Monday, March 30, 2009

I vowed not to take any more pictures til spring...and spring it is. Today is a day off and I get to poke around in the soil and finish the book I am reading.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

a couple things

... my son Vincent, eating a larva. Chocolate covered or no, it is not on my 'must do before I die' list.

This picture is in honor of my daughter Rachel. What could be better than a pump dipped in chocolate! Here's to the good life girl!~

Sunday, March 22, 2009

one twenty in the morning

It is one twenty in the morning and I cannot sleep. A loud snoring nose from somewhere in the bedroom woke me, I won't mention any names. I lay awake and the darkness allows me to feel my emotions and realize I have threads of fear woven through my being. Interesting.

It could be that my little grandson who lives in Indonesia has typhoid fever. Not good. He is in the hospital built in the fifties by Seventh Day Adventists. Thank God for Seventh Day Adventists who did this kind thing that has saved his life.

Or it could be that my friend is losing her home to unemployment and all that stuff. I sit in my beloved home and wonder how one deals with such a loss.

Perhaps it is about my long term friend who is living with cancer which also means living with chemo and exhaustion and all kinds of unhappy bodily stuff.

Or maybe just because I love my people so much, especially the wee ones, and so wish I could protect them. But I can't.

There are enough twists in life to make any of us fearful. This is why I pray. I get up at one twenty in the morning and sit on the couch by a light and simply pray.

I don't pray to make things all better, to fix things. I pray to orient myself, to make peace with life and to hope.

It makes sense to me to do this when it is one twenty in the morning and I can't sleep.

Friday, March 20, 2009

on childhood

The assignment in my poetry group is to write a lament for a childhood toy. I am sure this is a covert way of having us lament a lost childhood, or a lost innocence. Francie is the only toy I remember, although there were, no doubt, others.

I did not know until I searched this very day that Francie dolls are supposed to be "Barbie's cousin." I did not know she came with clothes or accessories. For all I knew I had the only one ever made.

I had the very doll pictured ... she was made in l965 the year I got my Francie.


She came to me from the bottom of the brown paper LOBLAWS bag
after lettuce and eggs and three loaves of discount day old bread
My mother, smiling, said she and Judy thought I'd like her. Intently
I lean on the counter with my elbows and turn her over in my hands.

Not quite a Barbie, her limbs move stiffly and her feet have holes in them
a fat brown pony tail coiled with string will be easy to untie.
Draped in high fashion Kleenex chic belted with twist ties and tape pieces
she speaks of curious sights and says 'wanna go?' and my eyes shine
Holding hands she pulls me out of the stifling yellowed blue bedroom
to meet queens whose castles have turrets and not a few handsome princes.

Her wardrobe expands, each outfit more elaborate or useful than the last
tin foil shoes shining metallic and cotton ball hats with sequins or feathers.

On mute afternoons I croon on stage before adoring mobs while she dances and
Saturdays we go to the zoo or feed dinner to African orphans
She does not grow while I grow, does not fuss when dust speckles settle on her hair
does not complain to me on those few remaining outings we enjoy.

Lovely, I present her to little Kathy when she turns nine - alongside her many gifts.
I find her at the end of the summer
face down in a fetid pool
one arm missing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

on being a joiner

I am going to join jazzercise tonight. Get my runners tied up and pull on those stretchy pants (not necessarily in that order) and beat my buns to a pulp for an hour. And then rest in the endorphin rush.

I just joined the Biggest Looza - Kentucky style. Have a partner. Got weighed. Felt depressed at what I weighed. Argued that the scale was wrong. Repented. Drinking coffee now, nibbling on a carrot.

In general I am not a joiner. I am a watcher of joiners. I am a sitter at the side while others join. I am a skeptic but being Canadian I can be forgiven for that. "Eeet eez my kulchur."

But this is spring. Herd instinct is heightened. I'm off to sweat.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

what a gardener knows for sure

I have been talking to a woman friend about our gardens. Really, what we've been talking about is life: losses and gains - what is ours and what isn't.

See ... it's like this. Some things we think belong to us, like a memory of a love, may not actually be ours at all. It might be that a person used us, or was loving someone else and their acts of loving us were false. A diversion.

Or a family season that was satisfying and rich can be stolen from us when the family breaks down, and we wonder if we ever really were that family we remember.

In light of this we have been talking about how we have to be careful or we will dig up too much, and throw too much away.

Spring is the time I go to my garden and pull out the dead fibers and branches from last year's vegetation. Much of it pulls off easily and opens space for new growth. But sometimes I pull what seems to be dead matter and I discover it is holding tightly to the roots of the plant. If I pull the thing completely out nothing will be left to grow freshly this year. Then the job is to tamp that root back in, and give it a chance to grow.

My friend and I also talk about how we can bury things in our garden ... hurts and symbolic things that represent what we've lost.

My friend said, "After this conversation my garden will be both graveyard and birthplace - I usually pray and talk to God while I garden - so this year I will be even more aware of what I am laying to rest and what I am hoping to grow."

So, what a gardener knows ... Don't throw too much away. Bury what is dead. Be careful not to throw something away that still has life. Give space for new growth on an old plant. Go slow. Get your hands dirty. You never know what is going to grow out of the dirt.

Opportunity for Women

Ruth Tucker has greatly influenced me with her thoughtful writing.

Ruth is going to be at the seminary over lunch on March 23, Monday - topic: "Mrs. Packard and Me: Mining the Past for Mentors and Role Models."

Women friends - this will be good. Go through the cafeteria line and get lunch at their own expense ($5.00) or bring a lunch, and then join us in reserved seating where Ruth will speak around 12:30. If anyone wants to join me just show up or send me a message that you are coming and I will watch for you.

Ruth A. Tucker (PhD, Northern Illinois University) is a teacher, author, and lecturer. She has taught on alternative religions and missiology at both the graduate and undergraduate levels at many schools, including Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and Moffat College of Bible in Kenya. Ruth was the first female faculty member at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Currently, she is a visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Ruth is the author of more than a dozen books, including Women in the Maze: Questions and Answers about Biblical Equality, Daughters of the Church, Guardians of the Great Comission, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya.

my idiot son

When my boys were teens and doing things like jumping off trestle bridges into glacier fed lakes and driving four wheels on iced over lakes Steve always told me, "Do NOT think about it!" He said if they died I would hear from someone.

This advice saved me from much angst. And they did survive their teen years.

The question is - will they survive adulthood? This is Jordan, photo taken by his brother. A conspiracy of sons able to make a mother crazy.

Monday, March 9, 2009

to lament and to dance

I found the whole thing appalling. How can we attend a young child's funeral in the morning and a wedding at 2 pm, reception to follow? This is a bad bad idea. Impossible to navigate with any level of sanity or grace.

But the day comes and I get up, brush my hair, put on something dark-ish and get into the car headed for the funeral home. The casket is small and white. The flowers lavished over it fall like a blanket over the sides, a photo of a dark eyed, tow headed little girl is lovingly placed on top.

The group of mourners is small. This is family, not fame. We share a lot of tears. Just a look at each other starts the crying again. We hold onto one another. Tears and touching, over and over. The words are brief. A gentle lullaby is sung by an aunt. The windy graveside and dirt in our palms. More hugs and tears and holding hands with anyone standing close.

Then we go to lunch at Wendy's.

And home to change. Bright clothes this time. Perfume and hairspray and earrings that sparkle. Into the car and to the church. And laughing and beauty and promises and beginnings. Flowers with ribbons and lace covered tables loaded with little sausages snuggled in crispy wrap and thin slices of prime rib beef alongside garnished salads and bowls of sculpted butter balls. Then music and dancing. Kisses.

My heart is completely full and deeply satisfied. I expected chaos tonight, emotional devastation, soul confusion. But I find myself in a peaceable place that feels like belonging or love - sad and also very much alive. Restful. Amazed at life.

This is how I learned that sorrows and joy are not enemies, but that they sit at the same table and eat from the same bowl. Sorrows makes joy possible and joy makes our sorrows tolerable. And that when shared, both can be love.

A friend wrote, "The answer to suffering is not the absence of suffering. It is love." And the two travel hand in hand when we are awake to life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

hope - or not

My hopes have been raised and dashed in a matter of moments. I have hopelash.

My kid Vincent gave me this quote today as I left for work - from his TV watching last night. I didn't ask, but it was probably from the Simpsons or King of the Hill or some such intelligentsia program.

Emily Dickenson said it more eloquently, although not really more poignantly.

A great hope fell, you heard no noise -
the ruin was within;
O cunning wreck that told no tale
and let no witness in.
Lent is the season of honest lament, but it is not the season of hopelessness. I have been considering lament of late. What we don't lament, we are forced to live.
Every life has more than enough causes for sorrow. Dreams fall like branches in an ice storm. (Have you ever been in an ice storm? The eerie crackling sound is what is most un-earthly, portending a whole world crashing down.)
We lose. We hurt. We age. We are alone when we need people and with people when we need to be alone. The joy of today cannot be stored for tomorrow.
I was a girl when I first thought this about my grandma: I saw that she had basically lived outside of war and poverty and as she aged and got closer to the end of her life I thought it shouldn't bother her to grow old, since her past had been relatively painless. Fool! The thoughts of youth are so wrong sometimes. All the good days do not make the bad days less real.
So lament. Lament is an episode, not a lifestyle. It is communal, even when practiced alone. When we lament we join the weeping of every other soul on the planet. Lament is not self pity, or self sorrow, or self enrichment. It is communal at best, and is about finding joy, really. Lament is psalmnody - it is a part of the song of human life sung in honesty. Lament is about moving back to hope.