one small candle

This is a gratitude emergency.

Last year, for weeks before Thanksgiving, my Facebook news stream was full of little things that people were thankful for. This year, not so much.

Ok, so things in the world aren’t exactly perfect right now. The air out there is charged with the uncertainty that accompanies transition and that moment just before hope is lost.  On the scary scale, uncertainty is right up there with mannequins and clowns.

Jobs are uncertain, relationships are uncertain, health is uncertain. The news is dismal, the weather is weird, and people are cranky.

However, there is something about today that has just got to be great. Start small if necessary. Was your pancake good? Are you wearing your favorite sweater? Is your chair comfortable?

At the beginning of this year, I wrote about my blanket. I was so stressed and tired that I thought I had lost my mind, with the telltale sign being my proclivity for wearing this blanket as a cape. Eleven months later, I am again wearing the blanket as a cape. It’s fine, I get it. I’m a lady who wears a blanket for a cape as I sit typing in the dark early morning hours. It’s soft and warm and I’m happy to have it, even if it makes me look crazy.

You may, as I do, hate the idea that Black Friday starts on Thanksgiving Thursday. Let’s be thankful we can protest by refusing to go out there and get in a shouting match over a panini press with a stressed out woman in a Santa sweatshirt. My plan instead, is to eat an extra piece of pie and lay around, hard, just to make a point. Join me, won’t you?

The Muppets are back, and early reviews are good. You can say “wocka wocka,” and do your best Janice impression (everybody needs to have a Janice/Swedish Chef/Beaker impression at the ready in their backpocket.) Your kids will get it finally and you can feel relevant again!

Don’t forget the people. Of course we are thankful for the people  who love us unconditionally, and support us no matter what. Let’s not forget the ones who show up out of nowhere, and bring a little sparkle to the day, even if they don’t mean to.

Our church campus doesn’t get quiet during Thanksgiving week – it comes even more alive. Part of my job is to organize a large Thanksgiving Eve dinner that leaves me depending on an army of volunteers to show up the night before Thanksgiving and help welcome and serve a couple hundred people. Without fail, I have my annual dream a few nights before the dinner, that this is the year the volunteers forget to show up. That dream, along with the one where I am treated to unlimited shoe shopping, has yet to come true. Instead, on Thanksgiving Eve, I am once again surrounded by people who are happily hauling vegetables, counting spoons and lighting candles, though there are plenty of other places they could be.

And then, sometimes, the most significant wallop of gratitude comes from the smallest moment.

Part of John’s job is to oversee our church’s hosting of a shelter for homeless families the two weeks surrounding Thanksgiving. The campus practically bursts at the seams with our lovely guests and the volunteers who arrive in droves to tutor, cook, clean, sit and visit. I walked in on the action a couple of nights ago….not to lend a kind and helping hand, but to track down someone who had something I needed. I came in with an agenda, stomping around in a hurry, when a shelter guest approached me – a boy about 11, the same age as my eldest son. He shook my hand and introduced himself with a strong voice full of cheer and respect. He chatted for a moment before he excused himself, book in hand, to find a quiet spot in the shelter to read. I wanted to yell after him, “When the day comes, you have my vote!” Instead I stood dumbly staring after him as he disappeared behind a curtain.

“That kid’s amazing; he’s going to do great things in life,” John gestured to the boy, after noticing I’d been struck speechless by confusing emotions –  awe, sadness, guilt, frustration that there are kids in crummy situations, and affirmation that kids  – any kids at all – are capable of such poise and manners. I had come in to the shelter with my thinking eyebrows and gameface on, and that boy was the one who had graciously welcomed me to his very temporary home, which on most days is just our church’s Fellowship Hall. I left, not brimming with gratitude for my house, hot meals or creature comforts, but thankful that I’d met someone who is out there doing what we are all tasked with….reflecting light, joy, hospitality, and kindness into a world that could really use it.

“There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of one small candle.” – Anonymous

I am thankful for you! Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.

giving the boot to getting the dirt

I hit rock bottom last week on something that nobody should really hit rock bottom with.

It was a Friday night, and as I was about to go to sleep I perused the entertainment headlines like I tend to do, oooohhhh…every night and every morning, every day of the week. There it was… a horrible terrible headline insinuating in a snarky tone, that I might have enjoyed under different circumstances, that my favorite celebrity couple was on the outs, and on the verge of a breakup.

I read the words over and over in disbelief. What was the feeling that was welling up? No…it couldn’t be… what is that? Panic? Sadness? Worry?

The offending “article” was not even from one of my reputable high-end elitest go-to sites like E! Online, TMZ, or US Weekly. I died a little bit of embarrassment every time I clicked on one of 30 or so related headlines, posted on sites like celebritypoppycock.com and youretoooldtobereadingthis.com, and dontyouhaveanythingbettertodo.net. I scrolled through, thumbs flying and eyes scanning back and forth across my tiny screen like I was (best show ever) Alias’ Sidney Bristow trying to memorize and decipher pages of code before being discovered in the secret offices above the party she had infiltrated in another fantastic disguise while her partner Dixon pretends to be a bartender or a DJ downstairs… but I digress.

Each story cited the last terrible story as a legitimate source. I should have shrugged, turned off my phone and read something more worthwhile, which would have been absolutely anything else in the house. But no. I read every last gossipy word, then I lay there in the dark, sad. Sad for the couple*. Sad for myself. “Well,” I thought as I lay pouting, “there goes my weekend.” There. Goes. My. Weekend. That’s when I realized, I might have a problem.

Celebrity gossip was changing the trajectory of my day.

“Tomorrow…,” I thought. “Tomorrow, I will read those something elses, and I will regain the perspective of an adult with a thoughtful and well informed world view.”

And so I tried it. I pulled out a stack of magazines from our coffee table and picked the most serious looking back issue of Time I could find…Joel Stein’s Awesome Column wasn’t even in it. And I read it cover to cover, the entire time thinking, “I’m back to being a serious adult. I’m very actively not thinking about celebrity gossip. Who cares about that drivel? Look at me reading about the 2% economy, unemployment, our failing education system, troubles in the Middle East, stalled American innovation, rising airline prices, ugly Washington politics, uglier cancer, the Miami Heat, and rhino poaching. This is fun!”

I thought I was sad when I was reading celebrity gossip…but grown up news, consumed in large intentional doses, is much worse, thus answering my long lingering question, “why did I ever start reading celebrity gossip in the first place?”

Not wanting to turn to anemic summer TV, I needed something else as a distraction. iPad Boggle. I could dedicate my pursuit of intelligent input to playing this delightfully whimsical spelling puzzle game! I would be exercising my brain, which is the exact opposite of celebrity gossip. Then I remembered my iPad Boggle thing from a few months ago when I first got the app. I’d ended up on the couch nearly getting carpal tunnel syndrome from shaking the iPad to “toss” the letters into the wee hours of the night, my fingers flying (Sidney Bristow style again, I like to think) only to end up making the same stupid 1 pt. words just about every round: eon, eons, tones, tone, tons, ton, ones, one. What really killed it was John yelling from the other room, “I can hear you Boggling from here!”

So I guess I can’t avoid them any more; I’ll go back to books. Our house and offices are strewn with (mostly) very good books on faith and theology, in varying stages of being read, or studied, or annotated. But an occupational hazard is that those can sometimes feel workish when you’re looking for a summer read. John, while out of town, sent me books from my wish list like one would send flowers: Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and my own copy of Stephen King’s On Writing (brilliant!). John sends flowers too, but books keep better.  And now, thanks to my friend Margie, I also have The Help sitting right there. No matter what room I go to, it’s there, eerily calling out…. “Read me! Hurry, before the movie comes out. Everybody else has…they are going to take your girl card if you don’t.”

Books are longer, and bigger, and heavier, and they don’t tell me what was happening 27 minutes ago, but they will certainly be a worthwhile anecdote to fretting over the economy, or the celebrities who I don’t know, and who don’t know me, and who I’m almost certain aren’t lying awake wondering what I’ll be up to tomorrow.  

*I will not name the celebrity couple because I do not want this post coming up when some poor sap like me catches word of the hopefully not true rumor, and frantically Googles additional stories. Also, you’re better than that.

ode to a pastor on Easter

Being married to a pastor, and working at the church myself, has caused Easter to be thrust into the forefront of our consciousness. Big time. The church calendar is built around it, and thusly, so is ours.

If you’re in some form of Christian ministry role – whether you sing in the choir or set out the coffee or give the big sermon –you might be doing your stretches, and warming up the old pipes tonight. You’ve been thinking about Easter for weeks, nay, months. If you’re a Presbyterian, you get to wear the white stole, and pack away purple for a few months. You’ve spent the week guiding people through the darkness in anticipation of the light. Hopeully you’ve said, “It’s Friday…but Sunday’s comin’” because that is fun to say.

Maybe you’re on for the sunrise service and heading off to bed. Maybe you’re trying to find someone to be a parking volunteer, or a last minute replacement for a sick usher. The bulletin’s done, and the sanctuary is clean. You know that you’ll see people tomorrow you’ve never seen before, and you’ll likely never see again. I don’t know how you guys on the chancel do it on the regular Sundays – you get up there and you’re funny and warm and engaging and eloquent (I’m looking at you Johnny!) You don’t break into a sweat with all of those people staring at you.

And then there’s Easter. The place is packed, and everybody is like, really staring at you. They’re uncomfortable in their itchy outfits and tight shoes. They’re ready to hear what might be a very familiar story in a new way, but it can’t be too out there, or you’ve ruined Easter. No pressure.

It doesn’t matter how many people are sitting in your seats. It’s not their butts you’re interested in, but their hearts, right? Tomorrow, you’re busy, yes, and you’re the one everyone is looking at. But don’t stress, because if all goes as it should, you’re not the one everyone is thinking about.

Happy Easter. Sunday’s comin’! Enjoy your nap.

(weirdsies)

After a dozen or so false starts (again), I sat down with my box of cookies to plunk away and finish up this post. (I might magically find more time to write if I committed to bring a box of cookies every time I go to the computer). I noticed a pattern in what I’d already fitfully written. Nearly every kooky and meandering phrase I typed was kissed by a parenthetical thought (oh my gosh, I love that). This is where the weird part of me who loves to edit would go through and clean them up, (and roll my eyes at myself, while I took another bite of cookie). But in a roundabout way, (hang with me here) it kind of illustrates how there’s a second layer to everything this month. Nothing’s been straightforward or expected or without my editorial input (much to the dismay of many, I am sure). So I’m going with it, and I’m leaving the parentheses, which I suppose is darn close to putting one’s inner monologue out there for the world (scary). So, for you grammar lovahs, instead of wincing every time you see a misplaced paren, have a cookie.

February is the most deceptive of the months. So unassuming and short, and then when it gets here, it’s like, “what in the h-e-double hockey sticks is going on? I’m a mess!” It feels really quite anti-climactic to say, “Well, it is after all February. We’ll get through this.” And “We all know what February is like,” nudge, nudge. Oh yeah, smart guy, what’s it like?

On paper, it’s great. You’ve got the Superbowl, Black History Month, Groundhog Day, two 3-day weekends (thanks Abe!), Valentine’s Day, the Grammys, and of course, the grand dame of late-winter-though-every-year-I- forget-that-it-doesn’t-take-place-in-the-spring event of the year…that’s right, the Oscars. And this year, we’ve thrown in bizarre weather (which has given us my new favorite word, snowmegeddon), an honest-to-goodness revolution, and a skeezy congressman with an iPhone (this is not a political statement. I’m just anti-shirtless dudes inviting you to the gun show, while snapping a picture of it with a camera phone, and then having it run repeatedly by every news outlet in the free world, that’s all.)  However, in our house, we’ve thrown in our family’s first experience of having to manage three overlapping sports, drama, choir (I’m obviously not the one in choir), a few major endeavors at the church, a flat tire, John’s noble reentry into academia, (I can’t not think about macadamias when I hear this, which is probably why I’m not the smarty pants who has to do all the fancy reading) and a cat that has figured out how to crawl all the way inside Zachary’s box spring and who insists on drinking out of our water glasses. (We are now forced to all drink out of, what John will only refer to as, sippy cups). And February doesn’t even get Fat Tuesday this year.

Last week, I sat around a table of bright, funny women, and we were discussing Revelation. Yup, the book of Revelation. (It was assigned and pre-planned and everything – it doesn’t just happen, like I thought it would when I went to work for a church.) That book is full of weird stuff that people throughout history have been pointing to as sure signs that the end is most certainly, nigh. (I’m pretty sure my dad would have thought the four horsemen of the apocalypse would be clad in bellbottoms). Anyhow, I brought up the weirdness I was feeling and observing, and everybody chimed in with their own tales of weirdness and February misgivings. Since we’d ruled out Armageddon with nervous chuckles, my first question, as it always is, was, “Is it a full moon? It feels like a full moon.”

“No but, it’s a strong crescent,” somebody said. That makes sense too, I thought, while I nodded thoughtfully and solemnly. (This absolutely supported my unsupportable hypothesis that the stupid moon is going to make us all crazy.)

Part of my problem, was that I was in the middle of a calendar crisis. Just that morning, I had stood in front of my color coded whiteboard calendar, with a hot cup of tea and a frown. It looked like a clown had thrown up on it, and I was depending on a lot of people, and a lot of grace, and maybe a miracle or two to get through the week, and perhaps even, the month. Everybody I know who plans events, me included, were starting to run out of months where we could put something on the calendar and actually expect people to show up. You can’t pick January because people are still recovering from the holidays, or they’re in Tahoe. You could do March or April, depending on how Easter & spring breaks fall, and how many Tahoe ski weekends people are trying to squeeze in. May is out – sports! June’s busy, nobody’s around in July or August. September is completely taken up by school stuff. October is a veritable cornucopia of harvest carnivals and soccer games, and then people will unapologetically laugh at you if you suggest November or December. Hello? We’re in Tahoe, duh. And sure, yeah, the holidays.

My 2nd favorite book from childhood is Mexicali Soup (the first is Miss Twiggly’s Tree, of which my own childhood copy is being lovingly cared for by Jacob). A large family moves to America from Mexico. The unfailingly patient mother is making her signature Mexicali Soup, and one by one the family members insist on the omission of an ingredient from the dish for a variety of reasons. By the time she serves her meal, it is a big pot of hot water. February was the last month I was clinging too before I was left with a big pot of hot water.

So just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, and that I’m ready to go and kick February in the shins out of sheer frustration, I’m surprised again. Granted, we’re just now half-way through the month, (and though I promised myself we wouldn’t, preparing to deliver the sugariest of sugary Valentine candy to pre-schoolers no less). But suddenly, the projects I thought I could never pull off at work have been fine, fulfilling, worthwhile, and dare I say, fun. A few extraordinary people have stepped in at exactly the moment when I needed them the most. We discovered that Trader Joe’s is still selling their candy cane sandwich cookies (or what I like to call, writing companions in a box), Girl Scout cookies have arrived (TV companions in a box), and I’ve seen two of the movies that have been nominated for Best Picture, (that’s 1/5th of the nominees, a spectacular ratio considering how many babysitting hours that amounts too.) And alas, the package I thought was surely lost in the mail, arrived safely.

February may be completely weirdsies, with that wayward r right there in the middle of its spelling. But its quirkiness is what makes it most representative of what life is like…unpredictable, hectic and living in the shadow of the longer more robust months. It’s full of hearts and sweets, furry rodents, political and historical relevance, inclimate weather, and just enough sun to seed the hope of spring. And of course the people. The people who can mysteriously and simultaneously bring me great joy and great frustration as they drift in and out and around…on their way to Tahoe.

let’s talk about the weather

The sun was out last week. It’s February 1, and I came thiiiiiis close to putting my coats away. Like away away, in a box labeled “seasonal” so I could shove them behind that box of VHS tapes that I still can’t part with even though we don’t have a VCR. (What tapes are those you wonder? I’m glad I assumed you asked, The Wedding Singer, She’s All That starring Freddie Prinze Jr., LA Confidential, the two-tape set of Titanic, and every episode of Twin Peaks,…of course.)

This weather hiccup is an annual occurrence in California. There are a few days every winter that are a total tease – where you get sunshine and warmth and those precious opportunities to push the button in the car that says “AC.”

Then of course, it rained this weekend. I was working on the church patio signing folks up for this and that, and trying to cheerfully answer questions while futilely attempting to convince Zach that animal crackers are in fact cookies, and not crackers.

My darling husband, on his way into church at the crack of dawn, and on his birthday no less, called to let me know that it was raining, and I should dress accordingly – he’s good that way. So, I brought my rain coat. It’s not a fancy church rain coat, with a belt and adorable buttons. It’s a legit waterproof raincoat meant for outdoorsy people (hey, I know some outdoorsy people), with a hood that was built to cover my entire head. It also has HyVent, which I assume is revolutionary coat technology invented in a lab complete with a mock church patio where they create multiple weather scenarios, specifically to keep me comfortable in inclement outdoor greeting situations.

So there I stood, saying hello to the scores of people streaming by, and apparently opening myself open for all kinds of comments about the sturdiness of my gear, my favorite being, “Wow, you look ready for anything!”  Oh, if only that were the case.

Just know that I know that if you actually live in a place where inclement weather conditions like, snow, and sleet and ice are a way of life – you are a stud. In fact the weather headlines for the past few days have included the word “bracing.” When you are bracing yourself for something, it’s usually not good. I can’t say that I was bracing myself for the intermittent showers over the weekend.

I know you have to shovel to get to your car and go the store, and factor in wind chill. I married into a snow dwelling family, I’ve seen this lifestyle in action. I’ve been at their house when snow has collapsed through the skylight, and when you have to cover every inch of skin just to go to the car. I’m guessing though, I was insufferable, asking everybody I came in contact with if they knew that it was 20 below, reminding them I was from California and adorably new to this. I of course called my parents to report the temperature and the the good news that, in spite of the catastrophic sounding temperature, I had in fact, survived the day.

Today, more than a 1/3 of the country will get a snow day, and you might be one of them. I know you have snowblowers and bigger jackets and warmer boots and shovels and scrapers. Good for you! And I mean that in a serious, non-smart-alecky way. Snow and ice living is hard, and treacherous. I am more than happy to give credit where credit is due…and it is due to you, my tougher, less whiny, and far hardier friends. I totally own my weather wussiness.

I love the sun. I looooooooove it. I am super pale and freckly and should relish in the fog and the cold, like I’m sure my ancestors did. But no. I found myself driving to lunch the other day in a particularly chipper mood, ready to treat myself to some flame broiled goodness simply because the sun was out and it made me happy. The music was loud and poppy, and I was smiling like an idiot, and thinking about maybe, just maybe, sticking my head out the window for a moment while I drove. I wanted to create a Twitter account in the drive-thru, just so I could tweet about it.

I like to think I was built for sunshine, because I know what happens when I’m deprived of it. The day that John and I moved to San Francisco, nearly 15 years ago, we were newlyweds. We’d driven a U-Haul up from LA with a couple of annoyed cats in a carrier and our buddy, Bouncer (that’s his name, not something we moved with – though it sounds fun when you take out the comma – “hey look, buddy bouncers are on sale!”) It was August, so I thought my choice of tank top and shorts was a reasonable one. But there I stood in the back of the moving truck, at 4:00 in the afternoon, guarding our 1970’s oversized wicker Gilligan’s Island style chair, shivering and wondering what exactly we’d gotten ourselves into.

That’s the day I knew that things were about to change. Sure, new hubby, new job, new friends, yada yada, but oh my, it was gong to be cold here.

Our first nights in the City, we walked through the fog to get pizza, Chinese food, tacos, and even Pierogi. The foghorns were loud, and ok, maybe a little romantic, but our apartment was terribly damp and comically cold. In the morning, you could see your breath inside, and it was always wise to wear a second sweatshirt for lounging. Years later when the walls kind of started to fall apart, we found that the building had been insulated with newspapers from the 1940’s. But that was part of the undeniable charm of the place, and most certainly the source of the mold that had grown in our suitcases.

There were more than a few days where I’d be headed home on the 38 Geary bus, squished in the aisle or trying to keep my face away from the rear end of the stranger standing at my side who was holding the rail above my head. It would be gorgeous outside, but ahead I could see the bank of fog starting to creep in, and I could point at it and glumly say, “See that cloud? That cartoony looking grey mass? That’s where I live.”

We eventually moved to Marin County, and while John mourned the loss of his precious fog, I would have a dizzying sense of euphoria as we drove home across the Golden Gate Bridge each evening, leaving the grey of our old neighborhood behind for the much more hospitable sunshine. Did you know that Seasonal Affective Disorder is for real? It is. I was suddenly ready to go do things! To go outside! I think I may have even suggested we go on a walk once!

And though talking about the weather is a clichéd cop out for a discussion topic, we are all fascinated, because the freaking weather can easily determine the content of our day. We talk about it for a few reasons – a) it’s kind of a big deal, b) it’s also truly sometimes the only thing we have in common with the person we are talking to c) it’s often the one science any of us have any working knowledge of and d) we have absolutely no control over it, which is where it gets exciting. I have at least three weather related apps on my phone, and during most months, I’m usually just bracing myself for temps in the low to mid ‘60s.

I’m thinking of you my wonderful snow bound, ice bound, blizzardy friends who get out of school today, or have just spent the morning digging out your car. I know that wherever you are, you probably look like you are ready for anything.

hey man, thanks.

Once again, Thanksgiving week has turned out to be one of my busiest at work. And although, some might beg to differ, it’s not retail. Church has been completely abuzz this week with energy and all kinds of activity –  people carrying boxes, rolling carts, and yelling questions to each other across the parking lot. And though I might be running around yelling “Wow, it’s busy! And it’s cold! Can you believe how cold it is?!” I totally have the warm fuzzies. Because it seems entirely appropriate to me that church would be a hub of gratitude.

I’ve thought a lot about gratitude, watching all of these people and reading your wonderful, real, funny, tender Facebook updates about the things you are thankful for. And if you sit down and think really hard about what it means to be thankful, I mean really hard, like the kind of thinking you do when you randomly fixate on the chicken/egg dilemma, it will knock your flippin’ socks off.

And when you think that hard, it becomes pretty clear that even though they can sometimes give you a headache or make you want to hide under your desk, the greatest blessings God sends us, whether we like it or not, come in the form of beautifully flawed people and the little people things that they do, often when we least expect it. We are gifted every day without deserving it, and it is such a treat and a humble honor to think of the kind things that people have done for seemingly no reason at all. Invisible little blessings that when they are all put together, are sometimes the things that simply get us through the day, or even change the trajectory of our month. I’m not talking about generic people out there somewhere, but specific people with faces and everything. Know what? That’s you – I’m thankful for you. Yup, you. You might not even know you’re doing it, but you are and it rocks.

Thanks for the homemade soup last week. Thanks for inviting me to your wedding. Thanks for complimenting my hat. Thanks for the nice email out of the blue. Thanks for your understanding that I haven’t been able to return that email as fast as I should and that I didn’t call like I was supposed to. Thanks for the gift card. Thanks for lending me that book. Thanks for helping me out on this event, and that one last year too. Thanks for the advice on that thing. Thanks for lunch. Thanks for making me laugh. Thanks for driving. Thanks for calling. Thanks for grabbing me an iced tea. Thanks for the baby announcement. Thanks for leaving that cookie on my desk. Thanks for sending me that funny video, even thought it wouldn’t work on my computer. Thanks for offering to feed our new kitty when we’re away. Thanks for posting such funny Facebook comments. Thanks for giving me your last Kit Kat. Thanks for reading this blog. Thanks for the flowers. Thanks for agreeing with me. Thanks for confirming that I am not, in fact, crazy. Thanks for digging Twilight with me. Thanks for putting up with me, even though I’m totally annoying when it comes to Twilight. Thanks for being so nice to that lady, when I just didn’t have the energy. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for letting me love you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

And because I care for you – I beg of you. Please don’t go to Kohl’s at 3:00 am. Stay up late and play a game with your friends. Eat a second piece of pie. Watch a movie you’ve seen a thousand times, but do not go to Kohl’s at 3:00 am. It will not make you feel better. It is scary out there. Not because it’s completely dark, and you’re hanging out where nobody has any business being that early in the morning. It’s scary because there are people out there who will not think twice about taking you down if you stand in between them and that talking doll/flat screen/video game system/electronic picture frame. I went out early once– it was for an all-terrain remote control car. I mean, thank God I was there right? I got it. I was a winner. Jake played with it and played with it. And by that, I mean he played with it exactly twice. The closest it got to all terrain was driving over the other toys that lay forgotten in its path. Plus, getting up early is hard.

the carob chip resolution

So many nights this week, I’ve turned this computer on and just sat here. Always after I’d finally gotten the boys bathed, jammied, storied and in bed. OK, so some nights the bath didn’t happen, but the jammies always did and so did the goodnight prayer, so I’d call that a success and I’d sit. And then it would be really quiet in the house, and I’d think about it and decide it really wasn’t a success after all because I’d lost my patience right at the end there, and I used not-the-nicest voice, and when I delivered more cups of water to each bedroom it was with a frowny face instead of a smiley one.

So I’d go back in and kiss their sweet heads whispering that I loved them, and I’m just tired which of course is my problem and not theirs.  I’d pad back out here with my hair in a messy ponytail and stare again. Sometimes at the blank screen, sometimes at the wall, sometimes at the TV. Occasionally, I’d mess around trying to create the perfect Pandora station. None of it though, could take away just how insanely tired I felt. Then I would think about John and the rest of the group in Africa, and how they’re up at 5 a.m. to carry around bricks and climb homemade ladders, and then I’d feel pretty stupid. And then I would think of all the people in the world who do that every day but with worse circumstances and worse ladders, and then I’d feel even more stupid. I’d be hopeful that the mere realization that I was being a ninny would make me alert and inspired….and that maybe I’ll write something I’m happy with, and plan the menus for the week, and organize the photo cabinet.

And then maybe I’d teach the boys how to make lasagna and I’d take down the mountain of t-shirts I haphazardly toss on the top shelf of the closet, find a few to give away, and perfectly refold the rest organizing them by color. While I’m at it, I’ll get down under all the beds and couches and deal with whatever I find there. I’ll write that stray thank you note from July. I’ll take care of the backlog of birthday, baby, anniversary and graduation cards and presents that haunt me every time I look at my calendar. I’m going to once-and-for-all get rid of the candy shelf by the fridge, replace it with dried fruit, carob chips, and almonds, and then rearrange the Tupperware. But I don’t. So I turn this computer off…the computer that feels more like an enemy now than a friend, and wonder if maybe I’ve very recently, just this week in fact, developed a not-too-serious, but just-serious-enough medical condition that makes me tired and unproductive. That must be it. I’ll probably be able to get a very sappy and concerned sounding note from my doctor.

So now instead of sitting comatose in front of the computer, I’m laying in the dark wondering how soon I should go in to get my diagnosis confirmed. Gah – forget it. I don’t want to have to make an appointment. You know what? I’m going to start going to the gym again, and I’m going to be so much more disciplined about morning devotions and eating almonds and carob chips and then….then I’ll have the energy I need.

But then today, the day we’ve been counting down to, is finally here. John and the group arrive on UAL flight 977 at 11:23 am. A journey that began three flights, four stops, four countries, and two days ago. The parents, siblings and nervous teenage boyfriends with their flower bouquets (how cute is that?) cheer and clap and whoop and holler as our loved ones descend the escalator. My boys even stop punching each other long enough so they can cheer too. It’s very exciting. Exciting for us and for the kids…confusing for the people on the escalator who are not with our group.

The big smiles on the travelers’ faces begin to wane as the minutes tick by and the wait for their luggage extends. There’s a lot of hugging, and a little bit of crying. But once the carousel starts up again, the wistful looks disappear, and people get back to business, snatching their belongings and high-tailing it out of the automatic doors into the sunshine, presumably to eat a burger and take a nap.

Once our now reunited family gets home, John hangs in as long as he can, listening to the boys march around earnestly blowing their new vevuzelas (thanks John!)…even taking them to the park before finally collapsing into a well deserved slumber.

And now here I sit… quiet house, three sleeping boys, cool new Pandora channel, and finally more typing than staring. Feeling like no less of a ninny for moping around exhausted, but buoyed enough where I think I’ll keep that candy shelf after all.