Wednesday, September 28, 2011


: repose, sleep; specifically : a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities

For the first time in the seven years that we've been a family of five, our entire family caught the same virus, one after the other.  The sickness started two weeks ago and first made its way to J.  K came next and missed two days of school with a fever.  Before long, A had a sore throat and I wasn't far behind.  I had hoped B would escape unscathed, but it was not to be.  Even strong-willed, strong-bodied B came down with it.  

Here's what I've learned: rest when you need to rest.

On Saturday, A danced (sore throat and all) in her ballet school's fundraiser.  I was there as a table host, hoping that adrenaline would get us both through the morning.  It did.  We then ate soup for lunch and crawled into bed with books.  Sunday found us much the same: we were napping by mid-morning while the rest of our family went to church and hung out with nephews.  By Sunday evening, we were on the mend, but B wasn't feeling well.  She ended up sleeping 14 hours and didn't awake until after 10 Monday morning.

Given that A and I were mostly feeling better by the end of day Sunday, I could have pushed through and had school (at least with A) on Monday.  Instead, I called it a sick day and we all three took the day off.  Healthy K was carted to school and then we rested.  We read.  We watched one documentary on Egypt and then I napped while they watched two more tv shows for fun.  (What's a sick day without a few tv shows?!)

It has taken me a while to learn that illness is your body's way of telling you to slow down and take a breath.  Perhaps this seems obvious to many of you.  If so, be thankful you've learned this lesson.  Years ago, I would push through at work, taking over the counter cold medicines and not missing so much as an hour of work.  I saw sickness - and my body itself - as something to endure, something that should be put into submission.  It took a while, but I finally learned that was no way to heal.  If I keep going like I'm not sick, I stay sick far longer.  Likewise, treating my body like something that is merely worth tolerating is not the solution.  As I've learned to listen to my body, I've found it is often wiser than my mind.  My body knows when I need to rest, when I can push and when to do what needs to be done.

I grew up with great ambivalence about my body.  Looking back, I think two main things conspired to make this the case: I went through puberty fairly early and my body rounded out before it lengthened out, resulting in a pudgy 4th and 5th grader.  I also didn't play any sports in middle school or high school.  I'm not a natural athlete and I let my insecurity about my body (a holdover from late elementary school) dictate what I would and wouldn't do.  Rather than persevere and learn a sport - any sport - I opted out.  It's only been in my 30s that I've learned my body can do some things.  I'm still woefully uncoordinated, but my recent morning runs have reminded me that I like to run.  I don't run fast.  I don't run with other people.  I don't ever hope to compete.  But the act of climbing out of bed, pulling on clothes and heading out the door to a sleeping world is the most pleasant way to wake up.  I love the time alone, the quiet of watching my neighborhood wake up around me and the feeling that my body is more than something I lug around to get my soul from place to place.  My body is worth being thankful for.

Both the return of outdoor running to my routine and my recent cold have reminded me that my body and soul need rest.  I've been trying to be open to change - trying to let go of behavior patterns that are ingrained, but not helpful.  I've discovered that change is hard work.  And hard work means rest should follow.  I need rest.  I suspect we all need rest, but I'm perhaps just more attuned to this need.  So the next time I get a cold, I'll take the Zicam in hopes of avoiding the full blown yuck of it.  If that doesn't work, I'm grabbing a cup of hot tea, finding a good book and taking a sick day. Rest is good for me - body and soul.

Friday, September 23, 2011


: a ballet position in which the body is balanced on the extreme tip of the toe

My 11 year old daughter A hit a milestone today.  We bought her first pair of pointe shoes.  It was quite the process.  She tried on at least a half-dozen pair before finding the right pair.  She tried Bloch, she tried Capezio.  She couldn't get her foot in the shoe.  Then she could get her foot in and the back was too loose.  A joked that she felt like Cinderella's stepsisters.  The kind ladies helping us pulled a different set of toe pads to allow a slimmer fit.  They patiently pulled pair after pair of shoes.

And then, almost miraculously, she found the right pair.  She put them on.  Her foot slid in, the back pulled up, not too loose, not too tight.  She stood - feet flat on the ground.  The shoes were snug, but her toes weren't overlapping.  After all of that, she went up on them for the first time.  She looked regal.  My eyes teared up a bit.  I imagine what I felt is a foreshadowing of seeing my daughters don their wedding dresses for the first time.  She looked so... right standing there, like it was what she's made to do.  And she positively glowed.

The two ladies who had spent the last half hour gathering shoes raised their eyebrows and looked at each other.  "She has strong feet," one remarked.  "I imagine you're going to be buying her pointe shoes with some regularity, Mom," the other said to me.  Apparently A's strong feet gave them the impression she'll do well on pointe, which translates to wearing shoes out from dancing.  Good for A... not so good for the budget.  Yet it's a price we'll gladly pay to see A pursue what she loves.

I can remember someone being slightly patronizing to A a few years ago about her desire to dance.  He asked what A wanted to be when she grew up and her answer was, "a dancer."  He smiled knowingly and said to me, "Lots of little girls want that when they're six (or seven or whatever she was)."  I recoiled inwardly and thought, "Don't tell her what she can't do!  You have no idea who she'll be."  Being my typical non-confrontational self, I didn't say anything, but the comment and the attitude bother me to this day.

Pointe shoes aren't comfortable.  J and I think this will be the real test of whether A decides to pursue dance.  Is the pain of learning to dance on the extreme tip of her toe worth it?  I don't know whether it will be or not, but I can tell you that J and I will support her, help her soak her feet and drive her to and from rehearsals.

As we drove home from the dancewear store, A and B sat in the back seat talking about high school.  The talk eventually turned to boarding school.  I let them talk for a while until A asked me whether a local performing arts school is a boarding school.  "No, it's not," I replied.  "But let's just get it straight right now that you're not going to a boarding school."  Conversation ensued about why this is my stance.  I offered a few reasons, but eventually said, "The bottom line is that I only get 18 years with you.  After that, you're off on your own to become who God made you to be.  I'm not going to lose out on any of those years.  I happen to like you."  Oddly enough, this ended the conversation.  A and B both accepted this line of reasoning (for now, at least).

If I'm completely honest, my heart is aswirl with emotions tonight.  I'm proud of A that she's going to learn to dance on pointe.  I'm thankful that I got to be there with her to see her don her first pair.  But I'm also a little nostalgic, a little sad.  The little girl who begged me and hassled me about wanting to dance is a real dancer.  I love that, but I kind of miss the little girl.

Getting ready to try the shoes out

This is fun!

Looking regal

Look, Ma! No hands!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


1 a : to make different in some particular : alter

I read a friend's blog post recently that featured the most beautiful trees.  There were yellow leaved trees, trees of vibrant red, a barren tree with green moss - trees in the midst of changing from one season to another.  As I read her words and looked at the images she'd chosen, I wondered why I can embrace the change of seasons, but fight change in so many other areas of my life.

I love the change of seasons, most especially the change from summer to fall.  Fall heralds good things: warm soups bubbling on the stove, cups of hot tea sipped with friends, curling up under a blanket with a good book, an afternoon spent watching football, Thanksgiving with family and friends.  I love fall for its differences from summer.  I love that it brings routine back into our life after the lazy days of summer.  I love that I can stop wearing sandals and switch to boots.  I love the movement from tomato tart to butternut squash lasagna.  I love the alterations fall makes to our lives.

So why can't I embrace change in other areas?  Why can't I rejoice that the addition of one daughter to my homeschooling crew has required not just increased patience, but an entirely new plan?  Why can't I be thankful for the hours spent nursing a sick child back to health?  Why can't I be content to vacuum the dining room floor, knowing that my daughters have taken on sweeping, mopping and other chores that used to be mine?

In part, I think it's harder to embrace change in these other ways because I lack a knowledge that I have with the seasons.  I can relax into the change from summer to autumn precisely because I know that autumn will not last forever.  I celebrate its vibrant colors and cool breezes because I know they will all too quickly give way to bare tree limbs and a wind that bites.  But these other changes? They scare me because I don't know how long they will last.  I can't get past my fear to enjoy their momentary presence because I fear they are the new normal - that my life will be this way forever.

In short, I do not embrace change because I have too little faith.  Too little faith that the good, bad and hard things in my life are all for one season.  I may not know the length of the season, but surely I've lived long enough to have seen that all things in this life are fleeting.  Why not rush past the hard things, but sit in them and learn from them?  Why can't I treasure the good times instead of trying to lock them into my memory, into my very bones, so that I can pull them back up when they disappear before my very eyes?

I've been trying to be more sensitive.  More sensitive to and aware of my own emotions.  More sensitive to the need to speak, instead of always listening.  More sensitive to a call to act instead of merely watching.  Today I realized I've been trying so hard to change that I'm not allowing my spirit to rest.  Yes, I need to do more than just think.  Yes, I need to act.  But I also need to take care of myself in order to do these other things.  I've been so busy trying to embrace change that I haven't tried to accept who I am.  I've just been trying to change - to ease along the transformation.

It doesn't really work that way.  A tree doesn't decide when it's time to change from green to gold.  It doesn't decide when it's time to shed the gold and wait for spring's buds, either.  It's just a tree.  I'd like to one day know myself well enough to just be.  To allow change to happen without fear, anxiety, trepidation.  To just be.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


 5 b : extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity

My husband is a genius.  Last night began what will be a regular component of fall for our family: Wednesday nights out for me.  K was less than excited.  As I explained to her that I was leaving, I was trying to sell her on the fact that she was going to get a night at home with dad.  Her response was less than enthusiastic.  At one point she said, "Why are you using an excited voice?"  I smiled at her bluntness, then changed tactics a bit by pointing out she'd get to eat what Daddy made for dinner.

K perked up a bit at this.  "What's he making?"  (I'm sure she had visions of popcorn dancing in her head.)  "Sandwiches," I replied.  Her face fell.  "Could we have mini-pizzas instead?" K asked, recalling another dad meal from the past.  "I'm not sure.  Maybe next week.  Why don't you go ask him?"  I replied, punting on responding to this query.

K thus distracted, I gathered my things to head out for an evening of lectio divina with other homeschool moms.  A and B bid me goodbye with little concern (as they always do) and even K seemed accepting of the circumstances.

I dropped by a friend's house to pick her up for our evening and watched as her two year old clung to her leg at departure.  "K still sort of acts like that," I told her as she climbed into the car.

I didn't think much about what was going on at home during my time away.  It was a smallish group, with a few women I knew and several I didn't.  My spiritual director (who also attends my church) met with our group to walk us through the why and how of lectio divina as a way to read scripture.  She's a lovely person - just being around her makes me smile and lifts my spirits.  Hearing about how this ancient practice helps us not study, but ingest, God's word was beautiful.  We read our scripture for the evening aloud together and then settled in different locations around the church grounds, waiting to hear from God.  I went home refreshed, renewed and encouraged.

When I got home, J was watching an episode of Modern Family on the computer, laughing continually.  Once he finished that, he said, "Oh!  I have something to show you: our menu from tonight."

Kate, Truss famliy (sp) is the label at the top
After he gave them their menus, he carried their selections into the kitchen and yelled, "Sandwich, untoasted, ham and colby, yellow mustard!"  The girls apparently loved it.  I do not doubt it.  I love this about my husband: He's a genius at taking an ordinary evening at home featuring a somewhat pedestrian meal and turning it into a fun event.  I'm often too busy being serious to be very much fun, so J serves a very valuable role in our family of lightening the mood.

I can't wait to see how next Wednesday evening turns out.

Monday, September 12, 2011


4 e plural : an orthodontic appliance usually of metallic wire that is used especially to exert pressure to straighten misaligned teeth

My ten year old daughter B got braces almost two weeks ago.  J and I both had braces when we were young, so it wasn't a shock to find out we had a daughter who needed to see an orthodontist.  J went on to have jaw surgery after years and year of braces, so we're hoping early intervention can spare B surgery down the road.  In addition to braces on her top teeth, she has a palate expander.  Along with the expander came a key for me to use to tighten it each night.  I was NOT thrilled about this.  I'd heard horror stories about friends sobbing as their parents turned their device nightly.  With great trepidation, I learned how to insert and turn the key, wondering whether I could bear to hurt her every night.  This has turned out to not be a big problem, since B either has a high tolerance for pain or orthodontia has improved a bit over the last two decades (I'm guessing a bit of both).

The best part about B getting braces?  She's thrilled - thinks they're the coolest thing ever, has wanted to show friends and family in person rather than tell them ahead of time.  I attribute this stellar attitude, in part, to her age.  I had braces from 6th grade to 8th grade - roughly ages 12 to 14.  Is there a more awkward age than this, even without metal in your mouth?  I think not.  But ten year olds are young enough to not really care what others think, to still want to stand out from the crowd a bit.  And ten year old peers mostly haven't sharpened their claws to attack those who dare to be different.

B especially enjoyed one day last week when she had on a turquoise shirt that matched her rubber bands nearly exactly.  Several people remarked on how well she matched and it just delighted her.

B can be difficult.  She's strong in ways I'm not.  She's bold.  She's confident.  She knows herself.  She's going to make a great adult, but can be a challenging kid to parent or befriend.  Today I'm thankful for all these traits of hers that sometimes make me wonder why on earth God thought I was capable of parenting her.  I'm thankful her strength makes her grin excitedly to show off her braces, instead of hiding her mouth behind her hand, a smirk or anything else.  Today, I'm able to be thankful she's exactly who she is, braces and all.

Pre-braces.  Isn't she lovely?

Thursday, September 8, 2011


2. hair gathered into a round coil or knot at the nape of the neck or on top of the head in certain coiffures

When J and I were in Tobago, communications with home were scarce.  There was wi-fi at our hotel, but it was Caribbean wi-fi, of the laid back, it might work, it might not work variety.  We did receive one e-mail from my in-laws during our stay and I was amused to read my mother-in-law's report that she had put A's hair in a bun for ballet class and that it had stayed up.  Once upon a time, it was stressful for me to get my daughter's hair into a bun that was sleek, neat and ballerina-worthy.  Not anymore.

I know how to get A's ponytail tight, wrap the hair around and stick it up into a bun without a single bobby pin.  It looks nicer with a hair net or bun cover, but we can make do without.  Putting hair into a bun is a skill I've acquired as a parent that I never knew I was lacking.  This facility with hairdos doesn't come natural, but I've had to keep up with A.

Three years ago, I entered a whole new realm of parenting.  Then-8 year-old A auditioned for Nashville Ballet's Nutcracker youth cast.  It was the first time in her short life that she had wanted something that I had no control over whatsoever.  And she really wanted it.

Our plan had been to visit Disney World for the first time that year.  I wanted to miss the Christmas rush by skipping a few days of school and going the week before the holiday.  That way, we could celebrate Christmas at home and share Disney with our girls.  The problem?  The Nutcracker ran through the weekend before Christmas.  A weekend I had anticipated spending in Florida.

Luckily, I realized this conflict before the audition.  I went in to talk to A about it and will never forget her reaction.  I laid out the problem and asked whether she wanted to wait a year to audition for The Nutcracker.  Her reply? "Could I maybe stay with someone while you go to Disney World?  Maybe Uncle J and Aunt A?"  Her stance could not have been more clear.  When faced with choosing between Disney World and being in The Nutcracker, the girl wanted to dance.  Needless to say, I let her audition.  She got a part.  We moved the Disney trip.

That first year, I was stunned by the whole experience.  The rigid audition procedures.  The stress of waiting for a letter to arrive.  The complete helplessness.  The crazy rehearsal schedule.  The rearranging of family commitments, large and small, to get one daughter to where she needed to be when she needed to be there.  The hours and hours of rehearsal for minutes onstage.  Minutes.

Was it worth it? A's response would be an enthusiastic yes.  She performed on a large stage in front of hundreds of people.  She shared that stage with professional dancers.  She got to watch backstage while the Sugarplum Fairy danced her solo.  Meanwhile, I got to hear A's sister B tell everyone seated around us that her sister was dancing in the show.  She told them her sister's name and role.  She beamed with pride.  It was sibling love at its best.

Last year, A auditioned for the third time for The Nutcracker.  She was given a part.  And then J and I pulled the plug.  She was in a fall production at her ballet school and we felt our family simply could not go from one set of rehearsals straight into another.  A handled our decision fairly well.  She wasn't thrilled, but she understood.

I'm not sure who will be more nervous next Sunday when A auditions this year.  Will they penalize her for our decision to not take the part last year?  Is her body too tall, too developed, too something, not enough of something else?  The good news is that I think A is resilient enough to handle it if she isn't cast this year.  And, believe me, her bun will be perfect for that audition.  It's just about all I can do to help her.

Year one

Year Two
This Year's Audition Photo

Monday, September 5, 2011


1 : a fitted covering (as of leather or rubber) for the foot and usually reaching above the ankle

I love boots.

Much to my relief, this Sunday it was finally cool enough for me to wear footwear that wasn't sandals.  Saturday night, J and I went to Vanderbilt's season opening football game.  Thankfully, it was an evening game.  Even so, it was hot, humid and airless outside.  I wore supportive flip-flops, but flip-flips are still flip-flops, so the support was minimal. My feet were killing me by the time we got home.  Not from the walking, per se, but from how hot my feet were for the entire evening.  As we went to bed, I was hopeful the promised rain would arrive, bringing the temps from the 100s to the 80s - and bringing boots back into my footwear repertoire.

The rain arrived as predicted and I wore a white skirt, grey shirt and my favorite blue suede cowboy boots to church.  As J and I walked from the parking lot to the sanctuary, I remarked that I was so glad to be able to wear boots again.  "Are they more comfortable for your feet and legs because they're more supportive?" he asked in an attempt to understand.   "Yes, but it's more than that," I replied.  "They make me feel more confident, more protected - both physically and psychologically."  "Hmmm," he mumbled diplomatically.

I realize it may sound a bit crazy that boots make me feel more confident and more protected, but it's true.  In my Enneagram study, I did this week's reading for our discussion, then jumped ahead several chapters to read about type nine.  Several passages in this chapter have brought tears to my eyes.  One such passage:

NINEs have none of the defense mechanisms at their disposal that the other eight types use to try to protect their inner self from the assaults of the world outside... This defenselessness means that almost everything that approaches NINEs from the outside world is exhausting and draining.

Maybe it was having recently read this passage that made me realize that boots aren't just a fashion preference for me - they're armor.  I have to walk slower in most of the boots I own - either because they have heels or because they don't allow my ankle to bend the way other shoes do.  This can be challenging for me since I generally like to be able to slip in and out of places, unnoticed if I wish.  This side of me isn't compatible with wearing boots, but maybe my preference for them comes from a nearly hidden inner knowledge that even when I don't want to be noticed, everyone needs someone to pay attention to them.

Lots of people wear armor of some sort.  Starched shirts, ties and suits?  Armor.  Make-up?  War paint.  Short skirts, tight shirts?  A way to deflect people from knowing who you are by keeping them preoccupied with how you look.  I don't think it's inherently wrong to wear clothing (or boots) that protect you from the world - literally or metaphorically.  But I do think it's helpful to realize why we choose what we choose.

If I'm counting on boots to protect me from what people say about me, to give me defense against attacks on my inner self, to distract people from my face by making them look at my feet, I'm not really growing and maturing, am I?  Because what I really need to do is acknowledge that I'm weak - that I don't have the inner resources I need to get through life.  And then seek those resources through prayer instead of through a good pair of Ariats.

Not that I'm giving up the Ariats, mind you.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


1 a : something that is carried : load

Starting this month, I am participating in a spiritual direction group where we read set scriptures daily using lectio divina and do the Daily Examen.  Today I read in Matthew 11.  In addition to the assigned scripture, we were given these directions from our spiritual director:
Come to Jesus, ask Him, 'What are my burdens?" Hand them over to Him one by one. As you go through your day, if you find yourself taking the burdens back, be gentle with yourself, and hand them back over to Him. This is a spiritual practice.
The scripture was touching, but following these instructions was really enlightening.  Some burdens came to mind readily enough -
the responsibility for choosing (and sometimes executing) my daughters' education,
how, when and whether my daughters will come to their own faith,
running my household,
loving my husband well,
whether I am inherently unlovable

And then I prayed for a friend of mine whose aging parent is having health issues.  I found I couldn't give up that burden because the burden wasn't mine to give.  This was very clear to me as I prayed.  I could offer my friendship over, but I couldn't lay my friend's parent on the altar because that wasn't for me to do.  So I offered up my friend and asked Jesus to carry her.

Since then, I've been pondering whether I am unusual, crazy or even flawed to see relationships as burdens that need handing over.

It's not that I don't like people.  I do.  I love my family.  I have many friends that I dearly treasure.   Yet I have time constraints and more desire for relationship than time to pursue it.  Is there something wrong with me that I need divine intercession to be present, loving and caring to other people?  Or is that just part of knowing who I am?

In reading about my enneagram number (9), I am beginning to see myself more clearly.  Something I read today talked about how 9s don't have defenses that the other numbers have, so life just feels like too much sometimes.  That really resonated with me.

I often feel like I am the burden - that there's not enough of me, that I can't do enough or be enough for other people.

As we celebrate Labor Day, these are some of the things I'll be pondering:

What are my burdens?

Do I carry them because I think I deserve to be burdened?

When and why do I think I am a burden?

And I'll be praying for the strength to hand these burdens over, again and again.

Friday, September 2, 2011


1 b : something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things

My parents like to tell the story of the first time I used the word compromise.  I was young - 4 or 5 - and I was debating something with my father.  The details have been lost - I wanted something and he wanted something else.  Perhaps I wanted ice cream for dinner and he wanted an actual meal.  The part that is remembered is this: after a bit of discussion, I said, "How about we compromise?"  My father laughed at me, thinking I didn't know the meaning of the word I was using.  "Compromise?" he said, "What's that?"  "You know," I replied, "We don't do it your way and we don't do it my way."  Not a bad definition, is it?

You can see some things about me in this story: 1) I loved words at an early age, 2) using the right word in a given situation was important to me even way back when and 3) I've always been quick to compromise if it meant avoiding conflict.

I recently had an epiphany regarding homeschooling my daughter B.  It's been an up and down process thus far, so I was praying last night that God would grant us a good day today.  I felt one good day would go a long way towards me believing this could be done - that we could actually get through a year of homeschooling together.

My prayer was answered.  B was motivated from the moment she woke up.  She took her Psalms study to bed with her so that she could do it before she even got out of bed in the morning.  Before I left home at 7:45 to take K to school, B had already completed her vocabulary warm up, had a math lesson and was at work on her math problems.  By 10:15 when it was time to leave for the orthodontist, only two items remained on B's daily plan: science and Latin.  That's when it hit me.  The source of her motivation?  It was the fact that we were going to the orthodontist and then piano lessons.

This opened my eyes to a pattern I've seen, but not recognized, in our homeschooling: B's best days have been our busiest days.  A trip to Cheekwood?  Her work was done and she was ready to go.  The lake for her birthday?  Friends over to do schoolwork alongside my girls?  Appointments?  Errands?  These are the circumstances in which she thrives.  Maybe you're thinking, "Great!  Now you know how to give her a successful year.  Just make sure there's something to do or somewhere to go everyday."  The challenge?  These same days that B loves are the hardest days for me.  They are good days, but exhausting for this introvert mom.  It tires me to drive across town for one appointment, then back to our neighborhood for a piano lesson, during which I rush home, eat a sandwich and return to get B.  The truth is that my favorite homeschooling days are the days when we don't have to go anywhere between dropping K off at school and picking her up.  Those are the days when I can work out, do laundry and read my Bible - all in the same day.  (Not one of those things has happened today, just in case you were wondering.)

Clearly, a compromise is needed.  I can't go on trying to teach a child who is decidedly unmotivated to do her schoolwork.  But I also can't give her a jam-packed schedule every single day without it coming at too great a cost to me (not to mention what it would cost her sister A, who is wired a bit more like me).

So what should I do?  Should I set aside one day each week when we'll do a field trip to an art museum, a public garden, even an antique shop?  Is one day weekly going to be enough to motivate her?  Do I relax our television and electronic standards and make them a goal she can attain by completing quality work in a timely fashion?

I clearly need to find a compromise.  I not only need to, I want to.  I don't want to force B to conform to the way things work best for me, but I don't think I can - or should - conform to what she wants.  How do I blend the qualities we each need in our days, weeks and months to arrive at two satisfied people who have learned from each other?

Suggestions welcome.  In the meantime, I'm going to work on having compassion for both of us as we work through this.