The Rain Came Down…

Have you ever been angry with God?  I’m talking about that really gritty, dirty, I am so pissed off at you and the only thing that is going to make me feel better is to chew you up and spit you out kind of angry!?  Have you ever been cognizant of that kind of anger toward God?  I have.

I was mad like that on a Sunday morning in November of 2004.  The numbness following my mom’s Cancer diagnosis was rapidly wearing off.   I was drowning in the wound it left in its wake.  More than once that week I found myself literally shaking my fist at God.  The rain was coming down.

Why her?  Why her when there was so much to live for?  Why her when she was so good?  She and my dad were on the verge of celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.  My dad was just over a year from retirement.  My mom, who never knew her own grandparents and *could*not*wait* to become a grandparent herself so that she could experience that kind relationship, now had 9 grandkids.  The cruel irony was that the oldest was only 9 and the rest ranged from age 3 months to 7 years.  Most of them would never remember her.   My sister was not married and had never had any children.  The list was long, there was just so much that she would miss!

Oh, I was angry! My straight-laced, “I don’t smoke, drink, or chew or go with boys that do,” church going, God following mother was dying, painfully, of Cancer?  In the 1960s when many of her peers were listening to Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and The Doors while becoming full- fledged hippies, she was asking the neighbor lady for rides to church.  Wasn’t this the same gal whose sister teased her by calling her the ‘polyester sister’?  She didn’t even own a pair of blue jeans until she met my dad in 1979.  She was that straight-laced!

On top of all of this I was really struggling to find a church that felt like “home” for me.  I had grown up in church and had attended the same church for most of my childhood, but no longer felt it was the right fit for me.  Feeling comfortable in a new denomination was challenging.  My husband and my children were feeling at home in our new church but I was at odds with the main thing that made this new home feel different:  The Liturgy.

Growing up in a church that was much less formal, this “Liturgy” thing sometimes seemed stiff and insincere.   Why did they have a pre-planned calendar, why didn’t the pastor just preach on what he felt God inspired to preach about?  While sermons at the church I grew up in were prepared in advance, prayers were freer flowing in nature.  Every moment of the service wasn’t preplanned. The idea that the service could go ‘where the spirit led’ was not out of the ordinary.  Even though it didn’t often happen, if a pastor felt the direction of the service needed to change that could easily happen.   It was orderly, but not overly so, but to call it simple would not be accurate.   There was no elaborate scripting, or what our new church called “Liturgy”.   The spoken words were characteristically extemporaneous.  In my mind the hurdle was Extemporaneous = sincere and somehow more inspired by God = Good, and Liturgical = insincere, stale, uninspired and untimely = Bad.

Entering this church on this particular day I’d had it and my anger was flaring to new heights.  Not only was God not fair, God was insincere.  What sort of “prepackaged” BS did this “Loving Father” have for me today?  I was thankful for the lectionary script.  It made it easier to fake it.  I could participate without feeling and the barricade around my brokenness could remain intact.  I took comfort and a certain amount of pleasure in knowing that the prepackaged lectionary was nearing the end of a 3 year Lectionary cycle.   Nothing new here today, nothing that hadn’t been sitting on that preacher’s shelf for at least the last 3 long years.

Sitting there in the pew wallowing in my cynicism I was hardly listening as the Gospel Scripture from Matthew 5:43-48 was read.  Blah, Blah, Blah, “…for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  The words hit me hard.  I didn’t hear much after that.  Like a stubborn child in the toy department who has just been told no, I was kicking and screaming.  Like the loving parent who has just said no, God picked me up and with a gentle force, carried me away from what I so desperately wanted while I was throwing my tantrum.  It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination.

The floods came up.   My hands balled to fists.  My heart raced.  I wanted to hang on to my anger.  All of the scriptures and songs of promise that had been ingrained in me since birth like,  “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5) and,  “Nothing can separate you from the love of God,” (Romans 8:35-39).  They washed over me like a tidal wave.  Grief came flooding out of me as I sat there in my seat.   None of those familiar verses claimed fairness; instead all of them claimed faithfulness.  The God of the universe, who is faithful and loves me entered my pain and reminded me that God wasn’t going anywhere.  And all that from a moment in the lectionary… huh?  Talk about rockin’ my world!   After that day I was still angry, still bitter, still in such anguish, but I wasn’t alone and I knew this was not a punitive act on God’s part.  It wasn’t a punishment.

I take comfort in knowing even Jesus grappled with these very human emotions.  Fully God and yet fully man.  I can’t even really wrap my brain around that.  Jesus understood why I begged for this to not happen, why I was so very angry.  Knowing He would be betrayed and brutally executed, my Bible says Jesus “fell on His face and prayed.”  That seems to be on the level of pure desperation.   Jesus begged, “Let this cup pass from me…” (Matthew 26:39) When Jesus was dying His extremely painful and brutal death perhaps He was angry or felt betrayed when He cried out in a loud voice,  “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”(Matthey 27:46)

Sometimes on a particularly tough day I still catch myself in a little wave of anger about what feels like the injustice of it all.  When I see someone abuse their body over and over and live to enjoy another day, or I hear of a grandparent who basically ignores their grandchild, or I call my dad and he’s heating up a TV dinner and sitting in front of a Basketball game for the 3rd or 4th time that week I want to recoil and strike out at God.  Yeah, those are the times I have to take a deep breath and remember that day in November 2004.  The rain came down, the floods came up, and wise woman, who built her house on the Rock?  Her house is still standing still.

5 Years Ago Today…

October 25, 2009

5 years ago today…

I have heard it said that the healing comes when you tell your story, and so it is for purely selfish reasons that I am telling mine.  Healing… what is that anyway? It’s such a neat and tidy word, and really I hate using it.  After 5 years it sure looks a lot different than I thought it would, but then again I guess that when wounds heal the big ones often leave scars.

Life was pretty blurry in the weeks heading up to the day I refer to in my mind as Black Monday.  The Saturday night before, my not quite 3 months old son had just slept through his first full night.  Being sleep deprived was only part of it, I also did not want to admit to the post partum depression that had wrapped its tentacle around me and had stolen me to a dark depth.  After all I had just given birth to a beautifully perfect son, I had 2 great daughters, and a wonderful husband who loved me very much.  I was living a real live Cinderella story.  I was supposed to be happy and I was worried about that.

I had spent the weekend being the nurse to my husband who had just had a minor surgery.  My two older daughters were at my mother’s house so that I could take care of my ‘boys’.   We watched the 2nd game of the World Series that day.  There was magic happening at Fenway Park and the entire country was under the spell.   The Boston Red Sox were well on their way to making World Series history and breaking the famed “Curse of the Bambino”.  They were looking for a miracle, and by the time I went to bed that night I would be too.

At some point in the weekend my dad brought the girls home.  I called my mom to thank her for having them and she reported to me that she had been so sick during their visit that it was a relief to have them there to help her out.  I remember worrying about this because she had been sick a lot lately and that just wasn’t like her.  There had been a lot of discussion about her frequent stomach pain and nausea and what she should do about it.  She had been tested up one side and down the other, poked, scoped, and scanned.  Nothing was showing up and we were all getting concerned.

Later that evening my mom called to tell me that she was going to go to the Emergency Room.  Her thinking was that if she went to the ER with a presenting persistent pain, the doctors there wouldn’t let her go until they figured out what the problem was.  She was desperate and had to find the answer.  When I hung up the phone, even though it was getting late, I set about the house cleaning.  I had this intuitive feeling that I needed to get a good cleaning in because I might not have the opportunity to get it done again for a while.  I was almost done vacuuming and was planning on calling it a night when the phone rang again.  It was my dad.  He seemed calm and said they were going to be doing some further tests on my mom and that they would be keeping her all night.  I asked him if he wanted me to come to the hospital and keep him company.  He said no and we hung up.  Before I could get the vacuum put away the phone rang again.  This time it was my mom.  She spoke quickly and urgently in a hushed voice.  She said, “Please come now, there are spots on my liver.”   I told her I was on my way.

I went to the hospital alone that night.  It was now close to midnight and not practical to tote 3 kids and a recovering husband out that cold and foggy October night.   Besides, in the 15 minutes it had taken me to drive to the hospital I had solved the worst-case scenario with one word:  Transplant.  A person can live on a donated liver.  I was her daughter, I’d be a match, I’d donate part of mine, and we’d both live to tell about it.  Solved.  It wouldn’t be easy, certainly inconvenient, but we’d manage.  Everything would be fine… and with that pep talk, I entered the Emergency Room.

I don’t remember how I ended up at her room, but I remember entering the tiny observation room.   She was alone and with her eyes closed.   There were IV bags hanging and machines flashing numbers and wavy lines, and I assumed she was sleeping.  As I walked to her bedside and took her hand, she looked up at me.  In that moment that our eyes met I knew she was trying to tell me something no mother ever wants to tell her adoring child.  She didn’t say anything as I draped my body over her chest and began to cry.  I knew I had just walked in to my worst nightmare.

A few moments of silence went by before we found our way to the difficult conversation we needed to have.  She told me how the doctors had discovered several “spots” on her liver and how no one was being very specific, but every one was acting very urgent.   At some point I became aware of the gentle and steady presence of my dad in the room.  He knew I had kids to get off to school in the morning and an infant to attend to, so he urged me to go home and get some sleep.  They would have some of her test results back by the morning and we would need our rest in order to make decisions regarding her treatment.  Everyone was being very careful not to use the “C” word yet.   I left that night still unsure of exactly what was wrong with her.

On the way home my mind drifted to a memory of a shopping trip I had made a few years earlier.  I was at the mall shopping for a purse at Meier and Frank.  It was a rare shopping trip because I was alone and as I often do when I’m alone, I was people watching as I shopped.   In front of me was a large table full of purses that were neatly set out in rows according to size and color.  Across the table from me, shopping for just the right hand bag was a very stylishly dressed woman who looked to be around her 70s.  She was taking various styles of purses and trying them out in front of a full-length mirror.  Eventually she found a nice one and turned to her shopping partner and asked her what she thought of it.  The other woman wasn’t pleased with the bright color of the red purse and suggested a more practical brown.  Well, this just frustrated this woman and she turned to her friend and said something like, “Mother, we just have different taste in color.  I’m getting the red one!”

It was the word “Mother” that really caught my attention, and I smiled and silently chuckled as I pictured myself in that same situation some day with my own mom, who had me at 19.  I just knew that was going to be us one day.  In my mind was a picture of my mom, who regularly told me (and anyone else she thought should know) that she was going to live to be 100, and me, her geriatric sidekick!  We were well on our way to those days because we already enjoyed each other’s company very much.

I cried myself to sleep that night feeling more afraid than I had ever felt in my entire life.

After a few hours of fitful, tearful sleep I woke to the realization that the night before was not a terrible dream, but in fact an unfolding reality.  In a fog, I sent my daughters off to school, my husband off to work, and took my son with me to the hospital to learn about what the overnight tests revealed about my mom’s health.  I arrived to my mother’s new hospital room, stroller and baby in tow, to find my mom in her hospital bed, surrounded by several people.  Some were new faces, doctors, nurses, and some were familiar, a couple of her friends and one of the church pastors.  It was among this sea of people that the “C” shot was fired.  It was as if her words were shot from a loaded pistol.  “It’s Cancer.  They can’t take it out.  It’s everywhere.”

I wanted to dissolve.  I wanted to push everyone out of the room.  I wanted push the rewind button and search for the moment this dreaded disease invaded her body.  I wanted anything but this moment!   Again the wave of fear gripped me and I felt paralyzed.  This time I didn’t cry.  I sat down at a chair next to her bed and watched as the universe whirled around her.  I was numb.

It wasn’t at all like I thought it would be, to hear those words, “It’s Cancer.”  I thought there would be an immediate mobilization of the troops.   I began to think of questions that there appeared to be no answer to.   The answers were things like, “We’ll know more after a test/surgery/procedure.”  When will she have that test/surgery/procedure?  “In a few days…”  Nothing was immediate…  I kept picturing the ticking time bomb inside her body and wondering when MacGyver was going to show up with his pack of rubber bands and paperclips and save us?  Do these people really know what they are doing?  Why is this going so slow, don’t they know my mother’s life is on the line here?

I don’t really remember the rest of that day.  I know that the words, “Terminal” and “Hospice,” were used, but by that point I was unable to comprehend what those things meant for me.  When I left the hospital that day I felt angry that the rest of the world hadn’t ground to a halt because my mom lay in a hospital bed, a victim in the War on Cancer.  In fact life didn’t slow down and it certainly didn’t stop.   By Wednesday, October 27, 2004 the Boston Red Sox had won the World Series shutting the Cardinals out in 4 games.  I was praying for my miracle too.

It’s Gimmelwald not Grindelwald

For the past few weeks I have been watching a lot of travelogues and reading a lot of travel guidebooks.  Happily, I have reason to do this!  My husband, who is a professional musician, is going to be giving some concerts in Europe next summer.  Lucky for me, I will get to tag along and we’ll only have to pay for my portion of the expenses and any additional sightseeing we decide to do.  I’ve been very excited about this opportunity ever since it started shaping up at the end of the summer!

I know that this trip is still many months away, but I am a planner.  A planner with wanderlust…  I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I like to plan the trip as much as I like to take the trip, but I do like it.  A lot.  This trip will be taking us through Switzerland, so for the last few weeks I’ve spent much of my spare time watching anything on the region I can get my hands on.  (I like to start by watching travelogues and then read about what caught my eye.  Kinda’ like window shopping!)  Along the way I have made notes about Swiss towns and attractions that make the region we are going to be visiting special and unique.

One of the travelogues I enjoyed watching was made by Rick Steves.  He visited the exact region we are going to be visiting and I made tons of notes about all the interesting sights, train transportation, and the towns to see.  It was very exciting!   In my notes I wrote about how while watching the DVD, my husband and I really thought it would be neat to see a town I noted as “Grindelwald.”

We listened intently as Rick Steves toured this idyllic alpine town that is not even accessible by car.  I began looking for this charming town in the stack of guidebooks we have checked out from the library.  It was a surprise to find so much information on this remote little town in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.  I was delighted to find many options for accommodations in and around the community and went to bed a few nights ago sure that we had found the perfect little mountain hideaway to explore for a few days along our trip route.

This past weekend my husband made a trip to the bookstore to buy our own copy of the Rick Steves’ Switzerland book.  We often use his books to help us plan a sensibly priced vacation and have found he has lots of great advice.  I was eager to read what he had to say about the little gem of a community he showed on his documentary, the town that had me dreaming of a life in seclusion with fondue and chocolate.  I flipped to the section on the Berner Oberland and read with anticipation…

On a very neatly boxed couple of pages he gives a quick run down of the places and names in the Berner Oberland and what each has to offer.  This was the page where I came to understand that I had it all wrong!

There in the Rick Steves’ Switzerland book, on page 130, it was very plainly written, “Grindelwald: Expensive resort town, not to be confused with Gimmelwald.”  On the line before this he lists the town, “Gimmelwald,” and gives this description, “Wonderfully rustic time-warp village overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley; good home-base option.”

Oh…

Well that changes everything!

Isn’t that just the way a faith journey can go?  So many times along my path in life, I’ve been busy making plans for a destination I only think I am interested in and it is only when I have paid close attention to my guide and my guidebook that I have been able to arrive at the destination my Guide intended.

I am finding myself at a new intersection again.  My son, my youngest child, is going to start Kindergarten next fall.  When he was born I felt a strong call to stay at home with him until he went to school.  I say call because over the past 5 years I have felt like my ministry has been to serve my family.  I have felt God guide me on that path over the last 5 years.  It has been a gift and I am so glad I’ve done it, but I see that huge intersection looming in the distance, and I’m a little weary.   Where do I go from here, straight ahead, stay on target?  Turn Right to Grad School?  Turn Left to the work force?  How ‘bout a U-Turn, this time to adoption and parenting a preschooler once more?  I want to make sure I’m looking at the map God has for me, listening to God’s divine voice as my travel guide.

My ears are open Lord…

Grindelwald seems nice...

Grindelwald seems nice...

but, it's not really Grimmelwald.

but, it's not really Gimmelwald.

(And in the end I think we’ll be staying in Lauterbrunnen!)

The Goalie

Sunday was my son’s first soccer game, not just first of the season, but first game ever.  He’s five so I anticipated it would be pretty cute to see him out on the field in his “you’ll grow in to it” jersey and matching socks so long that they were only inches from the hem of his shorts.  It was an exciting day and we were all petty pumped to see the game.  When we arrived to the field we found his coach and left him with his teammates.  The team warmed, up while the rest of my family and I took our places on the sidelines.   It wasn’t long when we noticed that the coach was preparing our son for the position of Goalie, which he played for the first part of the game.

The players took their positions on the soccer field and the game began.  That’s when for me the unexpected anxiety began!  I watched as player after player came toward him dribbling the soccer ball between their feet.  What I wish I could say is that as each different player approached the goal area I watched as my son swiftly and deftly defended his turf, but this was not the case.   The opposing team quickly scored a few goals.   As the wild little band of soccer players traversed the field, my son remained in his designated spot and appeared to have no interest in the action happening just feet from him.  He mostly ignored it and instead preferred to scratch his leg… wave at his dad, sisters, and me… look at the goal net…   Soccer game?  What soccer game?

I was beside myself!  Keeping things in perspective was getting harder and harder.  I restrained myself from shouting, “Get the ball!!!”  I didn’t want to make a scene and be one of ‘those’ parents who constantly coaches from the sidelines.  I didn’t want him to be embarrassed and I didn’t want to embarrass my husband and daughters.  I didn’t want him to miss the ball because he wasn’t paying attention.  I didn’t want to see him fail…  Ouch!  Did I really say that?  Did I just say that about a 5 year olds soccer game?  Boy have I got a lot to learn!

I couldn’t believe how watching the ball coming toward him gave me such a feeling of panic and as I watched the game, it began to dawn on me how much this little ball game was like parenting.  I found myself remembering the times that my mother would try to reason with me about all the typical teenage subjects.  Dating of course was a favorite concern of hers.  I remember the dread every time I had to ride alone in the car with my mom, for fear she would use the car for what I viewed as a mobile torture chamber!  If I think back to those days I can easily remember the pitch of her voice and the way her lips would thin as she spoke with determination and authority with just the slightest hint of desperation.  During the soccer game I began to realize how I was that parent now.

Watching my kids struggle is something I have done a few times over the last 14 years.  I have seen my daughters each take blows from life that would take the breath of even the greatest athlete.  I have seen them struggle with issues far more adult than their own years.  I have felt protective, but mostly for them the things they face are not things they have brought upon themselves.  This little game was just a tiny taste of what I’m sure my mother was swallowing whole on those car rides.  She could see her player in the game of life.  She had been to many a ‘soccer’ game and knew a bit about how it was played.  Seeing me in charge of guarding the goal, it was hard for her to stay on the sidelines and let me experience defeat.  It wasn’t that she didn’t have confidence in me, it was that she knew that at some point everybody misses, everybody looses focus, everybody… looses.   She knew these things because she had lost a few times too.  And I have.  And he will.   Somehow we all make it!

Preparing My Goalie

Preparing My Goalie

The Moment Anxiety Set In...

The Moment Anxiety Set In...

Maybe we should explore the Martial Arts?

Maybe we should explore the Martial Arts?

Defending the Goal!

Defending the Goal!

My Mom Likes to Sleep In!

Last night I stayed up way to late!  It was just one of those nights that I couldn’t sleep, but this morning I was so tired.  As I was trying to schlep my body down the stairs, my brain was desperate for an excuse to crawl back to my bed.  Despite the pleading from my body, it was time to get up.  Mornings are not my favorite…

For all of my parenting years this not being a ‘morning person’ has been a problem.  You see, I have been blessed with 3 curious and energetic morning children.  You might even be able to call them night owls, because frequently they were up before the sun, only for them it was morning because they had already slept enough to no longer be tired!  From my bedroom I could often hear them as they opened the cupboards looking for snacks and rummaged through the house by the light of the TVs blue screen.  My husband would refer to this a being “on patrol”.

When my daughters were going through their morning patrol phase I was single parenting.  In an effort to keep them corralled for a precious few more moments of valuable sleep I would confine them to my bedroom.  During that time, which was usually not longer than an hour, I would remind them that mommy likes to “sleep in” and they would watch a movie.  At the foot of my bed they would sit, their bare little feet dangling over the edge of the bed, while I came to terms with the fact that morning had indeed broken.   I must have really stressed to them how important these few extra minutes were to me, because they were very good at not disturbing me as long as their video played.

It is now officially Autumn, so thinking of that today as I was helping my son get ready for his day at preschool, I remembered a little story about his older sister when she was around his age.  She was a pm kindergartener at a private school where I also worked at the time.  One day upon my arrival to work her teacher caught up with me in the school hallway.  She said I had to hear what my daughter had said in class the day before in school.  Now those are words every parent wants to hear out of the mouth of their child’s teacher!  I waited with a fair amount of anxiety as she began to tell me her story.

Mrs. D was preparing the pm class for the upcoming annual field trip to the pumpkin patch.  The class was getting very excited as she told them to make sure and wear their grubby clothes, to bring their lunches, and most importantly to make sure to come to the am kindergarten class time.  She stressed to her students how important this last instruction was because if they did not arrive on time in the morning with the am class they would miss out on the field trip.  Upon realizing that this would require her to come to school early, my daughter began to cry.

In a concerned tone Mrs. D told me of how she noticed my daughter’s tears as they sat in circle time the previous afternoon and she asked her why she was crying.   She said my daughter told her that she was very sad that she was not going to be able to go to the pumpkin patch with her class.  Mrs. D was concerned because my daughter was quite broken up about this and asked her why?   A wide smile broadened across Mrs. D’s face as she told me what my daughter’s explanation was.  My daughter said, “Mrs. D, I can’t go to the pumpkin patch, because MY MOM LIKES TO SLEEP IN!”

As they say, out of the mouths of babes!

An *Awkward* Moment!

A funny thing happened on the way out of the restaurant tonight.  I was standing in the jam-packed entryway of the Olive Garden waiting for my kids to catch up to me after leaving our table, when suddenly a man’s voice was quietly whispering something in my ear.  It was a disorienting sound in the busy restaurant.  I wasn’t expecting it, so boy was I shocked when suddenly I felt the distinctive pat on my backside that is the unmistakable signal of flirtation!  My husband is out of town this weekend, so I knew it was not him, and I was most definitely not expecting that kind of attention!

It all happened so quickly that when I turned toward the young man, it appeared that he was still unaware that it was my rear he had patted and not the person he had intended!  It wasn’t but a second when he turned toward me again and was immediately aware of his error.  His embarrassment was visible as his face turned a burning shade of red.  He spoke clearly this time with his apology and I could tell that he was flustered and worried that I would misinterpret his misdirected advance.  It was as if I could see him standing on the trap door that he was trying to will into existence beneath him and the young man would have done anything to fall through it at that moment!

I felt sorry for him, standing there so repentant and embarrassed.  It’s not like he was purposely being crude with me.  Let’s just say the whole moment was *awkward*!   I laughed off the incident, waving my hand and saying, “It’s ok…” as I looked away and hurried my kids off to the car.  I didn’t want to make a big deal out of an honest mistake.  As I walked to the car my girls were giggling, obviously aware of the accidental groping, and we all had a good laugh about it in the car on the way home!

Oh, there’s probably some pearl of wisdom to glean here, but for us tonight it just gave the kids a reason to have a good laugh at their ol’ mom!

My Girl, Sports, and Life Long Fitness…

I wrote this last week, but I’m posting it here today…

Today I was inspired and proud.  I watched my little girl, and by little girl I really mean very quickly growing up youngest daughter, in action at her first ever Volleyball game.  She was fantastic!

Earlier this summer my girl and I were in the car driving somewhere when she asked me why when I was a kid I was never in sports?  This is a subject I have never been very comfortable with.   In my family of origin I was the “artsy” one while all of my siblings pursued athletics.   Most of what I told her she already had heard before…like how my brothers were both natural athletes who were gifted with physical talent, and I felt like I was clumsy and awkward, like how my sister went out for the volleyball team and the track team (She’s now a PE teacher), and a favorite family story where a 7th grade me decided to join the Pacific Junior High basketball team and when after a week when the coach announced that we were going to practice our “lay-ups” I looked at him utterly puzzled and asked the question that ended my WNBA career, “What’s a lay-up?”

That day in the car, I told her how I had always wished that I started doing something sports or fitness oriented when I was young, because maybe some kind of sports activity would have helped me establish a love for lifelong fitness.  I told her about entering the Gold’s Gym for the first time and how it took me 2 ½ years, yes years, to even step on the weight room floor!  I told her about how a few years ago I began to realize that God gave me this body to serve me!  It’s not the other way around and in order for my body to serve the needs I have it needs to be healthy and able.  Fitness is the key to that.  (We talked about food too of course, but I’m trying to stick to the exercise part of the “diet and exercise” balance.)  We talked about how physical health, for better or worse, is a lifelong journey.

My girl is a lot like me.   If I had and get a nickel for every time someone tells me how much she looks like me, I’ll be able to retire to Paris!  When she was little, her grandpa called her my little magpie.  As a parent it’s hard to watch when your child struggles with the same things you do, especially when you feel like they are some of you own personal failures.  In the car that day, I told her that I’m not looking for a “Gym Barbie” body, but a body that functions better.  Perfection isn’t what this is about, and I don’t expect that from her either.   Some days are good and some are not so good, just keep going.  Keep at it and even make friends with it.  As a tank top I work out in reads, I told her to be “a force 2B reckoned with!”  Neither of us are runners, but we made a pact that day to run in a race someday together.  I don’t know when or where that will be, but I’m still in!

Since that day in the car I have had many ups and down on my journey towards physical fitness.  Some days I feel like a triumphant warrior, and others like a fragile egg.  I hired a trainer to teach me and mentor me and that has helped.  You know what they say about putting your money where your mouth is!  I am seeing the benefits, and new challenges are ever present, but most of all I have begun to set the example I want to set for my girl.  The example that you are never to old, out of shape, inexperienced, unskilled, and that you CAN muster the confidence to try something new to make your life better.   So today I sat on the bleachers

and clapped for the Spartans, and for her, but in a way I guess, I also clapped for me and for the changes I have made that are a turning point for both of us.

That's my girl!

That's my girl!

The Price is Right and U2

I went to a small Christian Liberal Arts College in Portland, OR.  Warner Pacific College was a great place to go to school.  I loved it there, got a great education, made life long friends and totally enjoyed myself!  I have no regrets about my college years, for the most part…

It was my sophomore year in college and the meeting I was attending took place in the small auditorium known as CCM 1.   A dozen or so of us had gathered for a meeting with the class officers to discuss what we were going to plan as class activities for the year.  We had a small budget to fund our scheming and scheming was what I had come to do!  I remember faces in the room, but not really who said what, and that doesn’t really matter anyway.  What I do clearly remember is thinking that this was a meeting of fun suckers! (Sorry to all my fun loving WPC friends, but that’s what I remember!)

The person in charge of the meeting opened the floor to brainstorm for suggestions of what we should do as a class social activity.   The usual offerings were made, “How ‘bout a pizza party?”  “We could rent some videos!”  “Let’s go Ice Skating at Lloyd Center…” Blah, blah, blah, is what I thought.   I was thinking this is College people!  It seemed to me like a stodgy list, so that’s when I sent out my offering to the collective brainstorm…  I blurted out, “What about if we used the money to go and try and to get on ‘The Price is Right’?”  Visions my friends and I decorating our ‘I LOVE BOB’ tee shirts, of carpools of giddy college kids making the pilgrimage from Portland to Burbank with the high hopes of landing on Contestants Row, and winning Free Cars and Trips to Hawaii, were where my mind was at!  Wasn’t college supposed to be about being spontaneous and a little crazy?

The room fell silent as every eye fell upon me.  My off beat and whimsical idea was met with deadpan faces.  Someone in the room asked me how I thought we could get everyone there, someone else was worried about how much money a trip like that would take.  In short, nobody was in. Who were these college student imposters, I wondered?  My idea had been shot down faster than the dreams of an over bidder in the ‘Show Case Showdown’!  As I sat through the rest of the meeting, the words in Bob Barker’s voice, “Vicki, Vicki! Come on down!” were quickly circling the drain.  There would be no trips to Burbank, no yellow nametags shaped like price tags glued to our chests and no Plinko winners.  In the end, I don’t even remember what our class activity ended up being.

Had my hair-brained idea been well received it may very well have been a disaster.  My idea was unconventional, but we weren’t going to be downing beer bongs, or performing for the producers of a Gone Wild video.  I was just a girl in college wanting to do something spirited and out of the ordinary.  That’s an impulse that the realities of life have done a pretty good job of suppressing in the adult me.  I’m not usually like that 19 years old girl in my story anymore.  Somewhere along the way the grown up version of her lost that spirit of spontaneity and good clean fun silliness, but I’m working on it!

This past weekend my husband and I made another pilgrimage of sorts.  We took a trip to Chicago’s Soldier Field to watch my all time favorite band, play the opening concert on their North American tour.   I have loved the band U2 since the mid 80s.  When they did their Joshua Tree tour in 1987 I was a full fledged fan!  (As I remember it, the closest they came to my hometown was Vancouver BC and I knew there would be no way I was getting there!) In all these years that they have been touring I have never managed to get to one of their shows.  You know how these things go… a bill to pay, a baby to find a sitter for, a job you can’t get the time off from, you pick the excuse, I had it and made it… but this time I just went for it!

It was as if I was as free and as spontaneous as the girl who wanted to see U2 over 20 years ago.  We waited like groupies for the band to arrive to the stadium and bought concert tee shirts and programs, and took lots of goofy self-portrait style pictures of ourselves to document the occasion.  From the moment the drumbeat of Breathe came pounding out from the center of the massively erected stage I was a wildly excited fan!  I didn’t sit down the entire show!  When it was over my voice was raspy from all of my cheering and singing to the top of my lungs!  It was great to be so care free and I had a BLAST!  All moments of pure youthful spontaneity that I will surely never forget!

My husband Randy and I at U2 in Chicago!

My husband Randy and I at U2 in Chicago!

Our view of the Magnificent U2 Stage!

Our view of the Magnificent U2 Stage!

My Son, Nemo, and Growing Up

Today I watched Finding Nemo with my 5 year old son. Well, to be more accurate, I was trying to get some “stuff” done and the movie was a vain attempt to keep him occupied! As the movie played along, I found myself getting drawn in to the little fish story once again, only this time I couldn’t help but think about how we are in the last of my little boy’s preschool years. I know… how sentimental of me! I can’t even say that ordinarily I wouldn’t be that way, but truth be told I am! But I have to say, for excuses sake ;), that I find myself surrounded by lots of other friend mommies who are sending their babes off into the big, big world for the first time, and I find myself holding on to him just a little more closely.

It’s funny this time around with my son.  Our oldest daughter is now 14, our second oldest daughter is 12 and both are completely submerged in the world of teenagers. Make-up, Cell Phone, Sports, Recreational Shopping, Dances (and the other dreaded ‘D’ word isn’t too far off)…. With the girls we are there. Sending them to Kindergarten seems like forever ago and sending them to College still seems very far off. (Surely I can live in denial for a couple more years right?) When I sent my oldest to Kindergarten I was a mess and when her sister went a year later, I was pathetic! At the time that my second daughter boarded her first big yellow school bus I was pretty certain that my “baby days” were over.  My little boy has been my bonus, the child I desperately wanted but believed I would never have, and the notion that he has been something of a second chance is not lost on me.

So today, as I joined him on the couch to enjoy the way that his little body fits just right next to mine, I swallowed hard at the lump in my throat as I listened to the little fish story. There were 2 parts of the story that really resonated with me today. The first was when Crush (the turtle) and Marlin (Nemo’s dad) are swimming the EAC (East Australian Current) and the dialogue goes like this…

Crush: Curl away, my son. Awe, it’s awesome, Jellyman.

The little dudes are just eggs. We leave ‘em on a beach

to hatch… and then coo-coo-cachoo… they find their way

back to the big ol’ blue!

Marlin: All by themselves?

Crush: (Sh)yeah.

Marlin: Bbbbbutbutbut, dude, how do you know when they’re ready?

Crush: Well, you never really know. But when they know, you’ll know, you know?

The second part takes place at the end of the movie when Mr. Ray (the Stingray) comes to pick Nemo up for the first day of school…

Mr. Ray: Hold on! Here we go! Next stop—Knowledge!

Marlin: Bye, Son! Have fun!

Nemo: Bye, Dad!

Mr. Ray swims away with Nemo on board.

Nemo: Oh! Mr. Ray, wait! I forgot something.

Nemo swims back to his Dad, panting, and quickly snuggles hard into his side for a hug.

Nemo: Love you, Dad.

Marlin: I love you, too, Son.

Marlin hugs Nemo even closer.

Nemo: Dad? You can let go now.

Marlin: (letting go quickly) Sorry…

Marlin: Now, go have an adventure!

I know my time is coming. I know soon enough we won’t be spending our days together watching movies in the afternoon, or playing on the swing set, or pretending to be spies. I will walk him to his classroom as he excitedly runs ahead of me toward his grown up little self. And when we get there I hope I can be like Marlin and with love and confidence say, “Now, go have an adventure!”

First Day of Pre School!

First Day of Pre School!

Canning

Four years ago when we were moving here I made a rash decision.  You see that is easy to do when you are having a moving sale on your driveway while the moving truck is being packed on the street.  Suddenly when you are faced with packing up all your worldly goods to ship them 2000 miles a lot of things seem to loose their value.  That was the story with all of my canning supplies.  I don’t even remember what I got for them, but in an instant when the woman with her curious and critical yard sale eye looked them over and asked, “Are these for sale?”  I said, “Sure!” and just like that, years of collecting and planning was loaded in to her trunk!

When I chose a stove for our new home, I thought about that rash decision and decided I must not have really wanted to pursue canning anymore and chose a ceramic cook top.  For the most part I like it.  I have vacillated on the gas vs. electric debate and on this particular day I must have been feeling electric.  Over the years there has only been one thing the stovetop has left me wanting for, to be able to can.

Growing up I thought my mom was “Super Mom.”  Her home was kept neat as a pin, she never missed any activity we were in, she volunteered countless hours at school, planned summer camps for the Girl Scouts, chaperoned youth group trips, made a home cooked meal every night… I’m getting exhausted with just making the list and she was the mother of 4 kids 2 ½ years apart!  At some point in the summer, usually after camp and before school started, the fruits would arrive.  I remember peaches and pears hiding out in boxes waiting for just the right firmness and in a flurry she would begin.  Sometime the process would be days on end and sometimes spaced out, it was up to the fruit.

Our families galley style kitchen would be over taken with jars and bands, sinks full of floating peaches, or a pot on the stove with a food mill on top, and always was the presence of a very large dark blue enamelware pot.  The canner would steam away on the stove and fill the air with a thick humidity that was so out of the ordinary in our Northwest home.   When she was done the counters would show like stained glass.  Each fruit like a color of an artist palate glowing from within the shiny clear jars.   I remember watching her carefully tip jars of jam to watch the consistency and listen for the ping that would signal that the lids had properly sealed.  I remember thinking it was a lot of work for something you could just go buy at the grocery store!

A month ago I went back to my mom’s home to gather some of her belongings to take home with me.  One of the things I wanted to have was her canning book.  Reading it has been something like looking through a journal and a diary.  A lot of facts and a lot of feeling!  I have really enjoyed it and it has reignited the desire to can for my own family.  Boy was I wrong as a kid!  After years of searching I have found that NOTHING compares to my mom’s home canning!  (Although Hood Crest out of Hood River, OR comes very close!)  So that meant that my dilemma needed solving and my budget doesn’t allow for replacing my stovetop!

In my quest for finding a solution I ran across a comment someone posted about the Masterbuilt Turk’N’Surf.  This appliance is a turkey fryer that can also double as a crab pot.  The person commenting said that they used it for canning and it worked for them.  It is electric, which means I can use it indoors.  I’d consider that a plus, not canning outdoors in the Midwest = much less humidity!  I decided to give it a try and ordered one.   On Labor Day we took the kids to Stone’s Apple-Barn and armed with my Turk’N’Surf and 40 pounds of apples I set out to see what I could do.   It worked great and there was even the benefit of not having a canner on the stovetop, so I could use all of the burners for cooking!  Here are some pictures of my mom’s book and the canning results:

My Mom's Canning Cook Book.

My Mom's Canning Cook Book.

Some of Mom's Notes...

Some of Mom's Notes...

The Turk'N'Surf- LOVED IT!

The Turk'N'Surf- LOVED IT!

16 Quarts of Apple Sauce = Love in a Canning Jar!

16 Quarts of Apple Sauce = Love in a Canning Jar!