This is my dear friend Sarah's daughter.

And me. She is absolutely darling, and I double dare you to click on the link above to see how absolutely precious she is.

On Monday I went to a day long seminar on infant mental health.

Yes. Mental health for infants.

It is my new love.

Actually, my new love is when I see infants capturing their parents' hearts and their parents falling in love with them. The cooing, playing, babbling, smiling.

Did you know a seven day old infant can imitate you when you open your mouth wide or pucker your lips? They most certainly can. You must give them a few minutes, but they can.

And, if you ignore a little one, she will smile and charm and flirt with you to get you to engage with her.

They love those relationships, those little ones.

This is my most newest "niece." I have called her "Hepzebah" for many months because her mommy and daddy wanted to share her name only on the day she was born.

Welcome, miss liberty. You have already captured your mommy and daddy's hearts. They are completely, madly, totally, truly and most definitely 1,0000% in love with you.

Ok, I admit.

I'm a little smitten, too.

I cannot believe my friends are having these precious infants. It's a little odd, but perfectly perfect. Miss Elizabeth and her husband also welcomed their own little bundle of coziness in early June. Take a peek. Of course, I cannot wait for the day when I get to hold my own.

This is social work:

* lining up matchbox cars so the six year old can crash his toy helicopter into them, the crashes getting bigger each time.
* one reading of Sponge Bob Squarepants.
* discussing the finer points of Pink Floyd in 100 degree wheat field summers on the front porch with the 13 year old.
* miniature 2 year old arms wrapped around my neck, little head pressed against my cheek.
* two toddler "i love you's" when I leave the home.
* i will do social work forever. i will love these kids forever.

This is social work:

* endless conversations with service providers that conclude we don't know as much as we'd like to believe. sighs. breaks in the conversation. what are the family's resiliency factors again?
* awkwardly supervising a visit between parent and child. everybody's on their best behavior. love and risk and hurt and power so thick you can reach out and touch it.
* staring at the computer, wishing so hard you can make your words really align to what you're thinking for that court report that's due today.
* i cannot do social work forever. i will love these kids forever.

When I write those reports, I listen to Massanet. Beethoven. It's just complicated enough without being dark. I cannot listen to Mozart or Siberius. They mock the complexity of my recommendations with their simple little melodies.

What people are capable of can astound you.

Both ways.
I am ...

... wilting from the heat. {Even in the blessed coolness of this basement apartment, my body is not deceived, realizes the full force of the heat outside and, well, wilts.}

... just finished reading "Velvet Elvis" and "Sex God" {a little different than one might expect}. Very worth my time.

... STILL creeped out by my midnight viewing of "The Dark Knight." Were the Batman movies always this dark? I don't remember them being so. The Joker completely messed with my mind and I left thinking, "oh my goodness. I think I need a nightlight tonight."

... looking forward to camping with my beautiful friend Kim and her spunky kids the first weekend in August. {The other day, her 9 year old son, Tyler, was stalking butterflies in their backyard with a BB gun, wearing a camouflaged bathrobe and sporting his summer buzz cut.}

... being grateful for the wonderfully random gift my friend Joe brought back for me from Kauai. One might expect a Lei or a Hawaiian printed something, but, o. Not so much. I am now the proud owner of a blue refrigerator magnet that has an image of crossed fingers on it. Above the image is printed, "Me and God are like this." I'm glad my faith is a never ending source of amusement and wonder.

... contemplating some pretty big life changes. Living in Vineyard Town was always supposed to a be a short term plan. The longer I'm here, the more I realize that there's probably something different for me. Of course, I don't say this lightly. As I'm about to start looking for jobs in metro Pacific Northwest, my heart rate is increasing just a little. Of course, at this point, I don't have anything to lose. And, what's that? Grad school, do I see you becoming more of a possibility?

Many blessings on your week this week. Stay inside. Or go swimming. Drench each other with water hoses. Drink some lemonade.

Be happy.

Beyond here there's no map.

a year ago, i turned 29. one week after my entire life course changed. i spent the day antique shopping in mountain oregon with my best friend, wishing the entire time i could dial back the clock. wishing i did not have a new apartment.

How you get there is where
you'll arrive; how, dawn
dawn, you can see your way

clear: in ponds, sky, just as

woods you walk through give
to fields ....

but i had a new apartment. a new job. a new life. i did not understand these things at first. i did not understand me.

sometimes i still do not understand me.

but i understand that this that is, is. prickly misunderstanding and confusion has given way to the niche that God has carved for me. it is not a big space, generally and metaphorically speaking. but it is a space.

. And rivers: beyond
all burning, you'll cross on bridges

you've long lugged with you.

i don't know that i can define this next year. it's taken awhile to let go of this past year. i have never, never wanted a year to pass so quickly. i do not know how many times i said to myself, "i just want to feel better."

Whatever your route, go lightly,
toward light. Once you give away
all save necessity, all's
mostly well: what you used to

believe you owned is nothing,
nothing beside how you've come to feel ...

i have a little secret.

in the past few months, i started to let go.

of what i believed i was. of what i believe i should be. i feel what i feel in christ jesus. sometimes it's not very holy.

i tell him anyway.

. You've no need now
to give in or give out: the way you're going your body seems

i'm willing.

...Slowly as it may
otherwise tell you, whatever
it comes to you're bound to know.

welcome, 30th year. i didn't think i wanted you.

turns out i wanted nothing more.

in the car driving out to the snake river last thursday, i spouted a liturgy of the things i wanted Some Day.

marriage. children. (i did get an odd sideways look as my traveling companion was one of my closest male friends.) a master's degree. maybe two. maybe more. to write. to publish. to take more piano lessons. to learn the violin. to travel. to live right now.

i couldn't be more grateful for the place i'm in in this very moment, though there's so much that is so very unclear.

these people here? all very different. also? i've really only known them in the past year.

i'm grateful for them, and that they chose to celebrate with me this year.

and i choose to be grateful for last year.

and i am expectantly living out this year.

(big thanks to philip booth and "heading out" (c) 1990).