The Plague

"Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."-Jesus

Over the summer we spent what felt like forever fighting off the evils of a relentless stomach bug. I promised it all sorts of sweet nothings if only it would leave us alone for a few years, or ever.

Well this week, the plague seems to be making its way back through the community. It is at large in the school system and in our neighborhood. I know at least five families (who have absolutely no social connections or ties in any way to each other) who have had it sweep through their houses. 'Be afraid,' it taunts. 'Be very afraid.' And this time, I have actually found myself preparing, just in case: laundry washed and folded, toilets scrubbed, (seriously, who likes hugging a dirty toilet bowl?), Lysol ready, buckets located and Clorox standing by!

So today, as I was debating whether to hang garlic or smear the blood of a freshly sacrificed lamb over our front door, the phone rang.

"Karen," said my neighbor. "How are you? Has the stomach bug gone through your house yet?"

"Um, no, not yet but I hear it is sweeping the community like wildfire," I answered.

"Well, my boys all had it....I felt really bad for [my oldest] because he actually threw up all over the hallway at school...I was just glad it wasn't here in my house, ya know what I mean? But [my youngest] is back at school today of course. Anyway, can he come home with Aidan after school?" she asked....

(Hmmm, make that garlic, blood and perhaps a cross or two.)

"...My parents need a ride to the doctor's office and..." she continued, telling me all about her parents' failing eyesight and other such calamities.... "Anyway, would that be okay?"

"Sure," I said, as I neurotically washed my hands while trying to figure out the easiest way to drag them all to preschool pick-ups before heading off to Aidan's drum lesson and whether or not it would be rude to put each child in their own plastic bubble first. "It's not a problem at all."

After all, we like to let our kids play with matches, too....(just kidding.) I am certainly happy to help out a friend but I am guessing this story is not yet over....just a hunch of course but we don't seem to have much luck with this little bugger and I have seen the things my kids touch before sticking their filthy hands into their mouths for no apparent reason whatsoever other than to insure the proper amount of germ exposure each day. Ick.

At any rate, if you don't hear from me for a while, you know why. And on that note, I'm off to find some blood-dipped crosses made from strings of garlic...and perhaps eat a lot of chocolate...(Hey, why not?)

"Be afraid. Be very, very afraid." -the plague


Another Day in Paradise

"The kids screaming, phone ringing
Dog barking at the mailman bringing
That stack of bills - overdue
Good morning baby, how are you?
Got a half hour, quick shower
Take a drink of milk but the milk's gone sour
My funny face makes you laugh
Twist the top on and I put it back
There goes the washing machine
Baby, don't kick it.
I promise I'll fix it
Long about a million other things"

-from Another Day in Paradise, Phil Vassar


To tell the truth, I had no idea who Phil Vassar was until about, oh, two minutes ago. But, this country song had just the lyrics I was looking for in order to write today's post.

The day started great...oh wait, no, it didn't. I awoke with a terrible head cold; which urged me to apologize to the girls who have been suffering with it for days now and have been met with an unsympathetic mom. At any rate, I felt plain awful. It was the kind of cold that makes you want to curl up under some blankets on the couch, sipping hot tea and watching old TBS reruns, blocking out the world and everything in it.

My day didn't quite go like that however. You see, Aidan had to be out the door by 8, Liam had occupational therapy for his eating skills at 9:30 and Madeline had to be at school by 12:45. There was a play-date I backed out of in between all that and several errands that had to be accomplished after preschool drop-off and before the piano lesson I teach on Wednesdays. Needless-to-say, I wasn't curled up on the couch.

So, it was a great day for me to notice that the sink was backing up while the dishwasher was running. Not thinking much of it, I turned the disposal on and off to get the stuff to go back down but as I flipped the switch, I also heard a rather ominous sound....I couldn't quite put a finger on it though and everything seemed ok so I went back to talk to the Occupational Therapist whom Liam was taking to the door (he makes it a point to let his teachers know when he is done and that they should go by taking them by the hand and showing them to the front door...) I then put Liam down for an early nap thinking I might actually get to go lay down for a little while before having to get the girls fed and out the door. But, as luck may have it, I saw the dirty breakfast dishes in the sink and decided I would quickly get them done before heading to the couch.

As I got closer to the sink, dripping water caught my eyes. Not dripping in the sink mind you, but all over the floor. I opened the cabinet doors to examine and found that the entire garbage disposal had fallen off of the sink! (Really? You fell off the sink? COME ON ALREADY! Give me a break!) And apparently, it happened mid-disposing as there were soggy Rice Krispies and chunks of mushy fruit and other such delectables all over EVERYTHING underneath my sink.

What did I do, you ask. Well, I called Kurt of course. The conversation went something like this (squish your nose firmly between two fingers to say my part):

"Um, Kurt? (pause to blow my nose) The garbage disposal fell off of the sink," I told him. (I can hardly even write that sentence without cracking up.)

"Really? Hmmm, I wonder how that happened. I'm really busy though, can you call my dad and get him to help you?"

"Uh, (BLOOOOOW) ok...."

NOT! You see, Kurt's dad lives in Pennsylvania. To be certain, there is a slight disadvantage to having your personal handyman live a thousand miles away. And I am certainly not going to bother someone with something they can do NOTHING about and moral support was simply not what I needed. What now....Well, if you have ever installed a garbage disposal, then you know just how heavy these things are. It's not like they are so heavy you can't lift them but they are heavy enough that to hold one with one hand while trying to align and then screw the hardware on with another teeters on the edge of impossible. It took both me and Kurt squeezing under the kitchen sink, him holding the thing and me getting it aligned and attached for us to get it installed in the first place. Which leads me to the heart of the problem: WE INSTALLED IT OURSELVES!

What to do....hmmmm.....A this point, the disposal was resting on three glass vases and an empty peanut butter jar that happened to be directly under it when it fell (hence the interesting sound I couldn't quite put my finger on.) I needed something or someone to help me with the holding of it while I got the thing screwed back on.

"Madeline, come here!" I called out.

"What is it mom?" she said, coming down the stairs. The image of me trying to explain to the ER doc how my 5 year old ended up with head trauma by way of a garbage disposal flashed through my head and quickly gave me second thoughts.

"Nevermind!" I called back. And then it hit me; I knew what I needed (dunt-dunt-dunt-duuuuu): The Car Jack! It can hold up a 282 horsepower truck for gosh sake, it can surely hold up a 1/4 horsepower disposal!

So, I had never used a car jack before. (My basic philosophy is, if I need a jack for my car, I also need roadside service.) But, I recalled our U-Haul "incident" and fortunately knew exactly where to find it. After pulling it out and realizing it comes with far too many unnecessary accessories, I began to mess around with it to make sure I knew what I was doing. I then blew my nose several times and moaned a little for dramatic effect, and carefully slid the jack under the disposal, taking all the rest of the junk out from under it.

And just like that I was able to hang the garbage disposal back under the sink, all by my sick self.

And ya know, it put a little skip back in my step. Sure I felt like crap and sounded like I belong on the Muppet Show, but I hung a garbage disposal all by myself! Sure, Madeline forgot her coat when I was taking her to school and I had to make Lily give up hers, only to find Lily in SHORT SLEEVES and so I had to turn around to go home for more clothes before running my errands and then, half way there realized I forgot the movie I was supposed to be returning AND the mail I was supposed to be mailing (hence the errands!) and had to return home AGAIN, but hey, I hung the garbage disposal all by myself!

And while I'll admit I wasn't cheering "I fixed the garbage disposal, hurray!" when Aidan came to wake me at 11:30 tonight, and again at 1:30 and 4 a.m. because Liam was screaming, coughing and feverish, there is something to be said for resourcefulness. It is amazing just how far it can take a person and I hope to pass it along to my children.

It sure beats the stuff they usually pass along to me!


"Well, it's ok. It's so nice
It's just another day in paradise
Well, there's no place that
I'd rather be
Well, it's two hearts
And one dream
I wouldn't trade it for anything
And I ask the Lord every night
For just another day in paradise."

(Thanks for the reminder, Phil!)


Friday's Grace

"From the fullness of his grace, we have all received one blessing after another." John 1:16

I have to admit, it was a rougher week than most. Not in compared to the devastation in other parts of the world mind you, but by Friday, my normally cheerful self was feeling pretty glum and I was beginning to feel like a good fist-shaking at the heavens was in order. We had lost a court case based on false evidence. We had learned of death, both close to home and afar. We had joined in the sadness of our dear friend being hospitalized, not knowing if she would make it back out or not. There was not a whole lot of laughter filling the house, (except for Liam of course who apparently has to meet a certain laugh quota each day to fulfill his destiny.)

So, as I was getting ready early Friday morning, I heard the garbage trucks outside and realized we had not gotten the cans out yet....ARGH!

"Oh no! The trash!" I said, rushing downstairs and out the door to get the can down to the street. As I turned around to head in, I saw the truck coming out of the cul-du-sac next to us and realized I had missed them entirely. Our very kind neighbor across the street has a different trash service so using the blanket statement of permission he gave me long ago, I added some of my stuff to his half empty cans and took mine back up into the garage. I pushed the button to close the garage door and went in, tail between my legs to tell Kurt I had missed the truck. It just wasn't a good week.

"Look, the guy is right outside. Run the can to the other side of the street and maybe he will take them," Kurt replied, having noticed the garbage man stopped in front of our house.

"It's too late," I said, feeling defeated and not wanting to chase down a truck. "I already brought the can back into the garage and he won't wait."

"Well, look, he has our can," Kurt said.

Sure enough, the garbage collector, having seen me running around with my cans after his pick-up, had come back by the house, stopped in front, come up into our garage where the door had for some reason not gone down after all and had taken our trash to the other side of the street so he could get it into his truck! I was half way down the driveway when he came back around with our cans.

"Thank you SOOOOOO much!" I exclaimed in complete gratitude. "That was SOOOO sweet of you!"

He simply smiled and, without a word, moved on.

I came back in refreshed; delighting once again in God's creation. There is much devastation in the world. There is much sorrow and pain. There are those who will do anything, no matter how immoral or unethical in order to get what they want.

But, in the midst of these, there is love. There is kindness and great joy and ever so often, an angel or two, sent to remind us that we are loved and cared for and that if only we have a little faith, even our trash will be collected and thrown out so we can once again start anew.

Thanks Trash Guy!
And Happy Weekend World!
May all your days be filled with grace!


In Memory

The first time I met her, I was a newly wed, having just moved to Palo Alto, CA where Kurt was attending business school at Stanford and I was a novice first-grade teacher at one of the many Bay Area private schools. I had decided that in my spare time I would play violin with the Stanford Symphony which generously opened its arms to both students and the outlying community.

As I waited at her door for my audition, anxiety took hold. I had not auditioned in years and the only feeling I had about Karla was extreme intimidation. She was not just a conductor. This woman towered over me like an Amazon, knowing heights I could only experience from the top rung of a ladder. She was confident and filled with a passion for music that went beyond the notes and tempos, style and artistry. When she began to move her arms, she became the music, inviting the rest of us to do the same.

"What are you playing for me today?" she asked.

"First movement of the Dvorak concerto," I blurted, hoping maybe I could hide somewhere behind my music.

"Huh. Interesting choice," she noted plainly, sapping me of any calm I had left. "Alright, let's go."

I began the only piece I had worked on in years, praying all the while that she would stop me before I either completely humiliated myself and sent Dvorak rolling in his grave, or got to the section that I hadn't learned yet. (Or, God forbid, both!)

After a couple pages she said, "Great. Read this," and handed me some violin part. I have no idea what I played as I was too busy breathing again.

I was filled with relief after that first interaction. I hadn't completely ruined the Dvorak (although the attempt was thorough!) and I would be able to play, lost in the violin section of the Stanford Symphony, or so I thought. The thing about Karla though was you were never lost under her watch. She ALWAYS knew where you were in the music and where she wanted you to be and even though I spent two years trying as I might to hide behind my stand, praying I'd go unnoticed, I was no match for her superhuman eyes and ears. She was humbling. She was inspiring. And her passion drove each of us beyond what we might have been able to accomplish otherwise. Woe was the section (often ours) that needed individualized help in sectionals. Woe was the musician (often me) who didn't make a little extra time to practice. Karla was on top of it all, and even when she didn't call us out by name, she knew who we were. She was like God: there was no place to hide!

I remember feeling extreme pity for the few students who had wandered off during our recording session at George Lucus's Skywalker Ranch (yes, it was as cool as you imagine!) and who had taken it upon themselves to tour the private mansion without permission. Karla's passion was complete, well-rounded and had a wide range of uses.

I remember my humbling conversation with her, a few weeks before we were supposed to go on a two week tour: Carnegie Hall and then London.

"Karla, I'm really sorry but I can't go on the tour," I had told her, hoping to at least salvage some of my deposit.

"Why not?" she asked, un-accusingly.

Pause. "I just lost my first pregnancy in miscarriage," I explained, tears welling in my eyes as I took a few deep breaths. "I just don't think I can go on the tour right now. I need time to heal emotionally and get things situated since we are moving down to San Diego at that time as well."

"I am so sorry," she told me, her eyes revealing that her passion included abundant amounts of compassion as well. We then went on to talk about the musical I had written for my class, the kinds of things that teaching entails, small talk mixed with just a sampling of her fun-loving humor; conversation she might have had with dozens of others who probably all felt the same way I did: although our lives and paths were vastly different, she knew me and she understood.

After the last performance I played there, I was taken by surprise when Karla, in her adrenaline driven enthusiasm whisked me up in an Amazon-sized hug and swung my little frame around in the air. I remember laughing, as much in shock as in delight, as she thanked me for being there. I still think she meant more that I was just the right sized person to come walking by at the right time rather than that I had in any way made her life better by filling a seat in the violin section. But then, knowing Karla, she probably felt that each of us made her a little better. Though at times it felt as if we were her personal pawns, she was able to exalt each of us to greatness, a truly royal status, and in turn, we gave her hope that the future of music would not die an early death. I wish I could say the same of her.

So to Karla:

Thanks for claiming a part of the show for yourself and then giving so much of it away. Though the show must go on without you, you will be remembered, appreciated and applauded by many. May you rest in peace knowing that in doing your best, you touched so many; your life an open invitation to the rest of us to rise up and do the same. May your soul forever soar on the symphonies that sustained your heart here on earth, lifting you to heights much greater than these.

Karla Lemon 1954-2009


Lemons to Lemonade

"Mom, I know what I want to be when I grow up," said Lily the other day.

"Oh yeah? What's that?" I asked.

"I'm gonna be a DRAGON when I grow up," she half roared, stating a claim she has been making for a few weeks now.

Saying the only appropriate thing I could think of, I answered, "Uh, ok."

"Yeah, I'm gonna be a dragon AND an angel!" she said excitedly.

"Lily, you can't be a dragon and an angel," Madeline joined in, taking what would normally be the position allotted to her older brother. "Angels are messengers...FROM GOD! and you can't be both a dragon and an angel," she explained. "You would have to be a dragon first and THEN you can be an angel," she clarified.

Because clearly dragons are not capable of being God's messengers (sheesh, EVERYONE knows that!) but surely after Lily is done with dragon-hood, angel-dom will be a piece of cake....and sadly, I couldn't even support Lily on this because what am I going to say? "Now, now Madeline, Lily can be whatever she wants to be when she grows up."

Right. I am just happy that she has moved away from wanting to be a stripedy skunk "without the stinky." Surely a dragon will be much easier to explain...


Speaking of future career paths, I do think I have an idea of what Liam might be when he grows up.

You see, we have created a bit of an issue for Liam. So, long ago the well meaning doctors told us to feed him whatever he would eat in order to help with weight gain. Now, although we lean toward the healthier options as much as possible, he eats all sorts of stuff, giving high preference to that which, um, backs him up a bit. So recently, he has suffered enormously by the inner workings of his bowels. Each movement sends him crying and squirming and leaves him just a little raw and at times, bloody. It is painful to even watch and he usually comes toddling over, crying, just trying to grab hold of any part of me that might lend relief.

When this first became an issue, I tried just holding him. Soon, I was actually assisting in the process, offering whatever vaseline might be laying around and keeping his knees back in a slightly birthing-like position. But then a few weeks ago, he came to me crying and my asking if he needed to use the potty was met with a very decisive head nod. Just like that we had instant potty training. Now, as he sits there holding onto me as if in some Lamaze video, we count 1-2-3 PUUUUUSH, he mimics my urgings and fairly quickly is relieved of his, um, burden. Thus, I believe he is prepping to be an Obstetrical Nurse, (or perhaps an OB Doctor as he will be just the right height for the catching!) or simply, a very good husband and labor support.

Perhaps he doesn't see this potty training approach as lemonade, but trust me, he isn't exactly offering up lemons either!


Wind Chilled Chickens

The question, from someone in Canada (posted on gardenweb.com): "Does anyone let their chickens outside during the winter?"

Some of the answers from people in Canada:

"We leave chickens out all winter here. I have an insulated coop and when it gets cold (-40 air temp), I sometimes use a heat lamp wired into a ceramic socket in the ceiling to keep the chickens from losing combs and toes....and [you need to] collect the eggs frequently as catching them before they freeze is the biggest problem."

"If you want to ensure eggs all winter, you will need to give them supplementary light, preferably on a timer. Otherwise you may have a few eggless weeks. Not a big deal since eggs keep a long time in the fridge. Single combed roosters may get frostbite on the comb and wattles. This will make them feel lousy and it can be serious but often is more of a discomfort. The affected parts will turn black and eventually fall off."

Ok, now if I were a chicken I might take exception to the idea that the "biggest issue" about keeping chickens outside in the winter is the freezing and cracking of eggs rather than MY TOES FALLING OFF!

Seriously, I'm pretty sure losing body parts trumps a "few eggless weeks." But then, I'm not a chicken- I just play one on the internet. :)

Speaking of chilly chickens, we Minnesotans have been under this weather advisory the last few days:



Right, and you might also consider a teleportation device able to "Beam me up, Scotty"....assuming Scotty is somewhere in south Florida of course, as we'd hate to end up in Canada (where they care more about egg safety than bodily harm) or Siberia...then again, there is a chance it would be warmer there!

But seriously, we are currently very cold up here. It is truly one of God's awesome wonders - the crazy things that living organisms can actually survive, as well as the fact that some of us humans live in this part of creation by choice! Every day, I stare out at that bright, sparkling snow; so glittery you have to squint just to look out the window; and I am filled with awe. It is incredible; magnificent. It is pure, shimmering, unadulterated beauty. And I am thankful for the ability to survive here...even during the extremes.

(And according to this chicken, these extremes are best enjoyed from the warmth of a heated home so that nothing freezes and cracks, or more importantly, falls off....