Wednesday, March 31, 2010


1 : in the time, place, or order nearest or immediately succeeding
After a full year of having a speaking commitment looming ahead of me, it is done, finished. I find I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share some of what God has taught me - and to see very clearly some fruit from seeds planted during a long and hard recovery. (To download Friday's presentation, click here. Saturday's is here.) Sometimes we walk through hard things and never get to know and understand their purpose in our lives, so it was an honor to see my own struggles help other women.

What comes next? It's not that I don't know where to spend my time. I have plenty of things that need doing - a kitchen remodel to plan, a home school curriculum to design, and, always, laundry to be done. So I know what to do with my hands, my body and, to some extent, my mind. But where should my focus go?

I haven't spent the last year in constant preparation for the retreat. I've spent time studying other things, reading other books, tackling other tasks. But this commitment was such a large one that it's always been there and a part of my mind has been tuned in and waiting for something of clarity to come through to direct me in what to say. Even in the waiting, I had great peace throughout this process. I could easily have been a basket case - or a control freak - leading up to the retreat. But I received affirmations along the way and a supernatural calm.

Will that peace, that stillness, that calm evaporate when I move on to whatever is next? Will I feel as close to God when walking a less terrifying path of obedience?

And then I realize that maybe what's next is just as terrifying.

Which is scarier - speaking in front of 80 women or leaving the only church home I've ever really known in faith that God has another place for my family?

I guess I'm almost exactly where I was a year ago - about to do something that I'm not sure I can do, something that I feel very clearly on my heart. At least this year, I have the comfort of looking back on God's faithful provision so far and can rely on the fact that whatever is next, I won't be tackling it alone.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


3 a: having a touch or trace of : somewhat b: having the approximate age of (fortyish)
ALSO: a fabulous children's book by Peter Reynolds

If you've not read Peter Reynolds' wonderful book, Ish, here's a brief summary:
A young boy Ramon loves to draw. Anytime, anything, anywhere.

Until one day, his older brother sees him drawing and says scathingly, "What's THAT supposed to be?"

Ramon crumples up the paper and for a long time thereafter, nothing he draws satisfies him. He sits at a table, surrounded by crumpled pieces of paper.

Then one day, his younger sister is standing by as he crumples and throws a piece of paper. She grabs it and dashes off. Ramon chases her to her room, where he finds a gallery of crumpled masterpieces. He stops dead in his tracks and the little sister points out her favorite.

"Yeah," Ramon say, "that was supposed to be a vase, but it doesn't look like one," "Well... it looks vase-ish," she replies. Ramon pauses, sees it through her eyes and agrees that it does look ish.

After that Ramon's passion for drawing returns and he approaches all of life in an ish fashion. He writes ish poems, draws ish draws and lives ishfully ever after.

It's one of my favorite children's books for several reasons:
1) Ramon's passion for drawing at the beginning is cheerfully innocent
2) We see how our words can rob other's joy when Ramon loses his enjoyment in drawing after his brother's comment
3) His sister is the one who restores his vision for art and life, so that
4) We get to see how our words can build up and encourage one another

Not long after I started sharing this blog address with others, a friend told me it was unlike any other blog she'd ever read. So, I've decided my blog is blog-ish because it "has a touch or trace of" what other blogs contain. Initially, I was hesitant about sharing Word Girl with others, but I've decided I'm not writing for others, I'm writing for me. I want to live an ish life and not worry about whether my blog posts are funny enough, deep enough or relevant enough. They are "enough" because they are enough for me. I know not every post is as good as the previous - or the next - but it's important to me, like Ramon's drawings are to him.

Ramon saw the world in drawings and I see it in words. I don't want someone to laugh at my writing, but even if they do (when they do), I won't crumple it up and throw it away because it's mine and my words don't have to be validated by anyone else to be valuable.

Are you living an ish life? Do you cook soup-ish meal or bake casserole-ish dishes? How are you seeking and using outlets for your creativity, no matter how big or small? Are you living like Ramon's sister and validating other's efforts? I want to live like Ramon and talk like his sister...

Re-posted from the archives

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


2 : absence of sound or noise : stillness

In a few days, I'll leave for a women's retreat. My favorite part of this retreat is the time of solitude and silence on Saturday morning. We will start our day with a concert of prayer and then eighty or so women will disperse quietly for a few hours alone with God. This was first incorporated into the retreat two years ago and I found I loved it. So much so that at last year's retreat, I opted out of our afternoon small groups to have more solitude time.

I love that the above definition of silence incorporates not only a lack of sound, but stillness. Because it's the stillness of silence that I really love. I love feeling my body and my soul become still as I soak up the silence.

This year's retreat will be a slightly different experience for me because I am the featured speaker. While I have no aspirations to be a public speaker, I felt a strong pull to share what I've learned over the last two years. So my silence here on my blog is largely in preparation for sharing at the retreat. I've felt a need to keep my thoughts inside and let them grow in my heart and mind.

Up until recently, I had been so focused on finishing my presentation and having hand-outs prepared that I hadn't stopped to think about the fact that I will get to receive at this retreat as well as give. Because I still get to participate in our time of solitude on Saturday and I know what blessings this time has brought me in the past. Until that time, I'll be cultivating a bit of silence here in cyberspace and praying that you find time in your life to quiet the noises around you, still your soul and listen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


2 a (2) an unexpected defeat
3 a : to trouble mentally or emotionally

Oh, Vanderbilt. How many ways can you break my heart? I've come to expect this of you during football season and I've grown very successful at guarding my heart from getting too invested in your performance on the field. But on the court? Your season, until today, had far exceeded my expectations. Surprising wins. Strong plays. Confidence on the court, even when on the ropes.

So I was upset (emotionally troubled) by Murray State's upset (unexpected defeat) of my Commodores today. I did my best to distract myself. I collaged journal pages from the comfort of our Vandy bean bag during the game. I answered the phone when a friend called halfway through the second half to see if I was going crazy. I stayed fairly calm until the last two minutes of game time, when I sternly told my children to NOT get in front of the TV at all until the game was over. (I noted somewhat distractedly that A responded to this edict by crawling on the floor to get from the front door to her room.)

It was all for naught. I collapsed on the ground when Murray State his the game winning shot. K tried to comfort me. All I wanted to do was hide - or scream, very loudly. My husband wasn't even home to share this emotional trauma with me and I actually admired the way Murray State played, so I couldn't point fingers at anyone for this loss. Vanderbilt certainly didn't play a perfect game, but it wasn't a game where I wondered where our team was - we more or less played our game and just got beat. I'm not sure if that makes it harder or easier.

If you aren't a sports fan, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. And I wish I could explain it to you. I wish I could tell you why a basketball game matters so much to me. I wish I could convey the excitement, the way my pulse races a bit, the seeping disappointment that overtook me at the end of the game. And even more than I wish I could explain it to you, I wish I understood WHY this is the case. What is it about sports that can exhilarate and deflate with such force?

I've really got no answers for you. Only questions:
Do sports take you on an emotional roller coaster?
Does the roller coaster scare you, thrill you or both?
What team(s) give you the wildest ride?

And finally, for Vanderbilt fans everywhere:
Is it worth it? Are the highs worth the lows?

post-game photo of Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt Head Coach, by Paul Sakuma, AP

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


2 a : something that lends grace or beauty

In February, an exhibit opened at the Frist Center that I've been wanting to see called Heroes: Mortals & Myths in Ancient Greece. The timing couldn't have been better for our family. B's third grade class was in the process of completing a unit on Greek mythology and staging a play that acted out several key myths. At the same time, A & B were already captivated by Greek mythology from having recently read the Percy Jackson series. On one of our many snow days during the month of February, a kind friend offered to take our girls to see the exhibit. The timing didn't work out and I had been holding out hope that I would be well enough to go with them myself to see the exhibit. So I'm grateful that I was able to join them today - and I didn't even need a wheelchair to do it.

Art museums are some of my favorite places in the world. They quiet my soul and I never leave that I don't find myself thinking, "Why don't I do that more often?" Today was no exception, although I was reminded of how differently children (at least my children) experience art. K was most fascinated by how old these objects were - all were at least two thousand years old. So every time she brought me over to an object, she would ask me to tell her about it and she would remind me, "Say how old it is!" A and B went through the galleries even faster than their younger sister, trying to pick out scenes on amphoras that they'd heard about in The Iliad or The Odyssey and/or read about in a Percy Jackson book.

I tried, at one point, to insert a bit of reflection. In the third gallery, there was a bench. I needed a quick rest at this point anyway, so I asked A, B, K and a few of their friends to sit with me for a moment. I said, "Sit here for just a minute and look - from here - at the art in this room. Without looking at the descriptions or the stories depicted on the vases, which is your favorite piece and why?" Only one child actually sat. Another asked, "Does it have to be a piece in this room?" A third child offered her favorite and then they were off - pointing out this or that piece that was their favorite based on size (the largest or the tiniest being favorites of several girls).

Meanwhile, my mind was stuck on a vase one room back. One that was a bit different from most we'd seen. It had three handles instead of two - two on opposite sides, with the third at a right angle between them. I assume the two handles were used for filling the vase and the third used for pouring out the water. For some reason, seeing these three handles and envisioning their functionality changed the exhibit for me. These vases that we see behind glass were made to be used. They were made by people - artists - who lived in a world so different from mine. They lived in a world where daily existence was hard - they didn't buy bread at the store, they baked it. They didn't turn on a faucet for a glass of water, they went to a well. Yet they took time to create objects that weren't just functional, but beautiful. They ornamented objects created for daily use.

I've always liked this about Greek art - that functionality and beauty are intricately and intrinsically linked. And it made me wonder whether I take the time to ornament my own daily life. Do I take a bit of time in each day for grace and beauty? We have art in our house - photography, pottery, paintings, even a textile or two. But do I stop to enjoy these or are they just a part of the background?

I think this blog is part of my attempt to make a space in my life for ornamentation. I don't need to scritch scratch out my little words, but they do, for me, ornament and delineate my life. The words I write give me a way to make sense of my life and to stop for a moment and ponder the gift that an unknown Greek artist gave me today - from long ago and far away, a gift of beauty in my day.

Greek Volute Krater, ca. 525-500 BC, from The Walters Art Museum collection

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


1 : what provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically : playful often boisterous action or speech (full of fun)

Laying in bed awake late last night (thank you, daylight savings time), I told J that our first day of Spring Break was a failure. He asked what constituted "success" for Spring Break. "Well, I want them to have fun. Even if we don't travel, I want them to have fun while they're out on break." If you had asked our girls at the end of yesterday whether they had fun, the answer would almost certainly have been no. A slightly hesitant no from A, a completely certain one from B and K... well, K might have said she had fun - it would just depend on what was top of mind for her.

Yesterday certainly wasn't a fun day, in my opinion. The weather didn't help anything - gray day, everything is gray, I watch, but nothing moves today - but I did the best I could. Our favorite library (the downtown one) is closed on Mondays, so we drove out to a branch library near J's workplace and took our time picking out fiction books, books on Greek heroes to get us excited about today's trip to the Frist, books to read aloud, books to read alone and picture books to enjoy. When we got home, I made the lunch K had requested the night before (mac & cheese) and let the girls watch a Red Box movie to pass some of the afternoon.

This day left us, without exception, dissatisfied. Perhaps our dissatisfaction came from the familiarity of this day. With 7 snow days this year, we've done the lounge around in our PJs day, the read books until your eyes cross day, the watch movies and eat popcorn afternoons. What we want is not a snow day, but a spring day. Warmer weather, yes, but more than warmth, we want to see the SUN. This winter has been one of the longest I can ever remember experiencing (with the exception of our winter in Ohio that lasted until May!) and it is wearing on each and every one of us.

Spring has always been my favorite time of year in Nashville - when it's warm, but not yet hot, when it's fun to be outside and I can wear cute clothes and not immediately sweat through them thanks to summer's oppressive humidity. But spring is slow in coming this year. The daffodils are peeking up, the hyacinths pushing their way out, the forsythia beginning to herald the arrival of a parade of blooms. But if all of this arrives without sun to warm my face and entice my children outside to worlds real (our street) and imagined (Narnia-esque places), will we have fun?

Today will be another day spent inside, but at least we'll be surrounded by art - art that is centuries old, art that tells stories we know and stories we don't know, art that was made by hand, without the aid of technology, art that was made in the sun-soaked land of Greece. Maybe by looking at it, we'll be momentarily transported to a sunnier place and maybe that will shine some fun on our day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


3 a : the act or power of seeing : sight

What shapes my vision? The good experiences I've had or the bad ones? While our experiences doubtless influence us, at some level, I can choose how to see things and people. I can put on glasses that let me view the world through a prism of the painful things I've experienced or I can choose to see the world through the healing I've experienced.

J and I are a few days behind in watching Lost, so last night we watched the most recent episode. It's been striking to me how closely I have identified with the various characters' brokenness this season. In the most recent episode, I tried not to identify with Benjamin Linus. I didn't want to change my image of him and I certainly didn't want to empathize with him, but by the end of the episode, I felt like he was me (the same way, I might add, I felt two weeks ago about Jack Shephard and a bit less so about Sayid last week). I think I relate so much to Ben and Jack because they have fathers that fail them - and they are shaped by that. It influences the way they see their world and others.

My own experiences certainly shape the way I see others. Depending on the day, I might be judgmental of someone who struggles with something I have experienced and overcome or I might have compassion towards them, remembering the challenge that it was for me. I don't always want to see others with a vision of compassion because it reminds me of my own pain and asks me to walk through it again. That's something I would prefer not to do - for Jack Shephard, Ben Linus or a real, live friend. I prefer to see their capabilities, their skills, their gifts - and perhaps, in a weak moment, use them to recriminate myself for not being more like them - more whole, less broken. Seeing other broken people reminds me of how broken I am.

But maybe I am at my best - or most authentic - when I am willing to be broken. Maybe when I don't hide behind my cool white sunglasses, others are able to see themselves reflected in my eyes. Maybe when I see them clearly, they know they are being seen - and maybe that makes them feel normal, known, even loved. And if I have to use a compassionate form of vision to do this - one that leaves me vulnerable in both seeing and being seen - maybe that is worth it.

Even more importantly, if I will train my vision to be one of compassion, maybe I will be able to see myself not as I think I am or think I should be, but as I was made to be. Because sometimes my vision of myself could use more compassion and less judgment.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


1 a (2) : a substance held capable of prolonging life indefinitely b (1) : cure-all (2) : a medicinal concoction

I'm not a snake oil salesman, but I do have a magical elixir that I drink for nearly anything that ails me. Headache? Backache? Stomach ache? Yes, yes and yes. Here's a conversation I had yesterday with my cashier at Walgreen's:

Cashier: Wow. I've had a headache for three days now.
Me: Have a Coke.
Cashier: Hmm. You know, that just might be my problem.
Me: (nodding knowingly) Yeah, I've had a headache for three days, but I had a Coke with lunch. It's amazing how quickly it knocks it out.
Cashier: I might just have to have one.
Me: I know. I can understand why they sold the stuff as medicine years ago. It cures all my ills.
Cashier: (chuckles) You know, that's true!
Me: (satisfied that I have shared my vast knowledge of the medicinal properties of Coke) Have a good weekend - and I hope you get rid of that headache!

Coke is good stuff. I'm not taking about Diet Coke, Coke Zero or Pepsi. Coca Cola original is my magical elixir. And I can't accept any substitutes. For one thing, I can't really drink any of those other sodas I just named. All of them taste funny to me - because they don't taste like Coke.

I've come a long way since growing up a tiny town in southern Alabama. There, everything bubbly was Coke. When you asked your friends if they wanted a Coke, you then asked them what kind (Sprite? Dr. Pepper? Coke?). So Coke is just a part of me. It's not just my favorite soda. It's comfort in liquid form.

I don't drink Coke every day. I love it way too much for that. But if I have a headache, it helps far more than ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Don't bother telling me that it's the caffeine in it that gets rid of the headache. That may be true on a rational level, but I don't choose coffee to get rid of my aches and pains. I choose Coke. There's probably a psychological component to Coke's healing powers for me. And while I've yet to let my daughters try this precious beverage (no caffeine allowed), I have no doubt that they, too, will grow to know and love the magical elixir that the world calls Coca Cola.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


1 : concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

There's a fierce competition going on in my house right now for the title of Most Selfish Person. It's a tight race between firstborn A, and yours truly, The Mom, who is supposed to be beyond such attitudes.

For my part, the selfishness stems from the persistent throb at the base of my neck, the ache behind my eyes and the fatigue brought on by a headache of this caliber. It makes me want something completely and totally for my own advantage and well-being: I want my daughters to cease being children for an hour or two, require little of me and go quietly to bed, preferably earl

I guess it's hard to say what the source of A's selfishness is, so instead I'll share how it is currently manifesting itself:
The Mom:
A & B?
Girls: Yes?
The Mom: Can you please brush your teeth?
loud clattering of feet hitting the floor as they race each other to the bathroom, one securing the toothpaste first, the other being in possession of her toothbrush first
B: Hey! (shoves toothpaste at her sister, which I witness from where I am sitting)
The Mom: B, put the toothpaste down.
B: But! I haven't brushed my teeth yet. (still holding toothpaste out of the reach of her sister)
The Mom: I know. Please put the toothpaste down and come here. You can brush your teeth when A is done (B walks, without stomping, over to where I sit.) Why did you try to hit A?
B: She shoved me and I didn't even do anything! Why did she do that?
The Mom: Well, you don't try to hit her no matter what she does. You'll have to ask her why she did that to you. Now, go brush your teeth, please.
B: A, why did you do that?
A: It was just instinct, I guess.
B: Mom, why did she do that?
The Mom: I think she was just being mean.
B: A, I'm sorry.
A: (stomps out of bathroom, ignoring B's apology)
The Mom: A!
A: It's OK, B.
The Mom: A, can you come here please? (She comes, bringing with her a sullen look, eyes downcast.) You've done at least five things wrong in the last two minutes. Can you please name three of them for me?

It turns out the reason A was so unkind to her sister is because a few days ago, the sisters made an agreement. It was apparently the rare occasion when A wanted to play, but B did not. To entice her, A promised that the next time B wanted to play and she didn't, she would play anyway. So tonight, B called in her chips. A wanted to read, but she was playing instead.

I don't think this is what B had in mind when she agreed to this. Her sister would play with her but be mean while doing it? I asked A whether B had been mean while playing with her that day. No? Did she have a bad attitude about it? No? Then she shouldn't either. I told A that she could go and read her book, but that her agreement with B was not satisfied. She still owed her. I told B the same thing and both are currently satisfying my own selfish needs and reading, quietly, in their rooms.

I'll be honest that I'm frustrated with my 10 year old's attitude. I want to make her see that she should honor her sister's willingness to play with her days ago. I want her to understand how blessed she is to have a younger sister who wants to play with her. I want her to realize that the book she wants to read will be there when she is finished playing. (Ahem, did I really just criticize her desire to read? Hi, Pot, my name is Kettle.) I want her to stop being selfish.

But then I look at my own expectations, desires and feelings tonight and I see that I am just as hopeless as she is. I want to enjoy my daughters' company, not tolerate it. I want to engage them in conversation at the dinner table, not wince as K speaks loudly into my ear. I want to meet their needs and set aside my own. I want to be a good mom to them, not a selfish one. I want to be a mom without a headache, since that makes it easier to be a good mom.

In an effort to actually change, I set this aside in the middle of the post because K wanted to show me how she had laid out her school clothes for tomorrow. It's a start, I guess. Any suggestions on how to be a good mom even when you have a headache? Don't be shy. I could use your ideas... and in the meantime, I'll try to think about others instead of myself, even with a pounding head.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


: with the feet bare
Are you a shoes on or shoes off kind of person? I've never been much for going barefoot. Even as a kid, I was likely to slide on my flip flops before heading outside. As I write this, I am sitting in my own home, nearly ready for bed, with shoes on my feet. I'm totally uncomfortable with taking my shoes off in someone else's home, no matter what color their carpet is. So I'm clearly a shoes on kind of girl, but yesterday at church I started thinking about whether this is yet another change I should contemplate in my life. (Especially with change being my word for 2010...)

Why did church make me start thinking about going barefoot a bit more often? Well, the passage concerned Joshua being told to remove his sandals because he was on holy ground. Now, my pastor talked a bit about how being barefoot is an invitation to blessing. Even I - a girl who will choose cool boots over bare feet any day - think the beach is simply made for enjoying sans shoes. So I can get that there's a component of living life to its fullest in going barefoot.

But that's not the first thing I think of when I hear a command to take my shoes off. The first thing I think of is how vulnerable I will feel and will be without shoes. I'm sure this says something about the degree of fear I live with - and have lived with for most of my life. I'm afraid to even take my shoes off, even in the presence of God.

This is not a completely irrational fear. We do wear shoes to protect us. But as I contemplated my aversion to going barefoot, it occurred to me that there are probably blessings I miss out on because I'm afraid to live life with abandon. I am cautious, hesitant and deliberate. I venture only on the safe, well-worn paths. And even then, I like to be properly shod.

What might going barefoot a bit more look like? I'm not sure what it might look like for you, but for me I think it means trying things that make me uncomfortable, but that feel right nonetheless. (Exhibit A of this type of behavior will occur when I speak at a women's retreat later this month - a looming event that increasingly makes me feel like I am about to jump off of a cliff.) It also means being willing to dawdle when a grassy field or stretch of sandy beach presents itself. I'm far to quick to stay focused on the task at hand and forgo the pleasures of sinking my toes into something.

In an attempt to actually implement some of the changes I think about, ponder and write about, I spent a bit of time on this gorgeous middle Tennessee day to sit in the grass barefoot. Two daughters sat with me, quietly doing their homework so that they could dash off to the playground and enjoy the afternoon with wild abandon. I must admit it was nice. I didn't read. I didn't talk. I didn't mentally plan what I should do with the rest of my day. I tried to just experience life, barefoot, for a while. And it was worth trying.

photo by David S. April Photography

Saturday, March 6, 2010


1 a : a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale
2: one of my favorite places on earth

Do you love the library as much as I do? I love going there alone, with my husband, with my daughters. A nice, long solo trip leaves me feeling refreshed, renewed and ready to read. Even a quick trip is satisfying because it normally signifies that a long-awaited book has become available and is sitting on the hold shelf with my very own name on it.

When I was working to get everything ready prior to my surgery, I washed every article of clothing, I swept, I mopped, I cooked extra food to freeze... and I made time for one last trip to the library to stock up on books. How else were my daughters going to make it through my recovery? And what was I supposed to do while stuck on the sofa or in bed for weeks other than read?

This obsession with the library isn't entirely selfish. My daughters need their book fix as much (or more?) than I do. That pre-op trip to the library lasted a few weeks, but one of the first trips we made once I was able to drive was to the downtown library.

There's just something special about a place filled with books - picture books, chapter books, novels, books we've read before, books by authors we love, books we've never seen before that very trip to the library. There's nothing quite like walking out with a huge stack of books without paying a dime. And the anticipation! When we leave the library, the girls immediately crack open a book and read on the drive home, however long or short it may be. Frankly, if I weren't normally the one driving, I would probably join them.

As I thought back to our recent trip to the library and how very satisfied it left us, I read up a little on libraries. They've been around for a while: about 50 centuries (yes, you read that right - there were libraries in Sumer) and about 16 centuries as we now know them (thank you, ancient Greeks). Clearly, I'm not the first person to realize that a book shared is the best kind of book.

My love of the library is one of the things that keeps me living in a city. While there are many advantages to small town life, a fully stocked library is rarely one of them. I almost never try to request a book from our library only to find they don't own it. In fact, I can often request a copy of a book before it's ever published, so that I'm one of the first to receive a copy once the book is purchased and processed.

I often end posts by trying to analyze why I think or feel a certain way. But I am completely comfortable with this particular quality: there is absolutely nothing wrong with loving the library. So in lieu of any profound thoughts, I will share with you the list of books in my hold queue from the library. Sadly, we can only have ten books on hold. (Don't tell, but I often cheat by putting holds on books via my husband's less used account...)

One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich

Lighting their fires : raising extraordinary kids in a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world

Alcatraz versus the Knights of Crystallia

The book of Genesis / illustrated by R. Crumb

The lost conspiracy

Winter garden

Secrets of Eden : a novel

The man from Beijing

Beatrice and Virgil

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

What's on your to-read list???

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


1. to refuse pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.)
3. to withhold pardon to (a person)

Are some actions unforgivable? There are certainly things that we do that can't be undone, mistakes both big and small. But do you believe, do I believe that there are some offenses so great that I should refuse pardon? Right now, a Tennessee woman sits on death row, awaiting execution. She's been convicted of hiring someone to kill her (abusive) husband. While certainly not an action that I condone, reading her story made me wonder whether this is unforgivable. Because it seems to me that putting someone to death, executing her, means her actions are truly and literally beyond pardon, beyond forgiveness, outside the realm of second chances.

But I don't think I believe this - about anyone or anything they have done. I've made big and small mistakes throughout my life. In fact, I continue to make them. Just last night, my five year old told me that I "build her down when I use that mean voice." Tearing my child down with words isn't the same thing as murder for hire, but both are wrong. And I am thankful that K gives me not just a second chance, but many chances, to be a better mom to her.

It seems to me that if Gaile Owens is put to death, we send the wrong message to our children who disobey, our teenagers who drink underage, our daughter who gets pregnant in high school, our son who hits someone in anger. Because the message we send is that any one mistake can define you forever. If Gaile is executed because one action she committed is unforgivable, we're saying that SHE is unforgivable. We are saying that one moment in time defines all of who she is.

None of us want that for ourselves, our children, our families. We want the chance to change, the chance to make reparations for the wrongs we commit, the chance to continue living.

Monday, March 1, 2010


: the act of absolving (setting free from an obligation or the consequences of sin); specifically : a remission of sins pronounced by a priest (as in the sacrament of reconciliation)

Last night, my children ate cereal and canned ravioli for dinner. Not together, mind you. K had ravioli while A and B had cereal (again). J was at a company meeting, so he actually ate a balanced meal. When he returned home shortly after the girls' bedtime, I was telling him what I fed them for dinner. Yesterday was a rough day in the pain department, so I'm sure I was less than upbeat as I shared our evening's menu. He opened his arms to hug me and I said, "It's times like these that I wish I was a Catholic. I need absolution."

J, being the guy that he is, offered to absolve me on the spot. He even reverted to his long-ago faith and thought up a penance for me - I seem to recall it including a few Hail Marys, which I don't know. But even as I was joking about this with J, I knew in my heart that what needs absolution is not feeding my children less-than-healthy meals, but what I do to myself for this lapse. It's not really a sin to feed my children cereal or canned pasta. But it is a sin to castigate myself so thoroughly for it, especially because I do so out of pride.

It's been made crystal clear to me over the last two weeks how I have taken something good (a joy in cooking) and turned it into something... something I don't even have words for. I've turned it into an idol, I suppose. Instead of the meals I serve my family being part of what I do to care for them, they've become part of the definition of who I am. So when I can't stand, don't have the energy to shop or cook and can't meet my own standards, where does that leave me? Miserable, apparently.

Even though I know I am being too hard on myself, even though I know my kids don't care, even though I know this is not the end of the world, it matters to me and I continue to berate myself for not feeding my family well. A lot of my feelings about this are painfully tied up in my own self-image from when I was the ages of my daughters. I've always believed if I feed them well-balanced meals, offer them healthy snacks, serve them fruits and veggies at every turn, that they won't be mocked by their classmates for looking like jello when they run, as I so vividly recall. So what I have to come to terms with is whether I can cut myself the slightest bit of slack and believe that they won't turn in to me as a result of a few poorly planned dinners.

Because that is really the bottom line: I want to save them from being me. I want so desperately to let them make their own mistakes and earn their own scars and not mirror my own. I want them to make better choices than I did at the dinner table and in life. But I need to set myself free from my self-imposed obligation to cook something new, creative and healthy every night. And I need to remember that I don't really require absolution... that is, after all, what Jesus died to give us.

Maybe if I can learn this lesson, this additional lesson amongst the many I have already had to learn during this season of recovery, maybe then I will finally be on the road to mental and physical health.