Ghost Story

Dana and I are running in twelve different directions this week. So here’s a spooky post from two years ago…and last year…but who doesn’t love a ghost story?

Happy Halloween!

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Growing up, we had a ghost in the house. I’ll put that on my mom. And if my mom was writing this, she’d tell you the same.

We’d lived in the house probably ten years before we put it all together. We sat down as a family and told each other all the weird things that had happened that we thought were just weird coincidence or the creakings and squeakings of a 40 year old house. That night, I named her Dorothy.

Dorothy was the source of the knocking on my bedroom wall, the reason that the dog sat up and begged from no one. She whispered in everyone’s ear, waking us up in the dark of night. Up to that point, none of it was scary. Just weird.

But that dinner was like her coming out party. Once we acknowledged her presence, she got busy.

One night Teresa was playing with my mom’s music box, a masquerade clown that played “Music of the Night” from Phantom. As if that in itself was not creepy enough, two hours after she left, I was watching TV by myself when I heard the box play about six slow notes in the dining room. It did that sometimes, like it hadn’t quite wound all the way down.

Thirty seconds later though, that thing started playing loud and fast like someone had wound it all the way up.

I screamed for my brother, who yelled back “I’m not coming out there!” My mom came running up the hallway and grabbed the box, which had indeed been wound all the way up.

Dorothy.

My dad hired a painter to paint the family room. After six hours they wanted out. The paint fell over, the brushes moved from where they had been left, the TV switched on and off. “You got a ghost, boss” the painter told my dad.

Dorothy.

At Christmas, the stockings my mom made when we were all babies, that hung on the mantle every year, and were packed away in the same place, were gone. My mom turned the house upside down. Nothing.

When we dragged the decorations out for the next Christmas, there they were, right on top.

Dorothy.

I lost a pair of jean shorts, my favorites. I looked for them everywhere, even in my brothers’ drawers. Then I forgot about them. One day in the middle of winter, I pulled a load of whites out of the dryer and mixed up among them—my blue jean shorts.

Dorothy.

My brother used to surf early in the morning. The kid never remembered his house key. He’d tap on my bedroom window so I could get up and let him in the back door. One Saturday morning, he  called my name and tapped, and I got up and opened the back door. Which set off the house alarm. Which brought everyone running, including my brother who’d been asleep in his bed.

Dorothy.

It got to be a thing. My mom, standing over the tv, turning it off only to have it turn right back on. “Dorothy, cut it out!” she yelled finally, and that time the tv stayed off.

One night I was doing the dishes. It was just my brother and me in the house. He came into the kitchen to get a drink, but then he bolted for the back door and locked it. “I just saw someone outside!” he said.

“Blond hair?” I asked him.

“Yes!”

“I’ve seen that. I think it’s Dorothy” I told him.

And then this night. I was doing the dishes. It was dark. The rest of the family was watching tv in the other room. I looked up from the sink, into the window, which was like a giant mirror, reflecting the room behind me. And I saw a woman with blond hair, in a long black dress, walk into the room towards me. I froze, and watched as she turned and walked out.

When I ran out into the family room to tell my parents, my brother said “I thought I saw someone walk into the dining room just a second ago”.

Dorothy.

The mystery was solved one afternoon at my grandparent’s home. I was telling Dorothy stories and my grandmother, a few Canadian Clubs into the afternoon, said “We had a ghost here too. Bessie.” She then launched into a list of Bessie stories that sounded a lot like Dorothy. My grandmother thought she haunted a painting they used to have.

“Is she gone?” my dad asked.

“Oh sure, since we got rid of the painting” my grandmother said.

“Where did it go?” he asked.

“We gave it to you years ago! The one in the living room.”

And I knew exactly the painting she was talking about. A delicate, Romantic style portrait of a young girl, her face glowing against the background, even in the dark.

The girl in the painting was not a blond. And she was not dressed the way that Dorothy was dressed the night I saw her. But since the day my dad took that painting off the wall and sent it to Goodwill, there has never been another Dorothy incident in the house.

I know. Spooooooky.

Happy Halloween!

Faith, Hope and Love

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Look at this girl. I met her in 1994, when she was 18 months old. With those twinkly eyes and saucy curls, she worked her way into the hearts of my family.

She was in my wedding:

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I was her Confirmation sponsor, five weeks postpartum:

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She loves on my babies:

She went to college and she dated and that was a thing because there were some practice guys who were lovely young men, but not The One. One or two of them might have been Almost The One, or Probably Could Be The One With A Lot Of Prayer, Patience and Counseling.

But this is not what we dream for the people we love. We want them to find The One.

Two years ago, praise be to God, this guy walked carefully into her life.

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The light began to shine, the angels sang, everything fell into place as God ordained it and two weeks ago, this happened:

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I never thought about what it felt like for my parents, who surely prayed Shea into my life, to see me joined with him in marriage. Then Mike called us to say he was going to ask Teresa to marry him and I was flooded with gratitude to God. All parents and godparents and side parents pray for The One, but kids are stubborn.

Mike is for sure The One and I know that because of how he makes Teresa feel. She is so well-loved by him that she glows. She laughs without cares. She shakes the small stuff. Her future is here, to have and to hold, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death does part them.

The second best thing about them, after the way they love each other, is the prayerful and faithful nature of their relationship. They are going to do big things as they build their family and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

But first, there’s a wedding in the works! I am the mother of a junior bridesmaid, a flower girl and a lector. There’s a shower to plan and dresses to buy and general squealing into the phone over every little detail.

It’s going to be amazing.

#mikeandteresaslovestory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dasher

Sisters, we got a puppy.

I KNOW. But here’s what happened. Two weeks ago I was driving the kids home from Sunday school and when I got to the intersection where the Humane society is located, I felt the command to turn.

“Where’re we going?” Gabe asked.

“Let’s go look at dogs.”

“Are we getting one????” Annie squealed from the back seat.

“Only if there are puppies” I said. In the almost two years since Sugar crossed the Rainbow Bridge there have never been puppies at the Humane society. Not. Even. Once. But that day, there were four. Litter mates, surrendered without parents so only God knows a single thing about their pedigree–probably closer to ketchup than whole wheat. Two of them were all black, one looked like a black and white Springer Spaniel and one was colored like a German Shepherd.

He was the most chill. I sent Shea this picture:

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He texted “You had one job. Go to Sunday School. WHY ARE YOU AT THE HUMANE SOCIETY???.”

“God made me” I texted back. “I’ll explain when we get home.”

Other kids wait for their moms to say “Yes”. But my kids know when I text dad the picture, the deal is sealed. If it was up to me, we’d live on five acres and breed bassets. If it was up to Shea, we’d own a zoo.

Surely it is not news that our crazy sits on the front porch and hollers at the neighbors. What’s one more dog? Especially when he’s cute.

 

 

 

 

 

From One Jen to Another

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Dear Jen Hatmaker,

I just finished Of Mess and Moxie. Thanks for the laughs.

Like all good books, it taught me a lesson. I thought I should share it, because sharing is caring and all that jazz.

You wrote this in Chapter 21, How To (Part Four): How to do the laundry:

“8. Remember the darks! Yay, you! Despair at the light load in the dryer. This is like discovering the dishes in the dishwasher are clean. Throw load of lights on your bed to “fold in a few minutes” while you move the darks to the dryer. 9. Co-Sleep with the light load that night. Give them their own bed space, like a person.”

When I read this, even though I have Jesus in my heart, I judged you. I did. Who sleeps with laundry? I thought in my most OCD voice. Someone should tell Jen Hatmaker that laundry day is a process, not a string of one-off events where it’s ok to skip an event here or there. Wash. Dry. Fold. Place in various laundry baskets to be put away by minions when they get home from school. This is not rocket science, although it may have been informed by a scientific approach. For the love, indeed.

I read that chapter Thursday night.

On Friday, we picked up our new puppy. Saturday morning, I awoke at 6 am so that my son and I could drive 8 hours round trip to his play-off football game in cold and pouring rain. I left Shea home with the new puppy, the grumpy old basset hound, our two girls, a volleyball game and two soccer games. Divide and conquer.

My sweet husband thought he would knock out the laundry. He did four loads. He did them all the way to dry, good man. In the middle of that, I called in a panic because I had a flat tire on the 5 in the middle of nowhere Oregon. You may think my panic was about the tire, but it wasn’t. I needed my husband to find the nearest teammate traveling up the 5 and send them to get my football player.

(Full disclosure–there was a screw in my tire. I saw it two weeks ago. It was wedged in there good and I figured it would hold.)

The same time I arrived in pouring rain to watch a football game (new tire safely in place), he arrived in pouring rain to watch two pee-wee soccer games. We left the middle child at home with the puppy and she called no less than five times to give and get timely updates: “Dash pooped on the floor. I cleaned it. Is Gabe still winning?”

When we got home, my son jumped in the shower and my husband took him to a Halloween party. I sat down for a whole four seconds before the grumpy basset hound decided she’d had enough and started nipping at anyone who came near her. Took me a good twenty minutes to recalibrate her attitude, by which time the puppy had pooped on the floor, the five year old was screaming in a cold shower and I’d lost my drink. That is not a metaphor. I had a nice vodka tonic and I set it down and I can’t find it.

You see where this is going right? When I finally dragged myself to bed, there was all the laundry. My husband and I stood there looking at it in silence. Then he said “I’ll sleep on the couch with the puppy?”, I said “Yep”, shoved the clothes over to his side and climbed in to co-sleep with the laundry.

God is good, Jen Hatmaker. Grace is good. Humility too. Honesty. Sisterhood. And sometimes, co-sleeping with the laundry .

 

 

 

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Boys In Blue

The Dodgers are going to the World Series.

This is big. It’s not 108 years big, or 86 years big, but it’s still been 28 years since Kirk Gibson’s magical walk off home run in Game 1 of the ’88 series. I was 16.

Baseball is not my favorite sport. It comes after college football, NFL, College basketball (women and men) and the NHL. So sixth. It’s my sixth favorite sport.

But the Boys in Blue are my #1 pro sports team. LA girl. Legacy Dodger fan. I remember being at my grandparents’ home in Duarte for the ’81 Series win, watching my grandfather, dad and uncle hootin’ and hollerin’ as they listened to the radio on the patio.

(Of course that was the BBQ where my grandfather asked for sherry to pour on the steaks as they grilled, and my grandmother gave him a bottle they had emptied of sherry and used to smuggle vodka across the border from Mexico. The explosion burned my Papa’s eyebrows off his face and all I can remember is them laughing, so probably they were deep into the bottle with the correct label on it. Also my cousin, I believe as a result of PTSD from this night, deliberately sought out and married a San Francisco Giants fan.)

My dad had a friend with season tickets, so once a year growing up we went with Mark to a game. His seats were good ones, in the yellow down third base line. I learned to appreciate the pace of the game live and in person, the rhythm of pitches and shelling peanuts.

I came back to Dodger games in my 20s. It was the late 90s and a game ticket could be had for $6. My roommate would burst through the front door and say “Dodgers?” and off we’d go. If we timed it right, we could leave Long Beach at 6 and be in our seats for the first pitch at 7:05. I knew every approach to get into the stadium, but more importantly–I knew how to get out. And that’s saying something. If there were such a thing as the “7 F*ck Ups of the World”, the parking lot at Chavez Ravine would be one of them.

This was the era of Karros and Piazza, Nomo and Hollandsworth. Also Todd Worrell. That guy. Look, I don’t often feel strongly about sports figures but my antipathy towards Worrell is deeply seated. I watched my boyfriend Mike Piazza put a lot of runs on the board that Worrell gave back in the top of the 9th, with fast balls right down the pipe. Everybody knew. My grandma could have hit them.

When Shea asked me to marry him, I was less worried about his unbaptized soul than I was about yoking with an Angels fan. Mixed marriages are not to be entered into lightly. People have been known to get divorced.

In June, I took the kids to their first Dodger game, with Teresa and Mike. I used to go to Dodger games with Teresa and her mom when she was small enough that we carried her in. Total full circle moment.

But also, we were in LA for Sue’s funeral and she was the kind of Dodger fan who still listened to games on the radio. She and I decided last winter that we would take the kids and go the next time we were down. We went in her honor. Hard stuff.

Tickets are not $6 anymore and so the most affordable professionals sports ticket in town is damn near not affordable. The ushers no longer wear straw hats and chase down beach balls. The peanut guy, though–still cash only. I bought the kids hats and dogs. We did the wave and a group of drunk guys behind us had an inexhaustible supply of beach balls. It was awesome sauce.

And now here they go. A Dodgers-Yankee series would be something for the ages, but at this writing, the Astros are up 3-0 in Game 6 so we’ll see.

Either way, Let’s Go Dodgers. #ThisTeam #Dodgerblue

From Conception to Death

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October is Respect Life month in the Catholic church.

Like so many Christian churches in this country, we screw it up. And in the screwing up, we drive people away. And we’re too stupid to know that we’re driving people away.

Sunday, at a Catholic church in our valley, there were “Archdiocesan-mandated” petitions for signature after Mass. It was inferred from the Layman’s Minute portion of the Mass that to refuse to sign the petitions was sinful. This was supported by a reminder that the sainted JPII was the Church’s most ardent defender of Respect Life issues.

I was not at this Mass. I would not have been caught dead at this Mass in a church where the director of ministries has decided that boys and girls cannot serve on the altar together–which, by the way, is out of order with the teachings of the Church. And I can’t with JPII.  Plenty of former altar boys and choir girls who might have something to say about his commitment to respecting their lives.

But a friend was at this Mass, and she called me in tears.

“Do you think, less than a week after Vegas, that there was a Respect Life petition about gun control? Or a petition to recall the governor over euthanasia? Or even a petition for the President to help the AMERICAN CITIZENS in Puerto Rico? NOPE. Nothing on the death penalty. Nothing about North Korea. ONLY ABORTION.”

Abortion is a huge cultural failure and in Oregon our legislature recently passed a bill that expanded access to and coverage for abortions and birth control. The outrage is real.

But I have heard the same Knights of Columbus who organize these “Pro-Life” petitions talk about immigrants like they are the scum of the earth. I have heard them vow that their guns will only be taken from their cold, dead hands. I know they voted for this President who refuses to condemn white supremacists and that they scoff at the very idea of climate change.

So I won’t apologize for not picking up what they’re laying down. Their piety is false, as is their concern for life. If they only care about unborn babies, then their “care” is misogynist, political and economic. Shame on them for the damage they do to the heart and soul of our faith.

I will stand with the Sisters, and the young ones like Rebecca Bratton Weiss, who had the courage to call out the dark side of the Trad Pro-Life movement in our church, and lost her job over it, thanks to Catholic white supremacist groups Lifesite and Church Militant.

I will challenge the pretenders, on the sidewalks outside my kids’ school, or like my friend’s husband did on Sunday when he asked where the gun control petition was.

And I will reach out to those pushed away by the hypocrisy and try to show them that the church is faithful, even when her members are not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There You Are

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This is my reflection on going back to work.

I knew there was going to be a learning curve. I knew I was going to feel incompetent and frustrated. I picked it anyway.

And in the midst of week two of a twelve week training, as I listened to the very smart, very successful man on the screen talk about all the ways we can drive ourselves to make more money, I had to accept a truth: I knew what I was getting into. I may have thought I could do it half speed, or without being motivated by dollars, but I still knew I was going among people who get up every day to win.

The trainer is an Irishman, so as motivation he said “My sainted mother used to say ‘Everywhere you go, there you are.'” This fired up some of my co-trainees, but I shrank a little inside.

Here I am.

In this place that I picked, I have been lied to. I have been called “Doll” and “Sweetheart” and “Bitch” like it’s a compliment. I’ve been given unsolicited advice on how to have a good marriage from a man 10 years older than me who’s never been married. I asked another professional to wait 30 minutes so my client who was having a diabetic episode could force herself to drive to my office in her pajamas, and was told “No”.

People drink in the office. That part I don’t mind actually. What bugs me is why. Yesterday I woke up to write an offer for one client and list a property for another. I ended up 0 for 2 on the day, for various reasons out of my control. I have a vet client who despite all his “benefits” cannot afford to buy a home at a decent price point in our town. His wife has cried at my table. That’s why agents drink, or maybe it’s how they learn to say no to a decent request to wait a half hour for a sick woman.

I know these are the pitfalls of any profession which requires dealing with people on a daily basis. Teachers get jaded and burnt too. But I knew what I was about in the classroom. I saw the future of it.

Here I am.

Yes, I got into this to make money, but not for the sake of money. I have no desire to be the Top 100 anything.  I’m missing family dinners and practices and coffee with my friends. Right here, right now–super not worth it. Of course, I haven’t gotten paid yet. Maybe that will change things.

But I can’t help thinking that two paychecks into my teaching job looked like the same amount of work for a lot more compensation.

Am I whining? Sure. Maybe it sounds like I have the “luxury” of not being worried about dollars and cents. It’s not true. My husband makes a great living, but like most stay at home moms can tell you, we lived on a shoestring so that I could be there, and the kids are only getting more expensive, not less. It would be helpful for me to pick up the shoestring and make it more rope-like.

Here I am.

This is just a stop on the way to where I want to be. Three years to learn the job so that I can do what I really want, which is own and manage affordable housing in this city where landlords have no souls because the occupancy rate sits in the high 90s. Three years to create a philanthropic housing program for low income families. No, I’m not really sure what that means yet, because I’m busy learning about leach fields and urban growth boundaries, but I know that shelter is a basic human right and there has to be a way to help people get it that glorifies God.

The storm before the calm. The horse before the cart. Uncomfortable. Unsure.

Here I am.

 

 

Resounding Gongs

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Re-sounding: sounding over and over and over; impossible not to hear

A few weeks back I got into an argument on the sidewalk outside of school with another mom. It was religious and political and although I played dead for a loooong time, my silence was interpreted as disagreement and I was advised to speak to my pastor for guidance.

At which point I engaged the argument in my own fun style, and it didn’t end well.

She wasn’t rude. She wasn’t angry. But she was re-sounding. As soon as she perceived that I was only adjacent to her beliefs, I was under attack–not by what she was saying, but by the volume of words she spoke at me without stopping to listen.

This is not ok. I apologized for the way I lost my temper and we agreed to disagree. But we have not spoken since.

Because here’s the thing, and maybe she feels the same way–I can’t unknow what she showed me.

And I don’t know what to do with that.

I kept her at arm’s length because I feared this would happen. I keep a lot of people at arm’s length these days.  We are trying to raise our kids with gospel values, which I believe can be summed up in these lines from the For King and Country song Fix My Eyes:

(I’d) love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall, but above it all
Fix my eyes on you

There are many people around me, and too many sitting with me in church, who say and believe awful things, lies even, about other people. They say it in hushed voices or let nasty memes do their dirty work on Facebook. They have Not of This World bumper stickers next to political bumper stickers that are so awful you can’t believe they have the guts to drive around in the dang car.

For them, it’s not a problem.

For me, it is.

I’m supposed to love everybody and I try, but when it comes to friendships, what’s an appropriate line? I  never want to be so narrow-minded that I only surround myself with those who think like me, but I do want a foundation of kindness and charity in the people I invite to sit at my table.

The re-sounding gongs–those who fear so completely and constantly that every stranger is a villain; those who delight in a God so vengeful he would kill thousands of people because of sin; those who judge others without hearing their stories; those who work among the children of people they despise–can I shut my door against them all?

And if I do, how will they learn to change their tune and how will we ever make God’s kingdom come here on earth?

I don’t know. Do you?