Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I read The Life of Pi recently for my book club. I had nightmares in which I was lost at sea with my family. Nick, in a particularly misguided attempt to jolly me out of my fear, demanded to know whether I cannibalized the rest of them in my dream. His persistant questioning moderated my guilt over feeding him to our children in my dream. Next time, perhaps he'll let sleeping tigers lie. After the dream and the interrogation, I resolutely pushed the book out of my mind. I simply refused to think about it at all.

After no small amount of internal debate, I decided to attend the book club meeting. The hostess had a new house, Claire was in a particularly shrill mood, I wanted some wine and good company, I am a creature of habit, insert any other convenient reason here. I went. I took a deep breath and a gulp of wine and forced myself to think about the book. I am so grateful that I did. We had a wonderful conversation. Then as the lulls slowly began to overtake the conversation, we turned to the topic of forgiveness.

Someone had asked if Pi had a happy ending. Some of us thought so. Others, including me, disagreed. I pointed out the number of times Pi referred to a dead character and said that he thought of him/her/it every day. Ah, but forgiving isn't necessarily forgetting, said the other side. But forgiving does mean unburdening. Pi felt guilty, I countered. The reply was that he had nothing to feel guilty about. His behavior was expected - what any of us would do in his situation. What any number of people had done in his situation. And then - ephiphany! - accompanied by all the light and clarity that can be expected in any revelation.

There is a fundamental difference between excusing someone (or oneself) and forgiving someone (or oneself). How often I have offered an excuse instead of contrition! How often I have robbed someone of forgiveness in favor of excusing their behavior! "I'm sorry I snapped at you. I was tired." Bah! "It's ok. I'm not hurt because I know you were stressed out." Double bah! It seems so much easier to excuse than to forgive, but then I just end up carrying the burden of hurt plus the additional burden of excuses.

I am working very hard on using my newfound insight to change the way I offer and hear apologies. It is liberating to just admit that I hurt someone or someone hurt me without needing to explain it away. But I don't think I'll be going on a cruise anytime soon, just the same.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

She's a tricky one

It had been a long and trying day, so I made a quick dinner of eggs, toast, and fruit.  I dished out heavy plates for the hungry and put the customary three bites on a dessert plate for Claire.  Jake was excited about an upcoming event so he started chattering before we even picked up our forks. 
Fifteen or twenty minutes later, Jake had finished his story and we'd finished our dinner.  Nick stabbed his fork in the direction of Claire's plate for a bonus bite of egg.  "What happened to your egg, Claire?  What did you do with it?"  We peeked under the table.  I shook out her napkin.  Then, I slowly realized what must have happened.  "I think she ate it."  Claire giggled and giggled and giggled. 

Monday, June 16, 2008


Give me a boy to the age of seven and I will give you the man.
Jacob turned seven yesterday.  It is a very symbolic age in many ways.  Seven is traditionally the age of reason.  Piaget theorized that the onset of concrete operations begins around age seven.  And of course, the statement above that is attributed to St. Ignatius Loyala.  Despite my recent worries about Jake, I am feeling confident about the man he will become.  Seven is a nice number for a list - there are seven corporal works of mercy, seven spiritual works of mercy, etc. In honor of my joy of a boy:
7 Reasons to Celebrate
  1. Every person is a potential friend.  Drop Jake into any situation for any length of time, and he will come out with new friends.  He has even made friends running around the bases at a baseball game.  He remembers names and faces and genuinely likes every person that he meets.  According to Jake, the world consists of good friends, new friends, and people he hasn't met yet.
  2. Jacob has a strong sense of justice.  If given a treat, he will make sure that everyone else has a treat too.  He will also confess if another child is being blamed for a shared crime.
  3. He can laugh at himself.  He knows when he crosses the line into the ridiculous and he can laugh if off - usually right away.
  4. He's not afraid to ask questions.  He's learning about tact (thank goodness), but he won't rest until he finds the answers to his questions.
  5. He really thinks.  Of course, he's seven so his critical thinking skills are hardly honed.  But he does think about answers and test theories against his own knowledge and experience. 
  6. He loves to teach.  He delights in teaching his younger sister and friends just about anything.  He received a couple of lacrosse sticks for his birthday.  We took them to the park to play with a friend.  Jake patiently showed his less graceful friend over and over again how to throw the ball. 
  7. He believes that he can do anything, given enough time.  He rarely says "I can't do it."  He says, "I can't do it yet."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bargain Pricing

One of the local neighborhood associations sponsored a yard sale extravaganza on Saturday.  Four alleys were filled with sales every few houses for two blocks.  We spent an hour or so strolling down the alleys and eyeing the goods.  Then Claire's new shoes started pinching so I piggybacked her home.  Jake was sorely disappointed that his shopping trip got cut short.  He found at least twenty items that were the coolest things ever.  He was eager to find other treasures and would have happily spent the day wandering through alley after alley.
A little while later, Jacob burst into the living room chattering nonstop.  He was wearing a large plastic shopping bag.  He'd cut leg holes through the bottom and then put the handles over his arms to make a sort of overall.  And written in huge numbers on both front and back was $100.  "Mom!  I'm going to go stand out in the back yard and see if I can sell myself!"