The last one

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

It was sunny today, hot and bright. Much like 9/11/01 and most September days since, being as it is the waning days of summer. The oyster and I went to her first music class this morning and unsurprisingly she got right into the dancing. But while the other toddlers floated like butterflies to the classical flute music, the little oyster dropped her own beat and it was Hammertime. I’m looking forward to our Thursday mornings this fall.

“That depends a great deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

I don’t know yet how we will teach our daughter about 9/11. At two years old, this is simply another day for her and of course it should be at her ripe old age. But how do you teach someone to never forget when there’s no memory of what we’re to remember in the first place?

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

The morning radio show the husband listens to took calls about 9/11. One listener’s 6th grader has an assignment to interview someone who remembers that day. None of those children were alive when the planes went down, none of them remember the silence in the skies for days and days after, all of them know a country at war and pat-downs at the airport. How many have been to Section 60? Who can say.

“I don’t much care where” is a lazy proclamation, not a carefree anthem. When we teach our daughter about 9/11 and Section 60 and freedom and living and making a future informed–even emboldened–by the past but not crippled by it, however we do that, she won’t be able to say “I don’t much care…” because that fatalism is trumped by the vow to never forget. I care which attitude we impart, in all things, big and small.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

It matters to me which way we go. It matters to me that we walk boldly and humbly in a direction, with no guarantee of arrival but an understanding of the admonition to get moving.

“–so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

We can’t always see which way we ought to go from here. When the time comes to teach our little girl about 9/11 and remembering, I know where we want to get to: To an understanding of life in the midst of loss, love and good in moments of terror, redemption in the face of evil. These are lofty goals, I know. But we are going to walk long enough that in the big things and in the little things she understands that the billowing black smoke behind us may always stay with us in some ways but that the end of one thing makes room for something new.

never forget

In which we move ahead

Me: I’m really enjoying my book. It’s funny writing and it’s interesting to me the way they went about their boycott. <shifts A Year Without Made in China across the table>
The husband: Hmm.
Me: Actually, the husband in the book reminds me of you. But it’s annoying me that instead of going without stuff and clearing out their house, they find other ways to buy stuff they don’t need.
The husband: Hmmm.
Me: But anyway, it’s really interesting. A very entertaining read.
The husband: Hmm.
Me: Oh my gosh you’re afraid I’m going to make you do it, aren’t you?
The husband: <avoids eye contact>

* * *

There’s a Google commercial going around right now that ends with a little girl asking into the phone, while lying on the floor next to her sleeping dog, “OK, Google, do dogs dream?”

Google’s response is, “Dogs dream like humans and about similar things.” The little girl smiles and pats her sleeping dog on the head.

Dietrich is sleeping right now and isn’t available to do a final dogblog before we move ahead. I don’t know what he’s dreaming about but maybe it’s all the new puppies in the neighborhood that we meet on our walks these days; he loves them, so the husband and I try not to talk too loud about getting a second dog when Dietrich is within earshot. We wouldn’t get a second dog here in the green-ceiling condo anyway, but the time will come, before Dietrich is too much older, that we’ll add to the pack in four-legged format. Dietrich is too great a dog to not pass on his wisdom to a younger pup.

And the oyster would love a second dog, too. After she took a nose-dive off a friend’s porch last week, skinning her cheek and her nose and developing a purple knot the size of her fist, she cried for a minute and then asked for crackers and puppies. The girl bounces back pretty quick.

And speaking of kids, today was my last monthly blood draw at the ob, provided the numbers come back normal. They have been normal since March so I trust that September will be no different! That means we have the blessing of Western medicine to add to the pack in two-legged format. When I asked the husband the other week if we should go ahead when we get the go ahead or if we should wait for, hmm, I don’t know, something or…another time…or…I don’t know. His response? “I’m always up for another kid.” Good man.

When we talked about having kids before the oyster, one thing I wanted was to be debt-free. That didn’t happen before the oyster came into our lives but it happened in June and delayed though our milestone was, it was an excellent 29th birthday gift to me. Then again we weren’t actually debt-free until August when I remembered a library fine of $4.50, packed up the oyster, drove to our old neighborhood, and forked over the quarters I was saving for the library book sale at the end of the week. All in the name of financial freedom.

Dietrich is awake now and he is looking at me with his cartoon eyes, which suggests that he thinks I’m leaving something out. Oh, I think he wants me to mention his gray chin hairs. All gray. Very distinguished and handsome. He also wants me to mention that we signed up for dog food delivery from Amazon so he gets a package every month and he feels very sophisticated and urbane.

But back to the conversation with the husband at the beginning of this post. This week I finished the book A Year Without Made in China: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni. It’s my kind of book–a personal social experiment conducted purely to see if it’s possible? Yeah, that’s me. And no, I’m not going to make the husband do it. But it fits well with the moves we’ve been making toward a more minimalist lifestyle in the last few months and the fact that I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it from Amazon is proof positive of that. Dedicating ourselves to the frugal oyster budget was a great foundation for this minimalist thing and I like making less-is-just-less-and-that’s-the-goal a permanent thing for us. 

Anyway. Dietrich thinks we should keep the Red white and new Facebook page when we close up blog-shop tomorrow and I agree. That will be helpful in staying connected while we also spend less time in front of the computer, talking on behalf of the dog. Who has his own dreams of published books and perfectly broiled salmon, if Google is to be believed. 

Running in Virginia

Or, Jumanji at 6:30 a.m.

Some back story: In May I started running, mostly to get healthy, mostly to set an example for the little oyster and future kids, a little bit to give me something to do during the day, and a little bit to lose weight.

So, in order:

  • I have definitely gotten healthy–I run an average of 3 miles a day, 6 days a week; I have lost two pants sizes; my resting heart rate is down 30 bpm; I have muscles!; and last week I ran an 8:54 mile. Oh! And I can do my whole yoga DVD without stopping, which I couldn’t do when I started working out and which I do on the day when I don’t run. GO ME.
  • I’m sure I’m setting an example for my kid(s). I want her/them to grow up assuming running moms are the norm and, planning ahead here, I would lovelovelove to do fun runs with my small fry when she/they are big enough to participate, years down the road. Which means I need to keep this up because mama is not getting younger.
  • Truth bomb: I started exercising daily in May because our mornings dragged and hustling around the block with a stroller made me feel strong and gave us something to do. But then a funny thing happened–as I got stronger and started to see results, I got bored pushing a stroller for a 40 minute speed walk and started getting up earlier to run alone before the husband left for work. So what started out as exercise to kill time has become a crucial part of my day, my well-being, and our family’s happiness because, believe it, those endorphin things are for. real.
  • And finally, yes, I wanted to be a certain weight before we went for another baby and knowing that I had at least six months of waiting on hormone levels before trying again, I figured I could lose the weight. Turns out no, and here’s how I know: 20 miles a week for three months, smaller meal portions, less sugar, and way more veggies and I’ve lost all of 6 lbs. Yep, six. And I haven’t lost–or gained!–an ounce since June. So I like to think that after that initial layer of 6 lbs. peeled itself off, my bod got serious about building muscle and toning up what’s left. And I like what’s left. The real goal was to be healthy and I mistakenly equated that with weight. But I’m a great size and a great weight and anyway, it all comes back to setting an example for my progeny; obsessing about a few pounds at the cost of maintaining a good, healthy lifestyle does no one any good.

Again, that’s all just back story. Where does Jumanji come in, you ask?

It comes in every morning at 6:30 a.m. in my quaint little northern Virginia neighborhood where I sometimes feel like I am running for my ever-loving life. I can never look behind me on a run because that’s when you run into a raptor or a tiger and get eaten alive in the movie version so no way, man. You have to understand that the wildlife I encounter–or do my best NOT to encounter–is solely responsible for all of my negative splits, and sometimes we’re talking the difference of a solid minute or more.

Last week I saw the glint of a spider web in an early commuter’s headlights. But as I got closer by the second, I also saw the spider that had made the web and to be able to spot a spider in a web in the wild from 15 feet away ten minutes before the sun comes up really says more about the size of the spider than the strength of one’s eyesight. I was slowing down and giving a wide berth until I saw that the web was spun between a large tree branch and the ground, MAKING IT TALLER THAN I AM. Also, the web was like forty-ply, a thick, plush masterpiece of arachnidal workmanship. Suddenly slowing down seemed like a fool’s errand. On my way home, I ran on the other side of the street.

Little snakes with stripes, bigger snakes without stripes, a darling little blue salamander or two (holy cow, do those things bite? must Google…), all of these creatures appear–always suddenly–on my runs. Someone even lost a white parrot in the neighborhood so in between songs I listen for the exotic cry of a wandering bird but an ornithologist I am not so I don’t think I’d know it if I heard it. I actually stopped and looked up into a tree a few weeks ago thinking “Oh, that sounds like a parrot, at least to me, in my head,” but what flew out of the tree was remarkably brown and small and not a parrot.

And while we’re talking about trees, lets talk about those mangy denizens of the wood, squirrels. They are e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. and many of them are too bold for their own good. Or at least too bold for my comfort. But while I used to run away from squirrels now I go full beast mode and charge at them if they are in my path, clapping if needed. I feel that this also deters potential human attackers.

The crickets in Virginia are so big my Rottweiler backs away from them. I think one hissed at me once. What I hate about encountering these “crickets” is that they are all antennaed and pointy in every direction so it’s impossible to tell which way they are facing and therefore which way they are going to jump. Although now that I think about it, I wonder if their size means they’d be amenable to the Milkbone peace offerings I sometimes carry.

Sometimes the number of creatures dangling, darting, slithering, jumping, leering, swooping, or dashing means that my morning run may be less of a run and more of an avoidance obstacle course. To which I say, who needs calisthenics and interval training? I just run in semi-darkness in a place where Jurassic Park looks like a kiddie ride.

And I’ve got the stems to prove it.

 

Time to say goodbye

Here, a little background music while you read:

A good blog (allow me to flatter myself) is like a good TV show. It amuses; it informs, seriously or with humor, about matters vaguely important or unapologetically trivial; it has a target audience; and it knows when to quit. I could also add that a good TV show yields lasting cultural markers—the Rachel, anyone?–and that a blog, if it is true to its purpose, would do the same. Which is why y’all should understand that really, this post from almost exactly a year ago was probably the beginning of the end.

Yep, I used y’all in a post. I use it in real life. No one looks at me funny. That’s how I know it is, as Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli are currently putting it so melodiously, time to say goodbye.

Red, white, and new.

Now that I’m home full-time with the oyster, being red doesn’t matter so much. In fact, being red around here matters less than being red further away from this town. Being white actually has “mattered” in ways that I didn’t expect and that make me uncomfortable and would be hard to explain to anyone who is insulated by distance or by work that keeps them sheltered in a particular like-me demographic, like being a young professional in this area. And finally, the elephant on the blog, the thing I’ve noticed as I’ve had less to say over the last few months…I’ve acclimated. I’m no longer new.

I launched this blog three years ago one week from today, on September 11, 2011. It was meant to be what the subhead says, the story of “a midwest transplant trying to put down roots in the center of the free world.” We were delayed in our adventure by Martha and were surprised shortly after our arrival by the oyster. We have had some incredible highs and devastating lows in the past three years and those things and all the details in between and along the way and behind us and ahead of us mean only, really, that we are living life.

We love the life we live and it’s hard to maintain a full and focused life when you’re distracted watching for potential blog posts in the daily details. So I won’t do that anymore after next week. I’ll post three more times before I close up shop next Thursday.

I’m going to miss y’all.

 

Branches, branches, everywhere, nor any tree to climb

On Wednesday night a storm blew through our neighborhood. And by blew I mean it was fast, not that it provided us with a stiff breeze. My weather app said “chance of showers” overnight. A 30% chance, in fact. And even having spent my entire life up until 2011 in the Midwest–albeit not the super tornado-y portion of the Midwest–I’ve never seen a storm do this kind of damage in real life.

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Dietrich had been crying for hours before the husband and I went to bed and we attributed it to a sore back. When we woke up to the storm at midnight, a crack of thunder woke the husband so suddenly and so completely he got a charley horse. The power went out, which it will do when all the wires are wrapped around trees and lying in the middle of the street.

Some trees came up by the roots, obviously laid flat by wind. Others–lots–were hit by lightning and some once-magnificent trees are now really sad stumps. This one is next door to us:

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Yesterday morning on our run, the little oyster and I felt like we were in a video game. Jump, go around, slow down, jump again, duck. I couldn’t run on Thursday morning because there was nowhere TO run. Even yesterday morning was dicey. This morning I ran by myself (it’s my birthday, happy birthday to me!) and continued to gawk at the trees, limbs, and branches, branches, everywhere. I ran past one enormous tree that had seemed to provide eternal shade one street over from us. It was split in half by lightning and while it looks like a normal tree on one side, on the other it is flat and black. You might think the lightning trees smell like camping or something tasty. They don’t. They smell like burn. 1 billion volts of burn.

Most of the pine trees that came down came up by the roots. Yesterday when the crews started cutting them a piece at a time for removal the whole neighborhood smelled like Christmas. There were six cars under the tree below, and another half-dozen trees of the same size felled in a perfectly straight line right behind this one, like pine dominoes. Those roots are easily 35 feet in the air.

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Here’s the thing: I love a good storm. This was not a good storm. When the sisters and I were little girls and a storm came through our neighborhood, we would stand at the front door and watch the sheets of rain drive down the street, watch the clouds turn colors and snap lightning back and forth. It was always beautiful. I love the refreshing aftermath of a good thunderstorm. I have always felt like the trees and flowers bounce back a little greener, the rain scrubs everything clean, and the thunder and lightning are magnificent. A solid thunderstorm has always, to me, looked like everything was working in tandem, the weather, the trees, the rising water, all in it together. Nature! But Wednesday’s storm felt like nature turned in on itself and started devouring. It felt like all that was rooted in the earth was prey for what blasted down from the sky and stood no chance. It felt wrong and dangerous. This is what people mean when they talk about a storm raging.

The storm included a microburst that struck only our neighborhood. Essentially the opposite of a tornado, a microburst is an incredibly powerful and concentrated downdraft that smashes things flat instead of lifting them up and tossing them around like a funnel cloud does. This explains the havoc that a regular thunderstorm simply wouldn’t have wreaked. A house three streets over is split in half by a huge tree. Shutters from our buildings were scattered like cheap confetti.

Cars were crushed as if our streets are a movie set. We are grateful that ours, which is the little red Toyota below, wasn’t one of them:

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We are all safe, though Dietrich lost enough fur to carpet a small condo. Clean up and power restoration started first thing on Thursday morning and the chainsaws and wood chippers are still going today. The mess was incredible but the clean up efforts have been impressive.

But now our gorgeously verdant neighborhood has bald patches; trees left standing have been shorn like sad little sheep, while others are twisted into macabre Seuss-like creations, jutting and jagged. It’s sad. I miss our trees. I miss our shade. I miss our green. I miss our beauty. And because we are all safe, even those in damaged homes, it is easy to say that things could have been worse. Truly, things could have been much worse. But the loss of beauty is still a loss and while capable crews work hard to set things right again, I’ll feel free to shuffle down our streets and mourn it.

In which Trader Joe’s and I bury the hatchet

In the interest of full disclosure, when Trader Joe’s first came to the old home state, I was indifferent at best. And then I shopped there a few times, found it organized in a way that didn’t make sense to me, not much better price-wise than the regular grocery stores, and generally overwhelming and my indifference turned to animosity. That people who didn’t live near a Trader Joe’s would send grocery lists with friends who would be traveling past one blew my mind.

Also, when I found out one July that the chocolate truffles are seasonal and that season is winter, I almost punched a kitten in the face.

So for many years I have loathed Trader Joe’s and saw no reason to change my mind on this.

Then we moved to Virginia and the Trader Joe’s (Traders Joe’s?) abound(s?). I found myself slipping into the Old Town location now and then, for the wine, and always under duress. The place frustrated me with its big, bubbly signage that is hard to read, its constant rearranging of products, and the stupid conveyor belt-less check out lanes. Plus, the orchids are by the dog food…what? Why? What?

And so I bought our wine there and continued to hate it.

But then I noticed that flowers were a good price, a better price than our corner Safeway. And nicer looking. Target, where I do 94% of all my shopping, doesn’t carry flowers. Well, maybe I could stand to get a bunch of tulips when I come for wine.

And then I started to host one of my book clubs more often, and the cheese and cracker options at Trader Joe’s really were second to none, and decently priced and without the additives and preservatives in my standard Target choices. Well, since I’m already stopping in for wine and flowers, I may as well get cheese and crackers, too.

Soon I was buying all of our wine, flowers, cheese, and most crackers at Trader Joe’s. On a semi-weekly basis. And we eat a lot of cheese.

Then I realized that .19 cents per banana really is a deal, and those were often in our cart when we checked out. Then so was the broccoli. And then the coffee.

Still, I would have called my relationship with Trader Joe’s cordial, but not friendly. Not even the cookie butter had swung the pendulum as far as friendly.

The staff at our Trader Joe’s is kind, and each time we go in, the little oyster is greeted with smiles and pinches and happy chatter. I soon realized that these people are happy to be there and they love to see a jolly little girl roll in, applauding other shoppers and dancing along with the music that is always playing. More than once we’ve been in an aisle minding our own business and heard, “There she is!” as one employee brings another to meet “the cutest baby you’ve ever seen.”

It has certainly seemed for some time like Trader Joe’s wanted to be friends with us. But I wasn’t willing. Mostly because it’s always crowded no matter what time of day we go, they still use that stupid bubbly, colorful signage that makes my brain twitch, and the dumb cash registers! I can’t see what my kid is doing, find my ID for the wine, make pleasant conversation back at you, put the nice paper bags into my cart, and still remember to pay!

I figured that Trader Joe’s and I would always be on speaking terms, but never truly friends. We’d be those classmates who go to school together for 13 years, don’t mind working together in chem lab, but would never end up at the same lunch table, much less each other’s houses. But after months of dancing around the subject of whether or not we could really become friends, something happened today that settled the debate for good and in the affirmative.

Today I discovered that Trader Joe’s sells milk for $2.99/gallon.

You know what, Trader Joe’s? You can put your orchids and dog food wherever you want, I’m just going to help myself to a few of your $2.99 gallons of milk, move my flowers and wine and cheese in the cart to make room for them, and be on my way. Good buddy.

Floating on my cloud of new friendship with the place, the oyster and I checked out at one of the lanes quaintly named after the picturesque streets of Old Town. And suddenly the no-conveyor-belt thing didn’t annoy me so much. What’s the point, really? Who needs a conveyor belt? You just hang on to my bags on that side of the counter until after I have paid you and have room for them in my cart and we’ll be golden. No harm, no foul, no petty larceny. Ahh, my friends.

Also, our cashier today pointed out the prominent bite marks on the cheese he was ringing up and asked if they were from my shopping companion or if I would like to choose a new piece of cheese. No no, said I, we broke it, we bought it.

Also, our cashier today pointed out the prominent bite marks on the cheese he was ringing up and asked if they were from my shopping companion or if I would like to choose a new piece of cheese. No no, said I, we broke it, we bought it.

 

The oyster and I got our parking slip stamped (oh yeah, our Trader Joe’s and its parking lot are half-way underground because that’s the only place left to put anything around here) and waved at other departing patrons–my sisters! my brothers!–as we gamboled back to our car.

One thought about my new friend still niggled in the back of my mind. The signage. The unreadable signage. Trader Joe’s signs are like a unibrow. I know that other people find it quirky and endearing. I find it puzzling, hard to look at, and not something I’d ever go for. But what I call difficult to understand, someone else would call a style choice.  And on a friend, like my new friend Trader Joe’s, I can respect a style choice. Especially when my friend sells me milk for $2.99 a gallon.

I’m so glad we’re friends now, Trader Joe’s. Unibrow signs and all.

RWN and the senior citizens brigade

Today on our morning walk I realized that we were out and about in our little condo community with the senior citizen brigade. They probably don’t call themselves that and they weren’t an organized force with matching T-shirts or anything but there were enough of them power walking through the streets and not enough of any other demographic for me to realize that the only people home during the day are me and the AARP mailing list.

I had always suspected this.

Election Day!

The husband: Thanks for driving me.
Me: Our pleasure! We like you.
Oyster: DadadadaDADADAAAAAA!!
The husband: Oh hey, that’s the bus I would be on if you weren’t driving me to the station.
Me: How about that.
The husband: Thanks for going around it.
Me: Did you want me to stop so you can flag it down and take it the rest of the way?
The husband: <silence>
Me: Ok, ok, don’t joke with a guy who had his ballot rejected, I get it.

Today is Election Day in sunny Virginia. Yes, for those of you who elect your governors in even years, it’s true; some states (or commonwealths) hold gubernatorial elections in odd years and I agree, it’s weird. The husband has a long day ahead and the polls wait for no man, so we went to vote as a family before the husband went to work.

Our friend who lives down the street was one of the guys taking addresses and handing out ballots and our upstairs neighbor walked in to vote just as we were leaving. These little touches of community, these familiar faces, make me want to put down roots, buy a house, and volunteer at the polls myself. But not here. Not in a state that elects its governor in an odd year.

Today we had paper ballots. I sat down in my voting cubicle to vote while the oyster talked her dad through his ballot. I suspect that’s why, when he turned his ballot into the counting machine a few minutes later, it was rejected no matter which way he fed it in. He had to recast his ballot while the oyster and I traced our precinct on the big map and picked at the tape holding it on the wall. One of us sang while we waited.

Outside the polling place two tables were set up to offer sample ballots to those who didn’t know the candidates and wanted to be sure to vote for the right ones. I knew who I was voting for but I stopped at the Republican table anyway because the ladies were friendly and they had donuts and I thought they might offer me one. (No luck.)

Lady: Here, would you like a Wolfe for Sheriff ice scraper?
Me: HAHAHA! What is that?
Lady: It’s an ice scraper, for your car.
Me: Hahaha! Awwww, y’all in Virginia are cute!
Lady: Haha, well, you might need it soon! It is getting cold.
Me: <hooting>
Lady: It is pretty small isn’t it. <chuckles>
Me: <wiping my eyes> Ma’am, I have bottle openers bigger than that.

Needless to say, I turned down the adorable fun size ice scraper but I do hope Wolfe wins. On second thought I probably should have taken it; the little oyster will be needing something for her Fisher Price car before the next election.

In the little things and in the big things

one year oyster

Once upon a time a little girl turned 1 and her parents had new insurance and it was time to take her to her new doctor for an appointment. Her mom didn’t know where the new doctor’s office was, so she mapped it on her phone and followed the directions. As the little girl and her mom exited the highway, her mom heard a strange sound under the car, as if she had run their little red vehicle over something in the road. Unsure of what it may have been, the little girl’s mom slowed way down for just a few seconds to make sure everything was fine. It was, and soon the little girl and her mom were back up to speed.

The little girl and her mom in their little red car had made all the green lights and the next intersection showed two more green arrows beckoning them on. It was a large intersection, a lot of people going on the arrows. Suddenly, CRASH!! Not the little girl and her mom, but the car in front of them. Someone without a green arrow, barreling through the large intersection. The blue car crushed the white car only feet in front of them, right before their eyes. Pieces of both cars flew everywhere. It was a horrible accident, like one of those commercials.

The little girl of course saw nothing. She was safe and sound in the back seat of her little red car as her mom stopped hard and steered around the wreck. Her little red car that would have been going through that same intersection just a few seconds sooner if some strange noise hadn’t slowed them down for just a moment, just a moment ago. Instead it was the white car that got smashed, the whole driver’s side crushed right where a mom and her little girl’s car seat would be if they were in the white car and not the little red car.

Her mom didn’t call 911. She wouldn’t have known where to tell responders to go and whispering “Oh shit, oh shit” to a 911 dispatcher isn’t much help. The little girl and her mom drove on to their appointment. The little girl was singing a song to her sock.

Traditional wisdom holds that parents get the kinds of kids who can push all their buttons, that you will get the kids who will teach you the lessons you most need to learn, who will challenge your most deeply held beliefs, assumptions, and sanity.

The little oyster is an easy baby and always has been. Parents who are raising “difficult” children have said to us with a scoff, “Oh, just wait for the next one.” And to them I say, with all due respect:

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God doesn’t only teach us things through “difficult” kids or with difficult circumstances. But I have wondered, as other parents lament certain struggles or difficulties that I haven’t experienced, am I missing out on the meat of parenting? Is an easy baby costing me my street cred with other parents? Why did God give us an easy child?

The little girl and her mom are leaving the doctor’s office. She had shots but now she is happy and chatting again. She’s buttoned into her new fall jacket, the one with polka dots, waving at other patients, laughing when she hears her own voice echo through the atrium. The nurse and the doctor both pronounced the little girl “perfect” during her check up.

As they leave they run into friends who are back at the doctor for the third time this week, their baby out of sorts, her fever up and down for days. Today their little girl will have more tests. The friends are tired and burdened and sad. The little girl’s mom wants to encourage them so she tells them they are doing a great job. They go to their appointment. For the second time in an hour the little girl’s mom wonders, Why isn’t that us?

And then I know for sure what I have suspected for a while. It hits me like the blue car didn’t. It’s what I need to ingest each day, a comfort as much as it is a command: Be still and know that I am God.

I may never know fully why he gave us our daughter but when I look at her I do understand God a little better–not because she’s perfect, but because he is. That is what I understand better.

We weren’t given the child we were given to compare battle scars with other parents. We were given the child we were given because this is how God planned it and I am no more to credit for an easy baby than another parent is to blame for a difficult one. God has given us whom he has given us for his own glory, not for mine. This is not a reflection of us or of her but a reflection of him. There is nothing I can do to make it more so and nothing I can do to make it less so.

And he makes it abundantly clear, when we slow down to listen for a noise in our car and miss a horrible traffic accident by less than two seconds, that he is God. And he makes it clear that if we were a few seconds ahead and that had been our little red car in the intersection, that he would still be God. My responsibility is not to run through the what ifs and the almosts. My responsibility is, in good times and bad, with easy babies and with any others that come, to be still and know that I am God. With an easy baby, I am without excuse to be still. With a faithful God, I am without excuse to know he is in this and in all things.

Dear Virginia, thanks for the tan legs

Dear Virginia,

We’ve had our differences, you and I. You’re a place of 55 MPH speed limits, toll gates to park at Target, and antebellum cobblestone sidewalks that less knowledgeable persons mistakenly call quaint and picturesque but which I know are the cruel weaponry with which the South will rise again. I come from a place where doing 80 in the fast lane gets you passed on the right, parking is free, and the sidewalks are evenly paved because we are true patriots.

Virginia, you have always thought it’s funny to be really humid really early in the day which is why I pretend I never hear the dog when he needs to go out in the mornings so the husband has to take him. Because the times I have taken the dog out in the mornings, you make me have Daryl Hannah hair and I’m afraid of what your squirrels–which are legion–will do to my head.

Not cool, Virginia.

Not cool, Virginia.

But there are a few things you do that deserve a tip of the hat. You’re verdant. Green green everywhere and all that jazz. You’ve made certain sartorial creations like short-sleeved sweaters and suede shoes make sense, although I’m still not convinced on the seersucker thing.

Nope, I'm not ready yet, Virginia. I'm just not ready.

Nope, I’m not ready yet, Virginia. I’m just not ready.

Still, our relationship isn’t entirely rocky. I pay your taxes. I leash-license-scoop my dog. And I felt horrible the other day when there was a spider in my car, crawling toward me on the window!, and I squashed it with a napkin and unthinkingly hurled the napkin out the window and into your lush highway grasses, although being Virginia, the napkin was biodegradable and made of 100% post-consumer materials in the first place, so really all I did was fertilize.

And there’s one major thing you have done for me, Virginia. You’re a sunny, cheeky little place and I don’t come from a land of sun. That has always been ok with me. Even now I often prefer a good rainy day to the rays of your 38th parallel. The times you have both the blazing sun and a pouring rain shower at the same time my mind is truly blown. I’m not a fan of the cancers, Virginia, so I wear sunscreen when I go out. Having the dog to walk, items to drop in the mail, and a few baby-weight pounds to lose still, I walk kind of a lot in your bright sunshine. I knew the vitamin D I was soaking up was good for me and that even with my waterproof sport UVA/UVB broad spectrum aerosol protection some of your sun’s rays would meet me where I stand.

And for that, I do thank you, Virginia. Because now, for the first time in my life, I have tan legs. Naturally tan legs. Me! And except for an unplanned incident with a paddle boat, the tidal basin, and four New Yorkers with an expensive camera, it’s all from walking around in your sunshine. I’m no bronze goddess, don’t get me wrong. But my legs have a healthy glow they’ve never had before and truly, it’s the least you could do because if I’m going to be all Steel Magnolias from the neck up, at least I no longer look like Chaucer from the knees down.

The guy on the left.

The guy on the left.

Love,

rwn