31 Days of Noticing Stuff


When he was asked to speak that Sunday, he almost said no. He wasn’t sure he wanted to get up there in front of all those eyes and ears and tell everyone and God who his favourite bible character was and why. He let me talk him into it, though, because I said he had good words to share from a good heart, and it would be a good experience.

It’s all good.

So he said he would, and he wrote his two little paragraphs, and he got up there at the front, my man-child, and he said it strong and confident:

Hi. I’m Carter. I’m going to share who my favourite bible character is. His name is David. I chose David because he is a sinner. A big sinner. And he sinned a lot but every time he sinned he turned back to God and that is inspiring for me because I am a sinner and I also need to turn back to God.

And I’m also going to share who I think shared a lot of love to others. I think David, again, shared a lot of love to Jonathon in a manly way. David and Jonathon were the kinds of friends who always watched each others back. And I want to be like David by being a loyal friend and a good Christian.

A loyal friend and a good Christian.

I have some of those in my life. I’m thankful for them, today.

They are out there, you know. You might not hear as much about them – the guys who work hard, who stay with their wives through it all, who finish what they start and get better with age and open doors and wipe tears. You might hear more about the ones who quit or cause trouble or make waves or are just plain mean. But there are some really good dads in the world, I’ve noticed.


The other evening, at book club, I cried over my husband. It had been a long couple of days and I was tired and when the question was asked and I tried to answer, well, I just sort of fell apart.

The question was something like, is there a person you know who lives authentically? We were talking about Bob Goff’s book Love Does, so the question was phrased much more Goffishly, but that was the jist of it, and I started to share my thoughts about my husband and about how he is who he is, no pretending, and it was all I could do to get it out.

He’s one of the good ones.

I was talking with my boys the other morning at breakfast, after their dad had left for work, and we were laughing over the way it goes sometimes when boys try to work with dads. The obscure directions, mostly, shouted from under the hood of a vehicle or in the middle of a goat birthing or from the top of a pile of bales. The get me the thing on the thing over there kind of directions. And after we’d told some stories and laughed, I said, You have a good daddy, boys. He’s not always an easy daddy, but he’s a good daddy.

I think they get it.

Good daddies raise good boys. Today, I’m noticing them.


The cows are on the road. the cows that belong to the rancher neighbour from down the road, and he’s out with his family, moving them or herding them or gathering them up. I’m not sure what the goal is, but the cows are there, and we stop and wait. Our Sunday afternoon interrupted.

It is a much-interrupted bit of time, lately. The boy home for a few weeks, interrupting the routine of school and work. The class I am taking interrupting the weekend. Sniffles and coughs interrupting the sleep. All of it interrupting the writing.

I’m thinking, though, that interruptions are not such a bad thing. To be shaken out of routine, to stop the flow and think differently for a bit, to consider a different way in the midst of the headlong rush.

When I interrupt with intention, it’s sabbath, and that is what I am noticing today.

He thumps down the stairs, every ounce of his seventy-five pounds working the steps, and pirouettes into the kitchen. Pirouettes. Really, like a grubby boy-ballerina, followed by a sock-footed slide over to the fridge. Open the door and stand there, bopping and snapping fingers, reach in, find apple, hip-check the door closed.

No audience that he knows of. Not a performance. Just joy, pure and simple.

Away he goes, back up the stairs to listen to iPod stories in his room. The other boys are in their spaces. The reading boy, reading. The guitar-playing boy, playing. It’s an afternoon like a million afternoons, and I feel like I could stay here, perfectly happy, forever.


Joy. Pure and simple.

It’s a Jesus day.

I don’t know why, really. It’s not Sunday or anything. I didn’t wake up to a quiet time, or bible reading, or prayer. Not that kind of prayer, anyway. Not the kind with words and please bless so-and-so and amen.


It’s a Jesus day, though. I know him today. In the dish water and the faces of scruffy-haired boys and the messy desk and the music. And the almost-snow rain.

In fact and truth, I argued today with a boy and with a man. But it’s a Jesus day, and hot words slid into holy words, and isn’t that Jesus, a cool hand over it all? Isn’t that just like him?

Every day is a Jesus day, of course. He doesn’t need me to find him. But today, I have.

I’m noticing him, today.

A couple of weeks into the second round of fostering, and it’s all coming back. The little things I’d forgotten. Those things that come up when parenting other people’s children.

Like, the other people.

Like, the mom who birthed this child who now sleeps under my roof and eats dinner at my kitchen table. The child I put on the bus each morning, and make a snack for when he gets home each day. The child who, let’s face it, has a lifetime of problems waiting for him because of the woman who carried him inside her for nine months and the father who disappeared.

So I take him for a visit.

I drop him off, go for coffee, kill time in the mall, and pick him up a few hours later. He and mom and the social worker come around the corner of the government building, and he can hardly carry the bags of stuff he’s bringing back with him. The dollar store stuff. More toys and more candy than one child can carry in his arms is, well, too much.

It’s way too much, and it’s not enough.

I’d forgotten this part of it. The heartbreak of mothers and fathers loading their children up with all this other, because they can’t take them home.

And I want to say, stop it. Stop substituting all this crap for the thing he really needs. Stop pretending this matters. Get your act together. Stop using. Quit being addicted. Get a job. Be a parent.

But I don’t. I exclaim over the new toy cars and I cringe inside at the bags of candy and I watch as she hugs him and promises him, again. This time detox will work and when she is done, they’ll be together.

I want to believe that.

I help him pick up his stuff, and we walk to the car. He fills the back seat with it all, unwraps a candy bar, and I stand outside to talk to the social worker for a minute.

We’ll see how it goes, she says.

And it makes me sad, because this is the most hopeful statement she can make.


He’s put John Denver on repeat to ease the algebra, and I’m thinking it’s been a long time. I’ve missed you, John. All the songs about trees and mountains and eagles flying and mothers laughing. The beautiful guitar and that dad and his fiddle and the feather bed. And Annie. And saying goodbye. Time passes; math is done. Outside, then, for space and movement and air.


The other boy is upstairs, cuddling under the covers of his bed, writing and reading and calling for a snack. And could I sharpen his pencil for him, please? And does he really have to do six pages? And could he read one chapter instead of two today? And what’s for lunch? Did Colton go outside? Can I be done?


And the oldest, away building music at school. He’s putting the strings on his guitar today. That’s the plan, anyway. And bringing the baby home this weekend. Seven weeks to birth this one, from rough board to the smooth, curved masterpiece, and he’s named it, already. I can’t wait to hear it sing.


This is what I am noticing, today. Boys, boys, boys. The conversation of my home.


We sleep in a bit, just enough to put us behind all day. And when I stop to fuel the vehicle before we leave town, the bus is there, taking all the room at the pump and after I sit for a few minutes, waiting, I run for the mail instead. Then a stop at the school to drop off that thing I forgot to send yesterday with the foster son, and then the friend who spent the night is delivered to his house, and back to the gas station.

Fueled, finally, and on the road, finally.

It’s three boys and me, and by the time we get to the city it’s time for lunch. And then a search for school supplies, and try finding those a month and a half after school has started. There is still an hour to kill before foster son’s appointment, the reason we are in the city, so we drive through a fast food place for drinks, and my cell phone rings.

An apologetic social worker… she’s so sorry but the appointment has been cancelled but how are things going? We chat about the boy and his first week with us and the freaky temper tantrum he’d had the night before. I’m standing in the cold wind outside the vehicle, talking, while the children sip sugar inside.

All the waiting of the day, in stores and in queues and at gas stations, all because of the waiting for an appointment that never was.

It’s a waste, I think. The whole day wasted, waiting. I’m tired, driving home. I’m tired, eating supper and these words are waiting for me and I’m too tired, I think, to write them.

But the words are waiting, like the day, so I do.


I have eight containers of bacon curing in my fridge.

It starts on Friday afternoon. He’s home from work and we pile into the Dodge to get our pig. Hundreds of pounds of squeal and snot from our friend’s farm down the road. He’s been feeding nine of them all summer, and one of them is ours.

Their dog greets us, running beside the truck as we drive across the yard, and as soon as we stop, all the pigs gather at the fence. The boys stand and consult and finally pick one, and it’s a quick shot and a quick knife and a lot of blood, and the work of dragging and loading, and we’re back home again, racing the dark to get him hung in the tree and the belly emptied.




It’s messy, sweaty work.

I’m in the kitchen, salt and sugar mixed for the bacon-making, and it’s only a few minutes until they start bringing it in, pork bellies, and I pack them into containers, cover them with cure, and load them into the fridge.

Alive one minute, food the next.

It’s dirty made clean. Life turned to food in a blink. Cutting, slicing, washing away blood. Death has a smell, and blood and fat are slippery, and it’s not supposed to be pretty. Is this art? I don’t know. It’s life and death, so maybe?

I could do the whole condescending “do you know where your food comes from?” thing. Truth is, we all know. We know it starts alive and suffers death and eventually ends up on the table. Someone kills it and cuts it and wraps it.

I don’t know, exactly, the lesson in this. I don’t know if it’s good to know your food first. To birth it and feed it, kill it and serve it. I do suspect there are lessons in there. Something about responsibility and sustainability and respect and reality. And maybe a little about plain old hard work.

On Friday we killed a pig. On Saturday we butchered him. On Sunday we sat down in Thanksgiving for good food, family, and this life we share.

It’s humbling, really.

Today I’m noticing good food, raised well and received with gratitude.

The day begins, chilled kitchen in early morning, waiting for the ticking heat register on the baseboard to warm the room. And a little voice and a hand in mine and an excited, Come and see this. It’s beautiful.

I go, of course, and we peek through window blinds to see the glorious sun, rising on Thanksgiving Sunday.

I could see something pink in the cracks, and then I looked and saw it, and his eyes shine with his discovery, and the day begins with beauty.

It’s full, the day, with preparing food and church and sharing the table with friends. And somewhere in there, there’s a tiny little bit of not-so-thankful-ness.

It hurts to admit, but it starts when he doesn’t have time to carve the turkey when I ask and they don’t clean the basement as clean as I think they should and all these silly little things prick holes in my heart, and some of the thankful leaks away.

It’s silly, I know. So silly, but so human.

Mostly, though, the day is baptized in thankful grace. A beautiful, sun-begun and friendship-warmed day, and this is the honesty of it all. That nothing is perfect, no matter how good the turkey and stuffing and cranberries taste.

Day sinks into evening, and we end it with a long drive to return the oldest to school. I’m tired – we’re all tired – but there is something sweet about finishing this way. Everyone packed into the vehicle, snoozing or listening to music or playing a game on a device, and my husband and I mostly quiet in the front as the prairie rushes by.

IMG_2359 I see the moon outside my window, high and bright in a still-lit sky. I snap her photo quick, and my husband calls my eyes to the view on his side. Sun dogs, glowing beauty around the sinking sun, and he rolls down his window so I can snap them, too.


We carry on, finishing the day the way it began, in glory. And all the little prickly bits are healed – they always are – by the grace of being together, imperfections and all.

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