One Last Time

Brain dead.

Like anything dead, it seems so final. I’m sitting beside my father’s death bed. There’s that word again.

Death. It’s why you say goodbye when you can. Why you say, thank you and I love you, over and over. So when the only sound is the shallow breathing of the ventilator and the steady beep of the monitor, you know you’ve said all you needed to say.

It’s why I sat at the dining table listening to him talk about dumplings, the weather, or his brokerage firm, none of it really significant. What’s significant besides who you love and how you love? And sometimes this means you drink hot tea and listen like it really matters, because it does. Not the topic, but the time. Because this is my father, and you never know how much time you have.

My father is lying with his eyes closed, mouth propped open with the ventilator. If I squint I can erase all those tubes keeping him alive. I can pretend he has just fallen asleep, mouth half open, the way I’ve seen him so many times. He’s in his favorite spot on our wicker loveseat, leaning against a cushion, newspaper in his lap. He has drifted off to a place where there are no hard choices and no discrepancies between the age of his body and the age he feels inside.

I knew this time would come one day. I just never knew how or when. My mom went back to the house to take her first shower in two days. I’m thankful to have this time alone with my father.

The nurse comes in to take his temperature. I have to do it rectally, she says, because I’m not getting a good reading. But I tell her no. Anyway, what is the point of taking his temperature? We’ll spare him yet another indignity in these last hours. If nothing else, I can do that for him. Even though he’s not really here. When does a spirit leave a body, I wonder.

One last time. I reach out to hold his hand, the one resting in quiet repose on top of the white hospital blanket. Just days before, that hand was pointing at the selfies he took on his ipad. We were laughing.

I’ve seen that hand poised over thin rice paper, sweeping inky brushstrokes across white. That same hand had closed over mine, teaching me how to write my first alphabet. It had held mine as we walked together, my seven year old stride trying to match his. It had tightened as we crossed the street. Now my hand closes over his, the hand of my father.

They come in again to put compressors on his legs. The legs that have been failing him, not doing what he wanted them to do. His bright red hospital socks are emblazoned with white letters XXL, non-skid, though they never touched the ground. It’s the only time he’s ever worn anything bigger than a medium, but size doesn’t matter when you’re brain dead. The red socks will be last thing he put on, if I don’t include changing out hospital gowns. Did they know red is his favorite color?

It’s 4:07, a few hours yet before sunset. A tree spreads its naked branches outside the window. It looks dead, but it’s springtime, a promise it will come to life again one day.

How do you prepare for the inevitable but unexpected?

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Tear Down the Walls: Making an Open Floor Plan

When we bought our house, all the rooms on the main floor were separated by small openings like this:
small doorway

One of the first things we did was widen those doorways to open up the space and let in more light. In this case we removed the entire wall between the kitchen and dining room …

wall demolition between kitchen and dining room

Royal mess!

… making it one large space divided by a peninsula.

small doorway




This peninsula is always the hub of our parties. If the party is especially big, I put snacks in the living room in an attempt to disperse the crowd, but everyone still congregates here. At least I can work in the kitchen without leaving the party.

We sacrificed a separate, formal dining room, but I don’t miss it. Being in the thick of things, our dining room gets a lot more use. Besides, around here, rooms I don’t pass regularly tend to, ahem, look like hoarder’s heaven accumulate things.

As for the peninsula, it gives us additional workspace, (lots of space for cookie sheets — think piles of chips and cookies), does double duty as a buffet, and is perfect for quick meals. It’s also great for crafts, homework, skyping, company while you’re cooking, and pretending you’re at a diner (which my son does every morning. His grandmother is all too happy to spoil him play short order cook). Eggs over easy with a side of bacon, please.

So how wide do you want the opening between the living room and dining room? Pete said. He was probably standing there revving the Sawz-all, (which, if you don’t know, is a big saw that, well, saws all), waiting for an answer. No pressure. It was like this a lot during most of our renovation. Too many decisions and not enough time to think.

small door openings

Before.  View from the foyer — a little cave like, don’t you think? This is the wall we turned into a half wall. (see below)

I knew I wanted it bigger. How much bigger in feet and inches, I had no idea. My brain was already spinning with fixtures, standards, flooring, lighting … . I didn’t have any hard criteria, so I based my decision loosely on the size of the room and the proportions of other architectural elements, pretending that my undergraduate degree in interior design was providing some useful insight. It was a stab in the dark.

enlarged doorway

After. Taken with dirty lens (from sanding, construction dust, who knows?).

I should’ve thought more about how the rooms on either side of the opening would function — furniture placement and how it would affect traffic going through the room. I probably could’ve used a little more wall space in the living room.

Half walls have the advantage of being visually open without sacrificing as much wall space. We did this for the entrance from foyer to living room.

small doorway


half wall


I love that you can see so much of the house when you walk in. See how we finished the half wall here.

Open or closed floor plan — Do you have a preference?

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Letter to My Body

Dear Body,
You have failed me.

You went renegade and betrayed me, doing your own thing on your own timetable, not caring a whit about stealing my youth and confidence. You made me forget what it was like to run, to be in charge of who I am. (Not that we ever really are, but I could pretend).

In truth, I never really liked you.

You were never good enough, always more fleshy and soft than I wanted. Of course, I look back now and realize you weren’t as awful as I made you out to be. In fact, I wonder why I ever had a gripe with you.

I’m sorry I didn’t love you more, didn’t appreciate the gift you were. I’m sorry I didn’t always feed you well. A cookie, no matter how big, was not enough to hold you over to dinner. You needed more than bagels, popcorn, canned vegetable soup, and an occasional stop at a salad bar. You needed more down time, more quiet, more rest.

I’m sorry I pounded you in the weight room and punished you for things having nothing to do with you. I’m sorry I pushed you harder when I was frustrated with with my own choices and limitations.

Because, really, you were good to me. Thank you for those joyful years of dance. (We won the trophy for best dancer, you and I. Imagine that). Thank you for biking Vermont and trekking across my ancestral homeland. Thank you for late night study sessions, sweaty aerobics, 3 mile runs across campus, walking the beach and train tracks, barefoot in the rain. You were so brave, so resilient, so responsive to my constant demands. Thank you for being faithful, in spite of my disdain.

Things haven’t been so great with us lately. But you and I, we’re in this together for the long haul. I’m sorry I haven’t always valued you as God’s gift, the place he’s chosen to live. Here you are, a flawed but chosen vessel, God’s handiwork, beautiful and precious in his sight.

And maybe it’s too little too late, but let’s learn to work together. I’ll listen to you more carefully and learn to love you the way you should have always been loved. Dear body, let’s be friends.

This letter to my body was inspired by Sarah Bessey’s letter. What do you want to say to your body? If you’ve never written a letter to your body, you might want to try. I was surprised by what I had to say.

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DIY Island From Re-purposed Cabinets

Call it the tail wagging the dog, necessity being the mother of invention, or some such, but because we’re renovating our rec room, our kitchen is getting an island.

our kitchen

Kitchen: pre- backsplash, ceiling fan, and switchplates.

We’ve needed an island. This space in the middle is great for parties, but for everyday it seems like a huge expanse I have to cross too any times. But an island was low on the project list. Until now.

These are the cabinets from our old kitchen, (which was never really our kitchen because it was renovated before we moved in).

cabinets in the old kitchen

Cabinets in the old kitchen.  Boombox on the counter, ready for the demolition phase.

The cabinets were in great shape with solid wood doors, dovetailed drawers, and pull outs, but they didn’t fit the expanded footprint of our new kitchen. We’ve tried to repurpose the cabinets in other parts of the house. Recently I put together this temporary art space using some of the cabinets.

repurposed cabinets

Under construction.  Another boom box — actually two.  Yes, we use like music while we work.

Then wouldn’t you know it, after three years in limbo, that part of the house, affectionately known as our wreck room, is finally being renovated. There’s no room in the new plan for the cabinets.

Voila, island!

repurposed base cabinets for island

repurposed base cabinets for island

island butcher block top

Salvaged butcher block table top with construction dust and homeschooling dings and dents.

We’re considering a marble top for my mom to roll her pastries, or maybe a light colored granite. But for now, we’ve resurrected this butcher block table top, battle worn from our homeschooling days. It’s a little big, but will work for the time being.

Stay tuned … .

What is your favorite re-purposing idea?

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Have you ever known God to walk a straight line? Straight line — the shortest distance between two points. What about the time Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him and they got caught up in a storm? Jesus came to them walking across the water. As soon as he stepped into the boat, they arrived at their destination. Bam. That’s a straight line.

Sort of. If you don’t count the rowing against the wind before Jesus got there. If you don’t count that he could’ve just gone with them to begin with. It’s only a straight line if you squint really hard, and even then, no.

I prefer straight lines, the shortest distance, please. If my husband is going to be the father of many nations, don’t wait twenty five years to give us a baby and please don’t tell us to kill him.  If I’m going to possess land here, don’t send my people somewhere else for four hundred years. If my son is going to be epic, don’t make me wonder if he’ll even see his first birthday. If he’s going to be a leader of God’s people, don’t send him off to be raised by a pagan or a father failure. Just take the shortest, most obvious route.

But God is the God of the curve, the corkscrew, the switchback. It’s in the wide arcs and hairpin turns that we have to hold on. It’s in the backtracking that we have to trust he knows the way. And maybe that’s the whole point.

Maybe it isn’t about where we go, who we become, or what we accomplish. The goals and promises — what we consider the main events — are just a backdrop for the one thing that matters — knowing our Creator.

It’s in our waiting that we know his faithfulness, in our battles, his strength, in our enslavement, his deliverance, in our confusion, his wisdom, in our death, his resurrection.

My straight line gets me from point A to B, but God is in the detours.

Do you ever wish God would just get you from point A to B? How do you respond to detours?

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