Monday, May 31, 2010


6 : a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior

At 7 this morning, my eyes fluttered open, found the clock, listened for voices downstairs and heard nothing. Satisfied, my eyes drifted shut and sleep settled back over me. An hour later, J and I were stretching under the sheets, marveling that our daughters had let us sleep this late. What a Memorial Day treat from our daughters, who were surely exhausted from last night's cookout and fun with friends - this was a habit I could easily form!

A few hours later, after coffee and breakfast, I called the girls into the living room and asked them to each bring their craft box and journal. A few weeks ago, I ordered journals for the girls like one I've been working on. It is my intention that we form a habit of working in our journals every Monday morning. I've found that making time on Monday to create helps me ready myself for the week - mentally, spiritually, maybe even physically. Because it helps me do something for me before the obligations of the week take over. I had beautiful images in my mind of the four of us sitting around, clipping photos, gluing images, writing ideas, stories and scraps of thoughts. Today was the first Monday of summer break, so I thought it was the perfect time to start forming our summer journal habit.

It didn't take long for the real world to collide with my imaginary one. B was unhappy to join us. She was re-reading a good book and didn't want to leave her room, much less join us in doing something I was suggesting. Being who she is, B did not hesitate to let me know exactly how she felt about my idealistic plan for us to spend time creating together. She told me through tears that she didn't want summer to be like school and that this felt like school. I persevered and asked her to please just try it. I explained that I wouldn't require her to stay for long and that it wasn't like school. She could choose to clip images, write in her journal or to collage. Our time together ended up going well. I found an image or two of a dog in a magazine and B ran with that theme, clipping several dogs and cats to use later. But this first attempt at forming a habit I desire for us reminded me that habits take work, effort and time.

In another part of my life, I'm being constantly reminded that habits not only take time to form, but to break. I'm on day 22 of a fast from fiction and I want to read a good novel now more than ever. I am learning from this experience and have spent far more time in creative efforts in the last 22 days, have spent more time not just praying, but listening and have been reminded that I should be far more disciplined in writing - not just for this blog, for for my Fun Jar blog, which I hope to one day turn into a book. I have felt the urge to write a book about this topic for a year, but until recently didn't know exactly how to approach it.

Writing non-fiction is tough for someone who loves to immerse herself in fiction, as I do. But it recently occurred to me that the missing component in my efforts thus far has been my analytical, non-fiction approach to telling the Fun Jar story. Instead of simply sharing what we do, I should talk about why we do it. In short, I should include what I'm thinking, feeling and hoping as I walk through our summer. Because maybe that's the piece that might encourage another mom who feels intimidated by the long expanse of summer stretched out before her.

Hopefully, I'll use our time this summer to form some good habits that will serve me well in the future and break some old habits whose time is past.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


:the end of the week; specifically :the period between the close of one work or school week and the start of the next

Freshly picked strawberries

Catching lightning bugs in a jar

Helping K cut up a birthday card to be glued into her journal

Strawberry chocolate chip pancakes, sausage and eggs for Saturday morning breakfast

Wii bull riding, bowling and archery after breakfast

Reading a book that arrived in the mail yesterday

Buying tumbled marble tiles for the kitchen renovation

A 7 year old's ice cream birthday party

Mowing the lawn

A sleepover for K with her aunt, uncle and cousin

Watching a movie together as a family

Sunday morning worship

Sharing homemade ice cream with friends

A quiet evening at home

Sleeping in

Sharing a Monday with no work, no school, no plans
Whether your weekend looks similar to ours or totally different, may it bring you rest, relaxation and all of life's best.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


1 b(2): the point where something ceases to exist

It arrives too quickly. Wasn't it just yesterday we were buying three new backpacks, three lunchboxes, countless school shirts and skirts? Wasn't it last week that K cut her hair less than twenty four hours before starting kindergarten? How is it the end of A's elementary school career? Is it really possible that tomorrow at noon she will cease to be an elementary student and become a middle school one?

Here are a few of the things I'll miss about this year ending:

Three daughters at one school - running in to each other in the hallway, bumping into a sister's friend in the library, one drop off point, one pick up point, one place for our family to connect with our community
Familiarity - I know this sweet little elementary school, know the teachers, the students, the parents, but I don't know the first thing about how to homeschool a daughter wise beyond her years with a bright and quick mind, but who needs instruction nonetheless

Knowledgeable, trained, loving, excellent teachers - each of my daughters have been blessed with great teachers in their time at Lockeland, so I'll be sad to navigate A's educational waters alone, not only in uncharted territory, but with little in the way of compass and maps

Time alone - let's be honest, I have loved having time to read, write, run errands, do laundry and create without my daughters constantly with me. It will be a huge adjustment to have A with me nearly all the time for the next fifteen months. So I'll definitely miss the time alone that elementary school has afforded me.
Yet I know - have experienced - that an end leads to a beginning. We do have much to look forward to with joyful anticipation:
History - a lovely, fun, amazing book arrived yesterday. When A and I opened it up, her eyes lit with pleasure and she dropped to the floor to inspect it closer. That was a glimmer of the spark I'm hoping to ignite with next year's homeschooling.

Summer - I'm always ready for summer to arrive. I'm ready for breakfast in our pj's, following by mornings in our pj's, followed by picnic lunches and afternoons in our swimsuits. This summer is no exception. I'm looking forward to picking blueberries, swimming at the lake, seeing gorgeous glass art at Cheekwood and much, much more.

Growing daughters - each year brings my daughters a bit closer to independence, a bit closer to the women they will one day be. This is a tad bittersweet, but I do love seeing them grown and learn and it's truly beautiful to see them start to enter the chrysalis of adolescence and know they will emerge as women, not girls.

Still, the end is upon me too soon. This year of snow day after snow day, a full week off in May due to flooding and a spring marked by a mother stuck in post-surgery recovery has sped by at an accelerated rate. I look forward to the things to come, but I'm walking away from this year of parenting a kindergartner, third grader and fourth grader looking back over my shoulder with tears in my eyes.

Monday, May 24, 2010


2 : the relation connecting or binding participants in a relationship: as a : kinship

LOST ended much as I would have had it end - focused on the relationships of the characters I've come to know and love over the last six years. I loved the mythology of LOST, the way that it constantly thwarted my expectations, the way I could never quite figure out exactly what was going on. But far more than that, I loved the flawed and gifted characters that graced its scenes. Because isn't that what we all are - flawed and gifted?

Before last night, the creators had given us a hint of what was to come in the finale - encounters that brought memories washing back, helping characters remember their time on the island. But I hadn't realized how much I would enjoy anticipating who would be the trigger for each person. I hadn't counted on getting to participate in guessing which relationship would be the important one for Sawyer, Jack, Kate, Claire. And I certainly didn't plan to cry every time we slid into the sideways world and got to see people reunited.

One of the most moving scenes was Kate helping Claire deliver Aaron (again). As J and I watched them remember this same experience on a deserted island, he turned to me and said, "Imagine getting to relive that moment: meeting one of our daughters again for the first time." I did watch the LOST finale while imagining what it would be like to get to relive the best, most significant moments of my life at the touch of a hand.

It was interesting that the LOST finale focused so much on relationship and remembering relationships on a day when J and I had spent time with some of our oldest friends. J and T became friends their sophomore year of college and he married his wife, M, two weeks after J and I married. When we moved back to Nashville after a year in Columbus, OH, the four of us became good friends. That was thirteen years ago and we've learned a lot from T & M and our friendship with them.

We don't see much of them these days - they live on the other side of town and are a part of a new church there. But we try to get together three or four times a year and catch up. When we do, it's amazing how easy it is to talk to them. They not only know us, they know our relationship, how our marriage works and even how we used to be. T remembers J missing me when I was in England the year they met. We remember T growing a goatee in his first year teaching so that he would look older than his students.

All of the changes we've gone through and are going through this year have left me feeling a bit untethered in terms of my relationships. Most of the friendships I have are either waxing or waning - few are constant. This has left me nervous for what summer will bring - who knows how hard it will be for me to build community through our Fun Jar as we have done for so long? Will old friends cease to join us since they don't see us weekly? Will new friends be too unconnected to us to want to join? These are things I can't control, so it was good to be with old friends yesterday and remind myself that relationships take work, intentionality and, perhaps most of all, they take time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


6 : a social gathering; also : the entertainment provided for it

I love a good party. To be more specific, I love throwing a good party. I love the preparation for it (nothing makes me clean my house like the possibility of filling it with people), selecting the right food to serve (pizza, fruit and birthday cake, in this case) and the right drinks to offer (Capri Suns and "adult juice boxes" in the form of Mike's Hard Lemonade) and I love inviting everyone who crosses my mind (friends, neighbors, countrymen). 6 year old K is apparently like me in this regard, as her birthday bash proved last night. She was a great hostess, running down to greet friends who just arrived, grabbing a bottle of water to help a friend calm himself down, inking tattoos on kids and grown-ups alike.

K wanted a "jumpy house" for her birthday party, so I placed an order last week for an inflatable castle. Only after placing the order did I check the weather forecast: scattered thunderstorms. Hmmm. The week went by. Friend after friend RSVP'd that they'd join us Friday evening and K kept adding to the guest list, until we were expected about 50 guests last night. So it was with a bit of anxiety that I checked the weather forecast on Thursday. I didn't like what I found predicted for Friday: rain. Around 9 AM, with steel gray clouds gracing the sky and an 80% chance of rain, I had to decide whether to roll the dice and accept the inflatable's delivery. Our contract said that I could refuse to accept delivery in the case of rain, but that once accepted there were no refunds. I decided that a little rain wouldn't stop our party.

Thankfully, the rain never arrived. I spent part of the morning checking the radar every few hours, but by mid-afternoon had decided ignorance was bliss. One dad at the party asked if I was feeling particularly smart for having decided to not let the threat of rain interfere with the party. My reply? "Not smart, just really grateful."

I've never been able to figure out how to enjoy a party and catalog it in photos, so I didn't take a single picture last night. I can't show you the parents seated in lawn chairs and kitchen chairs. I can't show you the kids jumping up and down and shouting, "Kindergarten! First Grade!" as they jumped. I can't show you my husband manning the jumpy house to keep it from filling it up with too many kids - or let you hear his ear splitting whistle, followed by, "Everybody out! Time for the next group!" I can't show you K coming over to me and literally jumping up and down as she said, "Mommy! I. Am. Having. The. Best. Time!" I can't show you A's 4th grade friends playing with younger kids, keeping them entertained, helping them get snacks. I can't show you B and her friend painting tattoos on kindergartners. So you'll just have to imagine it.

And if you weren't there, you'll have to take my word for it that it was a great party. K felt honored. The guests - young and old alike - had fun. Food and drink were consumed. Connections were made and reinforced. Our home and yard were full and so was my heart.

Friday, May 21, 2010


1 : extreme or excessive in degree, size, or extent
2 a : joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic

My youngest daughter K is officially six years old. I debated about what to title this blog post and considered SIX, BIRTHDAY or PARTY before going with the first word that comes to my mind when I think of K: exuberant. (As a sidebar, am I the only person who wants to spell this word exhuberant? I spell it wrong nearly every time I use it. Why is that?!)

It's amusing that the first definition of exuberant is excessive in size. K is diminutive: at her five year check-up, she weighed 32 pounds, a weight that many children attain in their second or third year of life. I would be surprised if she's much more than 35 pounds when I take her for her check up in a few weeks. I've joked that she must have bird bones because she seems to be hollow inside. So she's not exuberant because of her size. Anything but.

She is, however, joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic. Just last night, I ran an errand after dinner and when I returned home, K was literally jumping up and down to show me a rainbow in the sky. We captured it with a photo, but I should have stopped clicking away at the sky and tried to capture her joy in this event.

Of my three daughters, K is the least like me. I've always been far more on the restrained side of the continuum than the unrestrained side. I'm quite good at suppressing my emotions and usually try pretty hard to not let myself get too excited about something, in case there's a letdown to follow. I basically approach life with caution and care. K, on the other hand, runs headlong through life and while I hope she'll grow to control her emotions a bit more than she does at age six, I pray that she'll always jump up and down in excitement.

Since K's birthday falls at the end of May, she's never had a true birthday bash with all of her friends. Don't get me wrong - she's had celebrations: last year, we celebrated her birthday at the beach with close friends and family. But Memorial Day is late this year and school doesn't end until May 27, so this year we planned a big party. We've rented an inflatable and invited just about everyone K can think of. We started by inviting her entire kindergarten class, church friends and dance friends. We've added neighborhood friends, 4th grade friends and anyone we've run into since we set the date. Just yesterday, K said to me, "Mom, can I invite E to my party?" My response of "Sure!" elicited an enthusiastic grin from K as she ran over to tell her friend about the party.

Our weather forecast calls for rain off and on all day - not a great combo for a birthday party with 30 kids who hope to get to jump in an inflatable castle. So I'm praying that K won't have to mute her exuberance. I'm praying that the cake is good, the pizza yummy, the play plentiful. I'm praying that she knows that her enthusiasm for life gives J and I so much joy in her.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


:(TV series), an ABC drama series about plane crash survivors marooned on a mysterious island

It's hard to know where to start talking about Lost. Do I get started on its mind-bending plot? Its spiritual implications? Its sci-fi/reality blend? Its alluring setting that still manages to make a tropical island seem a less than appealing place to spend your life? I could go on about all this and more but last night as I watched, it occurred to me that perhaps the primary reason I love Lost is because I can relate to so many of the characters.

Last night, oddly enough, it was Benjamin Linus who made me think, "I would do something like that." At various times this season I've had this exact same thought about Jack, Sayid, Claire (sideways Claire, not crazy Claire), Locke and several other characters. It's these characters who keep me watching week after week, month after month, season after season. These characters who made me say out loud last night, "I love him! I don't want this show to end!" While I don't recall right now who was onscreen when I uttered those words, they get to the heart of how I feel about Lost.

This is pretty much the same reason I like to read books: for good character development. I've loved watching the brilliant minds behind Lost turn a former torturer, a con man, a murderer (or two), a doctor with a God complex, an estranged married couple and a man separated from his constant into people I truly care about. Which character is my favorite? Well, that depends on the week. I love the way this season we've really seen Desmond come into his own. I love that he's been brave and bold to help the other Oceanic passengers see what they aren't seeing. I love seeing a character make hard choices, choices that I'd like to be more confident making in my own life.

But I also love many of the other characters. Kate's mix of brash cockiness, maternal instinct and sex appeal make me want to be her (if only for a few minutes). Sawyer's tough exterior that hides his wounded heart gets me (and it doesn't hurt that he's easy on the eyes). And Jack? I'll admit that I was pretty sick of him last season. I'd had enough of his self-pity, so this season has been a welcome reprieve. I think I see a bit too much of myself in Jack and I want to believe that I'll move past self-pity for things I can't change about my life and be the person I was meant to be, even if that's a bit scary.

When I read a good book, with characters who are three dimensional and fully developed, I love for the ending to be realistic and maybe a tad open ended so that I can imagine for myself what the character would have done. And I have a sinking feeling that the Lost finale will do much the same thing...

There's no way all of the loose ends will be tied up in the remaining two hours of the show and while I lament this, I also applaud it. I want to be able to decide/imagine/ponder/dream what happens to these characters I've come to know and love, just like I want my own life to play out with all of the inherent suspense and surprise we try to recreate through books, movies and TV shows.

Monday, May 17, 2010


1 : to abstain from food
2 : to eat sparingly or abstain from some foods

Fasting is not a spiritual discipline that I am well acquainted with. I've given up things for Lent a few times - most memorably chocolate (hard to do!) and not using negative self-talk (much, much harder than chocolate) - but fasting is not a regular part of my spiritual practice. Years ago, a friend somewhat jokingly suggested that what I should fast from was books. I laughed it off, but his words came back to me eight days ago and I just couldn't shake the impression that I needed to fast from books and that the time was now.

I was not excited to receive this prompting. I love books. I love reading. I couldn't imagine what it would feel like to give them up voluntarily. In fact, I was pretty much on the hunt for a good book when I received this prompting. I'd recently had two false starts on books that just weren't what I wanted and I was craving a book that would sweep me away and take me somewhere else. My mounting dissatisfaction with these books made me acutely aware of how I use books to satisfy me in a way that is sometimes unhealthy. Still.... give up books altogether?

I spent some time trying to listen to the quiet but persistent voice calling me to fast. It became pretty clear to me that I should fast from fiction and that the reason for this was closely tied to the way I use fiction to escape my life. A good fiction book takes me to another place, another time, another life. A good fiction book allows me to forget about my own troubles, insecurities or pain. And pain, perhaps, is the very reason I needed to fast from fiction. Because I use fiction to numb myself to feelings that I should go ahead and experience. I've been working on not squashing uncomfortable, painful or disagreeable feelings when I have them. I am long accustomed to putting a brave face on everything, but I think there is a time and place to grieve and I can't grieve if I'm lost in a good book.

I'm on day eight without fiction and I'm not sure when I'll feel released to pick up a novel again. Soon, I hope. It has gotten a bit easier as the days have gone on. Clearly giving up something like reading fiction isn't pure loss. It opens up lots of time for other things. So what has abstaining from fiction brought? More listening, more creating, more listening to music. I've tried to resist substituting television for books and have only watched the shows I would have watched anyway (Lost and Glee). And I've still been reading. Specifically this and this - two books that relate perfectly to why I need to fast from the easy escape in order to stay anchored in the every day.

I'm not sure whether this fast has been a success. I've certainly been given clear direction through the process. In fact, I've been given an answer to a question that I didn't know was a question. But the answer, while bringing me some relief, will also bring some pain and take me well outside of my comfort zone. I guess "success" is difficult to define for a fast. Has this made me more aware of my tendency to use fiction to numb myself? Yes. Has it created a space for me to listen to things that I didn't want to hear, but needed to hear? Yes. Will I be thankful when I can pick up a novel with a clear conscience? Absolutely.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


1 : a careful preservation and protection of something; especially : planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect

For about ten days, Nashville has been in water conservation mode. Residents have been asked to eliminate watering lawns and washing cars. We've been asked to shower every other day, to use disposable plates and utensils and wash only essential laundry. I've found lots of ways to conserve. I use the water from my basement dehumidifiers to water my plants and vegetables. I wash fruit in a bowl of water instead of under running water. I've found I actually like washing my hands by dipping them into a bowl of water - it feels reverent and special instead of mundane. But I have to admit that my favorite part of water conservation has been my compliance with limiting laundry.

Last week, I didn't wash a single load of laundry. This was made possible, in part, by a sweet friend who lives in another county washing one load of clothes for us to help us get through. I normally wash five to seven loads weekly, so by the time this week arrived, I could do laundry every day and still have cut my usage in half over the two week period. So I've been doing one load daily in order to work my way through the piles but not overtax the system with five loads in one day.

Yesterday, I folded one load and put another in the washer. As I did so, I thought about the freedom I felt to not start another load when the washer finished. I normally try to push through and wash every item on laundry day, so that I can go longer between washing. But that doesn't mesh with conservation methods, so I've adjusted my expectations: there will be dirty laundry (lots of it) for a while, but I will tackle it bit by bit instead of all at once.

There are a few lessons in here for me (and perhaps for you?).
Why do I need an outside force to grant me grace with myself? If we weren't in water conservation mode, I would have berated myself as being lazy yesterday for not washing more than one load. The conservation guidelines made me relax and say to myself, "You've done what you can for today. Now rest." I would like to be able to rest a bit each day without being forced to do so.

Why do I feel the need to completely finish a job that will never, ever go away? Even if I do five or six or seven loads of laundry in one day, there will always be dirty clothes in my house. There are five of us (and K does enough costume changes that she counts as two people). So while there is some psychological benefit for me to do lots of laundry in one day, it doesn't matter in the long run. Do I feel more accomplished if I can show what I've done with my day? Couldn't I learn something from accepting that many tasks in life - both physical and spiritually - are for the long haul?

Why does it take a crisis for me to re-evaluate the way I live my life? I don't want to be so bogged down in my life that I never take enough of a breather to see whether I am doing what I want to do in a way I want to do it. Am I just following a path that others have laid or am I going where my heart tells me to go? Sure it's just laundry, but do I forget to ask myself whether what has worked in the past is still what works for me now?
I called these "lessons" above, but I guess I have more questions than answers. Does that mean I'm not learning anything? I hope not. I have a daughter who asks lots of questions. She questions nearly everything. And while that can be exhausting, I hope it will also mean that she doesn't follow just because someone is leading. I hope it will mean she asks until she gets the answer that resonates with her heart. Likewise, I hope questioning myself will lead me to the path I need to be on - instead of blindly walking along in well-worn ruts.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


2 b: to deal with and attempt to overcome problems and difficulties —often used with with

We all make choices everyday. Some are small choices, some are bigger. For a few weeks now, I haven't been to the acupuncturist. While those visits help my headaches a lot, there have been some other places I wanted to divert that money. Things that I need and want to do for my soul instead of my body. I knew this wouldn't be an easy choice.

But I had forgotten how bad the headaches can be without any acupuncture assistance. Yesterday and today have fully refreshed my memory. This morning as I stood in the (very brief, thank you water conservation) shower, I felt like I could feel the places in my skull where the bones are fused together. And I thought to myself, "This choice between body and soul isn't an easy one."

Instead of treating my body to avoid the headaches, I'm trying to cope with the headaches right now. I've done this for years, so I'm sure I'll settle into a routine. While I had forgotten just how much the pain interferes with my life, my daughters remember what my headaches are like.

Yesterday after dinner was ready and simmering on the stove, I laid down in K's bed to rest my head for a few minutes. K tucked me in, pulling the blanket up to my chin, getting a stuffed animal for me to cuddle with and then gave me a kiss on the cheek before leaving me in a quiet room. While I rested for about twenty minutes, she went and prepared a treat for me. (The treat consisted of plain bread, raisins and crackers, so in this case it was the thought that counts.) I'm convinced K will make a great doctor, nurse and/or mom someday. She's a great caregiver. All was well until one of her sisters tried to come and see me in her room. From the dim room, I heard K's voice raised to its upper limit, "You can't go in there! Mom has a headache!" Thus ended the reprieve.

Yesterday's coping took the form of a quick nap. Today's took the following form:

I've said before that Coke cures everything. My head is still hurting with about six ounces left in the bottle, so it may not sure the headache, but at least it's helping me cope, as is supper swap, where each family makes one entree time four and shares with three other families. I cooked yesterday, so tonight will find me heating up D's salmon, S's frittata or H's soup. Either way, I won't have to cook. This helps me deal with the headache and I'm already a little sad that supper swap will be on hiatus for the summer. I've loved cooking once weekly and enjoying new foods from friends. I guess during the summer I'll have to cope with headache week by having J bring home take-out.

Even as I write this, I feel selfish and frivolous. People in Nashville are coping with far worse than headaches. They are dealing with ruined homes, lost possessions, shattered dreams and more. So while I deal with my own small pain, I'll try to remember their greater hurts and keep it all in perspective.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


1 a : a state of intellectual or emotional balance : poise

Every now and then, I'll think of a word that I want to use as a title for a blog post and be shocked at how accurately the definition describes what I'm experiencing. This is one of those times. I feel like I've been completely lacking equilibrium lately, namely intellectual or emotional balance. And I feel anything but poised.

Yesterday was Saturday, so J and I finally got everything hauled out of the basement, cleaned the items to keep, treated the basement floor and moved stuff back in. We only had two and a half inches of water, so our situation was nothing compared to that of thousands of people in Nashville. But it was still taxing. I told J at one point yesterday that stuff like this makes me feel like I'm not a grown up. I don't know how to treat a basement that's been flooded for mildew and mold. I don't know whether we're keeping things that will eventually turn gross and have to be thrown out (so we've erred on the side of caution and tossed almost everything). I just feel like I don't know what I'm doing.

I think part of my loss of equilibrium is that it was a crazy week: I was out of town until Tuesday evening and while the girls had no school last week, the system kept us on a day-to-day basis, so I was never able to plan beyond the next day. My poor middle child B, who had such a great week last week, has had a tough week this week. I think the loss of routine was hard for her and she confessed to feeling restless and causing trouble just to entertain herself. I understood, but didn't know quite what to do with that since a large portion of my attention was diverted to taking care of household issues.

As I laid awake in bed in the wee hours of the morning (I don't normally blog at 5 AM), I pondered how much of my feeling of disorientation and being off-kilter is related to a lack of time to create. This is only the second time I've sat down to write in the last week. Two of the last three books I've started have failed to keep my attention. I haven't collaged or journaled or even really read much in the last five days. Apparently, this is not good for my psyche.

So I'll make it through today, praying this morning at church for a return of equilibrium, and hope that tomorrow heralds the return of routine before the freedom of summer. It's been a crazy 2010 so far in Nashville, with seven snow days and five flood days. Here's hoping that summer brings moderate weather, blue skies, happy children and a mom whose far more poised than the one who has lived here this week.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


1 a: a report of recent events
b: previously unknown information
c: something having a specified influence or effect
2 a : material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast

How do you get your news? The television? Radio? Internet? Periodicals? Maybe you're like me and the answer is None of the Above. I don't watch, listen to or read the news with any regularity. In fact, I pretty much do all I can to prevent the headlines from making their way into my day. This isn't a passive act on my part - it's an active choice. When I was at the beach with friends last weekend, I spent part of Saturday morning discussing this with a friend. Here were some of the reasons I shared with her.

A Culture of Fear:
While the primary definition of news is a report of recent events, I believe much of the news reported is not useful information, but salacious soundbites. If an event doesn't elicit an emotional response - fear, revulsion, superiority on the part of the viewer - it's not reported. I refuse to buy in to this. In fact, it's the same reason I refuse to install an alarm system in my house. I will not make my home a place of fear. I feel safe here, but I'm not going to put up barricades to keep it that way. That would do far more harm than good. I feel the exact same way about the news. Hearing events that are happening far away doesn't empower me to help - it makes my mind start playing the "what if" game.

Single Track Sound Bites:
Most methods of receiving news do little more than arouse an emotion. They don't give enough information for the recipient to form his or her own opinion. And while I don't want to just passively accept someone else's opinion, I frankly have enough to think about without pondering the problems of the world. So I find I'm better off discussing an issue with my husband (who is far better informed than I) in order to get past the sound bite mentality. This means that I get my news second hand and I only get it when J or I think it's important enough to discuss. Which leads me to another point...

Going with Your Heart: I am doing my best to address the issues that I feel strongest on my heart, whether they are at the top of the news cycle or not. I feel like I am better served to have a narrow focus on the issues God puts on my heart so that I don't get overwhelmed and have scatter shot efforts at many issues. If I focus my energy on ministries we are directly involved with, I believe I can have a far greater impact. I want to be clear that this is the way my heart and mind work. I do think there are others who are called differently and may feel as connected to Zimbabwe as I do to Rejoice Ministries right here in my neighborhood. And I believe they should honor that connection.

Depending on how and where you get your news, you may have guessed that part of what has prompted this post at this time is that things are very bad in my hometown of Nashville: current estimates are that more than $1 billion worth of damages have occurred. Many of us here have been shocked and saddened that the national news hasn't made more people aware of our circumstances. (This is best articulated here.) In an effort to keep myself minimally informed, I recently subscribed to The Daily Beast, a service that sends me an e-mail with five headlines each day. Nashville hasn't made their top five headlines at all. I kept waiting for it to happen and finally realized - it's not going to happen.

AP photo

This affirms my distaste for the news because I agree with many who have said that the reason it's not making the top headlines is because Nashvillians have responded with humility, volunteerism and caring instead of looting, viciousness and hoarding. This tragedy makes me want to keep living in Nashville. It also makes me want to keep shielding myself and my children from the news. It makes me want to be sure I know my heart and respond to my callings and that my daughters do the same. That will be far, far better than being led by news whose only lasting effect is to make us more fearful of others and less certain of ourselves.

photo by tabithahawk / CC BY 2.0

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


1 to load to excess; overburden

It's been an interesting few days. Friday morning, I headed out with a group of friends for the beach. It started well: a fun trip down, with good conversation, lots of laughs and an easy ride, followed by margaritas and Mexican upon our arrival. While Saturday didn't bring clear skies (or warm temperatures), it brought many of the things I long for on vacation: a good book, a walk on the beach, time to create, a nap, good food and lots of chocolate. It also brought news that Nashville was being deluged. What started as a rainy day turned into 36 hours of water, that left my city overwhelmed.

Each and every one of us on this trip lives in Nashville or its surrounding areas, so we all made calls to make sure our families were safe and sound. Sadly, one friend had to head back Sunday morning after finding out her basement was filled with water up to her husband's knees (and it would keep rising until it was shoulder height). The rest of us decided to stay. I'm glad I didn't head back earlier. We had some water, but only a few inches and only in our basement. I couldn't have done much more than my sweet husband did on his own.

The interesting part is that by staying at the beach with seven other women, I heard more about the storm and was bombarded with more information, photos and stories than I would have been if I'd been at home. You see, I don't do news. Not on TV, not on the internet, not on the radio. But as everyone checked in with their circle of family and friends, they shared horror stories of flooded streets, homes struck by lightning and burned to the ground and more. I can turn off a TV, but I can't turn off my friends. So I listened and tried to still make the most of my vacation. But it was information overload for me. My mind felt the burden of the stories and images sent its way.

I don't want to give the impression that my trip was a waste. It wasn't. I had a lot of fun with some dear friends and met some new women as well. And I was blessed with an oasis or two in the midst of information overload.

The first oasis came late Saturday night. I checked my e-mail before heading to bed and found a Goodreads friend request from someone whose name I didn't recognize at first. Upon reading her message to me, I realized she was the author of a book I'd just read and loved. She was writing to say she felt my review captured the essence of what she was aiming for in her book and to let me know that she is hosting a discussion on the book this month. It was encouraging and affirming to receive her e-mail and it took me out of a place of worry about rain to a place of excitement that words I had written rung true for someone.

Another oasis was time with a sweet friend R who left Nashville and moved to the beach in August. R encourages me, is fun to be around and is wise beyond her years. She joined us for dinner at our rental house one night and then we had lunch together Monday and she showed me her home, drove me around and just spent time with me.

A final oasis came in the form of a message from an acquaintance. Frankly, she's someone I've always admired. She's fun and engaging, sure of herself, very obviously in love with her husband and when I'm around her I often think it would be so nice to get to know her better and be good friends with her. She was writing because she read my blog post about B's wish a while back when I shared my daughter's wish to be a good mom and my own desire for that, too. This new mom (she has a brand new baby daughter) wanted me to know she wants to be a mother like me. She said, in part, " I really admire you and the freedom and love your girls radiate." I believe any mom needs and craves affirmation that she's doing a good job so this message buoyed my spirit (and made my eyes fill with tears). Her words reminded me that one reason I do something like go on a beach trip without my family is to have a bit of time to recenter myself and recharge my batteries.

The recharging didn't go exactly as I had expected. Sunny skies and warm weather would have been nice. An easy weekend at home for my husband, mother-in-law and daughters would have been great. But I am so thankful that God cared enough to send me these three gifts in the midst of information overload. Because I'd rather focus on the provision of refuge and relief than the way life doesn't always go according to plan.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


1 a: a person entertained in one's house b: a person to whom hospitality is extended

post-dinner dress up

Recently, the girls and I joined my friend M for dinner at her house. I've been friends with our host for a few years - we have, at various times, been in a writing group together, in Bible study together, at the beach hanging out together. But the girls didn't know her until last night. On our ride over, they quizzed me.
"Is she married?" "No."
"How do you know her?" "We were in Bible study together."
"Have I ever seen her?" "I'm not sure."
"Does she have children?" "No."
"Then why does she have dress up clothes?" "You'll have to ask her."
I was looking forward to the evening. I've enjoyed reading about M's quest to have one hundred people over for dinner this year. It's a fascinating concept, but it exhausts me a little to think about it. In a typical week, I'm content to simply feed my family. I enjoy entertaining, but I prefer big parties quarterly to quiet gatherings weekly. I guess this is better suited to my introverted style - have one big blow out that requires a big expenditure of energy and then resume my quieter day to day life.

My girls love hosting parties big or small. K in particular wants to feed anyone who happens by our house. (When I was recovering from my surgery, a friend brought me some homemade marshmallows and K insisted on giving snacks to my friend and her children.) They also know what hosting is all about. A once said to me, "Mom, can we have friends over? I'll clean my room." One of the few things that could prompt my messy eldest daughter to offer to clean her room is the possibility of guests.

Yet a typical week finds us eating nearly every evening meal at home together as a family, so last night's dinner outing was a treat. M had prepared dumpling contents and the girls got right to work making their own. K took the vegetarian route: corn, mushrooms and sunflower seeds were in every dumpling she made. A and B came up with their own variations (and were willing to include a bit of protein in their dinner).

And you know what? My girls were great guests. They chatted amiably, talked to each other so that M and I could chat, participated in dinner table conversation and were respectful guests. But they were still themselves. They weren't mini-adults. They laughed, they joked, they asked lots and lots of questions. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I want them to be polite and well-mannered, but I also want them to be kids. I want their exuberance to shine through and delight others the way it delights me.

I'm thankful that my friend M extended her hospitality to us and grateful that my daughters are confident enough in themselves to be exactly who they are, whether they are host or guest.