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,