Monthly Archiv: July, 2014

Time to raise a commotion



If you like what you read, please let Tuscany and anyone else you can think of, know.  Actually, you don’t have to know them. Strangers are fine too.

As of this posting, my excerpt wasn’t on facebook yet, but if you get a chance to check out these links as well, it would be much appreciated.

Thanks again to anyone who is interested and has time to review the excerpt. The novel is supposed to be a gift for my kids (a book for them was requested by Girl one a few years ago). Any help getting  the gift packaged up would be much appreciated.

And lastly . . . I’m pretty sure, I’m the guy scratching his head at the back in the picture. Hopefully you’ll find yourself in there too. :)  Have a nice day.

Seeking assistance on Thursday


I have been trying to get my young adult novel, “Saints and Bones,” published for a little while now without much success. A friend suggested I submit the manuscript to a Catholic publishing contest, and as I had nothing to lose, I submitted. To promote their contest, the publishing house (Tuscany Press) has been posting excerpts from contestants in the different contest categories for months now. Recently, I learned that an excerpt of my novel is going to be featured on Thursday, July 31. (That’s tomorrow!)  It doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily even close to being considered, but at least the manuscript hasn’t been rejected outright.

Tuscany is posting excerpts in three locations (Tuscany Press and two Facebook sites) and encouraging authors to get people who appreciate their work to comment, or “like,” the excerpt. Tomorrow I will re-post links to the three places you can see my excerpt. If anyone has time and would be interested in posting a comment, or hitting the “like” button on the facebook pages, I would be really grateful.  A strong showing of support isn’t guaranteed to help one’s entry, but then again, it doesn’t hurt either. Additionally, Tuscany offers publishing contract to some who don’t place in the contest.

Please note: although it is a “Catholic,” writing contest, you don’t need to be Catholic or anything else to share your thoughts. In fact, given the wonderful people of all stripes who have loved me so kindly over the years, I’d kind of like it if three quarters of the people who weigh in aren’t quite sure how a genuflect works.

The links are below if you’re curious ahead of time, but again, my excerpt isn’t scheduled to be there until tomorrow.


p.s.  If you read the excerpt and really like it, start calling your friends.


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If each one of the dragon flies on my clothesline is a little revelation waiting to fly, it went about like this last week.

Since the sick lamb died, we are on watch. We took a fecal sample in for analysis from a different lamb.  The vet recommended based on analysis that we treat the whole little flock for some not so nice parasites. Duly noted. Medicine on order.

Meanwhile, bee boys reported trouble in hive #2.  Yes, they’re sure.  The laying pattern for the eggs is all wrong. I have them consult by telephone with a friend, who advises that poor laying pattern does indeed call for a replacement queen. So I order a new queen, by telephone, to be delivered by mail.

The next day my friend calls. She is going to pick up a few bee things herself in a few days. Do we need anything? As everything bee related seems to be at least an hour away in any direction, this is a good offer. I send bee boys out to reassess the hives and think if there is something else we need.

Wow, they say. Hive 2 is fine now. We don’t need a queen. Hive 1 needs one though. Definite problems there.

Tough questioning yields murky answers.  Well, maybe we should get two queens . . . well, maybe their both fine . . . hard to say. Neither will hold an opinion for longer than a minute if I press. I realize with a sigh that my grand idea that a 10 and 13 year old would manage to be the brains of the operation may have some difficulties, but I don’t give up yet, I start pulling things up on the internet. Pictures.

Look, I say. We’re going to be logical. Here are pictures. Point to which egg pattern you are seeing.

There is silence, then:  Is that really what eggs look like?

So yes, I give up for now on not being involved. Boy one and I head out to the hives despite the late hour. He touches everything. I boss him around. He expresses amazement that there is something different about my brain. Like I just don’t give up until I figure everything out and he can’t believe how helpful that is. I smile and it isn’t such a bad time together.

In one day, the new queen arrived, kids went to swimming lessons, and I drove an hour for the lamb medicine. When I got back, Boy two was obsessed with wanting to know what would happen if it turned out that one of the cats was a girl. I said we dealt with disasters when they occurred and kept getting dinner together. Would it mean, he finally asked, that the girl cat would have to go? I said of course not. He then announced, followed by demonstration that in fact, our little miniature brother kittens from months ago seem to have developed rather differently than expected.

The debate on what now to call Filippo rages.

Magic Fairy


When we want something to talk about, we play the Magic Fairy game.  We’ve never met her, but we are pretty experienced imagining her. The Magic Fairy can do anything the person asking the question says she can.

If the Magic Fairy came tomorrow and you could do any job in the world for one year, what would it be?

If the Magic Fairy could bring one new species of animal to our farm, what would it be?

And so it goes.

If the Magic Fairy came to our house, I asked a few weeks ago, and you could have any style and color of hair that you wanted, what would you choose?

My color, my hair style, said Girl one.

When I was 18, I knew a woman in her twenties who always to me, looked perfect. Make me look Kathy Schumann, I would say when I sat down at the hairdressers.

There is no one you would rather look like than yourself? I asked Girl one, cocking an eyebrow.

Right, she said grinning.

I could not imagine it, but that is what she said.


The other night, it was a family Magic Fairy time.  I was getting bored of perfect houses and event tickets. If the Magic Fairy came and you could change anything about your personality that you wanted, what would you change, I asked pleased with my question.

I’d be more brave, said one. Less impulsive, said another. You know where this is headed.

I wouldn’t change anything, said Girl one.

Nothing? You wouldn’t change anything about yourself? It crossed my mind that if she was that hard up for ideas, I had a few suggestions.

Nope. Nothing. I’m how God made me, so that’s how I want to be.


It only takes a swimming lesson, as Girl one decides once again if water entry and cooperation are in order for the day (or not) to make me tear my hair out about how to raise this child. She knows she has things to work on. She probably has more sincere remorse when she’s done something wrong than any of my kids. But for some reason, it doesn’t take her down for good or change the joy she feels about being who she was made to be.

Quite something, that.

The Other Deepest Fear

Mary Agnes, By Robert Henri, 1924

Mary Agnes, By Robert Henri, 1924

I heard the title of the poem, “Our Deepest Fear,” before I actually read it. I imagined a kind of kinship with the author. Wondered what the answer was. When I finally read it, I felt confused.

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure . . .”

The people reciting the poem in movies are always so courageous and convincing that despite my inability to get it, I feel happy for them. But my deepest fear? Well, it ain’t that. For fun on a sleepless night, I managed to corral mine under one of two umbrellas. First, that I am ultimately unlovable, and second, that I will fail to love well those that mean the most to me. (I know, my deepest fears would make a lousy movie if the poem had gone my way.)

I try to be a tidy liver – as in a person who lives tidily, not the organ meat you fry with onions – but sometimes my fears get messy. This goes for deep ones and spiders and I swear there’s a pattern. Except I haven’t deciphered it, so I don’t predict the deep fear rising soon enough to quarantine myself from the outside world until it passes. Once it arrives, it’s too late. I’m a blithering idiot just wanting something to make it better. Even worse, I talk to people. Or try to.

When the fear submarines decide to go down again, they smile and pretend to deep six themselves. I wave goodbye because I am so done with them, but I mostly know that part is pretending. Past experience is that they don’t have the decency to die, they just bubble out of sight so they can take a break down there where it’s murky.  Sometimes they hover just out of hearing but I can tell by the water they haven’t gone far. Other times they disappear to the ocean floor for so long, I start to believe they’re gone. Either way, there’s afterwards.

A submarine came up for air recently. This particular one especially compels me to pour out my soul as nakedly as possible. With sub in sight, I am certain this is the only solution. Once the sub dives down again, I am left cursing my lack of clothing, wondering what possessed me and swearing all kinds of promises to myself to never do that again.

Might I say, despite the possible agitation caused to those convinced that I just don’t get that part of Ms. Williamson’s poem, how lovely it would be, if my deepest fear was that I was powerful beyond measure.

Also I am looking for the button. The one you can push to have recent words erased from other people’s heads, replaced instead with the notion that I am soooo together now.


The Surgeon E. Pavlov in the Operating Theater. Oil painting on cardboard by Ilya Repin, 1888.

The Surgeon E. Pavlov in the Operating Theater. Oil painting on cardboard by Ilya Repin, 1888.

We had been in the medical system for 24 hours when Boy two was finally taken from me to surgery. He was brave but to me he looked so small. Exhausted, hungry, and alone at that point, I hardly knew what I was saying. Something like, “anyone who knows how is required to pray before the surgery,” or words to that effect came shooting out of my mouth as I saw him leaving. “We’ll take good care of him,” they said. That had not been the point, but I was past argument or coherence.

The next morning, the surgeon came by early. Boy two looked good, everything went well, the appendix had been perforated but everything was ship shape now. Instructions. Have a nice day. And he turned to go.

A younger woman with a clipboard at the end of the bed spoke up. “Excuse me, Boy two’s mom, but we just wanted you to know how impressed all of us in the operating room were with your son. He was very brave. And he said the most beautiful prayer.”

Really? My heart felt very happy and I thanked her. A few days later my brain engaged.

How, I asked, was it that you ended up praying out loud in the operating room?

Well, said Boy two matter of fact, they asked if I wanted to say the prayer, so I said sure.

I have been thinking of this with gratitude ever since. I don’t think anyone who heard my spontaneous request felt personally comfortable jumping on the public prayer wagon, but that didn’t stop them from taking care of my son. As far as he is concerned, professionals at hospitals say prayers before surgeries and he would know because before his surgery he didn’t say “a,” prayer, he said, “the,” prayer.

A pretty good example of generosity of spirit, respect for children, and plain old human decency. If God was as impressed as I was, I’m guessing an extra dose of love and mercy are coming their way. I sure hope so.

Bold new world

Girl Knitting, by Alfred Anker

Girl Knitting, by Alfred Anker

Girl one is possessive about her hair. All trips to the hairdresser for a trim of any kind involve very vocal resistance and occasionally foot stomping. Which is why it took me by surprise when Girl one’s chief adorer, asked for a hair cut a few weeks ago.

I want my hair short, said Girl two.

Ok, but why? I asked.

I want to be like you, she said.

I did not think this was possible and so I stalled. A few days. A week. Reminders that one cannot have a pony tail and be like sister if one does not have long hair.

I don’t care. I want it short.

Three weeks later she was still asking . . . I thought you said I was going to get my hair cut. When are we going?

And so we went. And she looks adorable and perfect and more like herself than ever.

Do you like it? I asked.

I love it, she said. I look like my sister looked in the pictures of when she was little.

Me and you

Girl two in her favourite towel.

Girl two in her favourite towel.

One bee hive is doing beautifully, the other is a concern. Some of the apple trees look good. On other trees, the buds have shrivelled tiny, never turning into apples. Our sick lamb did not get better. For five days, she got worse. Friday I called the animal health lab and booked a post mortem. Except she wasn’t dead yet. I walked out to the barn thinking things would be clear. Instead, she literally talked her way out of the post mortem. The whole way to the car the lamb had her head up talking. Forget this, I said. I put her in the shade on the front lawn, got some water, and told the lab I wasn’t coming.

All day she seemed alert. Not walking, but head up, nibbling grass, happy for drinks of water. I spent too much time pouring over websites, reviewing symptoms to see what we were missing. We had already treated for two things that were not the issue. I found a third possibility. I researched a fourth to rule it out. (The solution for the third would aggravate the fourth.) I was becoming attached to our friendly talking lawn ornament.

We treated for the third possibility. Our sick girl took her next water with her head sideways on the ground. The treatment was not a good idea. Sick lambs are gentle, helpless and sad to watch. Trying so hard to help and then making it worse is a very powerless feeling.

Summer is not going as planned. My little charts about how things would work lasted less time than it took to write them. Meanwhile, in and out of background and foreground, the kids disemboweled a few stuffed animals and morphed some barbies into a new kind of creature. The chatter of their play keeps me going. Champions of the imaginary, they ground me in everything that is real.

On a long day, but their voices bounce through the window and the teetering world gingerly begins to right again. I know it’s July, but I wonder what it might mean that God came as a baby. From the perspective I usually consider, God takes the humble form of a baby we can welcome without fear.

But there’s another side. If God came as a baby, then every baby becomes a symbol of salvation. Raised up to her natural dignity, a child dances weightless through the fields of wonder, an intended promise of our own possibilities. If we reach to touch the hem of these small ones, we know with certainty; Christ still walks among us.

We who once were children might dare observing them, to see in ourselves the child. Sacred. Delightful. Chosen. Blessed. Rather like the proverbial writing on the wall, children cross our paths on good days and bad singing . . . me and you, and all of us. Beloved.

Happy Men

First real hive inspection a week after the bees arrived.

First real hive inspection a week after the bees arrived.

summer 2014 483

The book you can’t see the top of is “Bee Keeping for Dummies.” :)


summer 2014 484


summer 2014 486

We don't know what we're doing but they know more than I do. Time will tell if we're meant to stay beekeepers or not but to date we have no regrets. The boys are very happy talking bees.

We don’t know what we’re doing but they know more than I do. I enjoy their fearless lack of worry about all the things they don’t know.