Of Dreams and Syrian Refugees

Gregory has discovered a way to wake up when his dream is not to his taste. He says he figured this out one night when he was riding a motorcycle extremely slowly back and forth until he was so bored that he looked for a ravine to plunge into so that he would wake up and quit the dumb dream. I thought it was a good idea, right up there with how I figured out as a child that if I wanted to keep on with a good dream, I could concentrate really hard on falling asleep again and make it play out how I wanted it. 🙂

Last week I had a nightmare that haunted me for a long time. I don’t usually pay much attention to my dreams, because I have so many of them, and they are mainly bizarre. But this one was so real that I woke up exhausted, like I had been fighting all night instead of sleeping. It seemed, in my dream, that I was fleeing through hostile territory with my children. My husband had died and we were alone, without a safe place to hide. Over and over evil men would approach us and try to snatch one of the children. I cried out repeatedly for help in Jesus’ name, and we would be left alone for a while in our endless wandering. If I could have found a ravine to drive into to make it stop, I would have. In the end we were all chucked over Niagara Falls because we wouldn’t deny our faith.

I struggle to make sense of this sort of thing. Without over-spiritualizing things, I felt like God was saying, “This is really how life is, and this is the fight you put up for your children against evil principalities and powers. You don’t need to be afraid, because you have the power of Jesus, but you need to be aware.”

A few days later I read an article about the struggle and privations that Syrian women refugees endure in their enforced homelessness in Turkey. It was like someone described my nightmare, complete with husbandlessness and evil men snatching the children. Maybe it was a dream to give me empathy so that I pray more. A few days after that I started a book set during the Spanish Inquisition. I am having a major case of story grip. But what is with this sense of deja vu?

Do you take dreams seriously?

Maybe you can tell me about that Niagara Falls bit? 🙂

In Which We Take an Excess of Cell Phone Pics on the First Day of Spring

March is adolescent, I think. She doesn’t know yet what she wants to be, so she tries out winter and spring by turns, without any apparent reason. However, she charms us with her possibilities, and we love her. After all, seasons are amazing. The turn of a season has to be a little dramatic to make us properly thankful. I have been switching out snow boots and rubber boots the whole month, depending on the caprices of the weather. Last Monday Olivia and I took our first bike ride of the season, wearing just light jackets. The boys were begging to take the first dip of the year in the pond. That evening they went skiing up at the Knob. For weeks we have been planning to have a First Day of Spring party, only they call it “Back to Spring” which cracks me up.

Addy confided her not-so-secret aspirations to have lemon cake with tulips on top. She had to make sure we all knew since she is “too low” to do it herself. Yesterday Alex spent a few hours in the kitchen, baking goodies. We cleaned the windows and hung our happy flappies.


Then this morning we awoke to this:


We decided to make our own sunshine, since clearly, it was the first day of spring on the calendar. First we did school and started the laundry, of course. Always. (Or not.) Then we spent an hour making these, and it was fun, fun.


As usual, I had a plan that I quickly scrapped and just let them loose with paper and stapler and glue gun. These are not true-to-tutorial  flowers, but I like them anyway.

Of course, everybody was hungry before we got our decor done. I have long ago scrapped exotic food for parties. Instead we just use ordinary stuff and pretty it up, use our fun dishes, and light some candles. Gregory helped me with the food this time. It was the spring party of our dreams, all but the tulips part, but Addy was okay with candies on her cupcakes instead of yellow tulips. 🙂 The little pepper flower in a cucumber pot was her consolation prize.

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And yes, I ate one of those cupcakes. Solidarity is so important in family life, wouldn’t you agree?


See out the window there? That is snow fuzzing down at an astonishing rate. But it won’t last long. That’s our mantra. This is my favorite kind of snow, the sticky, fairy-world kind. We dug the snow pants out of the box where I had tentatively stored them last week, and we went out to play in it.

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IMG_20150320_132008630_HDR This may be the result of too much Calvin and Hobbes.

Come what may, we know what we know about the calendar, and the dogwood wreath is staying on the door. (But the skis are going to the attic.)


I Blinked

And here we are at March 12. I am not sure how that happened, but it is a month of life happening at amazing speeds. I love when things start livening up, when the sun puts out actual rays of warmth, and all the water outside turns liquid and starts to trickle to other places. On the last day of snow the children wanted one more sledding party before the great melt began. I did this (on a Saturday morning!!!)

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while they did this.

The thaw… It is such a glorious gift, disguised in a whole lot of mud, of course.

That is what I have been doing, I think. I have been taking care of mud. On the floors, on the coats, the snow boots, the insulated pants, the gloves, the… Well, I don’t mean to bore you. You are doing the same, no doubt. Just yesterday we were planning a little outing to Gabe’s sister’s house while he attended an Emergency Nurses Association meeting. The girls wanted to wear the new butterfly dresses. Rita’s got muddy before lunchtime when she took a little foray into the backyard. She ended up with a full scrub down in the tub, and I found a jumper with tulips on it for her. When it was time to load up the Suburban, the little girls took another (unauthorized) jaunt into the backyard. Addy fell, her dress and sweater became a ruin of brown smear and her face full of remorseful tears. When we got to my sister-in-law’s house, their over-eager puppy jumped up on everybody with muddy paws, so there we were again, but at least we tried.

I have been cleaning the mud on the dog here, too. She still has her crate in the basement to sleep. You know what dogs with silky medium length hair do when they come out of the wet, don’t you? “Oh, oh, oh,” said Jane. “Funny, funny Spot.” Only it isn’t funny when you are responsible to keep a semblance of order and cleanliness.

Speaking of the dog… Remember that research report that my son was laboring over? Well, she snitched it out of his desk and shredded it in an unguarded moment. That was a small earthquake in our household history! I did feel very sorry, seeing as he was on the third draft, with illustrations in his folder and everything neatly compiled, ready for the last draft. I felt so sorry that I told him he wouldn’t have to do it over, on one condition: he wasn’t allowed to storm about it anymore. That brought instant peace to the situation. We won’t have it to impress the evaluator this spring, but the dog ate it and that is that.

Another momentous occasion in recent local history was the felling of the backyard trees. A lot of our trees, both in the yard and the woods, are ash trees, and they are all dying. I am not so tree huggerish when I start seeing limbs falling after every storm and I see the leaves dropping already in July. Disgusting little ash borers. Gabe talked to different experts who all said the same thing. The ash trees will not recover. So. We cut them down. I mourn their 40 to 50 years of growth, all gone to smash in a five minute encounter with a  chain saw.  But. “You have to let them go, Sally Jane.” (And that quote is from Letting Swift River Go, not Dick and Jane. It is a great children’s story that deals with losses and changes.)

So the trees are down and what a tangle that made in the backyard! Rita built nests of sticks and blankets and lived out there for hours in the sunshine. She even got a little sun kissed on her nose. I washed all the blankets and little sleeping bags, and the next day she was at it again, only with a bigger stick pile to hold her off the ground better. I wish I had something she could hatch.

Gabe and the boys spent an entire day hauling firewood and brush out of the yard. While they were at it, the power line guy stopped in to talk about the trees and brush along the road, directly under the power lines. The last time they cleared that out I cried because that was my privacy fence. That was 12 years ago, and I guess I must have grown a bit since then, because I philosophically accepted the inevitable. “You have to let them go.” This one was a silver maple, leaning perilously toward the house in its declining years. I held my breath and prayed while he was sawing it down, but all went according to plan and the deck remained unsmashed.

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And this is how the sky looks, so I am happy.

To My Friend with the Sweet Smile

You are a very brave person. Life has not been easy for you. In fact, you have faced staggering personal losses. There is often a lingering feeling of abandonment in the face of it all. You don’t understand the how and the why, and privately you ask God because it would be really nice to know.

And yet. Every morning you get up, and you choose to hope and to believe that the best is yet to come. You arm yourself with the fact that Love, though it is inscrutable, is there, holding you, healing you. Then you go out and face the day, smiling. You do things for other people that you have no obligation to do. You choose not to wallow in your right to be miserable, and so you bring cheer and comfort to others.

That smile. I love to see it on your face. But I know that it comes with a very steep price. You show us the reality that things which die will live again, that seeds may be buried in dirt, but they swell with promise and come up alive.

This day I want to honor you and to tell you that I know you are brave. May the sun shine warm on your face today.