Tuesday, January 12


"D'you know what I'm going to do when I win the lottery...?" 

If we had a winning ticket for every time we've heard that line, right? We think about that debt absolving, travel enabling, financially "freeing" smile-of-fate ourselves, dreaming up the countless ways we'd spend our easy millions.

This time, the words are tripping from my friend's tongue hopefully, excitedly, purposefully. As we sit, waiting for spare parts, side by side on a hard wooden bench in IKEA she continues:

When I win the lottery (Let's say ninety million dollars, to start?), I'm going to make it my full time job to give it away! I'll hire a few friends and we'll spend our days coming up with creative ways to anonymously help people who need it.

Her excitement is contagious. My heart rate increases as my imagination slips into overdrive. For hours, she and I hash out (and argue against) all sorts of possible methods and means of helping and serving and giving; of surprising and enabling and fixing. Long after we part ways later that afternoon I continue to allow myself the liberating joy of pretending a limitless supply of give-away money.

My friend's obvious joy at the thought of giving unreservedly is gripping, engaging. I carry her thinking with me into supper prep and onto the treadmill. I wrestle with it in front of the t.v. and while I'm reading a chapter-or-two before sleep. I wonder about it on the way to bed and stay awake long into the night thinking it through. What would I do with $90 million dollars? What would wisdom dictate? Reckless, God-like Love would say...what? Practicality would demand...? Friendship would insist on...?

By 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning I change the focus -- just a little. I'm losing heart, of course, realizing that the odds of my ever having such a towering stack of cash are pretty slim (especially since we don't actually buy lottery tickets!).

Then I think, "Well. I don't have $90,000,000. In fact, I don't even have $90 thousand...or $900. In fact, this month, we don't even have $90 left to give away. But I can do ninety cents. I can always do ninety cents and, some days and weeks and months, I'll be able to do closer to ninety dollars. One day, when the costs of feeding hungry tummies and keeping shoes on always-stretching feet are lessened, that number will climb closer to $900.

There's always a little that we can set aside to share, right? It's enchanting, alluring to dream of big numbers and big results (micro loans all over Central America; goat herds throughout Africa; clean water, clean water, clean water; brightly illustrated books in girls' schools in Pakistan; homes for every child in my city). So enchanting.

I'd like to keep dreaming about those big numbers. In my real-world-giveaway-tin there are, roughly, ninety give-away cents right now. I'm going to set-to learning the wisdom and Love and practicality and compassion that will stretch those pennies as far as miraculously possible. If I become versed in that insight with our pocket change, perhaps the ninety, nine hundred, and nine hundred thousand dollar give-aways will be that much more impactful when the time comes?

Wednesday, January 6

Pick-up Sticks

Not long after our family moved into our newly-built home, our dishwasher broke. That was seven years ago and we never did get it fixed. That means dishes get done by hand around here and, since I'm the only one that really cares if the smells of rotting food and plugged drains are ousted from the place, I'm the one that scrubs them up.

Day after day after hungry-kid day, I wash those dishes and painstakingly organize them in the dish rack. We're a family of five, so the stacks of plates and bowls pile up. My determination to fit every last dish in the sink-side rack is undaunting. It's also lacking in good judgment. Having sent dozens of ceramic coffee cups and cereal bowls crashing to the floor, you might assume that I'd catch on to the concept of drying-as-I-go.

You'd be wrong in that assumption. Drying the dishes isn't my job. I wash. The kids dry. Not wanting to nag and bother, I just keep on trying to stack that rack a little bit higher, knowing that a little air dry will work just fine and that things will find their way to their rightful cupboards when I'm done...or whenever said "kid" gets around to slotting them away.

The two impracticalities (my unwillingness to holler for help, and my focused determination to contain all of that glass, metal, stainless steel, and plastic in one, tidy, albeit massive, heap) combine to create what amounts to a treacherous, and fairly infuriating, game of Pick-up Sticks: one wrong pull on a misaligned Ziploc container and you'll find a landslide of dinneware cascading directly toward your feet. 

Yesterday was no exception. Cup upon tottering little bowl atop wobbling bigger bowl, I'd balanced what looked to be every usable dish in our kitchen onto one wired dish tray. My boy dutifully set to the task of dismantling the thing and putting stuff in it's rightful place. Then, without warning, the shattering THUD-smash-tinkle...tinkle...tinkle of, you know it, the eight-cup Pyrex measuring bowl.

Pyrex don't just break, they explode (I learned this dramatically one evening when I attempted to broil pork chops in a Pyrex. They respond violently to extreme temperatures. Do not try that at home!). Teensy tiny shards of glass were fired in every direction and my best baking bowl lay in a ruin of my-own-fault making.

I got snippy. My son got defensive. And then we got to work hustling dogs out of harm's way and tossing glass into the recycling bin. 

Like you, I'm a little introspective looking ahead into the New Year. Like you, I can already see that there's a whole lot coming that will need our attention, our devotion, our affection, our dutiful labor. Our dish racks are full. We have the occasional luxury of starting out with an empty tray -- not a lot going on. Not too many demands or dreams or things-on-the-go. But most of the time it feels like if we attempt to add even one more coffee mug to our already teetering heap, the whole carefully-balanced lot will come crashing down around our toes.

We could learn from the demise of my Pyrex, though? We could empty the dish tray a little, as needed, or ask for a little back-up with the tasks at hand? We could avoid calamity and inevitable collapse by just working a little smarter.

I know I've learned my lesson. Directly behind me sits my latest achievement: An, I think, extraordinarily well organized mound of cooking utensils and pots and containers and cutlery. No chance that tomorrow will be a re-play of yesterday. I don't have any Pyrex left to shatter.