Friday, February 27, 2009


1 : to pulsate or pound with abnormal force or rapidity

I get hormonal headaches every month and have for several years. Some are worse than others and some last longer than others. Yesterday I had one that was bad, but only about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, which is better than an 8 or a 9 which is not uncommon for me. Even better, it only lasted a day, which is a huge blessing since they sometimes run several days in a row.

When I have this type of headache, my head throbs with every breath and it feels like my brain is encased in a cloud of pain. The cloud of pain is bad enough in its own right. It doesn't just hover outside my brain, but seeps inside, making gears that normally click along painlessly grind to a halt and move creakingly when forced. I think slower on these days. It takes me a few seconds longer to process a simple request or respond when necessary. So I normally try to stay away from people as much as possible when I am feeling this way. Because people make you talk. And if the cloud of pain throbs when I'm alone and quiet, it roars when I am forced to talk.

Each word must first be painstakingly processed on those creaky gears inside the cloud of pain and then forced outside the cloud. Something about pushing that word from inside the cloud of pain to outside it intensifies the pain. I'm not exactly sure why, but I can tell you it is true. Talking, just normal conversation that people do everyday, is excruciating.

You may be wondering at this point if I try to tough these headaches out or if I take medication. I'm not hesitant to take medication when I'm feeling this way, but nothing really helps. I took both Advil and Aleve yesterday and while they may have decreased the intensity slightly, the cloud of pain did not truly clear my head until I awoke this morning. The only medication that has helped in the past was wearing an estrogen patch. Given the history of breast cancer in my family, it's probably better to suffer periodic headaches than to jolt my system with estrogen every month.

This morning when I checked my e-mail, I had a Goodreads update from a friend who is a fellow introvert. She is reading a book called The Introvert Advantage and it made me wonder how much of my experience of a headache is driven by my natural introversion. While the cloud of pain screams when I must go outside of myself, I wonder if an extrovert deals with the pain by pushing past it. Does my mind hold on to the pain because I am hardwired to be introspective, inward and a thinker? Do I cling to what my mind creates, even when it is pain? Does an extrovert manage to push past the pain or just force it to dissipate in a way I can not? I'm not sure, but I am thankful to be past this particular headache and hopeful that the next time I have one, it will be a day I can spend alone.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


: a person who is engaged in the development and a garden

If you know me, you'd never use the word "gardener" to describe me. When we bought this house, we inherited roughly 10 vegetable and flower beds. It's a small plot of urban land to house such vegetation and to say that it died a slow death at the hands of J and I would be the kindest description. We finally gave in a few months ago and paid someone to kill what was left and plant grass. We figure we might be able to manage that.

But today, I am dreaming big. I met with Farmer Jason, who is going to help me plant a vegetable garden in the back yard. The first summer we lived in this home, we followed the vegetable garden footprint of the previous owner and planted tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini and cucumbers. It went OK, but the weeds were more than I had planned for and I had no knowledge or past experience to help me when certain plants died or languished instead of thriving. I was frankly thankful for the summer to come to an end and to dismantle the beds and let grass take over. I am hoping Farmer Jason will change all of that.

For a nominal fee (less than I would spend to participate in a CSA over the summer), he will prepare my garden, buy and bring in soil/compost, plant my veggies and check in with me over the summer to make sure all is going well. He said to think of him as a gardening coach, which I am happy to do.

While I recall not-so-fondly the weeds that invaded my vegetable beds years ago, I have lovely memories of watching the tomato blossoms turn into small green, then large green and, finally, lovely red orbs that exploded with flavor in our mouths. A & B were young, but I remember them walking in from the back yard with baskets of tomatoes plucked fresh from the vines. If they enjoyed the process then, when guided by a mother ignorant of all things gardening, I am nearly giddy with excitement at what we will experience together this summer. They are old enough to help plant, water, harvest and cook our veggies.

Did you notice I said "cook"? My mouth starts salivating as I imagine tomato tart, fresh bruschetta, homemade salsa and countless other treats our family will enjoy. So while I'm no gardener, I'm hoping Farmer Jason will work his mojo and turn me in to one. As we sorted through seed packets today and I started talking enthusiastically about all of the yummy things I would cook with the bounty from these little packets, he told me I was the perfect candidate for this type of project. I do hope he's right!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


3 a: to put into the possession of another for his or her use b (1): to administer as a sacrament (2): to administer as a medicine c: to commit to another as a trust or responsibility and usually for an expressed reason

I've been thinking about what responsibilities we have to use the gifts we are given. In the passage I am studying this week in Philippians, there is a lengthy passage that amounts to an If/Then statement. My own summary of the passage to help me remember it was If Received, Then Give.

If you receive kindness, give it to someone else for his or her use. If someone overlooks your hasty tone of voice and gives you a smile, respond in kind. I've found this works in a negative way as well. This afternoon, B did not want to get dressed for soccer. While she loves sports, the only time she wears shorts or pants is when required. To say that she prefers skirts and skorts is an understatement. Today it was cold enough that she needed to not only wear the detested shorts, but two shirts as well to practice. As my tension escalated, so did hers. Soon, our emotions were high and our voices were raised. When I asked her to stop yelling at me, she asked me to stop yelling at her. While I wasn't actually yelling at that moment, she had a point. She had been giving me exactly what she received. What a poor example I set sometimes.

Yet the proverb tells us to train a child in the way she should go and when she is old, she will not depart from it. I once heard someone point out that this proverb does say she won't depart from it in high school - it says when she is OLD. So I'm hopeful that when I give my daughters kind words, a well-cooked meal, a hug when they come home from school (things that they each take for granted right now), that one day they will give these gifts - or others - to someone they know and love.

About this time last year, I was talking with A about our gifts and how she uses the gifts she has to bless other people. She and I talked about how great it would be if when she gets to heaven and God asks for her box of gifts, she's able to hand over an empty box because she's used up all of her gifts by pouring them out for other people. I hope that image stays with her like it has stayed with me.

I hope A is not the only one to arrive in heaven with her box of gifts empty. I hope I won't hoard my gifts out of fear of using them. I've spent some time this week contemplating my weaknesses. It's hard to assess them objectively, but it's perhaps even harder to assess my gifts objectively. So I'll just try for now to give back what I've received, starting with words.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


1 a: to perceive by the eye b: to perceive or detect as if by sight
2 a
: to have experience of : undergo (see army service) b: to come to know : discover
3 a
: to form a mental picture of : visualize (can still see her as she was years ago) b: to perceive the meaning or importance of : understand c: to be aware of : recognize (sees only our faults) d: to imagine as a possibility : suppose (couldn't see him as a crook)

What does it mean to see? I take the gift of perceiving by the eye for granted, but what would my life be like if I truly saw (discovered, visualized, understood, recognized) God, myself, others?

GOD: Would truly seeing God totally change the way I see others and myself or is it arrogance to think that seeing him would let me see like him? What filters do I put over my eyes before looking at God? What parts of his character do I not see - not because they aren't there, but because I don't want to see them?

MYSELF: How does a focus on who I am not make me miss who I am? A quote I read today said, "My self-perception is as accurate as a carnival mirror." J laughingly said he sees himself in the thin mirror, but I think I see myself in the fat one, with all of my flaws enormously magnified. It's hard to get enough distance to see myself authentically, not through the lens of knowing my own heart and its depravities.

OTHERS: How does how I see myself hinder the way I see others? Do I let my fears about who I am (see MISFIT)
prevent me from taking a long look at others to see who they really are? Isn't there a whole range between perceiving someone with my eyes and understanding them as a person? Do I let my insecurities keep me from going beyond that first, superficial level?

What glasses do I have on that I need to take off? What glasses do I need to put on? How can I take off the glasses to truly see? I want to do that, but it sounds a lot like jumping without a parachute.

Friday, February 20, 2009


1 : something that fits badly
: a person who is poorly adapted to a situation or environment (social misfits)

For most of my life, I've felt like a misfit. Depending on the season I'm in, my confidence level or just the day of the week, I am sometimes more OK with this than others. One reason I include the definitions of words in my posts is that it's sometimes surprising what is or is not included in a definition. I find it interesting that the definition of misfit places the burden of not fitting in on the misfit. According to Merriam Webster, I'm a misfit because I am poorly adapted. I'm pretty sure I don't agree with that, but it does raise the question of who determines whether someone is a misfit for not. Is it based on internal perception or external? I don't know whether other's would describe me as a misfit, but it's how I see myself. Who's right?

As I was part way through writing this post, two different phone calls came through - both of which caused me to refer to this post. During the first, I was talking with a friend about an experience she recently had where she felt an acquaintance/friend did not understand her at all. My slightly different take on it was that the other woman did understand, but was too insecure and defensive to respond in kind. I told her that I was writing about "misfit" and that the older I get, the more I am aware of how other people express their insecurities. It's often in a way that might lead you to another conclusion initially. For example, I think most people who are very critical have deep-seated insecurities. Being critical of others allows them to talk about someone else instead of being authentic and geniune and talking about their own thoughts, feelings, hopes or dreams.

On the second phone call, I was talking with a friend about an upcoming women's retreat and my desire to skip a session on connecting with other women in favor of more time in solitude. She said, "Well, the point of the sessions is to connect and you're already very connected, so it's fine for you to skip it." I may look connected, but I'm not sure I always feel that way.

I was thinking not long ago that ever since A was born, I've longed for friends whose children are the same age or a tad older. I don't know what I'm doing as a mom and I'd love some friendly guidance instead of making my way blindly along! Yet A is now 9 years old and I've yet to really find that. I have dear friends at church, but while most of them are about my age, their children are younger. It's not like I have a lot of wisdom to share with them - most of them are better moms than I am! I definitely enjoy their company, but I do sometimes long for someone to tell me how she handled it when her pre-teen daughter started using a tone of voice that verged on disrespectful or how she diffused her daughters' verbal disagreements while allow them to express themselves.

The logical place to seek friends like this might be my daughters' school, but I'll admit that I sometimes feel like I'm not cool enough to live in East Nashville. Don't get me wrong - I love it here and really can't bear the thought of living in a suburb. But the moms at my daughters' school seem so connected to each other that I am hesitant to try to insert myself and don't really know how to go about that anyway. A & B were in 2nd and 1st grade when we moved them to their current school, so there was an entire network of relationships already in place when we arrived on the scene. While they have each found a group of friends, I think it's been a harder transition for me.

While I'm making the case here for why I feel like a misfit, I should also admit that there are times when I'm not sure that it's a bad thing to be a misfit. I want connection and relationship, but I don't want it at the expense of being me. I don't want to conform to someone else's notion of who I should be nor do I want to push my vision for who I want to be onto someone else. B's art teacher told me a few months ago that B lamented aloud in art class, "There's no one like me. Sometimes I feel so weird." Her teacher replied (to the entire class),"That's a great thing! I feel that way, too! Why would you want to be like everyone else?" I can empathize with B and her teacher. I do feel weird sometimes, but why would I want to be like everyone else?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


4 a: the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects ; also : works so produced b (1): fine arts (2): one of the fine arts (3): a graphic art

Last Friday, A, B and I went by FairyTales on our way home. If you live in Nashville and haven't been there - go. It's so much more than a bookstore. And I'm not one to complain about anything being just a bookstore! Anyway, while I was there, I was chatting with a woman who works there. Every time I go, she and I have great conversations about art, life, books, etc. This time, I was there to pick up a bracelet that she custom made for me - it says WORDS on one side and CREATE on the other. I like that it can read both as a command "Create Words" and as a reminder "Words Create."
I can't remember exactly what prompted it, but we started talking about art and how part of art is the sharing of it. If someone paints a canvas that stays in the back of the closet, is it art until it's viewed by someone else?

My daughter B gets this completely. She wants to share everything she creates. For Valentine's Day, she created 13 ceramic hearts, one for each girl in her class (including herself!). They were beautiful in their variety and on their own. And if the beauty of the hearts wasn't enough, she had colored each envelope containing a heart to match the heart inside. She had put thought into who would receive each heart and when I gently tried to convince her to maybe give one to A and the remainder to her teachers, she was adamant. She created these for her friends. While a tiny selfish part of my heart really wanted to push her to change her mind because I wanted some of these beautiful objects to linger in our home, she was the artist and I felt her vision for these should be honored.

If B gets that art must be shared, I find this the hardest and most compelling part of creating. I do want to share what I write, but I'm also terrified to do so. It's one thing to write non-fiction that isn't trying to set a mood, shape a character or lead a reader in. But each thing I write - even a little post - is a part of me and that's hard to put on display.

I'm a modernist when it comes to determining the meaning of a work of art. By that I mean I don't think the artist has any more say than the viewer or reader in determining what the art means. While that is great in theory, it means that I give up control of my words when I share them. I can do the best I can to write clearly, articulate myself well and choose my words carefully. But the way you read them is what gives them meaning. To me, that's beautiful... and a little scary. Read carefully.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


1 : to stupefy especially by a blow : stun
: to dazzle with light

It was quite an afternoon around here. While picking A & B up from school, I found out that a neighborhood mom passed away late last night from spinal meningitis. It was very sudden. She had a headache and neck pain yesterday, went to the ER and never came home. I didn't know her well. I'd met her a few times on the playground and it was only when I heard the names of her daughters that I put the name with the face. It left me shaken to think about her two young daughters suddenly motherless and her husband facing raising these girls alone.

As I came home and put laundry into the dryer, I was thinking about how bad a headache would have to be for me to go to the ER. I get headaches all the time - some of them fairly severe - but I've only been to the doctor once for a headache and that was because it interfered with my vision. As I was contemplating this, I remembered that J had told me when I spoke with him that his neck started hurting this morning, giving him a horrible headache that had not responded to medication. Feeling more than a touch crazy, I called him and told him to please check the symptoms for meningitis online and go to the ER if they applied.

Now, J is a bit of a hypochondriac, but hearing me think this way was a little startling for him. I explained why I wanted him to check and while we were still on the phone, a large mirror that has been above our mantle for more than six years fell crashing to the ground. The noise was horrific, the mess stunning. I ended the call quickly, ushered the girls back out of the room and started picking up large shards of glass.

If the sudden death of an acquaintance wasn't enough to leave me dazed, the shattered mirror probably would have been. But there was still more to come.

J called on his way home to say that he was nearly home, but was turning around to head to a mechanic's shop because he didn't think his car would make it home. While it hadn't been acting odd previously, the check engine light was now flashing and the car threatened to die anytime he had to stop at a light. I had just returned home from dropping off a friend of A's who came over to play after school, but loaded the three girls back in to the van to meet J at the shop.

After an embarrassingly simple meal of mac & cheese for my children, J & I put them to bed and watched Lost. Tonight's episode didn't do much to clear my dazed head. So I'll go to bed still slightly reeling from the day. But before I do, I'll kiss each sleeping girl in her bed before wrapping myself around my husband to fall asleep. Who knows what tomorrow might bring?

Monday, February 16, 2009


Gender: Girl
Origin: Hebrew
Meaning: God is my oath

I just finished re-reading The Book Thief. As you'll know if you are my friend on GoodReads, while I am a big reader, I'm not a big re-reader. Liesel, the title character, is one reason I chose to read The Book Thief again a mere 7 months after finishing it the first time. She's a beautifully written character and we get to see her go from a scared little girl to a brave young woman over the course of the book.

Liesel becomes a book thief for the first time the day of her younger brother's funeral. He dies en route while her mother is taking them to an agency to be put under the care of foster parents. The fact that her mother gave Liesel up to a foster family should speak to the sadness that permeates this book. The Book Thief is not set during a pleasant time in our world's history: you know going in that a book set in Germany during World War II is going to be painful.

But I wonder whether Liesel, as Markus Zusak envisions her, could have existed during any other time. Certainly the reader sees her brokenness, her loyalty and her perseverance in stark contrast to the depravity surrounding her. Zusak knows Liesel well and doesn't write her in a false way. She doesn't change from damaged to whole in one fell swoop, never looking back to darker days. In fact, I'm not sure Liesel ever emerges whole from this experience.

I desperately hope that my daughters never experience any of the many traumas faced by this brave fictional girl. But I hope one day (when they are much, much older) that they will, read this book and, like Liesel, see the value of words and use them as a life preserver. Whether they are navigating the murky waters of adolescence, hiking the difficult terrain of a new college or just doing their best to get from one stage of life to another, I hope the written word will be there to buoy them. I hope they will see words as the gift they are and that this knowledge will guide them to use their own words very carefully.

I was thinking today about the Word becoming flesh and making his dwelling among us. My words clearly do not have the power of God's, but if my own words became flesh, would I want them to dwell among me? Am I carefully using the power of words that we have because we are made in God's image? Or am I squandering that gift on chit chat or, worse, crafting verbal weapons that soar through skin, bone and marrow to pierce the hearts of others? If there's anything I learned from The Book Thief, it's that words make the whole thing possible. Hitler could not have wooed a nation into insanity and hatred without words. That Liesel uses words to save herself is some solace.

Friday, February 13, 2009


2 a: a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion b: a fortunate circumstance (it was a mercy they found her before she froze)

A wrote a short story tonight about a little girl named Mercy. She wrote the first draft of it on the back of a Trader Joe's receipt that J found in his coat pocket for her during a high school girls basketball game. She wrote the second draft on the back of a children's menu from Jim & Nick's, where we had dinner after the game. A then handed it over to me and told me to use it to write a longer story and to "make it better." It's a lovely little story as it is and she doesn't know the gift of mercy that this little story is to me.

My daughters hear me talk about wanting to write. They sometimes hear me ask for a minute more on the computer to finish what I'm writing. They see me sneak upstairs before their bedtime to get in a few minutes of writing while J puts them to bed. What A taught me today is that she believes in me. She thinks I can write. While I know some of this is blind faith in her mother, I'm not going to dwell on that tonight. Tonight, I am going to see the fortunate circumstance that occurred when my daughter wrote a story about a girl named Mercy and gave me a gift much bigger than a few paragraphs.

To honor that gift, I will see if I can imagine more for Mercy and write it up for A. But tonight, here's A's story (draft #2):
One day Mercy was going to her job as a night guard at the museum. She walked in and said, "Hello" to Mrs. Westing. Mrs. Westing left. Mercy started her nightly rounds. All of a sudden she heard footsteps behind her. Who was it? she wondered. She ducked into a room. The person walked by. Yikes! It was BIG WILLY! She almost screamed, "Help!" but held her tongue. She called the police and they came. She told them where he was. They caught him red-handed. Everyone was safe.
I hope little mercies like this one will propel me to write even when I don't feel like I have the words.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Invitation

As a part of an art group I am in, our first assignment was to create an invitation. The invitation was to answer the following questions:

Lord, how are you inviting me into a more profound creative journey?

How would it look different to be hiding in You?

This is an invitation from God to you. What would it say? How would it look?

I shared my invitation with my group tonight and have decided to be bold and blog the invitation in four parts. So, here's my fiction debut...

As I walk in the door of my home, I enter a room that is not in my house, but I wish it were. It’s a fairly small room – cozy, with a plump purple chair in the corner. A lamp sheds light softly over the chair and as I look closer, I see a steaming cup of hot tea, the heat of it shimmering up towards the light. I put down my bag and start towards the soft chair and hot tea, already imagining pulling the silky blanket on the chair’s arm over my body and curling up with a book. Just then, B appears at my side and says, “Mom, this isn’t where you want to be. It looks comfortable, but you’re supposed to be somewhere else right now.”

Looking longingly towards the cozy corner, I follow her through the oak door to a room that could be in my house, but isn’t. I immediately see why she’s brought me here. I turn to thank her, but she’s closed the door behind her.

There is so much to be done here. I start picking up books, stacking them neatly to one side when I glance over and see a pile of laundry sitting by the washer. I start towards the pile, then realize there are ingredients laid out for a meal. Thinking that I’ll get dinner started and then tackle laundry, I read the recipe to the side quickly and pick up a knife to get started. Out of nowhere, K walks over, puts her tiny hand on my arm and says, “Mommy, someone else will do that. You’re supposed to be somewhere else right now.”

“But I need to get dinner started now so that it’s ready in time.”

“We know that, but someone else will do it.”

“Who? You can’t cut this onion up. You might hurt yourself. And B is good in the kitchen, but I don’t want her to use the stove. She’s never lit the burners before.”

“Mommy, I know you can do all of it, but you’re supposed to be somewhere else right now. Don’t worry about this.”

Wondering what could be more important than this room packed with thing to be done, I glance at the clock and follow K through French doors. Seeing the orderly room as I walk through the entrance, I turn to make sure K doesn’t want me to finish in the kitchen. K is no longer there, the doors closed firmly behind her. I try the door, but can’t get it open.

Turning, I see a rolltop wooden desk and leather desk chair, surrounded by books, Bibles, a concordance and a cup full of pens and pencils in every color. The walls of the room are lined with shelves and filled from baseboard to ceiling with books. I walk over to a wall and emit a small sigh as I realize there’s a copy of The Book Thief. I’ve been wanting to re-read it to pay close attention to the style of writing and see if it can help me improve. Oh! There’s so much to learn here! My heart gives a little leap as I walk towards the chair.

At the last moment, someone touches my shoulder. I look over to see A there. “Hey, honey! Isn’t this room great? Have you seen all of the books? Have you already picked something to read? There’s so much to choose from I can’t decide where to start. I did my Bible Study this morning, but look at this concordance. I’ve never used this one before.”

“Mom, it is a great room, but you’re supposed to be somewhere else right now.”

“A, what is going on with you and your sisters? I can understand B not wanting me to sit and rest with all of that work waiting in the kitchen, but I’m a little suspicious that K really has someone else to take care of the kitchen. Since she’s locked me out of there, I figure I might as well make myself at home in here.”

“Mom, you are instantly at home in this room. That’s why you’re supposed to be somewhere else.”

“Can’t I stay for a little while?”

“No. I know that’s hard for you to hear, but you really do need to be somewhere else.”

“But, why? Doing Bible Study isn’t a bad thing and some of these books would really help me write. I’ve been struggling with how to mesh dialogue with description.”

“Mom, you know I love to read as much as you do. But do you let me read all the time? No, you drive me back and forth to ballet so that I’ll have something in my life that isn’t entirely within my head. Haven’t you always prayed for me that I would learn to listen to my heart and my head? That I would know there is more to me than just my quick mind?”

“Well, yes, I have. Wait! How do you know what I pray for you?!”

“We can talk about that later. You really are supposed to be somewhere else right now.”

Annoyed, confused and a tad angry, I walk through the door A indicates and slam it shut behind me, only to wheel around and try to reopen it when my eyes adjust to my surroundings. The door not only won’t open, it’s not there anymore. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and open them slowly, hoping I’ll be back at home – or even in one of the other odd rooms I’ve been in so far.

Instead, I see every mistake I’ve ever made playing across the walls of the cavernous space while people laugh uproariously. I watch in horror for a moment, then creep to a corner, hoping not to be noticed. Once there, I am panicked to see something even worse than my mistakes on display. I try to position myself to keep them hidden when I see J start across the room towards me. In spite of all he is seeing about me, he smiles warmly as he joins me in my little corner. As he stands beside me, he looks at the wall and says, “Shannon, why didn’t you tell me you want to write a novel? You could have shared that with me.” A little taken aback, I realize that there are hopes here that are so deeply buried within me that I haven’t even shared them with J. That makes me sad for a moment, but then the panic returns and I look around for something to throw over the wall to cover it.

“There’s no hiding things in this room – not your mistakes or your hopes.”

“What is this place and why are all of these people here?” I ask him.

“You brought them here. If you didn’t fear their laughter, their knowledge of your failures, their trodding on your dreams, they wouldn’t be here. But you do fear that, so here they are. Are you ready to leave?”

While I should jump at the chance to leave this room, I am suddenly hesitant. This room is the worst so far. At least in each of the other rooms, there was something I could do. Here, I simply stand crippled. Yet I am afraid to leave. If I open the door to go out, who might come in? What if my friends see all of this? They would never want to talk to me again. How can J even stand the sight of me after seeing for himself? Maybe if I stay, I could get these people out and lock the door behind them. That would leave me all alone, but at least I could make sure no one else ever sees this stuff.

J seems to read my thoughts and says, “Shannon, no one else cares about this. We all have rooms like this. You only feel this way in yours. If you saw mine, you would be filled with love for me, just like I am for you. Our girls were right, you know. You are supposed to be somewhere else right now. We all love you so much and so does the one waiting for you there.”

He hugs me tightly, gently puts his arm around me and walks with me to a large glass door framed with ornately carved wood. He gives me a kiss and opens the door.

Trembling slightly, I leave fear’s darkness behind and step into blinding light and onto the precipice.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


1 a (1): an individual detail : item (2): a distinguishing detail (tact is one of her strong points) b: the most important essential in a discussion or matter (missed the whole point of the joke) c: cogency

It's funny how God will use whatever means necessary to drive a point home. I am participating in an art group that is designed to bring out creativity. We met for the first time two weeks ago and were encouraged then to journal as a part of this process. I've not been doing that regularly, unless you count blogging (which I do). But I have done my assignment for the first week, which was to create an invitation from God. I get the feeling these invitations have most often taken the form of visual art in past groups, but as I thought about how God would invite me to do this study, a short story was what emerged. I could very clearly see myself being taken through a series of rooms, so I wrote about that experience. The last room I was taken to and through was fear. It was the most difficult room to leave and it was the final step of the invitation. In order to make sure I was clear on this detail of leaving fear behind, God has used another venue to hammer this home.

I'm also studying the book of Philippians with a group of women. It's an inductive Bible study, and I love seeing God lead me to the point he wants to make with me, not the point he made with someone else when they read the passage before they wrote their book. Last week was a shining example of that when what I learned was all about being bold and courageous, even if I couldn't work my way up to fearless and another friend's takeaway was about how to be joyful in a peaceful and calm manner, no matter what binds you.

Even though I haven't been journaling explicitly about creativity in my life, I think my recent posts are telling. Most of them describe something that would fit in one of the rooms I walked through in my invitation.

In my room of comfort, you'd find me reading like I described in FRIEND.

In my room of busyness, you'd find me stressed about wasted TIME and fuming at myself over a LOST letter.

In my room of knowledge, you'd find me examining a time of TRANSITION, while not willing to plunge headlong into it.

In my room of fear, you might find me trying to move FORWARD in the right DIRECTION, fueled by REST and hoping there was strength, boldness and creativity within me waiting to MANIFEST.

As always, God's been at work on me whether I'm aware of it or not and he's doing a good job of driving this particular point home. As I worked on my Bible study today, the word I spent my time on was hope. Let's see where he takes me with that one...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


1 a: one attached to another by affection or esteem b: acquaintance
3: one that favors or promotes something

A friend of mine (we'll call her Ms. C) sent me the link to Midnight Sun 10 days ago. (For those of you who don't share my obsession, Midnight Sun is a partial draft that Stephenie Meyer published online of book 5 of the Twilight Saga.) I didn't even open the link at the time because I was reading another book and knew that if I started reading another Twilight book, all other reading would cease. Now, Ms. C is the same friend who bought every book in the Twilight series and would loan me each new book, passing them surreptitiously to me at church or the coffee shop. My husband called her my dealer.

I find it highly amusing that one of the definitions of friend is "one that favors or promotes something." That's certainly what Ms. C has done for me with the Twilight series. It was my fault to begin with. I'd heard about the books and suggested that we read one for a book club that we're in together. I tend to wait until very close to time for the book club to meet before reading the book, so that it's fresh in my memory. Ms. C has no such compunction and read the book shortly after we selected it. She was hooked and wasted no time in promoting her favored book with me.

She loaned me the book in mid-December and it sat on my shelf for a few weeks. As we were leaving to go to Disney World, I grabbed it off the shelf because I can't go on a vacation without a book, not even a vacation to Disney World. I finished the book on our drive back from Disney World, in spite of the fact that I get car sick with terrible headaches when I read in the car. It was worth it.

Without boring you with the details, I'll just say that thanks to Ms. C's Twilight Library, I read all four books in the series in a 10 day span - and that was taking a break in the middle to read a book by a different author! So I knew when Ms. C told me about Midnight Sun that I had to wait until I had time to read it. I'm not sure I had time today, but I spent a good chunk of my day reading the 264 page PDF online. I didn't exercise, my children ate a quick and easy dinner and I even let them finish watching a movie on a school night so that I could read.

Now, would a true friend encourage this complete irresponsibility in me?! It's a good thing I'm attached to her affectionately and hold her in high esteem in spite of the fact that she encourages the bibliovore in me. I think I'll repay her by introducing her to the Outlander series... or something terribly addictive.

Monday, February 9, 2009


: to make evident or certain by showing or displaying

Some words have a way of settling into my heart and taking root there. Last week, the three words that spent time weaving themselves into my thoughts were manifest, bold and courageous. (I'm studying Philippians and Paul talks about how his imprisonment has made the gospel manifest through other Christians who have become bold and courageous after seeing him.)

I like the verb manifest. To me, it implies something that is already there, but works its way out and becomes visible, like a genetic trait that manifests itself at a certain age. I like the words bold and courageous as well. One translation used the word fearless instead of bold. That word doesn't appeal to me as much because it feels so unattainable. I can be bold in spite of being fearful. I can act courageous even if I don't feel it. But being fearless means an absence of fear - that's a tough one. It's not just acting a certain way, but feeling an absence of something.

So while I'd like to imagine boldness and courage manifesting themselves naturally from who I am, I don't think it's quite that simple. I'm not sure those two traits are buried deep within me, waiting to become evident. Instead, I have to cultivate these two traits like they are a precious and rare seed that has been planted and may not survive without the proper care. It shouldn't really be that hard. Boldness and courage are traits I see and love in my daughters. B's been bold from the day she was born and K is bold to the point of disrespect (something we're working on). A's courage was evident in her willingness to try out for The Nutcracker - she feared failing, but wanted it badly enough to try. I love this about them and want them to always be bold in being who they were made to be.

I wonder if, like my daughters, I once had seeds of boldness and courage within me. Did I hide them from the light and starve them of food and water? Or were they never there? It seems like it will be harder to plant them in the fallow field of my heart than in the fertile heart of a young girl. But maybe if I water them and tend them daily, they will eventually become present enough to be manifest in my life.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


1 a: passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another : change b: a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another

Today, I took A, B and K to a birthday party at an indoor play place filled with inflatables. It all went fairly smoothly until it was time to go home. I found A & K and asked them to go tell their friend happy birthday and good-bye. This was fine, except that K thought she hear the mom say something about snacks, so as I tried to get her out of the party room, she started crying about wanting more snacks. I explained that she misunderstood and there were no more snacks. Yet she still cried as I carried her from the room and to the area where her shoes were waiting.

B was crying at departure as well because I had given her a quarter to spend on one of the video games and she mistakenly put it in a machine that required $.50, so she got nothing for her quarter. She didn't tell me this until it was time to walk out the door and I was unwilling to just fork over another $.25 mainly because I didn't want to have A & K in a holding pattern while B played this game.

As I drove home with two crying children in the van, I thought about how I know that K doesn't do well with transitions. The hardest times of day for her are leaving for school and getting picked up from school. Since I know this, I have tried to adapt my own matter-of-fact style to accommodate her better. I spend a bit more time with her during drop-off than I had to when A & B were her age, but life has transitions. There still comes a time every morning when I have to leave or we all have to get in the van to go somewhere. What occurred to me for the first time
today is that I don't deal all that well with life's bigger transitions.

"Movement or evolution from one stage to another" is challenging for me. This is partly because I often don't have control over the transition, but also because I'm resistant to change when I'm happy with where I am. Right now, I know that one transition is coming. K will start kindergarten next year and I will never again be a mom to preschoolers. I always thought that would signal an uptick in the number of hours I would work outside the home, but that's not what I sense right now. I still enjoy my job, but the tug at my heart is to write for myself, not to write grants. This is exciting to me rather than scary, but I wonder how it will feel when the transition is upon me.

This year has also been more of a transition than I realized it would be. A and B are in 3rd and 2nd grades and K is in pre-K at the same daycare she attended last year. On the surface, it doesn't seem like this would be a big year of transition for us. But for the first time all three of my children are involved in some type of after-school activity. This has changed my job requirements as a mom in unexpected ways. It's been harder to cook than it used to be since my busiest hours are between 3 and 6. That has turned cooking into more of a burden and less of a joy than it used to be. Our afterschool schedule prompted us to take a sabbatical from our community group for the spring since B's basketball practice is in direct conflict with that schedule for more than two months. While this was necessary for us as a family, it was a little sad to leave the group we started more than two years ago, even with it being led by a very capable, committed couple.

As I've typed this, I've slowly realized that while I have seen this year as being a transitional one because of my children and their growth, it's partly been a transition in who I am and what I want to do with my life. Starting in the fall, I began to feel an actual physical pain if I didn't make time to write several times each week. That sounds a little crazy, but it's true. I could ignore the tug at my heart, but if I did, it just became a pull instead of a tug. I've tried to be obedient to that and have used this blog to discipline myself to write more. Our family is experiencing transition as I need more time to explore who I am and how to do what I want to do. J and I chose to give up eleven Thursday nights for me to join an art exploration group. While I believe that will reap benefits for me long-term, it is a commitment and an adjustment for our family, especially during a season when other evenings are packed with ballet, basketball, soccer, art and more ballet.

J has been most gracious to me during this transition. He doesn't mind carry-out from Calypso once a month or a meal that incorporates some prepared foods instead of being completely from scratch. He helps with deciding what activities we let the girls do and, when possible, helps get them to or from their commitments. I hope I'll be as gracious with K in her adjustment to life's little transitions as J has been with me during what I suspect will end up being a great big transition for me.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


1 a: the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues : duration b: a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future c: leisure (time for reading)

2: the point or period when something occurs : occasion

I ended the day yesterday extremely frustrated, largely because I felt like I did not make good use of my time. There are 14 definitions of "time" on Merriam Webster's site and I find it very surprising that "leisure" would be a part of the first definition. I didn't end the day frustrated yesterday because I spent too much time in leisure. While I felt like a lot of time was wasted, it wasn't wasted on leisure activities. In fact, I'm not sure leisure would have been a waste of my time. At least leisure is a conscious decision about how to spend my time. And while leisure activities may not yield visible, tangible results, they do yield results in my spirit.

I think the most frustrating part of my time yesterday is found in the second definition shown in the dictionary: the point or period when something occurs. There was a lot of time spent yesterday with nothing occurring. After my absentminded loss of K's acceptance letter, I spent 45 minutes sitting in an office waiting for one piece of paper to sign. It was an important piece of paper and I'm thankful she'll be able to attend LDC next year, but I spent a good chunk of the latter half of my time berating myself for having lost the letter in the first place. I kept reminding myself that if I were a more efficient and conscientious parent, I wouldn't have lost the letter in the first place and wouldn't have had to spend a big chunk of my afternoon driving to Berry Hill and sitting in an office.

Then, K was supposed to dance at a school event. She was asked to arrive at 6:30 to dress in her dance costume and was scheduled to perform around 7:15 or so. K was very clear that she did not want to go. She didn't want me to do her hair in a bun, she didn't want to put on her tights, her leotard, her ballet shoes, her costume. Yet once she was dressed she seemed fine. She was content to play with the other children until it was time to dance. About 10 or 15 minutes before she was to go onstage, I left the dressing room to get a seat where I could watch her. Instead of watching her dance, I got to watch her cling to her teacher and refuse to dance with the other little girls. There are four little girls in K's class and only three were able to be there last night. With K's refusal, that left two kindergartners onstage by themselves. Luckily, they did a wonderful job. I, however, had a raging headache by the end of the song. I was disappointed in K for not fulfilling her commitment, but about an hour passed before I realized that what I was really angry about was that I had wasted the last two hours getting her to this event and dressed and ready for it. It was a horribly selfish reaction and I'm a little embarrassed to admit it in writing.

The reason I am admitting it in writing is I think one thing yesterday showed me is that I am still uncomfortable with spending my time on activities I label as unproductive. While Thursday left me feeling rested and rejuvenated, I wiped all of that away on Friday with my refusal to accept the limitations placed on my time and enjoy the time for what it was. Instead of finding joy in 45 minutes found reading a book while waiting for K's letter, I read and fumed. Instead of finding joy in seeing K dressed like a tiny ballerina and understanding that her four year old mind and body were tired and just didn't want to dance, I resented having to be away from J, A and B and didn't even try to enjoy the event.

I want to learn to value my time, no matter how it is spent. I want to give myself permission to learn things that take time, even though that may make me look unproductive to others or make me feel unproductive in my own mind. I think this is crucial to allowing myself time to create. If I am constantly focused on output, I'll never create anything worth sharing. The most beautiful and inspiring art comes from deep within the artist and those things won't rise to the surface of my mind if I continue to measure time's value by how much I accomplish in any given minute.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


4: peace of mind or spirit

I used to think that what was restful for me should be restful for everyone. As I've grown older (and hopefully wiser), I realize there are as many ways to rest as there are people. I've also realized that rest comes in many different forms for me. Monday evening rest came in the form of a soaking bath and a writing session immediately afterwards. Today has been restful in a way I
needed deeply. Monday was an exhausting day, for reasons I still can not completely determine and while the ensuing days have not been as tiring, I found myself longing for a day mostly at home this morning.

When I woke and dressed this morning, I was planning to go to a Moms event that I attend monthly. Back in September, I decided this would be a good thing for me because these events require nothing of me other than my attendance. I go, drink tea, have a snack and leave feeling fed physically, emotionally and spiritually. I do not lead, I do not bring food, I just show up. God has used these events to speak to me about where he wants me to be in my life right now, in ways that I never expected. Yet this morning, I just didn't feel like going. K and I had breakfast at a coffee shop and I didn't feel like rushing her or driving out to this event. So I didn't.

K and I picked up a few things from the grocery store and came back home. While she played, I typed up a short story I've been working on and got it revised and formatted for use in a project. While that might sound like "work," it was deeply satisfying. I'm sure the story is still not completely finished, but I've taken the next step with it.

After that, K and I met J for lunch. We don't do that very often, even though she's home with me every Wednesday and Thursday. It's about a 30 minute drive to J's office, so it's not terribly convenient to meet for lunch since it takes up a sizable chunk of our day. But today we met halfway, had yummy food and just enjoyed seeing each other.

Since we returned home, I've done a bit of cooking and worked out while K has finished her lunch (the kid is a slow eater). I feel remarkably rested at a time of day when my energy is usually at a low ebb. And I'm thankful.

Thankful that I listened to what my heart said and just stayed home. Thankful that I loaded K up to go have lunch with J instead of being rigid and say, "No, I want to be at home all day. " Thankful that K has played so well by herself today and let me do some writing, which fulfills me. Thankful for rest in whatever form it takes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


2 a: no longer possessed b: no longer known

I have lost K's acceptance letter for starting kindergarten next year.
Upon the letter's arrival, it was passed around the family. A wanted to read it for herself, B wanted to read it to K, K wanted to spell her name out loud, reading it from the letter. A & B are excited to have K at their school next year and K is very excited about being a "school-ager." Last week, she put on one of B's collared school shirts and wore it all day because she's so excited to join the ranks of schoolchildren. I don't want to have to explain to her that she can't start school because mommy is incompetent and lost her acceptance letter.

I realized it was gone this morning when I mentioned to J that we needed to turn it in on Friday and he asked where it was. J & I both remember seeing the letter on the dining room table. When it disappeared from there, I assumed he had put it away. Unfortunately, he assumed I had put it away. So no one knows where it now is. The recycling has gone out to the curb, but has not been picked up yet. I'm not overly excited about digging through a huge recycling barrel to find a piece of paper, but I'm not excited about Kate staying home for another year before starting kindergarten either!

When I realized the letter was truly nowhere to be found, I called J at work to tell him. He offered several suggestions for places to look, things to try, etc. and then said, "Maybe K's just not supposed to start kindergarten next year." That was not the right thing to say to me since I was already overly emotional about my inability to keep track of one very important piece of paper. I started crying, so we pretty quickly wrapped up the phone call and I worked to get myself back under control.

Shortly thereafter, the principal at A & B's school kindly returned my panicked e-mail from this morning with a phone call telling me that I can go on Friday afternoon and have them re-print the letter to turn in that day. So why don't I feel any better? Mainly because this little incident reveals my inability to manage my home well, my lack of attention to detail and my shame over failing in these areas. To you, it may seem like a small thing to have lost a piece of paper. But I see it as symbolic of much, much more.

Monday, February 2, 2009


1 : to be present in large numbers or in great quantity : be prevalent
: to be copiously supplied —used with in or with (life abounded in mysteries — Norman Mailer)

I've just started a study of Philippians and my favorite word from the first passage that we studied was abound. Paul says he prays that the Philippians' love will abound more and more in knowledge and insight. The greek for the word abound is perisseuo, which means
to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous. It thrills my heart to think about superabounding to an excessive or superfluous degree.

I feel like I am in a state of longing for more time and more rest instead of abounding. I want more time to write, to cook, to read, to be with my husband, to run, to be in my home and at my desk instead of running around. I long for more rest because I don't have time for all of these things my heart longs to do.

Yet even as Paul is praying for the Philippians to abound in love, I think he gives them instructions on how to do this: through knowledge (head) and insight (heart). I envisioned these two elements as lenses of a pair of eyeglasses. I can't view my world purely through knowledge that I've acquired, but I also can't go through life based purely on what my heart tells me to do. I think I tend to rely on my head for decision making and part of what I wanted to try to process and affirm in myself as I wrote about direction recently is that I can and should listen to my heart as I choose from an array of paths. I think there are several "correct" decisions I could take, but I want to take the one that will result in a bountiful me. A me that overflows with love for others, creativity in many expressions, stories to be written and foods to be cooked.

I realized recently that traits that I love, encourage and praise in my children are traits that I devalue in myself. I love that my daughters wake up and sit side by side to read early in the morning (I do not mourn their lack of productivity). I love that they create stories, fully illustrated, that perhaps only they fully understand (I do not think they should have been cleaning their rooms instead). I love that they question why we make the choices that we do as a family (instead of blindly going along with whatever I tell them). I love that they are bold, they take risks and they sometimes fail (if they are fearful, they walk right through it). I want to listen closely to the insights my own heart has about where I should go, what I should do and who I should be instead of telling myself who I can't be.

In order to get there, I need to focus on where my life abounds right now. I have a husband who showers love on me, wants to be with me and encourages who I am. I have three daughters who constantly challenge me, push me and prod me to be a better mother and woman. I have dear friends who take the time to read these words I write and share their own thoughts with me.

So I hope that I'll use my head and my heart to abound in love - for others and for myself.