The Neighborhood Table

Kindness tip for the week:

He's the Man!

It’s okay to ask for help.

Allowing help gives a chance to shorten the distance between loneliness and a life shared.

A few Christmases ago I asked for a new kitchen table, the current “table” was about to disband into dust. The Husband, Keith, found a very cute table and chairs at Wal-Mart online. It was delivered with “some assembly required” about a week before Christmas to our neighbor Jeff’s house.

We have the family Christmas Eve dinner at our house. The four ‘fancy’ plates we got for our wedding come out to play for this night because there is never a worthy occasion to use them. Since we only have the four, it takes awhile to make the table look like it was arranged with a plan in mind. I spend about an hour, choosing the tablecloth and napkins, setting the table, arranging the seating and centerpiece until we can all fit, if we keep our elbows in, and I’m reasonably happy it looks magical. After baking and cooking all morning/month I thankfully disappear to finish wrapping presents behind closed doors while something cooks slowly in the oven. Egg Nog may, or may not, be invited in. Every year this is my schedule. Every. Single. Year.

This particular Christmas Eve, as soon as I closed our bedroom door to tackle speed wrapping, a silent mayhem began in the kitchen. The Youngest,Talia, having memorized exactly how the table was set, took everything off as quickly and quietly as she could, The Husband and The Oldest, Hannah, immediately sent four texts to neighbors who were on stand by to help assemble the table and chairs, run them to our house, silently set them up in our kitchen, dispose of the old table and chairs while The Youngest perfectly reset the new table to look exactly like the old one as fast as was safe.

I heard nothing.

The crew all excitedly waited in the kitchen for me to come out. Two hours later, I did. By that time, the neighbors had left and everyone else was annoyed with me. I didn’t notice the new table for way too long, even with all the beaming faces glaring at me. Since everything looked exactly like how I left it…no need to comment.

Finally, The Youngest sarcastically bellowed, “NOTICE ANYTHING DIFFERENT IN THE KITCHEN??” I looked quickly around from my perch in front of the sink, “Ohhhhh! New chairs!” This was met with a simultaneous group sigh. If I just hadn’t gone with a tablecloth that year, I would have seen the new table and we would hardly remember this even happened.

The whole Christmas Eve shenanigan uprising is priceless to me; the new table that wasn’t crumbling down, the group effort with their commitment to sneakery (should be a word), The Husband who had the thought and generosity to pull this off, the family that is sheltered at this table. Buying anything large at that point in time was a huge committment, even though we needed it, we still were anxious about the choice. It was a screamin’ deal though.  My husband propped up a poem he found in the middle of the table. I still can’t read it without tearing up. (You can read it below.) The words in this beautiful piece, gave our lives purpose and comfort that a table is a worthy investment.

This gift was way more than a new table from Wal-Mart. It was a step back to barn-raising’s and a step forward to neighbors taking care of their own in times of flooding and fires and shootings and innocent Christmas magic.

We can never get rid of this table.

Try to love your time with your family this week and with all of those who have landed near you. In my experience, time together as a family went faster than I could fathom. Well, on most days, some days time actually went slower than originally fathomed.

Do you have a story? Please share it! Everywhere! A positive story can change the course of any day.

The poem that was placed on my magical Christmas table:

Perhaps the World Ends Here


The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.


The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.


We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.


It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.


At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.


Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.


This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.


Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.


We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.


At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.


Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Where we learn to be human. And the fancy plate is the first one on the right. 🙂
“Perhaps the World Ends Here” from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo.

Advice She Will Probably Never Hear

It’s almost time. At 7:25 AM Monday, Hannah is a senior in high school. The same Hannah that was born to a freaked out mother who didn’t think she could raise a child. 

Oh. My. God.

If she does graduate from high school, does that mean I could raise a child?

There hasn’t been enough time to do everything I was supposed to do. I’ve done too much for her, just as I’ve done too little.

The doubt that I have not done enough to prepare her for survival is crippling. There isn’t enough time left to change what I missed. She is who she is at this point and if she fails it is on my head. Does her father share some responsibility here? Does half the making and raising of a child also count for half of the failure/success ratio? And what is success for a child? Staying alive? Or does it go deeper? Into thriving?Alive at the end of the day has always been my bottom line. May be time to raise that thing.

My heart is absolutely broken that I have only one more year to see her sleepy face in the morning. Only one more year to imagine that our relationship will go on forever. Only one more year to teach her to how to put a glass in the dishwasher and place shoes somewhere other than the center of the family room. Honestly, I have done enough on that end. I don’t understand how putting any thing in a different place from where you happen to be standing is still impossible after 17 years of demanding it be so.

How is this child remotely ready to enter the world? The real world. The real, wild, terrifying, beguiling world. The truth is, she’s ready and thriving and fabulous. Even though…

She can rarely find something to wear, under or over, clean or gently used, in the one room she has charge of, her bedroom, or as I call it, the apocalyptic glimpse. How will anyone who is not her mother live with her? I vaguely remember my mother saying that same thing when I got married…

I failed her in underwear location. I can rarely find anything I need either.

There are perhaps more important things to be taught.  I wonder if I will ever say or do what is inherently vital. Can she survive on what she’s yet to learn in half days of high school, afternoons on the couch and evenings selling clothes at the mall? Well, I survived doing almost exactly that. Just not the survival I envisioned in the childhood days spent daydreaming. Or the life I envisioned for her after she smiled at me for the first time.

If I was really, really brave and probably really, really stupid I would say:

“Beware the world outside of your apocalypse bedroom! Good exists beyond our doorstep, but so much good is missed if you spend too much time trying to find your underwear. You have to appreciate and take care of all that you have been given in order to be happy, and to move toward the life you are dreaming of now. And to stop your mother from aging any faster. 

Know how you feel about important stuff – and little stuff – and what is the bottom line for you – and then be strong enough to say it out loud to anyone. Even boys.

As beautiful and as useful as it is, you cannot get by on your smile. 

Drive carefully (never go onto a freeway or drive faster than 25, or 10 if children are present). 

Work harder than you play. 

Pray more than you idly wish. Then listen for the answers. Say the name of Jesus only in love.

Leave your world (room) better than you found it.

Keep saying “Goodness gracious” when you’re surprised.

Invest in something with your money that brings more money back. And invest money in your training of whatever career you finally land on. But, try not to get so caught up in just making rent that you ignore your dreams. I did this and still regret it, and my mother warned me about it too. 

If I had any money left – I would invest it all in you and your sister. I think you two are the best things that ever happened to me. Well, and your Dad. He’s very cool.

Healthy competition is good. Set a goal and think about it fervently, because Talia is right on your heels and she has something to prove.

If you get to play Cinderella at Disneyland, cherish every moment. This has been your dream ever since the first boy you loved didn’t slide a glass slipper on your foot. I think you were three years old.

I hope you don’t grow up and move away. 

I hope you do grow up and move away and talk fondly of your apocalyptic bedroom and the childhood you survived.”

7:25 Monday will be the beginning of life moving on for me and the beginning of the end of childhood for her.

But, beginnings are always exciting. And some things remain the same…I am still that freaked out mother who didn’t think she could raise a child.And just look at her. She’s thriving.