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Ancient History

Mother’s Days of My Life

1. I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with Aidan. My husband didn’t get anything for me. Later, he explained I wasn’t a “real” mother yet. My feelings were really hurt. When a waiter at a Mother’s Day buffet gave a carnation to me, I felt vindicated. Wherever you are, carnation guy, thank you.

2. Unbeknownst to me, I was pregnant with Ryley. Aidan was 10 months old. I wore a pretty floral dress and felt so proud of Aidan. Funny. Mother’s Day seemed to be more about my child and I was fine with that.

3. I remember nothing. I had an infant and a toddler.

4. I remember nothing. I had an infant, a toddler, and I was pregnant with Sam.

*5. I remember nothing. I had a preschooler, a toddler, and an infant. Oh, and I was pregnant with Tommy.

*6. I remember nothing. I had two preschoolers, a toddler, and an infant.

*7. I remember nothing. I had a kindergartner, two preschoolers, a toddler, and I was pregnant with Joel.

*8. I remember nothing. I had a first grader, two preschoolers, a toddler, and an infant.

9. I remember everything. I had a second grader, a kindergartner, a preschooler, two toddlers, and we took them all to Red Robin for lunch where one of the kids, who was answering the questions of a waitress (shocked by our family size), said “There was another baby, but it died.” Had we used hashtags back in the wilds of 2005: #Downer. Then, we drove up to Lookout Mountain to see Buffalo Bill’s grave. We bought two pounds of fudge at the curio shop. Unknown to us, Joel spent the ride home eating one pound of white chocolate fudge and he threw up in the driveway when we got home.

A new era began. We’ll call it the BIB years, also known as Breakfast in Bed.

10. Breakfast in bed. I had a third grader, a first grader, a kindergartner, a preschooler, a toddler, and I was pregnant with Beatrix.

11. Breakfast in bed. Just add a year to each kid and note Beatrix was about 8 months old.

12. Breakfast in bed. Again with the adding the year. I was about 30 seconds pregnant with Archie.

13. Breakfast in bed. Catching up on the math: We had sixth, fourth, third, and first grade kids along with a preschooler, a toddler, and an infant.

14. Breakfast in bed. We had five kids in school, two at home, and Teddy on the way.

15. Breakfast in bed. Hashtag blur. 8th, 6th, 5th, 3rd, 1st, and three little ones.

16. Breakfast in bed. Aidan was in high school! Beatrix was in kindergarten. I was pregnant with Ollie.

17. Breakfast in bed. I was a mom of a complete family. Nine kids! We went to a park in Centennial. I was sitting under the shaded picnic area when a family walked in, claimed the table next to ours, and unfurled a tablecloth. They cracked out some wine glasses. The dad uncorked a bottle of red while the mom set up china plates and silverware. They opened a cooler and took out the most amazing-smelling collection of Asian foods and sushis and spread them around. The family dined like Kings while I sat there awkwardly pretending to not notice.

18. It snowed as I ate my donuts…in bed. I lamented a change I felt brewing.

I have no idea what this 19th Mother’s Day will bring. Hopefully, some BIB. Maybe some wine at a park or a pound of fudge to eat on a twisty mountain road? I’m counting on some sort of school-made surprise involving a handprint. I love that stuff.

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Mostly, I look at my bunch year after year after year and marvel how they’ve grown since the previous second Sunday in May. It’s not odd that I remember how old the kids were or who was riding around in my belly because they’re the reason for the season.

They also inspired me to look at my own mom and my mother-in-law in a deeper and more appreciative light. What kinds of Mother’s Days did they have? My mom shared one that stood out in her memory. I wish I had done more for my own mom when I was still a kid. I didn’t understand. I don’t wish my kids did more for me. I just wish they knew how beautiful it is to be in my spot. Here I am, lucky enough to have my children and to have both our mothers. I have a day when I can sling them all together in one beautiful bouquet.

* I seem to remember a chaotic lunch at Olive Garden one of these years, but I can’t pinpoint which.

The Witches’ Lilacs

For two years, I was proud to be a contributor at A Deeper Story. I wrote alongside many amazing authors, writers, and poets, often wondering how on earth I got so lucky. I often felt unworthy. They were the Alice Coopers to my Wayne.

Nish Wiseth, the founder and chief editor, has decided the time has come to move on, so she is closing up shop. I’ve decided to re-post my work from there here. Every Saturday, a new-to-Lifenut post I wrote for A Deeper Story will appear here (with Nish’s blessing and encouragement). These posts often focus on issues of faith, culture, church, and how they intersect through story. I am very fond of these posts and don’t want them disappearing. Folding them into Lifenut is like folding chocolate chips into cookie dough.

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The Witches’ Lilacs
(originally published March 6, 2014)

My grandmother told me witches lived in the ruins of an abandoned apartment building near her home. She went on daily walks around her neighborhood, so I believed her. She knew everything. Every house had a number and she had the corresponding footnote. She knew the names of the dogs who barked at fences and gates. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she knew the name of each floating goose at the park lake few blocks away. She could have pointed at a small, scraggle of a bird paddling away from the flock, and said, “He’s Lawrence.” I was young enough to shout, “Hi, Lawrence!” in his direction and fold him into the list of my forever friends.

The day I heard about the witches, she herded me around one corner, around another, and then we stopped in front of a mostly-vacant lot. The only thing left of the structure was a basement with a few thick white crumbling walls standing above ground. Lilac bushes in full bloom grew in clusters around the walls.

“Witches,’ she whispered, ‘live there.”

I made a note to never go there, which was probably my grandma’s goal. She was unconventional, like Lawrence the Goose.

I considered the building and the lilacs and what I knew of witches. It didn’t seem like a witching sort of place, aside from the decay and loneliness. Yes, maybe witches could live there, but the lilacs seemed outlandishly out of place. They grew in my great-grandmother’s yard on the other side of the state. She was no witch. She went to the Baptist church. A van picked her up at her house every Sunday morning. When she prayed over Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas roast beef, Easter ham, and Fourth of July potato chips, her voice trembled with love for her Lord. It shook. Her voice never shook when she talked about John Wayne, perfect meringue, or bowling. My mom pointed it out once, telling me to pay attention to great-grandmother’s voice the next time I heard her pray. I learned the word, reverence.

So, instead of hearing what she prayed, I listened to how she prayed. Reverence! It was different from a Sunday school teacher’s prayer before punch and cookies. It was nothing like my dad’s rote dinner blessing or my secret plea when I was alone in bed at night: “Please, don’t let our house burn down like The Walton’s. Amen.”

Did God like shaking prayers better than regular prayers? I formed that impression because everyone always wanted her to pray when we gathered together. The food was surely blessed and so were we. Nobody ever got sick or choked and our bodies grew. When I was a bit older, it slipped that calf brains were often part of Easter morning breakfast, mixed with scrambled eggs. The prayers of a good, reverent woman explained why I didn’t keel over, stone cold dead because I ate the brains of a baby cow. It was the only explanation.

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I considered the lilacs growing in the witches’ lot. They could grow everywhere, even where it was ugly and scary? Eventually, I learned you could snip lilac shoots and replant them into any little bit of earth and they’d grow with a decent measure of sun and water. They don’t mind skirting the steady, the whispering, the silent, the barren, or even the crumbling and decrepit as long as they are fed. Loveliness sprouts despite, making the ruins fade until all you see, standing on a sidewalk, is a reminder of something really good. The hard lonely ruins don’t diminish the beauty of what’s wild and providential. Rather, thriving evidence of provision makes ruins into a shining palace. Reverence isn’t in a voice, a skyward look, or in perfectly folded hands. The wind swells and swirls as dainty purple blossoms rock in clinging bunches. Funny. Lilacs all smell the same when they’re in full, glorious bloom.

No, grandma. Witches can’t live there.

Tetradical ~ Geek Out in the Yard #3

In the tender hours of April 4th, before the sun’s wrinkled forehead glimmered in the east, some of the kids and I tiptoed out the front door and into the yard to witness the third blood moon of the lunar eclipse tetrad.

I suspect one of the reasons I glommed onto this little tradition is because of the epic name. I knew the kids would be down with getting up to stand in the yard, bleary and cold, when I told them what it was called. I can’t inspire them with “Time to mop the entryway!” or “Let’s pair these 361 socks!”

They speak the language of drama, adventure, and let’s-pretend: “Do you want me to wake you up at 3:15am tomorrow morning to see the moon turn as red as blood?” Well, yes, and pass the pajamas!

NOTE TO SELF: Change the name of “mopping” to “entangling the hound’s hair in the dewy lavender-scented Wand of the Swiffer-Elf.”

One of the nice things about this go-round with the Tetrad was the timing. I rolled out of bed around 5am and shook little shoulders awake. It was more pleasant than the other two Tetrads, as I could justify turning on the coffee maker and calling it a good morning. The attendees of the third edition were Aidan, Sam, Tommy, Joel, Beatrix, and Archie. Ryley, Teddy, and Ollie missed out, as did Mr. Lifenut.

We slapped together coats and footwear. Some of them pulled snowboots over bare feet. I wore my slippers and a hoodie. We trekked to the front yard, which provided the best viewing angle and saw the moon was already nearly covered in shadow. I commanded them to whisper and even then, an upstairs light popped on at our next door neighbor’s house and I hoped they understood. We were a much quieter bunch than last time, as nobody had coughing fits or farted or exploded into the kind of laughter that only happens after an ill-timed fart.

They passed around the binoculars without fighting or shushing each other. I had to hand it to them. They are becoming pros at this Tetrad blood moon thing. Hopefully, we will be able to catch the fourth and final at the end of September 2015.

Here’s a link to what happened during the last eclipse: Sheer Lunacy

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Speaking of Geeking Out! The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has a new exhibit called Mythic Creatures. It’s packed with all things fanciful. People from around the world delight in the fantastical and improbable. Dragons, mermaids, unicorns, Big Foot, sea monsters—all are on display with scientific explanations, story telling, and even evidence?! We had a blast. Here are some photos:

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This is what it looked like to me!

This is what it looked like to me!

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