Saturday, December 31, 2011

And the Second Day...

What a difference degrees make.  It was nice outside today... WAY nice.  I was almost sweating in my clothes.  I loved the heat of the sun on my face and all that jazz...

We walked a VERY long way today... from our apartment, across the river, around SERIOUS construction, back to our side of the river, and down the street.  Then we found the Tours.  We bought a river and bus tour, and actually walked to the river tour in time to take it. 

WOW.  Spain is gorgeous!!  And when I'm warm, I love it WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY more than home. :)

The only problem is, I cannot remember any Spanish.  Hopefully that will resolve itself when we have had enough sleep.  Jakob took this picture in a sweet little restaurant that served eggs for breakfast.  That is really surprising here.

We ate a delicious dish called Tortillas Espana.  I´m making this when I come home.  The recipe is at http://www.recetasdiarias.com/recetas/huevo/tortilla-espanola/.  Muy, muy bueno.
tortilla-de-cebolla

Hasta luego...

Friday, December 30, 2011

Me encanta España

So.  We left Minnesota on Wednesday at 1 pm, and arrived in Chicago 52  minutes later.  We left there late, some time after 5.  We flew overnight.  Adam and Mariah seemed like they had fun and kept busy goofing around, sleeping, and taking turns visiting the somewhat disgusting bathroom.  For the rest of us, the flight was challenging; Jakob was markedly uncomfortable and pretty hungry.  I'd brought food along for him, but there really wasn't a good way to keep it cold or warm it again, so it was something of a fail.  My heart fell when he told me his knee hurt (thankfully by the next afternoon it was feeling good again).  He's already dreading the flight home, so I'll have to think of something to send with him to help the boredom. Finally, we arrived in Madrid, Spain at 8-something - late - and had a challenging journey to our next gate for the final hour-long flight to Seville.  We reached our Seville destination shortly after ten and collected our luggage.

The first language challenge came right away:  using a foreign payphone to contact our guy, Markcus.  Thankfully, Adam could help and he said he'd meet us in an hour.  Within minutes the second serious challenge loomed: finding a taxi for five without enough language (my mind completely blanked, thanks to fatigue, I think).  In Spain, the largest taxi holds four.  Once we understood that, we were on our way to Calle Torneo 40 2D Puerto B.  The first floor really is up one level from where we Americans consider it.  That's more confusing than it should be.

Our Spanish apartment is beautiful.  [I'll post pictures later; challenge number three is technology!]  It's in a great location, large enough for all five of us, and clean enough to delight me.  We left our luggage in the room while the owners finished cleaning it and took our first walk through our neighborhood.  And let me say, it's gorgeous here!  We found our first tapas bar, and couldn't really understand how it worked at first, but Jakob and I dug in.  After we ate, the barkeep counted our toothpics and charged us for them and our drinks.  We then navigated a Spanish mercado, purchasing some food for our cocina.  We dragged our butts back to our apartamento and most of us slept for a few hours.  Joe and I headed out for dinner together, finding a delightful restaurante and enjoying paella.  I'm determined to like paella, but I ate too much of some sort of potato salad we had as a first course.  Oddly, it was made with tuna, but I found it rustic, refreshing, and delicious.  Not so delicious?  Spanish wine.  Maybe that's not such a bad thing.  Jakob opted to sleep through dinner, but spent a large part of the night Facebooking with Caitlin. 

Today, our second day here, we journeyed again through la ciudad.  I was nervous this morning when Joe said he wanted eggs and pancakes, knowing the typical Spaniard chooses bread and cafe, but we found a delicious, and somewhat more American breakfast at our paella restaurant of last night.  Jakob and I had tortillas huevos, Joe had eggs and bacon, Adam enjoyed scrambled eggs, and Mariah ate something sandwichy off the menu.  A plus.  I might spend way too much time at that restaurant.  I took a picture of it, so I could remember the name.  There are lots of words on the window, though, so I'm still not sure what it's actually called.

We walked through our neighborhood, shopping and watching a variety of entertainments.  It's not clear whether there's something special going on - like maybe the end of 2011? - or if this city is always this vibrant, but it delights on many sensory levels.  Joe negotiated a tour in a horse-drawn buggy (coche de caballos) and Mariah had the opportunity for tons of picture-taking.  After the tour, we ate at a restaurant in that plaza, and found out that "set" tables with tablecloths, place settings, and bread require ordering full meals, while the "bar" tables allow for snacks, tapas, and drinks.  Good lesson, and from a camarero simpático - he took pity on our poor American blank looks and allowed us to order three items from the tapas menu and a postre (Mariah loves tiramasu!).

Joe and I made our way back to our apartamento for our siesta by way of the supermarket.  It's a challenge to be on foot and carrying groceries for five, but Joe never complained.  I hope I won't be complaining when I'm carrying my food for my solo meals to my next apartamento after my family leaves!  The kids shopped more and then returned so Adam could take his siesta.  Jakob and Mariah continued their excursion, finding some interesting souveniers; Jakob has a Sherlock Holmes pipe and a mini blow torch, but continues his search for a cane (the little House wanna-be) and a top hat.

The kids opted to say home in the evening, having discovered how to change the language on the tv to English (damnit).  Joe and I had a date during which we discovered a new favorite restaurant.  Our delightful little waitress suggested food we found delicious and filling.  The only thing we didn't consume was something Joe thought was a really oily peanut butter.  It was, in fact, pate with sardine oil.  I don't know who would want to eat that or exactly how many date nights it's ruined after someone has consumed it, but ewwww.  After thanking our delightful little waitress with a hug that resulted in my first Spanish kiss (both cheeks with full contact and a smacking smooch!), we walked across a bridge and saw the Isla Magica, a local theme park.  Returning, we continue down our street until we found a place for some dessert.  When we returned to the apartment, we realized we only covered a little less than six miles today.  It felt like more.

My complaint remains:  it's freaking cold here.  I'm going to have to send home some of my packed luggage and purchase a few things so I can manage the cold better.  I'm even suffering some kind of lung thing, despite my continued litany:  "I am well...i am well... iamwell .

My biggest challenge remains as well:  techology.  I had no idea - maybe a little idea :) - how often I rely on my smartphone in the course of a day.  I feel a little I'm navigating blind!  Next week I pick up my rented Blackberry.  Ha.  I'm guessing I'll still be challenged by techology since I've never used a Blackberry. 

I'm off to bed a little later than average (it's 2:15 am), but this whole siesta thing is delightful!  Joe found the Timberwolves, so he and the kids are watching that.  I'm hoping they sleep long enough so I can have a guilt-free run along the bridge and through the park I can see across the river.

Keep us in your prayers!  I think there are some big challenges yet to come...  I don't want to be alone in this city yet.  I'm nervous about this lengua.  The rest of the family has a big trip to face to get home.  Jakob and Joe have to navigate the return to his strict diet.  And I think Jakob's concerned about me not going home (Surprised?  I am!).

God bless.

We've made a decision to suspend his challenging diet for the duration of the week, though he'll still avoid some of the worst of the allergens.  It's nearly impossible to be in a foreign country without a smart phone translator and eat hypoallergenically.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Feeding Jakob Well

Here we end yet another year that passed much too quickly, and the departure for Spain looms ever nearer.

I have mixed emotions about leaving for Spain for my month-long class, most of which stem from our efforts to make Jakob well and my concern over his diet when I'm not here.

Jakob's been through a wealth of testing and a number of specialists.  It's not really clear whether the specialists agree with each other or don't.  We're not even really sure what to call what Jakob has, but we're pretty sure it's a form of arthritis.

Since December 7 - sixteen days ago - Jakob's been eating an elimination (hypoallergenic) diet.  Inflammation comes from something, and many, many common foods can be culprits.  For thirty days, he follows a diet rich in whole foods presented the way God gave them to us - free of processing, enriching, etc.  There's a HUGE list of things he can have, and all of the "cans" are great foods.  Still.  The list of "cannots" is lengthy - and most of what's on that list is the food Jakob's eaten most of his life. 

What are the cannots?  Beef. Pork. Dairy products. Eggs. Refined sugar. Gluten. Oranges. Peanuts.

He's been eating better than he ever has.  Roasted vegetable soup (suprisingly tastey).  Lamb (smelly when cooking, but delicious when well prepared).  Salmon.  Fruits.  Vegetables.  Pastas.  Rice.  Beans.  Chicken and turkey.  Sunflower seeds.  Cashews.  Pistachios.  And this week I'm working on soups and baked goods I hope he'll like. 

Incidentally, if anyone has a good soup recipe that doesn't rely on milk or butter, I'd love to see it.

I'm exceptionally proud of Jakob.  It's not easy to completely change the way you eat overnight, and he did.  It's not easy to be seventeen and hanging with the guys and maintain a challenging diet (b-dubs doesn't have a single thing on their menu he can safely eat).  It's not easy to constantly try new foods when you were happy with what you ate.  It's not easy to accept someone's help for something as simple as eating.

And he's doing it. 

Know what I think he most misses? 

Something convenient to eat.  Pop.  Fast food.  Chips. Toaster strudel.  Pizza.  Tacos.  Freedom to just grab what looks good or smells good without turning to the ingredients list (most often to be disappointed by the second or third ingredient).

But.

He feels good.  For the first time since he was a fourth grader, he's not nauseous every day.  He has almost completely regained range of motion in his joint.  Soon he'll be able to start playing sports again.  His eyes shine and his skin glows with vitality.  He can sleep at night.

The most surprising result of the last sixteen days is his humble gratitude.  The dynamic in our relationship is completely different.  He's so appreciative of the efforts we're making to find him food he'll enjoy that he gladly and immediately does what he's asked to do.  He's witnessing pure acts of selfless service, and he appreciates it.

So, yes.  I'm afraid to leave his diet to anyone else.  We are so casual about what we put in our bodies and food preparation, and we can't afford to be with our boy.

For the next few days I'll be perfecting the soup base and freezing a bunch for January.  I'll also have him test a number of baked products; if we can find things he likes, I'll freeze a bunch of that too. 

When Jakob and Joe get back from their week in Spain, it will be time for Jakob to be adding foods back to his diet.  He'll add one thing from the "cannots" every six days and eat it for four days.  If he has not negative reactions or returning symptoms, it's a "safe" food and he can continue eating it.  The last two food groups he'll add will be dairy and gluten, the most likely allergens.  It'll take months to reach a conclusion about what things cause inflammation in his body, but the effort - if it keeps him feeling well - is so completely worthwhile.

Keep Jakob in your prayers.  This food things is huge, and part of him having a good quality of life for decades.  Still.  He has arthritis.  That's serious business.

Friday, November 25, 2011

On Thanks-Giving...

I love thanksgiving.

I love that the world pauses - yes, the world - to give thanks. And we do it wholeheartedly this one time a year.

Here's my thanks-giving list:

I'm thankful..

1. That I have a beautiful family.
2. That my family is growing.
3. That Joe is an amazing husband.
4. That I am strong. Physically and emotionally.
5. That my boys love being at home.
6. That Joe's family is healthy.
7. That Joe's family loves me.
8. That Adam is finding his way.
9. That Jakob is finding healing.
10. That my parents are divorced. (Who would have thought I'd EVER write that?)
11. That I love the people who love Joe.
12. That my family is bigger than just what Joe and I made.
13. That Mari, my DAUGHTER, might be able to join us in Spain.
14. That I have people at work who can fill the gap I make when I go to Spain.
15. That I get to interact with really smart people most days.
16. That my boys and husband are not afraid to love wholeheartedly.
17. That my parents are happy. Even though...
18. That I have the best friends imaginable.
19. That my house is moving into the 2011s.
20. That I am happy.

Hurrrah.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The LOOK!

For this year's home-grown 92.9 Christmas celebration, I get to do all the really fun stuff that I normally leave until the end of my productions - and then panic when I can't make something work or need help at the last possible moment.

This time, I get to sit and think about what I want things to look like and how I want things to happen during the show. Incidentally, I used to believe "thinking" was something a person did while doing other things.  I know better now. We undervalue thinking time to our own detriment. 

Most of what happens during a show comes naturally to the performers - especially when they're talented and genuinely enjoy what they do.

This is the first time I'm working on a show with people I don't know.  Seeing them move on stage and listening to them make music - well, watching rehearsal raised the stakes for me.  These guys deserve something awesome decorating the stage and some inspired direction from me.  It's coming...

Check out the "look" that's brewing for this show.  It's vibrant and modern.  And I think I know how to translate it into props - or at least, Staci does and I know her.


I'm so excited to see how everything looks on December 4.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home-Grown, but Not Hick

There is a little gem of a project percolating right now.

Actually, it's more than percolating!  It's almost ready to enjoy. 

I'm working on a project with Mike Talbott and Spirit 92, and yesterday attended my first rehearsal with the talented people who will perform on December 4. 

Let me tell you, working with people as talented as this group is a pleasure.  I love hearing something that makes me tingle, and most of what they did yesterday made me tingle.

Interested in seeing a home-grown performance to open your holiday season?  Check out this link:  http://www.spirit929.com/pages/CMFABanquet.

This time I'm not performing on stage.  I'm a behind-the-scenes guy.  And I really like it here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

[Major Freakin' Sigh of Re-Fricken-Lief]

I spent my entire day with Jakob today. What a blessing!

He struggles.  His pain is so out of my range, I can't even come close to understanding.  I thought I came close a couple times when I had my biking injury last summer.  I am now guessing that I had no freakin' idea!

Today, with the advice of people we trust, Jakob had an injection of lidocaine and steroids.  His knee was in bad shape and he has a serious disease.  He has literally tried every single thing he could try to avoid medication or medical intervention. The worst thing about a disease that involves chronic pain is that the victim suffers pain all the time.  Who can live with intense pain every single day?
Jakob has for several years.  And today he was freed of it.  I witnessed his pain, his treatment, and then the return of "real"Jakob.  He was bouncy, nearly giggly, and sitting on the edge of his seat.  When I said, "do you want to skip and dance?" he was ready - though the doctor cautioned him to rest this weekend.
God is good.  (That is such a small statement!)

After dinner, when we were ready to leave, he looked across the table at me, and told me the most heart-wrenching thing I've heard today:  "Mom.  It's so nice to not have a dead limb hanging off my left leg."
No, Jakob, I don't.  I hope you forget how it feels too.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When It Happened to Us...

Jakob's been diagnosed with JIA, formerly known as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.

He's been suffering the symptoms, I believe, since he was in fourth grade, seven years ago.  There's no doubt he has it; the markers are in his blood.

And so we grieve a little for the pain-free life we all deserve to have.

Jakob's going to beat his JIA.  He's learning now about what he can eat to feel better, and what he can eat that makes him feel bad.  He's learning about what kind of physical activity he needs.  He's learning to manage the depression that strikes when the pain won't go away.

He's so, SO heroic.  He knows what it means to "Live True."

He will beat this because he wants to play baseball.  He wants to play baseball more than anyone else I know wants to do anything.  And he's a baseball player to his soul.

Baseball players are a breed apart.  Watch how they move and how they stand when they talk and how they touch other people.  Then watch them on the field.  All the indolent motion, the generous patience, and the attention to detail they exhibit while waiting for that rare moment they will need to fire their engines and make the play is a key to how they live their lives.  Those things define Jakob - the indolence, generosity, patience, and focus on detail.  He's a ball player by blood. 

And he will apply every skill and talent he's learned and earned on a field to beating his pain.  He will. 

And it will be even sweeter to watch him make the next amazing play.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Light Bright

Remember playing with LITE-BRITE?
For several years, I engaged myself in BIG holiday projects.

One year my friends and I recorded a CD of our Christmas favorites.  16 of them, I think.  The next year I wrote a Christmas show, Welcome Heaven's Light, using that music.  We performed WHL a couple years running, and then I wrote a new show, Journey of the Wise Men, I think it was called, a departure from previous work in that it had a comic twist made possible by the Wise Men.  The last concert I wrote was a reworking of the original, and I called it Touching Wonder.  In the meantime, I wrote a non-Christmas show, The Feast, to celebrate the gift of good marriages, and a couple other small shows.  The five of us also recorded more music, some of it original. 

I often describe my history in terms of the elements of light I recall.  These years of music were light bright.  Energetic.  Creative.  Dynamic.  I felt like I could achieve anything.

I find it easy to be creative when the world is light bright. 

For me, it's impossible to create when darkness falls.

And darkness fell slowly, but in a big way.  I guess it all began in January 2008 and decisively ended September 25.  In The Inferno Dante expresses a similar experience in his life, and it is so beautiful in the original Italian:
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
(A gloss for those non-Italians... Nel mezzo ... in the middle / del cammin ... of the path (commonly used figuratively) / di nostra vita ... of our life / mi ritrovai ... I found myself / per una selva oscura ... in a dark wood / ché la diritta via ... for the direct/straight way / era smarrita. ... was lost.)

So I was lost.  Floundering.  Trying to find my way back to my path.  I lost trust in others.  I lost my sense of belonging.  I lost the energy to create. 

I, in fact, lost myself.

In trying to find where I belonged, I made mistakes.  I listened to well-intentioned friends.  I drove away other friends.  Worse, maybe, I stopped making new friends.

And then little rays of light started to shine. 

I successfully completed my triathalon.  I'm strong. 

I created a new music group with Rachel and Brittney, girls I've accompanied for a decade.  I make good opportunities for young people.

I taught my staff new tasks, trusting them to do important things; they have lightened my daily burden immensely.  I'm able to trust others.

I went back to school.  My brain is on fire.

I made new friends and reconnected with old friends.  I love deeply and generously.

I applied to a study abroad program and am going to Spain in January.  I'm courageous. 

I accepted a position managing a new Christmas production with new people and in a new place.  I make things happen.

I wrote a new Christmas offering for the teen choir I accompany and the girls and director are excited to perform it in December.  I'm creating.  Creating!

And you know, the world is again light bright.  I can achieve anything.

Praise God.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Synchronicity and the Dread "Perception"

A very, very wise woman once pointed out that I tend to be aware of synchronicty - when seemingly unrelated people or events have related meaning.  On a side note, I would like to see that woman again.

Last week, the ugly word "perception" appeared in six entirely separate instances. In the majority of the occurances, the speaker inappropriately used the word. Seriously. Five out of six. 

Misused "perception" is one of my least favorite words.  It became a least favorite when I received an email opening with this sentence "Unfortunately, perception is truth." The email was full of enough misperception and untruth, it turned my stomach.

This week the word has been used correctly thrice by three different sources.  In two cases, the writer used the phrase "Perception Vs. Reality."


In the third case, my favorite fictional murder cop is discussing a case with a victim's father and her colleague.


Eve: "You're in charge and therefore responsible. That's both reality and perception."

Captain MacMasters: "You're saying this could have come through any of the cases any of my men worked."

Thank you.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you. 

Two different things.  Two things often at odds with each other.

Reality is about what IS and what cannot be changed.  Is.  Was.  Will be.  That's reality. 
The world is round.  I am 42.  I dislike deceit.

Perception is nothing more than information filtered by our lousy senses.

And ok.  I'll admit.  Some sensory information is good.  If something's hot, our sensory system says "don't touch that."  Good. 

Still.  Other sensory information says "don't keep driving forward; you'll fall off the earth."  Yeah.  Get it?

I'm a Roman Catholic.  I love being Roman Catholic.  Stripping away individual belief, personal experience, and critical review, I think I could be Roman Catholic simply because the Church "gets" the difference between perception and reality.  And you know?  So does Jesus.

Got the Goods

¡Anoche recibí mi calendario para clase de enero!  Por lo que he podido hacer mi reserva de alojamiento.  Durante la primera semana nos quedaremos aquí:


  
http://www.sevilla5.com/apartments/plaza-santa-cruz.html.

Espero poder pasar el resto del mes aquí:
 

¿Hay una persona en el mundo tan afortunada como yo?

Last night, I received my calendar for my January class.  So now I can make my reservations.  The first picture is of the place I will stay the first week with my family.  The second and third pictures are of the place I will stay during my month of study. Is there a person in the world as fortunate as me?

The schedule:
December 28:  Leave for Spain with the Fam
January 3:  Students arrive in Seville and Orientation Starts
January 4:  Orientation Continues
January 5:  Classes Begin (and Joe and I celebrate 21 years of marriage)/Fam Leaves
January 6:  Holiday - Día de los Reyes Magos
January 7:  Day Trip to Ronda
January 14-15:  Overnight Trip to Córdoba y úbeda
January 24:  Last Day of Classes
January 25:  Final Exam
January 28:  Leave for Home
January 29:  Arrive at Home
January 30:  Winter Semester Begins

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blessings and Raindrops

Laura Story isn't my favorite musician, not by a long shot. 

That's surprising, because it seems like her work is piano-driven and smart, and I tend to appreciate both qualities. 

However, I also tend toward more ensemble-ish (of course, that's not a word, but whatever) music, because when good ensembles hit the right blend, or create beautiful harmony, there's nothing in the world that matches the shiver of pleasure I feel. Really. Nothing.

I also think Story's music, though beautiful, is not something the average non-singer can or will just joyfully sing along. It's challenging, not really anthemic (again, I know), and just generally not catchy, for the most part.

As a liturgical musician, I would rarely use her music in a liturgy because, again, most people cannot just sing along.
Separating from my "work" I cannot even say I listen to her music while praying. When I pray, I need music that is in the background of prayer. Her music is not that. It's thinking music.

So, no, not a favorite go-to artist. And yet, she is a beloved musician.

Her songs tell stories and I love stories.

Let me say that again. I LOVE stories. True ones. Bad ones. Fiction. Even stories set to music.

"Blessings" by Story is one of my favorite story songs by this artist.  In part, she sings:
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
What if our blessings really do come from raindrops?

What if the trials and hurts and struggles really are mercies in disguise, and thus blessings?

We pray for blessings.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Commission

Because I am a wedding coordinator, I became a Eucharistic Minister.

I don't really care for the reality of putting the Host on a person's tongue. It completely disgusts me - not in every case, just a few.

The Blood is entirely different. You hand the communicant the cup, wipe off their spit, turn the cup, and offer it again. Totally hygienic.

Even knowing that the Body and Blood of Christ is unlikely to spread disease or make people ill, I have trouble giving the Hosts.

Still, if I had to, I would distribute the Hosts. After all, it's Jesus.

Recently I received notice that there was going to be a Commissioning of Eucharistic Ministers and just prior to the Commissioning, we would be attending a retreat. Nifty that the timing of said retreat worked into my incredibly scary, tight schedule. I will also be in town for the actual Commissioning.

In part, Fr Tony's invitation reads: "In this ministry, you must be examples of Christian living in faith and conduct; you must strive to grow in holiness through this sacrament of unity and love."

Well, all righty.

And, having left the one friendship that almost gave me permission to look at others and judge their actions, I know my focus will be on my own committment and not on the presence or performance of others.

Hallelujah.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Perfect Fit

Today Joe said he'd like baseball better if I were there.  I set aside my plans and went to watch his game.  I'm glad I did.  A good friend was there.

Joe's known Tim a long, long time.  They probably vs'd each other in baseball for twenty or twenty-five years.  For several years, they've been going to Florida together.  They are the Minnesota Bandits and they have cool unis.  When he once asked what it would take to convince me to nag Joe into going to baseball in Florida every year, I said "fan attire."  He hooked me up with a sweet "girly" t-shirt in Bandit colors.  I'm proud to wear it.
From the first time I met Tim, I've been comfortable with him.  He's salt of the earth - a good, good man, a GREAT father, and an amazing husband.  Then I met his wife, Beth.  She's as good as he is.  I loved her from the moment we met.  To me it felt like there wasn't even a "getting to know you" phase. We immediately and permanently clicked.  She's one of those people who can participate in a conversation from time to time - and sometimes the between time is MONTHS - and is immediately, intimately, perfectly present.
Beth is a wife like me.  She gets frustrated sometimes because her husband is ALWAYS playing, thinking about, or facilitating baseball.  Like me, she knows it is his best love.  Also like me, she would never, ever take his best love from him.  We met because our husbands were friends, but we bonded because of the unique way we affirm our husbands. And yet we rarely discuss baseball.  Ummm.... forgive me when I say, "Thank God!"
Today Tim and I visited for a few minutes before he left for his next event.  I enjoy the moments spent in his company because I am completely and totally relaxed.  There are no games, no jockeying, no stress.  He told me a story that made me grin and enjoy the husband he is to my friend Beth. God! He loves her.  She is as lucky as I am in her choice of lifetime companion. I hope she knows that - I believe she does.
These are the kind of friends God wants for us.  People who share the same values without being cookie cutter images of ourselves.  People who long for the best for us as we long for the best for them.  People who are friends to our marriage and will never, ever propose something indecent or cross the wrong boundaries - ever - because they love us like we love them. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Man with Two Sons and Jesus-Love


In this week's Gospel, Jesus shares the story of the man with two sons.  He told his eldest son to go work in the vinyard, but the elder did not want to go work and said "no" to his father.  He later reconsidered and went to work in the vinyard.  Meanwhile, the man told his younger son to go work in the field.  He agreed to go, but didn't.  The chief priests and elders claim the elder son did his father's will, and Jesus tells them:
[Yeah,] tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.  Yet even when you saw that, you did not change your minds and believe him.
You know what I wonder?

Why is it always tax collectors and prostitutes?  What's so bad about tax collectors?  Aren't they just doing their jobs?  (This website - http://www.colonialucc.org/worship/sermons/2008/sermon_060808.html - likens tax collectors to first century Palestinian Sopranos.  Ha. That strikes me as funny.)  I guess the case could be made that prostitutes are only doing theirs as well.  Aren't those paying for the prostitutes' services sinners too? 

Of course the whole time I'm wondering, I'm missing the point of the parable.

I do get the point:  the elders and church leaders considered themselves righteous and above reproach, and they didn't bother to even listen to what John had to say. Meanwhile, the sinners were listening.  They may initially have said "no" to their heavenly Father, but then they went out and did right - they chose to follow Jesus.

Fr Tony really nailed his homily again this week. He opened with two thoughts:
  • I bet each of us can tell stories about how people have let us down - made promises to us and never followed up on them.  We put our trust in them and, in the end, they aren't there for us.  (Why, yes, that's happened to me.)
  • But we must acknowledge times that we ourselves have gone back on our word when we have given a half-hearted "yes" to someone or something that we never planned to follow up on.  (Why, yes, I have done something like that as well.  True, not intentionally - I always mean it when I say "yes" to someone.  Still, I'm guilty of failing to follow through.)
He continues, "this parable today offers us good news:  sinners can change!"  Attending Mass is our new commitment to die to ourselves - leave our own wants and needs behind so we are "going out and serving Him and sacrificing for Him as His disciples."  When we say "Amen," we are promising to "see our Lord in our brothers and sisters and respond with a 'yes' when God calls us."

It's a challenge to see the Lord in our brothers and sisters, especially those brothers and sisters who have wronged us.  It may be a bigger challenge to see the Lord in the brothers and sisters we have wronged.  If we were really able to love the way Jesus wants us to love, it might not be such a challenge.  And what kind of love is Jesus-love?  It's love that is patient, kind, not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, rejoices with truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Best of all, Jesus-love cannot, will not, does not fail.  Jesus-love is awesomely, wonderfully, eternally perfect.

I fail at Jesus-love sometimes. So do most people. Where I most often fail is in my inability to believe that sinners - and we are all sinners - change. I long for cosmic justice. 

Punish the sinners! 

Off with their heads!

Clap on the chains!

And yet...
The sinner basically punishes himself. The punishment is built into the very sinfulness. This is what Ezekiel is saying [in Sunday's first reading]. “Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust?” It is not altogether uncommon to hear people complain that God is unjust to them. But God responds that a good person who violates his own integrity to do something evil dies in sin, precisely as a result of the evil he has done.

Our self-seeking, our hate, anger, aggression, violence, jealousy, resentments, our greed and avarice… all lead to isolation, loneliness, hostility with others and often to physical and mental stress and breakdowns. Sin, which is a refusal to respond to God loving us, brings its own inevitable punishment. Our sins often leave wounds which take a long time to heal. God does not need to punish us; we do that very well by our own choices.
(from
http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/oa261g/)
 Well, hell.  What else is there to say?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The File is Closed!

Now that I finally know what I want to do when I grow up, things are happening fast.

I have learned enough Latin and Spanish to be dangerous. I have an approved map to follow for the next two years at the end of which I will have a Masters in Spanish K-12 education.  And I have completed both the application to the graduate program and the application to the foreign study program. 
I encountered two major challenges completing my applications.  The first was writing my resume and personal statement.  I can't remember another time when I sat longer staring at a blank screen trying to figure out how to define myself and articulate my skills.  The second was writing a 300-word statement in Spanish describing my goals for my foreign study.  I can type thousands of words about anything in a half hour or less, so the effort it took to write and submit those documents surprised me.  But now the applications have been sent and the file is closed.  It feels really, really good to write that.
I'm thrilled with my first effort in Spanish composition too.  And here it is, my Spanish Goals Essay:

               Yo quería estudiar en Europa cuando era joven, pero decidí casarme y tener hijos.  Estoy feliz de haber pasado mi tiempo de esta manera.  Durante el proceso de planificación para cambiar de carrera, descubrí este programa.  Estoy muy contenta que mi familia apoye mi decisión de ir a España en enero. 
Quiero ir a España porque la gente es muy interesante y la cultura es antigua. Estoy emocionada de visitar la hermosa ciudad de Seville.  Creo que la mejor manera de aprender el idioma es utilizarlo, y creo que voy a usar la lengua con frecuencia mientras estoy estudiando en España.  Este verano pasado tome dos clases de español intensivas.  Pienso que estas clases intensivas son útiles porque hay mucho tiempo con la lengua.  Porque yo soy mayór que la mayoría de los estudiantes y tengo un objetivo para empezar la escuela de posgrado en el otoño, completar los requisitos de español de forma rápida y buena es importante para mí.  También, creo que es bueno intentar cosas nuevas, especialmente cuando tengo la oportunidad de aprender acerca del mundo y la gente del mundo. 
Mi objetivo más importante es el uso de la lengua española lo más posible entonces planeo interactuar con otros estudiantes y participar en muchos eventos todos los días. También me gustarían ver el país y conocer a gente en diferentes lugares de la escuela, así que voy a ir a la iglesia y disfrutar de las comidas en los restaurantes.  Porque me gusta estudiar la historia, voy a visitar diferentes partes de las áreas circundantes y algunos lugares históricos. 
Mi esposo y yo hemos recibido a los estudiantes de intercambio a nuestra casa por cinco años.  Miré a estos estudiantes jovenes viajar lejos de sus casas y familias con valor.  Ahora yo soy la que entra en un país nuevo y experimenta una cultura nueva y personas diferentes.  Me siento muy afortunada tener esta oportunidad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

If the Bra Fits...

I haven't written - again - in another long time.

Life is magnificently busy.  Being busy is good for me, I think.  It keeps me moving in the right direction.  I think sometimes my busy-ness gets a little out of control.  Then the work of the day only serves to frustrate me and keep me from being still and reveling in those moments of utter stillness during which I fill my cup. 

A funny thought compelled me to login and warm up my rusty blogger fingers.  The funny thought?  Bras.

For those of us who use them, bras consume a considerable portion of our wardrobe budget.  And yet too many of us are trapped in silken or lacy cages that don't fit the right way.  If you are a user of said devices, you know exactly what I mean.  Worse, when they don't fit right, they mean the rest of our clothes don't fit, we look older and heavier than we are, and we can spend the day pulling up drooping straps or tucking in stray bits of... well, the stuff that belongs inside the bra.

I found a great resource for really great bras, but my friend who fits and sells them is leaving that company because they've changed their product to less great bras.  Bummer. 

Look at these pictures the company used on their website. What a difference a bra makes.

I'm feeling a little sad.  Where, oh where, can I find good bras now?

Here's a case of a company improving its product while leaving it's fans behind.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hey You..... Yes, YOU...

I've noticed there are certain people who find themselves beyond the "law," so to speak.

These people commit crimes - crimes truly punishable by the law or crimes punishable only by conscience - and then they forgive themselves and pretend nothing ever happened.

Really?

There are always consequences attached to actions.  Always.  Why do some people walk away from their own disasters as if nothing ever happened?

I can't do that.  I walk away from my own disasters with a burden.  I pay the price for my transgressions in many ways - most of which are private.  And right now - thankfully - I have nothing on my conscience.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eleven for Eleven

I haven't posted in a long time.  I haven't stopped writing; I've just been using scraps of paper and a pen rather than blogspot and a keyboard. In the month between the end of the summer session and the start of the fall session, I might convert all those scraps into blogposts, but I might also do nothing like that.

Some observers think I've been doing busy-work as I engage in my first weeks of Spanish.  Keep your thoughts to yourself!  I wish there more of these activities to do.  I need to practice, practice, and practice the language if it's ever going to feel natural to use it.  Adam told me that a little further down the road some of the stuff I'm struggling to use and understand will be much more clear; I guess he's probably correct.  We only have a foundation in the language thus far, and the more sophisticated elements we've yet to learn will help make sense of those foundations. 

Mmmmmm, it feels good to be learning.  I feel good in general.  Really good.  Blessed.  So to cap off my night, I'm going to name eleven things I consider blessings.  Then I'm going to study flash cards for tomorrow's test. 


The eleven things (las cosas):
  1. My parents are finally, finally in agreement on how to end their marriage.  That is a blessing for everyone involved.
  2. My husband and son are running together.  Five miles a day until school starts. 
  3. My sister and I are running together.  The Riverfest 5K path.  Every Friday at 7 am.  Until school starts.
  4. My son is one incredible ball player.  So is his daddy.
  5. My family supports my continuing education.
  6. My job is finally just that - a job.  No more.  No less.
  7. My friends are freaking amazing.  The old ones.  The new ones.  Probably the ones yet to be.
  8. My annual cleaning is almost finished.  And it feels nice to be in my homespace.
  9. My to-read stack is dwindling.  That tops the list of the eleven worst things on my horizon.
  10. My experiences and what I've learned from them inspire those who really listen.
  11. My body is strong.
Amen. 

Estudio!

Friday, June 3, 2011

An Ache in the Brain

The ache I have in my brain is a grand sort of ache.  It reminds me of aching muscles following a successful run.  Since I've returned to school and started living healthy, I love how my mind and body feel.  Not only do I feel good, I also believe these quests of mine - both the intellectual and the physical - are moral:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.                                                                                                               Romans 2:2
This week was the first week of Spanish, so maybe I should have written:
Y no se adapten (no se conformen) a este mundo, sino transfórmense mediante la renovación de su mente, para que verifiquen cuál es la voluntad de Dios: lo que es bueno y aceptable (agradable) y perfecto.
 La profesora believes in immersion, apparently.  She speaks only Spanish during class.  She made an exception to discuss the "business" of the class so she could be sure everyone understood the syllabus and course policies.  Aside from that, it's strictly Spanish.

When I get mentally stressed, my heart rate slows, my breathing deepens, and my vision expands.  It's been a week of mental stress.  I'm taking advantage of the physical side effects - I think they're sharpening my body for Sunday's triathalon.  Or something like that.

I've never felt more alive than I feel when I'm learning something new or when I'm pushing myself far out of my comfort zone.  Henry David Thoreau said he went to the woods for the same reason I'm back in school and the same reason I'm participating in a triathalon: 
I went the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life, and not to come to the end of my life, and discover that I had not lived.
The philosophy professor I admired once likened living like Thoreau to standing on her tiptoes and grabbing all life has to offer.  Here's to standing on my tiptoes, sucking the marrow out of life!

Friday, May 20, 2011

And More on The Greek


Ἐὰν δὲ ἁμαρτήσῃ ὁ ἀδελφός σου, ὕπαγε ἔλεγξον αὐτὸν μεταξὺ σοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ μόνου· ἐάν σου ἀκούσῃ, ἐκέρδησας τὸν ἀδελφόν σου.
Isn't that beautiful? 

The New American Standard Bible translates that statement: "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother."  There are MANY other translations, all slightly different.
 
I can labor through this German translation: 


Sündiget aber dein Bruder an dir, so gehe hin und strafe ihn zwischen dir und ihm allein. Höret er dich, so hast du deinen Bruder gewonnen.
I've got the Latin: 
si autem peccaverit in te frater tuus vade et corripe eum inter te et ipsum solum si te audierit lucratus es fratrem tuum
 The sight of it in Hebrew gives me the good kind of chills: 
וכי יחטא לך אחיך לך והוכחת אותו בינך ובינו לבדו ואם ישמע אליך קנית לך אחיך׃
I imagine at the end of the summer, I'll be reading it in Spanish - or better, hearing it at the Spanish Mass!
Por tanto, si tu hermano peca contra ti, ve, amonéstale a solas entre tú y él. Si él te escucha, has ganado a tu hermano.
It makes my brain happy to be in use again.
Wouldn't it be great if someone would pay me to read languages?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Missing Post

I'd gone back to school for historical purposes.  I wanted to make HISTORY matter to kids. 

I wanted to study Greek.

There's a class at St Kate's entitled Biblical Greek. I wanted to take that class, but it's only offered every other year, so I settled for Latin. Next fall, I can study Biblical Greek at Macalester for the first semester and return to my own campus for the second semester.

Imagine being able to read a passage like this:

Ἐὰν δὲ ἁμαρτήσῃ ὁ ἀδελφός σου, ὕπαγε ἔλεγξον αὐτὸν μεταξὺ σοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ μόνου· ἐάν σου ἀκούσῃ, ἐκέρδησας τὸν ἀδελφόν σου.
After two semesters, I can read it in Latin:
si autem peccaverit in te frater tuus vade et corripe eum inter te et ipsum solum si te audierit lucratus es fratrem tuum
I still remember enough German to decifer this one - at least since I also know what it says in English:
Wenn aber dein Bruder wider dich sündigt, so gehe hin, überführe ihn zwischen dir und ihm allein. Wenn er auf dich hört, so hast du deinen Bruder gewonnen.AnThe Spanish:
Y si tu hermano peca, ve y repréndelo a solas; si te escucha, has ganado a tu hermano.
And then there's the Spanish I wish I knew:
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
To have a minor in Classics, I need to take one class outside Latin. I took Mythology. Concerns originally born in last year's bible study, Jeff Cavins' The Great Adventure, are now real questions. The answers to those questions lie in original translations, folks.

This language background helps my future application to graduate school; historians with higher level degrees must be multilingual. It also helps if I decide to pursue a Master's in Spanish K-12 Education (to determine whether I want to do that, I'm taking an Education class in the fall.) It will also help when Joe and I find our future retirement destination - a place I imagine peopled with no native English speakers and covered with very little concrete. I'm not sure it will matter that Joe has only English; he doesn't speak all that much - and his actions speak well indeed.

I have a light schedule for the summer. I'm taking Elementary Spanish I and II from May 31 until August 8, two hours every morning, Monday through Thursday.

Next fall, my four classes occur Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:15 until 2:20. I'm taking Teachers as Leaders, Intermediate Latin I, Intermediate Spanish I, and the Greek class.

And might I say this? That TAL class better be a doozy, or I'm heading back to the Middle Ages and will then add Hebrew and Aramic to my repertoire. :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Looks Like It's Greek!

I'm going for the Greek - I think.  It looks like Macalester has a class that fits my schedule in the fall.  The only problem seems to be the lab.  It's scheduled for a day I'm not normally in St Paul.  When I first registered at St Kate's, I wanted to take Greek, but it's only offered every other year, so I settled for Latin - and I'm really glad I did.  Thanks to a scheduling conflict, I cannot take it at St Kate's until the second semester.

On May 31, I start Elementary Spanish.  In eight hours of class a week between May 31 and August 8, I will complete the first two courses.  It's cheaper to take the summer classes, and I should be ready to start with Intermediate Spanish I in the Fall so I can take take Intermediate Spanish II in Seville, Spain, for the 3.5 weeks of the January term.  How awesome is it that I can finally - twenty years after the longing first struck - study abroad?!?

So why the languages?

It started when I realized I lost my first love when I started working for my family.  I loved my education and wasn't ready for it to end when it did, with a Bachelor's degree.  I'm not sorry for the years I spent raising my family and working at a place that freed me to fully participate in their activities, watch them grow, and know their friends.  But I felt the pull of the classroom when we were preparing Adam for college.  This time around, my initial plan was to apply to the University of Minnesota graduate school and become a doctor of Medieval History.  My ultimate goal was to write history textbooks with authority and flair so students could share my love of history.  All this was born of Adam's comment to someone at his graduation party:  "My mom made history come alive for me."

To successfully achieve that higher degree, proficiency in a classical language is required and preference given to applicants who are multi-lingual. 

I might change my mind about the ultimate degree.  It occurs to me that part of my success in helping history live for Adam was because of what we did and discussed, not what we read.  Might my time be better spent with students?  In the fall I'm taking the first course required for people seeking a Masters in Education, "Teachers as Leaders."  If I like it, I plan to complete my slowly progressing application to the Master's Program.  Upon graduating, I would be licensed to teach K-12 students Spanish - and I would imagine capable of teaching Spanish-speakers English.  Since our retirement goals have something to do with living in a place where the native language is not English and there's more sand than concrete, this plan has all kinds of benefits. 

I'll decide next semester which is my favored option.

In the meantime, I'm going to write a resume just so I can add the qualification "multi-lingual."  Doesn't it sound mightily impressive?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Dumping Ground

I often find myself acting as a resting place for people when they are in pain. It's a blessing to give respite to someone who's hurting or lost. But it can be dangerous too, when the boundaries that ought to be respected - both by an injured friend and by me - are not respected. And they're often not.

I recognize too that I have a unique way of dealing with hurts caused by others. In my extremely dysfunctional family, I was taught that hurt could only last as long as the inflictor wanted to inflict. There was no waking up the next morning bearing a grudge or even expecting an apology.

I still don't do either. I don't forget; that would be stupid. But I don't bear a grudge, and I don't expect an apology. Surprisingly, my refusal to be hurt when I should be hurt is not a strength.

How, then, do I keep offering respite while refusing to become a dumping ground?

There's a million dollar question.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Memorization

When I was in elementary school, we were required to memorize stuff.  To this day, whenever I have to change or cancel an important appointment, I mentally chant Shel Silverstein's "I Cannot Go to School Today."

"I cannot go to school today," said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps, a gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry.  I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks; I've counted sixteen chicken pox.
And there's one more - that's seventeen, and don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue - it might be the instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke; I'm sure that my left leg is broke.
My hip hurts when I move my chin.  My belly button's caving in.
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained, my 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My toes are cold, my toes are numb, I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak, I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth, I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight, my temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear, there's a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is ...
What? What's that? What's that you say?  You say today is .............. Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"
Love that poem.

It seemed like it would be more challenging to remember things at 41 than it was at 11.  After all, I've long held the belief that anything one can research on the internet in milliseconds is not worthy of memorizing.

However.

In Latin we use a textbook that often presents information in box-form.  Noun declensions and verb conjugations are laid out in tables, and whenever there's a table we have a quiz.  Then there's standard vocabulary lists that are presented differently now that we have some Latin experience.  For example, each verb now appears in it's true dictionary form, i.e., sum, esse, fui, futurus (to be).  Given that the four forms can be distinctly different from each other, it's important to memorize them.  So, now we've had quizzes on those verb forms. 

I like the quizzing.  It's forcing me to memorize. 

I like memorzing.  It stretches my brain in new directions. 

I like my ever expanding brain.  It functions like a ginormous file cabinet and gives me impressive recall.

I like recalling.  It's so much less time consuming than researching.  So when I come across a passage like this:


I can read it.

Memorizing gets easier the more frequently it's practiced.  For Mythology, we had a map test on Ancient Greece.  Studying those cities was like studying Greek.  But once I mastered the map, hearing the myths and stories in class was far more enjoyable because I had a mental image of where things occurred and how far a journey was.  On Monday we have a test on vase forms.  I didn't understand why it mattered which shape a vase was or what the Greeks used the various vases for, but I did like knowing the vase that's been used at church for the opening skits this Lent is a pelike. And I didn't have to do anything extraordinary to remember the name of that vase.

There was a time I was just happy to forget things.  Sad, painful things.  Hurtful things.  All the things that left my spirit in turmoil.

With a now peaceful spirit, I'm thankful for memories.  When my spirit is a peace, memory is just that, memory, and not a perpetual reliving of painful moments.

I wonder if this spiritual peace means I no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Suddenly I'm Up On Top of the World...

Authenticity speaks to me.

And this week it spoke to me in an unusual way.

There is a five-year-old boy who sees me as a hero.

Yep.  Me.  Flawed and broken as I am.

He loves school buses and the piano.  And he sees me working with both.

I had no clue I was a hero.  None at all.  I'm living in a world full of failure on many, many levels.  Not levels that defeat me, mind you.  But many failures not of my making. 

In spite of that, I am a hero. I love that.  Really love it.

So. 

I was invited to a piano recital.  I was SO excited to be invited.  But the time overlapped other important things.  Still, I KNEW I wanted to be there.

I brought Joe with me to E's recital.  Joe loves kids as much as I do.  We both felt a little harried and rushed, but we made it there to watch E.

And... wow!  He's amazing.  He's so small and doing all the right things at the keyboard.  He's doing things I wish I knew!

Later, we learned how important our attendance was...

Mom:  Yeah, it mattered that you were here!
Me:  I'm really glad I was.  He's so talented!
Mom:  Well, here's what happened.  We said, "it's time to start."
E: Not everyone's here.
Mom:  (looks around) I think everyone's here.
E:  No.  Not KARI!
I am SO SO SO glad we made it.  No one should ever let down the people who want them there. 

And you know what?  Being a hero's great, but it's also a little mind boggling.  I will never let down E if it's in my control to keep him happy.That's a HUGE promise!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Perception

"Unfortunately, perception is truth."
Reading that opening line in a rather lengthy treastise on the demise of relationships, I cringed a little.  In fact, I read it twice before continuing. 
"Unfortunately, perception is truth."
Eh?
Perception, by its very definition, is not truth, but a personal view of reality based on sensual experience and historical data.  Truth, separated from sensory perception, is the only truth that matters.  The mistake we humans often make is that we trust our senses, and our senses repeatedly mislead us (ships look like they fall off the horizon from a certain perspective, no?).  Historical data is perhaps more reliable to "prove" a perception (we are often doomed and/or blessed to repeat our past practices, no?).
How, then, do we separate ourselves from sensory evidence?  Do we need separation from all sensation or is some actually valuable?  Ought we isolate each event from the history from which it springs?
I believe the sensory experience we have when we listen to music or watch a play or even engage in real and personal drama is critical to that experience in that moment.  I am often swept into a song or a story or an event and let emotion wash over me.  I find delight in vibrant color and strong character and authentic action.  I do not automatically love or appreciate everything containing those elements.  Writing critical papers and journaling have always been valid techniques I could use to discern whether or not a work or an event had merit beyond the sensual experience.
With a friend or lover, perhaps there's a certain value in sensual experience and historical data - or what I bring to the relationship.  Perhaps those two things even balance each other.  I know there are times I dislike Joe intensely.  Were I to trust that sensual experience, I would no longer be married to him.  Perhaps at those times I rely on our shared history, one brimming with good things certain to outweigh the momentary bad.
Fact is, truth often hides in layers of... well, crap.  Layers of misperception and emotion and misunderstanding and hurt.  I think it takes extreme effort, intense prayer, and deep understanding to find truth.  Not everyone is equipped for that kind of work. 
Would that they were.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Closing Out the Notebooks...

I used to keep notebooks of daily activities, phone calls I needed to return, conversations with parents about kid activity, and schedules for myself, the kids, and Joe.

Whenever I completed an activity, I highlighted it or scribbled across the note.  Important stuff I left unmarked.  The notebooks are a really great record of the trials and triumphs of the last few years. 


I haven't used the notebooks in a long time.  Today, though, I spent some time paging through them.  I was making sure everything was closed out before throwing them in storage... or maybe the trash can.

Then again, maybe I'll keep them, so I can remember that often during my day, I think of Jesus.


In one notebook I found some notes I made while reading a book about daughters of alcoholics.  Boy, is this me.
  • She believes she can control chaotic situations.
  • She is always on guard for the worst to happen.
  • She gears actions in outward attempt to control her environment.
  • She is dependent and dutiful with little sense of her own identity.
  • She adapts to the needs of others, neglecting her own needs or she rebels against society.
  • She appears to be a strong, successful woman with a need for power, but feels success is meaningless.
  • She is exhausted and empty.
  • She feels isolated.
  • She becomes a people pleaser.
  • She has rage.
  • She understands personal criticism as a threat to her well-being.
  • She is a reactor  not an actor.
Perfect daughters of alcoholic parents, says Robert J Ackerman, cope in many ways, and "having learned that they must function perfectly in order to avoid unpleasant situations, these women often assume responsibility for the failures of others."

I did that in every arena of my life.  Even while playing the piano.  If a soloist or instrumentalist screwed up, I assumed it was my error that created the mistake.  I did it in much larger ways too - accepting full responsibility for problems at work, apologizing for disagreements with friends, feeling like a failure when my boys were  naughty...

Hmmm.

At least that used to be me. 

I'm glad I'm learning a different way to live.  I particularly enjoy my rather spectacular failures.  And I'm thankful when I fail, Joe is there to grin and hug me and say, "Try again."  My boys are good at that too.

My notebooks were always a good place to vent too.  I made a list of "Snotty Little Bitch Persons" one day.  There's only one person on the list, and, boy, did she deserve to be on that list.  The one underneath is a list of My Favorite People in the Entire World.  There are more people on that list, some of whom are no longer my favorites.  Top honors that day went to a guy named Jim from the IRS.  How ironic. 
Come to think of it, I should probably resume my notebook habit.  There are so many benefits.  And didn't Flannery's notebooks get published?  Julia Child's?  Galileo's? 

:)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writing...

I've been keeping a journal. No time to blog since my main source of Internet connect is now via my non-gs iPad. It's good to write words no matter what medium. I hope by the time this post is in printed form that I've converted the written entries to the blog, but I guess it doesn't really matter. Writing is therapeutic and as long as I'm in write-mode, who cares how it's written?

I'm focused this week on pet peeves.  I have a small list. There's not a lot I can do to eliminate them, but it feels good to state them. Here goes.

I am sick (SICK SICK SICK) of nice people. Nice is for the shit heap. Nice is never, ever authentic. It's false. I once had a friend who was nice. Once real life confronted her - and our relationship - well, think of that song with the lyrics "I see your true colors shining..." and stop there. She can't even offer thanks when a courtesy has been extended. And yet she's lauded with the constant refrain of "nice."  A nice side effect of the end of that relationship is that I have been able to curtail the gossip infecting my life; still, the entire situation makes me feel like puking.

I am also tired of bad parents justifying their ineptitude with all manner of mumbo jumbo. Kids get in all sorts of messes caused by all sorts of situations. There are situations were a parent is not at fault because of circumstances beyond his or her control. However, there are many, many cases when poor parenting creates problems for kids. I'm guilty of my own. So are most of us. There are VERY few circumstances affecting a child that parental love and stability cannot cure. I believe that with my entire being and it's the one solid thing that has kept me committed to my marriage through the most difficult of times.

I have other random pet peeves.  Eighties hair.  Self-photos with cellcams.  Long toenails.  Most of them I can live with. 

But I am completely and totally disheartened by people who fail to live the Gospel with their children. I'm absolutely certain we haven't been perfect parents, but we try to share the Gospel and we talk about what's right and our own failures, and we apologize for them. And this week Joe found a slip of paper tucked in front of Jakob's driver license that reads, "turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."

Somehow, that piece of paper makes the rest fade into the background.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jakob, the Tall

Sixteen.

Sweet, sweet sixteen! 

I remember those days.

I also remember the days when the newest sixteen-year-old boy was a brand new infant.

Thoughts of February 13, 1995:

1.  I loved Joe for his lobbying on my behalf in Labor and Delivery.  The nurse was convinced things would go better if I took off my bra.  I was more convinced I didn't want to take off my bra.  Joe told the nurse he would be happy if they cut it off me to save his son.  I got to wear it.  They eventually got to cut it off my body.

2.  I really worked hard to have a natural delivery.  Really.  Hard.  When the doctor came in to tell us she didn't think it was going to happen, I was pretty sure she was lying.  But what can a laboring woman do when the doctor says those words, "I think the baby is in trouble." 

Answer:  a laboring woman and her husband consent to a c-section.

3.  I couldn't help but giggle when the doctor held squishy little Jakob over the drape.  He was all nostril.  Trust me:  one of the ugliest babies who was best loved by his family.  Staci lifted off his little baby cap so her and Joe could laugh at his pointy head.  The rush of love?  Unmistakeable.

Could we do that day all over again, we would. 

We love Jakob Kounkel.  May God bless him on his sixteenth birthday.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sr Margery, the Scary

Sr Margery was one of my favorite instructors the first time I attended St Kate's. She scared us all a little. Her comments could be biting, scathing, or a combination of both, and made her rare praise for excellent work all the more precious.

And praise my work she did. I struggled through my senior English seminar while being a brand new mommy - indeed, a breastfeeding mommy - while trying to complete the incomplete courses from both the semester of my first trimester AND the semester of my last trimester. If I recall correctly, it was a week or better after the semester ended when I received my senior thesis. I wept when I saw the mark on the paper. "A++, Kari. Excellent, excellent work." I wrote the paper about my favorite of Shakespeare's work, Othello, and how the most tragic element of the work is nothing Shakespeare's characters said. In fact, I wrote, it's the silence that causes the tragedy, the inability of this man and woman to communicate about the events of their lives and the longings of their hearts that causes the death of love and the death of character.

Today I saw someone who looked like Sr Margery walking toward the library. I caught up with her, and introduced myself. The conversation went something like:

Me: Sr Margery? I'm Kari Kounkel. I was a student of yours about twenty years ago

Sr Margery: Kari! With the baby in the basket. What ever happened to that baby?

Me: He's a first-year student st the University of MN, Morris.

St Margery: And what have you done with your twenty years?

I told her of the boys and watching them grow. Of knowing my busy work with them is complete and the satisfaction that gives me. I told her how Adam loves history and English and how Jakob is about to start driving.

I told her, too, of some of the sorrow. The bus accident. My subsequent grief. Of finding my way through it. Of the new grief over my parents.

I told her of other joys - of the twenty years spent married to Joe. Of my delight with my return to this campus and academia in general.

She talked too. Shared her life and something of recent campus history. Of her inability to embrace technology. Of her move from a cloistered campus life to an independent worldly life.

These conversations can happen. Even the part about remembering the baby. My pregnant belly interrupted one semester of her courses when the other women were fascinated by the little alien moving my belly all over the place. My baby disrupted a second semester with his cuddly sweetness and tiny, wonder-filled expressions. I bet most professors would remember that!

But she remembers me. The conversation continued:

Sr Margery: Percy. Walker Percy. You loved him and because you did, I tried to read him. I tried FOUR times!

Me: You didn't like him?

Sr Margery: No! Not even a little bit. (I wrote my senior honors thesis referencing a work by Walker Percy and another by Flannery O'Connor. She remembered.)

Me: I still love him!

Sr Margery: Have you read the contemporary Catholic criticism of the four major Catholic authors? Percy? O'Conner? Dororthy Day? Merton?

Me: No. (Ahem. When did I lose the longing to read the good stuff?)

Sr Margery: Find it! (Once an excellent teacher, always an excellent teacher!) Oh, Kari! It's such a treat to me at my birthday to see you back on campus! Such a gift.

And so, tomorrow on your 83rd birthday, I wish the best for you, Sr Margery, and for all the wonderful teachers of acadamia who no longer have a place on a campus because technology or age or life left them behind. Sure there are other good educators. Sure there are other great classes. Sure there are other great ways to inspire students.

Me? I really love the Sr Margery's of the world. And she isn't - wasn't ever - really scary. She had high expectations, and she encouraged those of her students who wanted to be better, better. The ones who didn't want to be better? They probably were really scared.

God bless you, you dear and darling woman.