Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas 2004

It's Christmas evening, and I love it when we all watch "The Music Man". The music stays with us, so while Cody is in the bathtub singing "The Wells Fargo Wagon", I'm humming "Lida Rose" while folding laundry. My husband is whistling "76 Trombones", and my daughter sings "Good Night My Someone" (or am I imagining her singing this?) down in her bedroom.
The song "Shipoopi" brings back good ole memories of me and kids going crazy in the middle of the living floor in front of the t.v., doing a Buddy Hacket wild dance number. I think there's a family video of that. E and I used to cut the rug together with this crazy joy. I don't do that enough now, slowing down, I guess. Letting the worries creep upon me.

We've had a wonderful stay-at-home day with no visitors. Last night and tomorrow will be extended family times. But, today was very peaceful and pleasant. And, even though I took E out to a friend's house for a little bit, it was a peaceful outing. I drove by the mall and, oh, it was amazing. The parking lot was like one of those old landscape paintings which seem momentarily devoid of anything but serene emptiness. For once, the mall was a sacramental object, testifying to the reason of b.c. and a.d., that division between what was and is.

My hubby ignored my demand for less, but he gave me the typical sweet gifts that he knows I will like despite my scorn of stuff for now, and, of course, I can't wait to use my Ann Taylor gift card when the mall is bustling once again!:)

We had one interesting supra-seeming-natural occurrence. A message sent and received perhaps. During our White Elephant gift exchange, Cody tookover my number, and he ended up with a circular thermometer with a buck leaping in the background, and a t.v. table. C exclaimed that he always wanted a 'mometer'. No one stole it from us. When I took the thermometer out of its package today, I saw an artist's signature. Upon closer inspection, I was surprised to see that it was Cody's grandfather's (who died three years ago in January) name. It was like JW was telling us, especially Cody, Merry Christmas and to not forget him. It was quite cool.

Christmas 2004 ~~ I'm so glad for it. Thank you, God, for the rest and the stop in time and your holy presence. Allow us to sense you better through the new year. Amen.

Friday, December 24, 2004

we conclude

It's Christmas Eve morn, and all through the house,
My kitten is staring at me like I'm a huge mouse.
My green tea is steaming like the Polar Express.
The children are asleep at their 24th day best.
And, I'm, yes, I'm feeling grateful for the longago birth
Although my main concern is my uncomfortable girth.
Too much fudge and pumpkin bread ingested by far.
Yet I need to focus away from my gut to that star.
I need to have a spiritual moment of heighth
when I stare at the baby and reconsider my life.
Yet I'm considering Zoloft instead
and perhaps an institution to give me a bed.
But the cat and I both know that we can't leave this place.
Nor will Mexico offer a longlasting grace.
And so we (I include the kittie in quest for a soul) stall
and we sit and drink tea and consider it all.
And, I conclude first that the birth is the only way
for me to enjoy in full the possibilities of the day.
So, uncomfortably, I look clear up to that star,
where hope, love, peace, pa(u)ws(e) aren't too far.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I am willing

"I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cured.

Again, a picture of outstretched hands; this time to a supplicant, not a prisoner. Once the skin lesions disappeared, the guy goes and tells everyone, and everyone seeks out the lonely man with a band of fisher-followers. In Henry III's (1017-56) Bible, the man is recognizable with a red helium-like halo circling his head for above-average distinction. (Just so we know that this is Jesus.)

Philip Yancey asks the question in one of his books (I think What's so Amazing About Grace?): would I have thought Jesus was a looney (or ET given the middle age reinditions) if I had lived back then? All historical accounts prove that he walked on our earth, that a strange religion sprung up quickly and couldn't be snuffed out even by some of the more ferocious Romans then or later (Nero, for example). So, the fact that Jesus walked, that there were onlookers in his crowds (sceptics like Thomas for instance), makes me wonder along with Yancey, what my reaction would have been. Yancey puts himself in the Pharisee crowd -- well educated, a definer of a perceived truth, part of a religious elite .... And me? Maybe my mood this a.m. answers that for itself.

I woke up this morning mad at the world and at myself and at my children. If Jesus had a halo illuminating his path in this dark world (saith the middle age artist), then I must have heels of dry ice which stream out vapors and blinding fog. In this fog, I encounter what's here in life. Yes, Francis Schaeffer, all truth is God's truth no matter where it may be found, but in the fog, things pile up like they did on the Missouri river bridge one morning near Boonville. Several people died because they hit the truth of a stopped car in front of them in dense fog.

This morning, I was mad at the environmental, the external. I was mad that I can't sequester my family away to make things less complicated. I was mad that I have no super-shield to block "sexual themes" or "violence" away from my son in video games. I was mad at video games. I was mad at myself for allowing video games. I am mad to be pulled into what is considered entertainment. I am mad at my husband for being a blue-lighter (male in front of tv at night). I am mad that my daughter thinks looks are everything. I am mad that she spends so much time with makeup and hair. I am mad that she wants namebrand clothes. I am mad at myself for allowing her these things. I am mad, I am mad, I am mad. I feel at fault in partnership with the external.

Yes,this is a hostile case of waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

Honestly, it has all been creeping up with this Christmas season. The children want more, and I am fed up with stuff. I set the law down with my hubby last night to limit what he gets me. I do not want more than what costs $20. Yet, by the look on his face, I don't think he will comply because before I wanted more music, more lotion, more books. Dry ice on my heels.

So I'm feeling like I have lesions on my skin. Lesions of the world's stuff and desires and misinterpretations of the good. I feel they've attached themselves very securely to me, here to stay, here to infect my kids, here to filter into my marriage. I've invited them in a way because of lack of viligance against the external.

I'm in such need that perhaps on a morning like this one within a crowd staring at the ordinary non-haloed One, I would have moved to him, fallen on my knees, and asked for an extraordinary thing. Strength. Purity. Lesion removal.

If you are willing, you can make me clean, dear Lord.

I am willing.

Ah, please continue to help us all.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

A float

Seems like each Christmas season, I have an author to catch me in the slower moments in between board games with the kids, cooking, laundry, or mellow moments that this season seems to bring about. Two years ago, Kathleen Norris was around with me, breathing out her story in "The Virgin of Bennington" and "The Cloister Walk" (the thing I most remember from this book is that she said that she inherited her promiscuous nature from her father. Now, that was one exciting revelation in the monastic retreat she was taking, why?, spiritual hits the physical as she lusted over a monk.:) Good dose of reality.
Anyway, last year, I was recovering from teaching and needed to pour over Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth" in order to teach the China unit in January. (Wahoo! Wang Lung for the holidays!)

This year, it's Anne Lamott who pokes her curly head inside my home. I bought her "Bird by Bird", a book on writing, and I'm excited to dive into it. Yes, it will make me swoon and emerge a disgruntled cul-de-sac housewife that my husband can't figure out (what's new?), but, regardless of the fallout, I still love dreaming and imagining the bravery of "official" writing. I remember kicking around in the cow lot, dreaming in the same way (yes, back to the theme of cow crap). So, why not do it when I'm 40? I'm still alive, aren't I?
So, before I read Anne's newest-book-to-me, I wanted to capture a section that she wrote in "Operating Instructions." I love how she writes and what she writes about:

"....I feel so much frustration and rage and self-doubt that it's like a mini-breakdown. I feel like my mind becomes a lake full of ugly fish and big clumps of algae and coral, of feelings and unhappy memories and rehearsals for future difficulties and failures. I paddle around in it like some crazy old dog, and then I remember that there's a float in the middle of the lake and I can swim out to it and lie down in the sun. That float is about being loved, by my friends and by God and even sort of by me. And so I lie there and get warm and dry off, and I guess I get bored or else it is human nature because after a while I jump back into the lake, into all that crap. I guess the solution is just to keep trying to get back to the float." (p216)

I can so identify with all of that. I love that image of a float which exists too in my life, thank God. When I feel like a big failure, I still have my friends. When my children hate me, or want more out of me than I know how to give, I still have God. When I stutter in front of an audience and take on way too much responsibility than I know I should, I can find the float among the crap. When I forget to have my son's tuberculosis test read, I can feel okay, somehow, somewhere, even though I'm totally irresponsible even with a major thing like this. Sigh.

So, thank you, Anne Lamott, for being my writer friend during the holidays. I'm definitely going to do you a huge favor and add you to my favorite writer's list in my profile. :)
For now, I am going to float on off. Maybe play Battleship with Cody. Maybe read a bit more. Maybe call my momma. The night is going slowly by, but I'm in good company.

Au revoir,

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A middle-aged German comments

An illumination from an 11th -century German book says it all. A man with a green and gold circular head-halo extends long unearthly fingers toward a lesser dressed humped down man who is being held back from running away. A kindly looking man with gray hair and beard holds his arms and shackled hands.
The captive's mouth emits a horrifying form: a middle ages version of the daimon. With three brown erratic points on its head, frail wings, thick body, fingers spreading outward in clutch, the creature's lower fourth is still streaming out of its victim's mouth.
Stop. I can almost feel the choking myself when I look at this picture. I feel it more than the image of divinity pronouncing power and release. My emotions kind-of go back to a dream in which I have an inner something that I desire to pull out and out and out. I've had multiple dreams in which I'm trying to pull it out, to get rid of it. It's like a huge block of phlegm, like a curse, like this clutching daimon I see spewing forth from this man.
At times, I think I've identified what it is: the destructive nature inside us all, the negative side of the personality (the id, the superego?), my shortcomings I struggle with, a desire for words ...
Yet as I look at this picture today, I, of course, probably out-of-context (although do most things not relate?), think of last night.
He was coughing as lay sleeping on the blue couch. The phlegm seems to be getting thicker. I imagined him not waking up in the morning because of the lungs freezing with congestion. And, I thought, "Am I crazy? He has cystic fibrosis, and I'm trying to deny it like ... Not my son. The doctors don't know what the hell they're talking about, etc, etc." Meanwhile, he isn't receiving treatments until we know more.
I went to coffee with a molecular microbiologist scientist yesterday, and as I told her Cody's issues and how it couldn't be cystic fibrosis because of the genetic absence of the disease, she said that "cell mutations" in the blood happen on a rare basis and can cause CF without prior family history.
And so I hear Cody's cry from Tuesday, why me, Mom? Why do I have so much wrong with me?
Denial is a type of coping with 'wrongness'.
And, so the man spews forth the wrongness in this early German picture. And, I can't help myself: I must take in the whole view, that a rescue mission was sent to ward off primordial beasts. My son coughs in sickness amidst them, yet, if they exist, there's the opposite.
I look at the puffy eyed version of Christ with extending fingers, the presented opposite. It's a bit of a frail view, given the artist's attempt, and my subjective rendering. Yet when I cover Jesus with a toy (laying messily by me), the picture is ominous. When I cover up the beast-emitting man, the picture is comforting as the Jesus reaches out toward a need.
What is the whole picture in my present circumstance? I simply ask to see beyond my limited view.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Whisker marks?

Midnight approaches, and my question sounds out: How in the world do I stack these cut-out sugar cookies on top of one another without messing up their icing? The Christmas trees might smudge into the ice cream cones to make some odd laxative brown run-off.
Tomorrow, I present the cookies to the fourth grade class as "Cody's Mom". He won't let me just drop them off at the office (I asked). No, I have to serve them with a special smile because I am his mom on his birthday, showing up to show Sara and Justin and Billy that I am wearing a special smile because of the rockin' cookies that I have spent the last five hours arranging for my awesome son's special birthday celebration.
However, they still sit on the table, scattered chaotically, and their store-bought icing is not hardening into a shell. Hmmmm........... It's suprising that the kitten hasn't left whisker marks upon some of them like she did my pumpkin pie.

The day has been problematic, though, with solutions still around the corner. We went to the pulmonary doctor's office at 8:30. A large medical technologists came slumping in around 9:00 to do yet another sweat chloride test. The doctor and I explored the possibilities of the chronic cough
.... histoplasmosis
.... cystic fibrosis
.... pneumonitis
.... unknown
Cody bravely coughed up into a cup, received a t.b. poke, breathed with his finger in a respiratory machine. Then we went to the hospital next door for a cat-scan on his lungs and some blood drawing. The sweat chloride test came back positive for cystic fibrosis. My pediatrian told me, yet it must be a positive negative, I said. The numbers from the three tests were too erratic: 25, 54, 84; the 54 and 84 were one week apart. The doctor(s) told me that it was abnormal, yet they weren't sure about the conclusion. So, a blood test wings its way to California for more diagnosis, for a closer look at genetics.
I don't believe it.
The pulmonologist called and said that there wasn't much evidence from the cat scan for the histoplasmosis afterall.
We're waiting. More information will come on Friday (the sputum results will be back), and in 3-4 weeks with the CF conclusive blood test.
Cody made the pediatric-short-stay nurses laugh; he told his jokes; he told them about his 'crush.' He mentioned his 'stubborn teenager sister.' He was about to tell them about his dad's recent bad words, but I managed to cut him off in time. The nurses were laughing. The afternoon passed with images of Cody flashing a big smile and wild, bright eyes.
The hospital hallways were full and quiet, though; people loped toward the sick. Finally, at 3:30 p.m., we escaped to make Christmas cookies as if nothing had ever happened outside of our kitchen before.
Bien nuit,
Mere du Cody

Friday, December 10, 2004


Living in the awareness of the risen Jesus is not a trivial pursuit for the bored and lonely or a defense mechanism enabling us to cope with the stress and sorrow of life. It is the key that unlocks the door to grasping the meaning of existence.
Brennan Manning

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Cowchip tea

The technician said that he grew up on a farm close to Monroe, Louisiana. They had cows, and, if one of her grandchildren was sick, Grandma would try to give them "cowchip tea." Isn't that funny after smelling my Ginseng tea earlier and commenting that it smelled like the barnyard? Cowchip tea is still alive and well.
We've been under the study of needletips and technicians from Louisiana lately. My son had a CF test which came back borderline. He has stuff in his lungs which a pulmonologist will look at on Tuesday.
I think my worldview has these components in them right now: 1) things shift, people shift; 2) be strong and weak at the same time; 3) rely upon something, but depend upon nothing 4) next week might give you additional information.

Therefore, I head off to a retreat this weekend to find some equation with these disjointed paradoxes. Needed.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Stay out for awhile, please

It has been a long time since writing. The week has flown by with its share of holes and heavens (okay, the word 'heavens' is a stretch whereas 'holes' isn't:).
The funeral happened. Grandma didn't look good in mortician death; I kept my eyes on her white puffy hair (done one last time by my aunt) and her lovely long-fingered hands. All the cousins were there, and all knew by the faces how much Grandma had measured her years, through care, devotion, love.
My eulogy went fine. I'm used to public speaking. However, so many other things popped in my feeble mind later that I should have said. Yet I felt glad to have been able to express my love for her.
The trip to the cemetery was wet and cold. The tent was up; water dripped all over the back of my sister-in-law's hair; the brightest thing was the white coffin, with pinkish red roses in design on it. I wanted to touch it before it was interred, so I did. The preacher finished up quickly, and we left with a few more hugs. Grandma didn't want it to be "Brrrrr!' for us at her funeral, but it was. I'll have to visit in the spring and plant flowers instead of picking her up for our birthday plant trip.
All in all, we were resigned to the good life and ending of our Grandmother.
Yet I did have my moments of wanting to block God from entering our doorway again. "Stay out!", I imagined saying to him angrily, especially where it concerns my dad whose heart is acting up again. Stay out, please God. Although you are not the creator of death, you are the creator of life and responsible for all that it could possibly entail. So, please wait awhile before the carriage (as Emily D. poeticizes) shows up to carry one of us to Eternity. Please.
The rest of the week has been a blur --- ministry moments, mother/daughter crisis (currently ending), emergency interesting casserole with kitchen madness galore, nice talks with friends, appreciation of husband, cleaning, reading, a few seconds of introspection. Life.
Well, Christmas season encroaches. It feels harried already. Now to slow down, now to slow down if possible.
Until next time,

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Grandma's eulogy

Grandma Cora

Ah, our sweet little Grandmother has gone home to stay. Several times over the years, didn’t we think we had lost her as she was rushed to the hospital for this or that? But even as her Schwann’s French Silk pie (did she make any of you eat that? Honestly, we were going for the door after the lengthy quilt tours, and she insisted that we eat just a sliver of this pie that was “good, it’s sooo good!”) sat thawing on her counter to bring to a family Thanksgiving meal, Grandma had gone home. By now we all know that she died lying snug in her bed, curled up with her hands under her face, as if in a pleasant dream, although her body had flu-like symptoms. Yet there was no cold hospital room, no nursing home (although she appeared to like the social life there), no long-term sick room. For that, I’m incredibly thankful and thankful of that last image of her departing life in a peaceful, gentle way.
Grandma was such a peacemaker herself that in the end, she must have negotiated with God to let Him carry her on his back across the great divide. And can you just imagine her now with Grandpa Harold, speaking in full and complicated sentences, telling him about how we’ve all (children, grandchildren, cousins, friends) grown up and how she likes Schwann’s French Silk pie because it’s absolutely delectable, and is there any of that around here in Heaven?
Imagining Grandma in Heaven is a fun activity. She acted as if heaven were here on earth a lot of the times. Remember her with flowers? Or with quilt blocks? Or, remember her at Christmas time? I have a picture of her from last year with a bow on her head and surrounded by lots of smiling great grandchildren. She was in lower heaven then as well, despite her walker-encumbered body. We brought her lots of joy because she chose the way of love all of her life.
I think of this more than anything else in relation to Grandma. Yes, she had her hobbies which she shared abundantly and stubbornly with all of us, but what I think we all will remember most is her ability to love people. People walking by at Wal-Mart that she thought that she knew (maybe she did). Women in her Sunshine Club. Neighbors. Preachers who were faithful every Sunday. Babies of all smells and sounds. Nurses and doctors in the hospital. I mean, honestly, who loved more than Cora Coble? We all have our individual stories of her love pouring over us like warm anointing oil.
Mine is going with her to Norwood’s flower nursery each Spring and choosing each other potted flowers for our birthdays. This past year, she sat in the van and pointed at the flowers for me to run and fetch for her to get a closer look at. Afterwards, we’d go eat at Sonic, and she’d look at me beaming and say, “We’re just the same! We’re just the same! We like the flowers! Yes, we do!”
It felt good to be just the same as Grandma Cora.
By being so loving herself, Grandma taught each of us how to love better. Any time, we’re giving to someone else with time or any other resources; any time, we drop grudges we have amongst ourselves; any time, we laugh and beam and stretch our hands in greetings to each other or express our love to each other in words, well, we can say that we’re the same as Grandma Cora. We’re the same!
I can’t, in conclusion, separate the fact that Grandma Cora’s love was a living embodiment of her faith in Jesus Christ whose love she was compelled by. “For Christ love compels us” says the Bible “because we are convinced that one died for all.” 2 Corinth 5:14. She was convinced of Him, she chose to allow Him room in her heart, to teach her the trade of love. She was faithful. Like Grandpa, she gave us a heritage of faith, which in some ways is a bit of a rarity these days. I can just sense her presence too wanting to know what we’ll do with something like this which is more precious than a handstitched quilt, or an exotic iris. It’s an admittance of the heart more than anything, an admittance that we can’t love like her without Christ, without all the meaning that he can bring into each of our individual lives. She would want that for us. She would want us to receive the gift of Christ this year during this holiday season. Her last gift too. We don’t have to live perfect lives hereafter if we receive the gift. No, no one does. We’re human. But, to be given a sanctuary, yes, she would like that. To be given a hope, yes, that would be good. To be given a fresh start, just amazing. Mostly, though, from now on I’ll be thinking of Harold and Cora waltzing in a garden of daylilies, on a huge intricate quilt, eating French Silk pie, hugging every one who happens to walk by, as a huge incentive to turn to the faith again and again despite my weaknesses and false starts. It’s kind-of a Coble thing to do, you know.
May we all open our hearts today to the compelling love that comforts us in time of our great loss and our lovely gift in the person of Grandma Cora. We were certainly blessed to have been loved by her.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The shot of a pistol

My mother just called and left the dread-details with me. The visitation is Sunday from 6-8, and the funeral is at 1 p.m. at Craig-Hurtt Hutsell, the dread funeral home which we've been avoiding these last several years in our town. It has nasty, white fake columns like it's dignified.

Mom would like for me, and maybe two other grandchildren, to go up front and speak in eulogy. Why did I agree when I know that I'll be bawling with the rest of the grandchildren? That's what we did at her husband's funeral. We all exited the Pleasant Home Baptist with red eyes, blinking in the ferocious, cold sunlight having been battered down after Grandma refused to let go of his coffin. His death was enough without having to see her deep pained wailing sorrow. Yet isn't wailing appropriate? I'm glad that she had the emotional gutsiness to show her feelings like the biblical women who knew pained separation even within the promise of eternal life.

I'm not sure what I'll say yet. I am used to public speaking, so apart from the tears and choked throat, perhaps I can bring her back to life again momentarily with memories and attachment and the sound of giggles. That damn funeral home probably has no technology to show pictures of the gleaming Grandmother that she was. Word images will have to do.

I loved her so much. And, I'm scared now about what new turn of the soil the next day will bring. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit broods over me, cooing and holding me in feathers of down. Seriously, Grandma Cora is most likely digging into some black soil now and exclaiming, "Ohhhhh, I just knew! I just knew!" as she beams solidly into Jesus' face. She always acted as if she knew instead of being bothered by the angst of the age that so many of us like to wallow and waste time in because it's the existential-wimp thing to do.

I will have to sleep on all of this tonight. The right things to say. How to approach the podium. How to avoid the strangulation which prevents the shot of a pistol, the truth of Cora to shoot out in order to provide nutrients for family blooms. She would want me to plant a few seeds along the way, I'm sure.

Bien nuit, mon chere grand-mere.

Ohhhhhhh my!

My kitchen counters are a mess. Old poppyseed muffins are still in the tin on the stove. An empty sandwich bag container needs a receptacle. My comforting Cheerios box stands stalwartly next to the sink. Mail, matches, a candle's lid (why do candle containers have those irritating useless lids, driving up the price everywhere?), a half-used Hi-C drink box, a top of a pixy stix, a black rubberband.
Yet, between pages of my most recent book "Operating Instructions:A Journal of My Son's First Year" by Anne Lamott, I find myself staring and thinking the same thought that I did while tossing and turning in bed last night: I don't have my Grandma Cora any more.
I try to imagine her in heaven with Grandpa Harold, looking like they did -- two young in love people holding hands -- under the black and white tree in an old photo. And, I can hear her laugh with him. Yet she's not in Mountain Grove to visit, and life is not fair to those who loved her here because we're left behind with lesser people who don't know how to love as well as she did. Nor can they quilt or grow African violets or bake a killer Angel food cake like her. So, I'm sad for us on this biggest shopping day of the year, as if we can find in stores what my grandmother possessed.
My husband was so sweet last night, hugging me each time he found me staring off, saying that he was glad that he married me, a good person. I think he's better by far, but that's an old argument.
Well, I'm going to the church in a little while to decorate for Christmas. Grandma loved Christmas so much and eyed her quilts merrily as she chose a fortunate recipient. Last year, we were all together (her clan of Cobles), and I have a sweet picture of her with her great grandchildren. Her face looked as sweet and fresh as theirs; she was smiling with a glee and enthusiasm that transcended her 88 years of tired old life. She had a package bow stuck on her head and a present on her lap. We would all only bring her presents and would gather around and watch her wondrous reactions to each gift. "Ohhhhhhhhh my! Ohhhhhhh. I like it! I like it!"
There are lots of things to remember this season.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

From quilt to quilt

Her French Silk pie, thawing on the counter for the morning, never made it to our Thanksgiving meal. My sweet Grandmother Cora passed away peacefully in her sleep last night. Her hands were positioned under her cheek as she lay curled up on her side. I think I will always have that image as a gift for she was such a peacemaker in life, so she went softly and gently into that good morning. Thank you, God, for that.
Ah, but things are sad. I can't get my mind off of her and all the gardening love that we shared. Every Spring, we would make a trip to a nearby town's nursery. This past spring, she stayed in my van, and I pulled it close to the greenhouses. I can still see her white hair and hear her laughing out the window as she pointed to a plant for me to survey. It was our personal tradition to buy each other birthday flowers, and this year, we bought two just alike.
"We're just the same!" she'd say emphatically with glee. "We like the flowers!" We would giggle and then head off to Sonic for lunch.
Grandma Cora taught me to love people better. She would see people in Wal-Mart that she thought that she knew and approach them with a hug. Sometimes I've felt as optimistically affectionate, despite any negative experience, and I'm always reminded of her in myself. Yes, I've learned to love better because of how she loved. And, everyone loved her. She was entirely good and sweet. White hair, giggles, stroke-impaired child-like speech, bright blue eyes, steady smile, energy.
A gifted quilter, she would give us quilt tours as she shuffled on her walker from bedroom to bedroom. She was in process with about four quilts which she always wanted to finish before dying. She lived from quilt to quilt in her last years.
This entry cannot do justice to her memory. I'm tired from the drive back and just feel depleted and sad right now. Grandma Cora, just know that I love you always and always want you to be reflected in me. Your life was a gift.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Yellow and red in the morning mist

We lifted our faces up for a mist spa this morning after our two mile run. My friend, with blond hair and joyful face, could easily be compared to the beautiful yellow leaves still clinging to the dark limbs. She has shown since I've known her. A spirit of love and joy make her radiant. Her music, piano and voice, extend her vision and soul to others; it extends her source, Christ, to dimmer places. She is blessed while blessing.

And so, nonfiction knocks against the fiction. This morning, I've just finished the book, "The Red Tent". In fragments, I recognize good things from this fiction about women, women who bless, women whose stories have found voice, women who try to discover purpose, or companions.

I feel this after reading the book:
* all the women stories in the Bible that have been forgotten, unread, unscribed are amazing in imagination, perhaps in reality. Why don't we know more? As Joseph said in this book, "The name of Dinah is forgotten in the house of Jacob." Yes, the rule of the patriarch. Yet, the water of the woman cannot be ebbed, and feelings continue without stark storylines. The same markings of a woman's life: girlhood, menstruation, sex, the leaving of a mother, childbearing and rearing, obligatory duties, old age ~~ continue on with similar stories and courage. Dinah is not forgotten amongst the women of her Canaanite tribe ... a story is passed on; a child is named out of reverence.
** I want to know more about the religions of the women outside of the Judeaic upbringing passed down from Isaac to Jacob. The women brought their own into the marriages. Some of them are old myths accounted for in 'The DaVinci Code' or in a Joseph Campbell rendering. What did the earliest religions look like? I'm still intrigued in all of this and need to do more reading. I love my religion, yet I'm curious as to other attempts at understanding. It feels important to me.

I don't have time right now to continue with these thoughts, but, please read the book if you have a chance. It's excellent.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Softly humming and swaying

And here is the missing piece that I have found. Even if there is not a God, the only way to protest against the absurdity of a Godless universe is to act as if there were one. Thus if the absurdity is that we are capable of loving but the universe is not, my protest to cosmic lovelessness is to love widely and deeply until my dying breath.
If the absurdity of the universe is that it is drenched in death and dying, then my protest is to affirm life and fight death at every juncture. And when death inevitably reaches out for me, may I have just enough time to laugh in death's face. Not to act in this defiant fashion would be to affirm suffering and death as the way things should be. In so doing, I would be death's accomplice.
This, then, is my resolution. Objectively speaking, whether there is a God or not, I shall act out of the belief that God is my healing companion. And if it turns out that there is no God, my life shall be a rebellion against a godless universe. In either case, my actions will be identical. Either way, what matters is courage in the face of one's honest wager. Indeed, faith is belief and will, in determination of a vision. W. Paul Jones in Teaching the Dead Bird to Sing.

I'm not sure what sways a person to the above acceptance. It's existential philosophy, n'est-ce pas?, with a theistic angle. Theism is admitted due to a yearning for love that's deep within, pounding, humming, swaying, within all of us. Why do we not accept this? Why do we substitute with simply stories, or simply tangential experience? There must be a Reality, and there must be a Reality which holds hands. I offer mine out: I feel the pressure when I do. Ah, and it speaks of a deeper life. Thank you, Mr. Jones, for those beautiful words. He seems to take Pascal's le pari (the bet) a step further, one which means something for this life instead of just for an eternal consequence. I like it.

My week was full of pies; eight pies to Wednesday evening for our Bon Appetit! Les Femmes! French country pie supper. Pies, existentially speaking, soften our abandonment to the wolves. Pies represent fullness, harvest, love. Thank you, my sweet little Ozarkian mother for teaching me that!

Thursday afternoon, I met an old friend at a local brewery. She had the afternoon off, and like her mother at lunch a week before, she wanted to talk about theater and religion. She's not sure what she believes yet, but she feels that yearning for love in her spirit. She detests and distrusts the Protestant conversionary injunction (understandably), but I believe that she wants to board a boat before too long. Too much treading results in weariness and a sense of purposelessness for her. What will she choose? We talked about Buddhism and Tao-ism as religions and then Christianity (whose proximity, particularly after the bad-rap from the election, is unfortunately negative right now) which offers the Personal in the form of a covenant, and then later, a person. She was raised Catholic, so perhaps that will soften and allow her to view faith less rigidly(or most likely, it could work in reverse of that). I told her that "admittance" or "allowance" is what conversion can simply be about. That a moment in time is often remembered when one does hold out her hand in acceptance. Then steps begin to happen. It was a cool conversation. I pray that she makes the choice that is the best for her. (Of course, I have a certain hope in mind due to personal experience!) I've never had a conversation like this one where the other person initiates her own route so eagerly.

Must go. Have a foggy football game to attend!

With Love,

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

For the love of scents

It's a delicious slip of a morning. The gray kitten lies curled on the deck chair outside in the misty morning. A hot cup of ginseng tea offers itself to my left (a whiff of it takes me back to the barnyard -- decomposed manure? Yes, either that or cow's cud, but I've never kissed a cow to discover that aroma. Kicking around dry pies were common, though, particularly when bored or mad. Ah, a hot tea of crap.) A church meeting is being skipped. Pages of two books are awaiting to be turned (Red Tent; Teaching the Dead Bird to Sing), and two moist delectable apple pies are being baked. The oven hums for the love of scents. And, at 11:30, I will meet a laughing friend at a downtown ethnic restaurant.

Yet, stop.

Time won't stop. I must grasp this fully. Things could change.

Just two nights ago, my husband asked me what we would do at retirement. The thought devastated me. Retirement means a jump ahead in time. It means that those whom I cherish will most likely not be around. My dad. Mom. Some friends who are precariously fading even now. I'm afraid that I was unsupportive of his thought of release. I'm afraid that I had to go to bed early to release myself into sleep. Themes of the unlived life, the removal of loved ones, the aging, the focus on the trite (cleaning, medicine, aches, etc.) .... It was a completely negative reaction.

But mornings like this one give me hope. Apart from others and regrets, slips of still life occur. Birds still busy themselves, calling hopefully to each other. Cats still look up at you with these needful adorable eyes. Pies send out aromas for your soul. Memories of barnyards float into cul-de-sacs (or condo, or nursing home). A few friends will remain, and new ones will be made. Parents will still make their impact known.

Alright, acceptance of the inevitable is difficult. But, the morning beckons, and I can sense a source of joy to steady that which is fluid. Perhaps it dances along with the movement.

Time to read what others make of this spirit, life, and source.

Take care dear friends. You give me hope!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Find his own way

The young man was moving to Seattle; his grandparents tried all sorts of tactics to keep him home. Then, he left, and his grandparents died off gradually. But, the grandson did what he should have, in the tradition of his grandparents and their parents ... to find his own way. While he was alive, Frank, the cynical grandfather, summed it up best, "Ach ... everyone goes!"

A former teacher colleague of mine, Heather, and I let our tears run down. The young man actor was her husband, and his parents sat on the other side of her crying too. The slice of life that we hate was upon us in the play's theme. Departure. The inability to stay.

Afterwards, I gave her a snug hug, and then I drove back home. I love the theater. I must go more. Yes, the tears were induced by dialogue and drama, yet that emotional reaction is life. I must remember not to dislike my emotional reactions which I sometimes want under lock. I've been doing that lately, but drama, tells me the story that emotions are life. I agree, yet they're uncomfortable at times.

Other happenings ... we went to the endocrinologist this morning. With lots of waiting, Cody and I engaged in wild thumb wrestling matches. He construed rules for everything, until I demanded old-fashioned southern thumb wrestling, where we just tried to pin each other down. The doctor came in then, brusquely, after his gentle student doctor had already looked Cody thoroughly over, and the big sweating doctor said brusquely, "We need to do lab work!" "Perhaps he has tuberous sclerosis with those skin patches!" "I want immediate followup after we get the results!" "Get another CF test!" And, he stormed out, with his gentle student doctor smiling apologetically backwards at us.

So Cody and I went to do some lab tests.
"Just sit over there. Put the slips of paper there. And wait."
X-ray of his hand.
Another blood draw.
Pee in a cup. A nice nurse graphically explained this procedure to me, and my role in it, in the bathroom.
Set up a new appointment.

The nice bathroom nurse came to get another patient, and across several heads, she looked at me, and said, "You have extremely pretty eyes." No one behind me. She kept looking at me without breaking her gaze. "I noticed them in the bathroom. Is that your natural color?"

I hope that we don't have many more doctor appointments, because these "mystical" stranger encounters in the waiting room are turning creepy. Finally, she broke her mesmerized stare (am I a snake?), and we were free to run free in the rain to the van.

Have you ever felt each minute before? What would that be like to savor each thing that you do? Brother Lawrence in "Practicing the Presence of God" says it's possible, it's gift, it's grace before death. Yet does the death shower up into light permanence, into no departure?

All I seem to want to do lately is to live and feel each minute. Perhaps I won't make it through the winter (each winter, someone dies on the roads). For these moments, I'm glad.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Pumpkin ale

Alright. They lived in their van. How funny is that in retrospect?
I am envious of living in a van and using gas stations for bathrooms? Have you consistently smelled the inside of a woman's bathroom at a convenience store? Have you consistently had to wipe the rim clean, or flush the tampons down that someone else left behind?
How romantic is that? I have windows, cats, flowers in my garden, musical instruments laying around, books on shelves, food, stable friends.
Ah, my day has been just like that. One moment, I want escape, the other, I am kissing things around me. I know one thing: I am okay with my lived life. I love the stretching between two worlds, the longings, the stabilizing, the dancing, the spirals, the ascents. Yes, I want more, but, hey, come on in to right now. It's good, and I'm good. And, come to think of it, I think I have one pumpkin ale left in my refrigerator. Why not celebrate?
Tonight at church, I was so hungry for the eucharist. Carrying the body inside of me. The symbolism. The intake to take me to strength. Yet, there were baptisms instead. People telling their story of acceptance, people going under water, people hugging and cheering. It was symbolic. I was thoughtful, though. I'm in a different place. I do love symbolism, however. Then, my young bosom postmodern friend joined me while our hubbys went to get the kids, and we related our quirky thoughts which don't fit in. And, it was fun. I laughed hard -- I expressed myself in a lively way. She's the best. We want to carry forth our different ideas and .... we don't know what. I said, "Write!", and she said, "Yes! Or divide the church!", and I agreed with a hearty laugh. Thank you, Good Spirit.
My moroseness is gone, and I feel lighter like the lady in the reception room earlier today. And, yes, I'm envious of those trail walks and bird watching and the freedom from stuff. I love the woods. I'm a Woods. But, living in a van .......
Thank you also, Viv, for a long hug in the parking lot of a place that served us soup over lunch. I am truly blessed!

We lived in our van

An older couple stood at the desk when we entered the one-woman blood drawing center.

The harried one-woman team took forms from us, and then we sat in the cramped reception office to wait. The wife smiled at Cody and looked at him longingly. I recognize that look from an older woman who maybe never had a chance to have children, or whose small sons are now grown up. It irritates Cody who thinks he's being treated like "a little kid". The woman said one or two things to him, and then she and her husband were called into the needle room.

After them, we were ushered in too. Cody amazingly relaxed his arm while the needle inserted.

We were asked to again wait for paperwork in the reception room with the couple.

The older woman then began to amaze me.

I felt tight, withdrawn, upset in a former mood, and she began to talk comfortably with Cody about a) taking blood, b) her husband's mother's 100th birthday party, c) blowing bubbles, d) moving to Missouri. She was plain with a huge smile. Her husband was gray, grumpy looking until he smiled a wonderful wide smile with dimples.

I managed to talk a bit, "Where did you guys live before you moved here?"

"In our van," she answered. "For six years, we hiked, traveled, birdwatched, did photography. We had a little stove in our van that we used. We loved it." She relaxed me; I think she could have talked a long time, and I could have listened a long time too.

The unlived life theme came up again for the third time this week. I could cry about it (which I want to do), or I could take the middle way, taoistic, christian, which when applied makes good balance. Yet, I found it interesting; I find all encounters with strangers to be interesting and, although I resist this attachment, I find them to be mystical in a way. I will never see them again. What word did they leave with me?

Did they leave the words about un unlived life? That it's possible? That it's a choice? I need to investigate this more. What would that even look like for me without damage?

I have McDonald's coffee in front of me now, and I'm a bit blue. Thankfully, there are no ministry obligations this week. I'm grateful to be thinking, though, grateful for the call again.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

the Western front

"You're off, aren't you," she said with her huge blue eyes of discernment.
"Don't beat yourself up," she said with her day-research data imploring eyes.
"You know, we're all not as intellectual as you. Believe me, if I thought it was horrible, I would tell you. It was good. People were talking," she said with toss of her voluminous mane.
I hung around weakly last night after it was over. Performance anxiety. The class didn't flow. Fragments. Pieces. I didn't hook and knit, hook and knit for greater awareness. It wasn't good. I hated myself. I hated serving.
But, before I flung myself into the rainy p.m., and stepped one by one alone towards an incrimating van, they had stopped me.
It's less than you're making it out to be. You're good. We believe in you. You can't mar the higher God-factor.
Women can gossip and dash and judge and advise; however, the women whom I hang out with now are not like this. It's possible to know authentic, caring, encouraging women. I know so many and am truly blessed.
My Thursday a.m. class was wonderful; it wasn't about me hooking and knitting. I 'led' yet it's a support group for a beautiful young attorney whose husband doesn't want her any more, and a sweet person who lives in a world of feelings and colliding intellect and creativity (wow, I can relate to that) with a crappy legalist-religious joy-stealing Christian wrong upbringing, and another woman's close relative's suicide, (among others issues) which cause us to dig a trench to discover a position.
A position. The WWI soldiers in trench warfare always had to run from one to the next. Back and forth. Surely there's a respite.
In "All Quiet on the Western Front", one of their best respites involved emptying their bowels together on buckets placed around in a circle. They'd laugh, joke, curse, cry, and enjoy the break from the battlefield. Of course, they'd go back out to be part of their generational force of death or curse. But, they had their moments of grace.
Yes, unlike those boys, we have clothes, makeup, and high-heeled boots on. But, I'm telling you, stuff is going down. Shit is happening. A lot of other people don't care or won't relate.
Community helps. I would die in my natural loneliness without it (although, paradoxically, I must learn to live in my loneliness comfortably).
Merci le Dieu. La vie est etrange and belle. I want to be a part of it despite the difficulties!
Au revoir!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


I swear that my life is about one thing and one thing only. On my lap, that thing rubs next to me before jumping down to play with a marble. Those thing(s) (it is a plural raison d'etre) need my butler, maid, and cook services. Seems like every time, I look at my door, I see an imploring head with ears, with whiskers staring steadfastedly at me. Boring a hole into my blindness. Telling me how things are in the cold, hungry world. Every so often, they show me a big mole, or a baby rabbit, or a shredded bird. They say, "That Meow Mix is dry. You force us, you know." I know, and I'm sorry so I let them in. Trixie (the babiest) was born in May to Cassie (the cuddly calico); Sammy, old, grumpy, is beautiful with creative&stark black and white markings. He growls upon the other cats' approach. He is the untouchable, czar-ish. I serve.

Serving is common when you love, I guess. These past days, I've been serving, researching my son's chronic cough. I looked at all the lung diseases on a helpful site, and I've conferred with the doctor. Seven-nine months out of the year for the past 4-5 years. Too much suffering. Surely the doctors can help us. Today, after my crown replacement (too much candy pulled it off!! The dentist is a friend, and he made fun of me!), I went to the pediatrician's next door and talked to her, and we have a plan. Blood work. Lung x-ray. More allergy tests. Another Cystic Fibrosis test. Sinus medicine. Scripts and more scripts. C'mon now. It's gotta be found. We go to an endicrinologist on November 11th due to his delayed growth. Surely all of these physical/neurotic symptoms fit together. I'm not going to stop searching. Please, help, divine mother and father, uncover. I love him so much.

The election, c'est fini! Kerry conceded this morning to Bush. Although not an overt Bush supporter at all, I agree that the transitionary new government phase will be avoided this way. Our country probably needs as much security as we can get.

I have much to do today (tomato soup to eat on the stove. Love tomato soup; florentine tomato soup is wonderful, probably easy to imitate and make. Soup is soothing. Tells me that 'things will get done' and 'life will be lived in a good, deep, interesting manner'. Need the soup. Slurp.). Our Wednesday evening group meets tonight, and I've not focused much. All I'll have to do with the larger group is to introduce a dance number and a speaker. My details, though, have not tied together well this week. I think it will go well, though.

Until another day,

Monday, November 01, 2004

Soybean field to doom

Tomorrow is the election. The weather forbodes, slashing sprinkles everywhere at all minutes of the day. Will I have an elated daughter or a dejected son? Will I face my choice and darken in the Democratic circle? Will I stop talking in questions after tomorrow? Perhaps the third party is the way to go, like through a field instead of taking two marked, well-known, established roads?
Speaking of fields, here I am, fieldfleur, and I haven't been to one for a long time. At least not a southern field. A couple of weeks ago my son and I tromped through a central Missouri one because we found a creek that we decided to get a closer look at.
We went through soybeans and briars, and we arrived at the steep bank which was covered with roots, stray beans, and mud. We went down, and we didn't stop. The mud was slime; the slime was snotty-slick, and we slid. I stopped on a root. Cody was in the water's edge. I decided to laugh at him in order to waylay his frantic anxiety.
"Ha, ha [more natural laugh than this], you're stuck! Just lift your foot up and climb on out, Mountain Goat! What an adventure!"
But, he continued crying wildly, screaming, "Help! Help me! I hate this farm! Help!"
I laughed out of anxiety some more, but he really was stuck. To retrieve him, I slid down the dark mud into the water, and it was then I realized that the snotty-slick mud sloped steeply down in the creek, and I was up to my thigh already before I lunged for the bank.
No more humor.
Somehow, I got behind him, fastened my foot sideways into the mud, and hoisted him up. My arm and legs were wet with water in the cool fall day. Yet, I felt like I was in a survival mode. Cody grabbed onto a root, and with intense coaching made it up behind a tree, nearer to the open field above. I crawled up on my knees and hugged a couple of trees before I made it out.
The rest of the day, we would retell our drama to one another. "Yeah, I couldn't believe it." "We were lucky we made it." "I never want to go to a creek around here anymore." "Me neither."
A trip down south to the Ozarks is way overdue. I'm getting a bit better on the mandolin. The trees are dropping, swirling, their leaves. Mom and Dad are waiting and bored for children. The fields are shedding, piece by piece, the brown weeds. It would be a wonderful, refreshing walk outside away from the world.
We'll see .........

Friday, October 29, 2004

Road to heart

Good morning!
The election is only four short days away. We have candidate drama at our house still as my son went through the neighborhood with a permanent black marker to write BUSH on the KERRY EDWARDS signs.
A pack of law-conscious kids showed up at my door to tattle-tale.
I'm still unsure who to vote for. Maybe the third party, as a non-choice, is the way to avoid the personal responsibility of a dismal outcome. Would it be dismal? Who would most likely give us a dimal situation?

The sounds of the day are upon me: a baying, yard-encased dog, my loyal windchime, the washing machine ... I have had several hours of solitude this morning, and it has been comfortable, good.
Earlier this week, I struggled again during a gray, long day. I'm not sure where this is coming from. Perhaps my last active year set me back a bit in the ability to face the external and internal in an extended space. I very much do not want to lose that. All writers need the solitude. All contemplatives need the quiet.
Yet, like the writer in the book I'm still reading, I have the blend of extroversion which at times cancels out the other desire. Could be called: Schizophrenia. Meyer-Briggs balancing act between categories. Gemini. Spiritual warfare. This generation's distractability. ADD. Sugarholism.
Relationally, though, things are excellent. I have two workout partners now: one on Fridays, and the other on the trail on Mondays. Much needed. I also received a friend's recorded music in the mail. Last night, I talked with an acquaintance about her writing. Both creatively inspiring. That takes me back to the balancing act of time and focus and, at time, my lack of it.

Teen parenting has been difficult this week. She has hated me several times. I have reacted with boundaries, fear, protectiveness, and a strange version of love. I do love her and want her to thrive, but I can't control her. How do I guide her?

Well, the day is passing, and I have much still to do. Here's an excellent quote that I just found to leave with you:

The road to the heart is the ear. Voltaire

Friday, October 22, 2004

Junior band boy

I asked him to prove himself worthy, and he showed me his babysitting license, his boyscout card, and told me how excellent (yet sometimes creepy to customers) his work is at a local grocery store.
He told me that he studied religions beyond the teacher's expectations last year.
He told me that he helped an autistic person for a while.
He told me drugs and alcohol use were stupid and that he kicked off the lead singer from his band for using pot (and getting caught).
He told me that he wants to produce music one day as a career.
He told me that it was a compliment to my daughter to look like me.
Okay, I guess this 11th grade boy can hang around some more. Yet last night he showed up at our door at 9:30; I was in my pajamas and told him at the door, and he said, "Ooooh can I see?"
Okay. Maybe he needs to take the boundaries class.
My daughter said that he was very interesting as we talked later on the couch. How many dimensions of 'interesting' are permitted? :)
I'm just in new territory. Help me. Help me. Help us.

As a follow-up, my "good" goal went pretty well on Wednesday. Even though I was a bit flaky and shallow and awkward on Wednesday evening, mostly it was good. We laughed a lot in the small group as we wrapped boxes for a service project. Our discussion didn't go as well -- I know a lot, I've read much apologetics, yet sometimes it gels in me and at other times it doesn't. Yet, it was good. It was all gooooooood.

Then on Thursday morning, my sweet, artsy intellectual young co-leader who was struggling with intense "issues" led our group, and, wow, she was brilliant. I can still see her big smile of relief and possibility afterwards as she said goodbye to me and went out the classroom door. I pray that she admits her own goodness of self. Don't beat it down -- our sense of self is a gift not a curse. Please allow it to saturate within.

Ah, Father, everyone is so cynical these days. Even my daughter as we talked about faith on the couch last night. Confusion, hurt, rejection pattern as it relates to acceptance of a divine and personal good. Please permeate and saturate and make yourself more fully known. The cry of history, the cry of the day. You work and breathe, heal and inspire, please, please heed.

The Red Sox and the Cardinals are in the World Series! Who do I vote for? I love both teams; however, don't tell the fellow Missourians that I may end up cheering for those Easterners. I've always needed an Eastern fix, a visit, an author, so I guess it's coming out in baseball this year.

Au Revoir, mon Chere!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Guilt-free Apple Pie and Red Sox

Mmmm.... nothing like my apple crumb pie for breakfast. Perhaps I should sell my pies?

Baseball fever has hit our home. Yes, I admit to being one of those late-season MLB fans which makes me wonder why I don't watch games throughout the season. (Baseball is much slower than football.) Last night, Cody and I sat and watched the Red Soxs pitch to victory. The Yankees tried to cheat with a couple of plays, but the refs proved themselves true. The fans were both prayerful (hands clasped, looks of contrition for a run) and violent (the mob police lined left and right field at the beginning of the 9th). I love to ponder about such things. It always hearkens back to the nature of man, n'est-ce pas?

I taught Cody about 'the count' and 'the strike zone' and what innings are. I envisioned lots of future time watching games. Fun. Tonight is the final game of the series. Go Sox!

Cody has been sick these last couple of days. One morning, he had problems breathing. I'm glad that I'm here to hand him water and medicine; I'm glad I don't need to worry about outside work without me. I'm glad that he's improving now. One more day at home, and he'll be ready to go.

I've been thinking about guilt this morning (perhaps the pie?). I know that the Christian belief is sometimes synonymous with the presence of guilt. I am guilty, therefore I confess. I thought a wrong thought, therefore I am sinful. Our entire nature is sinful, therefore I am thoroughly drenched with guilt. Yes, and if you believe the story, Christ came and saved us from our sins, but, still here I am heavy with the 'natural man', guilty at every corner, sinful still despite a grace.

I'm tired of carrying this around, and, furthermore, it's not intended that I do. Within my belief system, it's not intended that guilt hang like an anchor around my neck. Guilt intertwines with insecurity -- I'm not good enough. I ended a phone conversation quickly yesterday w/o reason. I'm socially inadequate. I can't do things well, etc, etc. An endless barrage if you let it. And, sometimes justifiable if you're an admitted 'guilt-carrying natural man' through the spiritual lens. Justifiable in the sense that we use the guilt tag as an excuse to allow these thoughts access to us. I'm bad, we might say, I need God. See how guilty and inadequate I am all the time? I need God. To an extent, that stance is acceptable; however, it's not our lot in life to carry the woebegone attitude around due to an initial guilt (which is pardoned) or a struggle to choose good.

I know several friends who would disagree with me. And, if we could talk for hours, we would probably arrive on very similar ground. Personally, though, I have to release the guilt as much as possible. For some reason, I can carry destructive levels of it around for hardly any reason.

So, today, everything I do will be good. If I don't read the books I need to, if I stumble over my words as a leader in a small group this evening, if I don't reconcile with a friend, if I only eat crumb apple pie for meals, if the house lays splintered with odds and ends, if I don't practice the mandolin, I will be doing good by breathing and desiring to be, inwardly, good despite the outward actions which are inconsequential to this fact.

Alrighty then, onward to the next bite!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Settle the ball

"Settle the ball now," soccer coaches call everywhere.
And, that's what it feels like I'm avoiding today. The ball is bouncing off, rolling toward the marked boundary, snaking across the field with its player in tow. That would be me today.
The space I long for is here. Nervously, I thought of friendships and wondered if they were still solid. Should I schedule something? Nervously I thought of the house and its contents and my recent powerful urge to compulsively order and remove (a bare home sounds heavenly). I even felt a shudder of chest-stress for the first time about it. Nervously, I thought of the small project that I have for a Wednesday evening group. I thought of the prayer time I avoided today (midnight Red Sox game) (distraction and space). I'm reacting to every thought and feel like the ball spirals at my feet. I have this desire to work again and fill my life at the first taste of still life, yet still life with small endless duties (home, ministry, relationships). But, I'm here because of prior choice. I want to be here.
Yet Jones in the Dead Bird book talks about having to bring "me" along to his lovely hermitage in the Ozarks (near my brother's house). The "me" part which is heavily hooked into the three P's of society: power, prestige, and possessions. It's difficult to face ourselves in a silent, removed atmosphere, though, given these P's which influence the inner strains of being human. We want to be affirmed, we want distinction, we want to feel successful, we want distractions. Yes, I would like my own money, an ability to feel a part of something outside of the home, a desire for independence, yet when I try to grasp this, I end up despising it, and I choose to stay home again, to be balanced, to be available for kids and volunteerism, and to be able to think. I often feel it's my own weakness that causes me to be here. Yet, I know, after analysis, that it's not this at all. It takes more strength in ways to deny the other things and to affirm the opening in which I find myself.
Settle the ball.
I want to remain healthy in my perspective.
I want to be able to be in the space, and in the solitude, without the feelings of it enveloping me and separating me from society. I want to trust that good will be and emerge to enable me.
Thank you for the state of being, God. Help me to know the difference between action and being and to know when to jump and when to settle.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The mailman rings

When you meet someone with similar views, you relax. Yes! you understand what it's like to think and feel in this way. May we walk together for a while and talk about things?
I can't tell you how I've valued these relationships. Sometimes have overvalued them. But, an appreciation lights up the value of the companion tremendously, and so I'm not regretful for any of these types of people. They've been sent my way I do believe.
Many of them have only been sent as word carriers. Mailmen of their own spirit and discoveries. Here, here's my post. Read it quicky because I'm moving on to the next box. I'll be by your house again, but I can't stop because I'm busy, and, really, do you want rumors of tea chats with me, a mailman?
He has a point, and, therefore, distance, propriety, full friend lists already, necessitates that I simply buy his (or her) book without reciprocal conversation. Darn, but acceptable.
I just read a chapter in the book mentioned before in which Jones tries to piece together the patterns of history (by way of a tour to historical sites: Israel, Egypt, Athens, Rome, England) to understand himself and the existence of God. All last year, I did this too with my World Studies material that I tried to teach well to students. But, I was impacted beyond the preparation. My "why" questions were bounding off everything. My intellectual and faith companion teacher also asked questions but his didn't resonate as much in his emotions as mine. Or, in a sense of activism, which was a strange and powerful thing for me. I know that I was difficult at times.
Anyway, Jones encounters the same questions as he thinks about the patterns in history and of the paradox of progress on the back of despair and conflict. The Sistine Chapel, for example, portrays this as the finger of God and finger of Adam almost touch at the ceiling's centerpoint. Then as the the painting plunges down the wall, the figures are more distorted, contorted with greed and self-importance and subjugation. And then Jones, in Africa, ruminates on the imperialism, the rape, of this people and country for the more 'civilized' countries who need Africa's wealth at any cost in order to fund their own self-interests. I learned all about this in greater detail last year, and it bothered me greatly. Yet, you move over to India, China, Haiti, the U.S. in some of our globalization plans, and similar things happen. The nature of man becomes the question. Why do we have so much greed? Why are there such opposing forces?
Jones concludes, "What happened is that wherever I went, I was confronted by my own face-to-face enigma writ large....every change and every advance simply poses more graphically the paradox of human existence."
I'm wondering "but what does that call us to do"? Focus on ourselves? Increased activity in social justice?
As you can see, I identify with this author. I've been trying to make sense of my last year in terms of the knowledge that I was exposed to. Perhaps this book is to help prod me along.
By the way, I was able to get out of bed today. Prayed, journaled from 5:30 to 7. No feeling of exalted nearness. Just glad I plowed in the early morning light. Thank you, God.

Dead bird to sing

The book is called, "Teaching the Dead Bird to Sing" by W. Paul Jones, and it's challenging me to figure out a way to the path.
The path. Sounds supra-spiritual. Sounds new age-ish.
Yet, the path to be on questions me constantly. So be how it sounds.
The book reminds me of my purist-spiritual Buddhist, Christianity early yearnings.
I wanted to live above the rest. Above my own desires. Above world definitions of success and performance. Show me the high path, and I will take it. Pursuing and focusing on the inner, I once felt like my feet were lifting under me as I walked. I floated; my desire for heightened spiritual experience, sharp. I've had a few strange mystical experiences, I must say. The music at night once I submitted to the unfolding of the Judeo-Christian plan for my life. The crafting of the dried floral bride wreaths. The ecstatic awareness. The desert of Hagar. The submission of intellect in order to heighten understanding of the irrational. The death of the idealistic in order to bear the reality. God's taken me places.
Yet, here I am, later, struggling, feeling myself settling for lesser awareness, or should I say lesser experience.
Lesser experience due to the increased consumption of distraction. Distraction which demands its usefulness in its own right. I must clean and be a good wife. I must serve and be a good steward of gifts and commission. I must go to lunch with others and be a good friend. I must be a good mother so I must do this.
All those are good, mandated, yet, I feel like I'm slipping. Can I undergo a future 'desert'? Am I ready for hardship? Should I train myself? Equip, prepare, restrain? Should I pray more (yes)? Should I resist more (yes)? Should I not grow lax in the disciplines (yes)? I'm growing lax and distracted, I know.
Jones' book is making me think. He's making me think that I'm convoluted like him. I'm full of analysis of how I should be. Full of confusion on how to arrive there. Full of oppositional factors.
One example is of the desire to be simple and the desire to be beautiful. I want to be content with little, yet I desire more in order to look good. Or, the desire to be responsible to health concerns (cholesterol, weight) and the gratification of chocolate, bread, and anything else I see that I want. I rarely hold back any more. I'm blessed with predisposition to thinness, yet still the nutrition is bad, and I am feeling more uncomfortable with the slack in physical activity.
Oppositional factors. When I teach at my small groups, I feel like I've found harmony. I project it. And, it's true, spiritual focus has led me to a sharper vision of what and who provides life more abundantly. I know this through release, through feelings, through intellect, through resources, through faith.
Yet, at times, my focus becomes fuzzy when I'm not on call. Call me out into greater stamina and desire. I do not give up longings any more for what can be fulfilled.
Therefore, my book knocks on my door.
Tonight, I'll go to bed, as usual, with great longing for a fresh focus, and, more importantly, a renewed discipline that keeps me actively looking for outer surprises of the inner life. I sleep on it. I wake up and return to old patterns of undue servitude.
What can I do to break this cycle?
Tomorrow morning, I will try to wake up early to pray.
Try to.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Cooler temps

My dream of last entry called me to action.
I wrote and received and now I know what is happening this year in my co-teacher's life at school without me. He's okay. Some of our formers students are in good hands, and I can mentally move on now. That's all that is needed. Hopefully, now, I won't have the dreams.

It's getting colder outside; the day is gray; I've felt detached today from others (although yesterday in the sun, I felt the happy communal spirit and boasted on it). But like a fireplace sets a mood in the room, the gray atmosphere tells me that winter approaches. I shouldn't dread winter each year. And so, while my daughter took guitar lessons, I went to a nearby bookstore and bought a book with the following introductory lines:

To the countless hermits
who populate our hills, towns, and cities.
Invisible, unknown, unrecognized,
they are blessed with the courage to face
the demons,
without and within,
on behalf of us all.

Winter means hunkering in, choosing to commune or not with others, and figuring out how how to face that feeling of loneliness, detachment, withdrawal. Sometimes I welcome it. I've always been somewhat of a contemplative, and winter gives me more space and mood for it. However, at times, it's somewhat scary. Being a stay-at-homer, I have more empty space to either wrestle with or enjoy. I want to enjoy it this year. I want to live in it's fullness. I'm thinking about how to release some of the pace in order to face it head on again.
On the other hand, this is crazy thinking. Why not enjoy the friendships that I have and not let them slip away? Seems like I always have this dualistic way of thinking about things. Therefore, I will probably try to do both which is probably more healthy ... have friends, yet have space. What's wrong with that?
We'll see what this winter brings.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Accepting the divide

Early this morning, I had the 'teacher dream' where I roamed the halls and classes of the local high school where I taught. I found my co-teacher and cornered him into telling me how his full-time year was going.
I can't sleep now and so I prayed for him, for his maintained faith, for a solid girlfriend, for good influence on his students, for less conflict with his partnering teachers. We went through a lot together last year, both highs and lows.
Prayer helps, yet it doesn't take away the sneaky longing to be there as a more experienced and toughened teacher who knows what's going on for those who remain. The divide is difficult. I feel like crying this early morning. Dreams can disrupt the emotions.
However, life is good now. Many pies have been baked. I've been present for my children. My friendships are stable. My ministry work is fulfilling. I can't have it all, and, therefore, I choose.
Bless the choice and the memory which I submit to your unfolding. On to this day ....


The Cardinals and the Dodgers play in the 9th inning. Reds lead 6 to 2.
However, the Reds lost today at the Parks and Recreation showdown-- the Stars hung strong and scored two goals to their one, winning the age division championship.
The red-clad parents were dejected; yet, we, the white Stars' parents, jumped and ran out into the field and created the tunnel with our upward reaching hands. The boys (and one girl) ran through, and we cheered. Cody was trailing far behind, didn't notice that the others were gone; we yelled at him, and the parents remained to cheer him, smiling big, through. I felt so grateful for them that they wished the celebration to cover him too.
For the first time, Cody belonged to a winning championship team. For the first time, I integrated well with the parents, who are mainly modest incomers from a centrally located elementary school. The stress to look good and achieve with perfection were gone from them. We laughed a lot together. They encouraged Cody with shouts whenever he even touched the ball with his foot.
After the tunnel, we took pictures of the team and walked over to the concession stand to be awarded the medals. Big, gold medals with a soccer foot reaching out for a ball. Coach told us later that Cody looked up at him during the walk and asked, "Did we win?"
I think he didn't say all he intended ... "medals?"
Coach awarded him his medal and gripped him by the shoulders and gave a rare-extra encouragement: "Cody's best game was yesterday morning; he really went after the ball." Cody smiled shyly and hurried back, big medal dripping.
Winning isn't everything, but, for a boy who loses a lot, today's winning was off the hook.
I can't wait for the Spring to cheer with my new friends.
Go Stars!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Open palms

It has been awhile since writing! Honesty, I haven't felt much like it. Yes, I've sat down in front of this empty space to write, but then, I decide to write friends instead. My Type 1 personality (a Jung qualifer) rules the weeks at the moment.
But, it's been good.
I'm amazed at life right now, rather the strain in life that lifts us. I'm amazed at people and how they can open their palms to allow goodness to land into them. A beautiful younger woman acquaintance and I went to coffee on Wednesday a.m., and she told me about her early life: sex, drugs, being on the streets, abuse, child at 17, divorce at 19, food stamps, anxiety disorder, depression.
Somehow she ended up marrying a man who connected her to Missouri. We talked in our favorite coffee shop.
She's still rough around the edges, skeptical, nervous, suffers from post-traumatic stress. However, she smiles a lot, and wonders about how God works in her life. She has become a Christian, yet one with holes and huge unanswerable questions. I like her, she's funny too.
I felt like I was watching a miracle when I looked at her, though. It hung around me the entire day, how redeemable we can be, how improved. I went to my women's ministry large group and told the women how I was inspired by this 'anonymous' person, how God can transform, rework, provide hope even in the bleak. Healing, goodness. I looked out and saw her in the audience.
Later she gave me a hug. Later, she sent me a thanks and a look into her reaction and how she felt hard ice had been moved from her heart this week.
So, I'm feeling humbled, hugged, purposeful, wonderful and I want all women to know that they can be moved forward in Christ's love. I know that I have. Nothing else explains it. Thank you, thank you.
That has been my week. On to the next!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Today, a passion struck that was apart from the mandolin.
It was the desire to lighten a la garage sale. My daughter was amazingly non-sentimental: a box her grandfather carved for her hit the pile. "Yes, sell it!" she continually barked. She's been known as as "aaah" and "oooh-er" (she doesn't know yet that the Mercer Mayer Little Critter books are in the stack too), and we have boxes of her hither-thither joint custody arrangement to prove every step of her life. But since her dad deposited all of her boxes on our doorstep before he moved to the east coast, she has access to sell everything from one household, and she is determined to make enough money for eye brushes, homecoming gowns, American Eagle clothes, and car bank account. Costly aspirations for the next stage, so everything must go. A few things stay, though, like the Steve Erkel and the Starla doll. Reminders of the good life.
For myself, I feel suffocation at the brink of a good clean. I hate clutter; I hate stuff. If I had to move in a day's notice, I would love to be ready to go. As a matter of fact, I've had a huge urge for several years to make the home as empty as possible, to sweep out everything in the basement. If the good Lord said, "GO to Zimbabwe," I'd be petrified yet ready to give up everything: my old college papers (my one-time identity still in the storage bin); my old love letters (Lance, Guy, Stan ... ); my water-damaged C.S. Lewis books; my senior memory book; other correspondence that came and went. Those are the most meaningful things to me. However, I felt tonight that for once I was pulling away from those days. I don't have those longings to return, to be affirmed in such way, like I once did. Ageful progress, I reckon, for which I'm glad in a way.
My son had the most difficult problem with his cascade of toys which have play potential in them yet. Finally, though, he turned over all of his early-year books. Finally, he is growing out of his kindergarten and first grade clothes (even though in fourth grade now). He has a stack downstairs to call his own. He has dollar signs in his eyeballs.
Well, it's late, and I must go to bed. It has been a productive day of load-lightening....
Bon soir!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Hovering Monroe

"Pick up that mandolin! You don't need to clean, or prepare for class, or write someone a nice, polite, useless card. Pick up that mandolin!" And, I do. Since I wrote on Sunday evening, I've made an amazing discovery. I can turn to a song in my bluegrass songbook, and I can pick out the tune in about three minutes. And, I can remember it. Am I receiving my mandolin abilities from a long lost Monroe boy? Is there an old man in overalls hovering over my shoulder and upon my fingertips? It sure feels like it as I'm feeling a bit overexuberant about this entire mandola-musical affair. I've been dreaming at night about entering into Westside Auto parts and being able to play and keep up with dad and Gerald while on a new instrument. However, I'm wasting time even as I type (perhaps the internet connection should be unpaid), I should be picking! Merci le Dieu pour le mandolin!

Sunday, September 26, 2004


Their names were Russell and Billy, guitar and bass respectively. Billy's bass was larger than him, and they were both shaped the same.
Jean, Russell, and I shared the guitar playing which has motivated me to pick up the mandolin again. Since we returned from the farm, I've been practicing the mandolin. I can see a picking pattern now. If I try to pick a song out a day from the bluegrass lyrics book, I'm sure I can see more patterns and experiment too. Perhaps next time, I'll be the lone mandolin player.
Russell says that we need to start a band. But, I live too far away.
We all played together on the back patio to the Woods' who came from far and near for the reunion. I love being a woman in the band, because I can watch the other women scurry around with food and social duties. I love singing and playing instead. When my mother said, "Okay, stop playing so that we can start serving and eating," I agreed with my dad who said that he would rather play than eat.
Singing harmony is one of my favorite activities. Even the cold that I have had to take a back seat. We stood outside within the crickets and the laughing family sounds. I could see my son running around up to mischief. The bonfire blazed outside the yard. We were wrapped in musical history as well as connections to people who shared ancestry. My husband was able to attend, and he snapped photos like a business manager. I'm not so mad at him since he was able to go and participate too. We're both making the adjustment from what's rural to what's somewhat stressful on the cul-de-sac. Yet, I can still hear the music, and my fingers buzz from reminiscing on the mandolin. Maybe I will go to a monthly city bluegrass jam afterall.
A funny quote from the weekend:
Dad: Did you see that dark, Indian man? I'm just as much Indian as he, but the Indian blood just outcropped in him. It outcropped in Karen [his sister] too. She looks just like a squaw. And, you have dark complexion to be a fair Indian maiden yourself. [Outcrop! where does he come up with things like this? He always has a funny comment here and there which he tells with high interest.]

Friday, September 24, 2004


I'm struggling on how to talk about this week.
First, there was the adjustment back from the musical, rural weekend. I was a bit emotional. My husband said he would learn the fiddle if it would make me happier (a concession from a nice man). No, that's not it, to change to make things momentarily right. I just wanted to respond to a longing to return, not to change who he is. I appreciated that, though, and am amazed at the man who loves me enough to be want to be something more.
Then, the rest of the week, there was both a wrestling for space and relationship. I skipped a meeting in order to be alone. And, perhaps that space helped me have some good relational times that came a bit later. But, in those spaces, I let myself long a bit. Yet, I wasn't swept away, a good sign, a progression, a difference.
This week, I had an excellent e-dialogue with a microbiologist scientist who is a woman in one of my studies. We discussed faith and evolution. The blend of these two oft-contrary things just fascinates me. I love how they are snug fits. I don't see oppositional evidence like some. It's amazing, though, how minds can be closed in the name of 1) science 2) religion 3) bias of any sort ~~ we probably will never learn as quickly as we can because of these arbitrary obstacles we throw up. Fear-based? I doubt God minds our inquisitive ways.
I learned about Shannon's theory of information and even understood the author's application of it to the emergence of diverse forms (during the Cambrian period) which necessitates an information-giver-originator. Very interesting! These types of discussions are faith-sustaining to me.

Then, yesterday, the embodied-faith took over at one of my small group meetings. How can I explain it to make sense? The text-to-life connection soared over the study, and we unloaded burdens, passed Kleenexes, and held hands in a tight circle of prayer afterwards. I felt used, my words flowed unrehearsed, the Christ of the day, ours and past, substituted within our attempts to transcend. It amazed me and made me dreamy. Wow. Tangibility of being met and comforted. Women are important enough. Women carry burdens of many. Be strong and focused.
After the meeting, I had a fun talk with a (musical) friend over a two hour lunch. Another tangibility of divinity in her shining, glowing face. In a desire of servanthood, obedience, acknowledgment of imperfection.
The week has been about glimpses: glimpses at my own waywardness, glimpses of an arranged universe, glimpses of feminine transcendence through a soft confirmation, glimpses of a giggling survivor who treads on.
I live in a contained world compared to those who suffer in Haiti from the hurricane after-effects. Yet, allow what I experience here, to be a longing that reaches those who cry in pain and suffering. Prepare me for my own pain and suffering. Prepare me to remember them and know that meaning lies within and beyond each of our circumstantial places. Help them know your strength and comfort. Amen.