Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Book Recommendation Anyone?

I've been compiling a books to read list on and off this past year. Sometimes I have referred to it when looking for my next read. Often it has just sat, quite and undisturbed, in My Documents file. Recently some new books have been added and the list is getting long. So, my blogging reading buddies, I am curious which books off of this list you would recommend to me and why. (I am getting over a cold and way too tired to link these titles up. Sorry.)

The Last Witchfinder
by James Morrow

Intuition by Allegra Goodman

The Bright Forever by Lee Martin

Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

King Rat by China Mievielle

Bill Bryson books esp. A Brief History of Almost Everything

By Alice Munro:
The Love of a Good Woman
Open Secrets

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

By Ursula Hegi:

Stones from the River
The Vision of Emma Blau

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

By Jasper Fforde:

The Big Over Easy
The Fourth Bear

Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose

If you have any other titles you think I'd be interested in, just let me know.



As I said above, I've had a cold and so, while I've been doing some blog reading here and there, I've not had much energy for commenting. My latest theory is that my body is out to get me. It seems like every time I turn around, there is some new creak in the metaphorical floorboards of my body. Now, I'm a few days behind on some projects as well as in preparation for a busy weekend. So, if I seem pretty quiet, those are the reasons.

I hope you are all doing well. I'll be back in form next week!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Vietnam, A Memoir

Because it is Memorial Day, I won't be Sleeping with Bread today. Instead, I am republishing a post I wrote September 13, 2006. . .

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the nurses who served in the Vietnam War. It was inspired by a documentary on television of the same subject. A few days ago, I came across a story online of one Vietnam veteran's journey back to Vietnam to the site of a prolonged battle for territory, as told by his wife who accompanied him. It was part of a series on that country by The Hot Zone, the website where Kevin Sites, for Yahoo News, is going to every country in which there is a significant armed conflict in one year. As I am wont to do when the subject of the Vietnamese War comes up, I started thinking about my uncle who was a veteran. I also started thinking about my awareness of that war, what it was about, where it took place, etc.

As a child of six, if you had asked me if I knew of the country of Vietnam or if I had heard about the war there, I would have answered no. Instead, I could tell you that one summer day, as my aunt watched my sister and I, the phone rang. We were going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for dinner. Mom would meet us there. My aunt cleaned us up and dressed us in our cousin’s sunsuits. All of my aunts, uncles and cousins were there. Grandma wasn’t happy about something. We took pictures that day. My mom, her brothers and sisters and my grandparents smile for the camera, the sun in their eyes. I am in the background wearing a red and white sunsuit swinging on a tire swing.

I know now we were saying goodbye to my uncle before he left for the army and Vietnam.

Sometime with the next year, I knew the name Vietnam and that there was a war but I didn’t really understand anything about what was going on. I just knew that my aunt had these cool bracelets. They were metal and had names on them and letters: POW or MIA. I learned that POW meant Prisoner of War and MIA meant Missing in Action. I knew the names of men that were POWs and MIA.

I know now that my uncle could easily have been a POW or MIA but, fortunately, he wasn’t.

More time passed and my uncle came home from Vietnam. We gathered at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house again. I was happy because somehow Uncle L.T. was special. He was much younger than my mom and his brother and sisters. I loved seeing him. He was the coolest grown up. My sister asked him if he killed anybody in the war. I was shocked that she asked the question but I wanted to know the answer also. He said he probably had but he didn’t know for sure.

I know now he surely killed someone in his time over there. He was only 18 or 19 years old.

As I grew up and went through school--elementary, junior high, high school--I didn't know very much more about Vietnam than I did when my uncle was there. It was said by some to be--and I didn’t think to question--the only war the United States had ever lost. I knew the movies Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now had something to do with the war. I must have been taught about the war in history class but I cannot remember any of it.

I know more now about the history of the war but I also understand how very little it had to do with the Vietnamese people or their well-being.

When I was in high school, I came across a story. It was a story about a Christian soldier in Vietnam. In despair over his situation there, he cried out in prayer, “Lord, why am I here?” He looked down and saw a Vietnamese New Testament opened to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20*). All the fire and brimstone preaching I had listened to all my life had not been enough, but this call to join God in his work did the trick. I prayed a prayer of commitment to God later that night with my high school pastor. The following Sunday my Grandpa baptized me at the Bell Gardens Free Will Baptist Church on February 10, 1980.

I know now that the Lord used this story of Vietnam to call me to him.

After high school, I saw movies like Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July. Sometimes the movies helped me understand. Sometimes I was repulsed by the anger and bitterness of those who had gone. After I got married, I finished college. My American history professor had us read Home Before Morning about a nurse’s experience in Vietnam. Reading that not only helped me understand a woman’s experience there but gave me insight into the soldiers’ experiences also. During those years, my uncle didn't talk much about the war. He told me that he hated it when people got bogged down in the war and blamed it for not being able to move on in their lives. He told me that before it became known that he was an alcoholic--a church-going, Bible teaching, communion meditation-giving alcoholic. By the end of his life, he had just married for the fourth time and his relationship with his daughter was strained, to say the least, because of what she endured for years. He had times of sobriety but his journey was a rough one.

I know now that although he didn’t look like a stereotypical Vietnam veteran, his life was scarred nonetheless. I also know that there are many other veterans out there, from any war, who look like anyone else on the outside but have thick scars on the inside.

One day after coming across pictures at my mother's of his Christmas in Vietnam, my uncle told me that was his favorite Christmas ever. When asked why he said because it reminded him of the church in Acts 2:42 "...they had all things in common." It wasn't until a few years later that I heard the rest of the story. That Thanksgiving he had been in one of two transport helicopters. They were fired upon. The next moment he watched the other helicopter fall out of the sky carrying many of his fellow soldiers' to their deaths. They spent the next weeks in the field. Finally, at Christmas, they came back to the base for some R & R. Depressed and exhausted, they faced the holiday away from their loved ones. Somehow, they all ended up coming together, reading letters from sweethearts, friends and family to each other and sharing what gifts had made it through the mail. They barbecued hamburgers using raisin bread for the buns. They forgot, briefly, the horrors they endured day after day.

I know now that no matter how difficult your circumstances in life, if you have good people around you, you can find joy in the midst of pain and fear.

Years after that, my uncle sent me an email. In it, he told me about a book. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. He said it came the closest of anything he had ever read to describing what it really felt like to be a soldier in Vietnam. In the email, he described trudging through the jungle, day after day. It was tedious, uncomfortable, relentless. Suddenly they were fired upon. A soldier near him had half his head blown away. He was still making noises so my uncle performed a field tracheotomy on him and the medics took him away. They all got back up and went on trudging through the jungle. Business as usual. A day or so later, they got word the wounded soldier was dead. They kept walking.

I know now that there are two soldiers on the Vietnam Memorial who share the name of the soldier my uncle told me about. One died in October the year my uncle would have been there. There is something about knowing that name and knowing it is on the war memorial that makes me feel close to Uncle L.T.

In 2004, at the age of 52 my uncle died of a ruptured abdominal aortic anuerysm. Surely the years of heavy smoking and alcohol abuse contributed to his death. No one could say with any certainty that had he not gone to the war he still wouldn't have become an alcoholic. I remember though, the words of his childhood friend at his funeral. A friend who remembered him before and knew that afterwards he was not the same person.

I know now that he was another victim of the war although his death came 30 years later and his name will never go on the wall.

The last picture with his brother and sisters not too long before he died. Unfortunately one sister, my Aunt Margaret, had passed away a few years earlier so the picture isn't complete.

*"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20, New International Version

Friday, May 25, 2007

Wanted: Life Narrator

I've decided that I need a narrator, like Mary Alice on Desperate Housewives or Irv during the first couple of seasons of Everwood. A warm, soothing voice to look at all that is going on in my life and the lives of those around me. A voice to pull together common themes in those lives and which can then wrap up everything weekly in a nice, coherent package. Anyone know where I can find one of those?

If you are interested in applying, here's what you need to do for your interview. Take the following pictures and make with the narration.

New Headband

New Haircuts

Big Lizard

Site of Future Sunflower Fort

Pumpkin Patch

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Gift Too Lightly Received

What has the experience of being forgiven been like for you?

Well, I have only myself to blame for asking Julie this question. Now, she has posed it as the next topic in her Hump Day Hmmm Round Table discussions. And, per my usual, I'm a day (or more) late in getting my post up. I could apologize but I know I get tired of hearing people apologize for the same thing over and over again. Sometimes changed behavior is the best apology.

But I digress...

Having boldly asked The Ravin' Picture Maven, in response to her post on her personal experiences with forgiving others, how she receives the forgiveness of others, I realize that this is hard. Very hard. It requires something of a personal life inventory and I realize that I've not been very appreciative of the forgiveness I've received in my life. If you know me well, you might say that I've not done all that much which requires the forgiveness of others and yes, I've never murdered anyone, had an affair or cheated someone out of their inheritance. But I have said unkind things, unthinking things, been cold-hearted, all-knowing, along with other garden-variety transgressions, especially with family. All these "little" things have added up, I think. Something like a landfill. Over the years, the piles get higher and stinkier.

Sometimes I have apologized, many times I have not. Regardless of whether or not I asked for forgiveness, I received it. You do not reach the 19 year marker in marriage without having been the recipient of forgiveness. You do not have a long term friendship without needing it. You are not a daughter without having received it. You are not a parent without being given total and instantaneous forgiveness on occasion. Yes, I blithely go through Life, ranting about the Universe and Everything else I can think of without being grateful for the gift of being forgiven.

So, there it is, my answer to how I experience the forgiveness of others: negligently and without proper thought and gratitude. Ouch! Sometimes this self-reflective process is less than pleasant.

I am glad, though, that through this process, I was able to stop and think about this. I have an opportunity to publish this post and then go on about my business, changing nothing. Or, I can take this observation to heart, make a point of asking for forgiveness more often and appreciating it when it is given to me. I hope I go with that last one.

(I chose not to address the big Forgive that I received when I became a Christian. I've been feeling a little preachy lately, both in some of my posts and my comments and if you come around here very often, you know what I believe and that it is a foundational thing for me from which all my thoughts about Life, the Universe and Everything are based.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Not your usual personality test...

A couple of years ago, I read the Philip Pullman series His Dark Materials. The first book in the series, The Golden Compass will be released as a New Line Cinema film in December 2007. The website has this ultra-cool tool which allows you to know what daemon you have. Now, a daemon in the book is not what we would think of it as. It is an extension of your soul, I guess you would say, in animal form. Here's what the test says mine is. You can click on it and it will guide you through questions to help determine if how I view myself is how others view me. Based on your answers, my daemon might change. So, if you think you know me well enough to try this, go for it. I can't wait to see if my animal changes or remains the same. Oh, you only have 10 or 12 days to do it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sleeping with Bread: Feeling a Little Rushed

(In a rushed, out of breath, too fast voice...) I'm having a total caffeine buzz plus there are only so many consecutive months I can go without doing some serious housework and I'm feeling like the jig is up and I really, really must do something about it so maybe I should take advantage of my caffeine buzz and do some chores around this house but I have to (want to) do my SWB post first so here goes:

After last week barely being able to force myself to write my SWB post, I was that down in the dumps I am happy to say that in the last week, I have found joy in. . .

those bloomin' jacaranda trees. Every Spring the jacarandas bloom in this town and they are so beautiful that I can't help but feel my spirit lifting. You might see one here or there and then come across a street lined up for blocks with purple trees. The lovely purple blossoms are especially welcome this year because we've had very little rain and I've not had my "the hills are alive with the sound of music" joy. When we've had lots of rain, the hills which surround me become a newborn green, lush and striking against the blue sky and white clouds. On years where there has not been enough rain, the words of the local university alma mater make more sense: "hills like tawny lions." It is an apt description and much more poetic than saying ugly brown hills. I did realize this year that I feel somewhat territorial about my town's trees. There are so many here that I think of them as belonging to my town. Recently as I've seen them scattered here and there in the neighboring towns, I've felt a little miffed. Excuse me, don't you know those trees are for me and my town?

An offset to the lift in spirit God's colorful handiwork has brought me is the sad realization I had this week while dining with a friend. . .

I have a deep, deep certainty that my children are going to feel emotionally estranged from me when they grow up. When you read the words deep, deep certainty, please know that I don't know this. It just feels like I know it. Let me explain. My friend and I were at dinner and the subject of teenagers not liking their parents came up. Her youngest is 18 and she said to me that kids work their way back to liking their parents as they grow up. This is probably a statement that is fair and somewhat accurate. But for some reason, when she said it, I had a flash. First, that I fear my children will grow up and not want to be around me, will not like me, will struggle with their feelings toward me. Next, I had another flash of why I feel that way. Of course, I cannot (actually I could but I will not) go into detail about the why of all this. Anyone with an ounce of imagination will be able to figure out the basics. I feel like I am taking something of a risk in even saying this much, but I don't think the parties involved read this. Also, it was such a strong revelation, the recognizing of this undercurrent in my parenting, a vague sense of dread I feel deep down so much of the time. It is my truest desolation this week and I just didn't want to opt for something other in this space.

The consolation in this though, is that having realized this, I can process it. Hopefully, I will be able to counter this dread certainty with some light and truth. While it is possible that my children will experience some of what I have described, it is certainly not a given and probably not very likely. (That doesn't sound as optimistic as it really does feel to me.) I am not a perfect mother. I have, in dealing with my own struggles, sometimes done things for which I need to be forgiven. But I am a good mother--or, as someone (whose blog name escapes me at the moment) recently wrote--a good enough mother.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Memoria: My Grandpa!

At the risk of complete bloggy maudlinness, here is the next transfer from my Memoria blog. It just happens to be another grandpa one. Short but sweet.

This is my grandpa, Loyd Reddick. It was taken at a birthday party for him just a few weeks before he died. I love it so much because you get something of his personality in it. By this time, his heart issues were worsening and he had apparently been having small, indiscernible strokes. Much of the time, he wasn't himself. But on this day as friends and family gathered at the Henryetta Free Will Baptist Church to celebrate his 73rd birthday, he was his old self, at least for awhile. Shortly after this, he suffered a severe stroke and was deprived of oxygen for some time. He stayed in the hospital for 2-3 weeks before succumbing to an infection on April 22, 1990.

Just look at that smile! It makes me want to hug him one more time. I love you Grandpa.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Evolution of Awareness

This might be awkward, disjointed, incoherent... so, I apologize in advance if this is unreadable.

Julie has been coordinating a series of roundtable discussions on justice, forgiveness, compassion, etc. The first series was to compare justice and forgiveness and answer the question of which was of greater necessity. The second series provided several prompts to choose from. I didn't manage to get anything in for that one. The latest pass was to approach it more personally and to share your story with one of these concepts. It was difficult for me to participate last week for a couple of reasons, but one was that I think I took a pretty personal approach in my first offering. I haven't been sure what to say.

I read some of the other entries for the week and I did get some ideas. I tried putting together something really powerful using Douglas Coupland and Annie Dillard quotes and everything. Alas, that intellectual souffle' collapsed. A souffle is pretty tricky and you really have to know what you are doing. Apparently, I do not! ;)

Still, I do feel strongly about participating. I don't want to disappoint Julie. She has put a lot of energy and thought into the Hump Day Hmmm posts and I want to honor that. Plus, I am challenged by what Julie and others have to say. Julie reminds me of another very bright friend I have. He and I engage in philosophical discussions and it is all I can do to hold my own. I feel like I'm swimming in a pool dog-paddling while my friend is swimming laps at Olympic pace. I think I benefit from these discussions though. They are good intellectual exercise for me. I may not be swimming with perfect form yet, but I think I'm dog-paddling faster.

So, what I wanted to say, only much more eloquently, is that my journey with forgiveness and justice and compassion and mercy has been one of gradual awareness. First, as concepts, followed by experience. As a child, I was very fearful. Much of my emotional and intellectual energy was spent managing this fear. As I entered junior high, I had more capacity to think about other things. I tended though, to reflect the opinions of the adults around me. I trusted them and didn't know to question their perspectives. High School brought more sophisticated thought. I realized I had opinions other than those of some of the adults and kids around me. It was during my high school years that "Mary" truly began taking shape as a questioner and participant in philosophical talks. Being a part of a youth group at church really encouraged this because we spent a lot of time talking about God and how he works in the world.

As I mentioned in my first roundtable post, I felt very comfortable with justice at this time. I loved justice and wanted to see it meted out quite regularly, with consistency and without much mercy. (I kind of laugh about this now. For Pete's sake, I was a card-carrying evangelical Christian, and while I know that many people have had less than compassionate experiences with the Church, I was never taught to be so severe in my faith. I knew about grace and compassion, really I did. I think that I was kind of wired up that way. I wanted things to be fair, plus, the arrogance of youth is just that: arrogant.)

I don't think it was really until I was in my twenties that I became more familiar with compassion, mercy and grace. I had a friend who became pregnant. It was quite the shock and caused quite a buzz. She was the daughter of an elder and had been "raised right." I think I kicked into mercy mode for her because so many others didn't. More lessons on mercy and compassion followed. The best lessons were those where I was the recipient of mercy or compassion or justice. I recently watched Something's Gotta Give with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. There is a scene where Diane's character has a major realization. She understands that she can't be okay with Jack's character and how he handles relationships. Weeping, she says something to him along these lines: "I know what this is. I've written it a hundred times, but I never really knew. Do you know what this is? It's heartbroken." She gives him one last kiss and leaves. I think that is true for these ideas we've been talking about. We truly understand mercy when we receive it; forgiveness when we are forgiven, etc.

Through all this, God has been my guide. He hasn't always worked through the Church or other Christians, although he often has. Sometimes a Christian's best examples of justice, forgiveness, compassion and mercy come from people who don't share his/her beliefs. And just when I think I have it, when I know everything there is to know about any of these concepts, something happens and I am floored with a new awareness--a different perspective. I'm grateful for that. I don't really every want to know it all. I want to always be a person who is willing to learn and grow and who can be impacted by the world around her.

Memoria: The Old Rugged Cross

The latest post transferred from my Memoria blog remembers not only my grandpa (again!) but a song...

I love hymns. They may be old-fashioned but hymns remind me of my childhood, my grandparents and the small churches I grew up in. And now, the spiritual content of these songs resonates with me and I appreciate them in a new way. One of those hymns is “The Old Rugged Cross.” Along with “He Could Have Called Ten Thousand Angels,” this song is forever in my heart and mind associated with my grandfather.

The small Free Will Baptist churches in which I grew up had, what I know now, a very rural feel to them. They were churches planted by many of the Oklahoma and Texas transplants who came out to California beginning in the 30's during the Dust Bowl. If you’ve ever been in a small country church, you will have experienced the time during the service when someone sings a “special.” Well, this is one of the songs my grandpa used to sing during that time. He didn’t have the best voice, although he carried a tune better than some of the people I remember! There was a love in his voice though, for the Lord, for singing, for the song. What I wouldn’t give for a recording of my grandpa singing this.

As I grew up and moved on to bigger churches, I always cried when “The Old Rugged Cross” was sung. My grandparents had moved back to Oklahoma and hearing that song always filled me with longing for them. They were a huge part of my life and when they moved, it was one of the bigger changes in my life. The song doesn't evoke the same longing it once did, but it still causes me to remember. Years later, I am able to enjoy a new take on the song, a new arrangement on one of our church’s worship CDs. It brings the song into the present musically while still embracing the lyrics written by George Bennard almost 100 years ago.

The Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suffering and shame;
and I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
has a wondrous attraction for me;
for the dear Lamb of God left his glory above
to bear it to dark Calvary.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.

In that old rugged cross, stained with so divine,
a wondrous beauty I see,
for 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
to pardon and sanctify me.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.

To that old rugged cross I will ever be true,
its shame and reproach gladly bear;
then he'll call me some day to my home far away,
where his glory forever I'll share.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sleeping with Bread: Burnt Bread or Rising Dough?

I don't have much in me for writing today. In the throes of PMS, I'm also nursing a unprotected tooth. I shattered my temporary crown yesterday. The permanent is due to be delivered today and my appointment is tomorrow morning. Since I am not experiencing any pain, I agreed to wait instead of having to go through the process of making a new temporary just 24 hours before the permanent one is available. In the meantime, my already hormonally-imbalanced person has to eat on the right side, not subject the tooth to hot or cold, etc. It isn't that big of a deal but it is a thorn in my side.

From there it could easily be that infamous slippery slope--the one in which I get focused on everything that is bugging me today, burnt bread.

Instead, though, maybe it is just an opportunity for some dough to rise, in preparation of a perfectly baked loaf of bread. But you know what you need to do with a loaf of bread that is rising? Cover and leave it alone in a warm place.

Maybe I'll go back to bed...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I'm feeling a little LUEish

Updated to include photographic evidence of attempt at parenting.


You know how when a celebrity dies, everyone says that two more celebrities will die soon, because celebrity deaths always come in threes? Is that true of appliance deaths? Because I'm down two in a week and I'm waiting for the third. First, my iron of just a few months fell and busted its noggin. It was still working but I wasn't sure it was a good idea to use. Paul decided to investigate, took the thing apart and now, there is no way it can be used.

First appliance down.

Next, yesterday, I went to get some clothes out of the dryer and they were still wet--and cold. Hmmm, I thought to myself. Maybe someone accidentally set the dryer to air fluff. Uh, no. So, the heater thingamajiggy is broken.

Second appliance down.

I don't really have an abundance of appliances to deal with here. We did have to take the car in because of a leaky coolant hose. Maybe that counts as our third death. I hope so. My budget can't take much more of this.

In other life news, I am seeing a personal trainer. She's a sweet, quiet-spoken young woman. I still wanted to curse her after my session last week though. Ouchy, ouchity, ouch, ouch! My neck muscles even hurt! How is that possible? I'm due to see her again in just a couple of hours and I'm afraid--very afraid. Once more into the breach, my friends!

Paul is traveling this week, just a short little jaunt, but for some inexplicable reason (I love the word inexplicable!) I decided to take a parental stand last night without my wing man. Marley is the worst about taking responsibility for her messes and Paul and I are the worst about making her clean up her messes. If you took an inventory of our house on any given day, you would find that probably 50% of the mess in the entire place is Marley-related items. So, I decided she needed to pick up her Princess Monopoly game on her own--without my help. I didn't want to help her because she is fantastically skilled at turning my helping her into my doing it all alone. (Notice how I deflected my own personal responsibility for that? Hmmm... Maybe she gets it from me.) A fly on the wall of our house last night would have witnessed me remaining calm and collected (There's always a first time.) and Marley going through a Sybil-esque production of tears, yelling, whining, throwing, declarations of mommy meanness--and, in an especially moving part of her performance--rolling on the floor while picking up scrunched up Monopoly money.

At one point during the evening, she was locked in her room. Here is what I saw.

She ended up getting sent to bed early. Her television and computer privileges are revoked until said game is cleaned up. She did make an effort this morning, and while she didn't have time to finish before she left for school, I have high hopes she'll cooperate when she gets home. There's an episode of Jon & Kate, Plus 8 we have recorded which she wants to watch.

My son, He Who Wishes Not To Be Mentioned, was told by the orthodontist that his teeth are moving and he needs to wear his retainers for three months full-time, then go back to wearing them only at night. Fat Chance. We are trying to get him to wear them during the day at least when he is home, but arghh! what a struggle. Teenagers! Who needs 'em?

the Universe...

How do you handle the constant bad news about the state of the world without turning into a blubbery mass of Jello cowering in a corner? It isn't enough that I have to worry about the imminent bird flu pandemic, the war, terrorism, climate change, the dreaded 2008 presidential election... Now, I've got to worry about bees? And not just killer bees, no, there is apparently a mass dying off of bee populations and you know, the whole world will cease to exist as we know it in less than four years if all the bees die.

I wasn't made to handle this kind of stress.

Where's my good news channel? I don't want to completely ignore the bad news, I would just love for it to be offset by some good news. I know there is good news out there, too. If anyone wants to share some, I'm eager to hear it. The world isn't all bad.


As the 2006-2007 television season winds down, I'm finding myself relieved. I was raised in front of the television set. And, while I understand the downside, I have to admit, I love TV. From Bones to Heroes to the Tudors, I could go on and on. But I am glad the season finales are getting read to air. I'm ready for a TV breather. (My husband is not going to believe this, but it is true.) Maybe instead of the Summer of Love, I can make 2007, the Summer of No TV. Well, we'll see.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sleeping with Bread: To Have and Have Not

The Bread I Have

I am a person blessed with special friends, women of character, strength, dignity, humility, wisdom, humor. These friends have listened to me, understood me, prayed for me, loved me, challenged me. I believe, in fact, that I have known more than my fair share of deep friendship. There is a Celtic word, anamchara, which describes the type of relationships I am talking about. Anamcharas, or soul friendships, are characterized by the following:

First, soul friendship is associated with great affection, intimacy and depth.

Second, soul friend relationships are characterised by mutuality: a profound respect for each other's wisdom, despite any age or gender difference, and the awareness that the other person is a source of many blessings.

A third characteristic of soul friends is that they share common values, [and] a common vision of reality.

Fourth, soul friendships include not only affirmation, but the ability of each to challenge the other when necessary.

A fifth aspect of anamchara relationships ... is that they are centred on God, the soul friend in whom all other friendships are united. True soul friends do not depend on each other alone, but root their relationship in God.

A sixth characteristic of soul friendship is that it survives geographical separation [and] the passage of time.

Early Celtic Soul Friendship

I have found this last characteristic to be true. Many of my anamcharas are removed from me by geographical location and by the separation of current life circumstances. It isn't as easy to find those big stretches of time to talk. But, much of the foundation of the friendships having been laid, we fall easily into intimacy, even after a long absence.

BUT... and isn't there always a but?

Here is the Bread I Have Not:

In my New Year's Resolution post, I wrote that I was calling 2007, the Year of Restraint. Feeling a need to focus on so many areas of my life, I realized that all the all the dissatisfaction I felt fell under two categories: moderation and discipline, both synonyms for restraint. Spiritual discipline, which I felt should be my first priority, however, has taken a back seat to my efforts at diet, exercise and financial wisdom.

I spent some time thinking about this and I had a little epiphany: I need a a new soul friend.

Let me explain.

Tara of Uphill Idealist, sent me a link to an online article discussing the Celtic concept of soul friendship, anamchara. The morning I had my epiphany, I realized what had been missing most in my spiritual life for the last year or so is the consistent time with such a friend, with time devoted specifically to discussing spiritual exercises and making a plan during that time for what exercises I would do during the following week. Time sitting across a table, face to face. I had that for several years with one particular friend but life has changed and we do not have that time together now.

And so, while I have an embarrassment of riches in the friends department, I wrote the following in my journal a few weeks ago after meditating for a morning on my spiritual state:

I know what I want now. I figured it out. All of my questions are not answered but I think I know what I need--a soul friend. Lord, as I ask for this, I pray first that it be your will for me. Let it, please, be your will for me. Lord, I ask that you help me find my next soul friend, where my spirit and hers can come together with yours, to nudge each other, inspire each other, question each other, love each other, sharpen each other.
I don't know if God will answer that prayer with a yes. Soul friends are like the rarest of gems and I may not find another to add to my other jewels. God may be calling me to develop my inner introvert, and in so doing, seek my spiritual growth in more solitude than I have in the past.

Either way, I will continue to seek him.

This week's other Sleeping with Bread posts can be found here.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Memoria: Calvacade

As I mentioned previously, I am consolidating my Memoria blog with this one. I've made minor changes to the wording here and there.

cav-al-cade n.
  1. A procession of riders or horse-drawn carriages.
  2. A ceremonial procession or display.
  3. A succession or series: starred in a cavalcade of Broadway hits.
As I have had occasion recently to share a little about my life’s history with other people, I am struck by the number of persons I've loved who have died. It may not be that I’ve lost any more than your average person, but as I get older and the road behind me gets longer and longer, the weight of it all seems greater. Okay, is that a mixed metaphor? To keep mixing those metaphors, as I’ve thought about this, I keep the word “calvacade” comes to mind. My own calvacade of stars: Grandpa, Michael, Grandma, Aunt Margaret, Uncle L.T. (Death has always brought something of the absurd to me.) I want to share a little about those featured in the parade.

Loyd Hoke Reddick. b. 27 Mar 1917, d. 22 Apr 1990

Grandpa. I was married and 25 years old when my grandfather died. That was the first significant loss of my life (by death that is.) My grandfather was my hero growing up. Having never lived with my father, Grandpa was just the nearest thing to heaven for me. He was also a little frightening. He carried an awesome authority which refused to be questioned, but he was a man who loved the Lord, a joker and a man who was full of love for his family. By the time he died, I knew more about life and understood better how my grandfather was flawed but I loved him none the less for it.

He had beautiful blue eyes and a contagious smile, big ears and a little bit of white hair. I can picture him standing with his slacks and white collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He had one characteristic I’ve never seen so strongly in any other person: his eagerness to get to church. If he wasn’t 15 minutes early, then in his mind, he was late. This had nothing to do with a love of punctuality. He truly experienced the church gathering as being in the Lord’s presence--where two or more are gathered. His heart was full of joy on Sunday mornings, evenings and Wednesday nights. Even as I write this, I don’t think I’m able to express it well enough for you to see. I witnessed it and I will never forget it.

I was very saddened by my Grandpa’s death. A sadness deepened because it followed on the heels of a miscarriage I didn’t know how to handle. Maybe because of the miscarriage though, I was prepared for his dying, my emotional soil tilled and ready to plant. Maybe it was because he was so diminished by strokes that he wasn’t really Loyd Reddick anymore. I don’t know. But that was how his death, the first, was for me. Sad but acceptable. The others were different for me, each in their own unique way.

... to be continued

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Adventures in Princess-Sitting

Earlier this evening we babysat our friends' two daughters. One of them, just four years old, was in heaven because Marley was allowing full access to all toys. Free to root around the toy rubble in Marley's room and the living room, she came across the birthday tiara.

"Eet's a crown!" she said in her high-pitched, Angelina Ballerina voice. "I need a princess dress! Where's a princess dress?!"

"I don't know, honey. There somewhere in Marley's room." I was helping big sister and Marley by being the banker for Princess Junior Monopoly and I didn't want to get up to find one of Marley's dress up costumes. 10 - 15 minutes pass. I've gone to the kitchen and am cutting up some chicken.

"I found it! Here it is! I found it!"

I looked down and sure enough, she has a Cinderella princess dress in one of her hands and the tiara in the other. She wants it on; she wants to put it on in Marley's room; she wants to take off her non-princess clothes first. (I usually just have kids throw on pretend clothes over their regular clothes.) All dressed up and ready to go, she trots around the house, being all princess-y. If you know this little wonder, you know this behavior comes naturally, as it once did with her older sister.

While all this is going on, the princess' sister and Marley have been asking for the hamster, Bobby, to be let loose in his ball. As Bobby zips around the living room, bumping into this and that, I hear, with every bump, in that same Angelina Ballerina voice:

"Be careful."


"Don't do that."


"Be careful."

Soon, the King and Queen appeared to take their princesses home. Marley, continuing her completely un-Marley-like fit of generosity, bestowed upon the little princess the Cinderella gown. Happy and content, the little princess walked with her parents to the car, holding up the skirt so that she didn't trip on its too-long length.

It was pretty darn cute, I have to tell you.

Friday, May 04, 2007

So, it's not all bad news this week...

To counteract the news that because I'm a left-handed woman I'm apparently more inclined to die a horrible, early death, the Universe has supplied me with some eagerly anticipated news:

I'm officially accepted into grad school! Woo Hoo!

I went online to check my admission status--which I've been doing almost daily for weeks--and today, the good news was there!

Did I say Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Woe is me!

I just can't seem to catch a break:

Left-handed women may have a shorter life-span.

I'll take what comfort I can in the words of my fellow left-hander who is quoted in the article:

The author of a commentary, Dr. Olga Basso, who is left-handed, is highly skeptical, in general, of research relating disease and death with handedness. "I am not alone in thinking that the literature on handedness suffers from a number of ills," regardless of the putative illnesses seen in those who are left-handed, she notes.

"Having successfully dodged a number of disorders," adds Basso, "I doubt that my left hand is prematurely pulling me toward my grave."

Basso is with National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.