Friday, June 30, 2006

Hollyhock heaven

Down on the crop farm at my mother-in-law's, the hollyhocks seem to be in love! Cody and I had a most relaxing time, being fed by the doting older mother, looking through old pictures at old Lutherans who once walked across the same land. More pictures are to come.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Inner Flips

Before the disappearance, Meg still had her self-doubts, which she could express to her dad who promised her his presence. After he left, the self-doubts doubled and she incriminated herself left and right in a gloomy situation at school, at home.

Cody and I watched "A Wrinkle in Time" yesterday afternoon, which captured his attention, his own struggles of self-doubt and sense of adventure. I was pleased to be asked to push the stop button many times as we discussed what was going on. Much of it was over his head without explanation, yet he did get the allegory on his own.

"Why is she believing lies about herself, Mom?"

"Well, you often tell me that you are ugly and stupid and no one likes you. Do you think that's the truth or do you think you're believing lies?"

Long thoughtful pause. "I think they're lies. You like me at least."

Major breakthrough for him. Inside cartwheels.

We talked about lies, self-deception, and the movie helped us call up the rightful image that we are soldiers of and for the light. We're like the poor hobbits, or the insecure Meg, who want to fight against the dark, dark forces so they don't evelope us or those we love or even the world. I think that's one of the reasons I like Christianity: it's a noble side to be upon if we believe that Christ is light and love, spreading, dispelling, hoping, daring, around us and through us. I was also reminded in the movie about the call to love ourselves and to fight against those forces that tell us we should do otherwise. We are his beloved afterall.

Such truths need to be encountered time and time again. Thank you, Madeline L'Engle, for a most remindful afternoon.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A garden tour

A favorite daylily of mine!
Two of my faves: Stokes Aster and Monarda (Bee Balm)
Russian sage and an asiatic lily
Cody loves lilies! This is one in his garden. Lots of big beautiful blooms!
Loosestrife has taken over one bed; however, the look could be worse.:)

Hope you enjoyed our summer garden tour!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Go Mom Go!

She had two big bowls of homemade ice cream the night before and went to bed miserable. Nonetheless at 6:45, we drove out to the park where we saw many gray-haired, muscular men and women stretching preparing for the Missouri Senior Games 5K.

It's always inspiring to see how toned and determined these athletes are. Along with the bodily difference, there's a universal positive attitude they seem to share. I stood with my 60some year old local friend and we cheered them on. Mom came gliding past, focused, gritty, daring the ice cream to disrupt her gait. The winning male, probably in his early 50's, crossed at 19:50 and would've been faster had he not fallen along the way.

Mom finished at 35:00 minutes which seems to be her usual. Dottie, the 81 year old, was not far behind.

After the 5K, we went to the track where Mom and I hung out all day, making wonderful new friends, gasping at how fast these Seniors are, becoming inspired. She collected five medals, three gold and two silver in her as-usual unassuming way. Dottie, looking cute in her sports bra, competed in almost every event. She was adorable.

Here are some pictures, showcasing these never-say-never amazing seniors! My mom is the little petite one in the torquoise shorts and white tank.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lord, help me to rest a while in the
cooling shade of your presence.
Slow down my restless heart and
fill me with gentle compassion for
all your people. Amen.

Prayer for Summer

The above faith-thought-prayer is from which delivers scripture and prayers to your inbox daily if you'd like. I just discovered this site not too long ago; it's interesting to go and see how people receive their sole or some of their faith community from virtuality. The church is supposedly changing in these so-called post-modern times. Did anyone see the Cowboy church on NBC nightly news the other night? The reporting journalist called it a "barn again" movement. Yep, wear your spurs, hat, and Wrangler's and praise the Lord. Although I like liturgy, I find these types of expressions to be refreshing too. Wherever it takes.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

NightLight in Bangkok

Last year at exactly this time, we were in Europe with my daughter's public school group on a memorable, exhilerating trip. We hopped from England to France to Switzerland to Germany to Amsterdam. Somewhere in Germany, word got around to the parents on the bus that the teachers and a couple of their accompanying friends wanted to form a group to go out on the town in Amsterdam. Specifically, they wanted to attend an XXX show and were fielding interest in order to organize it. Yes, teachers, ahem (post-curfew, the 32 students would be chaperoned by one left-behind parent).

My fellow parent traveler friend, a liberal Jewish widow, and I discussed, on a fountain ledge in Mannheim, Germany, town center, whether we would attend or not. He was leaning towards going as an intellectual observer, to experience the culture in order to know the culture. He would not be titillated, he said, (he had already experienced such a place in Thailand six months earlier) but the experience would just be "interesting" as Amsterdam culture is known for such things. If you go to Vegas, you experience gambling, etc. In real American life, my trustworthy friend practices compassion, justice, responsibility, and dedication to his family and girlfriend. Throughout the trip, we had been discussing democratic and religious ideals, and I, of course, was a Christian representative who had been trying to convince him that we weren't all Pat Robertson-ites (a common misconception outside the fold).

Anyway, he said that he thought he would go to the show, and I gulped, always susceptible to approval and social needs (which has increased as I've aged strangely enough!). Ever since hearing about it, though, my Grandma Cora of the Ozarks kept appearing in my mind as a model of behavior. My sweet grandmother would never darken the doorway of such a place. I could hear her loving example deep inside of me. If that wasn't enough, I've always been deeply disturbed by sexual abuse and violence against women. There was never really a question in my mind.

To go would be to support exploitation, I told him, which we discussed, and he agreed that he probably wouldn't feel good about going. It was kind of weird, though, to be faced with this moral filtering there and to realize that in the name of tourism, even the more moderate American can contribute casually to a harmful, evil, oppressive industry. I was dismayed that the teachers even would consider this. As it turned out, more parents vetoed it, and the secret late night outing was cancelled. However, one of the parent travelers and I did go on a secret outing from our hotel in Harleem in Amsterdam. We walked over to Corrie ten Boom's house about 10 blocks away! Wow! Hero of the faith, for sure, a much better substitute!

All of this to lead, dear reader, to a website, I discovered tonight, of a ministry to help girls and women who find themselves in the sex trade/prostitution circles in Bangkok. It has some sad statistics of this horrible problem, as well as some hopeful stories on how God can work to remedy deep scars. There's also a link to jewelry which these 'recovered' women make to support their life away from prostitution. I'm never going to buy jewelry from department stores again! This is the hope-inspiring link:

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The small summer things in life are happening at the moment which don't seem too word-dependent (my excuse for not writing too much). I mean do you really want to know what it was like at the pool for us? Within the time, there are moments for me, as mother, to remember and to hold (Cody finally getting the nerve to jump in five feet water, yet clinging to my neck until we reached the side safely. At 11, he's making small steps still which is good. Me doing a cannonball quickly-subtly in order to show him, and then he saying loudly "I love you, Mom, for being the only mother here who can do a cannonball!" So much for big momma splash under the radar. :)

Daughter summer things are happening too. We had to crack down on her; all the neighbors saw her car parked in the "grounded" spot on the cul-de-sac (her prom dress wadded up in the back seat??0). But, she didn't run. She kept her cool enough to earn her privileges back this time. We just went out to lunch, talking and laughing as old. This feels good for the moment.

My husband and I are planning for some vacation. We cut down a tree together. We do our typical walks and talk-throughs together. One night, I moaned all that needed moaning out of me, and the next morning it was gone. I'm so glad God made marriages and good men.

Spirituality is a recurring thought too. I'm reading a wonderful book on mysticism called "Wonderful and Dark is this Road: Discovering the Mystic Path" by a Catholic writer named Emilie Griffin. I have lost track of this deeper aspect of spirituality, because I've been increasingly migrating toward the shallow (to be honest) and toward the responsibilities of homemaking/parenting (which isn't bad and spiritual awareness can be fully engaged in the day-to-day, but I haven't yet realized how to do this well). I also read "" -- which is blogger Gordon Atkinson's book (it was on a 90% sale shelf!), and it is wonderful. I laughed and cried and walked away feeling ministered to at a time when I needed it. I also read Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" which only makes me spiritually exclaim, "Pray before eating that beef/pork/chicken!" And, I thank God with more appreciation for the development of labor laws.

That's my summer in a not-so-nutshell. If you are still reading this (!) and would love to tell me what you're reading, please do. Would love to hear!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I just went to see "Prairie Home Companion" with a couple of friends. We went to the cozy theater in town with the couches and wine, if you choose, where one sees lots of leftie looking older couples, perhaps University workers or teachers.

I was excited to see the movie because nothing soothes my mind more than slipping a Garrison Keillor recorded show in the dvd player and sitting back to just listen and breathe, listen to breathe, until I'm laughing with the breath and happy to be part of this messed up comical group of humans while we're here together before death and judgment.

Anyway, in the movie, the music was great ~~ old timey, interspersed with songs of faith in Jesus. The dialogue was decent in parts; the theme of death interjected into the light moments of laughter. There were some multi-layered things happening in the storyline which held interest.

But, I don't know, I wasn't swept away; it didn't strike at me on a personal level the way that I hoped. Should all movies do that to be called a success to oneself? So often we place that into movies because movies are supposedly a zone of transference, where we become changed, where we realize that we've been moved emotionally/intellectually/spiritually into a new realm. Ah sad to say (or perhaps it's a sign of progression?) that's not happening too much to me anymore. Many movies seem to be like an artificial room to me. They are full of scenes that aren't held together by strong enough walls. Full of people who are just strangers recreating play. It's just if I go to a movie, I want to enter in and find something that speaks truth (and the next movie slated then would be "An Inconvenient Truth":) to me of something greater at work, although PHC had some elements of this.

Searching for truth in a movie is often fraught with grass-lined holes anyway. There's just variations at work that don't necessarily reflect where my search for truth has gone and is still going. We'll see .. it's just an interesting (to me) discovery to not be swept in like I used to be.

My friends really enjoyed the movie, though!

Monday, June 12, 2006

In the last hour or two, my friends just learned that their 20something year old son was killed in a car accident. They must be feeling such depths of sorrow at the moment. Heavy sadness.

Faith is such a funny thing at times. In times like this, I can imagine that the presence of faith causes both intense comfort and agony. Comfort in being held by God. Comfort in knowing others who can share your pain through prayers and caretaking. Comfort in the cross model of sacrifice. Agony in that your precious child was not protected by benevolence. Agony in that you've tried to lead a godly life for what seems like for naught now. Agony that, in the future, you will not watch your child grow, while others will have theirs, when you want yours very badly. Sorrow at intense loss.

Father, I pray for this family that you may carry them firmly into grief and comfort their hearts. Amen.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I'm living in the exhuberance of the day. Next year, after the move, I'll have precisely zero friends (not counting my husband) so today I gathered up some friends for my birthday lunch. Twelve were able to come, and it was wonderful to bring together my church friends with my bookclub friends and to just realize how special each one of them is as a human being. I'm quite blessed and humbled and don't know how all of these people materialized to become dear to me, and, more confusing, me to them. A true gift from the Master of relationships himself. Anyway, I'm all abuzz with gratefulness and more prepared for another year.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.
In looking over at Dawn's and Becky's site, I see such beautiful interesting photos of their homeschooling adventures. Today, I could have taken a picture of cornstarch quicksand in Cody's hand, transforming in a split second from a solid to a liquid (how fun!). Or the walk we went on where we encountered once again our old moved-out cat. Perhaps I could have taken a photo of my daughter dutifully washing the car and the van as return payment for a loan. Or, the cheery yarrow in one of the back beds.
But no! I didn't because of our canoe trip last Friday back home in which we personally met a rock at Horseshoe Falls on the North Fork. Cody, in the middle, screamed the whole way over into the river and then clawed at me, dunked me under, and pulled my bathing suit top down in his panic. And, I was worried about him. Finally, I yelled like a sailor at him to stand up in the thigh deep water and walk toward the bank.
Meanwhile ... the tackle box which held my camera demonstrated why it only cost $4.99 at Wal-Mart. We opened it up, the flood and lures poured out. I was hoping the camera would dry out and work, but it's taking any excuse to retire.
No pictures for a while as E-bay is happily receiving my hits for a replacement.
Cody has also decided to retire from canoing. At the end of our float, he said, "O Lord, thank you that this trip is over."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

At the first taste of Billie's gooseberry cobbler, I felt that I belonged there in that dining room. My little shy mother was by my side; an oak china hutch clucked silently against the wall, tending her floral patterns in a row. Across from me, Billie's down syndrome daughter happily smacked her helping of four different desserts. The nearby kitchen table held the earlier-arriving women who were chattering about alfalfa, husbands, remedies.

I shudder even now to think about the fullness of the moment. When I was younger, I mourned such moments because they were so full in depth, but such a sliver in time. Now a shudder happens, which in a way, I don't wish to even explore because it will confront the terminal aspect of these times. I always wish to be sitting by my mother; I always wish to recall my grandmother at the same meetings, gazing upon some floral pattern, eating sweets, chattering happily amongst friends at the Homemaker's Club in Douglas County.

Since the 40's, these rural women have been meeting in the same way. They conduct under the structure of Robert's Rules of Order. They call the meeting to order; they recite their creed about being a "tranquil and serene woman" (among other precious noble character traits); they ask for minutes of the last meeting; the treasure's report; old and new business. This is what these ladies did at Club in my presence, granddaughter of one of the initial members, when I excitedly accompanied my mother to my first meeting.

And, my last.

Fifteen minutes after new business, sixty years after inception, the good ladies of Douglas County voted to disband. Yes! Right there and then, they quickly dialogued and decided, some with heavy hearts, to say Aye to disbandment. There were good reasons (lack of interest from the young women; waning of original need for being of help to the community; not being prepared; losing members) they claimed for their decision.

My heart was beating quickly. I felt like crying for the loss of a concept that somewhere out there, in my home country, women were still proclaiming themselves as homemakers with a mission to one another. Well, it was over. Mom consoled me on the bumpy dirt ride back since I took it harder than anyone there (she said); we decided to stop by the cemetery and visit Grandma's grave, and I asked her if she was going to tell her. She laughed which helped me stop imagining my wailing upon the cold grave ground like a trench war orphan. Mom is excellent at perspective. I have so much to learn from her still.

It became fine after awhile. We walked and looked at Grandma's Memorial day flowers left there by her loving family Club who will never vote to disband. We visited her mother's grave, her father's father's grave. Cousins. The twelve year old son who died of influenza.

The earthly organizations never endure, the eternal ones hold their promise to the pledged.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Resounding hills

Dad broke his thumb in two places. Because I was around him this past week, I heard him retell the story over and over again (you don't want to hear it) to the concerned. Of course, his stories are told with a mischievous light in his eyes, which makes the story less of pain, than one of ironic triumph. The victory occured an hour later when he played his banjo at a country restaurant and sounded "new and improved".

We were supposed to go jam together with other men at an old RV park. He loaded up his instrument, and I threw in my guitar. We drove about 40 minutes down windy, hilly backroad blacktops, speculating on whether there'd be any sign of life once we finally made it there. Sure enough, we spotted a few campers; we drove in and saw four or five men staring down at the inside of someone's pickup truck. Their legs were propped up on the tires and bumpers. Women have tables, country men have trucks for congregation.

I tried to fit in, but I couldn't talk their talk at all. So, I grinned at their typical Ozarkian one-liners as they jabbed at whatever the other one said. Finally the men deemed that it was time to make a chair circle and get lost in the tunes. Dad decided he couldn't play, and so there I was in the middle of these strange guys who could pluck their strings like angels. While the bug zapper was exploding behind me, somehow I got up the courage to play and sing "Brown Mountain Light" right off the bat. They nodded approvingly at me, and the next guy lead off. I was in.

One old man who barely spoke or moved and looked yellowish with liver issues had an exquisite Gibson banjo on his lap. A boy player explained to me that the old man's banjo is the one heard in the movie "Deliverance".

There we sat, grinning men with hands meticulously flashing, an old fiddler with an oxygen tank, one savant boy banjoist, the Deliverance banjo on the lap of a man who looked like he could die before the morning was up, my dad with a songbook, an occassional wife who scurried over to play the bass when the mood struck her, and me, a brownhaired Ozarkian turned city girl -- there we sat in the night among the trees, calling up the musicians of old, retelling the lyrical stories of the hills. Rare sight, rare sounds, rare gift I won't forget.

The next day, a man called my dad and told him to bring me back. Two days later, I saw the boy and his dad at the country store; we talked like buddies. The dad encouraged my husband to start playing too since he has a wife with a "purty voice".

While I'm home in the hills, it's like being another person for a while. Someone with a purty voice, which I don't have here in my town. Strange.

Well, Dad's thumb hurt him more and more as the week went by. We never went back to play music at the old RV park. Those boys, though, have plans to get a regular festival revived there, and it may be in a week or two. Not long to wait for those who need their regular fix of it. I hope the old yellowish man makes it. He sure could make that banjo ring out into the quiet, dark, wooded, hilly night.