Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Parable of the Ugly Spoon Rest



The last few months of our time in Brandon were filled with outings with my girlfriends. I had become very close with four women, Catherine, Leila, Emily and Amanda. Preparing to live three hours apart from one another, I spent time going to dinner with them, seeing movies, watching our children play together, praying and planning for the future. One of the events we planned was a trip to Harry the Potter on Lakeland Drive. It is one of those paint your own pottery places.

On that visit, Leila and I each selected a spoon rest to paint. How we preceded is a portrait of our different personality types. Leila selected colors that she liked and that would match her kitchen. She picked out books that showed techniques for painting flowers. She chose a flower she liked and carefully moved forward. As she added each layer, the rest of us were awed. It was turning out so beautifully. Leila is a planner, you see.

When she finished, she commented that she felt tempted to do just one more thing, but then she knew she would keep doing one more thing and then one more thing and then just one more thing until she managed to ruin it. So we cut her off. No more paint. No more brushes. We forced her to leave well enough alone, and that beautiful spoon rest is still in her kitchen. I bet she gets compliments on it all the time.

I also selected colors that would match my kitchen. I decided on a yellow base coat and began painting. I glanced at the books, but mostly just painted. I found some little stamps and used them to put stars on the edges of the pottery. I painted the recessed area that was shaped like the spoon intended to rest there. The more I fiddled and played, the more the colors mixed and morphed. I stamped a letter T for Truett in the center and then left mine alone too. I am not much of a planner, and the little I do plan seldom comes out as I expect it to.

In the end, my spoon rest is not what one would call pretty, let alone beautiful. We have moved, so it no longer even matches my kitchen. As a matter of fact, the color and shape makes it look a bit like a chicken leg on a yellow background and the orangey shade with the letter T might make someone think I am (horror of horrors) a Tennessee fan. I should have painted the durn thing Kentucky Blue and been done with it.

I use the spoon rest daily, despite my dislike for its appearance. The making of the spoon rest is a fond memory. The girls also painted me a bowl on that visit. They signed their names inside it, and the bowl sits on my bedside table, a treasured possession. The spoon rest does its job, so I have no reason to replace it. One day, I probably will. I cringe every time I look at it.

It's a lesson learned. For starters, I could do with a little more careful planning in my endeavors, creative and otherwise. And, as we stopped Leila from continuing to fiddle with something already complete, so I should learn to take my brush out of the paint and let God have His way with what He has already created and made beautiful ... myself.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Babel




Babel

Our spires are high,
higher than those before us.
We climb them with our minds.
Each angle is a step.
Each angel shakes his head.
We never learn.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Her Right to Remain Silent



I am always learning to write. I have never "learned to write." No past tense possible in this career and calling. Just when you think you've mastered it, writing wiggles free from your grasp, sticks out her tongue, and runs away giggling.

That's where I am with my current book project. It's like nothing I've ever written before in that it requires a TON of research. I am diving into a world I do not understand and my character has, thus far, remained a character instead of a person.

She won't talk to me.

It is seriously driving me crazy.

I've been dancing around her. I have researched happenings related to the one I want to write about. I have made lists of what I need to do. I have contacted a few people who can help me understand guns, because they are not my thing. I have plotted, in my head, who this girl is, what she was like before IT happened and how IT led to the even bigger IT that is the centerpiece of my story. I have thought about her best friend and her ex-boyfriend and her teacher.

Still, she is cold toward me. She glares. She won't speak.

And then, yesterday, it hit me...

Of course she won't speak! I just finished telling my husband how she refuses to speak to the police or a lawyer or even her best friend. She won't answer questions. She is taking her "right to remain silent" very seriously.

And if she won't talk to them, why would she talk to me?

I'm going to have to approach her from a different angle. Since this wall of silence didn't occur until the first IT happened, I am going to have to find her before. I need to meet Chrissy, because by the time she shortens her name to Chris and quits talking, she's written everyone off, including me, and I made her. I created her. And she still won't even look me in the eye.

Being a writer is often like parenting. Or being God. All of these little creations and they think they know what's best for them.

*pulls out hair*

So, for the next few days, I am trying to learn about Chrissy, the anti-war activist who dumps her boyfriend over his purchase of a gun. She's kind and sweet but also confident and outspoken. She's way more likely to talk to me than Chris, silent stalker of violent justice.

Is there anything in your life that you keep learning over and over again? What is it and has it been worth the lessons?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What the Gift Means



Earlier this week, I took Haydn with me to Walmart for a grocery run. I offered to buy he and his brother those little individual serving cartons of Ben & Jerry's. They are only a dollar, so not a bad treat for good behavior. Unfortunately, Walmart didn't have any. I let Haydn pick out a half-gallon of ice cream instead and figured he and David could split it.

This was fine with Haydn. At first.

In the checkout line, Haydn asked if he could get candy and I said no. Then we had this conversation:

Haydn: Can I at least get a drink then?
Me: No. I bought you ice cream.
Haydn: (gives me a disgruntled expression)
Me: Wait, you don't want ice cream?
Haydn: I wanted my own ice cream. Now we have to share it.
Me: But there's enough for you to each have 3 times as much ice cream as what came in those little cartons.
Haydn: But we have to share it.
Me: Go put it back.

And yes, despite his tears and protests, I made him walk across the store and return the ice cream to the freezer.

As we drove home, I asked him this:

How would you feel if you had drawn me a picture, a present just for me, and when I looked at it, I said, "Well, that's okay, but I wish you'd drawn a dog instead of a cat?"

He begrudgingly admitted this would make him angry.

Having made my point there, I moved onto the next issue. I told him that it is rude to complain about a gift from anyone. That even if someone gives you a shirt that is five times too small, you thank them, because what is important is what the gift MEANS. The gift means the person thought of you. Buying him ice cream meant I thought he was doing a good job and wanted to reward him.

Then, I told him about an experience from my young life. I was a wee thing and spent the night with an aunt whom I adored. When she told me what she'd made me for breakfast, I said, "I don't like that." I can't remember what it was, but I clearly remember her stooping down to look me in the face and tell me I was never to say that again. It was fine for me to say "No, thank you," but when someone does something for you, you do not insult their offering. Ever.

I told Haydn how embarrassed and scared I had felt then. I was a kid who did everything right, and I didn't like thinking I had messed up and hurt my aunt's feelings. Here I am, 31 years old, and when I think of that kiddie faux pas I still feel shame. But I am SO GLAD she corrected me. I never made that mistake again. And I could have.

I told Haydn about being 16 and going to Mexico on mission work. While there, we were served all sorts of foods. The people serving us could mostly barely feed themselves. One boy refused to eat something given to him for lunch at a church, and our youth minister lit him up. He had insulted the generosity of the people who humbly prepared and served his meal. Then, on our last day, the family where my group worked served us chicken soup. The girl beside me realized the chicken we'd played with all week was no longer in the church yard. She was in the soup. My friend would not eat the soup. I was astounded. I mean, I told her on Day one that the chicken was NOT a pet but a future meal. Where did she think chicken soup came from anyway?

It never occurred to me to decline to at least try everything put in front of me on that trip. My aunt made sure of that. And I told Haydn, I will do the same for he and his brother. I will correct them now and save them from embarrassing correction later.

Better to have your mother say, "Stop picking your nose," than to be spotted picking by a bully at school who never lets you live it down.

Amen?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Learning in Communion

Originally published at Middle Places as In the Middle of Eucharist, reposted here because I learned something from this experience and I want to share it with you.
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Having been married to a minister for almost twelve years, you’d think I’d be old hat at serving communion. I’m not though. As a matter of fact, two weeks ago, I served communion in our church for the first time. I stood alongside my husband as congregants came forth. Corey held the bread in its linen shroud and I held the chalice of grape juice.

The reason I love taking communion by intinction is also the reason for it’s unique level of awkwardness – especially when people come forward one by one rather than kneeling in groups with their hands cupped in expectation. As each person stepped up, I heard my husband say, “The body of Christ, broken for you.”

And then, the person was in front of me. My mouth opened automatically. “The blood of Christ, shed for you.”

Such powerful words. How could I be saying them? More than 2000 years after this Jewish baby was born to a virgin, I stand in a carpeted room, holding pottery, and casually offering friends and strangers the opportunity to…

drink His blood?

It’s no wonder so many people thought the early Christians were wack-jobs. I mean, seriously? Eat me. Drink me. Lewis Carroll hadn’t even written Alice yet.

As I settled into the routine, holding out the cup, repeating the words, I began noticing the people. Some of them stepped up boldly, dipped their hunk of bread deep into the juice and popped it into their mouths like double fudge brownies with a chick-flick. I liked that. More Jesus? Yes, please.

Some people were timid. They barely touched the tip of the bread to the juice, more ritual than meal. Some of them met my eyes and some looked only at their hands, the cup, the floor, the small child on their hip. Some of the kids grinned. Some of the kids hurried. One man reached forward, took the cup and my hands inside his own large palms and put his mouth to the rim. He drank deeply. He smiled.

Later, I would think of him a lot, how he approached the Eucharist with confidence and joy. Is that also how he approaches the other aspects of his faith? I wondered. If so, what does this say for the people who did not meet my eyes and the people who timidly touched their bread to the juice?

When I pray and worship, do I come to Jesus boldly, smiling as I raise Him to my lips? Am I unsure of my faith? Am I unsure of my worthiness in His presence?

Then again, perhaps I read them wrong. What I saw as timidness may have been reverence. For some, the act of touching that fresh-baked bread to the dark red juice was pure holiness. It required downcast eyes and awareness of whose life and death they partook. Do I remember He is holy? Aren’t I sometimes flippant in my faith, tossing it aside when it gets too cumbersome? Do I look at wine and really see blood? Or, as a minister I know says to small children taking communion, do I want just “a little snack from Jesus?”

I am honored by the experience of serving. I knew that I would be. What I didn’t know to expect was the open door into people’s spirits. The Eucharist, it turns out, is the most intimate act available within church walls. In that simple sharing of bread and fruit, we not only touch the Savior, we also meet our family, becoming part of one another in big bites and deep drafts, in small nibbles and tender touches. 

Truly, we are one.


Friday, October 25, 2013

It Comes Back



Haydn's been studying Australia (and nearby islands) this week. His geography book included instructions for making a boomerang, and he set about to do so. Haydn loves making things out of paper, especially things he can throw. Our floors are generally covered in bits of paper and the tape disappears from my desk faster than I can buy it.

After a while, he came inside with a device that did not resemble a boomerang. He was excited.

"Look, Mom. I made it. It comes back."

He demonstrated and this contraption did return to him.

"The boomerang from the book didn't work," he explained to me. "So I made this."

His invention is more like a cross made of paper rolls with additions in certain places to weight the "boomerang" so it will return when thrown.

He did this on his own.

My kid learns best when I don't shove too hard. Sometimes, that is hard for me to remember.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Dress Worth Waiting For



My dad taught me how to shop.

No, really. Mom worked in retail and working in retail can suck all the fun out of shopping. I hit my teen years and really struggled with fashion. We couldn't afford what was "in," and the people I went to school with pointed that out to me. Loudly and often.

"Bobos, make your feet feel fine. Bobos, cost a dollar ninety-nine."

Twenty years have passed since the first morning they sang that song to me, a serenade outside of my math class while I pretended to read a book. I still hear it. I still gaze longingly at top brand shoes, because my spirit holds scars connected to the generic version of Keds.

And I still can't get away with buying what's in. At least, not a lot of it and not the "real" thing in most cases. I can dream of 7 for all Mankind, but they are not in my price range. Ya know? So I window shop. I browse Zulily when new sales go up.

Do I buy things?

Nope. I have, in my entire life, purchased from Zulily one time. I ordered shirts for my youngest son for Christmas. That's it.

Instead of buying, I pin. I have a Pinterest board called Window Shopping. I pin whatever strikes my fancy. Then, every few months, I browse the board and delete more than half of the pins. I learned this from my Dad, in another version.

Dad used to tell me, to avoid impulse buying, I should carry an item around the store and see how badly I still wanted it when it was time to go. Or, make myself wait a day and then go back to buy it. If, in that time, I found I didn't want it as much as I thought, I'd saved myself some cash.

It works. I have NOT bought so many things using this method. And now I've transferred it to the digital world via Pinterest.

The upside? When I do buy something, I know I am making a good purchase. For instance, I bought a TARDIS dress recently. I spotted it in Hot Topic about a year ago. I wanted it. I didn't need it though. I put off buying it. Until this month, when they were changing to a different TARDIS dress style and my dress was being discontinued. There was only one left in my size.

I think still wanting something enough to visit it in the store after twelve months makes it a solid purchase. I won't get tired of it. I will wear it.

In so many ways, I act on impulse. And, until the last few years, shopping was one of those ways. I am learning though. My closet is happier for it.

As is my bank account.



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I LIke Well-Written TV



Recently, I tried to tell someone what kinds of TV shows I like. I was stumped. What do my favorites have in common?

Parenthood
Grey's Anatomy
Orange is the New Black
Doctor Who
Modern Family
The Mindy Project

Those are current shows I enjoy, though I am behind on 3 of them.

Other favorites include:

Firefly
Whitney
Suburgatory
Private Practice
4400
Gilmore Girls

I'm eclectic; it's true. But I did find a common thread among all but Project Runway.

I like well-written TV. Back when Shonda wrote for Grey's, I even kept up with the writers' blog. Whether the writing makes me laugh or cry or think, these shows all include some solid dialogue and narration. Only well-written characters come to life enough for me to follow them to other shows (Addison is the reason I watched Private Practice). I started The Mindy Project because I read Mindy's book and it cracked me up. She's a good writer.

I laughed and looked at Corey saying, "Even with television, I am a book nerd."

So if you have a show suggestion, lay it on me. Especially if it is on Netflix. I have learned something new about myself and I like it.

What about you. What connects the shows or movies you like most?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Signature in Nail-Scarred Script



Yesterday, a friend brought up the subject of God being in everyone. Is He in everyone, she asked. Immediately, everything in me surged forth with, "Yes, yes, yes, God is in everyone."

But I paused and asked myself, "Why do I believe that?"

I couldn't think of a specific Bible verse that backed my belief, though they may indeed exist.  I wasn't yet looking for an answer to what the Bible says about it though. I just wanted to know why I believed it. What was it that made my pulse hammer fast with certainty? 

All day, I toyed with this concept. God in everyone. I am not talking about everyone being "saved" or "going to heaven" or any of that sort of theology. That is a different matter altogether. I am talking about God, some part of God, being inherent in each of us, regardless of religion or lackthereof.

I thought about the Bible again, about stories Jesus told. I remembered "the least of these."

Maybe, even if God is not in everyone, we should live as if He is. After all, that person I consider 100% lacking in God-filled-ness might actually be Jesus. I may be "entertaining angels unaware."

I liked this idea, but it didn't feel like the answer. Yes, treating everyone as if they are Jesus is a good way to do life. But it doesn't tell me whether some bit of God is actually inside them. And I still felt sure that God was inside everyone.

One of my favorite parts of Yoga is the word Namaste. The light in me recognizes the light in you. To some, it is "the God in me recognizes the God in you." I know half of you will now blow me off as being into New Age-ism and consorting with devils, but hear me out for a minute. Namaste is not the answer to why I believe God is in everyone. My love for the phrase simply reminded me that I do believe it. I believe it very deeply, and it seems others have believed it very deeply along the way. I am not alone here.

So, again, I wondered why.

I went to bed and lay awake, bound and determined to learn the reason for my passionate surety. Why, I asked God. Why do I know it?

The answer came quickly once I asked. It came quickly and in two parts.

First, I thought of God in the garden, creating man from the dust of the earth. Whether you read it as literal or metaphorical, I think we can agree the message comes through. We are made in His image, in Their image. At the very least, each person bears the image of God, their creator.

I am a creator. I don't make people. But, then again, I do.

I create all sorts of people for my stories. I pour myself into them. Pieces of me show up in my characters and the sorts of lives they lead. Even if a poem isn't good, it is still a piece of me. I am in it. A book may never find its way to a shelf, but no matter. I am in the story. I crafted it. I created it. I feel it in me. You can't read it without seeing me there.

So, yes, I thought. There you have it. God created us and breathed into us, so we cannot help but have God inside of us.

Then, as sleep inched closer, I saw my children. I saw them as they are now and as they once were. I remembered their chubby cheeks and sweet giggles. I thought of carrying them inside my body, feeling them move, knowing they are the only people in the world who know how my heart sounds from the inside.

Am I not a child of God? Aren't we all? Not all of His children acknowledge Him. They do not obey Him or even believe that He exists. But that doesn't change who He is. When my oldest son is at his worst, angry and hateful, I am still in him. Honestly, I never see myself inside him more than when he rages against imaginary injustice. My own futile furies are mirrored in his aching face.

They aren't just in my image though. They are made out of me.

Nothing existed without God. All was made from and by His being.

I fell asleep with tears on my cheeks.

Yes, God is in me and you and the lady I spotted digging in the garbage yesterday afternoon. He's in the rich and the poor, the democrats, the republicans, and the fed-up-with-them-all-ians, of which I count myself a party member.

God is not the trees or the flowers or the people He created. I am not worshiping the creation over the Creator. I am simply recognizing the signature of a mighty God scrawled in nail-scarred script on the heart of every canvas.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Eliza Cat



Today, I learned that my niece Eliza thinks her middle name is Cat. This amuses me because, when we were little girls, people back home would teasingly call my sister Carrie Cat.

Here's a clip of the most adorable little girl in the world.

video


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mom, Make Islam Quit Looking At Me Like That!



Two lines of thought converged on me this week. For months and months, maybe even years, I have toyed with the stories of brothers in the Bible. When you think of Biblical brothers, who comes to mind?


  • Cain and Abel?  Yeah, that ended well.
  • Isaac and Ishmael?  Comforting, no?
  • Jacob and Esau? Well, they eventually made up. 
  • Joseph in his coat and the brothers who peopled his dreams? Such a sweet story. Not.
  • James and John? Maybe a bit more encouraging, even if they did tend to be hot-tempered Mama's boys.
  • Jesus and his brothers? They believed Him... after He died. Sheesh.

I have thought of these pairings again and again as I raise my own set of boys, these brothers who bicker and punch and also tickle and tease and then go back to crying and yelling because someone looked at someone else and make him stop looking at me like that/copying me/stealing my toys/making those faces.

Boys.

As I was reading a book set in Syria, a book that taught me a lot I never knew about Islam and the Quran as well as new angles from which to approach my own Scriptures, I thought of the things we have in common and also how we differ. I enjoyed comparing our stories to those in the Quran, our version of Mary and theirs, etc... How could these two faiths come from one man and still the faithful cannot get along to save our lives? Literally to save so many lives.

My mind snaked its way back to the brothers. I ran down the list again and landed on Isaac and Ishmael. When you think about it, Christianity (or, at least Judaism) and Islam are brothers. Isaac fathered Jacob who went forth and became Israel. Ishmael also prospered and filled the land with descendants.

And here we are, thousands of years later, still divided by the differences of brothers.

And here I am, thousands of years later, still struggling to reconcile two boys from the same father. So alike and so different.

How would the world change if brothers got along?


Psalm 133:1-3

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, 
on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! 
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Feeling Like a Crazy Person



After changing anti-depressants so many times, I have learned some things. Most important to remember is this:

Coming off of an anti-depressant, at least for me, is exactly like being pregnant.

Nausea.
Teariness.
Insomnia.
Fatigue.
Nightmares.
Absent-mindedness.
Feeling like a crazy person.

After about two weeks, I finally had a day where I felt good more than I felt sick.

Woot!

I also slept all night. Perhaps I've rounded the bend. Maybe I will even feel up to blogging that post I have been brewing, the one about Jesus... where He is and how I haven't been able to see Him for a while.

:)

Currently: Blackbirds and the Sun of October

Current Books: I just finished the most beautiful book ever, Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldaña. I sobbed my way through it. Not because it is sad, but because so many of the stories spoke truth that broke through my armor and hit the soft places I've kept hidden for too long. I might have to devote a whole blog series to that book. Now, as a sorbet, I picked up the tiny little novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Memories of my Melancholy Whores. I know. The title. But he's a classic Spanish author and I am on a Spanish kick. With the boys, I am reading The Book Thief and The Perfect Game. They are currently addicted to the Bone series of graphic novels.

Current Playlist: In the car, we're listening to Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Eating junk food, because this med change has left my taste buds and tummy out of whack.

Current Colors: I bought peacock blue for my hair.

Current Fetish: Doctor Who. We're counting down to the 50th anniversary special.

Current Food: Totino's pizza rolls. I haven't eaten them in years, but I craved them this week. Crazy med change.

Current Drink: Coffee makes me nauseous (med change again) but I am adoring apple chai from Starbucks.

Current Favorite Favorite: Words in Arabic with all of their symbolism and nuance.

Current Wishlist: A shopping spree to outfit myself for Israel, a retreat in a monastery...

Current Needs: More patience. Infinite patience.

Current Triumph: A couple of men stopped by the church, asking for help, and they barely spoke English. I got to use my tiny bit of Spanish and they understood me. It felt amazing. I want more of that feeling.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Cymbalta withdrawal. It's a beast.

Current Indulgence: Since coffee makes me sick, I have been allowing myself apple chai and soda. I need a dose of caffeine each day, one way or another.

Current Mood: It's almost 1PM and I haven't felt sick today, so I am HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!

Current #1 Blessing: My man, who handles my issues with such grace.

Current Outfit: Jeans, striped sweater, painted TOMs

Current Link: I had a poem I'm fond of up at Middle Places this week.

Current Quote: The opening of the Quran parts the air as one would hear the first, faint notes from a violin in a symphony. -Stephanie Saldaña

Current Photo:  


Title taken from Poem in October by Dylan Thomas




Friday, October 18, 2013

It's Black. It's White.



I've only left the country once. I was 16 when I took a trip to Mexico with my church youth group. It was a wonderful experience and one I have always hoped to repeat. International travel, however, hasn't been in the cards for the last 15 years.

Next year, that changes.

In February, our church is sending us on a trip to Israel. This is a dream come true. There will be lots of future blog posts about Israel. In July, our youth group is headed to Honduras on a mission trip. I'm hoping to use some of this Spanish I am learning.

Anywho, with this month's focus on learning, I wanted to share the brilliant tip that my friend Kristi shared with me. It has simplified my packing plans for both trips.

Pick a color scheme. Bring separates within that color scheme. Then everything can be mixed and matched. Add a few bright colored scarves and voila! Maybe that is common sense to you, but it never even occurred to me. If I'd thought of it when we went to Seattle, my suitcase might have weighed less. *wink*

Any travel tips to share? I have lots to learn.








Thursday, October 17, 2013

Books That Taught Me Something, Part 2



In the Woods by Tana French - Dana suggested I read this series. She raved about the author, so I picked up In the Woods. When I realized it was a mystery/suspense novel, I almost put it back on the shelf. I am SO glad I didn't. I flew through Tana's Irish detective novels like eating candy. I learned that maybe I do like a good mystery after all. Maybe I have been missing out by ignoring this genre.

Quotes from the book:

“I am not good at noticing when I'm happy, except in retrospect."

“What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this -- two things: I crave truth. And I lie. ”

“Maybe she, like me, would have loved the tiny details and inconveniences even more dearly than the wonders, because they are the things that prove you belong.”


A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans - This book taught me so much I could never cover it in a full blog post, let alone one paragraph in this post. You will just have to read it yourself. I will tell you, it is two things that I love having together in a book. It is both funny and deeply convicting. GK Chesterton said a religion that cannot laugh at itself is no kind of religion at all (paraphrasing) and I agree.


Quotes from the book:

“...faith isn't about having everything figured out ahead of time; faith is about following the quiet voice of God without having everything figured out ahead of time.”

“As a Christian, my highest calling is not motherhood; my highest calling is to follow Christ.”

“I have come to regard with some suspicion those who claim that the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven’t actually read it.”



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Littlest Addict


Today, I'm attempting to teach my youngest son about addiction. Laugh if you will, but he is horribly addicted to video games. I blame myself. I let my kids' Kindle time limits slowly disappear. They are limited to one hour of Xbox 360 each day and recently lost those privileges for a month due to persistent name-calling. That helped me isolate another problem: the Kindles. I started paying close attention to how they act toward one another when the Kindle is in their hands. It wasn't pretty.

I reverted to the original 1-hour Kindle limit. Of course, I decided to do this just before the rain set in, so now I have kids confined to the house and less hope of entertaining them. Cooped up kids are not fun at all.

This morning, I heard David, my 9-year-old, downstairs in the garage. He was giving the punching bag what-for, so I knew something was up. When he made it back upstairs, I asked him to come talk to me. He was angry about his Kindle time limit. In typical mom fashion, I asked him about the kids around the world who don't have Kindles. Or any other video game for that matter. I asked him to think about kids who don't even have enough food to eat. I sent him to his room until he could have a coherent conversation, as he was crying and refusing to do more than grunt at me.

When he came down, we talked about addiction. We talked about how this little box of glass and plastic is controlling his life. He is allowing his entire day, each day, to be ruined over a bit of electronic diversion. I mentioned that he only goes to church a few hours per week, but he has never thrown a tantrum over me limiting his church time. He has never complained he doesn't get enough time to read or play piano or draw pictures. I wasn't yelling. I pointed out that I am not angry. It is my fault for letting it get this bad in the first place. I told him I understand that addiction is too much for a kid to handle on his own, and that's why I am stepping in. Together, we will beat it.

He tried to convince me he was upset because the Kindle was a gift from his granddaddy (who passed away a year ago). Now, tell me my kid isn't smart. It was a good weapon.

If I'd believed him.

Me: So, if I keep the Kindle but let you play Xbox all day, you will still be upset?
Him: (Confused) No.
Me: You'd be happy with the Xbox?
Him: (Hopeful) Yes.
Me: But the Xbox was not a gift from Granddaddy.
Him: (Blank stare)

Good try, bud. Good try.

I see myself in David. I once gave up books for lent. That was the hardest fast of my life. I was so addicted to books, at the time, I would read the crappiest of crappy fiction just to be reading. After Easter that year, things changed. I don't only read heavy theology now, but I also can't stomach fluff on a regular basis. My addiction is broken. I still adore books (obviously), but I don't feel controlled by them. I also broke a food addiction this year. Gah, that was hard.

Too hard for a 9-year-old to manage on his own.

That's what I told David. He's a kid. He can't handle a big physiological issue, like addiction. It is my job to protect him from such things and to help him through when my protection fails. I failed him this time, and it bites. For both of us. I hate seeing my big-hearted boy overcome by this. Where video games are involved, he morphs from this beautiful soul into an angry little demon of a kid. I wish you could see it.

He's still mad. He will be for a while. That's addiction. Withdrawal. The whole shebang. We're both learning some hard lessons in this.

What are you learning today?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Repost: Let It Happen



There is nothing in my life that has taught me more than parenting. And I don't say that to be all sweet and mommy-blogger-ish. I have not learned my lessons easily. God has to really hammer the point home with me most of the time. Well, pretty much all of the time, actually. Again and again, I am reminded that we are to come to Him as little children. Each moment of parenting shows me a new perspective on that concept. There are the obvious truths: kids forgive more easily than adults, kids have bigger imaginations, kids throw themselves into their passions with crazy abandon. And the list goes on.

This morning, I played a game with the boys. We have the iPad version of The Game of Life. It does have a board and the little cars with those classic pink and blue pegs. It also has play money, but the spinner is on the touch screen, and the iPad will keep up with your babies, career and college choices, Life cards, etc... So, we set up the game and began playing.

The way it works is this: when it is your turn, you swipe the spinner, move your car and then do what the square says. Haydn did this and landed on "You Get Married!" He tapped the icon and it started to show his wedding. Now, in order to skip to the next turn, he would need to tap the pink button on the screen.

Impatiently, I said, "You forgot to tap the button."

"No, I didn't. I'm just letting it happen." Haydn said and he gestured to the animated wedding onscreen.

Well.

And he did. Let it happen, I mean. When the wedding concluded (maybe four whole seconds later), he tapped the pink button. We continued with the game. Why was I so anxious to move on, to take my turn at the end of his, to rush through his little blue and pink peg wedding?

Currently, I am pretty anxious to move through the journey of publication, and I find myself ready to see my book in print already. Why? Why can't I slow down, enjoy the little tasks and celebrations along the way?

I need to learn this lesson from my son and just let it happen.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What Have You Learned Today?



Today I learned how amazing it is to wear sunglasses when driving. After 8 years with a prescription lens restriction on my license, I finally bought prescription sunglasses. Driving into the sun, on the way home from Eyemart Express, I thought, "This is lovely."

I learned that the reason I have been sick is the axis of my glasses. I knew it had to do with my eyes. Now I know the technical term for my problem. The axis being wrong results in a feeling akin to motion sickness. Not. Fun. I'm sure there is a spiritual application here. When our lenses are tilted at the wrong angle, our soul's eyes rebel.

I learned a recipe for Butter Beer. Tomorrow, I will make it for the boys.

I looked at my ponytail in the mirror and learned how faded my green is. I wish the bright colors would stay longer.

I learned that my friend, Amanda, had family members who were nuns at the retreat center I plan to visit soon.

We learn things everyday, don't we? Sometimes on purpose and sometimes despite our best efforts to the contrary.

What have you learned today?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Poem: Craving Only You



There's always more.
Sitting inside myself,
feeling selfish,
so tired, so very tired
of everything life asks of me,
I feel that I could
empty Him of His
all, overwhelm Her
mother heart
so She cannot stand the sight
of me anymore.

This morning, They whisper
no,
no, no, no, Heather,
you can never be
too much
for Me,
and how can I do more
than cry
a grateful heaving sob that says,
I'm sorry, so so sorry
that I ever doubted You - the depth,
the length, the last lavish drop
of all Your love.

I want more, Jesus.
My hands and heart are open
and I'm craving only You.

I'm craving
only
You.

HT


*Learning to feel God in me again.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

To Love and to Loathe


At 18, I was a self-righteous prick of a girl. I've said that before, but it bears repeating. When 9/11 happened, I was one of those awful patriots who got behind the war with the snapping of Dubya's fingers. I thought Christian meant Republican.

That was me.

It's embarrassing to admit, but there it is. I used to be That Person you all most likely avoided on Facebook.

I'm not her anymore.

I've been learning how to balance. I'm not great at it. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't love America. I mean, look at what she offers me? The very freedom to write a blog like this, where I will soon be telling you all of the ways I also don't love America... The choice to homeschool my children... Health benefits for my boys when we couldn't provide them ourselves... My childhood... My family... We're all American, and I like us. I've grown up with all of the luxuries of a spoiled American, and I'd be lying through my teeth if I told you I wasn't happy about that. I don't think hating America and my own life will make anyone else's country or life better.

But, some days, I don't like America. Some days, they do stupid stuff like SHUT DOWN THE GRAND CANYON. Okay, yes, I know there are bigger atrocities right now. My friend's husband isn't getting paid. Actually, quite a few of my friends are currently off with no pay. Some of them are even working with no pay. And, here's the kicker, they are NOT ALLOWED to get another job. Military families aren't even getting their death benefits. But the Grand Canyon? Our arrogance in thinking we control the GRAND CANYON? That struck me as the ultimate absurdity.

I'm sorry Congress, I wasn't there when you created the Grand Canyon. I missed that section in my history book. You don't have the right to cut off access to God's creation. Shut down your memorials. That's a low blow, but they are manmade memorials. You own them. Whatever. You do not own the Grand Canyon. I pretty much think you are all idiots right now, Democrat and Republican alike. I'd like to stand you all along the edge of that glorious canyon and see how big and powerful you feel before the hand of God.

But I digress.

I am reading Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana. There are so many sections that illustrate what I am trying to communicate here. For me, it is difficult to explain a feeling without a story. Even Jesus told stories to get his point across. Sadly, I am lacking in the kinds of stories that make my heart clear on this issue. One day, I will live them. In the meantime, I have to borrow them from others in order to show you myself.

Here, Stephanie writes about seeing a movie about the war in Iraq. She is watching this film in a packed theater in Syria.

"I sit between Michael and a Syrian man, who keeps shifting his feet back and forth on the ground in front of us. I can feel Michael responding to the English. I can feel the other man’s silence and his body reacting each time an Iraqi speaks. Sometimes he hides his face in his hands. Sometimes he looks down at the floor. When a young African-American soldier in the film says that he would never return to Iraq to kill another country’s poor people, he whispers quietly to the screen, Shukran leki. Thank you."

Did you feel that? Did you, like me, want to reach across time and space to take that Syrian man's hand?

Later, Stephanie writes:

"Sometimes, when I returned to America, I would dream of that baby screaming. Or the thought of it would come at the strangest times, when I was sitting down to coffee in Boston or looking out a window of the library at the falling snow. That child screaming. And it seemed to me so strange, so utterly surreal, that in the same space of time I could be reading a book and somewhere on the other side of the earth a man was being shot, or a child was in pain, when everything in front of me looked so still and quiet and even, for a brief moment, entirely beautiful."

This is the balance I struggle to learn. How can my life go on like it does, an American dream, while around the world suffering so often reigns supreme? How can I be genuinely upset by my "first world problems?"

I am though. I'm no saint. I can be completely annoyed by Netflix not working properly and simultaneously long for a month in a monastery in Syria.

How can I be both people? A citizen of America and a citizen of the world?

It is an aching in my gut. I carry it always. Sometimes I avoid books like Stephanie's. They make me face this wound that I don't believe will ever heal. They make me long for a life that isn't in the cards for me right now.

I agonize.

Will I ever learn to be both? Is it possible to love and also loathe the country that made you?


Friday, October 11, 2013

Siri, habla usted español?



I changed Siri's language to Spanish.

And she understood me.

I got her to call Corey and to pull up an article on Pablo Neruda.

I love language. I love words. Today, I learned that the Arabic word for "home" is the same word used for "a line of poetry." Doesn't that just make you swoon? I sort of want to eat Arabic with my fingers, it's juices dribbling off my chin.

I'll stick to Spanish for now, though. One new language at a time, right?

I have two goals for learning Spanish.

  • I want to be able to translate my own poems into Spanish. And, I don't just mean translate in the Google Translate kind of way. I want to choose my own words to express the ideas I am communicating. I want to contemplate the culture and metaphor. 
  • I want to read Pablo Neruda in his own language. He's amazing in translation. I cannot imagine the glory of his mother tongue.
I have other goals. I want to be helpful (language-wise) in Honduras next summer. I want to hold conversations with the Mexican women at my favorite Texaco station. I want to let God use me in random ways, including any help I can offer to the free clinic here in town. They have one night dedicated to Spanish speaking patients.

My two big goals aren't my goals because of their usefulness. They are my goals because they will show me success. If I can read Spanish poetry and write it myself, I can make the language my own. It can be, as they say in Arabic, my home.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Learning my Limits


I decided, this week, to attempt a day without Ritalin. I've been on Ritalin for a long time. A low dose, but a dose. I don't like taking it. I have this fear that I am slowly prepping my body to have a heart attack one day. I have not researched this possibility because if it is true, I am not sure how I would handle it.

Ignorance is bliss?

So, after an appointment with a doctor not my own (because my doctor is recovering from breaking his back), I had a panicky experience. Substitute doctor would not write my prescription. He has his own ideas about what he should and shouldn't prescribe. I have my own opinions about how I'd like to punch him in the face for sending me into a panic with his holier than thou medical attitude, but I kept my mouth shut and tried not to cry.

Maybe I need to quit taking the stuff, I thought. Am I imagining my need for it? I can do this right? Other people cope without a legal meth habit, right?

So, On Tuesday, I did not take my Ritalin. I was prepared. I came armed with lists and plans and coffee. I would do this thing. I would win.

Who needs Ritalin?

Me. I need Ritalin.

Le sigh.

Lists mean just about nothing when my brain reads them as static. I started a 6 minute Spanish lesson and could not focus. I think I paused it to regroup three times. In 6 minutes. I am not exaggerating here, people. I taught my youngest about hyperbole this morning. This is not hyperbole. This is cold hard fact. I looked at my lists, tried to remember my plans, searched for the notebook I knew I had written notes in just a few months ago, sat on my bed staring at the closet, opened and closed my laptop, played Scramble with Friends badly, thought about napping, drank more coffee, wondered if it was too late to just take my pill...

It was. I would have been up all night. So I finished out the completely unproductive day and called it a wash.

I learned though. I learned that I most certainly can live without Ritalin, but write novels and educate my children and keep the house from falling further into shambles and help at church and learn to speak Spanish?

Nope. Ain't gonna happen.

Signed,

Your friendly neighborhood legal-meth-addict

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Learning You're Loved


Over the last few weeks, I have been learning about a couple of countries. First of all, I've been reading a set of Irish mysteries, so I've picked up all sorts of Irish slang and bits of Irish culture. It's fun. One day, I would like to visit Ireland, but that isn't in my immediate future.

What is in my immediate future?

Israel.

I have learned, over the last few weeks, that our church family loves us. Okay, so I knew they loved us, but when someone loves you as generously as they have in this instance, it is both exciting and humbling. I won't tell you how much it is costing for Corey and I to go to Israel in February. Suffice it to say, a lot. The trip includes airfare, a very nice hotel, transportation in Israel, admission to a billion places, breakfast and dinner daily, and who knows what else I am missing. Our church sent a letter to the congregation and asked for donations to pay for our trip. Within 3 weeks, both of our trips have been fully funded.

Wow.

My Pinterest feed is full of sites we will be visiting and views I dream of seeing. I am about to read a novel set in Israel. I have my passport on my desk where I see it daily. My in-laws have volunteered to keep the boys with them in Tennessee.

Sometimes, we learn the most amazing things from the generous hearts of others.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Things I've Learned in the Last Week



  • Big Bird's Spanish counterpart is... bright.
  • Corey's friend's dad is a lit agent.
  • New shoes really do change my whole outlook.
  • I get to go to a Kentucky football game this month.
  • Haydn's best friend is moving from the house next door.
  • Un, Una, Unos, Unas, El, La, Los, Las
  • Haydn will happily wear hot pink if it is somehow related to football.
  • It is flooding in Cambodia.
  • My writing notebooks need to be organized somehow.
  • When I am not writing creatively DAILY I feel scattered.
  • Blogging everyday about learning is harder than I thought it would be.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quotilicious Learning



“I don't love studying. I hate studying. 
I like learning. Learning is beautiful.” 
― Natalie Portman 


“The mind once enlightened
cannot again become dark.”
― Thomas Paine


“Learning is not attained by chance, 
it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” 
― Abigail Adams 



“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” 
― T.H. White, 
The Once and Future King

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Books That Taught Me Something - Part 1



Obviously, this is an incomplete list. Every book teaches me something. ;) I may do a few of these posts. For this entry, I will stick with books read in the last year.


Here's to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire - The author and I share a diagnosis. From this book, I learned that I'm considered "double exceptional." I'd never heard the phrase before. It means I am both gifted and, for lack of a better word, disordered. One part of my brain is super smart and creative, but the other part isn't sure what day it is or why any of that other stuff is important. I also learned how lucky I am to have found a med that works for me.


Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver is one of my all-time favorite writers. If she wrote commercials, I'd give in and watch them instead of fast-forwarding via DVR. Her books are glorious journeys into worlds and characters I fall in love with. This newest novel is no different. It is set in TN, pretty much at my in-laws' house. No joke. I learned so much about monarch butterflies. And the spiritual applications are many.


Still Writing - I adored this book. I have battled with my writing style, my habits and methods. Dani Shapiro reminded me that how I write is how I write. I don't have to bend to someone else's style or methods. It helps that her style is very like mine. We both write organically. I felt immensely encouraged and inspired by this book.



Saturday, October 5, 2013

Learning the Difference



If you've heard me refer to a certain popular book as 50 Shades of Slutty, you may think me a prude.

You would be wrong.

I don't loathe erotica. I loathe badly written porn, sure, but not all erotica counts as such. A book can contain beautiful, even graphic, descriptions of sex and sexuality without crossing over the line to something that annoys me. You can feel differently about that, and we can still like each other just fine. ;)

For instance, I wouldn't at all mind my husband watching Orange is the New Black. It is a great show. Yeah, there's some graphic sex. Could I do without that? Sure. But the show is solid. The writing is wonderful. The point of the show is not the sex. The point is the story, and you'd be hard pressed to take an honest look at a women's prison and NOT include girl on girl action and inmates sleeping with guards. That's how it is. On the other hand, I won't be buying my man a subscription to Hustler.

That's the difference between the new trend toward over-sexed novels and a book like Sappho's Leap
by Erica Jong. Erica writes about an ancient poet known for her sexual descriptions of love for other women. You can't tell Sappho's story without touching on that subject.

Sappho has fascinated me for a while. Very few female voices filter down thousands of years. Sappho's has. Why? Maybe it is the universal truth in her simple stanzas. We are love. Men, women, parents, lovers, etc...

Love love love love love love.

I enjoyed Jong's novel. I have heard her name for ages and always planned to read one of her books. I'm glad I chose this one. Her storytelling is superb. It isn't overly flowery or descriptive, but it is honest in its telling. I like that. I found myself immediately drawn into Sappho's tale. I wanted to know every detail. I wanted to love her and be loved by her. I felt transported to a world that only exists in history, one I rarely think much about.

A beautiful read. A lesson in accurately and beautifully portraying a sexually liberated woman.

Brava, Ms Jong. Brava.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Things I Wish My Kids Would Learn


  • How to be civil to one another on a regular basis
  • To clean up behind themselves
  • Not to pee on the toilet seat or the wall beside the toilet
  • Volume control
  • How amazingly blessed they are
  • That life is not a competition
  • To always load the dishwasher my way (no matter what their daddy tells them)
  • DO NOT TALK TO MOM BEFORE HER COFFEE!
  • If Mom is holding a book, it is not a good time to chat about Minecraft weapons.
  • The phrase "yes, but" nullifies the rest of your argument.
  • If you would just say "yes ma'am," you'd be in a lot less trouble.
  • When I tell you to go to the bathroom on a road trip, just go. I will never know if you don't actually pee. Just please humor me and go to the darn bathroom.
  • They really do not need a drink and a snack every single time we enter a store.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blasphemy



“What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.” ― Harold Howe

This quote ran through my mind when a friend took a job at a school with no library. At least no library in any form you would recognize. They had a media center, which is what our school library was called when I was a kid. It's just that the "media" at Horrell Hill Elementary School included, well, books. My friend taught briefly at a school that had no books in the library.

NO. BOOKS. IN. THE. LIBRARY.

There were no books to speak of in the entire school. It sounded, to me, like a dystopian fantasy novel, but it was not that. It was just a middle school in South Carolina. A middle school based on iPads. Not even actual computers. iPads were the status quo.

Now, I love my Kindle. I like my iPad, but I don't read on it. I spend enough time with backlit screens as it is. I read on my Kindle some and I read paper books some. It's according to how I can get the book cheapest, whether I want to take notes, if I need to pass it on, etc... So, I am a-okay with utilizing ebooks. But... no paper books at all?

None?

My love of learning was born from my love of books. Well before I could read, I liked books. I agreed to learn my alphabet if my big brother would let me have one of his old school books. I think my mom still has the book. It was an anthology of stories. I learned my alphabet in about ten minutes, as soon as he sealed the deal. Then I held my hand out for the book.

It was blue. It had a beat up cardboard cover. It felt like heaven in my hands.

If you want to know what I feel about education, look at my shelves. I feel like I am always giving away books, but the shelves still overflow. My kids know I will buy them books. I might say no to video games and sports equipment, but I'm a sucker for, "Mom, I really want the new Warriors novel."

A school without books?

Blasphemy.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Me Gusto Manzana Lift



Having finished the "Basic Needs" section of my Spanish lessons, I am now learning greetings. I know, that seems a bit backwards, but I get it. If I were dropped in the middle of a Spanish-speaking community with no interpreter I would need to find a hotel, taxi, food, water, etc... more than I would need to ask how someone is doing and tell them I am doing well (or not so well, having been mysteriously dropped into the middle of a Spanish speaking community with no interpreter).

The thing about learning something brand new is I want to use it. But I'm terrified to do so. I have a favorite Texaco station. It's owned by a Mexican family and I go there to buy Manzana Lift, an apple soda I fell in love with when I was 16 and took a mission trip to Mexico. Last time I went in, I wanted to say something in Spanish, but I didn't.

For starters, I barely speak any Spanish. I might manage to say hello and confess my love for Manzana Lift, but they already know of my love for the stuff. I go in and buy three bottles at a time and nothing else ever. And what do I do when they reply in Spanish and I can't understand them because I have not gotten that far in my lessons? How stupid would I feel then? Not to mention, the little bit of Spanish I can speak is about the same as any other clueless white lady manages. Somehow, saying "hola" and "gracias" to a group of Mexican women makes me feel even more white and American than speaking English.

I think this is why learning is hard for so many people. It requires a certain level of discomfort. You have to risk looking dumb in order to get smart. Experience teaches, but sometimes it teaches with tools like humiliation and pain.

These are not tools I relish being used on me.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Spanish Word for Cancer



I have been teaching myself Spanish. Not only do I enjoy it, I keep thinking of what I can do with it. Next summer, there's a mission trip to Honduras. I can chaperone the trip and how cool will it be to speak a little Spanish by then? I bet the people we meet on the trip can help me a lot. Immersion learning, right?

I just finished unit 6, the quiz, for Basic Needs on this website: Visual Link. I did pretty well. I can speak and read the words I have learned. Writing them? A little more difficult. I mess up the Spanish spellings. Also, on the quiz, Nikki-Mac decided not to let me type the little accent letters. I hit shift and the menu shows up but no matter how I click, it will not do anything other than capitalize the English alphabet. I also tend to add or omit words. Learning a language is different than the kind of learning I do best. It requires more focus than I am used to giving.

But I love it. I do. I love saying these new words. I look for excuses to practice them. They feel fun in my mouth. A few nights ago, I dreamed the words "tiene que" all night long. It was like a mantra in my brain. I woke up with the phrase still playing in my head. I told Corey, "He, she, or you have to do something, but I haven't got a clue what."

Today, we received bad news. Our sweet kitty, Hocus, has cancer. I have a 9-year-old boy taking breaks from school to curl up in my lap and cry. I have an 11-year-old boy three states away who doesn't know. I get to tell him at the end of the week when he returns home. Hocus is his cat... his therapy cat. I don't want to tell him this news.

So I sit here in my bed, practicing my Spanish. I can tell you "Mi gato es negro," but I haven't learned the word for cancer yet.

Some things, I wish I didn't have to learn.

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