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Growing Up

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bomb Cyclones and Blizzards

We're caught in the tail end of the huge blizzard system moving across the Midwest, which means a snow day for everyone. The school district did us all an immense favor by calling it yesterday, despite sixty-degree temps, sun and general disbelief.  We all got to sleep in, and the district powers were rapidly proven correct when rain turned to snow at 9am, and gusts of wind blew in to relieve forty-year-old trees of their embedded root systems.  As the wind howls and the electricity flickers on and off, I cross my fingers that the stew in the Crockpot gets cooked before we lose power, and calculate how much square footage we might need for sleeping in front of the gas fireplace in the family room.

Rob has been at a conference near the Denver airport all week, and got there for a brief time this morning, only to realize as the snow started dumping that he had to return home immediately or he would be staying at the airport hotel overnight.  I'm relieved to have everyone here, safe and warm, and realize for the thousandth time how little anything else matters if my family is safe and healthy. Not college admissions (so hard to pass up a tangent on this issue today!), not salaries, not status, not anything.

Snow days were hard when the kids were little (everything was hard back then), but not so difficult now as children do homework or ply their phones. I should herd everyone into a family game but might settle for a family movie later today when essays are written, Rob's to-do list has been shaved down, and my birthday project for Daniel is farther along.  Speaking of shaving - I even got to my legs today with all this extra time, and now luxuriate in sweats that have seen better days.  Should my children glance at my deshabille in horror, I need but to flash a smooth shin to reassure them that I haven't totally given up.

Wishing everyone at home in the blizzard a safe and restful day, and praying for travelers who might be caught in this system or those without homes seeking shelter. Be safe.

Monday, March 4, 2019

We're Going to Break the Rules

Though I grew up in the Catholic church and Rob in the Presbyterian, we have been attending St Andrew United Methodist Church for fourteen years.  Our boys were baptized there and our oldest two children confirmed in front of a congregation that we hold dear. St. Andrew takes the United Methodist slogan of "Open hearts, open minds, open doors" one step further; we are a reconciling congregation which specifically welcomes members of the LGBTQ+ community who are often denied the comfort of church membership.

Last week the global conference of the UMC met to vote on how to deal with this community. Our Book of Discipline states that homosexuality is a sin and incompatible with God's teaching, and many congregations in the United States - including St. Andrew - disagree and want the wording changed to embrace all people with God's love.  Unfortunately, a conservative faction of the American UMC banded together with delegates from Africa and Asia and actually made the situation worse. Not only did they vote to keep the language, but they introduced draconian punishment for any clergy who came out as gay, and for any clergy who married a same-sex couple.

The plan approved by the conference, the "Traditional Plan," says that a clergy member who marries a same-sex couple will lose a year's worth of pay the first time s/he conducts a marriage, and will be excommunicated from the church after the second time.  Our pastor, Reverend Mark Feldmeir, said that if he were a young man at this time, he would not elect to go to seminary, would not become a pastor.  But, thanks to God's grace, he is our pastor, and he helped us all through a difficult week of reconciling the narrow and prejudiced decision of the global church with our congregation's open attitude. (In contrast to the decision, which he called broken hearts, closed minds, and shut doors.)

Rev Mark held a meeting last Wednesday, the day after the vote, and between 300 and 400 people came on the spur of the moment to be comforted, to organize, and to prepare to disobey.  As our former Pastor Jerry Herships put it, "it's ecclesiastical disobedience but biblical obedience."

In his sermon yesterday, again addressing the bitter decision and the divide it has caused in the Methodist Church, Rev Mark answered his own question, "What are we going to do?" with this, "We're going to break some rules."

I heard that statement with such relief that I cried. The feeling of betrayal by organized religion (again, after growing up Catholic), the disbelief in continuing narrow-minded and exclusionary thinking by leaders of our church and leaders of our country, had swamped me into depression. To hear a courageous leader stand up for what is right, to brave consequences in defense of God's major laws ("Love God and love your neighbor as yourself"), was a buoy to my floundering spirit.

I should add here that all of our previous pastors agree with Rev Mark and posted lengthy responses to the Traditional Plan on Facebook. All are worried about members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially the youth who are denied welcome in so many areas of life. The church should be a haven and refuge for all, especially the marginalized, and I thank God that our leaders will stand up to the egregious decision to specifically outcast our members. They will marry same sex couples, they will come out, they will continue to spread love.  The United Methodist Church will never be the same, will probably split into multiple factions, but brave people will continue to love audaciously, welcome boldly and embrace with all our strength.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Listen to the Body

My son couldn't sleep last night because time trials for high school swimming start today. Last year he was excited and nervous, understandable for a freshman, and this year his body wouldn't let him rest because it remembers.  William's body took a beating last year, and he developed scary autoimmune systems from over-training. I told William that his body remembers getting sick, and that he has to promise himself that he won't let it happen again.

It's taken me a long time to understand that my body has memory and wisdom separate from my brain, and that I need to listen to it. The brain might say "sure, I can run a marathon, anyone can do it," while the body says "that's not right for you." Speaking from personal experience here, the body trumps the brain in the end.

In any sport an athlete is taught to train past "normal" stopping points, to practice through fatigue and break through mental barriers.  My concern isn't with this type of training, it's with excess, when fatigue becomes exhaustion, when the digestive tract shuts down from stress and the lack of rest pushes somatic systems into permanent fight or flight.

The old mantra of "no pain, no gain" is outdated. Fatigue is good, most pain is not.  Rest is a vital component of any training plan; rest and recovery are often overlooked.  Last weekend, after just a few days of rest (and the absence of over-training), William dropped an astounding 2.5 seconds in his 100 free.  As he had dropped 1.5 seconds two weeks prior, he's cut an unbelievable 4 seconds off a 54 second race in a month. He's worked since July to recover his health and build his strength, and now he needs to stay the course in a much choppier sea.

It's hard for anyone to stand out from the group and say "I need something different," especially for a 15-year-old among his peers. But the body speaks loudly, and we have to choose whether to listen - or to pay the consequences.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Whirlwind of Compulsion

I ate three consecutive meals in my car last week: Frosty for dinner on Thursday night, RX bar and Starbucks for breakfast on Friday, Jamba Juice kale smoothie for lunch. Major milestones came and went with minimal fanfare as Aden committed to CU and applied for housing, the girls' HS swim season ended, and Rob flew from Denver to Chicago to Seattle, barely outrunning several snowstorms and pulling an all-nighter to install twenty-one Cooler Screens in Belleview, WA. I should stop to acknowledge Aden's decision, should reckon with my own emotions at some point in the near future, but it seems there's no time.

The blur of activities, headlines and household chores consumes all of us - friends in the 'hood, family around the country, kids' classmates. The busier I get, the more frantic, the more compelled to scan my phone for more events that I should attend. It's a whirlwind of compulsion. Each Sunday I say, "This week I am going to stop, unplug as much as possible, refrain from eating meals in the car, and trust in the present moment." Despite this, I can feel my blood pressure rise as I plan on Google calendar, seeing potential conflicts, where I need to cancel, and where I need to go without sleep.

And yet I'm so lucky. Food, shelter, health (and healthcare), community. Focus on the positive, I tell myself, enjoy the journey, trust that God will watch over us and help us to meet any challenge that comes. Appreciate what I have, the growing hours of daylight, the budget to buy food when I need it, the open ears and hearts of friends.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

"A-moos-ing"

I crossed an item off my bucket list on Saturday - I saw a moose in the wild. From a distance of ten meters, the old guy looked cranky and potentially dangerous, with a full rack on his head, heavy body swinging from side to side and big hooves splayed around the pine tree he dined on. My girlfriends dived behind the two pine trees closest to us while I fumbled for my camera, apparently less intelligent and less afraid. I fumbled to capture the magical moment while they hissed, "Laura, get back! Please get behind the tree...".

I did shuffle backward in my snowshoes posthaste when Mr Moose sauntered a few steps closer. We monitored his movements and mood for a few minutes until someone noticed his wife and teenager moose on the frozen lake behind us. Forget danger level orange or red, we suburban ladies hit a new level of alarm, which we called "Code Moose."

"We're between the family members!" someone exclaimed in a harsh whisper.

"Get your hiking poles ready," exclaimed another.

At this juncture I felt the need to point out that the trail was quite popular - we had seen ten people in half an hour - and the moose must be fairly accustomed to homo sapiens.  My comments fell on deaf ears. The panic in two of my companions spurred them off-trail in a vector headed away from the moose, which only landed them in two and a half feet of powder, against which the snowshoes were no help.  I beckoned them back, issuing repeated assurances that the moose "wasn't looking."

In the end, we went down the same trail that had brought us to the old guy and his rack. I volunteered to go last, since I had a green coat and looked most like a tree, but also because I really didn't think the moose was worked up about our presence on his trail.   In the end, the quadruped gave us a few moments of tears and several hours' worth of laughing until we cried, at the image of four suburbanites huddled in fear, watching a munching moose and preparing to fight to the death with flimsy plastic hiking sticks.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

I was a bride married to amazement

The poet Mary Oliver has died. My heart hurts because I cannot stand to lose - we cannot stand to lose - anyone who brings such insight and joy to a suffering world. When events weigh so heavy on the individual and collective psyche, we need poets to see clearly the beauty and blessings in the everyday. They tell us what to look for, how much we have to appreciate.

In the NPR article on Oliver's death (Mary Oliver), a line from her poem "When Death Comes," ends the piece. She wrote "When it's over, I want to say all my life / I was a bride married to amazement."
Oliver's poetry reveals her perpetual leaning toward amazement, toward the miraculous.  I have been leaning in to current events, to troubling issues and worries about my children...I need to lean the other way, into seeing everything as miracle.

How many lives have been uplifted by this line, from "The Summer Day,"

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?"
 
It's been on our refrigerator for years, but we forget to celebrate its meaning. Tonight we'll talk about a "wild and precious life" with the kids, and try to revive the hope and passion first evoked by her words.

Oliver's life may have ended but her words and vision will inspire us always. She was a bride married to amazement, an artist with heart and humility, and she will be missed.



Sunday, January 13, 2019

Penumonia??

"You're the proud owner of a case of walking pneumonia," said Dr B to William on Friday afternoon.

My jaw dropped into my puffy coat. When William burst through the door with a swirl of bitter cold air and snow, coughing as if his lungs were twerking in his chest, I knew something was off. Two of his good friends have had walking pneumonia in the past six months, so it's on our radar, but I didn't think his situation was so serious. He even swam and did dry land exercises twice last week, leading his lane on Thursday.

The doctor said the infection was localized to his lower left lung and that he would need to sit out of the pool until at least mid-week next week, a relatively short rest period. I chuckled as William typed an email to his coach explaining the situation (which sounded dire) and then finished with this, "but I'll be back on Wednesday."  We'll see.

We were so lucky to get right into the pediatrician, grateful to have health care for the visit and the antibiotics. On Saturday I took William to the acupuncturist for needles and cupping.  Our insurance doesn't cover that, but we can use our HSA money to pay. I wish everyone had the same opportunities, because it's hard to see your kids suffer, hard to admit that you can't fix it, such a relief to ask for help and get it.