Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This is it...


12/31/08. One of those dates bloggers should have extremely profound things to say with their keyboards. The verbiage should be so deep readers can barely wade through the glib use of English. Thick and heavy with theological and philosophical communication.

In the perfect world - which we all know is far removed from what we currently experience - I'd have a painting pictured here. In fact, perhaps there will be one pictured here....I find that in certain emotional states, it is in the brush that I am best able to communicate. Of course the brush, as are my words, is often clouded by hormones and always tainted by my nature.

2008 has been a memorable year in our family - a year which, in its seemingly lengthy amount of days, has truly tested the mettle of the members of the Guis family. We have been brought low and I fear too often that in my feelings of dragging, I have neglected to hold high the One who has held us in the palm of His hand.

In the midst of a potential move....our answers were made clear.

As I sat next to my strapping husband in his hospital bed....we were given more days together.

When children struggled with friends & inevitable growing pains....they continued to grow (far more in trust that I fear I have).

While awaiting the outcome of my father's open heart surgery & his recovery at home....the Great Physician guided the hands of human surgeons & we were granted yet another set of holidays together.

And as we wade through the murky waters of little to no work....we are being reminded that the Everlasting Father cares for His children.

I have been tested in 2008. It's been "one of those years". And on 12/31/08 I pray that I may spend 2009 far more closer to Him and far more removed from the anxiety that I allow myself to wallow in from time to time. I pray for patience, for peace that passes understanding, & dare we all hope - for the return of our King.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

...these are a few of my favorite things...


The Sound of Music graced our television set a couple days ago. There is some tradition involved in the viewing of this movie. Each year I would watch it with my parents, each year knowing the end, each year pondering why my babysitters never sang with me or made me play clothes from my parents' drapes. (Probably because I rarely had a babysitter but that's fodder for another post.)

This was the first year that Madeline sat through the whole thing without being impossibly bored or so drowsy that she left the children with a potential new mother and Maria back in the convent. This year it was all magical and exciting and each song was interesting. By far the favorite involves a 'few of my favorite things' to which she quickly asked "Mom - what are your favorite things?"

In the spirit of the song - "raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens..." - I believe the list is meant to include the simple, basic things in life that brings us some form of happiness. So eliminating the big ticket items from life - and perhaps the things that are terribly deep - my list:

~ the smell of Lemon Pledge
~ new Sharpie markers
~ the smell of clean children - freshly scrubbed and dressed in warm pajamas
~ Doris Day, Cary Grant, Myrna Loy
~ a new jar of Jif Peanut Butter
~ dark rainy (or snowy) days which lend themselves nicely to nesting
~ digging in fresh dirt
~ a person with whom I can easily be myself - shoes off, no entertaining
~ new socks
~ paint - on canvas, on walls, on me
~ odd numbers - in groupings, on paper - they feel more random
~ Sunkist oranges
~ "elevator music"
~ singing The Church's One Foundation with a big group of believers

And so, Madeline, these are a few of my favorite things...

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Year of REVOLUTIONS

I don't make resolutions. Quite honestly, I've never known anyone to stick with a resolution all the way through an entire year. Resolutions were made to be broken. In fact, I think they are often made with the breakage already in mind. E

Eating well is fine until, say, February 14 at which time a piece of chocolate (piece - ha!) is acceptable. And it's downhill from there with Easter seemingly equated with chocolate bunnies a whole lot more than it is with empty graves. Eating well is too hard. In this age of organic, grass-fed, nutrition-packed food...oh so 'hard' to eat well. Yes, very very hard.

Saving money goes the same way. Saving is easy until something we want...I mean 'need'....comes along. Suddenly the resolution is something that wasn't meant to be kept as it applies to a new IPod or that tricked out KitchenAid mixer or the $120 jeans that magically make butts disappear and waists shrink. (And believe you me, jeans with that miracle could easily break my resolution.)

And of course there's the "closer to God" resolution. So easy to make - scarily easy to break. "I want to know Christ and Him crucified" is often forgotten - at the very least, after we celebrate His resurrection. After all, the calendar gives us a whole summer 'off' from God-centered holidays. It's like a little resolution break. How convenient.

And believe me, the criticisms can fall as squarely on these shoulders as on any other set of arm holders. I don't make resolutions because the pressure is too great and it's a bit too careful and organized for me. It's the would-be art major coming out in me. Too much order makes me itch.

So instead, why not New Years Revolutions? A revolution turns a world on its axis. It upsets the balance of power. It results in winners and losers even when a truce is made. A revolution creates foot soldiers and, quite obviously, REVOLUTIONARIES. These are the best sorts of people when they are fighting for a cause they believe in. A revolutionary, in her best possible definition, can be labeled "the next (insert name)". Abigail Adams. Susan B. Anthony. Marie Curie. Eleanor Roosevelt. Margaret Thatcher. Elisabeth Elliot. (Believe me that is not an exhaustive list.)

New Years Revolutions aren't easily stopped. Revolutions are not easily placed on a shelf for later use. Revolutions are crazy. They are time-consuming. They make differences that are felt and seen and immediately altering.

This is the year of Revolutions. Resolutions are so last century.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Gift To You On Monday: Laughter

It's snowing again. The wind is, truly, howling in my neck of the woods. Even the evergreens have given up providing that barrier they normally offer up in weather like this. That's not so say it's dreary or stormy - cars continue to whiz by as I can now see them fairly clearly through the trees devoid of leaves. It's a good day to hunker down.

Yet my post today is more about a gift - laughter. I tend to be drawn to people with really well-developed funny bones. I also speak fluent sarcasm though I fully realize that fine line between good sarcasm and just plain immature twitness. Yes, "twitness"...embrace it...it's a good term. Sarcasm is an art not easily mastered though often thrown about by reckless people who believe they have earned their Ph.D. when the reality is they have only earned a B.S.

Did you ever notice that people without that highly developed funny bone have a hard time with those who are big boned in that department? They don't understand 'laughers'. Oh, sure, they laugh and all, but when push comes to shove, their conversations rarely errupt in laughter. Mine do. Too often I'm sure. And I'm 100% certain I make more than a few people shudder. But I have learned to embrace this and chalk it up to who I am - it's a part of my mother still alive and well.

To that end, a brief conversation that occurred this weekend. I won't name the speakers (though if anyone knows what I was doing this weekend and who I was with, they could guess....but it's not really necessary to know the characters). Just appreciate this for the gift it is. A good laugh:

An adult wanted a napkin to which another adult pretended there was a fee involved. You know, one of those corny things a couple of almost middle-aged father do when sitting around.

Another adult chimed in that soon they would be charging for toilet paper in the bathrooms. Five cents a sheet perhaps.

Nine year old girl, having overheard the entire conversation chimes in:

"Well, that's nothing! In the ladies bathroom at the library they charge a quarter for a napkin!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Collapse of Thanksgiving


I have been spending a month now hearing the likes of CNBC and Fox News blaring from the bedroom as my father convalesces in our home. The 'blaring' is thanks to his refusal to admit he needs a hearing aid; the CNBC and Fox News part are because that's the only thing he deems worthwhile on television. I'm not arguing the latter point but certainly would be the first to plunk down some cash toward a MiracleEar or some such gadget.

Collapsing banks and lenders are everywhere. Falling down, it seems, as readily as London Bridges fall down when children sing it on a playground. This time it's a bunch of suited Wall Street types holding hands and singing:

Citibank is falling down, falling down, falling down...Citibank is falling down...There goes my cash.

How easy it is to experience fear and utter loss of thanksgiving in the midst of our current economy. Apart from the members of the Depression generation who are still amongst us, this is one of the darkest periods that many can recall. (And it's equally 'collapsing' to realize that the only reason the Depression ended was due to our entrance into a World War...human lives sacrificed for the economy.)

We personally live on the verge of anger and anxiety thanks to owning a contracting company. This is not the time to be a builder in Michigan. In fact, when we tell people what Mike does for a living it is often met with a very downcast sound like "ughhhhhh". I think many at least think they feel our pain. That's fine - we'll gladly share the feeling with anyone who cares to partake.

Yet I am reminded that in the midst of collapsing economies, we really should not be experiencing the collapse of thanksgiving. Not the holiday, but rather the way of life. Living each day with some form of thanksgiving - of the reality of our blessings - blessings in the midst of the sing songs of the Wall Street crew. "Be anxious for nothing" is very hard to live by...harder for some than others (very hard for this writer - I swear by anxiety as a weight loss aid - it doesn't work well, however...just FYI)

But before the collapsing gets the best of me and my family, I think it's time to resolve a lot earlier than 1/1/2009. It's time to resolve that we all build up thanksgiving and not contribute to its collapse. It's time to see that in each negative we can see a positive. We can see His hand in everything. In ill health that may have resulted in death....but didn't. In times when the cash was tight....but there was still enough for bread and milk. In times when death was a result...but the life up to that point was a gift.

We are going to resolve to fight the collapse of thanksgiving. And I'm going to try something other than anxiety as a weight loss program....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shoes By The Door


Sinterklaas is comin' to town! December 5th marks the day that tradition tells us Sinterklaas worked his magic among children of the Netherlands - filling wooden shoes with various treats, provided said children had been good all year. Does this not sound vaguely familiar? This Sinterklaas, however, is an historical figure - a man of renown destined (obviously) for sainthood and immortality via history books and tales shared from one generation to the next.

This Sinterklaas did not bring I Pods - Nano or otherwise - to 'good' children. Nor were laptops, flat screen TVs, or jeans that cost more than any piece of clothing has a right to cost. Sinterklaas would shudder at the want lists of children in 2008 - good or otherwise. His beautiful, bright orange and chocolate candies would be seen as the appetizer of gifts - not even worthy of the socks that American children hang by the chimney with care.

Well, American children never met Swarte Pete. Egads! If you want to dip your foot fully into the sea of UNpolitical correctness, venture into the world of Swarte Pete - ever present Sinterklaas sidekick. Swarte Pete, it should be known, is a very dark black man. In this world, good is rewarded and evil is punished. Already a crazy notion in a world that now hands out "H" rather than "F" for failing students. Swarte Pete is the un-Sinterklaas. If a child has been particularly bad or ungenerous throughout the year, he leaves coal. Yes, coal.

Shoes are already at the door in our home. In spite of being children of mixed heritage, we will embrace the history and complete lack of political correctness that encompasses rewarding good and punishing the not so good. I am happy to say that chocolate letters and assorted other (small) goodies will be found in shoes this year - no coal.....this year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2009 Job Opening

I have spent more days in a hospital in 2008 than in any other year including years during which my mom fought her cancer. Including years of birthing my babies and seizing up while birthing a baby girl. I wish it was because I'm medically trained and performing all kinds of heroic acts in an effort to better humankind, but, alas, it is because someone has to keep those medical heroes in business and that task seems to have fallen upon my immediate family. To that end:

JOB OPENING:

Looking for individual(s) willing to support the medically trained. Must be willing to bend over when asked, cough on command, and submit to needles of varying sizes and shapes. An enjoyment of cafeteria food a plus. Insurance highly recommended. Apply at any local ER.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blogger Award! Egads!


So a new friend that I would already classify as 'dear' has passed on a blog award to this humble writer who, after years, still finds blogging an interesting tightrope walk between self-adulation and soapboxing and who knows what.

Anyway, the 'terms' of this award also dictates that I:
1. Pass this award on to my favorite blogs, and
2. Share six things about myself that (most) people don't know.

Alrighty then....here goes....

1) I still wonder why my best friend from elementary school through 9th grade dumped me when we arrived in high school. In my day, the local Christian elementary schools ran from Kindergarten through 9th grade...we officially went off to high school for 10th - 12th. Julie Poelstra, wherever you are, I still ponder from time to time the why of my sudden dump. We even picked lockers next to each other! We tried out for volleyball together! What happened? About 20 years later I'm still pondering this little moment of ending friendships and general high school incongruity.

2) I always wanted to be Quincy, M.D. Well, I never wanted to live on a boat and look like Jack Klugman, but I really wanted to be a medical examiner. In fact, I'd still find it thrilling. I would not have minded people calling me "Quince" from time to time...the whole medical examiner career is fascinating - and I came to this conclusion long before there was a CSI.

3) I think 30-somethings who use 'trendy language' sound un-educated when they do so... It's like mini skirts and tummy baring shirts. (Neither of which should be worn by those with class and taste anyway...) When you hit a certain age - and I'm going with 30 - you're just plain ridiculous when you use words and phrases in the vernacular of the teen and early 20 set. You sound ridiculous! Really! And the young people you think you're impressing - they think you sound ridiculous as well! Stop! Don't have me "talk to the hand" or whatever the latest term is. Use real English!

4) I clean to cope. If I'm particularly stressed or upset I cope, in part, by cleaning. Especially my kitchen or a bathroom.

5) My family is filled with artists. Most frustrated. Many with works in museums. We are a grouping of people who have been told we must be practical rather than attempt a career in painting or photography or what have you. Try one of my great, greats on for size... Willem Pieter Hoevenaar

6) I dream of having a catering company. I love cooking. I love serving. I'd want a good partner who loves the same and perhaps loves baking. Anyone interested can always find me - if I'm not busy being Quincy or cleaning by bathroom.....

Incidentally, one of my items was going to be "I can't stand an unmade bed" but that one was 'taken' and seemed completely unoriginal....

I'm going to see if I can get Brittany H. to pop over here and then do this over at her blog.....

Friday, November 14, 2008

One word...

I am trying ridiculously hard to utilize my "EDIT" button a whole lot more than in the past. It seems the better the button, the more gracious the button user. In fact, if I could get to the point that the word "EDIT" is wiped off the button so that all I saw was a "D" on the button....well, it means I've succeeded.

Oh, and I do mean the button involving my mouth, lest you wonder what kind of computer keyboard I use.

To that end, this is one of those email "get to know you" things that gets passed around from time-to-time. This one is interesting, however, because it requires one word answers - big editing for me! So instead of answering it in the email I thought I'd paste it here to type my answers & challenge others to do the same - one word - heavy use of the edit button....

Where is your mobile phone? hidden
Where is your significant other? couch
Your hair colour? dyed
Your mother? Heaven
Your father? ill
Your favorite thing? family
Your dream last night? unmemorable
Your dream goal? serenity
The room you’re in? family
Your hobby? artistic
Your fear? loss
Where do you want to be in 6 years? 24
Where were you last night? hospital
What you’re not? thin
One of your wish-list items? peace
Where you grew up? Rondo
The last thing you did? Excedrin
What are you wearing? sweats
Your TV? Incredibles
Your pets? friends
Your computer? on
Your mood? tuckered
Missing someone? always
Your car? lent
Something you’re not wearing? socks
Favorite shop? antique
Your summer? busy
Love someone? someoneS
Your favourite colour? varied
When is the last time you laughed? hospital
When is the last time you cried? a.m.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The pressure of an F key


I'm pretty irritated that the "f" key on my keyboard is sticking. I've tried all my usual tricks but nothing is working. What a nuisance one little "f" key can be.


It's really not a much used letter - not until you need it. It's a bit like "x" - really don't care much about it and in fact the typist in me is still not a good "x" hitter in terms of speed, but when moment "x" doesn't work I have to type something eXtolling the eXtremely noble profession of being a taXi driver in Lithuania.


Same goes for "f". The moment it doesn't work I play some word game online and my jumbled up mix of letters includes 2-fs. Now my score is completed messed up because of one sticky "f" key. antastic! abulous!


Then you send a note to a friend via email with random information including the mix up over the "f" key. It may end with some note about having to clean up pigeon poop from my porch (the pigeon story will have to wait or another day) and it ends with me exclaiming "UCK!"


Imagine the problems that can come when people know that I have a stuck "f" key....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What shall we say then.....

How easy it is, as life races on, to lose trust. We lose trust in friends, we lose trust in family, we lost trust in big systems and little banks, we lose trust in anything but ourselves. Then we lose trust in ourselves and turn to the pharmacy to make us more happy, less anxious, to fill us with the trust we have lost.

On this the eve of a new President elect I am struck.....well, I'm struck with nauseousness. This happens every four years to my gut. It doesn't matter if my candidate of choice is winning or losing - the anticipation does a number of my intestines that should render me about five pounds less by November 5th. (It never really works out this way.)

Beyond the nauseousness, I am struck with the ease with which I have easily lost trust. In small things, in big things, but more pointedly - how the conversations on candidates and (lack of) cash has made trust in God something that takes WORK. Like a toddler who finds walking easy....before the first fall, I find trust easy.....before the bottom falls out....of my government, of my bank account, of (fill in the blank).

Yet, guess what, bank accounts have shrunk to oblivion, work has been completely non-existent, governments have swelled and shrunk....yet in the midst of it all the constant of the Creator has never changed. I have been happy, I have been sad, I have been prescribed meds, I have toughened it out.....yet my Lord has been constant. Leaders have called on His name, leaders have only pretended to call, nations have embraced our country, nations have shunned our country.....yet the Sovereign Lord....well, He has never been affected by any of this.

And so, on the eve of the dreaded 'change' I am reminding myself of the changeless nature of the one true and living God. In the midst of economic turmoil I am praying for the courage to just 'suck it up' and live my life reflecting the trust that is easily lost. In the midst of this life, in the midst of an election, what shall I say? "If God is for us...who can be against us?"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Economic Rants Continued....

A new date, a new quote for your consideration:

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."

For your consideration: You are voting for Barrack Obama. You want the government to hand you rebate checks & health insurance. You would like the government to create jobs and fund your schools. You want better roads, better infrastructure, lower taxes.

My oh my - you want it all! (That's okay - so did my children - when they were two....they've outgrown it by now.)

When your children (or nieces or students or pesky kids in the store you work at) beg for more stuff in that whiny, insolent tone, what do you answer? Do you hand them the object of their desire knowing that it surely is better than that character-building exercise we call 'work'? Do you run up your personal credit cards in an effort to please them with things at any cost? Do you encourage their behavior thinking that if they kick and scream in Target long enough an employee will come over and hand junior that new Lego set for free? (Here's a hint - if you answered 'yes' to any of these things you'll probably want to throw in "Government-sponsored parenting classes" in the list of things you want.)

Gerald R. Ford can be attributed correctly to the quote I began with. Starting with the first part (which is where our country seems to be heading):

"A government big enough to give you everything you want...."

Health care, infrastructure, roads, schools, rebate checks....everything you want as far as the imagination can stretch. There are plenty of government leaders (and campaigners) who are more than happy to grow large enough to give you all of this. Oh and so much more! This is Big Brother in far more ways than wire taps and Guantanamo Bay ever may have been. This is well on its way to Ray Bradbury's firemen who will give you security and peace of mind for a small price. This is that bowl of stew which many are gladly trading for a birthright.

That birthright is liberty. It is the pioneer spirit that moved us west, the pilgrim courage that brought us to a new world. It is the same spirit that propelled some into space and others onto a beach in Normandy. It is my right to worship in a church and your right to worship in a synagogue or on the side of a mountain. You are trading in your liberty each time you allow the government to own a piece of your life.

This leads seamlessly into the second part of this quote: "....is strong enough to take everything you have."

If you believe that only those evil rich people will pay for your wants. If you believe your "right" to benefits you have not earned will be paid by the guy behind you in line, then you remain like my children at two - young, naive, uneducated as to the nature of humans and large governments. If you hated Enron for its excess and more recently AIG for taking your billions and hosting lavish parties - what makes you think that a government that gets huge will be any better?

And once the wealthy close their businesses because you have required taxes of them to pay for the health care you feel you deserve and the extra roads and 'infrastructure'? Once the class that was formerly wealthy has been reduced to the proletariat who is left to pay for the items you whined so heartily for? (Proletariat: working class lacking the capital or earnings to advance from said class....it's a communist term....we'll get very accustomed to it in the coming years.)

Don't be the two year old whining in the aisles of Target. Be the parent who knows that toys and games and even food and clothing are earned. Be the parent who teaches a child that possessions are not 'rights' but gifts. Be the American that remembers that they have been endowed by their creator as our epicurean President stated, for "....life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...." Do not steal life - liberty - or happiness from anyone to feed your self-destructive desires. Be the parent - not the two year old.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's Time...

We are nearing a major crossroads in our country with two divergent paths (not in the Robert Frost sense) which will lead us in two very different manners. It's time to talk about it and talk about it and talk about it some more. It's time to say things in a clear, concise manner to people who will listen. It's time to forget some Ms. Manners admonition to not talk about religion or politics. It's time, pardon the term, to become economic evangelists.

This year's Presidential contest is not about much more than our economy. Defense is important but unless either candidate gave a list of their full cabinet in advance, we have no idea what is to come. Health care is important but it is so wrapped up in economics that to treat it as an issue apart from economic policy is to be far too tunnel-visioned. Gay rights, abortion.....these will be state issues - don't kid yourself.

What this election is about is the economy.

What this blog is going to drag on about for a while is the economy.

TODAY: "I have never gotten a job from a poor person."

Various people have been attributed to this quote. So many people, that in a brief google search of the quote I was left with so many different sources that I will not even begin to attempt credit.

Point blank the question is simple - have YOU ever gotten a paying job from a poor person? Now, no semantics here. Anyone reading the statement knows we mean ECONOMICALLY POOR. I've worked for some pretty poor in spirit people. I've worked for many who are poor in personal hygiene. I've even worked for someone extremely poor in inter-personal communication. This statement refers to an economically poor person. Period.

A small percentage of people will answer "yes". In fact, the company they worked for ended up folding because of lack of funds. They were employed by someone who spent more than they earned. They toiled and slaved for a guy who lost his business. That is precisely the point - the job did not last, the employment ended....you weren't employed by a truly poor person for very long.

And what does this mean for my vote? Mr. Obama will let our current tax cuts lapse in 2 years rather than attempt to extend these. He will then offer tax cuts to the working class while increasing taxes - in some cases at an extreme level - to those earning more than $250,000 per year. This includes small businesses earning at that level or more. Guess what employees? Employers will stop handing you that Thanksgiving turkey. The bonuses you perhaps have included in your yearly budget? Cut or eliminated. Benefits packages? Greatly minimized or obliterated. Don't think for a minute that an increase in business taxes will NOT affect the average employee. A business will cut expenses elsewhere and those cuts will affect you - and not indirectly mind you - directly.

So have you ever gotten a job from a poor person? No. And when your employer becomes that poor person you still won't have a job from a poor person.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Change.

This morning in our house the term "change" was referring directly to a large glass jar with a screw top sitting on top of my laundry area. I find it kind of fun (in the way only an unemployed stay at home mom may find fun) to "earn" some money doing the laundry. It has taken years for me to realize how self-esteem sucking it is to not earn a paycheck. It makes my mind wander to those who sit at home and collect their checks from the government. Anyway, this was not to be a commentary on my irritations on the welfare state...

Every time I hear that knowing clanging sound in the washer I know that I'm in for a treat. Is it a penny - two nickels - or have I scored the mother load....A QUARTER! All this change (& sometimes even some paper bills left in pockets) gets collected in an old pickle jar. This gives me the benefit of not only a visual stash of change, but also the faint scent of dill spears since that odor never seems to leave regardless of scrubbing.

Now that the change has amassed, my children have grown interested in the jar, its contents, and even more so - how will this money be put to use?

One child wants a motor home fund - he wants my wealth to be redistributed. Another is aching to use one of those Coinstar machines just for the sake of using it (never mind the % the machine will take off the top). My third just says that the money is mine because I earned it.

In light of the various economic leanings in my home I am going to keep my filled pickle jar all to myself in the event it's needed later because of a future economic spiral and socialist uprising. It's just a jar of change, but it's CHANGE I'm most distrustful of at this point.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Scenes from a waiting room....

The majority of my day was spent trying to find a comfortable way to sit in hospital waiting room chairs. I would have thought that with the extra padding I have acquired in the past years, being comfortable in a chair would be a piece of cake. Not so - anyone considering their own padding to make waiting room chairs more comfortable should consider a different way to spend their time...

I had taken my dad to the Heart Center here in downtown Grand Rapids and his particular out patient procedure gave me about six hours worth of hospital time. Six hours of magazine options, a book I should read, and more television options than I realized existed in such a venue. In the midst of these options were zen-like water fountains, original art from local artists, and a wide array of patients and family members.

One family spoke in hushed tones with strained faces and weary movements. They were what I anticipated in such a place. Their weariness was punctuated only by the loud voices of a semi-Southern family who took a full corner and proceeded to punctuate the zen atmosphere with Coca-Cola bottles and Law & Order re-runs. Then a section with two seats - filled with a couple who appeared to be far too young to spend time in a heart center. He, the husband, wore the tell-tale white patient wrist band. She, the wife, stole glances at him for an hour - perhaps not knowing what to say, perhaps knowing that all had been said, certainly observing their own personal decision - consciously or subconsciously - to wait in complete silence.

In one corner was a child's corner - complete with 101 Dalmatians queued up for play, and three mini tables with equally petite chairs. The necessity of its presence was unfortunate at best; morose at worst.

I sat alone. Still with the magazines, book, & padding that made the chairs far too uncomfortable and the CNN circular headline coverage dizzying. The coffee was perfect, the tea adequate, the hot chocolate over-used. People came and went - the majority of visitors to the room to call in updates were women. Many tired looking - the majority in the twilight of life. All giving run downs of procedures involving aortas and valves and heartbeats.

Meanwhile employees came and went. Two women dressed ironically in black served as hostesses of sorts, working seriously but carrying on with the chit-chat of two female employees discussing 'he said-she said' experiences and details with nurses and doctors and doctors and nurses. For them, daily experiences in the heart center are simply work-related. Dressed in black, but far removed from any future funeral marches & periods of depression.

As I sat there - still in my uncomfortable chair - still with the added padding - I couldn't help but find this waiting room a bit like limbo. Or, had I been Catholic, some form of Purgatory. In this case, however, Purgatory ends when our names are called though the chairs are just as uncomfortable elsewhere.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Read this blog instead...


I have been working on something for a bit but felt it wasn't "ready for publication" quite yet....as if my blog had a high standard in such matters....

ANYWAY -

It being Monday morning I've been catching up on my blog/news reading and one of my favorite places for a chuckle, Stuff Christians Like, had a great post for the 2nd day of the week. Many, many women can relate to this from small groups, Bible Study, or in friend circles. Unfortunately.

So go over and read this post on gossip veiled as prayer requests:
http://stufffchristianslike.blogspot.com/2008/10/remix-81-disguising-gossip-as-prayer.html

It will make you smile and cringe at the same time. I don't recommend smiling and cringing simultaneously TOO often, but on occasion it's good for the constitution.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The timing of birthdays....

In a matter of months during the course of 1995 our lives changed drastically. Two recent college grads embarking on the life of a two wage-earner life found themselves experiencing a first year of marriage and a first pregnancy simultaneously. Our lives have never been the same.

Sometime during that blur we purchased a first house - a 1950s cape with "good bones" in need of some "cosmetics". We both had good jobs, two vehicles, and dreams that included a starting a family around the time I would hit 30. Instead, the Lord determined that we should celebrate our first anniversary with a son.

On October 10 - five days before our first anniversary - Ethan was born. His was a pregnancy with a complication (as all of mine have been) and a pregnancy that I did not relish. Not because it was particularly bad, but because the shock was such that I never really found the enjoyment in the 9 months. However, on the first moment of birth, the enjoyment was securely found and has attached itself to our collective hearts going forward.

The Lord knew that my mother would not be present for a great deal of my children's lives. He knew that it was a gift to me that I would witness her as Grandma before she was called home. He knew that memories of her shared with my child would be treasures stored here on earth until we meet yet again. And He just plain new Ethan - before he came to be, his days were ordained and 10/10/95 was determined to be a great date for the beginning of our family.

Today my first baby turns 13! Every bit the teenager, yet every bit that heart attachment. He was the beginning of a family which was meant to begin that day in October. While I still have a hard time fathoming how quickly time marches on, I look into his eyes (now at my eye level) and hear his deep voice and know that it truly has been 13 years.

God is good - and His timing is impeccable.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

...To Everything There Is A Season...


A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted
Ecclesiastes 3:2
From the blueberries we picked this summer to the apples we'll pick this weekend. The Lord knew I would need some fairly concrete definition in my years - before I even realized I'd need that definition. He placed me here, in this very place, because He knew that Michigan would provide me with this definition. Our God is marvelous that way - meeting needs we never knew we had, sometimes before we even know we have the needs. God is good....all the time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Camping On Faith


It has been almost six months since our version of reality was shaken with Mike's health scare. We have made adjustments to our lives and for a while he made adjustments to his everyday work. Yet just as he had to climb that first roof trusting that His Will Be Done, so we will embark on our first camping trip - driving on just as much faith.


Our driving regimen has to look a bit like this: Mike's seat stretched out as far back as possible while still being drivable. Our vehicle must stop and pull over every 90 minutes. When the vehicle stops Mike must walk for about 30 minutes.


It may not be a march through the dessert or a journey 'round Jericho, but for this family there will be an awful lot faith being exercised in the cab of our truck this weekend.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Part Deux....or the place where the blogger writes without her edit button

So first off I can't seem to get the paragraphs to show up so if the whole entry looks like one big run-on paragraph it is not my intent - though it may represent quite well the way my brain often works.
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As promised, my non-hearsay comments on a recent read. Namely, the soaringly popular (for various reasons) The Shack. I grabbed the book on one of my Barnes & Nobel Mondays. It was paperback, on sale, and with the ever-present Member Card it was far cheaper than the late fees I seem to end up with at the local library. I knew it was "hot" the way Velvet Elvis was "hot" but I was intrigued by something a pastor dared call the next Pilgrim's Progress right on the cover. That's pretty nervy to this Calvinist. The next Pilgrim's Progress had better be pretty darn good, right?

I read a lot. I always have a pile of books in my room. The pile usually includes a true classic, something non-fiction, and something that is current. This does not include the daily dose of Biblical readings and assorted school books. And when I read, I ingest rapidly IF the book is the kind that sucks me in. I read the shack in about a day. The parts that are not causing a stir - the essential plot line leading up the center of the book - are fast reads just because they (gulp) are not good. As Mike said - the writer seems to shout "HEY! Foreshadowing here!" in many areas. The, albeit necessary, story that leads the central subject to the titular shack is drab, boring, to be expected. The fact of the matter is, however, I'm not sure many people are reading the book for this portion.

So first opinion - about half of this book is poorly written.

Next, the motivation behind this book - and I'm going on this limb after reading the author's bio and visiting his website - was to help the readers find God in the midst of mess. The author states on his website that he wrote this as a story for his children. He wanted them to have some easy way to comprehend the Trinity and in so doing, to find the Lord even in the most dreadful of situations. He later states that the mass publishing of the book was an unintended consequence of assorted individuals reading something he wrote for family.

Anyway, all this I write with the purpose of stating: I understood his motivation. What he writes in the integral center of the book does seem to follow with what he states his purpose to be. The book sets up a horrible situation - the kind where many people (including Christians) says "where is God?" He is trying to answer that age old question "Why does God cause/allow pain?" It's certainly not a new topic. The topic itself is not what is causing the controversy and the low rumblings of 'heresy' in much of the Christian community. The heresy? Go back to my first line...I used "understood". Not "understand". For while the set up is all there - and the need to see providence in all occurrences is necessary - what the author finally does is not Biblical. It is not the providence of Scripture, but for those looking to become good Hindus(!) it's right on target.....
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SPOILER ALERT - here on in I'm loose and free with details - if you want to read the book first - well don't read anymore....
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The shack in question is a literal shack to our character. In fact, it represents the site of the terrible incident that caused him to question God. It is in this shack that he encounters God. Not in the prayerful sense, but quite literally. And here it is - God the Father? A woman. A big, black, jovial woman who loves to cook and keep house. Jesus is present - looking like a carpenter with overalls and a Hebrew-like appearance. Finally, the Spirit? Asian, wispy looking woman. Ethereal in nature, hardest to comprehend.

Now I back track. Heresy #1: God as woman. Our author's response? The character has 'daddy issues'. Our character was beaten by a drunken father throughout his childhood and, therefore, has always struggled with understanding the love of a father - even the Father - and so God determines to appear instead as a woman, named "Papa". Still with me?

Now examine this more closely by looking at two of the names the author uses.

God the Father - "Papa" - has a name: Elousia. Elousia is Greek - it is often used to refer to the Black Madonna. Our author separates this name into "El" for Creator God and "Ousia" being or truly real. Such themes are to be found in goddess worship. In fact, this very theme runs through another popular book which I also digested (but hated) The Secret Life of Bees.

God the Spirit - "Sarayu" - an ancient river in India. Part of the worship of the goddess Kali in India. In Hindu/Indian lore Christ made a trip to India and became the husband of Kali. This can be confirmed by even a superficial study of Hinduism. This marriage is confirmed in a passage directly from the book (for I couldn't paraphrase this if I wanted to). This is the Father speaking of the Spirit (or Elousia of Sarayu):

"...you do understand, she continued, unless I had an object to love -- or more accurately, a someone to love -- if I did not have such a relationship within myself, that I would not be capable of love at all? You would have a god you could not love" (103)

Within all of this is Jesus....
Heresy #2: Jesus as FULLY human when incarnate. FULLY - i.e. the author states that while on the earth Jesus never called upon His Deity. His miracles were completely human in nature. It's just that he was, how would the New Agers say it?, more fully actualized. He was a perfect human and, if we could all tap into this, we too could walk on water (as, incidentally, the main character does).

Yet beyond New Age we have, again, the Hindu tradition. This tradition keeps Jesus in check by allowing for Him making mistakes. Our author even has him dropping a bowl and making a mess in the shack.

Heresy #3: This one only needs a direct book quote: "I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose punish it; its my joy to cure it." (120)

The unfortunate part here? Those not well read - or more importantly, those not sitting under the Word on a regular basis. Those not being fed from a pulpit? Well - they'll hear this and wholeheartedly agree. "Hey - that's right, I'm feeling pretty punished when I get caught (insert sin)." They will completely look over the fact that calling on the Lord is not there. That belief in Jesus is not stated as a requisite. This is deceptive.....at best.

I'm not going to go on....there is much that can be read about this online, in publications, heard from others who (hopefully) have read the book for themselves. And why read it? I believe in a word: preparedness. You may be called upon to debate this very book. The moment you answer the question "Did you read it?" with "No, but...." you have just lost your credibility. I think this book is the tip of an iceberg and I think a Christian needs to read this to be prepared for even worse pop-culture pseudo-religious literature to come.

And as a complete side note - to all of you Christian music lovers? You know who gave this one a resounding thumbs up - said it changed his faith? Michael W. Smith. There are issues brewing out there people - you better know what you believe AND parents you better make sure your children know what they believe. And why it is never to be compromised - even when packaged in a slick book with 'happy feeling' ideas and the praise of people you thought shared your faith.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

As Promised.....

heresy: (n) adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma. Dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, practice.
hearsay: (n) rumor
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It seems that it is very easy to turn hearsay into heresy. We like to talk. Many of us leaning to the right actually enjoy a good fight. If not a fight, we unfortunately take some sick pleasure in having the hairs on the back of our neck bristle. A bit of physical penance? Perhaps. Laziness? Quite often.
Today I'm applying this to books. One in particular, but with a preface.
When my eldest son attended traditional Christian school the fight began over the Harry Pottery books by JK Rowling. Arguments abounded on both sides as to why or why not these books should be present in our school's library. The left leaning folks will sight the fear of book burning (though they won't actually use that term). They also sight personal liberty - the liberty of parents to choose what their children will read. The right leaning folks will sight a general fear of the occult, concerns over a character's moral fiber, and what the presence of such a thing indicates.
I have absolutely no problem with either side of this argument. That's right - no problem with either side. I DO have a BIG problem with either side arguing their position without actually reading the book(s) in question. Books are not like porn. I don't need to view porn to know it is inherently opposed to my moral sensibilities. I know it is in complete and utter disparity with my faith. Books are different. They are masses of words not easily digested. They require some time, a bit of work, they require first hand knowledge. In the case of Ms. Rowling and Mr. Potter, too many parents on both sides had never actually read the books. Too many sighted faulty logic for both sides. Too many left sided parents used liberty in a laughable context, too many right sided parents were not about to toss out MacBeth - a classic wrought with the occult.
A long introduction to indicate heresy vs. hearsay. When it comes to a book it is HEARSAY until you read it. Then you may begin to discuss HERESY. No matter how many articles are read, not matter how many other people you respect read a book - hearsay before heresy until you do the "leg work".
The post is dragging on now...it will have a part II to follow....that part will be on my thoughts on The Shack.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

my girlfriend

When baby number three arrived he was to be named Douglas Robert. My certainty in this was such that when the ultrasound tech pointed out the 'girl parts' I guffawed. So certain was I.

I have learned in life never to be terribly certain of much beyond my God.

Madeline Paula looks nothing like a Douglas Robert.

Yet she loves her Daddy (as she should). She has been his daughter from day one. The instant he walked through the door from work she would whine until he took her in his arms. She whined terribly unless he was present. Even as she has grown and matured (i.e. the whining has stopped), having two older brothers has inevitably rendered her a tom-boy. Or perhaps more of a Laura Ingalls-esque 1800s farm girl. Either way, she has always been the one to embrace being dirty, playing sports, and wearing jeans.

This particular weekend represents the official beginning of autumn. Not because the calendar says so, but because the Cadets say so. It is camping time - sleeping in a tent, eating food from an open fire, and doing things with pocket knives that no woman fully understands. This weekend means, as well, that my daughter is 'stuck' with mom. There is no bending of rules where Cadets is concerned - NO GIRLS ALLOWED.

Yet in recent months, imagine my joy at finding a new girlfriend. She is funny, has a well-controlled but healthy interest in clothes, she ponders the reasons behind high heels, has determined to be a "cooker" or perhaps "hair person" in her adulthood, and suddenly never wants to leave.......ME! My girlfriend is my daughter. She has reached that point in her girlhood where what mom does is interesting - worth emulating (in her eyes - certainly not in mine). She longs for a Grandma who is here, new pink purses, and friends who want to play Polly Pocket.

To be sure, this new girlfriend of mine will never turn down a competitive game of basketball. She will always embrace camping and brothers. But the Lord has seen fit to give me a girlfriend who also happens to be my daughter. For that I am eternally grateful.

We will now commence to start cooker-ing....for that's what we girlfriends do when our men-folk are off living in the wilderness.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Here's What You Need To Read

The Shack.
Find it. Splurge and buy it. Borrow a copy.

A post will follow later....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

At 21....

In 1975 Janis Ian had a song which resonated with young girls in this country. It began with a stark commentary on what it is to be a teenage girl:

I learned the truth at 17...that love was meant for beauty queens and high school girls with clear skinned smiles who married young and then retired...

1975 translated well in the 1980s and I can venture to guess that it somehow holds true in 2008. Though cliche', it generally holds true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. As I'm surrounded by young people on the cusp of 'legality' - turning 21 - I've done too much thinking lately about what I wish I had known then.

1) Life is finite. It seems that no matter how Christian the upbringing, mortality was fairly far from my mind at 21. I wish I had made decisions at 21 based upon the fact that there may not be a 22.

2) Here's a news flash.....you are now legal to drink alcohol. For the rest of your life. There is no necessity in spending 21 in a drunken stupor. Furthermore, those people you know (even now as an adult) who LOVE to talk about their wonderful experiences with alcohol and wine generally need lives....alcohol should be treated as fine food - savored - not as some giddy way to spend an evening.

3) People will now remember you. In your teens you were still changing. Even your appearance changed from teen years to twenties. Now you may gain more weight, lose some hair, dye your hair, but for the most part whatever you do will stick with you. Do something stupid now and in ten years you'll be known as "....hey, are you that girl who did that stupid thing that one night with that one guy...."

4) Arrogance is no longer chalked up to adolescent chutzpah. Now it's just arrogance. You are now on the bottom rung of adulthood. Your job? Someone else has a better one. Your extra-curricular achievements? Someone has already achieved it. Your boyfriend? Someone has a better looking (and more committed) husband. Your social life? There's nothing new under the sun - we've all done what you're doing. Pride goes before a fall. The falls are a lot more messy now. The recovery period is often a lot longer.

5) Your parents have aged right along with you. While their days were determined before their birth, just as yours were, there is a greater chance that they will die before you will. You have a chance now to have the joy of an adult relationship with your parents. You can learn things from them you never learned as a child. Don't waste your time where they are concerned.

6) Age doesn't matter (much) anymore. It's time to branch out from your age-centric social circles. Some of your best friends could be older than you. Friendship now is deeper than history. It is shared experience, learning from someone who has 'been there, done that', it transcends age.

7) God is your constant. All the above matters. But all the above simply leads to the fact that your one constant at 17 and at 21 and going forward is God. Period.

This is what I wish I knew - and embraced - at 21.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Storing up treasures in pockets...

When I was 7 years old we took our first trip to Florida. I don't remember much of it - must to my father's dismay - I don't remember the first plane ride or the hotel. I do remember the idea of there being a Magic Kingdom somewhere in the area and in this Kingdom, if I had the right tickets, I had unlimited access to Mickey Mouse and all his friends.

The morning of my first glimpse at this magical land began with breakfast at the Howard Johnson's restaurant. Ancient person that I am, Howard Johnson was a more than passable place to lay one's head and the restaurant was quite good. To my utter happiness, it even had a counter. Sitting at a counter to eat, you see, was about as exciting as riding my banana seat bike to the library.

I don't remember breakfast. I probably asked my mom to see if she could cajole someone into making me a cheeseburger. Eggs were not edible in my young gastronomical experience. I have no idea if a cheeseburger came my way and I really don't remember much of the first trip to the Magic Kingdom. Here's what I do vividly recall:

I had white pants with a plaid shirt. I loved those pants because they were full of pockets. Just above the 1970s style flared legs were pockets in the knee.

I remember the chairs that spun half way. They had backs and were padded nicely. I was tall enough to almost reach the floor but my arm's reach was not deep enough to get at everything on the counter.

I recall the odd interest I had in the packages of jelly. Perhaps Smucker's - I'm not sure the brand mattered. I guess I didn't get out much, because these packages of jelly were really special in my mind. They represented part of the magic in this kingdom. Only in Orlando, Florida did they have jelly this special in these kind of packets.

I don't believe I even ate jelly that morning. Perhaps because it was special, perhaps because it didn't go well with the cheeseburger I received. Yet in spite of not eating it, I wanted it. I wanted this special food in its own little self-contained packet. I may never see it again.....and I had POCKETS! I slipped a packet of jelly in each of my spiffy knee pockets. They were my first souvenirs.

Then I knelt on the seat to reach for something on the counter.

The white pants didn't make it to the Magic Kingdom. Grape jelly co-mingled with white cotton were not a look my mother embraced. I know my pants had to be changed. I don't remember anything after this. I don't remember the new pants, I barely remember my first trip to this Magic Kingdom. Yet I still remember the jelly in my knee pockets.

This has become an illustration in our house. Why storing up treasures here on earth never really matters - never really lasts - and never gets anyone into the "Magic Kingdom".

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

...one of my top ten things


I love when one of my children announces that something is "on of my top ten things..." Even the average math student would deduce quickly in our home that "top ten" is more like "top 237", but the enthusiasm behind the remark is catching!


To that end, my top ten things:


  1. My yellow chair. It sits in the corner. It's just soft enough without being the kind of chair some of us may sink in and be unable to come out of. I usually make it to the chair by 3pm - sometimes earlier. It's where I take my 'recess'.
  2. Thick hair. Females will understand always finding flaws in their physical beings. We have flaws - our flaws have flaws - we have fat in our big toes that doesn't belong there and hips that don't behave. But I like thick hair. I like that I have thick hair. I have never complained about my thick hair and I don't plan on doing so. (I may complain that I don't know what to DO with my hair, but never the hair itself.) I like thick hair.
  3. Tea. I drink 6-8 cups of tea a day. It's habitual. In fact, maybe I don't like it as much as it's habit - like coffee and Marlboros for some. Doesn't matter. It's in my top ten.
  4. Sharpie markers. LOVE THEM. And every time I'm content with them they come out with a new version. Thick original is so nice and clear. The click tops are handy. The NEW version can be used on regular paper.
  5. Dogs. Top ten most definitely. And I'll call them 'things' to make them fit my list. I need a responsive animal that does it's business outdoors.
  6. Dreary days. This almost makes me the perfect Michigan resident. I love dreary days - preferably with rain or snow storms. I prefer my dreariness with cold weather and often with the smell of burning leaves.
  7. Layers! Layer cakes are okay but I'm thinking of the clothing variety. (And perhaps because I think layer cakes are okay, clothing layers are a welcome way of dressing.) I love sweatshirts and shirts under them; sweaters and shirts. In the 80s I loved layered socks.
  8. Word games. Scrabble, Boggle, sitting in a waiting room and seeing how many words I can make out of the word "orthodontist". I make up word games when I can't find one to play. With that comes the joy of a crossword puzzle. Words - I love words....to get paid to work with words would be a dream job. Authors have the best jobs in the world. (And therefore I went into a career dealing with.....numbers.)
  9. Instrumental music. When I was young I'd lay in bed, gradually drifting off into a play-induced sleep. As I did my drifting, the sound of music would drift up through the floor boards. Occasionally my drifting would be punctuated by the canons of the 1812 Overture - sometimes it was the beat of Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass. Sometimes I could identify my Verdi from my Bach as opposed to my Beethoven. More often than not it would simply lull me to sleep for I knew the music started because my dad had settled in downstairs with his reel-to-reel tape deck...there he would sit for about an hour just listening to music. And so I love the music more than the words.
  10. Books. Sure, they're filled with words like my word games, but I love books in a different way. They deserve a category all to themselves. I love NEW books - the unbroken spines, the fresh pages, the ideas and stories and rhymes (their own type of word game). I love the freedom a book gives - freedom to let a mind wander and drift and learn. I like that the freedom is individual and personal - in a book I can hide some of my brain - the brain that often has no 'edit button' is most free when I'm in a book. I love to keep them beautiful, I love to mark them up. I love book stores and antique stores filled with first editions. I love the art in the very old children's Golden Books and I enjoy the idea that books can often be so subversive their very burning has been suggested.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Of Pine Sol & Romans 8

"All things work together for good to them that love God." - Romans 8:28


I miss my mom.

If my children were writing this I'd have them go back and expand on that topic sentence. I want two points, three paragraphs, intro, conclusion. Homeschooling has created a grammar monster in this house and she's more often than not Machiavellian in her instruction.

But I miss my mom. My mom would not have used the term "Machiavellian". My mom would have said "It's okay, Ethan, you just tell me what you mean and then we can go walk outside and pick flowers." My mom was grandma-y that way. My mom went to school dinners and never actually ate - she watched Ethan and his friends and siblings of friends so the moms could sit and eat. My mom didn't know the names of philosophers and very few theologians, but she knew and loved her Lord. My mom was faith-filled like that.

I still work at trying to be like her. I use lemon scented Pledge and Pine Sol because of her. And (confession time) I listen to elevator muzak because of her. I try to capture the feeling of her with smells and sounds. It makes me wonder what my children will use to capture me....

I'm sure they will search for muzak. And Pine Sol (I love that stuff!). Madeline will probably wear velour pants because I live in them at home. None of the kids will have complicated hair - I don't "do" hair. They will cry in church - I cry in church - they probably won't make it through '...and when at last my race is run the Savior's work in me is done...' I hope they will marvel at the "bliss of this glorious thought"....and I hope they get that straight-arched back when they sing about our church's one foundation. They'll read books through in one sitting when they're truly good and cook without recipes. They will claim their Eastern European heritage in a sea of Dutchness. I hope they love dogs. Be ambivalent toward cats. Secretly want to save the whales.

And I hope they will be able to know what mom's favorites were where it concerns her Lord. My mom loved the song "I Sought The Lord"...it was the only real musical request she made of her funeral. And she quoted Romans 8:28 in just about anything - her writing, little signs stuck to the fridge, little note cards she'd send to other people. One of the things I treasure is a note she wrote to a girlfriend's mom which was kindly given back to me. There's the verse - right on the front of the card. It was "her verse". When I miss her, as I still do - greatly, I cling to those words and remind myself that "ALL things work together for good...." ALL things.

Today I miss my mom. For no special reason. It's just Tuesday. My children are growing, our schoolwork is all over the table, there's a few dirty dishes that should be put away & my dad just left to take our car to the garage. It's not a special day - but I miss her because it's just any day. Today I will pour extra Pine Sol in the toilets & re-read Romans 8.

Monday, September 15, 2008

No Homeschooling T Shirts....yet

Once in a while I still get the quizzical looks from (mostly) senior citizens when I'm out and about with a school aged child during "school hours". I am going to immediately back pedal and add that we do not spend our "school hours" bargain hunting at Target or with me getting my hair done as the kids do math workbooks at a salon. If I could walk around with a T Shirt that answered everything...sort of like "I'm With Stupid" or "Red Sox" or even "It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time" perhaps I'd never get a look again - or I'd get a look, just not the same kind.

I don't have a good slogan yet. Even if I did, it probably wouldn't matter. And this is in an area where homeschooling is rather prevalent. At the very least, it's an area where homeschooling has a great support system. We have a 'building', an orchestra, a drama club, a marching band, sports teams, library, book store. It's a great area to choose this option. I can only imagine the 'looks' that occur in less than supportive recesses of this country (world).

I've never been commando about our choice. It's always been just that: choice. We began as Christian school parents - through second grade for our eldest. It just wasn't a good fit. While our local homeschooling community is flourishing, we could not find a parochial school that offered what we needed - that emphasized what we wanted. And we approached this all as consumers. This is what parents are. Consumers. Whether it is parochial schools funded by our tuition or public schools funded by our tax dollars, why should we as consumers choose an option that is not all we desire?

So we ended up in homeschooling - where we could create something that worked. In all of my complaining in life - and I'm positive I do my fair share, even when I don't realize I'm doing it - I do not complain about homeschooling. Oh I may be tired from time to time. And the children sometimes need something I haven't determined. But I do not complain about homeschooling as an idea or as a service. Because it is essentially our creation, it is what we want it to be. It is filled with what we want it to be filled with.

Notably: Scripture memorizing, Latin learning, Math-at-a-student's-own-pace, thorough English grammar, lots of reading quality books ('quality' in our house includes some that may have been burned in previous decades), Science gallore for the budding scientist, Art gallore for the unfrustrated artist, Violins, Piano, Karate & Baseball.

This is our school. I don't have a slogan. It doesn't have a logo. It answers to the Highest Authority - not to the quizzical looks, but to the ever present eye of the Giver of these gifts.

But someday I'll have a T Shirt with a slogan.....someday....

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Self-Esteem and the Somersault Assumption


After many months of requests - veiled in the midst of history classes and Olympic viewing - we have been tuckered out and have joined the ranks of karate-going parents. All three kids wanted to give it a try and all two parents were rather non-plussed by the whole concept. Don't get me wrong, if a class could truly incorporate housework and karate ala The Karate Kid I would have pushed for this long ago. Nothing like a little 'wax on/wax off' to encourage moms in promoting karate classes!

Two hours of learning stretching and chopping and kicking culminated in tumbling. I am still floored (minimal pun intended) at the tumbling portions of this athletic enterprise. Somersaults and flips and free-falling (that would be onto the floor from standing). About as close to gymnastics that my children have ventured.

Ethan in his adolescent body complete with new and growing muscles excelled at this tumbling rotation. He flipped freely with very little trepidation. Bully for him! Madeline - more padded but also more athletic - did her best gymnast interpretation all the while wondering when she could go back to kicking. She will be tumbling all week in our living room - I will be cringing during this same week.

Then we have Ben. Ben is the opposite of petite after all. He is 'husky' where Gap is concerned when buying jeans - but, hey, so is his mom. It's tough getting that husky body into any more of a "tuck", nevermind the "roll" that is to follow said "tuck". No somersaults were produced, though some tears were squeezed out.

Somersaults, to this ignorant mother, had always seemed like riding a bike, hopping on one foot, tying a shoe....something that just 'happen'. I didn't teach somersaulting because I just assumed that they happen. Kind of like breathing and sleeping and dust bunny formation. Bad mommy! For Benjamin algebra and philosophizing and, yes, eating just 'happen'. Flexibility not so much.

For the week we will spend our time away from studies in intensive gymnastics. Alright - no - not 'intensive'. We'll work on somersaults. Period. And in so doing we will work on some self-esteem issues which have reared their ugly head. And this mommy will work on removing more assumptions from her life. And maybe she'll even do some somersaults of her own. Stranger things have happened

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Memories come but once a year....

Henry John served his country proudly during World War II. He was not the round-in-the-middle senior citizen with the used Cadillac that he is now. He wasn't "judgemental" or "conservative" or "closed-minded"...he was someone's son. He was scrawny with legs that remain skinny thanks to a childhood marked by illnesses we are now vaccinated for. His family was large - 8 children - with a father who tried to work hard while fighting demons that perhaps they would have prescribed something for in our generation. His mother is the one the children remember with fondness and from whom the Dutch language was imparted.

This set of battles would take him from ramshackle living to camps to training schools - I can only venture to guess what our government's agents thought when they visited Henry's home to clear him for some top secret...no, really, "top secret"....duty. What they must have thought of the children left behind and the world-weary mother and bellowing father. The battles were fought in lands were rice is corn. He saw a famous flag raised on a mountain, he woke to find someone sleeping next to him had been killed stealthily in the middle of the night. He flew and listened and spoke and learned. His mind was not closed - it was opened - as were his eyes. He has never forgotten.

I am far younger - a sort of after thought in his life - I have never seen the kind of war he has. I have witnessed different enemies coming from different geographical locations. But never first hand. I have witnessed my battles from a couch, holding a baby just three days short of her first birthday and wondered if this was "it". My frame of reference is reflected in small faces and in that instant of wondering if the pantry is full enough, if there is enough cash in the house, and whether there is enough gas in our tanks. "Just in case."

But I forget.

Once a year I remember. And perhaps vaguely. And often after I am reminded.

I have lost in these years. My mother has gone Home. Friends have moved on. My husband has become ill. My children have grown. These things I remember. I remember certain funeral lines - the sound of a pregnant woman moaning a cry at my sight - because I know walk the earth as the example of one whose parent is gone.

But I forget.

In three days she will be eight. I wish I could remember what it was like to hold her as an infant. Even in the midst of terror, the calm that is a baby in my arms.

But I have forgotten......and I did forget......until I remembered.

Henry has never forgotten. He will go to his grave with many memories. Those too gruesome - too mind and life altering to repeat. He will leave this earth someday and go Home. Those left here may remember him as close-minded. As judgemental. They won't understand. They only remember once a year. Once a year they remember that sense of fear and awe and shock. Once a year they remember what it was to have a life turned upside down - to move from their figurative shack where only one language was spoken to a literal battle field.

But then we forget.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Feminism in Polar Bear Clothing?

We spend many evenings in our home tucked in the nether-regions of Kentwood discussing the forthcoming election. This is not unusual - I am married to a political science/econ buff who studied this stuff for fun. Mike chose his course of study based upon his interest (yikes!) rather than what he wanted to be when he grew up. It is probably one of the sanest things an undergrad can do.

But I digress.....

Politics do not make for restless nights of sleeplessness, but rather they tend to bring us mentally together. The occasional verbal sparring is to be expected and kind of (eagerly) anticipated in our household. Mike knows I love asking the pointed questions and I know he loves answering them. It's a match made in Fox News heaven.

Enter Sarah Palin. This political year's "It Girl". We have embraced Sarah. We want to coffee with her. We want to shop with her. We want to hunt with her. And the "we" means myself and whichever girlfriends care to join us. (And, incidentally, we are proud of ourselves for having 'clipped our hair' for years and for wearing our dark librarian-style glasses before Palin.)

But I like those pointed questions. The ones that 'hang out there'. Unfortunately, they often are asked and the recipients infer that I am asking with a bias. I truly - more often than not - am not asking with anything other than a (relatively) deep thinker's curiousity. My most recent question - Would those for whom feminism is a scary, ill-conceived notion have been as supportive of a liberal/Democrat woman hoisted to this same position, on the counter party's ticket? Would we suddenly find ourselves questioning her priorities - her "place"?

I asked the question at a dinner party. (I'm bold (crazy) that way.) With people who probably don't know me well enough to know whether or not I'm truly asking openly or asking with a pre-conceived answer. I asked in a room of of fellow believers, all married, who are walking different paths. I asked in a room with a childless working woman, a homeschooling woman expecting another child, and a married with teens professional woman. The question was answered for the most part with strong "absolutely not" and "I would hope not" and "I don't believe so". It was dropped but it may have hung in the air a bit longer - like a smoke ring that just wouldn't leave the no-smoking section of a restaurant.

I ask because I'm not convinced. I'm not convinced that such a high percentage of the religious right would support the other party's female...not based solely on issues but based on a perceived abdication of her God-ordained womanly roles. Roles that, in their very loose and free interpretations, include not working outside the home when children are being raised. I'm not convinced that a woman in my particular demographic would be whole-heartedly free of Palin-problems where her home life decisions are concerned. I'm just not convinced.

Of course a question doesn't imply an answer - nor should the recipients of such a question infer a bias. My mom worked once I entered high school. I worked after the birth of my first child until the birth of my second. My husband's mother worked out of the necessity of widow-hood. Yet, should a listener want to ask me this question and receive my honest answer?

It happens to be I don't think so BUT I don't know.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

reuniting


Who knows what my ultimate motive was that dreary (yes dreary) April evening. I was not depressed - dreary days are actually my favorite - second only to stormy, probably tied with those constant snow days that never brighten. (Was I not made for Michigan?)

I thought it would be a good idea to host a family reunion. Not just a random event, but a grand scale reunion.....in my backyard.

While the ultimate motive may be hidden, I think I had a very distinct need to remind myself that there were people walking this earth with whom I shared DNA. And not in a remote sense, but in a relatively close to the same family tree branch sense... I wanted this for myself and I wanted this for my children. I WANT this for my children - it's not past tense even at this point in the process of planning. Just once in their lives I want them to be in a large group of people and be able to look around taking a survey with a smiling sigh and some thought that passes saying "I am tied to all these people". It's important. It's necessary.

My dearest friend and I have a shared yearning to "fill a gym". This a reference to those families who rent school gyms or church halls to celebrate family holidays. They fill gyms for Christmas, for Aunt Ethel's 100th birthday, for Thanksgiving and its 5 turkeys & 4 hams. They have gift exchanges which have not a whole lot to do with receiving something that will endure. Children in these gyms play with one another - all related, all family, all kin.

The sad part - these families don't realize that to many of us, they are special. And as they multiply, they provide each child with a gift that is priceless to those of us who have never filled a gym and presumably never will. We stand outside, noses pushed against the glass of the gym doors, wondering what it's like to be so connected.

So I fill my backyard this weekend. It's not a gym. And because of the disjointed nature (and lack of need) amongst my cousins, it's nothing that will begin a tradition. They don't need this - they have this within their own families. But for my children I give the gift of our own version of a gym. The moment they'll recall later beginning with "Remember that time our whole family was in our backyard...."

The sad part being, I'm fairly certain the sentence will continue with, "...why don't we ever see them?"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mine!

I have had the joy, task, frustration of teaching various age groups of children over the course of this life of mine. Each group is excitedly different and yet the same. Is that not the very essence of human nature - all very different, yet all very much the same. As a teacher I am gifted with the opportunity to see the best (those "light bulb moments") as well as the "MINE!" moments.

MINE! After "mama", "dada", "buba" (or whatever phrase is used for bottle), it seems "MINE" enters the vernacular rather early and without much fanfare. It is suddenly there - hanging in the air the first time it is heard like one of those verbal bubbles of a cartoon character. "MINE!" There it is, hovering in the space as one of those 'remember this time' moments in parenting.

MINE! Continues into grade school with not much differing from toddlerhood. "MINE" is verbalized or shared in some physical manner - a shove, a push, a kick, an all out punch. The possession is mine and it is not to be shared. I will share that which I do not want; what I want I will not share. It seems that in some stretch of the imagination (for we are all the same while being different), one adult male shared it rather succinctly when he - I can see his frustration when I read this - bemoaned, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Often this is the life of a school child.

MINE! How it permeates all of adolescence, most notably when it comes to other humans. Groups form, one most choose, and once the group has someone, that person is marked with a MINE! (or OURS!) Cross the great divide and a chasm is found - one filled with "but you were ours!" We like to call them cliques - in reality it's mroe of the same - it's MINE! Sometimes it's even NOT MINE - associations are tenuous that way.

MINE! Sin distorts so greatly. Though we are all different we are all born with that sinful nature. The nature that distorted the beauty - yes beauty - of MINE!

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." (Is 43 1-3)

MINE! is all the better when it is undistorted. When the "bliss of this glorious thought" involves our sin being nailed to the cross and bearing them no more. At the point when He booms from the heavens, "This is MY SON in whom I am well pleased.." only to take our sins and place them on that son who whispers "MINE" from a gruesome cross. In that instant, even MINE! is redeemed. In that instant we can declare with Kuyper

"...There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, 'This is mine! This belongs to me!'"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fragmentum

My previous blog was appropriately entitled 'Fragmentum'. From the Latin, it loosely meant "fragments, ruins". In more cases than not, this is a befitting title for my thoughts - the spoken ones as well as the written versions. My thoughts fly and my fingers fly with them somewhere around 99 WPM ("words per minute") but with an accuracy rate far below that number. There is a certain measure of desparation that I often feel - this drive to get the thought out and down and recorded before it fades. Before it is replaced by a new thought.

Certainly not because of any presumption of their importance. Perhaps because the record is cathartic. "Evacuative" if the definition of 'cathartic' is to be used. Recording the thoughts makes room for new thoughts. There is a certain beauty - relief - therapy in emptying the thought and embracing a new one. And in the recording of the emptying process there is the reassurance that the thought may be revisited if necessary.

That said, the title for the blog needed to be more personal - more about the source of these thoughts. Not Source with a capital "S", but a more earthly source. A quite human source. For me, this is a reference to my homecoming. The nest from which I was fed regularly on God, family, the importance of neighborhood, of tending whatever small plot of land one may have, sympathy, empathy, and knowing what one's ultimate purpose may be in life. It is the place from which my soul was settled, from which my soul was fed, from which my soul continues to somehow find grounding. It is no fragment - no 'ruin' in the Latin. It is quite simply the source.

And so farewell to Fragmentum, and welcome home fragmented thoughts.