Friday, February 29, 2008

Wintery Vignettes from Camp

Tonight camp is all abustle and aflutter, because it's the last big retreat of the winter season. In order to mark this Leap Year retreat with something a little special, we all noticed a minor snow storm on the radar when we checked the weather this morning. Nothing huge, just a half a foot of powdery, blowy snow, to slick up the tubing run and give our 340 campers something to do outdoors.

Several hours ago the big Coke delivery truck came to drop off flats and flats of soda, to fill the machines for hundreds of thirsty campers. On their way out of camp, just past our house which sits at the far back border of camp property, they rolled down the dirt road, down a steep hill which immediately swoops upward again before meeting the paved road. Somewhere between going down and going up, they got stuck. For hours and hours I have listened to heavy equipment rumble past my little house, as camp maintenance workers tried to drag them out of the gully in time for the departing school group to leave on their yellow school buses. Oh, did I neglect to mention that we had a small group of fifty here for the last two days, and on the heels of their departure, this large group of youth were incoming?

At some point, the Coke truck's very own tow truck came to drag them out, and the yellow school bus was given the green light to try and make it by, heading for home a bit later than expected. Within the last hour, I heard youthful voices passing my house in the dark, as the passengers of the school bus, now apparently stranded in the gully as well, trooped back up the road toward camp. I hear rumors that the Coke truck is jammed for the night, and possibly the bus as well. The school group will get to enjoy another night of our hospitality...possibly bunking in the gym for lack of any other space. Hubby will be cooking breakfast for an extra fifty in the morning. Meanwhile, buses loaded with the anticipated 340 are fast approaching the blocked up gully, and we are wondering if they will make it past the stranded vehicles. If not, they will have to shuttle and escort all those teens, and backpacks, and sleeping bags a very long way over snowy hill and dale.

Dearest husband is in the shower, getting ready to hit the hay. Tonight the chaos does not belong to him, but he knows that tomorrow it will. Cooking 1200 meals in a day is enough to spank anyone, as he says.

Quote of the Day

"Why don't they have Garanimals for men? I need little animals on the tags to help me match my clothes. I'd buy 'em."

--Husband for over twenty years, father of seven, one smart man

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


My dear friend BJ asked the other night, if there really was such a thing as poo free sunny days. No Beej....probably not. I like what Mo used to say.

"All your life you try and get rid of the dirt, and when you die they bury you under six feet of it!"

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Gross, gross, gross

Alright, I have to say it. My house is disgusting. It's the end of February, and we're alternately under ice, or snow, or mud. The beautiful 235 acres of camp that we live on, just isn't cooperating. Instead we find ourselves cooped up in way too few square feet, trying not to eat one another alive. It is cabin fever at its best. My house is pooey. Is that even a word? I am just dealing with too much poo.

Every day we go out a couple of times a day, and collect the frozen goat buckets. We drag them indoors and thaw them in a bathtub or sink, and refill them with warm water. What do they leave behind? Goat poo...which also comes in on Baby Boy's boots. Along with copious amounts of hay and dirt. Darcy the old lady goat wears a lovely purple coat, which gets ripe with poo. When we get a couple of warm days, I peel the thing off her, soak it in a bucket of soapy water, rinse well, and hang on the clothes line to destink a bit. Only then can I wash it in the washer, without filling the house with the smell of poo.

Then there's the dog. Technically she keeps all her poo outside, and for that I am grateful. She does however, hate the cold and snow. In order to avoid having to trek far out into it, she does her pooing on the walk or driveway. In really bad weather she has been known to poo directly on the deck outside the door. Fortunately she is small, and so is her poo, so it freezes into hard little piles very quickly.

For more pooing pleasure we have the cats. Four of them, all living exclusively in this little house, and doing an excellent job keeping their poo inside their litter boxes. But not necessarily covering it up. That would not allow for the stench to be distributed quickly enough. On a regular basis one of my children can be heard shouting, "Titus laid an egg!" Immediately following is the pounding of feet as we all scramble to dispose of the "egg" and deodorize the vicinity.

And finally there is the human poo. I won't go into great detail, but simply say that a stomach virus has afflicted us these past several days. The washer and dryer are working overtime, and I go about in long yellow gloves, soaking things, scrubbing things, spraying things. It's not pretty.

And so I say again, my house is disgusting. I just cannot seem to keep up with the volume of contamination and smell which has invaded. If only it was warm and sunny, I could open things up and air it out. I could hang loads of laundry out, to be sanitized by the sun and wind. I could send fractious children out to play. But alas, we are still in the deep freeze. Will poo free sunny days ever return?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pretty Things

Continued from here, here, here, here , here, and here.
A long time ago, our younger girls came to live with us just before Christmas. One of the first things they asked to do in order to amuse themselves, was to "make Christmas decorations". This basically consisted of chopping through reams of paper at whirlwind speed, scribbling sayings like "Mary Crismas to Mom" and shoving them at me every few minutes, waiting expectantly for gushing praise and thanks. The table and floor were littered with refuse, and the countless creations that adorned my refrigerator were hard to discern from the garbage on the floor.

I have to confess that my innermost self shriveled in distaste, so alien was this behavior to me. I have long loved creating pretty things, and this wanton destruction of perfectly good art supplies offended my sensibilities. For years my medium has been fabric, and even as a child I loved the feel and color of beautiful fabric. As I grew to adulthood, I honed my sewing skills, and came to love EXPENSIVE fabric. Even now, my tastes run far ahead of my wallet, and I have to content myself with scouring the bargain tables for exquisite scraps.

Recently I inherited several large boxes and bundles that came from my grandmother's home. They were her sewing supplies, and the family felt that I should have them since I am the only granddaughter who sews. I discover that I come by it naturally, as Grandma's boxes held beautiful pieces of excellent fabric, with little notes attached, detailing what she had paid for each. Clearly she scoured the bargain tables too, looking only for the choice morsels. More evidence that the apple does not fall far from the tree became obvious when I found a hand written note in one box. It was written on a little scrap of card, and reads:
"Put back the spools in the color class it belongs with."
Who the note was intended for I will never know. Perhaps it was a reminder to herself, or an unnamed intruder to her sewing basket? My husband and I had a good laugh over it, because he teases me about my color coded thread bins.

This month I spent some time doing something I haven't done much of lately. In fact I suspect that my neglect of this pursuit has been partly to blame for my leaky self. But when you begin with an IMPORTANT TASK, you often put frivolous activities aside, telling yourself that these things no longer matter. You pour yourself into your work, and forget about making pretty things. This is not good for you, or me. It is in this way that we drain off much of our vitality, calling it unimportant. Making pretty things improves the quality of my life. It makes me happy, and when Mama's happy...well, you know. Besides, you never know when someone is watching.

On this particular day I spent extra time, selecting fabric, deciding how to configure the colors and textures. I took great care cutting the pieces, sewing straight seams. The result was exactly how I'd imagined it. Close by, Sweet 'Tatie was making Valentines. She came to me with a huge stack of colored paper in her arms. "What color should I use?" "Whatever you think is pretty Tater." Carefully she chose pink and yellow. I was a few feet away, pinning my creation. I could hear her humming as she clipped and colored. After some time had gone by, she hopped up to show me her masterpiece. It was a giant yellow heart on a pink field. In it were cut little windows that opened outward. Behind each window was carefully printed in marker, words like "love", "joy", and "peace". I nodded my approval over her thoughtful presentation. I told her that her teacher would love it. She looked past me to my sewing, and gushed, "Ooooh Mommy, that's pretty!"

My dear friend BJ commented to me recently that they can learn that their lives have value, that life can be made of quality materials, and that it will hold up under duress. A quiet afternoon, working in close proximity, making something pretty confirms that. Cracks can be mended, and lives can be refilled with something good.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Big Picture

This post was first published at OurAdopt.

Over the last couple of days I've been keeping my eye on a conversation going on in bloggyland, and it has actually compelled me to jump into the fray a few times. I find myself wanting to jump to the defense of the person writing the blog, even though:
  1. I don't agree with her positions entirely, all of the time.
  2. I am quite sure she is capable of defending herself without my two cents worth.
Basically it boils down to a blog expressing frustration with the trials of parenting an attachment disordered child, especially during times of parental illness. The discussion has taken a few twists and turns,with folks squaring up, choosing sides, and throwing nice people under the bus. And all while said people are feeling unwell. Good grief! There are other parents in the same trenches sending comments making comforting noises, plus at least one parent who employs a different parenting technique sending cloying offers of "help" if only you would be open to trying something new. And fanning the flames, are a couple of folk who make no reference to how they are related to the adoption community, much less their experience in parenting attachment disordered children, offering advice and criticism based on the prevailing logic of armchair experts. You know, the sort of folk who tell you what worked with their strong willed child, or recall how they felt as children, when dealing with deep childhood trauma, which usually amounts to some bullying in the schoolyard.

So through all of the discussion, as polite accusations are hurled, and a person's character is being assaulted, I consider how easy it is to read one or two blogs and crash the party. If a person is willing to do the research, and read through a huge archive of very helpful posts, one would realize the criticism is unfair. It reminds me of a game we play out on the challenge course. We have all these laminated pages, and we hand one out to each person who is participating, telling them not to let anyone else look at it. We ask each person if they know what the picture is. Some of them reveal that they suspect what it might be...others have no idea. We then instruct them, without showing their picture, to describe what they think they are seeing, and see if they can put together something that makes sense. Over time, they are able to arrange themselves so that all of the segments of a bigger picture fit together. Then they do the big reveal and see if they are correct. They almost always are, because over time, through careful discussion, even the most confusing component can be understood and added to the whole.

Then we debrief, and this is really a great one because pretty much everyone "gets it". They talk about the big picture. They tell you about the frustration and confusion of only looking at one small part. They confess being wrong in their initial impressions. They tell you about the need for clear communication in order to achieve understanding. They sheepishly admit that rushing to conclusions or getting snappy did NOT help.

The discussion on this blog reminds me of this exercise. And it makes me sad because few are working toward seeing the big picture. For the most part you have three types of commenters. The first group is the choir and they want to be preached to. The second group follows a different method, expert, or ghuru, and they want to convert you. When you are feeling down or discouraged, this is the perfect time to offer to point out a "better way". The third seems to have no stake, yet they jump into the discussion. This would be like someone with no picture card trying to participate in the activity. Wouldn't it mostly just confuse and irritate the folks who do have pictures?

My inclination, as I said before, is to jump into the fray and defend the blogger, not because I agree with everything they teach, but because they are doing this tremendously hard thing and being transparent while they are doing it. This takes courage, and it gives me courage to do the same. Truthfully, I hate it when people try and spoon feed me the answers. I once got a letter from an acquaintance who had adopted older children, and heard that we were doing so as well. This long missive contained lots of authoritative "information" about the methods I must use to reach my children...and my spirit cringed. According to this particular expert, I would have to cease being who I am and reinvent myself totally to meet my child's need. You know what I say to that? My kids can smell fakey, fakey a mile away. They like this real, yet imperfect Mama better than any perfect one following a blueprint to success. And they like being my children more, and my project less.

Why are we so afraid to bring our picture cards to the table, and talk respectfully to one another, until we can see the big picture? Why must we line up on one side or the other? Why must someone else be totally wrong for me to be right? Why is it so hard to believe the lessons we strive to teach our children? That I am a competent and intelligent individual. That I can research the options, weigh the evidence for myself, and come up with a plan that works for me and my loved ones. That I am free to admit when something is not working and adjust my plan. That some things need more time, and though I find myself battered and tired, I can choose not to give up the fight. That I am frequently wrong, and need humility to live with it. That I am frequently right, and need even more humility to live with it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Take Help When Offered

Continued from here, here, here, and here.

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Galatians 6-1-3

Leaky people need help. Lord knows I need it often enough, and yet I am often loathe to accept it. As I age and mellow, I think I might have a few suspicions about why this is true. Mainly it's because whenever I open myself up to offers of help, I equate this to admitting that I am doing something wrong. And lots of times I am. The above text speaks exactly to that, admonishing us to be very gentle and sensitive when we offer help or guidance, because in about five minutes we'll be falling into the same hole. It truly is a case of the blind leading the blind, and God is very gracious to allow us to help one another, considering how prone we are to muck it up.

Plus I hate to think of anyone else bearing my burdens. After all, they are mine, and shouldn't I be the one shouldering them. And can anyone else really bear them to my satisfaction? Because I certainly do waste a lot of my time deceiving myself and thinking I am something I am not. And I'd be embarrassed to think that someone might think of me as lazy, or unable to manage my own affairs.

WHAT? How does this help the situation, when my husband offers to get the children up for school during the week, so I can catch a precious forty-five minutes of additional sleep? No, I certainly don't want to let him bless me in this way because of my own pride. So I scurry around like a mole late at night, packing lunches, locating contents of school bags, checking breakfast supplies, laying out clothing. I'm sure the man appreciates the help, but the truth is that he thrives on far less sleep than I do, wakes with the dawn, and is completely competent to manage all the details of the morning routine. Instead of enjoying and appreciating his kindness, and the bearing of my burden, I am fraught with guilt, intent on making him admit that I am overtaxing his generosity. Almost daily I try and pry the burden off his shoulders and place it back on my own.

Which goes to show that I have an awful long way to go yet, but I'm trying.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Little Bit!

Now you are twenty, and exactly half my age. Hard to believe I was the age you are now when I brought you home from the hospital twenty years ago today. Pretty scary to think of don't you think, considering how young and stupid I was? Not like you. You're a pretty sharp cookie. But I never should have been allowed to have children until I was at least fifty.

Well, happy happy, and I'm off to make SOMEONE an Oreo cheesecake.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It Should Not Be So

Continued from here, here, and here.
Continuing again with some thoughts on preventing leakage, I consider how much of our energy is absorbed each day contending with things, such as they are. It reminds me of an incident I had with Boo the other day. Her play jacket was awfully grimy, and I wanted to wash it. I instructed her to bring it to me, and she stood watching as I unzipped the down lining and removed the outer shell. "Cool!" she yelled, "I never knew it did that!" She continued to hover as I placed her favorite coat in the washer and added the soap. Her expression was pouty when I informed her that she would have to wear her "good" coat until this one was washed and dried, and be careful not to make a mess of it.

A short time later she was preparing to go out with her brother and Dad, and I saw her with the down liner on, trying to zip the front. Only it wouldn't zip because it was only designed to zip into the shell, not to itself. I explained to Boo, that although she could wear the outer shell as a light weight spring jacket, the liner was not made to wear alone. You should have seen the lip. In her mind this was a travesty of coat design. She should be able to wear that liner if she so chose. And I had to assure her she was wasting her energy being mad. Get over it, and if you want a three season coat, then save your money and contact L.L. Bean.

How many times do I find myself wearing the down liner, my lip hanging down, because I am disgusted with this particular state of affairs? How much energy do I invest in trying to zip that which will not zip, or being angry because I think it should? And if I really cared, why am I not saving my resources to invest in change? Because I can tell you that Boo has better things to spend her money on than a nice new three-in-one coat from Bean' candy bars and Moxie for instance.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Apple and the Tree

Continued from here and here.

One of my father's favorite sayings is that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Which has a lot of truth in it, and is well worth pondering when considering your propensity toward infirmity. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am one of those sorts who vehemently opposes going to the doctor. In fact, I try and avoid it all cost, and suspect that this quirk of mine might land me in big trouble some day. This apple definitely does not fall far from the family tree. My Dad, who loves to dispense these words of wisdom, hates to go to the doctor. Like me, he avoids it at all cost, preferring to diagnose himself based on his knowledge of tropical medicine. The fact that he lives in New England deters him not! Dear old Dad even takes this a step further, which may show that we have evolved down through the generations, or, as he would prefer to say, indicates his high level of commitment. He hates to take medicine, or treatment of any kind, preferring to "let nature run its course".

My point being here, that it may be wise to take a good hard look at the old family tree. Infirmities often run in the family, and we usually see them show up in one of two forms. Most commonly they appear as that not-to-be-missed blemish on the character of our loved one. It is the thing we all know about them, even if strangers remain blissfully unaware. We try and avoid it, and love them in spite of it. We pity or resent them for it. Or, not so commonly, it has blossomed into the corresponding virtue, through long years of discipline and suffering. We might note it as patience in one who thinks of themselves as short tempered, or kindness and generosity in one who tells stories of their selfishness and meanness in youth.

I would strive to be the latter, but I suspect I haven't suffered enough yet. What infirmities are obvious in my loved ones? Am I blind to my own leakage in the very same areas? Have these frailties simply become part of my family culture, and are thereby easily dismissed without much thought? Has my family heritage allowed me to excuse spiritual laziness? These are hard questions to ask, and even harder to act upon.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Continued from here.
Continuing with my thoughts about leakage, I am going to assert that we need to anticipate it. There are times in our lives when we either voluntarily...or kicking and screaming...head into stormy waters. Why is it that we believe that we can continue with business as usual? Why is it that we are surprised to find ourselves depleted or even defeated? I believe it is because we fail to account for our own infirmities. We all have them, and the better we acquaint ourselves with them, the less "leaky" we will be. I am not advocating a program of self discovery that results in excusing our own rotten attitudes and behavior on the basis of our weak frame. I am saying, know your weakened self well, and do all that you can to stay out of that state. And when you have made your best effort to stand, and you still find yourself on your knees, do not beat yourself up. Consider that there might be a reason to stay on your knees for awhile.

If there is one thing I have learned about myself through the years, it is that I need sleep. Alright, I know it's true that we all do...but I need a little bit more than the average bear. Not a lot, just a little. Maybe an extra hour a night. I need it like food, and coffee, and light. If I don't get it I begin a slow decline into lunacy, until at last I become a quivering puddle of despair. I give up. I lay down to die. But instead of dying, I usually fall asleep, and I wake refreshed, wondering why I hadn't thought of a nap sooner. But the damage is usually already done. Now I have to go about cleaning up the messes I made in my irrational sleep deprived state.

So I've spent some time examining this phenomenon, and here is what I've discovered. It usually begins with a lie to, "I'll only stay up late this one time because I really need to get this done." It progresses to cheer leading that a has a decidedly derogatory tone. "Come on, don't be such a wimp. Suck it up. You should be able to survive on (blank) hours of sleep a night. You call yourself a Mama?" It slides into a pity party. "I'm so tired, and no one else even cares how hard I work, or what I sacrifice for them." And then the home run of tiredness, "I hate you all. My life is devoid of meaning and comfort. I quit."

Lately I have been sick, and my sleep has been shortened and of poor quality. Instead of realizing that this is out of my control in a very real way, and that I should ease up on myself for a little bit, I make myself crazy. My tiredness actually makes me crave cleanliness and order, yet my illness makes me less able to keep the house tidy. Instead of understanding that my head is muzzy and fuzzy with congestion, I beat myself up for my lack of clear thought and initiative. I have stressors in my life right now (who does not?), and instead of coping with them, I am convinced the world is against me.

It takes real effort to understand and work with the fact that I am leaking like a sieve right now. But I have to. And this is just a head/chest cold...maybe the flu kinda thing. What about real stress? It comes to us all. If you haven't had it yet, be comforted in the knowledge that IT IS COMING. And when it does, those seemingly small infirmities you suffer, will grow and grow. Soon you will find yourself gushing out every bit of vitality you have, and blaming yourself and everyone around you for the loss of your lifeblood. In short, it won't be pretty.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


This morning I enjoyed some quiet time, coffee cup in hand, studying a little devotional book I found during my latest organizing frenzy. It's a stiff little book, with a tight spine that says no one here has ever read it, so I anticipated finding something new, and I was not disappointed. There in today's text, was a phrase that I have been turning over in my mind since I read it. Paraphrased a tiny bit, it says, "sin cracks appear, and vitality leaks out". Well I can certainly identify with that! My vitality seems to be leaking at an alarming rate, and I suspect that I am full of cracks. Stress, self neglect, and yes, sin have taken their toll, and I am running on near empty.

A couple of mornings ago, it was hovering around zero degrees (F) here, and we woke to no heat. In order to get the oh so necessary furnace back up and running, the guys shut the thing off, drained out the fluids, and tried to discover what was wrong. Fortunately they were able to isolate the problem, execute the repair, and get everything up and running before my houseplants were all dead. (Yes, it really was that cold in here!)

Unfortunately, repair of a person is more like heart surgery and less like furnace fixing. If one shuts down and drains the fluids to discover where the leak is coming from, the result is likely fatal. Thank God that I have a source of vitality outside of myself, and a skilled surgeon to make repairs. If only I will make an appointment to get the thing done. I am the sort that limps on and on for weeks, complaining about my discomfort, yet resisting the obvious, that I need to see a doctor. My spiritual life tends to suffer in the same way.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Not dead...yet

OK, OK. I hear you all. You are clicking over here to see if I'm still alive, and yes I am. Just barely. So sorry but I am battling the crud which seems to have taken up residence in my lungs, and head, and joints. I am battling the midwinter funk. And I am battling my fractious, funky children. It just doesn't leave much time or energy for thought provoking or perky posts. Oh yeah, and I'm battling my dying sewing machine as well. As many of you know, this is a tragedy of grave proportions which reduced me to tears, and threats to get a hammer. But don't worry. I'll be back soon with a brain full of junk, ready to pour into my keyboard...and maybe a few photos of my awesome sewing projects too.