Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Every Day of the Week

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving, a mellow Black Friday, a supportive Small Business Saturday, a deal-winning Cyber Monday and a generous Giving Tuesday.  For every other day this "Cyber Week" I hope both you find both bargains and a desire to share the bounty. Here we are, flung into the whirlwind that is the holiday season, struggling to order cards, plan the gift-giving, bake the cookies and trim the tree. Is it really the most Wonderful Time of Year? Or simply the most named, planned, proscribed and dizzying?

This morning, I was busily clicking away at the computer when Daniel came downstairs, and he greeted me with, "Oh good! I thought of more things I need to buy!"  This from the child who has already spent all of the gift money from both sets of grandparents and directed his parents to spend their allotted treasure on an Urban Meyer - signed mini helmet.

"Oh, no. There's no gift-buying today," I said. "This is Giving Tuesday, and today I am only giving money away."

"Why?!" He asked in horror. "Does everyone have to do that?"

"We don't have to do it, but we want to. Part of the season of Christmas is giving. It's not all getting."

"Humph," said my little Scrooge, picturing a shrinking pile of presents. "Well now I need two packets of oatmeal for breakfast."

As Daniel fortified himself for a long day of not shopping, I thought how strange it was to model giving by clicking a mouse on a screen. Daniel is apparently not getting the message that we value generosity, and who can blame him. We'll have to come up with more concrete ways to demonstrate our values and center this crazy holiday world so our kids really know what's important.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Confirmation Day

It didn't bode well for my hankie when we heard "Once I Was Seven Years Old" on the way to church. William and Aden were already there, supporting the early batch of confirmation candidates, and Rob, Daniel and I rode in silence to meet them at the 10:30 service. Our contemplative mood was broken only by the sound of my sniffles.  Kids grow up too fast, and the pace of milestone markers continues to increase.

William was confirmed at 10:30 alongside several of his best childhood friends. Carstenn, Adam, Will C, Ryan and William all attend a youth breakfast group together on Wednesdays (some have been going for three years) and have been on sports teams or in classes together since kindergarten. Emotions engulfed me as I heard Rev Mark intone their names one by one as he moved slowly around the semi-circle of kneeling teens. Parents crowded behind the candidates to place hands on shoulders or shiny heads. I could barely reach William and had to hook my finger into his collar to keep from tumbling over the long legs and big feet of the young man next to him.

At the end we were happy and relieved. The confirmation classes started in February, and both parents and youngsters attended a class per week, with a break over summer. William and his friends were so lucky to have a tremendous youth leader and volunteer instructors, and they stayed the course despite time constraints and pulling obligations.

At the end of the service, we sang "Seek Ye First," one of my favorite hymns and one that we played at our wedding. I expected more waterworks but was surprised to find my voice strong, as William turned toward me and directed a high-wattage smile in our direction. It was beautiful that the confirmation class sought membership in the church and I hope they will always find community and support in its embrace.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Exit or Voice

"Albert O. Hirschman described different ways of expressing discontent. You can exit - stop buying a product, leave town. Or you can use voice - complain to the manufacturer, stay and try to change the place you live in. The easier it is to exit, the less likely it is that a problem will be fixed."

"Americans have always preferred 'the neatness of exit over the messiness and heartbreak of voice.'"
- From Hirschman's Exit, Voice and Loyalty (1970) as quoted in The New Yorker, November 13, 2017. "Our Town" by Larissa MacFarquhar.

I nearly recoiled when I read about the neatness of exit and how it is unlikely to result in a solution to any problem. My life has been defined to some degree by neatness of exit. When I was between the ages of six and eighteen my family moved six times. We became the masters of exit, of leaving before deep roots planted, before long-term friendships became problematic, before the house developed roof, plumbing, or driveway issues (with the exception of the house in Medfield, which distressingly developed all three before we could escape). Even our cars were lease vehicles. My father worked for Nissan Motor Corp, so we received a new car when we received a new neighborhood, never concerning ourselves with new power trains, fan belts, or long-term warranties.

Moving brought its own difficulties and traumas, but our exit-oriented lives left me in some ways unprepared to deal with the thirty-five year old house I now live in, or the battered van with 120,000 miles that I now drive. All of my siblings have likewise settled in a place where they now have homes and cars and ties that bind. Now we have to use voice to solve problems, wrestle with friendships and roofs and fan belts that weather over time.

It's been an adjustment to plant my feet and stay. My first instinct is flight, and I probably would have left any number of troubling situations over the past six years if it would not have been detrimental to my children, my valued friendships, my relationship to this place. American history has always valued movement - to the frontier, to the cities, to the new places, and perhaps slightly less glamorized the work of staying home. As we all wrestle with troubling divisions and large-scale problems that our country faces, we could use a reminder that only our persistent use of voice and our determination to stay can really solve them.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Reading the Past

I've been re-reading blog entries for a project, which is similar to watching your life flash before your eyes, if by "flash" you  mean distracted review over several days.  Some entries make me laugh, some make me hit "skip" and some poignantly evoke memories that had been buried.

There's a post on my shock at Aden's entry into Cherry Creek High School, ending with the line "so glad I have these four years ahead before she goes off to college." Even earlier posts note her adventures in fifth grade, navigating bullies on the playground. Now our precious time has been cut to a year-and-a-half, and my recent posts focused on college tours.

I read about my Just Faith class and our travels together. I used to see those friends and classmates for hours each week and now rarely encounter them as we move off on our separate threads.  My friend Jeri and I used to share Just Faith and Spiritual Direction and now are busy in different spheres. So many posts in those years wrestled with the books and articles we read in class, as I tried to incorporate the wisdom.

Over the past eight years I noted births, baptisms and marriages; anniversaries, birthdays and reunions. There are many common threads in these posts relating to the importance of family and traditions - and having lots of fun.

Each season brings repetitive posts on the joys and struggles of summer break, or the relief of kids returning to school. Christmas and Easter are well represented, as are vacations and camping trips. Winter cold and illnesses take up space just prior to musings on the growing green and spring optimism, before giving way to the May-hem that takes over the lives of everyone connected with schools.

My year of illness was hard to read in blog form, though I glossed over the worst of it in my writing. Certain phrases trigger the pain and fear that held me in thrall while I typed away, pretending at a kind of normalcy. It's hard to believe that I could forget any part of that experience, but I want to forget, to pretend that I am now and have always been "normal."  Undoubtedly that desire is what lead me to swim extended hours over the past few weeks, leading to migraines, excessive fatigue, and joint pain.  Reading over all that I've learned and forgotten comes at a good time. I need to re-remember both the lessons and the blessings that made me who I am now.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Tell Me Something Good

I have bad-news fatigue. Memo to the media: tell me something good!

In search of positives I went searching through Google and found the website called Global Good News ( I pulled the following three headlines from November 3, 2017. Inspiring, uplifting and just downright rare enough to make you smile:

Carmakers join forces in Europe to make electrics widespread 
3 November 2017 - A group of major automakers plans to open hundreds of fast-charging stations for electric cars in Europe in coming years and use a common plug technology in what they hope will be a big step toward mass acceptance of battery-powered vehicles. BMW, Daimler, Ford, and the Volkswagen Group with its Audi and Porsche brands ... said Friday [3 November] that they will open the first of 20 stations this year in Germany, Austria, and Norway at 120-kilometer (75-mile) intervals along major roads. They plan to expand the network to more than 100 stations next year and have about 400 in place across Europe by 2020. (more)

Earth's ozone hole shrivels to smallest since 1988 
3 November 2017 - The ozone hole over Antarctica shrank to its smallest peak since 1988, NASA said Thursday [2 November]. The huge hole in Earth's protective ozone layer reached its maximum this year in September, and this year NASA said it was 7.6 million square miles wide (19.6 million square kilometers). The hole size shrinks after mid-September. This year's maximum hole is more than twice as big as the United States, but it's 1.3 million square miles less than last year and 3.3 million square miles smaller than 2015. (more)

Largest US port complex passes plan to reach zero emissions 
3 November 2017 - The largest port complex in the nation has set goals to drastically reduce air pollution over the next several decades. The plan approved Thursday [2 November] at a meeting of the governing boards of the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach outlines strategies for improving equipment and efficiency to eventually move cargo with zero emissions. (more)

Now that wasn't so hard! Let keep some good news and positive vibes circulating. We all need to be told something good.