Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

From Madrid, from the home of my friends.
It has been a fantastic visit so far.
Playing with little Alvaro.
Wandering through museums with Marta.
Walking and window shopping alone.
Writing in my journal.
Reading The English Patient. (I finished it. As always, the book is far better than the movie.)
Taking pictures.
Visiting with friends.
Getting ready to welcome the new year in just a few short hours.

I have spent some time during these past few days reflecting on the year that is ending today and the year that will begin tomorrow. Highlights and low lights. Travels. Books read. Classes taught. Meals cooked and consumed. Cups of tea and coffee drunk. School outfits ironed. Blogs written and read. Sunsets and sunrises seen. Tears shed. Stomach cramps suffered due to laughter. Text messages sent and received. Emails, text messages, letters, cards, and telephone calls ignored...

The death of the first friend I made in Charlotte.
The birth of new friendships.
Travel in the United States and in Europe.
Classes taught and lessons learned.
Friendships deepened and weakened.

Fires. Drought.
Earthquakes. Floods.
Marriage. Divorce.
Love. Apathy.

Another year come and gone.
Begun and ended right here in Madrid.
I wonder where I will be a year from now when I write my New Year´s Eve blog.

Also I have begun to work on my Mondo Beyondo List - the list of dreams that ¨my heart will keep track of¨ (thanks Jen Lemen for putting that beautiful phrase in your beautiful book, Beginnings) even though my mind will surely forget. My favorite writing teacher says: ¨Take your dreams seriously. Play with them.¨ I like that. I will be playing with a few dreams tonight and in the new year. And I wonder - What dreams may come? What dreams may come true?

Nothing to do now but wait and see.
And pray and laugh and eat and drink and live merry.
Travel and discover and reflect and give thanks.

Happy New Year to one and all.
May peace and joy reign in your lives tonight, tomorrow, in all of 2008 and forever.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I´m here...

At the home of my friends, Leticia and Eduardo, and their beautiful baby, Alvaro. I arrived here without any problems. Flew out of Miami a little late, but arrived here in Madrid without any problem. I came up out of the subway station near my friends´ house, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief, of comfort, and of gratitude.

I know I will never be able to explain it, but there is something about this city that feels more like home to me than Charlotte, than Brooklyn, than anyplace else I have ever been or lived. Inexplicable. Undeniable. At home. My dream would be to move here with Steve and the kids to live for a year or two. Perhaps someday...

Anyway, it´s just after 8 pm here, and I am feeling an extra two pounds on each eyelid. I´m exhausted. I will head to bed soon and hope to wake up fully refreshed in the morning. I´ve got all kinds of adventures planned... let´s see if I can get them all done in the few days I have here.

Thanks to all of you who have said you will keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I covet every one. I plan to take copious notes, hundreds of photos, and write lots of stories upon my return. Perhaps I can post a few tales while I am here.

In any case, I´m here in Madrid.
Feeling tired, but feeling very good.
Hasta maƱana. (See you tomorrow...)

Besos pa´todos. (Kisses for everyone.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hope you had a merry Christmas...

It was a good day for us yesterday, quiet.
Mom and Mom-in-law came for brunch at 9 am.
Both were on their way home by noon.
A quiet afternoon here.
Cleaning up. Putting dining room linens away.
Munching on cookies and other goodies.
Went to the movies with Kristiana to see "Juno."

(It's a movie about a teenager who gets pregnant. How the baby's father responds. How her family responds. How her friends and school respond. Abortion or adoption. Who decides? Based on what premise? If you know a teenage girl or have a teenage girl or are a teenage girl, it's worth a viewing and a frank discussion of "what would happen if that happened to me/you/us?" It is well worth seeing if you have a teenage boy as well; after all, she didn't get pregnant alone. Don't you just love how discussions/rants that focus on the topics of sex, pregnancy, birth control, and abortion are focussed almost exclusively on women? But that's a-whole-nother discussion.)

Back here for some list-checking, packing, journaling, and then I crawled into bed at 10 pm. Exhausted.

Up now. Final packing.
A little bit of panic and disbelief.
Am I really leaving here in less than four hours for Spain? Really?
I guess it's true; time flies whether or not you are having fun.

I will try to post a few blogs while I am away.
I will certainly be doing lots of thinking about future writing.
I will be wishing you all a Happy New Year when the clock strikes 12 in Madrid.

And I will be back in twelve days.

Off I go on another adventure.
Traveling mercies to one and all.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Tis the Day Before Christmas...

Where in the bowl is Gail??? (I wish I could say this was on our table. Alas, it is at the home of a woman I know who hires decorators to do this kind of thing...)


Tis the day before Christmas
And all through our house wafts the scent of a delectable meal in the making.
The sound of Christmas music - Mannheim Steamroller at the moment.
Visions of sugar cookies, birthday cake for Jesus,
and presents for one and all.

I hope and pray that you are enjoying the final preparations for Christmas.
This is indeed the most wonderful time of year -
so please take a moment to take a deep breath and rejoice with those you love.

And if you are in the mood for a giggle, check out this video.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Countdown is On

A photo taken on the morning of New Year's Eve, 2006. My breakfast of champions: Two coffees and a Luna bar at Rodilla, a popular restaurant chain in Madrid. It was going to be a long day - and night. I needed the extra caffeine.

24 hours from now: we will be enjoying the final hours of Christmas Eve. Sitting and staring at the tree. Eating our birthday cake for Jesus - an annual tradition for our family. Talking. Laughing. Listening to music. Commenting on what we thought of the Christmas Eve service at the church.

48 hours from now: we will be enjoying the last hours of Christmas day - and our final night together for a while. Talking about how fast the day and year have passed. About how amazing it is that a baby born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago grew up to be the man whose words and actions serve as our supreme example of love, sacrifice, grace, forgiveness, and life itself.

72 hours from now: I will be on an airplane somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean on my way to Madrid.

Yup, Steve did it again. On his own.
Went online, compiled our frequent flier miles, and booked me a ticket:
Charlotte - Miami - Madrid - Rome - Chicago - Charlotte.
Departing on December 26th.
Returning on January 7th.
He found the hotel in Rome too.

Either he was a travel agent in a former life (not likely - for many reasons)
or he ought to consider being one later in this life.

Here's how this trip came about:

He came home from work one day a couple of weeks ago and said,
"It's done. You're going."

Submissive, compliant wife that I am (I just typed that with my fingers crossed, so it doesn't actually count as a lie!), I asked, "Going where?"

"Madrid and Rome."

"You're kidding."

"No, I'm not. You'll leave on the day after Christmas, go to Madrid for six nights, and then fly to Rome and spend five nights there."

A couple dozen questions and responses flew back and forth between us for about ten minutes. Then nothing. Silence. Heart racing. Smiling. Realizing. Accepting.

"Okay. I'll go."

So I'm going. To spend time with Leticia and Eduardo and their son, Alvaro - who is now one year old. I will walk and think and write in my journal. Read and prepare to teach my journaling class. Collect coffee shop receipts. Spend time alone.

The Prado. The Thyssen. El Museo Sorolla. Eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year's Eve. A classical music concert on New Year's Day. Followed by a nap. Followed by packing my suitcase.

An early morning flight from Madrid to Rome on January 2nd. Santa Maria del Popolo. The Borghese Gallery. The Vatican. Santa Maria Maggiore. San Giovanni in Laterano. The Galleria Doria Pamphilj. Meeting up with old friends. Hopefully making new friends.

What will I do?
Who will I meet?
How much will I learn?
How many tears will I shed?

Yes, the countdown is on.

PS. Has anyone seen the amazing (near) full moon tonight?

This photo was taken as I walked from my hotel to Leticia and Eduardo's apartment building in January of this year. In Madrid.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Today is the shortest and darkest day of the year...

My daughter crept quietly into our bedroom just after 7 this morning.
I was already awake, sitting up at the side of the bed.

I asked: "It's already light outside. Do you still wanna go?"
She answered: "Yup."

So she put a sweatshirt on over her pajamas.
I put on my long red robe over mine.

We went out to the minivan, and I immediately started to cry. I'm emotional that way. Just the sight of a glorious morning sky makes me weep. (No, it's not my hormones this time.)

We drove up the street and around the corner.
We drove through a few parking lots and turned around in a few circles.
Then we discovered the perfect spot.
To watch the sun rise over the horizon.

You see, this morning was the winter solstice.
The beginning of the shortest day of the year.
The hours of daylight will lengthen from now on.

Last night before bed, Kristiana explained to me that she'd been reading a book about a teenage homeschooler who invited her whole town to join her to watch the sunrise on the morning of the winter solstice. To welcome the beginning of a new cycle of life. She was obviously impressed and inspired by her heroine's adventure. Then, tentatively, she asked me if I'd be willing to go watch the sunrise with her. "Of course I will go with you."

We sat there in the car, watching colors burst across the sky. Clouds parted.
Traffic lights and power lines obstructed our view, but we watched anyway.

As we looked on, we talked about how real estate development and busyness and traffic hassles have distracted so many people from the glory of creation. We recalled driving along a local road one afternoon a couple of years ago when we saw a double rainbow in the sky - the entire length of both rainbows was visible. I opened my window and screamed out my delight. I pointed to the sky. I tried to get other drivers to look. A few seconds later, we stopped at a traffic light, and I looked around. All eyes in all the cars were glued on the red light, willing it to turn green. No one seemed to be paying attention to the double strand of red/orange/yellow/green/blue/indigo/violet splendor that hung just overhead. I wanted to scream, "What's wrong with you people?" but thought better of it. I probably would have been arrested for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace at the next intersection. The magnificent double rainbow nobody sees. The ranting, raving, shouting, laughing, crying black woman with wild dreadlocs pointing towards the sky - everybody sees her.

Anyway, back to today's events... Recently Kristiana and I read that wonder is the purest form of worship. There we sat together. In wonder. In worship. Mother and daughter. In our pajamas. In the minivan. Together. Talking. Crying (I was crying. She was fine.) It was a perfect moment.

As we sat there, Kristiana read a familiar passage from Isaiah.
Familiar especially at this time of year.

"Arise, shine, for your Light has come.
The glory of the Lord is risen upon you."

On this morning of the shortest day of the year, we arose to see the light shine, to see the glory rise upon us from the Eastern sky. Good news: There is only more light to come in the coming days and weeks. More Light Indeed.

On the way home, I thanked her for inviting me to join her.
She flicked her elegant wrist and wryly said, "I needed a ride."

Merry winter solstice night!
Merry Christmas!

Addendum - It's 10:45 pm. Kristiana just informed me that today is NOT the winter solstice after all. I guess I'm not such a great homeschooling teacher - my daughter hasn't yet mastered the art of reading the calendar. But the rest of the story is true; it really is. We can try for another sunrise viewing on a later date. Oh well...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A few random thoughts...

On December 1st, I began the Christmas journal. I think I mentioned it here way back then. I admit that I've been pretty faithful to it since then. It has been a challenging, but also thought-provoking activity for me. Shimelle's questions about presents, wrapping paper, memories of Christmas past, favorite holiday traditions, and dreams about future celebrations have brought smiles to my lips and tears to my eyes. I love this time of year, and this journal has helped me to appreciate it even more.

Today I wandered around Charlotte with Kristiana and Daniel, running errands, going to the library (twice), CVS, the pediatrician, and a few other places. We walked and talked, laughed and told stories, cried (at the doctor's office), and marveled at the tacky things for sale in our city.

And all the while, all the while,
I prayed for more rain. (Some rain is in the forecast for the weekend!)
I gave thanks for my two children and their great health.
I tried to imagine when I would pick up one more gift for Daniel and wrap everything.
I made plans for an upcoming trip - details to follow.
I thought about friends whose words of encouragement and love have touched me in deep ways lately: Karen, Lisa, Jen G, Jen L, Amy, Kim, Val, Dinah, Laura, Laurie, Shelby, Mel, Giovanna, Maya, Virginia, Jill, Mary, Katie, to name a few.

We came home and enjoyed a yummy vegetarian dinner. Then Kristiana and I went next door to spend time with the neighbors who make and consume more Christmas cookies than any other family I have ever known. K and I went over to help Robin and her daughter pick out five or six kinds of cookies for them to make - before Christmas. After Christmas, they will make another set of five or six kinds. (FYI - they are an extremely active and fit family - and they happen to LOVE cookies. They invite Kristiana over at Christmas time to help them bake, and in exchange, we are blessed with many plates of cookies to enjoy. Truthfully, they invite Kristiana over regularly for hours at a time to cook, play games, and simply hang out. This is the same woman who invites all the neighborhood families to her house for potluck dinners whenever there is a snowday. Admittedly, it doesn't happen often here in Charlotte, but when it does, we all head over for a feast at their place. They are the kind of neighbors that make living on a dead end street feel quite lively.)

Even as I sat with them, I felt a stream of gratitude flowing through my mind. Words of thanks for my immeasurably generous neighbors. Warmth in our home while so many are in the cold and dark in the midwest. Food in the pantry. Warm clothes in the closet. Shoes. Socks. Light bulbs. Scented candles and soaps. An odd collection of books and videos. Boxes of incense. Piles of photographs. Sensitive toothpaste. This computer. The camera that took the photos I share here on the blog.

Since returning home from next door, my mind has wandered back to the Christmas journal. To my early hopes that this Christmas would be different, more reflective, less hectic, more enjoyable, less consumeristic (is that even a word?). So far, those hopes have become my reality. More tea parties for one or two. Fewer trips to the mall. More time reading and creating artwork with Kristiana. Less worry about what others think of how I look and what I'm wearing.

Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) said she used to dream of having "a bigger, smaller life." When I first heard her say that, it made no sense to me. Now it makes perfect sense. I want to love bigger. Smile bigger. Laugh bigger. Have bigger friendships. Bigger dreams. Take bigger risks. Drink bigger mugs of earl gray tea. Shop smaller. Consume smaller. Live smaller. Eat smaller. Endure smaller disagreements. Withstand smaller emotional and spiritual crises. A big, small life.

The Christmas journal journey began 18 days ago.
It will continue until January 6th - another 19 days.
Many dreams have already come true.
Many hopes are yet to come to life.
Big dreams, small dreams.

Today I have a wonderful life.
Today I am thankful.
Today I am happy.
All is well.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Many Thanks...

Another photo from my recent trip to NYC. This was my beautiful little cheesecake - dessert after lunch at The Met. Who wouldn't want to take a photo of this masterpiece before devouring it in three or four large gulps? Yum, yum! I celebrated life, liberty, and the pursuit of dessert that glorious afternoon. (I dab the tears from the corners of my weary eyes and groan a little inside when I see those glasses on the table. Boo-hoo... Turns out I'll be able to replace them after the New Year. I am enormously grateful for medical insurance.)


It never ceases to amaze me how the internet - the blogging world, in particular - brings complete strangers together in ways that "regular" life never would. People who live clear across the country feel and act closer to me than people I see on a regular basis.

Email, cards, e-cards, and thoughtfully chosen, carefully packaged gifts have arrived here from near and far wishing me a happy birthday. Thank you to all of you who have celebrated my life with me over these past few days. It means more to me than you will know. So very much more.

Curious factoid: On the one hand, I have received several celebratory birthday greetings from people who have never met me face to face. On the other end of the relational spectrum, my three brothers have (once again!) failed to acknowledge my birthday. I am the youngest of four children and the only female/sister. How can they forget about me so completely and so frequently? It saddens me to admit that this has happened so many times that it doesn't surprise me anymore. The truth is that I am surprised when they do remember.

With that factoid in mind, I send out an extra "Thank you" to all of you who have filled in and served as the sisters I've never had. (No worries about hurting my brothers' feelings as none of them read my blog - at least not that they have ever acknowledged. We'll see if this comment brings about a response of some kind...)

PS. It's raining here in Charlotte - a nice steady rain.
We need every drop of it.
Thanks be to God.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's My Party...

As the winds of time continue to blow through my life, and I am reminded of how small I am in comparison to the world and the universe around me, I am more and more grateful for and awed by the magnitude and splendor of all the blessings I have known during my life. It hasn't always been easy, but all is well. All is well. All manner of things shall be well.

I took these photos on my recent trip to NYC. The first is in the foyer of a friend's house - nice front window. The second is at an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Awe-inspiring. Beautiful. Simple. Grand.

It's my party.
So celebrate with me.
Light a candle or two.
Say a prayer.
Smile at and say hello to a stranger.
Drink an extra hot peppermint mocha.
Eat Christmas cookies before dinner.
Hug someone you love and tell them how you really feel.


Tomorrow is my birthday!!!
I'll be 42 years old.
Yeah for me!

It's been a great life thus far.
Glory be!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sometimes you just have to say...

Backs straight.
Shoulders back and down.
One, two, three. Click.

Be silly.
Make faces.
Have fun.
What the heck?

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Christmas Mystery

I admit to being a geek. Anybody who knows anything about me knows that I always carry a notebook of some kind or size to take notes on my life. I don't do it because I intend to blog about everything that happens to me; I really don't. But I do it because I intend to do what Mary, the mother of Jesus, did when He was born and as He grew up. I intend to ponder these things in my heart.

Over that past few weeks, I have taken a lot of notes on my life and on life in this city I have grown to love. Here are some of the things I am pondering these days.


Why do people give presents to each other at Christmas time? If Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, then what do presents have to do with that? If Christmas is not about celebrating Christmas, then what do presents have to do with it? (Yes, we give presents to our children. Every year, I raise this question with Steve and the children. Every year, the other three people in my house hope and pray that I won't force this issue. Every year so far, the majority has won out.)

Why don't we listen to Christmas music all year round? (I do, but why don't other people?)

What is the deal with the huge inflated snowmen and life-size snow globes outside of people's houses? Why don't people leave them inflated during the day? All those huge plastic/rubber cadavers on front lawns are pretty weird. And why on earth do people risk life and limb putting not only those strange figurines, but also electric lights and deer on their roofs and gutters? What does any of that have to do with Christmas?

Last night at our church's Christmas concert, I was struck by two simple sentences in a song that was sung. "It's still a mystery to me that the hands that made the world could be so small. It's still a mystery to me that those infant eyes saw the dawn of time."

If Jesus, God the Son, came to earth through Mary,
if the story of His birth as told in the book of Luke is true,
then there is no greater mystery.

What wondrous love is this.
Joy to the World.
O Holy Night.

Do we really do all of this because of that?

Friday, December 07, 2007

"Come to the table."

On Wednesday, Kristiana and I went to our favorite Wednesday noon church service. My awesome and beautiful friend, Katie, is a minister at a church in the center of Charlotte, and she offers a thoughtful and challenging message each week. On the first Wednesday of each month, Communion is served. "The table is set," she informs us. "These are the gifts of God for the people of God. Come, let us keep the feast." With those simple words, we are invited to "come to the table."

Because I want to be as close to Katie as possible, Kristiana and I always sit in the first row. We are the first people to rip off a hunk of fresh bread, dip it into the grape juice, and feast on the symbols of the broken body of our loving Lord. Then we slip back into our seats and wait, watching the other followers of The Way come and partake.

This week, something miraculous happened as I sat there. As I watched, I felt my awareness of each of the parishoners heightened and sensitized. A line of anonymous people suddenly became a processional of weary, hungry travelers. "They" became "we." I wondered how I had missed them for so long. No matter - I immediately began to pray for those who waited in line and those who were eating the bread. I prayed for their families, their job situations, their health, their fears, and all that could possibly be on their hearts and minds.

And for a brief moment, I felt it all. I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotions and tears filled my eyes.

For just an instant:
I saw the overweight woman - and felt the pain and shame and fear and invisibility and anguish of being overweight in our society with its obsession with thinness.

I saw the balding man with scars on his face - and felt that pain of his anxiety about how he looks in a world where every man is compared to Brad Pitt.

I saw the gentleman in his 50's - and felt the pain and fear of job loss in this nation with its weak economy. What if he loses his job and joins the millions who are facing mortgage crises?

I saw the young couple that comes each week - and felt the weight of their relationship. What do their families expect of them at this time of year? Whose family do we visit? Whose family do we see first?

I saw the young black woman - and felt her self-consciousness in a world where white and blonde and thin are the standards of beauty.

I saw the young black man in his suit and starched white shirt - and thought of all the black men who, no matter how they are dressed or what they do for a living, are seen as threatening, dangerous, and therefore, suspected of some unsolved crime.

I saw them all, pastors, business people, unemployed, full-time moms, full-time dads, people teetering on the edge of joblessness and homelessness - and I felt the deep agony of the human condition.

The fear and doubts.
The disappointments and despair.
The loneliness and angst.
The overwhelming busyness of this time of year.

I heard the questions that plague us all:
Who am I? Why am I here?
Who sees me? Who knows me?
Who loves me? Who hates me?
Why am I so afraid and lonely?
Who cares that I am alive?
Who would notice if I disappeared from my job and neighborhood?

Fortunately, the feeling passed quickly. I don't know how long I could have sat there without bursting into tears. Without crying aloud for the mercy of God to be felt by every person there. Outwardly, I dropped my head and took a deep breath. Inwardly, I pleaded for mercy for all of us. And I gave thanks that the One who bears our burdens, the One who cares for us, He is the One who invites us to partake and who gave His life that we might live, who emptied Himself that we might be filled. What wondrous love is this...

I thanked God that I don't have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.
I thanked God that He was there with me and with all of us at that moment. At this moment. And for all time.

And most of all, I thanked God that to all of us,

the weary and worn,
the tired and tempted,
the lonely and unloved,
the bereaved and beleaguered,
the unemployed and the unnoticed,
the insured and the ignored,
the frustrated and fat,
the rich and poor,
the healthy and the ill,
the glad and the sorrowful,

to each of us, the message, the invitation is the same:
"Come to the table."

There we were. Here we are. Standing in line.
Waiting for The Bread of Life.
The fruit of the vine - the life-giving blood of our Lord.
Hoping it doesn't run out.
Knowing somehow, in the deepest place, that it never will.
Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Falling in Love

I love love. I love falling in love. I love being in love.
I have fallen in love at first sight. At second sight.
In three days. In three hours. In three conversations.
I love reading about love. I love listening to music about love.
I love watching movies about love. I love writing about love.
Love is grand.

Right now, I'm reading a book about Advent. It's a book written by one Cistercian monk - Basil Pennington - about another Cisterian monk - Thomas Merton. Merton was a man who loved God, loved people and, for a few torrid months, loved a woman named Marge. In this Advent book I am reading, Pennington comments on celibate love, married love, and Merton's love for Marge in particular.

Here are a few excerpts about love that I love:

* Celibacy is first of all a giving as person. It doesn't preclude other deep loves, relationships, experiences of such love, even appropriate physical expressions. Fidelity to the Lord in this commitment of love does rule out allowing any other person or desire from getting such a hold on me that it gets in my way of being wholly to the Lord and of my placing those persons and desires within my relationship with Him.

* I am human. I fall in love. I have desires. In themselves, all these are OK; in fact, they are good. I cannot have too much love in my life. I cannot love too many people and be loved by them too much. Every love can be fostered by and enjoy appropriate physical expressions. But the celibate heart will not willingly allow these experiences or the desire for them to interfere with or distract from the complete "yes" to the Lord and the expressions of that "yes" that are due.

* When I am well centered in my love, then I can freely love others and enjoy that love and expressions of it. These all come out of that center and are beautiful expressions of and participation in it. I can be a real lover... All of this holds true for a married man when his life is well centered in his love for his wife in God. And the same is true for a married woman.

* If we are at all realistic, we know if we do open ourselves to loving others, there is always the probability that feelings and desires will soon arise. Should we then guard against falling in love? Such guardedness can be overdone and lead to truncation as a human person. Allowing the space for love insofar as our commitments allow and being ready - as ready as we can be - to struggle for a proper integration of the feelings and emotions that may well ensue, calls for a lot of courage and self-confidence in the right sense and confidence in God, the love of our life.

*** And here's the clincher for me***
* I think I would rather fall on the side of risking love and struggle, than risk being too guarded and miss the beauty and loveableness of my brother and sister made in Love. If Tom [Merton] deliberately chose to open himself to Marge's love and to loving her, it was a courageous thing.

Indeed, to choose to love someone is a courageous act.
To admit that love to its recipient is heart-stoppingly scary.
To know that someone else on the planet knows that they are loved is priceless.
But why not? Is there anything else in life that is worth fear, angst, hand-wringing, and panic, but love?

Who do you love?
Who do you want to love?
Who are you gonna love?
When are you gonna tell him or her how you feel?
What are you waiting for?

Who couldn't love these two faces - and the people that inhabit these faces?
I love loving them - and their father.

The quotations we copied from On Retreat with Thomas Merton. Author: M. Basil Pennington @1988
Based on accounts described in Learning to Love. Author: Thomas Merton @ 1968.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Stranger in Our House

This one was passed along to me this morning by a friend. I like it. I am challenged by it. I wish it weren't true of our home, but it is.


The Stranger

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Texas town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger...he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry.

The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home... Not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our long-time visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush.

My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked.. And NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents' den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name?...............

See below:







We just call him, "TV."

P. S.
He has a wife now....We call her "Computer."

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Good News and Bad News

The good news first: Steve and I went away for the weekend. To Charleston, South Carolina. Stayed at the Charleston Marriott. Great view of the river (not sure which river) from our top floor room. Oohed and aahed at the colorful sunset on Friday night. Ate a pile of deep-fried hush puppies at Hyman's last night. Excellent marriage conference. Time alone. Together. Talking. Laughing. Eating. Drinking. Listening to funny and inspirational speakers. Saw a couple from our church, from the marriage class we are taking on Wednesday nights. Met an engaged couple and committing to pray for them as they enter the challenging and exciting part of their life journey called marriage. Met another couple that I wish lived closer - Angel and Annette seemed like a fun-loving pair.

Took this photo in a bathroom mirror at Williams College this past summer. We were in Billsville (otherwise known as Williamstown, Massachusetts) for our 20 year college reunion. Took this photo on our final night there. I was finally ready to go join my classmates outside on Baxter Lawn to reminisce, eat, dance, and try to relive our glory days. I was happy. As you can tell. And I could see - thanks to my very cool glasses.
Read on...

The bad news from this weekend: I LOST MY PRESCRIPTION EYEGLASSES. I still cannot believe they are gone. I have absolutely no reasonable explanation for their disappearance.

But these are the facts as I recall: I don't need them to read. So I took them off at the hotel restaurant on Friday night before I read the menu. That is the last time I used them. Less than an hour after we finished dinner, I noticed that they were missing. Since then... nothing. We asked at the restaurant hostess stand, the bar, the front desk, housekeeping, the hotel lost and found, the conference directors' table. Nothing. We asked each of the above two or three more times - each. The speaker at the conference made an announcement from the platform. Nothing.

Steve, being the generous soul that he is, told me that they were cool glasses, but not as cool as the ones I'm going to get this week. Not to brag or anything, but they were very cool glasses. They had polarized transitions lenses that turned the perfect shade of gray in the sunlight. They were exactly the right size and shape for my face. The reddish brown frames matched the red highlights in my hair and the chocolate brown undertones in my skin. They had colorful stripes on the inside of the frames, not because anyone could see them. Not because they helped resolve my vision problems. Nope, those stripes were there simply to make the glasses look cool. Perfect strangers have complimented me on them.

I miss them terribly, and not only because they looked so cool. But also because I need them to drive, to watch movies, to read the screens at church, all that sort of thing. Thanks be to God I don't need them to read or write. Or I would truly be sunk!

I know, I know.

There is a war raging in Iraq. There is war simmering in Afghanistan.
Genocide is still taking place in various countries in our world.
There are millions who are homeless after earthquakes, typhoons, and cyclones.
There is a record-setting drought gripping the southern region - and elsewhere.
There are billions of people on the planet living on less than $3 per day.
I know I should stop my whining.

But still...
I miss my glasses.