Tag Archiv: husband

Epic battles vs. the long game

photo compliments of morguefile.com

photo compliments of morguefile.com

My husband looks forward to Sundays from September to January with great anticipation. Watching NFL games is like reading poetry for him. Unfortunately, his poetry does not fit softly around the edges of my preferred Sundays  (quiet slow spaces and outside time).

In the early years of our marriage, I spent considerable energy perfecting my approach to the epic battle. He for his part developed an outer disposition impervious to assault and especially predisposed to withstanding a battle irregardless of intensity. The matter of Sundays is one for the long game.

I don’t fight about football (this is the goal), I plan parallel things that are infinitely more fun. I’ve taken kids for walks, tennis,  and canoeing, organized cookie making and board games. This past Sunday held promise of two or three options until they all fell through. Disappointment sat with us for a minute or so and then a rather epic response occurred.

When my brother and I were young, we would bike with friends for miles to the top of a very large hill. The very last house where the road ended belonged to a couple from our church with a boundless supply of ice cream cones on hand. We never asked, but they always offered and the thrill never wore off. Some thirty years later, the rides remain bright in the fabric of our legends. So to follow suit . . .

Boy one was away. That left me with a seven year old and an almost 10 and 12 year old. We didn’t have a hill, but we had a goal: 22.6 kilometers and ice cream when we got home (14 miles for the unmetric friendly). My contingency plan for failing young legs was a drive by from the NFL man after an hour and a half of cycling. (Our destination coincided with his father’s superior NFL cable package so there was no worry of him minding the wait for those of us who went the distance.)

The first seven km was our roughest road. The traffic was fast and staying well out of the way involved plowing our bikes into thick gravel 482 times. After that, it was an absolutely perfect fall day. The voices asking how much longer until Dad came by to pick them up went silent. We saw a mailbox shaped like a miniature barn. we saw a house set back from the road we’d never seen before (even though we go by it every day). We passed three bee hives and a lot of dogs, none of whom chased us. We discovered that if you drive your bike over a dead frog, it can make a popping sound and that persons equipped with easy apparatus for road side peeing can stop twice in one bike trip for that purpose, even though they went before they started just like the rest of us.

When my husband came by as planned to pick up the weary, all proudly declined. We biked over brand new black top on a fairly deserted road and followed Boy two’s lead by reaching out with our toe to touch the orange striped construction barrels on the berm as we rode by. (Myself, I prefer the sound of toe tapping construction barrels to popping frogs.) We arrived together, proud as can be of our accomplishment, rested, snacked, then loaded our bikes in the car and went home for ice cream.

After this the moral of story and the point of the long game falls apart. Glowing with pride but rather tired, we sat contented without trying on the couch beside the NFL man (who was cutting up apples), to watch the little men in their helmets running around the painted lines and plastic field.

Walking towards grace

Millet__the_Walk_to_Work

The Walk to Work, by Jean-François Millet. 1851

 

The black flies always drive me out of the woods by June. This is usually the end of my quiet walks for a few months. Not expecting much, but missing the walking time, I tried a route along the road this year. It was different than the woods, but to my surprise, I really liked it. On lucky days the litter and the cars are fewer, but regardless, the sky is always bigger.

My mom was a walker. Often by herself, but almost everywhere we lived, I remember places that we walked together. She probably got it from her parents, who walked twice a day, often for a good two miles, well into their eighties. When I picture my mother or grandmother, I picture them drinking tea or taking a walk.

People who meet us together often consider my husband the quiet one. Depending on the situation, he can be happy to let me do the talking. But when it’s just the two of us, I can be lucky to get a word in edgewise. Without intending to this summer, we’ve made a habit of an after dinner walk together. It’s nice on lots of counts, but the biggest is how much easier it is to feel connected to each other.

There is something about walking that is hard to put your finger on. Cars, dogs, and people intersect our time without intruding on our space together. Curiously, the circle of togetherness feels both small and big. Walking with my husband, I feel connected to my mom, my grandparents . . .  and it probably sounds crazy, but people in general. I walk, listening intently of course, to recaps of NPR, ESPN, etc. Meanwhile pictures of people walking amble through my head. Not just my heroes, the pioneers, but escaping people, exploring people, refugees. Mothers with babies on their backs, teenagers holding hands, tired people, laughing people, amazed people. All kinds of people go through my head. I think again of the man beside me. How much he drives me completely out of my mind. What a gift it is to be an us. The mystery of imperfect love. The kindness of slow time. How much simpler, easier it is to listen here on the side of the road.

Humans, I learned, walk about 3 miles an hour. A friend recently walked from Ottawa to Montreal, which took twelve days. Afterwards she was struck by the speed of car rides. She said all she could think sitting there was, “Why would anyone want to go this fast? You can hardly see anything like this.”

She’s right. You see things when you walk. You hear things. Walking alone, there are windows to wholeness and peace that pass my understanding. (Alone walking is where I bring my disordered fragments for realignment.) Walking together, a doorway opens between the separateness of souls. We walk, like breathing, without thinking about it. Unhurried space that is both ordinary and intimate. Gallons of water, misunderstood, assumed, taken for granted, criticized, and frustrated, have gone under the bridge (along with a few cats, some kids, missing tax receipts and a broken lawn mower) by the time we walk each day. It doesn’t all get said but it all gets sorted out. Because baptized in the shared humanity of 3 mph, we hear and see each other as friends.

Baptisms of Pentecost

wind

wind photo compliments of morguefile.com

Being overwhelmed feels like sensory overload. There’s too much stuff in your head. You crave space, quiet, nothingness. When at last the grace of quiet comes, you awaken not to the nothing you envisioned, but to a myriad of somethings.

I found I could save a trip last week if I simply stayed put after a doctor’s appointment and picked my son up straight from school. That left a few hours so I drove to the library. I saw a bench overlooking the water and sat down with my lunch. Across the river I saw man/boys in school uniforms squatting together in a circle. There was a stick which turned out to be two sticks which turned out to be fishing poles. I wondered where you could put in a good word for the man/boys toward future quests for education and employment. They would, I believed, make better humans for having fished on their lunch hour, than having either strutted somewhere for the women/girls or studied. After that I noticed the way the balsamic vinegar had soaked in just enough to make the cherry tomato halves on my fork spectacular, but not enough to make them something other than tomatoes.

On the tractor, I discovered a third color of trillium on the property. The white and pink are the same species, I learned. The red are not. Hanging laundry, I saw a gray tree frog attempting camouflage along the cracked paint of the hand railing. We found each other curious.

I observed the irony of tractors. Going places in cars drives me to distraction. Driving a tractor in circles in a field makes me peaceful and reflective. I turned off the computer and noticed the feel of a pen in my hand. Watched my handwriting, sloppy and unpracticed across the page, breathe in and breathe out. It’s slower on the uptake. But no amount of pen clicking on the lined notebook page could interrupt the space of now with the distraction of the internet.

I realized that my husband had been talking about tea. I noticed his focus. Unlike his placement of personal possessions, his approach to iced tea is highly systematic. There is a perfect amount of lemon; he will find it. A perfect number of spearmint leaves. A perfect temperature at which to leave the tea bags for a specific amount of time. Like a beagle on the trail, he is on it. I noticed it was to my preferences that he is measuring the standard of perfection.

These were my first whispers of wind and fire. My personal invitation to Pentecost.

The Spirit descends when we’re looking and when we’re not. Spirit that is. Blood in the veins. Wind in the grass. Creek water in the rush of spring. Soul food at a well worn kitchen table. Black gold compost for the garden. Morning’s light for another round of unremarked upon photosynthesis to feed the world. Spirit that drives through time like a second hand on a watch. Ignored by all but track stars, yet insistent and unremitting in it’s creation of minutes, hours, time. Spirit with the earthy rich sounds of a woman with her eyes closed and her hands open as she sings. She’s black singing to an all white crowd who doesn’t get it. She’s known fear and sadness and could yell about it, but opts to sing instead about deliverance. Because it’s bigger. And they need it.

Because the one thing you can say for certain about Pentecost is that it comes.

 

Two small stories for April Fools

compliments of morguefile.com

compliments of morguefile.com

Because we are all of us April fools most days of the year…

 

Girl two was in the bathtub yelling madly on the weekend.

Daddy…..  Daddy…..

On principle, I never interrupt when I hear this call. But I was starting to feel agitated waiting for him to respond. I told myself she had just dropped something or least it was a small injury.

Daddy …..

My husband does not hurry, even when a drowning or gushing flesh wound seem likely

Daddy …..

At last I heard him entering the bathroom to answer the call of distress.

What was it? I wanted to know when he returned. Is she okay?

She wanted to know if there were electric eels in Canada.

—————————

 

I drove in the driveway to see three children huddled around a tree, obviously covering something up as a result of my entry. They cast glances in my direction and huddled more tightly around the tree. I couldn’t think of any tree related crimes requiring immediate attention so I put the car in the garage and went inside. Half an hour later, they were knocking on my door triumphant.

They had a surprise for me. They could microwave it if I’d like but they wanted me to see it before it went any further.

A mug was held out with a half an inch of clear liquid.

It’s sap!

We got it ourselves!

For you!

It’s a surprise!

They had found a nail, pounded it into a tree and wiggled it, while catching drips in plastic cup. They had strained bits of tree bark out with limited success.

I took a tiny sip, proclaimed my delight and suggested more cups.

No way, they said. We all had some. The rest is for you.

Every bit of it.

It’s our surprise, they said.

So I have a mug of sap and tree bark in the kitchen. I can’t bear to throw it out but neither do I wish to drink it.

 

 

 

March Buzz

DSCN0845

You can see at least a few of the bodies here.

 

The business of bees nags at my brain. I want a sugar alternative, I want kids on fire for living things, and I like us learning whenever possible. People tell you to expect nothing for honey harvest in year one, while simultaneously telling you how much honey their uncle Harold, neighbor Frieda, and son, Billy, got their first years. We did not become a story like Billy; our first year we got zero.

I discovered in early January that the winterizing of the hives had not been done properly. Exits and ventilation are as important for bees as they are for people. One hive seemed ok. The other had both entrances inadvertently sealed. I removed hundreds of dead bodies and ice and settled into hopelessness. I mentally pronounced hive A dead and the hive B potentially terminal.

February broke all kinds of weather records for average cold, most consecutive cold days . . . This past weekend saw warmer temperatures. Despite the sunshine, I walked with heavy steps through snow higher than my boots (or knees) to make myself look at the hives.

“Good news!” I told my husband afterwards. “There were dead bodies all over the snow.”

I had hoped to see a bee or two fly out into the sunshine (they use the warm days to relieve themselves). I didn’t see that, but I did see a lone bee fly. Granted, she flew straight to the snow and committed frozen harakari . . . but before that she flew.

“It’s kind of weird,” said my husband, “when you say, ‘good news,’ because you discovered dead bodies and witnessed a suicide.”

But good news it is. Dead bodies on the ground mean the girls inside are alive and cleaning house. Should the buzz continue into spring, I’ve made some resolutions in celebration of hope’s resurrection:

  1. We’ll buy better bee protection. Winterizing would have been done better if we weren’t so sick of getting stung.
  2. I’ll give up expecting the boys to own the bee project. We all find the bees exciting. The boys are willing to work and willing to get stung. For the foreseeable future, they aren’t going to carry the emotional burden, initiate anything, or wake in the night with what they’ve forgotten to do. I can own the project or we can quit. I can be bitter about what my bee men aren’t doing or be happy for what they are.

With dreams of project watching gone, I am officially the project manager. May the eventual honey sweeten the gaps in working style among the partnership. I’ve got the ability to make myself do what I don’t feel like doing at a particular moment because it needs to be done and the notion that the pursuit of ongoing knowledge is required.  The boys are actually much more comfortable handling the bees than I am. We could do worse for a combined skill set.

Valentine Attempts to Ponder Human Love

Lovers on a swing painting from http://www.mypublicdomainpictures.com/2013/09/lovers-on-swing-painting.html

Lovers on a swing painting from http://www.mypublicdomainpictures.com/2013/09/lovers-on-swing-painting.html

Love is complicated at the same time it is simple. I have not had a banner week. Or two. Or so. You could say I’m not myself or you could say I’m experiencing my least put together self for far too many days in a row. Whatever you call it, the result is the same floundering me. I prefer public swearing to public tears. The first craves a showing; neither seem suitable most places I find myself. Privately I am acquainted with both.

I spent hours starting multiple posts about Valentine’s Day. It isn’t the most important date on my calendar. Hallmark irritates me no end. But for homemade cards from my kids and surprises from my husband, I like it. Valentine’s Day with a surprise candlelight breakfast from my mother is a highlight of childhood memories. Yet none of this was enough to save my multiple half pieces with no place to go.

My husband is halfway through some cataract surgeries. His vision is expected to be much brighter and I can’t help wondering what impact this will have on me and us. Will it be a good thing if he can see me better? Is life a series of ongoing cataract removals in order to really see each other? This is the kind of thing I think about while he ponders gas prices. And why our conversations have so many non sequiturs.

I am often the push behind the party within the family. I don’t have anything planned for Valentines this year. I might still think of something. Or I might show up and need them more than they need me for a little while. I don’t write about my husband very frequently. The depth of how I feel about him is difficult to access. On some days, his human failings drive me to distraction. On my worst days, there is nothing I want except to hear his voice, have him in the room, tell him it is so. In the movies this would be because when I pour out my heart, he pauses while the music plays, understands what I mean by what I do and don’t say, and responds with everything I both want and need to hear.

In real life, he tries very hard to understand me but sometimes can’t. Every once in a while he says exactly the right thing. More often he worries in the middle of my crisis that we need to change the oil on the car or that there’s a crack in the chicken’s water feeder. Always, he says I love you. Even if I know what it is, rarely can he fix the problem, but always and forever he waits with me. It is this in our marriage that I treasure above all, his unfailing presence.

I watch him and learn. When love cannot fix it, love waits. When love has no idea what to do, love waits. Love waits because it knows it can survive longer than whatever else is filling up the current spaces. Compassion, empathy, and a ready knight on noble steed to battle all, love waits.

Bad News, Good News and Revelation

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Bad news:

1. Goodwin Cedric the sheep husband has presumably served his purpose by now and will be departing next week. May his future pastures be finer and his head butting possibilities endless.

2. Despite the intentional naming after an Italian saint, our cat Filippa is now demon possessed. Our borrowed heirloom pine furniture pieces are now wrapped in tin foil to prevent further damage. The water repeatedly found on the laundry room floor turned out to be her handy work as well. She chewed a hole in the rubber seal on the front loading washer. Laundry is piling up while I send DIY you-tube videos to my husband’s e-mail and speak with parts suppliers who laugh that I must be looking at a site from the States when I say, “but it’s only a hundred dollars on Amazon.”  The Italian demon (TID) is currently gnawing her way through the electrical wires under my husband’s desk. The internet recommends purchasing covers for the wires as a safety precautions in case of electrocution but they have got to be kidding me. It would be a thousand times easier to weep with the children over a cat’s determined suicide than to defend why you re-homed their kitty. TID also eats voraciously and refuses to go outside when the weather is below freezing, which in Canada is every day from November to April.

Good news:

1. Anabelle is still pregnant. Three cheers for persistent reproduction attempts everywhere. I hope she works up the courage to tell her mammoth son to get lost and stop nursing soon.

2. Chickens are still laying despite the winter months. Some years they do, some years they don’t. This year we thank them that they are.

 

Revelation:

My husband needs a whistle and a rule book. Misbehaviour with the kids is not something he notices until he is so frustrated he wants to behead them.

He refereed a basketball tournament this week. I couldn’t help but notice that he was cheerful as can be enforcing rules all day long. Maybe, I pondered, it was because he wasn’t required to set up rules or decide penalties on the fly. The flashy orange whistle may also have played a part.

I am writing a rule book over the weekend. I am also buying him a very bright and respectable whistle. A striped shirt may bolster things further, so I’m considering that as well. Based on quality of performance at the tournament, I anticipate a great deal more free time after this.

Epiphany Now

The Three Wismen Aka Halt of the Wisemen, by John La Farge.  (Because we wise women and men have to halt now and again to work up the courage to keep going)

The Three Wisemen Aka Halt of the Wisemen, by John La Farge. (Because wise people have to halt now and again to work up the courage to keep going)

Epiphany Then:

Wise men follow a star for a long time through strange lands. They are looking for a king. When the star leads them to the boy, they do not trouble themselves that a peasant child stands before them, they see a king. They kneel. They worship. They offer gifts befitting royalty.

Epiphany Now:

I don’t know how to follow a star, yet the heavens beckon. I long for that which is good and true. On my best days I pursue the glimmers. We’ve traded camels for cars, but the journey still stretches to endless some days.

It is difficult to recognize salvation in the simple and unsung. People talk about the wisemen risking Herod’s wrath, but no one talks about the courage it took to kneel before someone so unrecognized. To insist with their gifts that this unlikely baby was exactly who they were looking for.

 

So wise men three, or however many you be, here’s to a year of courageous epiphanies . . .

In the tears of a defeated nine year old in the bathroom, the siren call to set aside the lessons and love the girl. Maybe not just the girl. Maybe others, myself, the world.

In the stomping of a six year old, the insistent invitation to express my own frustration more gently.

In the lengthy explanation of Lego worlds, a glimpse of wonder. Things live and move and breathe without my orchestration or knowledge.

In the impassioned hopes and dreams of a 14 year old, a dare to throw caution to the wind and let the fire of love run madly down the hallways of my heart.

 

I took a nap on Dec. 30th. My husband met me with delight when I woke up. There was a surprise, he said. Downstairs I found him standing where the Christmas tree had been, grinning.

Decorations, lights, everything. Done, he said.

Thank you, I said softly. (The tree cannot come down before January 1, I thought. I never got to sit for one last night and look at the lights. I wanted to cry.)

You’re not happy, he said. I thought you would be happy. I’ve been excited for almost an hour.

I’m happy that you love me, I said.

Every hour or so for the rest of the day we both said the same things over again.

I thought you would be happy.

It was kind of you to try and surprise me.

The tree’s absence made me sad but the face of the man who loved me was there too. He had failed to love me as I wished to be loved. But he loved me. Epiphany.

Love has a history of awkward packaging. The baby came wearing diapers undoubtedly full at times. May we have the wisdom to recognize the moments of our salvation, the courage to kneel, and the good sense to bring royal gifts to the least of these.

Finding fence holes

"A Herdsmen With Cattle On A Countryroad, Drenthe," by Julius Jacobus Van De Sande Bakhuyzen

“A Herdsmen With Cattle On A Countryroad, Drenthe,” by Julius Jacobus Van De Sande Bakhuyzen

Chasing cows is similar to chasing dreams. I learned this on Monday. My husband had noticed the cows missing. After a bit of searching, we found our two bovines settled in on a neighbor’s property (newly set up for skeet shooting). Finding them was the easy part. Despite the black, “no trespassing,” signs, we got a good sense of the neighbor’s property (who knew he had such nice interconnected paths mowed through his brush and trees?).  But through all that brush and trees we weren’t quite sure precisely which way to head the animals because we didn’t know where they’d broken through the fence.  My idea that we’d just get them moving and they would lead us to the spot of their escape was, as my kids would say, an epic failure.

Anabelle and son Buster were content to wander up and down the fence line crashing through as many trees and bushes as we pleased and not the least bit interested in showing us where a break in the fence might be. So it took an, “us,” (my husband and I) for an hour chasing cows. Of course chasing cows makes it seem like they were running, which they never did for more than thirty feet, and only when they saw a chance to move in the wrong direction. The rest of the time it was pushing cows, prodding cows, and cajoling cows. The dog was of no use.  She would get them moving but then make them crazy going too close. Buster, especially, doesn’t take to having her at his heels.

We finally got them through by guessing that they leapt the fence (due to the slope of the land it’s easier to do going off the property than back on) so we lowered a section and lured them back. Then I went inside and my husband fixed the fence.

I had been annoyed, it is true, to find my afternoon interrupted by lost cows and by forcible teamwork with a man who failed to properly appreciate the magnitude of grievance the interruption caused me, not to mention the good sense in my ideas. Yet somehow I went back to the house encouraged. About writing of all things.

Hopes, dreams, editors, kids and cows . . . it’s all about the same thing. A little confusing, a lot of work, but you figure it out the best you can, consulting the guy beside you as you go. . . and eventually, you find the low spot in the fence.

New Years Day

balloon-boy

In elementary school, my husband was small. Short and skinny, but undaunted in the world of sports. Not big, but fast and scrappy. He didn’t much care how tall he wasn’t as long as he was on the field or the court or wherever the action was.

At 5’6″ he has never outgrown his love for sports. As a concession to family life, he has curbed his sports viewing from twenty plus hours a week to about four per week between September and January. Should I meet an early demise, this would be subject to change. For now, he’s taken it down to the bare bones necessities, aka, football.

It’s a game about men in tight pants pushing and shoving each other, I say.

He rolls his eyes.

Football is like his bike from high school. When he was in high school he traveled across Canada with a bike team. The aging bike he rode then is dusty and unused. I have pulled it out for selling or giving many times but he is immovable. It is an amazing bike, he’s keeping it, and the fact he’s keeping it means it’s possible he’ll ride it again. But whether he ever touches it again, or whether or not I understand doesn’t change the fact that he’s keeping it.

The count down to New Years Day has been whispered with growing excitement for a week now. New Years: the first game of this year’s football season. (Football’s place in his heart is more entrenched than the bike.) All yesterday, I felt him practically twitching with excitement, knowing the season would start that night. We don’t have cable. Football hits our tv for Sunday games only. Thursday he catches the scores by radio or the internet. Excitement dimmith not.

There are things about the game I find sincerely irritating, maddening, troubling even. But it would be almost impossible to love this man, and not give in to the palpable joy on a Sunday afternoon after kick off. A loyal fan with some common sense (rare commodity), he loves the Cowboys, but advised the kids to choose a different team to love.

I’ve tried, he’ll say. I know they have “issues,” but I can’t help it. I was born in Dallas. They’re my team. They’ve always been my team.  It’s like they’re in my blood. They’re my team.

So it’s true. At County Road 21, where we grow our own meat, make our own bread and yogurt, and try to keep things simple, we also watch highly paid men in bright, often striped, pants, push and shove, and chase each other around a field in an attempt to advance a brown leather ball in one direction or another. There are those who watch for hours and those who watch for minutes. The latter often bring snacks to the former.

Happy New Years everybody. And for my husband, upon whose temporal happiness it depends- Go Cowboys.