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3 Girls in a Math Tub, to Say Nothing of the Dog...or, How I Know God is Real

It is no question to me that God is real. The proof is in my life, which is clearly one of intelligent design. God has a plan for my life, no doubt, and it involves balance, equal measure of yin and yang.

Do not imagine that uttered in the dulcet, ethereally even tones of a spiritual master.


It's more like...Chevy Chase. In Vacation.

"You'll go on this vacation and you'll like it!"

I used to think, geez, God is pretty big and busy, you know? Why would he make sure that little old me gets what is coming to her? Then two equal but opposite theories---science and faith---proved that he does.

Apparently infinite really means no limit to space and time, at all. I realize the older we get the harder this concept is to grasp---infinite! no limit! all the space and time you want!---and sounds more and more like a myth to dream by, but science and faith both depend upon the apparent reality of the infinite.

Since God is and has infinite...he has time to make sure my life has its yin and yang, side by side.

I won't trouble you with the lifetime of events that prove this, instead I'll tell you about my Friday....

My Friday began on Thursday when I had a bit of a panic about money, and this overwhelming sense of anxiety that life is demanding more than we currently have.

For example, our back fence is jury rigged since the last storm, which is simply called a storm rather than tropical storm or hurricane (because it's not the season for those). So it's just a storm, even though it blew down my back fence, destroyed my gazebo and flooded my house. But we've cleaned up and got things together and now we are at the point of we did all we can, time to call the professionals.

(Speaking of, I have enormous disks of tree trunk stacked in my yard. I refused to let the tree guy cart them off because I feel sure someday a carpenter will walk into my life and we'll think of something excellent to make of them. It's oak, for goodness' sake! So if you know anyone...)

But professionals cost, and wouldn't you know just then the "check engine" light came on in both of our cars.

Thus, I panicked a bit about money and how I ought to be earning a lot more than I do. This prompted me to play my Last Resort card and call a job agent about a type of job I swore I'd never again do. She was so blase about it all, "You know, there are just so many writers these days...we get such an overwhelming number of applicants...we'll review your qualifications and our clients' needs and contact you if we find a fit..."

She called me, basically, a dime a dozen.

Babe. I'm worth a quarter at least.

I staggered my way through the rest of the day. At the church, while picking up Persistence, I paused at the job wall. These are positions intended for the needy, but I thought just maybe I might qualify as needy. I tore off a paper tab with a phone number on it for a childcare job. But by the time I reached the colorfully painted trash can outside the front door, I'd recalled that I don't really like children very much (en masse, you understand, I like them in principle, and of course my own, but not en masse) and I tossed the scrap in. Then I felt bad for the waste of it.

The weather suited my mood. The clouds were heavy and gray, the wind fierce. A big storm was on the way, and I found it portentous. I stood outside my car, in the light rain, and I waited for it: the flip side of the smite.

See, things were not going well for me. That meant that the good was just around the corner.

It took me about thirty years but after that I quickly got the hang of God's intelligent design in my life (there's the faith bit). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (there's the science bit). Good is balanced by bad (there's the thousands of years of mysticism bit).

So any time things get bad, I pause and wait for the good. Any time things get a bit good, I pause and wait for the smiting. In fact, I prefer the smiting to happen right away---which it usually does, the same day often---and then I can just enjoy the good. But if God holds off, it's a form of torture. Just bring on the smite already!

Persistence looked out the window at me, puzzled by my pause in the rain, and suddenly I felt a slight lifting of spirits. That optimism paid off later in the day when a nice opportunity came my way. But of course, a storm was overhead, and it brought trouble to that, too.

The real Friday began at 2 a.m. when forces beyond my control woke me, fully. I staggered downstairs after 38 minutes of unfruitfully trying to get back to sleep. I plopped on the sofa and wrapped myself in a blanket, then tortured myself with two episodes of Law & Order. Thankfully, at about 4 a.m. I fell back asleep. I got about ten minutes in before my husband came down, heading out to work.

(Yes, at 4 a.m. He's---and those who are married to architects will know exactly what I mean when I say this---got a 98% looming.)

I managed, after he left, to talk myself into another fitful hour before the kids crept in. I'd barely managed to pry open my lids when they began the usual peppering of demands.

"Oh my GOD," I said, unwisely, crankily, to my chagrin, "Can you two just PIPE DOWN for a minute. GEEZ LOUISE! You'll get breakfast, you always do. Give me a minute. I have to see if I can get my arms and legs to work."

That? Was a stupid thing to say. Then I had to explain to horrified children what a figure of speech was.

Following the usual flurry of our morning routine, I finally managed to deposit both children at their respective schools, whereupon I returned home to engage in my usual At Home time activities. Like most freelancers I spent the majority of my time trying to find work, and then a fraction of my time actually working. I conducted one informative interview, provided a delighted PR person with a golden nugget soundbite (credit not forthcoming), researched and wrote three articles, scanned the multiple writing and editing group job boards I surf multiple times daily, and so forth.

Before I knew it, it was time to go fetch the kids. I still had two loads of laundry queued up that had not made it to the washer, the mail and papers from the last two days were still unsorted on my desk, the breakfast dishes were still in the sink, and oh my stars I had forgotten to eat lunch and shower. Not to mention to rest of the to-do list.

But it was time to go. So off I went.

As soon as I saw Patience I knew she'd had a stressful day. She was in a rotten mood. This translates to loud, shrill, pissed off tones and much eye rolling. More than that, it translates into seeking a fight anywhere, everywhere.

Still, because apparently I am eternally optimistic and stupid, I asked her how her day went.

"Moooooooom!" she exclaimed.

"Don't roll your eyes that far," I warned, "They might get stuck." Then I laughed. Ha ha ice breaker!! She was unamused. I could feel that her annoyance had a concrete target now: me.

"Okay, then." I said, "So today, at school, what was the thing that you just thought, ugggghh I wish this was not happening or was all finished already?"

"Writing!" she said, furious, "I HATE writing. It's SO STUPID. We just have to sit there at our desks and write and write. There's just NOT that much to SAY. But we have to sit there. Writing." She shuddered. "When where I'd really rather be is at the bathtub."

I hesitated. I had to have heard wrong. But I was loathe to invoke her ire by asking a question. I'm not that stupid.

"The bathtub, I see," I said, cautious.

"BATHTUB! Moooom!!!" she said.

"Ummm, okay what did you say?"


"Oh, maths tub," I said, "Got it!"

"No Mom! MATHS tub!"

"Right," I said, "Maths tub, got it!"

"That is NOT what I am SAYING!"

"Hmm. I hear you saying MATHS and I hear me saying MATHS, what do you hear?" I asked.

"It's MATHS!"

"M-A-T-H-S, right?"

"Yes! Great scott, Mom."

I blew out a breath. "So you really enjoy maths, and like the maths tub, that's great. But writing, not so much." My inner self leapt for joy and curled up fetally to sob. "What do you do with the maths tub?"

"Mooom! Math! Of course."

I lost my patience at this point and said, "Okay seriously. The snottiness is not necessary. I'm not in your class or school. I don't know. I know you know, because you are there every day but I don't know. So I ask. I ask because I don't know but also because I love you, care about you, and so I will always care about your day."

To her credit, she was chastened. Unfortunately, it lasted only a second. With the target---me---for her churning, frustrated emotions removed, she needed a new direction. She chose her sister. The way the dog smelled. The fact that one of her books was on the coffee table, clearly a book her sister and I had read, without her. An utter lack of any food or snacks, or at least an utter hatred of every one we had available. Finally, I'd had enough.

"You are feeling pretty frustrated and upset now, that's clear," I said, "But it's not okay to take it out on everyone and everything around you. Run around the backyard, jump on the trampoline, go outside and scream, tell me how you feel or what happened, have some private time in your room..whatever you need. But your time with company is over until you have gotten to where you can treat us kindly." I said it relatively calmly, yet firmly.

She opted for private time in her room. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and sent her upstairs. When she returned about 40 minutes later, her sister and I were playing with playdough in the office. She walked up to me and hugged me.

"Want to join us?" I asked.

"No, I don't feel like playing playdough," she said.

"Me neither," her sister agreed, "All finished!"

"Okay, let's just clean this up," I told them, and with relatively good humor and cooperation, they did. Patience and I picked up the playdough and put it in the tubs, and Persistence put it in the bag along with the toys. After we finished I looked at the floor with dismay. "Oh no, I guess we got a lot off the mat. That's okay, I'll just vaccuum it up quickly."

I walked exactly two steps to the vacuum, which was sitting in the entry hall, waiting, I suppose for me to use it, as I had planned for the last three days. I plugged the extension cord into the wall, then plugged the vacuum cord into the extension cord. I pressed the on button. Nothing. I flipped it again. Nothing. Oh! Right! The outlet was tied to the light switch. I flipped that on, and pressed the on button and BOOM!

The cord burst into flames and smoke billowed in my face. I shrieked, probably a lot of epithets mixed with profanity, but I did not drop the cord. I didn't want to drop a burning object onto my probably super flammable carpet---where my youngest child sat, still holding the bag of playdough she'd been in the process of putting away in the cabinet.

So I stood in shock for a minute, clutching a smoking cord.

Persistence sat frozen by the cabinet, staring at the smoke, Patience stood frozen in the entry hall, and the dog paced, nervous, growling at the smoke.

It couldn't have been more than ten seconds, but time seems elastic in a crisis. My brain raced through what to do and options before me, potential disastrous outcomes of each. I made a choice.

Probably breaking even more rules of good sense, I decided the best thing to do was break the circuit. (I know!) I used my free hand to shut off the switch, then I pulled the two cords apart, all the while yelling to Patience to open the front door. She did and I threw the vacuum and both cords on the front lawn.

I dusted off my hands, looked at the former cords, now piles of ash, turned around, went back inside, and shut the door.

The kids stood, staring, dumbfounded. It was silent for probably a full minute, a new record in our house.

Patience spoke first, "Mom? Was that"

"Yes," I said, briskly moving around to open windows and get the smoke and burnt plastic smell out of the house, "Yes, it was a fire. With smoke."

More silence.

Persistence spoke next, "Was it...did the...Mom, did the Fire Monster start it?"

I thought carefully. I've spent the last year telling Persistence there is no Fire Monster, each time cursing the stinking fire awareness day the school does every year and wanting to slap the firemen who thought it was a good idea to introduce a bunch of two year olds to the concept of an illustrated monster who starts fires and lives in walls. We even cut a hole in her wall to show her there is no Fire Monster.

However, I felt about 45 feet below the task of explaining electric current and frayed wires.


"No, there is no fire monster," I replied automatically, "It was, it got too hot and it burned. That's all."

Amazingly, this seemed to satisfy them both.

"On the upside," I said, "I wasn't electrocuted, or burned, our house is still standing, and this must mean something good is about to happen. Let's order pizza. I really don't feel like cooking."

And the children cheered.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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Image © 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.


S said…
Best. post. ever.

Holy sh*t, Julie! For the love of that God you just wrote about! You are cursed! You must go see someone to get some herbs and powders, and she'll probably have you mutter some chants while spinning in circles and sprinkling the herbs all around you. Of course, you don't have a vacuum to suck them up anymore, and your dog will likely lick them up, and then have to go to the vet again,, no, can't go there!

I am so sorry, sweetheart! But you do make your troubles so damn funny -- like here:

I'm worth a quarter at least.


You're worth a crisp dollar bill. At LEAST.

painted maypole said…
i laughed out loud when you opened the door, threw the vacuum and cords out, and shut the door again. hytsterical.

Ack. I hope the good thing is/was a REALLY good thing. :)
Liv said…
Amen. Who does NOT want to throw something on fire in their front yard??? You've had a hell of a couple days. Poor JP. We lurves you, gal.

and so sad about blogher... :(
Anonymous said…
For the love of flaming vacuum cleaners I hear by declare, "No more." Enough. I am not usually an optimist, but I will join you in your anticipation of the good thing. It must be coming soon. It simply must be.
Melissa said…
A quarter? I'd even go so far as a five spot!

And if I ever figure out how to banish the demons of entropy, I'll let you know. In the meantime, hang in there and enjoy your pizza.
Florinda said…
I know it's not polite to laugh at someone else's misfortune - but you made it sound so funny!

And yes, karmic law would seem to dictate some REALLY good stuff coming your way.
Kat said…
Oh my word, woman!!! Sheesh! The good MUST be coming, right?
Just don't grab your Bible and read Job right now. ;)
Fabulous post!
crazymumma said…
its the way it all sounds so eerily familiar to me.

Disks of Oak? Serving platters. sand them, seal them. sell them. They would be stunning.
Amie Adams said…
Oh my I'm exhausted! What a day!!!

I'm so glad you're all safe. And I would totally have kept the oak disks too.
Jennifer S said…
Ditto what Slouching said. Not a penny less.

The maths tub bit cracked me up. I've had many similar conversations.

You had me on the edge of my seat the whole way! The smiting, the good, the smiting...the fire.

That's a hell of a day. But you're pretty darn good in a crisis.
Emily said…
I started reading this post and got very excited! Julie won the lottery! Surely the yin of this yang is that she won the lottery!

Your ability to appreciate the upside is uncanny.
we_be_toys said…
Oh yeah! You're worth at least a buck!
Very quick thinking with the smoking gun, uh vacumn. Don't you hate it when appliances blow up in your face?
And then you got pizza - dinner AND a show!
Oh the ride, as the pendulum swings back and forth - here's to being on the upswing!
this is so like one of our days - except that we are all atheists so we don't even have god on our side!
Anonymous said…
Just as I was finishing the bathtub/maths tub debate, my 2 y/o woke up asking for a "Kevin Dicer plate." Twenty minutes and 2 tantrums later, we figured out he wanted Captain Crunch cereal, which we don't have.

Kids should come with those little secret code decoder rings.
Gwen said…
And the good thing is? ....

Jaysus, Mary and Joseph, it better be really really REALLY good ....
Anonymous said…
Holy crap. I hope you washed your pizza down with some wine.
Aliki2006 said…
Oh Julie--I am so so sorry for your woes and the smoldering vacuum. But as so many have said, you DO have such a talent for making drama seem so funny...

Hugs to you...
Unknown said…
oh Julie - oh my! I'm just glad your arms and legs work!
Kyla said…
Oh my goodness! The scene with Patience is so very familiar, except BubTar runs up to his room sobbing, generally. Sigh. The price of being a sensitive perfectionist. Oh my.

What a day. Wow.
Christine said…
oh honey.

all i can say is that you are loved and that your writing moves me--never fails.

Running on empty
markira said…
Freak. I am a freak. MY comment is that I would really like to know what you meant by your husband having a 98% looming.

The rest of your (amazing, really, you're definitely worth at LEAST a dollar) story has paled in comparison to my need to know this detail. mk
Julie Pippert said…
Markira, argh no email ability to reply so I hope you check back.

In architecture you have phases for projects. At each phase completion, you have project reviews, check in with all participating parties, review the progress, etc. 98% means nearly complete, so it's a lot of work to ensure all is ready for that point. It's a higher expectation of complete and as planned because at that point you don't want to be making changes. I'm sure architects would correct part of this explanation but I'm trying for clarity LOL.
Mad said…
Was the vacuum make a Dirt Devil, perchance? I hope the weekend went much more smoothly.
Anonymous said…
Girl, I am glad I went back from your link today and read this (even though I have no duct tape to hold my life together). It was so worth it. I am so sorry, but at least you got a fantastic post out of it.

And I would say? At least a half dollar.

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