Saturday, March 27, 2010


So once upon a time I was given a handout that described the roles of children in a family. They were something like “The Hero”, “the Angel”, “The Clown”, I don’t remember the rest, there might have been a fireman and a newspaper carrier? I can’t remember if was for the typical family or for the dysfunctional family, of which I came from, spelled with a capitol D.

That list came to mind recently when I was thinking about my kids, there are five still here with us, the sixth one watches over us from heaven. Any one of them doesn't seem to fit into just one of the categories, or if they do, it isn't long before they have traded with anther sibling. I was thinking about them on an unusually good day, a couple of them had made their beds, one emptied the dish drainer without being asked, another had said something complimentary about what another was wearing, one of those rare days I was wasn’t scratching them out of the will, again. So I made up my own categories for them (no handout yet, though). I call them Keepers.

The oldest seems to be the Keeper of Childhood. Like Peter Pan, she never wanted to grow up. If I ever talked about going away to college or having a family of her own one day, she would want to stop talking about that. She has a great capacity to play and an innate understanding of what children consider just and fair. I watch her with her own kids and see that though the boundaries are clear and non negotiable, inside there is plenty of tenderness and fun and space, and each individual is rejoiced over for their individuality. She brings out the child in all of us.

Child two is the Keeper of Potential. She sees the potential in any situation and gets better everyday at helping others see their own potential. We love to have her around because she manages to find our potential, even if it takes a lot of searching. It is an exhilarating experience to brainstorm with her, optimism distills as the dews from heaven.

Child three is the Keeper of Peace. Though he would never sacrifice his integrity in an effort to keep the peace, he seldom starts trouble, but looks for peaceful resolutions and pops in if we are leaning towards being offended, even if we really, really want to be offended. I can’t remember the last time he seemed ruffled.

Child four is the Keeper of Tradition. She loves movies about small towns, where everyone grew up together, knows each other, then loves and sacrifices for each other in spite of it all. Her siblings are her best friends, and she is as fierce with their imperfections as she is with any threat to them.

Child five is the Keeper of Wonder. Her room is filled from top to bottom with all of the things she finds wonder in, old hubcaps, new seedlings, a tool box, Nancy Drew books, Wall-E stuffies and anything manufactured that is less than 1/2” around.

They take turns being The Hero, they are all Angels at the most difficult of times, and the later they are for bed the bigger Clowns they are. They are, most definitely, keepers.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Years ago we bought a big lot with a little tiny house on it. It’s only source of water was a well. At first we were thrilled, feeling all self reliant, loving the thought of long showers and rainbird sprinklers that would make that lovely ch-ch-ch sound I could listen to all afternoon long in the middle of a hot summer day. I must admit I used to really worry about drinking water that came straight out of the ground, even though it passed all the tests when we took samples into a local lab. I would lie there in bed at night and imagine that we all became medical mysteries due to strange chemical agents in our water. Maybe one of my kids would grow an eleventh finger, or another would have super powers they would use to terrify the others into doing their Saturday chores. Wait, that would have meant the chores actually got done, which would have been totally awesome.

Anyway, one morning I got up and set an appointment with someone who could come out and talk to me about putting a filter on the water from our well. This gentleman and I sat at the counter in my kitchen where I announced that I wanted to filter every ounce of the water that came into my house and I wanted the highest level of filtration possible. He said, “Actually, you don’t”.

What? Here was a chance for him to make some bucks and for me to quit picturing my children with extra ears! He explained that the purer the water, the more aggressive the water would be. It turns out that water, filled with the usual minerals, is content to just sit in pipes and do nothing. He said that if we filtered out all of the impurities from the water, no matter what those pipes were made out of, the pure water would work away at the material and eventually the pipes would break down and leak. I thanked him half heartedly and went to Costco and bought a water filtering pitcher that I used for two weeks.

I have thought about that principle a lot though, about how the purer the water is the less content it is to just sit there. I have noticed that in some of my favorite people. I seems like the more pure their hearts are, the more active they are in doing good. They just get in there and break down those barriers, washing over the lives of folks with kindness. Not water like a tsunami, but quiet and constant, refreshing in that life giving way that water can be. Okay, enough with the water analogies, but now I wish it were warm enough outside to go turn on the sprinklers.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I am a fair weather friend. Should I admit that out loud? In my own defense, I speak strictly with regards to the actual weather. I will only walk outside with the girls in my neighborhood from April thru November, after that, you will find me in the deep dark recesses of the basement, plodding along at 3.7 miles per hour for exactly 2.0 miles, no more, often less if I can think of any reason at all. It is mind-numbingly boring but at least I don’t shiver the whole rest of the day.

It is a shame I am such a wimp, because these girls I walk with are anything but boring. We discuss everything, from politics to the dismal reality that we can only sneeze if our tanks are empty. My favorite thing about these girls is that they never say anything about anyone who is not there that they wouldn’t say if they were there. Classy. However, there is one group for which we have no such boundaries: our children. This is where we let out our frustrations so that we can better keep up the fa├žade of a calm demeanor in their presence.

One morning, toward the end of May last year, one of the moms was sharing how thrilled she would be when school got out so she could quit being “the Home Work Bully.” She said, “ Sometimes I think I should just go get one of those barbed wire tattoos right here on my upper arm, that way, maybe when I flex my arm to make a fist, it will frighten them sufficiently that I won’t actually have to say “Get Back To Work” for the 100th time.” One of the other girls piped up with, “Oh, yes, a tattoo! I want to go get wings tattooed on my upper arms. It is not like these ham hocks I have goin here are going to get smaller, and this way as my upper arm keeps expanding, my wings will get bigger too.” That was too much, we had to stop walking so we could cross our legs 'till we quit laughing.