About once every couple of weeks we have a dinner we call hyena. We pull everything out of the fridge, lots of little odds and ends of leftovers, and eat as much as we need off the carcass. Then we throw all the rest away, cause it’s done.

This is a hyena blog post.


Helen arranged classmates for herself this morning as she started school.


There are seven people on dish rotation, and rate of breakage is up. Mason jars very often tend to break like the one above. Why is that, do you think?


This was today’s surprise lizard.


Cat bit off the tail before Helen completed the rescue.


These two people are the best cooking duo in this house.


We are getting better at finding quiet places to be alone, which we need desperately sometimes.


Helen could eat noodles every single day. WITH chopsticks.


The band Five Seconds of Summer has released a new album. (Wait! Don’t rush off and buy it yet! I’m not done!)


Amos has got the moves. I say this to him and he says, “Yeah, Mom. Yeah, I do.”




“Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt” by Ross Gay

“Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt” by Ross Gay

“No one knew or at least
I didn’t know
they knew
what the thin disks
threaded here
on my shirt
might give me
in terms of joy
this is not something to be taken lightly
the gift
of buttoning one’s shirt
top to bottom
or bottom
to top or sometimes
the buttons
will be on the other
side and
I am a woman
that morning
slipping the glass
through its slot
I tread
differently that day
or some of it
my conversations
are different
and the car bomb slicing the air
and the people in it
for a quarter mile
and the honeybee’s
legs furred with pollen
mean another
thing to me
than on the other days
which too have
been drizzled in this
simplest of joys
in this world
of spaceships and subatomic
this and that
two maybe three
times a day
some days
I have the distinct pleasure
of slowly untethering
the one side
from the other
which is like unbuckling
a stack of vertebrae
with delicacy
for I must only use
the tips
of my fingers
with which I will
one day close
my mother’s eyes
this is as delicate
as we can be
in this life
like this
giving the raft of our hands
to the clumsy spider
and blowing soft until she
lifts her damp heft and
crawls off
we practice like this
pushing the seed into the earth
like this first
in the morning
then at night
we practice
sliding the bones home.”


Because I mentioned Ross Gay I wanted to offer a poem of his. This poem wanders around, coming back again and again to the act of buttoning or unbuttoning, which is an act I find delightful also. You have to use the tips of your fingers. And, conversely, I have irrational anger at buttons too big or too small for their miniature openings. I usually don’t keep that shirt very long.

He writes about changes in perspective from a shirt that buttons on the opposite side – I can often use a change in perspective – and connects that to changes forced on us by violent or unexpected events, events that are the opposite of a daily comfortable shirt-buttoning. I’m also appreciating the unexpected here. The bee, and the spider, and the motions made after death. He just leads to it easy as can be… death, and life, and seeds planted for rebirth.

life, and violence, and death, and rebirth

from buttons. And delight.


Helen’s creations

Hello this is Helen. For science, I have made three different kinds of “dough”.


This is the first type of dough. I made this one out of cornstarch and conditioner. The conditioner made it smell really nice. After I made the dough, I decided I would make it pretty. It was white so I figured it would work. I put one drop of red food coloring and mixed it around… and it turned pink just like I wanted. That is the first one. It got hard really fast.

There was a second dough but we didn’t have a good picture of it. It was peanut butter play-dough made of peanut butter, powdered sugar, and honey. It was edible and tasted really good. But it was brown and I couldn’t change the color.


This is called salt dough. I made with 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, and 3/4 cup of water.


First I combined the salt and flour. Then I poured 1/4 cup water and mixed. I did that for all of the 3/4 cup. It became this…this…what you see in the picture. I had to mix it a lot with my hands before it was the right consistency. Then it was actual dough.


That was the third dough. It does not harden as fast as the other ones. At first I didn’t do the recipe correctly so I had to start over. My second try was successful.

-Helen J.

Ross Gay

I listen to a podcast called “On Being” and through this have discovered an American poet named Ross Gay. He is a professor at Indiana University. This is a man who is into poetry, community gardening, football, words, and the practice of delight. Taking delight in things, in people.

Here is a small part of Krista Tippit interviewing him on the aforementioned podcast.

Krista asks him why he thinks the media give so much time to scary or shocking events. They discuss how human brains seem to be wired for threat; that we have automatic responses to what might endanger us. Ross Gay says that it takes a type of discipline to pay attention to what delights us. The brain on autopilot may catch all the danger but  overlook joy.  And that delight is not just a luxury, but something life-giving, which is a theme of one of his published works:  The Book of Delights.

About 35 minutes into their discussion, they get to this:

“Gay: (people are… ) intricate and endless and unbelievable. And I also think that there’s a part of our bodies that are wired — and this is a thing that I noticed, that when I would experience something delightful, and sometimes I’d be like, “Oh, that’s wonderful” — so often, I’d be like, “I want to tell you.” It is this thing that actually makes me reach out towards someone.

And that feels bodily. I don’t know if a scientist has found this out yet, but when something good happens, do we gather around a thing? It is a feeling that I have, a deep feeling that I have, and I feel like it’s something that I witness, too, that people kind of want to share the stuff that they love.

Tippett:And what you do is, you put vivid language to it; you put beautiful, riveting words to it. So there’s a little bit of discipline involved. But that shifts it, too, to being more interesting.

Gay:How do you mean?

Tippett:Well, I mean that if we acknowledge this reality that on autopilot, we’re going to be galvanized by something terrible coming at us, then those of us who care about getting this other story about ourselves in the world out there have to also apply some intelligence to doing that well, so that it will also rivet. And it’s with this care with words and stories, which we do respond to.

Gay:And I think it also knows, or comes to know, that what is galvanizing, as well, is what we love, and has a kind of belief in that — and also believes in the thing — the book itself believes that it’s elbowing its neighbor and being like, “Right? Look at all this. What do you love? What do you love?” ”

OK, here I am, Katie, again. That question resonates with me: “What do you love? What do you love?” It is a question of identity but also purpose and desire.

I feel like that is what I am trying to do here. To show you what I love; these people, this place, life together. But also to elevate what seems ordinary. Mother Teresa says we can do no great things, we an only do small things with great love, and I feel like often small things come to us with great love.

And if you were here, I would ask you that question; what do you love? Maybe we are all recognizing right now that the privilege of being in another person’s company is a thing to love in and of itself.

Thank you for keeping company with me at a distance and sharing small delights. Please sometime tell me what delights you.


Perler beads

Here’s an idea. What if you could take one tiny, itty-bitty piece of color at a time, put it slowly in place and eventually make a picture? And then, what if you could pick up the picture and play with it like a toy?

This idea has some staying power. The kids have come back to the activity recently. And it surprises me that almost all of them seem to like it so much – the only one I have not caught doing this is Abbey.


You put the beads in a frame, either with instructions or your own free-form ideas, and then iron the beads to fuse them together and make a solid toy. I don’t really like to do it, myself. I’m always dropping the tiny plastic beads and stepping on them later, which is about as pleasant as it sounds. (Not as bad as stepping unexpectedly on a lego. If I am ever captured and tortured, I will break down and tell them everything when it comes to being forced to walk barefoot across legos. It’s the worst.)

But the kids have been fascinated with this toy for so long, in part because they find more and more complicated ways to create with it. When they were smaller it was just a victory to make the beads fit next to each other on the little frame without being bumped and falling out, or even accidentally hitting the frame with their own hand and knocking everything out of place. Oh, the tears!

I have also, yes, peeled one angry child off of another one who was attempting to exact vigilante justice on someone who knocked their beads ON PURPOSE!

Corrie has mastered pictures so large she had to fill several frames and then iron the whole thing in stages.


Can you tell what it is?


A baby Yoda offering you a heart. From the ‘Mandelorian’ show. She’s dedicating this one to you, Uncle Chris and Aunt Amy.

img_6674Amos made the Forky on the left. Rob also goes for the elaborate, multi-frame creations.


Which I never actually see him making, I just go into the garage to swap out the laundry and a new creature is thumbtacked to the wall.


I get by with a little help….

from my friends! If you, dear friend, have brought us


Puerto Rican coffee…


avocados…(many avocados! How else will we get enough protein in the vegetarian lifestyles to which we have become accustomed?)…


beer…(lookin’ at you, Pr. Chris!)


… or possibly more beer, or fresh produce, or flour, or olive oil, or eggs (organic free range eggs! From wonderful chickens on an organic farm who are treated like family members! At this point in their quarantined lives all the children here would love to trade places with those chickens!)….


… or tons and tons of broccoli (direct quote from my sister Amy: “since when do your kids eat this much broccoli? they used to suspiciously remove every single green thing from their plate and now you are asking me for tons of broccoli?! Who are you people?”)

THANK YOU for helping us out in our quarantine. Thanks for coming with the grocery deliveries and having a beer with James and me outside on the driveway. Thanks for smiling and telling us which Netflix shows you are loving right now.

I love the Beatles. (The band, I mean. I also frequently like insect beetles, but that’s another issue.) I have a lot of musician friends who come from musical families, where everyone works as a teacher or performer or director of some kind, but that is not me. I’m the mediocre musician standing amidst the engineers and accountants and project managers and small business owners in my immediate family. (and you guys will take me in when I start to starve, right?… right?) I had a moment in late teenagerhood when I realized how infinitely cool and musically deep the Beatles were, and it seemed like a kind of musician legitimacy to know and love the Beatles.

I sometimes ask people what their favorite Beatles’ song is, or what their favorite band  or favorite song is if they don’t care for the Beatles. I often have trouble remembering people’s names or faces, but I can remember their song if they tell me.

And the Beatles, those great philosophers and theologians and poets, say that you get by with a little help from their friends.

They are right. Thanks, friends. We couldn’t quarantine without you. 🙂


Aunt Helen

I have a remarkable aunt named Helen. Our Helen is named after her.  She hosts our whole family twice a year in her own home in Kansas City, Missouri, she is a great cook, and if you sit and talk with her you feel things will probably turn out OK after all.

She also has a talent for quilting.


She made this beautiful quilt for James as a Christmas gift this year. I think she told us the pattern is called a Texas Star, which feels very appropriate. The weather has just turned enough here to make a lighter-weight quilt pleasant at night, and I have done my yearly swap of the warm comforters for the cotton quilts.


These little details are like her. She does marvelous work.


And after I took these, I realized both the younger girls have their Aunt Helen quilts on their beds, too! She chooses bright cheerful colors that light up their rooms. In a big family, sometimes your bed is the one space you can claim for your own. Nothing starts a fight like somebody ELSE LYING ON YOUR BED. We can be the Three Bears suspiciously guarding against all intruding Goldilocks!


Except if you are covered in fur. Then everyone (except Mom! No fur! The shedding is relentless and I just changed that bed! Mom says get off the bed!) welcomes you on their sacred sleeping space.


James says he has received two gifts from Aunt Helen that are his favorites; his quilt, and a sick-call crucifix, which was a wedding gift to her parents, my grandparents. This is a crucifix that slides open to reveal two holes to mount candles and a tiny vial that would hold holy water or oil for the anointing of the sick. It is a part of my German Catholic heritage, which is important to me. For James, it is symbolic of the human work he does of holding sacred space with the sick and dying.



Aunt Helen is a caregiver, and one of my role models.

– Katie

Surprise Lizards

A lot of things wander in and out of our house assisted by animals and children. I got this text from Corrie while I was in Chicago.

“this is a picture of the LIZARD that the CAT just brought in my ROOM which scared the CRAP out of me bc i almost STEPPED ON IT”

accompanied by a picture of a terrified gecko panting open-mouthed in the middle of the carpet in her room.

Since this time we are all on the alert for surprise lizards. (And have discovered there are, yea verily, myriad internet memes of very surprising lizards. Including dancing lizards with the tagline ‘Haters gonna hate!’, and cats holding them as pets. The internet is a chaotic place.)

And, it being spring, they keep running through the house!


in the door


on the flute case


up the backpack


across the kitchen floor


And out the back door! Assisted by cheers and shouts from the assembled crowd. Or maybe strong encouragement to leave from the assembled crowd.


And, sadly, ambush by predator. It’s a tough life for lizards, out there.


Helen tries very hard to save them. She is a lizard-advocate, and keeps track of texture, color, and respiration levels. No sooner has someone yelled ‘surprise lizard!’ then she comes running to catch the cat and rescue the juicy victim.


And set it free in the alley behind the fence.


A word from the Chaplain

It is lucky we are quarantined here because we get free Chaplain services. James is  a hospice/hospital chaplain. He is so good at his job that his coworkers sometimes tease him about being a ‘comfort human’. Although he doesn’t bark and you can’t pet him. 🙂

Message from the Chaplain:

Helpful notes from a Parkland webinar on wellness from a colleague:

A few points to help with resilience and recovery.  Mindfulness leads to resiliency and well-being.

S:  Stop what you’re doing
T:  Take time to breathe (4 seconds inhale; 7 seconds hold; 8 seconds exhale)
O: Observe
P:  Process

Factors in recovery:
Sense of safety
Ability for calming

Autonomy, relatedness and competence lead to well-being.

Use the metaphor of weather as the thinking self; sky the observing self.  Especially when we have the urge to catastrophize.

Send photo that brings you joy.
Share “what fills your bucket.”


New recipe. I had never made these before. Everyone who lives here is a pretzel fan, though, so it seemed worth a try. (It is well-nigh impossible to find foods that every single person will eat. Some among us are vegetarian. Or gluten-free. Or just plain fussy. We’re not sure.)


Two batches, because one has to be gluten-free. (Never let it be said that I wasn’t trying!)


You get to knead dough. Which, as a stress-relief activity, rates high.


And form the little, you know, shapes.


They get boiled in baking soda water! Who knew?!


And dipped in egg wash… I’m learning a lot on this one…


Our test for a good recipe is how long it takes 7 people to finish the food; 1 day. 5 stars.

Pretzel recipe