Monday, December 29, 2008

The New Member of the Family

My BIL sent us a Wii for Christmas, and we may never use the TV for actual viewing again. Turns out I have a knack for virtual bowling.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Random before-Christmas observations

1. DramaQueen has a Girl Scout fundraiser on Sunday. They will be set up at B&N taking donations to wrap presents. Scratch that. The girls will be looking sweet and asking people if they want presents wrapped and the moms will be wrapping the presents. I must remember to find her sash.

2. I finally found Dear Huband's present. Not exactly the right thing but very much on the right track. I hope.

3. I need to purchase tissue paper.

4. I must at all costs avoid the Mall of Georgia disaster area by a radius of about 5 miles. Except that of course the B&N is in the Mall.

5. DramaQueen has another Girl Scout event on Monday, visiting a senior center. Must remember sash again.

6. We have to make cookies close enough to Christmas Eve to ensure that there are some left for Santa.

7. I'm not sure I remember where I hid everything.

8. Despite my intense dislike of crowds I have a perverse desire to visit a toy store and a craft store and just sort of wander around.

9. Lindt white chocolate truffles are yummy.

10. Firecracker is finding that the kitties need "talks". She has to take them aside and talk to them about good and bad choices. It seems they are making a lot of bad choices.

Friday, December 05, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: Advent

Sally writes:

"Imagine a complex, multi-cultural society that annually holds an elaborate winter festival, one that lasts not simply a few days, but several weeks. This great festival celebrates the birth of the Lord and Saviour of the world, the prince of peace, a man who is divine. People mark the festival with great abundance- feasting, drinking and gift giving....." (Richard Horsley- The Liberation of Christmas)

The passage goes on, recounting the decorations that are hung, and the songs and dances that accompany the festival, how the economy booms and philanthropic acts abound....

But this is not Christmas- this is a Roman festival in celebration of the Emperor....This is the world that Jesus was born into! The world where the early Christians would ask "Who is your Saviour the Emperor or Christ?"

And yet our shops and stores and often our lives are caught up in a world that looks very much like the one of ancient Rome, where we worship at the shrine of consumerism....

Advent on the other hand calls us into the darkness, a time of quiet preparation, a time of waiting, and re-discovering the wonder of the knowledge that God is with us. Advent's call is to simplicity and not abundance, a time when we wait for glorious light of God to come again...

Christ is with us at this time of advent, in the darkness, and Christ is coming with his light- not the light of the shopping centre, but the light of love and truth and beauty.

What do you long for this advent? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? What is your prayer today?

In the vein of simplicity I ask you to list five advent longings....

Here are mine:

1. I would like a peaceful, relaxed Christmas--no frenzied shopping, no maniacal Martha Stewart ambitions. Really, I do not need to hand-decorate cookies.
2. I want to not be so afraid of overcommitting that I never commit at all. I've always managed my ADD by not assuming any extra responsibilites. But life gets a bit bare...I need to find a balance.
3. I would like care more about God; He and I have a generally cordial but rather distant relationship
4. I pray for solace for my brother and his wife who lost their only child. I pray for a little seed of hope--anything--for them.
5. I have not developed many friendships since I married. It's so much harder than when I was in college and I could easily find others with my interests. I need to work on this.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sick and Stunned

I had a good friend when I lived in New York. We were both in the Columbia writing program, and we were roommates for a few years. She was wonderful. She started out writing fiction but she later started writing poetry, the most stunning poetry. I missed her when I moved away, and sometimes we would talk on the phone or email. When her first poetry book came out, I bought it. It was fabulous. I last emailed her just after my breast surgery, and she replied, telling me about her life. I replied when Dear Husband's cousin died, and she asked me to send my address when I could. The next time I emailed I got no response. I didn't think much about it. Figured she was busy--she had a new book coming out. And heaven knows my life was crazy and stayed that way for the next year.

And for some reason today I decided to try to find her, and instead I found her obituary. She committed suicide less than a month after our last email. I wish I had tried harder to contact her. I wish I had been a better friend. I wish at least I had known she died.

And for some reason I can't find my old blog post about her book, The Longing Distance.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Am Back, Sad and Weary

I'm back. I watched my brother and his wife bury their only child. Whatever problems he had been through, he was putting himself back together, and he was excited about enlisting in the Marines. He was to go to the recruiting office the day he died. Despite being fatally injured, he somehow managed to get out of the car and search for help while reassuring the other young man with him all the way to ER, "Hang on, it'll be okay. My dad's coming." He was so beloved by the priest that there were times I wasn't sure he was going to make it through the service. My nephew was very close to him, and had never hesitated to confide in Fr. K., had never held back the bad or the good. Fr. K. said that A. had demons, but that even in the worst of times he continued to express a desire to be a priest, and that A. had always wanted only to be closer to God. It was so hard to watch my brother and SIL go through this and to see this young man with the whole future before him lying in a coffin.

I would like to share something A. wrote two days before his death:

This Is the Best Day

God has brought be such joy
over the past few months.
Through prayer and sacrifice
many of my dreams have come true.
My faith even in the times of trouble
has saved me and redeemed me.
Thank you God for all the gifts and
bounties you have given me.

The funeral mass was beautiful, painful as it was. I'm not Catholic, so it was unfamiliar territory to some extent. Even though I couldn't participate in communion, I found the ritual lovely and powerful. There were two women cantors with the voices of angels. I'm not familiar with many Catholic hymns, and there was one they sang that moved me deeply, called Be Not Afraid. I found a version of it on YouTube, which I will leave you with:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Death in the Family

Yesterday my 20-year-old nephew, A., died from injuries he sustained in an automobile accident. I am waiting to hear when the funeral will be held. Dear Husband and the girls are headed for LA. I will be headed for Philly, either by car with my other brothers or by plane. A. was my fourth brother's only child. He survived childhood leukemia--a real miracle child for them. I last saw him when my mother died, 7 years ago. He was a devout child and wanted to be a priest. He was sweet and smart. He was very troubled in recent years and I gather his behavior became erratic and there were many problems. I don't know the whole story and probably never will. I know it caused my brother a lot of pain. And now this.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

DramaQueen Performs

DramaQueen's drama class put on a performance yesterday. It was very low-key--mostly family in the audience, I imagine. She recited a poem and participated in 4 skits. Several were taken from Adventures in Odyssey and were based on the parables. Of course I was proud as could be. She did a great job in the skits. She looked a bit nervous during her solo piece, but she did choose a long poem. All the girls looked like they were having a great time. Dear Husband did something sweet aferwards--he asked all the performers for their autographs. There are times he just melts my heart.

We went out for a celebratory dinner after, and then to the mall. I'm not good with malls. I'm not even good with mall parking lots. Not to mention there are all these free-standing stores and strip malls scattered all over. If anyone could get lost in all those byways it would be me. The malls themselves are so noisy and hyperactive. And nowadays that have kiosks with salespeople accosting you as you walk by. I'm not friendly to people who do that. I'm a very polite and nice person, but not to them. For one thing, politely declining only prolongs the interaction, which is exactly what they want. Ugh. Anyway, I always feel as if something has crawled into my brain.

And now both of them are complaining of sore throats and coughs, here on the cusp of out Thanksgiving trip to LA. We'll spend the afternoon at a local clinic, where they'll no doubt tell us it's a cold, but which in the next few days will develop into something requiring antibiotics, and I'll have to take off work to go yet again. Dear Husband and I have amazing predictive abilities, yet we can't convince the doctors of our foreknowledge.

Oh, and Girl Scouts was on Thursday. Firecracker complained of being shy. I still don't have her Daisy book or her uniform. I really like the troop mom because she works full-time and is being pretty relaxed about the whole thing. The Brownie leader could run IBM. There was a mom in charge of collecting forms from the delinquent moms (such as myself). The table was set out like a production line for the girls to package gift boxes, and the Calendar Mom informed me that DramaQueen will be selling 10 calendars, minimum. It didn't sound like a request. The Brownie Mom also had the sash and accoutrements (jeepers, how much stuff do you need? troop numbers, ribbons, pins for the ribbons, flags) all nealy packaged together. There are particular places to iron on all this stuff and I haven't a clue. Some badges can only go on the back, and then there are these triangular ones that I know didn't exist when I was a kid. Brownie Mom's child's vest must weigh 20 pounds from all the paraphernalia. The girls will be wrapping gifts at B&N. Or, as the leader told me, mostly the grownups will be doind the wrapping. I guess the girls will stand around looking cute.

So that's where we are at the moment. Our budget has been Dave Ramseyed, so I have to see if Christmas presents can be done for $50. Well, not really, but we are talking frugal. Particularly since the septic tank outlay. Ah, well.

And then there are a class of items called Swaps. There are many web pages devoted to creating these little giveaway pins. Girls Scouts must be keeping Michaels in business.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I just got through with a cold, the kind that made me croak like a frog and drink disgusting night-time swill. Then we found out that there were roots growing into our drainage pipes and that some idiot planted a tree on top of the septic tank. In fact, the septic tank was not where the survey said it was. And since no previous owner seems to have discovered that the tank was under a tree, which made pumping it something of a challenge, I assume that it hasn't been serviced since, oh, 1988. So, $2000 later, there is still a rather mysterious methane smell that comes and goes. It's no longer under the bathroom sink. Now I can't discover a point of origin.

This weekend DramaQueen gets to perform. I'm beginning to recall how very annoying I found theater people in college. They made me want to hide in a dark closet so that I could soothe my nerves and hear myself think again. They created a lot of vocal clutter. I'm thinking about this now because DramaQueen just coming down off drama class, and my head is spinning.

This Thursday is Girl Scouts. I thought this would be great for the girls, but I am completely at sea. I have no idea what is going on. It's a world in which moms actually save pringles cans and have them ready to bring in for the next craft project. I guess they live in houses with lots of room for bottle caps, toilet paper rolls, fabric scraps, and old wrapping paper. I am paralyzed in the face of so much efficiency. The Brownies were scoping for a cookie mom, which I resolutely refuse to do. I am not an organizer or a treasurer and God knows I've never been one to hop in with that can-do attitude. Just let me bring the snacks.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Where Have I Been?

That retreat was great. First, it was in a beautiful setting. Second, there were all sorts of interesting women with amazing stories. The theme was finding our true identity in Christ, and part of our "curriculum" involved a temperament test. I love personality tests. Most people seem to. I'm not sure why we want a third party eval of ourselves, but we do. I turned out to be a Phlegmatic, which was hardly surprising. Observers rather than particpators, avoids conflict, indecisive, calm and balanced, mediators, introverts. I can pick them out. We are the ones who sit quietly at a party, smiling and laughing now and then, perferring not to be the center of attention.

The girls went to a friend's house for a Halloween sleepover. I walked around with them while they went trick-or-treating. Our friends live in an affluent neighborhood, which really makes a difference in the quality of candy you receive. They collected mostly chocolate, which is almost unheard of. And no raisins. I don't know why people bother handing out raisins. Blech.

Last night we went to a Girl Scout party, because I'm testing the waters to see if the girls want to get involved. There were a number of games, including one in which you eat a donut hanging off a string with your hands behind your back. Firecracker showed an amazing amount of persistence in this game. I think we were there for 20 minutes. It paid off, too, because she got most of it.

All for now, as I have to get ready for church.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Going on a Trip

I get to go on a retreat this weekend! I have never been on a retreat. Well, except for one venture in my teens that baffled and disturbed me and completely turned me off organized religion for a very long time. But that's another story. The retreat is in North Georgia, so I'm looking forward to quiet, nature, fellowship, quiet, walking, a bit of contemplation, prayer, and did I mention the quiet? Actually, quiet is a prayer in itself for me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Gates of Hell

Have you heard of a judgment house? It came up in a conversation recently, and I had to ask to be enlightened. It's a "christian" alternative to the haunted house. Visitors are treated to tableaux of the end times, with mayhem and destruction and, I presume, the unsaved marched off to the fiery depths.

Really. I'm not making it up.

Wow! What a great evangelistic tool! Not.

I started thinking of some alternative presentations. Instead of car wrecks and airplane crashes, we could have reenactments of Bergen/Belson, Darfur, Guatemala, the Spanish Inquisition. Oh, the possibilities are endless. Why do people think hell is below us or floating off in the hinterlands, when we are so good at raising hell ourselves?

We've all met people who take such delight, such sick delight in the wrath of God. Lovey dovey God just doesn't do it for them. Yes, heaven help us if our God were too loving. But, they point out that God was quite clear on that point, and I agree. God says very clearly that his wrath is kindled by those who opress or ignore the orphan and the widow. Hmm. Now, could that have any connection to the thousands of children who have to go without health insurance and health care every year? Every child has a right to get born, but who said anything about life after birth? Or how about the many widows we create with an outrageous war?

Christ said the gates of hell could not stand against us, and yet we are timidly tapping at those gates. We cry out, "Come, now, Lord Jesus." And then we slam the door in His face.

Monday, October 13, 2008


This is the name of an event at our church in which Bibles are presented to the third graders, who then participate in a special Bible study. The boys received blue Bibles and the girls pink ones. That’s one of those details that make me go hmmm. There are male and female Bibles—who’d of guessed? Goodness knows the Bible publishers have taken “niche” to a whole new level. Perhaps we should go with God’s Little Princess Bible (which does exist) and the Monster Truck Bible (which may exist, for all I know). They can take up a place on the shelves next to High School Musical Bible, Camp Rock Bible, Barbie Bible, and Pokeman Bible. There is in fact a Manga Bible, so I’m not far off. Name a life event and there’s a Bible for it. A demographic—there’s a Bible for it. If a Bible isn’t hip enough and you feel awkward pulling it out on the subway, you can get one in magazine format, with jazzy little sidebars and cheerful graphics. No one need ever know what you’re really reading. I’m waiting for the Recession Bible, with special essays about God’s provision during difficult times and a handy pull-out card of inspirational verses.

Anyway, DramaQueen appeared after class with her Bible wrapped in brown paper. When we got home she gave us a little presentation. The brown paper represented the age of the Bible. We took that off and under was shiny gold paper, representing how valuable the Bible is. Under that was newspaper, to show that the Bible is full of stories about our lives, and finally white paper, to represent Christ. When I finally got to open it, what I noticed right away is that the type is too small for me to read without putting it in the middle of the room and reading it from the doorway. Really have to get those progressive lenses soon. But I digress, which is an interesting way of life, actually.

DramaQueen was very happy that the boys and the girls got different color Bibles, and that hers has a pink ribbon bookmark. Right now she thinks boys are a different species, and it’s best for girls to differentiate themselves from a people group that likes to make fart noises. (Firecracker, on the other hand, has been trying to emulate them.)

DramaQueen sat right down and started reading. She piped up now and then with questions about unfamiliar names for people and places, and then…

“Mom, what's a prostitute?"

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Musical Interlude

The Director periodically gives me the CDs from his Paste Magazine, which is sweet. He doesn't listen to them; I think the only reason he gets the magazine is because his son is a musician, and perhaps because it's run by people from the denomination, although you would never guess it. Anyway, I usually find one or two artists that I like. Here's a video from Anna Ternheim, who seems to specialize in moody and plaintive. I've been obsessively playing it over and over for the past week.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why I don't Teach Sunday School

Today is Rosh Hashana, so this weekend I gathered some books for the girls to help them learn a bit about it. One was about a white ram that God created in the Garden of Eden specifically so that he could take Isaac's place.

Drama Queen's reaction was something along the lines of, "What kind of idiot would agree to kill his kid?" To which I have no answer, because I think Abraham was out of his mind. All that guff about his complete obedience--bah. What do we all think when we hear of some one who killed his wife/friend/child/dog because God told him too. Would we for one minute entertain the idea that, heh, maybe God would do that and this poor sod was just being "obedient." And if he were the equivalent of Billy Graham, would that sway us? No.

Then there's the explanation about how it foreshadows Christ, as if the events of the Old Testament happened for the sole purpose of tying up a pretty package so many years later.

All this to say that my honest response to DramaQueen's questions was that I told her some of the traditional answers, which she received skeptically. I don't think I am exactly communicating a deep and abiding faith.

Friday, September 26, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: Johnny Appleseed

From Singing Owl:

Raise your hand if you know that today is Johnny Appleseed Day!

September 26, 1774 was his birthday. "Johnny Appleseed" (John Chapman) is one of America's great legends. He was a nurseryman who started out planting trees in western New York and Pennsylvania, but he was among those who were captivated by the movement west across the continent.

As Johnny traveled west (at that time, the "West" was places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois) he planted apple trees and sold trees to settlers. With every apple tree that was planted, the legend grew. A devout Christian, he was known to preach during his travels. According to legend, Johny Appleseed led a simple life and wanted little. He rarely accepted money and often donated any money he received to churches or charities. He planted hundreds of orchards, considering it his service to humankind. There is some link between Johny Appleseed and very early Arbor Day celebrations.

So, in honor of this interesting fellow, let's get on with the questions!

1. What is your favorite apple dish? (BIG BONUS points if you share the recipe.)
I’m not a big fan of apples. I guess the traditional apple pie would be my answer. With a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. I have no recipe because I don’t cook unless forced.

2. Have you ever planted a tree? If so was there a special reason or occasion you can tell us about?
No, I have never planted a tree. I grew up in a house with a yard full of beautiful pecan trees, which have a special place in my heart. I loved harvesting the pecans. We would have bushels to draw upon for baking and snacking.

3. Does the idea of roaming around the countryside (preaching or otherwise) appeal to you? Why or why not?
If by roaming around the countryside you mean sleeping in tents or something, then no. I like a nice comfortable bed and a flush toilet, thank you very much.

4. Who is a favorite "historical legend" of yours?
I’ve always loved Robin Hood. I grew up reading the stories by Howard Pyle. I loved the idea of an outlaw prompted by a sense of justice to right inequity. The Pyle stories are full of daring adventure and a lot of humor. And I can’t forget King Arthur, the noble knights and the round table. T. E. White’s Arthur novels are delightful.

5. Johnny Appleseed was said to sing to keep up his spirits as he traveled the roads of the west. Do you have a song that comes when you are trying to be cheerful, or is there something else that you often do?
I read when I need to change my mood. Reading soothes and settles my mind. Also, I find that traditional jazz makes me happy—a little Miles Davis, a little Coltrane. Sigh.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11

On September 11, 2001, I awoke and did a second pregnancy test, which was positive. This put me in a thoughtful mood. A little excited, a little nervous. I was missing my mom, who had died in June, and was sad she wouldn’t get to see this granddaughter. I had to take DramaQueen (not yet two) to her daycare and get to work. I wasn’t in the mood to turn on NPR, which I always listened to on the drive. When I walked into our daycare provider’s home, I was ready with my usual greeting, which quickly evaporated. She had the TV on and the phone to one ear. While I was trying to make sense of what I was seeing on TV, the second plane hit.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I got in my car, called Dear Husband, turned on the radio and drove to work, crying the whole way. There was supposed to be a very important company meeting, so everyone showed up but nobody worked. We all sat in the one room with a TV, and then they let us go home and rescheduled the meeting.

I never really recovered a sense of joy about being pregnant; it seemed to be tainted from the start, and I wasn’t really surprised that it didn’t go as it should. Looking back, it seems to have ushered in a season of sorrow that stayed on for years. I’m sorry that my first memory of Firecracker is so tied up with a national disaster, and that every subsequent challenge to her health has seemed like an echo.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Head for the Exit

Our workplace is offering a screening of Fireproof, that new moving staring Kirk Cameron, an actor I generally like to avoid. I’m wondering—do I go? Do I have to go to avoid everyone wondering why I didn’t go? Will they be asking questions about it later? I think I have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that looks even remotely like a vehicle for a Christian-y message. And by Christian-y, I don’t mean that it addresses the pressing issues that Christians should be concerned about, such as poverty, hunger, oppression and the like—a film like Amazing Grace, for instance. I mean the kind of film that addresses whether or not you’ve said the magic Jesus words. Remember that beyond-hideous Left Behind, also staring the underwhelming Kirk Cameron? Shudder.

Fireproof is from the same folks who did Facing the Giants, which I thought surprisingly well acted and well-produced but utterly predictable and bland. In fact, I don’t think I can remember the storyline now. Everyone gets saved and we get to go home. Anyway, both these movies were filmed in my hometown, which astounds me to no end. I detested the place and couldn’t wait to get the bleep out. It was boring, backward and bigoted. Either things have changed or the place has been digitally enhanced.

Fireproof is about a firefighter whose marriage is falling apart. His parents (newly saved, of course, and just oozing wisdom) challenge him to some sort of endurance test of making loving gestures to his wife (Yeah, that part sounds a bit like a Hallmark movie). Which of course will inevitably lead to him seeing the vasty emptiness in himself and saying the magic Jesus words. We can all wipe away a few tears and go home.

My jaundiced view makes me look like a total s**t, because here are these good people making a warmhearted film with the best of intentions. They even have some flair and talent. Dear Husband would say that I’m weak on the necessity of salvation. I wouldn’t say that, although I think subtlety has a lot going for it, unless they just want to preach to the choir. It’s the cynics like me who need God, but we are the ones who are going to run screaming from this sort of film, however good the production values.

When a film (or any form of art) has an agenda, it seems to me that the tail is wagging the dog. To me these films smack of art slapped over some Campus Crusade tracts.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Conversation on the way home from church

Firecracker, chanting to herself: God made spinach. God made broccoli. God made tomatoes . . .

Me: Oh, does that mean you’re going to eat all that?

Firecracker: Noooo. God didn’t tell me to do that.

Friday, September 05, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: Vulnerability

This week’s Friday Five, courtesy of Sally, is about vulnerability. Most of my visitors are probably from RevGals and know about this already, but I ask any other blog friends stopping by to pray for Gannet Girl, whose 24-year-old son died Tuesday night.

1. Is vulnerability something that comes easily to you, or are you a private person?

I talk a lot and probably give the impression of being much more open than I am. But, yep, I keep lots of stuff to myself for various reasons.

2. How important is it to keep up a professional persona in work/ ministry?

Although we have a relatively relaxed atmosphere, it’s essential to me to keep a lot of myself to myself in order to fit in where I work.

3. Masks, a form of self protection discuss...

Absolutely necessary in some cases. I think it’s important to protect yourself from those who may wish to injure you. There are plenty of those out there, and I don’t think anything is gained by letting them romp around your psyche. I don’t necessarily think of masks as negative. Sometimes they help you discover more about yourself.

4. Who knows you warts and all?

Dear Husband, who has pretty much heard it all and knows my idiosyncrasies, doubts, darkness, less than stellar personal history and all.

5. Share a book, a prayer, a piece of music, a poem or a person that touches the deep place in your soul, and calls you to be who you are most authentically.

A lot of art touches me deeply, but I’m not sure I would say that it calls me to be more authentic. Art is tricky, using subterfuge, pretense and fantasy to deliver its truths. Actors wore masks in ancient Greece—art covers up and reveals. I’m not sure I even know what it means to be authentic. We are so many different characters exiting and entering our individual stages.

I keep coming back to my favorite book, Brideshead Revisited, which I think captures so well that longing and yearning for something greater than ourselves, which we try to sate in love affairs, friendships, art, action. The protagonist, Charles, is a painter who becomes very successful. Some describe his paintings as “dangerous”, but a friend who knew him before his fame isn’t fooled and tells him that his paintings are inauthentic: “charm playing tigers.” A charming person seeks to please, whether through beauty or wit or cleverness. They put people at ease. There is no challenge or recognition of terror, pain, or loneliness, all of which Charles has experienced. He has seen first-hand how “charm” wrecks friendships and families, but he had a hard time putting it aside. Like most of us, he has to be completely broken. But the story is about the workings of Grace, so he is redeemed at the end.Yep, I could probably bend your ear for awhile, so I'll stop.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Jesus Is My Boyfriend: Jacobean Style

I can’t stop mulling over that Donne poem. In case you missed it, here it is again:

Batter My Heart, Three-Person'd God

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

One of the reasons I like Donne is his playful intellect, that double-edged sword. “Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend.” But it doesn’t of course; it keeps us captive. I can relate to the frustration he expresses.

How often do you hear someone talk about the peace that surpasses understanding? When we have serious problems, everyone prays that for us. But exactly how do you find that peace—or put it another way—how do you let God establish that peace in you? I’m here God, ready to feel that peace. Bring it on. Is that it? Sort of. Maybe. Wait, I don’t feel peaceful—all hell’s breaking loose. Am I missing something? I said I was happy to accept peace. More than ready. Sigh.

What does that peace look like? Serene? Calm? Stoic? Eye of the hurricane? How do you feel peace when your mind is always churning, synthesizing, analyzing. I take comfort that Jesus himself doesn’t seem all that calm to me. You don’t knock over tables and sweat blood because you have a serene nature. He’s not the Christian version of Buddha, although he’s always depicted as spouting wisdom with this sappy beneficent look on his face.

How are we supposed to feel God’s presence? Is it warm and fuzzy? Is it in the grass, the trees, our children, other people, the rocks, my computer, everything—or is that too pantheistic? And what about the shadow we see out of the corner of our eye—gone so fast maybe it wasn’t there at all. Frustratingly unknowable. Tantalizingly unknowable. We are always pushing out and reaching beyond and our hands close on thin air. No wonder Donne asks God to get him out of the arranged marriage with reason. We toss and turn in reason, feel hemmed in and stifled, but don’t know how get out. And, if we can’t do it because it’s supposed to be all God’s work, well, we can turn that against ourselves, too. Gee, is that God now? Is He doing something? Am I feeling free? Wait, am I imagining all this? What if I’m imagining all this?

I love those last two lines “I, except you enthrall me, never shall be free/Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.” I wonder if Donne felt a bit daring writing that? Maybe it was a commonplace expression of religious piety. Hah. Any commentary will be quick to point you to the bridegroom imagery in the Bible and the Song of Solomon, but it’s still a weird concept. That’s supposed to be the model for a relationship with Christ? It seems so . . . carnal. Honestly, when you read Song of Solomon, do you really think, “This is about the church as the bride of Christ”? It doesn’t exactly calm the senses. Anyway, in pondering all this in my haphazard, non-systematic way, I happened across this link that features a very interesting quote from Ronald Rolheiser.

I wasn’t familiar with Rolheiser. He seems to have rubbed a few people the wrong way, which I find delightful. So I checked out a book called The Restless Heart, which addresses loneliness and the insatiable human longing for connection and meaning. Rolheiser seems to think that we’ll be having sex in heaven, and I’m not quite sure if he means that as a metaphor. It definitely makes heaven sound a lot more interesting that standing around singing and strumming a lyre.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

No Need to Panic: Let Me Do It for You

You know the saying "Today is the first day of the rest of your life"? I guess it’s supposed to be inspiring, but today it came to mind during a wash of anxiety. We have plenty of good reasons to be anxious—we still have medical expenses to pay off after insurance, Dear Husband needs a deviated septum fixed, I still need to find a new psych to check my apparently not functioning too well meds, I need new glasses and dental work, Dear Husband needs to pass his teacher certification test and find a new job. And I’m, well, wherever. Standing in the limbo of 40something looking back at what looks like 40 years wandering the desert and looking forward to what may be more of the same. That gives me plenty of anxiety. I think it’s supposed to be a symptom of ADD that you tend to drift, all your goals ephemeral or gauzy and indistinct. It’s not as if you can just shake yourself and say, “Well, what do you really want?” I don’t know—a happy family, fulfilling work, meaning, world peace and the end of suffering. What do those look like broken down into actual goals? Sheesh. A million different decisions every day. I start to hyperventilate just thinking about it. It’s one thing to say “One step at a time.” Yeah, right. One step. Oh, what’s that over there? Wait, where was I? Another step. This doesn’t look right. Was I supposed to go right or left? Another step. Oh for pete’s sake I forgot to bingety bing. Another step. Jeepers, I’m tired already. The only thing I can be certain about is that I won’t miss the exit.

Friday, August 29, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: Labor Day

From the RevGals:

Here in the USA we are celebrating the last fling of the good ol' summertime. It is Labor Day weekend, and families are camping, playing in the park, swimming, grilling hotdogs in the backyard, visiting amusement parks and zoos and historical sites and outdoor concerts and whatever else they can find to help them extend summer's sun and play just a little bit longer.

It is supposed to also be a celebration of the working man and woman, the backbone of the American economy, the "salt-of-the-earth neices and nephews of Uncle Sam. With apologies to those in other countries, this is a Friday Five about LABOR. All can play. Put down that hammer, that spoon, that rolling pin, that rake, that pen, that commentary, that lexicon, and let's have some fun.

1. Tell us about the worst job you ever had.
I think canvassing door to door for a political group was probably the worst. It so goes against my introverted nature. I don’t like selling anything, even a cause I believe in, and no one wants a canvasser to show up at their door. On the other hand, I worked with some really cool people. So, perhaps the worst job was the time I worked for a researcher at Emory, where I had to dispose of the radioactive waste. I mean, it was low-level and all that, but still.

2. Tell us about the best job you ever had.
I’m not sure it’s happened yet. There are aspects of every job I’ve had that were positive. I worked at Cambridge University Press for a while—that was a connection with a prestigious history and legacy and knew we were publishing some of the best intellects around. On the other hand, the books were pretty boring. Working for a literary agent was kind of glamorous. I met some authors, even some Russian spies (and it’s pretty cool when you answer the phone and it’s Michael Nesmith on the line). But the husband and wife team I worked with were pretty much insane. Working for a Hispanic press introduced me to a culture I didn’t know much about, and the work atmosphere was very relaxed. The head of the press was completely nuts, and the managing editor was chronically late with everything (which is really not what you want in a managing editor). The computer publishing company sounds dull, but there were some very quirky and interesting people there. The educational publisher. Well, maybe that was my worst job. My boss had no ability to feel compassion. Even when Firecracker was in the hospital for a week she expected me to be at work. She never even asked about her. When I had the shingles, she expected me to be at work. So, I guess she was a . Where I work now is pretty cool. It’s not the work I thought I would do, but they have been extraordinarily understanding of my family emergencies, and despite the fact that some of their beliefs don’t sit well with me, I know that they have warm hearts.

Afterthought: Holy cow, I can't believe I forgot about working in Walmart summer of my senior year of high school. Walmart had just moved in, right across from KMart. It was so awful. I was in the fabric department, and I developed conjunctivitis from the dye. We had to take shifts as greeters--no one was used to that then, so they skittered around us suspiciously. Customers left stuff in an unholy mess, and we had to spend hours in the evening "zoning", putting everything back in order, labels facing out. I once had a freaky old man pray for me in the linens section, and there was a biker in automotives who took a shine to me. Whew. I'd never want to do that again.

3. Tell us what you would do if you could do absolutely anything (employment related) with no financial or other restrictions.
I would like to be a stay-at-home mom. That’s kind of ridiculous because I am horrible at creating a viable structure for myself, much less anyone else, but I have this longing to be there when the girls get off school and not having to rush rush rush in the evening. We can’t afford for me to go to part-time, even. Part of me wants to home school, which is probably even more ridiculous, given my chronic disorganization and inattentiveness (not to mention my distaste for the religious tone of most home school communities), but there it is.

4. Did you get a break from labor this summer? If so, what was it and if not, what are you gonna do about it?
Not exactly. I had almost no vacation time, and we moved. But I did take a Friday and head off with the family to Savannah and Tybee Island. Savannah is becoming a favorite place to visit. I’m not sure why. It’s not as if there’s tons to do there, particularly for kids, but we love the waterfront with its cobbled streets and the old, gracious houses.

5. What will change regarding your work as summer morphs into fall? Are you anticipating or dreading?
Fall is easier for me than Spring, when there’s a major conference to prepare for. The pace is pretty steady now. But, someone just retired, and her jobs are temporarily being spread amongst us. And then there’s the hurricane season. If there’s a major disaster, the work here will increase greatly. We also do a lot of projects for Thanksgiving and Christmas, fun stuff for us as well as community work. It’s pretty jolly, but it means the workday is a bit crunched.

Bonus question: For the gals who are mothers, do you have an interesting story about labor and delivery (LOL)? If you are a guy pal, not a mom, or you choose not to answer the above, is there a song, a book, a play, that says "workplace" to you?

Oh, do I ever have a labor story. Firecracker was determined to leave the womb early. It was so unexpected—DramaQueen had been full-term, healthy as could be. We had to go to the hospital twice. The first time the stupid nurse told me it was Braxton Hicks. The next day all hell broke loose when I got to the hospital. The doctors were in a kerfuffle figuring out what to do. They didn’t have the facilities to care for a baby born so early (26 weeks). Soon I was loaded onto a helicopter for transport to another hospital. Things were getting surreal. To this day the sound of helicopters is a little unnerving. They put off labor for as long as possible to give me various meds, but they couldn’t do what they hoped, which was to put it off for weeks. My room was full of hospital personnel for the delivery. I don’t know how they all fit. They warned me that she probably wouldn’t have enough lung power or energy to cry, but she managed it—feisty right from the start. I got to kiss her and she was whisked away to the NICU and oxygen and a heated bed. This was probably the single most frightening experience of my life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Poem du Jour

Batter My Heart, Three-Person'd God

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

~ John Donne

I had forgotten how much I love John Donne. Reading him is like watching a juggler; you sit tense, a bit breathless, wondering if he will drop a ball, but no, he keeps them circling, then catches them all neatly and bows.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Golden Boy

I stayed up way too late last night to see the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Wow. It was like a surrealist painting in motion. This was the first Olympics that I paid much attention to. I'm not really much into sports so I would usually either ignore them or perhaps check in on the gymnastics. But this time I got into it, as in I shouted encouragement at the TV screen. I saw Michael Phelps win several of his medals, and Shawn Johnson finally get hers, and Usain Bolt breaking the world record, and the US Women win the 400 relay.

But there was one medal win that really affected me. As I said, I’m not much of a sports fan, and I wouldn't normally watch diving, but it sounded suitable artistic, so I watched the men’s 10 meter. How anyone can stand on their hands and then push themselves into a dive amazes me. I also didn’t know that you could jump into a body of water without splashing. Sheesh. I didn't know who any of the major players were, and only recognized a few names from watching part of the semifinals.

Those who watched the event know how exciting the last few dives were, when the tables turned and the Chinese, who were marked to win the gold, suddenly faltered. Even before he won the gold I liked Matthew Mitcham. His performance was incredible, particularly at the end, but what stood out for me is how happy he looked, how downright goofy at times. He could win an award for all-around adorableness. He didn’t even seem to realize what happened when he surpassed Zhou Luxin. Someone had to come up to him and tell him he won, at which point he broke down. I found his reaction touching, not just because it was so fun to watch someone so deserving win, but because he didn’t stand there beating back tears, looking grimly emotional—he flat out burst into tears.

I didn’t know anything of his story (and I guess I've been living in a cave), so it was just today that I found out he was the only openly gay man to compete at the 2008 Olympics. Well done. And as one web site put it, Cheers Queers!

Friday, August 22, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: The Forgotten

1) Datebooks--how do you keep track of your appointments? Electronically? On paper? Month at a glance? Week at a glance?

I have a little datebook from the dollar store that I carry with me and usually forget to look at. I used to get the Franklin Covey planners, but I figured that I could just as easily forget to consult a much cheaper calendar.

At work I line up email reminders in my outbox and schedule them to blast off at future dates. It sometimes works.

2) When was the last time you forgot an important date?

I forget everything: birthdays, appointments, holidays. But I can’t remember what I’ve last forgotten.

3) When was the last time you went OUT on a date?

Sometime before we moved in July. I think we went to see Prince Caspian.

4) Name one accessory or item of clothing you love even though it is dated.

I’m not sure I would know if it was dated. My clothing hasn’t been adventurous since the 1990s, so I don’t think I have much that doesn’t look pretty generic. DH says that some of my nightclothes look like they belonged to a grandma.

5) Dates--the fruit--can't live with 'em? Or can't live without 'em?

Ick. They are way too sweet, and I can’t get over the fact that they look a bit like squashed dead cockroaches.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some bits of the real me

Dear Husband recently got after me for hiding my true self. This followed him asking an Old Friend for some advice on encouraging me to write again. Old Friend seems to have advised him to not go there, as I was a suicidal mess when I wrote. Well, whatever. Maybe I’ve shut the door on my subconscious. I don’t have a solution to that. But I do hide my true self. How could I keep a job otherwise? How would I fit in most places if I didn't just sort of let my opinions slide?

So, in the interest of being authentic for a few minutes, here are some things that I tend to keep quiet about:

  1. I’m an unabashed liberal. I keep that quiet at work, because they despise liberals as unchristian freaks of nature.
  2. I don’t think homosexuality is a sin, and I’m baffled by people who do. I think gays should be allowed to marry and that their marriages should be recognized by the state as unions with the same status as marriage. If Jesus Christ himself came down to earth and told me differently, I’d tell Him He was wrong and should rethink the matter in light of the overall message of the scriptures.
  3. I don’t believe in the headship of the husband as a biblical imperative.
  4. I quite frequently have doubts about the existence of God and think we are all deluded.
  5. I can’t stand Beth Moore. I can’t stand all those women Bible teachers who have seminars where they joke about women doing too much or whatever crap they joke about and then do a teaching on the scripture that is about as original as a cross-stitch sampler.
  6. I hate contemporary worship music. I temper that by saying that I’ve definitely had some grow on me, but for the most part I think Christian worship music and Christian contemporary pop music are bland beyond belief and some of the most mind numbing junk I have ever listened too. Give me the Rolling Stones any day.
  7. I don’t say grace at meals. I say it at work because if you don’t pause, bow your head and look serious for a few moments they get suspicious.
  8. Every time someone says something about the sovereignty of God I cringe inside.
  9. Every time someone says something about God having a better plan when some tragedy strikes, I want to slap them.
  10. Advise me how to raise my kids and I can guarantee I will not listen to a word you say, just on principle.
  11. Complain about how other people raise their kids and I will secretly hope yours join rock bands, color their hair purple and pierce their tongues.
  12. I think sexual purity is over-rated. The church would still rather freak out over premarital sex than do something about serious suffering. And don’t start talking about unwanted pregnancies and diseases. If we had the right social infrastructures in place (see, that’s the unabashed liberal speaking) with appropriate access to contraceptives, universal healthcare and affordable childcare we wouldn’t have such a mess. When people get all freaked out about the sanctity of marriage and the glorious holiness of husband and wife and so on, I want to tell them to chill, take a few deep breaths, and remember that Christ’s mission was not to establish a kingdom of no sex without marriage.
  13. I cannot comfortably use most stock Christian phrases.
  14. Thomas Kinkade sucks.
  15. I loathe the phrase “bible-believing church.” And the other kind are . . .? Country clubs? Social networks? Mosques in disguise? Communist outposts? Pits of iniquity? Or, just maybe, Christ-believing churches?
  16. You couldn’t pay me to put my kids in a Christian school.
  17. I’m not particularly interested in raising “obedient” children. Obedience is a code word for “shut up and accept the status quo because you don’t have the power to do anything about it anyway.”
  18. Question authority. Always. If I can teach my children one thing it will be that power corrupts and they should always be aware that anyone in a position of authority can be corrupted.
  19. I don’t really get the problem with secular humanism. Strikes me as way better than, say, fascism.
  20. Let’s see, what disaster will happen if they remove In God We Trust from our currency? Oh, no, God won’t love us anymore. Help—we’ll be just like Europe! Doomed, I say, doomed! On the other hand, I think any self-respecting atheist could make better use of their time.
  21. When did the Bible become an instruction manual? We are such a fraggin utilitarian culture. I mean, how boring is an instruction manual? Do you really want to read one?
  22. When did poetry readings become “spoken word performances”? What—now you’re supposed to have a backup band? Whatever you call them, they are booooring. I have been to maybe one poetry reading that wasn’t a total drag. Poets have this voice they put on for readings. I wish I could describe it. But wait, I don’t have to, because I found this description: “The most common of these is the tendency to lapse into a sort of quivering, nasal incantation, in which the voice trails upward, uncertainly, at the end of a line. This mannerism lends an oracular cast to much modern poetry, as if the poets were delivering dire prognostications or trying to awaken in the masses some sense of religious awe.” Oh God, it’s ghastly. The description is from this article in the New York Times, which I happened upon through the wonderful portal of Google, and which expresses to a T my own thoughts about the utter absurdity of poetry readings.
  23. Writing workshops were invented by the devil. I sat in a workshop where someone waxed poetic –ha!-about the writer’s use of prepositions. Prepositions, people. Poets aren’t normal, and when you put them all in a room and ask them to critique each other, there will be blood and a whole lot of nonsense.
  24. I never want to hear the words “covenant children” again. Beware all you non-covenant children—the big bad wolf of secular humanism wants to eat you for lunch!

So that’s some of the real me. I’m feeling more authentic already.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Accomplishment for the Day

We just installed a toilet. It was not without incident. I now have a sopping pile of towels, and I'm in a bad mood because I can't find one of the plastic bolts that holds the seat to the bowl. Well, I'm done. Dear Husband will have to go to Home Depot, that's all I've got to say. I need a Dr. Pepper, a bowl of Cheetos and a good book.

Friday, August 15, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: Tranformations R Us

For this Friday's Five, share with us five transformations that the coming fall will bring your way.

1. We WILL paint our new house. We are living in the land of beige.

2. I will become Homework Monitor, not because I have to badger them to do their homework, but because the school requires me to sign off on every blessed thing.

3. I love the shift from summer to autumn. I will be able to walk outside without suffering from heat exhaustion. The air will smell different, crisp and smoky.

4. The leaves will be pretty and I think, I think, we have a maple tree in our front yard. I’m crossing my fingers that it will transform into a red-robed beauty. I’m not very good at recognizing trees, but they look like maple leaves to me.

5. Preparations for Halloween begin. Halloween is such a wonderful event. I’m not one for dressing up or such, but I love helping the girls find costumes and going with them door to door in the chilly air. And then we sort the candy and they give me the ones they don’t like. Yippee! I get all the Mounds bars, and all DramaQueen’s Snickers and Baby Ruths. If I was nice I would give them to Firecracker—but, heh—she’s got her own pumpkin full.

Bonus: Give us your favorite activity that is made possible by the arrival of fall.

I can enjoy the outdoors again. Just simple things, like walking to my parked car and it’s cool inside. Going for a walk without feeling like the sky has dropped down and wrapped around me like a woolly blanket. Or being able to take the kids to the playground in the middle of the day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

DramaQueen Reveals Her Practical Side

Not too long ago I was driving the girls back from camp via a road that runs by an old church. "Look," said DramaQueen. "There's a cemetery close to our house. If you guys die we can just drop you off."

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Firecracker's New Teacher

Thursday I took Firecracker to her school orientation, where she got to meet her teacher. Her teacher has a rather difficult, hyphenated name, Potts-Datema. She told Firecracker that it was okay to call her Ms Potts.

When Dear Husband came home he asked Firecracker if she had met her new teacher. "Yes," she said, "Ms. Teapots!"

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Road Trip to St.John of the Cross

To the left is an installation by Bill Viola, called Room for St. John of the Cross. This picture doesn't tell you much, but more about that later. Before I saw this installation, I had only vaguely heard of St. John of the Cross, and I had never experienced this sort of art.

In the winter of 1987, I decided to travel cross-country with a college friend. She was one of several exchange students from Scotland, and as part of the program, they were given a van for transport. For whatever reason, we lucked into having the van ourselves. Denise and I weren't close friends; we just hung out with the same people, so I don't know why she asked me or why I decided to go. Perhaps I just didn't want to be home for the holidays. It was dull and my parents found and I felt squelched and defensive. Maybe it seemed like an adventure.

The trip began auspiciously with me throwing up. I had gone out with a high school friend the night before and drunk too much of something very strong. Usually I avoided hangovers by drinking a lot of water before passing out and not eating the next day. But that morning, since I was going on a journey and didn't want to get a cold, I took my vitamin C. Never take vitamin C after drinking. Happily, throwing up seemed to make the world right again and I set forth light of heart and stomach.

This was a winter of storms and blizzards. We cautiously approached Tupelo in a deluge, listening to reports of flooding on the radio. We stood in the dark, soaking parking lot of the small house where Elvis was born. Denise was an Elvis fan, so this was a Special Moment for her. I was just wet. In Memphis it was freezing, and we ended up sleeping in the van in the parking lot of a 7-eleven. We could hear the Christmas Carols being piped through the streets of downtown. The next morning we stumbled into the Drake to watch the red carpet rolled out and the resident ducks make their way to the hotel fountain. It’s kind of amazing we were up that early. We went to Graceland, of course, and the Lorraine Hotel (surprisingly shabby and unassuming). Then we made our way along a route I don’t remember very well, except that at one point we were driving up a mountain in the dark with no guardrail and an ominously dark bunch of nothing past the drop-off, and one night we slept at a hotel for truckers—bungalows with space beside to park your 18 wheeler.

As we drove into Yorktown, a blizzard hit and it was like trying to drive in a blanket. Despite the blizzard, and because we were total idiots, we took the time to stop somewhere to buy cheap champagne, to keep us happy while we waited out the storm in a dingy hotel. The next day we visited Yorktown, where all the information was blatantly anti-British (as Denise pointed out repeatedly), and then Jamestown, by which time I was so cold I easily understood how an entire village could disappear. Denise knew someone who lived in Williamsburg who took us in a back way that avoided entry fees. The place was nearly empty, with a few workers dressed in period costumes and looking cranky about it. We took refuge in a hotel and drank hot buttered rum.

At some point we got ourselves up to New York state, where Denise had arranged for us to stay with one of her many contacts. She knew a lot of people because she was friendly and undiscriminating. This was often the cause of problems, or at least I saw them as problems. She seemed not to mind if we ended up in a pub with two drunken bikers after the buses stopped running or in a house full of rowdy and randy Scots on New Years Eve in Edinburgh. She was a friendly girl with a nice word for everyone. Which is how we came to be staying in Yonkers with a girl who had been over at St. Andrews for some study program. I disliked Yonkers Girl on sight. Then I met her friends.

OMG. We ended up in a bowling alley. A bowling alley. I was a bohemian kid with a pierced nose and a horror of suburbia, so spending time in a bowling alley was a soul shriveling experience. And here I was talking with an RN (an RN, I tell you) who was afraid of catching AIDS from a bowling ball. Anyway, boring suburban Yonkers girl took us into Manhattan and to MOMA. I have to think MOMA was my idea, as I don't think Yonkers girl had ever entered it before. And as fate would have it, we happened upon the last few days of an exhibit of Bill Viola's work. I'd never heard of him, but it was art, it was culture, it was a Manhattan art museum and not a bowling alley in Yonkers.

I walked into a dark room, with a small structure in the center, warmly lit from within. A video of snow covered mountains was projected on one wall of the outer room, the film jerky as if the cameraman had been running. There was a roaring sound like wind. As you moved closer to the structure, which represented the cell where the mystic had been imprisoned, you could hear a voice reciting poetry in Spanish. Inside the cell there was a desk with a pitcher and a video monitor showing the same mountains, only quiet and serene. The catalog explained who St. John of the Cross was and printed some of his poetry. Wow, I had never read anything like this. I had never heard anyone speak of God like this--it was erotic, sensual, surrendered, a love song. What, I wondered, would it be like to experience God that way?

I don't remember anything of the trip after that: what happened to Yonkers girl, how we got out of Manhattan, the trip back to Atlanta, if we ever met up with the other exchange students. The narrative unravels here.

When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,

it wounded my neck

with its gentle hand,

suspending all my senses.

I abandoned and forgot myself,

laying my face on my Beloved;

all things ceased; I went out from myself,

leaving my cares

forgotten among the lilies.

Tiddly Pom

I feel antsy today, unable to settle and concentrate. Nothing that should hold my attention does. I would so much rather be reading a book. Or napping. Or alternating napping and reading. Instead I am staring at emails, staring at my to-do list, working in fits and starts.

I hate being bored. My brain craves stimulation. I want to talk, I want to read, I want to listen to people tell me their stories. I want to bob along in the flow of ideas. Instead I’m plashing in the shallow here, just me and the dead frogs.

I look out my window. It’s hot and humid out there. The sky is dull with moisture. The clouds look sluggish. It’s the right kind of day to be bored. The heat inhibits enthusiasm, movement, vigor. In this weather, everything is itchy, including my mood.

I just stepped outside to see if I could scrounge some change from my car (in the hopes that a coke will bully me into productivity). Do you recall in Harry Potter the image of the Dementers sucking out the souls of their victims? Yeah.

God, I wonder what it would be like to have a work ethic.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

James McAvoy

This is specifically to annoy Dear Husband, who thought it just fine to call the actress from Burn Notice "Hot" but whose feathers were ruffled by my enthusiastic response to this actor. This has to be one of the most romantic screen kisses ever. And if you haven't seen the movie Penelope, you should because it is utterly charming. And you get to see a lot of James McAvoy.

Friday, August 01, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: The Lockdown

From Songbird:

For some reason, Blogger declared this blog possible SPAM and locked us down yesterday. This morning, we're free to post again, but there was a fair amount of excitement last night among our contributors, who found a dire notice on their Blogger dashboards threatening that this blog might be deleted in 20 days!

We requested a blog review, and I posted a request at the Blogger Help group, where I found we were not alone. Many other perfectly nourishing and cromulent blogs got the same notice last night.

This turned out to be a very small barricade in our blogging community life, but it seemed appropriate to explore locks and blocks and other barriers this week. Also, I liked the picture of the security team above! Could they be Blogger's Spam Prevention Robots, working overtime?

In honor of their efforts, I bring you the "Lock Me Out, Lock Me In" Friday Five.

1) How do you amuse yourself when road construction blocks your travel?

If I’m by myself, I listen to the radio, flipping between stations as needed. If Dear Husband is there, it’s an opportunity for conversation. But if the kids are there, well, let’s hope they brought their doodle boards and don’t need to go to the bathroom.

2) Have you ever locked yourself out of your house? (And do you keep an extra key somewhere, just in case?)

I once locked myself out of my apartment in Brooklyn and my boyfriend had to climb up to the second floor and through a window. Happily, a burglar never had the same idea.

But the worst, the absolute worst, was when I locked my keys in the car with DramaQueen, age 3, inside. Somehow I managed to coach her to flip the lock. In the old days that would have been easy—remember the cars with the locks that looked like golf tees sticking out of the door? I don’t know how she finally grasped which of the buttons to press where with me shouting and miming directions through the window. This was in Arizona, so I was thankful it wasn’t summer.

I'm far more likely to lock myself out of my car than my house.

3) Have you ever cleared a hurdle? (And if you haven't flown over a material hurdle, feel free to take this one metaphorically.)

The mastectomy was a huge hurdle. Sometimes I forget what a big deal it was. Firecracker’s brain surgery was a hurdle. Her birth was a big hurdle. All my hurdles involve hospitals. I think we stumbled over them rather than cleared them, but they are at last behind us

4) What's your approach to a mental block?

Read something fun and surf the web, maybe write a bit, watch the home improvement channel, go to the library. Watch Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time.

5) Suggest a caption for the picture above; there will be a prize for the funniest answer!

I’m no good at this sort of thing. They look like old-fashioned paper dolls merged with Legos.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I always wanted to be somebody

I'm having one of those "What have I done with my life?" interludes. And then I ask myself, "What will I be when I grow up?" Oh damn, I am grown up.

As I mentioned before, it kind of freaks me out that I can now say "twenty-five years ago" and know that I was fully sentient at that date. "A quarter of a century ago, when I was in high school, before the advent of ATMs, DVDs and personal computers . . . when the woolly mammoth still roamed the earth. I've spent a lot of time trying to grow up, and I'm not so sure about the results.

I've never had a lot of ambition. I didn't so much navigate as float along wherever the current took me. Well, let me qualify that, I tended to buck the current, but that just meant that eventually I drifted off in some other, less mainstream direction for a while. Still, I had some ideas about who I was and what kind of life I would have. It turns out they were all off base.

For instance, I thought I was gay. I was pretty certain about that for a while. I also loathed the very idea of marriage, which seemed like such an outmoded institution. I couldn't figure out why that needed to be imported into homosexual unions. I was agnostic. Sure, I loved beautiful cathedrals and Christian art and so on, but if anything could destroy my faith, it was your average Christian. So, of course, I hated organized religion, which seemed to have organized for the sole purpose of putting republicans in office and ranting about abortion and sodomy. I was certain, beyond certain, that I would never have children. I didn't like them. I didn't get all moony when someone showed up with a baby. I didn't think they were cute, or the epitome of innocence, or any of that. I didn't understand people got all woolly-brained over them. I was fairly certain that I would always live in New York City, maybe Chicago or San Francisco at a stretch. I wasn't provincial enough to think that the world outside of NYC was not worth noticing--I just couldn't imagine living without the brownstones and Central Park, the theater and opera and the Village.

And here I am, straight, married with children, a Christian living in the same state where I grew up.

My previous self is practically a stranger. She doesn't really feel like home, but the current self feels like a default, a garment I happened across and it fit, but it isn't my style and it doesn't do a thing for me. Sadly, I am not myself around, well, pretty much anyone here outside of Dear Husband. I'm always being careful what I say at work, pretending that I'm just as pious and conservative and Reformed as they are. I don't know many other people here, so I tend to assume the mask of parenthood appropriate to my environment. Just your neighborhood mom here, listening to the local Christian radio station and standing behind good old fashioned family values. I'm not sure what happened to my more brash and defiant self. The protester. The one who dressed exactly as she wished, who liked to shock, to provoke, to push the envelope. I guess I still question everything. I just keep it on the down-low. I'm still restless. And you know, 42 years of being restless is kind of exhausting.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Revisted One Time Too Many

I've started a few posts and then stopped because I seem to do nothing but whine and flop about. I'm 42. That's old enough for a sentence that begins "Twenty-five years ago" to pack a whallop, because 25 years ago is now a real time.

Twenty-five or so years ago, I tuned in weekly to see the BBC adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. Twenty-five years must truly be a long time, because a movie producer somewhere decided it was time to mix things up and shove what took a dozen or so episodes to explore in 1981 into a 2-hour movie in 2008. Seeing as I think the BBC miniseries was the best of all possible adaptations, I'm prepared to be horrified by the film version. I've seen the trailer, and I have not liked what I've seen. I know they tend to sex up trailers to draw the viewers (though I don't understand why they need to sex up a story that's only drawing the literate artsy crowd anyway), but it seems pretty clear that they've beaten the plot into a love triangle with Charles Ryder, the protagonist, torn between Sebastian and Sebastian's sister Julia. This is so off target it makes me want to find the screenwriter and rap his knuckles. Charles doesn't give two hoots about Julia until halfway through the book, after they've both been stuck in disastrous marriages for years, by which time Sebastian is drinking himself into a stupor in Morocco and beyond caring. This change does nothing to enhance the story--it throws it off kilter. Motivations will change. The emotional landscape will change. Just how much I won't know until I see the movie, which I feel obliged to do even if it gives me apoplexy.

I pity the actors playing Charles and Sebastian, because they can never upstage Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. But I gather Charles and Sebastian get to kiss in this version, which was more romantic action than they got in the miniseries, primarily because no such scene ever occurs in the book. This is hardly a story about gay liberation--Waugh's views are not calculated to make gays happy, since he believed that gay love was a mere precursor to a more mature love for a woman, and finally for God. Still, a kiss would have been a nice touch, given how pretty Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews were.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Partial Accounting of My Life

1. The toilet sprang a leak.
2. One shower is leaking through the grab bar into the garage.
3. I don't know anything about plants and I have a half acre of land.
4. The switch has tripped and I feel like I'm dragging around.
5. I need to find a new psychiatrist to manage my medications.
6. My medications aren't cutting it.
7. I love the sunlight in the kitchen and the view from our windows.
8. What do brown recluse spiders look like, anyway?
9. What are all these odd little beetles that cling to my front door at night?
10. I have to recaulk the tub.
11. The plumber told us that was a waste of time and we should just pull of the tiles, bleach everything and redo the tiles.
12. I am not that handy.
13. Did I mention that my medications aren't cutting it?
14. Firecracker can't get to sleep and she wakes me up several times during the night.
15. I need a haircut.
16. I hate cooking.
17. I like being fed.
18. I have watched more Spongebob Squarepants than I ever thought possible.
19. I would be happy if I never saw Hannah Montana again. Or the Jonas Brothers.
20. I love my Mat Kearney CD.
21. Dear Husband surprises me with his enthusiastic embrace of home improvement.
22. Dear Husband is getting sick.
22. Oh, and my medications aren't cutting it.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

We're In Our New House

We survived the move. Somehow. On Saturday morning DramaQueen boarded her flight to LA. While Dear Husband was doing that, I dropped off my car because the alignment was wacko and spent three hours at Wal-mart with Firecracker, wandering around toys and furnishings, getting her goggles and floaties and swim shoes for camp, and eating at McDonalds. The whole time she complained about her toe hurting. She told me that someone had stepped on it at camp, so I didn’t think anything of it.

Then I dropped her off to play with a friend while I went to the new house to wait for the cable guy and Dear Husband and friends moved boxes. And more boxes. When I picked up Firecracker the friend’s mom said it looked as if she had insect bites on her toe. Well, maybe that’s it, I thought—she’s having a reaction to ant bites or something. On Sunday morning I knew something was very wrong, because her toe had blisters all over it, so off we went to Urgent Care while Dear Husband moved more stuff. The doctor diagnosed a staph infection and put Firecracker on antibiotics.

Well, then she couldn’t go to daycare on Monday or Tuesday, and I had to bring her to work briefly because everyone who knows anything about my job is on vacation. In fact, I had requested the days off and couldn’t get them for that very reason. On Monday night Dear Husband broke the ball cock off the master toilet (I never knew the name until I saw the packaging on the replacement—I always called it the ball floatie thing) and on Tuesday he called a plumber to fix a leak in the laundry area. So we’re off to a rousing start with home ownership. Yesterday afternoon I lay down for a nap and didn’t wake up until 6:30. I don’t know how Firecracker amused herself during that time.

We did let the wormies go before moving, and this time Firecracker was fine with it, in fact she was eager to because it was raining and wormies like the rain. She called them all by name as they wiggled off (although some didn’t wiggle at all, which I didn’t comment on). She was then very concerned about the cats because we waited until last to move them, and she was worried we were leaving them behind forever. Then she made it her task to cajole, comfort and generally hound the kitties into acclimating to the new house. “They’re shy,” she said.

Tonight I am making another trip to the apartment to see what else could be left behind, and to empty the fridge. I know there’s chocolate mint ice cream, and I think I deserve it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Who Let the Worms Out?

Dear Husband got Firecracker some worms this weekend. I had some reservations about this venture, mainly that worms give me the heebie jeebies. I’m all for supporting my kids in their interests, but I know my limits. I think the people at the pet store thought he was nuts. We have them in a little “critter box” that I covered with dark paper and a ventilated paper plate. Obviously that was not all that secure because this morning I found one by the sink and one on the living room floor, being stared at intently by one of our cats. Dear Husband was angry with me for waking him to take care of the matter. He kept yelling from bed that I should use the dustpan to scoop them up. Well, I figure he bought them, so he can deal with them, because I would never under any circumstances have bought a box of worms. I would have found a nice little plush inchworm or something like that, something cuddly to keep Gary the snail company. But the very idea of letting the worms go upsets Firecracker. Why not a fish? I asked. At this point I would be willing to undertake education in keeping an aquarium. Nice fishies. Firecracker’s response? “How about a spider?” Shudder.

Friday, June 20, 2008

RevGals Friday Five - Word Association

Think summer......are you there? Below you will find five words or phrases. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem, a memory, a recipe, or a story. You get the idea:

1. rooftop: New York City. A house has a roof. Rooftops are for big cities, where you can actually climb out on them and set up a lawn chair.

2. gritty: New York City. In every sense of the word.

3. hot town (yeah, I know, it's two words): Phoenix. The hottest summers I have ever experienced. Not only can you fry and egg on the sidewalk (and I’ve seen it done), you can cook an entire dinner. Well, maybe not, but you can get burns from the metal parts of seatbelts and stores have warnings not to take your wine home in the trunk of your car, lest it explode. And boy, don’t ever leave crayons in your car. They don’t just melt; they liquefy and seep into your carpet and upholstery.

4. night: owl. That’s what I would prefer to be, but I am forced out of my natural rhythms by the demands of the work place and momdom.

5. dance: palace. I don’t know why I thought of that. It sounds like something from a Kinks song.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Art of Losing Things

"Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. The art of losing isn't hard to master."

Dear Husband is disgusted with me, because I constantly forget things--forget plans, forget to plan, mix things up, lose things, procrastinate, hesitate. Generally, I make things difficult to the point that he is always saving us from a muddle.

Right now I am sitting with my calendar open. It doesn't actually help me that much. I often forget to open it. Or I open it and the days are not real to me. How much time is actually between now and the next "thing"? I often write things on my hand, which drives him nuts. I know I won't forget it that way. It won't be closed up in an appointment book, or written on a piece of paper that will find its way under the car seat. I put alarms on my phone, feed stuff into my Outlook. But the problem is that something is always left out. I also don't have good recall. My boss claims to have given me a piece of software. I can't find it anywhere and don't remember the exchange at all. But I know from experience that she doesn't forget, and if she said she gave it to me then she did. But where is it? Will I ever find it?

I'm taking Adderall. It helps a little bit. I guess. But I am still a flake. Not the worst, but bad enough.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Boys and Girls

This weekend Firecracker had a playdate with a little boy from her class. They had a grand time, and Hunter was not too pleased when it was time to go. After he made peace with it, he tried to give Firecracker a kiss. She held him off, saying, "It's against the law!" This pleased Dear Husband very much.

It is odd how parents speak of boyfriends and girlfriends at this age. Would kids even think about it if grownups weren't asking "Is so and so your boyfriend?" I remember chasing a boy around the playground when I was in first grade and giving him a kiss when I caught him. He looked terrified. Where I got the idea to do that I don't know. It would never occur to DramaQueen, now entering third grade, to do anything like that. She has been completely impervious to the girlfriend/boyfriend nonsense that was already percolating in second grade. The little blond haired cheerleader (boy they start training young) already had quite a few adoring boys--isn't it odd how you can already predict the trajectory of certain children? It seems like not fussing about boys ought to be the norm for this age.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I fear a worm farm is in my future

The mourning for Wormy continues. I noticed a plump dead worm on the doorstep a few days back. I have to keep telling myself that no, Wormy did not find himself abandoned, get drowned out by rain, and try to crawl his way bag to his pining mistress. Dear Husband tells me that we are getting her another worm. I've been looking up how to make a worm habitat, and it all gives me the heebie jeebies. I mean, ewwww. But it's either that or go out each night to visit the little patch of ground where he was last seen. Today Firecracker dissolved in tears because her playmate had laughed at her for calling Wormy her friend. "He was mmmyy bbbest friend," and she looked up at me with such a heartbroken expression that I almost went teary myself.

On a lighter note, one of my favorite books, Twilight, has been made into a movie and is set to be released in December. After watching the trailer, though, I have my doubts. You can check it out here:

I was delighted to find that Cirque du Freak is being filmed, and it has a stellar cast, including Willem Dafoe and John C. Reilly. The series is great fun to read--like old fashioned cliff-hangers.

Oh, it's late and I need sleep.