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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Shelf Life of Words

       Every year we extract it from the recesses of our mind, blow off the dust and, like our grandmother’s good china, rediscover the joy in using it. If we were to take it out on the fourth of July we’d be dubbed a screwball but after Thanksgiving, it’s fair game. 
You, reader, are smart so forgive me for spelling it out:  M E R R Y.
          Why is merry such a transitory, season-specific word? Why can’t we wish someone a merry birthday, or a merry anniversary? Why don’t teachers ever use it to describe our children? (“Johnny is such a merry child, all the children like him.”)
            The very word conjures up certain images, at least for me: girls in twirly dresses. Boys with flushed cheeks and cowlicks, running barefoot. Men laughing long and hard in mahogany lined pubs. Peppermint sticks. Gingham curtains. Row, row, rowing a boat. (give it a minute… it’ll come) Little old ladies kitting red woolen mittens. Don’t mind me if I jump on my feather bed and burst into song Julie Andrews style.

Mer-ry  adj
1. Full of or showing lively cheerfulness or enjoyment

            Even though the word stirs my craving for Dickens or Shakespeare, Brits, ironically, are more inclined to bid you a “Happy Christmas”. At any rate, the word exudes charm. And I suppose such charm could fade if we used merry daily. Like the Gingerbread Latte at Starbucks I adore. Love it, but since I want it to retain its I’m-treating-myself-today status, I don’t frequently indulge.
            After the New Year we’ll carefully wrap up our sweet little word merry and tuck her away with our blown-glass ornaments and garlands of ivy. We’ll save her for next year, so she doesn’t become commonplace.
            So, so easy for things to become commonplace.
            Even the story about Mary (the other one) and the star and shepherds and the baby in the manger. So easy for our wonder to fade, for the story to slip into ordinary, to dwindle in its significance. But the baby we’re celebrating grew up, grew up and uttered some pretty revolutionary words:

I am the bread of life
I am the living water
I am the light of the world
I am the good shepherd
I am the gate
I am the resurrection
I am the life
I am the way
I am the truth
I am the life
I am the beginning
I am the end
I am the first
I am the last

         No shelf life there. Words to ponder, words to chew on. If my neighbor spoke these words, I’d probably move.
         What child is this?
         Who is this baby who grew up to claim such things? 
         Celebrate the baby. Celebrate the wonder. Celebrate the Word that became flesh.

         And I’ll write it with a smile… Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Getting It

            The other week I took my kids to The Dollar Store for the sole purpose of filling their shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. During the past few months, they had saved up a few dollars in a mason jar labeled “Christmas Giving”. As we strolled up and down the store aisles this is what I heard:
             “Ooooh… I want this!”

            “Mom, can you get me this for Christmas?”

            “Can I buy this? I have enough money!”

            My jaw tensed and then I heard my own, disarmingly shrill voice overpower theirs. “This is not about you. I do not want to hear one. more. word. about. you. Get it?

            And then I think I saw someone from church look away and duck down the next aisle. I’m not sure. I hope I didn’t. But I think I did.

            Here’s the thing. The sad, raw truth: I am exactly the same way. I’m just a little more quiet about my desires, a little more grown up about the relentless, internal struggle between what I want because I want it and what I know my money could accomplish in the bigger, grander picture. I want to fund a well in Africa, I really do, but I also want a new rug for our family room.
            God has been good this year. He’s good every year but this year we saw specific “goodness” in specific tangible ways. As a result we were thrilled to be able to give the families of the Compassion children we sponsor in India a more substantial gift than we have in the past. As I write this, the verse about not letting our right hand know what our left hand is doing in regards to giving is battling it out against the verses that encourage us to spur each other on to good deeds. Can we share the joy we get from giving in a humble, non self-exalting way? I hope so. I suppose it’d take a whole sermon to reconcile these two principles but let me just say that we felt a rush of joy in the giving. We stood in the kitchen and whispered about what it would be like for these families to receive their gifts. Would they be surprised? What would they buy? What would they do with the money?
            “I hope they don’t think we’re just some rich Americans who think we’re better than everyone,” my husband said.
            We fell silent. I hoped they didn’t either. I hope, somehow, they know the pure joy we felt in being able to give. I hope they know what an honor it is to partner with them in this thing called life and that we, too, have been on the receiving end many, many times.
            I hope they have some inkling of the gift they’ve given us. That, truth be told, if we didn’t give our hearts may shrivel up into useless balls of self-absorption. You've heard it, I've heard it- 'tis better to give than receive... and "better" sure can can encompass a lot.
            When we came home from the Dollar Store the kids arranged the toys, stickers, school supplies and toiletries in their shoeboxes. Before we sealed the boxes for good, I handed one to each of my kids and told them to open them as if they were the recipients.
            My daughter effortlessly fell into the role. She gasped in delight as she opened her box. “Just what I’ve always wanted!”
            I hope so.
            I pray so. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Unexpected Miracles

(I'm pulling from the archives. "Unexpected Miracles" appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Cat, 2009)

            I have failed as a cat parent.  
My little cat Maisey, when she was just a smidgen over a year old, was going to be a mother. At first we weren’t sure.  Perhaps we were leaving a bit too much milk in her saucer and too many scraps of deli meat in her food dish, perhaps that was the reason for her suddenly ballooning mid-section. 
But my husband and I soon noticed that it wasn’t just her size that was changing, it was her attitude.  She no longer wanted to bat at the shoelace my four-year-old son Elijah dangled at her.  It seemed as if she hardly wanted to move at all.  Once a playful, romping, kitten, Maisey now took four or five lethargic steps and then flopped down like a beached whale and went to sleep.  When I picked her up to nuzzle her under my chin like she always loved, she would let out the faintest most pitiful, human-like groan.  I remembered similar groans escaping my lips when I was nine months pregnant. And it became painfully clear that sooner or later, she was going to lactate. 
But the most incriminating fact remained- I had let her out. More than once. Without a supervisor. Without a leash. Without being spayed.  I can hear Bob Barker’s chastisement now.
Yes, I have failed as a cat parent. And people let me know it, too.
“Didn’t you know that she had been in heat?” a friend of mine who volunteered at the humane society questioned.
“Well yes, but…”
“She was bound to get pregnant, with all the cats in the neighborhood.”
I called the humane society to check on their policy of accepting kittens.
“You didn’t get her spayed, huh?”
“No, I know I should have but I never got around to it…”
“Well, I guess it’s too late now.”
There was no mistaking the tsk tsk in her voice. 
And there was no stopping the inevitable. I did some research on the Internet and learned that cats liked privacy when their time came.  So we prepared a box for Maisey, lined with soft towels and old blankets on which she could labor and placed it in our basement bathroom.  I even plugged in a nightlight so the atmosphere would be soft and soothing instead of glaringly bright or pitch black. 
And then we began to watch her like a time bomb.
My Internet research had also informed me that many cats, right before they go into labor, become ultra affectionate. They purr, they cuddle, they want to be held.  It was a Sunday afternoon when suddenly our cat who had wanted nothing to do with us for the last four weeks thank-you-very-much appeared and sprang on my lap and purred with such vivacity that I knew it was time. 
My husband and I lead her to the basement and reminded her of her homey towel clad birthing box.  When the panting began we knew she meant business.  We walked with her down to the basement, turned the lights off, made sure the night-light was on and prepared to leave her alone.  We had no sooner put a foot on the basement steps when she began to meow, long and mournful.  She was right at our heels.  We led her back to her box but she refused.
“She wants to be with us,” my husband said.
“But that’s not what the Internet said.”
He gave me a look. During labor I hadn’t wanted any of the back rubs my pregnancy books promised I'd want.
I carried her labor box upstairs to our kitchen and set it in the corner.  She crawled inside.  I walked to the living room to tell Elijah what was happening.  She followed me.  I returned to the kitchen and knelt down beside the box.  She went back inside. 
“I think I’ll stay in her for awhile,” I called to my husband as I eased myself down to the tile floor. Throughout that night, the minute I stuck a toenail beyond the kitchen Maisey left her box and yowled.  She didn’t want to labor alone. Not that I could blame her.
She did not labor for long.  Her panting changed and I knew it would be soon.  My husband knelt down beside me.  My son crawled in my lap as I sat on the kitchen floor. We spotted the first little head, and then the body, and her first-born was out.
“It looks like a rat,” my son said as we watched Maisey instinctively clean her offspring.  The bath was cut short by the emergence of kitten number two.
“Isn’t that amazing,” I said to my son. 
It was impossible not to get caught up in the moment. To realize that’s how creatures come into the world, to ponder the design of it all, to marvel at the God-given instincts with which animals are equipped.  Planned or unplanned, the birth of anything is amazing.
“Is that what it was like when I was born?” my son asked.
“Sort of.  Except you weren’t quite as hairy.  And I didn’t lick you clean, the nurse gave you a bath.”
We witnessed number three emerge, then four and then five.  I began to get nervous.  But it was clear from Maisey’s expression that she was done as her scrawny, sightless offspring began to nurse. I reached my hand into the box and scratched her behind her ears.  Her purring grew louder and she only gazed at me when I touched each of her kittens with my index finger.  “Good job, Maisey,” I cooed.  “Good job.”
We hadn’t planned on having five, furry kittens that all needed good homes, but sharing the miracle of new life with my son is a memory I’ll never forget. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Heroes in Black and White

A few years ago my husband and I spent a crazy 48 hours in Paris. We crammed as much cheese, bread, espresso and Parisian sights in as we could. A couple of those precious hours were devoted to searching for a dead man’s house. Why? Because the house belonged to one of my heroes, Victor Hugo.

Actually, the house belonged to the man who created one of my Heroes, Jean Valjean.

I was a junior in high school the first time I met Jean Valjean in Hugo’s masterpiece Les Miserable. While the musical adaptation swept across Broadway, I was swept away in the French to English translation, rooting for, crying for, and living in the shadow of Hugo’s larger than life protagonist Jean Valjean. (Years later, I did get a chance to see the musical and yes, it’s stunning, but the book is…well… stunning-er.) Hugo stirred my affections for Valjean much like Harper Lee did for Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

And now I have a new hero: Josip Lasta. He resides in the pages of Michael O’Brien’s Island of the World.

I promise not to be a plot spoiler. The story follows the life of Josip Lasta, a boy living in the mountains of Croatia during World War II, and delves into subjects that, to my shame, wouldn’t ordinarily capture my attention. But put them in a story and I’m yours. I even goggled fascist ustashe, Tito, and Goli Otok, a communist “camp”.

Don’t let all this history deter you for the story is poetically, even at times mystically, written. It’s a tale of heartbreak and healing, pain and love, bitterness and forgiveness, possessing great truth without being preachy. A rare gem indeed.

Maybe O’Brien’s himself says it best...
“This novel cuts to the core question: how does a person retain his identity, indeed his humanity, in any absolutely dehumanizing situation? ….this novel is about the crucifixion of a soul - and resurrection.”

A word of warning. And an embarrassing one at that. I almost gave up on this novel. It took a good 100 pages for me to fully commit. (Did I mention it’s over 800 pages? I swear my biceps are bigger from lugging the thing around all summer.)

But since a dear friend highly recommended it, I pressed on. And man oh man, am I glad that I did. Because something huge happens, (the inciting incident in literary terms), and then you realize the details O’Brien so masterfully paints in the beginning of the story matter throughout.

Some books are easy to breeze through. Some are meant to muddle through, to digest slowly, to expose events and truths we’d rather leave hidden. But these are the stories that transform and shape our very thoughts.

Enough talk. Go read. And give your biceps a workout at the same time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ah, the Good 'ol Days

My daughter asked me yesterday, “When you were a little girl did you read from scrolls?” In other words, are you so old that books hadn’t been invented yet when you were my age?


Excuse me for a minute while I find my dentures. Things have changed from my generation to theirs, but not that much. Have they?

I love having my kids home for the summer. I truly do. But these past few months have caused me to wonder: who was the first kid to utter the words I’m bored. I know I said them as a kid. A lot. I’m pretty sure my parents did, too. Not quite as certain about my grandparents. Did pioneer kids grumble I’m bored? Probably not. They were probably too busy splitting firewood and warding off wolves. Does the phrase go back as far as Cain and Abel, or is I’m bored a sign of our modern times?

And I wonder if parents throughout time respond like I do: “How can you be bored with all of this stuff?”

My kids own plenty of things to keep them entertained, including DVD’s. I know I’ve told my kids that back in my day, I was only able to watch my favorite movie, “The Wizard of Oz” once a year on a low definition, black and white rabbit ear set, which kind of puts a damper on the whole spectacular-ness of munchkin land. (Until I was around eight and we got a color TV. I sure could relate to Dorothy’s delighted surprise then.)

I’ve also told my kids that counting cows from the car window is entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not anti-gadget or anti-technology. During our long drive to South Dakota this summer I thanked my lucky stars when the kids sat glaze-eyed in front of Tangled. And I love the ease and accessibility of the Internet. Just this morning I was able to find over a hundred hits for “Vietnamese Chicken”. So in no way am I advocating the halt of technology or that we live in caves. But striking a balance between the curses and blesses of modern day and “the good old days” (which I realize is a bit relative) can be tricky.

The words “Do something creative!” have passed my lips a few times this summer. TV and video games are fine, even fun, but I also want my kids to understand that we were, in part, created to create, not just consume.

Instead of watching a video, make a video. Or draw a comic strip. Or paint a piece of wood. Of play store. Or school. Or play with Star Wars figures/Polly Pockets. Or make cupcakes. Or play a song. Or go outside and look for treasures, ie rocks and feathers and pinecones.

If I’m honest, these activities are harder to do because not only do they require more from my kids, they require more from me as a mom. And creative activities will most likely lead to some level of frustration- both for child and parent- and undoubtedly lead to a big, giant mess. Hands down, it’s much easier on me when my kids are in front of the TV (Which they are plenty. Right at this moment, actually. Trust me, I have not “conquered” anything.)

And as my son nears adolescence, it’s getting harder and harder to veer him into anything that doesn’t require electricity. Even my six year old pulled out her Sponge Bob toy from her happy meal the other day, set it on the table, and asked, “But what does it do?”

Whatever you want him to do, Darling. You play with it. You get to be a creator.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

So you think you want to write...

A few people have recently asked me about writing/publishing. By no means do I consider myself an expert, but I have learned a few things along the way that I’m happy to pass on.

I have a great idea for an article/book. Where do I start?
This may sound ridiculously simple but start by writing. Don’t worry that your first draft will be appalling; it will be. The purpose of the first draft is to get the idea out of your head and onto paper and ultimately the paper into the scrap paper drawer so your kids can make paper airplanes with all of those words you sweated over. (Anne Lamott has a whole chapter in her book Bird by Bird that talks about crappy first drafts. Although she’s a bit more crass.) You can’t fix and polish what doesn’t exist so write your idea into existence and don’t worry if it’s dreadful.

How do I become a better writer and/or learn about publishing?
  • Read, read, read what you hope to publish. If you want to publish scholarly articles, read scholarly articles. And read books on writing and publishing. Three of my favs are Stein on Writing by Sol Stein, Novel Idea by various authors, and Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott.
  • Go to writer’s conferences and/or get a critique partner. Like any other industry, the publishing industry has a jargon and protocol all of its own. Yes, conferences are an investment. But in my experience, they’ve been worth it.
  • Be teachable. Be an eager little sponge. If you do go to a conference soak up as much wisdom as you can from those who are doing what you aspire to do. Don’t worry so much about “selling yourself and your book”. Listen and learn.
  • Most importantly: Get your rump in the chair and write. No one picks up a violin and expects to play Vivaldi spotlessly without a whole lot of practice. Same with writing. Since we all grew up learning to write in school we tend to think we already “know how to write”. But writing for an audience is different than pouring out your heart in a journal (a valuable pursuit nonetheless) and pursuing publication takes skill- a learned skill. And practice. Lots and lots of practice. Did I already mention that? Jon Hersey says it best: “To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again and once more, and over and over.”
  • Don’t be afraid to start small. I bristled when someone at a writer’s conference said to focus on articles and short stories before attempting a whole book but in the end she was right. Not only will your writing improve, but you’ll build your credentials and platform, bolster your confidence with “smaller successes”, and learn how to handle rejection. Which brings me to the next question:
What if I get rejected?
Um… it’s not if, it’s when. You will be rejected. Many, many times. It will hurt. A lot at first and then you’ll get used to it and then you’ll begin to value it (sort of) because if you’re smart and serious about writing, it will push you to do better. 

How do I go about pursuing publication?
First browse bookstores, libraries and the Internet. If you’re interested in writing for children, read lots of children’s books. Not only does this rouse your creative juices but agents and editors will expect a market analysis of already published works similar to yours when you get ready to send out a proposal.

If you are at the point where you want to submit work to a editor, give them exactly what they want. Usually you can find writer’s guidelines on a publisher’s website. (Type in “Writer’s Guidelines” in the search box. Brilliant, eh?) If they want an article under 600 words, don’t give them 601 words. If they only want a query letter, only send them a query letter. If they want you to sing Lady of Spain while standing on your head after submitting then… well… good luck with that.

Writers’ Market Guides are invaluable resources. You can purchase them online or in the reference section of the library. They’ll tell you what specific publishers are looking for and how to submit.

I want to write but I don’t know what.
Write in your hot spot. Write about what makes your blood boil or your heart beat faster or you eyes well up with tears. Write because you love to write. If you don’t love to write, don’t write. It won’t be worth it for you. I would have made way more money working at McDonalds this past year than I did with my writing so only write if you must write. And if you find that you simply have to write, write in your passion zone.

Have a comment or question I didn’t address? Post it on this blog and I’d love to chat about it! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Goodbye Tilly

We had to put our dog to sleep today which, as my son pointed out, is just a nice way of saying she died. She was old and sick and quickly losing control over bodily functions, and it was time.

As I write this, Tilly is not sitting at my feet under my desk. Taking a walk seems pretty pointless. And I don’t know who will be my silent sounding board for my writing ideas. She never interrupted. Never criticized my ideas. Just listened patiently, occasionally offering a sigh of contemplation.

We are very sad. I am sad about Tilly, our sweet, old dog, and I’m sad as I watch my children carry their sadness. I cannot shield them from such sadness, and I cannot make it better, for death, even when it’s “just an animal” is just… plain… sad.

Today our family gathered by Tilly’s gravesite behind our house. We placed stones of remembrance, sprinkled the earth with flowers, and I read a very simple poem I penned:

For Tilly:
Death is a hollow void,
Where something used to be.
A heavy stone of emptiness that yearns to be set free.

Death is an earthly thing,
Falls on anything with breath.
People, plants, and seasons, and our beloved pets.

Death is not what was meant to be,
When God created life.
But time on earth is but a moment, a step toward paradise.

Death has been defeated,
Someday it will be no more.
For when our Lord died in our place, he rose- the veil was torn.

Life is what is eternal,
Our souls were made to thrive.
Heaven is our tearless home, when what is dead will rise.

We will miss you Tilly, our sweet, smiling, always-underfoot dog. Thank you for being so good with our kids. We are grateful you were a part of our lives.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Breaking Up with Joe

I’ve had to say goodbye to a good friend recently. To a dear, bold companion. My steaming cup ‘o joe. My beloved coffee. Sigh. Parting is such sorrow. (Notice I omitted sweet.)

Before you think this decision is some testament to my discipline or that it’s is rooted in some deeper spiritual meaning, I’ll tell you right off the bat, it’s purely for digestive reasons. I’m only doing this because my GI tract indubitably demanded it. And so far, my intestines and stomach have been much happier organs now that Joe has left the building. My taste buds are crying out unfair but my stomach is telling them to suck it up and deal with it.

My husband got me hooked on coffee twelve years ago. Come to think of it, that’s not entirely true. It was my son to be exact, when I was carrying him. (Funny how even in utero our children have that kind of power.) Most women lose their taste for coffee during pregnancy but mine was just revving up. The rich aroma of Doug’s coffee actually soothed my precarious stomach in those early months- that and lemon heads- and I eventually started drinking it. Loaded with sugar and cream at first but as the years went by, I gave up the additives and craved pure, unadulterated coffee.

But now, for whatever reason, coffee just isn’t “working” for me anymore.

So now I start the morning with a nice cup of hot lemon water. Or herbal tea. And I tell myself that it’s just as good. And when my husband’s not looking, I hover my face over his coffee cup and inhale the steam. And just to prove this isn’t legalistic, I sometimes cheat. Like this Sunday afternoon, when  I savored a quarter of a cup of French Roast while lounging on the couch reading Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help”. Pure heaven.

It’s clearly good for me, this coffee deprival, but I still fall into whining. The first two weeks of my fast I’d pass a Starbucks and burst into tears.

I’m over that now. I’m over Joe. You know what? He wasn’t such hot stuff after all. Sure, he was charming. Sure he was lovely and comforting and exhilarating, all wrapped in one. But so is my lemon water.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Pencil Box full of Scabs

When I was in the third grade a boy name Brent Something-Or-Other wanted to give me a rather startling gift: his  pencil box full of scabs. Yes, scabs. The kind you see branded across kids knees. That kind your mother told you not to pick or else they might scar. He’d been saving them all year, he boasted, and he wanted to give them to none other than little ‘ol me. I’m not sure if he was serious, or playing an icky-nine-year-old-boy joke, or if had emotional problems and, being as shy as I was, I never discovered his intent. Although it was clear from his abundant pencil box, he’d had his fair share of scrapes and falls over the school year.

Eeeeeew. I know. I’m sorry. The lengths I go to make an analogy.

Sometimes when I’ve found, in my opinion, a nifty men’s sweater at Kohls, I have to pause and ask myself: Is this a gift my husband would truly want, or is it merely a pencil box full of scabs? In other words, would the intended receiver desire this, or is it just something I’d like to give, something I like and want him/her to wear/watch/read/own?

Like an American Girl doll. I really, really want one. A sweet little dark haired Asian doll that looks like my daughter. At this point, my daughter couldn’t care less. (And yes, I realize the money I’m saving on this one.) Or years ago when my son was in pre-school and I obsessed over all the Fisher Price town pieces: the farm, the airplane, the gas station, the school…. It’s sad when a mother has to bribe her youngster to play “Little People” with her. (“Please, please, please? I’ll let you be the fireman?”)

An object becomes a gift when its receiver deems it valuable.

Mother’s Day is coming up. And of course any old thing my kids wrap up and put in my hands will be just perfect because honestly, when it comes to our babies, we moms are suckers for sentimentality. You picked out this rock all by yourself? I absolutely love it! How did you know?

So on this Mother’s Day, enjoy your bouquet of weeds, your denser than a rock but made with love cake, your gargantuan earrings that will stretch your earlobes like taffy, your macaroni necklace that leaves traces of paint on your collarbone. These are the gifts of incalculable value. That little sticky faced giver is what makes the gift "just perfect". 

And as for all the other not-from-our-kids gifts we receive that fall short, someone came up with a brilliant catchall phrase: it’s the thought that counts.

Sure. Okay. But I still can’t apply that to Brent. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Accepting Rejection and Running On

Someone recently asked me if, as a freelance writer, I ever get rejected.
I’m still laughing.
The reality is, I get rejections all the time. Less than I used to but still plenty to keep me humble and motivated to hone my craft.
In 2004 I received my first “acceptance” to a paying publication. They sent me ten copies of the magazine and a twenty-five dollar check. I’m pretty certain I kissed that check. Not because of its monetary value but because I felt so utterly validated. Rejection is just part of the writing game. You get used to it. You develop an alligator skin. So when a “yes” comes along you celebrate it. You take a deep sigh of relief that maybe, just maybe, you can call yourself a writer after all.  
In honor of Good Friday, I’m posting my first little published piece that technically can’t even be called an article. It appeared in the March 2004 edition of The Lookout (not to be confused with the watchtower!) Good Friday service is my all time favorite service in the entire year. Yes, it’s somber. Yes it’s heavy. But man oh man, it sure does get me ready to celebrate that empty tomb. Enjoy!

Run to the Cross

As I sat next to my squirming three-year-old at our church’s Good Friday service, I tried to explain to him why we were covering the cross at the front of the church with black ribbons. 
         “We’re pretending,” I finally said, realizing my theological explanations were in vain, “that this cloth represents the bad things we do.  We’re fastening them to the cross to show that Jesus died to take them away.”
         After we attached our cloth and returned to our seats, I felt a tug on my sweater. “Mama, I want to see the cross again.”
         Usually my son wouldn’t stray more than a few feet from my side so I helped him out or his seat, expecting him to stand near the aisle and gaze from afar.  But when his feet hit the floor he ran up the center aisle, his eyes fixed on the cross.  As I watched him gaze up at the blackened cross in wonder my initial embarrassment vanished.  He had done what I pray he’ll do for the rest of his life- run unashamedly to the cross.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring is a Diva

This March, like every other March I suppose, I’m skeptical that Spring will make good on its promise to arrive. In fact, Spring seems to be turning into a bit of a diva, like a teenager who will only make an appearance when they're fashionably late. Spring has taunted us with flashes of green grass and Robin Red Breasts. But just when we’re putting the boots away… “Just kidding!” Spring pelts us with snow like a pie in the face before dashing off again.

Ah, Spring. You little tease.

If you are blessed to live in the southern part of Wisconsin or in another state altogether, (you lucky, lucky, bird) you won’t fully understand this blog. You might tell me to buck up. Quit my whining. But I can tell by the snow-encrusted driveways and sidewalks I pass along my hometown streets that I’m not alone in my grumblings. We’ve just plain given up on shoveling. You can come to my house for a visit but from here on out, it’s at your own risk. Maybe bring some salt.

To add insult to injury, my daughter’s favorite past time of late is making ice. Lots of it.  My refrigerator is lined with various sizes of cups of ice. As if there’s not enough outside. Of course just last week as she and her brother were home for “Spring Break”, (hilarious) she turned to me, adamantly and said, “You said we could get ice cream at Belts on Spring break.”

“No,” I corrected her. “I said we could go to Belts when it’s Spring, once the snow melts.”

She looked out the window in despair. I promised her we’d go in June. Or July at the very latest, but that we’d just have to wait. This made her angry. I told her I was sorry and asked her if she wanted to make more ice.

I’m not so good at this waiting thing either.

And yet waiting seems to make up such a big chunk of life. Seems like I’m always waiting for something, for the toast to pop or the light to change. And those are the small things. I've waited for big things too like waiting to finish high school, waiting to finish college, waiting to get married, to get pregnant, waiting to have the baby, for the baby to be potty trained…. You get the picture. It never ends.

There have been times when I’m simply in the moment, not trying to peek around the corner. I’m not waiting when I’m...
Screaming on a rollercoaster
holding a sleeping baby
utterly engrossed in a good book/movie
laughing hysterically
eating something overwhelmingly good
deep in conversation

I know Spring will come. It came last year, and the year before that and the year before that. So I’m not hopelessly waiting, I’m waiting with hope.

With my flip-flops on.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Never say never. I never do.

I did it. I bit the bullet. I’ve created a blog- something I’ve intentionally resisted for a while now. Like facebook. Like Texting. Like marrying a pastor. Like adopting. Like owning a dog. Like eating raw fish. All things I’ve now done and all things that have turned out to be good. Surprisingly good. Some, even extraordinary.

So why my resistance to having a blog?

Partly because Blogging lends itself to self- absorption. It’s all me, me, me. Yep. I said it. Now that I’ve offended half of you, please realize that I’m blogging these words. So. I guess that means I’m self-centered. I’ve had a sneaking suspicion of this for some time now. 

Secondly, as a writer, I’m apprehensive of putting anything in print that I haven’t wrestled with, rewritten, edited, and sweated over. And I just can’t- or won’t- commit to that kind of commitment with a blog. (then again this may end up being another example of never say never.)

So here’s how I’ve reconciled these reservations:

Self Absorbed? Yes, blogs can be. But they also have the potential of being expressive, engaging, helpful, uplifting, and sometimes even cathartic. (sometimes even for the reader.) As far as writing and posting something that might not be up to par in terms of its publish-ability, (case in point... I don’t even think that’s a word!) that may be a good thing. It might be liberating to free the ideas that float in and out of mind without worrying about word count and query letters.

On to the blog name. It stems from a personal fantasy in which Harper Lee and I are clicking chopsticks together over our Spicy California and Geisha rolls. We're sharing the same dish of soy sauce because we’re that close. In case you don’t know, but I’m sure you do, Harper Lee wrote this little novel called “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Have you read it? If you haven’t, go read it. If you haven’t read it since high school, go read it. If you read it and don’t like it, read it again. If you still don’t like it, you have my pity.

So in light of the free-spiritedness of the twenty-first century blog, my postings will be random. They will be sporadic. They may include book recommendations, or thoughts on writing in general, or possibilities for sushi rolls, or three in the morning insomnia induced ramblings or, if I’m brave enough, political musings. I just don’t know yet.

This is all new to me. Like texting was four weeks ago. Which, by the way, I can’t live without. I mean, how else in the world could I ask my hubby to pick up a Chicago roll on the way home?

Let the rambling begin.