Monday, December 28, 2009

Oh to grace
how great a debtor,
daily I'm constrained to be.

Let Thy Goodness
Like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander,
Lord I feel it.
Prone to leave the One I love.

Here's my heart, Lord.
O, Take and seal it.
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Just to be sure I wrote a simple message to my blogging friends...

Merry Christmas.

May this be an especially lovely and peaceful time for you and yours.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's official. I now have three teenage boys. Wise One turned thirteen. It's also official that I am an all out geek. I took the boys to see Avatar and loved it. Anyone else see it?

Yesterday, I spent the day at Shands Hospital in Gainesville mostly waiting to get my son's toe re-examined. It had turned nice and black. Those who knew anything about it were concerned the part of the toe became a mass of necrotic tissue which needed to be removed by painful scraping. Can I say how delighted I am that we were wrong? It wasn't certain until the site was opened and drained that it was a "runners hematoma" which is simply a nasty blood blister with a few infected spots. As long as the site stays clean it will heal quickly!

Tonight Christmas lights. Happy Holidays, friends.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Peace stayed home from finals yesterday, but attended today. He'll make up the other two tomorrow (saying prayers/crossing fingers). He would say he's a bit better. The toe looks pretty awful, blue and swollen, but it seems more localized to one place on the big toe rather than a flaming red foot. Could this be good news? I'm hoping so. So far, it doesn't look bitten by zombies, but I'm positively sure I wouldn't want it to be my toe.

A Memorial For Tina Lillig

I am not surprised at how moved I am by this.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It wasn't a jammed toe after all. Peace has an awful spider bite- we think from a brown recluse. Peace called me from school saying, "Something is about to explode in my toe. Come get me."

The doc loaded the boy with antibiotics, steroids, and hydrocodone. He stressed the fact that the antibiotic and steroids probably wouldn't do a thing, but he was giving them anyway, just in case.

"Mostly, you just try and make it through the pain with the pain meds till it's over," he said. Great.

Peace explained, "I have finals tomorrow. Will I be able to think?"

"Nope. This pain stuff isn't so great for studying or taking tests. I'll give you a note," he answered.

Um. A note for skipping finals. Not a great plan, but it's what we've got to work with. We headed back to his school and the secretary called the principal.

Peace whispered, "We're taking this to the top, Mom!" Love that sense of humor.

The principal in all her grace assured us the school would do whatever was necessary including letting him make up finals after Christmas. Oh, I so hope it's not necessary.

Prayers for him please. He's really torn up about skipping his first two finals today. They are his hardest subjects.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Retreat and Tina Lillig

I retreated this last weekend with four remarkable, beautiful, courageous, talented, amazing women. I'm stunned every. single. time. I receive an invitation to live art and prayer with them. Yet they ask, and I show up and stand in awe of who they are and how they are made. Meredith Lee and Almost hauled art materials, and a creative frenzy followed. Francesca packed some great wine, and Crow captured my heart with cookies. I'm easy that way. I laid out my Advent prayer stations for one evening prayer. Pics may follow on Almost's blog.

The hostesses at the retreat center showered us with incredible meals, hospitality to perfection, and delicious readings.

The last evening away, Francesca let me know through her cellphone email of the loss of a precious friend and saint, Tina Lillig. I put my head in my hands and sobbed a while knowing this world has lost a Great Light for now. As I said in my Facebook status, her Light is now stronger than death, but we mortals will miss her splendid company. She has been the National Director of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for many years. Her life is a testament to peace and strong advocacy for humanity, especially children. She opened her heart to me through the years, and though she'd never understand why in her unmatchable humility, she was a hero to me. In my opinion, replacing her in the National Association will be tantamount to finding a successor to Ghandi or MLK among our catechist community.

She wrote , dedicated her life to listening to God with children, and kept house for us, but her greatest attribute to me manifested in that she was one of the most gifted listeners I've ever met.

Please lift up prayers for her family and friends. She wished for donations to the National Association instead of flowers for her funeral. Figures that even in her death she'd give.

I'm home now to the repugnant smell of cat urine from the geriatric cat, Patches, and a quick ER trip for Peace regarding a painfully swollen toe he jammed, but happily did not break after all.

Art.Life. Death. Love. Stink. Healing. That's what it's all about.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sundry meandering thoughts

I should have stayed in girl scouts, because this morning I'm regretting my poor fire making skills. I had my boy scouts explain it to me and get a fire started in Clifford's new and improved fireplace, but the guys are now at school, and the fire wanes.

It caused me think about my year in Brownies. I think I was just learning to read when I got my Brownie handbook, and I dreamed I could be the brownie girl in the play found at the front of the book. I poured over that play time and again, because the lead role looked into a fairy pond and said magical words. When my best friend's mom asked me to take the part in our troop, I nearly fainted with joy. Her mother literally created a set including a mirror with greenery around it for the pond. It is a blissful memory of mine from childhood to have performed for all the parents.

I also recalled my one year in girl scouts with my sister. I don't think she and I were ever in a single club together of any kind after that, but we joined the same girl scout troop at Woodfill Elementary School. My fondest memory of that experience came about by my sister telling the girl scout leader how disappointed she was with her Christmas gift swap, so I held out my present to my sister in exchange. My sister happily handed me her miniature wooden angel ornament which I found exquisite for whatever unmemorable present I'd gotten in the exchange. Apparently the girl scout leader took this as some big sacrifice on my part though I don't remember it being so. Later, the leader came to me with a nifty girl scout coin purse, and whispered, "I saw what you did for your sister, and I thought you deserved something better." I turned that fabulous little forest green pouch over and over in my little girl hands thinking I was the luckiest person in the whole wide world that day. It's funny to me thinking back on that knowing how very satisfied with the tiny angel I was and astounded at a further gift.

Helps me remember that ya never know what a child is really thinking.

This morning my daughter and I arrived at our bus stop the minute the bus occasionally arrives, and I explained to her, "If we've missed the bus then I'll make sure the boys catch their and drive you on to school."

She burst into tears, "I don't WANT to be LATE! Please take me now. The bus never comes at sunrise, and look. There's the sun."

"Let not worry about what might happen just yet. We'll wait here ten more minutes..." I replied, "but oh, look, there's your bus now."

She dried her tears instantly and popped out the car with a lilt in her step.

When I was in second grade, my mom woke my sister and I in the middle of the night on a school night and stealthily took us to a friend's house far from our neighborhood after a she became afraid of dreadful things. The next morning, my mom let us all sleep in, and much to my horror, I arrived to Miss Bohn's class after 10 a.m. Miss Bohn must have noticed my tear stained face for I was ashamed that I was late. She spoke gently to me, "It doesn't matter what time you get here. I'm just always glad to see you." That woman had no idea how comforting and memorable her words were for me that day.

I've literally been trying diligently to live in the moment these days and not worry about the "what ifs" of the future. I can tell it's going to be a hard lesson for my girl as it is for all of us.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

RAD stuff

Just in case friends with RAD kids read my blog, I'm sharing an email I sent to my son's new principal. I think it's empowering to advocate for our kids.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

To Whom it may concern:

I am very apprehensive as a parent at the reports my son, Tater Vyne, is giving me about his experience at ________ Middle School. After asking for a meeting several times, I have finally been given a date in two weeks. I would prefer to be more proactive before things escalate further, so I'm writing to take swift action on his behalf.

Before Tater was born, he was exposed to cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and untold violence in the womb. His birthmother was in fostercare herself and gave birth to him at age 14. The trauma of this beginning has led Tater into having attachment issues which takes the form of not being able to trust. Our family was able to adopt him after some years, and he's in specialized therapy now with __________. Please call her if you need further insight (phone). We have also had intensive family therapy in 2008 for him with ___________ (phone) in North Carolina. _______is a wonderful resource for our family as well.

February 2009, after many years of homeschooling, our family decided to put Tater in school.
We met with __________ at North Middle in _____________ and met with his teachers regularly to check on his progress. His teachers and administrators gave glowing reports. He hit one rough patch one day that I know of in his time at North Middle. He struggled in pre-algebra but did well academically otherwise. The cooperation and communication with North Middle couldn't have been better.

When we moved here in October, Tater asked to transfer to your school though his North principal told him and us something like, “We don't want to lose you. We hope you will be able to finish this year with us!” __________, assistant principal, may also have input for you concerning Tater (phone). From what his teachers told us, Tater chose friends very well and was a good student.

Now that Tater has transferred to your school, it appears this is no longer the case. Tater reported to me that he was on some kind of “bad kid list”. He understands this to be a list of children the school is watching to fail or kick out. I'm also concerned that he said his “new best friend” was arrested for “being set up” with oregano in an Altoids can in his locker. I haven't met this young man, but I worry that Tater has suddenly started choosing friends poorly. Furthermore, if this “bad kid” list exists, why is the school asking to meet with us immediately? Wouldn't working with parents be the first step in helping children get on the right path? I haven't taken my son out of the chaos of fostercare to adopt him into our good home with a loving family, only to have him be walk into drugs and violence introduced at school. We have nothing of that in our home.

As you know, Tater's first introduction to ______ Middle was a bully on the bus who slapped him the first week and threatened him for several weeks after. Hopefully, this has all been dealt with, but all my children were terrified when the police came to our house asking for statements. Our family has never had any cause to have the police intervene. Imagine my eight year old daughter asking, “Is it safe in our new home? Will that boy bring a gun here tonight before the police can come back to help us?” Imagine what this experience does to a boy with trust and safety issues? When my husband followed the bus to school the day after the slapping, Buck was told at the office, “Just tell your son not to make friends with that boy.” Buck and I asked for meetings with teachers to open communication and were told more than once, “Wait until your son has some grades to discuss.”

This is what I consider a negative start, and my hopes in writing and meeting is to turn it around. I hope to start working together with you. I hope to let you know, as his parents, we see a trend developing which must be addressed right away. We are open to suggestions on how to proceed, and look forward to working through to a positive experience with you on behalf Tater at ______ Middle School.

True Vyne

**Update: The principal called me and chatted for quite awhile last night. I told her my concerns, and she asked how the school could help. She apologized for how the school has fallen short. I asked her to talk with her teachers about advocating for my son: putting him in the front in classes in which he's not succeeding, moving him away from people with whom he might make trouble, calling me when he's not choosing friends well, calling me when he's not living up to his potential academically. She told me to email her anytime and said she'd meet with me or any other parent when asked. She begged patience as this is her first year, and she needs time to learn and understand the culture. I'm impressed again with her humility and care for parents and children.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

kinda boring personal update

Clifford is decorated for the holidays, but she's got many construction projects underway- so she looks a bit messy while in progress.  My buddy, Andy, showed me how to tile this week, and I'm part way through tiling the walls around my master bath tub.   Who ever heard of a master bath with a giant tub and no shower?  Andy is taking care of adding the shower head part with his "mad plumbing skilz".  Another friend, Dan, constructed a perfect wall at the end of the tub.  I've found creating a shower takes lots more and longer than the snap of a finger.  Wishing I was a faster, more confident tiler, but, hey, it's my first job ever. Andy added an electrical box yesterday.  He promised as he left, "If you want to put in some outlets while I'm away, at least it wouldn't be a slow death if you mess up." Gotta like that sense of humor.  Today he'll return with our friend Jake, who I know will encourage me while I tile.  Last time he came over, he called out as I worked, "That looks really good.  You are doing well."   I know Jake would help if he could, but he has severely limited muscular use, so his cheering means the world to me.

When these folks come over to help, I know I'm blessed.  It's going to be a different kind of Christmas for my family, and this blessing makes all the difference to keep me positive and looking up.

I haven't found a job yet which is somewhat frustrating.  However, there must be a correlation in God's economy of going to full-time work after the many house projects are complete rather than having it all hanging over my head.  I know Pooh Bear is really having a rough time of it at school with so many hours away from home, and a job will mean even more time away from me.  Sigh.  Thank God she's a tough cookie.  She says regularly, "I'm just going to school, because I know it is better for you."  I keep reminding her that we could work something else out if it gets to hard, but she won't have it.

Tater says, "I'm on the 'bad kid' list at school."   Whatever that is.  Apparently, the teachers made a "watch out for these top 25 troublemakers list", and Tater thinks he's on it.  Could be that he was part of the bullying incident, and someone he considered his new best friend was suspended for 60 days when the drug sniffing dog found oregano in an Altoids can in his locker.  We talked about walking away from friendships with kids who seem to have something up to ones with less drama surrounding.  I finally was "allowed" to make an appointment to talk with Tater's teachers.  The school gatekeepers kept saying, "You need to wait to see his progress before you meet with his teachers.  It doesn't make sense to meet before we know how he's going to perform."  Eye roll.  Haven't these people ever heard of being proactive?  I've taken Tater back to attachment therapy now that we're more settled.  Since the huge changes in our fam, Tater has hit some big all time lows in terms of being a family guy. It was like living with Darth Vader for a about two months- the dark side of the force was strong.  Thankfully, he's come back around in the last month to something more like a cussing and manipulative Dennis the Menace.  I also wonder if he's made a habit of cussing at school which would definitely land him squarely on the "suspicious kid list" for me if I was a teacher and uniformed about attachment disorder.

Peace is plodding through Latin II, the bane of his existence.  He's running track. Yeah, the track season doesn't start till March, but hey, coach needs them conditioned, right?  Peace had two migraines this week.  I know it's the pressure of accepting our new circumstances and keeping up with school with which his momma no can no longer help. Math facts memorization I can handle.  Vis, vida, vimas, vitere- way beyond me.

Wise One continues to adjust to school with mostly pleasure.  However, he tells me sordid tales about the horrible acts of middle schoolers and the unprofessional responses of teachers.  Sigh.  I only wish the teachers knew how incredibly honest this child is, and that he could actually tell them the whole truth instead of the teachers losing their tempers and screaming at children, hoping somehow to get to the bottom of  crazy behavior. In our house, we call that fantasyland- using out-of-control behavior to bring control.   Wise One is having a weekend of caving with his best friend, Eli. Thank God for Eli's family and all the help they send my way.

Personally, I struggle with adjusting to a new sort of life.  I positively hate to watch my children wrestle with things from which I'd hope to shelter.  I'm ever so glad they aren't little ones anymore and have their mom's Vyne determination behind them.  I also struggle personally with keeping my life quiet and peaceful while storms rage all around.  One thing I'm considering is sitting in Adoration to soak in some rays of Grace.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I'm only gonna tell you this once.  Gather together everybody you know, just like you did for New Moon, only this time, go see something that will touch your soul, because it's absolutely true-  

The Blind Side.

I took my bunch o' children yesterday and some friends followed.  Learn somethin' from Mrs. Oher.  Her good heart made a difference on this planet earth.  Isn't it time we all make a difference here too?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's not that I don't have anything to say.  I do.  I just having been making the time for it.

So, here's a snapshot of Nadine's Funeral service.  Her gorgeous sixteen year old daughter picked out music to be played.  Aerosmith, LifeHouse, Dream Boat Annie, Sarah McLachlan.  Yep, they were a rock and roll family.  In fact, Nadine's daughter wrote an incredible eulogy for her mother- articulate, beautiful words that would make the Grinch with the tiny heart break.  She wrote about how her mother's strength would keep her strong.  She ended with a quip about how her mom was in a place where she could, "Rock and roll all night, and party every day." 

My cousin Rosey's husband, Cowboy, was asked to preach by Nadine's husband.  Cowboy came dressed with a Western riding suit coat, fancy pants, boots, a big ole' yet very nice felt cowboy hat, and of course, a worn Bible tucked under his arm.  His sermon rang with honesty and gentleness.  In the southern tradition, he ended with his own quip, "When Nadine asked Jesus into her life on that day, she put her foot on the Rock and got her name on the role."  Yes, my family makes me laugh and cry all at the same time.

Cowboy told me his own story soaked with Vietnam, rodeo, arms dealing, drugs, jail, addiction and most of all, Redemption.  I admire his soft spoken nature and open heart.  Rosie and he have been down a long road.  Rosie and I talked after dinner together.  She grew up mostly in Nadine's family and has lost something much more like a sister than a cousin. She's also lost her mother, Nadine's mom and dad, a brotherish cousin and niece.  Even though neither of us are old women, we pondered how much loss we've had and how hard it is wait to join those in the better place.

The most comforting moment for me was when Nadine's brother, Jay stood with me at the coffin.  He told me he'd visited with her at the nursing home and hospice care.  He whispered in her ear, "If you see, Leah (her daughter who died as a young person a few years ago from spinal menangitis), run like the wind to her."
I pictured Nadine spying Leah's slight figure and radiant red curls in the light and tearing off like there was no tomorrow to greet her girl.  Yes, so comforting to consider them together forever now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My cousin, Nadine, was finally released from her suffering yesterday.   It makes me a little blue to think she's not ever gonna giggle with me or recommend another good read here on this big old earth.  Then again, she hasn't been able to do so for years now, but I always hoped one day something like Awakenings would happen for her.  I'm hoping and praying she is truly in a better place.  Tomorrow is her visitation, and Thursday is her funeral.  The thang about funerals is that it's one of the only times my family gets together on my dad's side, and I really do enjoy hanging with these folks.  They are colorful, spunky and usually give me side splitting laughter.

I'm taking Nadine's death as a symbol of some personal endings and beginnings.  The limbo of being here but unable to communicate was such a struggle for her.  I believe she may very well be in the Hands of God and able to say what she's wanted and needed all these years.  I believe I'm in God's Hands as well, and He's giving me what I've needed all these years of a different kind of limbo in my life. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
C.S. Lewis

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Call the Law

People have their own bus woes, like my friend whose daughter was hit by a car driven by an inattentive young lady on her cellphone after exiting her bus.  Now I have mine.

Day one of my children riding the bus to public school bus led me to chat with the boys about sitting in the front by the driver.  They naively explained how the first day, one boy on the bus screamed and yelled out as the bus drove.  Wise One, who heeds my advice, extolled my wisdom when the second day, Tater, who does not necessarily think I know anything whatsoever, got slapped in the face by the screamer- because he was not in the front of the bus with Wise One.  Buck went to talk with the school and sadly was placated by a administrative assistant.  I, however, have been waiting for the troubled young man to blow it big.  My only hope was that it wouldn't involve my children, but unfortunately, it did.  Tater and Wise One came home with another crazy tale involving extremely dangerous behavior on the bus and in class.  Last night, I was making my plan to go sit in the school office this morning until  I could get a resolution when my cell phone rang.  I found myself speaking to the principal and listening as my son spoke with her.  I explained how fearful both boys were about things said, and how I trusted the school was handling the situation, since she was calling.  I was impressed by her forthright nature and sensitivity.

"I asked your son to report any problems to me before things reach this point again," she guided.

"My husband came to intervene two weeks ago and was simply told to have our children not be friends with the child. I'm sure you have had many interactions with this young man and his family and understand the depth of his issues," I responded.

I heard the regret and a touch of anger in her voice, "No, mam.  I am sorry to say that I have not as my staff has apparently been handling him.  I want you to know how sorry I am, and that this is not acceptable to me."

I ended by telling her we were prayerful and cautious about the situation as the boy lives a few streets away.
She must have called the police to file a report, because the police came over later.  The gentlemen were sweet and assured the children of our safety.  Nothing like uniformed men showing up unannounced to spark a little insecurity.  Golly, I was glad my house was tidy.

Before bed, I could see something in Tater's eyes which is rarely there- gratitude.  The terrible fear of trust associated reactive attachment disorder was stirred up for him, and he watched me handle it all with grace on his behalf.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tis a strange thing to put all children on a school bus for a mom who drove all over the world everyday and homeschooled in the middle.  After the little and not so little people departed, I got to work on chores. 

One great discovery in this new house has been hardwood floors in a room we are changing to an efficiency kitchen.  It was under two layers of linoleum, plywood, primer, and one million hard-to-remove staples,  Over the past week, my hands have grown horribly sore and quite banged up from scraping and muscling up nails committed to a lifelong stay in the floor. I spent the morning cleaning the area. Now it's positively gorgeous having been sanded and minwaxed.

I took off for the gym and enjoyed weights and pool laps afterward.

Yesterday, I attended a job fair. The offerings of employment at the Dollar General, Comcast, a security company, the army, a coffee house weren't exactly in my interest range, so I wandered back home.  The FBI had a booth set up as well, but after half a second, I decided against trying to become a secret agent since I am forty three and require reading glasses.  I spent the entire afternoon applying to a community college for EMT training.  Crazy ain't it? Just figuring out how to send transcripts from four previous colleges made me nuts. 

Wish me luck on training and finding full time work. 

Monday, November 09, 2009

Today I visited an old friend.  At first, I was really nervous.  It's been a long time, and this particular friend can be daunting at times-cruel even if you happen to be a 43 year old woman with lots of imperfections and flubber.  However, I held my breath, looked both ways, leaped off the sheer cliff;   I went back to my old friend, the gym.  I haven't been since my little world flipped upside down and inside out in late August.  That's the longest break I've ever taken from working out, since I had knee surgery five or six years ago.  I started a bit easy, not a whole lotta weight or reps, so I'll be able to stand erect and walk about tomorrow. 

 I'm back at the Knoxvegas gym where there is a plethora of fancy machines and a pool I adore. Loved swimming laps, but I'm not kidding when I say I'm sad about leaving my little town gym where most everyone greeted me warmly.  Miss the theological exchanges with Josh and Randy, the jokes and tricks of Deeder and Will.  I miss Regina's drive, Sissy's smile, chats about art with Erin, and Andy's big ol' heart.  At this big town gym, I put on my headphones and ignore the testosterone flowing like chocolate rivers in Willy Wonka's factory. I didn't recognize a soul today except a staff member who had never spoken to me all those years ago anyway. 

Just so you know, machines and pools don't hold a candle to friends. 

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Pooh Bear's very first school experience this week has been interesting.  I took her Tuesday and arrived as her class was making preparations for a field trip to see a Junie B. Jones play.  I'm not  Junie B. Jones fan, but hey, it's public school.  I was praying for a positive first day, and I considered how a field trip would be a great friend making opportunity and leave a pleasant first impression.  She did make friends.  In fact, she exclaimed, "Everyone wants to be my friend.  All the girls wanted to sit by me.  They all asked to be in my pod." 
  The second day, she got off the bus with a scowl, and started pouring tears as soon as she got in our car.  "What on earth happened today?" I asked.

"I don't FEEL good," she burst out.  "My head is killing me, and my throat is sore!"

"Honey, you can always tell the teacher and I could have come to pick you up,"  I answered.

" I know, Mom.  But I didn't get sick till gym at the end of the day."

Her fever spiked that evening, and she slept fitfully from the afternoon till the next morning. Then again in the afternoon the next day the fevered spiked, so she missed the next two days of school.  I had gotten a newsletter from the school stating not to call if a child is sick, but write a note within five days of returning siting the illness.  I kept thinking, "Man, they don't even want parents to call?"  I'm betting the swine flu has made the office staff nuts.

Overall, Pooh Bear likes her class and her teacher. The jury is still our for me.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 'Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

I read this early this morning and found myself pondering.  It's as if I've been skipping over this passage and moving on without understanding. I will never hate my mother.  Nor my father, or my sister.  Especially not my own children. That isn't how God made me, nor is God a hater.  What kind of God would that be exactly who asks us to cast off humanity? I took it as hyperbole for loving God more than even family but have remained bothered by the implications left through the word "hate".

Today I found myself stuck on the hating "life itself" words.  I thought of how Jesus is the giver of life, loves life, embodies resurrected life.  In fact, we know He is the way, the truth, and the life.  The contrast struck me between who Jesus is and what he is saying here.  So what do these particular words mean?  How could I hate life itself?  It came to me to that Jesus never intended for us to hate life, because He is life.  He only asks that if desperation to hold onto life gets in the way of loving, we should let go of our own life willingly.  When I make a statement like, "That would kill me if..." without seeking Jesus, then I'm sunk.  I've loved my way, my life better than Him.  Therefore, it stands to reason, He also would never have us hate our family, but we must not desperately cling to their lives and let them go when God asks.

Don't get me wrong.  When I prayed fervently that God would spare the life of my mother during her brain surgery some time ago, I don't think I was going against this scripture altogether.  Yes, I wanted my way.  Yes, it was selfish in that I didn't want to live without her on this earth.  Yes, I was desperate.  However, I know the position of my heart was that even if she did not make it or became irreparably brain damaged, I believed God was and is good and would make all things good through the tragedy.  I wasn't attaching my faith to her life saying, "You better heal her God or else!"  If my faith had been entwined with the outcome, I could have become bitter against God.

The battle for us all is that we allow God to be and stop trying to control.  In fact, I have come to the conclusion that anything we try to control is sin.  In which case, I sin a million times a day.  For example, in my new home, things are broken and are taking a very long time to fix.  I've actually been sobbing over a toilet (how dumb is that?) which has been "fixed" twice, replaced, and is still not working.  Why sob?  I'm actually worried noone on the face of the earth can or will fix it, and I'll have to live in a moldy, drippy, leaking, falling down house.  How's that for lack of faith?  Yet I've been consumed.  In order to find peace, I must put on the mind of Christ and play the tape in my head that my friend Jenny, a lady construction manager (!), spoke to me, "Look, if I've learned anything from being in construction all these years, is that anything can be fixed."  Putting that particular tape on repeat inside my brain is a way of intentionally letting go to find the peace I've unwisely traded for worry for a week now. 

As for hating "life itself", I'll reflect on more ways I'm trying to control to let go, so I can get down to the business of real love. 

Monday, November 02, 2009


Changes are still happening with the Vynes.  Besides leaving a good life entirely behind to begin anew, I shuffled something big around for my children.

Tater's response to this particular project was a whooping, "I'm not doing that!  I like the old way better."  It's been his response to everything lately- nothing like a upsetting the apple cart of a rad kid's life with new school, new house, new room, new routines.

Here is my radical lifestyle change.  I went to the store, laid down a big hunk of money, and bought each person a shower basket like the ones we all used in college.  Each child has a their very own stock of deoderant, shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, toothbrush, razors, shaving cream, comb, brush, floss which is kept in his or her own room, probably on the dresser.

Clifford the big red house has four bathrooms, and the old sharing one sink between three bickering boys is old news, like the first horseless carriage.   The showering until one's skin becomes a wrinkly pink or brown pickle can happen without anyone else becoming at risk of missing daily grooming.  Toothbrushing hypothetically can occur in a another location when a shower hog refuses to open the door.  Hair brushing need not be skipped due to a lack of mirror time. 

There is only bathroom on the kid's floor, so I have heard the occasional, "I can't brush my teeth.  Peace is hogging the shower."  So nice to answer, "Where's your shower basket anyhow?"

Works for me.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Yesterday at my hypertufa making party at Almost's house, I was crowned with a new name.
Drum roll, please.

I am now considered The Duchess of Clifford.

Don't be jealous.  My friends will rename you with somethin' fancy if you simply ask.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I wanted to blog about these new days so as to keep a record.

Once we moved into Clifford, I was hoping Wise One and Pooh Bear would allow me to homeschool at least till the end of the semester.  Pooh Bear has been very clear that she prefers homeschooling.  Wise One was content to stay home as well until Tater decided on a dime to change to his zoned school Tuesday after saying goodbye to friends at his old school Monday.  Wise One puts lots of thought and time into his decisions and decided to quit homeschooling after Monday as well.  I choked back tears silently at his news and have been for the last three days.  I'm actually tired of homeschooling, but I love being with my children.  Wise One is especially easy to be around, and he's not here with us anymore. He walks out the door after 7 a.m. and returns at 4:00.  Such a long day away.
Buck and I took them both into their new school Tuesday to register.  Tater got right in with his paperwork from his previous school.  Wise One was asked to wait to enroll till the next day, because the doctor's office had a days delay in shot records/physical record sharing. 

Wise One returned home yesterday from his first day full of joy.  He's not much of a talker, but he had a few stories to tell.  He definately is into the whole school idea.  I still get teary missing him. 

One day without Wise One here was enough for Pooh Bear to suggest that she'd like to try school.  Gasp.  Choke.  Whimper.  She's not ready in so many ways, but some sort of alternate schooling will be necessary sooner or later as I'll be looking for a job.  Friends have offered to keep her while I work and allow me to homeschool her on my days off.  I just can't wrap my brain around the entire issue of putting that little wisp of a girl into the school machine and letting go.  I'm up for letting her try it and then finding alternatives if she's eaten up. 

Off to figure hang with my fix-it guy to resolve some of Clifford's flaws.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Spent the last week painting inside the Clifford Estate with an army of beloved friends.  More friends on the way today to scrub floors.  I've simplified my life beyond belief, so the move has been easier than any other I've made.  I'm not hanging onto anything "just in case". 

kids- check
bare necessities for life- check
clutter- gone to Goodwill or the dump

I'll take pictures inside as soon as I unpack and get a little organized.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Try to hold back the snickers.  Yes, she's very RED.  Yes, she's awfully odd and awkward for a house. She has lots and lots of work to be done on her.

I'm calling her Clifford, Clifford the Big Red House.  If the stars in the heavens align properly, and the unknown banker will allow, we'll buy her Thursday.

Then I'll have to relearn civilization, how to be a friendly neighbor instead of a scowling recluse- that kind of thing.  Wish me luck.

Pooh Bear Horse Vaulting

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I worked on a project yesterday whilst I wait upon unknown realitors and bankers to acquire a certain one paragraph document enabling me to begin a new path on my journey.

I've had an old behind the couch table sitting in our garage collecting junk, spider eggs and spider poo for the last six years. The table's veneer was gummy and peeling up on top. I decided it might do in my new kitchen as an island of sorts. The new kitchen has very limited cabinets unlike my farm kitchen which boasts entirely empty spaces and shelves from overabundance of cabinetry and workspace.

My dear friend Claire now creates mosaics, and I roped her into agreeing to tile the table top with me or for me. She instructed to get the area flat, so the tile would be mounted on something stable. This is precisely how I spent my afternoon after homeschooling. Much of the veneer pulled off by my hands with the exception of a long strip 7 inches wide which had been tightly adhered with God's Super Glue. This sticky strip required a literal chisel to pry loose. With a chisel, I ran the risk of gouging an uneven surface, so the work became meticulously slow. Pooh Bear came out to help with a bucket and brush to scrub off arachnid leftovers. Some water got on God's glue, which we discovered loosened it's bond considerably, and the work became easier.

Once we were finished removing the veneer, I stepped back to admire my work. Yes, the table was smooth and ready for tile. I went for some sandpaper just for the edges which would surely leave splinters if left undone. I went over the top as well in the process and a the beauty of the bare wood caught my eye. The more I sanded, the more I fell in love with the natural grain. After taming all splinters and smoothing over all rough patches, I loaded the table up with help into the back of my van to take it to Claire's knowing I didn't want to tile over that lovely surface any longer.

However, I wanted to learn how to treat the wood in order to make it useful in a kitchen. Claire and I researched the internet. One site would say, "Make sure to use polyurethane," while another would completely disagree and say, "Do not use polyurethane as it is poison." I decided upon shellac which is essentially made of edible non-toxic Indian bug goo. I learned that shellac will rub off with harsh cleansers or alcohol, but can be easily reapplied when necessary.

Claire sent me off with a coupon for Bed, Bath, and Beyond for a new cutting board to put in the middle of the island table. I also purchased shellac from Home Depot.

At home I applied the shellac which after several coats caused the wood to shine like a new copper penny. I wish I could take a picture to post, but I still haven't figured out where the photo option has gone from my blogger tool bar.   (thanks to John I added the pic)

Isn't it interesting how I could disregard a piece of furniture for years and transform it into something essential and charming for my next home just by removing a difficult layer of unattractive exterior?

Isn't that just like God to redeem something neglected and unloved and make it new and useful again by revealing its natural beauty from under an ugly coating? Let it be a picture of my life.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Hidden under forty-two Russian emails, I got an email I've been waiting for over a week with wild anticipation. It's a single paragraph requiring a banker's signature which held up a loan on a new residence for the Vyne family. We are moving back to civilization though it's not what I want to do. Sometimes it comes down to choices on behalf of others, like my children, that require me to step out of my own will and allow what needs to happen. Our bank is working on closing for tomorrow. Local friends, get your grungies ready for some serious cleanin' and paintin'. This new old house is a fixer upper for sure.
I can't publicize the name of my new road on my blog, but let's just say, it makes me giggle.
I'll be working on making my soon to be suburban home in a neighborhood (cough, gasp, wheeze, take a deep breath) into a place of peace and rest. Is that possible? Any tips out there in bloggerland?

Update: The unknown banker musta had some sort of mad and felt coerced into signing the document, so he:
1. only used his initials
2. did not sign on the seller's line
3. did not date his signature

All of which make the document invalid. I can't imagine this man's disposition when he is asked to resign something he's irked about already. So, it's back to my unfavorite game of "when will the banker decide to sign [correctly]?"

Sunday, October 04, 2009

FREE Parenting Tip

FYI, when one takes her son who struggles with RAD to Wal-mart to buy batterys and cat pan liners,and he tells her a knee slappin' story which he finds utterly hilarious and the mom finds horrifying, a good mom should listen closely. Particularly if the story goes something like this:

"Mom. Dad showed me a video of Mr. Greasy covering his hand with Germ X and lighting it on fire! It was way cool! He didn't even burn his hand. Can you believe it? It just shot flames and went out. Wouldn't you like to see THAT!"

Then a good mom shouldn't just say, "That's not my kind of story. WAY to dangerous and stupid thing to ever try. You get that, don't you?"

Instead, that mom should take a mental note, and immediately drive home, obtain all scattered matches around the house and the bottles of Germ X purchased by Dad during the swine flu in weeks previous, and automatically put them all under lock and key.

Otherwise, hours later after the mom has completely stricken the fearful image of third degree burns on bloody hands from her mind, one might find the spent matches and a nearly empty Germ X in the garage next to the son who struggles with RAD exclaiming, "My hands smell SO much like Germ X! Weird isn't it, Mom?"

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Peace called me from his state championship meet in North Carolina to tell me who he beat, who beat him, and that he'd made a personal best in finishing his race in 19:20. His dear friend, Steve made 18th overall and got a trophy as a FRESHMAN! How awesome is that? Peace said the course was easy, but the weather was muggy.
I stayed home and held the fort to make sure Pooh Bear made it to her horsemanship vaulting clinic with the real deal- judges from Georgia. She informed me she had to wear make-up and make a perfect bun in her hair. Thank God she's an independent person cause I'm not hair and make-up kinda mom.

I'd love to post some pics, but there is no longer a picture option on my dashboard. Hasn't been for weeks now. Anyone know where it went?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An Irish Prayer for today

In the words of an old Irish prayer:
Three wishes I ask of the King when I part from my body: May I have nothing to confess, may I have no enemy, may I own nothing! Three things I ask this day of the King, ruler of suns: May I have no dignity or honours that may lead me into torment! May I not work without reward before Christ! May God take my soul when it is most pure!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hello. My name is True, and I'm a paper addict. I know this, because in cleaning out my drawers and decluttering I have found stacks of card stock, colored, and scrap booking paper in every nook and cranie of my room and closet. Does anyone know of a twelve step program to help kick my unnatural attraction to Office Depot and If it's Paper?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pooh Bear Bear contracted the swine flu. She's been such a trooper. She's spiked her "normal" 103.5 fever. All my kids turn to toaster ovens with skins when they get sick. Pooh Bear surprisingly has not grumped around and moaned as she does most of time when she's not feeling great. While we were at the doctor yesterday, she asked him to burn a plantar wart from the bottom of her foot. He couldn't believe her request given she was in such a droopy state, but he did it for her anyway. She thanked me twice for letting her get it removed. The nurse commanded me to get her icecream on the way home, so we stopped at the Jiffy for a waffle cone. The young lady who served Pooh Bear had an armful of jagged skin art. Made me wonder if she was sleeping with a tattoo artist, or if that's how she spent her entire convenience store check-out girl paycheck.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My daughter is cut from the same cloth as myself. Last night she discovered how very thin our herd of goats is becoming as we slowly sell them, and she fell into a puddle of tears. She's been told it would happen, but when reality hit, it was too much. I feel the same.

Holding on steadily to hope as I walk towards new things and away from the solitude and beauty I've always found here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

This is a dark time for me, but I can't blog the details. I'll save those for another time. However, I got an encouragement yesterday from a dear friend, Ella. I called her for support, and she came through the way she always does. She told me a timely story about needing to open a gate to a field which has not been bush hogged in a long while. She first sent her son to chop down the overgrowth with a long sharp tool. He began the work but needed to get on the road to college leaving her to finish the job. Ella took that tool and wielded it like nobody's business over the waist high grass. She noticed the vines creeping and intending to swallow up the grass in order to swipe it's potential for life. She began to cry out to God with her grumbles and complaints with terrible force as she hacked down the wild vegetation. God beckoned her quiet her heart and to listen closely. As she stepped on and held the stalks low with her knee to slice, God gave her a picture.

"The way you are bending that grass and holding it is how I'd like for you to pray for the saints. Cover them, throw yourself over them and protect them in prayer from the weeds, the enemies, who intend to devour. The saints need you."

I know that's what she is doing for me, Ella and others. I need it so. Not every moment, but mostly I feel a peace, knowing though things are not all right now, they will be.

I am a woman with great hope.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Sold one of my goatie girls today, Shannon. She has been my very favorite for all six years of my caprine experience. This lovely lady was the first we ever bought. She's given us tons of love and milk through her years at True Vyne Farm.

We sniffed noses to say, "Goodbye." I considered her shiny black coat, her curious eyes, and frosty ears as we parted.

I remember our first cold morning milkings. I played classical music to calm us both- I, the green farm hand; she, a little jumpy due to her new surroundings my lack of expertise. I nuzzled my curly locks against her furry belly in gratitude for the gifts she gave.

I'll miss you my friend, Shannon.

Friday, September 04, 2009

You know what I know? That kindness is the better way. Justice can be kind. I mean it- surprisingly gentle even.

Maybe it's crazy to learn from Oprah, but I have. I learned something so valuable to me that it will follow me the rest of my days and give me peace. Last year Oprah had a guest on her show- The Most Hated Woman in America. This lady changed her daily routine and accidently left her gorgeous little towheaded girl in the summer heat inside a closed vehicle. Of course, the precious baby died. I believe there is no greater injustice than the neglect of a parent which causes the death of a child, a child at the complete mercy of his or her care.

At some point in my life, I too would have hated this woman for doing such a thing. How could someone simply forget their own flesh? However, I was surprised at my reaction, because I didn't go there. I felt overwhelming compassion for her brokenness. As she soberly relayed the events of that horrible day, she captured my heart.

Just about the time I was scratching my head with the question, "Why am I not feeling angry with this woman for killing her child? Why don't I want to wail on her?", Oprah turned to the camera. She started to speak on judgment. She said something which made so much sense- something along the lines of "There is no judgment I or anyone else could give which is more harsh than the one this woman has given herself. No one knows the depths of pain and suffering of the loss of a child like a mother. She knows she has done this thing and must live with it the rest of her life." Who exactly am I to hope she pays dearly? To wish she'd go to jail or hell, or pay some huge debt back to society? She will pay dearly with regret for her entire life. When she's on her death bed, her daughter's name will be the one she'll whisper. I bet the mother already wished she'd have been the one to have died. She's getting perfect justice, and all I can think is, "I'm so sorry for her. I wish it hadn't come to this."

Such is the way of one who falls.

This lesson sustains me in a new pursuit in my own life. You may hear things about me soon, and I hope you can see beyond appearance to the kindness and justice mixed up like a strawberry fruit smoothie in me. I may get judgment, but it's not me I'm speaking of who requires kindness. It all boils down to the fact that justice and anything else for that matter is learned best through love. I'm walking down a path I've never been down and never wanted to go down before now. Pray for me. Pray it isn't all regret but an adventure with hope behind every corner.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My Prayer for Today

Life is messy. My life is messy.
This is my prayer for today.

Let justice and praise become my embrace.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mary Oliver

The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
but little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,determined to do
the only thing you could do
determined to save
the only life you could save

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Molly got into my brain somehow again with this post. I swear I've never even met her. I just read her blog. Honest!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I don't know if we'll get to attend or not, but the Battle of the Bridge is coming up Thursday. This battle is when the rivalry between two Loudon high school's (Loudon vs. Lenoir City) takes roaring form in the shape of a football game. It's like the face off between two lion prides defending their kingdom, and the Loudon bridge clearly marks territory. I've heard about this game before, but I never had anything at stake. Let's face it, I'm not a sports gal. I've always wished I had the talent to do something physical really well, but the only person I can compete and win against is myself. I can't catch anything, but a cold. I have the athletic ability of a turnip, but by golly, I return to the gym to be the best darn turnip ever!

Now I see the Battle of the Bridge with new eyes- a chance to build a deeper relationship with my son. Tater's other love beside every breathing teenage female on the face of the earth is football, so I'm sucking up my mother's heart that hates to see her son pushing, smashing, crushing, pulling, and squashing other people, and tuning into the love of the game. Slowly but surely, I've begun to forget the manhandling and actually enjoy the sport of it all. That's right, folks. I'm having loads of fun being a football spectator just like the rest of America. And it's sincere.

Still, don't think my heart didn't skip five beats last Friday watching the evening news of the Knoxville kid who dropped dead on the football field. My fears are real.

Though Buck has been gently been poking fun at my football game cheering, "Nice receiving!", when I should have shouted, "Great interception!", I'm surprised at myself letting go of my list of injury statistics and standing for a big play. I love my boy. that. much.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Catechist humor

So, this post is for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd folks, cause noone else on earth would understand.

I've been working on the Level II Blue Strip material. It's a "timeline" to emphasize the three moments in Christian history and set up for typology later:

Creation- the beginning of the our universe, our planet and ourselves,

Redemption- the time Christ was born and now

Parousia- the time Christ comes again, and God will be all in all.

This particular teaching tool is a very long strip of paper with events from each moment depicted in pictures.

Now here's the funny part. I'd stretched the the Blue Strip out across the living room floor and into the hall to glue on the pictures, and of course our two cats quickly found their way to the new surface upon which to lay as all felines must do. Bees...honey. Cats...paper. Buck walked in on their slumber and announced, "I learned something new from closely examining this time line. Apparently cats were around before the creation of the world and will be present when Christ comes again for all eternity as well."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Buck took the boys to school and Pooh Bear to the doc for a stuffy yuck nose, and Wise One is quietly occupied. Buck is kind in that often he gives me time and space just to think by taking care of everything. So I'll think here on my keyboard.

School started this week for Peace, and he's got classes which are a good fit. Probably easier than next semester, and he gets to challenge his brain the first half of the day and build things with his hands the second. He's loving cross country team as usual. He's got a better attitude than last week when I was ready to sell him into slavery to the traveling gypsies should they have passed by. He does love school and considers it to be a great opportunity. Peace gets frustrated with kids who are just there and don't appreciate the chance to learn. Last night, he asked me what to do about sitting next to a person quite fond of cussing in Latin II class. Peace observed the teacher noticing bad language from his general direction and worries she'll think it's him. I told him to ask her advice, but he didn't like that idea. I know he'll find his way like he always does.

Tater is loving life. He's surrounded by girls and football with school as the bothersome vehicle to project him into the scene. Amazingly, his RAD is usually not the first thing I think about when I look at him. Since last summer he's been in a positive place for the most part. Not healed but going in a generally good direction. He's middle school varsity on his football team though he's never played in his life before this year. First string defense. Second string offense. First game tonight, and I have to say I'm a bit excited for him.

I've got some issues to work on in myself concerning Tater's "player" attitude towards young women. This week he posted that he is "in a relationship" on his Facebook. Ugh. I met the girl a few days ago at open house, and let's just say, I quickly developed the standard answer, "I like all the girls my son likes". Mostly because if I indicated a strong opposition to anyone, she'd surely end up my daughter-in-law for a while. I don't think there's a setting on FB of "heartbreaker" which is a far more accurate description of my son's relationship status. Double Ugh. Fair warning to all teen girls out there- though he says it's just you he loves, it ain't. He digs you (and you, and you) simply because he likes to be dug. It's all a cover for low self esteem. And just in case you were wondering, moms or girlfriends cannot hand that out like candy and bandaids. It's a long work, a big internal work which takes vast amounts of courage. Hoping and praying for Tater to stay on that road to self acceptance.

Wise One started co-op courses this week, and he's delighted. He knew one person when he walked into class and walked out with a bunch of new friends. No surprise there. Next year, God-willing, I'm putting him in middle school for eighth grade,and these classes are a great step to get him ready. Of all my children, he's got a very best friend, Kole. In fact, I feel like Kole's family is a bit of an extension to ours. They spend nearly every weekend together here, at Kole's house, or on an outing. Since Wise One is my third son who happens to have an easy nature, I feel like I must be more intentional, because he'd be easy to neglect.

Buck called to tell me Pooh Bear has a touch of bronchitis, which makes her irritable. She was downright unpleasant last night. She asked to go to the doctor this morning, because she does not want to miss her horse vaulting Saturday. She got to ride the horse bending in half at weekday practice, but her teacher says she gets to ride standing on the weekend. Good night, what have we gotten ourselves into?

Pooh Bear's schooling is off to a good start though I'm definitely having trouble lighting a fire under her to read and answer math facts with speed. Any suggestions? My boys liked the game of it. She feels offended, like I'm pushing her, when I make it a speed game. Girls. What am I gonna do?

Buck had a birthday yesterday. His quote, "Forty-five is a lot like forty-four, only my shoulder hurts just a little bit more." Uh-huh. When we went to bed last night he explained what a privilege it was for me to sleep with a forty-five year old, since I've never done so before. Uh-huh.

Personally, I'm doing fairly well. The food I've tested in elimination diet for allergies has come back negative except hazelnut. Who needs hazelnuts anyway? The downside is my esophagus in not healing. Stuff still gets stuck. Oh, bother.

Buck and I are in an uncomfortable place with our church lately, because his thing is worship music and mine is children. The worship teams are dropping like flies, and there is no leader to be found. After somewhere around a year on staff, the children's pastor is moving to South Florida to start a church. Once someone new is hired, I'll have to start over again for the third time in three years of preparing a place for the specific work I do with children. Sigh. I'm not sure I want to keep trying at this particular church, since leadership keeps changing like light bulbs. Buck is about to start working Sundays for 16 weeks straight, so we found a nice fit of a Wednesday night study elsewhere in the mean time. It's a precious small congregation, something I've missed after struggling through our current mega-church.

With the start of school and early mornin' alarms, I've gone into "dragging me arse around" mode . I wake up tired and fog through the day. It took me till at least October to become a fully functioning human being when my son started school for the first time last fall. Hopefully, the learning curve will be shorter this time around.

All is well on the pretend True Vyne Farm. I don't want to take this good life for granted.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


No worries, grandparents. This is the sport your granddaughter wants to try next!

Horse Vaulting- gymnastics on a horse.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I'm told Uncle Laughter used to put tiny shells in Aunt Artful's shoes just for fun. He possessed a child-like quality of playfulness which touched every one's heart. I can picture him sneaking to her shoe just before a walk, placing in the shimmering object with great stealth, calling her to the door, and responding with great chuckles as she slips on the footwear announcing, "There's something in here. Just a minute..."

When I visited Aunt Artful this summer, of course we reminisced some of the time about sweet Uncle Laughter. She showed me the memorial video of pictures from his abundant life. He quite literally made friends everywhere he went with his easy manner of being. Buck used to joke with Uncle Laughter that even made friends at the automatic teller.

Over my visit with Aunt Artful, I came to understand better the love between my aunt and uncle. My aunt has always used the phrase, "He worshiped you" and "He worshiped me," and I'll admit, I didn't quite comprehend it. However, this stay with her I caught a glimpse of these phrases. In his boyhood pictures and really all pictures since I noticed a glimmer in his eye that spoke, "I am deeply loved and adored." Aunt Artful attributed that joyful expression to his wonderful mother. She gently spoke about his mother in a reverent manner which she would not have done if it were not so. When Aunt Artful started dating Uncle Laughter, his family's great love spilled over right onto her. His mother bought her a beautiful marble topped desk to study for school, took her places she needed to go, invited her over all while Uncle Artful was in the navy and before they were married.

Aunt Artful told the tale of how she met her husband. She was on a double date with someone when they ran into another group of friends unfamiliar to her. Uncle Laughter was in that bunch, and asked if anyone wanted to play basketball. Aunt Artful's date refused, but she didn't. I can picture Uncle Laughter playfully digging for the ball as Aunt Artful dribbled with the carefree vigor of youth. She said he was just so much fun. They simply laughed and laughed. Fun must have been hard to resist. Their marriage spanned several decades.

I asked later how she became an artist after all, since that wasn't something available to her being from our impoverished family. She pensively answered, "Uncle Laughter truly believed there was nothing I couldn't do. He thought I hung the moon. He believed whatever I did as perfect and made me believe in myself, so I started art school." Acceptance and adoration must have been infectious. You should see the paintings and other my aunt has produced and collected.

Anyhow, I can't even begin to imagine what my aunt's life is like now that he is gone home to be with God. Somehow I like to think he's with us in a different way than simply absent. Aunt Artful must feel the same, because she brought out an alabaster box from her bathroom vanity to show me on my recent visit. When she opened it to reveal the contents, I was taken aback- for there was a tiny pearled shell within. "I didn't put it in there. I think it's his way of saying, 'I'm still with you,'" Aunt Artful explained.

Later that afternoon, I snuggled into a comfy couch to read a book, I reached over to examine a colorful bowl from the Dali museum I'd given for Aunt Artful and Uncle Laughter a few years back on a previous visit. Immediately tears sprang to my eyes. What do you suppose I found inside that piece of art? A tiny shell letting me know Uncle Laughter was also thinking of me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I have been hungry for an awfully long time it seems. Hungry to learn. Aching to be in a fresh experience. Wanting new life. In fact, I've been praying for something to open up and inspire me in daily living. I begged at church for in depth study, but I have not come across any offerings. I turned to friends outside my church and asked, "What is filling you? Where can I find it?" The reply? "I've been waiting and praying for something myself. Let me know when you find it, because I might want to join."

If the stars align properly, I meet with a out-of-town friend, Jo, on the phone for accountability and prayer once a week. Jo is in an incredibly rich season of faith. Each morning she wakes up to meet with God on her front porch, and apparently they've really been enjoying one an other's company. Yet she never criticizes or judge when I say for millionth time, "Still pray for me. I got nothing on spiritual growth. Dry. Dry. Dry." And she does pray for me. Faithfully.

Next week, I got something better to say to her. In fact, it might knock her socks off. First of all, I found a study group of folks and attended last night with my entire family. It's a refresher on basic Bible study. The pastor even gave homework without obligation which had me in a happy place with God in my own home for the first time in a long time, and that's not for lack of trying before. It's that I have a communal direction, and someone else is sailing the ship while I delight in the ride.

I have to wonder if God was just waiting for this particular moment, because of the earth shattering events of last weekend. The "what ifs" of that situation remain, yet I've found peace in not going ahead of what is present.

I also have another thing to tell Jo. I've begun making materials for the children which I teach spiritual formation through Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I've been stuck for years literally on how to proceed in teaching older children, because of the denominational barriers. Will I offend those who have graciously passed the work onto me in original form by essential adaptation to meet the need of parents and children who express Christianity in another particular way? It's been a question I've not been brave enough to really answer by following all the way through with all necessary materials.

At the formation leaders conference I got an incredible amount of encouragement to dive in from friends and through God-given ideas. Once I began construction this week, I've found the work in itself to be utterly fulfilling. In a way it's like Dorothy always having the ruby red slippers, yet never knowing she's a always been a few heel clicks of the way home. How could I have forgotten the method of work of the hands leading to God? Yet it does.

Here's something of the discovery made in the delightful time I had this morning. The homework from our study focused on examining each phrase and getting as much meaning as possible from each verse in Mark 8:22-30 where Jesus heals a blind man and then asks the disciples who they think He is. He leaves Bethsaidia to head for another town to have this conversation with His followers and enters Caesarea Philippi. I became curious about each city,and the search turned up some interesting things. Turns out Caesarea Philippi was a particularly pagan town in which the god Pan was enshrined. I looked up Pan and was surprised to have found he was known for being in charge of fields, herds, shepherds. In fact, he was half goat, half man. Satanic ritual borrows the image of Pan for services. Interesting since Jesus went to Caesarea Philippi as the Good Shepherd and all. Pan, in his capriciousness, frightened his worshipers by evil stunts in lonely places. Believe it or not, his name is the origin for the word "panic". I think of Jesus as the exact opposite- peaceful, always good, always loving. Pan played the pipes and was known for music- sometimes erotic and other times to strike panic. Such a contrast to the comfort and glory of hymns and spiritual songs of Jesus we sing. Curiously, Pan was the only Greek god to have died. Another contradiction in that Jesus conquered death forever. In this very city, Jesus allowed His disciples uncover and assert His position as the Christ.

Here's to digging for more hidden treasure in days to come.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The first person I've ever known in real life to have a blog is my cousin, Wes. He took a photo of something different everyday for a year and posted it on his blog. Then he took a break. Noticed on his Facebook today that his blog is up and running again. His work is very inspiring, so you might want to check it out.

mind of the photographer

Friday, August 07, 2009

Humility given flesh

There are some disadvantages to being a Protestant Evangelical hanging out and working in a Catholic and Episcopal community. I don't understand the obvious, because my experience is so vastly different. At my Catechesis of the Good Shepherd formation leader events I tend to "get it" later than sooner.

Here's an example.

Many nuns have joined the work. I've had the privilege of sharing meals and deep conversation with many in my journey. Being slow on the draw, I figured out after a few years that Sr. indicated "Sister" not senior or senator or senorita. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to single out these saints. They look and act in the same dignity and elegance as the formation leaders who have not married Jesus in a literal and intimate way. So, this week I simply did not grasp when the speakers at our formation leaders conference were going on and on with the excitement of a little girl given her first set of jacks about a particular group of Sisters being trained in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, "It would be such a privilege if the Sisters would come here to join our meeting." In my small mind, I thought, "Yes, that would be lovely to share with more holy women."

I'm embarrassed to say that I wondered if I'd be able to pick them out in the crowd to greet, because I hadn't ever been able to before. I should not have worried. At some point a quiet bustle erupted and hush during the conference. I turned my head, and I privately blushed at what my eyes were taking in. A Red Sea of participants parted to allow a group of the most humble and beautiful women I'll ever see make their way to chairs. Their heads and eyes were bowed, but their garments and faces spoke volumes. It was as if new rays of bright sunlight stepped into our room. I can only say I haven't seen any persons (besides sleeping babies) look so, well, so pure and utterly peaceful. As people spoke softly to them as they walked, the sisters deliberately and solemnly pressed their palms together and bowed to the persons talking with a quiet, "Thank you." The particular Sisters were the Missionaries of Charity from the same order as Mother Teresa, and I only figured it out from their impeccable white habits with the distinguished thin blue stripes. With every movement each made, their bodies spoke, "I respect the humanity of each living being before me." I'm not exaggerating, and I've never seen anything like it- humility given flesh. The leading Sister looked downright pained and became red from her collar up when asked to say a few words. I could plainly visualize addressing and being acknowledged in a crowd did not suit their work.

One primary theme present in CGS proposes that the things that are small and unassuming, the least of these- mangers, children, the poor, mustard seeds, stinkin' shepherds, little countries like Israel are made great and honored in God's eyes. From this one might draw the conclusion of the significance of including The Missionaries of Charity in our work. Their mission is truly unto the least, and now these join our work with children. I'm lost in amazement and wonder.

Apparently I'm not the only one. When our quite elderly Sofa Cavalletti, the writer and founder of CGS, heard that the Missionaries of Charity desired training in CGS, she immediately responded in Simeon's prayer, "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples". Luke 2:29-30. She followed in conversation with something, "Now Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will go those whom it has always been intended."

Amen to that.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Twenty-one years of marriage. It's our anniversary today, and I have to say, things have never been better. We're celebrating with a simple dinner out, but it'll be sweet. Buck is the love of my life, my best friend, and I'm the luckiest woman around.

We accomplished other mundane things today. Talked to Tater's new vice principal and homeroom teacher to set up meetings. Also registered him for school. Got Peace's schedule changes finalized at his high school. Nice balance on it. In the hall, we ran into his physics teacher from last year and chatted for a long while. Peace will have her again this year for honor's chemistry, and it's nice to have her be so friendly and complimentary of him.

Gonna scram for now. Have a blessed day.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Today as I was about to enter security check point at Chicago O'hare on my way home from a conference, I got a call which left me gulping for breath. When the surprise caller identified himself/herself, I immediately moved behind a partition between the swelling crowds to hide my shocked and awed expressions. During the conversation, I was comforted as a Muslim woman laid down her mat and prostrated herself for evening prayer beside me and out of the airport bustle. Forgive me. I can't talk about any of it just yet in fact, but that phone call could influence the rest of my family's life. I don't want my children to get even a whiff of wind or even sense anything is afoot, so it's got to stay completely under the radar.

In some ways, the new development been a ticking time bomb, and at least, I know where it's located. Buck and I have some serious prayer and counsel to seek.

My intentions were to come home and blog about my Chicago adventures and learning experience, but now my mind has been riveted in a completely direction.

Friday, July 31, 2009

School Sundries

Just when I think I have all materials and kids ready for the upcoming school year, I come across something else.

Peace had three tough books for honors summer reading and an algebra review packet. One of the books I bought on cd, because it got rave reviews- Three Cups of Tea. I wanted our whole family to get in on it due to the hype. Honestly, we're about halfway through and it's certainly not going on my "favorite books of all time" shelf. Think I'll resell it at McKay's. To be fair, at least Peace and the other boys like it because of the adventure- lotsa mountain climbing.

Peace's high school schedule came messed up. I met with the guidance counselor July 1 and have emailed her, but we still don't have word if it's fixed or not. I'm told the computer system keeps being down. In that case, the first days of school will be chaos.

Pooh Bear is still struggling with reading. I let her have several weeks off this summer hoping the same thing which happened with Wise One will happen with her. After his summer break before third grade, he finally "took off" on reading. Right now every. single. word. is a phonetic challenge for Pooh Bear, and reading is not fun. We have an extra hurdle with Pooh Bear in that she does not like reading unless we are reading to her. That she'd let us do all day, everyday. Wise One was so naive, he didn't understand he was having difficulty.

Wise One still hasn't finished all his school work for last year. Argh. He's making me nuts with the dilly dallying. I waited on hold forever and finally talked to our homeschool materials company. Yup, they messed up our order again and did not take responsibility. Fortunately, the rep let me buy the materials I'd ask for in May at the May discount, but it's always such a big hassle getting what I need from them when I need it.

I have asked for a meeting with teachers and principal on behalf of Tater, but the principal still hasn't contacted me. I wonder how this fresh set of teachers is going to react to the family therapists recommendation of "no homework help from parents"? Tater's long on talk about how well he'll do in school, and short on accomplishment. God help us all get through the academic year with this guy. Already his middle school football practice schedule is over the top. Monday was a nine hour practice, and the night practices are everyday including Saturday. Pulleease. It's middle school folks! Maybe I should start watching Friday Night Lights to prepare for high school football.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hey! Noone invited ME to the Blogher conference! What am I? Chopped liver? Or maybe it's that I don't advertise or do anything at all with my blog except post when I darn well please. Just wishing I could have met a few more of you in real life.

Gotta a new Triton phone from Buck yesterday. I'm going to need techie lessons just to answer a call now. Is it fair that I finally got a tiny keyboard on my phone right at the same time I need reading glasses? Furthermore, Buck and I were exploring ring tones together this morning. When he hit "voice of the nature" both of agreed the song+rushing water made us both want to pee.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Took my chillins to volunteer at the animal shelter today, because the boys need scout service hours. The worker let us do a ton of chores. We cleaned out cages, mopped, laundered,folded,tamed kittens, scrubbed dishes, walked dogs. I haven't cleaned up that amount of poop since my progeny were in diapers. Three hours well spent.

At present the boys have friends over, and in a bit we're off to the season finale of swim team.

Over the weekend, three of our children competed in the ginormous city swim meet (Wise One was away). The entire team did very well. A couple of my children made the finals. Our team is still very little, but we actually scored points and did not tie for last place. Go Tarpons!

School starts for Tater in less than two weeks and for Peace in three. Peace acquired his learner's permit, because he's taking driver's ed this year. And, no, he's not excited about it. He's very cautious and not anxious at all to get behind the wheel of a car. In fact, he hasn't yet, so you can still stay on the road for a little while at least.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vacation pics

A few vacation pics. Peace is missing 'cause he was at cross country camp running half marathons every. single. day. Yikes!

new pics

Sarah the dog being very patient with the baby does, Francis and Edith.

My new "do" as of today.

And baby doe, Jessica Boots.

Monday, July 20, 2009

This one is for John.

Dropping a note

After our whirlwind tour of the South, we've come home to three new beautiful baby does. One of them sounds kinda squishy, maybe pneumonia, so I'm giving her antibiotics along with the two goats who needed help kidding. So what do all these antibiotics do to a goatie? Same as people, they all have diarrhea. And yup, it's that's messy.

I'll post pics of the new kids when my husband rounds up the computer photo input thingy he may have lost on vacation.

Grateful to Jess and Herman for delivering. The new babies came out as mature as Henry and Zaccheous which leads me to believe my girls were late to deliver. That's a woman for ya, always making others wait.

My aunt told some fantastic stories concerning her beginnings. I'm still trying to figure out how to move to Ludowici(pronounced "ludawissy"), Georgia, because I think the name of the town is bug ear cute.

Wise One stayed behind and is living it up with grandparents as an only child for the first time in his 12 year old life.

The rest of us are finishing up swim team and summer reading. Except Pooh Bear. She's scratching like a dog with mean fleas due to the webs of poison ivy hives forming over her little girl skin.

Life is good.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Thought I'd share some cute pics from today. The one of Buck proves he's a true ladies' man.
I have been all out pining over when the remaining two does would kid knowing we had a short window of time to ensure smooth births and bonding with mommies. You see, we're leaving on a tour of the southern relatives very soon, and the goats were already supposed to be nursing their young, not still can't-get-comfortable-fat with pregnancy. Borrowed Mac Daddy Goat must not have gotten it on right away with Shannon and Ginger, because we're nearing the end of a three week kidding cycle. I've posted how these gals have been lookin' ready for weeks.

I've been obsessively going out in the field checking goat butts for mucous plugs every few hours. Do you think my compulsive behavior has sped up the labor process? Not on your life. Buck says, "I noticed Shannon's making noises when she lies down." to which I answer, "Honey, she's been doing that for two weeks."

I say, "Does it look like Ginger's udder could get any fuller?" to which Buck replies, "It's looked like that forever."

All I've thought about was that if our does needed help during kidding while we are away, they'd die along with the new babies. Our friends who always take care of our goaties during our vacation might feel terrible if that happens. And what if something happens that the mother needs milking and babies need to be bottle fed every three hours? So much trouble!

So, as much as it sounds selfish, I've have been praying fervently for those mommas to get 'er done. One of my prays-like-Mother-Teresa friends even picked up intercession for us. She and I were convinced Wednesday would be the day, but no birth happened. However, another miracle, if I can call this a miracle, happened Wednesday. Buck called our goat friend Ella and asked if her family could help in some way. Her answer? "Why don't my twenty something son and daughter come farm sit?"

Um, yeah! Great idea. These guys have been present for goat births since they were wee little ones. Herman and Jess know how to milk if necessary. They can suction out a kid's mouth to help it breathe. They know exactly what to be on the lookout for in terms of labor. So, I'm saying, "God is good all the time. All the time God is good." I could come up with people on my own who would house sit and even feed the animals, but who in the world but God could come up with people chalk full of goat skills available for an entire week mid kidding?

Buck and I showed them the ropes, and Herman and Jess are good to go. I'm finally at peace with the plane tickets I had been glaring at indignantly on my desk for the last few days.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Here's how it works in my house. My children ask me to make dental and other various medical appointments for them. It's so sad that I don't think of essential things like this on my own. I think something very important in my how-to-be-a-decent-mother kit went missing. Pooh Bear had to beg me for two months, but today I finally managed to get her to Dr. Devine's for a check-up. Love. That. Name. A devine dentist. Our now former family dentist for the past 20 years, Dr. Chambers, couldn't put us on the schedule in for the summer though I called in early June. In fact,Chambers couldn't squeeze us in till November or January. I'm gonna miss his humming along to Musak versions of Madonna, but not enough to wait a hundred years to get on his calendar. And thank goodness for friends like Cecily who knows her way medically speaking 'round these parts; she gave us this excellent recommendation.

Dr. Devine got us in within a few weeks. Bless his heart. Pooh Bear thinks he is fantastic.

Dr. Devine is located in the little historic town of Sweetwater, so Pooh Bear and I took in antiques and ice cream afterwards. Is it another breech of the mother contract to feed a child sweets directly after a cleaning? Probably. Maybe I should attend a babysitter's course somewhere and learn a handy skill for hanging out with children.