A Confession of a Dilemma

I was a sophomore in college.

My best friend David from high school had dropped out of Bible college after freshman year to marry his girlfriend he met at said college. My boyfriend at the time was up visiting me over Christmas break when we stopped by to see their new baby, Eleanor, who was less than a week old.

She was so little with a lot of black hair. We oohed and ahhed over her. David’s wife offered to let me to hold Eleanor and I said yes. I should mention my only experience with a newborn was my sister and I was four years old at the time.

I picked the baby up under the arms, much like picking up a cat. Her little head snapped back and she screamed.

“Gah, what do I do?” I said as I held this poor unhappy infant mid-air. I sat down and put her on my lap. I had no idea how to cradle a baby in my arms. She fit perfectly on my lap from knee to hip and stopped crying after a moment.

I couldn’t get over how cute she was and her tiny features. I looked at my boyfriend with those gooey eyes. “I want one someday.” He grinned. I was pretty sure I was going to marry this perfect guy after graduation. Our kids would be cuter than this one.

As Eleanor was in my lap, her belly button stump fell off. Of course it did. “Okay, you can take the baby back now,” I said. “I’ve done enough damage for one night.”

Boyfriend turned out to be a rat and I haven’t held a baby since (Eleanor will graduate high school in the spring).

Part of it was my complete inexperience. The other part was, I said to myself, that the next baby I would hold would be my own.

I managed to avoid babies and then decided I wasn’t cut out to be a mom. I had a nephew born a few months after our marriage, and when we went to see the baby at a few weeks old, I declined to hold him. My husband held him and even got him to stop crying when his mother couldn’t. I was in awe. My husband tried to shuffle the baby into my arms at one point but I jumped back. We weren’t having kids, this was not something I could handle, especially after the Eleanor debacle.

My rule was I’ll pick up babies if they’re older than 13 months. They’re sturdier and could run away if they so chose by that age.

And then I wanted kids and convinced my husband to try. And then there were the infertility doctors and they suggested a specialist or adoption. My husband said no.

And it’s taken me about three hard, long years to be okay without having kids.

This summer I learned my sister is pregnant with a little boy. They’re naming him Conrad because all the other awkward names were taken.

I’m at a crossroads: do I hold this baby?

On one hand, this kid and I share a genetic code, unlike my other nieces and nephews by marriage. Someday, Conrad may be the only direct bloodline family I have. Like those couples who wait for their first kiss to be shared at the altar, there’s no use in waiting to hold my own baby first. That ship sailed and sank on her maiden voyage, taking the dream with her to the ocean floor.

I don’t want to ache with want, now that I am fully recovered from the baby fever syndrome; yet I don’t want to miss out on something so special because I’m being a complete stick in the mud (Principles! Honor! All that stuff in my head!)

I have a few more months to figure it out. I’m already dreading flying up there for the sole purpose of meeting him. I should also add that my family has no clue I ever wanted children or that I can’t clinically have any. I wanted to avoid the pity and the censorship; very few people knew, it was a battle I faced mostly alone.

Any suggestions for someone with a baby-sized hole in the heart that has overgrown with scar tissue on what to do?

Hygge Days

A coworker and I were chatting, lamenting the dark rainy day and how winter was upon us. Both of us are summer children and this cold sunless weather was not boding well for her.

I mentioned something about experiencing hygge – the Scandinavian answer to winter. 

Hygge Definition and meaning

As 1/8 Danish ancestry, I heard this word a couple of years ago and after researching, immediately put this into practice. It becomes an act of doing things consistently and with intention – much like living the Christian life. They say it best:

Danes created hygge because they were trying to survive boredom, cold, dark and sameness and the undefinable feeling of Hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate or acknowledge and to break up the day, months or years. With so many cold, dark, days, the simple act of a candle glowing with a cup of coffee in the morning or a home cooked evening meal with friends can make a huge difference to one’s spirit.

from hyggehouse.com

While the seasons do not affect my mood, the lack of warm beach days does. To pull through winter, I try to make my house as cosy as possible. There are always quilts lying about, a season-scented candle burning, and fresh tea from the kettle. I also try to find drinks to fit the season too: this year I am going to attempt a hot buttered rum. The apple pie sangria I made for Thanksgiving kicked off the hygge season in our household.

I also know my coworker is going through a rough patch too – her job is stressful, her kids have a lot going on, and her marriage is sinking. She is in desperate need of some hygge.

My Sunday afternoon plan is to relax, so I’m inviting her over and share some hygge with her: what could be better for the soul than making Christmas cookies, this hot chocolate recipe (never tried it before!), and a candle burning with the soothing lyrics and canticle of Salt of the Sound playing? And hopefully she’ll take some cookies home so I don’t eat them all!

Summer will be here soon. Until then, I hygge.

The First Time

“I think you’ll really like this one,” my high school boyfriend said to me as he handed me an old tattered copy of The Black Shrike by Alister MacLean, a Scottish author, published in 1961. My family was leaving for our yearly retreat at the cottage on Lake Huron and I was in need of a novel. He assured me it was an adventure book and a real page turner. I had no idea what a shrike was, let alone any color variations of it, yet I trusted his recommendation. 

I would be in my thirties before I found out a shrike was a bird. It had nothing to do with the title. Then again, maybe it did?

I remember sitting on the beach, sun tanning in a bikini on a towel when I began reading. A few paragraphs in, I had to stop for air.

Oh. My. 

I was only 17, but astute enough to be completely blown away by MacLean’s writing style. As someone who had not yet experienced alcohol or sex, this was the literary equivalent to both of my vices. His words hit me like a shot of expensive high quality vodka and washed over me like the first touch of a lover’s naked skin against my own.

I was hooked.

I tore through the book as if someone else was paying my bar tab and it was a passionate one night stand that would end with the sunrise.

The story is told by John Bentall, a scientist who was also a secret agent for British Intelligence. He got pulled to a top secret mission with a co-agent, Marie, who was to pose as his wife, much to John’s chagrin. The duo get sucked into a treacherous web of lies and double crossings, complete with a bait and switch minefield. The ending has so much of a twist that you’ll find yourself upside down on the last page, wondering what on earth just happened.

John was a loner, like myself, and his bluntness combined with a parched British sense of humor, need for the truth, flawed logic, cunning intellect, and ability to push through anything by sheer determination melted my heart. If he were real, I’d have dated him.

I got serious about writing in 2016 and looked to authors who came before me for inspiration: Alister MacLean was at the top of my list. I read Where Eagles Dare – my German came in handy for deciphering the play on words in the title – the flawlessly executed banter between the two main characters delighted me as both a reader and a writer. The Blake Shrike never left my beach bag this summer, as I re-read it for the third time – this time through the eyes of an author. I’m still amazed at his ability to craft words and scenes. I wish I could share a drink with Alister, picking his brain about life and writing. I’d love to know his inspiration for this story, but he died when I was in elementary school.

I may never hold a candle to my writing hero Alister, but I’d certainly love to try.

An excerpt from the second chapter:


But there’s no perfection in a very imperfect world: the locks on the bedroom doors of the Grand Pacific Hotel were just no good at all. 

My first intimation of this came when I woke up in the middle of the night in response to someone prodding my shoulder. But my first thought was not of the door-locks but of the finger prodding me. It was the hardest finger I’d ever felt. It felt like a piece of steel. It was a dully-gleaming .38 Colt automatic and, just in case I should have made any mistake in identification, whoever was holding it shifted the gun as soon as he saw me stir so that my right eye could stare down the centre of the barrel. It was a gun alright. My gaze travelled up past the gun, the hairy brown wrist, the white coated arm to the brown cold still face with the battered yachting cap above, then back to the automatic again.

“O.K., friend,” I said. I meant it to sound cool and casual but it came out more like the raven–the hoarse one–croaking on the battlements of Macbeth’s castle. “I can see it’s a gun. Cleaned and oiled and everything. But take it away, please. Guns are dangerous things.”

“A wise guy, eh?” he said coldly. “Showing the little wife what a hero he is. But you wouldn’t really like to be a hero, would you, Bentall? You wouldn’t really like to start something?”

I would have loved to have started something. I would have loved to take his gun away and beat him over the head with it. Having guns pointed at my eye gives me a nasty dry mouth, makes my heart work overtime and uses up a great deal of adrenalin. I was just starting out to think what else I would like to do to him when he nodded across the bed.

The Black Shrike, by Alister MacLean



Return to Huron County

After high school, my family stopped going to the cottages in Port Austin.

I returned in Summer 2002, with my college boyfriend, but our relationship was in its death throws. We spent most of our time at the Bella Vista Inn in Caseville, and he preferred watching TV over exploring the lakeshore. It still clocks in as my worse vacation ever. We broke up a few weeks later.

I went back with my mom in Summer 2011 to visit Ray for the weekend. His wife had passed after a long battle with cancer several weeks earlier. While it was sad, it was also great to see Ray smile and reminisce about the old times. We waded out 1,000 feet into the lake, only up to our shoulders, and talked. As someone who is used to the ocean, it felt surreal to be so far out in the water, yet so good to be back home among familiar faces.

After the crazy spring of 2017, my husband and I, weary from navigating the rough waters, needed an escape. I suggested Port Austin because it was calming without much hustle and bustle. After spending over 10 years together, it was time to introduce him to a part of the world that was integral to my childhood.

We flew into Detroit and rented a car. I didn’t need a map after all these years, the route was still etched in my heart. The little towns leading to Port Austin were exactly as they were in my memory.

The IGA Foodliner of Bad Axe is long gone, but Walmart was in its place. We stopped here for supplies. Just like when I was a child, my heart beat fast as we saw the big billboard sign for Port Austin. A quick glance around downtown and I sighed with relief: time had left it alone. We drove to Ray’s lakeside cottage in Caseville – the first stop on our trip. My husband and I stayed in the same cottage I had always stayed in, while Ray stayed in the other one on the property.

The cottage was not untouched by the years: the 1940’s refrigerator was replaced with something from the 1990’s; the kitchen table was a rectangle bench, no longer the old round table; some furniture was moved to a different place; the walls were insulated. The memories were so thick there, I kept thinking my grandmother, despite dying 14 years previous, would appear around the corner. I found myself expecting that she’d be there getting dinner ready or making tea and we’d pick up conversation as if she never left. I was disappointed every time we walked back in to the cottage to see she wasn’t there. Every. Single. Time.

The lakeshore has changed with the rising water: there is significantly less beach than 20 years ago. Outside of that, everything else had remained as it was in my memory and that was comforting.

Just like when I was a kid, we always took a day to explore Frankenmuth, a cute small town with a southern German flair a little over an hour away. We took the backroads, naturally, and I was astounded by all the wind turbines. They were never there before. Frankenmuth, on the other hand, was the same, yet wasn’t nearly as exciting to me at 35 as it was at 12. Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time, ate loads of good German food, walked to Bronner’s from downtown, and left with our hearts full and happy.

We left Ray’s cottage after much hugging and clean up and moved onto our next location: my aunt’s cottage in Broken Rocks. I had been coming here since the late 1980’s and wasn’t ready for all the upgrades they did. The place was even more wonderful than I remember.

My aunt was at her main home in Detroit, so we had the place to ourselves. We played a lot of cards and spent out evenings in Port Austin: ice cream, walking the breakwater, getting cheese and crackers for our card night at the grocery store, eating at the new place, Pak’s Backyard (a must-do if you’re in the area!), and we even caught a show at the Port Austin Community Playhouse. It was everything I loved and remembered about being a part of the local theater community.

The easy going small town lakeshore life was everything we needed. We left to catch our plane in Detroit during a rainstorm. I was sad to be leaving too.

We don’t have any plans to go back at this time – we often toy with the idea of doing an artistic retreat: my husband and his paints, me and my words. Port Austin is at the top of our list for places to make this happen. Summer 2019?

IMG_1353
Sunset on Lake Huron from Oak Beach Park, Summer 2017; Caseville, MI

 

 

Madge

Magdalena Sapphire Victoria Josephina.

She had the personality to carry such a huge name, but was down to earth enough to be simply Madge. Like Ruth, this friendship was suppose to fizzle out, but the Lord had other plans. Madge had a Type A personality that made most Type A’s take a step back. I am meek and mild when standing next to Madge. She would mistake my quiet demeanor for weakness. I’d spend the next 20 years proving her wrong.

We were partners at a summer job. It went great, as long as Madge called the shots. The moment I stepped up to the plate, she’d have to one-up me or add to it somehow. Despite this, I let her run the show. I knew she had my back when Madge helped me get an infestation of ants out of my bunkhouse bed in the middle of the night. And then, I was transferred to another position because she complained about my personality to management.

It turned out we attended the same university. We only hung out once, as she shunned college life outside of class.

After college, she lived near-by and we’d bond over our young professional lives. Madge moved to Europe; myself and another friend met up with her for a European adventure. This was one of the worst trips I’d ever taken: Madge’s domineering ways made me feel like an insolent child and I eventually gave up trying; things went much smoother when I kept my mouth shut. I’ve never done another trip with her and I probably will not ever again.

Simonne, you’re probably thinking, Madge sounds like a real drag, why did you stay friends with her? The Lord kept us together for a reason.

Madge moved back to the USA and landed near DC. A familiar face on the east coast, she was beginning to mellow out and as our adult life took off, we began to lean on each other for support. Those personality defects that were opposite of our own? They were what was needed in our own lives.

The phone rang once and when I answered, the voice on the other end said, “You will not believe how much sex I have had in the past 24 hours.” This could only be Madge. While I wasn’t a shining example of sexual purity, Madge slept around. A lot. We had a long conversation when she got a STD from a married man. While we both had common sense, Madge tended to fall down rabbit holes I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole.

I do have a lot of Type B personality traits, sometimes I don’t speak up when I should and my fear of rocking the boat has put me at a disadvantage at times. No worries, I have Madge, who is more than willing to call me out on my avoidance.

We fill the voids the other one has.

Madge called me once when her husband was admitted to a psychiatric ward, completely in tears and not coping well. I drove up that weekend to comfort her and be there. She had a conflict with a friend at work, who suddenly stopped speaking to her, and we talked it through: chances are, Madge’s aggressive behavior pushed her away. I called her when things got rocky in my marriage: and when she stayed with us for a weekend, Madge confirmed it wasn’t in my imagination and I needed to say/do something about it right this very minute. She takes the time to ask me the hard questions and doesn’t let me get away with, “Oh, it’s fine.” She loves hard and her brutal honesty is needed in my life.

Madge’s house was my hurricane evacuation plan, and she was very upset we chose to stay. The constant text and phone calls of “Your life is in danger, get your butts and your cats’ butts up here” were a par for the course. Even though she comes across tough as nails, Madge cares a lot and will do anything to help someone else.

She had a rough year of changes and I made her a quilt for her birthday. She loved it.

I got a card from her not long ago, thanking me for our friendship over the years. Despite our stark differences, when we get together, we have great conversations and it’s always a good time. I know our friendship has limitations, and that’s okay. We help each other be the best person we can possibly be.

I’ll keep her calm and she can kick my butt out of complacency.

Sensitive

It’s taken me years to admit this, but here goes.

I am sensitive.

To people. To emotions. To spiritual stuff.

The scientist in me rules with logic, head over heart, in all things. I grew up in a very rational household and I mostly ignored my sensitive nature. I wrote it off as coincidence or being overly emotional about something and thus refuting logic.

“There’s a perfectly logical explanation for this!” This was the line I’d always use. Even our emotions are simply the result of chemicals in the brain between receptors and transmitters.

As I grew older, I grew more sensitive. I’m really uncomfortable with where I am now. I’m mostly sensitive to people – so much so that the zombie movies my husband watches with babies crying and people being tortured – I have to leave the room, put on headphones, and try to focus elsewhere. It upsets me too much.

It happens often, but I had trained myself to ignore it. When my friend David introduced me to his future wife, within 5 seconds of meeting her, I didn’t like her. She smiled and was kind – I had no reason to dislike her. But I just didn’t. I never said anything because there was nothing concrete to say. Fast forward a few years, she ordered me to never contact her family and ended up leaving David for a man she met on the internet. She was a super rat of the highest order.

I’ve had feelings about marriages too, some marriages I knew wouldn’t last. Again, I kept my mouth shut because there was no hard facts I could put in a Power Point presentation. Some of the marriages imploded with casualties; others are still intact, and if their social media feeds are any indication, they’re happy. But I don’t know how they really are without the filters. I’m not infallible by any means. And marriage is hard at times.

A learned man started coming to our church. He frightened me. Everyone thought he was the bees knees, but something told me to stay away, so I kept my distance. Soon he was making outrageous accusations (due to mental illness) about certain members of our church, which of course were false. He eventually left, but the damage was done. One of the homeless guys that comes to our church just shook his head. “I told y’all that guy was nothing but trouble.” I knew it too. But I stayed silent. No one asked me.

When we bought our house, I didn’t like it at all and the guest room especially bothered me. Whenever I walked in there, it was heavy. There was a weight on my chest and I didn’t want to be in there. I think sometime bad happened in there. My husband never felt anything. I told my pastor about it and he came over to bless the house. Since then, whatever was there is gone.

When I get feelings about things, they come to me. I can’t seek them out. I don’t have the gift of prophecy, but a friend once said I have the gift of discernment. I have a nose for sniffing out fake people; within a few minutes of meeting someone, I can get a pretty good read on who they are.

In the psychological world, I am considered an empath. I mirror those around me.

I knew my husband was in a lot of pain the other night, as he slept. I asked him about it in the morning, since he never mentioned it to me, and he was stunned I knew.

I don’t know why the Lord equipped me with this wacky gift. I’m not sure how to use it and sometimes sharing it can cause others pain. But I have a feeling (oh the puns!) that this skill set is being fined tuned and will somehow be useful in the days to come.

It happened again earlier this summer: my sister and her husband were trying for a baby. I knew it at once: “You’ll get pregnant right away,” I told her. And she did. First try. My mom is worrying about losing the baby in the first trimester. I assured her it will be carried to term.

I just have this feeling.

The Church on a Vent

“We should go to church on Sunday,” Ruth said to me while strolling through our old college town.

We had attended a small Southern Baptist church a short walk from campus. Even Pastor Gabe was still preaching.

When we arrived, our jaws dropped. It was a large modern church. When did that happen?! It was beautifully done. It wasn’t fancy, but it was inviting with sleek lines and neutral colors on its modern architecture.

“Holy cow!” I exclaimed.
Ruth smiled. “This warms my heart, the church is still doing well.”

One by one, they filed in: everyone was over the age of 65 and white. A few kids sprinted through the sanctuary. This Sunday was a small crowd, with about 25% of the seats taken.

An elderly lady introduced herself. She didn’t remember us, but managed to inquire about our marriage status and said something about the “young colored girl” that sometimes attends. Ah, to be in a yankee Baptist church again.

An old man walked in: Pastor Gabe! I couldn’t get over his gray hair and how much he had aged.

The service was just as I remembered: pastor’s wife at the piano and a young woman sang the old hymns. It warmed my heart. It had been a long, long time.

Looking around there were no families, no young people (except for the worship leader), no one our age, no one my husband’s age. Even more striking, there were no college students.

None.

I remember the days our crew would fill up 2 pews.

Ruth sighed heavily.

Maybe this church wasn’t as healthy as it looked from the parking lot. This was confirmed by the building fund, as they were short on the mortgage budget. Why would they built this huge building without the money? Typical American church. Build it, they will come. Debt is a normal part of ministry! A church isn’t a church without a building! We can’t do the Lord’s work without Sunday School classrooms and a 12 channel soundboard!

This is why I left. This is why I attend a church plant without a building who worries more about getting meals to people in poverty. We don’t track demographics. We don’t have a children’s program, the kids can be the hands and feet of Jesus too, alongside their parents and the brothers and sisters in Christ. Being part of the body means an almost sober homeless guy will shout Amen at the end of every song, babies will cry during the sermon, and you’ll sit next to people you don’t know. You’ll sweat in the summer and freeze in the winter. The American church with their underused air conditioned sanctuaries, dress codes, whitewashed Jesus, and fake smiles does not work for me.

I like my church how I like my coffee: strong, sweet, and made from quality ground beans – beans ground on site, not by an industrial grinder in a factory. None of this instant or Keurig business. I want the real deal or I’ll go without.

The sermon was the equivalent of serving stale cereal without milk. I didn’t even crack my Bible. Gabe cited passages and then glossed over them with uninspired words.

This church was on a ventilator. A ventilator – or a vent as we call it – is a machine that breathes for you. It keeps people alive until they are able to breathe on their own or the plug is pulled. The problem with a vent is it can be difficult to come off it. The body gets used to the machine doing all the work, and like a child who doesn’t want to pick up their toys, it can be a sluggish ordeal to return to normal breathing. The longer the vent is used, the harder it is.

This church was not breathing on its own, and not because the congregation was elderly. No local mission work, very limited community involvement (the customary detachment in a sterile and controlled environment), no bible studies, no other groups using the church other days of the week. Youth groups were gone. No meals served. No presence on campus. A flyer from a Baptist association was in the bulletin. Corporate had arrived, as another drug pushed into this church’s veins, hoping to cure what ailed them.

Ruth and I left sad, both agreeing we wouldn’t attend this church if we still lived in town.

I don’t see it changing without radical actions. This church is stuck in a hospital bed on life support, unable to do the work of Jesus in the world.

Pray for a revival, that this church will once again be a lighthouse for the community, the college, and we can all celebrate it at the Feast of the Lamb someday.

Back in the Uni-Verse

I was back in the badlands of my alma mater a few weeks ago, before this whole hurricane mess started. It brought back a lot of memories and made me sad at how campus has changed from what was seared into my memory.

I got to share this experience with Ruth, as we walked through campus multiple times that weekend, reliving our glory days and relating stories of our time there. We also explored some new additions and I am jealous they weren’t there when I was.

Maybe it was the 2 glasses of iced mocha, maybe it was because an entire chamber of my heart is dedicated to that town, or maybe it was because I hang onto the past (a syndrome of genealogical research, I suppose), but I wrote a poem about it.

I haven’t written poetry in years, since I was a twenty something trying to compartmentalize my feeling toward an ex, but I did write a lot through college. I found myself scribbling down lines as they came into my head after walking past my first apartment. Oh, if those walls could talk, I’d be in trouble.

In true Simonne style, there’s a lot of hidden meanings in this piece, but you would have to know certain things about the town for it to make sense.

While walking to the apartment, I half expected to see a 25-year-old John with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and a big goofy smile. He would follow Ruth and I to my old apartment, as if time hadn’t moved on, I still had a key, and I was hosting breakfast. But John is in his 40’s now, probably married – maybe kids – wearing a MAGA hat, if my assumptions are correct. I don’t actually know, nor do I want to.

I wrote this with John in mind while walking through campus.

Are
You can’t stay here
The carbon, nickel, and gold are far too heavy to cast aside
I won’t meet you on the sidewalk
You can’t park there anymore
There’s an apartment building there now
I look around
I see the tower
From the other side of the tracks
To the colorful Section 8
And the windows where once upon a time
You would have been seen in the room
You fell below the division
I fell north
I close my eyes
I still see those Welch eyes
And that smile
That used to melt me
Every single time
But she isn’t here anymore
And now I fell north
As that cold prairie wind
Penetrates my bones
Still I look for traces of her
And find only fragments of memories
You are not here
No photographs exist
No special places we called our own
I don’t remember what it felt like
I don’t even remember why
And now nothing remains
As I once again fell north

Shelter in a Storm

I knew it as I sat in a church service 1,000 miles away from home, listening to a sermon so dry it sucked the humidity out of the room.

Wilmington was getting a hurricane and we would take in people who had no place to go. This “radial hospitality” stuff Walking Tall Wilmington talks about has taken root in my head, y’all.

I got the call 2 days before the storm hit from my contact. “I have a couple who needs shelter, can you take them?” A friend vouched for their character. The window for us to evacuate had closed and we were at the mercy of Florence as well. Least we could do is offer what we had to these strangers.

Marianne and her husband Joe arrived in time for dinner with all their earthly possessions in their arms. They were my age. I treated them as I would any other house guest, except for the whole “Please take a shower and then we’ll get your laundry started” part.

And so, my husband and I have been co-habitating with a couple who otherwise lives on the streets. They don’t drink, try to stay away from the “typical homeless people,” and chain smoked. Even in my house, they moved silently from room to room. It’s a skill they need to remain undetected sleeping illegally in parks, in the lee of a building, or wherever they can find. Wilmington has laws about these things.

Joe and Marianne have kids who are living with relatives. CPS got involved through lies from another relative, according to them. They’re trying to reunite the family, but that has proven to be an uphill battle, as they lost their car several months ago. Marianne is also pregnant. She shrugged when I inquired about how the baby would be when its no longer getting nicotine after birth. This isn’t her first baby to be born with a cigarette habit. My infertile heart gulped and nodded. Nothing I said or did would change this addiction, yet my heart was so sad.

We lost power the next day during the worst of the storm. My husband managed to keep our household running with hot coffee and eggs for breakfast, courtesy of his Sterno stoves. We ate cold left over spaghetti one night and dined like kings the next with pork chops on the grill, bread, and green beans. We all got on well until the cigarettes ran out and withdrawal set in. My husband ended up running them out to several stores when the storm calmed – all which were closed because we were experiencing a hurricane – until they found one that was open. My husband smokes a few once in a blue moon and understood the need from his 12 pack years. He even lit up a couple of times with them on my deck. The smoke didn’t start to waft into the house until a few days later and it started to bother me. As long as I live, I will never understand smoking.

While my husband focused on food, I cleaned and made sure everyone had tea. We drank loads of tea. Two sugar bowls were emptied and filled: I thought I had a sweet tooth until I met them! I love my sweet tea, but they made it a supersaturated solution. We played games, walked through the neighborhood, watched YouTube videos – laughing with tears streaming down our faces – and had great dinner conversations. Most of the time we did our thing and they did theirs. We took turns praying at every meal and there were often tears in their eyes. I think they carry more burdens than I can comprehend in the short time we spent with them.

Joe and Marianne left when the storm did. We dropped them off at their requested location – so many power lines and trees down, massive flooding – driving around was like a video game. I half expected to see zombies it was so bad.

We hugged them good-bye. They have my phone number. I told them to call if they needed help. They’re sleeping rough tonight, while I am here at the house. My empath heart wants to fix it all.

And I can’t.

Please pray they can pull their lives together and for the baby to be born healthy.

The Table

“Oh, what a beautiful table!”

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People often say this as they enter my kitchen.

While it is a nice piece, it’s nothing special; it was purchased from a big box furniture store in 2010 with the intention of it staying around for awhile. The solid maple table came complete with 6 chairs to match, a soft white cloth seat gave it elegance and comfort.

My husband and I are a lot of things, but formal dining room people are not one of them. Even when we had a formal dining room, our only table graced the lesser breakfast nook. In our old house, the leaf stayed out most of the time so it was circular, unless we were expecting a big crowd. Here at the Dovecote, the leaf is a permanent fixture. Not only do we not have the room to store the leaf, but I like to keep our table ready for company. It fills the kitchen space nicely.

This table has lived life with us. We bought and sold a house around it: what began as an informational meeting with a realtor ended with signatures on the final offer. We’ve hosted a gay pastor, a rommate, high strung Midwesterners, and complete strangers – not to mention friends – over meals. It’s held game nights, feasts of epic proportions (usually when my husband was cooking), an art studio, and planning meetings.

If this table could talk, it would tell you a lot of things. It would tell you the only time my husband and I cried together was around this table over infertility.

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Those gouges? Proof I can’t do it all by myself: that leaf is heavier than it looks and when I tried to put it in myself, I scarred the table pretty hard. There is a heat stain is from my rendition of Grandma’s German Stuffing during Thanksgiving 2016. And those light scratches over the heat stain? Me, again, with fine steel wool trying to remove the heat stain. It only made it worse. It seems to have fadded over time and I’m thankful for that.

 

paint smudge

The occasional bit of paint you see is from my husband’s hobby of painting on canvas. He sometimes uses a table easel for small projects and while he uses dropclothes, a few reminders of his art remain. Nonetheless, I have a huge olive green tablecloth that graces the table for dinner parties and other formal events: it covers everything beautifully. All her scars are hidden.

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I wanted a centerpiece that was simple yet pretty. My sister surprised me with this piece a few Christmases ago. It’s meant for candles, but the votives got stuck and full of dust. The seashells offer a bit of the beach and give it longevity. It’s perfect.

The part that bothers me most are the cloth seats.

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They’re white, which means they show everything: dirt, dust, cat hair, and spills. I’ve tried to keep them white as possible to no avail. Even a steam cleaner doesnt work. The next step is to use a light bleach solution, as soon as I get around to doing that. My husband and I are hard on textiles, yet I refuse to make guests to sit on covers. They are meant to be used and used they will be. 

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This is our table. This is our life. It’s messy and we dont pretend for it to be anything other than that. Although its hard to live into when your husband says something completely stupid or unnecessary, guests worry about rings from the glass on the table (I don’t care and they eventually fade), and the smudges can’t be cleaned off no matter how hard I scrub. I will still host friends, family, and strangers, welcoming them into my home to share life together, to be that light of Christ in their lives.

And that’s all of life: feasts, cryfests, scars that won’t heal, and laughter.