Friday, October 29, 2010


When Mom took me out yesterday to teach me how to drive my blasted stick shift, that seemed like the obvious thing to write about next time I had time to blog. I mean, can you really imagine anything funnier than me trying to ... yeah. Probably not.

Then I went to work this morning, and in the quiet of the first couple hours, something else profound hit me square between the eyes, and I knew a different essay must be written first. (Incidentally, I can't remember what it was. That's how those things go for me.)

Driving through town on my way home this evening, inspired by the swarms of costumed children wandering the streets in search of candy handouts, I decided that perhaps Halloween would make for a more timely subject. I started developing a few themes in the back of my mind.

But ... then I came home, and Mom was making pizza, and she and Dad and Sam and I watched Duma. And I changed my mind. I have to write about this instead.

How many movies have you seen, how many books have you read, whose storyline revolves closely around a person (usually a lonely child) who develops a deep and lasting relationship with a wild animal they've raised since it was a baby? Whatever else happens in the course of the story, how many of them don't culminate in a climactic, emotional scene where the child finally has to let the animal go free?

Alaska. Free Willy. Fly Away Home. Kaavik. Hidalgo. Big Ben. These are just off the top of my head. The list goes on. And then there's Duma.

I was about as excited to see Duma for the first time (tonight was the second) as I generally am to hear that we're having salad for lunch. (Which isn't much. Salad is not exciting.) Oh boy, I thought, another movie about a boy and his pet cheetah. Watch me recite the whole thing by heart before I even see it.

But it surprised me. It was beautiful.

Unlike most of its stereotypical counterparts, Duma has its own story to tell, and it tells it with grace and honesty. The writing is careful without being contrived, and its execution is breathlessly subtle. The plot is simple; the characters are real; the music and camera work are gently and effectively understated. Told by a child who's recently lost a parent, perhaps the story's most striking trait is its absolute failure to qualify as melodramatic.

The story is good enough to go out without makeup. That's all there is to it.

Near the end of the film, as Xan (the film's ~12 year old protagonist) prepares to leave Duma (his cheetah) behind in the wild, my little brother Sam attempted to retain his composure in the midst of obvious distress.

"I'd really 'preciate it," he said, "if he'd just ... get Yuma, and ... go home, and ... yeah."

"Duma wants to be free," my dad said wisely. "That's what's good for him. Even Xan wants him to be free."

"He does?" said Sam, plaintive and unconvinced. "But he isn't smiling. Why isn't he happy?"

"Well, because he'll miss Duma," Dad said.

There was a long pause, and then Sam burst into tears.

"It isn't fair," he said over and over, after the movie was finished, as Dad tried to reason with him about the story's justice. "If somebody has a aminal, they shouldn't have to let it go." Why? "Because it was their aminal."

(Yes, I spelled 'animal' that way on purpose. That's the way he says it, and it's precious.)

Part of me wishes I still absorbed stories and drank them up the way a child does. Sure, I love a good story. Yes, my throat got tight more than once before Duma's credits rolled, even though I'd seen it once already. But to feel Xan's loneliness so acutely that I begin to sob as he leaves his friend behind forever? I've closed the door to that kind of feeling; it's just a window now, and I can see to the other side, but I don't dare reach through. The waters are too deep, and there's too much pain, too much joy, too much of everything. I can't feel all of it. I have to protect myself from drowning.

But why?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The trouble with cars... that Tierney is dumb.

When people start talking about cars, I space out. I can't help it. Especially lately, when we've recently spent so much time hunting for a couple of new vehicles for our family. This topic of conversation has never interested me even remotely, and now I'm so tired of it, I take its recurring advent as a personal invitation to LaLaLand (one of my favorite places). Not that I mind - I'm just saying, if you're ever talking to me and suddenly notice that my eyes have glazed over and there's a little bit of drool at the corner of my mouth ... you might consider checking the content of your conversation for anything to do with motorized vehicles.

Still, our recent adventures in the world of Car Buying have actually given us occasion to witness some delightfully humbling provisions from God. Even I can see that.

Our previous vehicle situation was ... difficult. We had four licensed drivers and three working vehicles (well, kind of working). Our minivan's doors wouldn't open. My dad's car smelled like exhaust inside. My car was made mostly of plastic, and floated on top of snow like a rubber duck in Jell-O salad. (That means I got stuck a lot last winter, in case it's unclear.) (Growl.)

So my dad and my brother, being the heroes they are, took it upon themselves to solve this rather vexing problem. They scoured the internet for reliable information; they talked about pros and cons; they constructed game plans; they unearthed further research, and revised the game plans; they scoured the internet again for used car ads; they emailed back and forth, talked and talked, researched and researched.

Mom pitched in and did her (good-sized) bit as Chief Telephone Operator and Asker of Many Questions.

The rest of us functioned primarily as dead weight. Um, well ... kind of. Partly. Mostly? Sorry, guys.

But God blessed their dogged efforts, and they found what we were looking for.

A silver 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe for the new family vehicle - complete with sunroof, CD/mp3 player, heated leather seats, a thermometer stuck on celcius, and a little digital screen thingy on the ceiling that says today's date on it (we're not sure yet why this is useful, or why it typically rolls over to the next date in the middle of the afternoon - but it's nifty, so we like it).

And a shiny, sleek, and generally shnazzy-looking black 2004 Saturn Vue for me. It's not as spiffy on the inside as the Santa Fe, but it's plenty good for a town this size, and I feel as much affection toward it as I ever have felt toward a car. SUV. Whatever. Plus, it's got a manual transmission - so, as of today, I have no idea how to drive it.

Or, maybe, some idea ... but definitely not enough to do so safely.

(And yes, I know, if you're a guy, I'm sure those are the stupidest car descriptions you've ever read. I'm a girl, ok? Cut me some slack.)

For now, we keep the van and Dad's car, and Cami inherits (read: buys) mine.

So, back to the Vue - I can't drive it, right? So it's sitting in the garage at home when I have to leave for work this afternoon, and all the other vehicles we own are in use - all except our dumb old minivan. I flatter myself that I could probably remember enough of my one experience driving a stick to survive a ten-mile commute.

...But I don't try it. I drive the van.

Well, unbeknownst to me, the fuel gauge in the van has recently given up the ghost, and now considers itself to be in a perpetual state of Emptiness. Ungrateful wretch. But I call Dad to see if I can make it to work without stopping to fill up, since I don't have time anyway - and he explains all. Better put in a couple gallons before you head home, though, he says. Just in case.

Four hours later, do you think my mind is still dwelling on the defective gas gauge? Yeah, you guessed it. I forget to stop for gas.

Yeah, you guessed it. Halfway home, I run out.

Oh, Tierney, I say to myself. Oh, Tierney, Tierney, Tierney, you are so dumb. You amaze me with your dumbness. You have a head - why don't you use it?

Thankfully ... the van conks out near enough to a gravel road that I can pull over there, instead of right on the shoulder.

Thankfully ... of all the things that are broken in the van, the flashers aren't one of them.

Thankfully ... an older couple pulls over and asks if I need help (people never do that anymore! shame on us, cell phone happy generation), and warn me that my battery might perish if I leave my flashers on too long.

Thankfully ... my dad is pretty much the kindest, most forgiving person in the whole entire universe.

He comes right away when I sheepishly call and confess my transgressions. He comes with fuel, and a smile, and all kinds of cheerfulness and understanding. He says it's not a big deal, and he probably would have done the same thing. (Yeah right, Dad.) He says to follow him to the nearest gas station, and he'll fill the van up for me.

My dad is a hero. Suitors of the world, beware: he wears big shoes.

So, yeah. The problem with cars is that I'm sometimes the one driving them.

While we were waiting for the van to fill up tonight, though, Dad did show me how to check the oil - that's something, right?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

ha ha. ha.

I just called to cancel a dentist appointment I'd forgotten I had scheduled for Monday morning. Obviously they're not open at this unearthly hour, so I left a message - but when I was almost finished yammering, an arm (Mom's, as it turned out) reached in through my bedroom doorway and started fiddling with some papers on my dresser. That was kind of weird. My mind doesn't do the two-lane thing very well, so my message ended something like this:

"Um, so yeah ... if that doesn't work, why don't you give me a call back. Otherwise ... um, thanks! Bye."

No, I didn't leave my number.

They probably have it on record somewhere.

Oh, brother.

where my heart sings

Well, the votes are in, and the consensus is unanimous:

I abso-freaking-lutely love being home (to borrow the colloquialism). Make of that what you will.

Just kidding. I'll explain.

Over the past couple years, since graduating from high school, one of the (numerous) great questions I've wrestled with has been, what shall I do with my single years? Pretty sure I'm not the only one, but the only life I've ever experienced from the inside is mine, so here's how it's gone for me.

I decided not to go to college (that's a topic for another post). I'm not married or 'in a relationship' (so is that). If (hopefully when) God does bless me with a husband, a family, and a home of my own, that's where I want to be - I don't want a career (that might actually make a more interesting post than the idea preceding). So in the intervening space of time ... what to do? And how to go about doing it?

For the first school year after I graduated, I worked full time at a local Christian grade school. This experience had its blessings and its tribulations. I learned, grew, and changed through it, and I'm glad I walked that path for awhile; but ultimately I found that the life of the full-time employee is most emphatically not the life for me. I knew it before, but in a way it was good to know it from experience.

After deciding against a repeated attempt at the afore-mentioned venture, I found that the quite un-directed life was also rather difficult to manage. I wanted very much to be useful, but more from an over- than an under-abundance of ideas of how to achieve this goal, it was hard to know exactly where to go next.

Well, God blessed me with plenty of opportunities, and I took some of them. I've ended up with quite a variety of little odd jobs, almost all of which I really rather enjoy. I like being flexible, tied to many rearrangeable schedules rather than a single concrete one. I like being available when people ask for help with things, or want to go do something fun together.

The problem is that, as I've gradually taken on more and more of these little commitments, my calendar has, naturally, gotten fuller and fuller - less and less flexible - less and less time at home.

And I don't like it. Home is where I belong. When I'm always away, nothing's quite as it should be. I'm out of touch with my family, too far away, too much scattered, too autonomous. My whole foundation has a stone under one edge, and all my dancing turns into stumbling, and I forget which way is exactly up.

It's a gradual thing, and I don't always notice how lonely I am for home, until I get a free day or two to spend there. I had that this weekend, and it was like sunshine from out of a heavy fog.

I think that's at least partly why the completion of yesterday's horrid paperwork thrilled me so thoroughly - because, all that misery behind me, I still had a whole, entire, uninterrupted Saturday to spend at home.

I spent it almost entirely in the kitchen. It was amazing.

No, I'm not delusional enough to think that every day spent at home will of necessity be comparably happy. Life has its hills and valleys, no matter where you spend it. But I'll be revising my schedule in the near future (by which I mean, not clearing completely, but scaling back significantly in most corners). I think I've found my footing back again.

And my heart is remembering a little song it used to sing all the time. It's a good song.

(p.s. I know "abso-freaking-lutely" isn't actually a colloquialism. That's the point.)

Friday, October 22, 2010


I haven't been this giddy-happy in a goodish longish while.

After passing through very great quantities of dreading, loathing, procrastinating, distracting myself, spacing off, doing other things, emailing Dad, talking to Mom on the phone, buying cars, writing irrelevant essays, checking facebook, checking email, (finding nothing), making pizza, hunting for lost camera cables, flipping through old sketchbooks, forgetting about cello, and making a general nuisance of myself to the world...

I say, after all this, I am absitively, posolutely thrilled to announce that the paperwork, so hatefully described in the post below, has been finished.

Thirteen long, freaky, lifeless, detailed pages of it.

Let this be a lesson to me, never, ever, ever, ever, ever to allow myself to get this far behind again.

Let me always, always remember that, no matter how yucky that one page of misery looks at the end of each day, it is incalculably more bearable than the overwhelming stack that will await me at the end of the month if I don't do it right away.

Oh, happy, happy me, to have that woeful task in the past instead of the future (or, worse, the present).

This is probably the dumbest thing you've ever read, huh? Oh, but share in my glee, even if you have the presence of mind to see that it's mostly unwarranted. Everyone should be this happy at least once in their life.

Yes. Yes. Yessssssssss.

that's good, that's bad

So the bad part is the paperwork.

On the one hand, I am grateful (really) that, of my numerous little part-time jobs, only one of them has really required me (after the initial bustle of getting on the payroll and stuff) to hand in any paperwork.

On the other hand, this paperwork that they do require is of a nature so truly obnoxious that I often find myself hard-pressed to make myself fill it out at all, let alone to do so cheerfully.

My job description is "Respite Provider." Basically, I get paid to play with my pal, Landon, after school, and help him with his homework. Landon amazes me. He is an absolute sunbeam, and he'd laugh his head off if I told him that in so many words.

Just yesterday, I told him he could play with trucks until 5:30, and then we were going to do something else for awhile. Being at least as ornery as your average 12 year old, naturally he didn't believe me when I told him it was 5:30 (possibly because I accidentally said first that it was half past 10:00). So I helped him stand up, pointed at his digital clock on the dresser, and said something like, "What, you don't trust my clock reading skills? Look! It says 5:30 right there. Five, dot dot, three, zero. Five thirty." And he giggled almost uncontrollably for the next three minutes.

He's happy, funny, quirky, naughty, opinionated, smart, and absolutely goofy. We have so much fun. At least, we usually have fun; sometimes homework gets the best of one or both of us. But I love him, and I love his family. If I had to pick a favorite "job" (it seems dumb to get paid for some of the things I get to do), this would be it.

So that's why I hate the paperwork. Thanks to our very concerned government, I have to fill out a paper for each day that I spend there, describing in some detail "what we did ... and Landon's response to the activities." Here are some of the guidelines (word for word off the Documentation Review sheet, whatever that is):

- Use more objective language: Subjective words like "did great" don't really describe how well someone did.
- Write "Mary cried and made whining noises" instead of "Mary was fussy."
- Write "Mary seemed to have a good day because she was smiling and laughing" instead of "Mary had a great day!"
- Instead of saying "Mary chose not to listen to directions," try writing "Mary did not stop when staff asked her to stop."
- Bad: "Mary looked both ways for cars and correctly identified that it was safe to cross the parking lot. She held my hand as we walked." Good: "I gave Mary 1 verbal prompt to look both ways for cars, and she did. I then asked her if it was safe to cross; Mary said, 'yes.' I held out my hand and Mary put her hand in mine as we crossed the parking lot."

Those words are dead. Absolutely dead.

I love writing about my little old life. I like to try to find words that will make people see what happened, the way it really was - not because it's that important, but because it's wonderful and joyful and hard and it hurts - because God made this beautiful world, and here we are alive in it!

But I cannot stand looking back at each day and accounting for my every move in a calculating, clinical monotone. I hate writing as if I'd spent the afternoon observing some mysterious amoebas in a plastic tube, instead of playing with one of my favorite people in the whole world. It's like painting a sunset in black and white, and being told while you're at it to make it look as much like a dead raccoon as you can.

And why is it that I feel compelled to stew and mutter about this at such length? Because it is this self-same paperwork (on which I have, explicably, gotten behind) that is taking up an absolutely inordinate percentage of one of my very rare full days at home. Small price to pay, right, for a wonderful life? And it is. But my insides still recoil.

And why is it that "inexplicably" is a word, but "explicably" is not? That's ridiculous.

One of the other things I accomplished today, though, was buying a car. That's a happy thing. Out with the Camry, in with the Vue.

Alright, well, I'm going to go make some pizza crusts, and then finish the last of these wretched papers, and then take out my remaining fury on my thus-far unsuspecting cello. Enjoy your Friday evening, or whatever it is when you read this.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

regarding those small canines

...Blaaarrghle nawdle zous...

I just attempted - twice - to compose a blog post of medium length and stunning wit, in answer to people's concern over those puppies that were being born that one time when I wrote, and my ensuing failure to follow up on that one promise to provide an update.

But midway through - both times - I accidentally deleted beyond recovery everything I'd written so far. (I've just come off hours of researching and contemplating a theological matter of some controversy, you see. I'm not in school, but I know how to cram. I'm not a fish, but I know all about glassy eyes.)

Anyway, I'm taking this as a sign that my intended blog post is just not meant to be.

Or maybe I'm just petulantly ignoring the try, try again part of that mantra about not succeeding at first.

I don't know. The point is, there are five puppies - all fat, healthy, rat-like little creatures. (No worries, their degree of cuteness increases as they age.) Three boys and two girls.

Or else three girls and two boys. I don't know.

Two are white, one has a patch over one eye, the other two are kind of nondescript.

And that's all for now. If I write any more, I'll delete it all somehow, and then I will pull all my hair out.

I'll write about paedocommunion and classical education another time.

Good night.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

little pebbles for tripping over

The other day, on my way to pick up a friend to spend the day together shopping and stuff, I found myself in dire need of sustenance (breakfast wasn't ready at home when I left). There's this little coffee shop in my minute little town - it's been there for several years, but I stopped in for the first time ever that morning. I got a latte, of course. And off their (rather limited, I confess) breakfast menu, I chose a ... muffin top! I'm so culturally sheltered, I had never consciously heard of such a thing, and it just seemed like the most darling little idea ever, I had to try one. Never mind that it was pretty much exactly the same amount of muffin material as if it had been just a regular old muffin. I'm such a sucker.

Two days ago (largely in consequence of the above-mentioned shopping expedition), I noticed my car was running a little low on fuel. Oh well, I've still got a quarter tank or so, and in the meantime, I've got places to be. Last night on the way home from work, the needle hovered near E. But I want to relish every moment of being home early. Stopping for gas would spoil it by at least ten minutes. I had to go back into town for groceries almost immediately upon arriving home. Mom probably needs these things right away so she can make supper. I'll get gas another time. Cami and I went to a piano concert (Gershwin) with Grandma later that evening. Afterwards, I thought about fueling up... But it's so late, I'm exhausted to death, all the stations will be closed, and Dad doesn't want us to use the credit card unless we really have to. After dinner today, leaving for work just on time - I look down. Yeah, my tank is pretty much empty. I stop for gas. I'm late for work.

This evening, as I was filling out paperwork to justify to the government my hours spent working as a respite provider, I wondered why the day I was writing about felt so familiar. Almost finished with page one, I looked up at the calendar. Small wonder ... it was still on the September page. October 1 had been a Friday, not a Thursday. I already filled out a paper for Thursday - and sent it in, even.

What, common sense? I have common sense coming out of my ears - what are you talking about? It took a lot of training to get it to do that. My next goal is to make some of it stay in my head.

On a more solemn note, Chariots of Fire is a simply spectacular film. That's all I'll say for now. A blog post on this topic may be coming soon.