31.3.09

Things never turn out quite as expected

Last week I announced that I would be abstaining from the internet in order to better notice the transitions in our home and reset some routines. Monday went really well, I realized that the key times for us are during the mornings before and during school, and after dinner during the bed time routines. Those times need close attention, others, not so much. Also, if I shut down Firefox before I go to bed, I'm likely to not come back to do just one more thing, and it's easier to wait until after lunch to check my email.

Then the rest of the week happened. We had guests for dinner every single night, except Friday when we went to a big family dinner. I had a project that had to be done, and I ended up staying up until 3am several nights in a row in order to finish it.

Friday night I brought the kids home late and put them to bed so the GH could hang out with his brothers, ALL of whom were together for the first time in years. He stayed at his parent's house.

By Saturday morning I was at the end of my ability to cope. I called him in tears because Little would not stop getting off of the toilet before she was finished and dragging me to "See mama, see!" The Boy was wandering away from unloading the dishwasher every 30 seconds, and the girl had managed to find a mud puddle outside and get her hands and feet filthy. This is the kind of thing that happens every day, and it's normally not that big a deal, but on Saturday, I really needed a break.

The GH obliged. And after a trip to the fabric store, a nap, and the knowledge that he would be making dinner for the now 8 rather than 2 dinner guests, I felt better. We chalked it all up to exhaustion and hormones, and I quietly prepared for the imminent arrival of my monthly visitor. Monday she still hadn't arrived and I was grouchy at everyone all morning during the final excursion with my dad to the beach on his last day with us.

I decided to bake a cake since his birthday is next week and I thought it would be fun to surprise him with an early celebration and then the kids could celebrate with him as well. On my sneak run to Target while picking up icing sugar and such, I grabbed the cheapest store brand pregnancy test I could find, and threw it into the basket as well. I was probably remembering the days wrong anyway, it hasn't really been that long since last time. And we are rigorously NOT GETTING PREGNANT RIGHT NOW. After all, it's a fairly unwise thing to try and transition to a completely different country and culture, finish up the mountain of work to do here, and help our children with those same transitions all while puking my guts out, completely absentminded, and virtually useless. Right? Right!

So I went to the bathroom in Target, tore it open the package, peed on the stick and prepared to throw it all in the trash once I had achieved peace of mind. But there was this weird plus sign thingy that immediately appeared. So instead I started perusing the instructions because I realized I didn't even know what the result was supposed to look like. Sure enough, there in my hand were matching stick and illustration of a positive pregnancy test.

The first thing I felt like doing was to apologize to all of my friends who have been trying for so long to get pregnant again, have had recent miscarriages, and still don't have that baby that they long for. They have been the sweetest supporters, the most excited, have hugged me the longest, and offered whatever help I need. I want to cry just thinking about them and their joyful celebration with me, even as their bodies go on every month bleeding out their childless state once again.

I want this baby. I have wanted this baby every day since the day I gave birth to Little. I have known that our family was not yet complete. I didn't know if the next child would come through adoption or conception, but I knew there were more of us to add. I just didn't think this year would be the best time to add that person. It seems that God thought different, because here is a child and we can't even figure out how it was conceived.

I had just, in the last few weeks come to peace with the waiting. I experience tiny little griefs as each month my fertile period would pass by yet again, without producing a child. And yet, I finally realized that the reasons we had for waiting are serious, and very valid. They aren't ill considered selfish or flippant. I wanted to be able to give my very best to my family during this time, and my very best to The Charis Project during this time. My past three pregnancies have involved a lot more sitting and staring aimlessly while clutching my stomach than anything else.

So I am thankful for this child, deeply grateful. At the same time I am afraid that I will be depressed again. I don't want to be haunted by thoughts of death and toy with the outcomes if I were to just let go of the wheel while driving as I did last time. I don't like the way my pregnant chemicals mess with my emotions like that. I am also afraid that I will become a shrew, as I so often have before, especially to my husband, children, and closest family who don't deserve it. They are very compassionate about it, but I still don't like the way I have behaved in the past. These are the things that I am most afraid of.

It's telling I suppose that I am not at all worried about adding another child to our family, or how we will cope with another newborn. I'm not concerned about giving birth in Thailand. I'm pretty good at that part now. I feel confident in my body's ability in labor, and there are competent caregivers to be found.

No, what fills me with the most trepidation is the next 8 months. I pray I can be graceful during this time, as I have never been before. Perhaps this pregnancy is my chance for one big giant do over Maybe this time I can get through it with peace and perhaps even joy. Maybe this time will be healing for us. I can always hope right?

Not Very Glamourous

I think it's a good thing that I came to terms with the day to day drudgery of motherhood before I took on this huge undertaking of launching and administrating a nonprofit organization. Because it's not much different.

It sounds exciting. I get to say things like, "I administrate a non-profit organization that helps orphans and refugees that escaped from the brutal military regime and organized genocide of the Burmese government."

That's a sentence that makes me sound like a really awesome person doing something really super important and exciting. Guess what? It is really super important. The work I do day in and day out could save many lives.

But exciting? Not usually.

I spend a lot of time writing copy for the website and promotional materials. I email people asking them to help or support us. I write business proposals and fill out forms for lawyers. I correspond with the book keeper, I mail out receipts. In essence, it's a ton of hard, hard work, most of it paper work. Which makes my brain boggle. You would have to pay a lot to get someone to do all the things for you that I do as a volunteer.

(Way more important to our organization than me are the people like you who just took a second one day and clicked a sponsor a child button, or a donate button, and perhaps sacrificed something in order to be able to give. The desperately needed money to pay for food and lodging for all of these kids without families comes from these people. Without them there would be no organization. All the world is built on little steps.)

Every so often I get to put on respectable clothes and go out to talk to people in public about it. That's sort of fun. I'm pleased to discover I'm kind of good at that. But that's infrequent. Mostly it's cooking tasty dinners so that the people who are volunteering to do the bits we can't do want to keep coming back to our house to work on it some more. It's the least I can do for people who are giving their time and skills. It is far from glamorous.

But I do it, because it matters that I do. I have learned that the best course, the only course for me any more, is to be faithful to do what I have been given to do, and to do it with all my heart.

Which brings me back to mothering. It's not a very glamorous job description. People aren't impressed when you tell them you are a mother. Though they ought to be.

After all, mothers nurture and protect life itself. They make people. They bring up men and women and the influence they wield over who those men and women will ultimately be is considerable. Mothering is power and influence. Mothers are the ones who keep children fed, clothed, bathed, and cared for in most instances. Ask any child without a mother how important it is to have one.

Yet, as lofty and important as mothering truly is, it's easy to lose sight of that in the day to day reality of what it involves. It's wiping up spills, and washing stinking loads of laundry. It's repeating yourself over and over again. It's laying completely still so you don't wake the feverish child sleeping on your chest. It's falling into bed exhausted every night only to wake up in the morning and do the exact same things, all over again. You would have to pay someone an awful lot to do all the things that mothers do for free.

And yet, there is no way to overstate the importance of faithful mothers in the world. Or fathers.
When you do what is in front of you to do, and you do it to the best of your ability, and you do it with a smile on your face more often than a frown, you are changing someone's life for the better, that of your own child.

The work I do for The Charis Project is important work. Hard, long, monotonous work, often. But it is not a single bit more important than the work I do in taking care of my own children every single day. And not a bit more glamorous.

Which leads me to conclude that any thing worth doing is mostly just a whole lot of hard work. If what you have in front of you to do looks like hard work that doesn't seem all that significant, and you find yourself imagining a different more significant path, chances are you are in the right place. The world needs more people who are faithful in the little things. Every great thing ever accomplished was done by people who set their hand to a task and didn't quit until it was done. Faithful people change the world, one step at a time.

27.3.09

1000 Gifts-Week 22 (The gift of water)

"Good afternoon ma'am. It really is getting to be a warm afternoon out here. My name is Bob, I'm from the Sparklett's Water Company, and this is my partner...oh my look at those beautiful faces."

My children are peeking around me out the door.

"Yes they are," I murmur before he continues.

"Well considering the current economic situation Sparklett's has changed all their prices to way lower than they used to be. Do you drink tap water ma'am."

"Yes we do. Most of the world wishes they had our tap water."

Bob chuckles in surprise. "I really like your perspective."

He doesn't know what to say next. I've thrown him completely off script. So I say, "My husband and I started a non-profit organization to help Burmese refugee communities in northern Thailand, and one of our most pressing concerns is to figure out how to filter chemical pesticides out of drinking water. We live in a first world country, with potable tap water. That's a real gift don't you think?"

He still doesn't know what to say, so I joke, "Do you think Sparklett's would deliver there?"

"Well, maybe you could check out the website and maybe someone real high up in corporate could give you some help there," he says. He's reaching, stretching his brain in unexpected directions.

I doubt it, but I write down the url nonetheless.

Now he's thinking. "Oh, you know what would do it? Charcoal. Just the charcoal from a fish tank. Filter water through there and it gets almost every thing out."

And just like that a guy who was just doing his job a second ago is now actively participating, even for a second, in a life saving venture.

He tells me everything he knows about water filtration systems, which turns out to be quite a lot. I scribble a few things down. (I'm confident that the civil engineer we have on board who designs complete village water systems knows these things too. But a great idea could come from anywhere, even a water salesman.)

I thank him. He hands me a brochure and asks me to call if I ever change my mind, and then he bids us good-day before moving on to the next apartment.

"Who was that man mommy?" the kids all ask.

"Oh, he was just a man from a bottled water company, trying to sell us water."

"But we don't need that water," the Boy declares. "Do we mommy?"

I hug him close and agree. "No sweetie. We don't."

26.3.09

the image of a woman

I'm not much closer to this ideal than I was two years ago when I first posted this. If anything I have become less aware and less diligent in a few areas. (Well, I'm better at showing love to the GH.) Perhaps I'm simply posting it to remind myself. How I conduct myself at home matters. It matters a lot.

************************

I have an audience. Well, I've had an audience for the past 5 or so years but I usually don't notice them, until they play back my performances for me; the highlights and the low lights. I see myself in the way they get impatient over silly things, or boss each other around. I see myself also in the way they have a large vocabulary and make silly faces and sing what they want to say. (Yes, I often sing instead of talk, they think it's hilarious, and it helps me to not yell everything I say.)

The Genius Husband is out of town for several days for work. So this Shabbat was a potentially lonely affair as Beema's house was not an option either. I am committed to making this time special for my children, and so I baked the Challah bread, and cookies, and chicken cordon bleu. I promised them that we could go swimming once the bread was baked and the chicken was in the oven. When we came in from the pool and dressed for dinner I let the Girl put on her dry clean only princess dress. (I made a pinafore to cover it two weeks ago so she can wear it more often, from an old sheet, without a pattern, and it's pretty. I'm kind of impressed with myself since I don't sew that often.) The Boy asked my advice on what to wear that would be appropriate and so I felt an event coming on and seized the moment. I pulled out a black lace cocktail dress from my closet, lined, pleased that it only showed a bit of a tummy pooch and that that disappeared when I stood up straight and sucked in. I put my hair up, I wore my pearls. (It's too bad the GH wasn't here because when I passed by a mirror while getting people into bed I noticed that with my tan and this dress I could almost pass for one of those really well preserved Italian women that I admire all the time. Except for fabulous legs of course.)

We approached the Shabbat table, carefully dressed, combed and much less haphazard than is usual. I began to get a true sense of home as temple which sometimes eludes me. While we were singing the blessing I closed my eyes briefly, when I opened them I saw the Boy with his eyes closed in that way that children do when they want to still see what's going on. Then the Girl echoed my every word as I prayed, learning by imitation how to be me; how to mother and teach and lead her family through a spiritual practice. It suddenly hit me full force that I am their image of what a woman is, they will carry who I am with them for the rest of their life and it will color everything. I hope it's not too late to reverse some things, to change that image for a better one. I hope I become a good role model in time for it to help them.

It may be because I have been reflecting this week on how I feel as though I am playing catch up in some areas of my domestic life and thinking that those are also the places where my mother was behind, like discretion, gratitude, keeping a house clean, and joyful diligent service, thing my grandmother tried to teach me but unfortunately at that time I had no desire to learn. (I love my mom a lot and I don't mean to be critical, I'm just obsessively analytical about things.) I tend to procrastinate, and I've caught myself teaching the Boy to be a procrastinator telling him to leave something that he's doing until later because it's more convenient for me. Suddenly I'm remembering my mom doing the same thing, and helping me through the crunch times just before a deadline, instead of helping me to do things as soon as they needed to be done. Both my parents were horrible procrastinators.

I know that I didn't learn to be kind to my husband from her, all I remember is fighting and resentment and divorce. I wish I had learned to be a good wife from her, but it isn't something she could teach me when I was younger though I know she wished she could.* And I don't remember her looking nice. I remember her braless in man shirts with bare legs. I remember her putting her makeup on in the car on the way to church. I remember her being self conscious and fidgety and uncomfortable and rushed but I don't remember what she looked like when she dressed up. I want my children to remember me as pretty, lovely, gentle, soft-spoken, kind. I want them to remember that I love their father, not that I was angry at him last weekend for packing work tools and lumber into the car with little kids in order to save trips. I want to give them the gift of home, I want my son to think I'm the standard by which he should find a wife.

I am so far away from that right now.

All of this flooded into my brain in between lighting the candles and serving dinner. With a new awareness I saw my children watching me as I ate, imitating the way I held my wine glass, and echoing my words. I found myself sitting up straighter, smiling at them more, and doing my best to be a good example. More than table manners though I hope I can show them what kindness, joy, and gratitude look like.

*Things I did learn from my mother include; how to cook, how to read, how to figure out how to do something by myself, how to stick up for myself, how to stick up for other people, how take care of people, how to teach, how to be a creative problem solver, and how to pray.

25.3.09

Things That Make Me Happy, and Sad.

Whenever my kids have to give someone a gift their first thought is to go through their own toys and treasures and choose something to give away. It's always one of their favorite things.

And there are very few people in our culture who would appreciate such a gift, or understand it's value, instead thinking us cheap and ungenerous.

But to supplement their gift somehow, with something "better" cheapens in their own eyes the value of their extravagant generosity. It tells them that their sacrifice isn't good enough.

I don't know yet how to deal with this one.

*************

Moving. I enjoy the act of purging that a move requires, especially the reckless shedding of stuff I would otherwise hold onto. And I enjoy the anticipation of the new places and new adventures.

I always start looking around the home we are leaving and feeling grief at leaving the place where so many things happened; the hallway where Little first walked, the pool where the Boy first swam on his own, the comfort of a place that has been home for so long. The one thing I regret about marrying such a restless type is that I will probably never really settle in anywhere and call a place home for even a decade at a time.

*************

My children are growing up. I am joyfully celebrating each milestone with them, and helping them grow and learn.

Yet I can't help missing the way they once were, even as I watch them become more fully themselves each day.

*************

I am weak.

But He is strong.

24.3.09

Casting Stones and Becoming Lighter

I thought it would be appropriate to repost this from a couple of years ago. Especially since my dad was just here, and our relationship is much improved in the past few years, most especially my perspective on who he is. Also because it's Lent, and I just wrote about the similarities I find between Lent and the high holy days prior to Yom Kippur, which is when I wrote this.






One of the activities that go on during the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is to make things right with people, along with prayer and good deeds, and taschliche (To cast.)

We take stones to the sea or to moving water that flows to the sea, and we cast them into it. The stones have our sins written on them, sometimes literally, often figuratively, and we throw them away into deep fast moving water from which we cannot retrieve them. We throw away the things we are sorry for, the things we did wrong and want to make right, the habits that we find hard to escape and slip right back into the next day; anger, rebellion, self-pity, and meanness.

It’s a symbolic act, a picture of the cleansing that takes place on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It’s the day by which all should be made right, and messianic Jews go one step further and celebrate it as the day we remember that all things were made right, for all time, by the only High Priest any longer required, he who is after the order of Melchizedec. (Hebrews 7:11-28) What it teaches me is that I can by no means purify myself. For though I trust that I am forgiven and that my wrong doing truly lays in the “depths of the sea, my stone always seems to come back to me, year after year, day after day, I cast the same stone, feel the same remorse, and experience the same flood of grace.

This year, in the spirit of making things right, I’ve been talking to my dad. He doesn’t really know what’s going on, but I’ve been trying, in my heart, to let go and move on. I’ve been trying to breath through the hurt reactions that come so quickly, to hear past the tapes that always repeat and the years of pain and disappointment and rejection, to hear him as he is right now. He too has stones to cast and he has cast them. I’m tired of trying to figure out if he or my mother is more accurate, if any abuse did or did not take place. Stories change, people revise.

I had a chance this year to drive him away. I held the moment in my hands, knowing that my next few words could prevent me from ever needing to deal with him again. Part of me longed to do it. I just wanted to be free of the stress, the difficulty, the salt in old wounds that his arrival seems to bring. But I didn’t, and I won’t. Because the better part of me doesn’t want things to end like that. I want him in my life. I no longer expect from him the kind of fathering I wish I had had, or the emotional maturity that would make things easier. But I want him around. Our journey together is not yet finished.

I am trying to approach him with grace, the same grace that has been extended towards me time and again without ceasing. I know that he loves me, and I know that he did the best he could do, given the tools that he had. I want to forgive the rest. Good intentions don’t keep me warm at night, but with the life that I have now and the family I have been given, I don’t need any more than that, any more.

There is still a little girl who cries for her daddy from time to time, but I suspect she is starting to grow up too, to catch up with the rest of me. And so with deep breaths, but more lightness than I had thought possible, I will close this little chapter of my life for now. While I may look at it again some day, I don’t intend to for a long time. On that note there are a few old posts that I will be deleting, because I don’t want their existence to become an obstacle to any future relationship we may have. They were real, and helpful to me to say, but I no longer want them public. It feels right, I believe it is right to take them down.

That is all.

23.3.09

In absentia

I'll not be using my computer this week. Except once a day to keep up on email, and maybe a few other times if I can't avoid work.

You won't notice really, I have posts automatically scheduled to publish. Some I just wrote, some are favorites from the archives.

It's time for a reset in my home. It's time to change, tweak, rearrange and alter the bits of life, and the order they string together in, so they do us all the most good. I'm finding it hard to be conscious of the transitions, those little moments that are built into my day and take me from one activity to the next without thinking. I've realized that it's because almost every transition has attached to it a return to my desk, to check email, to type something I've just thought of, to nurse Little while reading blogs. I can't notice and repair the transitions that are faltering when I am so habitually ignoring them by being online.

So, the reset begins. I'm wiping the memory of old settings and starting new. See you next week. I hope.

******
Also this week, Little is potty training, and family is visiting from Thailand.

20.3.09

1000 Gifts-Week 21











  • The girl likes to make lunch these days. It's worth cleaning up all the peanut butter and honey glops to see the pride on her face as she brings lunch to the table.
  • Beautiful weather. The kind where the breeze smells sun warmed and the birds won't stop singing or nesting, and it all smells so green.
  • Apparently I am the only person who is aware of my complete and utter failure on so many personal levels. Perhaps I am exaggerating the level to which which suck in my own mind? Seriously, there is nothing like feeling the day has been nothing but an endless string of blunders and having the GH smile at me at the end of the day and tell me I'm doing a really good job.
  • Our friend Eric who made the nifty new sponsor a child widget in my sidebar. Feel free to get it for yourself and post it everywhere.
  • That my worst difficulty so far in raising/educating the Boy is that he understands all of his math, but he's too bored with the work to concentrate long enough to finish his workbook activities. Frustrating as this week has been, it's not that big a deal.
  • A good talk with my dad.

The gratitude community is here.

18.3.09

Open Letter to the Dad at a Little Girl's Birthday Party.

Do you know how much of a heel you make yourself when you, an unemployed dad, mock your wife, who works full time to support you, puts hours into launching a home business on the side so she can stay home with her children while continuing to support you, and is exactly 3 months postpartum, for eating what everyone else is eating because you think she is eating too much and should be losing the weight faster than she already is?

I guess not, because you would not stop, and it made everyone distinctly uncomfortable.

And then, when you were done with that you would NOT. SHUT. UP. about how BORING it is to watch little kids all the time. You have not had a steady job in 3 years. I hardly think you can blame that track record on the economy. If you hate watching kids so much, shut up, grow a pair, actually look for a job for a change, and support your family so your wife can stay home with the children she loves and take care of them.

It's one thing if you two have agreed on this arrangement as best for you, which you haven't, and it's another if you have fallen on hard times and are doing your best to get by, which you don't seem to be. But to sit there whining and moaning about how watching your children falls to you and you don't like it is absolutely moronic. Please shut up.

YOUR SYSTEM IS PERFECTLY DESIGNED TO PRODUCE THE RESULT YOU ARE GETTING!

From,
The neighbor mom whose lip hurts from biting it.

Overheard

As we drive along in the car the kids are playing in the back seat with the Girl's dolls.

Girl:This one is Hannah, and this one is Ariel.

Boy, as he holds the boy doll: What's my name? You haven't given me a name yet.

Girl: You can choose any name you want.

Boy: No. I want you to give me a name.

Girl: Okay then, you can be Jack, because that's short for Jackson Rod Stewart.

Boy: NOOO! I don't want to be Jackson Rod Stewart. I just want to be Jack.

Girl: Okay then. Jackson Rod Stewart can be his last name.

Boy: Yeah, and I can be can just be Jackson.

17.3.09

twoshirts.org

These cool people came to our church this week. They started this thing called two shirts. It comes from that place in the Bible that says, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)

Simple enough right?

Two shirts is a place where you can give your extra stuff to someone who needs it in your city. Here is the mission statement from their website.

Our Mission & Values

Our mission is to connect people, groups, and communities in relationships of generosity. By sharing our resources, and by forming local groups committed to activism and outreach, we will help meet each other's needs in order to live a better life, in a better community.

We are driven by a passion for three values:

Equality:
Our goal is to promote a more just and equitable community by generously giving to those who have needs, and by freely receiving from others who can meet our needs.

Relationships:
Market-driven communities create isolation and greed because cash frees us from the gratitude and indebtedness inherent in gift-giving. We believe this kind of relational detachment is the truest form of bankruptcy. Therefore, we aim to foster relationships of grace and gratitude by practicing direct, person-to-person giving.

Participation:
We believe the popular concept of poverty contains a destructive lie: that some people have nothing. The truth is, every person has something to offer. When we treat those with little money and material possessions as though they have nothing, we exclude them from humanity and debilitate their role in the community.

Rather, we believe everybody has something to give. Therefore, we ask everyone to give something in order to get something from the Twoshirts community. We believe this promotes dignity, responsibility, and inclusion for everyone, especially those normally thought of as poor.

Cool Huh?

So go check it out. See what you have to give. Counter the current emotional and financial climate of this country with generous giving.

Things you never think you will hear yourself say...

...until you become a parent.

To Little sitting on the potty and wiping her own bum for the very first time.

"No, no, no, no, no, honey. We don't wipe our neck with the pee covered toilet paper. You don't need to wipe your neck off, put it in the toilet."

Little:[indignant screaming that expresses her assurance she is doing it correctly and I am cruel for preventing her.]

15.3.09

Foreshadowing

At the gas station.

Boy, out the window to his dad, who can't hear him,

"Daddy. you. are. a. BOOGER!"

To Girl.

"Was that cool?"

Girl, in a bored, matter of fact tone,

"Yeah, you said 'you are a booger'."

I have a feeling I already know what the teen years are going to look like.

1000 Gifts-Week 20

The last few days have reminded me how truly blessed I am to be married to the Guy I am married to. I've been around men who make fun of their wives, who work full time to support them and their children while they do nothing, a neighbor's alcoholic husband was arrested for identity theft because he pretended to be someone else to get out of a traffic ticket. I suppose compared to these sleazeballs it's not hard to be a better husband, so perhaps I don't flatter him that much, but I'm grateful he's so unlike them nonetheless.

Then there us the woman who spoke to me on the weekend who confided that in her 16 year first marriage she never once had a pleasurable reaction to sex. She didn't even know it was possible. Again, I'm grateful that my husband is nothing like hers. usually the things I notice aren't framed by such negative connotations. But sometimes it takes that for me to stop and consider what great gifts are right in front of me. And always have been.

  • Little babbling words, pointing at everything and calling the names out loud. I find real pleasure in watching her go through all of these learning stages.
  • That she is now asking me to take her to the potty so she can poo is also pretty cool.
  • The glimpses I catch of the Girl's wildly creative mind at work, either in play or while making things.
  • That I am not so silly as I once was. Perhaps one day, in several years, I will be truly wise.
  • A chat with my sister who is now expecting a baby. She sounds really happy and peaceful in her new life.
  • Love Me Tender sung by Nora Jones I love her voice, and every time I hear this song this week I am moved to tears.
  • The peace that comes from knowing that I don't have to have it all figured out. I just need to know what to do next.
  • The way the Boy's blue, blue eyes light up when he smiles.

The gratitude community is here.

12.3.09

7 Quick Takes (Episode 4?)



1.)I've been thinking about why a person's self esteem seems to plummet when their weight goes up. Perhaps I am thinking about it because when I wasn't looking I gained at least 10 pounds, in each thigh. At least, that's what it feels like. Getting dressed is depressing. I can still get my pants done up, but they don't look so cute right now, and they aren't that comfortable anymore either. Buying pants in bigger sizes is, well, defeating, not to mention impossible since they are all skinny in the thighs, and by the time I find a pair that don't feel too tight in the thigh area, the waist is hanging below my bottom. I'm inclined to just give up and wear my yoga pants every day until I've got my old body back. Which I am working on BTW. With the exception of honey in my tea to soothe my throat, I've not had any sugar since Ash Wednesday. [Yes, it's a Lent thing. See #2]

Here's why I think that a person's self esteem is affected by weight gain. I don't think it's solely because of their appearance, though that can be depressing. I don't believe most of us are really as shallow as that, though we may think we are. I think it has to do with the fact that weight gain, the kind where you do it to yourself, is a indicator of lack of self control. I think that the depression and low feelings that come from looking in the mirror are more from the feeling of being out of control, of knowing that there is no personal discipline in this area and it shows.

Not to say that I am feelings all of those things to any great extent, but I read blog friends who are really struggling with this, and trying to understand why it's so hard. My own small experience makes me wonder if much of our modern depression stems from this awareness of our perceived inability to master our own wills, to overcome our own appetites.

Hmmm, come to think of it. This is kind of a reoccurring theme in Bible isn't it?

Romans 7:19


2.) It took practicing Jewish feast days for 3 years or so before Lent finally made sense to me. I've never observed Lent before, I could never figure out what purpose it served in our spiritual life. And since I'm not part of a denomination that observes the traditional church calendar in anyway, I didn't really think about it. And then celebrating Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanna I discovered this 40 day period of fasting,contrition and reconciliation that was to precede Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). Well, In my experience there was always a benefit to what God told His people to do back then, often a benefit that remains today. [For instance, an opportunity to get our appetites back under control.] And then a year or two later I sort of got that, well, for Christians, Good Friday is our once and forever day of atonement. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice that forever removes the burden of sin. So fasting before Good Friday made sense in that respect too. Along with this is Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year, also the day of blowing the trumpets and celebrating God as King of the Earth. It happens 10 days before Yom Kippur. Interesting, since Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was greeted as a king only a short 7 days before Good Friday. It's like He did it on purpose, and the early church understood it, how He fulfilled all the feast days at once. And that's why they worked a remembrance of them into church practise. I am yet again a nerd for finding these sorts of things fascinating. Sorry to bore you to tears.

And if you are Jewish, please don't hate me. I'm not trying to offend, though I know there is a lot of potential to offend in what I just said.

3.)My FIL used to say, about every second sermon, "Coming to Jesus means coming to a place where you are loved and accepted as you are, and then you are given the power to change." I keep thinking about it in connection with #1.

4.) So how do you all feel about my blogging more about faith? I'm not really sure who is reading? It's not something I do often, because I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to shove my faith down their throat. But the discussion over at Lindsey's blog has me thinking. She says at one point that though she is a Christan, she's not a stereotypical Christian blogger. She feels that to try to be so would be an inauthentic representation of her self and where she's at. It has me thinking that perhaps for me to avoid discussing it most of the time is just as inauthentic because it's something I think about every day, it's a deep part of me. I really enjoy a good theological discussion. Discuss?

5.)Another idea that I think is original to me, but someone else much smarter probably said once. No decision originates in a vacuum. It is the sum total of all the decisions leading up to it. Every single decision I make, however minor, strengthens one part of me, or another. The decision to have a second piece of cake, "Oh go ahead, it's only the neighbor kid's birthday once a year." is a decision that makes it even easier to choose to overindulge next time. Whereas even one single decision, in the opposite direction, strengthens me to make another decision like it the next time it's presented. Just saying, "No thank-you, I won't have cake." and then not having any, not even a little taste, makes saying no the next time an easier thing to do. This of course applies in many other areas, but I obviously have cake on the brain, what with two birthday parties tomorrow.

6.) Can I just say how much I HATE daylight savings time? I think it is an evil plot concocted by minions of evil. "Bwahahahah, look at them, none of them has had a decent sleep all week. Look at those children, they have no idea how to adjust. Oh, look at her, look how behind she is right now. Look how stressed to realize that she's got an hour less than she thought she did, bwahahahahaha." Someone make the madness stop. Can't we strike? Protest? Do something to stop complying with this no longer necessary insanity en mass? Anyone?

7.)One of life's most difficult questions is how much of it do you just let go. When you see something wrong, something tragic, and there are so many, how do you choose what to invest your time and energy in trying to change? We cant' all change it all. But each of us can have some influence, how do we use it? I'm sure much of it has to do with where our strengths lie. I'm not a doctor, so if I see an accident I'm not the best person to be there taking care of injured. I would do it if there was no one else, but there are many better qualified. On the other hand, if I saw the accident I could easily fill out a witness report, or take the victim's family a casserole, I have the skills necessary to do that.

I'm carrying in my heart so many things that are wrong and sad and need to be changed beyond my little corner, and my little project. And I believe that what we are doing to help these kids, and their tribes, and communities is very worthwhile. But I know there are so many other needs out there. It's hard to know whether to just shut the door to knowing as much about some of them, so I can keep functioning, or if I should stay aware, even though I can do very little. Well, I can pray. And I do believe that's more than a little. Perhaps I just answered my own question.

More 7 Quick Takes here.

How to Get Through the Hard Times Together

That's the title of my post, over at Wedded Bliss today. I quite like the pictures in it, so go check it out.

ps. Thanks for all the cleaning tips yesterday, I have yet to try them but I'll let you know how it works out.

11.3.09

Elbow Grease Isn't Cutting It.

The Girl's latest passion is hearts. She draws heart shapes, she cuts out heart shapes, she colors heart shapes. So many hearts have we around here that even Little will point out a heart to me and exclaim, "Howt mama, howt." So I knew exactly who it was that took a ball point pen and doodled multiple hearts on the table bench this morning while I was in the shower.

As part of her consequences she had to clean it up. She had to get it all clean before she was allowed to paint. Oh did she ever want to paint. I left her with some vinegar and a scrubby sponge, hoping that since vinegar works so well to get pen off of skin it might have similar effect on weathered paint. She told me a little while later that soap was working.

It was very quiet, and that should have alerted me.

Three hours, 1/4 of a bottle of dish soap, a sodden floor, several soaking wet rags, and the determined use of a scrub brush later, the bench is cleaner than it has ever been. It literally gleams. She really worked hard.

But the hearts are still there.

Anyone know how to clean up ball point pen scribbles?

9.3.09

Trust

One of my absolute favorite things about being a mom is this. That moment, when a child cries out in their sleep. They are crying and yelling and kicking around and I lay down next to them, and whisper, "It's ok, mama's here", into their ear while caressing their cheek or their hair, and in a few moments the tension leaves their body, their breathing slows, and they heave a soft little sigh of relief before burrowing deeper into their pillow and going all the way back into a deep sleep. That moment is priceless. To know that for that child, right then, knowing that I am nearby is all that matters.

Of course, there are often times when a mother soothes her child to sleep, only to lie wide awake herself, full of fear, and worry, and doubt. Just the monumental realization that she is so important to such a small treasure like her child is often enough to do it. How will she keep her child safe, as he trusts her to, in a world so full of turmoil and uncertainty? Who will soothe and reassure her that everything is going to be all right? Who can she trust?

I wonder how mothers, or anyone for that matter, who don't trust that God is good do it. How do they go through the days in a world that they believe is at best indifferent and at worst hostile to them. I can't help but compare that kind of experience to what it must be like for a child to be an orphan.

1000 Gifts-Week 19

Last week my husband was gone for 4 days, visiting his brother. That left me at home by myself with 3 sick children. And you know what? It wasn't all that bad. We were fine, I was fine. A little stressed out by bedtime on Saturday night, especially at the thought of losing an hour in the morning, but I would probably have been that way even if he were home. Once this would have been too much for me. I'm glad that the years have strengthened me, that I can manage things I couldn't before with ease. Over all I've found my children entirely delightful this week. Which is reflected in this week's list of things I consider gifts.

  • Laying next to Little in the dark with my nose pressed against her warm head, breathing in the scent of her soft hair.
  • The Girl's grinning freckled face as she gets out of the bath.
  • Kisses at bedtime.
  • The, unimaginable for so many people, bounty of needing to figure out what to do with leftovers.
  • A supportive and loving extended family close by.
  • The Girl telling silly stories, her face filled with delight over the crazy details she has imagined.
  • The Boy leaning casually against a wall clad only in a pair of old jeans. Muscles ripple all over his belly and chest. I marvel that something so exquisitely formed lived in my body once.
  • When we are outside and Little wants me to pick her up she comes toward me, arms stretched straight out at the sides, grinning at me.
  • Washing machines.
  • Strawberries.
  • Homecomings.
The gratitude community is here.

5.3.09

What high school didn't teach me.

I got a forward a few weeks ago from an old friend. It was a request from an alumni association at the high school I graduated from. They are looking for brilliant stories from former graduates to inspire future graduates to join their program. Since I was in a fancy pants honor program called International Baccalaureate, they are expecting very brilliant stories. [As an aside, in case you didn't know before I have just revealed that I was a total nerd in high school.] For example, one of my fellow classmates, is now doing something really brainy in the field of astrophysics somewhere in England last I heard.

Here is their letter.
Former IBer's

We are currently putting together a few short biographies of past IB Students
here at Thurber to use in recruiting presentations (a sort of 'Brag Book" if
you like. I was wondering if you would be willing to email me a few short
lines according to the following headings:

Where did you go to university/college?

What degrees/certifications did you receive/are working on?

What are you doing professionally?

What achievements/successes are interested in sharing personally and
professionally?

How did IB help prepare you for your post secondary career and/or your
professional life?

Also if you could attach a current photo to the email it would be great.

Contact Information that we can use to track you down again or to pass on to
former classmates if they ask.



This information would only be used in school presentations and newsletters and
no print ads etc.

I understand how busy you must be, but if you could take a few moments to reply
to this email we in the IB Program here at Thurber would really appreciate it.

Take care.
Here is my initial response.

Dear IB People,

Professionally I currently wipe the poopie butts and clean up the other crap of my three offspring, whom I consider my most important life's work to date. I am also a wife. My IB education was not very useful in either the conception of nor the subsequent birthing of said children. Unless you count the fact that I was able to use big words and intimidate the medical staff at the hospital to get what I wanted while in labor. Interestingly enough though, when I finally learned to think less about the conception and birth process and rather just experience it, I became a whole lot better at it.

I'm not sure it has been of much value in the raising of these children either. Though I do teach them myself at home, and they do read pretty well, and add and stuff, so perhaps it is coming in handy in that respect.

I found the study of European history only indirectly helpful in maintaining the relationships that are integrally important to how I rate my success in life, and much of my well being. [Though there is something to be said for the value of world literature in this area.] I did leave IB with a sense of entitlement and a vague sense of being better than other people since I was so far removed from those "other people" during my three years of high school. I learned that attitude from my many peers in IB, though I'm sure I was naturally inclined toward it already. It has not served me well. In fact, only when I was able to stop thinking of myself as anyone special, and instead appreciate the life that I do have as the miraculous gift that it is was I able to find any peace or contentment. And those are things worth having, far better than money or success.

Theory of knowledge was helpful, in that it introduced me to logic and reason and helped me to consider and act rather than react. Of course, I did not absorb enough of it's benefit in time to prevent me from throwing my education ideas to the wind upon the suggestion of a guidance counselor, who only knew me from my academic record, that I major in music as I seemed to have an aptitude. That is how I learned to never let anyone tell me I should choose to do something just because I am good at it. If I don't love it, or have a reason for doing it that I love even more, motivation is hard to come by. It doesn't matter how many scholarships I win or how much praise I receive.

I spent 2 years working on a bachelor of music, spending hours in a practice room improving my ability to perform beautiful music for people who could afford to pay for the price of admission. After one too many after parties with respected professionals drinking too much wine and starting to leer at me, and one too many profs asking "Why are you here?" I abandoned my fruitless quest to convince myself that a professional music career mattered enough to devote my life to.

I spent a few years wandering around, learning, taking care of people, living closely with others in love and compassion and I realized that life is more than pieces of paper, professional success, or material gain, though those things have a very practical value. What really matters is the people we pass, the lives we touch, the relationships we build. These are the only things that matter in the end.

These lessons were not things that I could learn in IB. I am by no means belittling the value of an excellent education. It makes things easier for a person in whatever course they choose. But I no longer mistake a good education for wisdom, and I would rather possess the latter. That can only be come by the hard way, by living with your choices.

If you want something to brag about, I feel like the work I do as co-founder and administrator of a non-profit organization called The Charis Project that is focused on bringing help and aid to communities of Burmese refugees, caring for orphaned, abandoned and forgotten children, and maybe in the long run, through the care of these, changing the history of Burma itself is a pretty significant endeavor, one I am proud to be part of.

I write a lot too. Some of what I write is even read by other people. That's kind of neat. Thanks IB English for building a skill that I use every single day.

Sincerely,
Carrien

************
So, what do you think? Do I send it?

4.3.09

Some words I wrote once are in an actual real book!

Of course, most of the words in that book come from Mary Ostyn, writer of one of my favorite blogs, Owlhaven. Mary is mom to 10 kids, just married off her eldest daughter, just published her first book, and I hear is almost finished with the second already.

What is the book called you ask? The Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family, which she seems qualified to write don't you think? Not only does it have advice specific to large families, but also lots of wisdom that a parent of any number will find helpful. It also contains the story of their journey to add 6 children to their family through international adoption.

And some words I wrote are in it, which makes it extra cool. [kidding]

Mary is giving away one free copy a week for the next 4 weeks. Go here to find out how to win a copy of your very own.

3.3.09

I AM Marilla Cuthbert

In Anne of Green Gables, Marilla Cuthbert is often the enemy. At least that's how she appeared to me in all of my readings as a child. Her severe, dour outlook was in direct opposition to the romantic Anne's impulsiveness and flights of fancy. When Matthew shows up with Anne in his cart she purses her lips and says, "We were supposed to get a boy, to help you with your work."

Ever practical she refuses to make Anne a dress with puffed sleeves, seeing the fashion for what it is, ridiculous, frivolous and silly. My childhood heart would long for Anne to get her puffed sleeves, cheered for Matthew when he bought a dress in secret, and chafed alongside her at all of the severe restrictions Marilla placed on her girlhood freedom.

Now I am the mother of little girls. I often refuse to get them things that they long for as we walk through the store because it's either ridiculous, frivolous or silly. I am exasperated with their endless foolishness, especially when the results are disastrous, things are broken, clothes are wet, order disrupted, all in the name of some girlish flight of fancy. I respond to drama with acerbic observations and point out obvious, unpleasant consequences. I am desperate to ground this this flighty girl and force into her some pragmatism and sense of duty. I have little patience for the imaginings of my girl/s, especially when they get in the way of what needs doing right now. I am the enemy.

At least, that's how I feel.

But Marilla is also the woman who decided to keep Anne with her, rather than let her go into a situation of indentured servitude. Marilla made her clothes and meals, taught her to cook and sew, and helped her through the consequences of her several disastrous escapades. Marilla stood up for her when no one else did. Marilla was the firm reliable place in Anne's life. Marilla was home. Marilla loved Anne fiercely, and showed it by doing what was best for her, even when she didn't agree.

Marilla wasn't the enemy, but the staunchest ally a little girl/young woman could have. Anne eventually came to realize this. Hopefully, if I play my cards right, my girls will too.

2.3.09

1000 Gifts-Week 18

We spent some time at the beach with our friends from out of town this week. There are some really nice beaches around here. It's always fun to go and explore again and show people around who haven't been there before. It was a long exhausting day, but we enjoyed all of it. At low tide there were some spectacular clear tide pools, full of interesting things to look at. My pictures of tide pools never turn out but I take them anyway. At one point we were all very close to a baby sea lion. It's mother was up on a rock, but the baby couldn't get to her because it was low tide. So it kept swimming around below the rock, and the mother kept barking, and it was all very tragic. Except the tide was coming in and soon the mother seal would be able to reach the water, and the baby seal would be able to reach the rock, and all would be well again. I found myself thinking how many of my dramas are easily resolved with the passing of a little time, and the exercise of a little patience.

It was cool to be that close to a baby sea lion though. Here's a picture.
  • a naked toddler bottom chugging down the hall toward the bath.
  • kindness
  • a day at the beach with dear friends we haven't seen in a really long time
  • That the snotty, coughing kids aren't puking. (sometimes it's the small mercies that matter the most.)
  • People who show that they care by their actions.
  • They way that Little opens her mouth wide and looks sideways at me full of mischief when she's about to try something funny.
  • How well the Boy is growing up.
  • Lunch that I didn't have to make.
  • Snuggles that make everything almost better.
  • A spectacular sunset over the ocean. (My camera doesn't do it justice, especially the colors.)
  • I didn't need a sweater this weekend, it's warming up.
  • Hermit crabs, such funny little things to watch.
  • Fresh blueberries.
  • Green all over the hills.
  • Rocks, also all over the hills. Very cool in contrast to the green.
  • This guy. I really like him.


The gratitude community is here.

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