Thursday, December 18, 2008

Culture, Tradition, Ritual, and Legacy

Vespera has been practicing the art of Mexican cooking, much to our delight. I couldn't help but smile when I saw the small stack of leftover homemade tortillas on the counter this morning.





Ever since Vespera joined our family, I've been much more aware of the role that food plays in family and culture. Honestly, I think American culture in general has lost the art of good food. I have always felt that I have so little to give in terms of culinary tradition. Now I'm getting very good (thank you very much) at things that aren't even my own cultural foods - salsa, enchiladas, mole... I don't even know what my own cultural foods would be anyway.

My great-grandmother immigrated here from Germany, but she refused to speak German to her children because Germans were not very highly regarded in the States at the time (during the first world war). She spoke very little English. So, she spoke very little to her children at all. She may have passed along some traditions, but I've never heard the stories, and I've never seen a recipe. I did not grow up with a sense of what it means to be German, though nearly all of my family on both sides came from Germany.

It's strange, isn't it? ...the way that culture seems to get lost after the first few generations in the United States. And we give way to the Minnesota tater tot casserole.

I don't know where I'm going with this really. I think it speaks to the importance of creating family traditions and rituals where none exist, creating a sense of heritage for our children. I want to teach both of my children things that they will teach their own children someday. I want to leave a legacy that gives them a sense of belonging, of having come from somewhere. I want them to have a family heritage. Vespera has that already from her first family. I hope to give her something just as rich from this family.

I think that, in many ways, this is why God had so many rules for the Israelite people. They needed a sense of communal identity, of belonging and destiny. They needed to have markers of their identity as a people set apart. That cultural sense of tradition and identity holds people together, gives them a format for passing on spiritual teachings to their children. It's easy for those things to get lost without a ritual and a tradition.

It's fun and kind of crazy that Mane is growing up with this amalgam of homegrown traditions from Mango and I AND some chunks of Mexican culture, too. We read some traditional Hispanic stories, cook Mexican food, listen to Spanish music, and practice a little Spanish language. I often wonder what kind of person she'll turn out to be having had such a rich experience.

I don't want to sound as though we have no tradition or ritual in our family. That simply isn't true. It's just that most of those traditions have been created by us right here in this family and not by previous generations. One of my favorite times of year is right now...Advent. I've posted in previous years about how we began the tradition of celebrating Advent, lighting candles, hanging ornaments on a Jesse Tree (wreath), and keeping an Advent calendar.

The Advent candles:


The wreath this year:


The Advent calendar:


Thanks for following along with my ramblings. I've missed blogging here, as Peregrin House gets most of my attention right now. I hope to be back with some other musings later today or tomorrow.

Hope and Peace and Joy, the first 3 candles of Advent, to all of you!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Grandparents of Healing

I think most parents want a life with as little suffering as possible for their children. Most of us would give everything we have to protect our children from needless pain. I'm not talking about keeping them happy all the time. This isn't a post about permissive parenting, about giving kids everything they want so they never feel sad. I'm talking about real suffering. ...the suffering of being hurt emotionally and physically by other people, the suffering of racial prejudice, hunger, disease, and fear.

Mango & I have the good fortune of being able to keep Mane safe from a lot of life's suffering right now. We won't be able to protect her from everything forever, but we will have given her a good place to start from...like that wall-hanging that says, "Home is where your story begins." We can build a foundation for her. We can help her walk out into life as a whole human being, having not been harmed by abuse or neglect or even hunger. She will have grown up in a place where people love her, where her parents love each other, where people have set an example of how to serve each other and also set healthy boundaries.

This is something we have not been able to do for Vespera, and I am just now coming to a place where I can even speak of it. Our hearts are wrung and compressed by the weight of her stories sometimes. We would give anything and everything, to keep her safe, and to have kept her safe as a child. Yet it is somehow too arrogant for us to assume that she would have wanted that. Or that we would somehow have been the answer. If we had been able to give her a place to live her whole life long, where she did not suffer, she would not be who she is today. She would not have the connection to her culture or her birth family, and we could never ever take those things from her. We must, instead, bear witness to the pain because we were not there to prevent it. We will hear those things and hold them in our hearts and let the pain pierce us, too, because there is very little else that we can do.

...except to become grandparents of healing. My Montana friend said that to me the other day, and the phrase stuck with me. Mango & I can provide a place where Vespera finds a balm and a healing. And someday she will have children, and those children will have a different legacy. ...and we will be grandparents of healing, grandparents of children who will be protected from suffering in the same way that we protect Mane...not from all suffering, but from specifically the types of things that parents were put here on earth to prevent...abuse, neglect, abandonment...and the aftermath of brokenness that follows from those types of suffering.

Something I learned when I was studying therapy and that I have found to be profoundly true in life is that people cannot make different and better choices for their own children until and unless they are willing to face the reality of the things that have caused them suffering in their own lives. It's hard to make different choices unless and until you do the work of healing. And the work of healing requires space, time, and, often, the presence of loving people.

So, we are here to provide the space for healing for Vespera, to be the loving people, to cover that space with prayer, and to offer what little bit of wisdom we have. We are here to witness the beautiful things that often come in the healing, the depth and joy and contentment that can come of having known sorrow. ...so that we might be parents of whole and deep, intense, passionate, vibrant, compassionate children...and, someday, grandparents of healing.

The song by Point of Grace called The House That Mercy Built comes to mind. I claimed it as a song for my house long before I knew all that would transpire there, and I claim it for this house here, too.

A light in the distance
Welcomes those wayfaring souls
Come this far
A heart grows tired, faith grows cold
Wandering down the winding road
Just simply knock, the door will open

There is a house that mercy built
There is a place where brokenness is healed
There is a voice saying peace be still
There is a house that mercy built

Mercy will find you
Though you've given up
In the middle of what seems like nowhere
He'll shelter you beneath His wing
His love will cover every need
Just simply seek and you will find

There is a house that mercy built
There is a place where emptiness is filled
There is a voice saying peace be still
There is a house that mercy built

There is a house that mercy built
With blood and tears
We've nothing left to fear
We live in grace
Here in the safe embrace of God
The mercy of God

There is a house that mercy built
There is a place where grace has
Been revealed
There is a voice saying peace be still
There is a house that mercy built
Rest in the hope
Rest in the peace
There is a house that mercy built

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fight the anxiety...Naturally

I wanted to share some of the things in my collection that I use for stress and anxiety relief, aside from blogging and journaling and a lot of prayer. I very much believe that we are whole human beings, meaning that mind, body & spirit are interrelated. Writing a blog or a journal, praying, and meditating on scripture attend to the mind and spirit, but these things can also bring healing to the body through the healing of the mind and spirit. Likewise, I believe that treating the body can sometimes bring healing to the mind and spirit. Who cannot relate to the way that a good night's sleep can change our whole outlook on life? Or the way that physical pain produces impatience and crabbiness. Alleviating the bodily ills brings healing, or, at the very least, makes way for healing in the mind and spirit.

So, here are the body remedies I use - aside from trying to eat well, sleep enough, and exercise regularly...



First, I do drink coffee. In moderation, coffee gives me a boost of mental clarity. This helps when I'm tired and mentally foggy. It's also a bit of a "comfort food" and helps me feel relaxed just by smelling good and sitting nearby in my favorite mug.

Too much caffeine, however, as we all know, can lead to restlessness and higher blood pressure. For me, it also creates too much stomach acid. So, I have to pay attention to my body, and stop when enough is enough. For me, this averages out at about 1 cup of coffee a day - some days 2 and some days none.

When anxiety (or too much coffee) has tied my stomach in knots, I drink teeccino:



Teeccino is full of naturally good-for-you ingredients, including lots of potassium for a healthy heart and a calmer nervous system. (Potassium is also good for menstrual cramps, as it's related to the ways that nerves and muscles fire messages.) The biggest perk for me is that teeccino is alkaline, meaning that it reduces stomach acid. AND you make it in a coffee pot, it looks and smells like coffee, and the flavor is very reminiscent of coffee.

My very favorite soothing drink, though, when I know I need a serious stress reliever is Kava Stress Relief by Yogi Teas.



It works. It's a little sweet, tastes good with cream, and also relieves minor aches and pain.

Finally, I've discovered Rescue Remedy.



I'm very much a skeptic with regard to this kind of thing. I don't know why. I just don't see how a little Bach Flower Remedy can help with real life anxiety. But, I can tell you this. I've used it 3 times in the past week, and it has worked within minutes. It's a short term homeopathic stress remedy. It worked so well I told my mom about it!

So, there you have it.

Philippians 4:6-8 says,
"Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Just Put Your Feet Down Child

Mane is a dramatic child, and it seems that so many things in her life are an emergency. She spills water and starts hyperventilating. She can't get something out of her closet and starts crying, "Mama, Mama, MAMA, I NEED YOU! COME QUICK." I wish she could be a bit more calm, but this seems to just be who she is.

When we took her swimming in Lake Superior this summer, I carried her out into the deep water. Then I brought her toward shore & told her she could let go of me now, that the water wasn't over her head. She clung to me in panic, afraid that the water was too deep. I held on to her & said, "Just put your feet down." She put her feet down, and sure enough, the water wasn't much higher then her waist. She looked surprised and said, "Oh, I can touch."

It reminded me of some song lyrics that someone at GCM has posted in their signature by Kate Bush:


He said,
"Just put your feet down, child.

"Just put your feet down child,
The water is only waist high.
I'll let go of you gently,
Then you can swim to me."

Is this love big enough to watch over me?
Big enough to let go of me
Without hurting me,
Like the day I learned to swim?


A lot of people have taken a lot of different meanings from that song. (Yes, I looked around on the internet to see what other people had to say, and, no, I don't actually recommend her music, but I liked these particular lyrics.) For me, I've created my own meaning, about God, about God's love, a love big enough to let us make our own choices, let us swim, be free, find our own way back to God...because I just love the analogy. And I've seen it first hand with Mane and her panic about swimming. I sometimes want to laugh, but her fear is so real. Maybe God feels that way toward us sometimes, too. God sees us here clinging and panicking, and God is there to say, "Just put your feet down child. The water is only waist high." It's like when Jesus stepped into the boat, and the wind and the waves were still. God will hold us until we're ready to put our feet down, will carry us in the deep water, will speak softly to tell us when the water is only waist high.

I don't think it means that nothing bad will ever happen or that everything always turns out perfectly if we believe in God. For me, this has something to do with inner turmoil, with the calming of the anxiety storm. If I would just stop panicking and put my feet down, I'd see that God's rock is under my feet. The water is swirling all around, and I'm not going to get out of it, but I can plant my feet.

I think God carries us, though, carries us into the deep water sometimes, holds on to us when we're too afraid to put our feet down, speaks gently to us until we can unfold gently and walk in the water. God isn't going to let us drown. Jesus didn't let Peter drown when he walked toward Jesus on the water, and we aren't going to drown, either.

No, we're not going to drown. Be still and be carried or just put your feet down child, whichever place you happen to be in right now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Leap, and the net will appear.

The experts say that the most difficult circumstances to live with are those that involve ambiguity. Interestingly, we seem to do an awful lot of ambiguity over here at The Midnight Cafe. Between moving houses, totaled cars, varying degrees of relationship with Vespera's birth family, and, most recently, a health scare involving Novio's heart, our ability to live with the ambiguous, the not-knowingness, has been stretched to nearly breaking. When I awoke with a headache and Vespera with a sore throat, I knew the ambiguity was getting to us.

Dictionary.net defines ambiguous as:

Doubtful or uncertain, particularly in respect to signification


The quote on my sidebar right now says it another way:

Leap, and the net will appear.


We often have no choice but to close our eyes, leap, and wait for the net to appear. There is no prior assurance. We cannot know how it will turn out. All we can do is be faithful to our own part of the journey.

Novio's heart felt like the last straw. When the doctor said "left ventricular hypertrophy" and ordered an echocardiogram, we felt the free fall and wondered what happened to the net.

Today Vespera and I accompanied Novio to his echocardiogram. When his heart appeared on the screen, the sonographer smiled and announced, "He has a heart. Now we know he's lovable." Yes. Indeed. And this is why we are here embracing all of life's ambiguity...because we love. Later, the sonographer turned on the doppler, and we heard Novio's heartbeat. Vespera whispered that it was like a drum chorus, and the sound filled the room.

My own heart beat in my ears like jungle drums.

It seems that Novio has a heart murmur and that his heart is otherwise structurally sound. He is not in any imminent danger. We had been waiting for this moment for over a week, hoping to hear those sweet words of reassurance.

The net. We fell into the net. For this moment, we will rest.

And go out for ice cream.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What's up with the boats?

As you may have noticed, my blog got a facelift. And some boats appeared on the top of the page. Now, I was really going for the coffee cup, as this is The Midnight Cafe, and we're always drinking coffee over here. But, I absolutely loved the template as soon as I laid eyes on it. I think we're all fascinated by boats and ships in one way or another. In the same way that the vastness of the ocean captures us, the ships that sail across are fascinating, grand and dangerous.

That's the way I want to live my life, too. Grand and dangerous, I mean. I chose a couple of quotes for my sidebar recently to reflect that. The first is a verse from the Bible, and the story goes like this:

The disciples were in a boat when a storm came up. They were afraid, and then they saw Jesus walking across the water to them ...which really got them going. I mean, here they are in a crazy, wild storm. They're trying to keep the boat afloat and on course, and then they see somebody walking toward them on the water. I imagine it was probably dark, and, perhaps they were seeing him in quick flashes of lightning. They thought they were seeing a ghost. I can't say that I blame them. Though they may have desperately wanted Jesus at that moment, they had no reason to think He could actually get out to them. Perhaps they even thought that their wishful thinking was causing them to see visions. Perhaps they thought they were dying, and so they were seeing visions of the afterlife.

In any case, much to their surprise, they heard Jesus voice coming across the water, and he said, "Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid." What sweet relief to hear that comforting voice, though, again, they may have worried that their ears deceived them. So, "Then He climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down." (Mark 6:51)Sweet Jesus. Strong, powerful, tangible Savior. He stepped into the boat, and the wind quieted. Their hearts were still. They could rest.

That's what I want for the sailboat of my life. I want Jesus right next to me, quieting my racing heart, my fear and anxiety. The storm that troubles me is so often inside me. I cannot see God clearly for all the darkness and the lightning and the rain. But Jesus is right there, walking across the water, climbing into the boat, saving my life. I want to hear that voice, "Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Slow Motion

I wish I could capture just these few moments in slow motion...

Tonight, after a blaze of emotion, a day filled with relentless demands and unsolvable troubles, we sat in the living room in this place that is now seemingly, finally belongs to us. We sat here, with Mane asleep in her loft, her school notebook spread on the floor, with Vespera and Novio strumming guitars, wordlessly side by side, with the wind creating just enough stir to be heard inside our windows. We sat here, Mango and I, in a moment or two of contentment, just us.

Something felt familiar and warm, like the quilt I made with my own two hands.

And I felt for a second how I have been missing that familiarity, how in some ways I've been very homesick ever since we moved...not so much because of the change of locations, but because of the stress that was involved in moving, unpacking, starting school, endless rounds of soccer games, and , finally, the car accident. Stress and anxiety have overwhelmed me in a way that I haven't experienced in years, and a sort of mental fog has been my constant companion since the move.

Tonight everything was clear and bright. Maybe it's that today was a blaze of emotion, and once we've walked through the fire, we come out a little more shiny, a little more bright and clear. These familiar faces are my sanctuary, my familiar quilt, my home. And tonight slowed down enough for all of us to curl into that feeling. The fog, the shroud of constant anxiety, melted in the blaze. I'm tired now...but relaxed. There are troubles unsolved, as I suppose there always will be. But tonight, I go to bed a little more at peace.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I wasn't cut out for this

I don't really think I'm cut out to be the mother of a 6 year old. I don't mind the toddler years so much, though they were hard, and I've positively enjoyed the teenage years, but this 6 year old thing is making me nuts.

Heather of the EO used the word "sassitude" in description of her 3 year old's latest style. He is 3, right Heather? Anyway, a wise mama at GCM likes to remind us all that 6 year olds are like 3x2 ... meaning they are like 3 year olds times 2 (because they're bigger & smarter now). At 3, sassitude was surprising and somewhat funny (Heather may beg to differ). At 6, sassitude is decidedly not funny.

The primary issue lately is flat out telling me "no" when I tell her to do such and such. I know she's trying to find out how much power she has and get a sense of her own independence. I know she's putting her feelers out to find the boundaries. And I also know that making sure there are boundaries helps her to feel safe. I gotta tell ya, though, I understand why parents "give in" when faced with the sure knowledge that as soon as they enforce the boundary, insane shrieking will commence. This is aggravated many-fold by living in a duplex downstairs from your in-laws. Who wouldn't rather just give in than wait out the screaming fit knowing that grandma is right upstairs? Ugh.

I have to tell you that Mane is a total charm the other half of the time. She's cooperative, helpful (think folding laundry & setting the table), loving, and empathic. She loves to snuggle and make cards telling me how much she loves me. She wants to know everything about the whole world. She loves to take care of other kids. She makes friends easier than I do.

Maybe that's what makes the sassitude so difficult to deal with. It comes on so suddenly, and the charming girl is buried so deep under there it's hard to remember. And she seems so mature and reasonable sometimes...until she just really isn't.



Hmmm...you know, typing this all out has reminded me that we were just in a major car accident this week, and it's possible that the emotions and attitude are running high and wild because the whole world tilted for a little while. I forget that Mane needs structure and predictability as much as I do. When something throws a wrench in the predictability everything falls apart. I need to watch for that on other weeks when this starts to happen. This week isn't the first time I've noticed it, but I'm willing to bet there were other factors associated with other weeks.

Ok, ok...I'm putting a lot of things together now. For Mane, whenever life is unpredictable, she responds by digging in her heels or getting really irritable and angry. It shouldn't be hard for me to see this because I'm the same way. But instead I sit here being frustrated because she isn't being her usual, predictable self, which makes me feel irritable and angry. *sigh*

I'm hoping to teach her to make sense of these feelings as she gets older. I've worked through a lot of this type of stuff with Vespera. I think it's harder with Mane because she's not old enough to really understand the abstract way that life events, emotions, and behavior work together. This is what makes 6 really hard for me. If it were Vespera, we'd talk it out.

I wonder if there are some ways to begin talking it out with a 6 year old. I'll keep ya'll posted.

And...fyi...I didn't plan this post. It came together just the way I wrote it. Thanks for reading if you've made it this far.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Peregrin House has a Blog

You can read about the adventures of Peregrin House here: http://peregrinhouse.blogspot.com/. I decided that I need a place to keep track of homeschooling separately. Most days you'll find more written there than here, as the life and doings of Peregrin House are what consumes most of my days right now. Enjoy!

And, as a reminder, you can also find me (and some other smart & funny ladies) over at If Life is a Highway.

Taking Care of Business

I feel like I've been on the phone constantly since the accident. The fact that you have to keep it together enough to write down claim numbers, medicals claims insurance agent names and numbers, auto claims insurance agent names and numbers, total loss department addresses and phone numbers, police report numbers, auto body shop numbers, etc, etc... makes me wonder how the rest of the world makes it through car accidents. The big news today is that the subaru is, indeed, TOTALED. Unfortunately, our insurance assessor probably won't let us know until Monday what the insurance company will give us for the car. So, we'll shop for a car this weekend, not knowing how much money we really have. It could be worse.

I am so thankful today, actually, though, for the myriad of people whose names and numbers are scribbled on the back of the envelop on the table to get us through this process. I know it's their job, and this is what they're paid to do, but, for the most part, they've also been really nice about it. How often do you get to say that? It reminds me that we can all use a little kindness. I mean, I honestly don't expect people to be nice about this stuff, and it reminds me of how desperately we need a little kindness in our culture, in our communities, in our lives. We're parched and dying from lack of simple kindness.

So, think of me and be kind to someone today. It's been balm to all our wounds to hear kind words, to be treated gently and with respect. I will go out and do the same because I believe that the practice of kindness is just as healing as receiving kindness.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Yes, you're still at The Midnight Cafe

I'll be playing around with some new templates for a while. Bear with me. You're still in the right place.

No Picture This Time

Last spring, when the RAV4 was totaled, I took a picture and posted it here. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. So, I didn't have to say much else.

This time there is no picture, and I don't have a thousand words, either.

We were in an accident Tuesday afternoon. We're all ok. Our car is not. We're still waiting on word from the body shop and the insurance company about whether it's totaled.

So, we wait. And go to the chiropractor. And wonder whether we shouldn't just scrap the car idea all together.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Peregrin House

Our homeschool has a name!

Peregrin House

Peregrin is a Latin word for "Pilgrim," and, of course, it is also the name of one of the hobbits in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is close to the Spanish word for pilgrim, perigrino, and it captures how we think of school as a journey, a pursuit of truth and knowledge.

I like the "homey" sound of "house," as opposed to "school" or "academy," or even "homeschool." I've always like the way the Montessori school refer to the Kindergarten House. It gives the feel of something small, eclectic, & real life, which is exactly what we are.

So, there you have it. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Beauty

I have resisted writing about this for a long time because I'm really resistant, in general, to the way women talk about losing weight, dieting & exercise ALL THE TIME. For as long as I can remember, this is something that occupies the time and space of the lives of women, especially in America, WAY TOO MUCH. We could be doing other things, people. Saving the world, for example.

But I cannot hide my head in the sand and pretend 1) that the problem doesn't exist, or 2) that it doesn't affect me. The truth is that the problem exists in a horrifyingly big way in our culture. When someone tries to talk my 17-yr old, beautiful, soccer-playing, bike-riding, healthy, active, and incredibly strong daughter into dieting, I KNOW this culture has a problem. Do we even remember that women are supposed to have curves? That a little belly pooch means that our bodies have enough stored fat to carry babies, the way we were designed?

Yes, yes, I totally understand the flip side of this. I understand that obesity is an issue, that fast food, junk food, soda, candy, and huge portions are also an out-of-control problem in our society. I understand that people watch too much TV and play too many video games, which means they aren't getting the exercise they need.

We have a real crisis, though, when it's ok to eat junk and lie on the couch as long as you're skinny. See, the way I see it, people are only responding the the trouble with fast food and candy in as much as it applies to obesity. Very few people are actually talking about health. And when we talk about health, we act as though the only way to be healthy is to be thin.

I'd like to see the day when our standards of beauty embrace people of all kinds of shapes and sizes. And I'm making a concerted effort to at least set a different standard for beauty in my own home. We talk about being healthy, eating healthy, exercising to keep us strong and alert and happy, and taking care of our bodies in a way that makes us feel good about who we are (whether that's clothes or lotion or perfume or jewelry, whatever...). What I'd really like to do is think about some artwork that reflects real beauty. AND, I need to guard carefully the way I talk about myself because it affects my whole family.

You see, I'm really ok most of the time. I know that I haven't gotten enough exercise when I start complaining about the way I look because I feel pretty much ok when I'm healthy and active. When I'm not healthy and active I start to feel bad, and then I complain about how I look. And it's easy to go there because I grew up being told I was fat. It's really hard to let go of that. And now I'm watching my daughter go through it.

You know how they say that we all need 10 positive comments for every negative? One negative comment about appearance is SUCH a set-back for women. It takes so much reassurance to believe the people who say we're beautiful. It seems only natural to assume that the people who say the less pleasant things are the ones who are telling the real truth. In the area of beauty, though, it's more often that the people with the negative commentary have been brainwashed by our culture and are trying to feel better about themselves (by putting other people down or getting others to join them in their mostly unhealthy dieting plans).

Why is it that diet plans are so often completely unhealthy anyway?

What is it that I'm getting at? I'm trying to brainstorm how to protect my children from this mindset. If we work on this one household at a time, maybe we can save the world, eh?

And I want to put it out there that I'm on a quest for health. I've been dragging a little lately because moving to the new place has meant that I've gotten less exercise. Less exercise makes me want to exercise even less. Then I feel blah and depressed. Then Vespera gets depressed because I'm depressed and Mango gets worried and Mane gets crabby. AND, winter is coming, which means that we cannot afford to get all depressed now. We have a hard enough time getting through winter without all that.

I'm on a quest for health so that we can all make through the winter alive and joyful, healthy and strong, and feeling beautiful! This is going to involve some mental work as well as some physical work and a great deal of creativity. I'm ready to tackle it, though. Starting now. With me and my little family.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Homeschool Update 9/22

Not a lot to advertise about last week's homeschooling endeavors. We're not getting serious until October when soccer season is over. So, we're easing our way in slowly.

We flew through a couple more math lessons. Mane will take the test for chapter 12 today. We slogged through a couple more reading lessons. I don't remember what number we're on, but it's still somewhere in the 40's. We read Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, and the unit study adventures began! We talked about (and read about) the moon, owls, and famous naturalists (Henry David Thoreau & Rachel Carson). Mane wrote her own nature counting book and sat at the window in the sunroom/library observing & drawing nature pictures.

We watched and played a lot of soccer, played Swap at a coffee shop, went to the Walker library, and took a couple of long bus rides.

That's our week in a nutshell. Stay tuned for future updates.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Old Friends

"Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, and the other's gold."

Last night I had the great pleasure of being in the company of some of my golden friends, old friends from college. On polite days, we called ourselves the "Lounge Crowd" when we all went to Bethel College together. On less particular days we were the "Lounge Rats." Our theme song was,

"Brave rebels are we
Born to be free
Like fish in the sea"

We loved each other genuinely and without pretense. We tucked people in for naps on the couch, smoothed back hair when someone was sick, argued philosophy, theology and feminism together, edited each other's papers, gave honest opinions, supported each other in not caving to the COOL crowd. We read Winnie the Pooh stories and took many brief trips out for bagels and coffee when the rest of campus was attending chapel. We did a lot of other silly and attention-grabbing things. One friend chewed on pant legs, and she baaah-ed like a sheep whenever tour groups went by. There were some who climbed on the ledge above the lounge and shot peas down on everyone. We were all different from the mainstream crowd and fairly different from each other, and we were all very, very driven.

We were drawn together either by being post-secondary students or commuters or both. We "lived" in the lounge. During finals week we joked that we should pitch a tent. As it was, there were always one or two of us hanging around while others were in class, and there was always a pile a coats and winter boots and/or books, backpacks, and half-finished projects.

We counseled each other through relationships, caffeine withdrawal, and faith crisis. We were not always right, and we definitely weren't perfect...though I think all of us had some perfectionist tendencies. Looking back we see ourselves more clearly and smile wryly sometimes. We weren't who we are now...people who have experienced lots of growth and change, who have developed a better sense of direction and more defined values. But there's still this thread of genuineness, of honest integrity and appreciation of and for each other.

I hope that I can look back at other points in my life and see that I've developed friendships as solid and beautiful as the old ones. It seems that I have a couple of good friends from each "era" of my life...early childhood, high school, college. It seems that it's gotten harder as I've gotten older. Maybe there's just less time for staying up late or for running off to get coffee and bagels. Maybe I have to be more intentional because life is different. But friends definitely make my life richer. Last night was like being wrapped in a warm, familiar blanket. I'll be smiling about our little reunion for a long time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

35W Bridge

http://www.startribune.com/28595599.html

The new 35W bridge in Minneapolis opened this morning, just a little over 1 year from the time the old bridge collapsed last August. This is big news at our house because we live just minutes from the bridge. I didn't expect to find myself teary-eyed over it, but I couldn't help getting a little bleary-eyed as I opened the link in our local newspaper this morning. As many of you know, my neighbor's daughters were on the bus that was on the bridge when it collapsed last year. All of the children were ok, but many other people were not. It has been an emotional year for our community.

Today is a day to celebrate, though. It's interesting that the newspaper used the words "Made Whole" in the headlines because it's actually an all new bridge, but it feels like they're speaking of the piece of healing that can now take place in all of us with a new bridge in place.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Difference Between Boys and Girls

While waiting at the bus stop yesterday Mane & a little boy were observing two birds flying around in the sky.

The boy said, "I bet they're fighting. I think they're fighting."

Mane said, "I don't think so. I think they're marrying."

There you have it people - the primary difference between boys and girls. ;)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homeschool Check-In

First off, our homeschool needs a name. Then this can be something other than the "Homeschool" Check-In. For now, though, it's my intent to post the highlights of the past week in my blog sometime in the following week. We'll see if I can narrow it down to a particular day eventually.

So, last week Mane finished chapter 9 in her math book (Alpha by Math U See). I ordered the teaching DVDs to see what I've been missing up until now, and, after looking through Alpha, I think we'll be ordering Beta about halfway through the year. Mane LOVES math, and she could totally play games surrounding math concepts all day.

We began reviewing reading concepts after a pretty significant summer break. I KNOW I should have had her practicing all summer, but the truth is that reading is tough for her, and I took the summer to evaluate how I want to approach reading. I really, really don't want to turn it into a battle. I loved to read as a child, and I want so badly to pass that joy on the Mane. Mango struggled with reading, though, and it looks like Mane is following a similar pattern. Fortunately, she loves stories and could listen to reading for hours, with or without pictures.

I struggle, personally, with Mane's reading, though. It's something I want to work for her so badly, and it's probably the first thing where I've really had to recognize that she isn't going to just pick it up...like walking and talking and math. Heck, even potty training with easy with this kid. People tell stories about kids who just start reading on their own without formal teaching, and I imagined that it would be like this with Mane, but it hasn't been. It's funny the dreams we have that we have to release.

So, I picked up the book The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, which we borrowed from the library for much of last spring, and we'll be working and struggling and braving our way through it for the rest of this year. We did lessons 42 & 43 today. The plan is to go through 2-3 lessons a day (one or two review and one or two new).

We also listened to lesson one of Pimsleur Spanish AND both Beth Manners Spanish CDs that we have. I am determined to work on Spanish this year. Determined, I tell you. I go through horrible periods of guilt at having not begun speaking Spanish to Mane from the time she was born. I feel ridiculous about it, but it's something I've continued to drag my feet about for the last two years of home pre-schooling and kindergarten. This year I want to really tackle it. Perhaps this blog will hold me accountable.

We'll be "rowing" the Five in a Row book Owl Moon this week and next, learning about owls and the moon (obviously), along with some various other things that pop up along the way. If you've never read it before, it's a sweet, sweet story about a father and child going to watch for Owls at night in the snow.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

And if you have a name suggestion, please post!!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Mane: On the presidential election...

"Why don't they just give them all a turn?"

I guess maybe she has learned something about sharing. ;)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The New House

So, this is day 5 in the new place. I think there are less than 10 boxes left to unpack - mostly office stuff, pictures to hang on the walls, Mane's toys, and some other fragile decorative items.

Anyway, remember what I said about my family being my home? Well, it's a good thing it is that way because moving has been WAY harder than I thought it would be. I miss our other house. I miss th view out the windows. I especially miss old kichen & bathroom, though the ones here are getting a makeover in the next month. I told Mango the other night that I'm ready for this vacation to be over. It's time to go back home now. Yikes. I thought I'd be totally happy to be here. Our little, solid family made a unified decision to move, and now we're finally here. Maybe we had anticipated it being much more wonderful than it is in reality. The reality is that this new house has a lot of dirt, needs a lot of cleaning and paint, and is organized in a completely different way than the old place. It feels unfamiliar. It makes us homesick.

It's amazing what place can mean to we humans. I just finished reading Esperanza Rising (a book I'd totally recommend, by the way), and in the first chapter Esperanza lies on the ground next to her father to hear the heartbeat of the earth at their ranch in Mexico. People are tied to place in a profound way. I used to say that I left a piece of my heart in Mexico after my first trip there. In an odd sort of way, it came back to me through Vespera. I don't feel a pull toward the country any more, but I certainly feel a connection. Novio, on the other hand, feels a profound sense of loss at having left his homeland. The ocean, the cliffs, the sky. He talks about them all, and the voice of his heart was written all over his face while he watched the waves in Duluth.

When we moved into our old house, I said then that I'd never move again. I didn't realize how much I sunk my roots into that place or what a profound sense of loss I'd feel upon leaving. We still own the house, but other people are living there now. The world has tilted under my feet. I need to find the heartbeat of the new place.

In the meantime, my family carries me through. We shoulder this burden of change together. Even Novio brings his quiet reassurances, telling us it will be fine. We'll be ok. He knows, maybe much more deeply than the rest of us, that we'll be ok. We will find joy in the new.

We wil find joy in the new. May we turn our faces toward change together and open our hearts to joy.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Moving

We are finally all moved into our new house. Well, I mean, all our stuff is here, and I'm not sure how everything fit into a smaller house, as it doesn't seem to fit into this MUCH larger house.

I can't believe how much I felt the similarities between moving and childbirth. Maybe it's because I'm a childbirth educator that I see the parallels. But, first, there was the waiting. We knew approximately when we'd be moving but not the specific date. In the week leading up the the tentative date, I talked with my mother and my mother in law almost every day and assured them that I'd let them know as soon as I knew anything. When the time finally came, I called up my good friends, and everyone came over to help. At first it felt ok, and I was moving things slowly on my own & with my good friend, checking in with Mango,Vespera & Mane every now and then. Then, suddenly, a whole crew of help showed up so fast that I couldn't keep up. I felt swallowed by the process. There wasn't enough of me to go around because everyone wanted to know this or that or something else. Finally, my good friend & my mom told me to sit down and relax and they'd help me. My anxiety level was through the roof as the boxes kept piling up in the front room. I told Mango I didn't want to move any more, that the old house was just fine, that I wanted to close my eyes and have it disappear. Sounds oddly like what we call "transition" in childbirth, the point at which you're almost done, but things are so intense that you talk about quitting, about wanting to be done, about changing your mind about this whole birth thing, as if you could go back. Then came the last load of boxes, my good friend's husband got the beds put together. My mom and my friend helped me make the bed. Novio, who had been helping with the move went in to help Vespera through a similar crisis. Things slowed WAY down, and then everything was here. I still felt overwhelmed and exhausted, but as soon as everyone left I regained some focus and was able to empty a number of boxes and see how everything was eventually going to fit together. We had ice cream and went to bed. So, life in the new house began.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

An interview with Mane

I stole this interview from Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary (see the list of blog links on my sidebar). These are Mane's answers...

1. What is something your mom always says to you?

"I'll get you some water if you say, 'Please.'"

2. What makes mom happy?

"Being nice & sharing with other friends."

3. What makes mom sad?

"Not being nice to her."

4. How does your mom make you laugh?

"Tickle me."

5. What was your mom like as a child?

"Me!"

6. How old is your mom?

"I don't know."

7. How tall is your mom?

"I don't know."

8. What is her favorite thing to do?

"Read Harry Potter."

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?

"Read a book."

10. What is your mom really good at?

"Oh. I know what you are really good at! Mommy's really good at going on the computer. And swinging me in the hammock. And cuddling."

11. What is your mom not very good at?

"Playing with legos."

12. What does your mom do for her job?

"Homeschool me all day."

13. What is your moms favorite food?

"I don't know. Apple pies and pumpkin pies."

14. What makes you proud of your mom?

"Doing good work on the computer, and when she loves me and daddy, too."

15. What do you and your mom do together?

"Homeschool. Math. Reading. Sit by each other at the table. Play with the rats."

16. How are you and your mom the same?

"We're both Scottish. We both have dark blond hair. We both have cute fingertips. We both wearing earrings."

17. How are you and your mom different?

"Mommy has a watch, and I don't. Mommy has glasses, and I don't. Mommy has long earrings, and I don't have very many."

18. How do you know your mom loves you?

"When she kisses me and hugs me, and when she putzes with my hair."

Chocolove



This is, by far, the best chocolate I've ever had! From chocolove.com: "Ancho and Chipolte chilies supply the heat and dried cherries supply the sweet in this deliciously exciting chocolate. Initial chili flavors transition to deep sweet cherry and finish again on a pleasantly warm chili note."

If you like Mexican mole, you've got to try this chocolate...

That's all I have to say today. :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thoughts from the beach at Lake Superior...

Last week we camped...5 days, 4 nights...just on the outskirts of Duluth. We brought the whole family + Novio.

On Wednesday evening I sat on the rock beach watching the waves come in, nestled up close to Mango, the wind whirring in our ears. Mane collected "rock babies." Vespera and Novio sat quietly, first taking pictures and then just still and contemplative. My heart was so full I could have laughed or cried. Instead I poured out my thoughts to Mango, poured them into the wind and the waves.

I have always loved the passion and intensity of teenage emotion. I love that electricity. And I think we are faced with a couple of choices as we grow out of our teenage years. We can stop feeling all that intensity because it's heavy and difficult, because it's hard to be stable and cope with life at that level of emotionality all the time. OR we can allow ourselves to feel, to be fully alive. And, in being fully alive, we have so much more experience and depth to the emtional intensity that follows. It makes your heart feel like bursting so very often, but the joy is just as deep and intense. Sometimes I feel as though I might drown in my own heart, covered over by the depth of all that I've learned and experienced since those teenage years.

I was aware, sitting there on the beach, that Vespera and Novio were in the midst of one of those deeply emotional moments. Novio comes from the ocean, and surfing was his hobby. Since moving to Minnesota he has not visited a body of water so vast that you cannot see the other side. The water and waves of Lake Superior were both the wound and the balm at the same time. So poignant. So bittersweet. The waves washed up old memories, even while we were there creating new ones.

I asked if the Lake made him homesick. His answer was heavy but quick and direct, "Yes, but Vespera is here, and I want to be with her." And they curled into each other, one wave inside another.

I honor the depth and breadth and truth of the emotions that my child and her Novio held out there in the wind that evening, while also acknowledging that the strength and depth of my own emotions go deeper...just because I've lived longer and known more, because I know them AND I know me. The wild ride of learning that we have intense and passionate emotional selves that begins in the teen years is really only the beginning. I can keep a cap on it better now if I want to, but when I sit in that quiet created by the rushing wind and crashing waves and allow myself to feel, I know that I draw from a well that is deeper now than it used to be. And I am so glad. I feel as though so many people around me have forgotten how to really just be connected to the waters of passion and intensity, of life and vitality. And the lack of connection limits our ability to love, to know joy, to be loved.

I do wonder how this relates to our ability to know God and be loved by God. God is such a powerful, intense, and vast Being. We connect a little bit to that vastness in those in-between years when we're so full of life and vitality ourselves. So much gets lost in the race to be successful, to care for our families, to do the necessary day-to-day things that we forget. We forget to open our arms wide to the wind and let the waves wash over us. We're filled with inhibitions that come from more experience, from fear. But our possibilities for understanding and knowing that Greatness, that Vastness are so much greater as we gain experience, more life, more depth. It's a conundrum, a paradox. Experience creates our inhibitions, but it also increases our potential for knowing and being loved by God and other human beings.

And this is why I love the wind and the waves. I love the way that the natural world grounds me in my humanness while drawing me into eternity, into a full, wide, expansive relationship with God and with others.

I want to live with the expansiveness of a teenager and with the tiny bits of wisdom I've gained since then. I want to put to use the full range of human life and emotion that God has granted me. I am willing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Ultimate Camping Trip Packing List

Last time we were packing for a camping trip Vespera & Novio stood around my counter grinning and laughing about my LIST. Apparently they've never known anyone who writes lists so neurotically (they haven't seen my mother in action). Vespera actually whispered to Novio that I write grocery lists. *gasp* Who has ever heard of such a thing?! The truth is that my brain stopped optimal functioning somewhere around my 3rd week of pregnancy, and I haven't been able to remember things very well ever since. So, I write lists. Once I had written the same camping list over and over every summer for I-don't-know-how-many summers, I decided to write the list on the computer and keep it. Back then I didn't know that one only has to do a google search to find the list they're looking for, and then one doesn't actually have to even come up to the original list. So, this is my own original list...for those of you who just google everything. ;)

Cooking:
Cooler
Grill
Charwood
Grilling utensils
Foil
Ziplocs
Water Bag
Cooking Pots
Coffee Pot
Knife
Plates & Bowls
Eating Utensils
Napkins
Peeler Dicer Slicer
Mugs
Dishcloth
Dish Soap
Tea
Coffee
Sauce
Storage containers

Sleeping:
Sleeping bags
Air mats
Pillows
Light Blankets
Tent
Tarp
Flashlight

Misc.:
Camera & Film
Trash Bags
Bikes & Trailer
Books
Games
Pen & Paper
Toys
Map
Reservation Info.
Cell Phone
Wallet
ipod

Clothes & Personal:
Shoes
Socks
Underclothes
PJs
Shorts & Pants
Shirts
Swimming Suits
Jacket
Comb
Hair Ties
Toothbrushes & Paste
Shampoo & Conditioner
Deodorant
Towels
Washcloths
Wipes
Lotion
Sunscreen
Bug Stuff
Soap
Keeper
Itch Relief
Fingernail Clippers

Before Leaving:
Close Windows
Check Laundry
Run Dishwasher
Take out trash
Unplug computer
Tell the grandparents we’re gone


I cross off the things I'm not bringing for this particular trip as soon as I get started. Then I figure out how many meals we need, write a meal plan, and write a list of what foods we need to bring to accomplish the meal plan. Presto. Finished. Sounds like a lot of work. I promise it's less work than running to the grocery store every five minutes after you've already left on your trip.

So, that's my Martha Stewart moment for the day. Maybe I should call this Domestic Notes from the MidnightCafe...unless ya'll have another suggestion.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Day 13 - Good News, Bad News

Good News: Running the oven on really hot got rid of the mouse smell. I even used the oven the next day and there was still no mouse smell.

Bad News: Mango's first flight was delayed so he missed his connecting flight to Minneapolis. He'll still be home today...just later than expected.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 11

Today I feel strangely uplifted, as though I really can manage the time between now and when Mango gets home. I feel like this major separation is finally coming to an end.

...though now I'm wishing that the mouse would have found a different time to die inside the stove somewhere where I cannot reach it. I called my mom and discovered that you CAN actually lift up the top of the stove and have a look around under there. Unfortunately, though the smell is definitely coming from the top of the stove somewhere, not the bottom or inside the oven, I cannot SEE a mouse anywhere. I wouldn't say "unfortunate" except that this means I am left with the smell of dead mouse and no way to remove it.

So, I took a trip to Target for some heavy duty air freshener. Then I turned the stove up to 500 degrees in hopes of drying the nasty thing out. I *did* google search "mouse died in stove," but all anyone could really say was that the smell would go away eventually. Thanks.

And happy homecoming to Mango...don't mind that nasty smell in the kitchen. It'll go away soon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Archiving my old quote of the week...

"When the Unseen Hand leads you in its grasp, you follow. Or turn back and live in eternal regret. Of course there is no certainty in following either. That is what makes faith. Follow or turn back. There is no middle way." ~ Merlin in Merlin by Stephen R. Lawhead

Day 10

We're into two-digit numbers finally...day 10. Now, I can feel like Mango will actually be home SOON. Day 13 isn't even a whole day, either. He'll be home halfway through day 13!!! And my thoughts are turned toward his homecoming. How can I make it special? He's pre-warned me that he'll be exhausted and may need a nap. So, I'm pre-warning Mane that we're not going to climb all over daddy when he gets home, and we're going to try to help him rest. I hope it works. I want his homecoming to be smooth and peaceful. I want home to feel comfortable, familiar, and nourishing.

I have to remember this. I know that he feels the same way when he gets home from teaching every day during the school year, but I don't take the time to think out how to make the transition smooth. I'm not talking about trying to be Martha Stewart here (poor lady...it must be tough to have your name coined as a term for the perfect homemaker). I'm not talking about being a perfect happy homemaker. I just want to learn to do small, simple things that help a little.

Now that my mind isn't in the fog of having a baby/toddler/preschooler, I have some mental space to really work on our home life. I like this assignment. I never thought I'd say that. It sounds so traditional, but I really, really do. I enjoy being the one who keeps things running around here. I like to know they can make it without me, too. That's important to me. But I've really come to appreciate my role in our family. I'm getting more settled about it after some times of struggling with why I got my Master's degree and if I'll ever get my therapy license. Mango has helped me a lot. He overflows with appreciation for the things I do, and I feel so humbled.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Elfquest

They are comic books. You should read them. But don't read the new ones published by Manga. You have to read the old ones. I've never read comic books in my life, but these are worth the time.

http://www.elfquest.com/

Day 8

Well, Mango's trip is more than half over now. Vespera left for camp this morning. She'll return one week after Mango returns. What a crazy whirlwind. My job, however, seems to be to stay at home and nurture people through their goodbyes and homecomings...myself included.


We're a very emotional group of people, my little family and I. The home atmosphere has been one of love and sympathy, longing and homesickness, generosity and care-taking this past week, as we leaned on each other, missing Mango and preparing for Vespera to go. We trouped out together to the beach & shopping & the fair, made meals, stayed up late... We talked with Mango, passed the phone around the table, even to Novio. And last night Novio came over to say goodbye to Vespera for the next two weeks. Now that they've both gone, it's time to start looking forward to some homecomings.

The whole week has gotten me thinking, though, about the way that partings and reunions affect us, about the varying levels at which people are affected by the distance and time they spend away from people whom they love and the ways we cope with that distance and time.

Both Vespera and Novio have experienced what I would describe as significant periods of abandonment in their lifetimes. Their parting last night was tinged with just the tiniest pangs of fear, as was her parting with me this morning. Last night she very seriously implored me to remember to pick her up when she returns. And I affirmed for the zillionth time that I will never forget her, nor will I ever leave her anywhere.

For my own part, I walk around feeling like half my oxygen is gone. I've been reading Elfquest, and I love the way certain things about relationships are expressed in those books. I love the terms "Lifemate" and "Lovemate," the way they call their partners "Beloved," and the way each person has a soul name that is only known by those very closest to their heart and which is only used privately. I seldom read stories of that kind of connection. The connection between Lifemates allows them also to feel each other's pain, even from a distance, or to know when the other is in trouble.

Sometimes I feel like I'm making a mountain of a molehill with all my pining after Mango. I *really* do function just fine on a daily basis, but my thoughts pull toward him like a powerful magnetic force. He sent me a song the other day that goes like this:

Everywhere I Go by Jackson Browne

Chorus:
I hear your heart beating everywhere
When we're apart I can hear you there
I hear your heart beating everywhere
Everywhere I go

People say that I must be in love
The way I forget what we're speaking of
The way I stand there smiling straight ahead
And walk away without hearing a word they said

chorus

In the middle of the football game
At the beach in the pouring rain
Standing on a hillside staring at the sun
People hurry by the unfortunate one
With the faraway eyes and the mystery smile
Moving my body in a ragamuffin style
I can't sit down when I hear it start
I hear you heart everywhere I go

People say that I must be a fool
Cause when I'm near you I cannot be cool
I don't quite make sense when I talk to you
And when you smile I forget everything I knew

chorus

Standing in the market where I buy my bread
With a hunger in my belly and a rhythm in my head
Looking all around for something good to eat
Between the butter and the beans and the mops and the meat
Coffee from the mountain, honey from the bee
Nothing tastes as good as you taste to me
Rocking in the aisle to my inside song
People staring at me think I got a walkman on

I hear your heart beating everywhere
I hear your heart
I hear your heart beating everywhere
I hear you heart
Beating everywhere I go

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Food & Homesickness - Still Day 6

Mango says he sat around talking with another teacher the other day about all the foods they cook at home with their spouses and how much they miss home. Food *does* seem to be one of those things that constantly reminds you that you aren't home, as we learned with Vespera. She could keep up a pretty good facade until we sat down at the dinner table and everything, I mean *everything* was unfamiliar. Then she looked like she wanted to cry...every night...for a long time. Meals make you homesick.

For Mango's sake, I thought I'd tell everyone that Mane and I went impulse shopping at the grocery store today and came home with spicy black bean dip (which she tried a sample of at the store and LOVED), garlic stuffed olives, Australian cheddar cheese, and watermelon. (We came home with other things, but those were the more impulsive choices.) Somebody at the co-op actually commented on Mane's sophisticated taste. Today for lunch we had rice & beans with avocados. Nothing special, but I know it speaks of home.

I know that Mango will be jealous and homesick when he reads this, but, I have to say, I think I have homesickness in reverse. I make food that I know Mango loves, and then I miss his face at the table when I eat it. Remember what I said about how my family *is* home to me? And now part of "home" is missing, and I am, indeed, homesick.

Day 6

I dreamed of kissing Mango, and I thought to myself, in my dream, "Mango isn't here. How can I feel his lips?" And just as that thought surfaced in my consciousness, I woke.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day 5

It's morning. So, I don't really know how Day 5 is going to go yet, but I have time to write now, and I probably won't later.

Last night, after Mane went to bed, Vespera & Novio were at the table having a late dinner, and I went out to talk with them. I laid my head down on the table, and Vespera asked if I was tired. I said, "No, I just miss Mango." Novio said, "Well, just don't think about it." I gave him an exasperated look, pretended I was going to say something & then just shook my head. We all laughed. Vespera asked him how he was going to feel when she leaves for camp and is gone for two weeks and if it was going to make him feel any better to have someone tell him to just not think about it. He shook his head & conceded, "Ok, nevermind." THEN I told him that he's not entirely wrong. If I mope and dwell on it, it only gets worse. If I stay busy, read books, get other things done, then I don't feel SO bad. I told him that truth is, though, that Mango & I have been married for 10 years (and we were engaged for almost 2 before that) and there's seldom a moment that goes by when I don't think about him. Seriously. We're connected. We're partners. Every move I make in this life I make with him in mind. It's kind of crazy that I'm working on getting the house rented while he's gone because it's a decision that affects us both so much, but he trusts that I have all of us in mind while I'm making decisions on my own.

Wednesday was the perfect day for staying busy and happy. My two favorite Heathers spent the morning here with their sweet little people. Vespera came down to meet everyone and honestly enjoyed herself (the babies helped). Then Vespera, Mane & I made lunch together and headed for the beach. Nokomis was closed for high bacteria levels, but we proceeded undaunted to Lake Calhoun, where we happily spent a few hours swimming. I learned that you can't go anywhere with Vespera in a swimming suit and not get stared at. I learned from her how to ask people in Spanish what they're looking at (but I didn't actually have the nerve to ask). Ugh. We went home, did some yoga, made dinner, and headed off to the park where Vespera played soccer, Mane played on the playground, and I talked with Mango on the phone. We all collapsed at home and slept. Vespera told Mango on the phone last night that we "had a blast" on Wednesday.

Thursday was a lazy day. We waited and waited AND WAITED for people to come see the house. I had taken 6 appointments for Thursday. One canceled Wednesday night. 2 canceled about an hour before they were supposed to come on Thursday. 2 didn't show up at all. So, we bummed around the house...did a little laundry, played with itunes, did some drawing & crochet work, made food, and talked some. Novio came over again in the evening. Mane & I took off for the bike path, she on her bike and I on my rollerblades. Again, we went to bed happy & tired.

Today the plan is to shop for some new swimming suits (time to hit the clearance racks) and to meet up with my parents and some friends at the fair in my hometown.

Dear God, Blessed Creator, be with us as we go about our lives today...Mango in Baltimore and all the rest of us here. Bind our hearts together with love, with cords of unfailing strength. Give us grace with each other and grace with the people we meet. Walk beside us on the path and let our eyes be open to all the possibilities you might have for us today. This family is yours.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 2

I took a bunch of e-mails about renting out our house today. We're moving to a 3-bedroom duplex apartment below Mango's parents. We've simply outgrown this sweet little place. Vespera & I joked about keeping a baseball bat nearby when people come over to see the place since the "man of the house" isn't home, and you never know what kind of people might come over. ...except that the only bat we have is a padded one that belongs to Mane. I was telling my mom the story of our conversation and she suggested a rolling pin or a hammer. Mane suggested that we answer the door with the hammer, but then she said that people might go running back to their car if we did that. It's funny the things you think of in a house full of girls.

I picked up Mango's cup of water from the floor by the side of the bed today. He always sleeps with a cup of water by the side of the bed. I was cleaning and packing some more and saw the cup sitting there. Sad little cup. I was reminded of a scene in one of the Zion Chronicles where one of the women brings a cup into the kitchen that one of the men was drinking from, and she presses her lips to the cup in the same place that his lips had been.

Mane and I weeded the garden this afternoon while Vespera was gone with Novio. We watered the plants and wound the grapevines around the fence. I never do stuff like this when Mango is home, preferring to sit in the hammock with him. But when he's gone, I feel so proud to get things done. I pulled a lot of weeds last summer while he was in graduate school. This summer I'd rather lavish my attention on him than the garden, since he isn't consumed with graduate work. Mane and I had a great time, though. This morning we picked out first 3 tomatoes, too!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 1

Today was the first of 13 excruciating days without Mango. Ok. Maybe I exaggerate. Maybe it's not quite excruciating. Not yet. Is it ok if I start calling it excruciating somewhere around day 6?

My dear, sweet Mango has gone to Baltimore to learn about Project Lead the Way.

It's not that I can't stand on my own two feet or that we're so enmeshed we cannot function without each other. It's just that I love him. I love his smile, his eyes, the way he smells, the way he laughs. I love living my life with him by my side. I love his familiarity. We're a team. The Mexican people call someone "the other half of my orange." It's hard when the other half of the orange is several states away.

I'm sure that having him gone will remind me of all the things I love about him. Does absence really make the heart grow fonder?

We just spent our 10th anniversary weekend in downtown Minneapolis. We got a room at the Hyatt for dirt cheap, and we listened to free concerts in Peavy Plaza, went to Hell's Kitchen (and other restaurants that do not have gluten-free menus), walked to Loring Park and sat by the dandelion fountain, and visited some very natural and granola crunchy places in Uptown. Oh, and we talked. We finally carried one conversation after another through to completion. I forgot what it felt like to actually get to the end, the bottom, of something. Most of the time life is just too busy for that, and we have one conversation over the course of several days. We laughed, we cried, we walked and danced and swam. It was a glorious 3 days.

I'm sitting here drinking tea because Mango drinks tea. He called home while I was making dinner. Vespera was helping, Novio was working with his computer at the counter, and Mane was chattering away. I had been wondering if it's harder to be the person left at home or the person gone on the trip...until I heard Mango's voice. He said, "Oh, it's good to hear the sounds of home." He had an awful day of flying, and home sounded so comfortable and busy and happy to him. I think it's going to be harder for him than for me. After all, I've got our family here. He just has classes and a couple of roommates and his computer for company. Good thing I finally got a cell phone, and we can talk for free.

It's time for me to take a shower and tuck myself in bed with the Elfquest comics, which I am finally reading since Vespera picked them up and started reading them a few weeks ago. They're Mango's comic books from when he was in high school, and there are pieces of them that have become a permanent part of his understanding of life and the world. I can't believe it took me this long to finally read them. I'm ashamed of myself. He's been my husband for 10 years, and these books have been sitting on our bookshelf for exactly that long. *sigh* We do still have plenty to learn about each other after all these years.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Home

When we were camping at Whitewater, I asked Novio sometime on the 3rd day if he was homesick. No reason. I just asked a random question. After he had me explain the meaning of the word "homesick," he replied, "No. Are you?"

I said, "No. My home is right here with my family. If we're together, I'm home."

I've been reflecting more on what I said then as we're packing up to move to a new apartment. We'll be advertising our place for rent and moving down the street to a 3-bedroom, downstairs from Mango's parents. We'll have more bedrooms, more living space, and a FIREPLACE. Who could resist? And yet, I walk around touching the doorframes in my house, remembering how Mane was born here and the day that Vespera finally started hanging posters on the wall.

We decided together that we would move. We sat around a rustic wooden table at the Coffee Gallery and weighed the pros and cons. The decision was unanimous.

I wasn't sad then, and I'm not sad now. I *am* hit with these waves of nostalgia, though, that knock the wind from my sails now and then. The memories will come with me, though, and the future is in who we are, not where we live. I believe that the ways we care for each other create our home. "Home" for me is the place where we feel at rest and nourished, the place where we are safe and protected, the place from which we can care for others, share hospitably, and love abundantly. I think we create the space called "home" for each other. It's an emotional space.

I *do* think that actual physical space can complement that emotional space, but I don't think it can create it. You can fill your house with all kinds of beautiful objects and still not have a home. I always used to say that I was so glad for our small house because wherever I was in the house I could always hear Mane when she was a baby. After Vespera joined us, I was glad for a small house because it kept us physically close while we nurtured the emotional closeness. Our new place will be a little bigger, but it's still all on one level with no hallways. We'll still be able to call to each other and hear people from basically everywhere in the house. We wanted to finish the attic in our house, but I'm glad we're not doing that. I don't like the idea of anyone being so far removed from the family. I'm glad we're moving, glad we've found somewhere that suits us, but mostly glad we're all together.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Good News

The powers that be say that Mango can go to the conference 2 days late AFTER our 10th anniversary celebration! :)

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Teacher's Wife - Warning: Major RANT

When Hollywood finally writes a movie about the families of teachers...well, that'll never happen, and I'm not sure what I'll do. Some time ago I saw the movie Freedom Writers, and I took note of the fact that the teacher in the movie gets tons of recognition, which she probably should, and, even now, she is a traveling public speaker, who sells her ideas about how to create a successful classroom to teachers all over America. There's only one major problem. Her personal life is a shambles. In the movie, the teacher takes on an extra job to pay for materials for her students. She works long extra hours to arrange fancy banquets and special events so her students can have some pretty amazing experiences. One day, she comes home and her husband is sitting there with his suitcases packed. They hardly know each other any more. She claims that this period of their marriage was the time when they were both going to work on their careers and pour their energy into their dreams before they had children...blah, blah, blah. I gotta tell you something, a marriage needs TIME to survive. And Hollywood is selling the idea that the best teachers give up their whole lives for their classroom. Hollywood sells us these success stories that only make me sit and cry, not because they're so touching, but because the teachers in those stories have given up *everything* to teach.

I thank God every time I see those stories that Mango is not that kind of teacher. But I bet his student's parents don't want to hear that, and neither does the school district. I gotta tell you, I am so sick and tired of everyone expecting teachers to be these martyrs who will do anything to improve the lives of their students, even if it means not coming home to their own families at night. (And then blaming teachers whenever everything isn't perfect.) Mango works as hard as he possibly can to do his job well without flaking out on his family every day. For weeks on end he stayed after school with no extra pay to build a computer lab with his advanced students. A few years later, he built a robot with another group of students, all on his own time and off the district clock. Nobody wrote a movie about him. And nobody wrote a book about me...or Mane...or Vespera...about the time we spent riding the bus so we could come sit in the classroom after school and draw on the whiteboard and watch Mango work. So, at least, we could be in the same room. People recognize us at the school because we have packed lunches many Saturdays and gone to clean Mango's office and grade papers together...because we aren't willing to sacrifice the time we have together, even if it means working side by side.

So, it particularly hurt when the "district" called this week and said that Mango need to go to a conference in two weeks...beginning on a day that we already have hotel reservations for our 10th anniversary. If he wants his old job back (yes, he got rehired at the same school) he has to go to this conference. It's our 10th anniversary. But, of course, nobody cares. Or rather, they pretend to care, and then assume, because he's a teacher, that he should do it anyway. He'll be gone for 2 weeks. We can't afford to go with him. So, there it is. Maybe we'll have our 10th anniversary next year. *sigh* He won't be gone on our actual anniversary, just some of the days we were planning to be gone together...and already had a babysitter arranged.

There you have it people. I hate the way teaching is portrayed in the movies. I hate the way American politicians assume that teachers aren't doing their jobs, and that's what's the matter with American schools. I hate the way teachers are expected to work at least 20 hours more per week than their contract, and when they threaten to only work the contract everyone whines about how it's hurting the students. I hate the way everyone pretends that teachers don't have spouses and children. I hate the pained look in Mango's eyes every time he has to make a choice about where to spend his time, knowing that there aren't really any win-win choices.

Maybe they had it right at Hogwarts. The teachers are all single and live at the school.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Parents of the Year Award

I don't know what impressed me most. Maybe it was standing in the kitchen while our friends prepared a summer picnic with their 12 & 15 year old kids and the whole family started dancing when a when the ipod shuffled to a well-known song. They danced around each other singing out their favorite lines & giving each other "looks" like they had their own inside joke going on. Or maybe it was when we sat around the table under the trees in the back yard, and the 15-yr old son kept throwing mock punches back & forth with his dad. They joked and teased easily with each other, agreed and disagreed, told stories, shared their favorite music, chatted with us, and groaned together over their most recent trip to visit family out of state. Probably it was when the same 15yr old son leaned on his dad & gave him a great big hug when we were all standing around in the dining room saying our goodbyes. Maybe it had something to do with the way both parents still call their 12yr old daughter, "Princess," and are helping her pursue her interests in performing arts. It could have been the way we all trouped over to the local bike shop together and the people who run the place knew the whole family, and was willing to help out with whatever we all might need.

I don't know exactly what it was, but these people get the Parents of the Year award in my little world. Their kids know how to have a conversation & how to listen. They know how to joke with each other, but also how to look out for each other. They are brimming with humor, creativity, warmth, compassion, and loyalty. The two kids know how to think for themselves and also how to look to their parents for advice. I'm *sure* they're on their best behavior when we're there, but, clearly, the best behavior isn't forced. Their interactions flow naturally and spontaneously.

I admire them. I want what they have. So, I watch them carefully...the few times a year when we really see them. You have people in your life like that, right? People you love dearly, but you only see them once in a blue moon? I'm paying attention, though, soaking up every second, noticing all the little things.

And what have I learned? Really, only this: They seem to really *like* their kids. They don't just love them, they like them. They like to spend time with them. They engage them in conversation, treat them like real people, as, in fact, real functioning members of the family unit. And they've done this for as long as I can remember...for the last 11 years that I've known them. They've always been proud of their kids, they tease them, engage them in family decision-making, help them pursue their own creative ideas, take them along for important things, respect their individuality.

And, they have always used a LOT of humor. Humor is so useful in diffusing situations, in gaining cooperation, in reconnecting when there's been a breech in connection. I, personally, wish I was better with humor. I've always been so serious. It's hard for me to come up with something humorous, especially when things are difficult and painful. I wonder if one can develop humor? ;)

In any case, I'm trying to focus less on how to parent "right" and more on just knowing my kids and enjoying the things I like about them. I wonder how it would help all of us to just have a strong foundation in knowing that people like us? Less focus on behavior and more focus on just who we are as people, as humans, as family.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Archiving my old quote of the week...

"She had caused to surround us the very atmosphere of "home," so that however far we traveled, however strange the territory, I was "home" as long as I was with her. "
— Walter Wangerin, Jr. (As For Me And My House: Crafting Your Marriage To Last)

Happy Birthday to Me



So, I turn 30 tomorrow, just days after watching my youngest daughter learn to ride a bicycle. And I've been thinking about how life is kind of like that - like learning to ride a bike. Pedal, pedal, steer, balance, steer, balance, pedal. It's doing all of those things at the same time that's tough...not to mention keeping your head up so you can see where you're going and watching for on-coming traffic.

I feel like I'm getting kind of good at it, though - at riding the bike of life. I'm not upset about turning 30. I think I learned something in the last few years about being a "grown-up" in some very important ways while still being adventurous, vibrant, and full of life. I think I'm finally getting the "balance" part down after years of pedaling and steering. I've worked and worked and worked, pedaled and pedaled and pedaled to get here, often tipping too far to the right or left. I feel more balanced now, and maybe I can slow up on the pedaling a little and enjoy the scenery. Maybe I'll learn to do some tricks. Or maybe I'm headed for some more rugged terrain, and I'll take up mountain biking. But, hey, at least I know how to ride the bike now!

Maybe now it's less about learning how and more about learning endurance, perseverance, even how to trust and relax...loosen my grip on those handlebars, huh? Maybe even learn to ride with no hands while the Unseen Hand steers the bike for a while? This is what's hard. Keep going, endure, but also trust, relax, loosen up, let go, break free.

I'm looking forward to this chapter, this journey, this part of the trail. I *know* Gad hasn't brought me this far to watch me crash now...which isn't to say that I don't expect any suffering in the future, but just that I expect something beautiful to come of it because God is my God and God is love. God's love means I can trust something beautiful to come even from suffering, and not that God plans or creates suffering, but that the suffering that happens as the result of the free will of God's created people can be turned into good in my life because I love God and God loves me. That's the promise God gives, and I choose, today, to believe it.

Now, if only I can ride forward, with my head up and a loose, yet determined, grip. That would be the best birthday present to myself.

Happy Birthday to me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

If Life is a Highway

Since I FINALLY posted there, I thought I'd advertise to all of you another blog, of which I am a co-author: If Life is a Highway. You can also find the link in my sidebar. My friend, Heather, was gracious enough to invite me to write with her there along with her friend, Sabrina. Come on over and have a look!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Funny Camping story

Mane saw a pop-up tent trailer for the first time. She observed how the bunks stick out the sides of the pop up, and you could see the beds since the curtains were open. The people who were staying in the tent trailer were sitting out by their fire when we were walking by & Mane loudly proclaimed, "How embarrassing to have to sleep like that!!"

Photos from Whitewater

Hiking Trail


Cliffs


Flood Damage


More Flood Damage


Food Picure! ...just for Tesha!


And Feet Picture! ...also for Tesha!


Our Campsite

Whitewater State Park

I promised to write about camping. So, here I am. When I'm on a different computer, I'll post pictures, too.

We spent 3 nights, 4 days at Whitewater State Park in southern Minnesota where the rumors proved true that there are indeed very few mosquitos at Whitewater. "We" included myself, Mango, Vespera, Mane & Novio. Yes, everything, including the gluten free groceries, fit in the Subaru Forester, though somehow it all took up the same amount of space on the way home, though we had eaten most of the food. We learned that Mane can hike longer than all the rest of us combined, that last year's flood left rock piles on the sides of the river full of all kinds of interesting gems, and that cool nights and warm days make perfect camping weather, as long as you have a warm enough sleeping bag.

We also learned, again, that we have the best family ever, that we can do anything, and that some major bumps in the road - like a trip to the emergency room and another trip to the sporting good's store in Rochester to get warmer nighttime gear -don't have to ruin a trip. We *still* came home raving about what a great trip it was, and I made reservations today for our next camping trip in August. We're troopers, and we have a sense of humor.

Everything in my life these days has something to do with letting go, with breaking free, with loosening my grip a little bit. This trip included the aforementioned major events that required some letting go, but those aren't the things that really pierced my heart and taught me something. I handle major catastrophes pretty well. What lays my heart open this year is something that most parents experience sooner or later...the letting go of their children. And I realized something. Letting our children go doesn't mean that we have a sudden rush of relief that we're no longer responsible for them or that now we can relax and believe that everything will be fine. In fact, seeing them move away, get married, have their own children simply provides more opportunity for anxiety and more things and people to be anxious about. Which means, that unless I can take this anxiety to the cross, I'm stuck with it...and more...for the rest of my life. Nice thought, eh?

To what do I owe this sudden preoccupation with letting go? Well, I owe it to Novio and his presence on our trip, of course...his responsible, compassionate, humorous, and gracious presence. Vespera & Novio began dating over 14 months ago now, a little over a year, and their relationship continues to deepen in a way that seems to be leading toward a lifelong commitment. I saw the way they work and play together, the way they tease and protect each other, the way Vespera is tranferring some of her reliance on myself and Mango to reliance on Novio. And I am practicing the oft-neglected art of staying out of the way. It's a careful dance - knowing when to speak up and when to be quiet, when to carefully plant a word of advice and when to wait it out.

I *do* see and acknowledge how this "letting go" is not a real letting go at all but only a change of roles. And I see how Vespera's eventual commitment to a lifelong partner will involve more gain than loss for all of us...a son for us, possible grandchildren. Wow. Too much to think about. I have to admit I love the feeling that we're building a more full family. I love having 5 people on a trip. I love the way we troop around together. I love the way it feels comfortable and natural, the way Mango and I take up our role together as partners and parents.

I am dizzy with how fast my life has changed in the last few years. Just barely over two years ago I would never have imagined that I'd be sending a daughter to college next year, or thinking of her eventual marriage. I don't feel a whole lot wiser, but I do feel as though I've grown up some. I've grown up enough to be "mom" to a 17 year old and to sometimes "mother" her 19 year old boyfriend. Our time with her has not been enough, though, and that's where the letting go is difficult and painful. It doesn't matter, though, that it's painful. It is necessary and healthy, for her empowerment, for her happiness and health, for her ability to live and love and be free.

And I suppose that's what raising children is all about.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Flood

I *will* write about the camping trip soon, as it was everything I could have hoped for, some things I didn't hope for, and a whole lot more. ;)

First, though, I want to direct you all to the blog of a friend whose house is flooded in Iowa:

Exit 242

If you scroll down the page, you can see the YouTube video that Andrew made of visiting their house in a canoe.

If you haven't heard about the flooding in the Midwest U.S., you can get a brief, recent report here:

Flood Museum Under Water in Iowa


Please pray. This is so difficult for so many.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Camping!!

We're going camping next week, and I am SO VERY EXCITED!! Did I mention that I'm excited?! Camping has always been so good for my soul, and this year I am looking forward to the trip as the beginning of our journey into summer. I've had a full plate this year, loads of anxiety, maximum stress levels, and I'm still operating under high stress mode until we get out the door, but I can't begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to this trip. I feel like I'm ready to embrace the quiet, the peace, the stillness. I am SO READY this year. And it's not because it's been so stressful, but because I think my heart is more open this year. Every year I heal a little more from past hurts. I grow up a little. I learn. So, every year I'm a little more open to what I can receive in the quiet. Each year we camp in June when school gets out and before it's too hot. This year is tough because we'll be packing up Mango's office at school when we return home. I'm hoping, though, that the trip will revive us, that we'll return home with more joy and energy for the journey. A new sense of direction might be asking too much, but, perhaps, we'll even gain some excitement about the possibilities ahead.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Piece I Read at the Wedding in Belize

"...tell me the word that will win you, and I will speak it. I will speak the stars of heaven into a crown for your head; I will speak the flowers of the field into a cloak; I will speak the racing stream into a melody for your ears and the voices of a thousand larks to sing it; I will speak the softness of night for your bed and the warmth of summer for your coverlet; I will speak the brightness of flame to light your way and the luster of gold to shine in your smile; I will speak until the hardness in you melts away and your heart is free..."
— Taliesin to Charis in Book One of the Pendragon Cycle: Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead