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Growing Up

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


"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.

Monday, January 7, 2019


Just try to maintain a schedule, a clean house, or a focused mind over winter vacation with three teenagers in the house. It's like nailing jello to a tree.  The kids have one last day off school before we re-enter the normal, calendared routine, and though I've enjoyed having them home, unstressed and mentally stable, I am ready to get back to periods of quiet when I can accomplish something more than brushing my teeth.

True confessions - I did enjoy three days of unfettered quiet and relaxation when I visited my parents and sister in Northern California. Wise and witty Karen helped with cooking and organizing the days, including time spent with our youngest brother James, his lovely wife, Molly, and there three young boys (aged four and under). I swept the floor and tried to stay out of everyone's way.  Rob had the kids in Ohio with his parents, brother Ron and Ron's family, so their rest and relaxation mirrored mine from 2000 miles away. 

But this morning we were back to early wake-up's. Rob went to DIA for his flight to Burbank and I hit the pool to coach and swim at the 6am workout. My tinted goggles didn't work well with the pitch black sky, and though the water was perfect I struggled to find the turns.  (An apt metaphor.)  We have appointments and errands to run and backpacks to prepare for second semester. My juice fast juice bottles sit in the fridge, just waiting for me to take advantage of a fresh start .... but they will have to wait a few more days.  Coffee and the remnants of holiday sweets might be necessary to get back in the swing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My Favorite Hymn

Christmas came and went like the scent of pine on our drying tree. This morning holds a return to chores (clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere!) and a bit of work for all.  The holiday spirit lingers in the list of thank you notes we have to write - so grateful for family and friends who thought of us - and in the beautiful memories of our candle-lit Christmas Eve service and the hugs exchanged by the children after meaningful gifts. When William and Daniel embraced in the hallway to celebrate William's passing-down of all childhood Legos to Daniel, and they promised to share the collection between their children, my throat swelled and eyes filled with tears of thankfulness for the rare bonding moment.

Candlelight singing in unison, gratitude and love, feeling as one with all those celebrating - not only Christmas but every light-filled and reverent holiday - that buoys my spirit and encourages hope to grow that our country can still overcome what divides us. If my boys can share a blissful morning then surely it's possibly for just about any two sides to pack in their differences and work on coming together.

My favorite Christmas hymn, "O Holy Night," expresses my deepest wish for unity in beautiful, poetic lyrics written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847. A wine merchant by trade, de Roquemaure was asked by his parish priest to write something for Christmas, and the spirit must have been with Placide, for his words have inspired for 180 years. Here are a few lines that always hit me hard:

"Long lay the world in in and error pining,
Till He appeared and the Soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

A weary world indeed. Our souls craving to know their worth in a social media, picture-perfect society.  Dare we to hope that a new and glorious morning awaits us?

And then verse three, which never fails to make me cry. If we sing this in church I'm a soggy mess:

"Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease."

It should be our national anthem. 

My New Year' resolution for 2019 is to live out the words of this hymn. To hear the stories of those I meet with respect for our differences and an honest desire to understand. To share what I believe with honest courage and to carry the unity of Christmas into the next few months despite headlines and headaches that are sure to come. His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Grasping at Peace

This past week has been a mixed bag: I stretched my hamstrings and low back overenthusiastically and woke up the next morning unable to move. Getting out of bed was an Olympian feat and entering the car a nearly impossible one. I had to resort to sliding in with my derriere on the steering wheel, the slowly rotating to the left so I could sit in a more appropriate driving position. After two visits to acupuncture, one to massage and one to the chiropractor, my back judged that I'd spent enough money on it and relaxed enough for me to resume most normal activities.

We (meaning "me") also decided to have tile and paint work done this week, so our washer and dryer currently rest in the front entryway, while our downstairs toilet and much of the wood trim lie outside the mudroom door in a state of tipsy abandon. We're just like Clark Griswold's cousin's family, keepin' it really real at Christmas. Aden threw a string of white lights over the laundry combo to make it more festive and help it to blend with the tree.

But thankfully the weather holds steady at 50 and sunny, so the toilet can rest outside and not in the living room. And when the work is done it will be a nice Christmas present - assuming we can safely  return the washer and dryer to their normal location.  Rob is working from home this week, helping to keep the cats away from the contractor (and open doors) and coming with me to Daniel's choir concert and other kid activities.  I was able to connect with old friends early in the week on two lovely walks which provided the dual blessings of companionship and the only exercise my back would tolerate.

The older kids are lumbering to the end of finals on Thursday and I'm praying to be mobile enough to put the house back together when the work is done, and then it's time to rest for a few days and grasp at the peace that comes with Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Moving Heavy Furniture

I assembled the Christmas cards this weekend with mingled emotions. Excitement about reaching out to friends and family living far away, sorrow over modifying names and addresses for splits or losses, and bewilderment over addressing and stamping a horde of white envelopes destined for friends living within a square mile of us.  Despite close proximity to neighbors and dear friends of fourteen years, a stamp is required to get the card into their mailbox and the short update note is a must because we haven't seen many of these folks over the last year or two. The crazy busy-ness that plagues our lives - especially in December - means that friends living one street over have no idea where Aden applied to school or that William now drives (cautiously and with a permit).

In early days when kids were play-date and preschool-bound, our mothers' groups, rec league basketball games,drink nights, book clubs, running groups and church studies filled parents' days or evenings and kept us sane. Now that the kids are easier, we somehow interact much less. I still have drink nights, book clubs and neighborhood fellowships on my calendar but can rarely get to them due to carpools and meets, kid concerns and sheer fatigue. (See gratitude over our breakthrough on Thanksgiving, entry from November.)

Another sign of time passing - our use of the app TaskRabbit where before we could have just called on friends. For example, we need our large washer and dryer moved before we re-tile the entryway next week. I asked around, wondering if some friends (or their large teenage sons) might be able to help, and heard the following concerns: "carpal tunnel, recently repaired shoulder, bad back, bad knee."  I completely sympathize since Rob and I have similar physical restraints. We have no wish for anyone to end up in the ER this close to Christmas! And so we rent the job out to a qualified stranger, when two decades ago we would have done it ourselves and one decade ago we would have had a party of friends to help.

But despite the changes, aging and busy-ness, we still share connections and by hook or by crook will still give and get our updates.  I hear that life calms down in the next decade, when perhaps we can get back to drinks and debates, if not moving heavy furniture.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Poking the Bear of Hope, or Lighting the Darkness

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."
- Helen Keller

I swore several blog posts ago to write only about positive things, but realize that might be the reason for my infrequent entries.  Writing has the most value when it comes from an authentic place, and though my mind wants to focus on the positive my heart aches over recent news.  The government's climate report warns of hard times ahead, for us and especially for our children. The treatment of climate and war refugees on our borders strains credulity. And as Hanukkah begins, I think of last month's anti-Semitic actions - rising from no reason but from primitive, propaganda-fed places.

How do we acknowledge our authentic grief and still strive for hope, lighting candles in the dark places and trying to re-imagine a future that holds every potential for our children?  My spiritual guide, Dominie, read me the Helen Keller quote (above), to remind me that more possibilities and perspectives exist than just the grim headlines. For every dire prediction springing from the headlines or from the panicked places in my own mind, I can respond with this: "That's one way to look at it."
Dominie's words poked me, woke the bear of hope from a brief hibernation, and encouraged me to remember that the dark and troubled view is not the only view, and immense capabilities for healing exist.

Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, Christmas - all these celebrate illumination. We can acknowledge our struggles while turning toward the light and becoming a light for others.  Our communal hopes will feed us, fuel imaginings of a bright tomorrow, if we can share them authentically along with our grief.