If a cowbell rings on Jupiter (Listening: 5 for 5)

We were listening to Fiest on
the way to soccer practice (by
his request--because her voice reminds
him of a certain second grade
girl--and he swears it's "nothing
mushy"--but a mama knows a
first crush when she sees it).
And I asked whether he heard
the piano in the song, and
I said he could play like
that someday if he kept practicing.

He said yes, he heard it,
and he heard the cowbell too.
Then he made what was meant
to be a cowbell sound. And
I only stopped laughing about the
cowbell long enough to tell him
you can never have enough cowbell.
(The fact cowbell has been introduced
in music class is just one
more reason to love his teacher.)

Later on, I listened to her,
the girl who doesn't go to
"big school" yet, reciting her older
brother's solar system report in its entirety.
"Lo, one of Jupiter's four largest
moons, has active volcanoes on it.
Jupiter rotates much faster than earth.
A day on Jupiter only lasts
nine hours and fifty five minutes."

So if a cowbell rings on
Jupiter, does it make a sound?

I admit I don't always listen.
I zone, tune out to them
and into my own little world.
But today I was listening. And
I heard enough to keep me
smiling, to keep me singing, to
keep me sighing the thankful sighs.


Well, I managed to show up for four out of five in Momalom's 5 for 5 week. That's four more posts than I probably would have written otherwise. And it was kindof, sortof, okay alot of fun. So apparently this will not be the week I give up blogging.

Today I'm also linking up to Six Word Fridays, hence the attempt above to fit what I had to say into six word lines.

So rest easy, Fancy Poetry People.
The above is not, in fact,
an egregious butchering of your fine
art form. It is just me
babbling on in six word intervals.

What are you hearing these days? What sounds, words, songs make you sigh the thankful sighs?


On buzz cuts and unforgettable Maine

He'd been growing his hair--straight up--for six months. (See Exhibit A)

Exhibit A
When I took him to get it trimmed last night, he surprised me by announcing he wanted to buzz it again. "Are you sure?" I asked, trying to conceal my delight at the prospect of eliminating his ever-losing battle against bed head.

"Yeah," he explained as the stylist grabbed the clippers, "because I was looking at my old pictures, and I saw how I used to look, and well, it just reminds me of summer in Maine."

It took all of five minutes, and while we looked at the piles of hair on the floor, I asked him whether he felt four pounds lighter. "Oh no. Probably twenty pounds lighter. That's my guess."

"Well, I think it makes you look younger, more like my baby boy."

He swung upon the door and turned to hold it for me and his sister. "Yeah, I practically feel like I'm five again."


It doesn't take much, not for my boy, not for me, to be reminded of summer in Maine. The trigger might be a buzz cut, an old picture, or a cool breeze carrying the faintest scent of saltwater. If you ask me, it's unforgettable. But we hold on to plenty of pictures, just in case.

Linking up again with Momalom for 5 for 5. Today's topic: Pictures.


Cocoon (Just Write & 5 for 5)

My girl came home from school today with a praying mantis cocoon. I'm told they're good for the earth, eating the "yucky bugs" and all that, but they creep me out to no end. When her brother got off the bus, she greeted him with a bouquet of dandelions, grabbed his hand and ran with him to the shrub where she'd stashed the cocoon.

I heard her say, "When the baby p'aying mantis's are born-ded, they will grow and we can say hi to them EVERY day. So, will you help me think of girl names and boy names for them?"

"Sure," he said.
And then, "Hey Mom, what's for snack?"


I wish I could outrun the melancholy, but I can't seem to shake it, not even with a five mile tempo run. Sometimes I wish I could go back, just for a day or two, to being young and idealistic instead of old and jaded. I wish there was room somewhere in a mom-sized cocoon for me to grow into something new and useful and amazing, and just in time for summer.


Just Writing with Heather, and using my Words with Momalom's 5 for 5.


Around the corner: Confessions of a Changeaholic

"There is one thing which gives radiance to everything. It is the idea of something around the corner."
-G. K. Chesterton

I scribbled it wide and diagonal across the entire college-ruled page, all caps, all exclamation.


It was 20 years ago, and "here" meant a little town not too far from where I live today. I didn't know then what hid around the corner, only that it would surely be better and much further west.  In the twenty years following graduation, it seems only the end of the "I can't wait to..." line has changed.

I can't wait...

to graduate.
to get a "real" job.
to get married.
to have our own place.
for him to get into med school.
for him to get through med school.
for deployment to end.
to start a family.
to quit the "real" (but too stressful) job.
to have a second baby.
to get a bigger place, with a garage this time.
to get through residency.
to get through residency. (That's not a typo. He really did residency twice--on purpose. Because we're seven shades of crazy.)

I am very, very articulate when it comes to lecturing myself about being "all in and all there" in each stage life brings. I am very, very inept when it comes to actually doing it.

And what's scarier is when I read that old journal, the one from two decades past, once I get beyond the cringe-worthy stuff, I am writing about all the same themes. I am giving myself all the same lectures. I am battling the same loneliness, melancholy, disappointment with life, disappointment with people, lofty ideals versus jaded reality, and (drum roll please) the infatuation with what might be around the corner.  I believe we grown ups call this restlessness if we're being kind, discontentment if we're being honest.

We've been in Ohio for 21 months, and we have 16 months left. (Oh lookie there, someone's counting!) And dammit if I'm already thinking about what's next, that blasted corner holding all the possibilities, all the mystique, the key to endless happiness. This magical turn where promise and hope pool, right on the brink of change, it gets me every time. I constantly fight the temptation to wish my life away, to strain so hard to see what's next that I'm blinded to what's in front of me.

But this isn't the way to live, is it? Of course not. And do I really want to waste this year wondering about the next? Not on my life.  So I'll add just one more thing to my I can't wait list: I can't wait until I finally figure this living in the moment thing out.

Well look at that, last week I decided to give up blogging, and this week I'm participating in a write-five-posts-in-one-week challenge. As Walt would say, "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes." (And I would add to that profundity that really, I'm just fickle and indecisive. But the "containing multitudes" crap sounded so much fancier.)


Holy Moments

Yes of course it would happen this way. First I say I've lost enthusiasm for writing here and I might never be back. Then not 24 hours later I go to hear Anne Lamott speak, and in her self deprecating way she finds that middle ground of being wondrously inspiring without being even the slightest bit annoying or sing-songy. What really got me was when she shared how her son Sam is so thankful for the book she wrote about his first year of life--that he appreciates the capturing of those "holy moments" in between all the screw ups and mess and disappointments and drudgery.

And now everywhere I look I'm finding more of those holy moments. And more than ever I want to write about them. I want to write about them for these treasured little people who grow exponentially before my eyes, who inhabit these holy moments.


Right now, under the kitchen table I see a yellow balloon, a sparkly pink pom-pom, and a scrap of flame-colored paper that used to be attached to a space shuttle made of toilet paper rolls. Out on the dandelion-dotted lawn I see my children riding bikes, weaving through the trees as they pretend to fight the "monkey army."

Today I found myself playing Sorry at 8:00 in the morning. I told my girl we could play a "quick game", but I'd forgotten how impossible it is to throw a game of Sorry. I made all the wrong moves and still, she won by just a few spaces and it took an ever loving 20 minutes. While we played, she told me what titles she would choose for the books she'll write "just like Laura." The first one is "Ohio on the Prairie." The second, "Maine is the Funnest." And finally, "I Love my Parents." That last one is going to be a must read. (And yes, I'm writing this holy moment down if only for the sake of reminding her 10 years from now that she admitted to loving me oh so much.)

Just now, the aforementioned Sorry game winner came in whining about how she has too many things to clean up outside and how her brother won't help. I redirected her to clean up one thing at a time, and she continued to whine. I gave her a choice between cleaning up or going to lay down on her bed. She continued to whine. I moved toward her to "help" her go to her room, and she decided very quickly to go back outside to clean up. As soon as she shut the door, she screamed her angriest, most demonish scream for all the neighbors to hear. I probably won't count that one as a holy moment. (And there goes all hope of her ever finishing the "I Love my Parents" book.)

But putting the appearance of Crabby McScreamerton aside, the past few days have been full of these small, blink-and-miss-it moments, these sacred glimpses that manage somehow to loom monstrously large in the equation of beauty outshines mess. It's a miracle, isn't it, how the ugliness and drudgery and colossal failure diminish in the face of flat-out love?

Holy moments appear even at the pizza place, when it's just me and my girl


I'm just not that into this

Things I have enthusiasm for right now:

  • reading books
  • writing on paper
  • running
  • zumba
  • dark chocolate peanut M&Ms
  • guitar lessons
  • mojitos
  • Pandora channel custom mix: Of Monsters & Men, Vampire Weekend, Rogue Wave
  • algebra (did you see that pig that just flew by?)
  • making random lists, commas and double dashes
Things I have no enthusiasm for right now:
  • reading blogs
  • writing online
  • flossing
  • politics
  • bathing the dog
  • anything by Bon Iver
  • yoga (I've tried, I really have; but it still feels like a chore I do only to stay injury free so I can run.)
  • keeping the house clean
  • proper punctuation
I left the family off ether list because it goes without saying they are my entire world and can't fit on a list of any kind. And because the things I do for the love of them could wind up on both lists-- like watching seven year olds play soccer (into) or watching seven year olds play soccer in the pouring rain (not into). Or like seeing their massive Lego creations (into) or stepping on remnants of aforementioned Lego creations (not into). You get the idea.

So I have no idea whether I will be gone from here for a while or for good. Or maybe I'll be back tomorrow. (That would be a classic Jo move--to announce I don't feel like blogging anymore and then start blogging prolifically.)

So, what are you into right now? Or not into?

Dollar store easter crap: No enthusiasm
Little boy wearing dollar store easter crap: So very much enthusiasm


On waking to endless morning hugs

He shuffled into the kitchen wearing wild morning hair on his head and a bewildered, wounded look on his face. I said good morning before I recognized his eyes were puffy not just from sleep but tears.

"Buddy, what's wrong?" I asked, pulling him in for a hug.

His shoulders started to shake and he sobbed, "I dreamed you left me all alone, and I was still just a kid."

He went on. "All I had for food was my lunchbox. And you took it away. And I asked for it back and you said no. And then I didn't have anything, and you made me go."

"And there were these clues to help me get home, but I was only four, and I didn't know how to read them..."

By now I'd picked up all fifty pounds of my seven year old, carried him to the couch as he wrapped every limb around me like a koala to a tree. "I'd never ever leave you, Buddy. Never. And I'll always take care of you. Always."

"It felt so real. It was so awful. I didn't know what to do. And I didn't understand why you made me go away all by myself." He started to cry again.

I squeezed him tighter. His little sister came closer, added herself to the morning embrace. "I dreamed that same one too, Mom, and it made me sooo sooo sad," she said. "And then I had another dream about a pirate chasing me, and that's why I didn't sleep in, and why I need extra extra morning hugs."

"Extra morning hugs!" I sang. "Step right up and get your extra morning hugs!"  This time his shoulders shook with a giggle.

We three held on tight until the sun came up, until the light of a real morning slowly replaced the dark of nightmares.


I intended only to write this out for my own memory sake, not to draw a conclusion or make a point. But it's hard not to draw a parallel when my son wakes up on Good Friday feeling forsaken, abandoned and alone. It of course reminds me of the nightmare Christ endured on the cross. And of the joy in that third morning when by His waking, we were offered a new reality--to escape the nightmare of defeat and despair, to awake in His enduring embrace (not just extra, but endless "morning hugs"), to live new in His limitless grace.


Shades of Mystery

"One of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important, and that we have by a prodigy of imbecility not heard or understood it. There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance."
-G. K. Chesterton

The longer I live, the more comfortable I become with mystery, ambiguity, wonder--this "dazed and dramatic ignorance" that comes not from burying my head in the sand, but by gazing over it and into the sea. If I have one complaint about the culture of my Christian faith it would be that we insist too often on wordy black and white answers when what we really need is to quietly embrace these brilliant shades of mystery.


The Prairie Princess

She leads a pink and purple life, wears dresses every day, save the occasional skirt on casual Friday. Extracurricular activities include impromptu (yet always fully costumed) ballet shows and reciting the Disney princess storybook player in its entirety while riding her pink bike up and down the driveway. The reach and clarity of her princess radar is astounding, and a bit troubling for this mama who is far from the princess enthusiast. (Yeah, Cinderella, that's my nice way of saying I despise you and your prissy little friends.)

So you can imagine my relief and delight when my five year old started asking me to braid her hair to be just like Laura's. Or when she told me she couldn't fall asleep because she needed Pa to play the fiddle. And then there was the time last week when she said she'd changed her mind about a career in costume design for ballet shows. "When I grow up, I'm going to write about all the stuff from when I was a kid, like Laura did, so that kids can read the stories, and they will love it. And I'll paint some pictures to go in there too, like an artist, but mostly I'm just going to be a writer 'xactly like Laura."

She added, "The only thing is, I wish I could have golden hair like Mary's. But probably my hair could turn golden when I get bigger, right Mama?" (Yes, Darling, anything is possible for a girl like you. You just have to dream and believe dye it.)

Whatever the case, whether blonde or brunette, it seems my daughter and I have finally found a role model we can agree upon, our very own prairie princess.

So keep your tiara, Cinderella. These sun bonnets will suit us just fine.

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