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!