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.

Friday, September 01, 2006

If you could see her now. She's tucked the spotted stuffed bunny her dear friend Anna gave her and puffy pink Olivia from her sweet friends Leesa and El under one tiny little arm. Her other hand cradles her perfect little girl face. She's snuggled and completely zonked under the rosy quilt on my bed, at least until daddy gets home and moves her to her own little pink palace.

Precious. A pearl. Glorious. My little girly.

It was Pooh Bear's very first soccer practice ever this evening, and she's plum tuckered out. She had to wear the entire game day outfit even though game day is next Saturday. It took her half an hour to get dressed. The shorts, the smallest AYSO has to offer, are far and away too large, so we gathered the waist to half it's size with a draw string. It took two tries to get the neon orange socks as long as the Amazon River to fit just right in her new pink soccer shoes. The shin guards velcroed around and met at the back of skinny her calves. I stood amazed at practice as she jumped at every command of her terrific coaches like the best dog in obedience school.
Pooh Bear shares the team with another splendid tough girl and some very aggressive real little boys, but she's hanging right in there. Personally, I'm not sure how I'd handle four pint sized monsters stomping around my legs, but she plowed her own way through the mob like the boy in Where the Wild Things Are.

There's probably nothing much more humorous or spellbinding than a hive of familiar five year olds buzzing around a ball.

I can go to bed now. I've documented another first on my blog for her. I get a hint of melancholy realizing she's my last chance at firsts. Time's a swirling away and I'm running after his old coat tails...