Saturday, December 30, 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006


Faith passed away this evening, but all faith was not lost at True Vyne Farm. Wise One prayed, "God please let Faith have lots of fun running and jumping around in heaven with You."

Losing Faith

I'm afraid to go into the garage, because of what I might find. Faith, our fat grandma goat and beloved family pet is down. Yesterday my son found her star gazing, eyes glazed over and very sick. She stumbled instead of her silly waddle. Looks like goat polio, which is not the same thing as human polio. Goat polio comes about after some other bodily stress and perhaps she has pnemonia or something.

After literally three hours of searching and driving from one vet to another (both my normal vets weren't in) I found a kind vet who let me buy the prescription for Thiamine. It's a super saturated vitamin B, and it makes no sense, other than to keep vets in large animal business, that it's a prescription. Animals simply pee out what their body doesn't use. This particular farm vet met me at a Weigels on the north side of Knoxville, an entire hour's drive from my house, because the local ones refused to see me unless I brought the animal in. Ever tried to lift a 200 pound nanny? And taking her in the van may have been the one stress to put her over the edge. As of her 4 am shot, she's still hanging on. Her breathing worries me.

I don't want to lose her even though she'll never kid again. Faith is just a friend I don't want to live without.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Stealing away for a moment to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

If anyone asks me, "How was your Christmas?" I'd say, "I spent far too much time being Martha, because Mary was no where to be found. Now I'd just like some time to breathe. In silence." Crazy busy is not how I like to spend my time, but Christmas came in a whoosing whirlwind and flies by even still.

My children grumped yesterday that they are the only children in the United States who didn't get to watch one holiday show. I think it's true! No Frosty, Elf, Charlie Brown Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, or Rudolf. Does that make me the Grinch?

One of my most treasured memories of this year were Peace's words on Christmas Eve, "Mom, I don't care about getting presents this year. I just can't wait to see the expressions on everyone's faces when they open their gifts from me." He saved and squirreled away his allowance this year and truly gave gifts to touch hearts. He gave Buck and I the loveliest clock all on his own. Up until this year, my gifts from the children came from the Dollar Store or Buck. I can see that painfully awkward mix of manly maturity in Peace's thoughtfulness and his boyish playfulness in racing cars with his siblings.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Now a Word From the Easy to Please Department

Wise One turned hit double digits yesterday.

He picked out his birthday present with his daddy the day after Thanksgiving and has been sweating bullets waiting to open it since. Finally the day arrived, so he popped out of bed before 7:00 a.m. and began asking every five minutes, "Mom, is it light yet? Can I open my present? When will Dad be out of bed?" Buck has been working mandatory overtime and is very tired these days. I'd rather Buck grab as much sleep as possible between shifts so as to be rather alert to prevent major air disasters, than wake him up long before dawn so Wise One could open his package. Buck rose around 8:30, but Peace still slept. Pooh Bear went in Peace's room and chanted, "It's Wise One's birthday and he can't open his present till you get up and watch." After four or so chants, bedhead and all, Peace shuffled to the couch with somewhat of an-about-to-become-a-teenager scowl across his face.

Wise One wildly tore open his wrapped gigantic Lego Valdorf castle and set to work building. He was particularly impressed with the tiny skeleton Lego man. A little later after the ceremony, I called off Peace and Tater for homeschool. They were not thrilled that their brother not only got a fabulous present but also earned a day off school. Wise One often choose to work ahead to have days off for fun things. Oh, if only the other three caught onto that vision so easily!

I worked with Tater on the Vyne Revolution instead of school for a while (the day before had been one of the worst struggles of the Vyne Revolution ever). If you recall, my dear readers, Buck and I are moving from behavior to relational based parenting, and I've never done such work in my life. Friend Miriam said last night in her best English accent, "Often revolutions are very bloody." Though there had been no real blood shed, Tater gave me the Do you love me test all of Tuesday. With white knuckles and nearly broken teeth from clenching my jaw into a pleasant expression, I passed. However, when Tater began to give me a second new day of the Do you love me test so early on Wednesday, I stood in the kitchen staring into his lovely chocolate eyes and began pouring tears. Tater was moved to love and stopped the test for a while.

Tater wrote the world's best report on animal adaptation report which included an introductory and concluding paragraphs. Things were peaceful and I headed off to the gym around noon.

As soon as I was out of the garage and down the driveway, Tater began to give Buck the Do you love me test. Once again Buck passed though I'm quite certain it was a doosey, and we are both sure the exams aren't over. God help us!

Now a word from the Easy to Please Department. If a family must endure such strife, other members tend to step up and make life less stressful.

Even though we don't have time for it with all the strategies, bombs, and battles of love surging around us, our children still insist on eating meals during the Revolution. Buck scrounged around our pantry and called out to Wise One, "How does Spam sound for a birthday lunch?" Buck fried Spam since he knows he can't get away with the smell when I'm at home. It's not exactly my favorite.

Wise One exclaimed in all sincerity after his first bite into the processed canned meat product, "Now this is a birthday to remember!"

Friday, December 15, 2006


The End by AA Milne
When I was One
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

My very own Pooh Bear turns six today. Is it really the end? Yes, in many ways. Though she's not entirely differently from yesterday, I see something, a sparkle of knowing, in her eyes. Our preschool days as a family are now finished as she's officially entered a new developmental plane. Toddler wonder makes way for more complex thought; and I'm going to miss pure toddler wonder.

She refers to things she used to do not so many months ago as "when I was a little." I whisper into the back wisps of her hair, "Stay here in my arms while you still fit." On Pooh Bear's last birthday, she could have passed for an oompa loompa, but now her willowy limbs spill over my lap like long pieces of spaghetti.

She's missing her two front teeth for Christmas, and she does whistle slightly when she talks. Perfect.

For her birthday present, I located a large and furry stuffed lavender pony with a pink velveteen saddle and silver hooves just about the size of her petite frame. Just now, she's dragging the animal behind her by it's bridle and speaking softly to it, "Let's go."

Six will not last forever, and I intend to make the most of it with my girly. Let's go.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Little Farm Wonder

I had a dream last night that my dog, Ripley, came to me in great concern. When he turned his head on my lap, I noticed he didn't have an eye, just white fur covering the place it should have been. Disturbing. And he showed me his worry about puppies (not his) which had been born in a shallow well in the ground. For some reason, wells in the ground in my dream terrify me.

Perhaps, my dream tells me I'm more anxious than I thought about a hawk which is stalking our chickens. My husband and boys had the horrid experience Friday of finding the hawk attacking our very gentle and sweet chicken, Momma Silkie. She was far and away the most nurturing of all our hens. She constantly brooded and helped hatch and raise chicks. We suppose she died saving one of the newer babies born in September. The Vyne family will miss your tender ways, Momma Silkie.

Now back to Ripley, the amazing dog. A few weeks ago, he was made to take ear mite meds which he hated. So, he'd run when Tator and Buck went to the field holding the bottle. One day, though Buck held the bottle, Rip didn't sprint away. Instead, he voiced the "follow me" bark. Buck obliged and walked behind the big old ball o' fur until they came to a place in the far back corner of the field where a tree had fallen over and squashed the fence. What a spectacular pup! I know if Rip could have handled a hammer and fence wire, he'd have repaired it with his own paws. I can picture him fishing the wire back up the t-post and thinking, "And you coyotes think you had a way in to eat MY goats. Hurrump." The cute thing was that after Buck made the repair and headed over with the medicine, Ripley dashed away

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Time and Christmas

I don't suppose anyone has time to read blogs, much less write posts. However, I find writing sometimes clears my very cluttered mind.

Three of my children have birthdays within the next three weeks. Clever other people might have persuaded their delightful children whose birthdays linger around the holidays to celebrate at a not-so-rushed time of year. I, however, have three dear old friends from my youth who felt completely ripped off and overlooked by the lack of attention their birthdays due to the busyness of the holidays. So, I feel compeled to plan a combined party for my two sons, Peace and Wise One, who like the same things, and another girly girl party for Pooh Bear.

Last year, I talked all three into a swimming party at community pool.

For the party this year, the boys want to see Eragon and eat out pizza with all their buds. Fairly easy party as I'll order a cake, figure out childcare for Pooh Bear, and drive here and there in good company.

Pooh Bear wants a snowman themed birthday party. It's God's mercy, because she wants me to plan and implement a multitude of crafts for her guests, and snowman projects happen to be an absolute snap. Also, though I am not a big decorator (actually it gives me knots in my tummy to deck the halls) I bought a few snowman decorations for the kitchen last year, which is the room I decorate for parties. I'll make a couple of round cakes and gather up my Pooh Bear. She'll have the time of her life slathering on the white icing, forming a ruit roll up a scarf, cutting out a cardstock stovepipe hat, and smooshing in candies for the eyes, nose and mouth. I found snowman party favors for 50 cents a piece at Target. I emailed a simple note to all the moms as I am not interested in the bells and whistles of ecards.

Thursday Buck took over homeschooling which allowed me to Christmas shop. Thursday was perfect because the snippy cold wind spitting tiny ineffectual snowflakes combined with the weeknight made for no crowds or hassles. I went to Ten Thousand Villages, a favorite place to shop for those who don't really need, but I want to bless. It works out nicely in that a third world artist feeds his family and someone dear to me recieves a beautiful present. I also hit Target, Walmart, Dick's, Panera's, Bliss, Borders, Brook's Brothers, B. Moss, and Dillards.

The family has handmade gifts to finish, I'll have a boatload to organize and mail, then Buck has one big purchase for the children to handle, but we are well on our way to being ready for Christmas and birthdays in the gift giving department. Buck and I stayed up very late wrapping just in case curious children found the loot I'd just purchased.

Monday Tator and Wise One's homeschool cooperative teacher took us on a field trip to process gifts for the Angel Tree on Monday. It was a simple and yet rewarding experience for all as we organized a teensy tiny portion the multitude of 24,000 gifts bought for Knoxville children in need through the Angel Tree Project. Not once did I hear a child say of the trendy flashy toys, "I wish I could have this for Christmas." The children from the class all seemed to understand these toys went to children who otherwise might get nothing under their tree Christmas morning. I asked Pooh Bear to walk through the process three times with me, and even she, at five years old, could indepently work. I didn't realize the complexity of coordinating vast amounts of toys between boys and girls clubs, orphanages, Dept. of Children's services, civic clubs, ministries to the poor, etc. When our portion was finished, we all had a proud sense of accomplishment.

When our church group service project for next week fell apart, it was an easy replacement suggestion. We're on at the Angel Tree warehouse Monday.

The Angel Tree reminds me of our struggle to adopt Tator. Since was a foster baby with us, his second Christmas we signed him up to be an angel tree recipent, because his future with our family was so incredibly precarious. We didn't know day to day if he'd be with us, and we wanted to ensure he'd have presents no matter what. He never once had to leave our care, so we still have a colorful Kwanzaa picture book from those early uncertain days. When I thumb through that particular book, it brings me back both to the incredible pain and ultimate grace full joy of foster care.

Another activity which demands my attention lately is that of the dance we are working on for next Sunday's church building opening day. Shelly and Hauna have coreographed a celebratory banner piece for ten women to lead the way into worship. I don't get to observe as I did at Easter; participant must have foot surgery, and I'll need to step into her place on a banner.

I am also working with a small group of advisors on behalf of a friend named Ruby, launching into service of the Kiowa Native Americans in Oklahoma. She's worked there since April 2004 and has the high honor of being adopted into the tribe. Claire and I find our fingers flying across the keyboard typing out informational pamphlets, invitations to support desserts, pledge cards to enable Ruby to quit work and focus on service.

Tonight is the Loudon Christmas parade and walk through the town. Pooh Bear woke up and began to put on layers of clothing at 8 a.m. this morning in preparation for the 6 p.m. parade this evening. However, when I last checked this afternoon, she had stripped to a t-shirt and a thin skirt to run around the house.

Tomorrow we hope to attend an updated version of the Nutcracker with Svetlana and Anna. I wonder what updated means exactly?

My work recently and already formerly known as Shepherd's Stew has morphed into being named Still Waters. I believe the name change occured when some vegans (wink) in Washington, D.C. conjured the thought of the Good Shepherd eating his poor little unsuspecting sheep in the Shepherd's Stew imagery...

Anyhow, Still Waters, a series of themed mini-retreats I've written are offered through The Center for Children and Theology . I've twittered away a little too much time lately dancing with my printer to work up the set titled Emmanuel for Christmas, but it's finally finished and ready for shipping. If there are any profits from this Still Waters venture for me, The Center has generously agreed to designate the money for The Shepherd's Call work.

Someone needs to tell me exactly where homeschool, cooking, and laundry fit in between all this planning?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Adoption Day

A portion of an adoption poem by Monica Palmer concerning a portait of a family painted by God:

He blended dark shadows with subtle hues of Gold.
Using the richest colors, a picture began to unfold.
One very special child, two fathers and two mothers.
The image began taking shape with such beautiful colors.

Splashes of Love outlined colors of Pain.
Shades of Joy and Sadness
were mixed throughout the Picture,
among Stripes of Sorrow and Gladness.

The Portrait was finally complete,
He gently framed it with His Heart
He hung it in the Halls of Faith
. . .A Priceless Work of Art.

I see these things in you my son.

Splashes of love outlined in colors of pain
You are a child who knows exactly what it means to be deeply cherished and yet feels deep hurt all in the same breath.
Shade of joy and sadness
Noone I know abounds in delight like you, but I still notice the grey of mourning doves peeking out from behind the glowing light in your eyes.
Stripes of sorrow and gladness
Evidence of scarring remind me your fragile heart has been wounded, yet I observe giggles, wide smiles, all out laughter mixed into each new day.

A priceless work of art
Nothing compares to you. No glorious painting, no beautiful sonnet, no perfect song comes close the pearl of great price I have in you.

I see you.
I know you.
And I love you.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lessons on Becoming Me

After making significant progress on some important thinking work, I nestled under my cozy red blanket to catch a breath and snuck in a few last minutes of Oprah. The topic may have been “Lessons on Becoming Me.” Oprah had some stars talking about finding themselves. Their answers interested me, but most didn’t ring true for me. Most of the stars gave variations on the theme “love myself first, so I can give.” Yes, I do love me- which gives me something to offer. However, I believe there is an essential step long before loving myself.

How can I love myself if I haven’t taken the time to explore and find my purpose here on this earth?

And how does a woman find one’s purpose? I believe it comes down to asking the Artist who made me. What did the Creator have in mind when He formed me in my mother’s womb? I am quite certain I would not give one flip about why I was made if I didn’t believe the following with all my heart, soul, and mind:

The One who made me, loves me. Intimately. Deeply.

I don’t know why. I can’t imagine how God can look into my black stained heart and find anything to love, but He’s given me a clue in my own unshakable love for my own children. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter why I am loved- I just am.

One of the guests on Oprah mentioned something like “loving and respecting myself is like a light which causes those around me to love me as well.” I see some truth in this but don’t find it always true. Yes, authentic dignity stretches out like a proud Willow Tree, but people are capable of overlooking humanity altogether despite the good kind of enourmous self-worth. Sadly, I add myself to the "overlooking" category at times.

On Oprah's show, Sheryl Crow mentioned how she really pared down to only surrounding herself with people who were positive and supportive once she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Smart woman. I really resonated with her statement of literally “making a home with people who know who you are and what you want to be.” If you haven’t found that place to make a home, keep looking! Or even better, trust the one you already have and offer the gift of forgiveness and an open heart when things get off track.

Reba McIntyre’s quotes from the show were my favorite. When asked, “What would you say to the little girl you once were?” she replied, “Don’t wait so long to love yourself.” Next came the question, “What do you know that you know?” She responded, “ I have a Creator who loves me.” Whoa, I think she gets it.

I feel like putting oneself first doesn’t automatically take a person to self awareness and love. Listening to oneself apart from the Maker, one is likely to find the crowd of self critical voices which inhabit the human soul, or worse, end up in with a complete void. The empty seeker is then left to desperately beg everyone else around, “ I don’t like what I am. Please tell me what to be. What will make me happy? You tell me.“

I find no other satisfying way to look inside myself for answers without acknowledging and listening to my Creator. Once I’ve sought myself by abiding in Him, I’ve come out loving myself, because He found great value in me first.

There are many paths I take in abiding. Silence, dancing, running, meditating, writing, reading, walking, praying, gardening, creating all work for me. And then there are the dark nights of the soul which preserve and sustain me-

One particular moment in my tumultuous life, I particularly wrestled with becoming me. I found my deeply disappointed and disillusioned self sobbing in the shower, running my clenched fists down the dripping wall, while hot water washed over the skin of my bare back. I cried out, “God just tell me who You want me to be, and I’ll do! It’s torture not knowing. Tell me who I am! Tell me now!” I got the gentlest of all answers to my question in my next breath, “True, I could tell you to be a teacher, or a mother, or a writer, but I’d be limiting you. I want so much more for you than a few titles. If you must have Me give you a name, I have only one to offer-


Peace flooded over me; a peace that still remains in the very center of my chest. What a precious name! Beloved. I can’t be or do something more to please or impress God. I already do please Him, simply because I’m His.

Knowing I am Beloved has set me free to explore my passions without fear. I write without feeling criticized. I enjoy and learn from children. I dance in front of a thousand without a care. I teach or lead with uncommon confidence.

I am free to love and forgive as I have been loved and forgiven. That’s what I’ve become and am still becoming.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pooh Bear crafted a yellow paper rose for me. When she handed it to me, I hugged it to my chest and fainted into a pretend sleep on my bed.

In her best irritated voice she announced, "Mom, Sleeping Beauty doesn't wear blue jeans! She wears a pink dress."

"Mumhumm," I sounded through make-believe slumbering lips.

I slightly opened one eye for a peek at my daughter and noticed her cute little hands on her tiny hips.

"Mom, Sleeping Beauty does NOT have red hair! It's blonde." she continued in disgust.

"Right" I answered briefly, but I still maintained my resting posture.

When I snuck another peek with a single eye, she rolled her eyes in outrage and added, "Mom, Sleeping Beauty does not have pimples!"

She got me there. None of those Disney Princesses even owns one tube of Clearasil.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This morning I considered the fact that I needed to balance my city stories by sharing the rays of light which made life in the city abundantly joyful. I was surrounded by an intentional community of people working together to make a difference. Residents, born and raised in the area, and who had the means to "move up and out", stayed in town to positively impact the lives of their family and friends. I knew the majority of these people through my three previous years of work in the neighborhood before I took up city dwelling. The day I moved in, a local named Lewis dropped by to welcome me, "True. I have a big dog, a big gun, and I live right around the corner. Call anytime you need us." Others like James, Jack, and Sister Word stopped in from time to time to visit and make sure we doing well.

Then there were the people who moved to the 'ville intentionally as ministry. I believe Claire did so first. I wasn't crazy about her when I first met her as she's intense and complicated. However, she has become a dear of kindred spirit to me now. Chris and Meredith Lee, who worked and still work intensively in the city, bought a house just 'round the corner and my already rich city life became even more rich and blessed. Beth, who lived a few blocks away in a swimming pool blue house, connected me to the elderly. I am thankful to still be in relationship with these saints.

There wasn't a street in Mechanicsville I didn't have a friend on in those days. It was a true community for me, and I've never found another like it since. When I walked my babies in the stroller, I was beckoned in for lemonade or conversation at least three times on every outing. I felt "hemmed in behind and before." It's still amazing that a reputation for kindness paved such a smooth path for me in a part of Knoxville most people downright avoided. If strangers in the projects had an inkling to bother me or mine, even children would take up on my behalf, "Don't mess with her. She a church lady." I wasn't sure how I felt about being called a "church lady", but it certainly had instant effects on squashing anyone's ill mannered behavior.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"Can you come get Blaque?" I heard a hint of hysteria in Miriam's voice through the telephone line. I was already in bed fast asleep, but I shook off slumber to mutter,"Give me a minute to get dressed, and I'll be right over."

I noticed the flashing blue lights before I got all the way to Miriam's house. When my car pulled into the driveway, Blaque emerged from the police car shivering from the chill of the night air. She spoke softly, "Hey, True. You taking me home?"

"Yes, but give me a minute to sort things out. You have any clothes or homework you need to bring?" I asked.

Blaque clearly looked embarrassed, "I think they might be burned up."

I put my hand to her dark face and whispered, "Nevermind about that. We'll find something later. Go have a seat in my car. It's running so the heater will get you warm."

Miriam shadowed by a police officer came toward me, "True, Marcus (Miriam's boyfriend) and I had a big ugly fight. I walked out of here to get some air, and when I came back the police was here. Marcus put clothes around the kerosine heater to catch them on fire, left the house, and called the police to say my children were alone in the house. A few things got burned, and I might go to jail." She glared toward the policeman, and I tried to absorb the impact of the atom bomb of information I'd just heard.

"Where's your son, Ramone? Does he need to come to my house too?" I inquired. Miriam shook her head, "Nope. Beth done come got him." Beth was my co-worker whose son was friends with Ramone from middle school.

"Miriam, Blaque is good with me until all this is sorted out. Let me know what else I can do for you, okay?" I managed a concerned smile and turned to drive Blaque to my home. I put her to bed in my spare bedroom, and I let her sleep in though it was a school day. I called Buck to pick up some things for her at Wal-Mart on his way home from work.

Once Blaque woke up, we ate cereal together, and I took her to school. I met with the principal to explain, "I'm standing in for Miriam during a family crisis. Blaque can't get to her school books, so could you please round up another set and have the teacher write out work which needs to be done at home? You know, I work next door if you or Blaque need anything."

Blaque lived with Buck and I for one week. She didn't like homework like any other fifth grader. We played Uno and ate pizza. Despite her circumstances, we joked and laughed. I don't recall talking much about what had happened at home, and amazingly the light in her beautiful brown eyes didn't dim.

This is one story which won't end as sadly as the others, because I simply don't know what became of Blaque, or Miriam, or Ramone, or Marcus. They packed up and moved to the Carolina's not too long after Miriam asked for me to bring Blaque home.

Yes, I think of them from time to time and wonder what adult life is like for Blaque. Did she find her way out of the mess? Does she have children of her own? Did Miriam ever make her way out of the cycle of poverty and violence? What is Ramone like now? What happened to Marcus?

The thing is that all these people had unmistakeable and remarkable potential snapped off like a twiggy branch from a wintered tree. In my mind's eye, I can see Miriam as a famous stage actress with her animated voice and strong wiry body connecting an audience to her pain, Ramone a successful businessman in an Armani suit, Marcus a community leader standing firm for the rights his people, and Blaque as a tender mother raising children who know and love themselves. Let that be the end of this story.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

More city stories

Anthony and Danny, college students who attended Knoxville College, a proud Black school, walked into the building which I worked and said something to the effect of, "We like what we see here, and we want to be part of it." What they viewed was a space heavily under the influences of Dr. Kawanzaa Kunjufu, Sista Folami Prescott, Dolphus Weary, Dr. John Perkins and more Black grassroots community developers. If the topic interests you, you might want to start with Kunjufu's book The Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys and Perkin's Let Justice Roll Down.

Both young men filled out an six page long application for summer camp counselor I'd come up with which detailed questions only fit for the job of Pope. Fortunately, this didn't drive away two young men perfect for the job of working with children just like the boys they'd been years before. It's saying too little to mention the tremendous power of positive role models.

I didn't realize that application day Danny and his wife Lissa were to become dear friends and neighbors of Buck and myself. I probably learned more about the life of the families I worked with from this couple than anyone else. Their little apartment in the projects and deep friendship provided an open window to reveal my own prejudice and educate me in cross cultural relationship.

On one visit to their home, I asked why Danny and Lissa didn't let their little son, Denny, play out on the playground. Instead of talking it over with me, they opened the sheers and asked me to simply observe the playground for ten minutes from their living room window. In the first minute of watching the children swing and slide outside, I asked, "Where are the adults? Why is no one supervising?" The second minute, I winced as I saw a toddler fall hard and begin to cry unattended, "Shouldn't we go help him? Where on earth is his mother?" Lissa and Danny simply asked me to keep watching. When I saw an eight year old throw a five year old girl on the ground and thrust his hips over her, imitating the sex act, I jumped up and said, "Danny, we've got to HELP!" Danny walked briskly outside with me and he asked the boy to stop and go home. "True. That boy will be back in five minutes to do the same once we step inside and stop watching. Lissa and I could potentially stand out here day and night to keep watch. So could you for that matter, but it wouldn't change what's going on long term. We are here to educate ourselves and empower those around us who don't know anything else." I cried right then and there at the injustice of that violent dwelling place for children. I later found the local public school and The Boys and Girls Club offered the same level of shameful neglect while too few adults looked on apathetically.

I asked myself the hard questions, "Am I supposed to take on these deplorable situations for children myself? Should I organize safety vigils for the schools, playgrounds, Boys and Girls Clubs? That's entirely bigger than me. So, what is MY place? How can I make a difference?" I still ask myself those questions, and it keeps my fire lit for the city and my hopes to change the world and make it a better place.

Danny and Lissa graduated with honors from college and moved into a house five streets away from mine in the 'ville. Lissa planted flower beds of tall and elegant Cana while Danny painted the house mustard yellow with black, green, and red accents. They lived and worked there till Danny died of cancer a four years ago. His son Denny, 12 years old or so at the time, helped me through my unspeakable pain and loss with his strong words from the pulpit at Danny's funeral. Denny stood erect and spoke with amazing clarity, "Everyone keeps coming up to me and saying,'I'm so sorry you lost your dad.' and I wish you would just stop it. My dad is in a better place. He's a Christian and he's with Jesus now. That's nothing to be sorry about."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Christmas 1993, when Buck and I purchased our quaint white cottage with forest green painted wooden floors on Douglas Street in the inner city Knoxville, we didn't get the New Year's Eve memo. Instead Buck and I fell to the floor from our bed at the stroke of midnight in sheer terror. Being nine months pregnant, I crammed in every inch of sleep my ginormous body would afford, so we weren't awake and glued for any television Times Square ball action which announced 1994. Instead we were jolted from the dead of sleep by gunfire on all sides. The Handguns resounding their single jarring pows and shotguns blasts first sent us to the floor. But it most likely was the rtt,ttt, tttt, ttttt on semi automatic weapons which caused me to gulp mouthfuls of air. Had Oakridge been the target of an enemy of the United States setting off WW III? Heavens, no. Turns out, gunfire equals the 'hood's version New Year's fireworks. My next door neighbor, Jack told me so the next morning. He casually met my morning hysteria with "Don't worry about it. The bullets are fired into the air- not at people. Everybody consider's midnight of the New Year as a time to clear out the barrel of all their guns."

I made a mental note for Buck and I to wear a bullet proof vests to bed New Years 1995, and to research if armor was available in baby sizes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I’ve decided to do something I have not done before. I’m going to blog about my previous experience of working and living in another culture. You probably won’t believe all that you read, but I can assure truth is stranger than fiction, and I won’t waver from truth.

I grew up in the white suburbs with all its privilege and safety. As children, we played safe and sound outside far from our house until hunger or dusk called us home, whichever came first. Dickens and Sally Struthers commercials about starving African children summed up my knowledge of poverty issues.

However, as an adult I felt curiously drawn to work with children from a much different setting- the inner-city of Knoxville. Because I worked with children, I developed relationships with parents and leaders in the neighborhood. A few years after I began working with a group of community developers, Urban Community Vision (since then all the people of that organization have settled into pockets of ministry on a wider city scale), that I realized I needed to live there to make a difference. Much to my dear mother’s misery, my husband and I sold our first home- a cedar sided contemporary home in the woods of South Knoxville, and moved to a small white cottage smack dab in the middle of the city. I was pregnant with my first child.

I feel free to tell the stories from that time now, because the children I worked with are now grown and making their own way. I run into some of them from time to time or hear stories of what has become of them.

What sparked memories in me of those seven years in the city? I was listening to India Arie on CD yesterday as her song trailed off in a lyric, “I wanna be where the wind calls my name. India, India, India.” At the mention of that name, I instantly felt something made of melancholy. My mind traveled across my blue emotion to settle on a woman from the inner city I once knew named India. Though she birthed four little girls, she was childlike herself. She spoke in a small soft voice except for when she’d tell an animated story of an everyday event which she wove magically into incredible folklore. India possessed and distributed the gift of laughter- the kind that wells up in the belly and gushes out like a fresh geyser of joy. She wore clear bronze skin and a smile as wide as the state of Tennessee. She lived in the project housing across the street from my work. Though it was sparsely furnished, India’s apartment usually seemed tidy and smelled a little like bleach. She attended a delightful sewing circle friends and I put together, A Circle of Hands, so we kept in quiet regular touch. I considered her a friend.

India’s done up hair and ethnic clothes captured her unique and beautiful style, except for the times she turned inward to a depressive state. I’d occasionally run across India with nappy wild hair, pj’s and slippers, shuffling slowly to the gas station to buy a Coke or a chocolate bar- a tragic expression written across her furrowed brow. I watched in astonishment as her parents kept taking in her babies one by one as she’d be reported by neighbors to The Department of Children’s Services for neglect, abuse, or abandonment.

I distinctly remember the hot summer day India dropped by my house to obtain formula for her infant daughter named Mary whom she feeding a red drippy plastic sleeved Popsicle. India, and most every other mother within a few blocks, knew I always kept baby supplies on hand and gave them out to anyone, no questions asked. My heart ached as I wondered what other things she fed her tiny girl baby in desperation. That day I didn’t wait and let India wander home to make the formula- I asked India inside for a snack, and also prepared the baby a bottle on the spot. I have never witnessed such frantic hungry sucking from a anxious baby, and it broke my heart to watch. I knew India urgently clung to the idea she would be able to raise this fourth child on her own, and I regretted the relief I felt when I heard the news not long after that summer day that Mary was removed from India’s care into DCS custody, then given to India’s parents.

I wonder from time to time about Mary and her sisters. Did India’s parents find what they couldn’t give India to raise these girls well?

I wish I could end this story with in satisfying and uplifting way, but like many of my friends from those days, tragedy overcame India. In a catch-up phone call from Circle of Hand leader Beth, Beth gently informed me that India had been murdered. The police believed it was a case of a prostitute who crossed someone, possibly her pimp, and India was left dead in the bath tub of her apartment in the projects.

Please reserve any judgments of this girl for my sake- her heartrending life and death require your gift of compassion. And I did love her, appalling faults and all.

Impoverished urban life takes it toll. Another woman in our sewing Circle of Hands somehow managed to continue breathing day by day after losing her three young children in a blazing house fire. Another member suffered a stroke not long after the shooting death of her teenaged son. Poverty and violence usually escalates to more poverty and violence.

So today, when I hear India Arie croon “I wanna hear the wind call my name. India, India, India”, I wish I could drop in and smell the faint bleach of India’s apartment, see her infectious smile, and hear a simple story in a southern black woman’s drawl which might make me laugh so hard that tears might escape my eyes.

Instead I cry in another way.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

I removed the old school desk from the front porch in September to add more working space in the home school room, so the dear hen no longer has a place to abide just outside my front window. Before I took the desk inside, the stately chicken used to huddle inside the metal book holder portion at the bottom of the desk for rest. In the days before the desk relocation, I delighted to hear her rustling a few feet from where I lay my own head down in rest. I am reminded today of the disappearance of her dwelling as she visits the corner the desk used to inhabit. She softly coos and purrs; a contented hen makes such peaceful noises. It’s the first time in a long while since I’ve become conscious of missing her tender chatter, of her elegant black feathers waving in the wind as she peeks curiously inside the glass pane at me. Surprisingly, I find simple pleasure in observing the chicken’s inquisitive nature unfold with slight jerks of the small head and darting deep black eyes. Real farmers nor any other reasonable people for that matter probably don’t ponder such trivialities, but I feel more deeply, think more clearly, when I pause to marvel at my hen friend’s voice. Laugh if you like, but I become more connected to creation and recognize, I cognize again that all life is precious and vulnerable. This beloved hen carries within her an egg or more with all the potential of a newborn chick. Something I’m always looking for- a way to begin again. A fresh start contained in a fresh egg.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Buck and I have declared a revolution which began yesterday. We made no official announcement or proclamation, but we are “flipping the family script” so to speak. Somehow, sarcasm, harsh talking and anger have infiltrated our relationships, and Buck and I resolved to become peace makers who quietly live what we ask of our children. Together we’ve sworn off adult temper flares, cutting remarks, and irritated responses to our offspring. Nothing like a sideways “You are bothering me. Go!” comment when a “Please give me some time to get back with you.” will do just fine.

Of course, this morning, the second day of the revolution began with a test. Though Buck or I did not ask him to, Tator woke up Wise One by steamrolling all over snoozing Wise One and demanding, “Get up and get to your chores now!” The crushing awakening somehow sparked an outburst from both Wise One and Tator.

Wise One shouted from under our family prayer table, “I don’t want to be with my brothers. They are so MEAN!”

Me, “Sweetheart, come let me hold you this morning. Let’s work out a better start.” He wouldn’t take the snuggle bait.

So, I asked Tator and Wise One to come sit together and work it out.
Tator exclaimed, “But I didn’t ROLL on him. I just SAT on his bed.” to which Wise One exploded, “Yes, you did roll on me!”

Here’s where the revolution comes in. When Tator won’t admit his stuff, I get ugly. I say things to him like, “You KNOW you did something to hurt Wise or he wouldn’t be so mad! Just tell him sorry!” I felt the proverbial rubber hitting the road and opted to keep my promise to Buck.

Wise One grumped a little more and Tator again skirted responsibility until I asked them both in my best kind voice, “Loves, just go back to your beds until you can figure out how to resolve this. Tator I know you are the kind of person who knows how to take responsibility when someone is upset with you. ” Wise One thumped back to his room while Tator skipped joyfully to his bed.

“Wait a minute. Something is wrong with this picture,” I thought to myself when thinking over these two opposing reactions.

Oh, yeah, Tator loves being sent to his room, so I had to come up with a better plan, “Tator, I changed my mind. Grab your coat and whatever else you need, and sit on the porch.” He doesn’t really care for the rushing winds of winter as much as he does the shelf full of books and relaxation of his bed. A little fresh air couldn’t hurt the boy, right?

I heard Tator’s footsteps, but they did not head to the front door. Instead they moved towards Wise One’s room. Within seconds my boys were best buddies again as Tator apologized for such an abrupt wake up call to Wise. Shortly after, I apparently interrupted their secret plan with their little sister to make Christmas cards for me. You should hear the sweet sounds of craft-making and creation streaming from the kitchen at this moment.

So, why declare such a revolution? One reason is that I don’t want to lose our children. More clearly stated, I don’t want to lose their hearts. Peace becomes a teenager in a month and a half. Soon, Buck and I will have only the power our teens are willing to give us, and we want to be the safe haven to which our children run. If we are not “safe” people, my children will run elsewhere. In the few times I’ve watched Dr. Phil, I recognize relationships as being “the soft place to fall”, and I saw Buck and I becoming stubborn and hard when soft and listening accomplishes so much more.

Another reason I want to change my strategy is that I do not like who I am or what I become when I am harsh with someone else, especially a child.

Buck and I met Tuesday night for a pep talk from our friend Claire. She told Buck and I the story of her previously angry son who has turned into a hunk o’ burning love through the same kind of revolution. Believe it or not, for two years, Claire kept her temper and tongue in a concerted effort to transform him into the person he was always meant to be. I hope you have the opportunity to meet him someday. He’s someone I admire for his genuine love and compassion for humankind.

Last night, Buck and I asked our care group if we can call them for immediate intervention when he or I feel tempted to drink, I mean use sarcasm or insensitive words with our children. Claire has made herself available as our sponsor.

Ask me how it’s going sometimes to keep me in check. I promise, I’ll give it to you straight.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Do you have people in your life whom you call dear friends? There are a handful of amazing women with whom I do not hesitate to share my innermost thoughts. They do not judge. The do not chide. They do not talk out of awkwardness of the moment. They listen. Deeply. They mean what they say. And they have my best interest in mind.

That's the most anyone could ask for.

When I've heard other people criticize one of these dear ones, I think to myself, "You really don't know her. If you'd only take the time, you'd see..."

It really does comes down to taking the time to do relationships well. Yet I know, I don't have time to do more than be in the moment with the individuals who touch my life. And goodness knows, I'd better not cast my leftover self to my husband and four children. My family requires the best listening part of me I can give- which limits my time for hanging out with women who inspire me.

I'm not sure how to end this post except to say-

I am grateful for all these gifts surrounding me.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I try to keep things in perspective. For example, when Tater stomps away yelling, "You just don't listen, do you!" and Pooh Bear whimpers, "Nobody wants a mom like you."- they mean it at the moment, but it's not always so. This is the stuff I'd like to forget ever happens in our family.

I'd like to always remember the afternoon when Heather and her dear husband from Singapore brought their toddler and baby to play. All three of my sons occupied the toddler, Ellis, for hours on end. Peace thoughtfully introduced Ellis to all 40 chickens and chicks by name, the goats, the ginormous dog, the cats, and the gerbil. Next my guys blew the dust off wooden trains and tracks and dinosaurs which had not been played with for some time. They dragged out wooden block sets and built the four year old boy's dream come true- a dinosaur train town.

And when it was time to leave, Heather wondered aloud if Ellis would ever want to leave such a rockin' toddler place. I whispered to Wise One, "Remember when you were little, how it was easier to leave if you could take something with you?" He nodded cheerfully and asked Eli,"Would you like to take any of my dinosaurs home? I know which one you like the best, because it's my favorite too." I was a bit surprised. I expected Wise One to offer a dino from the pack of twenty from the Dollar Tree, but he freely gave the little guy free choice. Ellis held up one about 1/4 the size of his small frame. Wise One announced, "That's the one! Now it can be your favorite."

I adore how my boys aren't too preoccupied to entertain a four year old guest. I hope they never get too old or busy to enjoy small children. I admire Wise One's giving heart. These boys make me want to be a better, more generous person. At times, they are my heroes.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


What was I thinking? I really believed once soccer season and the Weaving Our Gifts conference was finished, I'd have some breathing room. And in a way I can rest with those things behind, but....

I'm working on printing and filling orders for the materials launched at the conference, beginning a huge project concerning The Shepherd's Call and the National Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and a now a new dance for opening day of a church building for my fellowship. All just exactly what I'd like to be doing. In many ways, dreams coming true.

What's better is that my children are thriving and becoming people I admire for the most part. I'm bumping heads with my oldest son Peace over higher study skills expectations, and I can see him growing in competentcy. Yesterday, he fought me for an entire hour over the instructions for his co-op composition course in which the audacious thought of eleven paragraphs unraveled his pre-teen world. Anyone with a 12 year old boy knows something of what I mean. My middle 11 year old son is crashing head on into adolescent issues, even before his 12 year old brother, which tends to confound me. My 9 year old boy convinces me everyday that love conquers all. My 5 year old daughter won't stop bugging me about the Christmas crafts we purchased on Monday, and I don't intend to begin that mess for a few more weeks. She wants to paint and NOW is not soon enough. Children are a bundle of untidy blessings.

Buck is working on the random problem with our heating unit. He feels fairly compelled knowing I'm a crab if I'm subjected to temperatures below 70 degrees. I love that man.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vote or Die

There's no chance in the world I wouldn't vote after the hard road Alice Paul and the other brave souls paved literally with their own bodies for me.

However, may I complain for a moment?

I live in one of those states, and tomorrow can't be over soon enough.

You'd think the governor's race would wear us voters out with a multitude of signs and ads. However, I've just seen one really goofy and rather meaningless commercial of candidate Bryson holding a miniature faltering Governor Bredesen in his hand. Right!

However,the HOT as FIRE race scorches for the TN senate seat. It's been nothing but outrageous amounts of slamming and ducking from the get go on both sides- Harold "Pretty Boy" Ford, Jr. vs. Bob "Can't Debate to Save His Life" Corker.

My family does not watch much television at all, but political commercials between the two are sandwiched between programming so tight that there's absolutely no room for peanut butter. My nine year old son observed, "That Bob Corker sure does like to walk down the street ALOT", and I had to laugh. Out loud. I hadn't considered that Bob's commercials center on people talking about him while he saunters down a picturesque Tennessee avenue. Unfortunately, he genuinely has had a problem connecting with people when he speaks for himself, which is why I suspect he shyed away from as many debates with Ford as he could possibly get away with. On the other hand, Harold is one practiced and smooth talking politician, which by no means, makes him the better man. When I look at Harold I think, "That young man always looks poised for a rock and roll good time"- which I am fairly certain is not to be had on the senate floor.

I'm hoping to sleep on the whole thing tonight and wake up with clear American voting vision in the morning. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Svetlana Turns 40

There's been a rash of fortieth birthdays 'round my circle of friends, and it's amazing to participate in the celebrations of each person's life.

Svetlana technically turns 40 on Veteran's Day, November 11, but the carousing took place yesterday. She requested a death defying Roller Skating to the Ramones party with chili, beer, icecream cake, and tamales to follow at her home.

It's something to be a part of a honoring a woman like Svetlana. As her dear husband, Bary, mentioned at her toast, "Though she quite literally has multiple Master's of Education degrees and held at least one rather glamourous job at Columbia U, she laid it all down to raise our two daughters." And those girls are amazing. You should see five year old Anna on skates!

I have to believe it was meant to be that my seventh grade physical science lab partner would remain a life long dear friend.

If she doesn't mind me publically sharing what I wrote to her:

Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Mother Teresa

Dearest Svet,
In my search for something profound to write about you on this your fortieth birthday, it’s no surprise that my own words fell short. So, I began to look for a quote which somehow captured the essence of the person that you are.

Are you surprised I chose this particular quote for you? It’s because you are gifted in the lost art of the practical. You lead a simple yet splendid life. You keep house, children, marriage, friendship by doing what needs to be done with gentleness, great purpose, humor, and beauty. And though I’m sure you get physically tired, in the midst, you quietly love in undemanding ways.

Thank you for never tiring of loving me. Somehow you manage to overlook my silly zealousness and intense passion which gets in my own way.

The irony I find is that your uncomplicated and practical love makes you extraordinary after all.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Weaving our Gifts

I’ll try to collect tthe blur of my thoughts for the past six days here on my blog.

I’ve just gotten back from a conference for folks involved in children’s spiritual formation through Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The biannual conference in Connecticut is titled Weaving our Gifts invites peers to present workshops for one another to enhance the work with children and adults.

How could I ever make such trips without the help of dear friends like Helen and Clay, Scott and Leesa who kept my children while Buck worked demanding weekend shifts? Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In one of my workshops, I launched Shepherd’s Stew, the prayer project I’ve been developing for over a year. Shepherd’s Stew is a collection of prayer centers for adults based on different themes. In the Season to Grow theme, which is the set I chose for the workshop, participants explored ten unique growing centers with scriptures, meditation questions, and accompanied by art projects. I am constantly amazed at the words, feelings and creative projects which are shared at the end of the center work time. My friend Liz shared a painted a clay pot with precious pictures of the stages of her own development in Christ. Another spoke on her enjoyment of simply coloring stained glass in response to light scripture. Others talked about their experience as they listened to worship songs. Joanna accurately dubbed my workshop “a mini retreat“.

My publisher and friend, Catherine Maresca, congratulated me on how well received the materials and workshop were over the weekend. I take a deep breath of gratitude just now for her huge investment of time in the project. She and her staff at The Center for Children and Theology and Children edited, explored packaging and printing options with me, and flung emails and phone calls back and forth for months on details.

Two amazing women who live nearby in Connecticut pulled together a laundry list of art materials for me: markers, pens, paints, brushes, paper, frames, CD players, fresh flowers, mats, trays, candles, snuffers, matches, paper plates, newspaper, baskets and more. At the retreat house, a Rubbermaid box, a cardboard box and a bucket of fresh flowers stood prepared just for me, so I didn’t have to somehow cart those things from Tennessee. However, when I set the centers up the night before, I realized I’d forgotten to bring or ask for tiny boxes to take home wheat seeds from one of art activities. Then I realized a friend I’d met at training in Santa Barbara last year named Silas was attending the conference, and he had made tiny boxes from paper for us there. I zipped down to his room, cardstock and scissors in hand, and he asked me to join his group from Minnesota watching (or ignoring) the World Series in the TV room another floor. Those people were an absolute hoot! They made me laugh like I haven’t in a long time, and everyone in the group eventually joined in the box making craft.

I attended lectures with keynote speaker Aline D. Wolf and other workshops. Jo and I met for business concerning The Shepherd’s Call. God bless the women from the National Association of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd who have committed and began working with us in that gigantic effort. We have a long journey of work ahead, but it’s full of hope and promise.

Jo and I prepared a workshop titled Adapting with Integrity which invited others to collaborate in a brainstorming process to look over Good Shepherd materials and adapt them for children in alternative settings. This group came up with an excellent start, flow charting the process of adaptation.

I met with friends from across the United States I’ve met at trainings and retreats over the course of the last nine years. We shared heartaches and joys. I met new people I hope to work with collaboratively in the future.

I strong armed Joanna into a dance of prayer with me for the “sharing night”. A few weeks before the conference, a song came up on my ipod at the gym which gave me that “This is the one to dance to at the conference” feeling. The song was In You by Mercy Me. A two person choreography developed when I prepared the movements at home. I asked Jo to bring black sweat pants and a black shirt and be open to partnering with me which she did. The only child I met at the conference took the time to bless me with his words, “That song you danced to? It’s my very favorite song. I have all Mercy Me’s CD’s and you picked my favorite one.”

I’ll conclude with a quote from Sofia Cavalletti in her most recent letter to members like myself of the National Association of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

“Who is it that comes in the midst of such noise? 'The Spirit rests on him.' The world is saved by things that are small and quiet, things whose presence is barely noticeable. And when we do notice them, their presence bears all the perfume of a GIFT. It is just such things that the Spirit seeks out.

In returning to this passage once again (Isaiah 10:32-34-11:1), I have asked myself- and would like to ask you to ask yourselves together with me: Could it be that the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is on of these little things? The light of joy which we have been given to see the eyes of the children and also many adults, where does it come from if not from the Spirit? Is it not a marvelous gift? Could it not perhaps be the light of the Christian message that we have sought to transmit in the most objective manner possible, without allowing ourselves to get in the way, trying to make ourselves always smaller so that the Word resounds with all it’s mysterious power? “

Monday, October 23, 2006

This blog is a space for me to write some things, but most certainly not all. And I consider this blog to be a vehicle to help log things I do not want to forget, and I don't want to forget yesterday. So, be warned. This post may not make sense to anyone except me.

Friday mornings I've been practicing with a small group of other women for a church dance presentation. When we began a few months ago, our leader, Kelly, played the song, "Light Your World" by Chris Rice, then asked for our impressions and ideas. Surprisingly, she had not choreographed it in full. We shot our ideas around the group and I could see her wheels turning, "Here's what I see. This character whose flame is not yet lit, stands still while the other, a burning flame, flits around her inviting her in. Like this- everyone, cast your eyes pained and downcast, hands on chest." Kelly who only began dancing six years ago for the first time at age 30, spun round and round beckoning us with the perfection of a butterfly. Kelly then followed up by teaching us steps to join her as we accepted our ignited "flame". Cindy, a slender tall person of intense beauty from the assembled group mentioned quietly aside to me, "That particular part certainly wouldn't suit me, since I'm not really a dancer." I immediately raised my eyebrow in question and replied in all confidence, "Whether you think so or not, grace is written all over you on the inside and the outside- on the inside the rare kind of forgiving grace and an obvious outward physical grace just in your stride." Guess who got that part the very next week? And never once did she shy away from it's complexity.

The following week, Kelly asked for our input again. A second mention of, "I see the whole congregation (several hundred people) with lit candles at the end of the song" had me absolutely puzzled. "Not possible" was all I could think but did not say aloud.

Kelly taught me a part I understood so sincerely, it only took me once to completely catch on,

Frustrated Brother
See how he tries to
Light his own candle
Some other way.

Kelly worked out a part for the other participant, Shep. I knew something of her past and the lyrics matched closely to her story.

See now your sister.
She's been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle
Without a flame.

The following week, someone, I think Shep brought this idea, "What if we held something like a dark handkerchief in our hands and let it drop when we receive the light?" Powerful! A precious seamstress from the congregation whipped up one for each of us in no time.

We practiced over the next few weeks while Kelly literally sold her house and moved to another house not far away. In the midst of her chaos, the dance came together beautifully. In fact, I often missed my cue, because I was so taken by the exchange between Cindy and Kelly in the first chorus.

Still that crazy "congregation lit" idea remained fixed on the table. Surely some pastor would talk us down from that, but not so. In fact, he bought the candles and found people to hand them out at the door the day of the presentation.

Shep and another who couldn't participate in the dance assembled an army of candle lighters for a practice on the Saturday before the Sunday dance. The crowd of twenty candle lighters were given their instructions and cues. Then, we dancers, all nerves from our first "audience", danced for them.

I waited with a bit of baited breath for their response. My eyes met a friend's, and she was outright crying. I searched for the next face, and found an expression of astonishment. I've been in quite a few dance presentations before in my previous church, and never before have I instantly known how deeply connected the people who watched became.

And what was the most beautiful part of the dance on Sunday for me? Being up front, I got the bird's eye view of the sparkling vast sea of congregation with lit and raised candles.

Take your candle,
Go light your world.

Friday, October 20, 2006

To Helen

I look over the times I have laughed the hardest and longest in my life and many of those times have been with you. You bring joy to my life.

The day I met you in high school art class in 1982, I would never have guessed we'd remain closer than ever twenty-four years later.

We've shared scores of celebrations- graduations, weddings, New Year's Eves, and endured terrible things at each other's sides we thought would surely kill us.

Still we stand. Together.

I treasure your wisdom, and you make me a better person when I'll heed your advice.

I love the "shorthand" we speak with one another and how even words aren't always necessary- the way we read one another like a book in a simple glance.

Happy birthday isn't quite enough, so how's this?

You rock, dear friend!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

It’s about to begin.

The October War.

Buck pulls down the boxes of toasty winter clothes from the attic, and I wince. The boxes remind me that soon the conflict between Pooh Bear, and I will kick off. Pooh Bear hates socks and tights. Since April, she’s been free as a butterfly to bare her feet, but with the cold nip in the air comes cold toes. We’ve already worked our way through the introductory September Soccer Sock battle in which she her involvement on the team precariously hangs in the balance contingent upon her cooperation and self control whilst I fish on the long woven tubes of torture over her tender feet. Once we begin the laborious process of cleats over the socks, Pooh Bear enormous vocabulary of verbal abuse is severely limited by my careful restriction to, ”That is uncomfortable. May we try again?”

Pooh Bear loves the moment the winter boxes open- more clothes to stuff in her already snug drawers. She lets out squeals of delight as she discovers the used shoe supply. This morning she’s joyfully raced into my room to model for me some hand-me-down sneakers and pretty slips-ons. I take a painful mental note that one will require socks (oof!) and the other tights (oaf!).

“Pooh Bear, my dear, soon you’ll have to put on socks and tights with those. Is there enough wiggle room in that sneaker?”, I nonchalantly ask as plops the shoe on her foot in my lap.

She wrinkles up her cute little nose and replies, “Oh, Mom. I HATE sock and tights!”

So, the battle will rage on. She’s just five, so I’ve only done this for the past four years in a row. At least it hasn’t been all five years, as I suppose it took her the first year of her life to work up such stocking loathing.

I think I need a Tylenol or a glass of wine. Or perhaps I'll wash the tylenol down with a glass of wine.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Mask Comes Off

If you would like to know the very secrets of my heart, and one of the things I've been so feverishly working on lately, please visit my website:

Jo, my partner in the work, and I are on bended knee asking for feedback, input, tweaking, advice, prayer, response- anything you, my friends and family, will offer.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Psalm of Contentment

by Edward Hays

O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher,

for I wish to learn the virute of contentment.

As I gaze upon your full-colored beauty,

I sense all about you

an at-homeness with your amber riches.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Divine Nobodies

Don't miss this book.

Divine Nobodies: Shedding Religion to Find God (and the unlikely people who help you)

By Jim Palmer
W Publishing Group of Thomas Nelson Publishers

Pseudo Introduction
Real Introduction
1. Touched by a Drummer (Saint Kit)Knowing God
2. Hip-Hop Geography(ExtremeDoug) Straight Up
3. Waffle House Theology (Waitress Wanda) Calling
4. Death to the Phantom (Worthless Grace) Identity
5. What the Sheep Do We Know!? (Kids of Silent Rocks Farm)Openness
6. The Black Hole of Intimacy (Laddie the Dog) Depression
7. Don't Mess With the EAMC (Mr. Adams, ASE Certified) Institutionalism
8. Pride and Prejudice (My Gay Friend Richard)Wholeness
9. Daughters (Jessica, an American Girl)Parenthood
10. August 7, 1959 – July 22, 2000 (Father of Four)Belief
11. E. None of the Above (Jill the Flaming Swim Teacher)Politics
12. Sex, Lies, and Paratroop Deployment (Rescued Varsha)Worldview
13. The Great Reversal (Father Jeff)Religion
14. Left Behind (Dominique the Abandoned Boy)Scars
15. Where Rubber Meets Road (Rick the Tire Salesman)

Chapter 5 is about my Shepherd's Call work with Jo from Silent Rocks Farms.

The book comes out soon, but bookstores are prepared for preorders. Jim's Divine Nobodies blog is on my blogroll.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Some things are just not right.

I have a pimple. Right on the end of my nose. Is it fair to be forty, have laugh lines, and still get pimples? I think not.

I also got my once-a-year-perm yesterday to put some uniform curl into my hair with a mind of its own, and it stinks. I'm not allowed to wash it for another whole day, so I'll have to live with the irritating smell for a while longer.

I have to call the airline for a third time about misspelling my name on the itenerary for a flight scheduled for October. Imagine me arriving at the airport, not being permitted to board the plane, then consequently being arrested by security for pitching a fit about the airline's mistake. I'm guessing it would be best to remain proactive with Continental instead.

It after 9 a.m. here at True Vyne farms and fog hands like a thick wool winter coat in the closet
over the fields. My children are recovering from a manic Monday of busy- Co-op, ballet, two soccer practices in different cities, and Scouts. Pooh Bear and I are starting to dread that routine, and I don't see a way to lighten it up until after soccer season. Bless her heart, she arrived at ballet with one pink slipper and no doodle-do (family name for pony tail holder).

I do count my blessings, but it's not helping lift my overall blue. I think there is a connection between the shortening chilly days and my mood.

Is the change of season effecting you as well?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fabulous stage lighting in the essential purple, blue, green, and yellow. Check.

Amazing lamay and sequined costumes. Check.

Loads of exaggerated make-up. Check

Smiles as long as Maine to Florida. Check.

Cheezy music and acting. Check.

Impressive ropes and pulleys sets for stars to glide down. Check.

Princess crowns. Check.

Fire. Yes, real fire breathed from a rather frightening dragon. Check.

Glitter, and lots of it. Check.

And don't forget the most important ingredient.

ICE. Check.

Pooh Bear put on her garage sale Belle dress. I curled her hair, and we accompanied friends to Disney on Ice Princess Wishes this morning.

By some sweet miracle, we got floor seats, and for the first time ever, I looked into the faces of talented iceskaters in outlandish and cumbersome outfits doing astonishing twists and turns.

Pooh Bear as trouble deciding which princess she likes best, but mine is Belle. Belle is a bookworm who falls in love with the beautiful insides of an outward beast. In the end, she finds he's a prince.

Today Pooh Bear chose Ariel for obvious mermaid reasons, as her top pick. Did I ever tell you about the time she was two when she begged me to turn her feet to fins while bathing in a bubble bath?

While I find the whole idea of anything on ice, as rather absurd and dangerous, Pooh Bear has her eyes on a career: princess, mermaid, or skater. Don't worry. By the time she's eighteen, I'll talk her into becoming something more practical like an astronaut or human resources manager. Something less flashy. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The third act on This American Life yesterday presented the reality of autism and the family.
The subject is of great interest to me in that I majored and taught in special education in my life before children and remain fascinated with the potential of people with handicaps.

The family openly spoke about life with their autistic son Benjamin, whose autism must have reached "severe" on the broad spectrum. The father explained his son as a giant with a toddler's brain. The family referred to their bruised and scratched skin from Ben's violent outbursts as "benjuries". The mother was quite frank about the utter rudeness of complete strangers toward them in public.

I contrasted Ben's story to a little guy with autism I am friends with at church. He's been in my Sunday School class for the last two years and now I am his official one on one "hang out" buddy in his new class. In contrast to the many intensely frustrated people with autism I've met over the years, this boy is miraculously and remarkably joyful.

Dave, the person with the most severe case of autism I've met, lived in a group home where I worked when I was in college. Even sedated on psychotrophic drugs, Dave was horribly self abusive. He obsessed over Mountain Dew to the point that we installed alarms on all doors as he'd run to the nearest convenience store a mile away and guzzle down as many two liters as possible before anyone knew he was missing. He walked around signing the word "pop" constantly as he had no speech and would sometimes begin a destructive pattern of behavior when he didn't get Mountain Dew. He'd fall to his knees on the blue shag living room carpet, rub a circle with his thin hand until his palm became bloody. His body perspiration and odor released and angry grunting built to screaming. Then begin beating himself in the head with his hands leaving knots and bruises. Eventually he wore a helmet to prevent brain damage. Eventually, Dave was moved to an institution.

When I hypothetically consider if I could handle Dave as a member of my household now, I seriously doubt my capabilities. Each day, everything would revolve around his urgent needs and the rest of the family would be shoved to the back of the line. Every person would be forced into the survival mode.

From my previous experience with Dave, I completely understand Ben's family's eventual choice to place him in a structured program away from home. They believe he is happy there.

I do not know Dave's status these days, but when I get to heaven, I imagine a conversation with him and the others who could not find paths for communication with me when I worked in their home. Will Dave say, "True, you were off the mark. I was really thinking...", "Why didn't you ever...", or "About the times I'd press on your throat till you awoke simultaneously screaming and gasping for air on your overnight shifts- I'm sorry about that."?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

It's not a surprise that Ira Glass' story about Heidi brought me to tears. To tell the truth, I haven't been listening to Ira in a silent never before mentioned boycott, since he hasn't gotten back to me about the story I proposed in April.

And you thought I was incapable of holding a shallow and petty grudge? Even if it's against a famous person I've never met from an NPR Saturday radio show. It's hard for me to comprehend that Ira has apparently ignored my request to interview the man I found who constructed an entire town of Christmas houses sprawling across the lawn on one side of his house, and his mother who constructed an amazing dinosaur village on the other in an itsy bitsy Tennessee town I pass through on the way to Deerlodge.

However, I've grown entirely bored of the 150 eighties songs in the mp3 player in Buck's Honda, and I'm a such sucker for good story. So, I ended my magnificently successful private boycott by swallowing the lump of my pride in a single gulp and intently listened to This American Life on my drive home this afternoon. In all seriousness, Ira has a way of choosing incredibly meaningful stories that immediately penetrate my sometimes stubborn heart.

Today he began with a the story of the mid twentieth century scientist who worked to contradict existing research proving that love was not an essential for babies. In fact, in the days before the 50's, scientists, psychologists, and physicians taught parents that love was actually harmful to infants- more than one kiss a year was to the detriment of a child.

The scientist in Ira's story studied Reece's monkey babies by putting them with two dummy mommies. Wire Mommy, equipped with eyes, nose, mouth, and a bottle of formula protruding from her middle sat beside Soft Mommy made of cloth featured cuddling arms. The test baby monkeys spent 23 hours a day snuggling with Soft Mommy and less than one hour a day getting milk from Wire Mommy. If that wasn't enough to prove his theory, the scientist fitted Soft Mommy with a mechanism to trigger dull barbs to jab the baby intermittently, shake the baby till it's teeth rattled, and toss the baby across the room. Still the test monkeys went back again and again to Soft Mommy's lap to try to gain her love after abuse while Wire Mommy sat still and unattended. I probably need to look up this scientist's name and thank him when we meet at Parousia. Interesting.

Act II of This American Life featured an adoption story of an incredibly strong woman named Heidi, someone I'd like to shake hands with one day. She's a special ed teacher who fell in love with an orphaned Romanian child's picture, so she and her husband adopted him at eight years old from an orphanage. He'd spent the previous seven and a half years before without leaving a crib he shared with another boy.

From what I know about many Romanian adoptions in particular and studies on issues facing children never given opportunity to bond, I predicted "attachment disorder" from the start, and I couldn't have been more on target.

Heidi recalled the horror of anger and violence which overcame her new son as he settled into his first chance at family. The boy wondered why these two awful people he lived with would abandon him for all of his years to a 3 foot cage in Romania. Once he was able comprehend he'd been born to other people who had cast him off, his rage grew unmanageable. He tore over a thousand holes his the walls of his room, and eventually his mother hired a bodyguard to protect herself.

Heidi pursued every therapy to address her son's attachement issues. I'd read a powerful book titled Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful, and I felt an inkling of hope for this boy consumed with pain. While the book was unrelated to the story, I knew the "cure" to attachment disorder lay in something larger and absolutely more relationally basedl than behavioral reward/punishment therapy. Again, I was right on.

Heidi found an intense treatment which lasted eight weeks. Heidi began the "3 foot therapy". She stopped working her job for those weeks and focused totally on her son. You may not believe this, but her son was within three foot of her at all times! They'd wait outside the bathroom for one another all those weeks. The point was for the two to bond and have him become utterly dependent on her for all his needs just like an infant, so he wasn't allowed to ask for anything. He had to wait and trust her to provide. When he resisted, he got "time ins" in which she'd fold him into her arms and hold eye contact. Eye contact was an essential to the whole program. By the end of the third week, her son decided he didn't hate her anymore. He mentioned he used to go to another room to hate her, but with the therapy he didn't have the chance and decided she was good afterall.

When the eight weeks was up, he was a changed boy. He wasn't violent anymore.

But a bump in the road rose some time later at around age thirteen when he began to steal and enter the juvenille justice arena. Heidi and her husband began another therapy with him in which each night for twenty minutes, his long body would cover over their laps as they embraced him in their arms, fed him icecream with a spoon, and chatted. Love won him over again.

He's since won an award at his synagouge in which he quite obviously choked up during his acceptance speech over deep love for his parents.

Heidi spoke something like this, "You can't teach love. I was only aiming for a little attachment. And now my son does not want to hurt me, and that is love."

Talk about transformation.

My son wrote in his journal a few weeks ago, "Everyone wants to feel different." I interpret "different" as unique or special. Heidi's stubborn and pragmatic approach to love pierces me. She successfully helped her boy become special- see himself as worthy to be loved.

Sincere thanks to Ira for presenting Heidi's story. It's the kind which spurs me away from thinking like a cold dictator orchestrating my mundane life toward the higher ground of my work in the incredible beauty of humankind and unsinkable love.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


I mentioned our crazy schedule for games last Saturday to my small group, "Pooh Bear has her very first game ever. Buck will not be able to attend, because he's taking Tater to a tournament. Wise One has a soccer game at the same time as Pooh Bear, so I'll have to divide myself between the two and miss some of Pooh Bear's first game."

Honey, a quiet friend in the group for several years now, surprised me with, "Where is Pooh Bear's game? I'd like to come."

Honey and her husband Hal have grown children, but no grandchildren, yet. Though our group plans things together several times a year, soccer games have not made it into shared events.
I wondered, "Does Honey really like soccer? I've never heard her say a thing about soccer before. Or is it Pooh Bear?" Either way, I was overcome to see Honey's cute PT Cruiser waiting for us in the parking lot at the fields at the crack of dawn (okay, 7:45 a.m.).

Turned out that Wise One had to be there early for pictures, not a game afterall, so Honey and I didn't miss a moment of the action packed five year old match. Soccer at this age consists of the team with the ball kicking it into the goal. Maybe later in the season we'll be treated to some tough defense action.

Honey and I laughed. A lot. What a pleasure to spend the morning with her sweet countenance presiding.

At some point Saturday morning, Honey told me about how she'd stepped on a nail years ago which nicked the bone, and was in the hospital waiting for surgery when her son had his first football game. And that God had miraculously healed her the day of her surgery. She sure didn't want Pooh Bear's first day to be unobserved either.

So, Honey, thank you for caring for my family. It is an honor to call you friend.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


What is a twelve year old boy’s nightmare?

Last night Peace stood huffing by my bed after 4:00 am, “Mom, wake up. I need you.”

My abruptly woken thoughts raced, “Who’s hurt? What‘s wrong?”

“No, it’s not that.” Peace reassured.

My mind turned another direction. Must be the cats. Our felines have learned to push open doors to the garage which are not always tightly closed. Often, Patches brings in a mouse with which to “play” and madly chase through the house, and Peace wakes up in distress. It used to be that Peace’s gerbil escaped and was being terrorized by Janet, but a new and improved lid on his cage solved that problem fairly well. I don’t even think Peace has to put the gigantic family Bible on top of the rodent’s cage to keep the cats from lifting the lid.

Peace snapped me back to the reality of the present with “Mom, I was having a nightmare, and I can’t get it out of my head.”

“Oh, so you need me to pray for you?”

“Yes, and tell me again how to stop thinking about the bad stuff.”

“What is it exactly we need to chase from your dreams?”

Peace’s voice breaks a little, “Mom, it’s terrible. In my dream, I get addicted to cigarettes and I can’t stop smoking. Now I can‘t stop thinking about it.”

Whoa. I know the child does not smoke, but I wonder if something silly I said last week triggered the dream. On the way to Wise One’s soccer game Saturday, I joked, “Peace, looks like all the Lenoir City kids your age are hanging out at the basketball goal, smoking, cussing, flirting. Don’t you want to join them? Maybe they’ll give you a cigarette or teach you some new curse words.”

He stopped dead in his tracks, “Mom are you crazy? Why in the world would I want to do that?”

I continued, “I know how much you like to smoke, and since your parents don’t smoke, I know how tough it must be for a kid your age to get cigarettes.”

Peace scoffed, “Yeah, right, Mom. You are nuts.”

We made our way to the fields, unfolded our chairs and cheered Wise One on as he played. Silly words forgotten.

Until last night.

So, smoking is a nightmare to him.

It had been to me as a child as well. My family moved when I was in the fifth grade, and the first friend I made, Kelly, snuck me into the rafters of an outbuilding by her house and she lit up. I was terrified and stunned. How is it that a sixth grader smoked, and why the heck did I, Goody Two Shoes, find a hood for a friend? I kid you not when I tell you she called for her little brother, took down her pants and peed from the rafters on top of the boy. Gaarrrossss! What kind of juvenile delinquent town had I moved into? I made some excuse to leave and never played with Kelly again though I watched her carefully from the corner of my eye on the bus to see if she held any interest in beating me up. I cried for days after the trauma out of fear that I’d never find a nice friend who wanted to play Barbies. Fortunately, I met Asenath at school, and she did like Barbies and jacks, and most importantly, she did not smoke. In fact, her big and kind family were my introduction to the word “Holy Rollers”. And I really liked them and the safety of all their rules.

Last night Peace experienced something I imagine was a warning dream. Makes me wonder if there is more to the story, or if it was simply my teasing Saturday provoked the nightmare. Could he have been offered something at Scouts, Co-op, church youth group, or somewhere else? It’s possible and worth talking over with him.

I prayed with Peace last night to dispel the leftovers of the dream, and then we discussed a strategy to help him “take captive his every thought.” He agreed each time the nightmare was remembered, he’d shift his thoughts to a precious song he was making up about our family and cats.

My thoughts turn just now to the youth on that basketball court, and the question of “Where are the parents, and do they know what their children are doing? Do they care?” The only young girl on the court made plenty of physical contact with as many of the ten boys in the basketball game in wrestling for the ball and cigarettes. All I can think about is, “How soon till she is pregnant. Or worse, raped?” Real life nightmares.

I consider the naivety of my son compared to these people. While I see sparks of manhood, he’s still allowed to be a twelve year old boy- losing school assignments, playing cards, chess, backgammon, kicking soccer balls, building forts and contraptions, playing with our menagerie of animals, eating junk food, needing redirection of sarcasm, all that.

It wasn’t too long ago that I blogged about not being able to find Peace’s heart. His trust in me to solve his nightmare proves otherwise. For now.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Forget equations, predicates, and pronouns.

We're going to the fair. The Tennessee Valley Fair.

Our family favorite is the animal show. Last year, we hung around after the seal show and spoke at length with the keeper. She told us how the seals travel. That they hit 30 fairs a year all over the states. The keepers must stop and wet the seals every few hours. About the tricky balance of their water. We saw and heard genuine love and care in the keeper's eyes and speech.

I also love going into the exhibit hall to see whose peaches won the blue ribbon. And the amazing designs quilters craft with leftover scraps of fabric.

It's a welcome change from the solemnity of yesterday.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Nine Lives- one

Helen reminded me about something I'd completely forgotten as we dangerously talked on our cell phones driving down the interstate in opposite directions. My husband made an 80's mp3, and I had to call Helen to belt, mostly in tune, a Journey song into her ear, "Someday love will find you. Break those chains that bind you. One day will remind you, how we touched and went our separate ways." The next Night Ranger song instantly triggered Helen's memory. We are children of the eighties.

The phone call sparked an idea in me to blog about how I've used up more than my share of nine lives. I'm thinking of posting reasons I should probably be dead, mostly from stupid things I did as a rather naive and inquisitive teenager.

So, here's the first installment of my Nine Lives. Considering sharing the same type of story on your blog and letting me know in the comments, so I can learn about how you narrowly escaped the Grim Reaper's death grip.

Somewhere around my high school graduation, Helen and I purchased tickets to The Cars concert at Riverbend in Cincinnati. We'd already listened to our "Heartbeat City" LP endlessly and seen the slanky sleek Rick walk on water across a pool in his MTV video more times than I'd like to admit. Oh, the tragedy of misspent youth.

On the night of the Cars concert, I dyed a streak of my hair blue to match my snazzy white dress with faint blue stripes. Isn't that how girls in the eighties always gussied up in the eighties? However, the strand of dyed locks turned a bit green as my hair was naturally blonde (imagine that), a lesson for me in the color wheel. Helen and I climbed into my '72 Duster which we affectionately called "The Greenie Weanie". On I-275 near the exit to Riverbend, my beloved army green car overheated in the long line of cars crawling down the off ramp . We opened the hood and puzzled over what to do as smoke poured from the engine. About that time, another car door opened beside us, a different kind of smoke poured forth, and some young man in a union jack t-shirt with cut off sleeves shouted, "Hey, you girls need a ride into the concert?" Being the responsible and wise type, Helen and I abandoned my car, and squeezed into a car full of long haired scruffy young men, with the exception of one girl whom I chose to sit next beside, everyone smoking pot. Roach clips were hanging off every available surface. "You want a hit?" offered the generous driver. Helen nor I were stoners, so we declined their hospitality. Draped across the front of the car, I noticed a Union Jack, and their radio blared the very famous group Night Ranger. "Motorin'. What's your price for flight? To finally see the light?" Something like that.

No, those people didn't seize the opportunity drive off to a remote location and proceed to torture, rape and kill us. Fortunately. They simply drove into the parking lot of Riverbend, Helen and I sweetly thanked them and waved goodbye concert tickets in hand.

Wang Chung opened. What was their hit song? Buck would remember in a heart beat.

The Cars played like robots in black.

We found another friend's boyfriend Joe and his pal Palmer at the end of the concert in the crowd to take get water for the radiator and drive us back to my car. Yes, I did have AAA, but weren't boys better?

How many of my nine lives do you suppose I used up in that memorable evening?

And after rocking out to Night Ranger on my car stereo yesterday, what was the following song on the mp3?

"Drive" by the Cars.

I do not lie.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Svet said I could blog about something terribly clever she said at the coffee maker in Helen's kitchen, but I can't seem to remember what it is. So Svet, if you could just remind me...

The Vyne family spent Labor Day weekend in Deerlodge sans Mr. Vyne, who worked under the new and improved iron fist of the FAA. Buck mentioned the fact that air traffic controllers in Denver International were thwarted by airport security when trying carry bring in their drinks and meals to the tower; Sunday FAA implemented it's new "rules" including a spiffy dress code, and no controller being able to leave the facility during his or her shift for meals or otherwise. So no breaks, no drinks, no food for those folks, but they will look nice...

Controllers in charge across the nation are no longer permitted to leave tracon (radar room) at all in their 8 to 10 hour shifts except for one brief potty break. Alrighty then!

FAA are flying all the managers and supervisors to St. Louis for briefing of these fantastic rules for the very low, low cost of $28,000,000 over the course of three weeks. Oh yeah, now there are some well spent tax dollars. Buck says, "It may have been easier for the FAA to make a DVD and send it to all the facilities, but then they wouldn't have been able to teach the supervisors the super secret FAA handshake." Methinks the shake includes a heavy emphasis on the middle finger.

I better stop now before I begin to sound bitter.

Deerlodge was fabulous as usual. My children misplaced thanks to me on the way home when all the thanks belongs to Clay and new guest (old friend) Solomon. They took the boys fishing, target shooting, and riding four wheelers.

Helen and I began catfighting at first sight of Svet and Bary's car; we clawed, scratched and kicked one another for dibs on holding itty baby Kat. I won the first day, so Kat, cradled in her sling around my neck, and I enjoyed a peaceful walk around the pond together just before sunset. The crickets lulled the tiny creature to sleep. Today, Helen knocked me out on the way to grab Kat up after a midday nap. I'll get you Helen, and your little dog Max, too!

I felt the first nip of fall this weekend and wore long sleeves for the first time in a very long while today.