This just in: John passed the German exam! This past year, our family theme song was "I fought the German exam, and the exam won." Now we'll have to find a new soundtrack.




"I've been thinking about existence lately. In fact, I have been so full of admiration for existence that I have hardly been able to enjoy it properly . . . I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again."

-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

P.S. I was headed to my computer to post this quote, with my nose in the book. I suddenly heard John shriek. I looked down, and there was Natalie, in the midst of a diaper change, just where my foot was about to land.

P.S.S. Guess who this is and where the photo was taken. To see more stunning photos click here.


now what time was that train?

While I was getting ready for our trip downtown, Natalie ate the schedule.

teacher for the day

So Anna was "teacher for the day" which means that she got to wear Mr. Jeff's keys around her neck all day long, she got to sit in the teacher's chair and generally rule the classroom. I believe that she's been aspiring to this type of role for years.

When she woke, she asked me to help her pick something that an adult might wear. She insisted that she look "totally plain" (this might be a slam, I'm not quite sure). Anyway this what we came up with, grown-up as can be.

one good heart

After a scary episode in the ER, my dad found out that his heart is in great shape. He sent me this photo just to prove it. I wasn't sure how to feel when I pulled my dad's heart out of the envelope, but here it is--after forty years with type one diabetes--pulsing with life.

I just got word that he is headed up to the Gunflint Trail to try to protect our family cabin from the most serious forest fire in Minnesota history. Nearly 350 square miles have burned already from a fire that began as a single unattended campfire. Please pray for rain!

My dad's courage in going up to stave off the fire says more about his heart than any photo ever could.


a prayer for tattered creatures

Last night as I was tucking Anna in she showed me a butterfly's wing she'd found in the back yard. To her amazement and mine, she was able to identify the butterfly in her animal kingdom book by slipping the wing on top of the butterfly image in the book.

Just before I left I asked her if there was anyone we should pray for.

"For butterflies that have lost their wings, for butterflies with a tear in their wing and for the ones who died," she said, "And also for dogs with only one eye."


check mate

Tripping Over Joy

What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a Saint?

The saint knows
that the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, "I Surrender!"

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think

You have a thousand serious moves.

(Poem by Daniel Ladinsky, from his book I heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy, Penguin Books, 2006, used with permission of the author)

the golden ticket

My train tickets arrived today--from Croton-on-Hudson to New York City to Boston to Portland, Maine. I can barely contain my giddiness as I hold the tickets in hand. I want to tell you--Amber, Rachel, Warren, Sally, Sherry and Emily--I'm coming!

I can hardly wait to see you all, but I expect I'm going to enjoy getting there almost as much as being there. This is part of what the train has given back to me--a chance to relish the journey as much as the destination.

I love the way it hums along the tracks like a wordless poem, the way you step on without being jostled through tense security checkpoints. The way it invites you to watch and wonder and wait.

Two days ago, on the Metra, I watched three passengers fall asleep within moments of boarding. They looked a little like Natalie after she's nursed--satisfied and safe, ready for some respite from the constant shoving of life. They had already navigated Chicago's grimy rush hour on foot, passing the panhandlers, nudging their way through the crowds. It was time to be lulled into another, quieter space.

Yesterday Lauren Winner gave a wonderful lecture at the University of Chicago. One of her most compelling points was that we now define time in purely economical terms. We no longer pass an afternoon, we spend it. We don't cherish moments, we maximize them. We're fixed on efficiency at the expense of grace.

We're expected to perform around the clock, to perpetually check our email and to always keep our cell phones on. Lauren said that she can't quite grasp why we fought so hard for the forty hour work week only to hand it right back to our employers.

I don't want to buy, spend or maximize time. I want to live fully through it--to dwell in the days given to me with gratitude. I want to come to a fresh awareness of the grace-upon-grace of life in this dazzling mud-flecked world of ours. I hope to pass--not spend--more hours on the train.


The Great Blessing of Circus Peanuts

On Pascha Anna snuck some Circus Peanuts into our basket. I mentioned that I was concerned that Circus Peanuts might be just unblessable.

Derek Bowers took me to task when he devised this blessing for them. This blessing won't make it into The Great Book of Needs (for goodness sake--who could need a Circus Peanut?) but it is certainly worth publishing:


I know, O Lord, that I partake unworthily of these, Thy Circus Peanuts, which Thou hast prepared for the nourishment of Thine unworthy servants, for oft-times have I scorned Thine artificially flavored foodstuffs. Verily, from the day that my mother bore me, I have been reared on the choicest flesh of fattened calves and the most costly of spirits, and I have forgotten the vision which Thou didst reveal to Thine all-holy and laudable Apostle Peter who beheld upon the housetop at the sixth hour a great sheet descending from the heavens which was filled with four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And then there was the voice: “That which God hath cleansed, thou mayest not call unclean.” But how can I, who have ne’er partaken of even so much as a creeping beast of the earth, dare to bring forth to my defiled lips the Circus Peanut, a substance the nature of which Thou hast not deigned to reveal to the minds of earth-borne men? Thou bringest to my mind, O Lord Who makest all foods clean, the example of the holy king and prophet David, whose company Thou didst once nourish with the Bread of Thy Divine Presence, a thing incomprehensible to the mortal mind. And so, as Thou didst once strengthen the heart of David Thy servant to eat the bread of Thy mystical presence, a thing far stranger to the minds of men than even the Circus Peanut, so now give me the courage to say with boldness: “These Circus Peanuts are blessed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” May they be neither to the deterioration of the enamel, nor to the fattening of the flesh, nor to the orangification of the tongue, but rather to the nourishment of the body, the reinvigoration of the mind, and the pleasure of the palette. Amen.