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.