Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Sometimes the tough girl in me flies out like angery wet bees from a hive.

My workout buddy, Celine and I headed to a local park to run our 5K after a few weights this morning. When we arrived at the park, a red compact car circled the parking lot. Weird. When the car slowed down and crept too close for comfort alongside us on the parking side of the track, Celine and I agreed we might need to get out of there lickety split. I did not want to be intimidated give up my favorite local running course, so I prepared her for my plan, "I'll run on the outside and fight like hell if that window or car door opens a pinch."

Celine quips, "Yeah, kick 'em to death with your good knee." We've both had ACL knee reconstruction. Isn't she funny?

I continued between running gasps, "You may hear words pop out of my mouth you were sure I didn't know. I intend to scare those goons away with all I got if they come for us. I've done it before." Yes, years ago I turned the proverbial livid Jerry Springer guest who just found out my baby daddy was messing around with my very best girlfriend, when two young men bolted out of their car to beat up my husband for almost crashing into my husband. I know that makes no sense, but the arrogant boys had some sort of road rage to blame on Buck. I confronted the rascals as I stood with the proud erectness of a peacock, swirled a pointed index finger in the air with the other hand firmly planted on my hip and surprised myself by spitting loudly, "What on earth do you think you are doing? You think YOU are coming after MY husband? Get your skinny explitives back in your car and drive, NOW." The stunned young men obeyed the wicked witch I'd become in a quick hurry. I can't explain how I could possibly overcome rude boys looking for a fight, but on very special occasions, I can channel something meaner than a curled cornered cobra. And I was willing to take down the red car creeps today at the park.

Once Celine and I reached our vehicles I reached deep under my seat and pulled out my.....
cell phone and called the police. In my best fair maiden voice I explained the situtation to 911 dispatch, but inside I maintained the roaring lion necessary to vanquish the demons following us.

As two police cars crested the hill of the park, my cell phone gave a comforting "Doodle, doodle, do". I didn't know cell phones were smart enough to say, "Look, the police are here to save the day!" Did you? Multiple squad cars hemmed in the red car. Whoa... I just expected the bad boys to simply scurry on outta there when they saw the cops.

Celine and I did not want to be associated with the arrival of the cops, so we kept running the track, hoping for an opportunity to thank them later. The officers had one man spread eagle on the trunk of the car, and the other got a rather long talking to. At the end of our miles, Celine and I walked an extra lap to find all the cars gone.

Just so you know, if you happen to meet me, and I think you just might be up to no good- watch out! The raving maniac just under the surface of my skin might leap out and wildly rip at your throat...or maybe I'll just call the police.


Perhaps this is something like what's happening in the world beyond ours...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Happy Birthday Thomas Merton

The reality that is present to us and in us:
Call it Being...Silence. And the simple fact that by being attentive,
By learning to listen(or recovering the natural capacity to listen)
We can find ourself engulfed in such happiness that it cannot be explained;
The happiness of being at one with everything
In that hidden ground of Love
For which there can be no explanations....
May we all grow in grace and peace,
And not neglect the silence that is printed in the centre of our being.
It will not fail us.

--Thomas Merton

Happy Birthday, Thomas!

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Today I'm going to treat you to some of my inner most thoughts. And I'm almost sure you might not understand why I'd care so much about this particular subject- children's spiritual formation. It may be hard to believe that I love observing and guiding children's spiritual formation as much or more as I enjoy savoring a succulant feast.

I did not say I love being a Sunday School teacher. The only reason I'd reference a Sunday School teacher to describe what I do is out of sheer desperation. I'd rather pull my own teeth out one by one with rusty pliers than sing the Christian Hokey Pokey (Father Abraham), make crosses out of popsicle sticks, or color a cartoon pictures of Jesus with cherub cheeked children sitting lovingly on his knee. I'm certainly do not want to criticize any precious person who does these activities on a regular basis, but it's simply not my style.

Maria Montessori paved the way for me to be with children in a way which doesn't plumb wear me out with cutting out and gluing animals on Noah's ark. In fact, and call me "crazy", but I take great delight in hanging out with three, four and five year olds if I can use Montessori principles. Did you know Maria's the one who revolutionized education from rigid straight backed desks swallowing up children, knuckle cracking discipline with the teacher's ruler, nauseating mills of education toward child sized furniture, self discipline, and child-centered individualized education? Maria also revolutionized Sunday School also by discarding mind numbing catechism recitation in favor of observation and experimentation to discover children's spiritual development. Did you know that? There's a good chance you didn't, and for a number of complicated reasons. Not the least of which are ugly denominational schizms in the body of Christ.

So, when I walk into my church to teach the little guys on Sunday mornings, I can't wait to plop myself down on the floor next to a four year old boy, and show him something I've been working on for our class. The next Sunday I teach, first thing, I'll show this little guy is how to carefully mix a dough himself with leaven and without. Then we'll read "The kingdom of heaven is like woman who took the three measures of flour, and one of yeast, and worked it till it was leavened through". We'll cover put the doughs on the heat vent while the child chooses and works on his favorite previous materials. When the leavened dough has puffed itself properly up, we'll sneak a peek at it and the unleavened dough while I ask a thousand meditation questions no one is ever required to answer like: "What happened to the dough which had leaven?" "What happened to the dough which does not have leaven?" "How can this dough with leaven be like God's kingdom?" "Who does the woman represent in this parable?" "What does the yeast represent?" "Do you remember how much yeast you put in? Not much compared to the flour. What does this say about the kingdom of heaven?" "What is it that works in the kingdom of heaven like yeast through the dough?" "Can you think of anything else that grows like this in God's kingdom?". To conclude I'll ask, "Is there anything you'd like to tell God or sing to Him in response to this new Word?"
Now this way of contemplative teaching lights my fire. The child and I don't talk about reading the Word; we do the Word. We don't talk about meditation; we meditate. We don't talk about how to pray; we simply listen and respond to God. Together- me and a four year old.

And who do you think learns more?

And do you know I have fifty two more lessons just as rich, deep and meaningful up my sleeve to follow? I do not joke here.

The trouble with me is that when I walk into a new church as I did two and a half years ago, I'm blazing on fire to teach preschoolers, but I could never simply jump on the existing curriculum. Have I already mentioned my particular aversion to making hearts that say, "I love Jesus" in glitter?

So, I have to lay some serious groundwork first to earn the privilege of teaching my very unconventional way instead of the church's prescribed curriculum's way. Over a year ago, and after some bold persuasion on my part, the nursery director at my church, Allie, fell head over heels in love the work I do with children. She's more than supported my work this year in the nursery; she has truly loved me. Regretfully for our church, she's resigning her position. We will not find her equal as she handles both people AND business with integrity and excellence.

My "out of the box" spiritual formation work will go on the auction block again with a new nursery director soon.

Cross your fingers, your heart or yourself for me. I'd like to continue to be taught about God by the little people in my own church.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Check Ups, Presidents, Therapists

I still love my pediatrician after twelve years of clandestine meetings in an intimate exam room with no windows. Dr. B is a rare gem. I took two of my boys to him yesterday for a well child check ups. It's been five years since their last, gasp, even though well child checks are 100% covered by our insurance. Bad Mommy! This doctor truly loves children though he and his wife never chose to have any themselves. He shows genuine interest in the boy's questions, drawings, gadgets. The nurse turned off the light first to get a good look at Peace's glow-in-the-dark real scorpion key chain. Then Dr. B asked for a turn to snuff the lights and handle the trinket. He also asked after my health and well-being. There was some mystery surrounding a vaccination given or not to Tator at the health department, of which I had a vague and fading memory from 1998. The health department had no record when the nurse called over, but I insisted, if I actually could remember that far back and that many children ago, he did have one particular immunization. Dr. B suggested we call detective Guy Noir to get to the bottom of it. I suggested perhaps Dr. B might like to join my campaign to elect Garrison Keller for President of the United States this next go round. Wouldn't you just love to listen to the State of the Union Address in Prairie Home Companion Style?
The nurse ended up figuring out perhaps Tator's shot was given under his former foster child last name and called the health department back to verify he'd already had the shot. Since she's so very smart, maybe we'll ask her to run for President.
After the appointment, my children begged to hit the used book store just down the street. Two of my boys scurried to the _Calvin and Hobbs_ and other comics section, another looked for Japanese robot books, and Pooh Bear and I browsed the children's storybook section to find anything but Barbies or books not based on any cartoon. I don't know about you, but I hate to read books about Care Bears or Ariel when perfectly great classic stories like _Madeline_ , _The Honest to Goodness Truth_ , or _Ping_ are available. When Buck's not with me at the bookstore, I have to keep up with the children. I cannot feed my hungry book addiction and get hopelessly lost in the aisles for an hour or two; plus I have six books on my queue already.
Out of the corner of my eye, I think I spied my therapist, Wilhelmina from B.C.E. (before the children era of my life). A hundred years ago, Wilhelmina helped a great deal in my inner formation. I was torn about whether to approach her in the store. I gave myself a few moments to think it over by absorbing myself in Pooh Bear's search for acceptable literature. By the time I weakly resolved to introduce my dear children to her, she was gone.
I have to share something slightly ironic about the situation. Perhaps Wilhelmina's been to therapy for herself in the past twelve years. Obviously she's worked on some personal issues, because I distinctly remember her telling me she hated used books. Why? Because of the germs of previous readers. She didn't like library books either. Everyone has their own quirks- even therapists.

What would you have done if you ran into your old therapist on the street? Or someone who knew all your stuff? Would you make eye contact? Would you speak? It must be something like running into an old lover...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Last night, Buck slipped into to bed with me after work, "Hey, I'm going to work out in the morning. What are you supposed to say to me?"

Pause. My mind goes completely blank, but I come up with a brilliant reply, "You are awesome, honey!"

Buck huffs slightly and draws out his answer, "Noooooo. That's not it. What are you supposed to say when I tell you I'm going to the gym?"

He obviously has some very specific reply in mind, but I'm still clueless. So, I come up with another excellent attempt, "Honey, good job. Working out will make you so buff. Good for you for taking the time to exercise."

Buck rolls his eyes and said, "No. I'm already buff. I'm just going for a little fine tuning. Last time I went to the gym, I forgot to bring something. Now do you remember?"

The bright and beautiful sun rises in my pea brain and the grey clouds of doubt are gone. "Why, Buck, you are supposed to remember a TOWEL next time you go the gym. That's it. Did you pack a towel?"

Buck grins widely, "Yes, I did."

Last time he worked up a dripping sweat at the athletic club, he took a lovely hot shower afterward. When he went to dry off, he had to use about fifty-two whimpy thin paper towels from the metal dispenser to sop up all the wet from his trim and hunky body.

Monday, January 23, 2006

They're always listening

Children are always listening even when you are sure they are not.

Yesterday I started crooning along when a song I've always liked came on the radio while I driving my children in our van.
Peace yelled loudly up to me from the back(this vehicle is old and very noisy, plus I tend to belt out songs like some sort of country star, but only in the confines of my home or my van for humanity's sake), "Mom, this is the song I think of everytime I'm doing the breast stroke. It gets stuck in my head and slows me down. I can't go faster than this beat."

Surprised I questioned, "This song? How is that you know 'Black Coffee in Bed' by Squeeze? Please don't tell me it's on your ipod."

"It's not, but mom you like this song. You sing like that everytime it's on the radio."

When Peace was two years old, ten years ago, I stopped listening to my Led Zepplin and other CD's when I noticed he was picking up lyrics like "where is that confounded bridge?" and other less innocuous, more serious words- not cute, nor pretty, nor funny coming out of the mouth of a small child. This wasn't easy for me to do, because I'd made such close friends of Peter Gabriel, The Cure, and Ricki Lee Jones and other fine artist's music. Instead, I began to play classical music and songs with positive lyrics I didn't mind my little guy repeating. I turned off the television, and started reading books. There is too much on TV to steal a child's innocence.

Fast forward ten years. When I moved to two years ago, I searched for new radio stations as my old ones were out of reach, and I came across one with all my old music pals, and new ones to boot. I wasn't thinking about my resolve made a decade ago when I first started playing this station with my children in the van. I have actually started asking my children to listen to certain songs just to take in their reaction. We howled together a week ago repeating the first verse lyrics of "Jeremiah was a bullfrog." What? How can a frog be a friend? Frogs drink wine?

My children aren't babies learning to talk any longer, but I don't feel like I can just break out any old CD's and jam. I still turn the station when I become uncomfortable with the direction of words. Recently Buck stood horrified with his mouth gaping open when he and I watched a ten year old girl sing and dance to a rather nasty hip hop song- something about booty calls. I know she didn't have any earthly idea what she was singing about, much like I didn't at ten spouting "Afternoon Delight". Remember, "Rubbing sticking and stones together make the sparks ignite, and the thought of loving you is gettin' so excitin'. Sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight"? I also memorized the "Tommy" album by The Who in the fourth grade. The lyrics about child molestation and a sexual healer went right over my head, then. I found myself blushing and turning my head away with Buck and not watching that young girl dance.

You may not believe this, but my children still have not been exposed to much. I know it has all to do with homeschooling and not really knowing other children anymore who rock out. Three years ago in my city old neighborhood, I had a conversation with a dad down the street who bought an Eminem CD for his twelve year old. "Brian, have you listened to that? I have watched three videos and I can't tell you much other than Em talks about beating his pregnant girlfriend to a bloody pulp and killing his mother. The third song I liked, because it was rap to the song 'Sing for the years'. Your boy is so sweet. Why would he want to listen to the two insulting and violent songs toward women?"
Brian replied, "I don't want to listen to it. I make him wear his headphones." He didn't exactly answer my question.

My son is twelve and not asking for any albums, but we fill his ipod for him. He's into Switchfoot, and they are an excellent band. But the day is coming when I won't like his choices of music or other things. Did I already tell you about the young man of twelve on Peace's basketball team who actually sits still willingly in the Beauty Parlor to get highlights on his carefully sculpted hair, carries a cell phone, and wears his basketball uniform shorts below his waist with shirt tucked in to hide his, well, crack? And this fancy young guy was not one of the boys talking smack on the sidelines at practice. From all I can tell, he's a good kid.

The young men and little girls my children hang with aren't into the hip music scene, yet. I suppose, in a way, when they listen to the radio with me, they are entering that scene a bit with me. I've introduced them to the Rolling Stones, but so far they don't like them- which I don't get. What is not to like? The Beatles fly sometimes- Tator loves to play "Blackbird" on his guitar. They've heard my Peter Gabriel Live CD till one son finally asked, "What do you like about this so much?"

I square my shoulders and proudly reply, "Son, it's poetry!" Same goes for U2.

I know I'm closer to the edge of the chasm of something large with my twelve year old, and music will play a defining role sooner or later. Peace is still very much innocent boy though he's got the tiniest hint of acne (oh, please God, have mercy on him). Manhood looms like a shadowy featureless figure on the not so distant dawning horizon; I gasp when I look his way.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Martin Luther King

Does anyone else feel especially compeled to ensure their children experience the Martin Luther King Holiday like I do?

For years, I've dragged my ragamuffins to East Knoxville, an hour's drive now from Loudon, to watch the community MLK parade. Austin East's marching band is always my favorite part; they've got something funky and they're not afraid to use it. Politicians, classes, churches, and clubs wave huge and serious MLK faces and "I have a dream" posters on sticks. There are more tricked out, pimped up, thumping rides cruising down Martin Luther King Boulevard than you've ever seen in one place. Everyone throws candy. Somebody usually hands out children's books. I love the bold colors displayed by participants.

Tator had guitar lessons Monday morning of the parade, so I scrambled to find some other event to honor King's memory. I'm so glad I did. Knoxville College, Knoxville's historic struggling black college, hosted an MLK concert. Knoxville Chamber Orchestra and a huge celebration choir put on a show. I'm not great at guessing people numbers, but there may have been 70 animated singers. The choir and orchestra teamed up and played separately. A few soloists knocked my socks off with their powerful voices. The first, an elegant woman performing "Precious Lord, Take My Hand", made the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stand on end with the rise and fall of her dramatic voice. Her range was absolutely astounding. At five years old, Pooh Bear didn't understand why everyone kept interrupting her song in the middle with clapping and "Come on, sing it now". "Mommy," she whispered, "Shouldn't everyone wait to the end to clap?"
Pooh Bear also giggled when she saw a gigantic man with a tiny viola come in and proudly sit down on stage, "Mommy, that violin is too small!"
Wise One loved an instrumental African tune which sounded like rain in a jungle at times. "Mom, I wish I could play violin like that."
Tator took it all in. So did I. Why do I always cry at "We Shall Overcome"?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Home and Fine

I woke up feeling absolutely hollow this morning...
I survived my colonoscopy today and all is well. Honestly, I had terrible reservations about the ordeal, because unfortunately last time I woke up smack in the middle of the procedure begging the doctor, "Please STOP." I remember the exact year, because I recovered on a friend's couch while watching film footage of the first World Trade Center bombing in '93. My sister worked in the complex at that time. Since 1993, my physician has been pleading with me to have another colonoscopy. Last week, he crossed his heart and swore I wouldn't wake up this time (new anestisia), and I didn't. In three years, the only thing I'll protest is the Magnesium Citrate. I'd rather fast for a week than have to drink that nasty stuff again.
I'm spending the rest of the day EATING and watching movies. So far, I've watched a young Jon Voight stumbling over a very fake German accent in The Odessa File and found it interesting. I could actually see some Angelina Jolie in that long youthful face. I also kicked back and watched Oprah, the one about the newlywed wife whose husband was murdered on their honeymoon cruise. Golly, was that sad. I've eaten a lovely salad, spaghetti, and peanut M & M's and I don't think I could manage more- a bonus of a shrunken stomach.
I'm not allowed to run or lift for five days. Guess they think I'd bust a gut. When I objected the nurse placated me with, "Just take a nice walk, honey." I'm not convinced she keeps a regular workout program, because she didn't catch on to my anxiousness on the subject. And she told me "not to operate any machinery" with clever grin and glance over at my husband "including the stove." Buck cooks all the time, and quite frankly is far and away better at it than me.
I anticipate tomorrow will be a glad return to ordinary time for me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bet your day is better than mine

Just so you can have a moment of thankfulness for your perhaps ordinary day, I thought I'd tell you about mine. You'll feel better than I do. I promise. I'm having a colonoscopy in the morning, so today is the day I must clear my digestive tract. Completely. It began yesterday with what I'll refer to as the white death diet- NO grains, nuts, vegetables, or fruits. However, white rice, white bread, English muffins, white crackers made the cut. I'm one of those "naturalist" as my gastrointerologist affectionately calls me, who quite regularly grinds wheat and bakes whole wheat bread, and call my a nut, but I'm absolutely crazy about vegetables. Amazingly enough, my doc finds my bent toward healthy foods to be unusual. Why not just take a multivitamin and eat hotdogs and chips the rest of the day?

And before I went to bed last night, I had the privilege of ingesting three seemingly harmless and tiny laxative pills. Apparently the trio packed a punch, because by the time my alarm went off at 6:00am, in agony I called my workout buddy, "Don't expect me at the gym in a few minutes, I have a serious date with the bathroom for the rest of the day."

I don't get to eat anything today unless I can dissolve or drink it, and even then the "food" cannot be red or blue. Who in their right mind likes lemon jello?

And I will not inform my doctor that I bought certified organic broth.

For lunch I got to drink Magnesium Citrate which tasted like metal in lemonade superconcentrate mix without nearly enough water. It's permissible to mix this disgusting cocktail with sprite and ice, or I'd have hurled the bottle in its entirety. At 3:00 pm I get to drink 32 ounce of GlycoLax with emphasis on the Lax.
At 9:00 pm, I'll get to gulp more Magnesium Citrate. So, please, for me, go enjoy the heck out of your day. I'll be folding laundry in between fifty-two fantastic trips to the washroom.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Rainy Ordinary Day

Boy, did I wish the temperature outside would have dropped today. All this dark rain would instead be gorgeous white snowflakes covering and the ground like a freshly laundered fleece blanket and sticking to trees like cotton candy. Instead it's just dark, dreary, and sopping wet outside. If it had snowed, today would have become a bonified SNOWDAY. I'd be locating sleds, making hot chocolate, collecting soggy clothes from red faced freezing children to put in the dryer, drawing hot bath water to warm their chilled bones, reading aloud under a toasty comforter on the couch. Instead and alas, we spent the day as we do every other predictable weekday- homeschooling.

After easy Eggo or cereal breakfast, we read more on Abram. In his Genesis saga, we found him rescuing Lot from kings who had kidnapped him after raiding Sodom. Afterwards, I read aloud _Peace Child_. All of us have found the book *really* boring and dry for the first zillion chapters, but I'm promised by an expert, the story is so especially powerful, that it's worth pressing on to the end. Next, I invited the children into the kitchen for group dictation. You'd understand why if you ever examined the handwriting and spelling of my three boy children. I know our chickens could scratch out neater letters and our goats could outspell these rascals. Everyone dispersed for individual work following dictation.

Peace worked much more diligently on his Saxon Math today, because yesterday I spoke to him so harshly over the multitude of errors in his math assignment that I needed to apologize later. He likes his _Adam of the Road_ assignments now that his book has taken a turn toward more action. Peace is also "working" on identifying and spelling the 50 states correctly. At the rate he's going, he will not master spelling the states correctly in his lifetime. Perhaps his reincarnation will have better luck.

Tator fought with me AGAIN over subtracting fractions. He flew through his language arts today with the same style and grace as always.
Wise One is sincerely a puzzle to me at this stage of his academic game. Though he's completely unaware, Wise has some slight developmental delays to fight as he goes. He's not up for third grade _Total Language Plus_ assignments (a favorite language arts curriculum of mine), but he's not below enough to step back into second grade work for reinforcement. So for now, were using _First Language Lessons_ by Susan Wise Bauer, reading aloud and silently _Great Illustrated Classics_, dictation, cursive. Aside from his delays in writing out problems, he's above grade level in Saxon Math.

Each day Pooh Bear demands Sing, Speed, Read, and Write (Sing, Spell, Read and Write, SSRW, is the curriculum's real name). I didn't think she was ready, especially when we began to play the games and it was over her head completely, but she LOVES it. Desire directed learning is a principle I implement as much as possible, so her begging to study this SSRW in particular qualifies for a resounding "Yes" from me. We've just begun a laborious process of blending sounds with the Ferris wheel, and I can tell it's going to take a looonnnggg time and much review for this to stick. I turned on the incredibly annoying and cheesy CD for the song which matches the game, and the boys literally fled from the room holding their ears and shrieking, "Oh, no. Not that awful song again. Are you trying to kill us with goofy music?" I've prepared an area in the homeschool room just for her which has Montessorish materials for her to explore while I work with her brothers. She often crawls up in my lap at intervals during the course of a day, picture book in hand, flashes her marvelous big eyes, and whispers, "You have to read THIS to me." Unbeknownst to me and between the rain, Pooh Bear played outside by herself for a good while this afternoon collecting chicken eggs and running with the animals until Frankenbelle frightened her with his threatening rooster prowess. Pooh's just five, so I usually ask a brother to be outside with her when I'm occupied.

Why wish for a snow day with all this fun? The truth is homeschooling is a bit monotonous. My children argue, pout, cry, whine, over assignments. They regularly announce in a sing songy voice, "Daddy doesn't make me do that" or "Daddy doesn't do it that way" when Buck's not here. They look for ways to get out of work. The varmints bicker with one another. Sometimes, my sons hide from me and play instead of study; by the time I figure this out, it's 3:00 pm and my patience is utterly worn thin. Homeschooling is a journey of the painfully ordinary bound up in moments of sheer joy.

One might conclude from this post that I am not an unschooler. Honestly, I wish I could be so confident. I believe I lack the luster and enthusiasm of an inspiring unschooling educator, because, frankly, I'd rather be reading a great book I enjoy. So as a compromise, I have found mixing academics assignments into a rich learning environment of a pretend farm to be the right fit for my low key teaching style.

I love this quote, and I'd enjoy your responses to:
Every home is a school. What do you teach?


When I was five years old, I became Catwoman. I knew she was the evil villian, but, hey, I really liked cats and the alternative was a nasty bat. No proud kindergarten beauty would settle for an ugly stingy winged creature. Except my gorgeous friend Carla Wallingford. She played Batwoman and tried earnestly to stop my evil feline deeds after kindergarten let out. I distinctly remember her throwing a sheet over me like a net and laughing maniacally, "I've got you now, Catwoman. You won't be stealing diamonds from the museum again!"
Another hot summer day when I was nine, I stuffed a long sock to dangle from the back of my hip hugger jeans, slapped on a cowgirl hat and boots, pulled over a red shirt, and bound my neck with red bandana. Why? I had magically become a horse. I began to gallop everywhere. I whinied randomly and tossed my thick long mane of hair throughout the day. When the sun came up the next day, I donned the same smashing attire and equestrian attitude. I didn't speak about it to anyone, but I hoped someone, anyone would notice my flowing tail and sparkly horse eyes. No one did.
With such powers of imagination, I do not remember finding any imaginary friends. I took many long walks and bikerides alone, but I never invited any fancied playmates along.
This is not the case with my five year old daughter, Pooh Bear. Aircorn (I realize this is an extremely odd name) and Sally are a very real part of her whimsical life. In fact, these illusionary girls are the sisters Pooh longs to have. Sally often messes up Pooh Bear's room and runs into the woods. What a sneak! Sally looks just like Snow White and works at miniature Wendy's making her especially hard to notice. Aircorn is a teenager, drives a pink car which had been assimilated by the Borg, but is now back safe and sound on earth to ferry Aircorn to high school. In fact, she lives at high school instead of with our family. For the life of me, I can't figure out where I went wrong as a mother with Aircorn to feel so very distant from my own offspring. It's like I don't know her at all. Sometimes when I question Pooh Bear, "Where's Aircorn today?" my real little girl states, "She's at Libby Lu (that fantastic store at the mall which caters to the inner princess), but you just can't see her. She works there." I wonder how Aircorn picks up her paycheck or is that invisible too? I've spoken to both Sally and Aircorn on the pretend Sleeping Beauty cellphone. Neither are much for conversation leaving me to do all the talking.
Can you remember an imaginary friend? Can you remember any specific details? Does a growing child suddenly wake up one day to find their fancied friend is nonexistent? How does one lose an imaginary friend afterall? Or do people secretly hold on to them and stop mentioning them after the age of ten?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tator Writes

Ask my Tator to consider writing an encouraging birthday letter to a dear friend who turns 13, and here is what might happen.

Dear Mick,
I'm sorry we can't come to your party. My dad is going to a men's retreat for our church, so I'll tell you now what the Lord has said to me. You are a knight going into a land of evil. You are entering the land and everything is dark and dull, but as you ride by everyone, everything turns bright and beautiful, and the land of darkness is vanquished. Have a great brithday! And again I'm sorry I can't see you go into manhood.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Peace Writes

Leave Peace alone for an hour at home and he just might compose something besides a sword or shield with duct tape and wood. Here's his new song.

If the Lord Came Again

If the Lord came again, would we all be happy, my friend?
He is already here, you see.
He's come to earth to save you and me.

I tell you all His words are true.
He came here to save me and you.
So, prepare for Him, my friend.
He's coming to do good works again.

He's coming to the world to make it pure.
We'll all be happy there I'm sure.
He's coming back, I'm sure
To heal the blind and help the poor.

He's coming back to do good works again.

So come fast and come quickly,
To see the good works He's done in me.

When we leave the world, you'll see,
He's made a special place for you and me.
So let us go to the world, my friend
So we can tell His good works again.
To tell His words, my friend,
To tell He's coming again.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Cup of the Soul

I'm developing some materials for a women's retreat and need to blog thoughts into words.

In the process, I'm taking another look at Angela Thomas in her book _Do You Think I'm Beautiful_. Her words pierced my heart with her writing this morning.

I guess this is the question that prompts every longing in our soul: "Do you really love me?" Little girls grow up wondering, Do you really love me? Daddy, do you see me dancing in my party dress and smile with delight over me?

When dads are distant or abusive or addicted or just not affectionate, little girls become insecure teenagers and decide to ask their question of another man, except this time it becomes, "Will you love if...?" Will you love me if I sleep with you? Will you love me if I do drugs with you? Will you love me if I lie for you? Will you love me if I prop you up?

Those teenage girls discover a few answers that seem to add something to the empty cup of their souls, like a few drops of water into a dusty tin can. The cup never gets filled but there is a momentary satisfaction that mimics thirst being quenched. And then teenage girls become grown-up women who have learned intricate methods of coping with a heart that keeps asking, Do you really love me? Some women can spend a lifetime in a marriage wondering, Do you still love me? I know mothers who ache over their children hoping they really love them. I've watched too many friendships between women end because one felt the other didn't really love her.

I cannot avoid the deep longing in my own soul. Do you really love me means, Will you accept me in the process? Will you embrace what is different about me and applaud my efforts to become? Can I just be human-strong and vibrant some days, weak and frail on others? Can I have a relationship with you without pretending? Can I be honest and expect honesty? .....

To operate with only the taste of love we get on earth will leave us incomplete. That's by design. Our hearts have been made to cry out for a love that can only come from our Creator. The cup of our soul will never be filled apart from the love of God. Proverbs 19:22 "What a man desires is unfailing love."

"The cup of the soul" really got to me. Sadly, I occasionally find myself holding the cup out to my husband and demanding, "Fill it or else!", or else I'll find someone, anyone else to do it for me. As I heard Angela once say, "The most a poor man can offer is a little spit to swirl around on the bottom of that little tin cup." I hold my soul out to my peers and sheepishly ask, "Do you like my work? Am I not fabulous?" I stick my vessel out to my friends with insecurity, "I'm a trainwreck. Make me feel better."

Why do I run so quickly to others who truly have little to offer and bolt from the only Source who can replenish my chalice to overflowing? Instead I fill my days with mundane activity striving to escape the gnawing in my spirit.

Here's some answers to why I flee God's Presence. It takes tremendous effort and painstaking work for me to get quiet and still enough to hear the still small Voice pour life and hope back into me. And honestly, I'm sometimes afraid of what I'll hear. Crazy isn't it? Because I believe God is good and has good things for me though there are times when I'm not as clear about that as I need to be.

So here are some reflection questions I'm working on. Oh, how I love questions...

What's it like to be asked to dance by someone you find irresistible?
Have you ever danced with God in that way?
Does any other person understand the deepest longing of your heart?
Do you have all the passion and love in your life you need?
Does anyone find you beautiful?
Does God find you beautiful?
Has anyone smiled with delight over you?
What is unfailing love?
What holds you back in your life?
What fills the cup of your soul?

One of my best beloved lyrics of a song goes like this:
"I stand in awe of a God whose heart is ravished over fallen man... You consider me lovely. Let this truth open up my soul."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Banner Day

My ten year old Tator asked if he could cook dinner a little before 5:00 this evening. He claimed to be starving. I agreed to let him begin quite certain I'd drag myself to the kitchen to help at some point. Guess what? I didn't have to intervene once. He cooked broccoli, spaghetti, browned ground beef, and followed directions for chili sauce all on his own. The table was set and the food on the table before 6:00. I expected the kitchen to be in considerable disarray, but that was not the case either. He'd put many things away as he went. Gasp!

Mom, when you read this post, do not be alarmed or terrified as I was only one room away and listening carefully for any signs of a struggle or funky dangerous burning smells. Your grandchildren are completely unharmed and increasingly growing slowly toward a pleasant independence.

A bit of Mission Accomplished

Found a close match to my drinking glasses at Carolina Pottery after searching several stores.

Took pictures of my friend's eroding street in order to prod proper county authorities to PAVE it.

Ate a romantic dinner at my very favorite cozy Italian restaurant, Naples with my all time favorite man. I had splendid lemon picatta chicken with capers and a lovely house salad. Why can't I cook something so savory? Oh yeah. I don't enjoy cooking, and it always tastes better if someone else does all the work.

Buck actually took me to see Pride and Prejudice. I so love the book
I was just a tad disappointed with the movie. Buck added humour throughout the movie with his mighty male commentary. Frequently the character Lizzy would stare blankly in thought into nothingness, and Buck would snark, "Not another bipolar moment!" and "Is this one of those movies where absolutely no one is happy by the end?"

My babysitter and dear friend greatly encouraged me with kind words about my wonderful well mannered children. Yes, they actually play well and gently with her rough and tumble five year old BOY.

Buck and I caught the end of the National College Championship Football game when we got home. I rooted for University of Texas solely based on the UT initials and colors of the uniforms being close to the Tennessee Vols. Please forgive me REAL football fans for my shallow team spirit reasoning. The game truly was a nail biter all the way up to the last 9 seconds!

I crashed into bed a contented woman last night.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I have a date tonight. With my husband. We have a sitter. I assume Buck has made romantic plans. Last night after having dinner with my husband while I took Peace to basketball practice, my Uncle told me Buck's plans were to go to a sports bar to watch some important football game and drink beer. While I am certain this is not the case, because I'd never agree to any further dates with my man, I don't have a clue to what Buck has come up with. I don't suppose he'll take me to see the movie Pride and Prejudice, because that's a GIRL movie.

I've thought up some completely unromantic plans since we'll be in the big city...

To buy or order more drinking glasses and white plates, because at Christmas dinner, I found my table to be a tad mismatched. Also, I realized my best Christmas table cloth does not fit my long table. I must not have used it for the past two Christmases. Finding another festive table cover, on sale, would be fabulous. I hope you don't get the impression I am talking fine china and linens. I only want my $4 drinking glasses and $3 plates to resemble one another.

I'd also like to take photos of a friend's terribly neglected road. Her neighbor at the top of the paved road doesn't want to become part of the city by getting the rest of the it paved to avoid Knoxville city taxes. My friend, near the bottom of the unpaved road, which the top neighbor is supposed to maintain, cannot drive down her steet without fear of breaking an axle or someone's exposed plumbing pipes peaking out of the gravel and dirt. Yikes! Once when I visited, I decided it best to park at the neighbor's and walk down in the dark (no street lights either) with my children in tow. It was outright frightening to navigate the deep holes and mounds with slippery gravel not to mention someone shooting off a gun in the distance. Yes, folks, this is NOT the third world, but a named Knoxville street. On another day, perhaps I'll take her to the appropriate office downtown to get some action.

We'll see what Buck has up his sleeve. Some years ago he took me out on a surprise date. I asked, "What should I wear?" to which he promptly replied, "It doesn't matter." However, when he drove just past the play of Phantom of the Opera into a nearby fancy restaurant parking lot, I asked if we could skip dinner, so I could go home and change into something less conspicuous than jeans and a t-shirt for an elegant evening on the town.

Tonight, I'll remind him that dress does matter before I ask what to wear.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Peace Turns 12

It's official my oldest child is older still. He turned twelve today and here is what he has to say:

Me: "What's it like to turn 12?"
Peace: "Ummm. I don't really know cause it's like one year till I'm a teenager."
Me: "What are your plans for this year?"
Peace: "I don't really have any."
Me: "If you could change anything about your life what would it be?"
Peace: "Stop being angry at my brothers."
Me: "If you could go anywhere this year, where would it be?"
Peace: "To Japan." (he doesn't say so just now, but he's utterly smitten with a Gundam book he got in our stop in the Tokyo airport, and now he wants to get more books and models)
Me: "And what would you do there?"
Peace: "See one of their museums. Buy some model kits."
Me: "What has been your happiest day so far in your life?"
Peace: "When we were at the Great Wall of China."
Me: "What's been your most disappointing day ever?"
Peace: "Not feeling good on my birthday, Christmas and Thanksgiving."
Me: "What is your favorite thing to do?"
Peace: "Pet Patches." (his cat)
Me: "Who do you like hanging out with the most?"
Peace: "Artmaker."
Me: "What do you like to eat?"
Peace: "Japanese food. That's too much about Japan. Soft tacos. Icecream."
Me: "What do you want to do before you turn into a teenager next year?"
Peace: "Don't know."
Me: "What is your favorite movies?"
Peace: "Lord of the Rings."
Me: "Favorite book?"
Peace: "The Hobbit."
Me: "Guess what you will do as a career when you are a man."
Peace: "I'll run an animal rescue for cats."
Me: "What are your favorite activities?"
Peace: "Running. Biking. Basketball. Soccor. Swimming. Building models."
Me: "Favorite salad dressing?"
Peace: "Ranch!"
Me: "Favorite song."
Peace: "Foreverandever" David Crowder Band*
Me: "If you could change one thing about your parents, what would it be?"
Peace: "Dad's work schedule." (Amen)
Me: "Favorite homeschooling thing."
Peace: "I can do my work outside. I don't have to go to school when it's freezing out."
Me: "Least favorite thing about homeschool."
Peace: "Doing work on a snow day."
Me: "What's been your favorite present ever?"
Peace: "My loft bed."
Me: "Favorite game to play?"
Peace: "Mech Warrior Dark Age."

The birth of this boy began an entirely new life for me. I am changed for the better, because of my relationship with him.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Rockin' Eve

I'm foggy this evening. It's not that I stayed up all New Year's night in Deerlodge, but somehow I managed to muddle through without suddenly falling in a heap to the floor snoring. I made it to the midnight champagne toast, a kiss Svetlana almost on the mouth as a stand in for my absent off-to-work husband (though before my midnight kiss, I had to let Baryshikov have his looonnnggg turn with his wife first all the while tapping my toe and folding my arms over my chest impatiently), two choruses of "Auld Lang Syne", and reading aloud my assigned New Year's resolution to the sundry collection of Clay and Helen's guests. Last year my clan o' friends began a tradition of writing up one another's New Years resolution and drawing them out on slips of paper from a basket. I wrote something silly to put in the basket last night- "For 2006, I resolve to join the local high school's Happy Hands Club", but the neatly folded one I traded with Svetlana for contained a far deeper message. It went something like this: "I resolve to be more disciplined in 2006. I will eat healthy, show self control, love more deeply, pray more, live more intentionally, and walk by faith." I was a bit taken aback that someone had put serious thought into what I expected to be frivolous fun. I asked around and Candy told me it was her husband's handwriting. I hadn't met Candy or her man before last night, but I've heard good things about them for the last eleven years from Helen and Clay. Upon spending some time with them, I understand the depth and kindness behind their names.
Another frequent guest at the Deerlodge fiestas is Liza. I observe her taking time to spend time with each guest individually. One moment she's sliding next to James at the player piano. Another she's sipping a pink drink next to his wife, Joan. She howled as Helen and I thoroughly embarrased our children with unrestrained dancing to thumping crazy music. She shot pool with her toddler son. I notice an elegance and tenderness about Liza.
Buck and I agree James, a middle aged English business partner of Clay's is the life of the party. I was elated to have him join us in a rousing round of the Dictionary game. You know, the game where one looks up an obscure word in the dictionary and everyone tries to fool one another with his made up definitions? I held my sides tightly to make sure my inards stayed put from the side splitting laughter produced from Jame's hilarious contributions to our game. One I enjoyed immensely had something to do with a disease caused by a diet exclusively of veal. James is also a captivating tale spinner; he left out no details in his keen description of some kind of English breakfast pudding made with pig's blood this morning. His fun wife, Joan, compliments his merry nature.
My children glared horridly at me last night when I declared bedtime to be an early 1:oo am. I did so, because I needed the peace of mind that they weren't wildly romping about Helen's while I slumbered quietly in the guest house down the road. I nestled the boys into cozy sleeping bags in the boy's room, and snuggly tucked in Pooh Bear next to her dear friend, Kate. Helen drove a sobbing Pooh Bear up to me around 1:30 am. "I'm not crying for you, Mommy. I'm crying, because the BIG girls get to stay up late and play, and I don't." Good grief. No wonder she fell asleep this evening for the night after dinner around 6:45 pm.
I think I'll join her very soon. I need to catch up on some rest myself.