Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It's an ending day. And a beginning day. I asked my youngest today whether he felt he'd filled this year full enough with good things. He wants to change to another school so he can be with his friends. That's all he could think about.

I, on the other hand, think about this subject frequently. I know I don't fill up my year full enough with the right things. I waste too much time on trivialities and fluff. I know I'm doing it, and yet I can't seem to stop grasping at those stupidities that give me a temporary sense of accomplishment (like the card game Beleaguered Castles). I spent my middle daughter's whole babyhood playing on MUDs (Multi-User Dimension game--a text-based, coded game). I even coded for a MUD (wrote the code that makes the game work) for a little while.

It all came crashing down, though, when I realized I'd just squandered those precious hours for mental candy floss--gone with the first lick. Courtney's first steps were obscured by the need to kill another orc or figure out another quest. Sometimes I'd look up from a romp across whatever they called their country then, to see the sun beginning to paint the sky with the first golden gleam! I'd be horrified that I had played all night. And now...

Now I have nothing to show for all of those wasted hours.

I see my children doing the same thing. They'll even tell me to 'wait a minute' while they get to the next stopping place even though I tell them "It's a GAME for crying out loud!" They cannot see that they are throwing away this precious time hand over fist. This time while they are fit and lithe and young and lovely should be used for...LIFE.

But how can I tell them that when I still squander the hours I have left doing stupid things? Physician, heal thyself! Stand on your two legs and be a human instead of a thoughtless amoeba! Throw off the yoke of insipidity!

Now I'm getting off of here and only playing ONE game of Beleaguered Castles. Yeah. ONE.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Parachutes and Tiger Lilies

As the final hours of my son's senior year ebb away, I find myself waxing a little misty-eyed.

I can see the regret roiling in him and it brings my own regrets to the fore. He regrets stuffing all of his extra character-building, rounding-out efforts into his final year of high school. I know that he feels badly that he never got faster than a 29 second 100 fly on the swim team. He feels badly that he didn't even know he had any potential as a tenor until they begged him to join choir this year. He regrets just missing going to State by a hair's breadth. He wishes he'd done more in musical theater. Perhaps he even regrets not having run track in high school.

I feel the yearning in my son as he watches the last events of his childhood unfold, inexorably dragging him closer to that precipice of the unknown. He sees his friends taking that leap into the wild and terrifying abyss and wonders if his chute was packed well and will open.

H's regrets trigger my own, both for him, and for myself. I wish I had somehow done more; more for him, and more with him. As he tests his chute in preparation to take to the wind, I find myself already missing him. Why didn't I ever go and meet his Russian teacher? Why didn't I take him along to church choir with me when he was a freshman? Why didn't I ride him more to get better grades? Why didn't I talk to his English teacher and see if he could really write? He never showed me his papers after he hit high school. I can't imagine why I didn't go ASK except at conferences.

I remember my own failings in high school--my own wastes of time and energy. I spent too many hours anguishing over the fact that I was a weed, not a lily. Too many thoughts were centered on why I never seemed to measure up. There was always some much cuter girl hogging all the hunky boys. There was always someone less clumsy, or better at German (my dad was the teacher), or less clumsy, or more intelligent or less clumsy. I struggled in math and struggled in P.E. (I couldn't keep the stupid tennis ball in the stupid court. I don't know how many times I set off car alarms hitting cars.)

I forget the fact that I was on toe as a dancer, making stellar grades, beginning to sweep the art world in our school, touring Europe at 16, punching cards for the one computer in school, learning to climb and rappel, and cementing life-long friendships. I look back, now, and wish that I had danced more and worried less. I suppose that I was simply doing what every teen does at some point--dealing with the angst of finding out exactly who I am and what I am worth.

Now I am still evaluating the worth question. I am at the middle of my life, now. Somehow it feels like the end. Why does it feel like the previous half means more than the next? Why am I constantly feeling like my potential wanes with the seconds? Where is my capacity to break out of the dark, cramping earth and burst into bloom?

My boy may perceive that he is just one of those lilies which was caught slumbering still in the Spring loam, his potential still latent. He thinks that all of his friends have bloomed and he is doomed to fall bloom-less. I, on the other hand, have seen him blaze forth in all his tiger lily splendor. His talents, though somewhat un-honed, are there in abundance. He fills the air with riotous, flamboyant color. The infectiousness of his grin, his bright wit, the intensity of his dedication, and the will to do the right thing have all bloomed in him, auguring a fine career as a human being.

What of me? There is no going back, whatever regrets I have for not having seen or done everything. I stand, now, at the same kind of precipice as does Hunter. Ahead, only empty air. Have I checked my chute? Or will there be a very messy squashing sound as I hit the ground?

Will I be a weed or a lily? Will I rise above the earth, tuck my head into the sky, and see the face of the Son? Will it matter all of my life that I'm a dandelion or a tiger lily to other people? Or will I shuck off all of that angst and nonsense and just blaze?
I guess it's up to me. And It's up to me to show H. that same truth.

He is my bright, beautiful tiger lily.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Entitled

I had occasion to visit my child's educational facility today. It should be better termed a holding cell. As I walked past the open doors, I saw row upon row of blank, bored, over-painted stares. The 'Bumpits' and shorty shorts and peekaboo pants (the ones which can't seem to fit over the boys' rumps) all bore mute witness to the fact that those individuals were there, not to learn, but to mark time. Their stares seemed to dare anyone to try to pry them open enough to get one concept into the wasteland in their heads.

These are the children of entitlement. They know that they have merely to hold out their little manicured hands, and whatever it is for which they wish, will magically appear there. These children believe that they are entitled to all of the good things they can possibly ingest without thought for the sacrifice others have made to provide them. They fully believe it is their right to 'man' the joystick 24/7/365. When they are balked, they squeal like hogs. If you take away their cell phone or their car keys or their game system or any of their other toys, at best you get 'the look' which would freeze lava.

These little girls live for sex without responsibilities. If they get pregnant, "Oh well. Mom will raise it", thus perpetuating the whole sorry program. Or they're treated like princesses. The State will care for it.

What has caused this phenomenon? I am certain I am not the only one asking this question. Many Baby Boomers are looking with terror at the 'rising' generation. Where will we get the rocket scientists? Where will the physics professors come from? Who will write the literary masterpieces? Who will conquer cancer and the common cold? Who will care for us when we become decrepit? More to the point, who will care for these children?

This new generation is generally not interested. If the exercise is not exciting, fun, tasty, or makes them look sexy, the children of today will not be asked, lead, pushed, begged, pleaded, bribed, or coerced into having anything to do with it. If there is nothing monetary in it for them, they won't do it. And Heaven help you if you try to force them to it. They are Entitled.

It isn't all their fault, though. They are being trained to be this way. They are being groomed by nearly everything around them to be wards of the State. Everything they see on TV leads them to be desensitized, amoral, irresponsible, lustful, and uncaring. They are being groomed to be a generation of drones, who then morph into a generation of colorless, thoughtless, unquestioning workers. They will have no idea how to make a family and keep it together with love and dedication and loyalty. They won't know how to think independently. They won't know how to solve problems themselves. They are being told how to think and how to vote (at least until the vote is gone).

The funny thing is that this same treatise could have been written by many of the previous generations. I remember my own parents bemoaning the hippies and loose morals of my own age.

How do we stanch the flood? I'm not sure. It seems like a daunting prospect. We can teach our children to pray, to rise above their petty wants, to sacrifice, to serve, to be responsible. We can be the examples they don't have anywhere else. We can teach them about God and about the way things should be. We can love them. Most of all, we can hope. Will it be enough to help them swim upstream against the torrent of evil coming at them with bludgeoning force? I don't know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The One-Buck Vanpire

I drive a car of such a random undependable nature that I never know whether I will ever reach home alive or the trip will be relatively angst-free.

We got the 'ark' for a dollar from some fantastic friends who had come by a nice inheritance and no longer needed an oil-sucking hulk anymore. I was in charge of Cub Scout camps at the time and the van would be handy in hauling both people and supplies. It's a 15 passenger ex-border patrol vehicle with a host of quirks and flaws; for a buck, we couldn't pass it up.

We've taken it on several trips to Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico, and through Arizona. That van has chugged up mile-high peaks and through volcanic beds, past herds of deer and elk, across canyons, and out to the sea. I've hauled ten people plus all my camp supplies out of a snowed-in camp to the safety of the desert valley. We've gone four-wheeling and countless trips to the store in it. Somehow my husband keeps the vanpire ticking away with some kind of magic husbandly ju-ju.

A while back I was hit from behind by an illegal alien (possible retribution for its previous usage?), who then fled the country, leaving us with a $3000 repair bill. Thus started a long affair with various car repair shops. There have been at least two trips to the brake shop, transmission work, several changes of tires and a host of repairs done by my sweet husband in his less than spare time. Right now, it rattles loudly as the suspension is mucked up. Everywhere we go, the rattling of our van herald's the advent of the Murphy herd long before we pour from its doors.

This van's favorite trick is to quit randomly at intersections. The behemoth sails blithely out into traffic and dies dead. Life surges up out of my stomach and, choking as it passes my throat, sluices away, in a gush of past memories and present regrets. It leaves me shaking like an aspen leaf in the wind once the wretched van gets re-started. I gulp my guts back down and put the stupid thing back into drive.

As I drop my children off at school, I gaze at them, drinking in the sight of them, wondering if this is our last farewell kiss. They tell me 'good-bye' as if I'm going to a firing squad. Sometimes I wonder.

There was once an old lady walking her dog faster than my van was chugging. Her look of glee matched the annoying yap of her toddling dust mop. I only spared a glance, since I was willing the vanpire to go at least far enough to get to the house, since I was wearing my pajamas. I don't do the pajama thing anymore.

I have had to push that thing through intersections by myself (since our city police won't sully their hands helping anymore) and up hills to gas stations. At such times I must admit that I curse like a longshoreman. The crossing guard on the way to school knows my van and has seen my blanched face of sheer terror as the thing squats in the middle of her intersection. I can see her mouthing words of encouragement and advice (none of which is valid). I don't hear her as I'm too busy yelling for the kerschmackin' thing to GO!

My husband never seems to have these heart-stopping episodes. For him, the staccato sound of back-firing merely means that he's put on the gas a little too strongly. He calmly takes his foot off the gas and re-applies it and the car sails along just fine. I think he thinks my tales of traveling terror are pure bunk or my own inability to coddle the thing correctly.

I'm certain that you are asking yourself whether I am insane or simply incredibly stupid. Believe me, after a morning like this one, I am asking myself the same thing. I suppose I must say that it's mostly a supreme gamble, one which has most of my friends berating me for my negligence.

We are going to get a new car. Eventually. I just have a very deliberate husband, for whom change is difficult and time is short. Eventually, however, the planets will align, the forces of nature will converge, and we will put the vanpire out to pasture along with our other two rusting hulks. At such time, I, if I am still alive, will greatly rejoice.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spider and Solitaire

Survivor is a guilty pleasure of mine. I watch it for the sociology value. I used to think it might be fun to go on the show, but people are so hurtful and evil on there, that I think not, now. I'd rather go on Amazing Race and travel and do things from all kinds of foreign countries. Much less needing to back-stab on that game.

This season featured a visit from Boston Rob, a recurring nightmare of a player. For me, he epitomizes all that is wrong with the game. And that he got not only a million dollars last night, but also the $100,000 extra, makes my stomach do pike flips. He sat there in full view and wove his machinations very carefully like a big fat spider. Now and then he would jiggle a strand to see if his juicy, stupid, entrapped fly was still trapped. It always was.

Rob 'befriended' Phillip, a loon so crazy that people were trying desperately to get him off. They were amazed that Rob kept Phillip on the string. I wasn't. I knew Rob wouldn't take any of the cute little girls with him to the end without giving them that last little mercy killing sting to put them out of his way. Phillip was his meal ticket to the end because Rob knew nobody in their right mind would vote for the loon. What I couldn't imagine, was that if Phillip were really at all smart, why he would have continued to be obnoxious and loony at the very end, when it obviously could hurt him.

I have to say that there was one young man on there who impressed me more than a survivor has in many a season. Matt made it clear from the start that he was a stellar person. He voted with his conscience and tried his best to work an honest game. I LIKE that. What impressed me the most was that he made it no secret that God was the one in charge for him. Matt spent more time alone on the island than any other survivor. That to me means Matt is the Survivor.

I felt so badly for Matt when people voting for the extra $100,000 gave it, not to him, but to Rob, who didn't need it. I felt like Matt deserved the money much more. I felt like people were voting that way so that it would prove that God didn't do anything for Matt.

But they are wrong. And I was wrong. I was thinking about it this morning, thinking how badly Matt got skunked. But then it occurred to me that God never said he'd help Matt get a million dollars. But He did succor Matt through those times when he was alone and hungry and depressed. He did clearly help him get through more bouts than anyone else in the game. And Matt gave God the credit.

That's why I like Matt.

Boston Rob said he wasn't really a cutthroat spider in real life (I'm paraphrasing here), that he drew the line when he went home to his wife and children. But I don't think that's right. I think he is exactly the way he appeared in four seasons of Survivor. When push comes to shove, he shoves. He showed his true colors and Survivor rewarded him for it.

Matt (and before him Ethan) showed that a person doesn't have to be a jerk. I think they are the ones who win in real life. There were one or two other players this time, who, to a smaller degree, stepped up and were decent. I vote for THEM.
Rob needs to go get a real job, now. If he can.

Friday, May 13, 2011


I just watched Tron. I love how they play with light. I'm entranced with it. I'm entranced with the whole idea of light as intelligence, and beings of light. I love how a person's eyes 'light up' when they are happy and are dull and lifeless when they aren't happy. The eyes are the windows of the soul. When one looks out of a window, one either sees nothing, or one sees light.

We look up at the stars in the night sky--trillions of tiny points of ancient light. They are a scattering of diamonds flung upon the cosmos by a God who glories in light and intelligence. From a distance, our own world glows with the same light lent to it by our sun, as does our satellite. Earth becomes one of those little points of light.

It is written that our world will become one of glass and light in the end of this era (or is it the beginning of a new one?). I can't imagine being on Earth when such a thing comes to pass. Will it be a ballet of melting sand? A symphony of destruction? Will I witness it from a place of safety? Will there be a place of safety? Or will I be part of the melting river of light? Will I be a being of such surpassing whiteness that light pours from me and swirls round me in a crazy confluence of rainbows? I can't imagine knowing that much.

And yet, we are star seeds, planted here so that we may become beings of light.

I wish I could have used white or yellow type but it won't show up against my background.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


My son's Eagle Project is finally falling into place. I've been badgering him to get to it for three years, now. True to form, he waited until the month before his birthday to get started. To his credit, he's in three different choirs, the school musical, art club, swim team, and loads of church activities. He's not a lazy boy--just busy. Luckily he's fairly tractable and he gets things done cheerfully when he finally puts his mind to it.

The project has been fraught with problems from the start. First, the man who said he had a project down at the church ballpark strung him along and never got back to him, so this one was his back-up.

The people in charge of Colossal Cave park are often out of town or otherwise unavailable. They also sent over the wrong hinges for the gate and several of the fence posts were substandard. Several times they have canceled scheduled workdays without any notice, which meant that people were confused about when to come to help out.

Getting the right supplies has been interesting. Because the hinges were different than they previously indicated, the latches for the gates don't meet very well and we had to jury-rig something to make them fit. And the existing gate posts canted so far outward at the top that we had to shim the gates to make them even work, which meant that the wheels we bought don't work and we'll have to take the gates back off and remove the wheels. We'll do that when we get the cables for them.

Through it all, my son has been grace under fire. He kept people doing what they were doing, for the most part (a great feat in itself), and has been pretty good at trouble-shooting. I think he has earned this Eagle.

That said, now I have to go clear out there and put on a latch and a cane bolt to finish it off. I can't say I'm looking forward to it, but a mom does what she can for her eagle chick. Anything for a chance to see my son join that fantastic brotherhood.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Ode to M&Ms

O rounded O's which sit and stare
And make me anxious not to share
You taunt me ever with your taste
Which, though delicious, wrecks my waste.

You sit there waiting for my love
While I hover from above
Green one? Blue one? Orange? Brown?
The mind just boggles--makes me frown.

Shall I eat in twos or threes?
Shall I make you look like trees?
I'll make two sides of chocolate war
With greens on one side, reds before.

Something hits the orange side
Have to eat them. Purples, hide!
All too soon the battle's o'er
Now I must go and hunt for more.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Star Seed

He came up over the orb of the earth trailing a blazing, cometous glory of rainbow hues in his wake. He bent his new trajectory to match the bright curve of Earth's face, dipping like fiery crystal into the troposphere.

There was a thunderous crackling, tearing, roar as his wake burned a trail through the cerulean sky. "Here I rest," he thought as he streaked towards the planet's green-furred surface.

He felt old today--old as a quasar; as old as hydrogen.
"Here I rest."

And it was good.

Paean for a Dying Knight

Lie ye down, Sir errant knight
Lie ye down in the tall, tall grasses
Cover ye over with May rose
As your red blood stains the meadow.

Lay ye down your war-blunt spear
Also, your notch-ed great sword
Last breath mingling with the breeze
Last sight sees the raven.

No more to see the hills of homeward
Nor to kiss thy lover's lips
Gone are the banners bright and snapping
Gone are thy marching soldiers.

Hush, let the night breeze sooth your brow
Let the pain subside, now
Follow ye on to a new frontier
Away with you into the sunlight.

Bridget's Father

Bridget's tears cascaded down her cheeks as she listened to the song a girl sang about her father. Bridget had always wanted a dad like that--one who wasn't a walled up, impregnable castle. She was starting to forget the few times when he had actually talked to her without being stone cold angry. She remembered long ago as her daddy danced with her on his feet. He had been a great dancer. She remembered the joy on his face as they twirled around the room. It was so long ago, now.

Apparently before his stint as a medic in the Korean war, he'd been a happy-go-lucky guy. His friends had all loved his open, sunny personality. Since the war, and for as long as Bridget could remember, his remoteness had set him apart from the rest of his family. How she longed to come into his arms and have him tell her he was proud of her. How she longed to hear him call her his Princess and tell her she was beautiful. She'd try to ask him about his life and what he was doing or thinking, but he'd give her a one-word answer or merely smile a little inscrutable smile and go back to fixing the car, or cleaning his rifle, or some other important task.

Bridget's voice cracked as she tried to sing along with the song. Finally she left the singing to the professional. She looked over at the gaunt man in the bed. Her dad smelled like musty old papers, split pea soup and cleaning astringent. He wore an oxygen cannula and a heart monitor. An IV fed him pain meds on a drip. A tracery of new lines in his face bore testimony of the constant pain her father faced. Now and then he opened his eyes, but they were glazed over. She could see him retreating hour by hour further into that other world where it was sunny and pain-free.

Suddenly it became paramount that she get through to him. She couldn't let him go without connecting at least once. "Dad. Dad, can you hear me?"
His eyes opened a crack and then closed again.
"I know you can hear me, Dad. I just wanted..."
There was a long pause and then he rallied a little. His lips moved slightly but no sound came out. Bridget bent to hear what little she could.
"What...can you want...from me now?" His voice was raspy, like steel sponge scraping on the kitchen counter. What could she want? Tears coursed down her face and dripped onto the pillow. She shook her head, trying to negate the accusatory tone in his voice.
"You never...got...enough."
She stood upright and reached for his hand. The skin was papery and thin and nearly transparent. His hand shook with the effort of living, as if that hand was the only thing holding him here in this life.
"I wanted you to know that I've always loved you. I wanted you to be proud of me, Dad."
There was a long pause while he martialled his forces. The effort was costing him in pain. "You want...me to say...I love...you."
Bridget looked away, out the doorway to the nurse's station. She wanted him to say those words so much she could taste it. But, more than that, she wanted him to say them on his own. She wanted to have to drag a confession of fondness out of him about as much as she wanted a root canal without anesthesia.
"Not if you don't feel like it."
He snorted a little and took a ragged breath. "You'll never...know...how much..." He never ended the sentence. The heart monitor suddenly flat-lined and the alarm went off. Nurses and a doctor poured into the room and edged Bridget out of the way. They briskly went about trying to revive her dad, but he had gone.

Bridget stood there in a haze of anguish. None of the flurry of activity registered on her. She was caught in that last sentence. She shook her head and tried to stanch the torrent of tears. Searing anger boiled up to choke her.
"You're right, Dad. I won't ever know, now."

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I spent the day helping hunt down a friend's runaway son with her. We have been scorching the ground out from under him, making it uncomfortable for those who help him to run. I hurt for this fine family. I can't imagine the anguish they must be feeling, knowing as they do, that they love their son and want him to live happily with them; wanting him to understand their love and the measures they must take to keep him safe and help him to reach his potential.

We go to church and see these families who have such mountainous problems and we secretly rejoice that at least that is not our family. And then suddenly it is. We find ourselves facing things we never ever thought would happen to our own, back when we were wide-eyed innocents and planning out our perfect lives. For some reason we think that we will be the perfect ones, slipping unscathed through life's cavalcade of drama. We think for some reason that none of life's unconscionable, painful, or embarrassing disasters will stick to us like the 'oobleck' in Dr. Seuss's 'Bartholomew and the Oobleck' book. But they do.

Sooner or later we must all pass through the Refiner's Fire and be proven either a diamond of rare water or a smudge of dross. It is said that the only difference between a bit of carbon and a fine diamond is great pressure. We float through life hoping we will magically become a diamond, avoiding the massive stress, without which a diamond cannot be made. It will not happen. A diamond can only be made after having passed through the experiences that will perfect it, re-aligning bonds to make it not only the most beautiful of stones, but the hardest.

Christ himself knew these principles. He knew He could not fulfill the measure of His creation without passing through the fire to come out the other side. How can we, his little brothers and sisters, think that we can arrive where He is, without at least some of the same kind of testing?

The wonderful, saving grace is that we don't have to go through this process alone. We have Christ to stand with us, as Daniel's friends stood together in the Babylonian king's fiery furness. Christ has already passed through the fire, and now shows the way for us. He stands sentinel and helping friend and guiding light all in one. How very thankful I am that I don't have to do it alone.

I only hope that I can withstand the tempering process to emerge, if not unscathed, at least a diamond of pure water.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Internal Warfare

Half of my brain is partying today. It thinks it has the day off, since yesterday I sent my latest offering to a few Beta readers, entered a magazine contest, and started Beta testing a book for a friend. What more could one ask on a day when one's head was being pulverized by a migraine? I mean, really.

The more intelligent half is jeering and throwing popcorn and cans of unopened soda at the other half. Of course there is no holiday. The migraine was yesterday, Pansy. I have two books to finish writing (which I have been neglecting to get Rodeo Queen off the skids) plus three to re-write. Am I crazy? Then it answers itself: "Clearly. You've been Face-booking and playing Beleaguered Castles like you have all the time in the world. Get to it, idiot."

And then my other brain half gets all disgusted and goes to hibernate while thinking up awful and disgusting things to do to the other half.

Life is a party in my head...;o)