Thursday, August 13, 2020

crouching spider...creeping myrtle

Last Saturday was an exceptional day.

My parents had driven up from Colorado, a miracle in and of itself, considering the world-wide pandemic that we have going on.

We were thrilled for the visit, but they had arrived with a mission.

To help me plant the three barren flower beds in my yard.

During stay-at-home orders, they had created a small English garden in their backyard

and were going to bring a little of that magic to my humble yard.

We ventured out to a nearby nursery, masked, looking for flowers and herbs.

We had all we needed in terms of roses and butterfly bushes,

but decided that we needed some cute ground cover for the flower bed in the front yard…

maybe some creeping thyme…

a version of the herb that blossoms with tiny lavender flowers and you know…creeps…

covering the ground.

Adorable, right?

The nursery only had one plant, so we headed to Home Depot to see if they had more.

There was no creeping thyme to be found. But we did find four creeping myrtle plants.

Equally purple. Equally creeping. Equally adorable.

As we moved up to stand on the red social-distancing line near the cash register,

both my mom and I were holding two plants each.  

I noticed that my bangs were falling over my sunglasses.

Except for the fact the I don’t have bangs as they have grown out during the pandemic.

It took me all of 3 seconds to realize that what was slipping down over my sunglasses

 was not my own hair,

but  2 spindly light brown spider legs.


In a moment of panic, I screamed, “Spider!”

I, simultaneously, threw both plants, my sunglasses, and my right hoop earring down to the ground.

My shriek of horror unnerved the folks in the Home Depot.

The Home Depot lady came over to me and said, “What happened? Was it a spider?”

This question made me think that this was not a first-time spider incident.

Maybe Home Depot had an arachnid issue in general,

If so, they need to address it.

Because spiders don’t bring out the best in people.


I was standing, legs askance, arms flung wide from my body, neck thrust out,

searching the ground for the offending party.

“A spider was on my head.”

My mom moved far away from me. Not even for social distancing purposes.       

“Oh, no.”

Oh, yes.

The Home Depot lady began to search the ground with me.

Mom edged back even further.

I glanced down at my upper body just in time to see the light brown spider with long spindly legs, emerge from under my armpit.

It began to crawl across my chest.

Sweet Jesus, take me now.

I lost my mind.

I lunged forward in a leap resembling a half-gainer, flinging my body up and outward,

and let loose with an ear-piercing, “Aaaaahhhh-eee!”

The spider took flight. Mom took another several steps back.

On high alert, I cased the ground.

And my upper thighs.

The teenage boy at the register was dying laughing.

I believe he was on the spider’s side.


The concerned Home Depot lady, no longer socially distanced,

swept her hands downward across my shoulders and back, declaring, “It’s not on you.”

It seemed like she had done a lot of spider checks in her years.


My mom, clutching her creeping myrtle plants, had triple-social distanced at this point,

no longer wanting to be involved.

After a crucial search yielded no spider sightings, I calmly reached down to the ground, put my hoop earring back in my ear and placed my sunglasses back on my head.

Then I picked up my creeping myrtle plants.

The Home Depot lady declared, “I don’t like spiders.”

Same person.

Mom and I paid at the register, ignoring the snickers of the teenager helping us,

and began walking out to the car where Dad was waiting.

Then we got the giggles.

Mom said, “I’ve never seen you throw down something that fast.”

Well. She had never seen me with a spider in my hair before. My spider reflexes are stellar.

We were near hysterical by the time we slid into our seats and told Dad what had went down.

I said, “Mom, I am still crazy itchy!”

She said, “Me, too.” The whole 5-minute car ride home, we were laughing,

brushing our hands over our shoulders and legs,

assuring ourselves that our itching was psychosomatic.


Except that when Mom got out of the car at my house,


Apparently, when I flung him the second time into the Home Depot ether, he had landed on Mom.

She should have edged out further.


The spider had ridden all the way home with us in the car. On my mom’s neck.

I unleashed a banshee-like scream next to my dad’s head.

The sheer force of it hunched his shoulders forward.

He called out all the names of my siblings before he landed on mine.

“Susanna! Stop screaming.”

This is the thing.

When a spider has crawled on you twice and then taken up residence on your mom’s shoulder for a 2-mile drive?

That is completely scream-worthy.


Dad proceeded to try and end the spider with a magazine.

He only got a couple legs.

You. Guys.

This is the most determined, wily arachnid I have ever encountered.

We. Still. Don’t. Know. Where. It. Is.

We googled spider leg loss and discovered that they can easily live without a couple legs.

For all we know, he could be making his way back home with Mom and Dad, 

plotting his spindly-legged revenge.


So…all this to say.

Stay safe and healthy,people.

And wrap yourself in a roll of mosquito netting next time you head out to the Home Depot.









Tuesday, August 4, 2020

pray my mother-in-law would say

The other day,
when I read that the Bubonic plague was found in Mongolia
and a brain-eating bacteria has turned up in Florida,
I decided I needed a break from the headlines.
For a year. Or maybe a decade.
The news leaves me feeling distraught and powerless.
What can be done? How can I help? Why are there murder hornets?

We need some good, strong prayers in the world today, don't we?
Yes, we do. But there is a problem.

Praying has never been an easy road for me.
The commitment. The discipline. The focus.
It tends to allude me.

Don't get me wrong.
I shoot up prayers to Jesus all the time.

Thank you.
I love you.

But that deep, rich prayer life that my Grandma had, praying for each of us grandkids every day?
I have yet to master.

My husband, Scott, has a firm prayer discipline in his life.
He sets aside an hour each to pray and connect with God.

I, on the other hand, can start praying about a friend's broken marriage and
end up thinking about  avocados and how they are so versatile in a  taco dinner.

I have this cringe-y feeling that maybe Jesus, listening to my prayers,
ready to advocate on my behalf, is thinking,
"There she goes thinking about avocados again."

The thing is....I want to...want to pray.
I know it is essential. I know I am made for it.
I want to have the daily connection to the One Who loves me most of all,
Who moved heaven and earth for my salvation,
Who has a plan and purpose for my life.

He has enough love and grace for each and every person in this world
no matter what they are facing.
But how can I be like Him or learn from Him if I don't hang out with Him?

So I ordered two books on prayer.
An Inner Step Towards God by Father Alexander Men,
a Russian Orthodox priest who was martyred in 1990
Prayer by Tim Keller.

They are rocking my world.
I can not get through a page of Prayer without putting it down and crying.
Because it is convicting me to my core.
This statement laid me out flat for a good hour:

To fail to pray, then, is not to break some religious rule - it is a failure to treat God as God.

Take it easy, Tim Keller, you are killing me over here.

And Father Alexander Men is just as challenging.
He says,

"How happy, how stable, how brave, how free is the one who is able to feel these words
deep down inside and run them through his heart, "Thy will be done." Yet let us never forget
that, in reality, we constantly come up against the exact opposite, "My will be done.""

If only he knew how frequently that happens.
I am all about my will being done.
In fact, I often pray that Jesus would do my will instead of His.
I don't say that in so many words, but that is my motivation.
Fix the world, Jesus. Make everything go the way I want it to go. Amen.

And this is the crux of it. In this moment in time, when I want what I want,
Jesus is reminding me Who He is. All knowing. All powerful. All loving.
He's in charge. He is on the move. He is full of peace and hope.
No matter what is happening on a global scale,
if I want to be like Him, I actually need to hang out with Him.

Jesus is inviting my selfish, fearful, anxious soul to turn towards Him.
To lean into His grace and mercy and forgiveness and to be with Him.

My mother-in-law has a group of friends who pray regularly together.
Whenever I call with a request, she says, "Me and the girls are praying heavy."

I love the weight of that statement.
Those heavy prayers are anchored in the power of the Almighty.

So I am starting over.
I am learning to pray a new way.
I am recognizing the pull of my self-centered, worry-laden desires and choosing to say,
"Jesus, you are God. I want what you want. No matter what."

It is not a perfect prayer. But then Tim Keller says that is not a thing.
Prayer is a journey. A song. A reckoning. An intimate conversation.

In these times of great turmoil, I want to anchor my life in the power of the Almighty.
Care to join me?

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Failed distance learning or sweet dance's your choice

Distance. Learning.

These two words have rocked my writer's world.
My early morning cups of coffee and solitary thoughts have been disrupted
by the home school bell.

By that I mean my own alarm clock.
And me waking up my children to come down to the kitchen table.
Will and Addison are less than thrilled with online learning.
That makes three of us. (We heart you, teachers!!!!!)

On our second day of distance learning and algebraic equations,
Addison, a second semester 8th grader,
looked me dead in the eye and said, "I NEVER wanted to home school."
Translation: You stink at this, lady.
So I looked him dead in the eye and said, "Me, either."
Translation: I stink at this, buddy.

For the love of all that is good and holy, I thought I left math behind years ago.
This was proven to be true when I was an aid for 8th grade math 2 years ago...
for about two weeks.

At one point, the student that I was trying to help looked at me and said,
"Oh, I get it, Mrs. Aughtmon! You are in this class because you need to learn math."
It was a brutal common core moment.

I agreed with him.
And asked to be transferred to helping those who struggled
with dangling participles and prepositional phrases...
because, English....

We are in our third week of online learning.
I am trying to write at the table, while the boys complete their work.
We are all having a little trouble dragging ourselves from bed in the morning.
Also, we are having trouble remembering what day it is...Tuesday...Thursday...Saturday?
The shine has worn off of school in the kitchen.

I tried something new this morning.
I thought maybe it would inspire during our math mayhem.

I busted out some Stevie Wonder on my computer to take on graphing equations.
I did a few spins around the table.
Followed the prep. A grapevine. The robocop.
(Yes, I highlight 80's aerobics moves with early 90's hip-hop classics.)

It didn't go over well.
Addie didn't even smile.
He said, "Mom, you can listen to your music. Just don't dance."
Will followed this up with,
"You are super distracting and not in a good way. You want us to learn, right?"

I want them to learn what sweet dance moves look like.
And some manners.
Scott came dancing out of the office.
They completely ignored his gift of breakfast break dancing.
They don't know true talent.

Let's be honest.
The dancing is just for keep my own spirits up.
And to make myself laugh.
Because the horror on my boys faces is priceless.

Also, it's a genius home teaching method...
my awkward dancing helps my children focus on their school work in front of them...
because they are avoiding looking at me.

This is what survival is all about, you guys.
It's okay to find some joy in the midst of chaos.

We can focus on the stress of lock down and quadratic equations...
or we can humiliate our children with a well-timed kick ball change.
It's your choice. You already know mine.

Here are a few happy, upbeat dance tunes to bring yourself some joy....
and torment your own children with...