Day Plus 914

Many weeks ago, it occurred to me that—as far as my blog was concerned—my dad was still alive.

I rather liked it that way, so I’ve resisted sharing any updates. But it’s been nearly a year since he died (on Day Plus 597), and while I don’t buy any bullshit stories about grief having a time limit, I’ve decided it’s past time to start writing again.

I’m a bit out of practice, so in the interest of self-care (and actually hitting publish on something for a change), I’ll be taking the easy route with a list of randomness. Join me, will you?

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On Belonging

Estes Epic

Okay, look: I’m not the most athletic person in the world, okay? But last year, my favorite friend did this unbelievably difficult kayak race called the MR340, which inspired me to put myself through some sort of physical challenge. (Besides eating too many donuts, which would be a more typical Launa-inspired physical challenge.) (I’m not wrong, am I, Launa?)


I can’t run (joints), I don’t enjoy biking (butt), and I didn’t want to kayak (dark water scares me). So, I registered myself for this 12-hour walk in Minneapolis, set a goal to do 36 miles in 12 hours, and started training. That goal sounded bonkers to me at first, but sooner than expected I was doing 20-mile walks in a little more than 5 hours. I was confident I’d do well.

But then my dad’s stem cell transplant interrupted my training schedule and preempted my trip to Minnesota. (Which is fine, because I’d choose a life-saving medical procedure over a stupid race any day of the week.) So, I set out to find an alternate Hard Thing. And I found The Estes Epic.

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I’m getting in my car to take it to Firestone for an oil change. Jack’s planning to follow me so I have a ride home.

Me (as I walk past my car): Hey, Jack? Any chance there could be a mouse in my car?

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Fourteen Things

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Sorry I’ve been a way for a bit. To catch you up, I present 14 things that’ve happened since we last spoke:

December 14. Participated in a tree-trimming party for Bre, a HomeFirst STL client and Bridge Bread baker. It was the first Christmas tree she’d had in 10 years. It was a sacred evening.

December 15. Sent a rather frantic email to the Saint Louis Zoo to find out whatintheheck they’d done with my daughter’s Christmas present. Response: “It’s in the mail.” (It was.)

December 16. Sat at Starbucks and nursed a skinny peppermint mocha while I worked on my book project for the Center for Church Communication.

December 17. Served breakfast at The Bridge and volunteered at Bridge Bread’s retail shop. (Which is awesome and you should absolutely stop by if you live in The Lou. It’s at 2604 Cherokee St.)

December 18. Panicked about Christmas. Started reading the Bible again.

December 19. Saw Daughter #2 sing in the Macy’s Holiday Celebration with the St. Louis Symphony. Magical.

December 20. Went to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery to see the Christmas lights and sample beer with several hundred of our closest friends. Watched grown people cut in line to see the clydesdales. Determined that Stella Artois is the grossest beer ever made.

December 21. Had dinner in Omaha with L, with whom I’ve been friends for 31 years. She continues to be the most creative, most sincere person on the planet. That evening, she attracted the attention of Kevin, a recent transplant from Philly, after he overheard me ask her if she was still firmly ensconced in spinsterhood. Given his hopeful facial expression, Kevin clearly had spinster confused with something else entirely.

December 22. Drove back to St. Louis. Saw a bald eagle sitting in a cornfield. They’re huge. (HUGE!)

December 23. Discovered hard root beer.

December 24. Gathered with some folks who, like me, had no particular place to be on Christmas Eve. Dear friends made music. I talked. We had communion, collected an offering for The Bridge, sang “Silent Night” by candlelight, and enjoyed a simple meal and some wine afterwards. Lovely.

December 25. Spent time with my parents, Jack, and Daughter #1. Ate a handful of vegetables and way, way, way too many cookies.

December 26. Re-taught our favorite friends how to play Pitch. The boys won. That will not happen again.

December 27. Cussed at the rain. Went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Also will not happen again.

December 28. Let go of Skittle, our One-Kidney Wonder. Jack and I disassembled and put away her crate under the curious and confused gaze of our other pooch. I can’t think of Skittle without crying, and my eyes look like I’ve been drinking heavily and/or smoking cigars and/or playing chicken with a swarm of bees. It’s not especially attractive. It’s been a tough day. Tomorrow will be better.

So now you’re all caught up. Anything new with you?

A Complaint

Dear Washington, DC:

I’m blaming you for my current dissatisfaction with my living conditions.

I have two too many toilets, a giant tub that’s used maybe three times a year, and two unoccupied bedrooms. My family’s cars are too numerous to easily fit in our garage and driveway. We own three pianos and an embarrassing number of books. Last week, one of our dogs was nearly buried alive by the mountain of towels, blankets, and unused pillowcases that erupted from our hall linen closet. We don’t have a surplus of televisions, but our computer to human ratio is approaching 2:1. There’s a space heater next to our fireplace and a neglected shuffleboard table in the basement. We have a garage and kitchen full of just-in-case items, and while only three people currently live here, we have 32 places to sit—not including the floor.

What’s my complaint, you ask? It sounds like I’m living the American dream, you say? You’re surprised I haven’t mentioned a white, picket fence and a pony in the backyard?

Yeah, I thought I was living the American dream. I thought I was supposed to purchase and consume and hoard and build our little empire right here in the suburbs. But then YOU, Washington, YOU didn’t post a warning sign on that horrifying exhibit at the National Building Museum in which you featured some lunatic woman living in a 200-square-foot “home” in someone’s backyard. And suddenly, I found myself malcontent with the size of my house (too big) and the amount of stuff I own (too much) and it’s all your fault because until I visited your stupid museum, it didn’t occur to me that this consumed-by-consumption lifestyle isn’t actually necessary.

In very few places in the world would this be someone’s complaint: “I have too many things.”

Since I visited your museum, I’ve been intermittently obsessed with the concept of minimalism, and yet I’ve been unable to make much headway toward getting rid of things because there are so many of them. I began cleaning out our storage closet (which is not much smaller than that woman’s whole house), got quickly overwhelmed, and our basement is now a rising surge of memorabilia, wall hangings, books, photographs, and toys I’ve saved for my someday grandchildren.

I’d love to sell this house and build a little one, but I definitely can’t have potential buyers tripping over the Little Tikes grocery cart and piles of board games we’ve played twice. Which means I have to shove all that stuff back in the damn closet. I asked Jack if we could put a dumpster in the driveway and use a backhoe to clear the place out; that’d be much faster and easier than a thoughtful distribution to places or people who could put it all to good use. But then I started worrying about the landfill and greenhouse gases.

Which is also your fault.



List Three


Beaver” by Lois Elling is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

My brain and I would be excellent contestants on Let’s Make a Deal. Remember that show? At the end of each episode, the polyester-suited host challenged crazily costumed women to produce random objects from their purses. Really random objects, like yo-yos wrapped in aluminum foil, a miniature rubber elephant wearing a top hat, one of those green, nose suction thingies hospitals send home with infants… that sort of thing. If the contestant could come up the object, she’d win a prize.

If Monty Hall were to walk into Starbucks this morning (my office du jour), and invite me to play a slightly modified version of his gameshow—one in which prizes were awarded for the most cluttered, random thoughts—I’d be sitting in a Brand! New! Caaaaar! in a hot minute.

Following are eight things that’ve crossed my mind in the past hour or so:

  1. I’m drinking a skinny vanilla latte, so I’m reminded to offer you my semi-annual PSA: Some vanilla flavoring is partially derived from beaver anal gland secretions. Yep. It’s true. It goes by another name, castoreum, because “Now with juice of anal glands!” isn’t the sort of thing you want to see on a package of “all natural” cookies at Whole Foods. Admittedly, each of us consumes less than a millionth of a pound per year, but is there such a thing as an acceptable amount when it comes to this sort of thing? And even if you’re not eating the stuff, you may be dabbing it behind your ears, because castoreum is used in perfumes. Have you any idea how many beavers were chased down and stripped of their dignity so we can smell like the contents of their anal glands? I may need to start a GoFundMe campaign: Justice for Beaver Butts. Or something.
  2. Have volleyball players always worn spanx as shorts? Or were spanx modeled after volleyball shorts?
  3. Speaking of sports, I don’t understand the appeal of watching two people beat the stuffing out of one another—let alone paying to watch it happen. How do we explain that to kids? “Never use violence to solve problems. At least not for free. Make sure you get paid to beat someone into a bloody pulp.” It’s a miracle we haven’t created an entire generation of professional hitmen.
  4. If your church does a “meet and greet” or “pass the peace” or “hold hands across the pews and sing kumbaya,” guests who are introverts hate you.
  5. I once stole a handful of candy from a Brach’s Pix-a-Mix display and stuffed it in my purse. We were at a Woolworth’s or something at the mall, and I tripped as we were walking out of the store. Every single piece of Neapolitan coconut and assorted flavors of Milkmaid caramels went skidding across the floor, landing at my mother’s feet. I don’t recall what happened next, but that was the last time I shoplifted.
  6. I cheated my way through my high school Government class. Our teacher used the same 10-question, multiple-choice tests every year, and that was back when I could actually memorize a list of ten things. This may or may not explain why I can’t recall who succeeds the Speaker of the House as POTUS and why I had to rely on School House Rock to explain how a bill becomes a law. (This is a world-premiere level confession; I’ve never said it out loud. I’m still afraid Mr. Barelman’s going to show up at my front door and strip me of my high school diploma, which would subsequently void both my BA and MA. I guess that doesn’t really matter, since I’m using neither of those degrees.) That was my one and only episode of cheating. My guilt is my consequence. Please don’t tell my dad.
  7. I should drink more water, but bathroom breaks are terribly inconvenient.
  8. I’m worried about how many of you are questioning my character because of #5 and #6. And I just remembered my dad reads my blog.

All right, that’s enough of that. Thanks for indulging me some random and a bit of silly. Sometimes it’s nice to pretend like all is well with the world and write pure drivel.


Dark and Other Not Okay Things

Thumbs Down

Awful things are happening in the world right now–truly terrifying, heart-breaking, overwhelming things. I can’t really process any more of it today, and so I’m going to write about less serious things. I recognize my ability to turn off the noise for a little while is evidence of privilege. Please don’t take my need for levity as evidence of an uninformed or cold heart. I won’t stay turned away. I just need to breathe tonight.

A Semi-Random List of Things That Are Not Okay

Premature Election Coverage. Too early. Too much. Too ridiculous. I mean, Donald Trump is still in the race. (I don’t particularly care for Donald Trump’s ideas. I know some people do, and if “some people” includes you, I’ll still love you. But please don’t try to convince me to vote for him, because that’s simply not going to happen. It’s not. So let’s talk about something else.)

Red Velvet Oreos. In 2012, Nabisco decided to diversify. I’m a purist, so I’m all about regular Oreos. No, not even Double-Stuf, because gross. Just two chocolate wafers and a thin disk of sugar + vegetable shortening for me, please. I kept silent about the non-traditional flavors as long as I could, but I cannot stay quiet about something so egregious as Red Velvet Oreos. Buttermilk and vinegar, people. Buttermilk and vinegar. Red Velvet anything is disgusting.

Including Red Velvet Candy Corn. Seriously, Brach’s. That’s only slightly less gross than the Strawberry Shortcake ones. Keep it simple, I say: Regular and Indian Corn is all that needs to happen. (Is “Indian Corn” even politically correct? Honest question.)

Red Velvet M&Ms. As it turns out, the whole Red Velvet takeover is Mars, Inc.’s fault. It launched the Red Velvet M&M in 2014–available only at Walmart and only around Valentine’s Day. Let’s be clear: The only proper flavors of M&Ms are plain and peanut. No, not peanut butter. Those taste too much like…

Reese’s Pieces. Ew.

Holiday Confusion. Labor Day is different from Memorial Day.

Using Any of the Following Words or Phrases. “For all intensive purposes.” “I could care less.” “All of the sudden.” “Irregardless.”

Dark. It shouldn’t be dark at 6 pm. I mean, I’m already in my jammie pants by then (the Dallas Cowboy ones, thank you very much), but that doesn’t mean I want it to be dark. I just want it to be elastic-waist-pants time. It’s really not too much to ask.

(Writing this post is taking much longer than I expected it to—mostly because I keep thinking of serious things that aren’t okay, and I can’t put “concealed carry” on the same list as Reese’s Pieces. Oh, whoops. Did I say “concealed carry” out loud? *ducks*)

House millipedes. One came out from underneath my toaster not too long ago. Have you ever tried to kill an insect with a toaster? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Warning: Some viewers will find this photo disturbing. Also not okay: cave crickets. Springy, sneaky jerks.

Soprano clarinets. 

Putting the cereal back in the pantry when there’s a tablespoon’s worth of Frosted Flakes silt in the bottom of the box. No bueno.

All right, that’s enough. I’ll be back to taking myself too seriously soon. Thanks for indulging me a bit of a respite.


Fuel Pump

I was leaning against the side of my rental: a white, Fiat 500—quite possibly the cutest car I’ve driven since my dad sold our ’69 VW convertible 20 years ago. I’d chosen the slowest fuel pump in the Western Hemisphere. The one with the faulty auto-stop. The one that soaked me in fuel. Soaked me. 

I have no idea what came out of my mouth in the moment I realized what was happening, but I’m certain it was quite loud and not at all ladylike. Once I got the nozzle turned off and shoved back into the pump, my first (pointless) instinct was to grab the windshield washer squeegee thing and take a swipe at the side of the car. My second instinct was to march into the station, positively fuming—both figuratively and literally.

“Pump 7 has a faulty auto-stop, and it just drenched me in fuel,” I stammered at the attendant.

“I didn’t know the pump was faulty.”

“Clearly. I thought you might like to sop up the lake of gasoline and maybe take the thing out of service.”

“Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Inconvenience? Inconvenience? There’s a good possibility that when I start the car it’ll go up in a ball of flame; and even if I survive the blast, I don’t think State Farm will be a good neighbor on this deal; and even if there’s no fire at all, TSA’s going to arrest me for trying to board a plane as a human bomb; and if manage not to get arrested, every passenger on my flight is going to hate my guts because oh my Lord I smell like I’ve been bathing in gasoline. 

Yep. That entire scenario went through my mind as I blinked at the Shell attendant.

“Yeah. Okay,” I muttered, and went out to see how my spontaneous Choose Your Own Adventure would end.

Obviously, I’m neither a pile of ash nor in a holding cell in the bowels of DFW. I am however, wearing Dallas Cowboys pajamas.

After successfully returning the rental car and hopping the shuttle to the terminal, I had almost convinced myself that maybe I wasn’t all that stinky. The ticket agent brought me back to reality.

“Do you smell gasoline?”

“Oh, that’s me,” I said, trying not to burst into tears. “I got soaked at the gas station.”

“Oh. Oh wow. Okay. Well, ummmm, you’ll be all right.”

At which point, I began to sweat. Mmhmm. There’s nothing like a nervous, sweaty, middle-aged blond with a dab of gasoline behind each ear. I just shot up from a 5.4 to a 9.

I continued to sweat through the you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me security line, wishing the teenagers behind me would give me some freaking personal space already, ignoring the “Do you smell gas?” comments, sniffing the air with the same confused-concerned expression everyone else was wearing.

After about 10 minutes of that nonsense, I decided Jesus would be cool with me replacing my clothing for the sake of my fellow travelers, and by the time I made it through security, I’d already researched my retail options. Option, that is—singular: Dallas Cowboys for Her. Dallas Cowboys for Her by Pink. Oh goodie.

I explained my predicament to the kind woman behind the cash register, who proceeded to help me put together an absurdly expensive ensemble from a brand I positively loathe. I stripped in a bathroom stall (gross), swapped clothing, and—eyes welling up with tears—threw away my favorite jeans, a tank top, a super-cute shirt I bought just weeks ago, and my belt.

Here’s my get-up: Blue pajama pants with COWBOYS down the left leg (but nothing on the rear end, thank you Jesus) and a blue sweatshirt with DALLAS COWBOYS across the front and PINK along the back neckline. The blues don’t match. Everything’s too big. The lettering on the pants and shirt are different colors. Oh, and I’m still wearing my Converse, which were spared in the melee. I look ridiculous. As I walked to my gate, I overheard a middle-age businessman comment to his buddy, “Now, that woman’s a Cowboys’ fan.”

And that’s how I narrowly avoided death, skirted TSA, wasted $200, and became a Cowboys fan in 90ish minutes.

Did you have any adventures today?

UPDATE: People wanted a selfie. I joked about the need for a GoFundMe. My daughter took me seriously and set one up with the goal of $200. All donations will go toward something on the most-needed list at The Bridge. If we hit the goal, I’ll post the selfie. For crying out loud, people.

UPDATE 2: Well, it happened. The photos’s below. Hope y’all are happy.

UPDATE 3: Because of the generous donations from folks who played along with Bekah’s GoFundMe silliness, I’m delivering 80 pounds of chicken breast to The Bridge. Thank you, thank you, thank you.