Saturday, December 31, 2005

Sometimes it just happens

Mothers hope to influence their children, but we know mostly we only throw out ideas like fluffy white feathers to the faint wind. While children dance and play in the falling plumes, one may capture a pearly prize in his youthful hands. He may turn the trapped feather over in his palm carefully examining the bony sheath tying together gentle sprays of velvet shoots. The child will caress his cheeks sensing it's softness. He'll pellmell toss the feather again and again watching it drift silently and smoothly to join the others waiting on the quiet earth. Or sometimes the boy will save the feather. The fellow may stick in a jar of treasures or into the brim of a favorite hat and wear it around. He may share the plume's mysteries with other interested children over for an afternoon of merry making and friendship.
Today my son, Tator, snagged a cascading feather I'd cast out rather casually on Christmas day. I purchased a Tommy Emmauel CD for strictly on advice not experience from another homeschool mother I don't know well, but whom I respect deeply. She highly recommended Tommy Emmanuel, because her pickin' and grinnin' sons had introduced Tommy's lovely music to their family.
Two days ago, Tator put the CD on while playing legos. He purposely came and thanked me, "Mom, you were right. I never heard about this man, but I DO love this music." Today Tator's vacillated between going to the front porch to jump on his gift of a pogo stick from his brother Peace, and back inside to practice a song on his guitar with Tommy.
Tears stung my eyes as I was wiping the blue marbled kitchen counter and began to comprehend what was happening. As the day passes by, I cannot always distinguish between the playing on the CD and my son, because he's determined to learn the song. He's learned the tune- not the intricate finger work.
No way on earth could I have persuaded him with bribe nor threats to spend his day this excellent way. He suddenly caught a glorious feather and has decided to keep it. Forever. I am delighted.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Five End o' the Year Questions

Questions borrowed from The Quiet Life who borrowed them from someone else.

1. What kept you sane this year?

Reading great books, writing, working out, teaching, gardening, chats with friends, spiritual formation, trips

2. What was the best book you read?

One educational reread- _Marva Collins Way_ Marva Collins
Fiction _The Keeper of the Bees_ Gene Stratton Porter
Another educational read _Children Who are not yet Peaceful_ Goertz
Favorite read aloud with my children, I could hardly stand the suspense myself- _The Great American Elephant Chase_ Cross

3. What was your favorite TV show?

TV has lost it's luster this year altogether for me.

4. Who was the best new person you met?

So many, but the person on my mind is Myra Arnold

5. Tell us a valuable life lesson.

Criticizing another without taking time to know a person or his or her motives damages a person and their family both publically and inwardly. Preserving others dignity, humanity, and reputation far outweighs stating personal opinions and positions.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Glamour Grandma and Girl

Swim Birthdays


The Best Christmas Company Ever

Five Weirds

I've never been tagged before, and I'm not sure I would have been if Martha, Martha had known I was usually picked last for practically everything in grade school. So here's the meme (I don't even know what that stands for by the way).

Five Weird Habits I have:

1. I am somewhat compulsive about washing dirty dishes in the sink, and this extends beyond my own home.

2. I read several books at one time. Right now I'm reading Blue Shoe, Mrs. Kimble, Peace Child, and Watchman Nee's Assembly Life. And I'll add Kite Runner as soon as I find it again (thanks, Clay).

3. I never took pictures until I got a digital camera on my birthday last April. My birthday really is April Fool's Day.

4. I still pick out my clothes the night before, and if I haven't, the next day I become deeply depressed about not knowing what to wear.

5. I hate to repeat myself, so why, oh why do I have four children?

Now for the hard part, since I've never successfully added links to a post yet. I need to tag five folks who are most welcome to decline my invitation to post their own five weird habits.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Cost

I've been couting the cost today. Every little thing I allow into my sphere costs something.

For example, my computer which saves me oodles of convenience time and energy from writing snail mail, saves and even corrects my writing, allows me to shop online, and blog causes me to expend much time and effort. Since my computer crashed last month, my Norton's Anti- Virus could not offer a single solution which worked to save my computer from the trojan downloader and trojan vundo virus double whammy. I've already mentioned I had to dump every precious file I could not retrieve and start over from scratch. Scratch meant my $40 year's subscription to Norton's got dumped, but I got a free trial month from factory settings to maybe "protect" my 'puter till I could set the old account back up. Today I spent quite a while online searching for a way to contact the Norton company, but I never succeeded in finding an email or online way to do so without my old forever gone account numbers. Grrrr. I did find several international phone numbers. I called the California number and listened to a recorded message for yet another phone number for customer service. I waited a good long time on hold at that number, listening to annoying versions of "Rudolf" when a gentleman, who sounded as though he was sitting in a cubby in India, plodded through his list of questions and responses. Sometimes the answers didn't nearly match the questions I was asking, "Why can't you just look up my address and name for my account? You'll see I paid in September." He answered, "It doesn't work that way mam. You must wait until I ask you for that information. I will tell you when it comes up." Fine, I'll wait till your computer screen will let me answer that particular question. This is all to say, for every convenience, there is a price. My computer has cost lots of hours this year.

Another cost which is driving me nuts lately, is the impossibility of trying to publish a photo on my blog. I must wait till blogspot's perfect kharma aligns with the swirling universe favorably, and I never know precisely when this single moment of opportunity will occur, then viola, the photo be published successfully. I've been trying since yesterday to load Christmas pics. Notice none have appeared.

Christmas wore me out this year. I wearily laid my head down on my kitchen table in the evening and yawned, "Christmas is really for kids isn't it?" to my father-in-law. Christmas preparations and clean up sucked me in and spit me out like a nasty wet hair ball from a gagging cat. I hope I recover soon from that enormous expense of energy.

Onto the cost of animals. Remember how I've mentioned I'm a recluse uninterested, in fact in fear of meeting my neighbors in order to preserve my serenity? Well, this impacts my family's ability to travel as well. We know no neighbors to ask to feed our goaties, chickens, dogs, cats, gerbil as a direct result of my seclusion neurosis. When the goats were in milk, it was especially difficult to find someone with patience and honest true love for me willing to learn the fine art of emptying delicate udders on a contentious nanny. Also, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, and such need the time and investment of vet attention from time to time. Goats require worming and hoof trimming regularly. Our great dog develops matted hair and craves attention. Our cats tear up screens in every window they can reach, and their litter screams "Change me or you'll die from poop inhalation" often enough. Animals insist upon care.

Cars. Cars (and pathetic old vans) constantly fill with nasty sippy cups, doll shoes, tiny lego pieces, straws, stinky used sports clothes, wrappers, CD's, and sticky used lollypop or popsicle sticks. Maintainance of oil, tires, alignment, wipe/brake fluid eats away at a day quickly. Repairs, like a window which will no longer roll up without manual hand assistance, are put off for years in hopes a less busy time will suddenly roll around. Have I brought up the fact that I am not crazy about detail cleaning the inside and out of a vehicle much less the toilets inside my home? Every ride mounts up to something.

Wheat grinders. I adore owning six fifty pound buckets of whole grain wheat to grind at my whim. However, I detest the mess of the machine and kitchen filmed in browish white specks afterwards. While I love a fresh hot loaf of bread or the waft of steaming cinnamon rolls across my nostrils, the wheat grinder clean up is my nemesis.

Then there is the endless payment due each day with four children. Someone needs a ride to basketball, nose wipes, lunch, a hug, a kind word, help with fractions, a clean pair of underwear, a break. Children create ceaseless need.

Here's another biggie. Marriage costs. Relationships require nurture, and I've been working at mine with my beloved for 17 years. Picnics and strolls through the park are rare but longed for.

I think of the timeless truth in, "To whom much is given much is required." I've been given a king's ransom of blessings in all of the above. I certainly can't imagine typing a manuscript on a manual typewriter without going completely buggy. My blog holds a treasure box of who I am and who I'd like to become. This Christmas I had the honor of both sets of doting grandparents at our table. Our animals teach us valuable life lessons through birth, death, and provision not to mention endless flashlight goat tag fun and fresh eggs. My vehicles have carried bleeding, screaming children to the ER for immediate repair. My wheat grinder, a free gift from a friend, rescues me from pounding grain for hours on a stone outside a hut. My children create more joy than I have ever imagined. My husband is my very best friend.

"To whom much is given, much is required." May I do well by the gifts I've been given.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Wish

Pooh Bear experienced a dream come true this afternoon. Grandma took her for a birthday treat to Libby Lu, a sparkly glamour boutique tailored to the inner princess of any young lass. Grandma proudly looked on as my girl had a serious updo on her hair, makeup, and nails done in glitter aplenty. The shopgirl even appliqued stars to her little cherub face.
Grandma and I paraded our beauty around the mall afterwards, and Pooh Bear modestly proclaimed, "People just can't keep their eyes off me for I'm so beautiful."
We stopped at the fountains midway through the bustling shopping palace, and Grandma gave Pooh Bear a dime to make a secret wish. I overheard Pooh Bear mumble something like, "reindeer" which made me curious.
Me: "It's okay if you want to tell me your wish. I'll keep it secret."
Pooh: "I wished for a reindeer."
Me: "Like the big decorated one in the fountain?"
Pooh: "No, silly. A real reindeer. She could live with our goats."
I wondered if Pooh thought the reindeer could take her flying through the crisp winter sky...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Vyne Christmas

I'm giving myself a Christmas gift. I'm going to blog and munch on chocolate m&ms from my stocking plunder instead of continue the plethora of jobs still undone from Christmas carnage. I realized over the past two days how much Buck and I have shared in the work behind the celebration before. He's out of pocket this year. He's been home just long enough to tie up a few loose ends, assemble a dollhouse, sleep and partake in the early morning Christmas traditions of our family. He's since showered and scurried back to work before I could say, "Baby in a manger". Please tell me how many airplanes need him like I do on Christmas day?

Okay, so I've cooked and cleaned up from a delightful homemade cinnamon roll breakfast dripping with brown sugary goo and a classic orange lunch of from scratch macaroni and cheese (Grandma Eadie would be proud),clementines, and hoagies. I've got to consider timing on cooking the extravagant holiday dinner. I warned my mom, who is traveling to see us tonight, that the only possibility for food between Cincinnati and Loudon are greasy eggs and bacon from Waffle House or chips at the gas stations. I know so from previous experience where I believed my family could lunch on the way one cold December 25th long ago. I'm excited to make a feast for her this time. I can only appreciate fully now the work she put into each holiday dinner, and it's definitely her turn to be a guest.

After family rituals this morning, with my children's help, we separated mountains of paper/cardboard trash from plastic, and I burned the remains of packaging from a splendid and generous gift exchange. We cleaned out the van a bit, so if my mom wants to ride with us anywhere, I'm not completely embarrassed from the JUNK piled on the floor the children step on and over to reach their van seats. I'm doing laundry, because I always do. We've vacuumed after the initial hand sweep of the living room for plastic ties securing toys forever in place, plastic tags, plastic inserts, unidentifiable plastic this and that. I do not feel like a proud earth mother today. In fact, I never cease to be amazed and am a tad bit ashamed at the overabundance of simply everything we have- food,possessions, clothes, toys, technology, sweets, twaddle. It becomes most obvious in the trash. Sigh. As Scarlet O'Hara would say, "I'll think about that another day."

I loved it when Buck, just after presents were opened, proclaimed to the children as Santa did to the children in the film Narnia: Lion, With and the Wardrobe, "These are tools, not toys" and Buck added, "Treat them well."

Last night, I had the assignment of donning everyone in fancy Christmas Eve Candlelight service clothes by myself. Remember, how important Buck's job is as an air traffic controller on a evening when next to noone is flying? Tator didn't put on a any shirt literally until we were pulling out of the garage, because he detests all the fancy clothes in nice rows in his closet. "Mom, all those brightly colored stripey shirts look dumb to me. I hate wearing that stuff." He's much more comfortable with a Georgia Bulldogs (traitor!) t-shirt than a button down. Pooh Bear put on tights with holes, and I didn't notice till Tator pointed it out while I was driving down the road far from hope to change them. She also promptly pulled out her neatly groomed red, green, and gold hairbow the moment our bottoms sat in chairs for carols at church leaving her hair even more disheveled than usual. It was so crowded, we couldn't find five seats together so Pooh Bear and I sat in seats directly in front of my three boys. Believe it or not, my boys are angelic gentlemen to be commended during normal church, but I did mention earlier this was a candelight service, didn't I? The band played the longest and most rockin' version ever in the history of the world of "Go Tell it on the Mountain" with flickering lit candles in the curious hands of my three intrigued-by-open-flames-and-burning-hot-wax boys behind me. This "in front" position hindered my supervision of the three precarious fire hazards significantly. I grimaced as I turned backwards to find two of mine eating melted wax from the tips of their fingers. Just before the end of service and the lengthy spiritual song, I found myself holding all 5 blown out white wax and wick stubs with waxy covered paper circle hand protectors. Next year I'll know better to arrive early and sit where I'll have a bird's eye view of any delinquent candle activity.

I get a little sad lump in my throat on Christmas Eve these days remembering how the church I attended before I moved three years always asked me to be a part of the service in dance. The only people allowed to dance at our current church are true blue dancers in advanced ballet training, and these young ladies are a beautiful sight to behold indeed. If I counted correctly, I believe one gracefully pirouetted ten times around without pause at the climax of the song. I've personally met two of the other dancers (it's a big church), and their tender hearts as a gorgeous as their dance.

During church, my boys especially enjoyed the roving Christmas cam in beginning of the service. Every year, Pastor Bart takes a camera into the audience and questions a few children about their past favorite gifts, and what they want for Christmas this year. The crowd howled when an innocent, petite, dark eyed, ebony haired five year old squeaked in her best precious little girl voice, "I want a Darth Vader voice changer for Christmas". Bart doesn't know this, but Bart always chooses Wise One to interview, I suppose because my son is so very cute. Which is really too bad, because Wise One never receives the gifts he asks for in the service. I wish they'd pick normal families to interview who actually allow their children to write lists. I put a stop to the Christmas "greedy gimmes" years ago, and told my family I will buy or make gifts for them from my heart, not from a list. My boy told the camera and crowd last night he wanted a Star Wars Clone ship of some kind, and last year a Unicron which he'll never get but will never miss either. He couldn't come up with a quick answer to "What was the favorite gift you've ever received?" for the camera, but afterwards he told the family his favorite present ever has been his sister! Wise One is such a dear.

This afternoon, my boys all have their shiny new mp3 players stuck in their ears, except for Tator blasting the same rap song "Oopsy Daisy" his new Toby Mac CD in the living room. As they jam to tunes, they assemble new lego and mech sets. Peace is taking pics with his new camera of scenes he has arranged with his figures. I promised I'd help him set up a photo blog if he'd like. Pooh Bear goes from her new horses and dolls to her new pixter. She's gnawing on pink bubblegum from her stocking.

Now, back to my chores and Christmas joy. I do hope your holy day is most blessed. God bless us everyone.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Not of this world

What should I do today?

Hmmmm. Let's see. Today I need to mealplan, Buck will shop, and I'll begin Christmas dinner preparation. Buck has to work Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning (how awful is that?), so we cannot visit our relatives out of town. But just yesterday Buck's dad, my mom, her husband and his brother said they may come to US on Christmas Day. Hooray! Seeing both sets of grandparents on Christmas Day will be such a blessing and hasn't happened for as many years as I can remember.
More plans for the day. The children and I made a play date this afternoon with Tami's fam for a few hours. I really need to drop by the chiropractor for a quick adjustment. I'll need to get in the children's closets to survey prospects for Christmas Eve service clothes. Pooh Bears room needs a little work; a microburst or tornado swept through there the other day tossing dolls, Barbies, dress up clothes, real clothes, and Polly Pockets to oblivion. Yesterday, I simply closed the door and walked away quickly whenever I caught a glimpse of the destruction, but I want to relax on Christmas Eve so we'll have to plow through the chaos today. '
Also, I made a deadline for myself to finish some writing before January 1 that is calling my name. I started this particular article months ago, and got sick of it in the editing process. When I picked it back up to write again last month, my computer totally crashed from the Trojan Downloading virus which searches online to download whatever nasty bugs it can find. Buck,courageous hero, somehow managed to save the file, but I have not returned since to work on the article.
Lots to do. What else needs my attention?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Movie picks

I haven't seen any of NPR's David Edelstein's top movie picks for 2005. The good news is that I have 10 more movies to put in my Netflix queue, but the bad news is that I'm years behind with no hope in the near future to catch up and stay current with newly released movies. By the time I've watched something, it's been too long for anyone else on the planet earth to remember the details to discuss it with me. It's been 12 years since I could step outside my house without finding a brave sitter, and it may be several more years before I can leave for enough hours to take in a film and popcorn alone with my husband. Who wants to babysit an hour away from civilization for three all rough and tumble boys and an opinionated strong five year old girl?
I can only watch DVD's after 10:00, so the movies need to be interesting enough to keep desperately worn out woman nearing fourty awake.
Here are the four movies I enjoyed the most in 2005.

Crash- I found myself yelling like a mad woman outloud alone in my bedroom "No! Please No!" at the television during a particularly poignant scene. The plot twists and turns like a Tennessee country road around conflict issues of race,class, culture, and religion. If you can't deal with sex, language, and violence, tis not a picture for you, but far beyond these things, is the wake up call to America for the harm caused by stereotypes and labels.

Maria Full of Grace- Intriguing, incredible realism of a young girl's pull to become a "mule" to transport cocaine from Columbia to the U.S. Also contains language, sex, and violence, but worth it in telling the whole story behind the story. It didn't leave me with a single question like "How would someone actually do that?" or "What could lead anyone to such decisions?". I was left only with an awe and passion to stop drug corruption on this earth.

Star Wars Episode Three- Okay, I'm a sci fi geek, and I will never forget my Aunt Artful taking me to see the very first SW movie when I was twelve. I longed to grow hair long enough to stick out like giant headphones from my ears and a laser gun to shoot the evil Empire down. So this year, I certainly didn't want to miss the opportunity to make memories with my boys on the big screen opening night. No, we didn't dress up like a family of Ewoks, but several people did don Darth Vader gear. I cannot separate my nostalgia from my opinion, but SW3 nicely tied all the loose ends of all the movies for me while tying my stomach in knots watching Annakin's decent to darkness. Showed how evil can appear good, yet ultimately destroys.

Narnia: Lion, Witch, Wardrobe I am not ashamed to say C.S. Lewis captured my heart as a child and still holds it tightly as an adult. I am a bit ashamed to admit what a big baby I am. I felt tears on on my cheeks when Aslan roared in durn PREVIEWS during SW3, because he was just SO beautiful. At the Narnia movie, my children spent a good deal of time squinting over at me in the darkness of the theater whispering, "She's crying again." Tears started with the opening scene, but intensified with my first glimpse of the wardrobe. I cried seeing Tumnus and his magnificent horse legs for the first time outside my mind's eye. I sobbed just like Lucy and Susan at the stone table. I think the tears came, because Narnia had always felt so very real to me. I look forward to the coming years and sharing the next stories in the series on screen with my children. My favorite book of all has been the Magician's nephew, when the trees dance and when Aslan breathes Narnia into existence.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

2005 Top 20

The top things I've enjoyed over this year. I'm sure I'll miss a few I just can't think of just now, but here goes:
1. My few and far between dates with Buck. Remember Buck, you owe me a "do over" from the last one.
2. Welcoming Baby Saul to our extended family through adoption.
3. Riding Thunderhead roller coaster with my boys at Dollywood.
4. Watching Pooh Bear dance when she thinks noone is watching.
5. Sliding down from the Great Wall of China with Peace.
6. My first whale watching experience and finding the perfect red clogs in Solvang.
7. Finding a work-out buddy after years of going solo.
8. Making Christmas cottages at Meredith Lee's.
9. Crab Fest!
10. Hanging out with Tami and fam at the pool.
11. Cheering as Wise One conquered the pool.
12. Watching the sweat fall from David Crowder's brow onto his guitar with Tator and Buck.
13. "Remember, sisters, tears are the water of life."
14. The choreography process and dancing with Carol at a conference.
15. Introducing my meditation work to catechist friends.
16. Creating on a blog.
17. Grandpa M sharing his music and soul with me in his car one afternoon.
18. Compliments from my mother on my writing.
19. Making jewelry with Miriam and dear friends.
20. Families worshipping together in the cool of the evening in our yard.


Remember the Gender Issue post about Pooh Bear's chicken? Here is Frankenbelle in all his rooster glory.

a favorite project

Christmas Elves

Now that the packages are sent, I can show the gifts my children made.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Old Dog, New Tricks

Harry, keeper of the Loudon gym, claimed he was "too old to change" this fine December morning. "Well, Harry, seems to me you have changed quite a bit over this year? Haven't you lost tons of weight?"
"Yes, I'm proud to say I lost an entire foot in my waist line. I found out last week being measured for the tux for my daughter's upcoming wedding. Four more inches and I'm back to where I was at 18 years old."
I argued, "If you can change your body that much, you can surely change other things about your life."
The conversation started when I pulled my ipod earphones off while doing my keep-the-tummy-jelly-roll-to-a-minimum ab crunches and asked Harry if he was ready for Christmas. He leaned back in his chair, leisurely put his arms up behind his head and eventually replied, "Oh, I guess."
From his lazy response and generally laid back personality I clued in. "Oh, Harry, you're not one of those husbands who just show up at Christmas after your wife has done all the work are you?"
He got a little animated in his reply, "Well, I can't change now after all these years. It's not easy like losing weight. I'm too old to change who I am. I can't change my behavior."
"Oh, yes, you can. Losing weight is an incredible behavior change. If you can change your exercise and eating habits, you can change your marriage for the better. Don't tell me you don't even buy your wife a present?"
"Truevyne, don't get on me. If I go to all that trouble, she won't like whatever I buy her. But I did I tell Jason (excellent owner of the gym) I was going to spend $20 on a present for her this year."
I held back my guffaws out of respect and spoke, "Knock her socks off and give her a diamond solitaire or one pearl pendant."
Harry becomes clearly irritated at this conversation. "I already give my wife my whole paycheck and she has everything there is to own."
"You are a good man, Harry. Good marriages, like everything else worth having, take work. If you need advice on great presents, my husband is the best. He gives me the most wonderful of gifts for every occasion. He never misses."
At this point, three other men heading past us on their way out the door jumped in. "Keep your husband quiet, truevyne. My wife doesn't know any better, and he'll make us all look bad."
I never want the kind of marriage where we share the same house, meals, and bed but not much else. I want the happily ever after, but seventeen years after "I do", I know it takes intentionality. My goal is to keep my husband as my very best friend. If I take him for granted or guess he won't like anything I do for him anyway, then trouble is afoot. If we feel distant from one another, it's time to roll up our sleeves and struggle for as long as it takes to put things right again. As a wise man once said, it's hard to stay "tight as the bark on a tree".

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Much ado about nothing

Right now I feel like crawling under a rock. It's raining and cold outside, and somehow that always makes me bone tired. I'm worn out from laundry, checking math and language arts, fussing when my boys won't get along, wiping the kitchen counters and sweeping the floor for the one-zillionth time. Add Christmas and birthday preparations on top of daily life and I'm wiped. Three of my children have birthdays in the next few weeks, and they'd feel slighted if we didn't throw a bash. So, Saturday we've invited one thousand of our closest friends to join us for an indoor swim and icecream sundaes at a community pool.
Another issue wearing me out are the dark vandals of the night who keep smashing our mailbox in and off the post. I've become friendly with the local "law" over the issue, but when it comes down to it, the "law" can't do much about sneaky young boys with baseball bats and a taste for destruction of federal property. The deliquents have finally successfully and officially done in the second mailbox, and Buck is putting up the tester "indestructable" mailbox. I'll let you know how that goes. One never knows where criminal minds will go next...
Speaking of mail, at 4:45 yesterday, I and a helpful son lugged eight packages of mostly home made gifts to the post office only to find the one down the road from us closed at 4:30. As much as I love those kind men who go out of their way for me at the Loudon Post Office, why can't they stay open till 5:00 like the rest of the business day universe? My son and I buzzed over to Lenoir City post office ignoring posted speed limits by 4:58 just before they closed at 5:00. The women behind the counter could not have been much more cheery or pleasant having to wait for the franticly task oriented woman I'd become to fill out handfulls of mailing labels. I made sure to compliment the gracious postal workers on their thoughfulness and patience with me.
Looking over the mundane reasons I find myself tired, I realize I am incredibly lucky. I've been through much more torment than birthdays, Christmas, and mail issues. I think of those in the midst of sickness, family turmoil, death and am grateful to be worn out from simple little things this Thankful Thursday.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas Loudon Style

I wished I'd have brought my camera. I took my children to the Loudon, TN Christmas celebration Friday night, and it was a treat. Small town U.S.A never ceases to amaze me. We found out last year, our first Loudon event, that floats are quite unnecessary in our hometown parade. This year was more of the same. Macy's and the Rose Bowl probably hadn't figured this out, but a meticulously washed and waxed Dooley truck decked out with gold garland and it's driver wearing a Santa hat was plenty Christmas enough without wasting all those beautiful flowers and that expensive and dangerous helium. Decorated horse trailers are welcome too. Of course, Loudon exhibited a few fancy floats hooked to the back of a farm truck on a trailer bed with which one hauls lawn care equipment or hunting ATV's. Inside the trailer bed stood the little Baptist church choir garbed up in it's best bed sheet nativity gear belting out "Oh, Holy Night" on a microphone which was a bit too loud as the P.A. system screeched in protest at intervals, a few flashing colored lights traced the outside to the trailer bed, and a big plastic light up star topped off the vehicle. There were a stunning amount of horses and riders in the procession. "All these syrenes is making Star real nervous like" a cowboy leaned toward a crowd to speak to children on the side of the road watching his wild eyed horse awkwardly jump about, back up, and unpredictably lurch forward. Yes, the Loudon County police had their full force out directing the production and traffic around the parade, and even cars with sirens blasting so loud I covered my children's ears as they passed by. The fire department let the waving Santa ride their sparkle clean truck decked out with wreaths and other twinkling adornments. The outrageous number of ATV riders in the line up who didn't necessarily even bother to decorate their vehicles and wore camouflage instead of traditional red sweaters astounded me for the second time. These boys and men hooted, hollered, and proved their masculine powers in the noisy revving of their engines. All this action was a five year old boys dream. My older boys enjoyed the candy thrown to us. Last year, an unpleasant mother pushed my dear children out of her way to grab candy for her daughter who may have been handicapped. Didn't this grumpy lady know my generous children would have willingly collected more for that little girl than themselves if the mother would have simply asked? We more carefully distanced ourselves from the crowds this year.
After the parade, the town offered a variety of activities. The youngest of my children made foam snowflake ornaments at a craft booth sponsored by a local pediatric group. Sweaty and worn out looking horse drawn carriage toted freezing people around a city block. I warned my children to avoid the manure on the street. My boys toasted, no burned marshmallows over a little stove.
One of two favorites highlights of the evening was a group serving free hot chocolate from a grill. As pastor and city councilman, Charlie Brown, handed out steaming cups of water and powder delight, he invited us to his church, The Solid Rock Cowboy Church of Philadelphia, TN- church with hitching posts so one may ride her horse to service, deer skins, a front porch with rocking chairs, and homecooked potluck each Sunday. Come as the cowboy you are church. He explained his church homecomings each year are held at a local farm with bonfires, hayrides, and the like. My boys instantly begged me to go. I do hope to visit Solid Rock Cowboy Church one fine summer day.
Hot chocolate in hand, our family saw the Grinch at a distance and tried to visit with Frosty. Frosty couldn't see or hear well deep inside his costume, so he was being led around like the blind by an angel. Frosty reached haphazardly out into the cold night air, and the angel would direct a child into his hug.
The Lyric theater hosted handbells,the high school ensemble, and church choirs. My other favorite thing from the evening was stumbling upon the Missionary Baptist Choir at this theater. Unfortunately, I rarely to run into an African American in this predominantly white country town, and apparently I didn't know that the Baptist Missionary Church was a good place to meet fine people of color. Their elegant choir peformed tradtional carols, hymns, along with what I love most, black spirituals. Enhancing the listening experience were the two elderly matriarchs of the church seated next to us responding in song and praise without inhibition to the concert. "Yes, Lawd! You are GOOD to me." Their strength gave Peace, my oldest son, boldness to sing at full spirit of Christmas volume. Nothing tugs at my heart strings more than full on joyful singing from my child.
I truly love a tender Tennessee Christmas.

Friday, December 09, 2005


I have a regret. I had always inaccurately believed I could live such a good life that I would never have anything to regret. After all, I lived and worked for the least and poor of the inner city. How could I possibly do more? I firmly believed I could look back at my life when I’m old and more grey, pat myself on the back, and say, “Well done, girly!” I didn’t factor in the black heart of man, which surprisingly existed inside of me. Arrogance, impatience, and revenge dwelled, still dwells, right next to kindness, compassion, and wisdom in this mixed soul of mine. When someone, anyone, didn’t behave properly (the precise way I wanted them to behave) I instantly forgot my own faults. I played the old haunting tape in my brain “I would never do that” and worse, “That would never happen to me because…” I am sad and sorry for all the victims I blamed through the years.

When I eventually awakened from the terrible slumber of perfectionism, I realized I could never live as ideally as I thought, I found a stack of my own regrets piled to the moon and back. Remember the scene in Schindler’s List when everyone thanks Schindler and he cries out, “I should have done MORE.”? The load of that stack could have crushed me if I’d have allowed it. Thankfully I’ve learned a way to release the burden- the same grace I offer my dearest beloved friends when they make a mistake, I must offer myself.

Back to my regret. Forlornly, I know there is no way to make this one right.

I had a friend named Danny. As a college student, he worked for me at an inner city day camp, and we became buddies. I hung out with him, his wife, and son in their home in the projects. He taught me volumes about self determination and self discipline amid total chaos and poverty. Because he was real with me, I saw his mess. When he was tough on his son, I played my cynical brain tape, “I’ll never do that when I have children.“ When he had a hard time fundraising at times, I secretly thought he might be slacking. And mostly because I was so good at forgetting my own faults, his mess looked really untidy. Years into our friendship, Danny decided to run for city council when the mayor at that time miffed him. This was my opportunity to personally know a candidate and his views. I knew Danny’s politics intricately, and they did not match mine EXACTLY, tit for tat, and I knew his mess. I believed especially if one is going to take public office, one had to be perfect. I hate this about myself, but I didn’t get involved in his campaigns. Danny certainly didn’t need me (he won his seat twice), but I missed an incredible opportunity because of my dark and judging heart. Never mind his excellence as he and I worked together for years advocating, empowering and educating. I couldn’t get past perfectionism. My loss. If I could turn back time, knowing what I know now- that humans, including myself, come in a bundle of beautiful gifts and tragic flaws- I’d have jumped in and promoted my dear friend best contributions to the city.
So why not go to him and confess what is on my heart now? Ask his forgiveness and get involved the next political go round? Danny lost a noble battle with cancer, and he doesn’t live just down the street from me anymore in a bungalow tastefully painted in African colors. While I got to say goodbye at the amazing celebration of his life in the form of a funeral, I will not get to share my regret looking into his warm brown eyes. So, I’ll offer myself the forgiveness and grace, and more importantly, learn.

So, let’s say I have another friend, a politician who is inspirational and talented beyond measure. He advocates for those who cannot do so for themselves. He wakes up everyday and thinks about making his city a better place. And he doesn’t say things or think about things the same way as I do. I will lay aside my perfect agenda, and stand for him. We’ll talk through our differences privately while I support his good work publicly. And I’ll strongly urge others to do the same.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Adoption Thoughts

Words for the Robinson family importing three new members through adoption.

People adopt children for a variety of reasons. The idea of caring for the orphan is supposed to be noble, and I would say it had nothing to do with why Buck and I decided to adopt. I‘ve always been open to the romance of adoption, because I’m the quintessential cliché woman who loves children of all shapes, colors, and sizes. Then I found my first pregnancy to be unbearable. Never before or since have I ever literally wished to die, but that’s precisely where nine months of never ending violent nausea and debilitating illness took me. It frightened me that I wouldn’t make it through another round of such torture, and I did not want an only child.

Thus, the hard road to adoption became paved with sweet smelling roses.

Ten years later, I’m so very blessed to call my Tator "son", but the honest truth is that it’s never been a walk in the park. In fact, we hit a crisis about two years ago when Boodle was eight which went on for almost a year. Almost daily, he took down the picture of he and his birthmother from above his bed, held it and cried long and real tears. “Where is she, Mommy? Why doesn’t she ever visit me anymore? Doesn’t she want to see me like I want to see her?” Some days, I cuddled him in my arms and cried with him. How could I explain choices I would not make to a little boy? Other days, I was terribly insensitive to my grieving son worried he might be manipulating me. I closed the door to his bedroom and told him he could come out when he was done. Even harder than these moments was the fact that his inborn Curious George personality took a dangerous turn toward greater risk taking and more aggression.

The negative behavior escalated and the sad sessions turned from days into months. I researched and read books on parenting and adoption, and nothing really helped. I considered therapy, and I asked to have coffee with a friend, Kyrie, who is a doctor of psychology. Kyrie has adopted and has birth children of her own and though she offered some helpful advice and her fabulous listening ear, I found she too had the same issues and no great solutions. We ended up agreeing that it would take an exceptional and rare therapist to get the roots we hadn’t been able to find as mothers. We acknowledged (and still do) the lifelong struggle adopted children have with deep rejection issues. Kyrie’s lived in Knoxville all her life and stated she’d never met any therapist with that kind of expertise in her career.

One day, I took the constant reminder of the Boodle's picture of he and his birth mom down from his wall and put it in his photo album. I told Boodle he was always welcome to get out his album and look through it, but it belonged in the photo cabinet when he finished. I can’t remember a time he’s gotten out his album himself, but the crying and questions didn’t stop.

One rescue came in the form of a rather ordinary moment from a dear friend of mine who is adopted herself, Liz. I remember our families being on an elevator together and her bending down at eye level to be with my son. She placed her hand on his shoulder and looked directly into his eyes, “I know a way you and I are alike. Did you know I’m adopted too? I know how different I felt from my parents and how hard that is at times. Is it that way for you too?” I’d witnessed a true connection between Tator and Liz in his small yet emphatic, “Yes!”.

I spoke with Liz at another time about her adoption experience. She shared her heart with me that she has always known she was hard wired with a completely opposite set of internal controls than her adoptive parents. She still doesn’t relate to her parents on the level she has with her own children, and she states it’s about DNA rather than parenting style. “It’s the way my brain simply works differently than the mind of my mom and dad. I can see it all over them. They don’t really ‘get me’ at all.” She laughed cheerfully, “Planning my wedding with my parents proved everything I’d thought about our dissimilarities.”

Different hard wiring. I put this in my pipe to smoke awhile and still do. Yes, by age three and up, Boodle had found all my hot buttons, and I believed he deliberately looked for ways to push, jab, and jam them on a daily, no hourly, basis. This hard wiring concept helped me realize what I presumed to be deliberate was actually more the way he was made not matching the way I was made. I know when he heartily jumps on the back of a unaware teenage boy he admires at church, it’s his way of saying, “You are the greatest. Someone I’d like to be.” I cringe inside when he‘s so rough and physical, because I know the injury his thoughtlessness has caused. To my horror and against my thousand warnings not to in the past, he’s jumped on one young man’s back with knee injuries requiring surgery. Tator didn't know about the guy's knee problems and did not cause further harm, but it could have been disaster. I chalk Tator’s required physical ways of relating as a hard wiring difference. I cannot compare him to my other boys, one older and one younger, who understand and respect physical boundaries and limits of others at an internal level.

This concept has also helped me see another disheartening behavior in another light. He is constantly beating, pounding, stomping, bouncing around, banging, belting out “BAH, BAH, BAH” at disturbing intervals throughout the day. He tends to jar everyone in our home at times from peaceful moments into chaos with boisterous noises. While my birth children go around singing or chanting, it’s not at the same intensity, and I rarely notice their sounds. Boodle must be made for at a higher decibel than my genes are used to.

I hope you can stand my candor here. I don’t have the same level of understanding of Tator as I do of my birth children. I’m not proud to say, I lose my insight and temper with him more quickly. While I’ve pleaded on my knees with God, and others have also prayed earnestly on our behalf, I don’t have the same heart connections which came naturally as a result of birthing my other children. So when I’m feeling frustrated with myself and my parenting of this particular blessing of a boy, which happens regularly, I try to step back and consider him for all he is made to be. Not who I *think* he should be according to the skewed grid of my limited mind.

A second rescue meant as much to me as the parted Red Sea meant to Moses. In another ordinary day at lunch, another adopted friend Kate offered profound insight. I unfolded the scenario of my son crying for his birthmother on a regularly basis. She asked a few questions on the ways I handled him during these heartbreaking moments. With these simple words she changed the life of our family,

“True, it’s time to give him in fantasy what he cannot have in reality.”

What? “Instead of offering Boodle your pity, align yourself alongside him and ask, ‘If Momma Shannon were here for your birthday, what present would she bring you?’ ’If Momma Shannon came for dinner, what would we make especially for her?’” Kate also suggested before we begin this process, to have the following conversation with Boodle. “You know how when you are eight, how you are not allowed to drive? Why is that? Not tall enough. Not mature enough to handle all the things driving a car throws at you like crazy drivers and unpredictable scary roads. It’s the same with finding Momma Shannon, you don’t have all that needs to be in place inside you at eight years old to go looking for her by yourself just now. But when you are mature and a man, you’ll have what you need to handle any twists or turns we might find in searching for Momma Shannon. If you still want to see her like you do just now, I promise I will help when you are an adult.” No need to mention the roads may become dead ends or the state we just might find her in at that later date. Ever watch the excellent movie Antwone Fisher?

Kate’s strategy worked like magic with Tator. After our conversation about driving cars and finding moms, he experimented with crying for her. Once he met the pleasant response of “I think it’s around her birthday. If you could give her a present, what would it be?” He suddenly stopped being sullen himself and engaged in the fantasy with me. He no longer cries for her. Her rarely talks about her, though she’ll come up naturally on some occasions. For example, we ran across a memory of her when visited the park we’d had our “surrendering her legal rights to him” on our behalf. He remembers the bubbles she gave him that day. Though I keep it to myself, I vividly remember Momma Shannon solemnly asking me to hold my newborn Wise One, and the faraway look in her pained eyes as she held him close to her wounded heart. I wonder if she’ll ever find the things I take for granted too often in my own life- an education, a home, children, and most of all love.

December 2, Boodle’s adoption day, snuck up on us and flew by before any of us realized it the other day. Buck called from work in the evening to remind us all as we were preparing to leave to see the Knoxville Christmas Parade. So, we’ve planned a make-up celebration for today. We’ll read Happy Adoption Day and think up other special things to acknowledge the gift of Tator to our family.

These words I give you , Robinson family, which have served our family well. I pray for parents hearts molded to the needs of these particular treasures, wisdom, and bonding as you open yourselves and home to the wonder of three great works of God.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

How to Dress for a Holiday Party

I half listened as my dear husband phoned the art (pronounced "ot") museum to ask about appropriate attire required for the Christmas Gala tonight. I am not sure what the poor woman on the other end of the line said exactly, but my eyes widened as I noticed Buck dried off his front teeth and put on his best country bumpkin' voice to chortle, "Ya' mean I should wear my very *best* overalls? With a shirt?"

Pause for the fine lady's response- something concerning "No jeans."

Undaunted, Buck continues, "Did you mean my WIFE? She weren't puttin' on no blue jean overhauls. She's already picked out a really festive red sequined tube top and is agonna wear it with her matchin' green hotpants. She'll look mighty Christmasy puttin' on her gold ball Christmas ornaments for earrings."

Pause for God knows how the sophisticated and cultured woman might answer such a comment.

Buck cleared his throat, "My name? My name is's's ummmm...Steve(lie). See you there tonight. You'll recognize me and my purty wife as soon as you see us I reckon."