Thursday, October 29, 2009

What Happens When Your Daughter "Steals" Your Phone Charger

Ever read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?" Remember, every little thing the boy does for the mouse leads to some other task to do for the mouse?

Well, if your daughter steals your phone charger, and you are expecting an important call, you will have to find some other way to charge your phone. The only other way to charge your phone is in the car, so when you go to the car to charge your phone, you notice the leaves in the neighbor's yard are flying off the trees. When you notice the neighbor's leaves are flying off the trees, you decide to write a poem.

And here it is:

the leaves sparkle and spin in the breeze
preparing for their final launch;
excited, each leaf releases its hold on its security;
dropping gently, they carpet the ground in vivid color.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Contents of my Head**

Between thoughts and memories of recent U2 concert experiences, there are a few other ideas rolling around in my head.

Going to these concerts has taught me in a big way how marvelous it is to get refreshed. Hanging in there every single day is something that most of us do. Homeschooling multiple kids, having questions come at me from every direction, and remaining calm in the face of such overstimulation is something I seem to be able to do. But, my brain gets fatigued. And gravity seems so strong. Having an experience where I step out of my normal life and have joyful fun has gone onto my "must have" list. Maybe not U2 concerts every time, but something that allows me to move, sing, express my joy, meet people, and experience FUN is going to be necessary in the future.

My calling is to be the mom of these five kiddos, and to persevere whenever things get tough, and to love my family in word and action, while at the same time growing as an individual.

But I'm talking about more than coffee dates at Starbucks, and ladies' Bible studies. Indeed, as fine as those things are, neither of them meets the criteria I listed above. Who of us, as mothers who try to help our children have experiences that make THEIR hearts sing, takes the time and energy needed to find experiences that make OUR hearts sing. Do you?

Sure, being a mother is a sacrificial job, as is being a father, or any of a number of other roles. But does making sacrifices have to equal sacrificing oneself completely? I'm going to be a better mother if I have an intellectual life, a social life, and experiences that involve travel and love and joy and getting lost in the music.

Today I have spent time counting with Kepler (who contributed TWO to my ONE!!), listening to Spanish with Joel (and I took French), helping Anna-Jessie with difficult math, discussing Val's to-do list with her, and looking with pride at Eli's excellent science papers. Doesn't look like much written down like that, but since it all happens at the same time, I just about break my arm patting myself on the back as I usually smile through it all. I love my kids. I love being a stay-at-home mom. I just think I will love it more if I sing and dance a little more often.

I must give lots of credit to Greg, who sees the importance of me getting refreshed and is willing to do what it takes for that to happen. He travels most weeks at least 3 days, and I am glad to hold down the fort while he is away. I am thankful for his support of me, and his enthusiasm for the opportunities I have to grow. What a love.

**from Annie Lennox's song, Why

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It Was a Beautiful Day

Dateline: Raleigh, NC October 3, 2009
Correspondent: Bono Fan

Our goal: Meet Bono.
Our technique: Whatever it takes.

0100 hours. Stephanie finally arrives after her Duluth-Minneapolis flight is cancelled and she has to drive like a bat out of hell to catch her Minneapolis-Raleigh flight.
0200 hours. Stephanie and Susan finally go to sleep, exhausted on the one hand, and filled with anticipation on the other.
0900 hours. The fans wake up to a beautiful day. Will today be the day they finally meet Bono? The man himself? Could it actually happen?

Susan has gotten inside info from Cincy friend Deb about meeting the band outside the hotel, so this is where the Raleigh fans begin. First to the front desk. Asking if they know where the band would have stayed last night. After asking three people, get a small lead to the Downtown Marriott.

Bono Fan #1A and Bono Fan #1B drive to downtown Raleigh to suss out the Marriott. They approach the valet parking attendant and begin their interrogation. "Did U2 stay here last night? Could you tell us if they did? Would you give us a different answer if they did than if they didn't? Do you know where else they might have stayed?" The attendant stays cool for awhile, but finally cracks under the pressure. "I doubt they even stayed in Raleigh last night," he says frantically. "Most of the big bands don't. They fly in the day of the show and fly out after."

The Bono Fans eye him carefully, considering the veracity of his words. They walk around the corner and sit at a table to consider their next move. After a few inquiries and phone calls to local radio stations to see if they can obtain press passes since they both are bloggers, they have to move on without passes. OK. Next stop: Carter-Finley Stadium, site of the upcoming concert.

Having already grilled one parking attendant at the stadium, 1A and 1B discover that the band will probably enter the stadium through the underground tunnel. Next step: find a parking place that doesn't cost $20 and is open before 3 pm and find the tunnel. Ah, here we are on Peter Hermanos Junior Drive, on the approximate correct side of the stadium. And what's this? A little parking lot, with no "NO Parking This Means You" signs? 1A and 1B pull in as another car pulls out and informs them that this is where one parks for will-call tickets. Sounds good. They park. 1A assures 1B at least 50 times that it is ok to park here. With their goal in mind, The Fans stride purposefully forth to ask the attendant where the will-call office is. No one said they actually needed tickets, did they??

1A and 1B can feel they are getting closer to the right place. Their next interrogation is of a security guard who says this is Vegas for these two fans and that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

I forgot to tell him I have a blog.

The security guard can't tell us anything. Except that somehow we convince him that we are not crazy people and we can be trusted, so he gives us a really big hint about where the band is right now. I listen carefully because 1B is still distracted because she is worrying that the car will be towed away. I reassure her 50 more times that it will not be towed.

We come upon an area that looks suspiciously like an underground entrance. We approach the security guard, but he is having none of our jocular banter, telling us he's heard it all before, whatever THAT means. But we think we have hit the mother lode here. We see two guys across the way: By now we are completely comfortable going up to complete strangers to find out whatever we can in our quest to meet Bono. We walk over to the guys. I ask: "Hi. What are you guys doing?" And thus begins a beautiful friendship. We thought we were Bono Fan #1 and #2, but we're definitely going to have get in line behind these two, who have met the man multiple times. These gracious guys, John and Robert, share their curb with us, and regale us with their U2 stories. We meet them around 1400 hours and settle in for the wait.

Finally, about 415 (forget the military time, I'm too excited by now!) we notice a lot more police activity, and we believe the band is about to arrive. We have a good vantage point. We are in the right place, as I keep telling my friends. I am completely confident that Bono is going to stop and talk to us. As if he has heard me, Bono drives by, rolls down the window, and indicates that he will be back in a few minutes.
Now we know he is actually going to come out and we are beginning to go crazy with anticipation. Suddenly, there he is. A person I have admired for over 20 years, have loved for the fact he is a husband and father, a follower of Christ, a lover of people, a giver, a broker of his celebrity to make a change in the world, and of course, the best poet of our time. And suddenly, we see him:

Although John and Robert, and Stephanie and I have been here for hours, there are those fans who find a way to cut line ahead of us. So, Bono first stops to take a picture with a woman who is shaking with excitement. After her, John is next. John is in the military and Bono perks up when he hears that. He personalizes a photo that John has of himself with Bono in Boston. He signs Robert's Rolling Stone magazine.

And then, suddenly, Bono is in front of me. I am touching him. I can't believe this is happening. I ask him if we can get a picture with him. He is so gracious. "Of course." His attention is diverted by someone farther down the line who, ahem, isn't waiting their turn. The picture is of me and Stephanie with him, but this is a cropped photo of just me with him since it's my blog. :-) (You can see Stephanie's half on Facebook - it's her profile pic.)

He signed Stephanie's hat and then moved on down the line. A moment I will never forget. I told everyone I saw for the rest of the day that we had met him. Everyone wanted to know how! We had met Bono, and we still had the concert to look forward to! What a day --

General Admission tickets this time, and we wanted to be close but not too close. We ended up in a perfect spot and made new friends Stefan, Cleidy, and Ben, from Germany, Brazil, and France. We thought WE had come a long way for the concert! Here are the five of us.

From beginning to end this was a wonderful day. The concert was fantastic. The moon was full. The friendship was warm. The weather was beautiful. The band was U2. And I was there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Eating as Recreation

Me and food, we're close. Real close. I have wonderful memories of me and food that go way, way back to my early days. But, as sometimes happens with good friends, we grew apart. But I couldn't live without food, so I began to use her. I would read, and eat, but wouldn't pay any attention to her. No longer cared about the details of what I was eating, as long as it tasted good. Yes, I suppose the food offered more than just a sweet, pretty face, but I was more interested in doing something else while I ate.

I noticed my children had picked up this habit, and even though we would occasionally eat a meal together, when my children ate alone or with another person, they would inevitably read all the way through the meal, including and not limited to the time they carried their dishes into the kitchen.

I decided on October 1st we were going to have two new rules here. One: no eating anywhere except the table. For us, this would mean no more eating in front of the computer, or in front of the tv, or in our rooms, or walking from one place in the house to another. Big change. But the second rule was bigger. Two: no reading while eating. We would now have to carry our food to the table and just eat it.

It's been a week. Here's what I have noticed. I am eating less. No longer just something to do while I turn the pages of a book, I have to be intentional about sitting down at the table and eating. This takes time! Until this past weekend, I could easily justify killing two birds with one stone, eating while doing the crossword puzzle, eating while reading a novel, eating while going through the mail. As I realize what it means to over-consume, I have realized that over-consumption doesn't just mean eating too much food! For me it also means treating food as entertainment, as filler, as recreation. No!

The picture? It is the grape stem I finally noticed today. Now that I have nothing to distract me from the food, I am looking at the food. I had never seen these long, long roots that connected the grapes to the vine. A few stems only had short roots around the edge. I suspect this happens as the grapes ripen and are ready to pick. But you can see that there are very long roots on many of the stems. What else have I missed as I've distracted myself from the food? I am looking forward to those discoveries.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Alone, in a strange city far from home, I am hungry. I have no car. I suspect public transportation doesn't come to where I am. I have no idea how to summon a cab, nor what such an extravagance would cost. I suppose I could ask for help, but I do not want to appear unknowledgeable or feel vulnerable. The only choice I see for eating is to set out walking and find a place. There are no sidewalks, so I walk in the gutter.

Within five minutes, I see a Wendy's restaurant, but I was hoping for something more sophisticated, less fast-food, so I turn left at the corner and keep walking, hopeful there will be something better around the next corner. In awhile, I see I have returned to where I started, having walked in a big circle. Now, I am back where I began, only hungrier. I have scouted to find local resources, and have come up empty-handed. I settle for Wendy's and I eat alone. No one to talk with or laugh with over my fries. Just a blank wall in front of me.

I do not turn on the TV. Although the noise will distract me from my plight, I know nothing will change. I will still be alone; in a strange city, far from home and family.

Poverty is the extent to which an individual does without resources. In a very mild way, this experience has shown me a little of what it is like to be without resources I would normally take for granted. However, in truth, even in this experience, I am far from impoverished. At the same time that I am alone and hungry, I have plenty of money in my wallet. I am staying in a three-star hotel. I have no worries at all about being mistreated because of my race or gender or socio-economic status. I have access to hot water, a soft bed, people who defer to me because I am a guest. Perhaps most importantly, I have a lifetime of big and little successes, the experience of solving problems of all sizes and shapes.

Because of my security and comfort level, I am able to experience this minor inconvenience of being without a car as a blessing in disguise. As I walk, I notice the beautiful trees, noting that the varieties here are different from most of what we have back home. I remember my daughter needs leaves for an art project this week and I am delighted I can gather some leaves for her that we might not find at home.

Eating without distraction affords me the opportunity to focus on my food, to hold my sandwich with two hands, rather than trying to hold a steering wheel, or a cell phone, or a book with one hand while stuffing in my food with the other. I notice I am comfortable with my thoughts and my solitude. My creative ideas find an outlet and are able to develop.

How much do I miss by driving everywhere, always late and in a hurry, never able to stop and examine a branch for just the right leaf? My brain is a laundromat dryer, my thoughts the clothes tumbling over one another; tangling, intertwining, always moving around and around and around. Where can I untangle the thoughts? How can I give attention to each one, smoothing each, really looking at them? There is no space in my hasty driving, hasty eating, hasty movements, hasty life.

I notice other clothes in my dryer. Those must belong to someone else. "I have to." "I should." "It must be done now!" "I've got to hurry! Hurry!" "There's no time!." Wait! Apparently those clothes also belong to me. As more of those pushy gray clothes invade, the beautiful, colorful ones get covered up. The grays mute the bright items that I really love and the interesting items I would like to explore.

What begins as an epiphany about what poverty is ends as a realization of the role over-consumption plays in my life. Because I am biting off more than I can really chew, I must drive quickly and eat quickly and keep a breakneck pace going at all times. I recognize that now is the time to make changes.