Impatient


Even though the plant’s tag read “full shade,” I was sure that if I planted it in a bright, sunny spot, it would do even better.  I have learned much about plants over the years.  I have learned that more sun is definitely not better for impatiens, and that tomatoes will not grow well if planted in the same spot, year after year.  I have yet to learn, though, how to protect the vulnerable from the forces that strike when we do not expect them, and when they are far from welcome.

But there really aren’t any directions, at least not any reliable ones.  I thought things were better, but then it comes screaming back.  I guess it never quite settles, though it seems to from time to time.  We might look okay, like the blooms of sparkling fuschia and the sun’s cheer of yellow that spill boldly forth from the repurposed white enamel pot.  Nobody would speculate that they had been picked at, stripped, and stomped on by my curious flock of chickens before being salvaged, repotted, and resurrected to glory.  They were almost lost, but it wasn’t time.

How long is this going to take?  

I did learn, though, in those early years of gardening, that real lavender leaves and blossoms smell just like Yardley of London pump soap, and that this enchanting herb will grow into a fanciful, robust hedge in just a few years’ time.  And recently, I learned that the chickens will leave lavender alone.  That, to me, is victory.

“Let the chickens do all of your garden work for you.”

Here comes Wendell with the hand weeder and his pair of gloves to pick  the stray grass from underneath the tomato cages.  Jenny is not far behind, equipped with twine to tame the snap pea climbers.

I really didn’t think that would happen, as some books and articles had promised, but I still don’t recommend adopting the belief that your herbs will be pruned to prize status by your flock.

They fertilize the land.  What more could I ask for?

There will be destruction, devastation, even regret.  Things will not come out even, and maybe we will be less confident than before it all began.   We will work for nearly nothing, and our bodies will be stiff and sore.  We just want to lie down and rest.

Maybe it will be seasons, years, even decades before we see the sun.  It seems to be ready to peek forth from behind the clouds.  There are a few glorious rays, but then we can no longer see.  Darkness comes over us, and again, we wonder.

I figured out that I can fasten a length of wire fencing into a dome to protect my new plantings.  Of course, the chickens can knock them over or pull them apart, but sometimes, what I have done is enough…at least for one small chamomile plug on a windy Sunday morning.

The richness of what they have left for us must surely be enough to feed our souls as the land for a while longer.

I guess it is best to follow directions, at least the obvious ones.  They don’t tell you, though, that even if you plant the impatiens in the shade, feed it with fish emulsion, and provide plenty of water, a curious chicken may still cause it’s demise.

We don’t know.  How could we ever be expected to?  

In all of the amazement and surprise of a baby hatching at the farm, I hadn’t given a thought to the true possibility that Kitty May could be a rooster.  She looks different from all the others, and she seems a gentle, independent, spirited little hen…or rooster.  One day, she will either crow or lay an egg, and there will be no more questions.  Until this day, though, I am content in my hope that Kitty May will be joining the other girls in the nest boxes.

It must be okay not to know.

Darkness had long since fallen when I returned from the hospital without my child.  When I passed by the garden, there was enough light coming from the window in the main house that I could see that four of my young plants had been uprooted, surely the work of curious chickens.  I was tired, so they would have to wait until morning.

And I guess it’s alright to wait for lots of other things, too, especially when there aren’t any rules or instructions.  It’s just not time yet.  

This spring, the lavender has come back rich and strong, with just a few bare branches.  I know, too, that in time, however long it may take, and even if a new rooster crows on the farm, the holes will begin to fill in, and we will admire the flowers in their magnificent resilience.

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Lions and Lambs

Darkness had already fallen when I finally made my way out to close the chicken door on this cold March night.  I was almost startled by the nondescript, shadowy figure that mimicked my gait against the grain bin, until the motion sensitive light snapped on, taking me with it,  back to the reality that it was just my own image.  It could have been anyone, though, in the dark.  I could have been anyone.  

My first semester of college was going just fine.  I had a fabulous roommate who quickly figured out how to make me laugh until my stomach hurt, at things that noone else might even find funny.  I fell head over heels for the university city, which held such treasures as Cracker Jax, a vintage haven beyond worthy description; Record Revolution, where I found rare music and, later, my best job; the balcony in the old public library where I could spend hours buried in the musty air among the stacks of books; and the nondescript square stone wall, which, to me, held promise and mystery at the same time, and which was just the right place for people-watching, in a clandestine downtown alley.  

I went home for Thanksgiving break, which began abruptly after I sheepishly turned in my exam to my PolySci 100H teaching assistant named Tom, who, as the story goes, once had a Cheerio stuck to the inside of his glasses for an entire day.  

When the turkey, cranberry sauce, and all of the leftovers were gone, when my friends were on their own journeys back to their college towns, when darkness had fallen, I said my words of farewell to my family and began the short drive back to DeKalb.  Though I loved the freedom of living on my own, there was part of me, that day, that just wanted to go home. I wanted to turn around and run straight back into the arms of those who raised me.  I didn’t really want it to be over. Not yet.

Wish us back to the day when we wanted to be where we are now.  What, really, was behind our hurry?

I’m not sure where it came from.  It fell from somewhere as I was moving the March china girl and some other little things on the top of my dresser.  I had given it to a young teenager on the day of her baby brother’s memorial service. A simple silver chain bearing a tiny fairy who held a sprig of lavender: this was my attempt to bridge meaning to what had happened, and to show this young girl that as I had loved her baby brother, who had come unto this earth without a fighting chance, I, too, had loved her. When you spend hours of days that stretch into years as a helper to a family, if it ends, a part of you is still there. Years passed, though, and chance encounters told me that our time together was done. Meeting the eyes might be too painful.  Maybe they didn’t remember, or maybe they needed to forget.  And then there was the fairy; how did she get back to me?  Perhaps this was not the same charm?  Perhaps it was a message from the little boy that I had so loved so many years before?

I have never taken my children to the mountains, where they could shout from their souls and breathe freedom.  I want to take them to the seashore, where they can abandon their burdens along with their shoes, taste the salty waves, and let the sun turn their hearts warm.

Just when I have heard so much of the endless string of words, random facts woven through stream-of-consciousness chatter and reiterated movie scripts, there is silence. I look back at him, and his eyes are glassy. His pink lips are slightly open, as if the words had somehow been halted by an outside force.  He is turned to the window, but he seems to be somewhere else.  

“I want to go home.”

Sometimes, the thought of my own shadow is something to fear.  I long for one more story through the silence.
When it was over, when this moment’s tirade of impossible anger had passed, he lay over me in a puddle of grief.  For the first time, his fear for his own future was palatable.  He cried out for things that a nine-year-old should not have to hold.

My boy, if you have nothing, if you have nowhere to go, I will come for you.  I will find you, and I will bring you home.  I will take care of you.  You will never be alone.

After a while, we can’t really go home anymore.  We can’t go back to where we long to be, because it isn’t there anymore.  The scenes change: the street signs read differently, and the chairs around the table hold different memories.  Home is no longer a physical space, but something more.   I could have gone anywhere, and I could have been anyone. Still, I am going home.

The brightness of pink that lit the otherwise black grayness of the night sky was a beacon: the connection, the recognition, the fairy that materializes to remind me of a past encounter, the way I feel after a spirit-cleansing cry. We are not in this space forever.

Home is where we are on the inside, and, someday, when I take you there, we will find the air more crisp than that at the top of any mountain, and the sand will be as white as the heavens.

What’s In Your Egg Basket?

Something happened.  Something went wrong, or maybe it didn’t.  Words that interrupted my idle thoughts as I stood at the kitchen sink,  face-to-face with dinner’s aftermath, cannot be taken back.  Even as I feel the blood rush through my legs and the empty space grow in my soul, I find solace in a cupcake.  It’s the last one, hidden in the back corner of the freezer, leftover from a forgotten celebration.  Rich chocolate of the most devilish kind, with a perfectly swirled pink vanilla piped frosting, made extra special with a fairy dusting of sparkling sugar…gone in an instant. The experts would probably call this emotional eating.  Alone on it’s plate, it beckoned, and I ate it.

If I get out to the coop at just the right time, I can get an egg that still feels warm to the touch.  Fresh from it’s laying hen, this egg rides in the cup holder of my car as I take the baby in to town for therapy. It acccompanies me across the road to the mailbox.  I hold it gingerly in my hand as I look around the farm, thinking of the blooms that will pepper the summer’s garden and imagining the tiny herd of goats that might one day entertain us in the pasture.  Everything seems to hold a bit more promise as I am reassured by the blue-green chicken egg that brings so much to me.

It’s an egg.  I could get a dozen eggs for a little more than a dollar at the grocery store.  

After what seemed like two hours but was actually just over ten minutes, I could feel his body melt into mine.  He made his way to the pink chair, my favorite one.  The storm had subsided, and Dan was home by now.  There were no more cupcakes, but I could get my egg basket, and I could see if there were any eggs to gather.  Even if the hens were done laying for the day, I would breathe the peace of the outside air and know that in this moment, I am okay.  We are okay, right now.  Even if I returned to the house with an empty basket, I would know, because of what it represents, that the basket is actually quite full, if not of eggs. 

There might be different things inside the basket on a given day. Pink sparkly cupcakes, my best well worn sweater, the anticipation of my sister’s visit, my special water bottle, the thought of my fairy roses and my Christmas milk punch: these are in my basket.  In it I can also find the way it feels when all is quiet, when I am washing the last plate, when bedtime has blanketed the little ones in a soft hush (at least for a few hours), when I am able to sneak down to the cellar to start my onion seeds in their fresh peat pots, and when the promise of spring is tangible in the form of garden catalogs that have begun to arrive two-a-day by mail.

To me, it’s much more than just an egg.

There are people, many people, in my egg basket, which is also full of robust donut shop coffee and baseball.  These people fill me up when I most need them, and even when I don’t know what I need.  One brings me ice cream in the middle of the night, another sends me a message that makes my stomach hurt from laughing, and another came to sit with me and did not mention one word about the cheese that stuck to the bottom of her shoe as she walked through my  kitchen.  

When the questions are bigger than the answers after a quarter century of parenting, when the pancakes burned because I had to step away from the griddle to mediate a fight, when I don’t want to look past today for fear of what I might see, and even when someone has eaten the last secret cupcake, I can go to the chicken coop with my egg basket, and I know that I will feel better for having gone.  Experts might think that this is emotional egg gathering.  Though I am far from an expert, I think it might be.  

I don’t think we can really know what is in someone else’s egg basket, at least not everything, anyway. It’s probably not even an egg.  For our deepest friendships, yes, we sometimes do know some of what the basket holds, or we can do our best to try to figure it out.  And even the thought of someone trying to understand what is inside can be enough to fill it up.

When the bread is baking, when my grown son calls to share his excitement at his new venture, when I take a minute to look at my vintage cookie jars, when my daughter’s eyes flash so brightly that I can nearly feel the warmth of her happiness, when the little boys drive their construction trucks in rare harmony, perched together atop the gravel pile; these are the times that I have enough to share my basket with others.  

I might miss the glory of the Northern Illinois sunset if I don’t hurry out now to close the chicken door for the night.  While I am out there, I will be sure to check for eggs one last time.

Spinning: Through the Window

It’s a Fun Fair.  It’s supposed to be fun.

Since we have moved to the farm, I think I have a new hobby: looking out my windows at the various Northern Illinois landscapes that surround me.  The evening is the best time for this, no matter which direction I choose.  The sunsets come in a palette of my best colors: pinks, golds, and oranges that range from the quietest warm to radiance of a physical nature.  Sometimes, as I look to the west, I can see lights, too far to be coming from the neighbor’s farm, mixing into the powdery sky, late into dusk, almost night.

“This could be the saddest dusk I’ve ever seen, turn to a miracle.”

The university buildings offer their light and energy of a different sort with my view to the east.  I think of the students making their way back to their dorms after classes, and tolerating the season’s final few icy winds along the trek.  I can see the barren post-harvest fields through the grove of trees at the north end of our property; those that farm these fields must be, like me, eager for the promise of spring.

“My mind is racing.”

The windmills spin in the distance south and west of the farm.  From this safe distance, they seem peaceful and purposeful.  Up close, they are foreboding.  They are scary, like the Fun Fair.

I don’t like the Fun Fair.  I am afraid of the Fun Fair.  Windmills remind me of pinwheels, except for the fact that the person with the pinwheel has some control over when it spins.  Control, that is, until the wind takes it.  And then, it’s no longer up to us.  Pinwheels remind me of windmills, and then I think of the Fun Fair, and how it is not fun for everyone.  When the first people thought of Fun Fairs, they didn’t think of me, and how I would feel about the Fun Fair.

“I didn’t think, didn’t think of you…”

She seemed a bit disgruntled as she fumbled about the computer,  looking for her headphones so she could listen to music while she did her homework.  Her angst was the type that would certainly settle itself if nobody acknowledged the steam, which was a mere whistle relative to the fervently boiling kettles of the not too distant past.   She found her headphones, returned to her seat at the computer, announced that she was writing a personal narrative.

The flower boxes boasted their early autumn splendor in a royal array of green and purple kale, bold pansies rising to the warm sun, and miniature pumpkins and gourds for a touch of whimsy and to herald the winds of change.  She never spoke of the pumpkins or the pansies, though.  What she remembered was the sign in the yard of the quaint brick bungalow in the middle of Third Street, the sign which announced for all to see: FOR SALE.

Caught in my own anxiety and my hope that she would feel welcome, that she would like us, I didn’t think of her, or of what she would think when she saw that sign.  I didn’t know if she liked fun fairs…or windmills…or pinwheels.  Through her personal narrative that she wrote many years later, though, I learned that she saw that FOR SALE sign, and that she wondered if she would stay with this family, too, or if she would move on.

Here’s the problem with most of these things: there’s nowhere to put your fears.

And so we spin out, again and again, and we attend many Fun Fairs, even if they are not fun.  Fun fairs are chaotic, filled with indiscernible smells, unsettling noises, Bozo buckets, cake walks, and plastic prizes, a dollar a dozen.  I can’t volunteer at the Fun Fair.  I will, though, bake something.  I will make a cake for the cake walk.

“The storm, it came up strong, shook the trees, and blew away our fears.”

As it turns out, she likes the fun fair.  And she seems to like us, too, though it may have taken some time.  She likes the sunsets, the university town, and the fields of Northern Illinois.

“Blackbirds, backwards, forwards, and fall…”

I can’t understand what I didn’t know in the first place, but I can look hard, in every direction, until I see you.

 

Song lyrics from R.E.M., “Half a World Away”

 

 

Foster Parenting 101

My first son slept “like a baby” from his very early days.  As a well-rested young stay-at-home mom, I sometimes found myself making a bit of noise outside the nursery door by about nine in the morning, when I was ready for some company.

My second little boy did not follow this pattern, as he woke many times through the night for his first three years until, curiously, his baby brother, also prone to night waking, arrived.

I really didn’t mind getting up with the babies.  A mostly quiet house in the dark stillness of night offered a sense of peace, even serenity, which restored me much as if I had slept a full night.

I guess my little boys prepared me, but only in a small way, for the endless night wakings that were to come.  Now, the imagined demons in the night reach their accusatory hands toward me, and anxiety speeds through my insides as I wonder, “Am I enough?”

The dull ache in the hip of my nearly half-century old frame gives me pause as I move to the room at the west end of our farmhouse, listening outside the nursery door.  I am working hard at sleep training with this little one, because those every-two-hour wakings are no longer exactly enchanting.  I had read Margaret Wise Brown’s “Little Fur Family” (my miniature version bound in pretend fur) before putting him down tonight, and I am hoping the mother bear’s advice to “sleep warm in your fur, all night long” will do the trick.

Other than possibly my little fur-bound volume, though, there is really no book for any of this.

Over the years, people have asked many questions and made plenty of statements about fostering.  I am convinced that the vast majority of these questions and comments come from a place of curiosity, from well-intentioned people that are genuinely interested in our family.  I have decided to share some of these questions, along with the responses that I have to offer.

“Are they yours?”

They are my heartbeat; they are my priority.  They were born to another woman, and while they are with me, they are never completely mine, yet they are, without a doubt, my children.

“Why doesn’t she live with her real parents?” 

Many things relative to foster care are confidential.  It is not up to me to disclose this kind of information to the lady in line next to me at the bagel shop, but I can give you an idea.  As parents, we have much in common.  We love our children, and we work hard every day to do our best for them.  Sometimes, though, something happens…something unfortunate, something tragic,  something unexpected.  We may be just one “something” away from being unable to care for our own little ones.

“I could never give them back.”

I was reading through some of my old college files the other day.  Though the vision I had for myself twenty seven years ago is similar today, there are some detours.  I had seen myself pursuing higher education, with plans of fostering and adopting swirled together with one noble, starry-eyed wave of a magic wand, ending in a whole gaggle of little children.   I never made it to the PhD.   I did get the big family, but by no wave of a wand.  Rather, through the grief and pain of terminated parental rights, abandoned babies, and lives overcome by addiction and mental illness.   My family has also experienced the joy of working with birth parents whose children are returned home.  We don’t “give them back.”  We support them and love them as their fate is determined by the actions of others.   And yes, it is hard, whatever the outcome, but there can also be indescribable, unfathomable joy, and that truly is magic.

“How many are you going to have?”

If I had a crystal ball, I don’t think I would look.  At least, not yet.  No part of this is up to me.  We spend our days, and a call comes about a baby sibling to our son.  I wonder if I should pack up the bottles for good.  With my older children on the brink of adult life, I know the richness of motherhood, and while I learn so much from others, I sometimes forget what I used to know.

“Doesn’t this impact your marriage?”

Of course it does; however could it not?  We are destined for this, just as all the stars are numbered, there is reason and meaning behind all of our connections.  We could not do this alone.  Times are best when we work together.  After twenty-five years of marriage, we have learned ways to support one another.  Dan can tell when I have had too much; he knows when I am on the verge of tears, and my arms are sore from holding a writhing eight-year-old.  He gently takes over, and I can spend some mindless minutes peeling carrots.  I know, too, that if he slips upstairs to play his keyboard for a little while, this time will fill his soul so that he may be energized for the next round.

“Don’t you worry how this will affect your other kids?

I worry that my two-year-old will hear words that I hope he never repeats.  I worry that my daughter will learn certain things well before she should.  I worry that my children will see me cry, or that they will feel like I don’t have time for them.  I even worried about the cat when she was the subject of a bad experiment.  Then I see the collective joy of my little son and his baby brother as they chase each other around the kitchen.  I see the little sparkles shared between my girls as they talk about things that girls talk about.  I see in my grown sons a sense of compassion and understanding that can only come from having experienced this side of life.

We do this, plain and simple, because that is why we are here.

Today was a sunny Sunday, close to thirty degrees, and I felt only slightly guilty for calling an officer to help me install a car seat for our one-year-old.  I waited in my van outside the police station, and as he approached, I noticed that he looked slightly familiar.  I wondered if he was one of the many officers who had come to the scene during one of the four times this year we had to call for help for an out-of-control child.  He had done this many times before.  He flipped the seat over a couple times, adjusted a few latches, gave me some safety tips, and gave the car seat a final tug.  At one point, I looked sharply at this young policeman, beckoning him to pull up the details to my story.  He didn’t.  He did his job.  He was pleasant, kind, and unassuming toward the almost grandmotherly woman that needed help with the car seat for her baby.

There really are no answers to these questions.  We do what we do because out of all of this brokenness and sadness, there is a light.  I have seen it.  There is another day, another sun, and another chance for hope and healing.

There is, indeed, another story to be written.

And for now, “Sleep, sleep, my little fur child…”

Bigger Than Me

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We used to plan our outings around his fears.  When Ethan was a very small boy, I could push the stroller as fast as my feet could carry us.  We may have been nearly across the railroad tracks before he knew.  As he grew older and his supernatural power of directionality kicked in full force, he was more keenly aware of the shadows where his fears were held captive.  We would go only to the parks on our side of the train tracks, and we would save our trips downtown to the Confectionery for times when someone could be home to look after our boy.

The county home hosts a trick-or-treating event for children of the community on the evening before Halloween.  We decided to take our children this year in hopes that we could soften their desire to spend hours on what was expected to be a blustery, rainy Saturday, on parade in  pursuit of Laffy Taffy and candy corn.  Our wide-eyed little ones were uncharacteristically quiet as they walked through the halls of the facility, extending their plastic pumpkins to yesterday’s princesses, clowns, and witches who offered shaky fists full of Skittles, M & M’s, and Smarties.   I was told by more than one resident that my baby was too little for candy.

I am fearful of growing old.

We had been wondering the same thing as our eyes met over our soy lattes: how long have we been meeting like this?  We deduced through memories of Christmas lists of years past that it must have been about fifteen years of the nearly three-decade span of our friendship.  Yesterday, my college friend, Kim, and I had our annual ritual of meeting halfway between DeKalb and Madison on the first Saturday after Halloween.  Our intentions of crossing off the holiday wish lists have, over the years,  mixed gracefully with our yearly reflections of children, work, and dark chocolate.  I leave home (with just a bit of guilt) to embark upon a day that truly feeds my soul.  And we eat a lot, too.  I don’t want the day to end.  As I drove home yesterday, I wished that we had taken a picture together.  It has been a couple of decades since we have done that.  I think, too, that when we meet next time, we will both have passed the half century mark.  We just never know what the year will bring.

Straight across the cornfields between Twombly Road and Lincoln Highway, looking from behind the Peter Rabbit crib sheet that serves as a makeshift curtain in my bedroom, I can see Rose’s farm.  Of course, she doesn’t live there anymore, but I think of her each day as I look out my window.    For all intents and purposes, Rose was my daughter’s counselor.  She was, though, much more than that.  I would look forward to our trips to her office, where I would breathe in the peace of her stone fountain, eat with abandon from her candy dishes (always stacked to the heavens with the best types of chocolate), and fancy myself having coffee with her on a lazy Saturday.  We wanted to buy her farm, and we tried hard to do just that.  Now, looking over the aftermath of a Midwest harvest from my window to hers, I am better able to see the big picture.

I used to fall asleep with the television on.  Some nights, I go to bed earlier than Dan while he works on his music at the edge of the bed.  When we lived at the edge of campus, I was secretly comforted by the din of college students playing music and hosting bonfires even into the early morning hours.  The best part of baseball season is when the Cubs play on the west coast, and I can listen to the late night games on the radio as I drift off.  I just don’t want the days to end.

Endings are hard.  Though I wish the day could continue, I do try to remind myself of the promise that tomorrow holds.

Ethan rushed from his bus one day last week, brimming with excitement as he burst through the front door.  With a new light in his eyes, he announced that he had walked across the railroad tracks with his class.  Twice.  And it was no big deal.

Next year, I will be sure to take that picture with Kim.

 The Problem with Butter

To my great delight, she let me put a little bowl of milk in the garage for him.  He wasn’t allowed in the house, but he really was my kitty, at least for those couple of months, or for however long he continued to come around our ranch house on Varano Drive in the suburbs of St. Louis.  My mom allowed me to feed him, and I called him Cinnamon Toast after what was, and still is, my best breakfast.

It’s a glorious drive up north of Rockford; it’s almost magical in the blaze of September’s foliage.  My one passenger has fallen asleep with her headphones in her ears, so I have no guilt for getting lost in my reveries as we combat miles of post-harvest cornstalks and hay bales reminiscent of an impressionist painting.  If we stop making this journey to counseling, will it even make a difference?  I wonder, but my soul would certainly miss the stillness of the country roads if we stayed behind.  And maybe, just maybe, the healing is beginning.

The worst part about having cinnamon toast for breakfast is the butter.

“What’s wrong with this butter?  I can’t get it to spread on my toast.”  Her look was one of anger, frustration, even blame.  It’s just butter.  I love butter.

“Well, you could put it in the microwave to soften it a bit, or you can put it between two pieces of toast until it gets a little melty.”  She let out a sigh before I had even finished my words and kept rolling the butter along the toast with her knife.

“Or (and now I think she was getting mad), we can keep a stick in the butter dish in the cabinet so it’s always ready.”

We moved to Chicago in winter of my first grade year.  I don’t remember if Cinnamon Toast stopped coming around before we packed our suitcases, or if he would return to the garage, bewildered as he looked for his bowl of milk.  I often wondered what happened to him, and I wondered if he wondered where the family that he once had, had gone.  I wonder now, if my kids wonder about that sort of thing.  There may be a new last name, but there is a lifetime of experiences and memories which cannot, which will not be forced away.

“Cart six’s mom is here!”  The voice of the emergency room receptionist reminded me of some sort of dart gun as it shot through the waiting room late on that Tuesday night.  I had never before been called “Cart six’s mom,” but that is exactly what I became that night.

My child did not want me in the room with her.

“Have a seat, and the charge nurse will be out to speak with you.”  I chose a vinyl chair that blocked the emergency room door so I could not see the sick and wounded people as they entered.  When I stretched out my legs, I noticed that in my haste to reach my daughter (who did not actually want me there) I had chosen one pink and one brown slipper.  I was to spend the next seven or so hours waiting, wondering, and remaining on the other side of the door, with mismatched, though comfortable, slippers.  My friend came to sit with me long into the morning.  I wondered what the others thought as we tried to pass the time, and as our conversation led us, more than just once or twice, to laughter.  How could we be laughing at a time like this?  How could we not?  Things are not always what we expect.

We have been at the farm for a month now.  Foundation repairs and driveway gravel have replaced visions of a family room addition complete with woodstove.  Even so, I am so grateful to be here.  Each morning, I try my best to take a minute to look at the sunrise, to remind myself of the newness of the day and the anticipation of the gifts it might bear.  I try to catch the evening sky, which often looks like smoothly-scooped sherbet or cotton candy spun with sparkly sugar.  I know that, even on the darkest day, there are these reminders of what is here for us on this earth.

When the days are hard and long, when the harsh words are plentiful, the guilt, the anxiety, and the questions take over… the questions for which there are no answers.

My parents bought me a kitty named Ginger in the summer of 1973 or 1974.  Ginger, unlike Cinnamon toast, was an inside cat; she was the first in what would be a long line. There was Fifi Trixibelle, Coco, Rose, Fern, Snowball, Pearl, Semi Truck Driver Jeff, and now Juliet, who has just been caught licking the butter (which had been left out to soften).  All were inside cats.

When the time is right, we are going to get some cats for the barn.  One, I know, will be named Cinnamon Toast, to honor the one who has come before, to help me remember to celebrate the gifts of the moment, and to celebrate my favorite breakfast of all time…with butter.