trash collectors.

A lady at church asked for pill bottles. She said they were for The Malawi Project. In Malawi, medicines are shipped in bulk, leaving the local doctors to distribute pills as necessary. But the clinics and the patients don't have anything to put the pills into, and they're often just wrapped up in a torn-off bit of paper. I have a vague idea of how lucky I am, but I never knew I was lucky to even have a small personal container for my medicine.

Collecting what might otherwise be trash is right up my alley. I often find myself saving things without knowing why. I used to save corks for crafts. Not that I was working on any cork crafts, or had any ideas of possible cork crafts I wanted to do, but I was going to be ready if one ever came up. I somehow got a reputation for collecting corks, and other people began giving them to me. I ended up giving them to my nieces, as they are more active crafters than I am. They hot glue them together to make elaborate villages and dolls. This kept happening, where people would give me corks and I would pass them along to my nieces. I finally told the donors to stop it already and grumpily handed over huge bags of corks to my nieces, saying that this was the last shipment, because I am not some kind of cork conduit. Then I found a whole box of the dang things in a closet, which I also sent along to crafty nieces. No really, this is it.

Yet somehow, when I finish a bottle of wine, I find myself tossing the cork into a bowl on the shelf rather than into the trash. I'm not collecting them, I'm just not throwing them away. The fact that other people collected corks to give to me indicates that I am not alone in this impulse.

It's the same with bottle caps. I have a little dish where the caps go, conveniently located next to the bottle opener. Eventually, the little bowl is full, so I pour the caps into a huge punch bowl on top of the cabinet. Now, the punch bowl is almost full, and I don't know what to do with any of it. My nieces using the corks justified saving them, and I'm just waiting for something to come up where I can shower someone in bottle caps, and say, See I knew they would come in handy someday.

I don't take any prescriptions, but I know people who do. My dad took a lot of them. After hearing about The Malawi Project a couple of weeks before he died, I emailed to ask if I could have his old bottles. When I was visiting last weekend for his funeral, my mom handed over a huge box of little bottles, many many more than would have accumulated in the time since I asked.

"Was he already saving these?"


"For what?"


Guess I come by it honestly. How pleased he must have been when I asked for them one day, out of the blue. He knew they would come in handy someday.


meals on wheels.

Last Wednesday, I was making a casserole, a chicken spaghetti recipe I'd been wanting to try for a while, but never gotten around to. It made a lot, and after combining all the ingredients, I was splitting the results into two smaller baking pans. After covering both pans in foil, I put one in the freezer and the other in the fridge. The next day, Josh would bake the latter to be delivered hot to a lady at church who had just had a knee replacement.

When we had the baby, we got on the meal delivery list. Every other day, a smiling Episcopalian would arrive on our doorstep to deliver our dinner. Some of the cooks really went all out and brought us things like salmon or pork tenderloin. There were casseroles, and pasta, and someone brought the fixins for a taco night. Each offering was a glimpse into the kinds of dinners the preparer made for their own families. Some of these people I met for the very first time. Nice to meet you, welcome to my home, here is my new baby, I usually shower daily, thank you for the home-cooked meal.

I felt a bit guilty about receiving so much. We had a freezer full of soups that my in-laws had made us, and we were not so done-in by new parenthood that we couldn't have scrounged up something. I tried to repay each gift with the only thing I had to offer: a baby. Each visitor admired our new arrival, and those who came when she was awake were able to hold her. I felt indebted, so I signed up to be on the mailing list to be notified when other people needed food. I've taken a lasagna to a couple with a new baby and some stuffed peppers to someone going through an illness. There are deliveries for happy occasions and for sad ones.

Friday morning, I had pie for breakfast at my mother's house. The pie had been baked with farm-fresh apples by my mother-in-law, who sent the pie along with a loaf of bakery bread. As we finished our breakfast, someone delivered eight two-liters, a cooler, and a supply of cups. I did not recognize the man, and my mom wasn't entirely sure who he was either, though she thought it was so-and-so's son. The drinks were for that afternoon, when a swarm of relatives would arrive for my father's funeral. My mom would also bring home bags and bags of food leftover from the reception: little sandwiches and cracker trays and chicken fingers and pound cake. Even after the relatives had gone back home, she wouldn't need to cook for days.

Sometimes you are the giver, and sometimes you are the receiver. May I deliver more meals than I receive, Amen.


on the night you were born.

My dad was not one to be free and easy with praise when I was growing up. My mom would tell me that he would sometimes comment positively about an accomplishment of mine to her, and she would ask why not tell me? He said he did not want me to get "the big head." Unfortunately, his efforts were in vain, as I had a terrible case of the big head well into my twenties. It is all my mother's fault. I'm not sure how this dynamic worked - if Daddy could see that my mom was inflating my ego and so withheld praise, or if my mom felt that she needed to make up for Daddy's reticence. I am not complaining, as high self-esteem worked as a fantastic insulator through my adolescence. Yes, I was kind of a jerk, but it seemed to have saved me from making a lot of bad decisions. Also, boys liked it.

While I say that too big of a head was better than too small, I would like to hit more of a happy medium with my own daughter. I seem to be running into some difficulties, as I've already caught my husband telling her that he was so proud of her. I think maybe she had looked at him or perhaps burped. It must've been impressive. I've heard that you're supposed to praise the effort, not the child. So rather than saying "Look how strong you are!", you say "I can tell you are working very hard to be able to lift your head up so high!" Or something like that. Truth be told, I haven't quite got it down either.

Outside sources also seem to be conspiring to inflate her ego. For instance, books. We received a lot of books as gifts, which we've been reading to her from very early. She doesn't understand it, but she likes to hear our voices and look at the pictures. Some of these books are new to us, and so sometimes I come across one that I decide not to keep for whatever reason. A couple of them have been inane, a couple more have some questionable messages, and one used the word "faggot" to refer to building material.

But there was this one book, holy cow, which was going to give my child the big head. It was about how her birth was such a momentous occasion, the wind whispered her name and the polar bears danced and something about the geese honking or flying. It was ridiculous. Jesus himself only got a few shepherds, a star, and a multitude of the heavenly host.

So, my little baby, on the night you were born, most people slept through it, but like a hundred people were really happy when they checked their email the next morning. Your first picture got more than two hundred Likes on Facebook. The wind and the polar bears continued doing their wind and polar bear things. You are so loved, little baby, but the geese don't care about you at all.