Friday, September 28, 2007

Surprised by Waltzing

Sometime in the first year after I graduated high school, I read Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis and his definition of joy as "an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction" captivated me. Joy, to Lewis, was a feeling inspired by any number of things from encounters with nature to the sound of friends' laughter. Eventually, as he sought out these moments of joy, he began to believe the emotion he was experiencing was a recognition of the divine which creates in us a longing for God.

At 18, I sensed the truth in his words. I knew that joy as he described was different than the happiness we are often taught should be our life's aim.

At 18, I felt I had experienced those longing glimpses into the divine.

I'm sure I had, but as I reflect on my life with its grown up burdens and responsibilities... as I consider the sad and tragic circumstances that can befall people, those glances of joy are more poignant to me. Sometimes they are almost boringly obvious: the heart-bursting ache that comes with a glance at my son or daughter; the gasp that comes with the sight of the local mountains, freshly covered in the snow after a storm. I think these are universal experiences which don't lose their depth of meaning in their prevalence.

Sometimes, though, I get that sense of Beauty and Longing in places I wouldn't expect. Today, Sober Briquette picked up on a recent post of mine in which I chose a shopping cart to represent myself in a transportation metaphor. Her choice is great and the options she eliminates along the way are very funny. At the end she embedded a You Tube clip of Van Morrison singing with The Band from The Last Waltz.

The Last Waltz has been on my mind of late. We have the DVD and Colin recently purchased The Band's Greatest Hits (along with The Best of Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett's Greatest Hits and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band--this kid has great taste in music). The film brings back fond memories. The first time I watched it was the first time Paul and I discussed forever. But more than that, the film and the music in it evokes in me a sense of the sublime. It is just so good it almost hurts--that good hurt.

Here's where my descriptive powers will fail me. How do I go beyond the Valley Girl-like "It's so awesome!!!" to communicate how the interviews with the members of The Band, along with the footage of amazing musician after amazing musician singing and playing with the band is just a little slice of heaven here on earth? How can I explain that I see God in the community these men had with each other or that the musicianship seems to be the quintessential example of being in the moment with the music? I don't know.

I'm not really a music person. I like lots of music but I don't pursue music in my life and I'm not musically literate. I can't tell you anything about what makes a good song. There's something more than music going on in The Last Waltz, though, and it surprised me with joy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sleeping with Bread: Better Late Than Never

I don't know quite what happened on Monday but I did not get my Sleeping with Bread post written.

Well, I do know what happened. Life happened. School happened. Sleep happened.

So I find myself with a few moments to reflect and I ask myself...

When in the last week (or so) have I found consolation?

  1. meeting with my friend with whom I do my spiritual formation exercises

  2. taking time to spend with book club friends discussing Of Human Bondage

  3. watching Marley and Colin play outside together yesterday

  4. praying the prayer offices from the Northumbria Community

  5. getting some reassurances in different places and from different people that I just might manage this school thing

  6. watching Heroes (remember I'm a minor sci-fi/fantasy geek)

  7. we almost have enough money saved to renew our Disneyland passports (This is something that we can do as a whole family and anytime you can amuse both your 7 year old and your 15 year old, it is worth doing.)

When in the last week (or so) have I found desolation?

  1. not spending enough time with my family

  2. stressing over a 'B' for a paper and totally overcompensating on the next one (I'll have to sneak in another consolation here to say that the professor gave everyone a chance to rework the next one and I figured out the 'B' was for something very minor that is easily corrected in the next one.)

  3. a couple of things which I'm not at liberty to discuss in a public place but which are both saddening and stressful

  4. missing out on a movie with a friend because I forgot I had book club

  5. loss of sleep due to minor vomitage by daughter

  6. minor physical ailments which are more irritating than serious

Further Contemplations

All in all, it seems that each week since I began grad school I have learned something new about managing my life.

Last week, I learned that my brain will not meet the challenge of reading two chapters, back to back, of Content Area Literacy. Application? Don't save all that reading for the morning before class.

Over the course of the last few weeks, one question I started to ask myself and I think, after this week, I'm finding the answer is this:

Is this rollercoaster of stress that I am experiencing since starting school a natural response to my situation or is it just me and that peskly personality of mine not responding well to it all?

The conclusion I'm coming to? Yes, it is stressful for a 42 year old woman who hasn't been to school in 17 years to find herself in a graduate program for which she lacks a lot of the essential background of teaching experience. However, after stressing out for a day because I got a 'B' on a two page paper, upset that I was two points below the class average, and contacting the professor to ask for his suggestions before the next two page paper was due, I suspect that the hills and valleys I've been experiencing relate more to my own issues and personality. Application? I need to get a grip and settle down. I need to stop looking at every (perceived) setback as "THE END OF MY GRAD SCHOOL CAREER!" My body can't take it. My heart can't take it. And, I most assuredly know that my family can't take it! (Poor things. Psycho Mommy is scary!)

And so, as Picard might say to Riker, I just need to "make it so." (I told you I was something of a scifi/fantasy geek!)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Um... I don't think so!

Julie over at Using My Words recently posted her celebrity lookalikes. I did this once before months and months ago but thought I'd try it again. I remember the first time gettng some very intereting results.

These were results were interesting but in a different way. Is it just me or is the main point of commonality between me and these celebrities (many of whom I've never heard of) just long, swept over to the side bangs? And then in the middle of that pack of people is Vince Vaughn? I don't think so.

I should try a different picture and see what results I get.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

8 Random Facts

The Rules:

I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.

Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.

People who are tagged need to write their own blog (about their 8 things) and post these rules.

At the end of your blog, you need to choose people to get tagged and list their names.

Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

8 Random Facts/Habits About Me:

  1. I'm a closet hopeless romantic. I just watched North and South, a BBC production, and was swoony for hours.

  2. I love leftovers for breakfast.

  3. I walk sideways downstairs.

  4. While I like to pretend that I am not vain, I do have a designated facial-hair manager in case of coma.

  5. I remember remembering things from my childhood but no longer actually remember them. Thus, things I once believed were true, I am no longer sure of. Did you get that?

  6. Since last year when I had a colonoscopy, I can no longer drink lemon-lime soda or ginger ale that is the least bit flat. I have a complete PTSD response to the prep drink. I'm gagging just typing this.

  7. I have terrible posture.

  8. I was sought after to be on my high school's academic decathlon team--because of my C average. How flattering is that?

I tag...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I, Shopping Cart

I was at a meeting on Sunday afternoon at church to discuss the formation of new small groups. The question was asked, "As you move through your life, what kind of transportation are you?"

For some reason, the image that came to mind for me is a shopping cart--with one wobbly wheel. Well, it caused people to laugh and I was trying to be funny, but there was more to it than that.
I really do feel like a shopping cart with one wobbly wheel.

That wobbly wheel just keeps pulling me off course and it takes a lot of effort and energy to move in the right direction.
That's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sleeping with Bread: with Dread and Longing

I'm cheating. It is actually Sunday night but I don't think I'll have time to bake my weekly bread tomorrow. I have a very short paper to write, a house to get in shape before the babysitter comes, and processing the church contributions for the week, and class at 7:00 p.m.

As I sat down to ponder the last week, I realized that my "best" thing and my "worst" thing were both on the same day, within an hour of each other in fact. The best way to put it is...

In the last week, when did I feel most alive?

After taking most of the summer off, my small group at church met on Friday night. Knowing that leading the group will be a challenge while I am in school, I brought a choice of materials for us to go through. Both books were from the same publisher, Renovare', a publisher which has amazing material that easily allows for people to take turns leading. We chose between a book called Living the Mission and one called Prayer and Worship. We sampled a little of the one we ended up choosing, Prayer and Worship, and it was during that time I felt most alive. Why? The lesson led us through a Psalm, 42:1-8. It is the one about how one longs for God the way a deer pants for water. As a group, we discussed longing for God and it was a wonderful time sharing with others whom I've been in community with for a long time. Good company and good conversation. I loved it. Really stunning was this quote from St. John of the Cross:

"The longing in your soul is actually His doing. You may feel only the smallest desire for Him. There may be no emotion about it at all. But the reason your desire rises at all is because He is passing very near to you. His holy beauty comes near you, like a spiritual scent, and it stirs your drowsing soul. (Living the Flame of Love, Stanza 3)
I think God's holy beauty came near and woke my drowsing soul as our group shared and prayed with one another.

Sadly, shortly after I was feeling something completely different in my soul...

When in the last week did I feel most drained of life?

After the meeting was over and some of us were just hanging around visiting, I realized I was feeling a sense of dread. Saturday morning was going to be one of those days with pictures for soccer, a baby shower, stopping by the church office to unlock it so someone could get in, a soccer game, Paul preparing to go out of town. Saturday would be shot and Paul would be on a plane first thing Sunday a.m. for business. The dread was from antcipating the lack of down time over the weekend which woud be followed by a busy week without Paul's help.

I survived Saturday, Paul left this morning and I managed to make today productive without overly stressing me or the kids. I still have a long road to travel this week but after years of Paul traveling I have learned that my anticipation of a tough week is almost always worse than the actual week itself. Still, in the moment, it did feel like my soul was draining away, leaking from multiple holes.

I'm glad it was just for a moment.

Other SWB posts are linked up here.

P.S. During my busy Saturday, I got some cute pictures of Marley at her soccer game. I used one to create a new banner for my family blog. If you just have to see them, go check out So-So Cal Cinema, the Mary-LUE family blog.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sleeping with What?

For those of you who are newish to my little universe, I have a meme that I started called Sleeping with Bread. Examining that which gives me consolation and that which causes me desolation is one way to keep me grounded and grateful. I actually set up a blog dedicated to linking up other Sleeping with Bread posts. This summer I took a little sabbatical from my weekly baking. For an extremely unstructured person, I was feeling a little burned out--not on the exercise but on the weekly execution of it. It is time to get back in the habit, though. A few new people have started participating and while my schedule is crazy right now, I think it is healthy for me to take the time to reflect, even when I feel I don't have the time--especially then.

So, this week, I look back and consider when I felt the most fragmented and when I felt the most whole.

Feeling Fragmented

This is easy. How about every day of the week? The weight of a lot of new responsibilities has been weighing on me heavily and evidencing itself in a nervous stomach, irritability and mixing up my words. I'm letting things get to me that I shouldn't and I'm not opening myself up to things that I should. It sucks.

Feeling Whole

Two things stand out to me from this past week. One, I felt most whole when I finally sent myself to my room to spend some time with God. I indulged in two books, Celtic Daily Prayer and Sacred Space. I journaled my responses (in a journal that hadn't been touched in too, too long). I breathed in. I exhaled out. I set aside the worries of my days and acknowledged that I was allowing my fragmented feelings to take control and let in other feelings of anger and bitterness. I asked God for his help. (What a novel concept!) Now, I just have to accept it.

The second thing is a simple one. I took my son and three of his friends to go swimming at the university pool. Our family went several times this summer and Colin was looking forward to sharing the experience with his friends. (The big appeal is the diving pool with two regular diving boards and one high dive.) He'd tried to work things out a few times but I was too busy with unexpected things which came up. I felt whole because I was getting a chance to give my son something he wanted and because of the joy I felt in just watching these adolescent boys go crazy in that pool. Front flips, back flips, cannonballs. They did it all--over and over again. The in-the-moment joy they experienced transmitted itself to me. My heart felt lifted and lightweight.

If you are interested in finding out more about Sleeping with Bread, you can go to the SWB blog or check out Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life. There is also an excellent version for children called Making Heart-bread. What I especially love about the children's version is that I think it is also an excellent tool for helping children learn to recognized their emotions.

Sleeping with Bread is a Christian exercise but it isn't Christian only. I encourage you to try it. I think you'll like it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

My Virtual Trophy Case

I've been blessed with an embarassment of riches in the bloggy bling department lately.

First, Mommy off the Record nominated me for my first Perfect Post. The concept of grief as it applies to sending your beloved child off to school in my rerun of Kindergarten
hit close to home for her. Thanks MotR!

Perfect Post Award for August 2007

And in rapid succession, I was awarded the following awards -

From Aliki at World of One Thousand Different Things:

From Sophie at A Hole in the Fence:

And finally, from Julie at Julie Pippert: Using My Words (formerly the Ravin' Picture Maven:

Thanks to everyone who gave me these acknowledgements and who also said nice things about me. It is truly a blessing at this time when I am feeling a little out of my element. By my own choosing, my life has been turned upside down. A little love from some friends feels nice right now.

(I'll pass these on officially sometime in the next couple of weeks. I wanted to say thanks now before I forget.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A brief update... just in case you were wondering.

Not good: Humidity making the temperature feel 5 - 10 degrees hotter than it really is.

It could be worse: It is only in the 80s with a "RealFeel" in the low 90s. A few days ago, it was 105 pickin' degrees with a RealFeel of who-cares-anymore.


Not good: Stubbed my toe. Ouch! Ouchity-ouch-ouch!

It is worse: It is the same toe I stubbed, broke, whatever last Spring. The one that hurts for weeks and weeks and still hurts on occasion if I wear the wrong shoes.

Not good: Tomorrow is Thursday. THURSDAY! Thursday is my long, long day. I spend it trying to get things accomplished, like reading chapters on Content Area Literacy and the APA Publication Manual, before 3:30 when I head over to school for 5 to 6 hours of classes. I come home exhausted but hyper and hungry.

It could be worse: I turned into loner-Grad-school-chick tonight and blasted through almost all of my reading and some miscellaneous assignments. Tomorrow I just have to get my work done at the church office, read one chapter on study skills (a timely chapter, I have to say), and prepare a mini-class for Marley's class on poetry recitation. Really, it could be worse.

Good: My husband is in town. He installed the small window unit-air conditioner in our bedroom so I can sleep. He took care of everything from 4:00 p.m. on tonight, including getting a grande, decaf mocha. Ahhhh. Yummy.

It could be better: Where's my maid? I need a maid. There is shrapnel from Point A to Point B in this house, worse than usual, and I just can't do anything about it. Too hot. Too busy. Too much in need of temporary vegetative state.

Eh, not so great: I've been too busy to comment on blogs the last few days. I feel like I'm missing out. I've read a few posts, but not too many. I don't like that my time is so tight and my energy for even reading blogs is so low right now.

It could be worse: Once things cool off and the school routine gets going, I'm sure it will be better. I know that my class work will intensify but I'll manage. And you guys aren't going anywhere, right? You'll still be waiting for me when I have a few moments to visit, right?
Anybody there?