Thursday, September 28, 2006
Soon after he went out he had this leg of deer which he worked on all day. He is less than 25 lb. and has a small build so there is no reason to think he brought this deer down himself. I'm not sure where he found the leg.
I spent the day chasing my tail. Our phone did not work this morning so I biked to our neighbor's and spent 20 minutes working my way through the automated system you have to go through before talking with a real person at the phone company. The real person told me that I probably did not hang up one of my phones well enough and that the solution was to go back home, unplug all phones, wait 5 minutes, and plug them each back in. The plugging back in included checking for dial tone as each phone was hooked up.
I biked back home and unplugged everything, plugged in the first phone and had...NO dial tone. I biked back to the neighbor's house and called again. After working my way through the automated system AGAIN, which informed me that my problem was already fixed and I should not worry about it anymore, I got another real person who confirmed that I did indeed still have a problem. Someone would be sent out by 6 p.m.
I had an essential phone call to make at 2:00 p.m. so I biked back to the neighbor's one more time and checked my messages before making the call. My son had been trying to reach me all day because he forgot his algebra homework and needed it to avoid detention. It was too late to take it to him. I had to make the essential phone call.
The repair person arrived at my house soon after I did. He discovered there was a problem inside my house. We tried one phone jack. It worked. We tried the other. It worked. We tried each of the phones and the computer. All of them worked. Now we had a dial tone and nothing had been fixed yet. The repairman was puzzled and kept looking for what could cause a problem that would spontaneously disappear.
George could cause a problem that would spontaneously disappear. The cord that runs from the computer to the kitchen phone jack hangs down to the floor under the computer desk. It had some breaks in the insulation. The repairman would wiggle the cord and we would listen to the dial tone start and stop and start again. A chewing puppy was the culprit. The repairman fixed the wire and also installed a new phone jack next to the computer.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
These verses are in the middle of a longer teaching. It begins with the story of the rich farmer who had a good harvest and built bigger barns to store it in. He is held as an example of foolishness, storing up treasure for himself instead of treasure in heaven.
Then come the verses about the lilies and the birds not having to care for themselves and that we also should not worry about food or clothing. We just need to be doing God's will.
The final punchline is this. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
We start with the rich man who is rebuked because he stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God, move throught the assurance that if we are seeking God's kingdom we need not worry about food or clothing, and wind up with how to be rich toward God: sell your possessions and give to the poor.
Now I know as well as anyone more ways than I can count to try to justify my way out of this.
-Doesn't God expect us to be wise with what we have?
-It is irresponsible not to save for retirement.
-The Bible says that those who do not provide for their own family are worse than infidels.
I don't know anyone personally who has actually done this exact thing. Did Jesus mean it figuratively? Were we not to take this seriously? If it doesn't mean what it says then what does it mean? Can you own a farm and not store up treasure for yourselves?
I think you can, but sometimes it seems more like the farm owns us. It is a struggle. How do you work a farm in such a way that God's kingdom is built up? that the poor have more while the rich have less? that the hungry are fed and the homeless sheltered? how do you work a farm responsibly and still have time for anything beyond the farm?
I know I'm exaggerating, at least in some ways. A farm can take everything that you are willing to give it, just like any other self owned business can. When you work for yourself you are subject to market changes and swings in income so it is hard to know when to say 'enough'. It might not be enough. So already we don't let the farm take everything. We say no to the farm to take responsibilities with the church and to nuture our relationships with each other and our children and our friends and family.
I want somehow for our lives to be immersed in God, rather than for God to have a place in the list of priorities. I have this romantic idea that if we just trust God enough, give ourselves up with abandon, that everything will just fall into place. We will know when to push harder with the work and when to quit for the day and we won't struggle with wondering whether we should have made whichever decision we didn't make. The kids will be fine and we will just instinctively know what is best for them. We won't spend much on ourselves, we will be able to give with abandon, and we won't go bankrupt in the process. We will open our homes to those with needs and we won't be hurt by them.
But that isn't how it works. Even Jesus agonized. Jesus was hurt by the people he cared for. Why should we who follow Jesus expect to have things easy?
So the next question would be this: Is there anything worth so much to me that I would withhold it? Would I say to God, you can have everything but this?
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Here is the loaded bike after the ride.
My 13 year old wanted to go to town to play Untimate Frisbee at the campus, and he is glad to ride his bike. We have a problem with him riding home alone after dark, so we decided to send him off and then we would ride in to meet him when the game was over. We got out our lights and set off for town after supper, my husband and our 12 year old and I.
The ride seemed so easy this time. There was no wind so that was part of it, but also there was no extra weight. The air was so interesting as it cooled from the day. We moved along through areas of warm sultry air followed by chilly dry air, and then back and forth again.
The caterpillars have taken over the countryside. There are always several within sight, crossing the road as we ride. I could imagine Alfre Hitchcock finding an inspiration here.
Biking does good things for the spirit. Maybe it is just chemical (endorphins) and maybe it is that when we propel ourselves our souls have the opportunity to keep up with our bodies. Maybe it is the prolonged exposure to the outdoors. Possibly it is all of these added to other factors, too. Whatever. I’ll just take those good feelings and not spend too much time analyzing where they come from.
Three extra special things made my day.
1. My older son played and sang for me this morning. He has written acoustic instrumental music for a long time already and is quite good, but now he is branching out into music with words. It was good. I want to hear it again. I won’t give away what it is about, but I really did like it.
2. On our trip home from the Frisbee game my 13 year old son came up beside me on his bike just because he wanted to talk. For the last two miles he talked non-stop about his day. Nothing profound, but still…this is one part of mothering I truly love…having my kids want to talk to me and share their lives and thoughts with me.
3. My older son gave my 12 year old a bike (used, but nicer than his current bike) today. The 12 year old managed, even with the excitement of the new bike, to clean up a good sized mess in his room without any nagging on my part. He also managed to get through a couple of situations that would usually have been intense and he didn’t get angry or rude.
4. OK, I know how to count, but I thought of one more. My husband was very kind and especially sweet to me today. I think I must be pretty shallow because during that long ride home from town with the heavy panniers, I pondered that it is so much easier to feel overflowing with love when I know someone really loves me. So if you want me to love you, I guess you just have to love me first. Ha. Seriously though, following Jesus is about so much more than loving the people who already love you, so I still have much to learn. Good thing I’m only fifty, huh?
Monday, September 25, 2006
Today has been a long day that got better as it went. For some unknown reason both my husband and I were pretty discouraged this morning. No motivation. No enthusiasm. Just resolve to get through the day somehow.
We had devotions together after the boys left for school. The topic was “Who enters God’s Kingdom?” In our morning frame of mind we were mostly aware of all the things we aren’t doing right, so we didn’t find the topic too encouraging. We both have a similar temperament---nearly always convinced that there is more we could do. On good days that is exhilerating. We think about a need and get excited about being able to do something about it. On bad days we just feel rotten about all the things we have not done and that we aren’t motivated or organized enough to get out there and do those things.
About the only way to combat this is to just get going. So we did. My married son arrived for work and that is always a good thing. The sun was shining and there was a breeze and the air feels like fall. I got some wash on the line and paid bills. Things were starting to get better.
Then I tackled a job I dread. I cleaned, defrosted, and reorganized the deep freeze. I won’t have to do this for another year and now I know where to find everything in there.
Later I had a conversation with my mother-in-law about our son’s upcoming wedding reception and she asked if she could make the baked beans. I tried to talk her out of it because I really don’t want her to overdo things. She is a wonderful cook and loves to share her food with others, so she was pretty insistent. That will certainly make things easier for me.
We had black bean quesadillas for supper. We are loading out hogs for the first time this fall so we have some extra people here to help. I’m going to peel and slice the last of our fresh peaches to have with ice cream afterwards.
Later---the peaches were a hit, even though I didn't have as much ice cream as I thought I had. The loading of hogs was hard work (and smelly) so I'm glad I had an immediate food reward for those who helped.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
That was in July.
Last week I saw him trying out those front brakes. He would ride a little ways and stop cautiously. Then again with a faster stop. Sometimes the rear tires would lift a few inches off the ground. He still wasn’t going fast. He was only trying this in our driveway. I let him test himself.
This morning while I was hanging a load of wash I heard a small clatter and turned to see him on the ground tangled in his bike. When I asked if he was OK he assured me he was. Then he told me he had flipped over the bike head first.
I went to check him over. He’d put his hands out and even they were not bleeding from the fall. No scrapes on knees or ankles. Just fine.
Later he asked me if I’d seen him flip. He wanted to know how fast he was going through the air. He said that it seemed like he was going very slowly, that he had time to think about what was happening and that it would be good to get his hands out in front of him before he landed.
Scientifically a minute is 60 seconds and every second can be measured exactly the same. So what happens when time seems to stand still? When we get a few moments to think clearly before an emergency? Time was still racing for me at that moment because I was behind schedule and had too much to do. It’s interesting to ponder.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Today was a little less successful. There were regular long periods when the other dogs were barking or growling at him because he won’t back off. There was a little mess to clean up. And there was this.
This used to be a neatly rolled ball of wool yarn which I am using to finish the last sleeve of a sweater for myself. It is now hopelessly tangled and will take hours to figure out. I was the one who asked for this dog. He is supposed to be a faithful and loyal friend for my son, who could use a faithful and loyal friend. I was going to get a dog and not a pup, but when the shelter had these pups born on my son’s birthday it seemed like it was meant to be. Once you get a pup for your child it is nearly impossible to decide you just made a really big mistake. There is a broken heart to consider.
I saw a book at the library called “No Bad Dogs”, the implication being that if the owner only knew how to behave the dogs would all be fine. I had three fine dogs before I brought this one home, but I’m pretty lost with this one.
I biked to parent teacher conferences this afternoon. It was windy, but not in my favor so I pushed pretty hard to get there on time and did both conferences red faced from exertion. On the way home I just enjoyed the ride, especially the two miles I did not have to pedal except to catch up with the wind.
I am impressed that more and more Republicans are standing up to be counted against the President’s push for more latitude in interrogation techniques. It is time to realize that we have become the enemy. This is NOT higher ground. This is not moral.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Last Wednesday I turned 50. It was a good day.
My husband woke the boys for school and wanted me to sleep in---and I would have, except for the bluegrass. I’ve been cooking a lot for the 4 day festival and had not gotten to lists or packing or even finishing the laundry. So my birthday was also a day of frenetic activity.
My son came to work bringing a hug and a handmade birthday card---a throwback to the many he made while in high school at home with one exception: no bullet is passing through a body leaving a perfectly round tunnel and trailed by bright red splashy-looking drawing. It is so good to have him moving through my space every day. Sometimes you don’t know how much you miss something until you have it again.
There is a bonus. I’m getting a chance to learn to know his new wife in a totally new way. Because they’ve always lived so far away, all of our times together have included the factor of her being a guest in my house. Now she has her own house---her own space---and that gives me an opportunity to know her in differently. It is such fun discovering her personality. I’m only beginning but it is already easy to see why my son loves her.
My daughter and her husband and their friend arrived soon after 8:00 with a fist full of sunflowers and hugs all around. Then they pitched in with all the work I had left to get ready for the weekend.
At noon we stopped everything for a birthday meal at our favorite local Mexican restaurant where I tried something I’ve never had before. I want to start this decade out right---ready for changes.
Then, after an afternoon of more frantic activity we left home in time to arrive at the campground at 8:00-8:30 p.m. It was time to heat up this magnificent supper I’d cooked. It was time to realize we had no propane in the tank. None.
My mother-in-law bailed us out and we moved the pot of water for the parsley and garlic angel hair pasta into her camper. Then we brought the spaghetti sauce and the frozen garlic bread to warm. It took a while, but we fed a crowd and they loved it. When they were full I brought out the fresh peach cobbler still slightly warm from our oven at home. The pieces had to be small so everyone could have some. It’s not gormet or anything. It’s just comfort food with a LOT of sugar. In the dark, surrounded by a circle of campers and tents, and full of great homemade spaghetti it was exactly right. People so appreciated it.
Others tried to tell me that I shouldn’t be providing the meal on my birthday. I don’t know. I think that makes sense. It is what I would have said if I hadn’t been the one cooking. But making good food for people I love and knowing how much they enjoyed it really made my day.
That sounds so much more domestic than I’ve ever been. I’ve been OK with cooking but I get tired of it too. I can’t explain why this was such fun. It just was.
After supper I made beds while others did dishes, and then we listened to sons and fathers and cousins and friends make music in the cool evening air until all were too tired for more.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
He heard Rich Mullins speak on a college campus about being saved. Rich said that we all talk about being born again as being the way to be saved. He said that this is what Jesus said to one man in one place when the man asked what he should do to be saved. Another man asked Jesus the same question and Jesus said to sell everything he had, give all the money to the poor, and then come follow Jesus. We have not decided that this instruction is for everyone. Mullins suggests that this is why God invented highlighters---so we can choose the verses we like the best.
Claiborne suggests that religion is often about finding ways to explain why we are not expected to live exactly as Jesus said to live. This is challenging talk and I lie awake at night thinking about it. How much would I give up? Is there a limit?
* * * * * * * * *
We attended our son's hearing this afternoon. The hearing was to determine in whose custody he should be, in light of his tendency to run away and to steal things. We never really got to that.
A month ago this hearing was set, as well as a second one that will sentence him for some of the things he has admitted to doing. At that time a request was sent to the judge that the second hearing be moved forward so that our son would spend less time in detention without a court decision stating that this was the best placement for him.
This afternoon the judge came into the courtroom and began the hearing by announcing the case number and the plaintiff and the reason for the hearing. He had the reason for the hearing completely wrong. He was obviously shuffling papers he had not even looked at prior to entering the room. The lawyers had to correct him.
Then he wants to know why we are having two hearings instead of hearing both issues today. The person who sent the request spoke up and mentioned the request that had been sent regarding that issue. The judge said he saw no such request. Then he looks at the file in front of him and picks up the memo that contained the request. He admits that the request is right there in his hand but that he had not seen it before today and he still wants to hear both issues today. The person who wrote the request is my son's case manager. She does not have all the paperwork she needs for the second issue. The judge leaves the room temporarily so that the lawyers can talk and the lawyers agree to save the second issue for the other date a month from now. They agree to this because the case manager discloses that her recommendation will be to send my son to a juvenile correctional facility. This change requires more deliberation than they are prepared for.
The judge comes back, but he still does not ask for any information regarding the issue to be heard today. He decides that he will hear both issues in a month. Then he wants to know who is paying for my son's stay in juvenile detention. The case worker says that our county is responsible because it is court ordered. The judge, who is the same one that heard all of our son's other local cases, claims not to have ever ordered detention. He clearly is trying to avoid our county paying for this detention stay. He says that he ordered placement in the most appropriate facility.
Now I don't remember details very well, but I know that at the hearing in question it was stated in court that my son had already run from three placements, that he had charges filed against him in another county for car theft, and an arrest in a third county for car theft, illegal possession of firearms, and marijuana with intent to sell. I know that it was stated by someone in that hearing, most likely the judge, that it would not make sense to put my son in a placement that was not secure until his other charges were heard and decided. So this little wrangling about words seems a little stupid to me.
But it gets worse. The judge insists that our county will not be paying for this stay. He wants to know if Juvenile Justice (which employs the case manager) is paying and the answer is 'no'. He takes the sheriff who transported my son to the hearing and they go into the adjoining room, leaving the door open. In that room they contact the sheriff from the county where the first car theft charges were heard and we hear them each asserting strongly that neither of their counties are responsible for the cost of my son's stay in detention.
The judge re-enters the courtroom and summarily orders the case manager to find my son another appropriate placement as soon as possible. Then he orders the county attorney to write up an order for reimbursement. Then he leaves the courtroom with a flourish.
We talk with my son for a moment, who is ecstatic that he will no longer be in a secure setting and he is sure that his life will be different, and I really really want to believe him.
Then the sheriff leads him away and his lawyer asks to speak with us. He wants to speak with us because he knows what I know. An order for reimbursement means that no county pays for my son's stay in detention. They just send a bill for the entire amount to the parents. The last time this happened, about a year ago, the rates were around $90/day. My son has been in detention since mid-June. The lawyer explains to us that he is calling our family lawyer for us to suggest that as soon as possible we get a court agreement that sets a child support limit for us. He believes that this court agreement will protect us from any huge bill that may or may not be coming soon.
But I have already looked into this with our lawyer. I have called state agency after state agency and the answer I got was this. The court agreement only protects you as long as your child is in a group home setting. When it is detention there is this never never land where there are no clear rules. Some detention centers bill parents. Some don't. But my guess is that all of them will if they are court ordered to do so.
But that isn't the point. If we get billed, we will try to figure things out. We will call our lawyer on Monday and see if there is any action we can take now. But that isn't the point.
The point is our son. There was no concern from this judge about what placement would serve the interests of our son best, and there was no concern about what placement would serve the interests of society best. The concern was about sparing our county from paying. Who gets saved here?
I'm not saying that detention is the best place for my son. If I was good at knowing what is best for my son we probably would not have been sitting in court this afternoon. I'm just angry, really angry that a judge who is chosen for his wisdom spent his afternoon worrying more about who pays than about a juvenile offender, or a victim, or making the world a better place.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Yesterday I saw my son running toward the house. My son runs for sports and for fun, but in the daily routine of farm work this would be unusual. Then I realized my husband was already in the bathroom instead of outside. He was calling me to come help him. His jeans had a large spot of blood spreading out on the top of the back of his leg, there was more on his t-shirt. It looked worse than it was, but he had backed into something sharp while working on an implement and I sent him off to the emergency room. No stitches, just dressings and antibiotic salve after a thorough cleaning with saline solution.
He's not too willing to slow down much because there is a crop to bring in, so I'm guessing that dressing will need changing frequently today.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Last night was my first bike ride home from town in the dark by myself. The weather has been so perfect---nearly two weeks already of barely any wind and mild temperatures. Every day I'm wishing for a reason to ride, but there is so much work here that it would be foolish to create errands.
Last week I rode to town three days in a row and did all my 'light' errands by bike. (I now mentally divide my errands into things that weigh to much to be done on a bike and things that don't.) Because of circumstances beyond my control I had to cross town several times on the errand day and got 18+ miles in. I felt wonderful.
The next day I realized that my peaches needed doing and I didn't have sugar. Sugar would qualify as heavy. But my boys are like me. They look for excuses to get in riding time and they convinced me that if the three of us all brought back packs we would be fine. We got to the grocery store and stood in the sugar aisle lifting packages of sugar and evaluating how much would still feel OK after 6 miles. We were pretty optimistic so we got 12 pounds of sugar AND a gallon of milk. The boys did fine. I had a bit of a sore back the next day that worked itself out with a bit of yoga.
Last night I had a meeting in town and it was full moon and perfect. I rode in with nearly full daylight and rode out with a gallon of milk in my backpack in moonlight. I have lights and flashers and reflectors, and my backpack is reflective as well, but I still wondered how visible I was. When I turned for the last mile of dirt road I could see that a car was about a mile behind me so I rode very slowly and kept my eyes on the mirror. I think that driver must have seen me as soon as I saw him because he approached so slowly that I was a half mile down the road before he finally passed me.
I got home and put my bike in the garage, detached my headlight and used the light from it to see the release for detaching my rear flasher. Just as I finished removing my rear flasher my headlight went out. Quite the timing. I'm switching to rechargeable batteries now. I'm too cheap to change the one-use ones before they are showing signs of being used up. But I'm fine with recharging batteries frequently to make sure they are strong.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Mom came to work the peaches with me yesterday. We had a whole morning of meaningful conversation and working side by side and she left with the house smelling of the peach butter that was still bubbling in the oven. That smell was in the house all day and I ate the results on my bread this morning.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
My daughter and her husband just moved to Vermont for school. She is a pastry chef at this amazing bakery and you can buy 24 cookies she baked here for only $29.95 plus shipping and handling. She did all the baking for a local health food/deli for the last year. Her husband is an artist and has introduced us all to graphic novels and art as story. He will be attending the Center For Cartoon Studies. He makes incredible refried beans which I try to imitate. Sunday my boys told me I was getting close, but not quite as good yet. He also makes a pretty wonderful chicken parmigiana. I ordered some at an upscale Italian restaurant last night because I missed them, but it wasn't as good.
My oldest daughter is finishing nursing school. When she gets done she and her husband, who is a social worker, will be moving here for a while. They both enjoy people and she is currently working at a home for the elderly while she finishes school. He was my main child care worker while they attended a local college five or six years ago. Because we have adopted some children who were abused, their care was challenging and he was quick to learn and willing to work hard.
I love how they enjoy being together. It is good for me to see them be so close to each other after they are grown. My boys who are still home respect them and try to be like them. They turn down chances to be with friends if their older sibs might be home. The married kids really listen to the boys, give them respect and encouragement, and are good examples for them. The boys want to be like them. So do I.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
When the wild sunflowers bloom here I know the worst of summer is over and it's time for my birthday. I let these grow next to my house even though they make it look unkempt and wild because I like them so much. I'll be fifty this year, although that doesn't seem like such a big thing because so many of my friends are too.
I'm not stepping over any lonely threshold. There is a huge crowd of us born at the end of the baby boom who like to claim the 60's even though we were still in grade school then. We still protested but it was popular by the time we did it, and too many of us moved toward the right side of the political spectrum by the time we were old enough to be raising families. Dr. James Dobson was the guru and many of us listened daily to the advice we craved. I'm not sure how we all lost faith in our ability to parent without being told what to do. Even those of us with terrific parents somehow thought we needed experts with lots of letters behind their names in order to be sure we did not ruin the emotional health of those precious children entrusted to us. And yet, because we are human even with the help of experts, we left our children with their own set of issues they will struggle to overcome.
So now our children are mostly grown and we are fifty. I'm looking out at this life ahead of me and wondering what to do with it. I'm still inspired by people who step out and take risks. Tom Fox signed up for Christian Peacemaker Teams after his children were grown.
I was listening to NPR yesterday evening. There is an annual award being given today to a retired person who, after retirement, set out to change their world. They tell the story of just one of the nominees. It is so inspiring. My chance to make a difference hasn't passed yet. I'm just getting started.