Tag Archiv: love

Windows of Time and Tea

Interior in the North of Holland tea-time. By Sipke Kool. Found on Wikigallery

Interior in the North of Holland tea-time. By Sipke Kool

Monday I invited a friend to tea. She wore a purple sweater. Deep tones that matched her long and flowing skirt. I’d forgotten that people dress for tea, but it wouldn’t have mattered. There was something about her seventy year old self I couldn’t have matched anyways.

Our farm’s not perfect, but most days we like it, I said.

Nothing down here is perfect, she said.

We talked about everything. Schools. Kids. The value of memorizing. Farms. Babies that die. Far away countries. Cows and milk production. Thirteen liters a day was a very good milk cow when she was young. Now the cows give forty liters a day. What have they done to the cows? We discussed the effects of poison and growth hormones for plants, animals and humans. Wondered about the best chickens for meat. Talked about when things go too far. When we forget we can’t control everything so we kill ourselves trying.

She told me of someone she knew who cared deeply about her home. Someone wanted to visit with her child who was in a wheelchair. No, the woman said. The wheels cannot come in the house. They will be too dirty.

That cannot be right, she said.

I told her my failed dreams of adoption, my thoughts about foster care someday. I talked about my piano teacher, Mrs. Murdoch. How strict she was, how much I hated her until I loved her and realized how lucky I was to have her.

My kids’ piano teacher was strict, she said. They didn’t mind her. I think they were used to strict with me so there was no difference. Some people didn’t like her, but I was strict and I wasn’t changing. That’s how I was. So they were used to it.

She shared my tea, overlooked the shortcomings of my presentation and gave me the gift of slow time together. She probably had clay feet hidden under the table, but I couldn’t see them. What I saw was her heart. Full up with tears. Courage. Love. Determination. And each of these in such abundance it left me quiet with wonder.

What a gift the moments when, however dimly or however briefly, we really see each other.

 

 

Acts of Courage

David gegen Goliath, by Gebhard Fugel. Early 19th century

David gegen Goliath, by Gebhard Fugel. Early 19th century

 

It came to me the other day that to be happy was sometimes an act of courage. The idea surprised me enough to keep me thinking about courage for days. If being happy can be a bold counter cultural statement about being loved in the face of loud messages that beg to differ, what else might courage look like?

Like my mother before me, there is nothing so comforting in a trial or helpful in a confusion, as a list. A work in progress, but here’s where I’ve come so far.

Acts of courage:

1. To be happy. (i.e. to act as one who is unmistakably beloved and secure in the love)

2. To be hopeful when logical reasons for such sentiment seem lacking. (13.5 years into mothering, no child yet gives a hoot about cleaning their rooms or taking care of possessions, theirs or others. My attempts at book publication repeatedly miss the mark. And yet.)

3. To believe that I can change and become the person I have repeatedly failed to become. (Despite my elite level skills in flippant, sarcastic, and caustic remarks, I will someday be free of those crutches.)

4. To believe that others can change and become the person they dream of becoming. (I build the boxes I put people in too small. The timing of when they rise up to overcoming is not my concern. The least I can do is leave the lids off.)

5. To believe that failure does not define people. Me, or anybody else. (Failure, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. No matter who sees it or says it, apt or not, it remains separate from our value as human beings.)

6. To believe that others are doing the best they can and to make this the underlying premise and starting point for every relationship I have. (I cannot logically believe this 100% of the time, but I cannot see what there would be to lose for acting as if it were true the 5% of the time it isn’t.)

7.  To start each day with no strings attached, a day of new beginnings devoid of the weight of yesterdays dead ends, engine troubles, and thirty car pile ups.

 

That’s as deep as I’ve dug so far. I’m going to mine the hill a little longer in case there’s something I missed that applies to now. Then again, it might be enough of a challenge already.

Yet Love

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When my mother got cancer, I was very matter of fact. All was well until the tests said otherwise. I listened to poor prognosis and small chances of treatment.  I was very careful with my hope then. I treated it like oil, where there’s a limited supply, everybody wants it, and the price keeps going up. I didn’t want to use too much.

My mother was the opposite. She worried most at the beginning. Once cancer paraded out of the closet with tests and labels, she was ferocious in hope. Doctors had no right to say she might die. She would not until she was good and ready. She painted her toenails red and wrote a poem about how if she died, she’d go out with ten little flags waving: this one did not go willingly. Don’t worry, she would tell me. I can feel it. I’m going to get better.

She didn’t. At least not how she was expecting.

I was told last week that I probably have Raynaud’s phenomenon. It is generally harmless, involves very cold feet, hands, and nose, and is caused by spastic contractions of blood vessels. When it does cause complications, it is treated with blood pressure medication.

Seems unlikely, I said when the doctor suggested it. No one in my family has it. I doubt I have it. (The apple did not fall far from my mother’s tree.) Then I went home and read about it. Honestly, the information is not that troubling. Except that I was troubled. This last year of fussing to get my iron and hemoglobin levels up, now a “phenomenon.” Really? Phenomenon sounds ridiculous. Can’t it just be a disease, a disorder, even an affliction? But no, I’ve got a phenomenon. And not just one of them.

The other phenomenon is what happens when you inherit, “damn the torpedo,” genes from your mother and paranoid, “don’t count on health or life,” genes from your paternal grandmother. She died at ninety, but even at fifty, it seemed as though the threat of the Lord’s call to home hung like a knife in the air above her head. Maybe I didn’t see it, but she sure could.

I used to laugh at her, but now I don’t. I get it. Paranoia feels logical and crazy both. Low iron, Raynaud’s phenomenon . . . they’re not fatal. But underneath it all, I’m afraid of dying. Since my mother died, part of me is looking over my shoulder trying to figure out when to duck. Healthy living and optimism do not save you or she’d be here painting toenails with my girls. But neither does anything else. Life and death arrive on their own terms with or without our permission.

I’d give up the ghost, but I see it as plain as writing on the wall right now: the details of unknown are messy, but the goodness of the plan is guaranteed. My fear vs. my lack of control unnerves me, but it’s ok. It really, really is. I fear. I doubt. Yet Love. Always and forever, abides.

Read it and hope

file000459357359For the most part I don’t like book recommendations. Thanks for thinking of me, I say afterwards. I don’t say: I skimmed as far as I could and then put it down before I threw it in the fire.

That’s great. I’m looking forward to it, I say before I read.

I don’t say: Really? Didn’t I already read one in that series? (And to Boy two, whose hundredth recommendation I am currently reading . . .Buddy, you’re wearing a purple head covering and bright red shorts from morning until night these days. Don’t you think it’s possible we’d have different taste in books?)

Last week, I got another one. It had a lousy title (Tattoos on the Heart) but Anne Lamott had blurbed it so I opened my mind to potential readability. The book is written by a Catholic priest who works with gang members in Los Angeles. I thought it possible that I might be moved by something outside of me.  People who don’t speak my language, look like me, eat like me, or dress like me. I find it very safe to be touched by people with whom I have absolutely nothing in common. But the book didn’t do that for me.

Tattoos on the Heart, didn’t give me a perch in a museum to watch the strangers from. It didn’t knock me over or wake me up either. It flooded me. Gently, it rose inside of me, washed over a couple of damns (not a typo) and spilled joyfully onto the parched and dry places of my heart.

I don’t know when I have had my eyes opened so clearly to who God is or how much He loves.  Me, the people around me, and people I can really only try to imagine. I have never seen with such clarity that the love is now. Not when we’re fixed up, put together and behaving well. Right now.

If you’re looking for a book or if you’re feeling a little lost and unworthy, I would really recommend this book.

 

**The only proviso is language. Gang members aren’t often schooled in the King’s best English; their stories reflect this. If strong language is a barrier for you for one reason or another, then this is not the book for you. – Myself, well, I don’t mind the talk of the sea. Besides, when I hear people with worse language than myself it comforts me. I didn’t understand a lot of the Spanish phrases. My policy was to get whatever I could get without straining and skip over the rest.

Salvation

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In my early twenties I was desperate to save myself, find true love, and do something that really mattered.  As you can imagine, I was not always completely coherent. Making so many life or death decisions and finding the world so black and white rendered me a little unsteady on my feet.

At 25, I married my husband. In my mind, we had entered into an arrangement whereby we had agreed to fight the bad guys together and if one of us fell, the other would stand and cover until we were both on our feet again. We loved each other in a great big exciting adventure kind of way. I thought perhaps we could save ourselves by saving others.

I awoke to discover that among other things, my husband was a thrasher. It takes him ten or so minutes each night to get mostly comfortable. Then he falls asleep and spends the rest of the night changing positions and yanking on the blankets. After a month of marriage I was beside myself. I cried exhausted hopeless tears that hardly fell because even if they formed a river and took out a wall, the crucible would hold.

Something happens in these places that I cannot explain. One day you are dying. (Even worse, you are saving no one.) You try to maintain whatever meager excuses for good manners you can muster in the midst of perishing by the pernicious hand of the trivial. Perishing is hard work, so a lot of the time you can’t even muster. The best you can do is to stand there with bad manners. A thousand of these go by. You wake up and somewhere in the trying, the stuff of you has shifted. In the nine square inches you have left to dance, it doesn’t seem that hard to keep your balance. Things are growing in the soil too tender yet to name. You wonder if it needs more water, more sunshine, but for the most part you leave it be. You’re not sure if meddling with miracles is a good idea. Perhaps best to just say thank you.

 

 

 

 

Song and Dance

Image courtesy of supakitmod at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  Image courtesy of supakitmod at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As I write, the children are upstairs dancing. Three of them. No reason. Out of the blue, one said, “I’m going to my room to dance. You guys want to come?”  I think our musicals kick off on Friday night has us feeling artsy. “Sound of Music,” was a huge hit. (Juvenile search for free, legal music to download has begun.) The singing/no speaking dinner was grand. We’ll do it again and give it time to develop. One was too shy. The others had a grand time. Five year old quite enjoyed her attempts at vibrato. A highly recommended activity, I say.

Maybe it’s a small thing to hear my child look up from reading a book and announce a desire to dance. It makes me happy. My own love of dance is hampered by the requirement to move my body without a plan. I remember going to a concert once. Nothing fashionable, just a marching band on a lawn. I loved it and I wanted to clap with the music. Most everyone else was. I was inside the sounds of trumpets and flutes, cymbals and drums, I wanted to be part of the song.

I don’t remember if I was eleven, twelve, thirteen . . . but I couldn’t do it. I pictured myself picking my hands up off my chair and putting them together, but I was too afraid to try. Not sure how to start. Worried that everyone else knew how to clap in time, but I might not.

Since that day, I have learned to clap to music when I want to. For a time, I could mostly line dance (thanks to help from anyone who would go over the simplest things with me just one more time). Line dancing had the beauty of set moves to follow, but that skill has gone the way of things.

My joyful dancing, the kind without a plan, has been with my children. I danced with them as babies when we were alone. Later my children began asking me to dance. About kids and dancing, I hold to the following to get me through the occasional requests to participate:

1. It matters more that they learn the freedom and joy of dance, than it matters that beyond the confines of my imagination and the walls of our home, I have known neither.

2. Along with remembering me taller and wiser than I am, their memories of whatever odd moves I may try to incorporate into my dancing have the potential to undergo similar distortions if I can just keep smiling.

The marvel of it grows in me. My children are upstairs dancing. For fun. Maybe I was faking it to get here, but my children love to dance. Watching them, I see the shadow of small miracles. Of these I can only say thank you. Bow softly. Wonder at such good gifts.

 

 

Uncertain and solid things

photo compliments of morguefile.com

photo compliments of morguefile.com

Once upon a time I was camping with a group of girlfriends. The man I was dating was nearby and invited me for a canoe ride. He arrived early.

Go, said my friends.

I’m still reading my Bible, I said.

Read it later. (They were very insistent.)

I wore my lucky yellow shoes and got in the canoe.

Let’s explore this island, he said.

Maybe later, I said.

The man argued poorly but steered the canoe to the island anyway.

There was a lot of consternation about where to land the canoe. There seemed nowhere flat enough to pull it up onto the bank.

Forget it. I’ll swim for it later, he said.

I protested. A spot was found.

Two bounding steps later, he was fiddling to get something out of his pocket.

It was making sense now.

Will you marry me? he asked and held out the ring to show me.

Yes, I said.

There was nothing else to say so we didn’t say it. It was like holding hands with Tigger from Winnie the Pooh as we walked up the path to find a rock to sit on.

We went from zero to sixty in opposite directions. He from frazzled and uncertain to the top of the world. Me from confident and assured to blithering idiot. Tigger sat down content. I sat down and an entire river system smashed every dam holding me together.

I cried uncontrollably.

I kind of thought it was going to make you happy, said Tigger a little worried.

I am happy, I whispered.  Then I couldn’t talk. I was shaking inside down deep where you don’t let anything touch you. You don’t know how much more it can take in there, you just know it’s not much.

Tigger was relaxed and happy because he didn’t have a clue how dreadfully wrong things could go. Tigger was already so far into the sunset he probably wouldn’t even come back for a year or so. I didn’t believe in sunsets. Didn’t trust them.

An hour later I had stilled the terror enough to stand.  The sun on the lake and the old pines sang something like a lullaby that I recognized. Pieces of the Canadian Shield jutting up all around reminded me that come what may, some things would remain solid.

I like remembering that day.  It was the biggest leap I have ever been asked to make. Now it’s one of the solid things I go back to look at when it feels like too much is shifting around.  Yesterday, Tigger cleaned out the chicken coop and got it ready for winter.  Last night I asked him what he thought of a piece I had written. He hemmed and hawed to say he didn’t like it.

For some reason that made me happy. I woke up wanting to say thank you for those lucky yellow shoes.

Questions from a gorilla

I’m not sure what I’m going to write about,” I tell my husband. “Usually, I know.”

“Do mean your blog?” asks eight year old girl with authority from the other room. “Write about the book I’m reading.”

Funny, because I had wondered about it and then forgot. My brain is in a mushy phase these days. I forgot to go to the choir practice last week despite having specifically asked to have it moved to Wednesday. I would list the other things I have forgotten except I can’t anymore. The guilty moments are kind of blobbed in together. I know they happened but they’re mercifully hazy.

My daughter is right. The first non-Geronimo Stilton/non-Magic Tree House-ish tome (aka real book) that she is reading on her own, deserves a post.

“The One and Only Ivan,” is a novel by Katherine Applegate, and a recent Newberry winner. It took me more than a month to actually open it because the picture on the front kept telling me that I would not like it. The picture lied. Once first page was peered upon, the book only shut briefly for small emergencies, and to assure the children that I still loved them. I completed it all of a Sunday afternoon and evening, as the children need fewer reminders of my affection (really only food) when I am not checking on the banging, crashing, and eerie silences coming from wherever they are.

“It’s never too late to become who you might have been,” says the George Eliot quote at the beginning of the book.  (Consider rereading quote despite the dangers of doing so.)

For twenty-seven years, Ivan the gorilla has lived a resigned life as a mini circus attraction at a mall. He allows himself small joys but feels it impossible that he could ever truly be himself. In a particular moment, love pushes him to become an actor, rather than a spectator, in his own life.

As with any decent children’s book, it is as least as much a book for adults as it is for children. Along the way to a plain good story, the book comments on friendship, art and humour. But the part about it not being too late for becoming is the part that knocked me over. (I am currently sitting as a result.)

I’m wondering about the roads that I quietly hope for but assume will disappoint me. Maybe they’re not dead end roads but merely unknown roads, cresting over the knoll, around the bend, carrying on into the open country and beyond. You. Me. Who might we still become?

Last night’s prayer

These days my son is almost this and not quite that. His skin doesn’t seem to fit right. Certainly he has no idea what to do with his hands, his mouth, or the repetitive strumming of what we hope are brain waves.  For the first few weeks of school this year, we wondered if he would ever be quiet again. Please, I would say through clenched teeth. For just three minutes. Don’t talk.

It is exhausting, that constant chatter of nothing. The kitchen is filled with information bullets undaunted by my pleas for a ceasefire.

I’m joining two bands. I’m thinking about choir. I can’t decide which sports. Maybe volleyball and soccer. Maybe basketball. Definitely not cross country. I like it, I mean, you know, it was fun, but if I can only do two sports – two sports – then cross country’s like not even on the list. And did I tell you that I saw . . . By the way, I’m only packing things for my lunch that you can eat standing up now because we don’t sit down anymore. We go out.

And so it goes. A boy on fire with possibility. Neither fish nor fowl but in clear sight of both. As summer slipped away, so did his inclusion in the many imaginings and games of his siblings. I watched him watching them. Unsure of whether to mad or sad to be leaving the group.

It is much too soon to invite him to be one of us in those precious pieces of adult time devoid of short people. He’s tall enough. I see him watching us too. But he isn’t ready for grown up land and we two who run the place need those minutes. Besides, he talks too much.

Almost two months into school, the chatter has slowed enough to save us the constant nagging concern about muscle strain in his jaws. Yet appropriate levels of noise and motion are demands he finds so unreasonable as to be almost incomprehensible. He complies with a mixture of curiosity, dogged attempts, and then resigns himself to non-compliance in a leap or bang or whoop of energy.

Everyone is in bed now and in the quiet I can hear him and see him for what he is. An off the charts excited boy, scared boy, not sure boy, trying to figure it all out boy, want to do the right thing boy, hoping to fit in boy, wanting to be liked boy, not sure if he is good enough boy, distracted boy, changing boy. Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom.  Yes son?  Mom, look at me mom. Ok, son, I’m looking. Sigh. Awkward turning. Mom? Yes, son. Could you stop looking at me now?

Oh my beautiful wingless fish and sputtering bird. Soon my boy, you’ll be flying just fine. In the meantime, I guess you’ll just keep splashing in circles cawing madly, tossing rocks at the crows with your shrivelling fins.

I will listen in the silence tonight better than I did during the day and await with joy your waking, where we may once more begin again.