Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Argh - He's 3-1/2 Mateys!

We celebrated our youngest son's 3 and a half birthday this past weekend. The poor kid's birthday falls a few days after Christmas and we are always in the midst of family gatherings and a focus on the birth of Christ. Thus, we determined early on that we would celebrate his half birthday, in an effort to make him feel special on a day all his own.

I can't say that it has worked out as well as intended. Originally, our plan was for him to receive his birthday cake and one gift on his half birthday. As soon as Trevor caught on to this plan, he clamored for the celebration of his half birthday as well. I don't mind an occasion to bake a cake, of their specifications, because that is something I enjoy creating. However, the gift aspect has fully gone by the wayside. And, many days, I wonder if we should just dispense with this whole half birthday effort. Then again, when he is old enough to have birthday parties (the oldest was already having an annual friend-invited birthday party by this age), I'm sure it will be next to impossible to entice friends to celebrate his birthday during that busy and expensive time of year.

Anyway, back to this year's celebration. He was most excited because our annual trip to Indiana Beach Amusement Park happened to fall on his birthday. We had another wonderful experience with limited crowds and fabulous weather.

There are many things that I absolutely love about Indiana Beach. Unlike larger parks, where the crowds and chaos exhaust you, Indiana Beach is laid back and relaxing. I so appreciate their smoke-free atmosphere and the music piped over the intercoms is always family friendly. As we rode the sky chairs (Skyride?), I was singing along with "Hey Jude," and "Yesterday."

Side note: the song "Yesterday" always makes me smile because it reminds me of a year at CMI when some guys wrote a spoof on that, called "Leprosy" : "Leprosy ... all my skin is falling off of me, I'm not half the man I used to be, oh leprosy has eaten me ... suddenly, all the vultures flying over me, once I had five fingers, now I've three, oh leprosy has eaten me ... why'd it have to come, I don't know, it just won't go. I tried Elmer's glue, but you know, it wouldn't do-oo-oo-oo."

This year did seem to be far more expensive. Ticket prices have increased and it just didn't seem like you got as much bang for your buck. We have always enjoyed going one afternoon, playing games and looking around, then staying overnight in a local hotel and returning for a full day of rides and the water park. I think next year, we will just drive up for one day.

The littler boys didn't seem to appreciate the idea of splitting the two days up into games and rides. The first evening, they wanted to ride rides. We decided to look into the cost of a mere train ride for the four of us (Bryce had gone off with his friend to play games). You practically had to pick me up off the floor when they told us it would be $8 PER PERSON for a train ride. $32 just to ride the train around the amusement park one time. You've got to be kidding.

They used to have a much more customer friendly approach. You could either pay a set fee for a wristband or you could purchase a packet of 10 ride tickets for $20. There are smaller rides for the younger children and this seemed fairly reasonable. We would have been willing to pay $8 for the four of us to ride the train once, but $32 - UNREAL!

Needless to say, we waited and enjoyed all the rides the next day, when we purchased the wristbands. Trevor enjoyed riding the Corn Ball Express roller coaster this year and Sean knocked my socks off when he fell in love with the Falling Star ride . He would get off and run around, ahead of me, to get back in line to ride it again. What a little daredevil!

Trevor talks about Indiana Beach all year round. This year, he kept inviting all the other kids in his preschool class to go with him to Indiana Beach. He must be their biggest fan. As we headed home, he was asking if we could go again this summer. They do offer a season pass now, and when the younger boys are a little bit older, I might actually consider that (although, I would want to pack healthy lunches - since there seemed to be even fewer healthy options this year).

For Sean's cake, he requested a Jolly Roger cake. I had recently picked up a Jolly Roger flag for a quarter at a garage sale and both boys fell in love with it (they are fixated on skulls these days).

The cake didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, but my boys made me feel so much better when they raved about it. Of course, I see all the things that didn't go as I had planned, they just see a cool cake. I was thrilled that Sean liked it so much.




Here are my perceived flaws: I used the frozen butter cream transfer process that I had learned on Amber's blog, only I didn't want to attempt to make black icing. For one thing, it never truly gets black enough and ends up looking like a dull grey. For another thing, it just seemed easier to use chocolate store-bought icing for the dark background and homemade butter cream for the skull and crossbones and words.

The transfer ended up being larger than the top of the cake, so the word happy curved over the edge of the top of the cake. Plus, I didn't get it centered very well. Then, when I went to remove the top piece of waxed paper from the frozen frosting, it would not come off. Apparently, the chocolate icing is far more sticky, even when frozen, than the butter cream. I did get the waxed paper off, but in the process, I pulled apart some of the bits of the skull. I suppose it just makes the skull look a bit more brittle, as skulls are.

I, personally, didn't like the mix of flavors with the chocolate and the butter cream together. I encountered this with Trevor's dinosaur cake, so this shouldn't have surprised me (or I shouldn't have repeated the mistake). But, John thought the cake was delicious. As for the boys, they only seem to lick the frosting off and barely nibble at the cake.

I can't believe Sean is already 3-1/2. The time goes so quickly, while at the same time inching by on days when they are mischievous or cranky. He thinks he is one of the big boys now. He tries to read, just like Trevor and he tries to talk "like a teenager," just like Bryce. I don't mind the reading, but I could do without the teenage talk from the mouth of a preschooler. I say, "Argh, clean up your mouth, little boy, or ye'll be walkin' the plank!"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Found

Thankfully, almost all of the missing items from last week have now been accounted for. The tooth was never found, but the tooth fairy made good on the "lost tooth" note found underneath Trevor's pillow.

The blender seal turned up in the most unlikely spot. John found it on Bryce's desk. Of course, since Bryce was gone for a week of percussion camp, we really didn't go in his room at all. We have no idea who carried it in there in the first place, but we are greatly relieved that we didn't blow $13 purchasing and shipping a new one.

We also hadn't been out on the porch for a while. The table and floor spaces are covered with items I had hoped to sell in our May garage sale (that never materialized). Plus, it is too hot to eat out there. Thankfully, Sean sometimes goes out there to lie with the dog (his favorite past-time). He suddenly came running inside to declare that he had found my camera tucked under the cushions of the couch on the porch. I gave him a Hershey's kiss and quickly began taking photos with mad abandon.

Here is the flowering bush:




The bird's nest is still up in the swing set and the Mama bird swoops down at our heads in attack mode whenever anyone approaches the ladder to the slide/fort. Once this family have vacated the residence, I will vigilantly raze any future home-building efforts the birds might employ.




Thankfully, the robin's nest (in the usual spot, just outside the kitchen window) is much safer to observe.

I don't know what I think about my haircut. I appreciate the breeze on my neck. However, beyond that, the shorter style seems to be a draw-back for me. I find this cut very unforgiving. I used to be able to wash my hair every other day. Sadly, when I wake up on the second morning now, my hair is matted down to my head and no amount of brushing seems to be able to rejuvenate it enough to hold off on a shampooing. I suppose this isn't too much of an inconvenience, since I have been trying to exercise DAILY. Still, on days when I can't get the exercise in before late afternoon, I have to wear a hat. Plus, hubby isn't very fond of it, so methinks I will be growing it out again.

Here are some shots of the boys at the fireworks the other night:

They look so quiet and innocent, don't they??

Ah, looks can be deceiving.

And finally, here's a few shots of our toothless wonder. Even without teeth he manages to gab and eat just as much as usual. In the second photo, he is sporting a nice little welt on his forehead from where John attempted to hoist his hefty little body out of an inner tube and managed to bash him right into a metal beam overhead. Poor Trevor!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chinese Water Torture, Red, White and Blue Style

Tonight I took the boys to see a fireworks show.

As we exited the van:

Them: Oh, look ... someone did a firework over there in their driveway. Are those the fireworks, Mommy? Are we there yet?

Me: Yes, yes they did, but no we are not there yet. We need to walk along this sidewalk to the park.

Them: Can we play at the park? Oo, oo, I see a lightning bug. Seannie, do you want me to catch the lightning bug for you? I can catch the lightning bug. (Catches one, puts it on Sean's shirt, to much screaming from Sean.)

Me: Leave the bugs alone. Leave your brother alone.

Them: Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Oh, look, that guy has a motorcycle on his shirt. That's a cool shirt. I want a shirt like that. Can I get a shirt like that? Hey, they have ring-pops. I want a ring pop. Can I have a ring pop? (At this point, the teenager with the children with the ring-pops turns and says, "Sorry, we don't have any more.")

Me: Trevor, you don't comment on what a person has and ask if you can have one. It is impolite.

(We arrive at the park).

Them: Can we go play on the playground?

Me: Yes, for a few minutes, but then we are going to sit on the blanket and wait for the fireworks.

Them: My shoe came off. Help me get my shoe back on. Wait for me. Oh, look, a dog. Can we pet the dog? Oh, I want to go on the teeter-totters. Hey, watch Seannie, I'm stepping off now.

Me: Don't do that!! Your brother will fall off!

Them: Can we go sit down now?

Me: Yes, let's go find a spot.

Them: Ohh, look, they have a table full of those light-up thingies. I want one of those. Can we buy one of those, Mommy? Look, this light-up ball is only $5. Can I have $5, Mommy? I want a light-up ball. Hey, that guy got a light-up ball. Why can't I get a light-up ball. Wow. Look at that girl's shirt. It shows her belly-button. When I have a girlfriend, I want my girlfriend to wear a shirt that shows her belly-button. Hey, those people in front of us are smoking. Don't they know that smoking is bad. It turns your lungs black, just like you said, Mommy? How come they are smoking?

Me: Be quiet and watch for the fireworks to start (inwardly praying that they start on time).

Them: Hey, who turned all the park lights out. What, are they starting the fireworks now, Mommy? Look, I see the first star. Let's say the wishing rhyme. Star Light, Star Bright, first star I see tonight, wish I may, wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight. Hey, I didn't get my wish. I wished for one of those light-up balls, but you won't buy me one. (The fireworks begin.) Wow. That one was cool. Hey, that kid in front of us is taking pictures of the fireworks. Can I have the camera? I want to take pictures of the fireworks. Why won't you let me get a glow ball or take pictures? Ooh, red, my favorite color. Ooh, Trevor, what is your favorite color? Ooh, green, your favorite color, Trevor. (repeated throughout the entire 20 minute display, despite my pleas to stop talking and simply watch)

Trevor counted to one thousand, hundred, ninety the entire walk back to the van. Sean complained about his shoes the entire way to the van and told Trevor to stop counting about a million times. When Bryce arrived and joined us in the van, his radar picked up my signal from a mile away.

Sadly, when he asked what was wrong, I burst just like an inmate after the thousandth drop of water.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review: In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day


I have wanted to read this book from the moment I first read the title in a review of the book on Bob Hostetler's blog. And, if the title didn't lure me in, the number of quotes Bob pulled from the book during his review certainly helped. Then again, perhaps it was just a lion that God was sending and, thankfully, I decided to chase it into a pit (or Trevor's bed - because I read most of this while waiting for the little boys to fall asleep at night ... indeed, often read bits of it aloud at Trevor's request).

Mark Batterson hones in on two obscure verses of Scripture (2 Samuel 23:20-21) which describe Benaiah, a valiant warrior who chased a lion down into a pit on a snowy day and caught and killed that lion. This act paved the road for Benaiah's future position as the head of King David's bodyguards.

The full title of the book is In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars. I will admit that, lately, I've been focused on surviving, but this book has inspired me to want to thrive far more. It has jump-started a flagging prayer life with a renewed prayer for God to send me a lion (and give me the courage not to run away).

Originally, I planned to buy the book for my brother (a pastor) and then beg him to let me read it when he was done. It didn't really work out that way, but I did show him the book when I went for a brief visit a few weeks ago. Since he is in the middle of a move, I figured he wouldn't have the time for reading anyway.

Imagine my great surprise, when I discovered the title on the shelves of a Goodwill store last week! I snatched that book up, for 69 cents, despite the fact that I already had the copy I had purchased from Amazon sitting on my bedside table at home. Now I can keep the thrifted copy and can mail the brand-new copy to my brother once he reaches his new appointment in Peoria (what an opportune time to read the book, too, as he embarks on a new ministry opportunity).

I'm guessing that God is really trying to hammer some important points into my brain, because this book follows a similar trail as the previous book I reviewed (Better Than My Dreams). While I want to view my current circumstances ... living in this isolated location with little to challenge me beyond keeping preschoolers occupied and someone else's house tidy enough, with no friends and nothing tangible to do when I find moments to leave the house, with barely enough energy to get through a day, let alone tackle all the things others wish I would tackle ... as a powerful negative in my life, God plans to use it as a positive. As Batterson convincingly argues:

"God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. God is awfully good at getting us where He wants us to go. But here's the catch: The right place often seems like the wrong place, and the right time often seems like the wrong time."

"We want everything in our favor. But maybe God wants to stack the odds against us so we can experience a miracle of divine proportions."

Moreover, Batterson's words aren't merely a pep talk. He directs the reader to a realistic view of God (the Omniscient One, the Grand Master in our life's game of chess), to the importance of immersion in Scripture, and to the power of worship and prayer for revitalizing our vision and purpose.

He says, "Faith is unlearning the senseless worries and misguided beliefs that keep us captive.... Faith is rewiring the human brain. Neurologically speaking, that is what we do when we study Scripture. We are literally upgrading our minds by downloading the mind of Christ."

He encourages us to reframe our problems with worship. He says, "Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God... stop focusing on what's wrong with your circumstances and start focusing on what's right with God."

Batterson wants us to realize the blessing in adversity. He writes, "We may dream of zero gravity, but what we really need is a healthy dose of adversity.... I'm convinced that the people God uses the most are often the people who have experienced the most adversity.... Your ability to help others heal is limited to where you've been wounded."

I loved his illustration of his broken left ankle that caused him to gain strength in his right leg sufficient to finally reach his goal of making a slam-dunk. He writes, "God breaks us where we need to be broken. He fractures the pride and lust and anger in our lives, but He does it to remodel us into His image. And once we heal, we end up stronger than we were to begin with."

A few of my favorite quotes about prayer were: "When my prayer life is hitting on all eight cylinders, I can believe God for everything. But when I'm in a prayer slump, I have a hard time believing God for anything." And, "When I'm not in prayer mode, I have good ideas. But when I'm in prayer mode I have God ideas. And I'd rather have one God idea than a thousand good ideas."

All of this goes back to the struggles I have been contemplating lately. I look at those who seem to have a "perfect life" with vibrant ministry opportunities, God-centered homes, godly children, and even though I know that appearances can be deceiving, I find myself coveting their ease, their blessings. But, in the back of my mind, I also question whether that should really be envied.

It reminds me of a time when a Filipino asked me why God allows people in the U.S. to have such abundance while those in the Philippines have so little. My response, which may not have been all that helpful if the individual hadn't really gotten to that point on their own, was to remind them of the great temptation Americans face to assume that they have gotten where they are or what they have on their own merits as opposed to the blessing Filipinos have in full reliance upon God. Who is better off?

A friend wrote to let me know that she really was bothered by the Brennan Manning benediction that I embraced and posted on Facebook. She said, "So, if your life was the inspiration for that post you wrote saying 'May all your expectations be frustrated, May all your plans be thwarted, May all your desires be withered into nothingness So that you may experience the poverty and powerlessness of a child ... And sing and dance in the great compassionate heart of God.' well then, dang. That sucks. I gotta be honest-- I pretty much hated that post. What exactly does that mean? It sounds like it's saying 'I hope your life sucks so that you can be happy.' I'm not buying it."

I appreciated her honesty and can easily look at it that way myself. Who would want to invite life's "suckitude," just so we can rely on God more fully? But, I also agree with Mark Batterson, when he writes:

"At the end of our lives ... we'll thank God for the lions and bears and giants ... we'll thank God for the pits and lions and snowy days. This may sound somewhat sadistic, but follow the logic: It's our past problems that prepare us for future opportunities. So someday we may be as grateful for the bad things as the good things because the bad things helped prepare us for the good things."

Thanks to this book, I'm wanting to chase lions, wanting to knock my problems down to size by reminding myself of how big God is, wanting to shift my focus from the problems to the God who will carry me through those problems and wanting to quit praying safe prayers, but instead pray for God to send me even more lions, along with the courage and capacity to face those lions and prevail, for His name's sake! I'd say that's a pretty successful book, in my opinion.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lost

So many things are going missing here that I am beginning to suspect that we have a black hole somewhere in the house.

... the television remote. This was missing for a few days and meant no access to the t.v. Gone are the days where you can turn the television on and change channels even if you don't have the remote. Sadly, we could turn the t.v. on, but could not hit the select button (on the remote) to initiate the dish network and select a channel for viewing. It was eventually located behind the entertainment center (one of those bulky huge wooden ones that my husband tells me have gone out of style now).

... small rubber seal to our Krup's blender. I have wiped down every surface in my kitchen, and purged many small items in an attempt to locate the missing blender seal (when I returned from my brief jaunt to DeKalb, hubby had a sink full of dishes drying - the blender was in it, but no seal). I went on-line to request a new one. I couldn't find one on e-bay or Craigslist and the one I was about to purchase from Krups costs more to ship than the replacement price of the tiny part. It would come to $13 ... for a rubber seal. Give me a break! And, why in the world couldn't they just slip the little two inch flat part into a #10 envelope and charge me 44 cents for shipping instead of $6.95? What are they shipping it in, a gold box??? For now, I will continue to make our smoothies ... without the seal.

... my camera. Of course, on this matter, I strongly suspect that Trevor put his hot little hands on the missing item. The last place I remember seeing it was on the computer desk, where I had uploaded the photos for my catch-up post. On my way out the door last Tuesday, I distinctly remember asking Trevor if he would take my photo when I returned home with a short haircut (something I haven't ventured for 15 years). Since the camera is off-limits to him, due to inappropriate usage, recently ;), I wonder if he took it down while I was gone and then mislaid it.

There are a million things I have wanted to snap a photo of: We have a beautiful flowering bush that is bursting with three different colors of flowers (or should I say, was). I wanted to take Harley's picture when he was freshly groomed, so that I could post an advertisement in our local pet store. He looked fresh and clean and handsome on Tuesday when I picked him up from the groomer's. Wednesday he came in covered on the underbelly and haunches with mud clumps. Grrr. I wanted to take a picture of all the little blue fuzz around the house because Sleepy Bear is literally falling apart at the seams from all the intense loving Sean has bestowed upon him. Then, there were the two huge downed tree limbs from recent horrendous storms in these parts.

Today, I wanted to take a photo of my brand new Farberware cutting sheets. Although we have a few wooden cutting boards, I tend to prefer using plastic ones because it is easier to transfer the chopped broccoli, etc. to the pans. So, when I happened upon a set of four Farberware plastic cutting boards (each designated for a different kind of food - meat, chicken, fish and produce) for only $5 at Big Lots, I had snatched them up. I intended to purchase a small hook and hang them (since they each had a convenient hole for this purpose) right on the wall in our kitchen.

Alas, I never managed to get a hook up and two of the boards were propped against the back of the stove wall. Today, I boiled eggs for an egg-salad sandwich. I had turned off the burner and was quickly sending Bryce a text message (about last night's storms and the raging creek, since he is away at percussion camp this week), when I realized that something was amiss. The boards had toppled over and one was cementing itself to the burner and giving off tremendously noxious fumes. I grabbed the boards from off the burner. If I had been more quick-witted, I would have managed to pry the melted board away from the unmelted board. Sadly, I only managed to pry half of the rings away before the melted bit cooled and hardened to the undamaged board. If I had the camera, I would have photographic evidence of what a fiasco it was.

I attempted to search out a photo on-line, since they were Farberware (a fairly good name). I couldn't find a photo of this item to save my life. Instead, I read quite a few article on the benefits of using a wood vs. plastic cutting board. I should count my blessings in that the two damaged boards (already gone for Tuesday night trash haul) were for beef and fish. I still have the chicken and produce boards, and those are the ones I would use most frequently anyway.

... a third tooth from Trevor's mouth. For the past few days, this tooth has been hanging by a thread. I don't think the boy has lost a single tooth naturally in his 5and a half years. We remind him constantly that his big brother went all the way to the end of first grade (a week from his 7th birthday) before his first tooth finally fell out. Trevor seems accident prone. He knocked the first one on Sean's head and we waited a year or so before it fell out (top, middle). Then, he knocked the second one while rough-housing with the dog (bottom, middle). One month ago, on the night of Bryce's 8th grade recognition ceremony, Trevor snapped his seat belt back into his face and began bleeding from a third prematurely loosened tooth (two teeth down from the bottom, middle hole).

Last night, as I was lying in bed with the boys, Trevor began an earnest discussion with ... "tell me the truth now, is there really a tooth fairy?"

I tried to tease and distract from the question. "Tell me the toof, is therwe weally a toof faiwy?"

Despite his laughter, he refused to be sidetracked and eventually ran to Dad to acknowledge that he had figured the system out. Dad only agreed that parents sometimes help the tooth fairy.

This morning, he came to wake me with the proud revelation that his tooth had come out. I reminded him that Sean is still little and may want to enjoy the excitement that belief in the tooth fairy brings, so he agreed to place the tooth under his pillow tonight.

That is ... until he lost the tooth. I don't think we really looked for it much at all, but when I was vacuuming under the dining room table tonight, I heard a rattle and admitted to Trevor that it might have been his tooth. He actually wanted me to open up the vacuum cleaner and dig around in the bag - yikes! Not happening!

In the end, he drew a picture of his lost tooth, labeled it "Lost toof" [sic] and placed the piece of paper under his pillow. I told him it was good enough for me and if it wasn't good enough for the tooth fairy, then she'd have to take it up with me.

Thankfully, I allowed the boys to stop off at Chuck-E-Cheese's this evening before we went to Aldi. They each spent 10 tokens (actually left over from Trevor's birthday party back in September). I insisted that one be used on the photo machine. He gave a classic toothy grin and we now have evidence of the three missing teeth, front and center.

I'm going to have to take lessons from Chuck E. on how to quickly sketch portraits like that (given my missing camera). But, even before I do that, I'm going to have to wait for my husband to reconnect the printer (our computer was old and lagging so much ... and had eaten a computer game and stubbornly refused to eject the thing, so hubby finally bought a new one). Perhaps then I can figure out how to scan Chuck E.'s fine art depiction of the three of us. But for now, I'm off to bed, before I LOSE any more sleep!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book Review: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter


Back when I taught high school, my school had a small collection of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers. I'm assuming that some previous English teacher had required a class reading of the book. All I really knew about it was that it was considered by many to be a classic and it was written by a girl who was 22 years old.

Since I am always on the lookout for an interesting book to listen to while driving, I picked up McCullers' book several weeks back. I smiled when I recognized the narrator's voice as the same narrator for Recorded Books, LLC's Because of Winn-Dixie. Cherry Jones has a wonderful southern lilt and did an outstanding job with this narration, as well. My husband immediately recognized her as the police officer in Mel Gibson's movie, Signs, but others may recognize her from her role as the female president on the television show "24."

With 11 Cd's, the book seemed to take forever to get through. It was not plot driven, but did have rich, diverse characters. I felt annoyed with the many bits of endless political diatribe. I tried to remind myself that the book was published in 1940. Still, there were times when I wanted to give up on the book because I grew weary of the discussions of inequality.

I am glad to have read (listened to) the book, however. The most amazing thing to me was this young author's ability to capture language and create prose that literally rung like music. I read in the Amazon biography of McCullers that she enrolled in the Juilliard's School of Music, but due to a lack of funds, she ended up studying writing at Columbia University. She was passionate about music and it definitely came out in her words.

She was certainly able to draw the reader into a deep and abiding interest in her characters. Thus, I would encourage any would-be-writer to read this book for a strong example of really great prose and excellently drawn characters.

The book tells the story (lives, for often it seems the story isn't headed anywhere in particular) of four diverse individuals who idealize a deaf-mute man, by the name of John Singer. Mick Kelly is a 12 year old girl who seeks out Singer in the room where he boards with their family. Jake Blount is an alcoholic who sees in Singer's silence a strong wisdom that he likens to his (personally deemed) own. Biff Brannon owns and runs the local cafe where Singer and Blount often dine. Finally, Dr. Copeland is a negro doctor who befriends Singer and finds him to be the only white man he can tolerate and admire.

Singer behaves like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, leading all of these individuals along with him, while in reality each of them are imagining their own music as coming from Singer. As for John Singer, the only individual he really and truly counts as a friend is Spiros Antonapoulos, another deaf-mute who has been recently sent to an asylum.

In many ways, the book is depressing. The characters long for true connection, yet none of them seem to be capable of finding that. The troubles of our world, of government and racism, are loudly renounced without any glimmer of hope enunciated.

Yet, there were some genuinely funny moments in the book. My absolute favorite involved a brief interaction between the bar-keeper, Brannon, and the alcoholic, Blount. Brannon is desperately trying to draw out Blount in an attempt to figure out what keeps this ridiculous, yet educated, man tied down in their little mill town. He begins to ask Blount many questions. Finally, he proposes this, "If you could choose the time in history you could have lived, what era would you choose?"

Blount dryly responds, "If you had to choose between being a stiff and never asking another question, which would you take?"

Although this book won't appear on my favorite reads for the year, it was definitely one that will resonate in my mind for a while. It painted a clear picture of the human condition. The characters became part of my mental landscape.

Because I have adventurous boys, I don't think I will ever forget the scenario in this book where Mick's younger brother, Bubba, accidentally (or was it on purpose?) shoots his four year old neighbor in the head with a pellet gun. The girl's mother had hoped she would be another Shirley Temple. That one act alters his family's life, financially and emotionally, for the rest of time.

And now I'm off to go double check the security of Bryce's air soft guns!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review: Better Than My Dreams


In Better Than My Dreams, Paula Rinehart declares "I secretly believe that I'm the queen of second-quessing, though I know many women who would vie for the title."

Me! I'm in that pageant.

One of my favorite movies is "Sliding Doors," with Gwyneth Paltrow. It tells the double sided story of a woman who meets a tangent in the road. One side of the story shows her returning home to discover her unfaithful, leech of a boyfriend with another woman. However, in a second version, the simple act of missing her train catapults a whole different direction to her life. I'm definitely a frequent flyer on What If? Airlines!

Rinehart goes on to explain, "Hidden behind most of our regrets is the myth of the guaranteed right choice - as though if we'd only done it right, the path would have been smooth."

Of course, one of the most tempting "what ifs" for me revolves around my marital decision. Having been raised in The Salvation Army (a church with such strong cultural identity that I could merely meet another Salvationist and feel like long-lost kin), I too often wonder how my life might have been different if I had met and married a Salvationist. My children have a completely alien life from the one I experienced while growing up in that particular denomination.

The reactions of other Salvationists certainly played some role in priming the pump of regret. One officer, a close friend of our family for years, called and urged me not to "buy trouble," as his own daughter had done in her marriage to someone outside the Army. Another Salvationist, married to a non-Salvationist, questioned me over and over again as to whether God changes His mind (introducing seeds of doubt). My own corps officer at the time, treated my future husband quite poorly and pulled me aside to ask, "how could you possibly turn your back on the Army after all they have done for you and invested in you?"

Initially, I was incensed! How dare these individuals, who did not even know my fiance, turn my actions into something traitorous and harmful. How dare they imply that what was invested in me was invested for the Army alone and not for God's wider purposes.

Eventually, I began to teeter between the strong desire to prove their judgements wrong and my own internal temptations to question the path God had chosen for me (after all, if God had desired for me to be in a permanent relationship with a Salvationist, He had ample opportunity and constant willingness, if not desperation, on my part). But really, it all comes down to trusting God's sovereignty, as Rinehart's book asserts.

My favorite passage, and the one that led me to pick up this book, is titled, "What Might Be Simply Is Not." When Catherine Gillespie reviewed the book, she highlighted this passage where Rinehart quotes Jim Elliot, as he contemplates his own regrets:

"I have returned to his words many times when I feel the loss of something I had anticipated but which fails to happen - all the what-could-have-beens of life. Elliott writes:
'What is, is actual - what might be simply is not, and I must not therefore query God as though he robbed me - of things that are not ... [the] things that are belong to us, and they are good, God-given and enriched.'

There is a quiet release in my spirit ... when I realize that often, my dreams really are not God's dreams. What does not happen was not meant to take place. My failure - or someone else's failure - didn't catch God by surprise, like it slipped under the wire when he wasn't looking."

This book is a must-read for anyone struggling to make sense of a life that hasn't followed the path you desired. It is a gentle reminder that God has a "different kind of wonderful" in store for you, that often can only be achieved by bringing you through the difficult patches that we want to view as mistakes or regrets.

I also loved this book because she quotes so many of my favorite people. In a passage focused on finding God's place for you, Rinehart quotes Frederick Buechner, "The place God has for you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

She goes on to state: "the common theme that emerges from the lives of women who smile at the future - women who love their lives - is that they've discovered the intersection where their deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.... The fine irony is this: discovering that small part, the one with your name on it, is often the phoenix that rises from the ashes of your broken dreams."

She quotes C.S. Lewis, "God's love is unique in the universe in that it consumes and yet leaves us more intact."

She explains, "What we clutch has a way of being pried from our grips. And yet God is there, shaping in you and through you what he really means to come of your life."

She encourages the reader to nurture a spirit of gratitude despite less-than-ideal circumstances. "You don't have to waste away in the jail of this-should-have-been and I-wish-it-were. The truth is that there will always be something missing in the picture. Gratitude is getting to enjoy the moment ... Gratitude is what keeps you from standing knee-deep in a river of water and dying of thirst."

I was deeply thrilled when I discovered that this little book held a quote I had long wished I had taken down verbatim, when I heard Brennan Manning deliver it as a benediction for a service I attended. It turns out the words are actually from an old priest named Larry Hines. To me, it sums up the beauty of fully resting in God's divine sovereignty for your life.

"May all your expectations be frustrated;
May all your plans be thwarted.
May all your desires be withered into nothingness
So that you may experience the poverty and powerlessness of a child ...
And sing and dance in the great compassionate heart of God."

Before I pass this book on to anyone else (something I feel convicted to do, because it holds such important encouragement), I plan to take some time (perhaps at my summer retreat of CBLI) working through the excellent study guide section at the end of the book. After that, let me know if you want to be on my lending rotation.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Playing Catch-Up

As much as the past few weeks have been difficult, they have also been busy (in a good way). The day of Rob's death, Bryce had his 8th Grade Recognition Ceremony and came home with six or seven certificates. I had planned to leave the little boys home with Daddy, but since he departed immediately to be with his family once we heard the news, it meant the boys had to sit through the hour and a half ceremony with me. Ha!

They actually did amazingly well. I brought along an activity book for Trevor (who was content to do dot-to-dots for at least a half hour) and a Thomas the Tank Engine coloring book (the kind where you merely press a stick against the page and color appears - what a great concept) for Sean.

Trevor has recently developed quite an appreciation for pretty girls. When we are out and about, he will point out a girl and say "when I grow up and have a girlfriend, that's what I want her to look like" (sometimes more loudly than we'd like). So, I was highly amused when one pretty classmate of Bryce's walked forward to get her certificate and Trevor tried to whistle. Hee-hee!

Then, the faculty announced some special prize and declared the individual to be a "winner." Sean turned to me, momentarily stirred from his distracted reverie, and said "Did he just say 'We have a wiener?????'" Trevor didn't hear it, but I had a hard time silencing his questions as to why Mommy was doubled over in laughter.

Trevor also had his own special moment of fame, when he attended his preschool graduation. After several songs, the teacher invited each student to come to the microphone and state their name and what they want to be when they grow up. Most of the kids expressed ambitions to be "a ninja," or "a musketeer," or "a princess," or "a fireman." Trevor walked right up, said his name clearly and declared he wants to be an artist when he grows up. I beamed.

We also have been privileged to see lots of family lately. Of course, we saw all but two cousins for Rob's viewing and memorial. Trevor and Sean thoroughly enjoyed spending time with cousin Tyler and his dog, Cocoa (alias, Coco-Loco).




Then, my youngest brother and family came for a brief visit (on their way to a wedding in Indianapolis). The boys love their visits. First off, they have loads of fun with the kids. Secondly, they almost always get some cool hand-me-downs from their older cousin Caleb.

This time, they brought one of Caleb's outgrown Spiderman costumes (an ultra cool one that is reversible, for the black and the red Spiderman, and has gigantic muscles) and a Spiderman bike helmet with matching elbow and knee pads. The boys both wanted to wear these items to church that Sunday. I think Bryce was mortified that I might actually let them (I tend to be pretty lax about their appearance).

When I "ran away from home" last weekend, I was extremely grateful for the chance to crash (and visit) at my older brother, David's house. I felt guilty because they are in the midst of all the stress of a move (to Peoria), so my unexpected visit was probably less than convenient. But, they spent time with me, listened to my venting, and graciously entertained me during a group trip to Big Lots (a cheap distribution store, where I had the chance to discover that even teens often cannot walk through a store without goofing around like my little boys - hee-hee).

Shortly after I returned home from my brief visit with David's family, my parents arrived for their annual June visit. We had a really nice time. They nurtured my wanderlust with tales of their recent cruise (a first, for them) and my Dad's unexpected treat to my mom of tickets to see Mary Poppins for her birthday.

Apparently, Mary Poppins was AMAZING! They said that Bert walked the walls and danced on the ceiling and Mary Poppins flew right over their heads. They were able to show me some footage of the play from a DVD. Now I am hungry to find a way to take Trevor to see it when it comes to Indianapolis later this year.

This week, Trevor is attending a Galactic Blast VBS at the church where he attended preschool. Wow! What a phenomenal program they have there. We paid a $10 fee and he received a t-shirt and a CD-rom full of songs and games. There are 207 children enrolled (I was worried Trev might be overwhelmed by the vast sea of kids, but he just plowed ahead, found his team row and joined the throngs), with almost 80 volunteers.

When we returned home from VBS, Trevor wanted to try out the CD-rom. The games are clever and fun. One game was a quiz over the information covered in the class today. Trevor actually wanted to play that several times and did quite well at answering the questions correctly.

Thankfully, we're also keeping busy with things like Lunch Bunch (where they get a free sack lunch and a free choice of book every Tuesday), free movies at the cinema and at the library, and playing on their swing set. A bird built a nest up in the fort part of the swing set and the boys have been watching the 3 eggs. Amazingly, the mama birdie has kept her vigil despite the poor choice of housing location.

Today, when John came home with some groceries from Walmart, I overheard him exclaim, "What in the world??"

It turns out, a toad was hopping across the living room floor. I would have suspected that Trevor brought the toad in, but he was at VBS, at the time. We surmise the toad had been in the garage and hopped up the steps into the house while John unloaded groceries.

I guess you could say, life has really been "hoppin'" around here!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

When the Road God Chooses Doesn't Look Like the Best Path

The last several weeks have been quite difficult ones. On Thursday, May 20th, my husband's younger brother, who had long struggled with an alcohol addiction, took his life. He was 44 years old. He himself admitted that he had fought against this overwhelming compulsion to drink from the age of twelve on, with only a ten year period of sobriety between the ages of 21 and 31.

It was during those ten years, that I met Rob, and eventually his brother, John. When I returned from the mission field and a brief stint in England, my sister-in-law proclaimed that there was a young man at their corps (The Norridge, Illinois, Salvation Army Corps) whom I just had to meet. I know that she recognized that I would be drawn to his passionate intensity for Christ as a moth to a flame.

Everything Rob did was with an intensity that left others astonished. I remember friends of mine, who were in The Salvation Army's Chicago Staff Band, commenting on Rob's eating habits. That guy could put away more food than anyone I ever met. At one point, he told his brother he had eaten 17 slices of Little Caesar's pizza in one sitting. Moreover, in later years, Rob chose to cover almost every food he ate in copious amounts of hot sauce.

When we would visit my in-laws, Rob would cook out and prepare an incredible array of burgers, brats and hot dogs. After one spicy burger left me sick (during my pregnancy with Trevor), I became more timid around his prepared meats. Of course, that didn't hold me back from enjoying his delectable home-made ice creams.

But, in later years, I really had come to dislike being around Rob. After his first marriage dissolved, his personality seemed changed. He was so fiercely loyal to his only daughter (who, at twelve, is now dealing with her own life-altering challenges) that he often blamed my oldest son for any of their altercations. Of course, I responded with my own mother bear tendencies.

Because Rob lived with my in-laws for several years, here and there, over the past five or six years, it meant that a visit to my in-laws automatically included visits with Rob. Although in many ways his presence was a blessing (a rich distraction from the pains and complaints of my father-in-law for my two young sons who couldn't merely contain their boisterous behavior because "Grandpa is ill"), it was also difficult. He had a patronizing tone with my mother-in-law that really grated on me. He would say, "Sit down, mother dear. Stop being so feisty, mother dear. I can get that, mother dear."

Moreover, his passion for God had shifted. It seemed to me that when his first wife gave up on him, Rob gave up on himself and on God. He remarried, but that relationship only lasted a year as well. It became painfully obvious that he was drinking. His demons were chasing him and all he wanted to do was run.

There were countless individuals who would have gladly stood in the gap for him. Many mutual Salvation Army friends would ask after him whenever I saw them. When I passed along their phone numbers, Rob ignored them. When I requested their prayerful intervention, Rob was incensed. Instead of accepting the support of others, as Moses required assistance in holding up his arms as the people of Israel crossed the parted Red Sea, Rob pulled deeper and deeper into himself and cursed the difficulties he faced.

For me, the most difficult aspect of dealing with Rob's death is that I can so completely relate to Rob's isolation and despair. I've been where he was on that fateful morning and it is only my own lack of resolve or strength that has kept me here, facing another day's difficulties. And in typical default mode, I reverted to asking many "what if" questions.

Rob had attempted suicide several times before, so the actual act didn't really take us by surprise. God seemed to intervene in each of those other occasions. After his first attempt, a police officer, who couldn't explain why he had driven out among the cornfields that day, noticed his car and his body slumped over. When Rob's stomach was pumped, he was violently angry that his plans had been thwarted. However, after that attempt (around age 20), he sought rehabilitation and many of his brass band friends from the University of Illinois (my Salvation Army friends) began to visit him and encourage him.

I found myself asking things like ... "what if Rob had succeeded that first time? what if, therefore, I never heard his zealous testimony? what if, therefore, I failed to consider or give his brother a chance?"

There were other "what ifs" that filled my brain, as well. What if my own children demonstrate these same propensities to extremes? What if one of my sons develops an addiction that proves a constant trial?

It was at this point that God's inscrutable timing began to appear. Several years back, I had read a book review for Paula Rinehart's Better Than My Dreams: Finding What You Long For Where You Might Not Think to Look, on Catherine Gillespie's blog. She mentioned one quote by Jim Elliott in her review and that one quote made me long to find and read the book. However, our library didn't have the book and every avenue I tried came up empty.

Shortly before Bryce's birthday, he requested an item on Amazon and wanted it to arrive quickly. Rather than pay exorbitant shipping fees, we opted to sign on for the one-month free trial of Amazon Prime, which allows for free shipping and reduced fees for urgent shipping. As our one month came to an end, John and I both made up a list of books we couldn't obtain elsewhere for purchase during the final free-shipping window. I purchased Paula Rinehart's book and began reading it on the drive over to Rob's viewing.

During the past several weeks, I have been a yo-yo. On the up swing, I have quoted from and recommended this book to other friends who struggle with accepting a life that is less than they had hoped for. Indeed, I have a distant friend on Facebook who recently shared her own personal struggle with me (involving her passionate desire for another child, her husband's participation and then abrupt withdrawal from adoption proceedings, and her own feeling that he has crushed her heart and stolen her dreams). I find myself wanting to send this book to her because it will speak to her wounded heart. There are so many individuals, like me, who analyze their life and feel short-changed or discontented, who need someone to pass them a pair of reading glasses that enable them to envision what the Lord might be eager to accomplish through their less-than-ideal circumstances.

Then, I hit the down swing. I have been weaning from the antidepressant Cymbalta. I was convinced that the drug was causing me to feel entirely depleted and to gain stubborn weight in my mid-section. Another friend has suggested that I might be dealing with adrenal fatigue (so I am pursuing further information and testing for that). Needless to say, many days I am a ragged mess.

I have been unable to rouse myself to deal with anything (thus the mindless distraction of the pointless Spider Solitaire games). I could not even blog. Even since Rob's loss, I have found myself wishing for the release he sought, wanting to abandon the struggle and simply cease to exist. It has seemed like more than I could bear. Last weekend, I even "ran away from home."

That was, in itself, quite discouraging. I headed back to DeKalb and felt overwhelmingly that there was nothing there to really return to. Although I could breathe freely (something I often cannot do at home in IN), it felt like trying to jam a now-circular peg into a square hole.

Tonight, I am back on the up-swing. One of the cancer families that I follow, sent out a post including a link to an article by John Piper, called "Don't Waste Your Cancer." So many tidbits from this article are resonating with me tonight. Although Piper's ten main points refer to individuals struggling with cancer, they could equally be posed to others. If Rob had read those words and inserted "alcoholism" for every c-word, he would possibly still be here. I choose, for myself, to merely substitute the idea of unwanted trial. And, really, don't we all have some trial in our lives that tests us like cancer, that takes us on a road that looks weedy and like a bad suggestion from Mapquest?

Here are his ten points (along with a few comments added by his colleague, David Powlison) that I found especially helpful (although, I would highly recommend reading the entire article at the provided link):

"You will waste your cancer" (addiction/trial/difficult marriage) ...

1) "if you do not believe it is designed for you by God."

2) "if you believe it is a curse and not a gift." (David Powlison adds "Your cancer, in itself, is one of those 10,000 ‘shadows of death’ (Psalm 23:4) that come upon each of us: all the threats, losses, pains, incompletion, disappointment, evils. But in his beloved children, our Father works a most kind good through our most grievous losses.")

3) "if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God." Piper adds, "The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him."

4) "if you refuse to think about death."

5) "if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ. Satan’s and God’s designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

6) "if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God. "It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2).

7) "if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection." (And these are, I think my favorite additional words from David Powlison:) "Our culture is terrified of facing death. It is obsessed with medicine. It idolizes youth, health and energy. It tries to hide any signs of weakness or imperfection. You will bring huge blessing to others by living openly, believingly and lovingly within your weaknesses. Paradoxically, moving out into relationships when you are hurting and weak will actually strengthen others."

8) "if you grieve as those who have no hope." Here David Powlison adds, "How on earth can heartache coexist with love, joy, peace, and an indestructible sense of life purpose? In the inner logic of faith, this makes perfect sense. In fact, because you have hope, you may feel the sufferings of this life more keenly: grief upon grief. In contrast, the grieving that has no hope often chooses denial or escape or busyness because it can’t face reality without becoming distraught. In Christ, you know what’s at stake, and so you keenly feel the wrong of this fallen world. You don’t take pain and death for granted. You love what is good, and hate what is evil."

9) " if you treat sin as casually as before. Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are." David Powlison adds, "Suffering really is meant to wean you from sin and strengthen your faith. If you are God-less, then suffering magnifies sin. Will you become more bitter, despairing, addictive, fearful, frenzied, avoidant, sentimental, godless in how you go about life?"

10) "if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ. Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12 -13).

Once again, in the words of a Bryan Duncan song, "God knows, and I don't, what's good for me." It may not feel good. It may not appear to be the best path. But it can be the path that leads me to mark my compass towards Him. I only pray that I can continue to seek Him rather than give way to discouragement and preference for easy streets.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pan du Chocolat

I have just been raving to my parents about all the new products which have been available at our Aldi store. You really can't beat Aldi! Their food tastes good and is significantly cheaper (even cheap enough to warrant the 20-30 minute trip it takes to drive there when I go every other week). Indeed, we have found that we prefer the taste of Aldi's dairy products ("Friendly Farms") over those from Walmart or Kroger ("Deans").

One of the things I had purchased, but hadn't really had opportunity to use (since it would only be eaten by hubby and I) was a spinach strudel. It was fantastic! I served it with spaghetti and strawberries. The boys wouldn't try it, but my parents enjoyed it.

Well over a year ago, I had purchased a new item that I noticed at Aldi - chocolate croissants.

Immediately, my mind was transported back to my days in Paris, when I would stop at the local patisseries to sample their pan du chocolat (not sure why when I google this now, the word is usually spelled pain au chocolat?? - pain and chocolate, simply cannot go together unless it is a scenario where I am in great pain and must therefore ingest chocolate~!~).

Since the box was only $3 and contained four croissants, I figured it to be quite the bargain. Time after time, I considered making them, but didn't think anyone else in my household would try them. Then, they got old. When I had company, I couldn't bring myself to prepare them for fear they might not actually still taste good.

Last night, however, I decided to bite the bullet. I placed the four frozen croissants on my cookie tray and left them out overnight to rise. This morning, I whipped up one egg and brushed each croissant, then baked them for the required 20 minutes.

Compared to what I remember in France, it was "meh," at best. Of course, it didn't help that the "use by date" was back in February. Can I really fault them for the second rate quality when I allowed the product to sit in my freezer for far too long?

I guess what really got me was when I glanced at the nutrition facts. I had already tossed the remaining whipped egg into a pan for a mini omelet. Then, I ate one croissant. That one croissant, average at best, just zapped 65% of my daily recommendation for saturated fat. I feel as if I shouldn't eat another bite for the rest of the day (I did have a small bowl of oatmeal with a banana for lunch and I hope to ride the Airdyne cycle for a half hour this afternoon).

If you are fortunate enough to have other family members who will assist you in consuming the croissants and who will not mind the incredible saturated fat toll, and if you are fortunate enough to have an Aldi nearby and happen upon the boxes of said croissants ... then, by all means, snatch them up and prepare them at your earliest convenience. Also, feel free to invite me over.

I suppose, if I am in the mood for a chocolate croissant from now on, it would be better to merely pay a bit under $2 and purchase one at Panera Bread. Then again, that is highly unlikely since the best time to eat a chocolate croissant is for breakfast and the nearest Panera Bread is out past the Aldi.

The only alternative must then be ... a trip to Paris. It is the only way! I will just have to start saving pennies found on the street until I have enough to finance a trip to the home of real and true pan du chocolat. I may be eighty by then, but it will be heavenly! If you begin saving your pennies found on the street, perhaps you would like to go with me??
===============
P.S. It appears that I could find french chocolate croissants in the Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis at a place called Rene's Bakery. Now to find someone who wants to meet me there for breakfast on a morning when my husband can keep an eye on the little boys. I would still enjoy a trip to Paris, though.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

When Saying Something Naughty, Spell it ... Correctly

Overheard this afternoon, at the lunch table:

Trevor: Oh my D-O-G!

Me: "Oh my Dog???"

Trevor: "No, Oh my G-O-O!"

Me: "Oh my Goo????"

Trevor: "No, Oh my G-O-D!"

Me: "Trevor James!! Don't take the Lord's name in vain! But do remember how to spell it correctly."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Disassociation

I don't know how the majority of people cope with life's stresses. Are there actually some who sail right through, without so much as hitting a snag? It is easy to convince myself that many other individuals cope far more adequately than I.

My modus operandi these days is intense disassociation. I know that I'm doing it. I want to stop and face whatever it is that is drawing me to the disassociation games, but instead I find myself on the same old, worn out, unproductive treadmill.

Every day, I think about all that needs to be done (or faced) and I flee into magazines (writing ones - it always seems to make me feel better when I am NOT writing, to read about the process of writing), books or naps. When I sit down to the computer, full of grand intentions of finally expressing what lurks inside, I cannot so much as uncork the bottle. Instead, I have played nearly one thousand games of Spider Solitaire. This makes no sense to me.

There was a time when my disassociation choice was Minesweeper. Years ago, I would play that game for hours on end. As soon as I completed and saw my best time, I would feel compelled to play again. After all, I might beat my best time and secure a new standard. That was always fun because I could type in some grandiose title, like "Wendy the Wickedly Wild Minesweeper Master."

In Spider Solitaire, there isn't really the great thrill of achieving your best score. You can try to minimize the number of cards required to complete all of the sets, but the score still lingers around 1195. I can't understand what drives me to click "Yes," when it asks if I want to play again.

Even the boys have noticed and begun asking why I'm always playing "that stupid game." Sometimes Trevor waxes truly flippant and says, with great irritation, "would you rather push me on the swing outside or play THAT STUPID GAME." Sadly, in my heart, I would rather play the stupid game. I just don't know why. What exactly am I running from?