Friday, April 11, 2014

Front Yard Tye Dye

I think photos help us remember. Many pictures taken of my kids, I'm not in them, because well, I was the one snapping the camera.

I tried very hard to imprint certain memories in my brain, like an old fashioned Xerox machine. I'd think, "You'll want to remember this."

They were significant events like birthday parties and first words, but they were also the everyday stuff, like wake ups from naps and fevers during mid-night.

I was aware that the kids would have their own take on the situations later on.

I didn't realize how much their memories would mean to me though...

Did Mark remember this summer hot, hot! (and I mean one of the hottest ever) days because I took pictures? Or would he recall it anyway, because the colors were vivid, the sun sweltering, the popsicles cool...the cicadas buzzing, the geraniums blooming?

Well I'm not sure, but I can't read his writing without a catch in my throat, and I'm sure glad I took a lot of pictures.

And there would be one more to make eight: 3 sons and 3 daughters

                                                           Front Yard Tye Dye

My brother kicks the ball to me,

We chase back and forth,

The courtyard seems miles long and wide.

My Mom calls us in,

"They're almost dry."

Sporadic blasts and twists of color,

All five siblings each has their own,

...but all by the grace of Mom's hands.

She washes our paws of dirt and melted popsicle.

We were so happy...

The seven of us living in that Virginia apartment.

Life was so simple.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Purple Prayers

     So it’s Lent. I’ve given up sugar and whine. Not a typo. Somehow using the ‘w’ word gives it that emphasis that the word, ‘complaining’ doesn’t. Can you hear it, the whining? It’s like when my kids were little and they’d twist up their faces begging for whatever they felt they deserved, “But why? They’d whine, or “Mama, she did this to me!, or it wasn’t me!” Or Paul as a two year old would demand, “No! Me no like it!” But yea, when Paul said that, it was cute. But I digress.
     What I would do when the kids asked for something in a whiny voice, I’d say, I can’t hear you. Use the right voice and start over.” I wish Jesus would help me out that way. I might snap to. Instead I hear nothing. Though, after a while, the silence is golden, and I get the message. My whining isn’t effective.
      I’ve slipped a bit this week, and blame it on having company. I feel a bit of pressure to make dessert for my guests.  I don’t have to eat it, but I’m not that strong. And I see Jesus in this. Why? Because I am pretty much a dead twig snapped off the big trunk relying on my own. Because if I were in the desert fasting for 40 days, I would feel that no one was watching, like what difference does it make if I just give in, just this once? Of course we know the story. No water, no bread, no meat. He succeeded, because he is king of the universe. And that is why he is my Lord, because he didn’t cave. Love never fails.
     So far though, I have passed in drinking my coffee black since Ash Wednesday. For Christians who don’t observe Lent, it may seem silly to give up something you enjoy, especially in comparison to what Jesus did for us, the cross and all.
     The way I see it is drinking my coffee black is a small thing for Jesus, (because honestly, what is that to him?) But for me to give it up and put Christ first, that is a big thing for me. And the real kicker is this: The little things count.
Zechariah 4:10: for even they who were scornful on that day of small beginnings shall rejoice to see the select stone in the hands of Zerubbabel.

Of course Jesus said it himself, recorded in Luke 16:10:
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.

Mother Theresa borrowed from Jesus, “Do little things with great love.”
St.Therese of Lisieux of the Child Jesus paid tribute to the little things and became known as Therese of the ‘Little Way.’

     So for me, because God gives above and beyond what I ask, I figure that to give up something for a little while, I just might get something better, something soulfully beneficial. (You know, to give up one’s own life, it might be saved).

     I took Shep, our dog for a walk. I prayed the Rosary and on a Tuesday, which meant the mysteries were of the Sorrowful events of Jesus’ Passion: The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning of Thorns, Carrying of the Cross, and last but not least, the Crucifixion of Christ.
     In praying the Rosary, as in meditative form of reciting Hail Mary’s, we trust in the intercession of Mary, the mother of God, as we worship Jesus in these mysteries. In Jesus’highlights, one Bible event at a time, beginning with the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary, that she would conceive of the Holy Spirit. There are four sets: The Joyful, The Sorrowful, The Glorious, and The Luminous, which were instituted by the Great John Paul II.
     The first Sorrowful mystery is the Agony in the Garden. Shep runs off in the meadow, and I stoop to tie my shoelace. I am about to break into a jog and I start reciting the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”
Then I pray the Lord’s Prayer to start the first mystery. I intend my will towards Jesus, and I whisper, “Lord, I worship you in the mystery of the Agony in the Garden.” How did he do it? All alone, and he had the choice to not go through with it, “If it be thy will, Father, let this cup pass…”
Then out of nowhere, and I mean, nowhere, I get this thought: “Jesus, teach me to suffer.”
What a scary prayer. I assure you, it didn’t come from me.
Which makes me think it is legit, from the Holy Spirit.
Again, the quiet is sometimes the loudest.

1 Kings 19:12: The Lord spoke to Elijah, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.

     By now, I’ve stopped running. The thought of suffering takes a bit of focus, so I walk. Is that like praying for patience? “Lord, I need patience, and I need it NOW!”
      If I ask for God to teach me to suffer, will he give me something I can’t handle? But then I wander down that narrow road of thought, kicking gravel on a country road, where few travel. I realize that everyone suffers anyway. We suffer for bad reasons, our own sin and its consequences. We suffer for good reasons, to bring about change for the better in ourselves and on behalf of others. We suffer in the in between, for no apparent reason at all. Sometimes I wonder if this is the most purposeful type of suffering. We just may find out later.

"To live is to suffer. To survive, Is to find meaning in the suffering.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

There is a subtlety about Lent that I almost miss. Like the color purple, it is rich—deep, like water. It is solemn.
It isn’t fun.
Life is difficult.
I am aware of my sin, my shortcomings.
I think often, “What is the use? Where do I even start to become a better person?”
I can’t please everyone, not even the most important people in my life. They know me better than everyone else. Why is everything so hard? Why do we fuss and fight?
There is no way out. Like a burlap shirt, it itches.
Again, it’s the attention to details, one day at a time, one mood at a time.
Moment by moment…
Until the Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday
                                          Good Friday
                                          Holy Saturday
Easter Sunday.
I suffer and wait for the glory of the Risen Christ.

How about you? What are your little things? Are you spring cleaning your house, your soul?
What are your purple prayers?
They all count.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lessons from NYC

We do this tradeshow every year, the New York Toy Fair.

I always feel like I'm in a movie, not a real person walking, talking, and taking it in.

It is exhausting, exhilarating, and exponentially eye opening.

Some of this is review, meaning the same things happen every year, and they are worth repeating.

Some are new and astounding, as in, "I can't believe I just heard, or saw that!"

Review Lessons (Don't worry, there won't be a quiz):

Starbucks is still the best coffee, when you need caffeine to hoof around NYC. For me, I ignore the politics. Just let me drink my coffee.

Taxi drivers don't use the brakes, they use the horn. If you've watched the movie Elf, Buddy is right, the yellow ones don't stop, except when they need money.

Times Square is over the top in visual effect. Sorry Brasstown, NC, the opposum drop needs a few neon lights to show up in this Manhattan town.

The city literally never sleeps.

Some homeless people choose to live in NYC. Why? I'm not sure.

The Irish pubs, the old Italian establishments have the best food. And the best beer and wine.

No matter how comfortable the shoes are when you try them on in the store, you will need band-aids by mid-week.

Christ's presence at St. Patrick's Cathedral is probably holding the island together.

Rockafeller Center on ice is the ultimate fantasy. At least for me.

And the last review that I consider also a social experiment is this: New Yorkers seem a little stiff, but if you get in their space with a smile, they are soft as butter.

New Lessons:

I love watching Hassidic Jews from Brooklyn at the tradeshow. I also am intrigued by the Amish  and Mennonite folks. I admire their devotion to God and culture. I have learned to be polite and listen and watch for manners and mores with these folks. I am fascinated.

Some strict orthodox Jewish men will not talk with women. Some women will not shake hands, not even with women. I found this out, when one smiled politely and explained that to me. I appreciated her grace and honesty.

This whole handshaking business got me conducting my own social experiment. It is also a lean back to my days at UCF in the school of Communication.

My husband will only shake hands with a woman, if she offers her's first.

After having my anniversary band crushed between my fingers with a too firm handshake, I decided that I will rarely offer my hand...even if the guy shoves his calloused paw into my space. I also remember cleaning the bathrooms at the drug store as a manager, way back in 1987. Guess what girls? Most of the guys didn't wash their hands. I saw their black swipes on the exit door as proof.
I've watched my Rob interact with women retailers for years now. His eye-contact, intelligent conversation, and customer service is all he needs to show them respect. He is tall and can be imposing and is aware of this, so he is careful not to come on too strong. I love him for that, and I marvel at how he handles customers, both male and female.

In conducting this social experiment, I observed that too many men are afraid of offending a woman's feelings in business, which to me is ironic. It is afterall business, right? They will reach first to shake hands instead of waiting for the lady. It's annoying to me. I once heard a close friend of mine say, "I owe affection to no man, except my husband." I agree. A side hug with a close friend is different, but in business, at church, at social gatherings, acquaintances get a hello and a casual smile. That's about it.

When my son was little I homeschooled and selected a Mennonite curriculum to teach him basic preschool skills. The workbooks were simple black and white, and not over stimulating. This was the best choice for my son. I also read simple stories to my kids from that same publisher.
I was curious about the difference between the Amish and Mennonite cultures, so I asked a lady who is a retailer and is Amish. This is not an exhaustive study, because like everywhere, there are liberal and conservative Ordnungs, just like there both types of people in other communities. She explained to me that the heart shaped bonnets belonged to the Amish and the circular ones (which are also usually smaller) are worn by Mennonite women. Hats off to both! Again, I am totally in awe of their devotion to Christ and their expression towards Him and one another.

On to Broadway!!!  (Let's not forget the arts.)

The musical, Wicked  is just that...wicked...but in a good way.

Recently, I read an article about the benefits of losing ones self in a good novel, that there are positive connections made in the brain from enjoying a good story.

The Wizard of OZ  is a great story. Wicked doesn't take away from that. It is thought provoking and empathetic. The portrayal of the good witch Glenda, and the evil witch Elphaba, turns the whole perception of good vs. evil on its head. There is both in both witches. No spoilers here, but the show was fantastic, the music was incredible, and the comedy was a pleasant surprise. I would definately see it again.

College Level Credit:

There are children of light and children of darkness. People who are trying to please God and respect one another, and the converse is true also. There are people who are juvenile and disgusting, and to their defense, maybe never experienced true love.  All you have to do is sit and mind your own business in a metropolitan hotel lobby/bar to find out.

I won't go into this, except to say that my husband took a picture of our daughters and me working on laptops and leaning over chemistry and Aristotle textbooks, and the caption should read: Night of the Walking Dead. This captures the moment in the way we felt after a long day, and also the creepers lingering in the lobby.

Bonus Points:

Be always aware of where your phone, boarding pass, and wallet are. You just might need these.

When it's cold, wear a coat, gloves, and a hat.

Never wear heels.

When in NY, inner beauty is great, but gel insoles and a little mascara never hurts.

On the final day, take one last bite out of the Big Apple and take one last look in the drawers in your hotel room.

Appreciate where you come from. Be ready to fly... because there is no place like home. :)