. Because someone crosses himself does not mean he feels it is the only way to the Divine Unknowable.

I do not cross myself. I do not bow. Tracing a chalice across my chalice is cumbersome, at best.

But I am passionate about this faith. For me, it is not just "a religious movement." I am not just a part of similarly fashioned society. My belief in what we stand for is powerful. My hope for what we can mean to others transcends mere helpfulness.

I am not a Buddhist. My meditations are not exclusively with the goal of quieting my mind. I am somewhere between Christian -- meditation as contemplation -- and Buddhist. It depends on the day.

I am reading Simply Pray and enjoying it. I like the idea of a UU "Rosary." I seek the experience of communion with the divine.

You may think me silly. But know this: I am not the only one.

I suggest we make room for the devout UU.