With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Monday, November 30, 2015

Our Children's 'Becoming'

Before we left for our Thanksgiving in Ohio I spent a morning with my Just Faith group. We were writing Christmas cards for men and women held in detention for immigration-related offenses. As we scissored, colored, and signed our cards we went around in a circle saying listing things for which we were grateful. I stumbled over my big-ticket item, which is being alive and healthy to watch my children 'grow up.' My friend Jeri nodded in understanding and put it in better terms; we're grateful to witness our children 'becoming' what they are meant to be.

On the plane headed via jet stream to the Midwest I read several fascinating articles in The Sun (thesunmagazine.org) related to the complex issues of parenting and watching our children become. In an article titled "The Dog-Eared Page" (excerpted from The Little Virtues, by Natalia Ginzburg), I was startled into underlining and highlighting the following exceptional paragraph:
   
"What we must remember above all in the education of our children is that their love of life should never weaken. This love can take different forms, and sometimes a listless, solitary, bashful child is not lacking in a love of life. He is not overwhelmed by a fear of life; he is simply in a state of expectancy, intent on preparing himself for his vocation. And what is a human being's vocation but the highest expression of his love of life? And so we must wait, next to him, while his vocation awakens and takes shape. His behavior can be like that of a mole, or of a lizard that holds itself still and pretends to be dead but in reality it has detected the insect that is its prey and is watching its movements, and then suddenly springs forward. Next to him, but in silence and a little aloof from him, we must wait for this leap of his spirit. We should not demand anything; we should not ask or hope that he is a genius or an artist or a hero or a saint; and yet we must be ready for everything; our waiting and our patience must compass both the possibility of the highest and the most ordinary of fates."

Amazing, fascinating, striking at truth. We must wait, in extended advent, for our children, just as we wait in this season for the coming of perhaps the world's most famous child. Whereas the Christ-child brings joy and spectacle without doubt, the unwrapping of our children's future brings profound mystery, a requirement of readiness, and the challenge of remaining apart.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving gratitude

When I was really ill I started to keep a gratitude journal, motivated by some of the books I read on "how to be sick," or rather, "how to turn your mind to being well while you are sick." Some days it was hard to scrape five items together (my bare minimum), but other days, even in the worst pain, the gratitude would just tumble out of me. I would write in the journal every night before sleep, and it set a positive tone for the resting hours. I still write in the journal, and now Aden and William each keep a gratitude journal of their own. Gratitude is a powerful force for action, for healing, for rest, and to kick off Thanksgiving week I've collected a few quotes on gratitude that inspire me. Thank you to all of the people that support and inspire me, as well; I'm grateful for you!!

- At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. - Albert Schweitzer 
He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." - Epictetus
- from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201111/the-seven-best-gratitude-quotes

“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass... get up, get up, get up!!! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them.” 
― Steve MaraboliLife, the Truth, and Being Free

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” 
― Meister Eckhart

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” 
― William Arthur Ward

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
[Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1963]” 
― John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Colorado Seasons

Two days ago I raked
Ten bags of leaves and needles
In a tee-shirt and shorts
In the yard.

This morning I shoveled
Two feet of snow
In boots and gloves
From the driveway.

Two seasons
Only days apart.
Who knows what
Tomorrow will bring?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Confirmation Day

My beautiful girl is at church now to support the first "wave" of confirmands joining our church at the 9:00 service. Before I dropped Aden at St. Andrew UMC, she asked me why confirmation was such a big deal, given that she believed in God, tried to put her faith in practice every day, and already feels like a member of the church.  I told her that Confirmation was for the community of faith, for us all to recognize and support our newest members and be enlightened and renewed by their decision to join us.

In the aftermath of the attacks on Paris and gut-wrenching waves of news reports about the events there, it is a relief to celebrate young people who have decided to commit to a life of faith. Pastor Mark says "These students will profess their faith openly and pledge to 'walk in the way that leads to life.'" Though confirmation is but one milestone on the life-long journey of faith, it is a hope-filled and joyous one. I pray to remember my own commitment to live out a life of kindness and service to others; it's hard to renew those credos when fear and hate raise their heads in our world.

Many thanks to grandparents and other family members whose emails, cards, and well-wishes helped to support Aden today. She read her cards with many smiles and thank yous, and we all feel buoyed by the love from afar. We send it right back to you, with gratitude and joy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Thoughts on Legacy

Our pastor at St. Andrew UMC, Mark Feldmeir, talked about a theme earlier this fall that I can't shake.  He contrasted "resume" achievements with "legacy" achievements. Resume-builders include the usual academic, athletic, and career-related triumphs, while legacy includes charity, generosity, kindness, and altruism.  Focus on the resume in the first half of life, and focus on the legacy in the second half, or so it seems.

Rev. Feldmeir asked the  congregation to think about how we would like to be discussed at our funeral. Will speakers focus on on our job title, income level, long-distant academic successes? Or will they talk about the money and time we gave to others, our random acts of kindness, our loyalty and our dedication to friends and family?  For me, the latter rings true, and not just because I'm mostly a SAHM with little income and no job title to speak of.

The idea of legacy makes me feel better about life decisions that have taken me off the career ladder, moved me into the 'volunteer' category in different areas. I'm also motivated to do more - do better - with the time I have left. Like our oak and maple trees that were planted five years ago and waited all this time to leaf out in brilliant fall colors, our fruits and our offerings can get better over time.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Elk-like

Aden saw my stack of Trader Joe's salads in the fridge and said, "You're going to turn into an elk!"  An elk? The image of a lumbering, plodding, gigantic-antlered beast came to mind.Seeing my confusion, my daughter added, "I was just trying to think of an herbivore."

Fantastic.

So I'm an elk, and I'm also confined to the house for the day as Daniel woke up feverish, with an urgent need to throw up. I'm going to focus on being grateful that he made it to the toilet, and not on all of my canceled plans. It helps that I already ran upstairs to vent to Rob that I will never be able to write a novel - or even a short story - while the kids are still young. No time, no control over the schedule, no available brain cells. Even the blog will be short today.

So now that I've Lysol-wiped the whole downstairs, let me end on a positive note. Our young oak tree actually turned red for the first time this year, our flaming bush is starting to go up in scarlet, and the house is cozy on our first really cold day. Time to curl up with my sick boyo, drink tea while he sips ginger-ale, and look forward to some TJ's salad.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

And now . . . November

From celebrating el Dia de los Muertos in Mesa to trick-or-treating in the tiny mountain town of Crested Butte, we've whirled through the past ten days. A few days at home in between trips allowed for laundry, appointments and packing - making sure to include Halloween costumes and trick-or-treat bags in the backpacks. Crested Butte celebrated Halloween with a Friday afternoon parade, and our cowboy, lifeguard, and Robin Hood zig-zagged down Elk Street with other costumed creatures, collecting candy from all of the stores on the main drag. Rob and I sipped hot chocolate and stomped our feet to keep warm while Ninja Turtles, Cabbage Patch Dolls, Michael Jackson and Pink Ladies trotted by in search of sugary bounty.

Our kids were delighted to join the happy throng of kids, reminding us that last year we had no trick-or-treating in the Grand Canyon, and the year before that we had only grocery store candy from Orlando. Rob and I reminded them how lucky they were to have a fall break timed for inexpensive travel, and how grateful they should be to see new places at regular intervals. Our words may have fallen on deaf (or sugar-buzzed ears), but it did make an impression when, on Saturday's trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Aden's phone pulled up the "what you did last year on this day" feature to show pictures of the Grand Canyon.

"How cool is that!" she said, as she scrolled through photos of the kids hiking on the Kaibab trail. We had just finished the Oak and Rim trails at the Black Canyon, and felt a little bit of "deja vu all over again."

So grateful for adventures, so grateful to be home again. Loved seeing pictures of cousins and good friends trick-or-treating in costumes from Ghostbuster to Taco, and thrilled to drop off excess candy at the elementary school, where they are collecting it to send to soldiers overseas. Good times, all round; next up, Thanksgiving!