Friday, December 31, 2010

Words from the Wise

Or at least wise words from the weird.

Jakob left a piece of paper lying in the living room for awhile.  Eventually Joe read it.  After all, if it's in the family's space, it's available to the family, eh?

What he found and shared with me was a collection of quotations that matter to Jakob.

Here they are.

Dear Lord, as we face the battles that we go through in life, we ask for a chance that's fair.  A chance to equal our stripes, a chance to do or dare.  If we should win, let it be by the code - faith and honor held high.  If we should lose, we'll stand as the victors go by.  Day by day we get better and better.  A team that can't be beat, a team that won't be beat.

Don't let what you can't do stop you from doing what you can do.
John Wooden

The difference between a successful person and others is not lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.
Vince Lombardi

Let me tell you something you already know; the world ain't all sunshines and rainbows.  It's a very mean and nasty place, and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there, permanently, if you let it.  You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life, but it ain't about how hard you can hit.  It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  It's about how much you can take and keep moving forward.  That's how winning is done!  If you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth; but, you gotta be willing to take the hits...  And not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, her, or anybody.  Cowards do that, and that ain't you; you're better than that.
Rocky Balboa

We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.
Aristotle

Great spirits have always encountered great oppositions from mediocre minds.
Albert Einstein

He who hesitates is lost.
Proverb

A leader is a dealer in hope.
Napoleon Bonaparte

Where there is no vision, the people perish.
Proverbs 29:18
Nice, Jakob.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of 2010

This year was good.  Very, very good. 

I'm surprised. 

A the end of 2009, I thought it would suck.  Adam was leaving for college, Jakob was about to get his driving license, and... well, stuff was changing.

But then 2010 happened. 

Adam did graduate and leave for college.  I knew he was ready for college, because I recognized the same signs in him that I felt at his age.  I tried, hard, to respect those signs and urges, and I think we did well. 

Err.

I KNOW we did well.  Adam's happy.  Jakob is ready to drive solo.  I learned and grew in 2010. 

Here's the "Best of 2010."

1.  Joe learned he won't be twenty forever.  The man who has never had a "sore spot" in the last... well, lifetime, of playing sports, suffered some results of aging.  And now he's managing them with an increased, all-around work-out schedule.  You go, Joe!

2.  Adam learned about being independent.  He's done well.  His grades are good and he's loving college at the University of Minnesota - Morris.  His happiness radiates from him when discussing college.  He's made friends and likes his professors.  He's also learned what it means to be away from home.

3.  Jakob learned about succeeding and failing in his beloved arena - sports.  He played upper level baseball and lower level basketball.  Both sucked for various reasons AND rocked for various reasons.  His mother best loved that he gave his all no matter the suck- or rock-level.  He's a good boy who always wants to do his best.

I learned the rest...

4.  I learned that a family housed under different rooves is still FAMILY.  And I love that.

5.  I learned that failing is as important as succeeding.  Knowing that changes the way I perceive the world.

6.  I learned that sometimes love isn't enough.  You can't force people to see reason or to come with you on your spiritual journey.  The results of that make me sad.

7.  I learned that marriage is defined not only by God, but by the people who make it.  And the bounds and limits that define a marriage cannot be understood by anyone outside that marriage.

8.  I learned that the best way to love people is by being with them when they're doing what they love.  Ahem. 

9.  I learned that I need to expand my mind all the time.  So I took Latin and plan to learn Spanish while "brushing up" my German.  And I plan to USE those languages.  Not even I have any idea how far I'll go.  And that makes me happy.

10.  I learned that the ONLY thing that matters to me is my marriage.  No matter what I do, or say, or think, or feel... I know that I will rest in the arms of my husband at the end of the day.  And that makes everything worthwhile - or at least understandable.  Praise God.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dancing in the Rain

2010 ends on a much better note than 2009. 

In 2009, upset about extended family issues and business matters, I couldn't even compose a Christmas letter.  I was buried in some stage of grief for months.

In this year's Christmas homily Father Tim talked about John and Shelley Redmond and how their life together was plagued by his illness.  The couple had a picture frame inscribed, "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain."  He said they had learned to dance in the rain, and compared them to Mary and Joseph at the time of Christ's birth.

I think the difference between Me Version 2010 and Me Version 2009 is that I have learned something about dancing in the rain - about laughing and loving and living even when things hurt.

The greatest lesson I'm taking from the last year?  I learned that anger doesn't destroy love. 
"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails..."
That's true.  Love never fails.  It survives dishonesty and distrust, anger and hurt, misunderstanding and misleading.  It's possible to continue loving despite those things.  I'm glad about that.

My job now is to live in patient hope that enlightenment blesses us all.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This year's letter:

After a year’s sabbatical from writing Christmas letters, it’s safe to say SO MUCH HAS CHANGED for our family!

Adam graduated from Monticello High School and left home in August to attend the University of Minnesota—Morris. Adam’s currently majoring in Math with an emphasis in Education. His ultimate goal is to pursue a higher degree so he can be one of those cool professors who gets high ratings on ratemyprofessor.com—AND lots of chili peppers! Kidding aside, Adam loves Morris. He never stops talking about the awesome professors and new friends he’s making. He really enjoyed playing soccer, acquiring his first RED card as goalie. We giggled when we heard his teammates’ surprise: “How does the nicest guy on the team get a RED CARD?!?!” and wondered if Adam’s playing as aggressively as he has in the past. Adam wanted to explain the card, but he only gets 7 lines in this letter!

Jakob enjoys being an only child, except when there’s tons of work to do. The highlight of his year was playing baseball with Joe in Phoenix on a Father/Son team. Jakob’s been plagued with some interesting injuries in the last couple years—a couple broken bones, knee trouble, and now (ahem!) testicular trouble, but he’s rarely missed a game. When not playing sports, he discovered he loves Woods Class. His first home project wasn’t so bad—he designed and built a radical bird house. The second project? Hmm. He and his friends crafted a crossbow and shot pvc pipe at the garage walls. They’ll be learning about patching and painting when it gets warm. He secretly enjoys Adam’s rare visits. Their catch-up conversations explode with energy and laughter, and often occur while wrestling.

Joe continues to play baseball, now not only in Minnesota and Florida, but also in Arizona. With his ability to pitch game after game and his improving batting stats, he was voted MVP and then elected president of one of his leagues! His back hurt this year though, so he’s doing some physical therapy. Testing revealed he has the spine of a twenty-year old, so odds are he’ll keep playing. He’s willing to try pretty much anything to ease the pain, so I finally have a Pilates partner! He’s working hard so he can really enjoy the gift he gave me for our twentieth wedding anniversary January 5; he surprised me with two tickets to Kauai, Hawaii. We leave January 1st for one week (and lots of hiking!) in paradise, and for only the second time in 20 years, we’re vacationing solo. Good times!

I’ve returned to school and adore being back at St Kate’s campus. I’m completing a major in Spanish and a minor in Latin with the intention of applying to Graduate School at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. I’d like a higher degree in Medieval History, mostly because I really love the discipline, but partly so my boys will have to call me “Dr. Mom” forevermore. I continue to work with Joe at the bus company during the day and participate in a plethora of volunteer activities in the evenings. In my spare time, I write and read as much as I can. In 2010, I tried my own New Year’s resolution: I would read and blog about 200 novels in one year. To date, I’ve read 194, so I’ll complete the reading. The blogging… eh, well lots of people make resolutions they don’t keep!

Our family has grown since our 2008 Christmas Letter. We have our French foreign exchange son, David, who was with us in 2008, and who returned this summer for a visit. Last year we hosted Mari, a sweet Brazilian daughter, who settled into all our hearts quickly and permanently. She may return this summer (as if anyone would be insane enough to return to Minnesota in the WINTER!), and eventually plans to marry Adam since her sister gets Jakob. In the animal world, We lost Coco to cancer a year ago just when Luna the Lunatic Pug needed a place to live. She’s all puppy with a severe case of ADHD, and we’re never really sure what she’s going to eat next. We spend most of our time explaining our things are “NOT FOR PUPPIES!” as she scampers to her kennel for sanctuary.

Many blessings enrich our lives—an ever expanding family (dare I say, I can hardly wait for daughters-in-law??), true friends, continuing education, good health… Whenever I consider the passing of each year and each milestone for our family, I can’t help but wonder, How did we get so lucky?

We pray God blesses your 2011 with peace, with hope, and with love!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Blame Game

Perhaps because we live in something of a litigious society - and no, I'm not going to annotate that statement - often the first question I hear in pressured situations is "WHO IS TO BLAME?"

I detest that question.  My answer, always, is "WHO CARES?"  Sometimes I only think it.

Worse is the quick attempt to divert blame by quickly and carelessly asserting innocence when something happens: "IT'S NOT MY FAULT!"

Don't get me wrong.  When things go wrong, finding out why they went wrong is an important part of ensuring the same thing doesn't happen again.  So it can be important to know who did what and when they did it.

Seeking information to solve a problem is different than playing the Blame Game.  "Why not concentrate on solving the problem," suggests a wise friend, "rather than affixing blame?  After all, blame is simply the focus of a small mind."

We teach our kids to play the game when they're very young so they're adept at it by the time they're teens and experts at it as adults. Consider...

Scenario A
A little boy, seven or eight years old, gets upset with a friend sitting across the bus aisle for saying something mean.  The little boy picks up his backpack and takes a swing at the friend.


The bus driver hears a commotion, glances in the rearview mirror and sees the little boy smacking his friend with the backpack, comes back to dispatch, and writes a discipline notice.  The notice is sent to the little boy's parents.


The boy's mother calls and demands that we expunge her son's record:  "This wasn't his fault.  His friend called him a pig and said he likes to eat slop." 

And the friend, wicked name caller that he is, deserved to be smacked with a full backpack?  A parent actually endorses physical retribution?

Scenario B
Sad for the puppy perpetually locked in her kennel because she doesn't like having snow touch her paws, Son 1 opens the kennel door and lets the puppy wander the house.  When he grabs jeans off the floor in his room, he discovers said puppy left a deposit.  He's annoyed, but not as much as his mother.


"It's not my fault," he offers. 

So the puppy, incapable of opening a door and fearful of the cold snow between her toes, was supposed to poo exactly where?

Scenario C
Married people have an affair. 


The participants in the affair both assert, "It wasn't my fault.  He/she pursued me."

And since they never learned to be responsible for their own actions, they lash those who love them with stinging pain.

Scenario D
A couple divorces, bitter and angry.  Each person, determined that the former spouse's new partner will not get anything, loses the most important thing:  relationships with progeny.


"It's not my fault... not my fault... not my fault...," is their endless refrain.

When everything that matters is lost, who cares who is at fault?

The only occasions I experienced true anger with either of my boys were those occasions when they tried to slink away from their own responsibility in any given situation.  The unintended result of insisting they bear their own responsibility is that neither of them allows others to assign blame to them when it's unwarranted.

I suggest we all revolt. 

Let's each stand up and own our own action and inaction. 

Let's bear our own responsibility so we can focus our energy on solving problems, repairing damage, and forging onward. 

Let's be the change we seek in the world.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Four Letter Words

Some days, there are not enough four letter words.

The end.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wash of Grief

This morning I was working on Jakob's Christmas project with Joe.  We collected a fifty-piece set of quarters, one representing each state.  We recalled that mom had given the grandkids poster boards and started the collection for each of them.  We pulled those dusty boards out of storage. 

With a damp cloth, I wiped away years of dust.  I noticed a pattern on the three boards: each board was done through the end of 2007.  My mom kept those boards for each of the grandkids until she left her marriage and the life she'd built.  Grief - powerful and painful - washed through me in that instant of recognition. 


The conversation was something like this:

Me:  "You know what?"

Joe:  "You miss your mom."

Me:  "How did you know?"

Joe:  "I know you.  You complete me." 
Leave it to Joe to make me giggle when my heart is hurting.

Despite all the terrible things she's said and done, and continues to say and do, I sometimes miss my mom, especially when I remember how she loved my boys and Haleigh.  She did fun stuff with them, like collecting coins and making it an adventure.  It's especially poignant at this time of the year; she made their Christmases magical. 

The kids inscribed their names on their quarter boards.  This one is Haleigh's.


Haleigh left her board in Minnesota when she moved to Florida.  Haleigh was always Jakob's hero, with her his sun rose and set.  That was a long time ago now.  He left her a message on the back of her coin board, while she was making a new life in Florida and we had no notion she'd eventually come back to Minnesota.  "I miss you.  Jakob."  See it in the bottom right corner?


In Macbeth Act IV, Scene III, William Shakespeare writes, "Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break."  I guess Jakob understood something about grief even at a young age.  He gave his sorrow words:  "I miss you."  Even though he left them in a secret corner of his world, I imagine they soothed his sweet heart.

And I guess today I do the same thing - give my grief words. 

It helps, or so says Pierre Corneille, a seventeenth century peer of Moliere:  "One often calms one's grief by recounting it."
                

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mission Nearly Accomplished (Or At Least the Hard Part)

I created a new blog this year, Nuttin' Like a Good Book, and promised to blog about the 200 books I planned to read this year.

Well, the blogging didn't yet happen.

But the books did. 

I've read more than 200 books this year.  And all the ones yet-to-be-blogged are crammed in the fish tank cabinet, piled on the kitchen table, and leaning in stacks against the bookshelves. 

I have from Saturday, December 18, until we leave for Hawaii to finish my project and blog about the rest of the books - or at least the really good ones.  On December 31, I'm giving away the books I'll never read again and shelving the ones I love. 

And, that, folks, is a lot of writing... and a lot of optimism.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reinvention at 41

I've written often of the trauma my family has suffered - some of it similar to what other families experience (Adam's graduation) and some of it particular to my family (mother's issues). 

My mother left her home in December 2007.  It's now December 2010. 

What a difference three years makes.

I let myself be a victim of so many things other people were doing and somehow lost myself.  It took time to stop feeling buffeted and stand up in my own skin - and then it took more time to decide I wanted a different story.  The longest, most difficult part of the journey?  Taking the step forward necessary to reinvent myself.

I feel like I've taken the step.

I started school in September.  I've always wanted to be an historian - to be paid to spend my time thinking and theorizing and learning.  I'm on my way and loving every blessed minute of this long-awaited journey.

I stopped the habit of being a daughter, and became a woman.  I moved the needs of my family - the Joe-Adam-Jakob family - above the needs of my natal family and their daily work. 

I quit being a future business owner and started being an employee.  My family's business isn't the focus of my world anymore.  Gee.  It never should have been - and don't we all hate that "should" word?  I still care about what I do, but I care about it for eight hours a day rather than twenty-four.  Guess what?  The earth still revolves around the sun.

I committed to being the best wife I can be, and my husband tells me he's blessed.

I promised to let my boys go be men, and they are better men than I hoped they'd be.

I decided to care for myself.  To grow spiritually and not just do what feels safe.  To achieve strength of mind and not hide in diversion.  To develop a strong body and not abuse it because I can.  I'm in training and I love every minute of it (well, except the scale part).

I let myself be me in every way, including my hair color. 


Me in the morning.

Me in the afternoon.

     
And I'm happy with me because I think maybe what I've done is taken more than just a step.  Thank God. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vacationing with the Energizer Bunny

Joe and I vacationing in Punta Cana.  My favorite
picture ever... from the best vacation ever. 2005.
Joe and I have a long history of vacationing together. 

In our teens, my parents invited Joe on working vacations to Galveston, North Carolina, Canada, and Chicago.  Then there were the fun trips to Mackinaw Island, the Keys, and a couple trips to Disney.  My brother loved having Joe with us.  I recall how their farting contests made Staci and I squeal. 

I went places with his family too.  We made a few trips to Iowa and somewhere his aunt and uncle lived.  Then there was the house boat trip when I thought we were going to die in a tornado.

Thanks to dad's offer of his time share, we honeymooned in Florida, spending the first part of the week at Ormond Beach and the second part at the Disney Inn, now leased to the military for ninety-nine years.  Nice for the military, not so nice for a nostalgic return-to-where-it-all-began trip for us.

Our boys benefitted from our love affair with Disney.  They've both been there several times. 

As the years passed, I longed for something different than the action-packed kiddie vacations we'd been taking.  My ideal vacation involves lots of history or lots of sun, sand, and water.  Joe's involves lots of activity - and by lots I mean action-packed times ninety-nine.

In 2004, Dad offered us a week in his time-share at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  Hilton Head offers something for both of us - I practically drooled over the thought of the historical mansions, Civil War sites, the Atlantic Ocean... Brochures showed all kinds of Energizer Bunny-friendly activity.  Without doing my now customary average temperature research, I packed for the warm southern clime and spent the week freezing and miserable.

"Never again!" I shouted to myself.  I might have screamed in my pillow a couple times.  I may have blasted Joe a few times with The Look.  As if it's his fault the weather was crap.

My beloved, always one to do what it takes to make me happy, finally agreed to leave the blessed United States, and the next year I got my heart's desire:  a trip to the Caribbean.  Punta Cana, Dominican Island, to be exact.  Even better, we traveled with two other families.  It was a week-long party. We all fell in love with the white beaches and blue, blue water.  I couldn't stand to miss a sun rise, so I don't think I slept later than 4:45 any morning. I felt like I was on the edge of the world as I watched the light spread across the horizon.

We've since tried other vacations.  We've been to Mazatlan four of the subsequent years and tried a cruise once (ick).  I didn't think we'd be able to vacation this year.  Adam and I are in college, so money's tight.  Jakob's playing basketball, so the schedule's tight.  Everyone has a different Spring Break, so someone wouldn't be able to go...

Guess what?  I was wrong! 

Joe surprised me with an anniversary present I wasn't expecting:  two tickets to Hawaii the first week of January!  For the first time in nearly twenty years, we are going to spend a week alone together - no kids, no friends - in what I hear is one of the most beautiful places on earth with an average daily temperature over 80 degrees.  I'm not even nervous about finding things for him to do (yet!) with all the waterfalls, beaches, volcanoes, and hula girls.  Even better, we depart in less than a month!

Boy am I glad I stayed married.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Everything I Need to Know

Robert Fulghum shared thoughts about what we learn in kindergarten that was popular when my boys were babies. 

Much of what he says is dead-on accurate, but he missed a few things.  Things like tell the truth, be authentic, run through life with your arms outspread screaming at the top of your lungs...  Other things like fugheddabutit when someone hurts you and dance in circles with those you love. 

I think he didn't say those things because he didn't have to say them.  Kindergarteners do all those things.  Not bad for us to have a reminder now and then.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten(Fulghum's cited at the end of his with a link to his site.)
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.



These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.


Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.


Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.


And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
[Source: "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum. See his web site at http://www.robertfulghum.com/ ]

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Like the Woman at the Well...

Last night's Psalms Bible Study (a Jeff Cavins production) gets a "thumbs up" from me.  We talked about how our human nature leads us to fill our spiritual emptiness with things of the world instead of the gifts of the Spirit.
Cavins is always good at showing me connections between the Old and the New Testaments.  In this case, he draws forward from the psalmist to Jesus ministering to the woman at the well.  She was thirsting, and nothing could quench her thirst, not even her multitude of husbands.  Living in an arid region where water was precious, she carried what must have been one of the most important implements of the time, a water jug.  When Jesus spoke, she was spiritually ready to hear what He said, and rushed off to share the news, leaving her precious water jug behind.  He was offering living water and the promise that she'd never again thirst.

Reading one of my favorite blogs, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, I came across her thoughts on the very same passage.  She writes:
[Jesus] broke all the rules.  I watched him sit in a market place braiding for himself a whip.  And when he was done... He went apeshit on a bunch of scumbags, overturning tables and going all Indiana Jones with that whip until the House of God had been restored to just that.  I watched him sit on the edge of a well in the countryside, where he had a quiet conversation with a sordid woman that would change her life and the lives of many around her.  In that little chat, he challenged her honesty and invited her to become one who worships God in spirit and in truth.  I watched Jesus tell stories.  I saw him talking to normal people about normal crap and point out God along the way.  And I started to realize that I had been created with a distinct voice and that God was calling me to use it, whispering, "Be who you are, Baby Girl.  I made you. You were meant to tell an honest story."
And now we approach the celebration of Christ's birth.  How would Jesus, the rule breaker, like us to celebrate His birthday?

Making wish lists of more things to clutter our lives?  Standing in lines waiting to purchase those things with people who are afraid to say "Happy Christmas" or acknowledge the season?  Spending our quiet time wondering how we're going to pay for all those things instead of being still and breathing in the wonder of God?  Indulging in food and wine and desserts until we can no longer button our jeans?  Rushing around to celebrate family and friends and skipping the inconvenient, time-consuming, and often crowded church services honoring His birth?

Dunno about you, but I'm screaming, "NO! NO! NO!"

And in the midst of my screaming and conforming to what's expected in the holiday season, I found a post titled "Rethinking Christmas" by Jennifer Davis.

A sample of her thoughts:
  • Let me be clear-I'm not opposed to presents, I'm not opposed to spending time with loves ones, and I'm certainly not opposed to the good cheer and good deeds that traditionally accompany Christmastime.  However I'm not sure that how we celebrate this holy day is in fact, holy...
  • While my family sits around a tree, ripping into gifts that we don't need, another family around the globe goes without water and the basic necessities we take for granted...
  • Christ did not come to make us comfortable... He came to seek and save the lost...
  • What if Christmas were known around the world as the time of year when Christians took care of all God's children...
  • What if the month of December were marked by Christians giving food and building wells as a means to show the world the Bread of Life who promises that we will never grow hungry or thirst...
  • I want to push past the mound of presents that I don't need to remember the only true treasure that I couldn't buy... 
  • I want His gift to be enough...
Ah.  Yes.  That resonates.

I have spent years trying to fill my own emptiness, one first created by a parent incapable of nurturing me, and later by a world sadly devoid of spirituality and full of commercialism and consumerism. 

How many of us have shared the same thoughts, ones that start, "If only..."

If only I had that pair of jeans, I'd be happy.

If only I were thinner, I'd be happy.

If only I could play the piano like he does, I'd be happy.

If only my kids got straight ehs, I'd be happy.

If only that friend were more honorable, I'd be happy.

If only...

     If only...

          If only...

Does the list ever end?

I'm glad I don't make "If only" statements anymore. 

And interestingly enough - though I still thirst - I'm actually happy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

At the Foot of the Cross

I'm a fan of the series House.  I think I remain a fan because I hope to see House's spiritual quest for meaning end at the foot of the cross. 

This week's episode couldn't hold me captive.  It was, after all, competing with Latin homework.  I only watched with half an eye.  But sometimes that's all it takes...

House's patient was reenacting the Crucifixtion in payment for God sparing his daughter's life.  It was horrific to watch his friends pounding the nails through his hands and hauling the cross upright. 

I have a hard enough time leaving my troubles at the foot of the Cross.  I'm pretty sure I don't have the courage to let someone hang me on it.

It's easy to watch others struggle with their own troubles.  So many are lost in a world of anger and pain and fear.  They stand - unable to fall - at the feet of Christ with no notion of how to let go of anything.

We were singing a song called At the Foot of the Cross at church this weekend.  Being scheduled at all three Masses means we sing the same music several times while preparing for the Masses and then during them.  That's okay.  If a song's worth using to enhance a worship service, it's worth singing multiple times.

At the foot of the cross, where grace and suffering meet...  At the foot of the cross, where I am made complete.  You have shown me Your love through the judgment You received.  You have given me life through the death you bore for me.  And [YES] you've won my heart.  Now I can turn these ashes into to beauty.  And wear forgiveness like a crown.  Coming to kiss the feet of mercy, I lay every burden down... At the foot of the cross.

Easier said than done, but there we have it.  Christ is willing to bear our burdens.

Now we just have to let Him.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Staying Young

I liked this email so much, I decided to post it here.  With edits.

HOW TO STAY YOUNG
1.  Try everything twice.  One woman wanted this as her epitaph on her tombstone:  "Tried everything twice.  Loved it both times!"

2.  Keep only cheerful friends.  The grouches pull you down.
3.  Keep learning:  learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever... Never let the brain get idle; an idle mind is the devil's workshop.  And the devil's name is Alzheimer's!

4.  Enjoy the simple things.

5.  Laugh often, long and loud.  Laugh until you gasp for breath.  And if you have a friend who makes you laugh, spend lots and lots of time with him/her.

6.  The tears happen.  Endure, grieve, and move on.

7.  Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever...  Your home is your refuge.

8.  Cherish your health.  If it's good, preserve it.  If it is unstable, improve it.  If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9.  Don't take guilt trips.  Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county, a foreign country, but not to where the guilt is.

10.  Tell people you love that you love them at every opportunity.

11.  Forgive now those who made you cry.  You might not get a second chance.

12.  Remember:  lost time can never be found.

13.  Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Poetry Smoetry

As the leader of the Psalms bible study this season, I'm studying a new perspective on poetry with my class.  The Psalms are poetry and our study encourages us to read and re-read and then re-read again each of the Psalms we cover.  I think we've ready Psalm 1 at least 22 times in the four-week old study.

I don't like poetry. 

I especially detest the kind that rhymes.

Now and then, I find a poem I can inhabit momentarily; Maya Angelou's Phenomenal Woman is one such work.  When the moment passes, well, then I move on. 

Read a poem 22 times?  Never.

I'm much happier lost in prose - prose of any kind, whether fiction or non-fiction, cereal box or best-seller.

The word "prose" means straight, direct, unadorned speech, and comes from the Latin prosa oratio, meaning straight-forward.

No wonder I like it.

I'm not a fan of indirect approaches, context clues, or metaphorical speech.  I do not care for mystery in written or spoken form.  I dislike intensely having to read body language to discern someone's meaning, especially when the speaker is lying or misleading. I cannot use a cliche to save my life (really I can't; it's become something of a family joke). 

I had a professor in college the first go-round who once commented on a critique I wrote about Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country; "you craft sentences which are well-made and direct...," he typed, "[putting to] shame much of what I read on this campus."  Not only did I frame his critique, but I had a huge crush on him after that comment.

Don't get me wrong.  I can solve the mystery created by indirect approches, foreshadowing, contextual clues, metaphors, and body language.  I can unravel the language and critique the work succinctly.  I can read what someone's trying to say without words.  There are times I can even enjoy doing it.

But love poetry?  Mystery?  Metaphor? 

Pfft.

No.  Slap me upside the head with the straight-forward, the direct, the truth.

I'll love you for it.

And I'll never lead the Psalms again.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In the Silence

There's not often silence in my life and so I'm not always good at appreciating it.

This weekend Adam was home for his birthday.  He celebrated with good friends and family and favorite foods. 

About the time Jakob was ready for Joe to get him from his "study group" (ahem), Adam was ready to leave for Morris. 

Suddenly, I was in the midst of silence - beloved boys away, puppies in exhausted slumber, football muted.

I've often made the mistake of filling the silence.  In those moments, I'll call a friend, turn on the music, watch a sitcom, play the piano, wash the dishes, read a book, hop on the elliptical...

Last night, I embraced the silence.  And found peace. Peace because I know Adam is content at school. Peace because we have three years left with Jakob. Peace because once they are gone Joe and I enter a new phase - and we're still young enough to enjoy it!

When I played the piano with a choir in Buffalo, the kids had a favorite song.  The words were, "In the silence of the garden, Jesus knelt to pray.  He said, 'heavenly Father not my will but yours be done this day.'"
Amen.




 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Fall... Into Lonliness

I've often said how John Blase's words speak to me.  His words often have the power to make me catch my breath. Like today.

Read today's post yourself (http://thedirtyshame.blogspot.com/).  He writes of how Adam and Eve descend not into sin alone, but also into "lonely."

I love how he breaks the word into parts:  "a word defined largely by its sound, the long O creating a moan leading into the n allowing you to rock on it a moment before tipping into ly and then it drifts away."

He's so RIGHT.  Sin makes us lonely (hear that moan?).  We sink further and further into lies and deceit to keep our sin... well, to keep it secret.  We cut off ties with those who expect us to account, who would hold us to a standard of right, who shame us in our sin. 

And then one day, the Light pierces the darkness.  Today it comes in the words from Jamie The Very Worst Missionary.  She writes about the Big O, obedience, and how being obedient to the Word is worth the effort.  Read this excerpt:
But you can’t have it both ways. If your goal is Obedience, you can’t phone it in. If you think you can just show up on Sunday morning and stick your hands in the air during the third song, you’re wrong. That’s faking it. If you think you can simply waltz into Bible Study with a tray of double-chocolate-chunk-brownies, you’re faking it – and you are good! but still, faking it. If you think you can put on a lusty voice and say all the right words during corporate prayer, you are so faking it. And yeah, that might get you by for a little while. It might even please the people you fake it for. But in the end, your shallow faith will leave you feeling fragile and insecure. You’ll end up wearing a thin façade of Christian-ness that isn’t worth its weight...

But obedience will treat you right. Obedience has never left me feeling used and it’s never left me empty, because the foundation of Obedience is built not on whether or not other Christians are impressed by me, but on whether or not God is pleased with me.
I think it's my unwillingness to be "wearing a thin facade of Christian-ness that isn't worth its weight" that makes it difficult for me to sometimes say the words "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive..."  Sometimes I'm not ready to forgive.  Other times I'm not ready to ask forgiveness.  Saying the words without meaning them might be someone's idea of asking for the Grace it takes to forgive and be forgiven, but for me it's hypocritical -- going through the motions when I don't want to just go through the motions. 

Matthew West has a new song, The Motions.  The refrain says exactly what I mean:
I don’t wanna go through the motions; I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me.  I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything?  Instead of going through the motions
Thank God for wisdom wherever it's found.

--------------------------------------------

In other news, I learned the Hail Mary and the Glory Be in Latin today.

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.  Amen. 

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.  Benedicta tu in murlieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.  Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. 

Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritu Sancto.  Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et in saecula saeculorem.

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.  Amen.

They're beautiful!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

And Here Ends Baseball Season

I had the distinct pleasure of watching my son and husband play ball together in Phoenix.  They only managed one game at Tempe Diablo Stadium, but it made for a couple nice photo opps.


I managed one shot of them on the field together, Joe pitching and Jakob on second.


We had some spare time to do a little sightseeing and Jakob actually posed for a couple extra photos.


And my favorite...


The boys posed outside a bordello in the mining town we found on the way to our scenic paddleboat ride.


They didn't enjoy the baseball trip as much as I'd hoped.  Jakob hit well and Joe pitched like a pro, but the first year with any new team is a little awkward until everyone finds their "place."  I sure hope they go at least one more time!

After bringing Jakob home, I was able to spend the rest of last week with Joe in Florida.  I love the people who play in the Roy Hobbs series.  They're so happy to be there all week and the men turn into boys again.  This year, the ladies actually received fan attire - and it was very tasteful!

It's always just a little sad when we get home after baseball in Florida.  We know the season's over until spring and the cold of winter is just around the corner. 

Then there's always next year to plan!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Fabulous Fifteen

Catching up on Facebook posts this morning, I sawfriends listing their fifteen favorite authors.  I haven't stopped thinking about it. 

Who ARE my top fifteen - or at least the fifteen that come to me effortlessly? 

Here's my contribution to today's list making...

The Fabulous Fifteen
1.  Diana Gabaldon
2.  Elie Wiesel
3.  St Thomas Aquinas
4.  Fyodor Dostoevsky
5.  Nora Roberts/JD Robb
6.  William P Young
7.  Plato
8.  Charles Dickens
9.  William Shakespeare
10.  Flannery O Conner
11.  Walker Percy
12.  Fr Andrew Greeley
13.  Margaret Mitchell
14.  Bobbie Ann Mason
15.  John Blase
Each of my Fabulous Fifteen has written something that informs my life, shapes my world view, and uplifts my spirit.  And those names filled the screen in seconds.  I wonder how the list would change with time to ponder, time to crack open some of their work, time to reread favorite quotes...

Maybe a post for another day.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Bangle that Beat the Blues

I love jewelry.  A simple and well-chosen piece completes an outfit.

The act of chosing which piece or pieces to wear is often part of my morning routine. 

I find such pleasure in the act of clasping a bracelet around my wrist or fastening earrings at my lobes. 

And yet, left to the unconscious act of preparing for the day, I won't always chose to wear jewelry.  It's only something that happens easily when I'm happy.

Some days I make a conscious effort to find pleasure.  It always starts with the simple things.  A pause at the window in the early dawn.  Resting my forehead against Joe's for a quiet moment while saying goodbye.  Stopping at the jewelry box to paw through the tangled mess I've made.

Today I slipped on my alltimefavoritebangle.  Hidden in the cuff of my jacket, I'll catch sight of it randomly during the day.

I'll feel the weight of it with each key stroke and reach. 

When the stresses of the day mount, I'll play with the clasp and find comfort each time it closes on my wrist with a happy little snap.
Somehow today feels like a good, good day.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"And Just Who Have You Become?"

There is so much beauty at St Kate's.  For the fall, the groundskeepers created a vibrant horn of plenty to greet all comers.

I've found more than just physical beauty there too.  Being on campus feels like being home.  My professor so evidently loves Latin and all things Roman and that makes the sixty-five minute session pass quickly.  I find joy in my fellow students with their youthful optimism, fear of authoring mistakes, and curiosity about us old folks. 

I feel privileged to be doing what I'm doing.  In fact, today's Rotary speaker educated us about education in Cambodia.  Because of the horror of Pol Pot's reign, an entire generation lost the ability to get even the most basic education and here I am going back for my third helping!

Last week I encountered a professor from my first stint at St Kate's, back when it was a college rather than a university.  She was one of my favorite instructors because she so passionately loved her discipline and wanted to share it with everyone!

After the initial greeting and delight in recognizing a familiar face, she asked me the most unusual question, "And just who have you become?"

Think about that question for a minute. 

Are you the you you thought you'd be when you were 18 years old?

For me the answer is a resounding no.  The rest of the answer is neither simple nor brief.  I am not who I thought I'd be, and - for the most part - that's a good thing.  I will mourn the loss of my willingness to be completely optimistic and trusting for the rest of my life.

The question itself I will not answer in this format.  But I have thought about my answer since that day. 

And just who have I become?

I would guess my answer isn't yet final.  :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We Come to Share a Story

We are a people of stories. 

Two of my favorite theologians talk about our human need for story - and about our need to understand our own place in the story.  Fr Andrew Greeley says what first draws us to Catholicism are the wonderful stories we hear as children; it's also what keeps us connected to the Catholic Church as adults (Why I Am Still a Catholic, by Andrew Greeley).  Educator Jeff Cavins says the stories are wondeful, but, he adds, "The story of Jonah isn't big enough to live in.  The story of Noah and the ark isn't big enough to live in."  He contends that we need to know the whole story of salvation history and then enter into the story - find our own place in it, so to speak.  Unless we do, we are cast adrift and and wandering, looking for something to fill the empty places inside, some of us knowing there's something to Catholicism, but unable to articulate what exactly it is (Passing on the Greatest Story Ever Told).

And then there's the music.  This morning I woke to the haunting melody of Song of the Body of Christ (David Haas).  "We come to share our story.  We come to break the bread.  We come to know our rising from the dead."

Rhyme schmyme.  Hallmark and song writers can stuff rhyming.  Still, the melody is haunting. 

By the time I was on my way to work, the melody morphed into What Faith Can Do (Kutlass), probably because it was playing on my favorite station. 

Or it's plain old Godspeak
Everybody falls sometimes
Gotta find the strength to rise

From the ashes and make a new beginning
Anyone can feel the ache
You think it’s more than you can take
But you're stronger, stronger than you know


Don’t you give up now
The sun will soon be shining
You gotta face the clouds
To find the silver lining

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do
I woke, too, to the realization that my own story has not belonged to me for some time.  I jotted lines here and there, twisted and tangled the plot no doubt, but my story has been taken from me as certainly as anything tangible can be taken.

I'm taking it back. 

Danglers be damned.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dancing in Circles

I don't understand why, we do what we do to each other.
According to His word, we're all born sisters and brothers.
But we lie and we steal, we fight and we kill,
Even though we know the way...


Why do we go dancing in circles, when we know it never ends?
We come so close, to loving each other and then...
We go dancing in circles again.
                                                 Love and Theft

Friday, September 24, 2010

6,606 Strides

Last night my elliptical and I shared an hour together.  My mental journey went something like this:

Minute 12:  Man.  I could do this forever.

Minute 19:  Hmmm.  I think I'm gonna die.

Minute 37:  I hate this torture device.

Minute 48:  Hey.  I think I could do this forever.

6,606 strides.

60 minutes.

845.1 calories.

Can't wait to get home and do it again tonight.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Letting Go

On two mornings in my life, I've woken with the sure conviction that I would do anything to avoid living those days.  The first was the morning after our 1997 bus accident.  The second was the morning we brought Adam to his dorm at the University of Minnesota, Morris. 

The first was understandable.  I knew we were going to have to deal with tragedy and start to collect answers to the unanswerable. 

The second isn't understandable.  My son's not dead.  He's not beyond communication.  He's not even that far away.  More, I know he'll be back periodically.  In our current economy, he may eventually come back to live. 

Still, I didn't want to leave him.

I know he's ready for this new stage of his life.  He's going to love college - the schedule and freedom and people and material. 

I also know every parent faces separation at some point.  I've been preparing it for nearly two decades.  I knew I didn't want to be one of those moms who held too tightly and crippled my children.  And I'm not.

So what is it?

It could be fear of the unknown perhaps.  Adam's leaving creates a gap in our family.  I wonder who will talk to me now about something other than sports.  Jakob's now an "only child" who doesn't yet have a driver's license.  And for crying out loud, who's going to put salt in the water softener?

I keep having brief moments of panic when I think of all I haven't taught him yet.  I haven't taught him how to stock a kitchen.  I haven't taught him the best way to budget.  I haven't taught him how to get stains out of his jeans or keep his t-shirts white.  I haven't given him all the tools he needs.

Then I remind myself we have given him all the tools he needs.  We've raised him to love the Lord.  We've loved him unconditionally.  We've said "no" because it was good for him even though saying "yes" would have been so much easier.  We've taught him the importance strong relationships with good people. 

As for the rest?  I didn't know all that important life stuff until I was in my thirties.  He'll figure it out.

In the few moments I had with Adam before we left him at Morris, he hugged me tight.  I'm sure he had conflicting emotions - excitement, fear, a little abandonment.  But the only thing he said was, "I'm going to be fine, Mom." 

I had no words at all, just the conviction that he's right.  He will be fine.

Scenes from Morris
August 17, 2010

The Campus Sign
The University of Minnesota, Morris, is located in a very rural area of the state.  It's a nice campus, small and nicely maintained with quite a few newly renovated buildings.  It has the feel of a small town, and every person has been friendly and welcoming each time we've been there.

The History Behind the Tuition Waiver Plan
Students who can demonstrate Native American ancestry, even those not able to register on the "Rolls" are granted tuition waivers at UMM.  We're thankful for that!


The Brotherly Goodbye
They actually had a nice brotherly hug until Jakob said, "Bet you never thought your face would be smashed in your younger brother's chest at your first day of college."  Adam quickly showed him that Jakob may have a few inches on him, but Adam's clearly still "the boss" - at least for awhile.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blessed Be

I've long been fascinated by the Wiccans.  "Blessed be," they say to greet and to bid g'day.  "An it harm none, do what you will."

Wouldn't Moses have been thankful to share such a simple message with his followers rather than the ten, rather wordy, commandments inscribed in stone?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Old Man and the Bat...

I love watching Joe play baseball when it goes well.  I love that little grin and wink he sends my way before he hits.  I love the smell of outdoor baseball clinging to his uniform at the end of the game.  Last night was one of those perfect nights.  He made a couple nice hits and a couple nice catches.  All-in-all a good night on the field.

That doesn't stop it from hurting the morning after. 

Aging plainly sucks.  There are more aches and pains, more activities to consume spare time, and the grief that marks every major life change - loved ones dying or becoming ill, kids growing up and moving away from home, unplanned and unexpected separations.

But there's something beautiful about it all too.  Stephen Curtis Chapman sings the line "I will be here to watch you grow in beauty and tell you all the things you are to me...  I will be here."  I've watched him grow in beauty and I try to tell him every day what I see and what he is to me. 

He gives me that same simple gift that somehow keeps us attached to our past while living our present. 

I have a feeling we'll one day bury that old man with his bat.  He wouldn't want it any other way.
---------------------------------------------
Those gems of wisdom that circulate in emails now and then annoy me.  Like I don't get enough mail that must be handled without having forwards!  There's one I love though and I recall it often:

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.


When someone is in your life for a REASON . . . It is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be.


Then, without any wrong doing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.


Sometimes they die.


Sometimes they walk away.


Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.


What we must realise is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you  sent up has been answered. And now it is time to move on.


When people come into your life for a SEASON . . .because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn.


They bring you an experience of peace, or make you laugh.


They may teach you something you have never done.


They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

There's something true in that and comforting in the notion that all things don't need to last forever to have value.  The one thing that's not true?  Love isn't blind.  It is patient and kind and accepting and longing for the beloved.  I'm glad.  What's good about blind acceptance? 

And if it were true that friendship is clairvoyant, we sure could take pains to prevent friends from hurting us.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Be Still and Know... The Onion

(Grab an onion, cut it in half, and enjoy the read! :))

When Cézanne paints a common fruit he does not add to that fruit qualities which the fruit does not possess; he sees the fruit accurately -- with unrelenting accuracy; nevertheless, through his accuracy a something beyond the fruit, a wonder beyond the vegetable is presented. Familiarity and wonder must be, and have been present in all true aesthetics.



Self and World, Definition Press, NY, pp. 136-137



I saw the world accurately today, and I what I saw was wonderful.  I spent the day with two lovely, brilliant women at the Minnesota Arboretum. 
 
For the first time in my life, I saw what an onion - one of my favorite oft-used foods, looks like growing from the earth.  "I didn't know it grew like this! I exclaimed before snapping this pic with my handy dandy iPhone cam:


Aren't they stunning?  

You know, it may be the case I would have imagined an onion grew like this had I ever considered the onion's origins.  I just haven't thought about it.  Not ever!  And yet I touch and use and ingest onions nearly every day. 

Had I considered the onion, I may have thought something like "How mundane!  How ordinary!  How unworthy of consideration!"

How wrong!

Multi-layered, multi-functional, multi-colored, this fruit of the earth sustains us, keeps us healthy, and gives snappy flavor and color to foods. 

And look how it rests on the sustaining, loving curve of the earth. 

The Master Crafter of the earth and all it sustains clearly loves His creation; what a grand gift we've been granted to steward.

--------------------------------------------------------
I took lots of pictures, and found myself wishing I had our good camera instead of my iPhone, but still... beautiful pics.





Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Art of the Apprentice

Adam shared with me a favorite series of his, The Ranger's Apprentice.  Though Adam and I don't always love the same books - ugh to Harry Potter - usually we share similar taste.  Neither of us, for example, will deign to read the highly popular Twilight series.   

Will Treaty is the hero of the Apprentice series.  He's young at the opening of the series, just a boy.  In his world, he's old enough to be deciding his future and he wants glory and excitement.  Sadly, he's chosen to be the Ranger's apprentice, and thus begins his journey full of not just glory and excitement, but honor and dignity - and the kind of friends a good man deserves.  He becomes a well-respected and renown character critical to his country's safety.

I want to be an apprentice.

I want to sit at the feet of the Master crafter and learn to be exceptional at my trade.

I want to submit my will to my art and calling, rising above the challenge and frustration of the daily chore of improving my skill.

I want to achieve master crafter status and turn to the apprentice at my feet and share my art.

I want the respect due a crafter.

It might be a calling...

Imagine working every day with someone whose talents you long to share, someone with wisdom he shares freely, but only when the time is ripe.  Imagine working one day with another whose talents show promise and who wants to drain every ounce of technique and art from you before his tenure with you is complete.  Imagine mastering something you love, and doing it because you cannot do anything else.

That, I think, is a calling worth following.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've committed to using the Rotary four-way test in all aspects of my decision-making life - personal and professional.

The four-way test offers the following "test" to apply to any situation:

1.  Is it the TRUTH?
2.  Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3.  Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4.  Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Just as it's no mistake that the Corinthian definition of love begins with "patience" so too it's no mistake that the four-way test begins with TRUTH.  Often, decision-making occurs with the answer to this very first question.  So many issues and dilemma start with a lie.

Take a moment and apply the four-way test to decision-making moments in your life.  Don't have any issues or dilemmas?  Try some news-worthy issues:
  • Is it ethical to accept a severance package that amounts to more than some employees of the same entity would earn in a lifetime?  How is that FAIR?
  • Is it acceptable to indulge in multiple affairs and intimacies because they're offered freely?  Is it the TRUTH, FAIR, BENEFICIAL?  Does it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  • Is it admirable to confess to an affair with a public figure for the notoriety the confession brings?  How does that build GOODWILL or BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  • Is it wise to move a man accused of wrong-doing from location to location without investigating behaviors?  Ah-hem.  Not even a single "yes" can be applied to that one.
  • Is it honorable to judge another's actions without having walked the proverbial mile in her shoes?  I don't have to belabor the point, right?
Try the four-way.  It works.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Marriage... Is It Sacred?

I stumbled upon a disturbing post this morning.  An author poses the question:  "If marriage is legal, why isn't prostitution?"  He claims one person in the marriage is always the provider and the other is always the recipient of support.  He bases his best argument on the fact that fat and ugly wives are partners only to less successful men and fat and ugly prostitutes earn less than half of their more attractive, thin competitors.

It's a ridiculous article and I'm not actually posting the link.  The author discounts completely that unpaid work, i.e., raising children, caring for the home and family, etc., has value in the relationship.  He never considers the likelihood that the marriage will result in children and that those children benefit from a stable, committed relationship between their parents.  He ignores that the married couple shares a rich, full life in common and expects their union to be enduring rather than fleeting.  I was left with the sense that this particular author sees the only value of a woman in terms of her sexuality rather than the whole, beautiful person she is.

St Paul first describes the role of the spouses in Ephesians 5: 

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
St Paul's advice may be some of the most misunderstood and misabused passages in the New Testament.  A Christian wife is not called to submit herself to an ogre!  I am called to submit my life to a man who loves me as his own body, a man willing to sacrifice his very life for mine, a man capable of dying to himself and rising again a new creation in communion with me.  I think St Paul calls us to something uniquly and profoundly beautiful.

Are we capable of creating something this beautiful in twenty-first century America?

Not in a world proliferate with bumper stickers like this one:  "NEVER GIVE UP on something you can't go a day without thinking about."

My single - and some of my not-single - friends describe the dating scene as a free-for-all.  Wedding rings are no longer a deterrent to interested parties. 

That's not so good for Western Civilization.  Historically speaking, our entire society is based on the Christian family.

Is marriage sacred?  No, but it should be.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tick Tock...

I have lots to say and no time to say it. 

God bless summer!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Revisiting Happiness

Albert Einstein once said, "You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew."

Having been thinking for a couple weeks about exactly what makes me happy - and boy, do I have an amazing list! - I recognize Truth in his statement.  Look at the world the way you've always looked at the world, and, well, it will always look the same.

Considering what things make me happy made me look at my little corner of the world anew.  It's a delightful corner.
It makes me happy...
  • to watch things grow - babies into people, seeds into food, little green things into big green things.
  • to nurture life both inside my body and from the earth.
  • to maintain friendships with people who are smart and strong and funny and friends of my marriage.
  • to learn and grow in the practice and execution of my faith.
  • to share my best talents with others freely and without expectation of return.
  • to sit in the grass with the happyt doggies.
  • to rest in the arms of the man I love.
  • to care for those incabable of caring for themselves for whatever reason.
  • to make music by myself or with people who have the same goals as I do.
  • to prepare food for people who enjoy eating it.
  • to work with women completing nurturing tasks.
  • to plan and organize and execute events or projects.
  • to forgive while not forgetting.
  • to be in the midst of people.
I went to my therapist armed with a healthy list of things that make me well and truly happy.  She didn't recall asking the question, thinking it may have been part of a larger conversation, but she did find the answers interesting.  Even more interesting, probably, was that I thought about it for a couple weeks.

I wondered what the next question might be, what my new focus would be.

She didn't really answer that until the end of the session.  Mid-conversation, she said, "That's your next task!  You need to find out why you're here, what your purpose is, what you want to do for the rest of your life." 

No, she did not mean I needed to find out why I was there sitting in her office.  Her and I have discussed that and have concluded it's a healthy exercise at this time in my life.

She meant I need to look beneath all the layers of me, and find out what mission I long to fulfill with my life.  Apparently many, many women my age - largely done with the business of starting and raising a family, mostly settled in marriage and friendships and routines, less stressed with financial burdens of the twenty-somethings - experience this journey.

I have an inkling that I may be thinking about this one longer than two weeks.

I wonder what new vision of the world it will bring.