Monday, January 26, 2015

Gratitude Journal #261

Today, I am grateful it snowed on a Monday off from school...convenient, that.

Today, I am grateful for Jack's IEP team and for their genuine concern for Jack's education and success.

Today, I am grateful for my church and the sense of community it provides.

Today, I am grateful for Barnes and Noble.

Today, I am grateful for laughter, which really is the best medicine.


Today, I'm grateful for donuts.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Goethe and Strangers in Parking Lots

"Each one sees what he carries in his heart." Goethe

One day last fall, I was walking to my car after buying absolutely nothing at a craft store. (Yay, me!) A woman in front of me locked her elderly car with a real key and walked toward the store, a bit unsteady in heels and overdressed for a morning of craft shopping.

Her body language caught my attention, even at a distance, and made me think of a beaten puppy...shoulders drawn up, back hunched, head down, trying to make herself smaller.

As she drew closer, I caught her eye and smiled. Her face lit up in a beautiful smile, her shoulders went down, and I realized she was extremely tall and thin. For a moment, just a moment, she made eye contact. Then, her eyes hit the pavement again, and she turtled down, putting up her defenses, withdrawing into her shell.

It broke my heart.

Each one sees what he carries in his heart. I've smiled at a lot of strangers in parking lots, especially since I began easing into mindfulness last summer. Sometimes, people don't see, sometimes they see and don't react, but mostly they smile back, comfortably, to another human, an equal.

This woman, however, couldn't comfortably accept a smile from a stranger in a parking lot. What sort of abuse, what sort of shame beats down a human being so completely? I have no idea and cannot imagine.

But her brilliant smile and its quick, absolute disappearance still haunt me.

I pray she finds love and peace and compassion and kindness...and that they change what she carries in her heart. I also pray my smile helped her, even in just a small way, even though I will never know.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why Imagination Is So Much Fun


This reminds me of browsing a used book store in Madison with my sister-in-law Angela last September. The dusty smell of magic; the sense of discovering important, hidden, forgotten secrets; rounding a corner and seeing an ancient, giant book press and wanting to take it home....

For his imaginative adventures, my son Nick prefers the woods, where he can fight off lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!) with nothing more than a pocket knife and a wizard's staff.

Where do you have adventures of imagination? Don't you dare say you're too old for them. If your imagination has had too little exercise lately, warm it up and give it some love!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Gratitude Journal #260

Today, I am grateful for smart, respectful, compassionate people who know when to say nothing.

Today, I am grateful for tissues.

Today, I am grateful for this picture, which pretty much sums up our weather lately.


Today, I am grateful for schools that take icy conditions seriously.

Today, I am grateful for leftovers...delicious ones that make me say, "Yum." Thanks, George.

Today, I am grateful for paper and the trees that gave their lives to make it.

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

As I've contemplated finding a new word for 2015, it occurs to me that my original plan to have a word a month for 2014 died back in April.

I'm really not good at this sort of thing.

In the fall, I did a prayer study called The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Batterson encourages his readers to make a list of life goals, and I honestly found this exercise incredibly difficult. What do I want?

Good question. I don't have a good answer.

Over my 48 years, I've had lots of answers that mostly ended up being wrong. I've made plans that never happened the way I'd envisioned, despite my best efforts. And I have watched others miss blessings because they were too focused, too determined to follow their plan. I've seen negativity and resentment of plans unfulfilled drag down some of the most blessed people I know. These experiences have lead me to resist planning too much, resist limiting my life to just what I want. To paraphrase Professor Dumbledore, people do have a habit of wanting what's worst for them.

My life is an example of blessings unplanned.

Or, at least, unplanned by me.

Various opportunities have popped up, and I've seized them. Perhaps that's my gift: to seize the blessings as they arise and to trust that they will, indeed, arise as needed. I don't have to control everything anymore, and that keeps me looking for whatever blessings life has to offer. It's quite the adventure, and I'm happy with it.

So what are my resolutions for 2015? Looking back over the years, a few have stood out as broadly successful. Cultivating gratitude. Learning new things. Making stuff. This year, I'd like to continue cultivating gratitude for all these unplanned blessings. I'd like to learn some new things...specifically, a few Bible studies but also whatever else pops up in front of me. I'd like to make stuff, especially my book and more writing on my blogs. I'd like to continue to treat myself kindly and to treat others kindly as well.

That seems good enough.

What are your goals or resolutions for 2015? Please share!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

We're Doing Something Right

One of the most annoying things about parenting is how little confidence you can have, at any given moment, that your parenting choices are right. Too often, George and I look at each other and ask, "How do we respond to this situation?" We're working blind, here, folks, feeling our way forward with what we hope is enough love to repair any damage we unintentionally inflict.

And we still might not know for years if what we're doing today will work or will backfire spectacularly.

Take the subject of reading, for instance. George and I are, to state it mildly, bibliomaniacs. We always have been. Neither of us can imagine life without books. We don't just read. We devour. And yet from very young ages, our two sons said things like "I hate reading" or "Do we have to go to Barnes & Noble? Again!?!?" When Jack was little, he would get off my lap and walk away if I started reading to him. Nick had a little more tact, but not much patience.

Who are these kids? Where did they come from? Not our loins, surely. Our loins are far too well-read to produce book-hating rug rats.

In the book Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner analyze the numbers and argue that readers are not made by spending hours on parents' laps being read to, but rather by being exposed to books at home and in libraries. Simply having access to books--not actually reading them--made the difference. I rejoiced at this freaky statistical finding. It gave me hope.

For years now, George and I have dragged the boys to Barnes & Noble and made them do their 20-minutes-a-night reading and taken them to libraries. We have read in front of them daily and left books lying all over the house. We have filled shelves in their rooms with age-appropriate books. We saturated their lives with the written word, despite their apparent allergy to it.

Results to date are somewhat mixed.

This Christmas, I gave Jack, our 12-year-old, two Magic Treehouse books and a timer/bookmark. On Christmas Day, we had the following conversation:

Jack: Mom, why did you buy me books for Christmas?

Me: Because your teacher told me you liked the Magic Treehouse books, and since you have to read chapter books every night, I thought you'd appreciate them.

Jack: Hm. Really?

Me: Say, "Thank you, mommy, for the books."

Jack: Thank you, mommy, for the books.

Me: You're welcome. I hope you enjoy them.

Jack: Hm.

Me: [sigh]

Nick, who is now 15, claimed to hate reading for years, but then discovered comic books. As much as I don't understand the appeal, comic books are, at least technically, books, so we've tried to encourage his passion, but have you seen comic books lately? Heaven above, they are violent, sexualized, and dark! What happened to The Archies? Our parents never had to worry about screening comic books...but that's just what George and I do.

Recently, however, we've seen signs of hope that our firstborn might actually become a serious reader. Last year, he started reading the Harry Potter series (still not finished). Then The Hunger Games series (almost finished). Then The Hobbit (finished last week).

He's far quicker to put a book down than George and I are, but at least he's reading. He even wants to start The Lord of the Rings soon. Dare I hope that at least one of our children will follow in our bibliophilic footsteps?

I don't want to celebrate prematurely and scare the kid off, but he certainly made me proud at Christmas dinner. Each of us shared what we are grateful for, and Nick said, "I'm grateful for stories. I'm grateful for the brilliant minds that write stories to inspire us and shape us and teach us."


Maybe, just maybe, loving Stan Lee will lead him to love Shakespeare or Joyce or Austen. But for now, I'm more than happy to settle for J.R.R. Tolkien. After all, The Lord of the Rings is one of the ten books I'd want if stranded on a deserted island.

Because, you know, it is an amazing story.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Gratitude Journal #259

Today, I am grateful for tissues. Boxes and boxes of tissues. And for over-the-counter cold medicine. And that George, Nick, and I only have colds, and not the flu or some other nastiness. I am grateful for Jack's killer immune system that has kept him well through all the coughing.

Today, I am grateful for George and Nick and their search for the perfect Christmas gifts for me. They went with the theme relaxation, and gave me a Keurig, a shoulder massage machine, and an iPod shuffle to be loaded with classical and jazz music. Thanks, guys!

Today, I am grateful for tasty cow.

Today, I am grateful for a peaceful, relaxing Christmas. I am grateful for the peaceful, relaxing Christmas Eve candlelight service and the wonderful message given by Pastor Suzanne. I am grateful for the many blessings of this year that ended in the peaceful celebration of Jesus. May this coming year be as blessed!

"I got movies and a light saber and two cans of Pringles
sour cream and onion chips and cold, hard, cash. Yay!"

"Can't talk. Chewing."

"May I have some of your Pringles?"

"I got an iPad. Best. Christmas. Ever."

"I got an iPad and am now baking scones at oh-dark-thirty
in the morning."

What are you grateful for today?