Monday, December 13, 2010
I love comedy. I realize that is not exactly unique; everyone loves comedy. It really does help make life bearable. God is so kind to give us a sense of humor and the ability to recognize, and even "create," funniness. Look at animals, and they are so cute and funny. Once in college we had a cat that got a cereal box stuck on its head. His name was Frank, and he was kind of annoying, so nobody would take the thing off the poor cat. (Actually Frank turned out to be a girl, we found out when she had kittens.)
I don't like that show, "America's Funniest Home Videos" because they are always showing people getting hurt. I just don't think that's funny. There are enough crazy things kids and animals do and (kids) say, that I don't feel that showing all those painful looking injuries is necessary. Oh well, I don't have to watch it, and I don't. I do get into trouble sometimes, though, because I sometimes watch stuff I know I shouldn't just because I want so much to laugh.
It's really hard these days to find a 'clean' show or movie, especially a comedy. It is ironic because I never find the filth funny at all. You can have some very talented writers and actors doing some really clever funny stuff, and then they have to make it all gross with some inappropriate sex thing that does absolutely nothing to add to the plot or anything. And then it's ruined. Why? It doesn't take any imagination, any intelligence to talk dirty. It's dumbed down.
And a lot of times the premise is so good, like "50 First Dates." What an amusing concept. "Groundhog Day" would be one of my favorite movies of all time, but I really can't say that with all the smut. I realize these films are ridiculously tame in view of what's out there. But this is my world. I don't want to swim around in a polluted stench of human degradation. I could really like "Seinfeld," some of it is so funny, or "30 Rock," or maybe the funniest show I've ever seen--"Arrested Development." But all these shows have that seedy element, that seems invariably to get worse with time. And I just can't recommend them because of this.
A sense of humor has always been highly valued in my family of origin--a sign of intelligence--which I think it is. However, as a parent I made some huge errors in judgment with my older kids in valuing funniness over appropriateness. I refer to the fact that my oldest son, a born-again Bible believing Christian can nonetheless quote way way more lines from "The Simpsons" than he can verses from the Scriptures.
Well, I have learned one thing this time around, having kids. It is enough to just turn off the TV and watch what's actually going on around me. For instance, I wrote some of these down so I could remember them:
I asked Daniel, "Do you want chili for lunch?" He replied, "Does it taste like frosting?" I said, "no." Then he said,"Well then I'm not gonna eat it!"
At the library Daniel was looking at a Peanuts book with Snoopy and Woodstock on the cover. So he says to me (pointing to Woodstock), "This guy, this guy's name is Woodchip!"
Daniel was eating dried cranberries in his oatmeal and asked, "What comes from cranberries?" (but he said 'creeyanberries') I said, "cranberry bushes come from cranberries." Then he asked,"How bout crayons (but he said 'creeyans') do crayons come from cranberries?"
While John was doing his schoolwork at the kitchen table, Daniel was stacking up crayons intently. I asked him what he was making. He said,"a cabbage." I started laughing and John asked, "What are you making?" Daniel answered, "a cabbage--a log cabbage!" (log cabin)
Joke Daniel made up:
Banana peel and stick!
I mean, hilariosity, right?
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Well, if you read my blog, which I doubt, then you'd know that although I consider myself 'artistic' I am also excruciatingly lazy. I may not have mentioned that I am also painfully cheap. This combo leads to all kinds of home-decorating debacles, the crowning display at Christmas time.
It is not an exaggeration to say we have the worst Christmas tree of all time. In fact, I can just hear Commodore Norrington (of "Pirates of the Caribbean") declaring, in his English accent, "That's got to be the worst Christmas tree I've ever seen!" I have attached a photo to prove my point. Granted, the tree got knocked over by my four-year-old and we lost the best ornaments (glass). Still, you can pretty much see that it was, in its original state, lame.
With the advent (no pun intended) of facebook, even hermits like me have to face (another one) some pretty humiliating facts about ourselves. There is no more avoiding the reality that no matter how much I smoosh it around in my brain, our tree is devastatingly ugly. I see other peoples' trees on facebook and they are as drop-dead gorgeous as some of my old classmates, which also isn't fair.
I waltzed into a JC Penney the other day, without kids, which is about a decennial event for me--shopping at anyplace other than the grocery store or the dreaded Walmart. I was like a deer caught in the headlights. Everything in there was so dazzling and lit up and there was so much stuff!! Merchandise and clothes of every kind engulfed me and I was reeling, dizzily. Like those kids in Narnia I no longer had any way of knowing where to go, or how to get back. I didn't know where I was, let alone where to begin. This is the sad saga of a stay-at-home mom who is also a hermit.
My point is (and I only have 20 minutes til story time at the library) that although it is good to be thrifty, there is also a place for beauty. I tend to flop to one extreme or another. Like, I can be really obsessed with appearance, which is not right either. My cheapness and laziness must effect some kind of equilibrium. But, I need to once in a while take a cue from my women friends, and spend a couple bucks on something festive or lovely.
Or, I could take a cue from my step-mom Mary, who used to make some really cool things with us. I can remember making elaborate ornaments out of styrofoam spheres by sticking sparkling beads and colorful sequins into them with pins, pomander balls out of oranges and cloves suspended by beautiful ribbons, stringing popcorn and cranberries. And I guess it's not that she was being frugal, so much, as that she valued things we made...not just stuff made in China (it might have been Japan then).
So I'm going to give this some thought, and prayer, and I'll get back to you later.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Several years ago my husband and I took ballroom dance lessons through the park district in our town. It was a fairly humiliating experience, I think mainly because of the ambiance created in the fluorescent-lit elementary school gym, with its food pyramid posters and protectively caged formidable face clocks, dirty floors and lack of windows. Ugh, how I hated gym class.
Anyway, our instructor was kind of a character. Maybe all dance instructors are, I wouldn't know. But as we would practice our steps, instead of saying, "one, two, three" or whatever, he would say, "ta-tee-tah." It kind of makes me chuckle to remember it. An awkward bunch of middle aged couples, well we were in our thirties then...and this kind of silly guy trying to de-spazz us all into some graceful moves.
Long before this Ron and I used to go dancing, when we were young, but that was a completely different thing. Actually much more embarrassing, to be drunk and think you're really a great dancer...yeesh. I keep having to "add to dictionary" all these made up words. Writing is actually a huge challenge for me, as I can't use any facial expressions, which are about eighty-five percent of my vocabulary.
Well, we finally did meet a dance we actually liked in our remedial park district class--the polka. The polka was so much fun. You got to spring around all energetically, somewhat like the "dancing" we had done in the past, but more civilized. Culturally acceptable, if you will. We had finally made it to grown-up dancing.
That was probably 15 years ago, and sadly, we have never had an occasion to do any ballroom dancing. Everybody likes rock now. Even at weddings. Well, everybody except me. Yes, I have turned into my dad, thank goodness, in respect to music. I am so glad I don't have to spend the rest of my life missing out on the really good stuff I am discovering now. It makes rock music sound like how my old dancing looked--yech.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Whenever I see polka-dots I think of ice cream, and the promise of fun. I was imagining they were colorful dots but I think they were actually pink and brown. I guess it all gets mish-moshed in my memory with the Wonder Bread logo. Of course I am referring to the Baskin-Robbins of my childhood and the thrill it was back then to get such a treat--an ice cream on a sugar cone. I guess it must have been with my Grandma June. She has always been, in herself, a promise of fun.
She is a sparkling woman. Ever since I can remember she has had white hair, attractively arranged, always classically well-dressed, usually in pastels. She is normally tan, and in great shape. She is in her 90's now, a tiny woman, but her presence fills the room wherever she goes. Her high soft voice is always always cheerful and melodic. She is of course a smiler, and her blue eyes actually do twinkle. Full of life, but calm, Grandma June is a picture of grace in the womanly sense.
She was a light in my murky childhood. She really taught me about hospitality. Her home was a constant haven, stocked with things kids love. There were toys and beautiful storybooks, and an outstanding array of breakfast cereals. We had wonderful meals there. Lunch might be cream of mushroom soup (which she taught me how to make--from a can), with a sandwich on our choice of breads, including pumpernickel, laden with scrumptious fixings from the "delicatessen," as she called it. There was an old fashioned kitchen in her basement, complete with a wringer for clothes washing, and an ancient fridge that was stocked with ice-cold glass bottles of RC cola.
This blog was supposed to be about how ice cream never really does live up to its suggestion of transporting me to some happy-land; and about how flowers (like ice cream and polka-dots, attractive and engaging) really are the fulfillment of their own promise. I also wanted to say that rarely do I meet a floral pattern I don't like. Birds, flowers, butterflies remind me of Grandma June--colorful and exciting and beautiful and welcoming.
Friday, October 8, 2010
In my family there are many artists. My grandma Lou was a great (not famous) painter, and so is my Aunt Deedee though she keeps it a secret. My cousin Lindy can paint your socks off, as can my son Tim, my cousin Adam, etc. There are others, of course. I am an artist, too. I say this not because I'm very good, but it is more a frame of mind.
I'm glad that on both sides of my family people have always been art-minded. I'm glad because I know what I need to do sometimes. There are times when I just have to "do art." It doesn't have to be painting for me. My mother and father are both musicians, and really my first love (in doing the arts) is playing the piano. But it might be painting, or drawing, or writing, or photographing, or cooking, or sewing(!), or even dancing. And none of those things has to be done especially well, at the time, I just have to do them. I have to get something out, something deep inside that won't come out any other way.
For me it can also work just listening to music, in which case I guess the listening is the doing. Or reading poetry, though I don't do that much anymore. Even a really good movie can work. It's as though the artist is expressing something I truly "get" and my heart can fly with, or drown with, or whatever. What an ecstatic feeling--to be understood. How funny that you might not really be understanding the same things at all.
But it just goes to show you that art is on a level beyond the frame of communication wherein it is set. Today my four-year-old asked me what a "soul" is. Well, I didn't have time to answer him right then, which was a relief--I won't lie. But then he asked, "Is it the part that can love God?" And, not to get into a theological debate Watchman Nee-style over the dividing of the soul and spirit, I simply said, "yes." This little guy is an artist too... and so is God.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Field days at school were always an enigma to me. Suddenly, with no apparent warning, we were all outside the whole day participating in activities I didn't understand or know how to do. I wonder if the other kids felt as out of place as I did. And as for the physical fitness challenges, they were sprung on us just as cruelly. My family, on all sides, is as un-ripped as they come. My son, who is in the Army, has bemoaned the fact that he can work out like crazy and never ever get a muscular physique like his best friend seems to be born with. Not that we're not strong--you'd just never guess it from looking at us. Well, I mean, if by strong you're not talking chin-ups.
So, it's early fall, and the kids were furiously trying to create a leaf pile out of the meager droppings thus far. Only a few skimpy ash, the maples have yet to descend. The boys are still small enough that they had fun backing up about 30 yards and running full speed to jump into a little pile about two and-a-half feet across and one foot high. Brings to mind the old cartoon where the guy is supposed to jump from a ridiculously high ladder into a bucket of water.
Anyway, time. I have said that I read music, and that is mostly true, but I really don't read time very well. That's where the playing-by-ear part comes in. I guess it's the same for my mother, and she's really good. So I get frustrated in trying to teach reading time to my son; and I wonder where that "those who can't do, teach" saying came from. Time is math, and it is fascinating to me but somehow just beyond my mental grasp. There may have been a time when I would have understood time (and some other things) but I think I lost the window.
My eight-year-old son and I are studying World War II. I'm letting him pick the history topics this year and so far it's been Vikings and this. I used to be way too intimidated to even try to learn about such a complicated subject. Fortunately, I have somehow discovered that you actually can learn about these things, piece-by-piece. That a subject like WWII need not always be considered of infinite complexity (well, at least not to get a bit of a grasp of the happenings there.) So far it is coming together interestingly. Strange how we can look back at what was going on, all over the world, over a period of time. It's like having a bird's-eye view, somewhat, of how that war all came together. Duh, I know, but remember I went to public school.
So, to sum all this up: I don't really care what time it is, or I would have a watch. I guess I never much listened to what they were saying in school because I was too busy watching the clock. I now, finally, can love and appreciate fall because I don't have the "time to go back to school" stomachache. I would love to have the brain of my youth now that I know how to actually learn things. I hope all my sons appreciate the time and freedom they have/have had as homeschoolers, but I doubt it. I have now used up all the time I had in avoiding making dinner. Until next time--peace out.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Another reason I am a bad wrapper is I guess because I am a slob. I secretly feel guilty about many crazy little problems that I have, assuming they occur because I am a lousy housekeeper. What I am referring to is the fact that every time I go to wrap a present, a piece of hair inevitably finds its way stuck to the tape. I mean, gross. Well, that is one aspect of slobbiness, another is the mashed-up-if-not-missing condition of the wrapping accoutrements. Then there is the laziness, and the impatience at the whole wrapping process.
But let's not forget the Ray Rayner factor. No matter how hard I may actually try (which I have, a time or two) it will never ever come out looking like Chauncey's. And believe me, there are plenty of "Chauncey"s around in my family.
For instance, my grandfather Floyd. He used to make these elaborate, really spectacular gift wrappings--complete with things like shimmering wrapping-paper origami birds perched on miniature gold ball ornaments, seated on a nest of garland. And I'm talking the 70's when nobody ever even heard of origami--maybe he invented it. Then I have plenty of sisters-in-law who are great at it. There's Dee, with the latest in earthy textures and raffia ribbons; Anne, with bright popping colors of glossiness and cellophane wonder...and there are plenty of others. Suffice is to say, I might think I was adopted,except for this fact: those are all relatives by marriage. The wrapping-challenged blood runs truly through my veins.
My Dad's idea of gift-wrap is a brown paper sack, and I'm not talking the trendy kind. Whenever he attempts a feat of wrapping, which is hilarious and makes me look like a pro, he always says, "Loki wrapped it." Loki was the dog, and he's been dead a long time. My Mother (by blood), however, prefers large plastic bags--the kind you get at Toys R Us or Target. Or she just has stuff shipped directly. Sometimes she asks me to then wrap the gifts for the kids--thereby establishing the fact that I am more advanced in wrapping skills than her and proving that I was not, in fact, adopted.
So, for now, I guess that about wraps it up!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
I don't remember watching Daniel Boone as a kid, but somehow I knew about him. I know this because when I play a certain Scarlatti Sonata in E Major that my dad used to play when I was little, I recall that I imagined this song was about Daniel Boone. There is the part that sounds like he is confidently marching through the wilderness, Natives looming, then sections interspersed which sound like his wife pleading, slightly protesting, eclipsed again by his determined hunter-like tones...
As we recently read his biography, I found that it really was somewhat that way. He'd leave his family for extended periods, even putting them in harm's way at times. Now, I'm not trying to malign a great American hero. I'm just saying I'm glad we named my youngest Daniel Frederick after my grandfather, whom I had reason to admire, instead of Daniel Boone--which was a consideration in fitting with his older brother, named John Henry. (Actually, though, John Henry was also the name of another grandfather of mine.)
My hero as a kid was Batman, as in Adam West. And my dad. I love to play that Scarlatti sonata on the piano because he played it. In fact, just about all of the music I love most to play on the piano are songs my dad used to play when I was very young. I don't even know what this music would sound like to me apart from the memories I have attached to it. "It" is a weird term to apply to music. Like, do you ever read old writing where the author refers to a child as "it"?
I have to remind myself sometimes that even though I feel old and dried up about ready to blow away, I am someone really important in the eyes, hearts, and minds of my children. They may not have a mother who's young and fresh with her whole life in front of her...but they need to have their possibilities open to them. If Mom or Dad is not invincible they don't necessarily have to know it right now.
I don't tell them what to think, exactly, but I do play those songs I love on the piano, songs my dad played. And I hope they imagine something meaningful to them, something that will somehow sustain them, or surprise them in the days ahead. I hope it is heroic.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
For instance, many people think that the Bible is just a book written by men. All I can say is that I have been reading it for 15 years and am just now beginning to get a hint of a clue of some of what it's telling me about God. Or rather, what He's telling me about Himself. Although it does seem to say the same things over and over, but you know, I'm thick.
And I know how hard it is to believe some of the things that happened in there. Like Samson killing 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. Or Jonah being in the belly of a whale or fish for three days and then coming out alive (resurrected?). Or the virgin birth...You get the idea. There are many inexplicable things recorded there, by our standards. We don't normally encounter the supernatural, which is why it is called that.
But if, for just a moment, you can concede that there is a God who created everything (and I don't know how else all this could have come to be--I mean if you really seriously think about it), then, really, is there anything He can't do?? In His own words: "Is anything too hard for the LORD?"--Genesis 18:14 (in telling Abraham that 90-year-old Sarah would bear a son) or, "Is the LORD's arm too short?"--Numbers 11:23 (in telling Moses that he would provide meat for Israel in the desert--this is after having rescued them from Egypt!)
Furthermore, it is very kind of Him to give us a sense of normalcy, of the "natural," so that we can cope with our surroundings. And so that we can recognize when something or some One is outside of, or rather, beyond what feels usual to us. Truthfully, what feels usual to us is actually quite extraordinary after all, isn't it?
Monday, June 21, 2010
I love the sound of a screen door slapping shut. I'll even take the hissssss-ca-chunk of a pneumatic screen door closer. Naturally, it is indicative of summer, but it's also more than that. It reminds me of my grandparents, Hank & Marna. I can remember from when I was very little a wooden screen door in their kitchen...did it have peely green paint...? Hank would be sitting at the table drinking iced tea, whistling "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" through his teeth. I would eat cold hotdogs right out of the fridge. The sound of a screen door brings back--for a moment--that happy secure feeling I had before life got so tough.
Have you ever heard a saying like, "I'm just a skinny person trapped inside a fat body" or about people who are "happy on the outside, crying on the inside"? "Tears of a Clown"--love that song. Here's a little secret: I am crabby on the outside but so incredibly happy deep down inside.
I am really shy. I wasn't always this way; I think I had it beaten into me by my peers. I do not interact well in social situations. I kind of panic and lose all oxygen to my brain. Sometimes I start blathering like a fool. Mostly I try to avoid people, although as a Christian, I know this is hardly an acceptable option.
Recently I ran across some old Pat Metheny cassette tapes and played them. My kids were going wild watching me dance around the room like they've maybe never seen me do, that they'd remember. Grouchy old mom was overtaken as joyful inner mom erupted from the depths of my soul--music can definitely do that. Music is very powerful and should be handled with care.
My painting has been criticized for "having no shadows" and for over-saturation of the colors. Partly it's immaturity, but partly, it's because there is so much happy colorfulness trapped inside me that it just comes squirting out like that. You'd never guess this if you saw me standing in line at the grocery store, scowling. I don't know what happens to me, why I get depressed and angry and impatient and upset. But when the secret me comes out, it's maybe just a little too crazy and out of control.
Anyhoo, I'll just keep trying to remember John 15:5 and leave it at that.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I've been finding lots of money in the laundry lately. Problem is, it's been play money. That's another difference between having big boys and little boys. My big boys are coming home for a visit soon. They have both been on the other side of the globe for about a year now; one at war in Afghanistan, one trying to make a career as an artist in Hawaii. I know, they've always been like a see-saw. Growing up they were best friends, a perfect balance.
I can remember once when they were little, maybe six and seven years old, they went with our neighbor on her paper route. It was just an ad paper we used to get, "The Bonny Buyer," and she delivered it in the afternoon. Somehow it had gotten late while they were still out--you know when it is getting dusk and things get gradually harder and harder to see. I was anxious, as my boys were really too little to be so far out of sight for so long. As I looked down the familiar corridor of our street, formed by sidewalk and tree lines, the darkness finally swallowed it all up--including my kids. That was a terrible, helpless feeling.
I have been watching a lot of programs about death. I recently saw "Troy" (again), and "The Time Traveler's Wife." I've also been hooked into two very violent and inappropriate series: "24" and "Battlestar Galactica." At this point I'm pretty desensitized. But death is an issue that pervades all this stuff I've been seeing, not to mention real life, where just about everyone I know is or has a loved one who is dying of cancer.
In "Troy" and "The Time Traveler's Wife" the protagonist (in both cases played by Eric Bana) is killed in the prime of life, leaving behind a wife and young child. Tragic. And yet, if these men had lived, eventually they would have died somehow. Why do we sometimes pretend that people don't die? Everybody dies. It doesn't always seem that way, I think, because so many people "live on" in pictures and movies. It's not like they are really gone when you see them all the time.
I think about my faith a lot. I think, "Why would anyone listen to me about my faith and hope in God. Who am I? Kind of a big loser in a way. I don't even obey the God I claim to serve. I fail all the time. I act like an idiot." But then I remember, "Oh yeah, it's not about me--it's about HIM." Who? Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can save us from this predicament. We are all going to face death one day. And all those imaginary people in those movies and TV series are being flung headlong into eternity without even a mention of God. I mean the real God. The maker of heaven and earth.
But what about real people, people that I know, that I meet, that I see? They need to know the truth. Not what we make up. Not what sounds reasonable to us. Not what is popular. Jesus said,"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."--John 14:6. These words disturbed me when I first read them. I tried to manipulate them into something more palatable; but it didn't work. I realized that I had to make a choice: it was black and white. It was either Jesus is who he claims to be, or he isn't.
And so, fortunately for me, when I tried to imagine the world without Him--it was so bleak, so hopeless, that I couldn't even hold the thought for a moment. I decided to believe. It was the easier, the better, the only choice.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
--I Cor. 15:51-57
Thursday, April 22, 2010
It's Thursday. I like Thursday. Definitely a good, hopeful day. And it's beautiful outside. Cold, but looks lovely through the windows, all springy. So, it's either write my blog or scrub the tubs. Hard choice, I know.
My wonderful husband, Ronald, is a gardener. He is also 100% Dutch, hence tulips. I love to look out my kitchen window and see the tulips. I have been poking my nose into the different kinds and there is a pink and white variety that smells just like conversation hearts! Probably the nicest thing my husband ever said to me was that he planted all these flower gardens for me. I can live on that forever, just about.
I remember once when I was a kid walking home from school with a couple other little girls. One was named Gobi. I don't remember who else but that was a name I never forgot. I still think of her whenever I see anything about a desert. Anyway, as we were walking we saw some tulips growing along the alley in someone's back yard. The girls began picking them to take to their moms. I didn't pick any. Don't recall why, like if I thought it would be wrong or anything.
To our surprise, a lady came storming out of the house straight at us. She was absolutely furious about having her tulips picked and she definitely let us know. She was explaining, angrily, about how she had planted bulbs and how they only came up once a year, blah blah blah--I didn't understand what she was talking about. I think I was in first or second grade. Then, she marched us up to her house and made us all call our mothers. I really thought she was crazy. My mom wasn't home. But I told her about it when I got there, and she didn't seem to care. I hadn't picked any tulips anyway.
I don't know why I always remember that incident. The tulip lady was an enigma to me. My parents were always so laid back about things. I mean things like material objects. I never remember getting yelled at for breaking anything, or walking in the house with dirty shoes (and we wore our shoes in the house). We had a dog who chewed things up, barfed on things...and I'm sure as kids we must have caused plenty of damage. Like the time I talked my brother into taking a bath in his toybox and the water came pouring down through the ceiling. But I don't think I even got in trouble for that. My parents just didn't seem to care about "stuff" so much.
I mean that in a good way. A very good way. I don't know how I got to be so opposite. I am constantly fretting about my furniture getting wrecked, or the kids tracking in mud. And I do not even consider getting a pet because of the sure damage that would be incurred. Where did I get this attitude towards "stuff" that really isn't important? I mean, yeah, it costs money to replace things, and I guess that's the root of the problem--that old 'love of money' thing.
But I mean, we were taught as kids not to put our feet up on furniture, or to run around in the house, or to touch things that weren't ours. We were taught to behave. We were taught to respect other peoples' property, which was probably why I didn't pick the tulips. My parents did give us good guidelines, which I am very thankful for. I try to teach my kids these same things, and am well pleased when other people teach them to their kids (especially when they're in my house).
So, now I guess I'm the crazy tulip lady, only not so much anymore. I am improving (thanks to God). I am starting to see how much I love these kids in our neighborhood, even when they tromp through the flowers, or break our stuff. Don't get me wrong--I will still definitely say something to them when they're stepping out of line. I try to get them to respect others' (our) property, and I try to explain it in a not-so-crazy way. But you know people are all different. And it's those little things that you sometimes remember forever. Like, "Hey!! These are MY flowers!!!" or, "I planted all these flowers just for you."
Friday, April 16, 2010
I am in a really weird mood. Like kind of mellow but kind of I just don't care. There are so many thoughts streaming through my brain, but they are not cool thoughts. And they don't just cycle around up there either. They kind of fly out into the atmosphere and eventually make their way back into my mind sort of like ghost thoughts. I can't quite put my finger on any of them. Spring is like a drug for me. A good drug. I think.
Cardinals are nesting in my front bushes. We were gone just for a long weekend in Michigan and in that time the female made her choice. I thought our arrival would have spoiled the deal, but they've stayed, in spite of the fact that they're right by the front door next to the walkway. They sing constantly. Cardinals love to sing. Tonight I heard one making a new sound--sort of a trill at the end of a more typical lyric. It was very exciting. I love to watch birds, but am pretty lazy about it. So I watch grackles and starlings and bluejays and cardinals and sparrows and chickadees and juncos and finches and woodpeckers. Once in a while a hummingbird or a hawk, or even an owl.
The other morning a flicker appeared in our back yard. I was very happy I could actually identify it using my little Golden field guide. Then, a couple of nights ago my husband and I went out on a long awaited date. After eating a nice dinner we wandered through a Chinese grocery store and then stopped by a discount book store. They had wall calendars for $1.00--I had been looking for a $1.00 wall calendar for up north. And they had one with birds on it! I like to have lovely wall calendars with birds or flowers or scenery...so when I got home I was disappointed because it was actually a "birder's" calendar not a bird calendar. The pictures were not scenic, but more along the identification line.
But then, in a spare moment, I decided to flip through the months of illustrations just to see if there was anything interesting, which I doubted. To my surprise and delight, the picture in August was exactly a bird we had seen perhaps two years ago and had never been able to identify--a Green Heron! It was such a strange and awkward looking bird. I recognized it immediately, and there are exactly eight drawings of it on this calendar page, all in different poses, so there can be no mistake. So, that was pretty neat.
So I guess the moral of the story is, "Don't look your $1.00 birder's wall calendar in the mouth."
Friday, April 9, 2010
They also play baseball, soccer, football, tag, hide-and-seek, guns, just everything. They play on our swingset and in our sandbox. They run around and scream and laugh and fight. Sometimes they all get quiet, usually in the sandbox. Today one boy needed a bandaid. "Eric's bleeding!" a little girl exclaimed. I went out there to check on the situation, applied a bandage to the tiniest microscopic dot on his little finger...which was a good thing.
As a mom, I don't know how you ever stop wanting more kids. Like, even when it's completely insane. I know firsthand how hard it is to have a baby at 40, and then one at 44. I also know how difficult and frustrating it is to foster. And yet, when I see them, each one, their little faces...I think, "awwwww," and it's just like that crazy moment one time in college when I took home a puppy. Well, no, it's not really exactly like that. For one thing, you can give away a puppy.
But you know how it is getting older (if you are there yet). You don't actually feel older, which is why it's always such a shock to look in the mirror. I mean, you can't see as well, you don't remember things, and you move slower. I used to run everywhere, literally. Like, when I'd get out of the car at the grocery store, I would sprint across the parking lot to the door. I'd do the same thing going to the mailbox. Pretty much I just zipped everywhere. I thought to myself, "I don't see many other grown-up women doing this...this must be immature, this running thing." But I liked to do it anyway, and it saved time. But I wondered, "Will I ever slow down? Will it ever be that I just don't have the energy to go flying around like this anymore?" And of course I can tell you the answer to that now. Yes.
But I am still the same person I always was--the little girl who told her dad confidently that one day she would have sixteen kids of her own. It was so weird when things actually didn't turn out that way. First of all, I delivered my first baby by Cesarean (he was breech) which then set the precedent and I had to have all Cesareans. That limits the number of children you can have. I hadn't thought of that.
And then we were broke. Being young I didn't understand that no matter how many kids we had we would have made do. I get that now but I didn't then. And when we tried to adopt, it wasn't that easy. Fostering was maybe one of the hardest things we ever did. I'll tell you why it was/is so hard (even though we don't foster anymore). Because I chickened out. I mean, it all started out so great, but then as time went on and we had to really make a long-term commitment, I became like Peter on the water with Christ, I looked away from Him and cried, "I can't do this!!!"
Regret is perilously easy. The reality of the day-to-day raising of kids is sobering, to say the least. And some days I just don't really feel like being so serious. But then this silly little kid says something so hilarious like asking, "Mom, does Optimus Prime shoot bombs out of his ears?" and I know I'm in the right business.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to pursue my interest in music as much as I would have liked over the course of my life. There were circumstances that got in the way. I think I could have been a decent piano player with the right training, but that was not meant to be. I really don't know what difference it would have made. I do still love to play the piano, but I stink. No kidding, I really do. I need a good teacher and lots of practice, neither of which are happening any time soon.
A wonderful thing happened to me when I was a new Christian. The church we were attending had a choir; a really good choir, with an excellent choir director. I had never sung but always secretly wanted to. I don't have a good singing voice but can read music and hit most of the notes. I remember when I was a kid many times begging my cousin Lindy to sing that old Beatles tune, "If I Fell" with me so we could do parts. I loved singing with her. It was the only opportunity I ever had to do such a thing-- It never occurred to me in highschool to join the choir, and we didn't go to church.
Anyway, as a new believer, at age 33 (or so)--like a really special birthday present from God I was able to join the church choir! There were no try-outs or anything. And I got to take home my music, and wear a choir robe, and go to practices on Wednesday nights. It was a really worshipful time. Practicing and singing on Sunday morning. Although sometimes I was just so excited to be there I think I was more focused on myself than God. But, all in all it was a very good experience. I will never forget it. I am so grateful to God that I had that opportunity. And when he was old enough, my eldest son sang in choir with me.
I learned so many wonderful old hymns and songs and got to sing some I had known or had heard on the radio and loved. Our director chose some really great music--and not so easy either! We'd do parts of Handel's "Messiah" and other difficult stuff like that. We did a fair amount of classical and traditional music, which is my favorite. We did some newer music that I liked, some that I didn't...
When we were doing something I absolutely loved like "The Heavens Are Telling" from Haydn's Creation, the tears would just stream down my face as we sang. It was so incredibly joyful. I thought to myself, "I am glad I was never able to sing before. My singing has been saved for this moment, for it to be really meaningful." I could never enjoy to such heights any other music as much as those beautiful songs singing praise to God. I mean, that is what music (and everything else) is made for--to glorify Him. And so it was one of my little tastes of Heaven on earth.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
It was my birthday last week and I am getting so senile that I had to stop and remember if it had already come. Not that I didn't get nice gifts and calls and cards and even a special meal out...I just didn't immediately recall it. This might be a little scary but I'm getting used to it. I try to exercise my brain to remember things. I don't know if that'll help, but whatever. I have to exercise my body now too which I have successfully avoided for 47 years. But now it's necessary. Now I have "health issues."
In fact, just about everyone I know now has "health issues." And everyone I know knows even more people with such problems. My prayer list has become a Rock of Gibraltar so heavy and overwhelming that only the One True God Himself can actually handle it. I am so glad that He can.
So, for my birthday we went out for dinner. I am now on a 'special diet' for a different health concern and so I asked for my chicken piccata to be flourless and therein began the trouble. Don't get me wrong, we had a very nice dinner. The salad was wonderful, and the rest of the family's meals came out right on time. But mine did not. However I really didn't care. I was already full from the salad, and we were out having a nice time. So I didn't even complain when the rest of the family was finished eating and the kids were getting restless, and my meal still hadn't come. I just told the waiter, pleasantly, that we had to get going.
Well, next thing you know the manager appeared announcing that he would comp the whole meal! (I hadn't even told them it was my birthday). So all's well that ends well. We had lots of leftovers. We did leave the waiter a nice tip. A good tale for a cheapskate girl's happy birthday.
But, what I'm thinking about now is this whole getting old thing, and people getting sick, and dying. I remember when we were young and I was so crazy about my husband (he was my boyfriend then) that I literally could not spend enough time with him. I wanted to be with him every second of the day. We worked together at a pizza place. I loved my job. We took long walks, talked for hours; I guess I don't have to explain this...but here's the thing: I still feel the same way.
We got married and off he went to work. I would pine away for him all day every day. Not that I didn't do anything else; it was just always in the back of my mind. How many hours til he would get home. I furiously guarded his time off--"our time." We socialized a fair amount, but usually together. Of course we spent a lot of time with our little ones, as a young family. We fought a lot too. But I still always wanted just to be with him.
Now here we are all these 25 years later, and I still miss him. He goes off to work most days, and we have our second batch of kids--who pretty much suck all the life and energy out of us both by the time they get tucked in--and I get these leftover moments with the love of my life. I'm not meaning this to be complaining. I am just pondering. We have made the choices for the course of our lives. I am mostly content with those choices; it's just, I wish we could work together.
What a crazy thing for someone to say whose husband has good gainful employment in this economy, I know. But we've been looking at things like retirement, not that we really want to retire...it would just be nice, maybe, not to be tied to the corporation which has been our financial security for all these years.
I know I'm rambling. It's because I feel what I'm saying is somehow inexcusable. We have what a lot of people right now are desperate for, and I do not at all want to be ungrateful. It's just that, I look at my life sometimes as waiting for the day that will never come.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
"Accept something that you cannot change, and you will feel better."
I realize this is nothing new; I know my way around the Serenity Prayer. However I also dare not skate too close to the thin ice of "positive thinking" type philosophies which do not support the real weight of life's predicaments. But this little scrap of paper, for today, was in a nutshell what I had just yesterday concluded about winter.
When I was six years old my family took a vacation to California. This was back in the late 1960's and I'm sure things are much different now, but back then, it was to my heart and soul a paradise. There were orange groves, mountains with streams, dirt roads, fig trees, old barns, and sun. Also my dearly loved cousins were there. It was two weeks of bliss. After that I always wanted to live there.
The older I got the more I wondered why in the world anyone would ever live here, in the suburbs of Chicago. It is horrible in the winter, the l-o-n-g winter. I hate the cold--it is painful. When I was a teen, my Dad told me that if I really wanted to get out of here I'd better do it while I was young. That was the plan. In the back of my mind was always the dream of moving to California.
Well, Dad was right. I didn't go right away and I'm still here, forty years later. And all of those years I've been hating winter, grumbling and complaining about how many months we have bad weather, and being in a bad mood for all of them. I know we could have moved, still could, theoretically. But first of all, we had kids. And Ron got a good job. It's pretty hard to walk away from a good job when you have kids to think about. Then you get rooted. And now we're pretty much stuck.
The boys and I were looking at the Ten Commandments yesterday in our Story Bible. Included is, "Thou shalt not covet..." I explained that coveting is wanting what other people have and not being content with what you have. Just think of it. That is so important that God made it one of the Ten Commandments. Then John wanted to know what "being content" means. I said,"it means being happy." It is interesting that "contentment" is kind of the opposite of "contention."
There really are some things to like about winter, not the same things for everyone. My husband enjoys ice fishing. I enjoy baking, and making soup. Winter is a good time to get projects done, like sewing blankies or quilt-ishes. It is also the perfect time to buckle down with school. (It's not like there's tons of fun we're missing out on.) Despite my bad attitude, I did tune in to the winter olympics and found them spectacular. There is football, which I like. And our neighbors flooded their back yard, so just last night I had the thrilling experience of watching my seven-year old learn to ice skate! (They have it all lit up--it's really pretty.)
He was even playing hockey. This is quite exciting to me because one of my greatest dreams--like California--is being able to ice skate. Ice skating looks to me like a combination of dancing and flying--two of the most lovely and joyful things on earth. But I guess with ice skating too, if you're gonna learn how, you'd better do it while you're young. Alas I never had the chance, but I am so happy that my little guys will.
While I was visiting my oldest son in Colorado, we went to a college hockey game just for something to do. When the players first came out on the ice, and there were all these colored flags, and they were just soaring around so gracefully...it was so beautiful to me that I cried. (I know, I don't get out enough.) But sometimes I actually like being able to cry like that, because I am not desensitized to the wonder of it all.
Yesterday I realized that I may never go to California. There may be long, cold winters in store for me the rest of my days. But maybe I can be happy anyway. Maybe I don't have to hate it so much, or even at all. Maybe I can look forward to cooking and studying and hobbies and snuggling up under the blankies with my family. Seeing them enjoy the cold outdoors, even though it might seem crazy to me, is something I can be content with. Or even happy.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
This morning our Pastor's sermon was on how deep and wide is the Love of Christ.
The last couple of days I have been watching some of the Winter Olympics. This is very unlikely, as I never watch the Olympics or any other sports, aside from the occasional football game or figure skater. What makes it even possible that this has occurred is that we recently finally bought a 32" flatscreen HDTV. It is in our living room. Normally we do not have a television in our living room. However, the flatscreen is actually pretty small and unobtrusive. Also, this way I can do my workout dvds on the hardwood floor, and possibly utilize some of the Spanish and/or nature shows for homeschooling. But my point is, that we got this TV about a week ago, just in time for the Olympics; and since it's still kind of a novelty I have moseyed over to check out the action.
The first thing I noticed was how beautiful the setting is. Much as I hate winter, the sparkling wonder of snow-covered mountains and trees, the blinding white quiet expanse is really breathtaking. There, in the middle of what seems to be uninhabitable cold weather majesty, are people--participating in outdoor winter games. I was reminded once again of how ignorant I am of what's going on outside my own little world. I would have easily blown off even glancing at or hearing anything about the Olympics. I just wouldn't care about such things...but for the timely arrival of the HDTV.
What struck me then possibly even more than the scenery were the athletes themselves. Their spandex-like suits reveal the most toned, trained, muscular, strong, perfect bodies I have ever seen. I mean, these bodies are not just sculpted to look good. They are controlled athletic machines, formed to a purpose. It was so uplifting to watch the ski jumpers soaring through the air in perfect form. The whole thing brought back childhood dreams of flying.
Then came the speed skating. Wow, does that look dangerous, and strenuous. I was getting exhausted just watching these guys. But it didn't end--they just kept going, around and around at top physical pressure the whole way. I was truly amazed at what I saw, that anyone could have such control, such skill, such endurance to perform in a way that seemed superhuman to me. Then came the ski racing--fantastic! And appearing even more difficult than the speed skating.
I thought to myself, "All these people, training so hard for this, devoting so much time and energy and focus...and I didn't even know it was happening. I had no idea people did such wonderful things." It is kind of like when you read something that is so well-written, so insightful, so intelligent...or when you see some unbelievable artwork, like what goes around on the internet of insanely complex sidewalk chalk drawings, or when you hear a piece of music that grabs your soul and wrings it out. I was touched deeply.
But I was also troubled. I felt, I feel kind of like a loser. Because I have never applied myself to anything in remotely one tiny percentage of the way that these people have. I mean, look what people, human beings like me, can achieve! What have I ever achieved? I get excited about doing a few sit-ups & push ups. I feel proud if I do a little aerobics. Or finish some small project. I mean, that's not bad...it's just that when you're young and you have your whole life ahead of you you think that someday you will have climbed some kind of mountain...but now I look back and there has been so much time wasted. I have spent my days ignoring the Olympics and hiding from any possibilities by just being busy with stupid things, or undisciplined, or lazy.
I find it heartening that it was at this exact moment, on this day, that I arrived at a point in a study I am doing where I was directed to begin reading John Piper's "A Hunger for God," particularly the introduction. The book is about fasting. The introduction is about many things, but one idea which struck me was the thought of disciplining myself through the spiritual exercise and physical work of fasting. Listen to the Apostle Paul:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.--I Cor. 9:24-27
I feel like God is telling me something. That it is time for me to persevere.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
My kids are sick. There is something really horrible about your kids being sick. It is comprised of many things. There is vulnerability, of course. Your heart is in limbo, as it is very difficult to see your little ones suffering and to be unable to stop it. There is the irritability from sequential sleepless nights-- or interrupted sleep--that formidable form of torture. Also, cooped-up-ness, the pent-up energy of two vigorous (yes, even while ailing) little boys who desperately need to run around outside but can't, which translates into general agitation and crankiness all around.
Then there is the guilt. That oppressive darkness hovering over my brain whispering to me all through the day and night that if I had fed them more nutritiously, exercised them more properly, utilized more stringent hygienics, cleaned the house better...whatever, that this wouldn't be happening, again. It's all my fault, naturally.
Then I get mad which definitely doesn't help the guilt, especially if I lose my temper, which I usually do if the situation goes on for too many days in a row. This time we're going on week three, and I already lost my temper several days ago. I have since repented, crumpled into defeat, and received so many hearty coughs directly into my face that I have now actually contracted the disease myself.
The problem is I get mad at God. I can't understand why He lets this happen. Which of course puts me into good company, quite frankly, the company of many who have a whole lot more legitimate sufferings to be fretting about. Which leads me to the real crux. I can't handle anything well. The kids' being sick just brings this out. I'm spoiled.
I don't know how to deal with adversity. I have not tested any possible depth of character, discovered any road to fortitude through travails. I have in fact avoided travails, trials, and tribulations with the skill of a fool. My point is further illustrated in this Bible passage:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 1:2-4
And not only James, but Paul:
we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.-Romans 5:3-4
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. -I Peter 4:1-2
I have been feeling that these continual recurring sicknesses have been possibly an attack of the enemy. A battering attack which we seem unable to meet with any effective resistance. I am now beginning to see that perhaps in this situation the reason for my frustration is that I am not seeing things rightly. I am not viewing the opportunities afforded me here--the training exercise.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
John reminds me of Mike in how he thumps around the house, making sound effects to the imaginary battles going on in his head. With Mike it was more sports-oriented. He'd be walking spasmodically around the house, occasionally taking a tumble or a dive (purposely), mumbling under his breath a very soft sounding sportscaster sort of sound, like a radio turned way down while a game is being played. Then, getting louder it became audible,"...and, and, he shoots--and, he SCORES!!!!" Perhaps a somersault would follow.
John is just beginning to get into sports. For him it's always been fighting. Warfare--and that's what my bigger boys always loved too. I think they inherited it from their dad, who introduced them to games like "Brave and Noble Knights" and built castles with them from an early age. Since John could just toddle around he's been shooting--everything. He would make shooting sound effects from morning til night every day. Sometimes it's guns, sometimes bows-and-arrows (which are usually plastic coat hangers). I have spent weeks of my life, literally, yelling at John to stop spitting (the sound effects).
So now that he has started watching sports with his dad it is nice to have his imaginary warfare resembling something different than blasting people to bits constantly. Last night as he was going to bed he announced happily, " I know what I am going to play tomorrow--my football game!" So now he really is starting to remind me of Mike.
Anyway, whatever John is doing, he is doing it with gusto. Whether it is building with blocks, reading a book, or playing computer games. When he is focused in on something it is very difficult to pry him away. One thing I spotted immediately (from his having older brothers) is his complete obsession with video games. He is one of these kids who gets hopelessly addicted and becomes like a junkie--lying, cheating, anything to play more nintendo. So, of course, we had to take it away. I really think he was relieved. It's too much pressure on a kid to expect him to get a grip on that, really.
However, because of his experience with video games, John knows what "pause game" means. He knows about the pause button. So one day when he was wildly entrenched in some activity, and I needed him to come eat his peanut butter sandwich, (though he was not playing video--just a board game or something) I said, "Come on, John, Pause Game." That phrase instantly broke his concentration. He understood my lingo. He got it then that he could come back to his activity later. He "paused the game."
So now "Pause Game" has become a common phrase in our household. In fact, John and Daniel can be heard saying it many times throughout the day, "Pause Game!" Whenever I need anyone around here to stop what they're doing and listen to me, I just say, "Pause Game," or even just "Pause." It's part of our family-speak.
But you know, we have been having lots of stuff going on around here lately. I mean the grown-ups--my husband and I. We needed to buy a new dishwasher. The tires on my car were shot. Our telephone was broken. We still don't have a flatscreen TV. And several other items could be added to that list. But because we pretty much had to buy the dishwasher, as the door is so rusted out it just flops open and could hurt someone, and one of my tires was completely flat, we decided to subscribe to consumerreports.com.
Well, next thing you know we are lining up items from here to Kansas that we want to buy. Now we have the make & model of everything. We know which is the best dishwasher, the best phone, the best TV, the best tires...and it's just making me itchy because we need to go to all these different stores to look at these things. And right now I can't drive (long story). So the only way to go to these places and look at all this stuff is after my husband comes home from work, and after we eat dinner, and then we have to schlep the kids along...or on the weekend.
Saturday the weather was horrible. And the kids were kind of sick. So, I was frustrated. There was Sunday, but, lately I've been really convicted about keeping the Sabbath. It is one of the ten commandments. I mean, I know we're not under the law, but the commandments are good. I don't know of another one people would so casually blow off. Just because it doesn't seem a big deal to us doesn't mean it's not a big deal to God. And that's just it. I kept reading it over and over in my daily Bible reading: In Deuteronomy 12,in Isaiah 56. I knew that I should not be transacting this business on the Lord's Day. I knew that, for me, for this time.
So I wrestled a bit with Him about it. Like John, I had my mind set on what I wanted to do. I was intent on getting those things I thought I needed and did not want to wait for some unknown future time. But thankfully the wrestling match was not a hard one. I gave in pretty easily. The blessing I received was complete peace and contentment, no longer arguing with myself about the whole mess.
Sunday the kids were kind of sick so we didn't even go to church-- so they wouldn't spread their germs in those little closed-in Sunday school classrooms. However we still could have gone shopping, but we didn't. Even when I got kind of bored. But something neat happened. My husband finally got around to fixing that broken phone. Saved $65. And there are all those other purchases that we "paused" on, until maybe a better time. (Maybe never).
Also I prayed about a problem I had with a friend, but didn't want to have to confront her with. I got this overwhelming peace to where I knew the Lord was going to handle it for me. And He did! Got the email this morning. I feel that God is smiling on me. Not that He has to, or that it's a reward. He just does that sometimes. Like when he lets me see a cardinal AND a bluejay at the same time. I feel like He was telling me, on Sunday, Pause Game, and see what Life is really like.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
She has white hair which she doesn't dye, big deep blue eyes, and these really neat expressive eyebrows. I can't explain them, they are really arching in an angular way that makes a unique beauty and interesting face. Her daughter has them, and she is a total knockout. My son Tim has Jakie eyes. The blueness and the expression, but his eyebrows are really bushy. Oftentimes when I look at him I think of her.
Jakie has been in a barbershop quartet for years. They are very good; I've heard them. They travel around all over the world and win competitions. Once at Christmastime I wandered into a fancy little dress shop in my town, and there they were, singing for a holiday event!
She is also a fabulous cook. She makes the kind of food that is just so good and gorgeous looking that you can't not eat it. The funny thing is, she claims not to be creative at all with cooking. She says she just follows the recipes, which is really kind of funny, because she definitely has this rebellious streak to her. I find that I can never follow a recipe without changing it here and there, to make it somehow my own. Jakie has such a strong personality, and yet, she has found a secret in cooking that I resist.
She also has cats and dogs. Well, usually just one dog and a cat or two. Even though she has allergies. She has been a speech therapist most of her life. She is very generous and sweet and gregarious. She has two children and now three grandchildren and she is very involved with all of them. She sends my kids elaborate and fun gifts, which is totally unnecessary, but she likes to. She's a wonderful funny lady.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I have this one where I am in a swimming lesson. I must have been about eight years old. Every summer my mom would sign me up for swimming lessons at New Trier, East or West I couldn't say, don't remember. I would walk down to the bus stop and a bunch of us kids would ride along together, bouncing in the springy seats, singing corny camp songs like "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," "Found a Peanut," and "Old Hogan's Goat." Fortunately I had this experience because I never did end up going to camp.
Anyway, the memory is not about the bus, or even about swimming, really. It is about being in "the zone." The swimming pool was huge and there were groups of kids clustered all the way around it, according to their different skill levels. I had made it up to the last of the beginner-ish groups, the one just before moving up to the diving board. I am thinking I was not too anxious to get to that rank. I had never been on a diving board and was not in a hurry to jump off of one.
The way you moved up, as I recall, was that some sort of adult evaluators would walk around the edge of the pool, observing the swimmers. When they saw someone they felt was ready to advance they would point them out, somewhat like judges at a competition, I guess. (I've never competed at anything either.)
Well, one day in my comfortable and appropriate group, swimming away, I felt the presence of one of the "judges" shadowing overhead. I just had a couple of strokes to the end of the pool and suddenly, I felt myself enter "the zone" of completely graceful and elegant swimming. My arms curved perfectly as my fingers almost imperceptibly parted the water, my legs gently bent at the knees--not too much--just perfectly. I had never swum so beautifully in all my life, and it only lasted a moment, literally. It just happened at that particular time when the grader was watching. Immediately he pointed me out for promotion as of course I knew he probably would.
I was proud, happy that such a thing had occurred while someone was actually watching. And then, the terror struck. Oh no!! I was going to have to go to the diving board! And I don't remember much after that. The memory is about being in "the zone," and feeling like an impostor because it really was only for a couple seconds I could actually pull it off. Or so I thought.
It reminds me of Peter, when he walks out on the water with Jesus, until he starts freaking out and thinks,I'm guessing,"What am I doing? I can't do this!" Then he begins to sink. It's not exactly like that, but maybe it is somewhat; in that the abilities I have are given to me by God, and when I see myself exceeding my wildest expectations of what I think I can do, I panic, and fall out of "the zone." Hmm, I am pondering, what does this have to do with walking with Jesus? I am not prepared to answer that just now.
Anyway, a very similar thing happens to me when playing the piano. I have never put the time into practicing enough to be consistently as good as I can at random moments when I fall into "the zone" of truly artistic piano playing. But when it happens, I inevitably find my mind wandering back to that swimming pool, and how absolutely fulfilling it is to feel your whole being working together seamlessly, gloriously, to express something inexpressible, a beauty that is greater than what you are actually capable of--"the zone." And then terror strikes and I make a mistake, like waking up from a beautiful dream. Or maybe falling out of bed.
Like I said, I have never competed, never stuck to anything long enough or put my heart and soul into anything to find out what it might be like to actually spend more time in this "zone." I guess that is called being an "underachiever." But at the age of 47, I am not so much afraid anymore of trying as I am of not trying.