Thursday, December 29, 2005

A friend of mine e-mailed me from Cancun where his ten year old daughter parasailed 150 feet up in the air yesterday. This is the same girl who jumped off a two story platform into Lake Lucern in Switzerland while I held nervously to the railing and ultimately refused to take the drop off. Brave kid. My son also received a medal of courage when yesterday, at his grandparents, he toppled off Trigger, the half-alive three foot brown Shetland stallion. And, although quaking and crying, Cody re-mounted the pony when his grandpa righted the saddle. Progress!

And, so these children will be my examples of bravery for the new year as I think about some resolutions for myself.

One resolution is to still fight the urge to see religion as completely self-serving. There I said it. Its been a struggle these last six months to see it otherwise on many levels. I've been noticing the 'safe worlds' that we Christians create and justify which are often based upon creating a superior self-image compared to others. Yes, we may disguise this with humble self-analytical flagellation of sorts, but because we're engaged in this activity, we are a better person/nation/etc than others. All sorts of crazy actions/aggression/pronouncements result from this.

My church and its incessant building funddrive for bigger and bigger toys for the children's area (yet the substance is quite thin) and its huge re-iterated goal for the Christmas offering (which covers not just benevolence but administrative aims) also has pounded in this message to me lately. Cynicism becomes wrapped more tightly around the dollar as the dollar becomes the prized messenger of showing your 'love' to God, a phrase oft-used. Sigh. And, so the vision spreads, and I'm losing track of the humble, good, lovers of God. Fortunately, a couple of friends model this still for me. My goal is to not drift away into the cynicism and to keep my eyes on the simple elements of belief in God, agreeing to believe despite persistent doubts.

Another resolution: to acknowledge the tie between physical, emotional, spiritual health. Even as I write this, I am procrastinating my run. The week at my parents got me off track. I know that exercise does me a world of good in many ways (just like faith) and so I must continue. I even do like it much when doing it!

Another resolution: to parent as best as possible without becoming emotionally muddled during the heat of the battle. I love my teenager, but she is quite the strong-willed girl who will challenge us. I must learn to keep my side of the street clean. (I truly need God dependence here.). To parent with respect and love and hope that my children will not fall into the pit of despair.

Another resolution: to acknowledge all that belongs to my husband. As I walked and prayed one day, I prayed from my toes to my head in a sort of recommitment.

Another: to continue enjoying my friends, but to know when I'm becoming overdependent on a few of them (which at times happens). I do love friendships, though, and I thank God for them.

Another: to approach the move to Little Rock (in a year and a half) with an open mind.

Okay, obviously, I've rolled out of bed in a most serious mode this morning! I have a joke about a hot horse biscuit my dad told me this week if you're interested. :) Happy New Year to anyone who happened to have made it to the end of this posting!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve ... as we drove back from church, through windows, I saw many families gathered around their dining room tables. Are they capturing a mood? Are they savoring the Savior? Are they anticipating the gifts? Are they happy and content?

My family was moody the entire night about one thing or another. This is the reality of love where you bumble along with each other and you put up with wayward emotions over a broken ornament, or something hidden inside, or a little brother who sometimes hits you. When we returned home, we sat in the living room and went around one by one and named two things that we appreciate about each other. Then, we said our Christmas prayer for God to help keep our family unified and focused on faith. Then, presents! Cody loves the present part. I do too!

We played Uno, and then retired to our separate rooms; me to softly pluck on the guitar, inspired by a musician at church; my husband to his numbers; my son to his games and bed; and my daughter to her new pajama pants (which she had to show me). This Christmas seems subdued; are we happy and content? Can we be happy and content with what we have? This is my utmost prayer and hope for the coming year.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I'm on my way out shortly to meet another neighborhood mom/runner at the corner for our first run together. It's always interesting to see how paces match.
As I wake up this morning, I can only think of two incongruent things from last night: Calphalon skillets and Capote -- which both make me smile. The movie "Capote" is at the independent film movie theater; it was excellent, depicting how art impacts the artist, particularly when his art had its roots in gruesome, yet sympathetic, reality. Two girlfriends and I met up to see it; I would highly recommend seeing the film.
Then, my friend and I went to visit the store where my little cutie daughter works, and I was assaulted with a calphalon skillet almost as soon as I got there. "Mom, it's such a good deal!"
She and what seemed like a couple of other girls in red aprons gathered around me with intense looks in their eyes about this skillet, the last one left, wouldn't I want it? So, I bought it as a memory of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" which I'll think about as I fry my steak.
My daughter is quite the professional, yet when she comes home, she seeks me out as a daughter to tell me about her day on the job. It's a good time right now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I can tell that "Reading Lolita in Tehran" is going to be one of those books that make you feel that life, and its inhabitants, are beautiful and prized, simply because those inside it are memorialized in such fashion. We shall see. So far, it's excellent. Here's a taste:

"For nearly two years, almost every Tursday morning, rain or shine, they came to my house, and almost every time, I could not get over the shock of seeing them shed their mandatory veils and robes and burst into color. When my students came into that room, they took off more than their scarves and robes. Gradually, each one gained an outline and a shape, becoming her own inimitable self...."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Okay, Cindy, at, here are five random things which you asked me to list about myself. I nudge Laura, Beth, and anyone else out there who would like to participate in this fun!

1. In the not so distant past, I have rappeled down a mountain cliff in Colorado.

2. As a girl, I used to fish alone for perch (or bass or snapping turtle!) all the time at our pond using bacon which I snuck from our refrigerator.

3. My neighborhood little girlfriend and I used to compose "routines" either on our ponies or on our septic tanks. :)
4. I can play tunes on the banjo, mandolin, and guitar.

5. The number one thing I liked to do on my summer European trip: climb! (towers, mountains, steeples, stairs) which I believe comes from my Ozarkian hill training. Yeah!:)

Friday, December 16, 2005

King Kong is one swervy, swinging, swooping sweetheart of a movie! You must go see it. I especially liked Peter Jackson's ability to employ still frames within the overall tremendous movement of the action. Strong action / strong emotion. Rare to have this kind of blend. Naomi Watts is excellent as Anne Darrow too. When I sleep tonight, perhaps I'll imagine I'm curled up in a rubbery hairy hand.:)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Anyone taking a break from wrapping? Yes, I've wrapped my mind around accomplishing this task. The boys are almost home from their southern whereabouts, and I've almost got the holidays taped and folded up. Feels good, and I wonder, is there a spiritual strand in this. No, not really. Sigh.

I've had wonderful conversation these last two days, long coffees and lunches. I think I could do this for a living; however, I need a housekeeper, and some new cute hats, and some chocolate orange treats which may necessitate money one day. (Not to mention the practicalities of roof and nourishment.)

Have you ever applied a certain image to describe a conversation with a friend? Today, my friend and I engaged in meta-talk (and meta-laughed about this) as we imagined our conversation (and talks like it in the last ten years of friendship) as being like a vine, with offshoots, tendrils, and ultimately progression. I like that. A woman I met with on Monday and I always have circular talks -- it takes a while for us to communicate because our associations tend to be comprehensive, non-linear, and for two hours we knit together a weave of some sort that feels round, complete, but large with lots of inner content. It wears me out, but it's worthwhile gradually. It's funny how each communication takes on its own life.

Finally, I wonder ... what will tomorrow be like in Iraq? It's excellent to hear the positive reports about the election, after so much death of American soldiers, still yet, long-term what will happen? And, now there's the Iranian leader making claims about the holocaust being a myth created by European advocators of an Israeli state. Oh dismay. Then there's China, North Korea. Peace is quite elusive.

There's comfort in friendships and faith, n'est-ce pas?

Friday, December 09, 2005

All day, I’ve been marching around, shaking my head in a funk, until we went sledding with some homeschool friends. Why do I forget that fresh air is the antidote for so much? We scooted down toward a beautiful lake with visiting geese, honking and hooting, and silhouetting their graceful necks for our visual pleasure. Halfway through, one of the boys took off his shirt and, on the sunny, southern slope slid down happily topless.

Cody asked me why I didn’t want to do that. “Why not, Mom? Why do girls care? Those things are just their silly things!”

Why does the universe engage in ironic echolalia? A similar question was asked only a day earlier by an entirely different source, which strangely dismayed me and made want to cry for being committed to virtue (although the Pope was quoted yesterday in the news saying that being virtuous does not mean being boring – another ironic echo). It’s not that I want to be hedonistic – it’s more a matter of the immediate; I wanted the person who asked me that question to see me as interesting, not boring. Just that admission also dismayed me. My values have formed for valid, protective, and selective reasons, not to mention the role of Spirit-Teacher molding me.

Today, when I was reading the Psalms, I was reminded again to not put undue faith and trust (or time and desire of approval) in man, but in God, because only he will last and substantiate our efforts to live by values. How often I must be reminded of this!

Cody reminded me too, though, that I just needed to laugh and actually visualize myself as the subject of a potential byline: “Topless Mother Slides Happily Toward Lake of Geese.” :) Alas, I tend to fret, when I should giggle.

When God can, I think he tries to tickle us.
It’s darn cold this morning (2 degrees), and no running for yours truly. Cody and I just tromped outside where we jumped in the van to go to public school music and p.e. I have my hour now. Typically, I go to a nearby coffee shop and meet a friend, but that feels old this morning, and I just want to stay in and relax. I would love to take the day off, but yesterday we had a snow day. We had a sledding day at a nearby park. Even my teenager joined us for the thrill of the slope. A friend of mine told me that snow reminds him of going crosscountry skiing naked with old Wisconsin friends. Okay.

Tonight my husband comes home, thankfully. He’s flying in a small plane, piloted by his boss, back to Little Rock from a business meeting. Husbands need to be gone for a little while before we say, “I can put up with that!” He’s such a good man; I don’t think I could find anyone better for me.

My Bible is waiting for me on the table. I know that I need the “be still” time, which answers all of the reasons for faith, which goes down the shaft and pulls up water for the dehydration I often find myself in. May this be a day of increased awareness of God’s moisture.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

An Iowan friend offered to crochet a prayer row for my husband this week. With every loop and hook, she prays that he will travel safely so that he may return soon to the family that he helps hold together. Through my praying friend’s example, I decided this morning that I could institute a similar commitment.

As of Monday, I began to train for an April half-marathon, so I’ve crawled out from under my three Grandma Cora quilts and my flannel sheets to hit the streets and the frigid temperature. Brrr… 9 degrees this morning. However, despite the hurried cars zooming past for an 8 o’clock work day (God be with), I remember how peaceful winter running can be: the sky, me, stalwart trees, a few lonesome birds, and prayers. It seems such an empty expanse exists for a Presence who wants some words, some notice, like when you find someone out in the same barren place as yourself and you’re acutely grateful for seeing life which makes you speak out in fullness.

So to the rhythm of my feet, it’s not so hard to pray which made me think of the crochet prayer rows which I can replace with mile dedications. The helplessness I faced yesterday with my own reaction to my daughter needs, for example, a mile or two. A hospitalized woman from church needs a mile. Cody's development. Some parents in town who lost a son to prison. The war and soldiers in Iraq. The earthquake and hurricane victims. Many, many needs out there.

Perhaps I will be training for a marathon before too long!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My daughter is going to her first job interview; she dressed in an appropriate skirt and jacket; she curled her hair; she took pains. Any moment, she will come driving down the cul-de-sac with a report on their reaction. I didn’t have the chance to give her tips, only as she was walking out the door did I return from errands. I yelled, “Give ‘em a firm handshake, talk about what you have done for your grandmother and for us, “ (This last part was done with a smirk, I’m afraid – she notoriously dislikes housework.)

My little girl is growing into a little woman. How does that happen? And, I must say, it has been difficult letting go of that small child who used to be my loving companion in many ways. Now, it feels like there are constant strains which I guess is supposed to happen between a teenage daughter and her mother. Still, it’s hard; I have more expectations than I thought for her development which she’s trying hard to debunk. I thought that I would have a kid who would value my opinion more. I thought that I would have a kid who would clean her room more. I thought that my kid would be interested in God and His ways more. That she would show more affection. That she would like a boy that I liked and deemed good. That she would be less interested in shopping like me.

I must admit that I do carry these disappointments around too much. Lately, it seems as if I am ready to criticize her on almost everything for being something that I want her to be. I do love her very much, though. She is a good kid in many ways. I feel like a canoe scraping gravel, stuck and not moving forward much. Father, please help me show her unconditional acceptance and love at all times, even within a framework of trying to guide her into a more full, safe, and productive life. Amen.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Did anyone else castrate cattle, as a family gathering, on Thanksgiving break? We did -- here's Cody grinning about being on the boy-safe side of the pen.

My 93 year old grandmother and her precious great, great grandson (my nephew's boy). We have a baby now for Christmas goggling! I'm sure that he will receive more presents than anyone has a right to. So cute, isn't he? Awwww!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I’ve been giggling a little bit this last hour, while I soaked my legs in a hot bath and warmed up from being out this cold morning. When my friend and I entered the local 5k, we were both adamant about our objective and personality. I told her in a pleading voice, “This race is not at all about competing, it’s about participation.” And, she relayed to me several of the training regimen absurdities that her extreme-competition husband practices, which we laughed about.
When we planned for the run, we planned what we would chat about which would be no different than our Monday morning run together. We planned how we would look: tights, clean hair, a touch of makeup, fleece, a cute hat. We planned to have fun.
And, we did, but afterwards we walked sheepishly down the street with medals around our necks! I placed second in my age group, and she placed third. We managed to communicate only one story (about a woman who had a baby with the cord around its neck, etc etc) and the rest of the time we were breathing hard and focusing on getting under 30 minutes.
Wow! Winning makes participation much more fun!:)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sometimes the things I’m obligated to do becomes homeschooling hours for Cody (sound familiar?). Yesterday afternoon, I needed to watch a DVD that our church handed out to our 2000 attendees. The “interactive journey” is called “Jesus: Fact or Fiction?”

I popped some popcorn, and we settled down to watch the Jesus story film part (they were careful to explain that the man playing Jesus was just an actor, in case we believed erroneously that we were primary eyewitnesses on our couch with a tub of corn).

Anyway, Cody watched devotedly as Jesus was baptized, turned one basket into multitudes, allowed his feet to be washed by a woman. I tried to encourage dialogue and when a scene came on with a boat rocking in a sea storm, I said, “Oh, is this the place where Jesus walks on water?”

Cody noticing that Jesus was in the boat said, “No, Mom. He calms the water here.”
I said, “Oh, have you seen this movie before?”
He turned and looked incredulously at me, “No, Mom. I’ve read the book – duh!”

I guess he’s being brought up correctly afterall.:)

Another portion of this DVD includes scholars/famous speakers/theologians answering tough questions like: Does God exist? Is there historical evidence for Jesus?, etc.

It was excellent, and it follows with my prior post of being grateful for the grounding in this faith heritage. And it reminded me that there is a strong intellectual empirical basis for our faith (as well as testimonial through personal stories of transformation). Ravi Zacharias, a professor of comparative world religions, also differentiated for me the claims of Christianity and why these matter.

It’s amazing the things there are to learn. Life is good.