July 29, 2008

How I Ended Up on the Other Side of the World... Without a Diaper Bag

I used to despise overhearing mothers discuss their babies bowel movements. That was then, this is now. On Saturday, I called my friend Jesse, who lives over 2,000 miles away with an urgent - you guessed it - baby poop question. So if this has become such an important part of my life, how did I end up on the other side of the world without the diaper bag?

It all started with the missing lawnmower. When we recently became the proud tenants of of a duplex that has a yard full of dandelions, I spent 3.5 hours weeding a 1' x 2' patch. I had some profound thoughts about the importance of Jesus pulling sin out of our lives from its very roots... and decided we needed a way to mow those dandelions. Somewhere out there was a lawnmower with our name on it. We just needed to find it and buy it.

Simple solution: Drive less than 4 miles to Wal-Mart and purchase a lawnmower. I could hear the Farmers voices subliminally echoing through the recesses of my mind, "The Farmers never pay full price." Simple solution vetoed. Look out craigslist, here I come.

Option A: Drive a mere 30 miles to the bellybutton of nowhere to pay almost full price to a respectable farmer for an almost new lawnmower.
Option B: Drive east (ooooo, I'm using "mainland language") 6 miles, embark on a ferry, meet an unknown entity on the other end, and buy his cheap lawnmower.
Yep. Option B.

Unknown entity (sounds like a big black guy) says, "Well, I could meet you in about an hour at the ferry docks, but no later."
"Sure." I reply calmly. - hang up - "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa"

Snatch up half-year old.
Husband and I leap into the car.
30 seconds gained by using remote for automatic garage door opener (thank you, husband).
Drive west to ATM. Drive east to ferry docks. Park as ferry is about to leave.
I grab the "stuff" and the baby, Husband pays for parking.
Run down the ferry ramp (half-year old thought this was hilariously funny).

Ah, triumph. I feel the wind in my hair as I taste the salt spray and watch an island of evergreens float by. I love ferries, and summer in the northwest, and my family, and I... just forgot the diaper bag.

We step off the ferry in suburbia and walk right past our lawnmower. The big black guy phone voice was actually a little white guy. Go figure. We find ourselves on the ferry docks with a lawnmower, stroller, half-year old badly needing a diaper change, and 1.5 hours to kill. I thought it would be hilarious if husband pushes the lawnmower while I push the stroller in our search for civilization (aka diapers), but a ferry-angel locks the lawnmower in a storage closet for us instead.

One mile later, we find Joe's , a restaurant that changes it's theme and menu every quarter. Guess what Joes current theme and menu is? Hawaii! Discovery: poke made in the northwest does not taste like poke made in Hawaii. Here, I also spot a family with 2 babies... and where there are babies, there are diapers.

This picture compliments of the ferry ride home.

Now I have a memory, a lawnmower, and a diaper in my purse.

July 28, 2008

When a Dim Light Goes Out

Reaching to the back seat, she handed a Kleenex to the diapered and runny-nosed boy that sat calmly in his car seat, nasal discharge flowing down his upper lip.
"Here Aiden, use it please. No, no! Don't throw it. Now, here's another one. I want you to wipe your nose just like I showed you. You're a big boy, you can do it. Good job Aiden, now you have a clean face again! You're such a big boy! Now hand Mommy the Kleenex, thank you sweetheart.

Smiling and kicking his feet against the seat, Aiden's bright hazel eyes looked out the window in constant desire for toddler stimulation. Watching the trees pass by, he suddenly yelped "Mommy! Mooooooooo!"

Glancing to her left, Christine saw the cows her son had picked out from the vast expanse of greenery. "That's right, those are cows! What do the cows say Aiden?"
This time his response was even more passionately delivered. "Moooooooooooooooooooooooo!

"Aiden, be quiet. I'm reading. You don't hafta say 'Mooooooooooooooooooo', you can just say 'moo',” a disgusted voice announced, “That's what the cows say anyways.”

Hiding a smile, Christine corrected her oldest son.
"Chevelle, your brother is learning, and its important you don't correct him. That's my job, I'm the Mom. What's your answer?"
Less than enthusiastic, Chevelle answered with the well-practiced disdain of a seven year-old boy. "Yes Moth-er."

Almost immediately forgetting the incident, Chevelle looked outside and noticed that something was different. "Hey Mom? Where's Old Tiny Tim?"

Taking full advantage of the red light, Christine scanned the freeway underpass that they passed by on their way to and from school each day. The crippled, stinky homeless man they called "Old Tiny Tim" was nowhere to be found.

He was always there with his cane identical to the one in the boys' Christmas Story movie, holding a sign at the intersection that said "Anything helps.", waving a blistered, dark-brown, leathery hand at the vehicles that passed him by. Several times Christine had given him something... a handful of change collected from her husband's pockets while doing laundry, some produce, or a box of canned fruit. Each time he received the gifts with a "Thank you ma'am, God bless."

Strange, he had been at that particular corner every school day for the last four years.
"I don't know honey, maybe he's gone to eat or take a nap. It is really hot outside."

As the SUV began to move at the bidding of the green light above, Chevelle answered slowly.
"No Mom, he always has his mat in the shade over there by the fence, remember? He hasn't been there all week. I wonder if Old Tiny Tim's okay."
With a roll of her eyes, Christine responded, "Okay, tonight when Aunt Joann comes over to play games with you Dad and I will see if we can find him before our date. How does that sound?”
More than thoroughly satisfied that the situation was in good hands, Chevelle responded,
“We'll be playing Monopoly. Only Aiden hasta' be on Aunt Joann's team this time. Last time he swallowed the car - my piece."
Christine laughed quietly to the windshield. They were quite the family.

Pulling out of the driveway that night, Christine filled her husband in on the events of the day.
"We'll just go to the corner he's always at, and if he's not there still, we'll try downtown." Guess there would be no movie this week.

Fifteen minutes later they left Old Tiny Tim's intersection. Five minutes after that, they took the downtown exit, discussing which streets they should cruise, possible homeless shelters to visit, and whether this was just a waste of time. In the following hours, their perspective changed drastically.

They drove slowly down back streets perpendicular to alleys where dozens of homeless slept each night. As the SUV cruised slowly through downtown, young men and not-so-young men wearing huge jeans stood in the shadows or next to their classic pimped-out vehicles, shop owners swept dirt out their back doors, and massive, bald, suited men guarded the entrances to minor-prohibited establishments, but not a homeless person was to be found. The discarded mattress city below the freeway overpass was completely vacant.

Christine's initial concern turned first to worry, then an unsettling uneasiness, then alarm as street after lonely street they passed became a soulless shadow of the previous street.
"Should I call 9-1-1?" Christine asked her husband. He always seemed to know what to do.
"I'd like to go down a few more streets, then I'll step inside a bar and a shelter, but if we haven't seen any homeless by then, we'll drive to the police station.

An hour and ten minutes later the authorities were notified. Three hours later not a single blue-uniformed officer was successful in finding a single homeless person. They had all vanished in a single night. By five o'clock the next morning local newscasters were interviewing shelter volunteers, bartenders, social workers, and church outreach coordinators. By seven o'clock, as the state of Indiana left for work, anyone who drove or rode a bus was aware of what was now being called a "state of emergency". By ten o'clock that day, the world became aware that the entire United States had, in a horrific single evening, lost every homeless person in the country to an unknown act of God or terrorism.

The statement issued at three o'clock that day by the President, though full of condolence and resolve, was severely lacking information. That evening analysts laid on the table every possible explanation for the world to consider. As country after country turned its conversation to the topic, hearts were heavy and fear hung contextual to the event that had transpired.

Guilt and questions flew for months on end as confusion and frustration turned to hopelessness, memorials, speeches, even empty grave sights dedicated to those who vanished. Four years later eighteen hundred documentaries, television specials, and film events, had been created to examine and give tribute to the terrible loss that America suffered. Eight years later the resolve had dissipated into a textbook lesson and speech transcript of the President and homeless began to repopulate the cites. And eleven years later Chevelle graduated high school and gave his salutatorian speech on what had come to be known as Tragic Monday.

It read,

“Some of the most hated, loved, and ignored people on earth are our homeless. They existed by the millions taking from society and giving nothing back. Nothing, we thought, until they disappeared, leaving a part of our lives so many of us never knew existed, empty. And so
America tasted en masse, compassion.

Our guilt, our helplessness, and our lack of answers to the questions that arose from this terrible phenomenon awakened us to our actions, or lack thereof, and we came to realize that every form of life is a gift, whether or not it contributes to society.
"Every soul, every personality, every human is a fantastic creation not to be pushed aside" Tragic Monday told us.

We are united not by color, by race, or by belief. We are all one because we are all living, breathing images of God; participants in this limited time on earth we share together."

~Chevelle Michaels

© June 2008, JPE

July 22, 2008

Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade

Following are selections from "Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade" by John Newton, a slave captain in the 1700's. Newton stopped directing slave ships for personal medical reasons, but later recognized the horror of the slave trade.

The Works of the Rev. John Newton

If I attempt after what has been done to throw my mite into the public stock of information it is less from an apprehension that my interference is necessary than from a conviction that silence at such a time and on such an occasion would in me be criminal If my
If I attempt, after what has been done, to throw my mite into the public stock of information, it is less from an apprehension that my interference is necessary, than from a conviction that silence, at such a time and on such an occasion, would, in me, be criminal.

rather unsuitable to my present character as a minister of the Gospel to consider the African slave trade merely in a political light This disquisition more properly
...rather unsuitable to my present character as a believer of the Gospel, to consider the abortion trade merely in a political light.

2 There is a second which either is or oui ht to be deemed of importance considered in a political light I mean the dreadfol effects of this trade upon the minds of those who are engaged in it There are doubtless exceptions and I would willingly except myself But in general I know of no method of gI tting money not even that of robbing for it upon the highway which has so direct a tendency to efface the moral sense to rob the heart of every gentle and humane disposition and to harden it like steel against all impressions of sensibility
...the dreadful mental, emotional, and spiritual effects of this trade upon the minds of the doctors, nurses, and mothers who are engaged in it. There are, doubtless, exceptions; and I would willingly except myself. But, in general, I know of no method... which has so direct a tendency to efface the moral sense, to rob the heart of every gentle and humane disposition...

reason to doubt A mate of a ship in a long boat purchased a young woman with a fine child of about a year old in her arms In the night the child cried much and disturbed his sleep He rose up in great anger and swore that if the child did not cease making such a noise he would presently silence it The child continned to cry At length he rose up a second time tore the child from the mother and threw it into the sea The child was soon silenced indeed but it was not so easy to pacify the woman she was too valuable to be thrown overboard and he was obliged to bear the sourfd of her lamentations till he could put her on board his ship I am persuaded that every tender mother who feasts her eyes and her mind when she contemplates the infant in her arms will commiserate the poor Africans But why do I speak of one child when we have he
A boyfriend, telling her he loved her, got her pregnant with a "fine child", just several weeks old, in her womb. In the night, worry for the future overwhelmed the boyfriend, and disturbed his sleep. In great anger, he swore, that she must have an abortion. At length, he rose up, and drove her to the clinic. The worry was silenced indeed, but it was not so easy to calm the woman... he was obliged to bear the sound of her cries, till he could leave her for another woman.
I am persuaded, that every tender mother, who feasts her eyes and her mind when she contemplates the infant in her arms, will understand the pain of an abortion. - But why do I speak of one child, when we have heard and read a melancholy story, too notoriously true to admit of contradiction, of more than a hundred thousand children, thrown out...

Perhaps some hard hearted pleader may suggest that such treatment would indeed be cruel in Europe but the African women are negroes savages who have no idea of the nicer sensations which obtain among civilized people 1 dare contradict them in the strongest terms I have lived long and conversed
Perhaps someone may suggest that such treatment would indeed be cruel, to infants; but infants not yet born are fetuses, tissue, that have no idea of life or pain. I dare contradict them in the strongest terms. I have lived long, and conversed with doctors, and carried a fetus in my womb. The unborn experience life, and can experience pain and death.

After a careful perusal of what I have written weighing every paragraph distinctly I can find nothing to retract As it is not easy to write altogether with coolness
After a careful perusal of what I have written, weighing every paragraph distinctly, and knowing the offense that I may cause some of my friends, I can find nothing to retract.

Though unwilling to give offence to a single person in such a cause I ought not to be afraid of offending many by declaring the truth If indeed there can
Though I will not ever condemn an individual person for their mistakes - For I am full of awful mistakes and gross sin, and am only saved and whole by the blood of Jesus Christ, not by any good thing in me - I cannot be afraid of offending many, by declaring the truth.


Approach, my soul, the mercy seat,
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before His feet,
For none can perish there.

Thy promise is my only plea,
With this I venture nigh;
Thou callest burdened souls to Thee,
And such, O Lord, am I.

Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By war without and fears within,
I come to Thee for rest.

Be Thou my Shield and hiding Place,
That, sheltered by Thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him Thou hast died!

O wondrous love! to bleed and die,
To bear the cross and shame,
That guilty sinners, such as I,
Might plead Thy gracious Name.

“Poor tempest-toss├Ęd soul, be still;
My promised grace receive”;
’Tis Jesus speaks—I must, I will,
I can, I do believe.

"Approach My Soul, The Mercy Seat" by John Newton
Ol­ney Hymns

July 11, 2008

"Mama" means WHAT?

My man-child celebrated his 6 month birthday this week. This half-year old is developing quite the personality. For instance, when he wants to be picked up, he coughs. How he figured that out, I'm not sure. I don't cough to get attention, and neither does his father. The half-year old has never had a coughing sickness in his short life. Ah, the mysteries of communication.

There is a chant he recites mainly when on the changing table. "Mamamamamamamama". This is not the only noise he knows how to produce. Half-year old actually produces constant noise during waking hours and occasional noise during sleeping hours. However, this is the noise he consistently makes while being changed. Keep in mind, this creative being doesn't say "mama" to get attention... he coughs.

After breakfast, half-year old was rolling about the blue carpeted living room floor between board books and a white stuffed tiger when he suddenly froze, looked me in the eye, and said "mama" with urgency. Was this the long awaited moment? His first word? 6 months did seem a little early... but maybe, just maybe, he knew my name! I went back to unpacking books, but the meaning-filled noise did not stop "Mama, mama" he repeated. Slowly, the meaning dawned on me. I checked his diaper. Yep. He was stinky. So "Mama" means poop. Great.

Hey... It was a Good Idea

Most recent escapade...driving through Kansas, again.

Why does it have to be right in between Arkansas and Colorado? Why couldn't they put it inside Texas, since that state is soooo big and soooo great?

Rule of life: Don't trust a state with no roadkill dotting the highways.
It has to mean something. Something must be very wrong if there are absolutely no furred or feathered remains.

Heading out from Arkansas at around 10:45pm, I launched off into the great sub-Ozarkian disheveled horizons of Oklahoma, another state in the way of Colorado from Arkansas.
I'm not bitter. Not even a teeny-weenie bit in my left toenail.

A blurred and characteristically eventful five hours of car problems and unscheduled stops in epithet-inducing out of the way locations, I arrived at a gas station.

This was a gas station that deserved my respect.
Here's why.
The windshield washer squeegee in that square bucket on the side of the pump…remember those? Yeah. This one had soap in it.

No, you're wrong. Most of them don't have soap in them. Only water, providing an unpleasant experience for the bug-splattered vehicle driver.

I was so excited I jumped up and down, wriggling in uncontainable ecstasy. Woohoo! My windshield might possibly get clean!
As a matter of fact, my excitement took the physical form of tingling warmth running pleasantly down my right leg, the puppy in me coming out.
What? You can do anything when all your belongings are in the car and you're alone.

Finishing up the windshield, I looked at my hood. It was kinda a lot dirty. Like…disgusting enough that I would make my pet fly “Doobie” wear shoes if he wanted to walk on it.
So I squeegeed the hood of my car. Ewww. Look at that front bumper. Corpses all over it.

Yup. Squeegeed that too.
While squeegeeing the front, I happened to glance at my front right quarter panel. Well, maybe if I...*squeak squeak sploosh (dunking the squeegee again) squeak squeak*
That looks a lot better. Only now the door looks really dirty. Oh, and the driver’s side window could use a good squeegeeing.

You’re not a moron. You understand exactly what happened next.
I squeegeed my entire car, right there at the gas pump.

Walking inside to grab a nice cold bottle of caffeine to keep me awake, I laid my assorted quarters and denarii on a cigarette ad smothered counter. The old dude behind the counter looked at me and said with a smile,

“I’m really impressed. I’ve never seen that before, and it worked pretty well.”


He cocked his head sideways and smiled at me kinda funny.
“You washed your whole car with that windshield washer.”

I was so embarrassed; he’d watched me the whole time. So I said the only thing I could.

“You're only supposed to use it on windshields?”

© 2007, JPE

July 6, 2008

The Road Leads Not

The road leads not

Where I thought it would.

All my dreams lie broken,

Dreams I thought were good.

Where are you leading?

I can't see through the mist.

Confused and praying,

What point have we missed?

Won't you lead our hearts together,

Though I know not where?

Give us a single vision,

Oneness rare.

My heart breaks to give up

Visions past, hopes sweet.

I don't understand why,

But you'll direct these feet.

And wherever we are

Only let us stay with You.

I don't want to go alone,

But learn and grow through...

Whatever you may bring.

I fall on my face.

Father, You are holy.

Let me rest in your embrace.

© 2007, BL

July 1, 2008

Love Is Not Blind, Especially at Eight.

From the garage to the door, into the house, through the kitchen, up the stairs.

He made enough noise for three people.

Lights flickered on and off through his murky mind as it struggled with the ordinary and repetitious parts of existing; he finally made it to his door. Turning the knob, he used more force than necessary to slam it open.

He looked around, his head moving jerkily and eyes never completely focusing.
His head felt thick, his feet dragged, and exhaustion seemed everywhere in the room, but was only in his mind.

The bed moved. The floor wouldn't stay flat. His closet doors adjusted, chairs stepped in the way, and he barely made it to his bathroom.

Sitting alone, he waited and waited. Why again?
It was alright. His Mom took great care of his daughter, fed her, let her watch her thirty minutes of television, then sent her upstairs to shower and go to bed.
Besides, she was only eight. She had no idea how often he was drunk.

He didn't realize how loud Mom berated him on the phone about it. Allie knew; Of course she knew. She was a brilliant spark of eight.

She was his whole life, and yet he missed out on so much of hers.

Smiling at nothing in particular, he felt great. Oh God, no he didn't. But it was better than feeling the full weight of being a single dad.

A hundred jobs wouldn't create enough busyness to stop his persisting thoughts of failure.

How many girlfriends had he introduced to his daughter? Six? Ten? Each time it was the look in her eyes that did him in.
Thank God he was drunk.

Lying in bed, he tossed and turned uncomfortably. Damn that alcohol, it was a great ride, but it made sleep completely unsatisfying.
Rolling over, he pawed at his bedside-table drawer and grabbed a flask of brandy.

Two minutes later the shot hit him, he felt warmed, and the room spun just a little more before he fell asleep.

In the morning he'd make her breakfast, but the bags under his eyes would stand out more than her favorite eggs over medium when the yolk is a little runny and the bacon's well done and crispy. She was an "A" student just like he wanted. She knew he drank.

Daddy's "A" student wouldn't say anything. She'd just smile, wave goodbye, and someday accept a boyfriend that drank despite being ridiculously underage. That was what she knew.

But she got good grades.

© 2007, JPE