Thursday, June 29, 2006

Your Hands

short fiction

originally published in Drexel Online Journal Fall 2002

Today is Tuesday. I pull into the driveway and switch off the ignition. My purse gapes open on the passenger seat next to a wad of snotty Kleenex. I want to grip the steering wheel and lean my head against my arms, close my eyes and open them again when I can no longer see my mother’s hands, blue veined, smoothing her blue tinged hair, when I can no longer hear the smack of gums squeezing red Jell-O between her lips, when I can no longer hear the cut of her words. I want to go home, and Where’s Chuck? I always liked him, liked him better than you, and Andrew’s better off picking his father. I want to stay here until I can no longer smell cafeteria chicken and urine underneath her Windsong, until I can no longer feel the knobs on her back. Her stooped posture, an indictment for all the years she picked up my messes. Toys, clothes, relationships.

This is what I want to do, but I saw you, as I was driving to the house. You with your industrious hands, charge your lawnmower across the fescue between our houses. You who are in perpetual motion, you keep your hands full. A bucket of compost, jug of fertilizer, trowel, green-throated weeds. You plant seedlings in your greenhouse window nights, trying to make the best of it, while I sit at my kitchen table tracing the scorch marks wondering if I did the right thing, or if there were a different right thing I should’ve done instead of this right thing that feels so wrong.

I can’t stay here strapped in my seatbelt locked in the driver’s seat while you slice through the lawn toward me. There are groceries in my trunk and I stand by the open lid, the white plastic bags lumpy like piles of dirty sheets. Your bare feet flecked green step onto the cement two feet from my Naturalizers. You unlock your hands from the mower handle, wipe them across your jeans.

I wait for you to say something both true and funny, the kind of thing you say on Tuesdays to cheer me up. The kind of thing that would take me days to think up. Something like The neighborhood’s too sane without the old bird or If you’re in the mood for another kitchen fire, I’m happy to help. You stand with hands limp at your sides, face pale and telltale like a badly erased chalkboard. It is like looking at myself, alone at a party, everyone else carrying a full glass and story worth telling.

Then you grin like an imp, the reason I’m sure, Liza fell in love with you. I’m going downtown for a while you say. I’ve been itching to wear that orange jumpsuit again.

Today, because it is Tuesday, and because you’ve waved at me for the two years I’ve lived here and have stood on my porch holding out fresh picked zucchini and tomatoes, and because you blew a kiss to my mother when I drove her away for the last time, today, I step into you.

You cling to me with your hard hands. Your hands that punched through the glass window of Liza’s office door, your hands that left purple bruises on your ex-best friend’s throat, your hands that tore up mail addressed to Mrs. Robert Walker and scattered it in the street. Your hands that plant flowers and cradle earthworms grip me as if I am a lifebuoy, the only way to stay afloat. Not wanting to know what you did this time, afraid to ask how long you’ll be gone, I press closer as though we could become one organism, absorbed through touch.

Today is Tuesday, the day I visit my mother and rehash my crimes of love. The day I can’t help but unravel. Your bones, like needles, squeeze against me mending the broken threads of myself. I breathe ragged and throaty into your salty neck. I feel the warmth of your damp t-shirt, the muscles beneath, the pressure of my thigh against yours, and I hold you, hold onto you. Touch you as if my hands knew your terrain.

Today is Tuesday, the day you mow the lawn. I imagine you tomorrow, boxed in, hands stuffed in your pockets or thumbing the pages of some fat novel, wondering if everything you’ve ever done is a mistake, while here your tomatoes droop in the heat. Then your hands clasp my face, covering my ears so all I hear is my pulse crashing like waves. Your mouth is on mine and together we mold something new from today as if it were clay. Forgiveness exchanged in the hot breath of our nostrils; lungs expanding to include more than our failures.

Soon you will release me. I’ll step back and mumble something unintelligible and awkward before I dash to the house on electrified legs and fumble with the doorknob, unable to look at you again, vowing to forget this ever happened, yet remembering it always. You’ll slam the mower into your garage, pile the clippings at the curb, notice the groceries in my trunk and leave them on my porch, then relinquish your freedom. For now we have this moment. Grace.

©Cathy Warner 2002

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Breath of Life

Breath is life. If we don’t enter this world with a lusty cry, then we are hung by our heels and thumped until we take that first necessary breath. From then on, most of us don’t pay much attention to breathing. We just do it, unless we’re asthmatic and struggling for air, or fighting a cold, and forced to breathe through our mouths instead of our noses. But after we reach for inhalers and decongestants to get us through the worst, we get right back to breathing without a second thought.

When I was a preteen, my dad lived in a house with a swimming pool for a few years. My friends and I would entertain ourselves in it for hours. Our favorite activity was holding our breaths. We’d take a giant gulp of air, dive underwater and see how many widths of the pool we could swim before we shot to the surface, gasping for air. Each summer, we’d improve our distance, developing little tricks for our sharp inhalation, for pushing off the pool walls and gradually releasing air from our mouths, short bursts or long trails of bubbles. We each developed a rhythm, a system.

There, underwater, the world was reduced to the pool, to the pull of our bodies and release of breath, back and forth through the clear thick world. We were perfectly attuned and fully focused in the moment, not thinking about the progress of our summer tans, or our Shasta colas heating up on the pool deck. Thinking of those days now, I’d say we were practicing mindfulness, or even praying.

Back then, we would’ve laughed at those very ideas. Practicing mindfulness would’ve been something our hippie aunts might do, something psychedelic and drug induced. Prayer was something confined to church or rosary beads, or something our parents or grandparents might do before dinner. Prayer definitely did not take place in a bikini.

With the exception childbirth, where I trained with three different breathing techniques, and two bouts with pneumonia, I hadn’t really concentrated on breathing until I signed up for “Relax with Yoga,” Integral yoga taught by Radha Vignola, through Dominican Hospital’s education program. I went because I needed to stretch my low back, the spot where all my troubles seem to get stuck.

Once I was there, I found that more important than the stretch was the breath, and with that focus on breath came the invitation to pray, to bring in beautiful thoughts, to close our time sending out light and peace and healing energy to a world in pain. What a gift, especially to a pastor, who is usually “in charge” of prayer! In that breathing, I am brought back to myself, just like I was in my dad’s swimming pool.

My twelve-year old self and my twelve-year old daughter, who observed a class a few years ago, think the “skull shining breath,” and other yoga practices are completely odd and bizarre. They do take some getting used to, but science is catching up with this ancient practice. “Mindfulness” is mainstream, and touted by folks like John Kabat-Zinn, professor of Medicine at the University of Massachussets Medical School.

Kabat-Zinn says that if we could adopt one simple practice to eliminate stress, it should be the awareness of breath. When we pay attention to our breathing, he says, we aren’t thinking about the breath before, or the breath to come, we are fully in the moment of this breath.

In Hebrew, the word for Spirit is Ruach, which also means breath. God brought humans to life by filling them with breath, with spirit. In Christian tradition, Jesus tells his followers that after he is gone, he will send the Holy Spirit to be a comfort to them. He sends breath and it brings new life.

The spirit of the divine is with us, as close as our breath. The Apostle Paul encouraged others to pray without ceasing. That seems impossible when we think of prayer as desperate imploring or nonstop conversation. With prayer as breath, and breath as prayer, each inhalation offers us the opportunity to be fully present in the moment, and to be connected with the creative force of the universe.

May you breathe deeply of the breath of life.

©Cathy Warner 2005

Rules of the Road for our Faith Journeys

Originally published in The Valley Press Janaury 2004

My oldest daughter is learning to drive. Thanks to the state, she has plenty of time to practice with her father and me, fifty hours, to be exact, before she gets her license and drives solo.
Fifty hours may not seem like much, a normal work week for many of us, but when it comes in small increments––five minutes to church, ten minute’s to Grandma’s, fifteen to a friend’s house––fifty hours takes months. There are many opportunities for my new driver to get behind the wheel, brave Highway 9 and discover in the words of my chiropractor, “the surprises that wait around every corner.”

I’ve been driving up and down the valley for sixteen years, and have to say that I don’t always see much. The autopilot part of my brain has memorized the twists and turns of my local routes, and with the exception of adjusting to the addition of new signals or construction zones, I cruise from here to there and back again, running errands, ferrying children, often with little recognition of the journey itself.

Driving is much too new for my daughter to be on autopilot. There is nothing repetitive or monotonous for her. She is on alert, sitting tall, scanning mirrors, and aware of the drivers behind her annoyed by her lack of speed. On a recent outing, she even recognized the face behind the wheel in a car headed our direction, another high school driver, and the grin on her face expanded. She’s not alone in this new adventure.

Offering advice from the passenger seat, I realized that my job isn’t simply to help guide my daughter through individual forays, but to prepare her for a lifetime of driving. As I thought about this responsibility to my daughter, I thought about our spiritual journeys in similar terms. We need to prepare for a lifetime of paying attention.

Yes, we can meet the Divine out of the blue, with no preparation at all, but like the person who jumps into a car for the first time without the benefit of any instruction, the circumstances are difficult at best.

If we want to get beyond chance encounters and shaky beginnings, we need to prepare to encounter God. Here are some driving tips that apply to our faith trip as well:

-Choose a vehicle you like and are comfortable in. There’s more than one way to get around.

-Read the owner’s manual. You’ll get more out of your vehicle than by guessing.

-Use a map. Choose some destinations you’d like to see, but be open for change.

-Plan a route and vary your driving experiences between freeway, city streets, and winding country roads. Enjoy the ride.

-Allow extra time for rest stops and scenic overlooks.

-Be patient at red lights.

-Slow down when tempted to speed out of control, it’s our lives at stake.

-Be courteous to other drivers. We travel at different speeds with different skills.

-Get regular tune-ups and make needed repairs.

-Find an experienced driver to guide you.

-Share your excitement and struggles with drivers on similar routes.

-Don’t judge those driving vehicles you wouldn’t be caught dead in.

And two more, that are only for the spiritual journey:

-Avoid cruise control. A life of rote faith on autopilot is empty.

-Avoid public transportation. Once you come of age, you have to get off the bus and drive your own car. No one else can take you where you need to go.

If we prepare and pay attention we will notice the Holy revealed in the most unlikely places. Let’s buckle up and hit the road.

©Cathy Warner 2004

Becoming More Than We Are

Originally pubished in The Valley Press April 2004

My veterinarian says my new one-eyed cat received, “the Cadillac of eye surgeries.” There’s a nice round ball under his stitched shut lid, so Theo appears to have a perma-wink. The eye surgery cost almost a thousand dollars, which wouldn’t be so unusual if he’d been my pet.

As it was, Theo was one of thirty parasitic and flea-infested cats rescued from a ranch by Project Purr of Santa Cruz ( Project Purr saw to it that Theo and his companions were neutered, spayed and treated for parasites. The ferals were located to colonies where they can live safely.

Theo needed further care; herpes had caused eye ulcers. When they cleared, Project Purr called a veterinary ophthalmologist to remove his long-diseased eye. After that, Lynn, a foster mother and feral trapper for the project, rehabilitated Theo in a small quiet room above her garage.

She fed and groomed him, administered medications, and gave him something new: human love and companionship. Under her care, he began to bloom. When my family and I visited, Theo swatted at a tattered toy mouse, but he didn’t jump high like other cats, so Project Purr paid for an x-ray to make sure nothing major was wrong before they allowed us to adopt him.
When Theo moved in, it was clear he hadn’t lived in a house. Everyday noises startled him. He watched us from under our dining room chairs where he could observe everything, but wasn’t easy to reach, even for our dog and two cats.

As each day passed, he grew more accustomed to us and to being a house cat. Now he climbs in the dishwasher and sleeps on our beds. Most important, he’s learned to receive affection, letting us carry and pet him, and allowing our dog to lick his face.

What does any of this have to do with faith? Everything, I think.

One of the core values of my congregation is this: “As a spiritual community, we strive to discover the resources needed for our work in the world; seeking justice and peace among all people; bringing hope to those in need.”

The women at Project Purr live out this value, demonstrating their belief in the inherent worth of all cats. The donation we made doesn’t come close to the costs of Theo’s care and surgery. In that manner, they provide healing the way Jesus did. They do it because it’s the right thing to do and it is within their power to do so. They do it without hidden agendas. No need to become a follower; simply accept the gift.

Theo, like all of us, is capable of becoming more than we were. He was wounded and neglected, not from evil or malice, but because those who were supposed to care for him lacked the resources to do so well. Like Theo, when we’re too wounded to help ourselves, we need to be open to help when it comes. When we’re stronger, we need to risk asking for what we need.
God doesn’t deposit us in the wilderness and expect us to survive. Family, teachers and friends come into our lives to help us develop skills for independent living. When it goes well, those who love us will let us go when it’s time.

And when we can’t care for those we’re supposed to, like the ranch folks overrun with cats, we need to seek help. Admitting we need help is terribly humbling, and receiving help is even harder, especially when it feels like a judgment or punishment. Receiving help means surrendering what we cling to. It means trusting there is a chance for new life, not only for what we must let go; but also for ourselves.

The blind, the lame, and the lepers found their lives radically changed after their healing encounters with Jesus. We can only imagine how difficult it would be to suddenly see, suddenly walk, or suddenly be made clean, after a lifetime without sight, mobility, or community. The drastic changes and unfamiliarity would be enough to make someone long for the familiar world of their pain. But, five or ten or twenty years later, would any of those who’d been healed choose to go back?

My cat purrs loud as a blender in my ear, and I know the answer.

©Cathy Warner 2004

The Wonder of Wonder Bread

Originally published in The Valley Press March 2005

The Wonder Bread truck travels Highway 9 behind me. I see it in my rearview mirror, white box on wheels, red writing across the hood, and those red, blue and yellow dots around the words. Those dots, I was never sure of, were they balloons? But, I was surely jealous, I remember now. When I was a kid, my friends brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school on exquisitely squishy white Wonder Bread packed in patterned paper bags, and I toted my lunch of tuna on grocery store brand wheat in a smelly tin box.

I think about now, how when offering Communion to one another in worship, we often say of the loaf as we tear a piece, “the bread of life.” How much we need bread, a staple in so many cultures, so basic as to appear at every meal. There is something soothing about the familiarity of bread, its long history in our lives, beginning in the kitchens of our ancestors who kneaded and baked, nurtured and fed.

For so many of us, bread comes off a truck, like the one behind me, carted on trays into a supermarket, where we’re confronted with shelves filled with bags of soft-spongy presliced product. For a few years in college and after, before I became a mother short on time, I learned to make yeast bread, and practiced the ancient rhythms of mixing, kneading, rising and baking in my modern kitchen quite frequently. Some of what I made, filled with ground soy nuts, emerged from the oven a perfectly weighted doorstop, or with an interior tunnel large enough for a Barbie doll bed. Most of my homemade bread, with its extra thick crusts and substantial texture, was a welcome accompaniment to soup in the winter, and salad in the summer, a thick slice or two, all that was needed to complete a meal.

Then my children came along, and I gave them my bread-making time, settling instead for a machine on my counter that makes strange square loaves, when we don’t have a power outage, or more often, loaves baked fresh in Santa Cruz and delivered to our local markets.

How we could all benefit from a return to fresh bread and fresh tortillas, if not made in our homes by or for those we love, then by standing in line at a bakery, breathing in the fragrance of yeast and wheat, watching the steaming loaves being pulled from the ovens on wooden paddles, set on wire racks to cool, then bundled into paper sacks for us to carry home. How much we can learn from bread, about tradition, about comfort, about nourishing our bodies and our souls.

I stop at the red light at Glen Arbor Road, and the Wonder Bread truck looms large in my rearview mirror. I think of Jesus and how he said we don’t live by bread alone. And if we need more than bread to sustain us, then Wonder, like the truck advertises, must be the other critical ingredient. Jesus says that we’re nourished not solely by bread, but by every word that comes from God.

God is speaking loud and clear to me on the drive, in a field just past the signal, where daffodils bob and weave amidst the green winter grass, from the Plant Works in the language of bud and blossom lining the fence, the fruit tree’s riotous welcome to the coming spring, clouds of pink and white dancing on treetops. Even in Santa Cruz at the orthodontist office, a parking lot filled with flowering plums, their delicate blossoms falling in the rain and blanketing car hoods, and the smiling teenagers in all phases of teeth straightening who people the waiting room.

Of course, I lost the bread truck when it pulled into the Safeway parking lot back in Felton, but I don’t need it anymore to remind me that if I simply pay attention, I will find Wonder everywhere.

©Cathy Warner 2005

Running on Empty

Originally published in The Valley Press April 2005

I don’t watch much TV, but I do listen to the radio while driving my daughter to Santa Cruz several times a week. If I took the ads seriously, it would appear that I could find meaning and fulfillment at the mall. My daughter certainly wouldn’t mind tagging along to test out my theory. Shopping and spending, buying just the right sheets and throw pillows, getting the latest designer cut and color weave, or the perfect spring outfit with matching shoes should be the thing to comfort me while my parents struggle with cancer.

My husband heard an ad awhile back for the grand opening of a department store. A woman called her fiancĂ© to say she couldn’t make their wedding because she couldn’t miss the grand opening bargains. His response—dump her! Where are our priorities?

Things can overrun our homes, filling our closets and shelves and garages and sheds. I speak from experience, having gone overboard collecting all things “pig” in my early twenties. Even so, with our homes crowded with stuff, the sad thing about things is that they can’t fill us in the deep places where we are empty.

We’re often taught to fill that emptiness with things, or with food. It’s easier to eat than to “feel,” to venture into the recesses of our lives where we have to confront pain, loss, our mistakes, the possibility of death.

Sometimes we’re terrified to examine our lives, to understand how we’ve screwed up and how we could make different choices in the future, we think we’ll be devastated by what we find out. Or it may appear, based on our experiences so far, that no matter what we do, things will never work out for us. “The system” conspires against us, so we give up trying.
We want to blame someone or something else for our lot in life, instead of taking responsibility for the things over which we do have some control. Or we try to control everything, including the weather.

We think we are hungry or thirsty or lacking the perfect accessory. So we shop and eat and drink or steal or take drugs to numb ourselves from the pain of life and the pain of existence, or to make ourselves feel alive for a brief moment. Or we make sure that we’re the best at everything we undertake, school, sports, work, as though awards will prove that we are people of worth. We’re all looking for a way to survive in a world where events seem arbitrary and capricious.

I know what it’s like to thirst for hope, to be starved for love, to want to believe that the people you love won’t leave. I know what it’s like to try and satisfy that thirst for something more, to fill that empty place with things and awards. It didn’t work. I could never be good enough, could never have enough to feel whole.

For me, the only way out of that constant emptiness was through God. I was searching for something, and God came to me in the mundane act of taking a shower. I still struggle sometimes, teeter on despair, but that empty place doesn’t ache to be filled anymore, and I know there is more to life than what I can see and control.

Sometimes I wonder what I––middle-aged upper middle-class white woman––can possibly say to those who are truly desperate and struggling, that might quench their thirst. “Try God, it worked for me,” might carry more weight if I were a recovered drug addict or former gang member, not just someone who grew up in all too common divorced households. I am who I am and I can’t change that. My story isn’t spectacular to anyone but me, my “saving” nothing that would make headlines.

Still, to those who feel they’re running on empty, who are running away from a life that is lacking, who are running toward something they can’t define, I will say, “Try God,” however and wherever and in whomever you experience God. Find that connection to what my friend Susan calls the “Great Whatever,” and “The Great Good Spirit.” Seek that higher power, a force outside yourself and you will find your life changed, maybe subtly like a few highlights in your current haircut, maybe dramatically as though you’ve been on “Extreme Makeover.” Either way, God is cheaper than shopping. God’s store never closes and the merchandise never goes out of style.

©Cathy Warner 2005

Knitting to Fill the Holes

originally published in The Valley Press November 2005

I don’t know about you, but most of my days are overscheduled, driving my daughter to gymnastics lessons, errands and grocery shopping and housework and paying bills. Not to mention church. I have a daily calendar that lists appointments by the half-hour with a blank page for all my to do’s next to it. More often than not, half of my list is carried to the next day, and even the next. What happens to my time? Life!

For years, I’d been disturbed by the number of “gymnastics moms” who sit in the parent box crocheting and knitting while their daughters tumble and vault. Workouts are three and four hours long, and I found myself thinking smugly that these moms should get a life and be busy and productive, like me.

But, deep down, I was covetous. These women were creating Sabbath time, set apart from busyness. No doubt they’d been helping with homework, making dinner, washing dishes, and then heading to the gym half an hour early. They chatted, created with their yarn and watched their daughters.

What did I have that was restful yet productive, creative yet ordered, unique yet with instructions and patterns, that I could put down and pick up without loosing momentum? What did I have to fill the holes in my day?

Nothing until Luminous Threads opened this summer in Felton ( and Allison, the owner, taught me to cast on and knit in between customers one afternoon. Then I was hooked. I signed up for classes, and now I can cast off, purl, knit in the round, increase and decrease, yarn over and drop stitch.

At first, I had no idea how to correct a mistake. I’d tear out everything and start over. Hours of work gone, and it was work in the beginning. I had to think, and hard, about every stitch, how to manipulate the needles, how to hold the yarn.

Surprisingly, I’m learning spiritual lessons in knitting. I took the second scarf I made, for my younger daughter, to a clergywomen’s retreat and received such encouragement beautiful. I fell into a hypnotic rhythm and made even perfect stitches with the smooth angora and llama yarn. From there I knitted the afternoon I sat by my dying grandmother’s bedside. It kept me present and grounded while she drifted in and out of consciousness, and I felt as though I made a memorial to her.

It was so satisfying I wanted to make something for my older daughter. She chose a blanket. I had to cast 100 stitches on giant needles held together by a plastic cord that continually twists. The yarn looks like furry false eyelashes. It sticks to itself. I’ve accidentally added stitches and dropped others. Then midway through my third (out of twelve) skein, I noticed holes back in the first.

No way could I tear out all those stitches. No way could I remember how to fix dropped stitches with a crochet hook. What to do with the holes? I tried sewing with a tapestry needle in places where the blanket might unravel. Other than that, I’ve had to let it remain imperfect, and live with it.

Life is like that, messy, imperfect. We fix what we can and make the best of what we’ve created. I see possibilities in knitting that I didn’t have before, like prayers for healing made tangible and stitched into a hat for my bald stepmother recovering from cancer treatment.

Knitting, art, music, gardening, and so much more isn’t just about taking time away from the world to refresh ourselves. When we create, we fill the holes in our own lives and offering our gifts to a world in tremendous need of beauty, tender care and holy endeavors. I hope you will pick up your needles or violins or trowels and join me.

©Cathy Warner 2005

Making Friends With Ordinary Time

Originally published in The Valley Press July 2005

When they were younger and my children needed all of me, I dreaded summers, the relentlessness with which my daughters sapped my creativity, my energy, without leaving me for a few hours each day for school so I could recharge––nothing dramatic––take a shower without someone knocking on the door, read a magazine article without interruption, get my teeth cleaned––something that wasn’t a mother activity.

The summers seemed endless, and as they wore to an end, I felt like the wild spring grass turned stiff, brown, out of life. Then my girls got older and summer meant driving them here and there, to Vacation Bible School, to Ranger Explorers, where they hiked and learned in the forest, and where I took a few hours sometimes to enjoy the redwoods too. There was life in the long days of summer after all.

Now, my oldest daughter is driving and working and the time I get to spend with her is precious and rare. I don’t enjoy ferrying my younger daughter to Santa Cruz for gymnastics constantly. But I know my time with her is winding down too, so I appreciate being in an enclosed space without distractions, if you don’t count her text messaging.

My life has been in orbit around my children for 17 years, and it hasn’t been easy stepping out of the way to let them experience independence. All the while, I’ve marked the significant events in my life, in the life of our family, around them. We got our dog when my youngest was in first grade. I home-schooled my oldest her fifth grade year, and that is when I began writing. We moved to our dream house two days before our oldest started junior high school. I became a pastor the summer my youngest began competing in gymnastics.

My children have been my organizing principle, my center, even in those early days that seemed to drag on for eternity, when I longed for a different way of keeping time, a calendar that had more Sabbaths; more space and time for me.

How will I mark the passages of my life, without them at home and in view to be my measuring rods? Part of me is afraid that my life will become “ordinary time” those days in the Christian year without distinction. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost all crowd together filling November to June with rhythm, reason to anticipate, celebrate, examine, and celebrate some more.

Then comes the blur of ordinary time, like summer when your life is centered around school, long days that are fine if you’re on vacation or at the movies, but boring and too long, when all your friends are out of town.

This summer is the last one before my oldest daughter graduates from high school, and I don’t want it to slip by in ordinariness. Everything and everyone I love is still within reach–– Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, all rolled into one. Of course I don’t have enough time, ordinary or otherwise to savor it, to bask in it all, to make everyone stay home from work and gym practice just to be with me.

I want to hold fast to this summer before “adulthood” comes. I want to clutch it to my chest as though this summer is an infant and I’m not a sleep-deprived mother.

Instead, an unseen hand is gently prying my fingers loose, patting my worried and nostalgic hand, assuring me that I don’t need to worry about who I will be after fulltime mothering. I don’t need to fear the ordinary extraordinary years that lie ahead.

I know I need to let everyone grow up, even me. I’ll do it because I have to, because it’s the right thing to do, but I want to bargain for some of that illusive “quality time,” and “family time,” while I still have a little power to do so. And because God and life and my husband and children are all fundamentally good, I get five whole days in an RV camping at a Sierra Lake with my family in August.

Just us the four of us, enjoying some ordinary time, without life’s usual interruptions. Unless, of course, our cell phones have signals.

©Cathy Warner 2005