Sad Days

Selam had trouble falling asleep tonight.  It’s been this way for the last week or so.  She cries easier. She wakes up and tries to find me. She sleeps late, because her sleep is so poor. 

I knew it would eventually come out. Her pattern is predictable.  I just have to wait. 

And tonight it spilled out. 

The specific details are immaterial and not mine to tell, but there is a mean girl. She’s not just mean to Selam, she’s mean to everyone. I have inferred enough from my  drop off and pick up visits to know that the teachers are aware of it and are doing the best that they can. Things are hard for this girl. 

And she in turn, makes things hard for everyone else. 

You get it, and you feel bad, but when it’s your child who is suffering, it’s hard to maintain your balance. 

Selam gets it at some level. She has picked up things about this girl’s life and made comments. She’s connected some dots. She has tried to be kind, tried to forgive, but cannot forget. Yesterday, the girl was mean to a boy in class who has some disabilities. Selam saw red. So tonight, I heard the whole sobbing litany of every mean thing that has happened at the hands of this girl all year, most especially the things she has done or said to the boy with disabilities.

I do love her tender heart. 

And I do wish I could protect it. 




It’s set at the edge of town, on a street that seems to be permanently under construction.  The parking lot is a small lake with islands of gravel scattered about.  The skates are in the trunk of the car, together with the bike helmet.  I have barely turned the ignition off before she is waiting by the trunk. I chase her to the warming house. She is in such a hurry. 

Skates on, helmet buckled, winter coat shed in favor of a heavy fleece, she insists on waiting at the door while the Zamboni does its thing. We traverse the small patio between the warming house and the rink. The rink is installed inside a pavilion–there is a concrete footprint encircling the oval and a high pitched roof above.  Melting ice and snow creates a nearly constant run of water from pavilion roof to floor.

The weather is surprisingly warm–in the fifties, and the melt has caused the walls of the rink to fog up.  When the teachers open the door to the rink, she pushes to the front of the line, and skates into a rink immersed in thin fog.  Everything looks like an old fashioned movie.  

They begin their paces and I head back to the warming house to read.  A few minutes in and it starts pouring down rain.  Lightening splits the sky and a grumble of thunder shakes me.  I look up.  The staff don’t seem worried.  I remember that pools close in lightening. Shouldn’t a semi-outdoor arena do the same?  Nobody moves. In the ice rink, I can still see faint outlines of kids in pink and purple coats, moving through the fogged up plastic.  

After a bit I go back to watch her, racing through the downpour.  I can’t see a thing through the plastic walls, so I wiggle through to the penalty box and join the other parents that have sat there.  

There is even more fog filling the rink by now. Great wafts of steam rise from the ice; the children are floating without feet through the mist. They fall and disappear from view, popping up a few minutes later–laughing and red faced.  

Selam is playing some sort of a tag game with her friend.  I can’t quite make out the rules, but the are laughing and chasing each other on the ice.  A young teen–maybe 13–practices alone in the corner. She grabs the blade of her skate and twirls so slowly and precisely.  

The session comes to a close and the children are herded back to the door.  I scurry to catch up with her, but miss out.  She is in the warming house with one skate off by the time I get there.  

“What did you think of the loud thunder you heard?”

“I didn’t hear thunder.”

“You missed that loud bang?”

“I just thought it was the sound of me falling.” 

The Cousins

There are two of them, just two, but they are viewed in the plural.

She knows them apart: Cousin C has a driver’s license, and Cousin B has a trumpet. (Well, actually she doesn’t anymore, but Selam remembers it that way.) Still, they are rarely referred to singly. They are The Cousins.

The Cousins are tall and slender, with brown hair and lipstick. Cousins wear lipstick. Selam thinks that they will be handing it down to her someday.

The cousins will paint your nails for you just for the asking, and even do theirs to match.

“Match-match.” That’s what she used to say about things she had or did that were just like The Cousins. Now that she’s so grown up, she’s more likely to attribute items in common with cousin as adjective.  She has cousin sweaters, a cousin bag.  Things that have been handed down from cousins are either called “my cousin skirt” (or more accurately, “my cousin 90% of my wardrobe”) or by the younger cousin’s name. Selam understands the rules of handmedowns.  Clothes that may have started in Cs closet before going to Bs and then hers are attributed to B.  She wore them last.

The cousins are happy to engage in almost anything that she asks them to do.  They played board games with her over Christmas, and even played dolls for a while.  The feat that won them a gold medal in the cousin olympics was when they agreed to go to lunch with her at the American Girl Doll restaurant and–wait for it–brought their own dolls with them, sat them up on chairs and held doll conversations with Selam’s doll.  Yeah, just try to match those mad cousin skills. (They did transport said dolls in duffle bags because there are some limits.)

Selam had to do a presentation at school about her family. After each child’s talk, they get a time for questions and comments.

“Did you get any questions and comments?”


“What did they ask?”

“If I wished I had sisters and brothers.”

“Oh. What did you say?”

“I don’t need sisters because I have cousins and that’s like sisters without having to share your mommy, so it’s extra good.”

They hung the moon, I tell you. The Cousins hung the moon. Image

Selam’s letter to the Boy Scouts

Selam saw me reading an article online lately about the Boy Scouts, who were thinking of rescinding their decision banning gay young people from the organization and banning gay and lesbian parents from assisting with their son’s troop. She’s always fascinated with what’s on my computer, and since this had a picture of kids, she was in to it. 

Her primary frustration with this policy (seeing as she’s 6 years old) is two-fold: 

1) her friend P has 2 mommies and they are both nice, and so it’s not fair to say no to them when they are both nice and they have a swing set. (clearly a swingset would be an important facet of boy scouting)

2) she wants to buy popcorn. She really likes popcorn, and when the Boy Scouts were selling it in the grocery store, I wouldn’t buy it, and I told her that I wouldn’t buy it because the organization discriminates, which resulted in a long conversation about what discriminates means, which led us back to her buddy P with the two nice moms and the swingset. 

So when I was looking at the article, she wanted to know more, and I told her that they wanted people to call in and say they supported or didn’t support the proposed change. Since she doesn’t have a phone, she wrote a letter, which we mailed to their office.  

I am an idiot, and did not take a picture of it, but it went something like this (once translated, and I did print out a translation from first grade to SWE at the end)

Dear Boy Scouts, 

You should change the rules so that P*r can be a Boy Scout. Because his mommies are nice and pretty. And then I can buy popcorn. And it’s not fair that P* can buy cookies but I can’t buy popcorn. And It’s not fair that P’s mommies are nice and pretty and they can’t help boy scouts. 



A girl scout. (or it might have said a daisy scout)

Come to think of it, since CLEARLY they did not read Selam’s first letter, (they are postponing their decision)I may let her write another one.  No time like first grade to begin one’s political life. 

oh well

I was going to put in an application for the groovy writing week that always rejects me. But life happened, and time got away from me. And now it’s due on Monday and I have nada.

In the past, I’ve worked really hard on an application, and been rejected.  What do you think?  I throw something together tonight and tomorrow night (no daytime hours left), I’m sure I could pull together 2000 words.  It wouldn’t be good, but it’s worth a try.

I’m thinking of using either the Defeating the Night piece or Grey as scaffolding for something else. Actually maybe 26.29.  All of that week sort of blends together for me. Of course most people are writing about Sandy Hook, so….rats.

I’m pretty mad at myself for letting this get away from me.

Right now, I’m perched on my sofa. Selam and I are cleaning like crazy, just because it got so bad in here. I’ve done the classic thing where I’ve scrubbed the floors and they aren’t dry, and now I’m perched here waiting for them to be.  Next up: bathroom and kitchen.  I’m going to let the bedrooms go for now. 

I love the smell of Murphy’s Oil Soap.

Selam said, “this is like the olden times, Mommy” when she saw me scrubbing the floor on hands and knees.

I prefer the olden times of a few years back when I had a housecleaner. I loved walking in the apartment every 2 weeks to the smell of Murphy’s Oil Soap. 

Well, off to the bathroom project.  I’ll have to mull words while the rest of the day goes on. Maybe I’ll pull it off. Maybe I won’t.

Selam is really excited about using the squirty bottle  to clean the tub (before you judge me, it’s Mrs. Meyers, and she is a volunteer.)

block it

So Anna Carter Florence does this thing where she blocks out scenes from the Bible to figure out stuff about the text. Or something like that. Anyway, while I was working on the stinky sermon, I thought, “maybe I should block this out. maybe there’s something i can’t see without blocking it.”

Except I don’t have a room full of people.

Because I live in an apartment.

With one cat.

One kid.

One me.

And a whole lot of stuffed animals.

Can you see where this is leading?

Yes, I blocked out the Bible story of the woman with the hemorrhage and Jairus’ daughter with stuffies.

Jesus was a panda bear with lilac scented beads in him. 

Jairus was a lion.

The woman was a unicorn. pink.

Jairus’ daughter was a Barbie doll.

The crowds were a collection of small stuffed animals that go in a little veterinarian toy.

Peter, James and John were a horse, a dog and a cat respectively.

For a brief moment, I considered bringing all of them in for the sermon.

But the lion and the dog already had other plans, so it didn’t work out.




  • Selam has a cold, and a bit of a fever. This is the second night of the fever, but it’s always better in the morning. At least she fell asleep easily tonight. Last night she was up forever. I find the “in between” things hard. Is she sick or not? Does it count or not?  She almost always rallies in the morning.
  • Preached today. It wasn’t as good as I had wanted. I really spent a LOT of time on this one. I think I spent too much time.  I hate not doing my very best. Correction: I hate when my best shot isn’t as good as I want it to be. Oh well.
  • Selam’s reading skills are really taking off. It’s so exciting. But for some reason, writing and math are still kicking her.  I understand math and reading being different skill sets, but I don’t understand the reading/writing thing.
  • Selam has sold nearly 100 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. …less than last year, but still a decent number. She’s pretty cute at it.
  • Oh, we got to do arts activity number one for the year: Art Museum.  While we’ve been to the British Art museum before, yesterday Selam went to the regular art museum with a friend. She liked it so much that when I came to pick her up, she wanted to show me all her favorite exhibits (she likes sculpture the best). So, now we’re 1/4 for the sports/outdoorsy category, and 1/4 for arts. Not bad for January.
  • Downton abbey, downton abbey, oh how I’m digging downton abbey
  • I found very cheap ice-skating lessons for Selam. I hope to sign her up.  Just 6 weeks, but I think she can learn the basics in that amount of time. She is SO excited! 

healing–scattered thoughts.

So, next Monday I’m preaching in chapel. This is a sort of high pressure situation, as most of the people who preach in chapel are truly awesome preachers.  I used to do it every year, but due to a variety of circumstances, I haven’t done it for 4 years now. So I’m feeling a bit more pressure. And, of course, there’s the whole congregation of brilliant scholars thing. 

And the text for the day is one that I hate. 

I could have chosen to go off the lectionary, but I just ended up not having the energy to come up with something else. In part, also, I think the fact that I really hate this passage is a sign that I might need to grapple with it some more.  

It’s a healing story. A miracle.  Barbara Brown Taylor says that the problem with miracle stories is that we all want one.  

I know I do. 

Because it’s a paired story of a little girl who is healed from death and an older woman who is healed from long term suffering, it seems like pretty much everyone in the room wants some of that. So I’m left with a bunch of trajectories, and no clear angle.  On the one hand, I’m fascinated by the fact that on the way to responding to Jairus’ need, Jesus stops for someone else.  Jairus is not mentioned in this exchange, but speaking as a mom, I would have been losing it with anxiety, and especially losing it when my child died during Jesus’ interaction with the other person. I wouldn’t have been proud of that reaction, but I can guarantee you, I would have been a wreck.  I wonder if there is a trajectory there. 

I also wonder if there is a trajectory about being a daughter. 

Or a trajectory about healing in general, and what was the real healing that took place. Was it the physical healing? Or the fact that the two people were desperate enough to let go of everything else and beg?

Once I find a way in, I think I’ll be fine.  I know my way in is going to be a back road. The main road is not for me, I don’t think.  If you’ve preached this text and don’t mind sharing your manuscript with me, I’d love to read it.  I’m not a copier at all. But I often get my best ideas by jumping off of other peoples’ ideas, and the ones posted on textweek just aren’t doing it for me.  I would look back and see what I had preached on the text in the past but I’ve never preached it. Never. have I mentioned how much I hate this text?

I do. Perhaps it’s because I so clearly feel like Jairus.  I have a daughter. I have power via my education and class. And yet, if that little duck gets sick, I would do anything, anything, anything for a cure.  And the fact that this story made it into the Bible means it’s unusual. Most parents of dying 12 year olds didn’t get cures. 

So what does healing mean then? 



Athletic/Outdoorsy Adventure #1-check!

Selam is in the bathtub, singing away, and trying to soak some of the chill from her bones.  We went ice-skating today and it was a huge hit! 

I wasn’t sure how she’d like it.  I know she’s always simultaneously up for and apprehensive of new experiences.  In the car on the way there, she started to run through all the things that could happen. I reminded her that we could watch for a while and then decide if she wanted to try it.  

Once we got there, though, she was all in.  We rented skates and one of those little walker thingies for kids and were off. She fell in the first 30 seconds. And kept falling. Over and over and over again. Every fall, she popped right back up. “I’m okay!”  She smiled the whole time, and the only pout was when they kicked us off the rink at closing time.  

She’s going to be sore tomorrow, but we’ll be back, I’m sure. 

It’s funny to me how there is this whole other set of athletic skills that nobody tells you that you need as a parent.  I know how to ice skate.  I don’t know how to ice skate really slowly in order to help her.  For some reason going slowly is really hard for me.  I also wish I knew how to skate backwards.  I know how to go backwards on roller skates, but not ice skates.  Maybe I could figure it out if I go with another adult to watch Selam.

 I’m really glad that we did this today and plan on taking her back a couple times a year.  I saw a lot of older kids totally having meltdowns on the ice today–kids that were 10 and 11. They were too big to use the little walkers and were embarrassed and scared, and generally took that out on their mothers.  There was one girl, maybe 13 or so, who wiped out and refused to try anymore and two of the skate guards had to pull her off the ice.  I don’t want Selam to feel that way, or to miss out on fun stuff like skating parties because she doesn’t know how and is scared. Actually, though, it’s unlikely to happen that way, anyway. She just goes with the flow.  

So I’m 25% in to my goal of 4 new sports or outdoor adventures with Selam.  If we get some good snow, we hope to go snow shoeing.  Our friend has spare snow shoes in kid size for Selam (and a set for herself and her son).  I’d be the only who would have to rent.  I hope it snows soon so snow shoeing can be our second sport!  


We had overpriced hot dogs afterwards (and gross ones, too at that).  I asked her if she wanted to try skating again.