Life

A Wardrobe Appreciation

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I didn’t post about it at the time, but my suitcase went missing into the nebulous ether that planes fly in on our trip back from Maine.  “We’ve found your suitcase!” the airline kept calling me to tell me, only to attempt to deliver a bag that wasn’t even close to mine.  Sigh. I’m still in rounds with them about settling for the value of my baggage.

The finances, with my income being all Student Loan since Asher arrived, are also strange.  We get financial aid in spurts, and there are tens of thousands in the bank that are supposed to last us six months or more.  By the end we are usually scraping a little… able to pay all the bills but not able to make any extra purchases.  Like a new wardrobe, for instance.

It wasn’t that big a deal, I didn’t think.  Yes, I had brought all the clothes I actually like to Maine.  Yes, I had lost all my fun book tees that solidified my status as a literary nerd.  But it wasn’t like I didn’t have stuff to wear.  I just didn’t have cute stuff to wear. I bought a bra, a pair of jeans, a few target t-shirts, and made due.  I felt frumpy, but I chalked that up to being a tired mom.

Brian’s financial aid came in this week and I was able to buy an actual wardrobe today. While I bought several shirts and another pair of jeans, I spent most of the money on stuff that no one would notice: tank tops, underwear, bras, pajama pants, slip shorts. I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER.  I feel like a complete person now.

I have never before appreciated the luxury that is being able to pull a tank top from the drawer to put underneath a low neckline.  I no longer have to choose between underwear that has holes and unraveling elastic or the ones that settle onto my c-section scar and rub all day.  I can wash my jeans without having to wear fancy dress pants as I wait for them to dry.  I have shorts to wear under the few skirts I still have in my drawer (chub rub is real, guys, and deodorant on the thighs only cuts it for so long).  I do not have to wear a bra that I have worn for five days in a row in 100+ heat.

Is this TMI?

In short I’m happier, less smelly, and infinitely cuter.

This is where I’m supposed to have some sort of witticism or Deep Thought about clothes and who we are.  But honestly, I’d rather just go enjoy my soft, soft pajama pants that have pockets.  Appreciate your clothes, guys.  I know I’m going to, simple as they are.

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Thunderstorms

I had a little time to do some actual writing in Maine while I was there. It felt good to exercise those muscles again.  And it also led to the writing of some vignettes, like the one here.

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A Maine thunderstorm is not like a thunderstorm in California.  In California, the gray clouds gather for hours before they begin to weep a misty drizzle that eventually might turn to more persistent streams.  The booming clouds are loud but faithless.  They roar a couple of times and then they turn back to the drizzle they were born of.

In Maine, a thunderstorm comes in.  The gray fluffy clouds roll across the blue, blue sky, groaning in warning.  In a matter of minutes the sky is all cloud, the wind chimes ring out their warning peal, the rain falls in a sheet.  The booms seem to echo in the sky around you, and the lights of the house flicker.  Sometimes the house lights go out and you are left grappling for your flashlight.  The clouds continue their persistent roll and roar even after the rain has passed.  A Maine thunderstorm means it.

I sat in the living room of my mom’s cottage with my husband and watched the storm come in over the ocean today, wondering if it would wake up my napping son in the room above.  And in the way of children and mothers, it pulled me into a different memory.

It was surely not my first thunderstorm in Maine. I have been a slightly legitimized summer person since I was born (since many of my family lives here full time). But it’s the first storm I really remember.  We were staying in the big cottage, the one Grampy’s father made for his mother (as opposed to the tiny cottage that Grampy himself had built – maybe 600 square feet?)  The black “Juanita” sign still hung in the living room in the big cottage amid the iron stove, the rag rugs, and the furniture from the 1970s with holes in all the upholstery, stuffing flying free – deftly covered by Juanita’s granny square afghans of many colors.  We were serviceable at the beach.  Despite the bucket of clean water at the door to wash your feet as you came in, there was a fine patina of sand on everything.

I slept next to my sister Cody under the eaves in a bedroom upstairs, white lace curtains at the window.  The noise woke me up and  I was frightened, but too old to admit it.  I couldn’t remember a storm that loud, even though I remembered Maine thunderstorms. My mother was up too.

“Case, can you help me close the windows?” she asked, flitting from room to room.  The sheet of rain had already started, and the window sill in the hall was already wet.  I shoved the pane down, and moved downstairs to the next.  A peal of thunder shook the house.

It took forever for the two of us to manage the window on the stairwell, too high to grip tight and slippery because of the rain.  But finally my mother managed it.  I was still scared, though the purpose of the moment had turned my adrenaline to excited.

“We did it,” said my mother as we turned to each other.  Another peal, and when the house shook I also shook.

“Mumma!” Cody called from the bedroom upstairs.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to sleep tonight,” said my mother.  “Have you ever watched a storm over the ocean?”

I shook my head.

She climbed the stairs to get Cody.  “Grab a blanket, and we’ll all watch together.”

We settled in on the couch, Cody on one side of my mom’s lap and me on the other, tucked under one of Juanita’s afghans.  My mom had pulled the couch over so the big picture windows were perfectly in front of us, like a TV.  The lightening danced over the dark waves of the ocean, sparking the clouds in purple and forking down to the water.  No two zig-zags alike.  The thunder shook us at intervals and it seemed like it all must be right on top of us.  Cozied in like that I felt safer, though.

“How far away is it?”  I asked.

“Count,” said my mother.  So my sister and I counted one-mississippis between light and sound,  and my mother did the math.

“About a mile away,” she said.

It felt more present than that.

“Could the lightening ever strike here?  Would it strike the rocks?”

“I don’t think it will tonight.  It’s very rare, but it could.  It has.”

“It has?”

“Yes, you know the hollow on the rock you were pretending to make seaweed stew in the other day?”

I nodded.  The rock was a larger than the footprint of the small cottage, an almost perfect 30-degree angle of dusky, weather-beaten granite that dipped toward the shore, ending in a collection of smaller rocks that created tidepools when the tide was out. At the top left of this rock was a perfectly round indentation, like a black melamine bowl.  This room was always our kitchen when we played house, because it already had a sink.

“That wasn’t there when I was a girl.  Lightning struck the rock, and created the hollow.”

In the world where we are both adults and we have talked about this again, I know my mother never saw the lightning strike happen.  It was winter, and no one was at the beach then.  They came next summer and the hollow was just there. But I could see it so vividly in my mind that I was certain she had for many years.

It would have been a night like this one, and maybe Aunt Nancy would have come to snuggle with her on the couch cushions.  I never could quite picture my mother with her mother, who died shortly after my mom’s marriage and whom I never knew.  And Grampy wasn’t a cuddle with the kids during a storm kind of guy.

The two of them, Kathy and Nancy, would be watching the storm, tucked under one of Juanita’s afghans, and the lightening would bolt down from the sky.  There would be a huge cracking sound as the electricity hit the rock, sparks flying, the rock burning for a time before the rain put the flames out.  And in the morning was our sink, too hot to touch for weeks.

We were outside time in that moment, those two girls and my sister and I. Parallel. Same house, same sky, same blanket, even to some extent the same sisterly love.  I have had so many Maine moments that run parallel that perhaps I can be excused for believing in this one for so long.

I still live in California, where I grew up.  Despite what they tell you, there is history there.  It just isn’t your history.  I live next to an orange grove that was planted and picked by someone else forever ago, to my south an irrigation ditch dug in the 1820s by local rancheros.  The local church has done a Las Posadas every Christmas for a hundred years, the 4th Of July Band plays Sousa all summer long, and the epithet “without vision a people perish” has presided over concerts in the park since the 1920s.  I can even visit Teddy Roosevelt’s chair at the Mission Inn, if I want to.  The tradition is there, but it doesn’t pull in the same way.  It doesn’t belong.

History in Maine is rooted, sweeping you into the past like the rolling of the clouds over the ocean, dropping rain sheets of the lives of others over your modern veneer.  In a moment it doesn’t matter what year you are in, and time moves in a circle like it does in theoretical physics.  You are tangled with the generations before you, whether you like it or not.  Mostly it’s comforting, that sense of being both outside of time and inside a memory.  In Maine, history means it.

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A Fence Fiasco

 

We moved into this strange house in the middle of the summer, knowing that the house had been beautifully flipped but the yard was a travesty of epic proportions.  I pulled cactus and dead rose bushes for months.  Almost five years in the making, and the front yard is looking decent.  We haven’t touched the back yard, except to put in two raised beds amongst the weeds so I can have tomatoes.

Although we have had the funds to do small projects, the fence has been beyond us.  Every time we think we’ve finally saved for it we get some sort of a disaster.  The car needs a whole new transmission, and the stove broke, and, and…

I think now this was probably fate.

In the week long rains of two weeks ago, the world softened.  The rusty nails holding the fence together slipped free, and the fence collapsed – revealing a rather beautiful hedge of cypress trees that the neighbors had erected.

Brian and I looked at the glimpse of elfin style we had beyond the weeds and decrepit fence and saw potential.  It looks like we’re just going to take down the back fence and enjoy the trees, since the hedge is a solid screen and we don’t have to worry about keeping any pets in.  It will help us when we go to replace the rest of the fence too.  That back stretch was the longest and most expensive.  Bonus!

Now to find the time to take the old one fully down… Which I’m sure I’ll manage in a fit of tomato longing in the next month or so.  This year, now that I don’t have to spend 20 hours a day holding a baby, there is produce in my future.  I’m determined.  And the baby can dig in the dirt with me.  Just as long as I get the fence down first.

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Baby Racing

Last week we took the baby to the LA County Fair. And by “we” I mean my dad, sister, brother-in-law, and aunt. Brian hates the fair with a passion that is irrational, but I’m resigned to it.

Asher is pretty good in the car unless you’re stopped for any reason. Then he frets and complains, and sometimes starts to cry. On the way into the fair there were many stops and starts as we navigated traffic.

“Unghhh!” said Asher at all of them.

“What’s wrong?” said my dad.

“He’s just upset we’re waiting,” I replied.

“Oh,” said my dad. And then he started making vrooming sounds.

Asher stopped fussing almost immediately, totally content with the facsimile… “Good enough, and thank you for the attempt,” he seemed to say. “You efforts at infant placation have been accepted.”

Of course, this is not the end of the silliness. Part two of this story involves school. Both Brian and I have class on Monday nights, so Asher goes over to have a grand old time with Grandma. I don’t have enough time between drop off and school to go get food, so I usually run through the drive-through with Asher in the car throwing a fit because we are WAITING at a window, mom!

So tonight, instead of sitting through the crying, I am in the line for the drive-through making vrooming noises. My window is down, and there I am with a silent baby in the back who is unobservable because of the tinted windows, and I’m pretending to have some sort of stock car race with my mouth. I may not have been the weirdest thing those drive-through workers had seen, but I’ll bet I at least received a “you’ll never guess,” when they went home that night.

The things we do for our children…

In other news, the baby has realized that if he runs off with his pants in the morning, it takes me much longer to put him in them. He’s usually so proud of himself about it, too, waving them in the air with a smile on his face as he stalks around the kitchen and growls.

He’s trouble, but he DOES make me laugh.

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Fairyland Temptation

Tree

I’m half-convinced that not only are there Fairies at the University of Redlands, but that they’re actively trying to get me to join them.  Observe the evidence:

Asher and I walk Brian to work most mornings.  I was walking home a few weeks ago, and I passed a tree which had step stools of mushrooms leading up to its trunk.  I thought it was funny, and it made me wonder what kind of nyad would willingly live on a college campus near Frat Row.  The debaucherous type, I suppose.

I passed by the next day and the stepping stones were gone.  Closed for business was Fairy Land, I guess.

But then the lilies started to appear in strange places, big pink clusters of them peeking out of the ivy, no visible leaves but just a stalk rising from the dirt.  There is no rhyme or reason for their placement.  We’ve seen feathers falling from the sky, and a secret mailbox ensconced in a bush by the alumni house.  Half open, for temptation, of course.

This week I found a mushroom doorstop clinging to a tree, the joint where the roots meet making a perfect semblance of a door.  It’s been tempting me every day since, and that one hasn’t closed for business yet (probably because it’s not in the path of the mowing gardeners).

All of this, of course, can’t be just coincidence.

My question is, though, what kind of Fairy thinks that a 36 year old lady with a baby would go rushing off to join them?  What would I do with the baby?  He’s formula fed, and I wouldn’t know how long until we could get back so I’d be loathe to go without some assurance that he’d be fed.  I can picture myself loading up the stroller with eighteen canisters of formula, falling out on the sidewalk as I try and inconspicuously walk around campus to the tree.

Or worse… “Don’t worry,” the Fairies would say.  “We’ll feed him.” but we ALL know what that means.  I’d never be able to take him back to the mortal realm again.

I suppose I could leave the baby with Brian and go alone.  But I’d be forlorn without that boy.  And time passes differently in other realms.  I’d never take the chance that I’d miss seeing Asher grow up.

So I’ve been viewing it all with quiet amusement before going home to get the baby a bottle and put dinner in the crock pot.  Maybe do a few loads of laundry while I’m at it.

I’m writing a book about Fairies right now.  Maybe they’re just telling me they approve of my next novel?

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Ceiling Fan Magic

This family just went on Vacation for the first time.  My Mother-In-Law had reserved a time share for a weekend up in Big Bear, but then ended up not being able to use it.  She offered it to us instead. And it was mostly a good time although VERY stressful.  The packing list alone, man… Also, Asher didn’t know what to think of it and refused to adhere to any kind of regular schedule while up there.  I worried.  Incessantly (he’s fine, of course.  He’s even sleeping soundly).

But we had good times amidst all my superfluous woe.  It was beautiful up there. And the weather was not a million degrees too hot to go outside.  We hiked, we swam, we enjoyed awesome Nepalese food at the Himalaya Restaurant, we strolled by the lake.

Asher didn’t care about any of that.  His favorite was the new and fancy suite to run around in.  New rooms with funky flooring!  Vertical blinds!  Oh, the remotes! And then there was his one true love, the ceiling fan.

I noticed it one morning when I had pulled him into bed with us.  He stood on the white comforter, one hand bracing himself steady on my hip, and gestured to the fan.  He stared at it, and his hands twirled.  His fingers extended out and then in again as he gestured, pulling his arm back, pushing his arm forward.

It looked for anything like he was performing magic on the fan.

So here is the question: what WOULD an eight-month-old want to summon from inside of a fan?  Or is he just trying to keep it running with his magic fingers?  He did this several times throughout the trip, too.  It wasn’t a fluke.

I don’t know, man.  I may be waiting for an owl to fly in my window in a few years with an epistle from Hogwarts.

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A Nano Wrap Up

Camp-2018-Winner-Twitter-Header

Well, tomorrow is the end of Camp Nanowrimo, and I did VERY good this year.  In fact, shock of shocks, I won. I have an excellent track record at the regular Nanowrimo in November (I’ve won every year but last on account of, you know, going into labor and stuff), but I’m typically pretty terrible at Camp.  It lacks the urgency of November, and the cabins don’t really do anything for me.  Pep talks are also typically not as inspiring.  Still, it’s a good opportunity to have a little accountability.  I don’t usually win, but I usually get more done than I would have without participating.

I’ve been holding off on my writing this year (and honestly most of my hobbies, too).  The Small Boy takes precedence over everything right now.  But he’s becoming more self-sufficient with his entertainment and sleeping pretty consistently most nights.  Which means I found it pretty easy to scare up a bit of time for the writing this month.

I didn’t write things every night, though I did do things that furthered my writing career.  But I did write most nights, am about 1/3 of the way through the “final” draft of my next novel (before Autocrit, maybe Critique Circle, then 2nd/3rd party edits).  And I think, going forward, that I’m going to instate my old goal for the year.

  • I will write 20 days of the month for all the months left of 2018.

I think it’s totally doable, and I’m posting it here so that you can all keep me accountable to it.  I’ll include it when I do my rundown in December on whether I reached my goals for the year or not.  It may be a pipe dream, since the Alpha and Beta read process can take a long time, but I’m kinda hoping to get book #2 out to the world by this time next year.

Also, I GOTTA find a way to speed up that process…

That’s it for now.  T-minus 1 day until Blue Gentian releases!

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Baby Days

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a post about life in general.  Largely, it’s been good.  Although I will say that it’s a bit strange to be a stay-at-home mom sometimes.  I find that most of my day isn’t terribly interesting; always repetitive, even while it’s extremely rewarding.  All I need is a baby grin and I’m a happy mother.  Bonus points for one of those shrieking giggles he gives sometimes about unpredictable things.

Being a mother is also surreal, though.  Asher doesn’t look exactly like me at his age, but he’s close enough that things get strange in my head.  Especially when I’m sleep deprived.  I often get the sense that I am outside of time, scrubbing my own elbows in the whale-shaped bath, cajoling myself to eat peas, pulling my tiny self close at 3 am when I’m having a hard time sleeping, singing show tunes to calm my younger nerves.   I know logically that he’s not me, but the lines still blur.

It feels sometimes like I traded everything that made me interesting for a suitcase full of baby snuggles, but it never feels like it wasn’t worth it.  Baby snuggles are pretty great. Besides, I know it’s a temporary condition.  My mother and grandmother, both stay-at-home moms, are/were VERY interesting women.  And I sneak in interesting whenever I can, between the cracks of bottles, naps, and routine.  Brian, wonderful Brian, helps.

It’s summer, so Brian and I have been taking Asher on an adventure once or twice a week – hiking, to the Redlands Bowl, swimming… It messes up the baby’s schedule but I think it’s worth it for the way it breaks my monotony.  After all, if Mom isn’t happy no one is happy, right?  That’s what I’ve been told and I don’t intend to test the theory.  That and books are my saving grace.

I don’t know why motherhood is this oxymoronic bundle of easy, boring, and the hardest thing ever, but it is.  I’m continually looking forward to whatever this baby is going to do next, though.  That’s all I really wanted to say this week.

Also, just for kicks, I’m going to write down our daily schedule for posterity:

  • 6:00 am ish – Baby wakes up.  Brian or I feed him a bottle (whomever is more sleep deprived gets to sleep).
  • 6:30 am – Brian gets up and gets ready for work while I corral the baby.  He usually squirrels around and plays with his Totoro plush while I sing to him.
  • 7:00-7:10 am – Brian finishes getting dressed, so he corrals the baby while I get dressed and eat breakfast.
  • 7:40 am – Brian leaves for work and the baby is MINE.  I feed him and sing songs to him until he either gets fussy or finishes his tray.
  • 8:00 am – Asher plays for about an hour, doing mostly his own thing except that every 10 minutes or so he wants to climb into my lap and get kisses for a second before moving on to the next thing.
  • 9:00 am – Bottle and nap time.  This kid usually falls asleep while he’s eating, right on top of me.  I read quietly on my phone until he wakes up. He used to have another nap later but for the past few days this one has just been epically long.
  • 10:30 am ish – Baby wakes up and plays again, but this time I MUST BE RIGHT THERE for him to stand on or hug him.  He wants to be touching.  Unless he doesn’t.  But no really, he does.
  • 11:00 am – This kid gets another bottle, though he stays awake and hums at me through it. He plays when he’s done, crawling around the living room from toy to toy.
  • 12:00 pm – Brian comes home for lunch.  We swap out watching him, and I get Asher a tray when I’m done eating so he can have lunch himself.
  • 12:45 pm ish – Depending on the weather, Asher and I walk Brian back to work.  The baby usually falls asleep sometime during the walk, and (depending on the weather) I just park him under the shady tree in the front yard until he wakes up while I sit on the bench on the porch and read some more.
  • 1:30 pm ish – This kid wakes up and we head inside.
  • 2:00 pm – Baby gets another bottle, to which he usually falls asleep.  This one’s his long nap, and I can usually count on 1 1/2 hours from him.  Yesterday he slept for 2 1/2, though… When he wakes up, he plays.  He doesn’t care at all about me now, just wants to do his business on his own time.
  • 4:00 pm – Another bottle for baby.
  • 5:00 pm – Brian gets home.  After Brian’s changed out of his nice work clothes, I get a small respite from being “in charge.”  And if there’s anything I need to do on my own, I can do it.  I also often make dinner.
  • 6:00 pm – Everyone has dinner together, Brian and I at the table and Asher in his high chair.
  • 7:00 pm – The baby bedtime routine commences.
  • 8:00 pm – Asher is (usually) asleep by now.  The adults collapse in exhaustion in front of the TV.
  • 10:00 pm – The adults go to bed.  Or at least pretend to (if my book isn’t too diverting).
  • Sometimes Asher will wake between 3:00 am and 5:00 am in which case he’ll get a bottle before going back to bed in the pack-and-play in our room.  Sometimes he doesn’t.  It’s kinda a crapshoot. And that’s it!  Are you tired yet?

 

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Blue Gentian

Blue Gentian Cover - Final -

Well, thanks to Camp Nanowrimo, I finally have my act together on something.  It’s only been four days, but so far it’s given me the bit of a push I need to prioritize at least some of the writing.  Some days I don’t get much done, but it all adds up, right?  And at least I’m DOING something now…  We’ll see if that continues.

After much ado, I have some amazing news:

Blue Gentian is all formatted and ready to go.  I tweaked the cover a little bit font-wise, as you can see above, and the book will be available for pre-order on Amazon in a couple of days with a release date of August 1st.  I’m going to try and do a thing where at least one of those weeks is a week you can get the book for free (please consider leaving me an honest review if you do download for free). I decided a long time ago that I’m making writing career decisions based on getting lots of people to read my stuff and not based on monetary concerns.  After all, I have a day job.

To say I’m EXCITED would be an understatement.  I’ve been working on an iteration of this book since high school, and it’s finally here and as perfect as I can make it.  Those who have read it for me have been excited about it too.  I hope you’ll consider picking up the book when it goes live.

And thank you for following me here and paying attention to my writing.  It’s you as much as anyone that gave me the courage to get this book into the world.

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The Annual 4th of July Post

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I’m going to preface this entry by saying that I’m a closet rampant Christian.  Or, not closet exactly… I just believe that there’s many ways to reach God and that Christianity is a good one, but I know it doesn’t work for everyone as amazingly well as it works for me. So, I tend to keep quieter than some.  I mean, it’s not like you’re NOT gonna hear the message of Jesus in America today…

I’m putting in this preface because I’m going to get a little religious on you at the end.

I’ve been feeling like a big fuddy-duddy this year about the 4th of July, and if I’m feeling it you better believe it’s bad.  I’m usually all about breaking out the tricorn hat and ’76 flag while humming Stars and Stripes Forever and carrying a sparkler. But America IS NOT living up to what it should be in ways so profound that I’m not even sure we qualify as a democracy at this point.  A fascist oligarchy? Maybe.  Democracy?  I don’t know.  I’m hoping we can get back to a semblance of democracy soon.

I’ve always been a proponent of the fact that the 4th of July is a day to revel in the promise of America, the US that never actually can be because it’s an ideal.  It’s a day to party it up, think of freedom and founding fathers, listen to a little fife music, and gain stamina for the fight to make the actual US match the fantasy US.  If we bathe in the America that could be for a day, we can better work towards that actuality in the coming year. A little bit closer, the years bending toward justice.

I just didn’t want to do that this year.   I see the country standing for so much hatred to the point where we’re not even acknowledging the humanity of children.  Where do we even go from here? Is there a bottom lower than this one?  I don’t want there to be.  I didn’t want to ponder or celebrate America at all right now.

Still, in church this morning we had a little America celebration.  We sang My Country ‘Tis Of Thee and America The Beautiful among other things.  The sermon was on making apologies for deep wrongs.  I sat in that sanctuary, sang all the verses, and found that maybe I did feel okay about celebrating the 4th after all.  Because the Founding Fathers knew that this was a fraught experiment with potential for abuse, but they also knew their scrappy citizens who cling to liberty with both hands.

I want to point you to two verses in each of the songs from this morning:

O beautiful for heroes proved, in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee.
Till selfish gain no longer stain, the banner of the free!

Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light, Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.

I think that this 4th is going to be more of a religious holiday for me this year.  I’ll be praying for everyone to be crowned with brotherhood, for selfish gain to no longer stain the banner of the free, for God to protect us with freedom’s holy light.  I’m hoping that the fireworks will shine like a benediction on these prayers on Wednesday night as they light up the firmament.

And then on the 5th, I’m going to fight like hell again to secure the blessings of liberty for myself and my posterity.

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