Piemas XI: The Piemas We Deserve

On Friday night at 6 pm, I stumbled in the door after a long week at work. There was no pie starter. There was no dinner plan. The house was unclean. Not a single pie had been made. I wrote a list of what needed to be done in the next 18 hours and stared it it with dismay.

Dressed a la mode

By 7:30 my parents had taken the kids out to dinner, my husband was a dervish of cleaning efficiency and I had both the lard and butter pie starter cooling in the freezer. And when 1:59 pm hit on Saturday, I was ready. I’d made six pies: lemon meringue, blueberry, pecan, two chicken pot pies & a moussaka. Some people (Adam) quibbled about whether moussaka is really a pie. But, it’s my party and I’ll pie if I want to. The house was clean and all things party-ready. These are the miracles of Piemas and beloved helpful relatives.

Apostles of Pie

I think I say this after every one of my fake holidays, but this was a particularly fine Piemas. There were many (many!) pies, but I think we actually ate more of them than usual. I wonder how many kilacalories were consumed in my house on Saturday? Lots. Lots and lots. There were vegan pies. There were meat-rich pies. There were pies of impeccable character and origin, such as apple pies. There were pies that showed that my friends are geniuses. Evil geniuses. Somehow five large pizzas were also demolished.

Evil genius at work: this looked even better than the Youtube video pie it was based on. It tasted pretty decent too!

The conversation was also a particularly fine vintage. There were all sorts of connections made across slices – people with shared interests, people with shared professions, people who only see each other every four months at our parties, people who had never met before. We talked about backing up log trucks. My parents told embarrassing stories about me. There were board games a-plenty. The conversation ended on a particularly liberal arts note with an animated discourse on the nature of evil and whether virtue can be taught.

Boom Sauce makes philosophers of us all!

It was a little unfair of the universe to make this the daylight savings weekend, though. Of all the mornings to lose an hour of sleep before church, this was a rough one.

Wide ranging conversations

There are few things I feel as fortunate in as in the people who populate my life. I feel like I’m surrounded by a richness of amazing folks. The people in my life are funny, kind, thoughtful, intelligent, caring, RSVP consistently to parties, and are phenomenal cooks. (They also have passionate and divergent ideas about Oxford commas, which made me edit that sentence no fewer than 4 times.) In the still of the night after the last merry-maker has gone home, I often fall asleep feeling like I’ve won the lottery in the greatest wealth of all – friendship.

Some of the ladies on the street

To all who celebrated with me this weekend – thank you. To all who could not be there – you were missed. To all who wished they could be there – I wish so too. May you all find as much joy and merriment in your lives as a sequence of made-up holidays supported by enthusiastic friends has brought to mine.

Happy Piemas!

Valediction to a Cutting Board
by Adam Flynn

A cutting board, alone it sat
Abandoned on my cold, cold porch.
A brown cenotaph, long and flat
Lurking yet with quiet reproach.

Oh why then was it not retrieved?
What weighty judgement was laid o’er
That gave no option for reprieve
And left it lying by my door?

Or worse, a more ignoble fate –
Was Lethe’s cup instead to blame?
Did feast, and drink, and hours late
Rob sweet Mnemosyne of her name?

So may your heart of stone be moved
And claim this prize if yours it be.
For certainly it may be proved,
It really don’t belong to me!

The forlorn board

PS – If you have pictures from Piemas, please add them here!

The family that puns together

I just said farewell to my extended family, after several days of extreme togetherness for my grandmother’s funeral. We’re a farflung lot. We came from Boston, Minnesota, Iowa, Washington and California for the celebration of her life. I think that since my uncle enlisted in the Navy out of high school, the four siblings have never all lived in the same state. (Maybe briefly in the ’80s?) The far-flungness gets worse with my generation. (At one point, my family of birth lived in four households across all four continental US timezones.)

The four siblings - then and now
The four siblings – then and now

You might take from that an idea we don’t like each other. Nothing can be further from the truth. These people are awesome. They’re hilarious. Entire conversations were conducted entirely in pun. The jokes flew thick and fast. But, generally, they were kind jokes based on wordplay instead of insult. We spent a ton of time catching each other up on our lives – the full parts of them, including the complicated challenges and feelings. I’m related to some kind, intelligent people who are interesting to be around. They listen. I sometimes feel like I won the family lottery.

There are many ways the celebrate the life of a person who has died. With three pastors in the family, we did the funeral in grand style. (Although none of the three actually conducted the funeral. There was just a wealth of liturgical knowledge and some extremely moving speeches.) My aunt and I had a bit of a reunion tour – I rented a trumpet. She was often my accompanist in high school, and we played several pieces together which was awesome. Grandma had arranged much of her funeral (including picking her lavendar casket and the funeral home) but the only part of the service she’d specified was that my aunt sing “The Silver Cord” – a hymn I’d never heard before but which was a beautiful expression of faith. (I can’t believe there are Fanny Crosby hymns I don’t know! Few chances to learn them either – they’re no longer much sung.)

Rehearsing before the funeral
Rehearsing before the funeral

But in addition to the traditional services of the funeral, we remembered my grandmother – and each other – in other ways as well. We ate meals prepared with the loving hands of her daughters and daughters-in-law that were her favorites. We looked through pictures together. We told and heard stories of her, and the family. We read through some of her letters. We made jokes about a notebook that said “Ruth’s Notes” and was totally blank. (I used it to record the funeral planning.)

My favorite remembrance was heading up to a place that was very dear to her. A bunch of us went up to Yosemite to spend the day. Grandma had loved Yosemite, and a lot of the warmest stories came from camping trips (when she’d taken the FOUR kids up by herself, sometimes!) I am a mountain girl myself, and it was great to see the places of story in legend in real life. (The superb weather didn’t hurt either.) We even found the “Indian Caves” which have an oversized place in family mythology. It made my heart glad.

Can you spot the uncle and brother in this picture?
Can you spot the uncle and brother in this picture?

It was hard to take our leave of each other (despite the fact I am pretty sure we were all completely exhausted – it was as action-packed a funeral week as I could imagine). It was just that we enjoyed each other so much, and it’s hard to see how or when we might be together again. May we all be so lucky as to have families who we can spend a week in close quarters with and leave with only warm feelings and a wish to be together again soon.

With iron pen and with lead

Family portrait
Family portrait

My family was here for Christmas. My mother and father and brother joined my husband and sons and I in the cold turning of the year. Puzzles were solved. Puddings flamed. And even in the cold of New England winter, my mother and brother would put on their coats and boots and go for a walk.

A statue from Lindenwood.
A statue from Lindenwood

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the walking and talking. We took long turns around the Lindenwood Graveyard, where I walked when I labored with my youngest son. In between pointing out my favorite gravestones (Yes, I know it’s weird that I have favorite gravestones. Whatever.) we talked. We talked about family history and lore. We talked about my brother’s new call and pastorate in Denver. We talked about the boys and how they were growing. We talked about my sister and her family and how we missed them.

“You know,” my brother said “Some people think I must not care much about my family, to be willing to move so far away from them.” We laughed.

“Well,” I pointed out, “We four families do now live in all four continental US time zones.” I can see where someone who counts on proximity and constant familiarity would look at the facts of our family and think us unloving and unconcerned. Nothing could be further from the truth.

And then we turned to Job. I’m reading the Old Testament in my Humanities Book Club. This is the club that brought me Herodotus and Thucydides. We’re on year five and semester three. Semester three includes selections from the Old and New Testaments. It doesn’t say, in it’s lovely calligraphy, just what the selections are.

So as the resident Christian, I was nominated for the picks. What do you select? If you need to give a cultural grounding in Christianity based on readings of the Bible, what do choose? What do you leave out? Do you follow the lectionary and disavow all knowledge of Chronicles? That’s where the really good stories are! You must read Genesis, of course, but can you understand modern conservative Christianity without Leviticus? Of course there have to be the Psalms. And if you don’t read Isaiah, the New Testament will feel more random than ordained.

For the first session, I decided to stick to the Pentateuch. That led to a long discussion on whether God was in fact cruel for hardening Pharoah’s heart. It is an interesting thing, as a born and bred Biblically-saturated Christian, to start from scratch in explaining the God of Jacob to someone who has never read the Bible, and is starting at the beginning. The Old Testament God is much harder than we remember in our Sunday School lessons.

So after that, I had to tackle propose that we tackle Job and Ruth. Ruth because Ruth is the very definition of faithful love, in my book. Job because I love Job, and I think that Job speaks to one of the great questions religion must answer: why do good people suffer and bad guys do well?

That’s what I talked to my pastor mom and pastor brother about there on the hill between the tombstones. Job, and what Job tells us in his hard but beautiful poetry.

Oh that my words were written down!
Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God
whom I shall see on my side.

Job: 19:23-27

As I explained to my mother and brother, what I love so much about Job (in addition to the words which are some of the best poetry in the Bible) is that it takes that great problem of understanding WHY God chooses to do what He does, or why there is suffering… and basically replies that the answers are beyond our understanding. Thane said to me the other day, “I wish no plants would ever die, mom.” I look at the glory of a flower, and I understand it. Isn’t it sad that the daffodils fade in the matter of days? That the glory of the spring lilacs is so fleeting? But do you not, fellow grownup who has studied any part of biology, understand that if no plant ever died… the entire planet would cease to function and we along with it? Well, perhaps so does God look at his creation and understanding it in a way we cannot, and sets it upon courses that we, with all our wisdom, cannot understand.

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: …
“Has the rain a father,
or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb did the ice come forth,
and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?
The waters become hard like stone,
and the face of the deep is frozen.”


In other words, “What do you know about any of it? Nothing!” I find that liberating. I don’t understand because I can’t understand because I am not actually God.

Grey and I were recently watching NOVA (again – the third episode) and it showed how the universe was at its most orderly at the moment of the Big Bang, and with entropy comes increasing chaos and unpredictability. I found myself struck by the thought of an omniscient, omnipresent, immortal presence. After a certain amount of order, the first few eternities, wouldn’t you be tempted to create a moment of chaos – of free will and chance – out of your order just to be delighted for a moment by the joyful and chaotic complexity? It does not mean you do not rejoice in the daffodil’s bloom – to the contrary – but autumn is a marvel too.

So this I explain to my kinfolk.

“Well,” pronounces my brother, “I always thought of Job as the ultimate book of messianic prophecy.” (This earned him a say-whaaaa? My earlier snippet aside, there’s not a whole lot of Messiah going on.) “Job,” expands my brother, “when he accuses God of being an unfair judge, wishes that there was someone who could argue his side against God. “There is no umpire between us, who might lay his hand on us both. If he would take his rod away from me, and not let dread of him terrify me, then I would speak without fear of him.” (Job:9:33-35) “That right there is what Jesus does for us, and what grace is for us. Jesus is the umpire, and grace is the taking away of the rod of judgement.”

Huh. Ok. Cool!

“You know,” says my mom, “Job was never my favorite book.” And we talked instead of the New Testament, and the calling of Christ, and how hard it is to pick hymns when you need to get the bulletin done.

We walked together, hands in our pockets and breath glimmering in the moonlight, and were a family headed down the hill and back towards home.

My family’s two pastors at my brother’s ordination. The bald one in the middle and the lady standing next to him singing.

Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary

Thane sets out the cookies for Santa
Thane sets out the cookies for Santa

It was midnight when my fellow-Santa and I laid the final touches around the tree. The cookies artistically partially eaten. The massive stuffed animal with the bow. The careful interspersing of presents – the ones from Santa outermost to indicate the jolly old elf had laid them there himself. We were weary from a lovely long day of cleaning, cooking, preparing, and caroling at our church. Our children had fallen asleep in record time. We’d had a lovely chat with some old friends in the neighborhood, and now we were ready for repose. We lingered, looking at the tree lights, looking forward to the morning’s joyous faces.

Ready for the morning!

The next morning at seven, I thought I heard some noise downstairs. “Aha!” I thought. “My children bestir themselves. Perhaps they’ve started to open their stockings! I don’t want to a miss a minute.!” I shook my beloved awake and headed down the stairs, muzzy-minded.

To my shock – my horror – a scene of wrapping mayhem lay below me. My sons were in the midst of a piranhic frenzy of quiet unwrapping. Well over half their gifts lay strewn around in the shards of wrapping paper littering the floor.

STOP! STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP! I sat on the stairs, weak-kneed, as they looked up at me with confused faces. “This,” I said to my similarly week-kneed husband, “May be funny later. Maybe.”

Perhaps this was the culprit of the Great Christmas Mayhem!
Perhaps this was the culprit of the Great Christmas Mayhem!

After a good number of deep breaths, a pot of coffee and a very long explanation to the children that we open presents TOGETHER like we have every Christmas for their entire LIVES, I satisfied myself that there was an excellent chance that Grey really believed he was being kind in letting us sleep in. We talked through the presents they had already opened, and slowly enjoyed the rest together. We did enjoy ourselves, once our hearts got back to a normal tempo.

I only wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a picture of the carnage, with the sweet, innocent confused faces wreaking it.

This is what most of this week has looked like around here

Twelve hours later, my brother, mother and father had all arrived in my house, bringing loot and Christmas cheer with them. As I worked on the roast lamb, I became increasingly uneasy with my menu. The lamb, with carrots, celery and parsnips, had seemed a quintessentially British dish, well served with Yorkshire Pudding and Christmas Pudding. But there was tomato sauce. The veggies were cubed small. And spice numbers 5 and 6 were turmeric and saffron. These are not British spices. On further review, the dish was downright Indian. So I scrapped the Yorkshire pudding and substituted rice, and I’m delighted to report it was absolutely the right call. (And a delicious recipe to boot!)

A beautifully set table with lovely people
A beautifully set table with lovely people

I likely warned my family 10 times that night that I would not be offended if the Christmas pudding turned out to be inedible. It seemed unlikely to be good. 4 cups of raisins and only one each of flour and sugar? Dates and citrons? Suet? This incredible double boiling maneuver – done twice? I’d be lucky if anyone ate two spoonsful. The hard sauce – equal parts butter and powdered sugar – might be eaten straight. But I doubted even it could rescue this unlikely looking concoction. I poured the brandy on with liberal hand and set the pudding to blue flame, lasting far longer than I thought it would and bathing the wide eyes of my son in eerie light.



And so has this time with my sons and my husband, my mother and father and brother been. I hope you, too, have had a joyful and restful holiday!

I have pictures of our Christmas celebrations here.

Also, since all the Christmas Cards that will be sent have been sent, you can see pictures of the great photo shoot we had this autumn here!

Bright Mocksgiving Morn

The turkey is in, the house is clean, the pies are done and only slightly squished by non-edibility-impacting malfeasance. The cats are exploring the new living room configuration and the children are under strict instructions to play quietly without messing up their room.

I think, while I cook, a lot of you. And I feel grateful. So in a stolen moment between turkey and dishes, let me shrae some things I’m particularly grateful for this morning.

* The complete recovery of Tiberius-cat. Yesterday he got his feeding tube removed. He had gained weight since his last checkup, and is pretty much completely recovered. Fatty livery rarely recurs, so… for the most part we are simply done, after a very difficult month. I’m grateful that our hard work and love paid off with health.

* The long, joyful service of the pastor of my church. He’s an amazing preacher, excellent minister, kind person and rollicking honkey-tonk piano player. His only fault is in being an awfully hard act to follow.

* The embarrassing riches of friendship that are mine. I have few lonely moments. My life is filled with close friends, acquaintances, friends of friends. I have friends of long-duration, new friends, parent friends, single friends, geek friends, faraway friends and friends close enough that I sometimes forget to knock when I invite myself into their house at 9:30 pm. I never thought that this wealth of friends would be my lot, and still find myself looking in disbelief to discover it’s true.

* My work is so many of the things I want out of my labors. It is interesting, important and educational. Every day I have more to learn than I can master. I had the flexibility to take care of my cat, but I go to work every day feeling like I will have important things to do, and that I am growing in my career. It also allows me to afford things like veterinary care for my cat. It comes with a hard toll to pay in fatigue and absorption, but I try not to complain about getting what I have asked for.

*Finally, of course, my family. I love reading advice columns, and the stories I hear make me grateful of loving, thoughtful, undemanding parents and in-laws. My own little nuclear family is made up of people I find interesting, and whose company I enjoy. My sons are fun and funny and growing more independent. My husband is helpful, thoughtful, kind and loving.

As Calvin says, Halcyon days are usually only awarded retroactively. I do feel as though, perhaps, I’m in the midst of a halcyonic stretch myself right now.

Gone to Melville Castle

Last Saturday, our wheels cut through the early morning mists on a journey North through just-coloring leaves towards our summer haunts in Lincoln New Hampshire for the New Hampshire Scottish Highland Games. As we sped away, I turned on a playlist of ALL THINGS SCOTTISH, landing as I always do on “All the Best from Scotland v2“. (No, I do not have and have never heard volume 1.)

This album has been, uh, enjoyed by my family often, and Adam and I certainly know all the words. And as we passed red-limned swamps and yet-green-groves, Melville Castle came on. Since there’s an off chance that you are unfamiliar with this apex of Scottish accomplishment, here’s a version for you to listen to:

Anyway, as the song went on, a small – anonymous – voice from the back seat joined in the chorus. When the song ended, he asked for it again. And again. When the album was allowed to continue, a wistful voice said that it couldn’t wait until it could hear it again – a wish soon to be granted.

We arrived at the games – a chaotic and crowded enterprise with pipe bands to the right of you, Red Hot Chili Pipers to the left of you and Haggis straight ahead. (Yes, I did have haggis for lunch.)


No one would dare make fun of these guys for wearing pink and skirts.
No one would dare make fun of these guys for wearing pink and skirts.

I explained my Scottish heritage to my sons. I told them the rated-G version of what it meant to be a Johnstone of Clan Johnstone. (“Now what’s your clan crest again?!”) Then I took them to the Clan Johnstone tent where their great-uncle was presiding as Clan President (US) over the annual Clan Gathering. Accidentally showing up just during the clan meeting, my eldest son (the one with the Johnstone in his name) proposed that there should be awards such as best video game player (he would win) and best pie maker (an apparent shoe-in for his mother).

The boys with their Great-Uncle
The boys with their Great-Uncle

We wandered the booths, bought shortbread, watched the world championship caber toss, and saw more people in tartans than I thought possible. (I mean, I don’t have a tartan skirt and I really want one and am a Johnstone of Clan Johnstone! How do so many people gear themselves up so well and so expensively?!) My sons did this super cool bungy jump flip thingy. And a few hours later, we left the buzz of the bagpipes behind and returned home.

Not Scottish, but fun!
Not Scottish, but fun!

My son demanded “Melville Castle” on his DS. While I was at it, could I please add the depression era anthem “Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound”:

These two songs have been ringing through my house ever since. Two young voices in my backseat, this morning, were arguing through the lyrics of Melville Castle (is it ‘what will all the lassies dae‘ or ‘what will all the lassies say’? and singing together.

So music, this folk music – the kind sung by people you know who are like you – has been much on my mind lately. On Wednesday, word came through my Facebook feed (is it heretical of me to admit that I really love Facebook, and how it has helped me preserve relationships that otherwise would have long since withered?) that one of my old Tacoma Youth Symphony alumn friends was in the region, and playing house concerts.

Ryan McKasson was a violist when we played through Sibelius and Rimsky-Korsakov together in the first flowering of youth. We probably played together for four or five years. So when my Friday was inexplicably free, and my babysitter (God bless having a babysitter!) was available, and … I found myself in a house in Lexington with the lights on, original art on the walls, an expensive grand piano and cheap folding chairs. Ryan recognized me, remembering my instrument if nothing else. We chatted briefly, and then the sparks flew.

Is there a better way to listen to music than in a small group of music lovers, in the aging house of retiring patrons of the arts? I watched the shy boy I once kind of knew strike like flint against the steel of his pianist friend, challenging with fiery eyes to go one farther and one better. Physics cannot explain how fast those 20 fingers flew across string and ivory. I was rapt, and entranced. (As an aside, Ryan is one of the best all-over performers I’ve seen. If you ever have a chance to watch him play, do so. And try to figure out a way to stay late for the after-concert-session that is apparently an inevitability.)

Ryan's skill was only exceeded by his passion
Ryan’s skill was only exceeded by his passion

There were a few moments, in this modern-day-salon, where I thought about the choices of my life. I come from a corporate job, a skilled craftsman in the new economy. I sit in a cube from 9 am to 5 pm writing emails and connecting threads of different thoughts to weave into a complete cloth of strategic understanding. But perhaps I could have been a musician, an artist. Perhaps I could have chosen to write books or perform trumpet, or teach. I did not. Even in the rosin-dusted air, although I am wistful for my choices, I do not regret them. While there is no art without the artist, there must also be an audience or there will be neither art nor artist. The Tacoma Youth Symphony made my high school years joyous, but it also taught me to be the audience and patron. I gladly and cheerfully accept my role, and would love to practice it even more actively!

You can see pictures from the Highland Games, plus a few more fall pictures here.

I saw a shooting star

The stars over Mt. Rainier

Saturday night, I saw a shooting star.

That may not sound significant or momentous to you. Perhaps you live in a place where you can see stars in the night sky — more than the 20 or so that outshine the ambient light of cities. Perhaps you have ample opportunity, on your drives home, to pull over and admire a particularly brilliant night. Perhaps you can’t exactly recall the last time you saw a shooting star — you’re sure you have, sometime — but it doesn’t matter because astronomical events just aren’t that important to you.

These may be some of the ways you and I are different, then.

Ten years, now, I have lived in places where you could not see shooting stars. For ten years, I have lived within a ten mile radius of the City of Boston, with the orange omnipresent glow that ranges, with the humidity, between present and overwhelming. Ten years, the same feeble 20 stars have been my rare nightly companions. For nearly half that time, approaching five years now, I have been tethered to my home at night. It’s not entirely safe to walk alone in the dark, although I do so. And almost always, one of us (my husband or I) must be at home to listen for the late night cries of our children. I could not see the stars even if they were clear, because I cannot look.

Before that ten years, the stars were very much a part of my life. New London, Connecticut has lights. Certainly. But many fewer and weaker and further down the hill. I used to love walking around Harkness Green in the evenings – from the soft first evenings of September through the bitter colds of February and back to the noisy darkness of May. Sometimes alone, often with friends, I would walk: South overlooking the estuary of the Thames, West towards Winged Victory and the party noises emanating from Freeman, North facing Harkness Chapel then East across the new sun dial. My eyes ranged out and up. It was dark there (with one particular light that always seemed to either go on or off as we approached). The stars were present in greater numbers. For one glorious year, the Hale-Bopp comet hung directly over Knowlton, where young girls had danced with Coast Guard cadets in long-gone times.

My love of the skies had not started with college, though. Even before that, I lived high in the mountains. Growing up, I could see the Milky Way spread out across the sky. I didn’t know that for the urban world it was an unthought-of myth. I remember one particular night when I was driving home, late, and the astonishing brilliance of a moonless starry sky was so incredibly distracting that I pulled over and just looked until I was thoroughly chilled. I used to go to the graveyard — a flat, long horizoned space with no lights — to watch the stars in the dark of the night. I recall one rather ominous occasion when a herd of elk traveled across the clearing while I was there. I rarely brought a flashlight, and the large thumping shapes were frightening in the dark of the cemetery.

In all my sky-gazing youth, the most precious moments were the shooting stars. Have you ever seen one? Do you remember it? My passion for them started during a summer camp. We’d gotten rained out from our backpacking trip, and were sleeping under the stars in fields just to the north of Mt. Rainier. It was during the Perseid meteor shower, although I didn’t know that at the time. It was a super clear, high, moonless night and the stars fell nearly every minute. I loved them. I loved the surprise gift – the reward of watching and waiting with alertness. They were thrilling. Since then I’ve considered meteors to be gifts, benedictions, blessings from a loving creator.

I do not know exactly how long it’s been since I last saw a shooting star. More than three years, almost certainly. Perhaps more than five. I do make visits to places where stars can be seen, but often it’s cloudy that particular night, or I cannot leave my sleeping babes, or the moon steals the stars from my sight. But on Saturday, after all my boys had gone to bed, I crept away from the dying embers of my New Hampshire campfire and walked in darkness to a small clearing near the lake where the loons mournfully cried. I laid on my back in the grass on a warm summer’s evening, marveling at how many more star there were than even my memories portrayed, still knowing I was seeing only a portion. And just before I stood to return, there across the sky sped a streak of light, gone before my eyes could turn fully to take it in. A shooting star. A blessing and a benediction. And I returned with joy to my family.

Heaving a great sigh of contentment

I think of myself as a generally happy person. My life is a good one: I have family, work, faith, joy, hope and a pot of tea at my elbow. As I was reading the updates that I last posted back from 2004, though, nearly every one was super stressed. (I’m not posting all of them, I’m only posting the good ones, which is about 1/20.) My friends seem to be the same way. I could swear one or two of them start nearly every post with the thesis “Today is not going well”.

I’m currently reading The Happiness Project on my husband’s Kindle, and at some point while talking about relationships, she says that it takes something like 5 positive interactions to “erase” the effects of one negative interaction. So even if you talk 50/50 sad/happy, you will come across as sad. However, when you live life against a backdrop of love, comfort and sufficiency, the exceptional elements of your day are LIKELY to be bad. I live such a rich and joyful life that most of the surprises will almost by definition HAVE to be negative — there’s not much up to go!

So I wanted to take a moment to appreciate the fact that I’m exceptionally happy right now, both in the “right this minute” and the “generally” sense. As far as “right this minute”? I’m on day 1.5 of my 2 week sojourn in relaxedness. I spent the morning very productively doing errands and chores that needed to be done. I got up on time and without whining (which hopefully made the morning more pleasant for my long-suffering husband). I got the boys ready and out the door and to their appropriate locations. I dropped off two huge bags of clothes for charity, bought an outrageous amount of cat food and dropped off a stool sample (4 months late). Then I came home, walked to the post office, bleached the comforter, folded the church tablecloths, cleaned off the porch, potted a plant, adjusted some furniture in the attic, vacuumed and steam cleaned the carpet in the entry way, and cleaned up the “for yardsale/charity” section in the basement, pulling out four MORE bags of clothes to be given away. My productivity was rewarded with a tuna sandwich.

Then I came up to my bedroom, which is just lovely in the noonday light with the purple walls. I have the new reading chair my MIL bought me, which is very comfy. I have created a section of the room where I can sit and read or write. I think that with my new job, this will be my blogging-spot, possibly in the waning hours of the evening. (Up until now, we haven’t ever had any of our computers in our bedroom. We have an office. I hesitated, because I know it’s not great for sleeping, but since I’m hardly ever insomniac, I figured I’d give it a try. Plus, it can all be out of sight.) I have a pot of flowering tea on my night stand, a beautiful tea cup and a bowl full of sugar cubes. I have a book, and an “Excellent” connection to my wifi, which I just used to spend 20 minutes looking up information on Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs. (Did you know he was an opera singer? And was raised Presbyterian?) I have nowhere I have to be and nothing I must do until daycare pickup tonight, although I hope for another bout of productivity towards the end of the afternoon.

In general terms, it’s just a great life. I was doing something the other day, and thinking that it would be more fun to do if my husband was there. How awesome is it that after 10 years of marriage and 14 together (ok, almost) I still just long to be with my husband? And that he wants to be with me? And the boys are awesome. Last night I sat on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and my eldest son, and we watched the first half of the Superbowl together. I explained why all New England Patriots fans can’t stand Payton Manning and who the quarterback is and we watched The Who and he cuddled into me. He showers me with kisses, and “Grey attack!”s me with hugs. He tells me he loves me. Thane, I discovered, is also pushing through a molar. This took me by surprise because he hasn’t gotten his canines yet, and usually they come first. This might be why he’s been cranky recently, in addition to ear surgery. But this has expressed itself as the desire to be held. He’ll lay his head on my shoulder, arms around my neck, and lie contented and still, curls tickling my mouth. They both get the hiccups when they laugh too hard.

And I thought, as I cleaned the carpets this morning, I really like my house. It’s more than big enough. The floor plan is super-practical. It’s comfortable, and has the feel of a home. It’s strong and sturdy. It has reasons it needs us — for example whose brilliant idea was it to carpet the entryway! But it really feels like home. And I like my town, and my church family is just a great joy.

I know how richly blessed I am. I know that the future will hold different things than the present. But right here, right now, life is full of joy.

37 weeks pregnant — almost there!

I had a very busy and wonderful weekend, which hopefully I’ll share in more detail later. But I’d like to take this moment to note that as of today, this pregnancy is full term. A baby born at 37 weeks is not considered premature. Blueberry’s lungs are ready. Everything is in place. He has hair and fingernails. He’s fully baked. I’m now allowed to start hoping that those contractions are actual real labor and not just uterine preparation. This is the beginning of the end of my pregnancies, at least as far as I plan.

I have gotten pregnant four times, miscarried twice, given birth once. I have spent a total of, um, 24 months (two years!) of my life pregnant. (I went 10 months pregnant with Grey, am 9 months pregnant right now, and miscarried at 3 months and 2 months.) Fertility and pregnancy have been a huge part of my reality for the last four years. And that focus and reality are coming to a close for me, and soon. For most of us in developed countries, the procreative period is a brief and intense one. Mine is almost over.

The funny thing is I don’t feel old enough to HAVE children, never mind old enough to be finished having children.

But mostly, my point is that I am full term. I can start cheering for an arrival now. You can start wondering anytime I don’t post quite as frequently as normal.

I would probably be more excited if it weren’t for a conversation I had with my mother yesterday. We were looking at 2 generations — my mother, my sister and I. We three have given birth to 6 children between us (my mother three, my sister two and so far me one). Of those six children, not a SINGLE ONE has arrived on or before their due date. I was probably the latest at a calculated three weeks late. My mom says that maybe my sister was the earliest, at a quasi-induced week post due. This little boy MIGHT be different, of course, and break the mold. But odds are that the women in my family just gestate a little longer than standard and I’ll still be sitting here waiting for another 4 weeks or so.

On the flip side, all 6 of those births were largely uneventful (ok, my sister might have some choice words to say about her childrens’ shoulders). We all managed to largely avoid induction. And none of us ended up needing a c-section. I think I’ll take the extra week or two in exchange for the excellent outcomes that seem to go with them.

Still, from now until 5 weeks from now. The week count-down increments by 1. We’re almost there.