Friday, July 31, 2009


1often capitalized S : a year of rest for the land observed every seventh year in ancient Judea
: a leave often with pay granted usually every seventh year (as to a college professor) for rest, travel, or research

I've been on "sabbatical" for a month now. At the end of June, I decided it would be mutually beneficial for Rejoice, my family and me if I took the months of July and August off of work. For Rejoice, it helped stretch tight finances further. For my family, it made the month of July wide open for summer time fun. For me, it eliminated dividing my attention between a job that I love and children that I love even more.

I've spent a good portion of this sabbatical month de-cluttering. I started by clearing a section of our basement to make a rec room for the girls. As they are getting older, I think it's good for them to have a space that is their own. Our small home doesn't have a lot of space, so it required some creativity and a total lack of sentimentality to clear room for a futon, TV and reading area. But it was well worth it. They love playing down there and have already added a dart board (never fear, soft tips), magazines, blankets, books, etc. I've also cleared bookcases, shelves and other areas in every room on the first floor of our home.

Clearly, cleaning is not my favorite thing. If it were, I wouldn't need an entire month to get my house in order. But the beautiful thing is that I had this month to do just that. And it's been good for my soul to get rid of so many things. It has made me feel lighter to be able to straighten up each room and know that everything really does have a place (for now).

I'm trying to be realistic. I know myself. I know my family. It is highly unlikely that we will maintain this leve of organization long-term. I'll get tired. We'll all get lazy. And things will begin to pile up again.

But if nothing else, I've learned it's good for me to take the time to rid our home of excess.
Until I looked up the definition of sabbatical, I had no idea it was linked to giving the land a rest in Biblical times or that it was related to sabbath rest (perhaps that shouldn't be surprising if I stopped to think about the word...). That is fitting because my sabbatical has been much more than I thought it would, but I've not spent it doing what I would have guess beforehand.

I've written little during this last month. Instead, I've cleaned and read. I like the idea that a sabbatical is for "rest, travel and research." Perhaps what I needed was to nourish my soul with words and clear out the clutter so that when school starts in two weeks, I feel free to write. Free (and compelled) to write a book proposal for that book I started in May. Free (and compelled) to spend some more time getting to know a character created last spring. Free (and compelled) to see where the journey takes me.

That's the beauty of a simple sabbath or a generous sabbatical. The rest gives you strength for what's to come.

Monday, July 27, 2009


:years from July 27, 1996 to today

Thirteen years ago today, I married J. You can tell a lot about a man by looking at what he loves, so here are thirteen things he loves and the reasons why they make me love him.
  1. He loves to make me laugh. J loves to tell silly stories, crack corny jokes and generally lighten my spirits. I tend to err on the side of serious, but J brings out a side of me I didn't know existed. This trickles down in our family to make us a more fun-loving bunch than we otherwise might be.
  2. He loves books, maybe even more than I do. A high school friend who was in our wedding saw J receive what was probably his favorite gift: several first edition mystery books by some of his favorite authors. She turned to me and said, "Wow. You actually found a guy who loves to read like you do." I can't imagine being married to someone who resented the way I lose myself in a book instead of relishing it.
  3. He loves football. You might think this is a given, or that it should appear on the list of reasons J loves me. But I am truly thankful that we share a passion for college football. At the first football game we attended, J attempted to explain to me why we were punting. I interrupted to give him my assessment of our offense thus far and assured him I understood fully what was going on. Love at first kickoff.
  4. He loves Vanderbilt. It's not easy to be a Vanderbilt fan and a football fan. This team takes the wind out of your proverbial sails with regularity, yet J is the eternal optimist. He's the one who thinks this time every year, "This could be the year we have a winning season." History does not support him in thinking this, but he thinks it nonetheless. I love this about him.
  5. He loves popcorn and ham & hard rolls. I love this about J because it's one of the things that links him to his family of origin. A bowl of popcorn or a ham sandwich on Sunday are not just meals. They are a way that he remembers - and honors - his parents and his childhood with them.
  6. He loves baseball, but will spend an afternoon or evening with me at the museum. We've each taught the other things over the course of our courtship and marriage. While I love football, baseball is not my game. J has taught me to enjoy a good baseball game. Even better, he takes an interest in the things I love. On our honeymoon, we picked a city where we could attend a major league game and go to an art museum. Luckily, the Red Sox had a home series when we needed it and we got to see Boston together.
  7. He loves numbers. I was an art history major in college. I'm not a numbers kind of girl. But I love that J loves numbers. He loves working with them. He loves the stories that numbers tell. And I love this about him because he is different than me. I love that we can be passionate about different things and still passionate about each other.
  8. He loves music. This is another way we are different. I like music, but I don't love it by any means. J, on the other hand, would have it playing non-stop if he could. I love that he tempers his love for music with his love for me because non-stop music wears away at the edges of my mind and leaves me frazzled and over-stimulated. I love that his love for music has exposed me to music I would never have encountered without him. I love that we celebrated our anniversary at a concert, something I certainly would not choose without him.
  9. He loves our daughters. Not just a little bit. Not because he should. He loves them for the unique girls that they are. He loves their quirks and foibles. He loves their strengths and weaknesses. He loves them in a way that is healing and inspiring to see.
  10. He loves So You Think You Can Dance. That's right. The man who loves football, baseball and all things sports also likes a dance show. I think, like me, he loves this show because it is something for our entire family to watch. We love seeing our daughters dream about being up on that stage someday. We love hearing them applaud or critique a performance. We love the way B's favorite judges are the ones who encourage the dancers. We love the way A's favorite dancer is, of course, a ballerina. We love the way K runs to her room to don dress up clothes in honor of the occasion. And I love that his love for our daughters overflows in this way.
  11. He loves the Lord. J is a wonderful, loving man who wants to be an even better man. He knows and acknowledges his weaknesses, which makes him one of the strongest men I know. And he rests in knowing God can help him be the better man he can be.
  12. He loves my body. Even after three daughters and years of ignoring, if not neglecting, my body. He loves me in t-shirts, in skirts, in whatever. When I'm feeling my grungiest, J leans in and says, "You look great." And he means it.
  13. He loves me. Not the surface Shannon, but the real one. From the moment I met J, I never felt like I had to be anyone else around him. He's broken down walls I didn't even know I had built to protect myself. He's loved me when I'm unkind, selfish and downright unlovable.
May my daughters all be blessed with a man who makes them feel this way. In fact, the greatest gift I think I've given my daughters is to have J has a husband. If they look to him as what a husband should be, they will end up with the right men.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


2 a: lack of success
3 a: a falling short : deficiency

Parenting is so hard. If you're a parent, this is no news to you. Part of what I find difficult in parenting is the constant change, the non-stop fluctuation. Highs are followed so closely by lows. Earlier this week, J complimented me on the way I had handled a situation with A by saying, "You don't have a job right now, but staying home with our daughters is really a job. You did a handled that well." But yesterday I ended the day feeling frustrated, disappointed and defeated. Here's why:

For several years, my daughters and I have done a Fun Jar in the summer. It started the first summer I was a stay-at-home mom and it was as much a way to keep me sane as to help them have fun. The basic premise is that we write down all of the fun things we want to do during the summer and put them in a jar. Weekly, we choose something and share our plans with friends. In years past, my daughters loved the Fun Jar. They were excited to see which activity would come next. They loved seeing who would join us at the events. They got to visit new parks and activities around Nashville.

This year has been another story. We're more than three quarters of the way through our summer and I feel like I've had to cajole, convince or nearly force A & B to do Fun Jar activities. Yesterday, we were scheduled to go to a place that use to be one of their favorite spots in Nashville. Yet when I told them, they both (separately) said, "I don't want to get wet." or "I wish we could go to a pool instead." We went anyway. B and K both brought friends along and while it went OK, A & B were unenthusiastic. By the end of the day, I felt emotionally bruised and ready to hide in my bed.

I know that A & B are growing up. I've tried to have our activities reflect that. Yet my overwhelming impression of this summer is their dissatisfaction. With the Fun Jar, with each other, with me.

I feel like I've failed them and I'm puzzled, hurt and completely lacking in confidence.

One of the difficult things about being an introspective person is that an event like yesterday's makes my mind wander far into the future. I wonder who my daughters are becoming and whether they are headed in the right direction. I don't want them to think summers are for lounging at a pool to work on their tan. I want them to seize the opportunities they have, even if they are not what they would choose. I want them to have curious minds that seek activity, not indolence.

Now I'm faced with figuring out why my daughters are unsatisfied and deciding how much of that is my responsibility versus theirs. For someone who detests and fears confrontation, I sense that the new parenting phase we are entering will test me in ways I never wanted to be tested. Because right now, I need to talk, engage and communicate when every part of me just wants to escape (preferably into a book)...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


1 a: water falling in drops condensed from vapor in the atmosphere b: the descent of this water c: water that has fallen as rain : rainwater

Today brought rain. Lots of lovely rain.

It brought an excuse to wear my new (pink!) rain boots.

It brought an excuse for a lazy afternoon of book reading.

It brought an excuse for two of my three daughters to play outside in the damp air, on the damp grass, where they ended up damp.

I needed this rain. The autumnal July weather brought with it fall allergies. The last two days found me sluggish and congested in a way that is expected, if not appreciated, in November. In July, it is nearly unbearable. I needed a good rain to rinse the air of pollens and my mind of clouds. I needed to give myself permission to spend a day reading, not cleaning. Reading, not organizing. And, OK, a little writing, too. I needed to rinse myself of "shoulds" and bathe in what feeds my soul.

So I was thrilled to wake at 4 this morning to the sound of rain. I was even more excited when it continued throughout the day. While a brief shower can be refreshing, sometimes what I want is a good soaking. Today I was happy to soak up the rain and all that it brought to my garden, my children and my soul.

Monday, July 20, 2009


: the quality or state of being imperfect ; also : fault, blemish

A is attending a theater camp this week. All was well until this morning, when I told her to get ready for camp. While I was in the kitchen getting breakfast ready, I heard crying from A's room. When I went in to check on her, she was in tears that she was going to a new camp where she doesn't know anyone.

Enter my sinful nature. I was pretty frustrated at her reaction. She wanted to go to camp alone. (
She and B were signed up to attend to attend this camp together next week, but A wanted a bit of camp time separate from her sister, so I asked the camp director if she could attend this week instead. ) I had arranged this especially to meet that need. And I told her about it last week - so why wait until now to cry? And why just cry? Why not actually talk to me about it? Luckily, I did not say most of this to her. I did gently remind her that she was the one who wanted to go to camp without B. Her response? To sob, "Not this camp."

Now, I'll admit that I generally don't do a great job when A gets emotional like this. It makes me uncomfortable when she's emotional and I don't really like talking about emotions. So I tend to just give her space and encourage her to calm down. But I felt that wasn't my best approach today, even though it would have been the most comfortable. I think if I had taken my usual approach, A would have just bottled up what she was feeling. She would have pulled it together in time for camp, but the reason she felt the way she did would still be unaddressed. So I pursued conversation with her instead.

I encouraged her to tell me why she was scared. I reminded her of past successes. And as I did so, I realized that the reason A's emotional reaction made me uncomfortable is that I often feel the exact same way. I'm totally uncomfortable in a new group of people. I feel awkward, alone and embarrassed. So I confessed to her something that I do to cope when I'm around new people - I bring a book. That way, I can read instead of talking. This clearly wouldn't work at a camp, but one of the fears A shared was of having to eat her snack alone. I encouraged her to ask someone to sit with her and also suggested that she bring a book as a last resort. I admitted to her that reading instead of talking isn't always the best choice for me to make. When I do this, I end up not meeting anyone new and then I still feel bad about myself.

It made A feel better for me to admit to her that meeting new people is hard for me. I'll admit that it was hard for me to share this imperfection with her. I don't like to admit to myself, much less others, how socially awkward I am. But I recently finished reading The Birth Order Book and it talks about how first born and only children nearly all face perfectionism. One suggested approach to helping kids realize they don't have to be perfect is to show them your own imperfections. This doesn't come naturally to me, since I feel my imperfections are glaringly obvious to anyone who knows me. But maybe my daughter doesn't see from her vantage point how tense I am in groups of people that I don't know. Maybe she just thinks I'm completely comfortable in my own skin. Hopefully spotlighting my imperfections for A will let her know she's not alone in feeling like she does.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


1: the track left by a moving body (as a ship) in a fluid (as water) ; broadly : a track or path left

J and I were blessed to get to go to Louisville overnight for a concert. We had a wonderful time - more on that later. On my way back, I took a detour to avoid construction on the interstate. The disadvantage of this was that it took me a bit longer to get back to Nashville. One advantage was that I was able to see some lovely Kentucky countryside.

As I was driving along, I noticed that in many places the road
was lined with tall blue flowers. My route was a winding road that didn't allow for high speeds. Even so, I noticed in my rear view mirror that the flower waved in the wake left by my passing. It made me wonder what type of wake I leave on an everyday basis.

One reason the flowers waved slightly at my passing was that my speed was restricted by the path I was on. Had I been able to go faster, they would have been tossed about in my wake. Am I speeding through life and, in doing so, knocking others off their paths? Am I shaking them to their roots or creating a gentle breeze? We don't always have the pleasurable restriction of a winding road to curb our tendencies to hurry. (And sometimes, when we do have that winding road, we chafe against it and rush along anyway instead of enjoying the meandering path.)

I've noticed recently with my children that my reaction to them makes such a huge difference in their reactions. This is Parenting 101, but sometimes I forget the basics. A few days ago, K knocked over a stack of glass bowls while helping me set the table. They didn't break, but they made a lot of noise as they hit the floor and they startled both of us. We both jumped at the sound and I started laughing. K looked up at me, frozen for a moment, and smiled, then laughed. If I had said her name sternly or reacted harshly, her reaction would have been completely different. But instead of plunging ahead and leaving a rough wake, I managed to cruise along and not jostle her.

J and I know an older couple who leaves a gentle wake everywhere they go. Whenever we spend time with them, we feel refreshed. This is the kind of wake I want to leave behind. Not one that jostles and pushes, but one that comforts and soothes.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


1: to give assistance or support to (help a child with homework)

I just witnessed the sweetest thing. J and I have been procrastinating for days the mowing of our lawn. When he came home from work tonight, he headed straight upstairs to change into bug-repellent clothes and
started mowing right away. K was so excited that she gulped down her dinner in order to go help him motor (which is what she calls mowing).

By "help" him, I thought she meant clear the sticks out of the way, move the hose to the garden, etc. Here's what she meant:

This is sweet for so many reasons:
K wants to help her dad "motor" the lawn. How many girls are clamoring to be eaten by bugs and walk around the lawn pushing a mower that is higher than her head?

J lets her help him. Clearly, our five year old, 32 pound daughter was not a true help. J could certainly have completed this task faster without having to slow his gait to match hers and push the mower with one hand.

J & K both take this for granted. I don't think it occurred to K that J wouldn't want her to help him mow. And J didn't give much consideration to telling her not to help. Their love for each other is so easy, so comfortable, so much a part of their lives that they are willing to spend time together in whatever form it takes. J doesn't realize what a gift this is to his daughters. K doesn't realize what a gift it is to have a dad who loves her with such constancy and availability.
I'm more thankful than words can express that my husband lets my daughter help him mow the lawn. It's a small thing. As he came in sweaty and tired, he wiped his forehead and said, "It took a little longer. But it was worth it."

Yes, it was. And by letting her help him mow the lawn, he's helping her grow into a confident woman who knows she is very loved. He's given our girls a huge gift - the gift of taking his love for granted.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


1 a: the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms b: the store of things learned and retained from an organism's activity or experience as evidenced by modification of structure or behavior or by recall and recognition
2 something I once possessed (prior to having three children, of course)

Today, the girls and I arrived at a park at 3:30. One of A's former teachers was going to meet us there to catch up. This woman was A's first teacher and cared for and loved A from the tender stages of preschool through kindergarten. She is a quiet, gentle woman and she was a wonderful introduction for our family to the world of school. It's been a little over a year since we last saw each other and when she found me on Facebook (don't you love it when that happens?) we decided to meet to catch up.

So K and I picked A & B up from camp, drove to the sprayground, changed into swimsuits and waited. The girls got wet, cooled off and had a snack. I checked the time on my phone a few times and wondered where our friend was. After 45 minutes of playing (a full 30 minutes after our supposed meeting time), we loaded into the van and headed home for popsicles.

After cooling off with a sweet treat, I checked FB to see if there was a message telling me she couldn't meet today. What I saw instead was my original message to her where I gave her directions to the sprayground and I suggested that we meet at 3:30 on Wednesday. Today just happens to be Tuesday. So it's not a big shock that she didn't show up. What is a big shock is that I am able to function on a daily basis with so little short-term memory. If I don't write down a commitment, I am unlikely to keep it. The only good thing is that I won't feel guilty about failing someone because I won't remember that I didn't show up!

I really used to have an exceptional memory. I was good at remembering names and faces, events, conversations. I guess in some ways I still have a good memory: when I'm trying to recall a passage from a book, I can generally remember where on the page the text was (i.e. upper right or middle of the left page). While this comes in handy on ocassion, it would be far more helpful to retain pertinent information about times and dates. Alas, those are not things I can remember.

So if you're planning to schedule a date with me - or anyone in my family - you might want to kindly suggest that I write it down...

Monday, July 13, 2009


2: a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable

Yesterday, my head was aching painfully and I needed a reprieve from the hustle, bustle and noise generated by three daughters. J graciously agreed I could go upstairs and retreat for a bit. As I headed up, I grabbed The Birth Order Book. I had finished a fiction book earlier that day and wasn't quite ready to dive into another. I've read snippets of The Birth Order Book before and knew it was one I could read a bit of without committing to the entire book. As I picked it up to read, I was thinking of reading a section about middle children. But God had other plans. He wanted to talk to me about me, not about B.

I opened the book to a chapter called "Just How Serious a Problem is Perfectionism?" Not surprisingly, this is a follow-up chapter to the one on First Borns. Flipping through it, I came across a quiz. While I've struggled with perfectionism, this is something I think I've improved on in recent years. The quiz results seemed to affirm this - I was a "mild perfectionist." OK, that sounds pretty good. Moving on...

But as I turned the pages, my eyes fell on a story about how procrastination is tied to perfectionism. In this story, a man recounts how hard he finds it to fully finish projects that he starts. The author tells him, "My big guess is that you grew up in a home where criticism reigned... you protected yourself from criticism by not finishing things."

Hmmm. That hit a bit too close to home. Months ago, I wrote a short story with A and she asked me to submit it to Highlights. I haven't. Weeks ago, I had an idea for a book about the Fun Jar, so that other parents are equipped with fun ideas to fill their summers. I was excited and inspired. I worked on it until I had a parial introduction, a few sample chapters and a full outline. Nothing since then. If you asked me about it, I'd tell you I've stopped working on it because I don't think publishers will want a fully finished manuscript. Or I'd tell you it's been hard to work on it since Kate stopped going to day care for the summer. Those would be half-truths. If those were my real concerns, I would be researching potential publishers. I would be finishing the intro at night. I would be working on it. And I decidedly am not working on it.

Instead, I have distracted myself with worthy projects like cleaning out my basement or buying and setting up a pool for my children or preparing K's old clothes for a consignment sale. Anything but writing.

I'm a little ashamed to admit this. It shows my fear - fear of rejection, of failure, of what will happen if I really try. It shows my pride. And worst of all, it shows disobedience. When I had the idea for the Fun Jar book, it felt inspired. It felt like the Spirit saying to me "You should do this." So why am I not doing it?

Sunday, July 12, 2009


2 a: alone in a class or category : sole (only one left) (only known species) b: having no brother or sister (only child)

After the girls went to bed last night, J and I watched Hancock. It's not your typical super-hero flick because it's thought-provoking and action packed. That's a good combo for me! The movie stars Will Smith as Hancock, a reluctant, nearly incompetent super-hero. He drinks, he crashes into things while helping people, he's unkind and rude. Then he saves a PR guy who offers to help him change his image.

The more we see of Hancock, the more we realize how lonely and sad he is. After he has rehabilitated some, we find out that Hancock knows nothing of his history. He's spent nearly the last century without aging and believing he is the only one of his kind. That's a pretty lonely existence and it doesn't turn him into a nice person. Being the only one makes him defensive, churlish and stand-offish.

Since this is a Hollywood movie, we get to see Hancock change (since change comes so easily and painlessly in most Hollywood movies). We see the difference that a bit of encouragement and support make for this man who thinks there is no one else like him.

While the movie takes an extreme character to make its point, I think much of it is widely applicable. We all feel at one time or another like we are the only one who feels a certain way, thinks something, does something. Over time, this makes the place in us that feels different become hard, defensive and wounded. But when someone breaks through our defenses and affirms what we do, it changes and softens us.

I think it is ultimately true that each of us is the only one in some sense. No two sets of experiences are the same. No two sets of beliefs are exactly the same. No two people are exactly the same. But we are united in our uniqueness. I want to celebrate the unique things instead of wishing them away. For a long time, I wanted only to blend in. I wanted to hide away the things that only I seem to care about and long for. But now I think these are the most beautiful things about each of us. A dancing the way only she can. B seeing and creating things as only she can. K laughing and talking as only she can.

I don't always know what my daughters are thinking or feeling. They will definitely experience things in their lives that I haven't, but I hope they will ultimately know they are not the only ones to feel that way. I hope they will let themselves be encouraged and that they will be comforted that they are unique and appreciated for the gifts only they have.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


2 : to cause to relax vigilance (were lulled into a false sense of security)

My parents live 7 hours from my home. My in-laws live 10 hours away. Since my children have been infants, they have been riding the interstates south and north to visit family. Normally, they are fabulous travelers. Last summer, as the girls and I drove back from my parents' house, we stopped only once on the 7 hour journey. Sadly, I let numerous positive experiences lull me into a false sense of security.

Our recent drive back from Wisconsin was the worst I can remember, even with an infant in tow. Less than an hour into the drive, the girls were bickering with each other, doing their best to aggravate each other and generally driving J and I crazy. At our first stop, we re-arranged seating positions. Putting B in the back alone quickly made it clear that she was not the only problem. K and A were no better matched, with K finding it amusing to annoy her big sister in any way she could and then cry out when A retaliated.

It was a LONG drive. It would have been long, anyway. But it felt excruciating because of the constant stream of whining, fussing and requests to stop. I lost count of how many stops we made. Near the end, we stopped to get dinner. After they ordered, we let the girls head to the play area before their food arrived. They all ran around like crazy during the time we were stopped and I realized then that part of the problem on this trip was that I had been lulled into thinking that because my daughters were good travelers, I didn't need to plan for trips anymore.

In years past, I would pack a picnic lunch for us to eat at a rest area along the way. Not this time. I've often allowed the girls to each fill a bag with car friendly toys, art supplies and books. Again, not this time. I had packed a bag full of library books for A& B to choose from, but I had underestimated the pent up energy they possessed, how tired they were after 10 days away from home and how long a trip could seem with children who refused to entertain themselves.

J asserted yesterday that part of the problem is their ages. They need more distraction in the form of hand-held games. While I agree that a trio of Nintendos would have made our trip more pleasant, I also feel convicted to not assume too much on the part of my daughters. They are, after all, only children. I shouldn't really expect them to take care of their own entertainment for 12 hours in the van. And you can bet I won't expect it on the next road trip.

You can look for us on the road - we'll be in the van loaded down with picnic supplies, markers, paper, books and, maybe, just maybe, a Nintendo or two....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


A, B and K spent the last week in Milwaukee with their grandparents. They had a wonderful time and loved having the undivided attention of two fun adults who love them dearly. J and I drove up to get them and spent a few days seeing family. There are two main routes from Nashville to Milwaukee: one takes you straight up 65 through Louisville and Indianapolis, the other goes through Paducah and small town Illinois. On both drives, you see plenty of rolling farmland, dotted with red barns.

Our drive back was exceptionally long (more on that in another post), so I had plenty of time to stare out the window at fields of corn and soybeans, dotted here and there with red barns. Being me, it only took so long for me to wonder why barns are painted red. The red stands out so nicely on the green fields, giving a little burst of color as you pass each farm. I liked the way they marked the place as we drove along and gave the scenery a consistent theme. But surely the barns weren't painted red purely for my viewing pleasure.

The more barns we passed, the more I wondered why so many of them are red. There was the occasional weathered, unpainted barn (often with a patch of dull red to indicate the barn had once matched its counterparts) or a white one, but nearly all I saw were red. Why? I found this article and a few others on why barns are painted red. Essentially, this tradition began because the rust mixed in with the paint protected the barn. Long after paints were made to resist the weather, farmers continued to paint them red out of tradition.

I'm a big fan of tradition. I want the same cookies every Christmas, the same dressing every Thanksgiving, two cups of coffee every morning. Like anything, tradition can be taken too far. But I like the tradition of red barns. I like that something that started functional is now maintained for largely aesthetic reasons. It makes me wonder what traditions I uphold in my life that began from a functional need, but have remained simply because I like them. And I hope I can look back on my life and see where I've chosen to maintain some things simply because they bring beauty to the landscape around me.

Friday, July 3, 2009


: mutual or reciprocal action or influence

A, B and K have been out of town since Saturday visiting their grandparents in Milwaukee. I've really enjoyed having some time to myself and with J. I've chosen to spend a lot of time alone and reading. While part of me wishes I had been more productive, I have loved waking up each morning and reading a little in bed before I start my day. I've also enjoyed the quiet of a house occupied only by me. But today was busier. I met a friend for coffee and another friend for lunch.

While I enjoy interaction, I don't always choose it. Left to my own devices, I choose to be alone. This is both good and bad for me. I do need a certain amount of time alone to recharge my batteries. I feel refreshed after a day with a book, a day without noise, a day without a lot of conversation. But day after day of this leaves me feeling overcharged, weighed down, caged in.

So I also thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with these two women today. I don't have close friendships with either of them, but they are both gifted women, who have jobs they were made to do. One of them knows and loves my children. Another shares a passion with me and understands the wounds my past has left on my heart. I felt lighter after spending time with each of them.

I like that Merriam Webster talks about interaction being mutual. When I think about these two friends (who do not know each other), I am thankful to know them. They are each very good at what they do and it makes me happy to see them use their gifts. Perhaps that is what draws me to them. I hope I can someday be as secure in my calling as they are - and that others can be lightened by their interactions with me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


3 c: a balance maintained in an artistic work between opposing forces or elements

I love books that capture the inherent tension in life. For me, this means I enjoy books that show the sad and heart-breaking things in life, but also give glimpses of the things that make life worth living. I recently finished a book that missed the boat entirely on this tension and went into the deep waters of hopelessness. It left me feeling sodden, dripping and dissatisfied.

Not long ago a friend shared a writing exercise: Name your 5 favorite movies
, find the thread that links them, and that is what you should be writing about. It was an interesting exercise for me since the movies I named didn't really have an obvious link. I could only come up with four and they were Roman Holiday, Boyz n the Hood, Out of Sight and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. They aren't the same genre - you've got contemporary, old and sci-fi. They don't have consistent plot theme - sad endings, open endings, hopeful endings. What they do share in common is that they portray that tension of good and bad, happy and sad, hopeful and hopeless. This is what I want to capture in my writing because that balance between opposing forces underlies everything we do and experience.

I want to be content living in the tension. The tension of planning and not-knowing. The tension of desire and delayed gratification. The tension of loving and disciplining children. This is easier said than done because it means living with the ache - the ache of wanting more, longing for more, seeking more - and loving the ache for what it teaches you. Not allowing the ache to be easily satisfied with the lazy entertainment options amply available in our world. Not allowing the ache to be quelled by distraction instead of being fully present. Not pretending the ache is not there. For me, that's the beauty of the tension of life.