Monday, March 31, 2008

a resolution

As I sat in the dark by the side of the road, window down and raining splatting in, with the exhuberant lights of the cruiser behind me illuminating the car like it was day, I made a resolution. No. Not a resolution to drive slower. That would be to lie to myself. But a resolution to express my opinions.

There, in the spotlight of the law of Rodanthe, (sounds sort of Star Wars esque, doesn't it?) I decided that my blog is boring, even to me, because, although I have many opinions, I am quite careful not to say anything too opinionated because the environment in which I live and breath is very controlling.

So... from this day forth my blog may be different. (It was a sort of near death experience that changed my life forever.)

For instance, let me speak of this (I am starting slow and low). My granddaughters just illustrated to me how they roll forward in a ball with their heads on the floor, against the wall of the school hallway when there is a tornado warning. Fair enough. Then they told me about their lock-down drills, where half the class goes to the bathroom and is locked in and half the class goes to a storage closet and this is practiced in preparation for danger in the school.

Now I will not waste my time railing against the ills of our time which are obvious to anyone with a brain. I will not lament the culture my dear girls are living in, a culture that seems normal to them. The loss of innocence. At years eight and ten.

No, I commend the school for not using hope as a method (which I for one took a while learning.) If this is the world we live in, then let's be smart. And ready. At the seminary where I work we are woefully unprepared for anything remotely violent. We are, I think, reasonably ready to handle a pointed theological contest ... without putting anyone's eye out. But that is it.

A lot of things have changed and I don't pick up hitchhikers, don't do parking lots at large shopping malls after dark if I am alone, don't invite the delivery man to sit on the porch on a hot summer day and have an iced tea.

And I am sad that this is the way it has to be. But we had better find a new way to build community alongside the protective habits. Find ways to make our personal world hospitable, soft and inviting. After all, if our protections against the outside evil serves to isolate us and keep us from being open with one another we will have lost.

When the grade two class is crammed in the school bathroom in lockdown practice, I take great joy in hearing how they laugh and play. This, says Megan, is "Not serious enough!" I think she would like the teacher to make them all be solemn as befits the occasion. Or maybe she just wants to test me and see if I think this is serious, telling me about it.

But I think they might want to have a stash of candy in the bathroom behind a glass door with a little hammer that says, "Break in case of emergency." Then part of the lock down could be a little party - a silver lining of sorts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

on what it takes to have fun

Steve at the beach in Ontario as a kid.

We are going to the beach next week - yes, friends - all week at the beach! A beach house, miles of sand, that rhythmic ocean sound, meals cooked on the BB with good drinks, a balcony for sunrise coffee, and most of all, my girls .... and of course, Curtis and Steve. No offence :-) ... not taken I am sure.

So to get to the beach, I am first driving to Pittsburgh to participate in a series of twelve lectures on human formation, along with my cohort of fellow students under the mentoring of Susan Muto. That finished, I will drive five hours to Virginia Beach to pick up Steve from the airport and then together we will drive south into the night to arrive at the beach house sometime in the wee morning hours. We will bicker about choice of music, we will laugh and talk about the kids, we will probably talk about our future. If the travel gods are with us we will find a little restaurant with fresh seafood somewhere along the coast. If the travel gods are not with us we will eat at a Cracker Barrel and regret it.

I remember what it used to take to prepare to leave the kids for a trip, commonly to South America. After at least a month of writing lists, setting up child care, arranging for the cat, the house, school, emergencies, food, lessons, and incoming grandparents, we would spend a whole frantic week working the plan until we found ourselves on the way to the airport, exhausted, sad kids left behind, and often a very bad headache. I would lament, "I wonder if it is worth it to do all this to get away." And it always was.

Packing is still a problem for me because I don't know how I will feel on a particular day and thus I don't know what I will want to wear. I never take the right clothes. The weather is not what I think it will be. I eat too much and the pants I brought don't fit. When I manage to pack like a veteran traveler and take minimum clothes I hate everything by the end of the trip. I would almost rather go nude. If I take a lot, I don't use most of it and have been known to just give stuff away so I don't have to haul it around.

Last year in Oxford England Steve and I took, accidentally, four suitcases. Such a load is slightly defensible because we had three separate events/ locations, each requiring different wear. The problem came when we decided to take the train/ coach to our major stops, and the luggage became like a visible curse. (Picture two people pushing and dragging large luggage down the metro...) So North American to haul our material belongings around with us. I was vaguely ashamed of us. Still it was worth it.

Today I am almost ready except for Walter, our cat. She had been missing for three days and I held out a forlorn hope that she might actually have left us. Alas, she is back, looking pretty pleased with herself, and not at all hungry. This however means I have a new detail to attend to. Who will take care of Walter?
Is it worth it to go to all this fuss? Absolutely. In five days I will be reclining while The Girls make me laugh, Steve and Curtis will be fishing in the ocean, steaks sizzling on the BB, and all will be well with the world.

Monday, March 24, 2008

my day

I love my job. Sort of. I don't love actually going to work. I think the perfect job would be one that you could hold and yet not actually have to go to the office except to pick up the pay check ... which upon second thought, the perfect job would not need an office at all!~

But as reflect on today I realize that life is rich and fragile even though I go to the office. By 8 this morning I was in a conversation about unfaithfulness and brokenheartedness with a woman who knows both experiences too well. The day ended with a devastating disclosure of unfaithfulness of another kind. Trailing alongside and around these bookends was some stimulating conversation, problem solving, and thoughtful listening. And one piece of Dove dark chocolate.

In the middle of the afternoon my lovely assistant and I walked to the bank in the sunshine and on the way back bought two egg rolls from the Great Wall (not the real Great Wall you understand) and shared a greasy treat and some big laughs. Stolen time. Not really stolen, it was a well deserved break. And the bank is only three minutes away.

When I came home there was a realtor next door showing the house our friends are anxious to sell, and Steve was outside in shirt tails and socks, smiling, happy to see me. We played a game of scrabble which he won, while we talked about Bunny's first day of chemo and who Steve gave my lilies to. For a reward, as the winner of scrabble, he got to do the dishes. I headed off to Jazzercise but unfortunately stopped to lay on the couch for just a moment and alas, did not get up in time to get to the Jazz class. Eventually I got cold and had a hot bath and put on my pj's. It seemed to be the right thing to do. All that and it is now only 7:32.

A pretty nice day really. My paper for Epiphany is almost done, and I am making a list of things to take to the beach next week.

I guess what I am saying, besides the fact that I have not one profound thing to write on this blog, is that I love my job. Sort of. And I love my life.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

american beauty

Okay - I can get the image up but I can't rotate it ... technical daftness. But let me say, it is worth turning your computer to get a full view of this feminine pulcritude (probably spelled wrong but I don't know how to use the spell check on this either). This little beauty is Flora Elliott, most recent Elliott woman on the planet and full of my genes. Clearly.

Now, I put this picture on my blog because I adore this child and will spare no expense showing her the love of Mimi. But also, to illustrate what a healthy, thriving human child looks like. I know, we grow out of our baby fat, but I think skin and bones is overrated. If I can help my little women love their healthy bodies, celebrate being able to run and jump and love with their bodies, then I will have accomplished something rare.

Women, we are half the population at least. Don't you think we could get together and do something about our crippling body image issues? Maybe it's time for another bra burning - well, maybe not. How about burning our control top panty hose? That would make a good fire.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

new ways to go to hell

I have just heard that the pope has named seven new deadly sins that condemn a person to hell. This is not good news ... particularly since I don't have the list ...
Do we really need this kind of thinking? Maybe we need to be more concerned with how to live than how not to live. Just my opinion.

Now that I have made my big pronouncement I have learned what the sins are ...and they are pretty good. Here's the list: genetic modification, experimenting on humans, polluting the environment, causing social injustice, causing poverty, becoming obscenely wealthy, taking drugs...

happy birthday to Meg!!!!

Happy birthday to Meg - happy birthday to Meg. Happy birthday dear Megan.... Happy birthday to Meg.
This is the birthday of one of the prettiest, smartest, funniest people I know. Her name is Megan Kate Mulder, woman of many adventures, lover of cats and birds and interesting animals, hugger supreme, lover of any clothes that are bright and sparkly, chaser of boys, wearer of pink hair, and most of all ... Mimi's favorite 8 year old!!!!
Have a happy day dear Megan. I hope you like your present from Papa and me!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

on little girl's noses

I have a granddaughter, Megan, or Nut-meg as we like to call her, who has a permanent snort. Not a sniffle. Not a small drip. No - we are talking a magnificent snort, accompanied by hucks and horks and blechts. At night the snort takes the form of earsplitting snore-snorts ... you would think Papa was behind the door with the Big Pink M on it.

This week Nut-meg had her nasal passages frozen and a camera fixed to a wire inserted through her nose down into her throat. She loved it. She loved that they were fixing her snort. But more, she just loved the adventure 0f having a camera down her nose. She told me she even sneezed and they didn't take it out and it was so funny to her! The camera she said, turned this way and that way, and looked at her snort. She is the only person she knows who has had a camera in their nose. Now that is worth being proud of.

The long and short of it is that Nut-meg is going to lose her adnoids. Who needs adnoids anyway? They contribute so little to the important things of life: racing on a bicycle, eating banana smoothies, chasing boys ... you understand. And what is surgery but one more adventure?

Megan's joy of life fixes more of what ails me than anything else I can think of. This is why we need children. And snorts. And cameras down noses.

Monday, March 10, 2008

the price of a little fame

Off and on I am watching crazy British shows on BBC this weekend. I made the mistake of scrolling through a couple weeks of BBC scheduling, marking shows I thought would be interesting. Now I have dozens of kooky health, shopping, and intervention kinds of shows lined up waiting for me to watch.

What mind altering drug must be in the water to move average people to want to be photographed in the their underwear from the least flattering angles and broadcast worldwide? Why would anyone allow a man with a camera to cover a childish fight between you and your fiance over a wedding plan? Don't these people know that if they ever run for Prime Minister, "Yes, your Majesty," these sorry accounts will be exhumed and displayed?

Which makes me think about what I want to be known for. I want to be known for my stunning beauty and style, the rarity of my wisdom and 7 best selling novels that reveal the human condition subtly and yet with astonishing insight.

But I will probably be known, by a very limited audience, as being a pretty good woman, always on a quest, always with a new wacky idea (we should do it - come on it will be fun!), always hoping to one day be willowy, and always open to loving people, especially my grandbabies.

I have surprisingly few unfulfilled hopes. I do not want, for instance, to be famous. I do not want to be filmed in my underwear for TV. I do want to try that new Indian restaurant in town - I hear their Korma is fabulous.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I've found my center ... again

Living from my center - something I've read so much about, pursued, and somehow lost. But now, in Lent, it is being restored to me. I exercised last night - first time in two weeks, spent time on my favorite chair in solitude and reflection, and this morning I walked into my office without the trail of heaviness I have been carrying. I am smiling - making fun with Jeremiah - looking at the beige open file on my desk with its two inches of printed papers with a sense of freedom and not burden.

The soul is a deep well. But it is a narrow gap through which we can access it. I have this mental picture that I can crawl through an overgrown hole, and down a burrow, only to tumble out into a wide open garden - the place carved out of the is universe that is mine alone.

That is my center. Where I meet God in solitude and silence. Where I discover my own self as beloved and joyful.

I will be there today and bring up a rose or two to pass out to others as hope.

Monday, March 3, 2008

paved paradise, put up a parking lot

I am in a strange kind of sad place after my drive home from the early monday meeting at Panerras. The road between here and there is designated scenic byway and I never fail to revel in the twists and hills and meadows of straight backed black cows with puffs of hair under their bellies.

More I love the old old trees, all gnarled and bent, with leaves coming off only half the branches. They are the old folk of the hills - stately and beautiful with their twisted forms and lofty reach.

But the traffic is heavy, sometimes. And progress will not be stopped. So today the best of my old Ent friends are laying on their sides like huge charcoal briquets, having burned most of the night. The sight was reminiscent of a scene of the underearth in Lord of the Rings ... one huge burning briquet after another, surrounded by torn up roots, rocks and earth piled recklessly where streams and pond puddles used to lay in repose.

If felt like an omen. It felt like a sign of what is happening in places like Darfur (just read the front page of the New York Times today), like how we burn our own history so we can get our lives from point A to point B as fast as possible.

Today I am going to find someone old - so old they are almost disolved by life, and I am going to do something to make them feel precious.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


"In the natural order, perhaps solitaries are made by severe mothers." I read this statement scratched in a journal by Thomas Merton, who was working to understand his chosen life as a solitare and contemplative writer.

I was anything but a severe mother. I was, for the most part, a dancing mother. My children were encouraged to play and be amazed at the natural world around them. We were treasure hunters and scroungers of the earth.

I didn't make any solitares, but I made something. Upon reflection, the impact of a mother is impossible to quantify. So I am sitting here wondering what I have done by what I have been.

My first thought is that I've grown up too slowly. The old German phrase my gramma used to say, "Too soon old't, too late schmart." I wish I could have a mulligan for a few, maybe more than a few, things. I would tell JV he has to bring his own quilts down off the roof of the garage after his night of star gazing with 'the boys'. I would make sure I didn't feed R chocolate by the pound when she was heartbroken - what does that teach a girl?! I would go to B's wedding reception even though I had a fever of l05 and was throwing up. Or maybe I wouldn't.

Maybe I would do it all the same. I guess we have to live in the moment, being the person we are. We don't get a script or a screen writer to give us pithy banter and wise solutions. I am thinking that I mostly did well because I lived out of who I truly was ... and the real work I did well was to keep facing my stuff, to keep growing and crying and struggling til I was the kind of person who could make a more mature choice and possibly do better.

So today I have the chance to live any way I feel is right - but really in my heart of hearts? ... I am inclined to plod through my garden in 3 inch mud to check on new buds, struggle across the melting lawn in my heels to fill the feeders for my beloved cardinal and finches, drive all night to see my granddaughter's recitals and then make ice cream sundaes that are pretty much obscene, and stay up drinking wine and watching reruns of 'what not to wear' with my daughter. So maybe maturity hasn't changed me all that much. Good thing I am finished with mothering. I leave that daunting task to my kids - I can be the gramma and just have fun.