Category Archives: Thoughts

I’m back…I think.

If there is anyone reading this who is looking for the Bordermama, welcome back.  Or perhaps I should say, let me (re)introduce myself.  When I left off with my, ahem, last post wayyyyy back in 2007, I did what I normally do when faced with a lot of change, anxiety, and uncertainty…nothing.  Modus procrastinatus.  Much was brewing then…adoption plans off, new baby on, job/city change, etc.  I was also feeling the need to, not reinvent, but adjust my blog.  I wasn’t liking my tone.  Too know-it-all, too smirky… I still haven’t exactly pinpointed what was bothering me, but change was needed and change was a-comin’.

I’d like to think that the biggest change is that I have given myself permission to do something I have been loathe to give myself in the past…permission to fail.  Yes, fail.  Fail in what, dear reader, I hear you ask.  At first, I merely thought it was permission to fail in keeping a timely blog…not letting too many days slip by, posting every single day like the other blogging moms who manage a post-a-day.  I had craftily thought that by not blogging, I might avoid failure.  You might know that disease I speak of…the If-you-don’t-do-it-perfectly, don’t-do-it-at-all disease?  The last two years have taught me that the only prescription for that affliction is failure.    There is great (and humbling) value in seeing that the whole world does not fall apart when you fail in something.  I have learned that when my plans either disintegrate, get pushed aside, are not good enough, or are just plain wrong, some surprising things happen.   I may have to start over, or listen to advice, or work alongside someone, or (horrors!) let someone else take over.  That’s okay.  Really it is.  And you might have guessed that I am speaking of bigger things than just blogging. 

So, while I say I’m back, I have given myself permission to miss a day, a week, or even a month or two, and not have an all-or-nothing mentality about it.  And you may see a few more un-edited typos.   Or some outrightly lame posts.  That’s okay…it’s my own perfectly (!) neurotic therapy.

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Appliances…Grrrr!

I am so frustrated right now. Technology comes with so many “side benefits.” We are getting ready for a trip and I was busily washing clothes. I threw a load into my 2 year old Kenmore dryer, turned it on, walked away, and few moments later heard a loud thump and the dryer shut off. I’m sure the belt broke. It’s very convenient for the company that my warranty expired 3 months ago almost to the day. I swear they must time it that way!

This wouldn’t be so frustrating to me except that I have had so many problems with my brand new appliances. None have been cheap, off-brands either. I have gone round and round with Maytag over my “Quiet Series 300” dishwasher. What a lemon!! The folding tines collapse at the slightest touch, the plastic pieces that hold the tines snap from constantly having to readjust the tines. The pulley that opens the door has broken. The plastic latch that opens the door literally crumbled to pieces in my hand just the other day! It doesn’t clean as stated, i.e. “never rinse your dishes again!” Baloney. And the parts center has been horrible. They have spent so much money sending me the wrong parts. I have an entire dishrack sitting in my garage that they didn’t even want me to send back. I have lodged numerous complaints both in paper, email, and telephone and I have just gotten the standard, “We are sorry for your dissatisfaction, but…” reply. I have finally resigned myself to NEVER buying anything Maytag again.

My also very expensive Kenmore Elite bottom freezer refridgerator also makes me crazy. The doors don’t close easily and because there are two, you have to conscientiously make sure one of them is not hung up on the other. The deli pull out tray broke when a friend who was unaware of the delicate nature of my fridge, shut the doors too vigorously. I will never buy a bottom freezer again, at least one with a drawer. Bad idea in a big family with lots of small children. If one child doesn’t shut the drawer extremely tight, ice forms in the track and then you can hardly open or shut it without great force. Also, one of my children shut the door hard, thinking that it was just ice in the track, and inadvertently broke the arm of the ice maker, so we had to disconnected the ice maker because the durn thing didn’t know when to stop making ice! What fun!

Ironically, my hot water dispenser, the one I won with my kitchen makeover broke after a few months. That was fun…the lever broke and the water shot out full blast. We had to shut the water off to the entire sink for about a week and a half before they could send us a new one for us to install. I have now installed two, due to a finish problem with the replacement, so I feel like I could be a qualified Insinkerator installer!

I’m sure I could avoid some of these expensive problems if I purchased the extended warranties but I refuse!! You mean I have to pay them hundreds of dollars on top of hundreds of dollars already spent because they refuse to stand behind the quality of their products? Do they knowingly make junk so they can make money off of extended warranties and repairs?

Hey, I might need a second job to help pay for all of these appliance woes…anyone need a hot water dispenser? I’d only charge you $40 dollars an hour. How ’bout it?

UPDATE:  Okay, okay, I confess.  In a moment of frustration I was unfair to my Kenmore dryer.  After my husband took it apart, and, finding nothing wrong with it, we called in the repairman.  He fiddled with it and finally handed me a wad of fabric that had lodged into the fan blade.  This had somehow gotten shoved down the lint cleaner.  Serves me right for not keeping the top of the dryer clean.  Bah!

And, not to ungrateful, I wanted to note that although my Insinkerator hot water dispenser broke, the company very quickly and nicely replaced it with a new one.  We had to install it ourselves only because we live in a “remote” area.

There, now I feel better.

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In our weakness…

…His strength is made perfect. How I know this now. And I also know how painful it is to be weak and let His strength be perfect.

I was reminded of this as I was visiting Owlhaven’s site and ran across this plea to pray for Lucas, a fellow blogger’s little boy who was burned last night. Many of you know that our own son was burned about a year and a half ago. My heart goes out to this family and Lucas. It brings back the feeling of my heart breaking in two for my little boy. Please read his story and PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for him.

Also, scroll down and look at the you-tube video the family made of their adoption story. Keep a kleenex ready! They brought their two new children home only a few months ago.

I was thinking about how right now the family’s souls feel as raw as their son’s flesh. I was also thinking how God showed Himself over and over through our ordeal, mostly through the prayers we felt that were coming literally from around the world. Now, as I told my son of little Lucas, his earnest face lit up when I asked him to pray for him. Can you imagine? He actually felt joy that he could pray for another little boy in need. What a blessing. I think of how many people come away from a painful tragedy bitter. I know our son’s injuries could have been worse, but I believe his belief in God’s goodness would still have been the same.

Now our son is healed and stronger in his faith than he was before he was burned. Please pray the same for Lucas.

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Giant T.V. Boxes

mangocats-backyeard.jpg
A Good Backyard circa 1960

My husband has recently been hired by a major airline. This means we will eventually move from our beloved little town, far from an interstate, to the inevitable matrix of commercialism, toll roads, and bustle inherently found near major airports. I am trying real hard not to think about this too much, so I am concentrating on getting excited about finding a house and neighborhood that I like. One with charm, neighborly goodwill, and an abundance of green spaces.

This is harder than you think. What I am finding is that most homes these days are designed for a lifestyle that does not fit our family. As I plow through online photos of houses for sale, I am continually floored by both the size and number of t.v.s found in homes these days. Page after page of living rooms with recesses built specifically for oversized t.v.s, replacing the built-in bookcases that used to be preferred. There are t.v.s in kitchens, bathrooms, even garages. Predictably, any home built after 1990 follows a formula based around current values. As I look at the architectural changes and general house-to-yard ratio from the early 30s homes to now, I see proof in how much our values have changed.

Square Feet
As our families have shrunk in both size and co-habiting generations, our houses have grown. Tremendously. 1,200 sq. feet used to be sufficient to raise a family of 6. Now, 3,000 sq. feet is a must. For a family of 4. No matter what this says about our attitude towards children, one thing is clear. We like our stuff. We need bigger houses to hold more stuff. We prefer exercise equipment to a walk outdoors. We need closets the size of bedrooms to hold our clothes, shoes, and purses. Our kitchens must be able to accommodate every gadget Pampered Chef ever made, yet I would bet the average family eats out more often than it cooks! And, of course, we need more space for t.v.s and the couches that must accompany them. Personally, I don’t want that much house to clean! Whew! It tires me out just thinking about it. But, then again, if your kids are glued to the t.v., they don’t make that much of a mess.

Windows
Don’t worry. Windows have not gone away. New homes have windows. I just have noticed that the placement is different. The windows are designed now to catch light. This is not a bad thing. Countless homes I have viewed have these gorgeous windows flanking the fireplaces t.v. alcoves. These windows run clear up to the second story. Stunning. But what is lacking are windows that afford a good view of the backyard and side yards. Bedrooms seem to favor high windows. Picture windows are out. Besides, those pesky windows, if placed low, interfere with the t.v. armoire placement.

Backyards, or lack of them
Why do you need low windows when there is nothing to look out upon? Why a picture window when you are only gazing upon a fence? Or a neighbor’s air conditioning unit? We have sacrificed green spaces and trees and a yard to accommodate all of that living space we seem to need. Never mind if you enjoy breakfast on the patio. Or that the kids have no where to build a fort, play war (hear the collective sucking in of breath), or toss a ball. We need the space to build a game room so the Game Cube playing doesn’t interfere with the big t.v. in the living room.

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A Bad Backyard circa 2000

The Great Room Concept
I’m not talking about a kitchen that is open to a family room. I renovated my 1930s servant’s kitchen to remove a swinging door with the precise purpose of opening up my kitchen. I am talking about these cavernous rooms that have open kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and even open balconies to include the second story. I assume this is so everyone can keep an eye or ear on American Idol, even while going about their other activities. This would drive me crazy. In a homeschooling family, quiet, private space is a premium. Besides, who wants to see the dirty dishes stacked in the sink and glasses left out on the counter from all angles of the house? Oh, wait, that’s what fast food is for!

Image over Substance
My last frustration with current values is the lack of quality in construction materials. Something has to give when building such enormous homes, so I suppose real wood takes a back seat to fiberboard. Trimwork has almost disappeared. The front of a home may have brick, but certainly not the sides. And these are homes that are not inexpensive! I guess that as long as the house looks good from the street it doesn’t really matter what the inside looks like. Besides, no one will notice when must-see t.v. is on.

I know that I sound a little bitter, but seeing how our homes have been turned into giant t.v. boxes, I can’t help but worry about our future generations. Will they appreciate nature? Will they know how to have a conversation? What are the effects of surrogate parenting with Nickelodeon? We are already seeing a massive decline in the physical health of our children. Their thumb muscles are well-developed, and a few gifted ones may put that to good use by becoming excellent surgeons, but those will be the exceptions. Who will know the joys of curling up in a quiet corner and reading a book? Who will remember watching the habits of birds through a bird feeder placed outside a low window? All of these things endure, many years after the names of the American Idols have long been forgotten.

I suppose we will be looking in neighborhoods built in the pre-entertainment era. I want a backyard! A big one! I want bookshelves! A window seat! A cozy kitchen! A house big enough to find a good place to read a book, but small enough that we don’t need intercoms to hear each other. Anyone have a house like that they want to sell? Of course you don’t. You’re not budging. Is that why I only see the giant t.v. boxes for sale? *sigh*

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Setting Out Bait

Did anyone notice my shameless attempt to attract more readers?  It didn’t work.  I guess no one searches under “Grey Anatomy,” the wildly popular tv show (actually spelled Grey’s Anatomy) that I’ve never even watched!

My husband and I had a good laugh, though.  We could just picture some dude, upon seeing my site, staring and saying (in a confused, dull voice) “This is stupid.”   Hee, hee.

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My Grey Anatomy

I haven’t spent all of Holy Week in deep introspection…I noticed last night my FIRST gray hair. For about ten seconds, I had this feeling of “wow, I really am getting old” but it soon morphed into delight that the hair was actually a beautiful silvery white. After having been golden blonde for most of my childhood, I had to accept the unwanted fate of most adult blondes…dull, mousy, if-I-stretch-it-I-can-still-call-it-dirty-blonde hair. I now have hope that my ‘final’ hair color will be the color of sparkling snow, rather than dishwater gray.

It’s really not any news at all to discover an almost 36 year old with her first gray hair. My husband has been slowly acquiring the very handsome salt-n-pepper look since his early twenties. And who knows how many gray hairs I have had that have gone unnoticed in my mix of dark blonde, brown, reddish, and highlighted hairs?

It was confirmed to me that this is not very interesting news by the reaction of my husband (he is, of course, my gray-haired elder by 5 months). He came around the corner, truly half-asleep, to hear me ask excitedly (and very awake-like, which annoys him tremendously at 11:00 p.m.), “Hey, you want to see my first gray hair?” “Hmmm, show me in the morning…(yawn, yawn).

So, lucky you, you get to be the recipient of my exciting news. I promise that I won’t suddenly start wearing lots of purple clothes, comfortable shoes, and saying insensitive-but-forgive-me-I’m-old comments. (Okay, okay, I know I already wear comfortable shoes, but I still promise all the rest.)

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‘Meat’ for your Good Friday

I hope you read this in it’s entirety. It is a beautiful thing to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

This comes from St. John Chrysostom’s catechumenate (new believer) instruction. St. John Chrysostom was born in 347 A.D. Thanks to the Rev. David Chalk for editing this quote unto 21st. century readability. I was inspired to repeat it here after hearing it in his Maundy Thursday sermon.

If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of what took place in Egypt where Christ’s blood is foreshadowed. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish,” Moses commanded, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors.”

Moses said, “Sacrifice a lamb without a blemish and smear the doors with its blood.” What does this mean? Can the blood of a sheep without reason save men endowed with reason? Yes, Moses replies, not because it is blood but because it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. So today if the devil sees, not the blood of the sign smeared on the doorposts, but the true blood smeared on the lips of the faithful, which are the doors of the temple of Christ, with all the more reason will he draw back.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ had died, but was still hanging on the cross, the soldier came and pierced his side with the spear and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy Eucharist. When that soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews slaughtered the victim as a sacrifice and I gathered the fruit of that sacrifice—salvation. I have been saved by it.

“There flowed from his side water and blood.” Dearly beloved, do not pass over this mystery without reflection; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: “by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit,” i.e., by baptism and by the holy Eucharist. Now the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ formed the Church, as he had formed Eve from the side of Adam.

Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself? Have you seen with what kind of food he feeds us? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and fed. As a woman forms and feeds her child with her own blood and milk, so too does Christ continuously feed those whom he has begotten with his own blood— so too does Christ continuously feed those to whom he himself has given life.

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Getting What We Want

I have been haunted by a theme that runs through the Chronicle of Narnia series: that in the end we get what we want. Over and over through the series the characters are confronted with the end result of what they desire.

The self-centered and gutless uncle in The Magician’s Nephew got what he wanted…himself. He was so focused on satisfying his own desires and evil curiosities that by the end of the book, all he could see and understand was himself. The words of the talking animals were incomprehensible. He was cut off from their fellowship, all the while convinced the world was going insane but certainly not himself.

The witch hungered after the eternal youth and power found in the beautiful apples of Aslan’s garden, and succeeded in stealing and tasting the succulent fruit, only to discover the horror of living with the bitterness and hate of her act ever after.

In The Last Battle, the dwarfs tire of being pulled between the battle of good and evil and finally decide to retreat into themselves. They chant “The dwarfs are for the dwarfs” repeatedly until that is all they see…themselves. Like the uncle, they can no longer see or hear anything else around them. Conversely, the characters desiring Truth and Beauty, found in Aslan, are rewarded with the joy of being in his presence forever.

This thought has caused me much introspection. What do I want? I have found myself praying to Jesus to please not give me what I want. Or at least please change my desires. I fear I desire Him too little. I fear that I may end up getting what I want. I can easily turn this fear into a horror movie…I am standing in heaven, there are millions of enraptured worshipers around me and someone comes and places a big mirror in front of me. It is too heavy for me to move and I am sentenced to look at my own reflection instead of gazing upon the beauty of the Lord. Who could stand it?

My source of great comfort is that Jesus knows our nature. He knows that I am not wise or faithful enough to know what I need. I am grateful that Jesus taught us to pray “Thy will be done.” He wouldn’t have left us with that prayer if we were not in need of fine tuning our desires.

I think that I am getting to a new stage where I am starting to sense the dis-harmony between what I want and what the Lord wills. It is sort of like striking two dischordant notes. Let me back up a little and explain. I usually operate on two levels. On one level I am a jumble of mixed up desires…with the prevailing desire to please myself. On another level, I know that the Lord is good and that His will is good, so I earnestly pray for His will. It was easy to leave it at that, being satisfied that in the end, His will would triumph my puny little desires. This isn’t working anymore. It’s becoming increasingly uncomfortable in my soul. I can sense how against His will my desires and actions so often are. I am just realizing as I write this that this should be a praise! He has heard my prayers to not give me what I want and ignorance of my own sinful desires must have been top on my list.

“Fear not,” Jesus had to repeat over and over. I will rest not in my version of a horror film, but in the words found in my favorite Psalm, the 27th:

One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.

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Good, but Violent

For those of you who know my second daughter, our 5 y/o thirdborn, you’ll know that she is the “quiet” one of the family. She is mostly content to listen and observe. Like most people who share that trait, when she does choose to talk, it is usually a zinger. Something that makes you think. Or at least it should.

She very casually said to me yesterday, “Mama, you’re good, but you’re violent.” That was it, no further explanation. I paused a moment, and said to her, “Yes, that’s very possibly true.” What made the comment more intriguing was that at that moment, I was sitting on my bed reading a book and she was cozied up in a chair, also subdued.

How much truth was packed in that statement! That very day I had taken part of the Palm Sunday liturgy where Luke’s Passion story is read aloud with assigned parts and the congregation shouts out “Crucify! Crucify!” Oh, yes, my child, I am indeed very violent.

Over the past few weeks of Lent, I have spent some time thinking about my very sins that have caused great violence upon an innocent. I am only beginning to scratch the surface of my very violent nature against my very Holy God. What seemed so timely about her statement was that I have spent much of my Christian life “tidying” up my sins, making them what I thought was more palatable to God. I had confused what it meant to be saved and what Paul meant when he said that we are still being saved. I still have a war going on in my body. I am now trying to name my sins in truth, not what I am more comfortable with.

A few weeks earlier I might have been a little jarred by her words. “What is she saying? Does she even know what the word violent really means?” I would have tried to talk her out of what she said. But yesterday, it just seemed to fit into my thoughts perfectly. While my 5 year old probably had spanking in mind, I was delving a little deeper. Every time I rebel, deny my Lord, ignore His urgings, am cross with my family, argue my point too vociferously, pass by the hungry, or even bludgeon my spouse with silence, I am raging against the demands God makes on my life. I am furious with Him for intruding into my life. To make matters worse, I am furious with Him when He doesn’t appear to be intruding enough in my life. It doesn’t matter how great or small my sin is, the end result is violence.

Thankfully, there is also within my soul His banner, shouting gloriously “Good, Good, Lord of All, you are Good!” His life, His light in me is good. I can taste it, I can feel it, I would die without it. He is winning me over completely to goodness, but the battle is long and the battle is bloody. One day, I will be good, wholly, but for now, alas, my daughter was right.

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More than You Ever Wanted to Know about Vultures

Amazing how you find yourself doing things for your kids you never thought you’d do.

Yesterday, I found myself throwing my laundry basket over a stunned turkey vulture in our yard. Yep. Commonly known as a buzzard. Bald, red head. Big.

I also found myself becoming genuinely concerned for the little guy (or gal) as the day passed. I’ll digress for a moment. My son is bird lover and for the past few months we have immersed ourselves in learning about birds. If you ever get a chance to see The Life of Birds series, a BBC production, do it! It is hosted by the charming, elderly David Attenborough. You will find yourself absolutely stunned by God’s providence for the birds. His careful attention to the tiny but crucial details in a bird’s life will make you realize how big His hand is in ours. Truly, “His eye is on the sparrow…” So, after a few months of study, I too have become hooked on birds.

Now, back to Viking. (So named by my son.) We really didn’t think Viking was going to live. When we found him, his eyes were closed and he alternated between quivering and lying stone still. After placing the basket over him to protect him from any passing cats or dogs, we left the house for a few hours. When we came home, my son excitedly reported he was standing up with his eyes open. “And someone fed him some raw meat!” Huh? I walked over to Viking and thought surely my son was wrong about the health report. Flies were buzzing all around the basket. A vile stench permeated the air. But, sure enough, there was a bright eyeball looking at me through the basket. A little pile of something vaguely raw meatish was at his feet.

Okay, time to check this bird out. No, I did not lift the basket. Instead, I ran to the computer and found this nifty little site: The Vulture Society. Yes, my first thought was “A Vulture Society? I guess there is a society for everything.” But after reading about the lowly vulture, I really appreciate the little guys. They are clean birds. Their digestive juices are so acidic that their excretions are actually sanitizing. They excrete on their own legs to clean off the bacteria picked up from standing on carrion. Their heads, which necessarily have to poke and prod decaying flesh, are featherless, helping to again resist bacteria. They can soar without flapping for 6 hours. And, of course, they clean up the countryside of dead animals.

Why did ours stink so bad? One of their only defenses is to vomit up partially digested meat. This would send just about anybody packing.

When Viking started to move the basket around and stick his beak through the slats, trying to get out, I walked over to him to lift the basket. He hissed. I backed away. Hmmm, do vultures attack when scared? I hadn’t thought about that when I threw the basket over him.

Time to ask an expert. We found the phone number online of a rescuer. She instructed me to lift the basket from his backside and back away quickly. Yes ma’am. I’ll do that. Leaving my kids inside, armed with the cell phone, I feigned nonchalance and walked over to the basket (my kids were watching!), picked up a long stick, lifted the basket, and quickly backed up.

He didn’t move.

My “vicious” vulture sat there quietly and I was afraid that he was sick after all. I walked back inside, feeling quite like the wildlife rescuer in spite of my fear that things were not going to go too well. We watched him and over the hour, he began preening, stretching his wings, and finally, he flew home to the colony perched in the tall palms lining my street. We all cheered.

My son spent the evening watching the vultures soar above our yard. He was sure that Viking was rocking his wings in thanks. I love happy endings.

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