Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A short one...

Please go to Jen Gray's blog and read the two posts entitled: Back Off and To Tell the Truth. Those two posts have got me thinking about bullies in my life that need to be confronted. They have got me thinking about some feelings and dreams and hopes that I've been dealing with lately - and all my life, really - that I have studiously attempted to deny the existence of.

Her words remind me of part of a poem -
"The time has come," the walrus said,
"to talk of many things -
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax
Of cabbages and kings
Of why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings."

The time has come, this blogger says,
to think through many things -
Of pain and loss and leaving home
Of things to which I cling
Of how to overcome my doubts
And what the future brings.

Thanks, Jen. Ouch, but thanks.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Twenty Years Ago This Week

Twenty years ago this week, I was packing bags and boxes, staying up late with friends and classmates, journaling madly, loving Steve deeply, and counting down the days until my graduation from college - Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts to be more precise. Yup, it's been 20 years since I walked down that aisle, received my diploma, and said farewell to the footloose and fancy-free life of undergraduate studies.

Earlier today, I pulled out the journal I was keeping at the time.

So much has changed - I earn $17,500 less than I did way back when I took my first job working half time in the admissions office and the other half in alumni relations there at Williams. (What did I earn then? $17,500. What do I earn now? You do the math!) I paid one-third of $433/month to rent a three-bedroom Victorian house that two English professors had abandoned for a sabbatical year on foreign shores. I shared the house with two women who were seniors at Williams the year after I graduated. What fun we had!

Steve took a job at GE and worked an hour away in Schenectady, New York. Together, we spent nearly all of our salary on fast food, shopping at the mall in whatever town we visited on any given weekend, going to movies, and checking out dog and horse racing at local tracks. When he couldn't make the drive over the mountain, I took two buses and turned a one hour drive into a 3-hour trek. I did so with gusto because I was off to see the love of my life. On one of those bus rides, I got to know the driver, Mario. I know all this because I have the journal entries to prove it.

I was an emotional/relational wreck at the time. My most recent boyfriend, the one I'd met in Madrid and spent the first semester of my senior year falling head over heels in love with, didn't want to have any contact with me at all. There were two brothers that I'd fallen for before I left for Spain that were still in my life and causing me profound emotional anxiety. Did I mention that one of them was married at the time? Steve went through a phase (brief, I must say) when he wanted to be free to see other people. I told him he was free to see anyone else that he wanted, but he wouldn't also be able to see me. His feelings on the topic changed when a couple the aforementioned ex-boyfriends of mine reached out to me by telephone and snail mail. No, I haven't always been the level-headed, serious, and reasonable woman I am today.

There was no email at the time. No one had cell phones either. What a slow and quiet world we lived in then. I made regular notations in my journal about the number of letters and postcards I sent out to friends on what seemed like a daily basis. One day I sent out 13 in total! Thirteen pieces of snail mail, all written by hand, in one day. If I didn't know myself and how much I love to write to people, I would find that hard to believe.

These twenty years have flown by - and many things about me have stayed the same.

I still get infatuated quickly and easily. With men, women, children, babies (I held an 8-month-old for over an hour on Sunday night, and it started to feel like my milk ducts were filling up again, I was so happy!) the full moon, rose bushes, the sound of airplane tires on the runway, and acid-free journals.

I still miss that guy I met in Spain back in August of 1986, even though I haven't seen him in at least 15 years.

I still journal regularly. I send out hand-writen postcards and letters, as well as email and text messages. I have learned to straddle the 20th and 21st centuries quite comfortably.

I still travel to Spain as often as possible. Heck, I'll go just about anywhere just about anytime. If anyone wanted to pay me to travel, I'd pack my bag tonight and head for the airport.

Next Thursday, we will head up to Williamstown for our 20th year reunion. With our classmates, we will compare hairlines and waistlines, the heights of our children, and the depth of our intellects. We will tell the same stories over and over about where we live, how much we like or don't like our jobs, and secretly we will wonder if any of us are truly happy or if we are only putting up a front for the weekend.

When the small talk has faded to an awkward silence, I will sneak off for a solo jaunt through the Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art in a cloud of art-inspired bliss.
I will eat a cheesy, mayonaiss-y sandwich at Pappa Charlies Deli.
I will climb into an overhead study carrel in Sawyer Library, read the graffiti etched into its cavernous wall by students, and fill a page or two of my journal with memories of my days as a Williams Eph (pronounced "eef" from the name of the college's founder, Ephraim Williams).
I will take my husband by the hand and kiss him full on the mouth on the front steps of the dorm where I lived when we were second semester seniors.
And together we will give thanks for what these twenty years have brought into our lives. Beginning with our two beautiful children... neither of whom will be able to attend our alma mater because it's insanely expensive!

I wonder where I will be twenty years from now. How much of my Williams experience will I remember 20 years from now? Thankfully, I will still have my journals.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Anyway... for Kristiana

A couple of weeks ago, I drove my daughter home from church. She was crying. Upset about a choir rehearsal that hadn't gone well. Upset that she'd practiced her song over and over, but some of the other kids in the choir hadn't bothered to learn the words. Upset that some of the other kids didn't seem to care about how they sounded or looked as they prepared for an upcoming event. She said she hated being in the minority of choir members who cared and who were working hard to make their junior high choir the best it could be. Her heart was broken. Her disappointment was palpable.

I was stricken silent. I hate it when my children cry. I always wish I could take away their pain. Since I cannot do that, I sit with them in their pain. I let my own tears flow. After a few moments of absorbing her wracking sobs, I reached over, rested my hand on her leg and told her this: "Kristiana, if you are going to be someone who goes through life giving your best effort all the time, if you are going to work hard to be the best you can be, if you are going to be a woman of faith, of prayer, of strength, of convictions, you are always going to be in the minority. For the rest of your life, you will be one of the few. You will be ridiculed for standing up for your convictions even after others have been swayed and coerced to give up theirs. You will be considered stubborn and unyielding. You will be told that you think you are right all the time and perfect. Stand up anyway, girl. Be strong anyway."

And as I got to that last point, I remembered the Martina McBride song we'd heard recently on American Idol, entitled "Anyway."

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway
You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach and you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
And when I pray it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway, I do it anyway

This world's gone crazy and it's hard to believe that tomorrow will be better than today
Believe it anyway
You can love someone with all your heart, for all the right reasons, and in a moment they can choose to walk away
Love 'em anyway

You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in that tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway, sing it anyway

I sing, I dream, I love, anyway.

My eyes well up with tears everytime I hear this song. I think of all the dreams I've chased, the crazy hopes I have for the future, the loves I have known and still know, the songs I have sung, and the stories I have lived out in my life. Dreams no one else will ever know, hopes that may never come to pass, songs that I sing only in the car and the shower, and the adventures I have lived in my 41+ years - all of which may add up to nothing much by the standards of the world around me. I will live every one of them anyway. Fully. Joyfully. Tearfully. Wonder-fully.

I think about the time and energy I put into homeschooling, adoring, and loving these two children God has blessed me with. I know this time with them won't last forever. I will love and hug and teach them anyway.

I think about the pleas for peace, for reconciliation, for grace, and for forgiveness that I have made to family members and friends, to church members and beyond. I think about how unwilling people are to be reconciled, to live in peace, and to forgive. I plead for peace anyway.

I think about the countless telephone calls, emails, text messages sent out to friends and loved ones who only rarely acknowledge having received my missives. I send them anyway.

I think about how many songs, blogs, letters, postcards, friendships, and students I have poured my heart into. I often wonder how quickly the recipients forget what I have said and done. How much my effort matters in their lives in the long run. I pour myself out anyway.

But whenever an invitation to teach or speak comes my way, I accept anyway.
When another full moon rises overhead, I fall in love again anyway.
When I have a fabulous (or terrible) day, I write a blog anyway.
When my grammar, punctuation, spelling, and syntax are wrong,
I spill my words and emotions and dreams anyway.

I write, I dream, I laugh, I pray for the end of the war,
I read, I journal, I play games with my children,
I go to church, I go visit my mother-in-law,
I call you, I text you,
I write to you, I pray for you,
I miss you, I love you...

I tell you again, my dear daughter,
Pray hard anyway.
Sing loud anyway.
Live, laugh, and love passionately anyway.
Be strong and beautiful and courageous,

Nobody in the world loves you the way I do.
Don't you ever forget that, sweet girl.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I've Been Tagged: Seven Little Known Facts

The rules are: People who are tagged start by thinking about 7 random facts/habits about themselves. Each player then must write about those seven things on their blog, as well as include these rules. Players then need to choose 7 people to tag and list their names. Don’t forget to leave each person a comment telling them they’ve been tagged.
1. I only wear skirts. It started about three years ago when a friend made me six or seven long, flowing, beautiful skirts. I wore them and loved them. Since then, I have worn a skirt nearly every day. In fact, the number of days that I have worn slacks or shorts in public (not while playing tennis or otherwise exercising outside) in the past two or three years is less than a dozen times.

2. One of the reasons I have enjoyed skirts so much is because I am absolutely phobic about germs in bathrooms. The only bathroom in which I feel totally comfortable is the one in my own bedroom. So skirts are perfect: no need to worry about slacks touching the floor of an unfamiliar bathroom. Yuck! I know; it's a little obsessive, but it's who I am.

3. Spelling and grammar mistakes drive me nuts. When I read a book and find a spelling error, I am often tempted to put the book down and not finish it. When the children and I are homeschooling and we find an error in a book, we spend quite a while talking about why it's wrong. Misspelled words on the screen at church, in emails, those short codes people put in text messages - make me wanna scream!!! I know I'm not a perfect speller, nor am I an expert at grammar. It's just that obvious mistakes make me want to become an editor or spell checker or something along those lines.

4. The sound of people chewing their food is also an abomination to me.

5. I am not much of an alcohol drinker, but when I do imbibe, the drinks must be sweet. My sweet tooth is not much of a secret, and my addiction to sweets extends to my drinks. Midori sour, fuzzy navels, regular and mango mojitos, strawberry daquiris, white zinfandel - yum, yum. I do not like coconut, so pina coladas --> no, thanks.

6. I still haven't fallen in love with Maya. She's cute. She's funny. She loves to run and play with all of us. But if she went to live with someone else tomorrow, I don't think I'd miss her at all. Plus, it's been difficult to find a kennel to take her to when we go on vacation. I miss not having to worry about a dog and what she needs.

7. I wish we could take a year off from this life, rent an apartment in Madrid or Rome or London, and just forget about the American rat race, the stupidity that pervades our political, social, and educational systems, the gun violence that plagues our nation, and start all over someplace else. No grass to mow, no large house to care for, no church responsibilities, no extended family obligations, none of it. The truth is that I wish we could leave this all behind for five years. I know that there are problems everywhere - including my beloved Spain - but I just want an extended, all-expenses paid getaway from all of this. In a place where no one knows us or expects anything from us except for a smile over our morning coffee at the local cafe.

8. It was hard for me to come up with these seven things. But now that I've started on the list, more things are coming to mind. Like...

* I would put both of my children in school and become a full-time working woman if I could be a tour guide that traveled regularly to Spanish speaking countries.

* I would stop exercising this very day if it weren't the only thing keeping my insatiable sweet tooth from turning me into one of those people they do shows about on Discovery Channel: 800 pounds and in bed for seven years.

* I wish I could spend entire weeks in bed with piles of books and my journal and markers at my side. Weeks at a time... in my apartment in Madrid.

* Sometimes I think about what I would be doing, where I would be living, and what my life would look like if I'd never gotten married and had children.

* I wish I had/took more time to do the things I secretly want to get really good at, like playing tennis, making jewelry, making cards, scrapbooking, and cooking. Unfortunately, I have not yet made the decision to reduce the serious stuff that's not as much fun. This summer will be a start in that direction. I will be taking the summer off from the two classes I teach at our church and taking quite a few weekends off from translating as well. I need a serious break.

One final confession: When I blog, I obsess about mistakes I make in my writing. I read each post over and over and make dozens of changes while I write it. Then after I publish it, I read it a few more times and go back into editing mode. True to form, I will undoubtedly read this blog four or five times today searching for spelling and grammar errors. My goal will be to not make any changes. Yikes - here goes!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Isn't she lovely?

Today my daughter launched her modeling career. At 5'7" and magnificently beautiful (no bias here!) she was asked to participate in a program at our church called "Girls by Design." Sixteen junior high and high school girls were asked to be models for the "Modest is Hottest" fashion show. One casual outfit and one dressy outfit were chosen by each girl with the help of a personal shopper at a local department store. What fun!

Beautiful girls, all of them. Tall, short, slender, plump, white, black, one in a wheelchair, the girls were between 11 and 18 years of age.

Yes, I think my daughter is beautiful. I tell her everyday how wonderful she is. However, the speaker pointed out that there is more to building our daughters up than telling them what we think of them. She said that we must be careful what we say about ourselves as well. When we say that we hate our thighs or our legs or our necks, our daughters look at themselves in the mirror and begin to think the same thing. Or worse, they think that since they look like us and will probably continue to look like us as they grow older, then perhaps their thighs and legs and necks aren't beautiful after all. And perhaps we aren't telling them the truth when we say that they are beautiful. All of us Moms gashed when she made that connection.

Per the suggestion of the speaker, I plan to institute MoSo and MoDa days with the kids within the next couple of weeks. What do MoSo and MoDa mean? MotherSon and MotherDaughter outings that aren't just the ride from here to horseback riding or here to baseball practice, but rather special time set aside for me to hang out with each of my children. To talk, to connect, to make sure that I have my finger on the pulse of their lives. To sit across from him and across from her at Starbucks or Carvel or at a playground table and talk. What was the best part of today? Who are your five best male friends and best female friends? What can I pray about for you? Good questions that will prompt good discussion. One child at a time, alone with one parent at a time.

Motherhood is the toughest thing I've ever done. Teaching and learning with them, talking and listening to them, laughing and crying with them, cooking and eating with them, playing tennis and Uno with them, hugging and disciplining them, wiping their tears and cleaning up their spills, putting them to bed and being here when they wake up - there's nothing harder, nothing more demanding, nothing more draining, and nothing more rewarding, nothing more fulfilling, and nothing more important than bringing up this boy and this girl to be all that they were born to become. All that God created them to become.

Yes, she is lovely.
Yes, he is lovely.
I am thankful. I am blessed.
Right now I've got a little boy to go kiss and cuddle with.
What about Kristiana? She's at a NASCAR race with neighbors.
Yup, we're in the South now.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for peace of mind, for clarity of thought, and for a much clearer understanding of who I am and what matters most in my life. The past two weeks have been two of the toughest of my life, but I am much better. I am well. In the words of my dear and distant friend, Leonie, "Today I grew like a wildflower."

I am thankful for the green grass, the trees in full bloom, and the sounds and colors of the natural world. Red birds. Greyish brown squirrels. Dark green and mottled red turtles. Yellow and purple pansies. Yellow, purple, white, and blue irises. Red roses. Eyes, skin, hair, and toe nails of countless hues and colors on parade here in Charlotte on this gorgeous 75 degree Thursday.

I am thankful for four hours apart from the cares and responsibilities of life with Katie. In one of the most beautiful, serene, airy, peaceful homes I have ever entered. The attention to details, to crown moldings, to counter tops, to ornamental doorknobs, to mirror size and location, to delicate paintings and hearty pottery, the pool and hot tub, the screened in porch, the lake just 50 feet from the back door - it was all spectacular. We had four hours to sit on the back porch, reading, journaling, and eating Paul Newman mint sandwich cookies and blue corn chips. To sip bottles of Izze grapefruit, pear, and lemon soda, and wash it all down with ice water. To listen to the sound of the water and the geese, the scratch of my pen on the journal pages, Katie's fingers on her computer keyboard, and NPR radio's classical music wafting through the house via the state of the art sound system.

I am thankful that I took time to wander around that magnificent house, camera in hand, capturing images I hope to never forget. I plan to put together an album of photos from today as a reminder that peace, solitude, joy, and quietness are always close at hand.

Not only in that house, but also within me. Within my heart, my mind, my spirit, my thoughts are attention to detail, quietness, strength, delicateness (is that a word?) as well as thickness. Soft, cozy pillows of loving kindness and heavy slate slabs of fortitude. Warm blankets of grace to cover a chilled heart in this cold world as well as breezy panels of screen where laughter and love flow freely through. At times I am airy, light, and welcoming but, when necessary, I can also be resolute, impervious, and stubborn. All of that in all of me.

I am thankful that today I saw that house. I sat there reminding myself: "Live this, G. Breathe it. Right here. Right now. This moment. This place." I read, wrote, and gave thanks. I talked to my friend, hugged her, laughed with her, and together we made plans to return there soon. Perhaps to spend the night.

As I sat poolside, eyes closed, chin raised towards the sunny sky, I wished that loved ones could be there with me to see it, to sip wine, to gaze up at the full moon some dark night, and to fall asleep to the sweet lapping of water at the shore.

Thank you, Gibbs, for opening your home to us for the afternoon. Thanks for being willing to leave us alone there to rest, relax, and be strengthed for all that lies ahead for both of us.

I am thankful also to my children, for their love for one another and for me, for their maturity and security within themselves and with each other, and their willingness to release me to enjoy the afternoon with Katie. It is one of the greatest gifts of my life to know that when I leave them here, my children are fine. They don't fight or argue with each other. They don't answer the door or the telephone unless they recognize a telephone number on caller ID. They are careful when they eat and drink things to put the dishes and other utensils where they belong. While I was gone, they finished their homeschooling assignments and did their chores. Kristiana made sure Daniel had everything he needed when his ride came to take him to baseball practice. They are amazing children, and I am thankful for their love for and unswerving support of me and my need for solitude.

Today I am blessed.
Today I am grateful.
Today I am at peace.
Thanks be to God.

Friday, May 11, 2007

It's been a tough week

Flooding in the Midwest.
Fires in California, Georgia, Florida, and elsewhere.
Families at our church mourn the sudden loss of loved ones.
Sexual harrassment at a dear friend's workplace.
Marriages falling apart and imploding.
The war rages on with no end in sight.
Thirty-five thousand more families will soon send loved ones to Iraq.

But this morning, I stood in the private room of a local restaurant with nearly 20 beautiful black women, holding hands.
Together we sang a simple and powerful song.
"Thank you Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord.
I just want to thank you, Lord.
You've been so good. You've been so good.
You've been so good. I just want to thank you, Lord."

Then I prayed out loud - thanking God, not only for the blessings we see, like each other's faces, our families, our homes, our cars, our cupboards and pantries full of food, but also for the things we don't see - the protection over us and our loved ones as we go back and forth to school and work, as we drive, fly, ride motorcycles, bicycles, and scooters. I thanked Him for courage, clarity, wisdom, and discernment to live with integrity and love. And when we mess up - and surely we will - I pray that we will have the humility to ask for forgiveness, the compassion to extend it as well, and the will to live free from bitterness when forgiveness is neither sought from us nor extended to us. May our days be brighter and our nights quieter because we have opened our hearts and minds to the abundant grace we have received and because we have given thanks for our many blessings.

It's been a tough week for me personally.
Near total relationship and communication breakdown.
Wondering why me, what did I do to deserve this,
and do I care enough to try to repair it yet again?

But the blessings also came this week. Words of encouragement from friends.
Hugs. Telephone calls. Text messages. My children's boundless love.
Tennis this morning. Ice water to drink. Warm water to bathe.
And that group of women, singing and praying and living out these words:
"I just want to thank you, Lord."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Whether a child has come forth from your own loins or not, if you are a woman, you are a mother. You have mothered your own soul to this point in your life. You have mothered the hearts and souls of friends, relatives, and sometimes even strangers. Do you remember the woman working at the grocery store, in the clothing shop, or driving the bus? If you smiled and thanked her, if you laughed with her at something silly and fun, if you helped her by being a thankful and patient patron, then you mothered her a little bit. As women, we mother, we love, we touch, we heal. It's who we are, how we are wired, and one of the most important things we do in life.

(Men are created to do the same thing, but this time I am celebrating Mothers.)

So what am I thankful for today as it relates to Mother's Day?

1. That my mother is alive. Having a mother isn't always easy, but, in most cases, it is considerably easier than not having a mother.

2. That my mother gets to celebrate 50 years of motherhood today - not including the nine months of pregnancy. My oldest brother turns 50 today! Way to go, Otis!

3. That I am a mother to Kristiana and Daniel.

4. That both of my children are healthy, growing, smart, thoughtful, gorgeous children. (When is someone going to explain to me how to upload photos so I can show them off???)

5. That I get to be at home with them every day, teaching them and learning right along with them.

6. That some of the coolest, smartest, and most interesting women I know are raising some of the coolest, smartest, most interesting kids I know. I have been blessed with wonderful women friends. Too many to name. I thank God for each of you every time I remember you.

7. That my son did well in the school interview and on the entrance exam he took yesterday. It's looking very likely that I'll be a teacher of one next year...

8. That I have had all these years to mother my children. My heart breaks when I think of the pain of countless mothers who have lost their children to disease, to famine, to natural disasters, to accidents, and to war and other forms of violence.

9. That I have had the opportunity to mother other people's children. To hold them, change their diapers, bathe them, feed them, babysit, teach, counsel, carpool, host sleepovers, cheer at sporting events, concerts, dance shows, and bake cookies for hungry neighborhood wanderers.

10. That my children have been loved and mothered by others: with artwork (thanks Leonie), with good food (thanks Jill), with friendship and hospitality (thanks Karen, Cathy, Maria, Barbara, Jen, Robin, Jan, Betsy, and so many more).

11. That one of the original reasons for Mother's Day was not the selling of cards and chocolate, but a call for a day of peace. The hope was that mothers would stand together against war and violence. We know the pain of the loss of our sons and daughters to a depth that their fathers, the generals and presidents, the warlords and tsars, will never know.

I hope and pray that on Sunday, Mother's Day 2007, in our hearts and homes and churches and neighborhoods, in the halls of power and prestige, women's voices will be heard as we say: "Enough bloodshed. We love our children. We are proud of our children. And we want our children here at home with us, out of harm's way. Why are their children killing our children? Why are our children killing their children? When can we call a truce on all the bloodshed so that Mother's Day will be a day of peace, laughter, hugs, cards and chocolate - and no longer a day of mourning over the countless thousands of children, sons and daughters, we keep losing?"

I look forward to the cards and sweets and attention that will come my way on Mother's Day. I will accept them all with tears in my eyes and great love in my heart.

And in the back of my mind all day long will be a non-stop prayer for peace. For rest from war. From hatred. From fear. From greed. From all that ails us, our families, our nation, and our world.

Such a day would be the Happiest Mother's Day Ever!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Nine down, seven to go...

The inspiration for this blog came from the Brevity online magazine. The link is provided in my list of links on the sidebar. Click there, open "Brevity 24," and look for the piece called "Nine Days." I laughed out loud and did a wierd little dance when I read it - soooo wishing I could do exactly what she did before my 42nd birthday... which comes this December. There's still time, I guess.


Years of motherhood: 14.25 (including 42 weeks of pregnancy with Kristiana)

Injections of drugs to ease the pain of childbirth: 0

Total number of bottles of formula fed to my children: 0

Total number of months I breastfed the two of them: 31

Number of cloth diapers I emptied into the toilet, soaked overnight in our washing machine, roasted in the dryer, and then applied to their fine, rash-free fannies: I don't even want to know

Hours I waffled over the decision to homeschool them once I learned about it and read my first library book on homeschooling: one half

Years of homeschooling: 9 (unless I include the time it took to teach her to eat and talk and use the bathroom)

Years since my last paycheck: 13.75

Days when I have awakened in a panic about being woefully unprepared for teaching them everything they need to know to walk boldly, nobly, and uprightly in this world: 4,837

Days when I have concluded that sending them to school is the best way to prepare them to walk boldly, nobly, and uprightly in this world: 0

Moments I have regretted any of the above: 0

Moments I have wondered what all of this will amount to seven years from now when my children are both in college: Countless

Minutes after dropping Daniel off at college before I head to the airport for a solo vacation of indeterminate length: no more than 30

PS. Daniel may fly over and out of the cuckoo's nest far sooner than I expected. He is scheduled to take the entrance exam and be interviewed for Charlotte Christian School tomorrow morning.

Minutes I spent trying to talk him out of his desire to go to "real school:" 0

How glad I am that he doesn't consider our one-room fun house a "real school" - Incalculable

How much I am looking forward to the possibility of a 1:1 teacher-student ratio with my dear daughter: Incalculable

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

It's been a very long time since I have written the "Thursday thirteen" - my thankful Thursday post. So here goes.

Today I am thankful for:

1. The long conversation I had with my brother, Darryl, today. He is a very cool dude that I don't talk to nearly enough.

2. The telephone message left by my brother, Otis, a pretty cool dude in his own right. I'm sorry I missed his call, but it is an honor to be thought of and called by two of my three brothers. The third lives in the middle eastern country of Qatar, so it's far less likely that he will call me...

3. Time at the library with my daughter. To collect books to read. To sigh over all the books I'll never get to read. To give thanks for the wonder that is the public library. To finish another volume of my journal: one chapter ends. Another begins.

4. An excellent vegetarian meal, prepared and enjoyed with my daughter. My son at soup my mother made a few days ago, and my hubby was not yet home.

5. The seminar I attended this afternoon about estate planning and design. I had no idea there were so many options for how to distribute our estate to our children, to our church, and to other charitable organizations when we pass away. How exciting to know that decisions we make today about our finances can affect people for many generations beyond our own. And it doesn't take a lot of money to make a big difference.

6. Milk chocolate almond clusters from Trader Joe's. Yum! I balance the less-than-ideal milk chocolate with the dark chocolate almond bark. It all evens out in the end - at least, that's what I tell myself.

7. New clothes purchased while in the company of my best friend last weekend. Thanks for the awesome shopping extravaganza, Karen. I hope you are wearing your new stuff every day.

8. Spending a brief amount of time with Karen's family, her parents, her sister, and her very cute and very quiet niece.

9. The half-hour the children and I spent in prayer this morning. Today is the national day of prayer. First we quietly wrote in our journals the names of people and situations (like the war in Iraq) that we wanted to lift before the throne of grace, seeking grace and mercy to help us in our time of need. And if ever there was a time of need in our nation and our world, it is now.

Then we went around in a circle, the three of us, and for nearly TEN MINUTES we named people, friends, politicians, situations, families in need of prayer. Out loud. My children's memories for people's names and needs are amazing. Their compassion runs deep. The tears flowed. Lord, listen to your children praying. Lord, please, have mercy.

10. The children's California Achievement Test results. The outcome of the CAT has served to affirm and confirm our decision to homeschool them. They both did extremely well. I am proud of them and of myself. Together we are learning from each other, about each other, from the world around us, and about the world. The Silvermine Academy Rocks!

11. An ongoing friendship I have with a young man named Daniel Sanchez. I am amazed that a man who will spend most of the next 20 years behind bars is in such high spirits in every letter he sends to me. Today I received a packet of beautiful drawings, each of which wished me a Happy Mother's Day along with eleven pages hand-written and typed communication. He admitted to his crime and was sentenced to more than 20 years for an act that would normally earn less than 10 years. I pray that someway, somehow this young man's unjust sentence will be reduced. May God have mercy on him and his family.

12. The testimony of a friend who was sexually assaulted by two men about three years ago. She told me that in the midst of that horrible act, she felt the presence of God as never before; she said it felt like He was holding her in the palm of His hand. She has since been able to help other women who have gone through similar horrors. No, she would never wish her circumstances on anyone else, but she told me, through tears, that her belief that even the worst of situations eventually work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose would not be as strong as it is if she had not gone through those dark and painful moments and all that has followed. What a story!

13. The beautiful days we have had here in Charlotte of late. The bright sun warms us by day. The full moon brightens our spirits by night. The grass is green. Flowers are in bloom. Trees are casting shadows and swaying in the breeze.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Giving bathroom duty new meaning

On Thursday morning, I left from gate E10 on a direct flight to White Plains, New York; I spent the weekend in Connecticut. After my most yummy no-whip grande soy white mocha from Starbucks and before my departure, I visited the women's room; the facilities on commuter jets are unreasonably small.

When I entered the lavatory across from the gate, there she was. Hard at work. Dignified and meticulous, she lined up cups of blue Listerine next to each sink. She had bowls of mints, bottles of hand cream, and packs of tissues on a table near the exit. I wish I knew her name, but I didn't ask. I was too mesmerized by her attention to every detail of the needs of the female passengers who entered her domain.

She gave new meaning to "bloom where you are planted." In the bathroom at the end of the farthest terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, she makes every woman feel like a business-class passenger. She cleans each stall after each use. She offers each woman a freshly folded paper towel after hands are washed. The messes she must clean up. The smells she must endure. The impoliteness of the travelers. The lack of attention paid to her despite all the attention she pays to others.

I won't lie; there are times when my life as a stay-at-home mother feels a lot like working the graveyard shift at a budget motel: smelly, never-ending work for done for demanding, low-paying, ungrateful guests. Is this all there is to eat? Can you bring me clean sheets and towels? This pillow is too firm. This pillow isn't firm enough. When was the last time this comforter was washed? Where are my clothes? Did you steal something from my room when you cleaned it? Can you iron this? There's a bug on the wall; can you come to my room and kill it? The toilet is clogged. The sink won't stop dripping. You expect me to leave a tip at this lousy hotel?

Today I washed five loads of laundry. Some of the items were put into the dryer. Some were hung up. The items that came out of the dryer were folded and put into piles according to owner and item type; then all those piles were placed on the beds of their rightful owners. Some items were ironed and hung in the appropriate closets. Baseball items were left in the laundry room in the area designated for baseball apparel. I sorted clothes that are too small for Daniel into bags for a little boy at church. I put his long-sleeved shirts into his closet. I replaced the sheets and comforter on my bed; down comforter season has officially ended in Charlotte. I sorted my own spring and summer tee shirts for ready use.

And that was only the laundry. There was minivan cleanup. There were homeschooling responsibilities. Daniel is applying to go to a local Christian school in the fall, so phone calls and computer work were called for in that regard. Horseback riding. Baseball practice. Walk the dog. Sure, other people could help; but how can hotel guests be expected to clean up after themselves?

But I bloomed. I prayed through folding every towel, grateful for the water, the detergent, the washer and the dryer. I washed the dishes after lunch, grateful for the food we eat, the beverages we drink. I fingered my coffee cup slowly, tenderly - the mug that I bought in La Coruna in January. My dear friend, Antonio, accepted my offer to buy him a mug only if I bought the same one for myself; that way we would think of and pray for each other every time we used it. (Who wouldn't love such a thoughtful friend?) I even prayed through ironing, thankful for the wonderful wardrobe I own and the electricity that surges through our home, heating the iron, powering the air conditioner through 90 degree days, and giving me a view of the world through my computer screen.

I sometimes feel planted, embedded, chained to this house, this life, this noble, though sometimes dreadfully dull, occupation I have chosen. But I am determined to bloom here. To thrive. To lift my heart in thanksgiving and praise every day no matter the circumstances. To lift my eyes in love and laughter when my husband and children enter the house or the room where I am. To lift my senses enough to enjoy the fragrance of clean laundry, crisp sheets, and my children's necks. To lift my spirits through music, dance, reading, journaling, and living as fully as I can every minute of every day.

On those days when I escape, when I head for the airport and fly away to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, when I leave from CLT on my way to MIA, MAD, LCG, or FCO, I will head for the restroom opposite gate E10, rinse my mouth with blue Listerine, leave a healthy tip, and thank that beautiful, hard-working woman for inspiring me to make the most of one of the least appreciated jobs on the market.