Birthday Girl

Abbey had a birthday. She has now been on on this swiftly tilting planet 20 years.

Her day fell during Lent, and since she was following a Vegan diet for Lent she had to make her own cake. (I had no idea how to make a vegan cake. The process involves mysterious things like coconut sugar and egg substitutes.)

We celebrated around the kitchen table. I love Abbey’s birthday for many reasons and one of them is that Abbey is always delighted by really strange gifts.

Amos is a very successful party-goer. Good at creating his own entertainment.

Aren’t these enchanting? Where on your body would you put a temporary tattoo of mysterious bits of nature?

Part of our dinner was vegan sushi (yes! there is such a thing!). I think I’ve mentioned before that many Jarretts strictly observe the use-chopsticks-for-Asian-cuisine rule. I am trying hard to get better. My New Year’s resolution was to improve my personal chopstick skills, and I’m pleased to say I am swearing LESS while I try to eat with them. Corrie wields chopsticks like a deadly weapon. No item is safe from her. She could build an empire and raise a harvest armed only with those two little bamboo sticks.

20 years old but we only had one birthday candle. I scoured every kitchen cabinet for more to no avail. Darn it, COVID! We are out of practice with parties!

The cake was delicious.

Her present from Helen: a Frida Kahlo lapel pin. It suits Abbey perfectly!

-Katie

Car messages

I think these speak for themselves. I am sometimes surprised at what fellow motorists say to the world.

Dietary advice.

Past history.

Pride in their heritage.

More dietary advice.

For the record, I have three stickers myself on my own car, so I am participating in the communication. Mine are an equals sign, the word “Human”, and “Forney Fine Arts.” Those make sense together to me.

-Katie

Two shoes and a hat

Sunday, driving home from church, I saw a shoe in the middle of the road. Right there in the middle of the access road off the highway next to the Forney, TX Dairy Queen. 10 yards further, another shoe. At the turn, a baseball cap. I had a sudden vision of finding more and more articles of clothing strewn up the road, and a naked person running away!

And the wistful magic of the image just grabbed me – what would that feel like, to strip off every encumbrance and fly away? I feel like I have spent a year hunkering down, staying in one place, holding it all up. Do you feel like that?

On the other hand, inviting you to meet me in the middle of the access road so we can throw everything off and run away is just insane. And, even if we get rid of everything weighing us down on the outside, what will we do about the stuff on the inside?

This is Holy Week, which is a heavy week theologically and a busy week from a scheduling standpoint. (There have been church services and track meets and work schedules and allergy symptoms and all manner of junk. Somebody save me.) One of my churchworker friends calls this Holy Moley Week. Another one calls it Hell Week, which is more direct, although possibly less kosher.

This has been a week of letting go of certain things for me. I have spent 20 years and a whole degree in a liturgical religious tradition My current work is at a liturgically ‘lighter’ church, so all of Passion Week looks and feels different. It is an opportunity for me to learn and grow and change, to try and see what is important to the people around me and support them in what is needed. Which makes me feel unsure because I don’t always know what to expect. I am back to being the person who does not have answers, just questions.

Perhaps this is a space where life (God) is offering me the chance to let go and be present with this. I do not have to hold it all up. I do not have to know the answers. I can breath in and breath out and do the next thing I know to do.

Joyce Rupp, “The Easter Challenge”, from Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season. Ave Maria Press: Notre Dame, 1993.

Every year it happens:
earth shakes her sleepy head
still a bit wintered and dull,
and feels new life stirring.

Every year cocoons give up their treasures,
fresh shoots push through brown leaves,
seemingly dead branches shine with green,
and singing birds find their way home.

Every year we hear the stories
empty tomb, surprised grievers,
runners with news and revelation,
unexpected encounters, conversations on the road,
tales of nets filling with fish,
and breakfast on a seashore.

And every year
the dull and dead in us
meets our EASTER CHALLENGE:

to be open to the unexpected,
to believe beyond our security,
to welcome God in every form,
and trust in our own greening.

-Katie

Puppets

I came home from playing at church the other day and Helen had made puppets!

Now, as a parent, I have two reactions to this craft. 1) How creative! I love it! And you put those ridiculous googly eyes on each one! They have such personality!

And, 2) Are those your socks? From your sock drawer? The ones you wear? Do you have any left? You have to have socks for school! What if you run out now because you used so many to make puppets? I don’t have time to shop for socks this week!

Yep. Those were my parenting choices. I went with choice 1 this time.

And, after all, who can resist a puppet purple star girl and 80’s workout guru with headband? Who have Aldi sock brand emblems across their faces!

-Katie

Jasmine Dragon

Abbey’s car died last week. REALLY died. But it took us three days and two separate ‘procedures’ at the mechanic’s garage to figure that out.

And when it was confirmed, James went on the warpath and found her a car. This nice very young car salesman named Cameron helped us. A beautiful pearly green Suburu Forester 2016, which she promptly named the Jasmine Dragon. (That’s a Last Airbender reference.)

It is beautiful and capable of multi-tasking, just like Abbey. (This gift partially made possible by Uncle CJ – bless him! – and Uncle Joe Biden – bless him also!)

Somehow she had a bunch of junk on hand to immediately fill up the trunk and make it feel homey.

The boyfriend helped with this task because he is a good sort.

It was a highly stressful and productive week. I am SO THANKFUL that we are no longer living as 5 wage-earners in one house trying to all get around with 3 cars! With the new car, Abbey has moved back to her apartment and all is well.

-Katie

Hyena

I played an outdoor choir concert for multiple choirs of masked kids. Live music! It was great. Go, Forney public school!

The cat has been sleeping during the warm part of the day on the cold ash of the firepit. (?)

The music minister at my new church and I climbed inside the organ…

… to work on fixing the Zimbelstern, an organ stop that causes tinkly star-like bells to chime while you play. In this particular organ, the Zimbelstern is like an old modified Fisher-Price toy record player. It’s kind of an independent unit inside the organ case. I wonder if we could craft a new one and hook it up to the same power cable?

Abbey ordered an art print from a mysterious and wonderful internet person.

There is a lot to see in there.

I saw this print and loved it so much. Do you think I could paint this? Could you paint this?

Rob completed a complicated Hamlet project for English.

The middle school art teacher who has a skeleton mascot keeps that guy front and center. In spite of everything he’s still going strong! With sanitized hands!

These are terrible. Bleh. Don’t waste your money. And in spite of that, we ate all except two of them.

-Katie

Things Keeping Us Going, March Edition

Here we are, still in the middle of Lent and, although the weather has been fairly warm on and off (our state is apologetically being charming to make up for Snowmaggedon), it is not yet Spring.

The week of killer weather in February was so outside of our normal temperature Zone that almost all plant life blackened in shock. I have been watching yards and medians and fields as I drive, trying to see what is turning green. The non-fruit-bearing Bradford Pear trees have all assumed their bridal white in a cloud of flowers. The Redbud trees are determinedly showing up covered in dense purple-red blossoms. Oaks everywhere have a thin green scrim of leaf buds. However, the Indian Hawthorne shrubs all over town seem to be a dead loss. I have 6 bushes lining the front of my house that have dropped almost every brown leaf, and do not show any signs of returning life. I am wondering if I should try to dig them up and put something else there, or if I should wait until the fall to give them every chance to revive.

And, family updates, everyone here is fighting through the cold shell of winter to crack open into Spring.

~Rob’s car passed inspection, after several repairs. (Hallelujah!)

~Amos went to a track meet for the Triple Jump and has no idea if he placed because he couldn’t hear the announcer.

~Corrie placed 5th in the two mile run at her track meet. (She reported that there were 6 participants in the race, and one person who was recovering from something just quit halfway through the race and walked off the field, so she wasn’t super proud of 5th place. But I was proud! And she dropped a whole minute from her prior record on this distance.)

~Abbey drove all by herself to visit her boyfriend at Seminary in St. Louis, a day drive each way. (James spent the whole day each time sending her anxious texts about not talking to truckers or picking up hitchhikers close to any state penitentiaries. Abbey rolled her eyes and replied to all of them very graciously. She also decided next time she would FLY to visit him. That is a hard drive.)

~Helen is ready to adopt a new kitten, but when I took her to the Mesquite Animal Shelter they did not yet have their Spring influx of felinity. The kind receptionist told her to return in April and they would have 100 for her to choose from.

Look at all those people growing and changing! I feel like sometimes I notice the most personal change in kids in the Spring and the most physical change in kids in the Summer. (Something about all that swimming and milk drinking and sleeping makes them all grow several inches.)

So! Things Keeping Us Going, March edition. I am assuming editorial privilege and summarizing for all of us. In future months I will go back to individual responses.

Mom Jeans! I am SO EXCITED Mom Jeans are back in. Enough with the dropped waists, the Muffin Topping of belly fat, the skinny jean curse of fabric wrapped so tightly it cuts off circulation below the knees! We all get to wear looser jeans now! How did I realize this? I came home from work one day, and my 18 year old son was walking around the house in jeans that started up around his rib cage, billowed around the leg, and ended 2 inches above his ankle with a frayed cuff. (Ok, the frayed cuff is a new wrinkle.) The following week, I went to one of my favorite giant thrift stores and bought 15 pairs of jeans. They don’t let you try anything on, but the jeans were $2-$5 apiece, so I just figured I would try them all on at home and donate what didn’t work. I kept four pairs, Abbey and Robby each took one, and Corrie and I each put a pair aside to cut up into shorts for the summer. FTW! I get to wear loose high-waisted jeans again!

Uncrustables! I am secretly mortified to tell you this. This is basically a peanut-butter and strawberry jam sandwich. 10 of them in a box cost $10. That’s just crazy. A homemade sandwich of the same type costs about $.26. But my kids have been eating these as if life will end without them. You keep the cardboard boxes in the freezer, and the kids grab one for breakfast before school, for snack after school, to help them hold on while you finish the dinner prep at 6 pm, at 9 pm while they are doing homework, and at 1 pm right before they go to bed. I am being bankrupted by tiny sandwiches from Smuckers. Now on the other hand, each sandwich has 6 grams of protein, and somebody told me that the peanut butter is actually peanuts and soy protein enhanced with vitamins, akin to the nutritious paste given by international aid organizations to severely malnourished children in war-torn areas of the world. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it sounds good. And, heck, I’m all for equality. If we can treat privileged American kids and kids in war-torn countries equally, that seems like a win. I will reluctantly keep swiping that credit card for these glorified circles of PBNJ.

Track and Field vs. Cross Country. Amos does Track and Field at his middle school, Corrie does Cross Country at her high school. Those are my most athletic kids so far. Both of them really seem like physical activity makes a huge difference for their mental health and well-being. Each of them has daily hour-long workout/practices, and staggers around the house with sore calves. They are both developing musculature that would make a cheetah proud. In the event of the Zombie Apocalypse, at least two members of our family will be able to successfully flee the rabid hordes. Our family name will go on.

Coloring. The church where I am now employed is not yet open for in-person worship. Personally, I think this represents a remarkable medically conservative viewpoint. I miss worshipping with people, and I am devastated every week that we are not allowed to sing together for worship. I cannot wait to return to congregational singing. (When you spend hours and hours practicing the organ, not being able to support group singing makes your work veer towards meaningless territory. I struggle with this. Please, please, come back to church and let me play while you sing.) But, at home, my family watches the church service Zoom while I am at church playing away. And while they watch, they color!

Amos draws football players.
I am here up in the organ loft, working away.

Helen likes to create things with the Spirograph.

Lastly, I am loving the work of Aimee Nezhukumatathil. She writes with exuberance and wonder and honesty. The mystery, vastness, and intimacy of the natural world is revealed right at your feet and fingertips in her delicate and expository writing. The way she enhances her own writing with exquisite colored pencil artwork reminds me of things Abbey does.

March will be over before we know it. What is keeping you going?

-Katie

Prayer during Lent, by Thomas Merton. And wasps

Prayer, from Thoughts on Solitude, by Thomas Merton

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

That is my hand above. The wasp landed on my hand and crawled up to my finger while we stood in front of the flamingo enclosure at the zoo. A free creature in an institution dedicated to captivity.

I like wasps. James says it is not kosher to say a creature is your ‘spirit animal’ because this may show disrespect to Native people and cultures for whom that idea is sacred. I used to say sometimes that wasps were my spirit animal, but I don’t say that anymore. Wasps appear to have feelings. We watch them and say that they are ‘aggressive’, ‘angry’, or ‘industrious’, or ‘curious’. I know they are also dangerous, so I’m careful around them. I have been stung before and apparently I am not allergic.

I read that wasps are capable of recognizing each other’s faces. Imagining this discretionary behavior on such a tiny level boggles the mind. But it shows that intelligence, effort, and care are all around us. I want to respect these things when I find them. Insects and people are both engaged in these things. Trusting to be led on a road, even if we know nothing about it.

I thanked the wasp and she flew away.

Katie

Bishop Arts, Card Games

During down times on vacation we like to play cards. I grew up in a family that played an old German card game called Pinochle. It was fiercely competitive and no pastime for the faint of heart. My little family does not have one game that we all love – various kids play War, Go Fish, Egyptian Rat Screw, Spit, Spoons, and 52-card pick-up. (Why, why, why on that last one?!) I don’t know how to play all of those games. James and I play Michigan Rummy when we have card time alone.

When we are together we play Nerts. Growing up, I played this game with special cards in primary colors with silhouettes of Amish characters and it was called Dutch Blitz. Nerts is played with regular cards and each person gets their own deck. Basically, you start with a stack of 13 cards and 4 place holder cards, and see how fast you can get rid of them by building stacks of Ace-to-King in the middle of the table, separated by suite. It’s fast, fun, and – my favorite part! – you don’t have to WAIT for everybody to take a turn. Everybody plays as fast as they can, the whole time, without stopping. Good game for a large family. Although I do draw the line when they stop slapping cards down and start slapping each other.

I was DELIGHTED this trip to play with the deck of Firefly cards!

Firefly is one of my all-time favorite science fiction TV shows (created by Joss Whedon, starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, aired 2002-2003). Look! The cards have little marks and smudges and Chinese characters in keeping with the future-world in which the story is set! So charming! And nobody has been using them, so the cards themselves are crisp and unbent and easy to use!! Go, me! (Drinking jasmine tea in a glass, in case you were wondering…)

Sadly, this does not mean I will win. I am notorious for starting out well and playing slower and slower, which of course causes one to lose…

This doesn’t bother me too much. My mother used to say that one of the reasons to play games with other people was to learn how to be a gracious loser or a generous winner. It feels good to win – and I tend to start making more and more strange sounds and triumphant weird gestures the more ‘winning-y’ I get – but losing still means you are part of the game.

I think the Firefly cards might have come to us via one of my sisters who dated a gift-giving science super-nerd engineer for a while. I love people like that. If I was smarter I would be a a gift-giving science super-nerd, instead of just a gift-giving nerdy musician.

Every once in a while the kids get sick of my picture-taking habits and hide when I pick up my camera.

Hard to play that way. Apparently he’s still managing to eat, though.

-Katie

Bishop Arts, Dallas Zoo Raptors

The Dallas Zoo has a display of dinosaurs in various destructive activities next to the Reptile House. This really delights me. A staged narrative of fantastic destruction by Nature smack in the middle of an institution dedicated to the caging and control of said Nature!

I’m not sure, but I think these statues were created as promotional materials for the ‘Jurassic World’ reboot some years ago (starring Chris Pratt?). Perhaps they were given to the Dallas Zoo, or the Zoo bought them. There they are.

It provides a good balance, don’t you think? Look, children, all these amazing and interesting animals in cages and pens! We can examine and admire all kinds of predators with no risk at all! Oh yes, and over there are statues of what nature might possibly do when unleashed.

This appeals strongly to my sense of irony. Also, dinosaurs are just cool.

-Katie