Saturday, December 30, 2006

It's raining tonight and one wonders about slick roads out there. However, one must trust.

Scrapbooking is one of those uneasy concepts that floats out there in womanworld these days. About ten years ago, I feigned an interest as I nicely went to someone's product party. From that point forward, a set of chalks and a few stamps lived politely in a bag in one of my back closets. Since that time, I've heard many exclamatory remarks about the hobby; I've witnessed children pressed in between pages, between stickers and stamps and little metal doodads ~~ all looking cute and preserved and playful simultaneously. Yet even though I strolled down the paper aisle looking wistfully at the beautiful designs, I never desired to put all the far-flung flambuoyant pieces together for a bona fide scrapbook. It was too confusing and frivolous, and, I don't know ... womanworldish with a checkbook earmarked for silly escape.

Plus what would hours of focusing on little papers cause me to miss out on in the other bigger world? Too much, I thought.

That was then; this is now, and I've got a pile of little papers and cute frames and styrofoam letters and puffy stickers to dwell upon. "On Walden Pond" may never thoroughly be read. I may never get that Master's degree program. Someone else will step up in women's ministry at church. I've got some piecing to do. It's a woman's prerogative! The debit card was swiped tonight at Michael's Hobby and Craft stores!

Next to my piles of purchased paraphenalia, I have stacks of photos of my adorable daughter. There she is being held on Long Beach in Gloucester, Massachusetts; her yellow yarn poncho and hat brightening the gloom of the early March day; her dad looking curiously at her appearance in a poor student's life. There she and I are arm-in-arm in myriad poses throughout the years, smiling, clinging to one another, as we're a bit both adrift but happy together. Several show her friends, her costumes in plays, her artwork at our kitchen table, her grinning grandparents holding her tightly. Then there are the braces during middle school, and the friends during junior high, and the laughing cousins at the farm. Here she's on a cliff with our church's youth group, scaling Colorado. I'm there too, spending all possible time with the lovely girl who's given me much joy in my life.

The real Scrapbookers keep every little program or menu or item marking an event. To be legitimate (in case a real Scrapbooker comes to scrutinize), I dig through the box in my closet and find little notes my daughter has written me. Cards I've written her. We certainly expressed lots of hearts and xoxoxos. Her scrawl begins to change over time. When I can't stand it any longer, my husband comes to check on me, and I get sympathy and tissues.

But the project will help me piece together what was and what can be held in a meaningful pattern of a beautiful child's life. Our babies are there for us to hold and nurture. They grow, we protect. they grow, we release. It's a life pattern. Surely we can all comply to the pattern.

I found a prayer the other day in a book which has helped me somewhat. If you have a strong-willed child, you might like it too. It goes like this:

"She's wonderful, strong, and spirited. Help her know her strengths. Help her learn to use her spirit in the right ways. Guide her with love. Help her to learn to use her energy wisely. You have the strength to raise this strong-willed child."

I'm looking forward to focusing on these small pieces of paper. I will try not to think about how the more experienced, crafty mom might concoct a multi-dimensioned symmetrical matching page. I'm sure there are a million more products to purchase to make the presentation more perfect. I'll just keep my eye on the smile of my little girl who has continued to smile as a teenager who will still smile as she becomes older. My role in the smile was monumental; even though she's forgotten now, the proof becomes irrefutable when a mother scrapbooks her memories.

I'm finally understanding the concept of scrapbooking!

Let the flower catalogues pour in. All the red, green, plastic hubalahoo of Christmas resides in its storage container as of yesterday afternoon. The house is cleansed; I can breathe easier; the wet cold soil feeds the tubers and bulbs without a thousandshoutingicons (yet).

Christmas is over, hallelujiah, and the season of rebirth approaches!

I'm not sure why I watched the video feed from CNN which showed the noose being placed around Saddam Hussein's neck. I feel sadness strain all through me. I dislike capital punishment, yet I'm sure the victims' families predominantly feel rightfully vindicated. The world is mixed with violence; we need the stories of good to flow upward to the surface. Yet we see Saddam, strained, quizzical, defiant, dead.

My Old Testament reading this morning reminds me that war, takeover, predominance is quite normal. Patterns of history follow the battle stories. Although God allowed the Israelites to defeat the battles to show His predominance as rightful God, I always cringe when the enemy tribes' children and women and elderly were slaughtered, as directed to Moses through Abba, Father. It always strains the "modern mind" to understand the ancient ways and the ways of establishment of One-God, mono-Theism, a Jealous Shepherd.

With the new order, Christ, we pacifists can have a hero, a non-political, non-marching figure of healing and love. It washes the old images into a cleansing flow. Yet with the "modern" strains of battle, predominance, violence, the Old Testament is strangely comforting in that it's a normal pattern which God Himself has gotten involved with. With the introduction of Jesus, however, shouldn't our reactions be different? Should we be so willing to vindicate?

Anyway, I'm sorry for the blood shed on both sides of the Saddam issue. The world creaks and groans with hope of redemption.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Little Twirler Grandma

My mother was nervous and dropped her baton at least three times during the Saturday night family talent show. It was the talking part, she kept saying afterwards, that had her nerves all in a bundle and fingers all a-fumble. But, she kept twirling and dropping while Dad kept repeating "Go Tell it On the Mountain" on his guitar. We all watched and ahhhed during the waist twirl or the half catch. She ended in true majorette form with her knee up and her baton crooked. Her earlier words had rendered us even more sentimental as she shyly spoke about how she treasured us, all of us. We cheered wildly afterwards. I have it on tape, but I think it's too sacred for YouTube.


Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My bones ache, my throat burns, and I've got baked treats to deliver and sundry other Christmas duties. I'm sipping on tea that my neighbor Chinese grandparents brought back from China. Their seven year old translator told my husband that "it's good for you." It's quite pretty tea, with white flowers floating on the yellowed liquid. Almost looks like chamomille, but I don't know and can't translate the Chinese writing on the can. I'm hoping it's magically healthy and makes my symptoms disappear.

My daughter's purse and keys lie nearby. She's sleeping on her brother's bunk. We baked a couple of nights ago and she's been staying, in transition, needing stability, yet always fighting for unlimited freedom. I'm glad she's here. I've been happy to hear that she's blessed her recently widowed stepgrandfather, who cries every time he calls me, by visiting him. Perhaps she is pulling out of those self-centered forces inside of her.

Cody has decided on his own to give some of his birthday money to the Salvation Army. Last night, I told him that I was chilled and he brought me a heater and stuck it right by my feet. Do you ever wonder which of your children will end up taking care of you when you get old? He's becoming a viable candidate!

I need to plan a dinner for Christmas day. My mother-in-law and companion will be joining us ... perhaps the widowed stepgrandfather who has no place to go and fights constant tears. I need the tea to work so that I can go to the grocery store with enthusiasm and vigor. I'm always reminded during times like this of how the grocery store is the hallmark of health. When you're sick, shopping for groceries seems to require as much energy as scaling Mount Hood and just as perilous. Being under the weather has always been good for me to be reminded of how others struggle for long terms and need help. I'm not even that sick, just inconvenienced for a bit.

On Friday, we leave for a couple of days to visit my parents. Supposedly, we're having a family talent show along with the traditional gift-giving. I'm revving up my video camera for my mother's act. I'm thinking that the YouTube title will be: Ozarkian Grandma Twirls in original Uniform to High School Sweetheart's Banjo Pickin'. I think the city folk will love it!


Monday, December 18, 2006

This brave cake was devoured by eight ravenous-for-sugar boys this past weekend. We thank God for a wonderful friendship year for Cody! Long-awaited, but faithfully granted.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Two little brothers once again. Different cute names, different types of haircuts. One set wore Wal-Mart brands; tonight's wore North Face. One set, down in the Ozarks a couple of months ago, brought a smoking grandmother who didn't play; these khakied kids' professor father hammed along with them. Two fiddler boys again. They all sounded awful, but they were cute and hopeful. They'll improve. Are they following me?

The jam session was less than a mile from my house and so, for once, I proclaimed my identity as a picker. Usually, down home, I'm known as (My Dad's Name)'s daughter, and I just follow along, proud, proud to be so because everyone likes him, and he's talented on multi-instruments, and he has twinkly eyes and deep dimples. He even has a Viking-like name which makes it more impressive to be (My Dad's Name)'s daughter. We enter the bluegrass court, and the respect hushes the warriors-muses and their maidens. Not really, but, you know, possibly.

So tonight in a basement, I, sole female, joined the group of boys and men and retrieved my mandolin and song/chord list. One fancy mandolinist barely paid attention to me after he saw that I only wanted to demonstrate backup. Going solo was too scary, and probably too accomplished at this point. The men were fairly quiet, an occassional quip in between selections, mainly lost in the tunes, burrowed, seeking a tap root within and without an essential chord progression, or pick-and-string-reaction -- it was this lostness which seemed quite familiar. Many days, a lost father, staring out the window, hands rolling, mind attuned far-far-away. These tunes are rather old, hearkening back to the Celtic days when we gathered under pavilions with our banners posted, or by our mud homes, outside under a bramble, perhaps, dreaming, finding.

An hour and a half went by, and my hand resembled an arthritic sufferer at the end. I've not chopped that much before.

We, strangers, at first, were bonded by the unwinding of melodic twine. I didn't notice too much that I was the only woman. For me, that is a good sign that I'll most likely return and resume a place beside the squawking boys who follow me down the lane, appearing from the land , the green hills of yesteryear, that never die. No more a rank stranger.

To the remaining men I called, "Goodbye, boys!" And they said, "Come back again!"

Outside the stars winked in time and bid me adieu, too, as I carried my case to the car.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Danger: if your friend is a blogger, your picture may be posted. Well, perhaps these two will never know that they are worldwide now.

These are special friends who deserve posting. We met up on Friday for a long lunch and then on Sunday for a long brunch to celebrate the visit of the tall one from her new home in North Carolina. We touched upon our touchstone memories that draw old friends closer and which always come up during times together. We laughed and wondered how we could be friends with such gifts (at least I did) as each other. But then I think of our different exploits and know that God, and they, have cemented me into their meaningful and fun experiences. This never ceases to amaze. Love is good!
My Iowan friend, the one who was the early tangible proof of God's care for me during my reconnection to faith nine years ago, just called. She brought me to tears, reminding me of how she viewed my maternal relationship to my daughter. The current disappointment always burrows into me, making me feel like a failure. I release and understand it, but it floats down into my spirit at times, and I nurse my losses and inability to do anything.

She was adamant that I did everything possible. She reminded me of how much time and devotion I gave to that girl. Together, my daughter and I drew comments of the bond we seemed to share. One woman approached us at McDonald's and said we were beautiful to watch together. There was love, good exchange, appropriate maternal nursing and giving. I can be confident that I did my best and tried hard.

Now, there's still absence and lingering hurt and deep disappointment. I feel robbed. I feel like I didn't know or do the best. I know the reasons, the forces that I can't control, the requirement that she learns this way, no other will do. Yet, there's grief.

However, my friend is still the tangible proof of God's care, as she crochets and prays for us on the rows of her current yarn project, up there in Iowa where they've since moved. She's a mother, guided by Mary and Jesus, who knows that the process and the questions can be painful. That the best we can do is lift it up for the ultimate care and deliverance. Blessed reassurance.
I've had one of those weeks of wrestling and straying. I hate to admit this when everyone else seems quite perfect and good. It adds to my stack of what's unenjoyable about being human, about being myself. (In the utility room, I hear two of our cats fighting/wrestling. The young one, Jeremy, must assert his prowess over the older female. Cat fights, inner tension, sin nature vs. new creature, all rolls over each other, growling until separated, until noticed and divided.)

Desires have led me into the roll and tumble where claws and teeth grip at me to submit to them. I have allowed that power to make me fearful that nothing can intervene, that I will become under the power, and the valuable will become swatted into a roaring flame. It truly feels that powerful, like the bobcat versus the house-kitten. Does everyone else wrestle as much or am I just less faithful, more flawed? I hear stories that I'm not alone, yet it's always a lonely thing which some never mention, or no one asks in a comfortable setting.

The weekend sided more with the attack against the pull, though. I went to a church service which retained a sacred space just for me (and others needing it), endowing me with injections of necessary imagery. Words poured forth from a chosen speaker about a light appearing out of the darkness, coming into the world so that those who believe would not be empowered by darkness but would be upheld by the light, would become part of the light. I closed my eyes and let it fill me, a hope and longing, and then a certainty that I was still maintained and described by the light which was and is found in the Savior. The babe born, the babe slain, the babe risen. I can attach my whole being to these and find mystery, reality, power, and redemption.

This morning, I read of Joshua and Caleb and how they believed wholeheartedly. It gives me a prayer and a hope as well. Within me, the tussle still happens, yet it is calmer, more subdued, put into its place as I refocus on what I'm maintained and described by. Peace is offered to us only by submission. May we learn to submit instantly the inner turmoil and allow the light to permeate as is promised. Amen.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Shhhh.... the boys are in bed as my fingers lightly tip-tap on the keyboard. If they begin to suspect and appear under the doorframe which leads to the sleeping places, they will be self-righteous. Cody will exclaim and wake up all the cats and the Dad, and I will be a loser, one who backs-stabs the principle of our new rule which I wrangled out of the males last night.

The new rule is to turn off all technology after eight o'clock p.m.

The time to enforce appeared decisively last night. At bedtime, I read Cody a story from his Bible about Jesus caring for his disciples by washing their feet at the last supper. In a profound text-to-world connection, Cody commented, eyes a-glaze, that no one takes care of others in the wilderness of Runescape (the computer game that he had stopped playing minutes before). Cute, yet ... A rightful lurching spirit inside of me lurched, and I left to conference immediately with the Big Male.

"I'm sick and tired of everyone staring at screens around here!"

He paused the action in his old-hit show to give me an incredulous look: "Huh?"

"Yes, I feel lonely and disconnected, and I know way too much about Britney Spears and George, Sr., crying about George W. We don't talk any more!! Ever!!"

"What are you talking about? Yes, we do! We spent fifteen minutes yesterday after lunch! ... It's just I get tired and need to unwind." He was frantically thinking of ways to preserve his unwholesome wholesome addiction to reruns of Little House on the Prairie. He just loves to focus on Laura and Mary instead of me.

After some more irrational emotional outbursts, we finally decided to ban technology after 8 p.m. as an experiment. And, tonight, it was wonderful, warm, interactive. We played a game, I read a National Geographic article to Cody for fun, and he played, as of old, with his multiple marbles. During his Bible story reading time, he was glazed over for sleep and seemed much less wired.

Therefore, with every tip-tap, I'm looking for a shadow. Wondering if they'll find out.

Please don't tell. :)

I'm signing off now. Afterall, Jesus didn't blog about the Last Supper, now did He?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The big snow worries the kitten, although you can see behind him signs of his earlier play. "Let me in; this stuff is cold!" I did, but now he's out again in it. The early western sky this morning sits atop the blue house at the front of our cul-de-sac. Last night around midnight I trudged solitarily past it toward home, carrying a heavy laptop and work files. My husband's stubborn trip up from Arkansas left him stranded at the top of our street. You would think he could've chosen some mountainous ravine to slide into, but he chose our street, right in the middle, thankfully. It was wonderful and peaceful to be out alone at night in the 12 inch snow.

Earlier in the day, I earned the Elements! Warm bread and red wine were handed to me through the door by my cardiac-risky neighbor whose drive I shoveled. Now I can better understand Apostle Paul's spirit of service. I was quite pleased with the exchange!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I blame this little lady for my overpowering sugar tendencies.

Mmmmm.... they were all delicious. She's a wonderful baker (and mother)!

A Thanksgiving tradition:
Everyone was sore the next day, except for the spectator dog.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Halley's cometHalley's comet at dawn ,

The feud between Harold and William set it off. Right before their medieval battle, a fireful, fearful flash streaked in the sky. It was a bad omen for Harold as he fought for the English throne. He was killed in battle and William the Conqueror, from Normandy no less, became victorious and was crowned! Yeah for the Normans (so saith some of them)!

Halley's comet was therefore documented in a tapestry depicting the two foes. Scientists later were able to use this to help measure the frequency of the 76 year repetitive orbit.

From that point on, Cody had a million questions, and we researched. And, coincidentally, Astronomy day was orbiting unawares until I saw a notice regarding a lecture at an area high school's planetarium. It was on meteorite impacts in Missouri. And, we hustled and bustled over there late one evening to hear how we are not immune to devastating hits here in the middle of the U.S. A big geologist scientist huffed and puffed and told us so. We also saw the missives which had been dropped or drilled out. Then, the planetarium owner/teacher lit it up and we were staring at the seven sisters, and the evil eye of Medusa, and Pegasus.

Cody was happy to hear that Venus could be seen with the naked eye here in a couple of weeks. He loved the word naked. Yes, in your southwest sky, look for the bright star which is quite the lovely planet, Venus.

And now in the latest National Geographic, we see that the feature of the spread is on Saturn. There's even a pull out map!

Homeschooling has no rivals, me happily thinks. And, so, here on this Thanksgiving week, I am happy for all the syncronism that just happens when it comes to learning.

Yeah for William the Conqueror!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The sermon this weekend was outstanding; I take back what I said about my pastor's irrelevant sermons ~~ I could certainly relate to this one. We often lean on rickety stools for relief from our pressures / desires (and thus the pastor leaned upon one) instead of the firm seating upon which our Lord provides. This firm seat has no other problems surrounding it that could cause us to crash down. I need to go to the sturdy more often than the shaky.

He also commented that trying, trying, trying isn't enough to overcome our genetic spiritual weakness, our sin nature. Only trusting in grace, and not our own efforts, will work.

Ah, often I set myself on fire for not trying hard enough. I forget about grace which will help me, guide me, uphold me. Trying is important, yet perfectionism is impossible which is what I often seem to judge myself by.

Afterwards, an elder banjo picker from my bluegrass weekly class stopped me and asked if we could get together to play some time. Others will too. I think the music migration from the south to the north is occurring. Heehaw! Us'ns are pickin'&grinnin' in the city!

Friday, November 10, 2006

I wonder if this is the season's last floral bouquet? Anyway, I'm thankful for their tenacious blooms. God made mums for melancholy.

Cody strikes his muscular Viking pose with the yummy non-yeast Viking bread that he helped make. It was delicious dipped in herbal oil. I wonder if the Vikings did that too? They probably dipped it in the blood of the Franks ... aiii!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The foreign language public school teacher came out and shook my hand today when Cody hopped in the car after his class. She praised his efforts, and I could tell that she was proud of him as a student, despite some earlier difficulties. I'm proud too which is why I'm unabashedly sharing! He received a B+ for his class grade. Yeah!

My daughter's grandmother died earlier this morning of the cancer. It's all sad. I'm glad that I was able to say goodbye to her. My daughter is naturally extremely sad.

The elections ... wow! They're over. A calm is settling. The old pattern of change in the House and Senate happened during a president's second term. We'll see. Missouri here surprised me with its vote on several issues. Cody had thousands of political questions as we went to the polls, lit a candle yesterday for God's favor, and followed the coverage. All learning experiences.

I'm wresting with a huge country ham for a bookclub dinner tomorrow evening here at my home. I have a thousand things to do before approximately 16 women come over. Must stop blogging then!

Monday, November 06, 2006

The thought of "mailbox by mailbox" keeps me going in the morning when I want to extend my course a bit farther. It's easy for me to get near the end of my run and feel as if quitting is completely due me. My mind and body begin working together so that when my feet go past the designated mailbox, I'm slumping, holding my side, leaning over, and walking slowly the short distance home.

However, these days, the idea of persevering through the process of discipline is enough to motivate me to try another mailbox. Anne Lamott expresses the idea in her wonderful writing book called "Bird by Bird" which talks about setting short-focused goals to help move you on a longer path. Don't think of the whole novel, think about the next paragraph.

I can apply this idea in much in my life! Here are a few for fun:

church service by church service ==> at times, I just want to skip the whole irrelevant relevant sermon my pastor preaches, yet I know its helped me before, and I know the discipline of going to church is a small act of worship.

tea bag by tea bag ==> I have way too many boxes of tea on my stove. Some boxes I've dipped into for at least five years now!

chapter by chapter ==> when I'm stuck wallowing in the lovely abstraction of a Thomas Merton book (and put it down to never return because I want to be stuck there without closure in the loveliness), I know there are a few more chapters from which I can learn from if I keep going.

lesson by lesson ==> at times, it's delightful, other times excrutiating ... the homeschool life can be both, and I need to keep planning and believing in the choice for my son.

beef by beef ==> we have about one package of beef left from my parent's farm: it is neck bones. Do I really wish to see this project to its final end??

political ad by political ad ==> November 7th cometh! I'm grateful for the political process and its deadline!

toilet paper roll by toilet paper roll ==> is it possible to create a mammothly big roll which lasts at least a week?!

forgiveness by forgiveness ==> okay, I'll try better.

kiss by kiss ==> an essential gesture to the loved one, even when it doesn't cross your mind for days!

pie by pie ==> that thought makes me happy.

Do you have any by-ies to keep you going? Please share if so!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Two different recent conversations caused me to think of the following wonderful poem, which means that I must post, must post. Enjoy!

by: George Herbert (1593-1632)

WHEN God at first made Man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by--
Let us (said He) pour on him all we can;
Let the world's riches, which dispers├Ęd lie,
Contract into a span.

So strength first made a way,
Then beauty flow'd, then wisdom, honour, pleasure:
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all His treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

For if I should (said He)
Bestow this jewel also on My creature,
He would adore My gifts instead of Me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:
So both should losers be.

Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to My breast.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

She was frail, small, shrunken upon her wheelchair. But her intelligent large eyes lifted as she saw me enter through the front door. The hospice nurse was wheeling her into a much needed shower, after an hour of her stubborn (il)logic refusing to yield to the cleaning process, the lack of control over small things.

We grabbed hands, hugged, and I kissed her cheek. She then looked at me and said, "Thank you. Sometimes a person doesn't use the chance to say 'thank you' and then they feel guilty, and time passes." And, I told her it had been an honor to know her and that she had been a good mother, grandmother, mother-in-law. A good and faithful servant that God would reward soon. She smiled and cried and was wheeled away.

Her husband related the deterioration struggles to me, and he wept, tired, bone tired.

After her shower, she came back fatigued, barely able to speak, and I rolled her light brown, graying hair for her..

We've had ambivalent feelings about one another in the past. Sixteen years ago, she was my mother-in-law, a complicated relationship bound by the complexities of her son's deep issues combined with my upbringing, and the clash and pain and the ending, all exaggerated perhaps by her (yet, when does a mother stop caring?). However, she proved herself helpful and caring and faithful in regards to her granddaughter. These last years, we have dialogued and prayed more than ever to figure out what we can do to love and work together for her.

The cancer will take over before too long. She watched me with her big, sad eyes, curlers all on her head, as I left. One final look perhaps before she peers over the edge and goes.

I was glad to have been accepted by her at the end. She is a noble person who will be missed. May God grant her serenity and comfort as she departs.

Monday, October 30, 2006

For some reason, in this season of strong natural outdoor pungency, I'm finally appreciating the old time sacrificial system. For instance, a young bull, or a baked bread, or an undefective animal, or a ram, or a tenth of an ephap of fine flour all are outlined for the honor in the chapter of Leviticus.

It's all rather strange still. We like our animals. We hold high the standard we gently call "caretaker" of created life. And, we follow a substitutiary system in the modern faith. However, I find comfort now in knowing that a strong elemental force of spiritual determination involved such sensory activities as burning grain, dipping fingers into blood, and, mostly, laying hands on the animals head in gratitude, honor, and obedience before asking of them the sacrifice.

I think if I lived back then I would cry for the animal, for the warmth of life under the fur, and for the serious commitment that its death would mean. The critter would be unaware in its innocence; the death, for it, would be unjustified. For some reason, I think perhaps this would make me feel even more obligation to attach myself to the meaning behind the symbolic act. It died, therefore, I would live in greater gratitude for what its death meant. Of course, for some, the loss of life itself would mean horror and sorrow and resentment towards the meaning/force behind the act. I've been there myself. Certainly, many wrongful acts of sacrifice have been committed, as we tend to sully things here on earth.

For some reason, though, in this pungent season, I can read this today and appreciate these ways of yielding to the supremacy of Spirit and the methods we've been given to speak to Him. Tangible things of smell and taste and sight, from tangible things like grain, mean, and horns, were the touchstones upon which we demonstrated our desire of communion.

Markers still remain, although different now with the ordained sacrificial act of Christ. I feel elated, at times, to be a part of the intricate, yet simply presented, touchstones of communion which ties back to the earliest records of our faith.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How pleasant must be the mind of the absolutist, I thought while punishing myself on the treadmill this morning. She/he knows the way to cut through the tangle of thorns I often find myself snagged upon. And, they cut through with such assurance, with a bit of swagger at times, with humble obedience to something in mind perhaps, with their directional compass rarely backtracking or moving to the right or left. They march down the trail, confident of their views, or the views of their advisors.

Perhaps I move also, yet my mind must absorb the particulars within the process, the individual thorns, the patch of light that breaks through. Advisors present their views of where to travel, but ultimately, I must sift it and view the other side of it, and then move on. It's not simply an intellectual process, but also one of an emotive nature. Perhaps it's caution or distrust or need for knowledge and wisdom before assertion. Perhaps it's indecisive foolishness.

All of these swirling thoughts come as a result of the constant croaking of politics that's going on right now. It's a croak which contains loud dissenting toad-views on multiple issues. On one side of the pond, the frogs croak loudly about morality issues, yet many individual frogs have been jabbed in acts of behavioral impropriety; these toads have also bombed the pond next to them which is now red with blood and horrible civil strife. The sanctity of toad life laughed at by the aggression of its neighbors. They also capture others and do not give them a right to a fair trial, as habeus corpus, an old golden rule of treatment, was taken away by their chief. It's quite a morally disappointing time for the frogs on this side. Yet, absolutists who believe in their ideals, and ideals which come from a higher spiritual source, march on for them, despite any deed done. Any damaging reports of these are disregarded with two highly powerful words: liberal press.

The other side seems a safer place to be at the moment. These toads are in the minority and do not have the power to change certain bedrocks of the civilization. They also wave the flag of compassion for the underrepresented on both sides. Supposedly. Yet these toads have no visible leader who can rally; they don't have the token blessing of language on their side which helps them to shape any beliefs into a palpable form which can be delivered to even small toads and be understandable. They don't stand on a rock, like the other toads across from them, as old prophet toad Moses did, in order to gain stature as a spiritual nature. Furthermore, they seem morally bereft, as one of their former chiefs indiscretely caused ripples of shame and guilt due to his horns, a perfect scapegoat toad. They often take the sides of liberty, despite the implications of it. They're in a bit of ruin right now, barely hopping, barely making splashes for any change.

Then there are issues such as stem cell research in the society at large there. Issues such as diplomacy standards. Other wars causing suffering among fellow frogs. Securing value of life to the born and unborn frogs (in war and in peace). Budget deficits and balancings (a budget is a moral document as well as a law perhaps?). Equal opportunity for all toads. Pond security. Pond natural disaster response. The list goes on.

I prayed this morning for an opening within the thorns for me to walk confidently down. Perhaps this will be granted; perhaps it comes from the hard work of truly peering into the limitations of frog government and into the thorns on each side; and into patches of clearing. I'm going to work at clearing a path; I know in what direction I lean, yet I've got to figure out if this is still good, despite the sights of those enviably tromping by me, so full of confidence in their direction.

I need to also pray and process upon why I use the anology of toads/frogs for my reflection this morning. Toads and frogs and thorny paths ... how about swans and gazelles and flower gardens!? I think I'm predisposed to 1) mix lots of bad metaphors! 2) see the political landscape as cold, squirmy, ugly, horny, and, um, disturbing. With all the soundbites of muck going on, it's the best I can muster!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What one feels when their teenage daughter is gone:

1) peace in the immediate air

2) unfashionably put together

3) failure

4) fear of headlines and doorbells

5) need of remaining family members

6) desire to scour garage sales for used nursery items

7) hope

8) eyeliner security ( no longer "borrowed"))

9) more fiscally responsible Saturdays

10) utter dependence upon God mixed with undulating faith

Friday, October 20, 2006

Our mother Kitty understands that her duty is to go for the jugular in case a robber breaks in during the middle of the night and interrupts her peaceful sleeping boy (who always finds his way to the couch around 3 a.m., grabbing his watchcat and preparing her bed as he goes). It's a good arrangement for both.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Some days, in the fall, when the sun becomes frayed by the clouds, wet leaves outside, on the ground, in the gutter, against the curb, seem quite sad and lonely. What I project on them boomerangs into my own presence against the glass, looking out, wondering where society and warmth are, wondering if I'll experience fullness again. I wonder where the Presence of life is, if it ever Is, if I ever knew it As. Hollowness haunts.

It has been an interestingly lonely type of day in this way. I had an old friend over to play music and for soup, but still something persisted and kept a sense of aloneness alive. As soon as the friend left, the feeling crescendoed into even more plaintive inward murmurings as if I had not seen a soul outside the cabin in a long time. As if a fuller emptiness had settled to stay. I looked out, and even in the cul-de-sac, it was only me and the gray sky and the geese and the wretched leaves, once living and green and hopeful, but now fallen, pasted, cold. One might could see this as the beautiful angst of the autumn season, the pulsations of the dying cycle, the final cries of end. We've been given the opportunity to participate in its own overt symbols and meaning, the reminder of earthly mortality. Still, the opportunity of this feels like a forced lesson, one we'd rather turn our eyes from.

Simply put ... it's just late October on a gray day with the sense of absence permeating the air.

I'm grateful for it's seasonal song, though. I feel lonely, but known as one with the hope of green growth in another season of good remembrance.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

When I walked into her house, she had her instrument strapped over her neck, and she was plucking, picking golden sounds. It made me smile and think of houses that are full of music. I grew up with the constant clucking of a banjo, mandolin, or guitar coming from my dad who almost always had an instrument in his hand. I can still see him now staring out the window, practicing runs in an absent-minded dreamy way, as if somewhere there was a higher plane where everyone's fingers pressed forth to produce forth harmony. He taught all three of his children the rhythm guitar to accompany his runs. During special weekends, we had music parties, where men would show up with their instruments, and wives, and kids, and we would all become drenched together in the pouring forth of the full flow of hill music. I can still hear the three part harmonies and the instruments vying for leads.

Now, I'm trying to recreate that. My fingertips are buzzing even now from some obsessive practice, during television shows, when I have time between family and home duties. I feel as if somewhere there is a higher plane where music reigns.

I wonder if in other parts of the world (or perhaps in the States), a house full of music is perhaps in full swing right now? Surely this does not happen just in the developed parts of the world? Is music a luxury? Bluegrass developed really from the impoverished moutain areas in the 1930's, compliments of folks like Bill Monroe. The banjo even originated from Africa.

Did you grow up with a house full of music? Partially full? A little bit? What was that like? If you haven't, do you try to have a "house of music" now for yourself or for family? Please comment and let me know.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

If life gives you an open mandolin case, by all means crawl in and purr like a princess. Tomorrow, you may find yourself begging at the back door only to find that your family has gone away for the weekend. Therefore, you should leave lots of variagated hairs wherever you like which helps the family remember who they may have left behind.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

My husband is a rocker. Yes, in his day, he dug Chicago, Boston, and John Cougar Mellencamp whom he listened to in his blue, white vinyl topped 1973 Chevy Malibu. But what has transcended the charts and time is his affinity for the rocking chair. Any will do. He sits, reads, rocks, does his work, tells me his woes, eats, rocks, yells at Mizzou offensive coaches, holds a baby, rocks, brainstorms our problems, watches Andy Griffith and Little House on the Prairie (favorites) and rocks. If there was a rocking competition, his toes would be taunt, tenacious, triumphant!. We have many different rocking chairs all with different squeaks, thumps, glides throughout the home. I think he needs a shawl and an aphagan and a knit cap. He'll make a natural grandpa one day.

Friday, October 13, 2006

During our parting prayer, Miz Verna thanked God for helping me let my daughter go this week. Some of the circled, standing, hand-holding women murmured, "Yayus" and "Amen". The expressions were mixed up, wrong, but right at the same time. A peace had settled in, a rightness to a prickly situation, and, for me, the women were affirmation markers, like breathing altars upon which similar sacrifices of raw blood had been spilt.

She's gone, observing her needs of defiance and independence. God granted me a parting gift, though: a hug and a mutual expression of love. A long time coming. It was an affirmation that my little one will remember my care and hope and desire for her. An affirmation that she's still able to receive love. May she be safe and a speedy learner, and open to God's murmurings.

May the Lord know that the state of my heart requires His constant presence.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

When not asleep and worshipping the older cat, Jeremy is jumping on her head. Savoring (snapping) the peaceful moments around here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We are in a bit of an upheaval right now family wise. There may be an exchange with my mother in a couple of hours. I love the verse that says that God will grant us wisdom if we ask for it. Aiich to trust myself in knowing what to do ... I'd rather trust him and just go forward the best I can, with the consultants I can, with the prayers and pleas we have. The day isn't over, so we're hunkering incapable of doing much but tossing it upwards in trust.

Last night, a friend and I attended a bluegrass class together. The teacher is a lovely sweet man who conducts we random mandolin, banjoes, guitars for two hours while he smiles, hops around, demonstrates pick hold.

He finally arrived at a point where we were entrusted with a tune. The classical guitarist in the corner, the old man grandpa-jones on the banjo beside me, the frightened young woman with her G runs, myself, a bit oversure on the mandolin, and the other six permeated the room with our cacophony. Our teacher got a quizzical scientist look on his face, and said, "Yes, we'll work on that one over time."

The song was highly familiar to me, and it made me grin with its reference to hoe-cakes, cabbage, possom in a 'simmon tree, ole coon dog ... Made me swallowed up all over again by the memories of the Ozarks. Pickin' and grinnin' during hard times shore does make them easier.

Bile them cabbbage down, onwards and upwards.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to thee, and thou givest them their food in due season.
Thou openest thy hand, thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.
He fulfils the desire of all who fear him, he also hears their cry, and saves them.
The LORD preserves all who love him; but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

from Psalm 145

Water, truth, for confused thoughts during troubled times. Joy and comfort stretched forth!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Epaphroditus, a regular guy, who cared and made a difference, famously in Paul's life. I'm supposed to be memorizing the script for teaching the 200 or so kindergarteners through second grade this weekend at church. We're learning about how if we care for others, we can make a difference.

I'm needing the message this extraordinarily difficult parenting week. Plodding on with the Asperger situations, plodding on with teen girl who needs lessons, caring, God, home.

I keep thinking of the women in the circle on Thursday night. Verna's son was in prison, roomed with his dad. Her daughter, an unwed mother of two. The other three, creating heartbreak of one sort or another. But, there she was glistening still with hope and confidence in the Lord. Dee as well. Nina too. Judy has been there. Mothers with punctures in their full hearts.

I become deceived in thinking that I'm unique in my troubles.That there was some breakdown somewhere that was my fault. Yet as I pour over the memories, I see myself with my beautiful little girl, and we are close (as she'll permit in her individuality), and we are an example of relational family. And, I made all sorts of sacrifices for the good of her and my son. And, I turned over things to God as best as I humanly could. Yet somewhere there was a breakdown and I want to blame myself. How could I help my son's condition? Yet, now I need to superhuman help him the best I can. That is crazy. Yet it feels as if there was a breakdown somewhere.

I keep hearing the women say things like, "Don't worry. God will have buffers to protect your daughter wherever she is. There are people He wants her to meet still that can help her." I pray for buffers. However, don't mothers truly know that there can come a point where there are no buffers at all? That young stupid girls can become lost within bondages? That people can become victims of cruelty, which the Amish schoolhouse newly symbolizes in the line of a multitude of other buffer-free icons? Buffers are often a matter of circumstance, not divine intervention. This, I clearly acknowledge in the face of fact.

Faith versus reality is difficult at times like these. Yet, given the world we live in, I know that I need the good news and the good hope and the ultimate reality of Reconciliation more than ever. Please, Lord, help my unbelief. Grant me second by second hope. Allow me the peace and acceptance of whatever happens upon this Earth with the knowledge that You care and exist and will redeem all of it one, fine, healing day.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Last night, I went to an interracial Christian support circle, began last night by a woman in a difficult neighborhood. It was truly interracial, not just a token here or there of white or black, we were mixed up because we are all Mixed UP. It was wonderful. I received motherly support backed by claims of victory. Have I claimed "victory" lately or does it still sound archaic? These women brought back the modernity of it for me, the timelessness of faith in Jesus and the hope that we do have victory in Him. We all cried for our kids. I was advised again and again to let my daughter go, as she did yesterday, and God will bring her back. There will be buffers. I can hope for the faithful application of the Father himself in her life. I have to release all my pain disappointment fear and let him replace it with certainty of faithfulness and care and hope. We all prayed for our similiar painful situations and to be warriors through it. Okay, I was a little stiff in the circle, yet the Spirit was fluid all around. I definitely needed a church like this in my life.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Blackberry cobbler
Chocolate cheesecake brownies with chips
Gooseberry cobbler
Iced chocolate brownies
Chocolate chip cookies

Ah I wanted them all. My uncle spooned his blackberry cobbler out lovingly from his stained styrofoam cup and said, "She makes the best cobbler." About 15 minutes later, his brother, my dad, forked up the sweet goo of his gooseberry cobbler and commented, "Mmmmm, she makes the best cobbler ever." I belong to this family, at this reunion; all my kinfolk were slurping up sugary substances and were transported into the angel's band due to yes, white, heavenly sucrose. I stared and asked them to describe in detail the taste. Since August 14th, I have crazily not partaken of my favorite, genetically-imbued taste: sugary sweetness. The weekend was difficult, but I think what's worse is that the sight of those delectables have caused a craving for these last three or four days that I haven't experienced yet. Too, in October, I become poised for sugary flow due to Halloween candy, apple pie baking, late night brownie mixin'. Oh, geez, I need to stop; for sure, I'll dream tonigh about pouring an unbaked cake mix down my throat.

The positive side of this is that I did not once feel bloated and overfull this weekend. My extra "five" are gone; the tire around the waist has been deflated; my mind feels less glazed than ever.

Oh darn. This has been a totally good thing! Ploddin' on, ploddin' on.....


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The smell of rainy leaves permeate the trail this morning. As I go, I try not to think of my wonderful friend Shari too overly much. We used to see the trail together in all of its mid-morning Monday glory as we chittered and chattered and bespoke of His harmonies all around, even in the day of cloud. We also never had anything to prove in our semi-athleticism. If we walked, the talk was worth any slack in output. If we cried over some hardships, we kept hobbling on. Many times, we just giggled; she was the master of word association silliness and spiritual impromptu amusing wisdom. We had fun, more than.

In August, she moved to North Carolina. Her left-behind college son is somewhere here, moving in the dark, perhaps clustering with someone. The memory of her triathlete husband is most likely moving through the minds of some of his closest friends here, who are the most devout and running full-steam ahead. There were tears with them too: tough ironmen competitors losing a cherished friend.

I pass and pray by the opening into Shari's old subdivision where their house stands vacant desperate for a contract. I count the dark wooden bridges, recalled from the day runs, in order to gauge my distance and turnaround point. My pace must be different than everyone else's here -- runners are either ahead of or behind me. There seems to be a huge gap between me and others. I try not to think of that too overly much either.

Shari's e-mails from North Carolina talk about her resolve to "plod on, plod on". It's not easy for her to leave all comfortable familiar markers behind. She doesn't even know the bridges to count there in Winston-Salem. She runs mainly with the dog.

I want to quit and walk like we used to do when we simply felt like it. However, I feel indentured to the phrase I hear in my mind and spirit now: Plod on, plod on. The rain on the leaves agree. I try to chase any other thoughts into the nearby shadows.

Blessings and happiness to you, dear friend.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Yes, I'm happy to be learning about the circle of fifths and the tremelo and the chord movements. But, it's just exciting to be able to play Soldier's Joy here in this town, where I am right now. (I also like my mandolin teacher's wonderful facial wrinkles and how they connect to the music she plays, and how perhaps my developing ones can too -- my new fortysomething beauty adaptation, ha).

This weekend, we'll be traveling down south where they play the music in little places here and there. First Dad wants me to stop off Friday at Plummer's where his group is playing, and I'm welcome to join in. Then, we have the big family reunion cookout on our farm Saturday night where we've always been the entertainment (they even call us that!).

So this morning, during the schedule of my adult life here, there was a time and place collapse, and I was there, and there was here, and sixty precious minutes rolled all around happily.
We had four boys here yesterday, and I daresay, the play went well. When I watch Cody smile and hear him practice flexibility, I know that he's improving tremendously. After reading some of the entries on the Asperger-At-Home yahoosupport homeschooling group, I acknowledge that Cody has a mild case comparatively, and I should be thankful always. To be fair to the Christian mother who pointed out his deficienies, she did it out of protection for her young kids. As I explained further, she opened up her heart and trusted and the play time was simple boy fun with video games and outdoor running and big smiles. Cody was not confronted with a shut door, and he behaved fairly well. I should know ~~ I'm the mother who watches and critiques and pulls him aside and takes note like a scientist practitioner. The mother did not know me either like, say, many women in my church. Yes, generally, there are issues in Christian circles with accepting plurality, I believe; however, I don't want to criticize her specifically, even though her comments brought up a wave of fear and despair. Cody definitely has some social learning still ahead of him. I definitely can learn more about teaching him too, even in a more diligent way. I do become overwhelmed with the task, yet he gives me much back in return. It's difficult to imagine being the mother of any other kid.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Another Christian homeschooling mother, a pastor's wife, just tried to break up her boys' friendship with Cody. I've been quite sad since yesterday at co-op when he was rambunctious, acting out, socially wonked. This is Asperger's Syndrome rearing itself, and the reaction from the crowd is of misunderstanding, and oft, rejection. However, once I explained, painfully disclosed, to her, she agreed to let her boys play. I proposed setting time limits which we are going to do. It's just that Cody is such a good kid with a good heart. He loves his Bible time; he loves to play; he wants to do well; he wants to be a good friend. Christian mothers, please show automatic grace to others. My friend from the secular homeschool group offered us unconditional acceptance from the start for which I have supreme gratitude.

In other news, the stars were merry this morning at 5:30, twinkling on the trail as we headlampers ran towards our course mark. I went five miles for the first time in a long time, thanks to the aid of Maggie, a new friend who turned off where I did, up by the lonely Reactor and baseball field, up up and up towards the ending lot. A few miles, a bunch of stars, a swath of grace.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The script called for me to choose two volunteers and have them imitate my crazy dance in order to illustrate Elisha following Elijah. A couple of first graders came up to the stage, and I instructed them to watch me carefully so they could copy the dance. After kicking my arms, legs, elbows, knees outwardly wildly, I asked them to perform the same thing. But the little girl crossed her arms, shook her head, and said, "It was too silly. That wasn't a good dance at all. I won't do that." Ah kids .... they're just too rebellious these days. And mature.

We went to the eastern St. Louis area yesterday to visit my sister; late into the night Cody, his grandmother, and aunt did the X-Box's Dance Revolution. Every so often, my eyes would slit open where I had collapsed on the couch, and I would glimpse my mother prancing on the arrows, staring at the techno screen, reliving flashdance (in a way) granny-style. I think she's going to be ready for the Trot off Your Turkey 5K this November.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A flight.

A familiar street ~~ college students brisk by, two fiftysomething women in bright bike gear wobble from seat to store, an occassional big-eyed toddler girl stretches up one arm to link to the above, a bright-eyed street scraggler glides away among the people who walk the sidewalks during our town's September Thursday night festivals.

I sit at a plastic table in front of a custard store. Behind me, the J-school takes notes. Behind it, my husband and son scamper around the columns, a requisite response to the cracked open campus which tonight permits an alum to introduce his son to collegiate pomposity, and the customary frivolity to test it.

In front of me move five stationed women. One glistens on the accordian; another perks up next to her bass; my friend shoulders her guitar; two dulcimer ladies wave their magic, wondrous wands. Their music reminds me of my days as a highland lass in Scotland, reminiscent of the old festivals where Robert Burns and I used to kick up our heels. Or not. But, I happily sit back as the music washes over me and is remindful. Returns me to a land. A field of Queen Anne's lace and daisies. And, I am young all over, and gleeful. I smell the place which reopens again with the melodies. I kick up my feet and giggle, and whirl.

I have secret hopes of being in the group, yet am just checking in on them. They know nothing about my playing or singing or Dad in the Ozarks who can burn "Earl's Breakdown" with me along with him.

The women are enjoying themselves. The bass player singer belts out her tunes without any effort. She grins as she directs her vocals to a passerby-er, "Hey good lookin' what you got cookin'?" I met her just a week ago at a local venue for a disco reunion concert with Sister Sledge and KC and the Sunshine Band; she and four of us forty-something women formed a Conga line and chugged around the sports arena, waving at the band on the stage who waved back, hipping along until we were out of the limelight, laughing crazily.

Now she is on stage here, streetside, grinning mischieviously at me and those playing around her. All of the women frolic on their chosen instruments. The accordian player occassionally grabs her guitar and mandolin and leads her girls into new sights and sounds. Her eyes are lit, alive; the wrinkles on her face upturn to the captured flight of the chords. All unknown concerns she carries melt away. The dulcimer women pounce prettily upon their strings, oblivious to anything but their precise mallet placement upon their most perfect pling. Pa-ling!

I keep staring, listening, returning. Keep sending my family away to wander. It's just I'm stricken with the desire to be like these musicians, aging into tune and memory and cadence and dance. As I clap, I send out a plea for invitation. If not with them, then with someone who knows the same field, the same calloused finger tips, the same practiced lightness of being.

The walk to the car is happy, despite the concerns I carry. Tomorrow, I will seek more of this music I know that I am a part of. A pling! A promise.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Which Major Romantic Poet Would You Be (if You Were a Major Romantic Poet)?

You are Percy Bysshe Shelley! Famous for your dreamy abstraction and your quirky verse, you're the model "sensitive poet." A vegetarian socialist with great personal charm and a definite way with the love poem, you remain an idol for female readers. There are dozens of cute anecdotes about you, and I love you.
Take this quiz!">quiz!

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

As I write, Cody creates a game map for Photodude-asis, the brave character who must do his duty within the dangerous terrain of a leaf. I mean carbon dioxide clusters galore. Sticky icky glucose needing distribution. Water and oxygen currents aswirl. Go Photodude!

Of course, the hero only came about out of intense need due to lack of brain regurgitation. Last week, we read about the photosynthesis process in the science text, we collected leaves to examine their structures, we reviewed our notes; however, twice when Cody took a little comprehension grasp quiz, he would not remember a single thing about photosynthesis!

I bought this terrific little book which I had stashed away and forgotten about from Prufrock Press called "Talent Scout: Units for Developing Multiple Talents" based on the Multiple Intelligences concept. In it, the educator provides various methods to arrive at understanding by using: kinisthetic; empathetic; personal connection; musical; and spatial approaches. I'm hooked! I think this will work with Cody. Now to go look through all my lessons to create some of these components...

Perhaps I can only do this because of being off sugar for three weeks and two days....? :) Just had to subtly brag there. And, of course, with an outright brag comes an issue of accountability for oneself in order to avoid being the prideful fool. Anyway, obviously, I'm still looking for reasons to not cave to my cravings! No one say the word "Butterfinger" to me, pa-leaze. :)

Take care!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Afternoons beg for ice cream. A quick hop in the car and I'm sidling up to the window where the cheery redclad teen hands me that whipped tousled pile of cream with glistening specks of Butterfinger, all for me to redspoon hunker into and perhaps finish before the two mile trip home. I'm totally tasting it now, imaginatively that is since ...

I'm deep into the second week of living sugar free. My symptoms were: depression, headaches, puffy eyes, mood swings, mental confusion (finally, something to blame this on!:). We have diabetes on both sides of my family which tells me that to live a more quality life, I must look honestly at my sugar intake.

handfuls of chocolate chips from the Sam's bigbag
brownies for my "kids"
kettle corn for supper
lemon ice in the afternoon

are several examples of my problem. Besides diabetes, I'm also worried about Alzheimers as new research is showing a connection between high sugar diet and increased possibility of this or dementia. In my 40's, I'm already showing signs of dementia! (Or, the "Big Change" perhaps)

Therefore, no sugar for me. No quick rushes to the head anymore. No crashes for the full blown out effect of over-the-top insulin production. I decided to just stop the cycle. During the first week, I felt the withdrawal symptoms, but this week, I have felt awesome. My moods are not sabatoging me. The healthy food I've been replacing the sugar with is doing its work too.

The tough part, though, is that apple pie season is just around the corner. Oh my. Sugary apple pies are the best. This blog has fully described that season a couple of times at least. And, guess what?.... A bag of apples from mom-in-law awaits in the basement....

I hate it when two good things must be weighed in each hand. Mental confusion returns even when sugar is thought about, which ought to give me a clear cut direction: bake the pie with Splenda instead. We'll see ....... !

Thursday, August 17, 2006

We've been having still before storm. Next week, school breaks out into all of its chaos, and I will be required to be more than I'm capable of: organized, even-keeled, prepared, a rock of Gibraltar. I'm envisioning it now, and the vision strikes that pose and then ends up collapsing laughing, or crying, or jumping, or cowering, or sledding. Yes, sledding ~~ frankly, this is one of the reason I homeschool. The global warming slopes are quite transient, and one must get their kid on the .5 inch before the sun grabs it.

Actually, Cody will be going to middle school band and encore classes, which are revolving practical arts classes, each morning. We will be rearing each morning to stand in front of the mirror where he, suddenly, enjoys positioning himself. "I look like a monster," he said this morning. Argh ... the stage stage appears. Next week, we'll be combatting hair monsters and falling-down-stair fears and hall fights, which the middle school girl tells him are frequent. When he asked me how to avoid those, I told him just not to steal anyone's girlfriend. "Mom," he said, "Do you think I could steal anyone's girlfriend?" We both started laughing loudly. I was quite pleased at his self-deprecating humor in a healthy, funny way. His autism is mild. He's breaking through!

Our afternoons will be full (hopefully! discipline needed!) of classwork. These are things that can't happen this year in order to facilitate learning:

1) A cat is not necessary to reading. Many, many minutes of literature were avoided by finding one cat in the house to plunk down on the bed to "read with". If two cats were found, they would inevitably start fighting and screeching before the first paragraph was read.

2) A science project shouldn't be on the counter longer than a week. Forget those clay brick structures demonstrating Mesapotamia. They'll never be finished as they are not our habitats.

3) Drum practice will not be avoided due to any headaches.

4) Grapes and math do not go along well together.

5) Those Spanish c.ds can't be trusted.

6) Reading "A Story of the World" on the trampoline tests the appeal of the period studied and the elbows of the reader and the desire of the feet. Not a good idea.

Therefore, with these issues addressed, I'm envisioning a fully-formed and followed afternoon of academic success.

Aiiiii .......... we'll try .......


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Life of Love

A couple of friends and I cried and laughed during our farewell lunch yesterday as we reminisced about how life and faith have intersected for us. It was a welcome girl's club with our tensions placed upon table, weight of family responsibilities abated for a while, an acceptance of each other's light and grace (qualities we primarily see in each other not ourselves). It's quite easy to love those who are like us.

Today, I looked up love, knowing I need more for those who grate against what I like: my neighbor who storms about her yard space and gossips and critiques and boasts; my daughter who again lashes out with surly moods; an old friend who speaks her mind on her defined righteousness and proclaims sin easily upon others; a personality that's brash .... "We love because he first loved us" says 1 John 4:19. How do we do it? How do we not become twisted up in futility with our own weaknesses in this area? Some people just really bother me at times!

And, thus past child of a more legalistic religion, I can become quite depressed at my lack to do what I'm supposed to do and be about. Paul knew about that. I always remember something Brennan Manning wrote in a book called "Abba's Child" where he says that the negative, dissenting, small-minded, sinful self in each of us needs to be accepted for what it is: a dissenter who struggles and doesn't get it right. He advises us to mercifully bring this part of ourselves into the light of God's care. We have a tendency to dichotomize and war within; but, God wants the unruly submitted to Him also so that we can "Cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly/sisterly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:9-10

It's an act that takes full submission to fully submit. "You are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus," says Galations 3:26 To be able to step out of my own shame and guilt and enjoy being enveloped as a daughter, as I am, just as the people are who bother me, that would be freedom for sure. Fortunately, the following life of faith anticipates positive inner change. Grateful.

Monday, August 07, 2006

My daughter and I learned to knit last night, and it ain't the purl stitch, just the knit stitch so far which we dutifully plod, row by row. We're determined to be crafty, symbolic as we click our needles together, mother and daughter, and attempt to weave together something that lasts in the coming weeks. I've got the blue, she the green, and we compare our stitches and rows on our fledgling new venture. We know perseverance awaits us; we know each row represents another day together; And so we click. She's a sweet girl when she reminds me of our earlier dear times together when she was a girl and we frequently painted or baked or beaded. Dear Lord, I pray, "Let us knit in peace through the fall, and may there be submission to your process always and may you encourage love, embody love for us."

On another note, Cody was baptized this evening, plunged under the chlorinated water, after agreeing to Christ' spiritual leadership. He told me beforehand that he was half-minded about it, fearing the embarrassment with everyone staring at him, not fully knowing if he wanted Jesus to be his forever friend. Yet, he chose to agree, and submitted, and dipped, and rose in retrospect of the rising. Ah, embodiment of love towards us.

Finally, one of my best friends is moving to North Carolina this week. I am quite grateful for her wonderful grace in my life. Where others may discern and condemn, she always offers grace, encouragement , water for my soul during our weekly runs or frequent emails or various calls. She's fun too and giggly and tall and pretty and a musician on my ipod, and I've been blessed by her gifted presence as pal. I will miss her very much. Tomorrow is our last Monday run together, and then some of her other friends and I are taking her to lunch for a last farewell. Thank you, Lord, for friends who embody your love to help us know that we're worthy of it. Bless her new adventure.

God is good even during transitions. May we cling ever so tighter to his unending love.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Prayer for Children's Values
God help us to weave a tapestry of love and not hate in our children, a spirit of tolerance and caring, a dedication to freedom for all and not just some. God help us to sow seeds of peace and justice in our children's hearts today.
- Marian Wright Edelman

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Pictures from Orlando! We visited Epcot, Universal Studios, MGM Studios and, mostly, of course, the hotel swimming pool. Cody is such a fun kid to be around. I was proud of how he handled his first airplane flight: by grabbing our hands and praying before we took off. I am surely blessed by him as my son (blessed with his dad too). This trip was a last minute occurrence due to a work conference. Orlando is a big plastic town; however, it was interesting to meet (and hear) all the people from different countries. In an hour long line at Universal, a little Quebec boy and I practiced our English/French skills on each other. Good times.
Today in church, our associate pastor talked about our responsibilities to take care of the Earth. It was a gentle sermon which was pretaught as being non-agenda driven, but biblically driven as it related to stewardship. I thought it was excellent, and the edginess I felt towards all things Christian administered (per the last emotional post:) was eased. I'm proud of my church for addressing issues like this and attempting to discuss them. He was good at being diplomatic (whereas I would have jumped right into the global warming issue with fire in my eyes) and set out a basic message without offense, without politicizing it (which it doesn't have to be).


Irregulars are disposed of in Flatland. They present a problem to the harmony and safety of the other inhabitants. The Circles, who are the priests, uphold the standards and discourage rebellions by decreeing the disposal. History reveals that leniency and mercy are detrimental to the higher natural order of things. Therefore, Irregulars, those with lines that aren't of equal measurement on either side, are seen as threatening and are thus disposed of for the good of the whole.

As I'm researching Christian private schools in Little Rock for Cody next year when we move, I'm reminded of the Irregulars, which come to life in Edward Abbot's classic satire "Flatland." As I read the schools' policy booklets, I feared that my son, with his high functioning autism and academic and social challenges, will be disposed of by these fine people of high Christ-imbued standards (which are really Greek ideal standards of human achievement and excellence). The more I read, the more my fear began to pivot wildly on the emotional hinges of desperation then anger then depression. I wrote a satire called "Jesus Opens a Christian School in Little Rock". I went on a walk/run with a friend. I prayed frantically. I went to bed early.

And, now .... ? I still want to push the envelope a bit and ask these schools what does it mean "displacement" will occur if their standards aren't met. How much leniency will they show? Will they be agents of mercy and grace to a sweet kid who wants to fit in badly but at times doesn't know how? When will the spelled-out "coroporal punishment" clause be fulfilled? How will they manage to accomodate all God's children, not just the promising ones with a sterling academic and behavioral record? There are mixed messages ... one of learning assistance to those who might need it (at a couple of schools); two of punishment for not being able to fit in. I can already see the wariness in their eyes as I explain Cody's irregularity. They don't know him to love him; they can't see his earnestness; they see that his sides don't match. He doesn't exemplify their version of Christ. I've scouted out these people before and have felt their rejection (of course, few don't represent all, I hope).

I checked out the public school site and their messages were more positive. Come one, come all, and be an Eagle, and see your counselor, and we're mandated to help all [God's]children and so we'll care, or at least attempt to care for our job's sake. There are risks there too as well.

We'll see. I place all of these decisions upon the wings of God. I'll go gather the information I need, and He will help me with trust, hope, and certainty.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The whole Israel and Lebanon conflict has me in tears many times during the day. I despise war and desire that there are never ever innocent victims whose homes or families become blown down and all around because of persistent hatred between groups of people who make their dissensions known. Even though the news is depressing, I can't be unaware and plug my ears. For some reason, this one is hitting me emotionally harder than some. The weariness of the world at odds is quite real.

"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

This is one of my favorite parables in the New Testament. It teaches me that taking care of oneself, as it relates to devotion, is more important than helping others who have chosen wrongly. I've always been taught, through church and family, to put others first which is an excellent value. However, there comes a point when giving away something precious (oil, pearls, devotion to the good) (or conforming to carelessness) can leave you out with the foolish, separated from the purest love, choosing second best. Discernment in this area has always been difficult for me given the conditioning (along with my personality) (along with a gift of 'mercy') so I was happy when I discovered this parable. It has broad application for me but devotionally today reminds me to: prepare, choose wisely, preserve the good, and enjoy the wedding feast.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

In cleaning closets today, I found the beautiful illustrated family Bible of a doctor who lived in my hometown. My uncle gave it to me ~~ having been published in 1881, it contains amazing illustrations. What's even more fun is that within the pages are pressed old roses, carnations, a homemade Valentine, a tin photograph of Dr. Hubbard himself, a Scottish song, and some locks of hair. What a bizarre feeling to hold them now in their far future, entrusted with their proof of intense meaning within past life. I feel quite special, yet quite fleeting myself, part of the flow who keeps emblems of love to be found far in the future perhaps. Sometimes the transitoriness of this life makes me feel internally thin from the rushing of the motion of people who walk across this earth and then are gone, who make me feel part of their throng even now while alive. I've gotten lost in this feeling before (which perhaps is what made me an English major to begin with:). There are stories rushing forth constantly, isn't there?, both from the alive and dead (through their records if not anything else).

Anyway, along with 2500 illustrations, the Bible includes the Apocrypha (which interestingly enough was included in all King James versions from 1611 until 1880 when the American Bible Society voted to leave it out -- we often think of it as antitraditional, when in fact it was a traditional inclusion of the KJV), Old and New Testaments, Dr. William Smith's Bible Dictionary, a History of Denominations and other interesting commentary.

I've taken it out of the closet and think I will smell and meander in it for a while, fortunate for the spell of time.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

For some reason, I've been absorbed by John Wesley today (in between the usual house and family life). I'm impressed by 1) his abhorence of slavery; 2) his ideas on Christian 'perfection'; 3) his acceptance of women as spiritual leaders; 4) his belief in free-will instead of predestination (as in Calvinism). I took an excellent college class from a professor who wrote her Harvard dissertation on the holiness/evangelical movements/revivals that swept across America in the 19th and 20th centuries ~~ some of this is coming back ~~ which has its roots in Methodism that Wesley founded. Here's a link in case you're interested in his take on things:

Anyway, it has been a lovely day of being heady regarding spiritual matters of the heart. On Tuesday, we fly off to sunny Orlando where I'll be tailing Goofy instead.

The true, living faith, which the Holy Spirit instills into the heart, simply cannot be idle.
Martin Luther

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The parent support group was wonderful tonight. There were probably about 50 parents there altogether, and we broke up into three groups. I went into a newcomer group and listened to the personal "stories" of two parents who have experienced heartbreak with their children and growth through the Crossroads program. Crossroads is a program designed for kids who get wrapped up in chemical dependency and for parents to support one another. They both meet (separately) in the same church. My daughter is in the gray area; her behaviors point to a problem, yet she hasn't hit rock bottom to admit that her incessant desire to party may be an issue in her life. When she didn't go to school much last semester, it was an issue. When the estrangement happens with family, it's an issue. There are others which I won't name here. Anyway, I'm thankful to have met up with hope tonight in the form of people offering their hearts to one another and to me. I have one plan in place to work on for the week, which is more than I had before. Thank you, Crossroads. What a cool supportive, essential group of people!

With my talkative boy at his grandmother's this week, I can focus more on contemplative matters, which I really enjoy. Here's an excellent,helpful quote on prayer instruction from a book I'm reading:

If you want to gather all your desire into one simple word that the mind can retain, choose a short word rather than a long one. A one-syllable word such as 'God' or 'love' is best. But choose one that is meaningful for you. Then fix it in your mind so it will remain there come what may. The word will be your defense in conflict and in peace. Use it to beat upon the cloud of darkness above you and subdue all distractions consigning them to the cloud of forgetting beneath you. Should some thought go on annoying you, demanding to know what you are doing, answer with this word alone." William Johnston

The big question once more

My friend gave me some good advice many years ago which I still remember: "Don't make decisions during your weak times." I'm remembering that today (frankly, this month) as I stomp around cleaning, running (stomp-jogging:), contemplating, fretting. The whole issue of "Should I homeschool this year or not?" has crossed and recrossed and zizgazzed all over the vast spaces of my mind. I was relieved to see the same topic broached on a Homeschool online newsletter that I receive. Thank God, the homeschool community at large encounters The Decision as a common, real issue. At times, it's easy to believe that all homeschoolers are much better, and much more committed, and much more superior in so many ways than I am. They know the stakes; they clothe themselves with commitment; they are always prepared and happy. Always.

As some of you know, I began homeschooling Cody due to problems at public school. His Asperger Syndrome (high functioning autism) and adhd issues were quite disruptive. I consoled him daily after school for hours; I met with teachers and principals frequently; we tried medicine against my better judgment. He was physically sick; the learning specialist thought he needed to go see a counselor; Cody frequently wrote things on paper like "I hate myself; I am stupid and ugly." As a mother, I felt wrung out constantly trying to figure ways out to help him, being an advocate. Finally, after going to one more IEP (individualized education plan) meeting and hearing what was wrong with my son, I felt like it was time to focus on what is right about him. Lots of things. I pulled him out, and he became healthier, happier, and more mentally confident.

Wow, it's done me some good to even write that to recall the problems we had and why would I want to risk that again? Not to mention some other benefits of homeschooling we've had: the ability to travel when we want; the slowness of the morning and the stress-free evenings, which would normally be filled with homework; the sharing of learning; the jumping on the trampoline breaks; more frequent visits with grandparents, etc.

It's just sometimes I long for "normalcy" with him. Normal school, normal adaptations, normal mother and father attendance of normal events (like sports for instance). I would like to work and could've stayed in a public school teaching role without these concerns. To be honest, I still would like to work as crazy as that sounds. My whole view of Normal has got to be adjusted I've been realizing lately. With my daughter's unforeseen issues too, The Normal Child/Life might be a slippery eel that may not even exist.

Homeschooling. I shouldn't make the decision now. I should just remember why we're doing it and let it seep in and speak to me with reassurance. I know that Cody is not ready for public school again. I'm just a bit tired from constantly encouraging him, worrying for him, feeling generally inadequate, but at least I have the time and energy to do what I think is best to help him as a homeschool mother. For that, I'm grateful. Lord, help me to know and yield to your better purposes. Amen.

Monday, July 10, 2006

We walk in hope of light but often we find ourselves in darkness. We at times walk in gardens, in our own backyard, happily with our smiling children, laughingly at a water park, peacefully on our couch with a good book. And, then other times, we have the metaphorical desert times, which often are not spoken of except furtively across the table to a friend at a coffee shop. Or, sulkingly to a husband who nods and listens, not knowing how to fix it. Or, perhaps we speak of it only to the pages of our journal, which only boomerang our own misery back to us (although therapeutic). I will try something new on Tuesday night, though, which is called a support group. One for parents of wayward teenagers. There, I will find other parents who are looking for oasis and for honesty from other parents who struggle. I can't relate to the parents who only speak of their good efforts with good rewards forthcoming. I'm tired of the braggy Christmas letters. The glossy images which hide. I confess to being in the desert, despite my good intentions and efforts which I painstakingly enumerate. I confess that the world is stronger than me (yet not stronger than He that is in me) and has captured one who is dear to me. I confess that I need to release anger and jealousy and sharp-tongued responses to provocation and to judgment that severs. I confess I need reliance as in:

He who walks in darkness, to whom no light appears, let him trust in the Name of Yahweh, let him rely upon his God. Isaiah 50:10

Sunday, July 09, 2006

My son is making me keep a dream diary. I have it right beside my bed and when I wake up, I'm supposed to grab it and write like crazy before my short term memory buzzes out once more rapidly (one of the big impediments during my public school teaching days). He's quite interested and eagerly awaits my retrieval of it the next day as I read nonsensical things like, "My friend is going on a trip to Oregon and will stay at 'The Tilting Bear hotel" which I scrawled at 2:30 a.m. on the way to the bathroom. Hmmm... He often becomes angry because my dreams are not as frightening as his are. It's not fair, he repeats. Most of my dreams are silly seeming. However, one last night involved a self-minimizing surgical procedure of my tongue. I know what this signifies. A flameout of the week. An imperfection of the Christian parent. A parting retort. A tearing. An exit. A hole. Perhaps we deal with our weaknesses already when we agonize in our sleep. When we awake, perhaps we feel a little better, prepared to make a tentative step forward into reparation of some sort.