Find the Fun

The week of Christmas.

Every year, on the Sunday before Christmas, we gather at my grandmother’s house and celebrate. Celebrate=eating and lazing about.

The house is cold and has funny smells. It’s an old, large house so the smells could be many things: the renters upstairs—smoking cigarettes and cooking on hot plates; the occupants downstairs—natural gas, human gas, perfume, stale cookies in the cookie jar, turkey, deviled eggs, homemade stuffing, unbathed elderly people, dirty children, unwashed crocheted afghans, well-worn rugs, mothballs, fake logs, fake trees, fake food. Even fake has a smell. “Guess the Smell” could have been a fun, family tradition. But it seems that fun was not the focus of these feasts. Kids, though, steal fun whenever they can.

My sister, my nephew (only a few months younger than me) and I ran from room to room, trying to find the fun. If any was to be had. Sometimes, our same-age cousins were there to horse around and magnify any fun-having. We normally played outside, played games, told jokes, made jokes or snooped around the tree room, looking for the presents with our names. I think it’s socks again. Tube socks.

I am sitting across from Cousin Julie. I was asked to sit. Otherwise, I would be swiping food or fun. I don’t know what to say. People think I’m shy, but I just really don’t know what to say. I feel uncomfortable to look at Julie. Not because she is repulsive to me, but because I am scared that I will stare and ask questions.

Julie has spina bifida. That means her spine is open. She was born that way. She has a wheelchair, which is cool. I would like to ride around in it. That seems like it would be fun, but you can’t do that when someone needs it. I want to ask, but I’m not supposed to ask those questions.

“How are you doing?” Julie asks. Julie is beautiful. No one else thinks so, but I do. She has soft, light brown hair, large eyes, large red lips and a sweet, smiling face. I’m not sure if Julie combs her own hair. I don’t know if she is capable of combing her own hair. Her shoulder-length bob is curled and shiny, but looks slightly bygone. Her mother must comb it.

She is so kind. She has on a cozy holiday sweater and plain, stiff skirt. She is slightly overweight, but so am I. She’s so different from my own family. My sister would never ask how I was. But in my mind, I can’t accept Julie. She’s different.

My family does not engage weakness, illness or difference. Julie was rolled into the family room and locked into place. The people who happened by are the only contact she has. There are older people sitting with her, talking to her, but she is not capable of finding the fun. The moments she steals are connection and kindness.
Why is Julie so happy? I am sad for her. Sad that she can’t run, play, hide, snoop. Sad that she only has old people talking at her. I am sad for Julie because I see that people treat her with sympathy. They approach her wheelchair as a casket. I do too because that is what I see. That is what I learn.

I want to play with her. These are my goals. But she doesn’t play. She can’t play. I want to know Julie, but I can’t ask any questions. But Julie is happy. I see it in her smile. She makes me feel cute. I silently squirm, answering questions when asked, until I am released to find the fun again. I want to understand how to discover Julie, but the desire fades as soon as I am freed.

I never know Julie. I never seek her out. She is gone before I graduate high school and her memories and ideas are lost. We lose her to ovarian cancer and her experiences are not shared with me. I love Julie. I am thankful for her tenderness and brief kindness. I understand now why Julie is happy. She is happy to be alive. She was taught to be nice.

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Les is More

More from Present Tense, Vol. 2


Les. His name is Les–in bright, white, shiny-stitched letters on a red oval just over the pocket. Dark gray uniform.
Mr. Les. Our elementary school janitor/maintenance man.

Les has a smiling face even when his lips may not be turned. His eyes are perpetually up/happy/sweet/youthful. Light blue, effervescent, smiling icicle eyes. Mr. Les takes our tickets at lunch. He takes our tickets and gives out winks and smiles.
He pinches the small carnival ticket between his thumb and the fleshy lower section of his curled up index finger. He does this with kindness, gentility and ease; as if he’s softly
offering his hand to a nervous dog.
His job does not diminish him in spirit or in body. He energetically does his tasks even
though his perfectly white hair reveals his age. And his pride does not grimace at the simplest/basest of tasks. He sprinkles magic janitor dust on vomit, pee and all manner of stains. Dutifully.
He is friendly to all. He is especially nice to me. I respect him. I have no reason not to. His humility and warmth are rare. He is decent. He is tender.
He is an uncommon man. Hero.
The air is crisp. The wind is swift. He carries me from the playground when I twist my ankle and can’t walk. He carries me all the way to the healthroom. I’m at least 100 lbs.

The air is warm. The wind is still. He puts his arm around me, pats my back, reassures me that I am loved and respected when a girl threatens my friends and me at recess. “We’re going to miss you around here when you leave.” Tears.


I love you, Mr. Les. I don’t know where you are, or if you’re even still here, but you were/are a good man. And you made this child happier. Thank you.

The Best

If you’re a llama?
Be the best llama you know.
Sorry, Non-llamas.


If you can’t be a llama, be the best version of yourself today. Or at least be a little better than yesterday–in understanding, patience or kindness. That’s what all these tomorrows are for.

Drawing credit: Jimmy King (dad)

Bear Fruit

No. Not bear (growling animal) fruit. That would look like this.

bear fruit
Lillian Maggio, age 13-My daughter drew this. LOL

No. As fun as that is, today, I get to bear fruit.

Patience fruit.

I am a budding tree and this is the spring of my seasons. The time for flowers and growth and fruit.

There are several fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, loyalty, gentleness and self-control. Galations 5:22 These fruits are from Jesus’ spirit that he left on Earth to help us. As a kid, I never understood that the Spirit was Jesus’ spirit. I didn’t make the connection. Now I get it. I mean, I understood the trinity, but I just thought that God and Jesus were related and then they have a good friend, Holy Spirit. I mean, I knew that they were all one, but…yeah. Now, I got it.

So, after Jesus ascended, when He went to heaven for the final time (I know it sounds weird, Non-christians!), after a few days, He sent the Spirit. To help us. He promised His followers that He would send the Spirit because Jesus knew we would need help. ‘Cause we are so screwed up. He paid the price for our sins and now lives at the right hand of God. That’s His reward. We are separate now, as He has fulfilled His purpose. When we fulfill our purpose, we can be together. Yes?

I have this strange imagination and when I think of Jesus at the right hand of God, I picture God turning to Jesus and talking about me. They probably do this telepathically. Just FYI. I mean, it’s 2/3 of the trinity. Well. They probably conference-in the Holy Spirit, or something.

“So, tell me more about Martha.”

And what Jesus says is so sweet and kind and generous. Undeserved grace. He tells God,

“Well, Dad, she’s really smart, loving, loyal and caring. But. She’s been hurt. Like, you know, everyone on the planet. She gets angry, impatient, rude, ungrateful and downright hateful.”

God, “Yeah. Got it.”

“But! She really wants to be different. When she prays, she usually means it. And she does love Us.”

God, “Cool.”

God is a lot like former President Barack Obama in my God/Jesus fantasy. lol Idk why.

So, the point of that is, I get that Jesus died for me. He would have died for me even if I was the only person on the planet. That’s pretty specific. I don’t deserve it, I don’t have to earn it, I just inherit the kingdom of God. Boom. Done. Crown. Thanks. Forever.

And I bring this up because the rest of the verse concerning the fruits of the Spirit is this:
Galations 5
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

The last line gets me.
No. 1–I belong to Jesus. (D’aw!!)
No. 2–I have crucified my flesh by belonging to Jesus!

I have hung my sin and flesh on the cross and it has died! I have nailed my desire and passion to the blood-soaked wood and it has passed. Through Jesus, through His spirit.

I get that when God looks at me, because Jesus died in my place, that all God sees is Perfect Martha. Martha scattered/smothered/covered in Jesus. He sees a perfect child. The best Martha I can be. That makes me happy. And much more able to be patient. I mean, Jesus died so that I could be impatient about how long the stoplight takes? No.

Anyway, how long did Christ wait on me? Still waits on me?

I’ve been waiting today. Waiting on everything. Waiting on my husband for 2 hours while he’s getting an eye exam. Waiting on sales clerks, recycling attendants, stoplights, scanners, waitresses, phone chargers, emails, post office employees (grr! <<–there’s that bear fruit again) and endless lists of things and people.

I tried to be patient. But I usually failed.

I mean, I didn’t go crazy on anyone. And I didn’t rag on my husband all day. And I didn’t complain to a manager, call an 800 number or even give someone an obscene look, word or gesture. I certainly didn’t ram my car into the plate-glass window of Discover Vision Center.

I just had impatience circling above my head. Dark and brooding. Hovering and swooping. Preying on my thoughts. Scavenging my kindness. Vulturous and hungry. Sitting on my heart like a black crow. Waiting for me to drop my joy. Picking at my left-over love. Choking down my generosity, leaving bitter bones of resentment. Impatience stole my fruit.

I should be grateful for people, phones and cars. I should be thankful for husband, money and luxury. I should chug down a large glass of gratitude and get on with my day.

I’m trying to remember that I’m not patient. The Holy Spirit is patient. And if I ever successfully exercise the ability to be patient, it is not through my own power.

2 Corinthians 12:9 New Living Translation
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

It is because I allow the Holy Spirit to live inside of me. For Christ to live inside of me. That’s how Christ lives. Through us.

I know some Non-christians don’t understand the living Christ. (I get it, this is another weird one.) But He lives in us. His Spirit continues through us. When we love each other and help each other and do unto each other, we make Jesus live again. That’s the living Christ.

But how many Xians do you know that channel Jesus?

Although. His spirit has lingered for over 2,000 years. Swell and ebb, live and die. The church (# of true Christ followers) and the Spirit, in this world, are like the tides in the sea. High and low, at any given moment. But the ocean remains. His teachings and mark and LOVE remain.

Paul said:
Galatians 5:14 NIV
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And Jesus said:
John 13:35 NIV
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

I don’t see much love every day, neighbor to neighbor. Can I just say that I love seeing my nasty neighbor picking up her dog’s crap when I arrive home? See. That’s not nice.

I do see love at home though. I see it online. I see it in some of our leaders. I see it around the world. I find it in unexpected places. Sometimes, I don’t find it where I think I should or will. I see people trying though.

Love is still there. The ocean remains.

I will be patient.

No. The Spirit will be patient. I will submit to the Spirit. And I will bear fruit.