Sunday, March 29, 2020

Time of COVID-19 Post 1

Church in the garden goblin village constructed by our 7yo.
I'd like to start writing regularly here again, during this strange and stirring and difficult time. But I've been in a strange kind of trance in the last two weeks, and busy too- busier in some ways than "normal" life, with the children and husband at home and trying to plant a garden in the woods. I've learned to use the chainsaw (and almost cut my son's leg off, seriously- God's grace in that is enough to make me fall on my face again and again and cry when I think about it).  I've commandeered protesting children into dragging logs and branches, and planted 12 berry plants, and containers of beans and cucumbers on our deck where hopefully deer won't eat the tender sprouts. I have all sorts of plans and ideas outside  that could keep me occupied from dawn to dusk, but I have other things to tend to besides planting food... like cooking and preparing it for the hungry little horde in my home, and roping that horde into new routines, like cleaning up after themselves and doing more chores than they normally would since they are making all kinds of messes and tracking in dirt and leaves all day and leaving drinking glasses coated with peanut butter smoothies to dry into peanut butter clay on the coffee table.

I feel tired reading the news, and beyond tired after venturing out in my raincoat, headscarf and mask to a store and coming home and wiping everything down to disinfect it. We've switched to grocery delivery now. And I sit on our front steps and still wipe everything down and tip the shopper as much as I can for doing this now-dangerous job in our place. Do it. Tip those people like crazy if you can.

When I'm not gardening, cooking, and cleaning, I zone out on Facebook too much. And read The Brothers Karamazov, do crossword puzzles, read to the children, play games with them. Drink endless cups of tea. Tell kids to stop squabbling and use kinder voices and not grab and please, please load/unload the dishwasher.  When it was cold we had some wonderful fires in the fireplace but now it is suddenly summer and the AC and the fans are on. I try hard not to be cross and engage in silly arguments with certain lawyers-in-the-making that live here.

I want to see my parents who live so close and yet so far. We've had some distanced conversations outside in the garden. I want to hug them. But I don't want to kill them. I want to hug my dearest Kate who just moved here from overseas to shelter in place near us- but at least I can sit ten feet away and talk to her while her boys leap around in the woods and catch toads in the twilight.

How long? We are all asking that question. I fear it will be much longer than anyone is willing to say. We are all standing on the edge of a strange canyon that has opened in front of the global human race so unexpectedly.

We gathered as a family in the living room this morning with cups of tea and bowls of cereal to watch church, hear the beloved voices of our pastor and worship team. The dogs barked and competed for backscratches and were generally distracting. The gospel passage was about that time when Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus was deathly ill and L's sisters were begging him to come and heal him- and he didn't go, not until after Lazarus had been dead and buried in the tomb for four days. L's sister Martha meets him when he gets there and shows a fierce and tenacious trust in Jesus even though she is heartbroken and grief-stricken. Her sister Mary stays in the house- but when she hears that Jesus wants to talk to her she flies out and collapses at his feet, wailing the truth- "If you had been here, my brother would not have died!" And he weeps, shudders in agony, fully experiences the grief these people that he loves are experiencing. Then- he calls Lazarus out of the grave, restores him to full life, doing the miracle above all miracles, turning a stinking, decomposing body into a live, healthy one.

My heart heard: He is with us. He's not standing back from afar, laughing, saying "be happy, this is all going to work out for God's glory in the end." He is weeping with us, feeling with us, full of compassion. He is listening to our anger, our accusations, our wailing, and not turning away. He already knows the beautiful endings that will come out of this, things that we will see soon and things we won't see until the end of time, but that doesn't stop Him from being present in the agony and fear of His children sheltering in our homes, risking our lives to save the deathly ill, dying alone with no family saying goodbye or holding our hands.

Our pastor felt led to share with us a dream he had last night just before waking. He said he never remembers his dreams, much less ever has any idea what they are about. But this was different. He dreamed we, our church, went to our usual space at the botanical gardens to worship, but it was like a bomb had hit it. All the glass floor to ceiling windows were shattered, and the roof was gone. We left and went searching for another place to meet- a gymnasium, a school, another church, a cathedral- but all the places were the same. Like a bomb had dropped. So we went back to the gardens and began to worship, and heaven opened up in praise and worship over our heads.

May the Lord, the giver of life, the King of the Universe, be with us in our grief, and raise our decomposing bodies and souls and planet to full, living goodness, bursting with praise and joy. May it be soon. Come, Lord Jesus.

I love you all,

Saturday, December 21, 2019

White girl thinking about racism on a Saturday afternoon

Yesterday I was wandering around the quiet echoing rooms of the UNC Wilson Library and reading displays about the writing of enslaved black people of North Carolina, and the experience of being black in this state in the post-slavery period. My eyes were opened to a whole new reading list I'd like to tackle. I was profoundly moved by excerpts written by men and women describing their circumstances, emotions, and reflections with the great skill of gifted writers. I was especially drawn to the only known autobiography of an American enslaved person written in Arabic- a devout Muslim scholar kidnapped in Senegal and sold into slavery in here.

I grew up in a 99% white small northern town, and I only knew a handful of actual black people. In that environment, I was able to firmly believe that racism in my country was a thing of the past and we Americans were past that sort of unenlightened evil. Of course, that didn't last long after growing up and joining the real world. It's odd, remembering how I used to ponder how Germans coped with the history of the genocide that happened in their country and it never occurred to me that I should be figuring out how to cope with the fact that my race brutally kidnapped, murdered and enslaved other humans for hundreds of years and until recently legally discriminated against them.

While I did have the privilege of gaining real, close black friends in college and beyond, it really wasn't until we moved to Baltimore for several years and lived as a minority for the first time in a majority black city that I really jumped into the rabbit hole of learning what brutal effects slavery and racism's oppression have wrought, evils that have not been laid to rest but still beat upon the everyday lives of black brothers and sisters. Every Sunday we went to a church that met in a school that schooled me by its posters and displays of student projects on black history, a history I knew precious little of outside of Martin Luther King Jr and a smattering of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. And in this community I became part of the lives of beloved people who are the most meticulous drivers you'll ever meet because getting stopped by the police might mean getting killed, who have said premature goodbyes to friend after friend caught in the crossfire of violence, and kids that treasure bananas and oranges because the inner city food desert is very real, friends.

I enjoy doing family history research and I am great fan of for finding out interesting details about the daily life of my ancestors, when the society column was the equivalent of today's social media. But it's also an incredible resource for seeing history via first-hand sources. And for every 1903 local mention of Mr Raymond Smith visiting his mother this week, the eye strays to the next column in which a mob of two hundred men "are searching the surrounding country for a negro that attacked Ed Strickland's sixteen year-old daughter in a field last night, who fortunately escaped and hurried to tell her father." Just try searching on the words "lynch" and "negro" and history will slap you in the face with the nasty reality of an entire society that doomed thousands of black men to execution without trial based on the shaky testimony of a teenage girl. And there is no mercy, none, in the way these accounts are written. Any outer space alien picking up a newspaper from the turn of the century would conclude, by the writing, that having black pigmentation was reliable signal of being the very spawn of the devil. Accounts of lynching are written with a satisfactory smugness that justice was served.

Last night I was at urgent care with my mom, and two black nurses were attending her with concern and deep compassion on their eyes and faces. I had a weird moment of thinking "after all that we people of white heritage have done, how can any black person be so kind and loving to us?" But there it is- while we humans have such a capacity to commit evil atrocities on others, we have such capacity to love and forgive and heal and not let the past rule the future.

I have a lot of questions that still aren't answered about the best ways to move forward as a healthy society. There's so much thinking and reading and talking with others I want to do but have little time for, no matter how important it might be to do it. But these intrusions into normal life- a museum display, an old newspaper article, an excerpt of literature written by a black sharecropper in 1930... they call out to me and things rise up in me, anger, sadness, and a desire to smash stupid racist walls down. To be part of the unmaking of the legacy of slavery and racism.

Thanks for reading the ramblings of my the thoughts circling my mind the last few days. It's good to put them down on paper (hah, paper).

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Carolinian Thanksgiving -- Beauty and Remembrance of Darkness

I'm sitting on the porch steps as I write, and our black and white boxer mutt, barricaded onto the porch, with her cone on (she's stitched up from a violent encounter with an angry deer) has her head over the barricade and is looking down at me imploringly to let her come out and chase squirrels. She whimpers and squeaks and looks at me with huge brown eyes. Her soft, silky, short-fur black and white face almost melts me. But I don't want to go running after her into the woods for squirrels. I want to sit here and write about this day.

In the Piedmont of North Carolina, autumn color lasts through Thanksgiving. The great forests of loblolly pine are mixed reddish brown oaks of all sorts, and the yellow starry leaves of sweet gum. Glorious golden American beech leaves stay on the tree into winter and even often into spring, only falling off when the new leaves push them off. The wooded hillside rising up from the seasonal stream that runs in a dip between the hills on the other side of our gravel road is a profusion of golden beeches, their white gray silvery trunks gleaming in morning sunlight. The sky is blue and the air is crisp and gusts of wind in the treetops send leaves coming down, pattering around me with their soft, crinkly landings. 

Craig (dear reader, remember we all have aliases around here) has stacked up logs and kindling next to the ring of stones where there will be a bonfire so there will be an outside place for our many Thanksgiving guests to gather. Our home in the woods is small but we have decided to have lots of people here to celebrate this year. The children all helped with the cleaning and  baking yesterday, the extra tables are set up, the turkey is in the oven smelling of the copious amounts of fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, butter and garlic rubbed all over it and under its skin. I'm grateful for the thousands of meals I have cooked in my life that make days like this easy rather than panicky and unsure. 

When all these people we love are here, we will say a liturgy for Thanksgiving day together and I will feel deep gratitude for the rich fellowship God has given us in this place. The dogs will get their special bones to eat out on the porch while we are feasting inside so they won't be underfoot and begging at every elbow.

I'm grateful to feel rich with hope and life and joy in this season after many seasons of darkness and anxiety in past years. I'm grateful for eyes and ears and nose and a brain able to process and take delight in the thousands of divine gifts of beauty given to me everyday. I'm grateful for the sort of mind that notices them, so that beauty and joy and delight come easily to me. Anxiety and depression rob the mind's ability to take delight in such small things as the fresh cut end of a stick of beechwood in a woodpile.

To all of you who are trapped in that darkness where beauty is so hard to come by take hope. Such darkness does not last forever and its greatest power is in the lie that it does. Your heart will sing again. You are not lost till the end of the ages in this haze. Love and freedom are seeking you. They will come. 

Blessings on you, friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A new season in the Carolinian life

It's been over a year. Much has changed since I last wrote, but I'm still here living under towering pines and rushing streams and steamy summers and now sweet gum and black gum and oak and maple and hickory are turning to reds and yellows while a cold autumn rain calls for tea and a fire in the fire place and I feel inspired to bake cookies when the children get home from school.

Last winter I stopped using facebook. I didn't delete my profile, but just... stopped. I'm not being legalistic. I might stop in to check on someone. But gone are my days of letting far too much time get sucked away scrolling, or my head in the clouds of some intense online discussion instead of here and now with the people in my local physical presence. There's so many people I love from so many places I've lived, but I don't think we were made to keep up continuous friendships for so many people. We are limited, not all-present everywhere. One day I will be with all the people I love with unlimited time for each friendship, I believe. But not now.

One of the first things I noticed after leaving facebook was my ability to read, instead of scan, came back. I could focus on long, complex texts. I stopped getting waylaid thinking about how interesting it would be to post about this or that. I finished books. I started feeling like my mind was calmer, more my own again, somehow. While my children still get frustrated with the fact that mommy can only focus on one thing at one time (if I am reading or thinking or writing you have to come up and practically throw water in my face to get my attention), generally I feel more focused, mindful and intentional about my thought-life.

It was over a year ago that we also started attending a local Anglican church. It was hard to leave the beloved church we'd been a part of since our move to Carolinia, but it was half an hour away, making it hard to sustain regular community outside of Sunday morning. We were blessed that after one visit to this new church we decided to stay. I knew really nothing before about Anglicanism outside of English novels in which the rector is either a love interest or a frightful bore or perhaps a scoundrel. Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice sums up my former opinion of Anglicanism nicely. In the past few years I'd heard a few things about the Anglican church today that perked my ears, and of course, as a friend pointed out, C.S. Lewis was Anglican, so it couldn't be too bad, could it?

There is a connection here, leaving facebook and becoming Anglican... a more contemplative life. There are many old things here among Anglicans that are very new to me. It's a church far closer to the Catholics, I think, than any we have been a part of before. It feels much more connected to the traditions and people of the past two millennia since Christ walked the earth. I have a new appreciation for the stories and wisdom of the great saints that lived long before the Reformation, the ancient sacred traditions and prayers that speak deeply to my soul. I have learned that just because someone else wrote a prayer doesn't mean it can't be true and authentic in my own mouth- in fact I am finding that often the prayers we speak together as a group bring me to tears and new things wake up in my soul. Using the Book of Common Prayer daily Scripture readings has developed my appetite for the Psalms, and I am reading them far more than I ever did in my life before. I'm deeply thankful for the way God has guided our path from place to place and church family to church family, shaping us in new and different ways at each one.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Trump & Kavanaugh and Prayer

It's happening again.
Those dreams.

The ones in which I am speaking the word of the Lord, ministering to, encouraging, and praying for... Donald Trump. I might be his trusty sidekick that goes with him everywhere and gives him my thoughts and observations. Or I am writing him letters that are expedited to a special address where he gets the mail he is actually going to read.

Before he was elected, I had a dream that he was the president, and he was sitting in a crowded room wearing a prayer shawl with Israeli symbols on it, praying. His aids were moving about him giving sound advice. They were wise, polite, of quiet manner.

I have to tell you, everything about these dreams makes me SQUIRM!

I am not a Trump supporter. Once he got past the first few primaries (when I still thought this was a ludicrous joke), I looked on in horror. It seemed to me like Biff from Back to the Future was getting his alternative future dream.

I think the man is cruel, unjust, arrogant, mean, self-absorbed, and foolish. A bully. Known for his ill-treatment of people who worked for him, refusal to pay what he owes. Holds himself up by seeking praise and adoration at cheering rallies, rips apart those who disagree. I could go on and on... but suffice it to say, I do not like the man. The same goes for most of the people I've observed surrounding him.

But here we are. He's the president. What do these dreams mean?

I think they are about prayer.

We have this fixation in our culture that praying for someone involves asking God to bless them, heal them, etc. We think the idea of, for example, a "presidential prayer team," is going to be a group of the president's most ardent and passionate supporters, thanking God for that president, talking together excitedly about how happy they are that God has put a person like that in power, a person that embodies all the platforms they stand on.

I'd have a reeeeeeeaaaalllly hard time going to a prayer meeting like that.

But Jesus says "pray for your enemies, and bless those who persecute you."

I'm going through a little phase of prayer renewal right now. The kids are all at school and I'm at home by myself so I can indulge in the kind of prayer I like best- pulling a chair up next to mine, inviting Jesus to sit in it, and talking to Him. Conversation. Listening. Talking out loud through what I think He is telling me, asking Him questions, crying, yelling, whatever happens to be on my agenda for the day.

This morning, another one of those pesky dreams prodded me with the need to pray for President Trump and this whole sordid affair with the Kavanaugh nomination. I don't have good feelings toward Kavanaugh either, as you probably guessed.

I am so glad the Holy Spirit jumped in to lead me how to pray, because I had nothing. Yesterday I read John 9, the story of Jesus healing a man who had been physically blind from birth, and when he could see, wow, could he see. Not just physically, but spiritually. Recognizing who Jesus was being from God was a no-brainer to him. The story ends with Jesus telling the angry, critical, self-righteous Pharisees that actually *they* are the ones who are blind.

Then the conversion story of St. Paul recorded in the Book of Acts came to mind. That man was as cruel, arrogant, boastful, and self-righteous as they come. Jesus appears to him in the middle of his plans to go arrest and throw Christians in jail, and strikes him blind. Three days later he is directed to the house of a Christian man, who prays for him and his physical sight is healed- and his spiritual eyes are opened for the first time. He had been spiritually blind from birth.

As these things came into my mind, I started to pray for Trump and Kavanaugh. That Jesus would meet them in the same powerful way. That He would reveal their blindness to them, and shock them with sight. For a spirit of humility to overcome them and shake them to their core. For us all to see this happen, as a nation, and give glory to God for his mighty deeds in the hearts of humans. For public confession, wailing, and grief over their sins, and true repentance. That if, in fact, the accusations against Kavanaugh are not true, that it would be made obvious and his accusers would be overcome with humility and repentance (I personally don't think the accusations are false, but I'm not God, either, so...).  For "justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:24)

Do you know what it says right before that well-known Amos verse? "Take away from me the noise of your songs: to the melody of your harps I will not listen." I feel like to attend a presidential prayer breakfast of donuts and coffee and lauding the president for his "pro-life stance" would be that kind of noise. No, there are different prayers to be praying for our leaders in our time. Prayers that can only be answered by the one who can change human hearts and minds. Jesus is the only one that can make our president put on sackcloth and ashes and wail over his sins, his treatment of women, his arrogance, his blindness, his lies and cheating others. Jesus is the only one that can make Kavanaugh (if it's true) confess what he has done publicly and beg forgiveness from the women he has wronged. Jesus is the only one who can open the eyes of those who go on about "boys will be boys" and let rapists off the hook.

God, shock and awe us with the work only You can do in the hearts of our leaders. Make them into men and women of humility and wisdom, ready to confess their sins, passionate about truth and justice, risking their lives and political careers to be truthful in all things and to expose lies and corruption. Do the cleansing work in our hearts as a nation that only you can do, to pursue truth and goodness and put away devotion to idols of political parties or ideas. Without You doing this work in all of us, we are lost, doomed, and none of the ideals we seek for our country will ever come to pass.

Take away from me
the noise of your songs:
to the melody of your harps
I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5:23-24


Author's Note: I'm adding this note one day later- I have something I want to add for clarity in case it wasn't clear what those dreams have to do with prayer, I believe they were generally pointing me in the direction of the ideal to pray to for. My attitude towards our current political situation has been rather hopeless and complainy, wishing somehow it would all just go away. These dreams convict me and urge me to pray for something much greater.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

My brain, my brain, my one and only brain

The way I view the world, we all have a human soul created in the image of God. The soul is a supernatural being that is miraculously and mysteriously melded with the flesh of the human body in order to live in the natural world. The soul is the part that is "you," and your body is the interface with the natural world, the only way that you can encounter it, act in it, communicate with others in it. Essentially, your body is your avatar.

Unfortunately, we live in a broken natural world, and many of our "avatars" are affected by the reality of genetics gone awry, or disease, or injury, affecting our ability to use our avatars effectively.

I begin thinking in this model some years ago when meeting some adults who were severely developmentally disabled to the point that they had to live in a facility with caregivers with them at all times. One man that I met didn't appear to be interacting with his surroundings at all, I had no idea whether he was aware that I was even there. However, his supportive caregiver said "Do you see how he is rolling his eyes back in his head right now? He is letting you know that he knows you are there and this is his way of greeting you."

I was floored. Without this caring woman to interpret his actions, I never would have known. I looked at all the people surrounding me in the center in their wheelchairs and realized that all of them were there, fully human, yet "melded" with an "avatar" that was severely limited in its capabilities to interact with the natural world. I had never doubted the humanness or the great worth of these people in God's eyes, but this was the first time I really understood they are IN there. Fully. Loving, longing, learning, doing the best they can with flesh they've been given. I was overwhelmed with longing meet those humans in those bodies, to learn how they uniquely communicate with the world, to tell them "I know you're in there! I know you're in there!"

This different way of looking at the soul and body has very much changed and influenced my own view of self. I have a lot more grace with myself. Learning about the foibles of my own avatar, its conditions, its perplexities, has helped me see "these problems are not me, they are part of the body I am in." I have OCD. That's not Kirstie. That is a condition of the brain I have. And when I realize that, I can separate myself from the tyranny of OCD thoughts. They remain painful and hard, but now I know they are NOT ME! I can choose whether or not to accept the information that my brain is feeding me. My brain might be on high alert, sirens wailing, telling me that the pain in my stomach is cancer and I'm dying, but now that I can separate myself from it, I can actually say to it, "Silly, you told me last month that my asthma was lung cancer and I'm just fine now. Come off it, will you?" It might take a bit, but the anxiety feelings over the signals from my ultrahyper amygdala dissipate a lot faster when I know that they are 99.9% likely to be false alarms. Of course, I'm sure my daily dose of Zoloft helps too!

Today I am thinking about the possibility my psychiatrist suggested that I might have ADD. This morning I brought up some of my daily frustrations and the ones I have had ever since I can remember. How I can't focus on more than one thing at once, so if I let the dog out and a child calls me, I'll go to the child and forget about the poor dog until he starts barking from the porch. This was much more terrifying when I had infants and toddlers and I lived in constant fear that I might forget them in the car or in some other dangerous situation because my mind was somewhere else.

Or learning new information- I have a beautiful, fine working brain for using and analyzing information I already know. But learning new information, new instructions, new processes, or the new complex board games my husband keeps bringing home- is SO HARD. I got great grades in school, but I had to work so very hard to get them, and I never understood how other people in my class seemed to be able to read that biology or calculus chapter once and and remember it all. I had to constantly ask for extra help and burn the midnight oil studying, studying, studying, trying to get all that information through my thick skull, with many, many tears and flashcards along the way. And processing auditory information is the worst. History, literature, etc- that's all fine. It goes in nice and smooth. But auditory instructions? Forget about it! I'm still trying to get the first thing the teacher said and everybody else is ten steps ahead and I'm melting down and trying not to run out of the classroom in tears. I mastered the art of appearing to pay attention in school while actually having no idea what was going on, and then going home and studying to try to figure out what on earth happened in class.

I've also always had a pretty small "carrying capacity." I get overwhelmed and stressed out by long to-do lists and the fear that I'm dropping some important ball. I feel like I can only juggle three balls when everybody else can juggle ten. My psychiatrist explained to me that it sounds like I have a low capacity "working memory" and low-speed "processor." Once the information gets into my brain, I can handle it just fine. But I can only take one bite of information at a time, and then I have to chew it an abnormally long time to be able to swallow it and put it to work. So if I already have a bite I'm working on, you just can't throw anything else at me. It will bounce right off and yes, I will tell you with embarrassment that I can't remember most of our conversation last week because you told me something that got me thinking and then I didn't hear the rest of what you said.

When I was working, not being a full-time mother and domestic manager, I actually did just fine most of the time. Because when you go into work, you are supposed to put all the demands of the rest of your life aside and focus on the task at hand. But at home there are a million things to remember and children to teach and train in all the things of life, who all want to tell you many things at the same time. "Make sure I am looking at you when you are talking, and that I repeat back to you where you said you are going when you tell me you are going out to a friend's house," I tell my children, because there has been more than one time of getting up from writing to find them gone and have no idea where they are and  I only have some vague recollection that someone came into the room and told me something. A few days ago I dreamed I had a large menagerie of pets- guinea pigs, hamsters, chickens, lizards, ferrets, gerbils, etc, and they all kept escaping where I had put them and I spent all my time hunting them down in a panic and trying to fasten the lids tightly back on their cages. That describes the life of my brain so very accurately.

I have a lot to learn about ADD and it looks like I am actually going to go get some real testing done that I should have done years ago. I am so happy to have a direction to go to understand this brain that I've been given, this one and only unique quirky avatar.

If you have ADD, will you tell me your story?

Monday, July 30, 2018

July 30th, and it's not summer's end, thank you.

Catalogs and advertisements in my mailbox inform me that summer is coming to an end. I refuse to believe it. Summer won't be over for ages and ages here in North Carolina, even if it will be getting cold at night soon in New England and parents must there must rush to buy plaid flannel shirts from LL Bean for their children before school begins. Today it's wet and the air is thick and humid. I pulled weeds in the garden this afternoon and listened to the distant rumbling of thunder and waited until the sound of coming rain began to sweep across the woods and pour down on my head before I emptied my bucket of weeds, grabbed the stalks of mint that I had cut from where they pushed over their boundaries into the garden path, and ran up to the house, dripping. The boys were in the kitchen making popcorn and Mason ran out too late with an umbrella for me, I was already at the door. He's twelve, almost thirteen, now and notices things like mothers running through the rain and has the forethought to grab an umbrella. He told me to stay on the mat inside the door and he'd run to get me a towel.

I took my shoes off and looked at the mud dripping down my legs and quickly went to change. I asked Mason to put the kettle on so I could make tea when I came back. Annabelle is sick and she called out to me from a chair in the living room to let me know that Mason had only given her a tiny cup of popcorn and told her she couldn't have any more than that because she was sick. I'm not sure why he thought popcorn wouldn't be good for her, but I told him to let her have some more. Annabelle is almost ten. She takes much better care of herself when she is sick now, though of course she wants extra snuggling. And that's okay. I'm very happy she's gotten used to the idea that she doesn't need me by her side the whole night when she is sick.

I changed my sodden clothes and made my cup of tea. I picked up my book and headed for the couch to sit next to Mason reading his comic books. Not surprisingly, our new pup, Diamond, noticed that I was on the couch and came over to see if she could get up to be with me. She got distracted by something under the couch and the next thing we knew she was whimpering because she had gotten herself all the way under the couch and couldn't get out. Only her little head was sticking out looking at us imploringly. Annabelle laughed and came over to help her by giving her a toy to grip with her teeth and then pull her out. Bear looked on with his usual expression of "oh, for heaven's sake."

I'm re-reading Meet the Austins, by Madeleine L'Engle. I've always loved L'Engle, and never grown tired of juvenile fiction, probably because juvenile fiction still seeks to treat difficult or adult subjects with implication and decency rather than lurid description. I don't really like seeing into other peoples private bedroom lives on screen or on a page.

I'm enjoying revisiting the Austin family again after many years. I read nearly everything L'Engle wrote in my teens and early twenties. Her young adult fiction is written from the perspective of people in that same age bracket and I could always relate strongly to her characters. However, this time around I have discovered that my interest is drawn again to the characters my own age- this time, the characters of the parents, Victoria and Wallace Austin. I never paid much attention to them before, but now I see them in an entirely different light- the kind of wise parents of the sort family I aspire to have. They are my kind of people- people of faith and music and books and poetry and art and nature and science and interesting conversation, respecting their children as intelligent and thoughtful humans, setting the kind of boundaries that make children free and safe at the same time. I find myself taking careful note of their answers to their childrens' difficult questions, and how they respond to flightiness, selfishness, fighting, and all the things that are so familiar to any parent.

It stopped raining and I got up and chopped up the mint leaves and some fresh ginger and poured boiling water over them tea for Annabelle's stomach, and Craig's too, who stayed home from work today with the same ailment. With some honey there is nothing finer. And now I'm having my own cup and contemplating spaghetti for dinner.