Thursday, January 31, 2008

In Recognition

of a 4.0 gpa this marking period, I am surprising LM with tickets to:

tomorrow night. LM has no idea.
He hasn't even seen the commercials,
or read the brochure, or even the description:
"Winner of the 2001 Tony Award® for “Best Special Theatrical Event” and the 2001 Emmy Award for “Best Choreography,” BLAST! is comprised of 37 brass, percussion and visual performers brought together in a unique explosion of music and theatre. BLAST! is a novel art form evolved from the showmanship of outdoor pageantry."

He hasn't even seen the pictures.
The ones that would make his jaw drop and his eyes bug out of this head.

My boy, my trumpet playing, percussion loving, boy

just might pee his pants a little.

(I can't wait!)

The Dance

I was at school to pick up LM on Tuesday and happened to see a sign for the Valentine's Day Dance. Later, I asked him if he was buying the tickets of if his date was (since she asked him).

"Tickets? I didn't know we needed tickets!"

"They are only $5, it's not a big deal. I'll give you the money for the tickets. I was surprised (but secretly delighted) to see that the dance was right after school from 3-5 on that Thursday."

"What?! I thought it was during school! I don't want to stay after school for a dance!"

Apparently, if he had only known some of the details, he might have given a very different answer when asked to go.

The Shack - Young

When Stacy recommends a book, I don't waste any time getting my hands on it. I was only aware that this book struck her in ways that pushed her Christian thinking outside the box i some areas - I knew nothing else about the journey I was about to embark upon. Yesterday was a snow day, so I thought it was the perfect time to begin reading. It turns out, it was the perfect day to devour a book and be let with so many thoughts and questions happily swirling in my mind that I know this will not be a book I forget anytime soon.

I really don't want to say much about this book other than to recommend it to everyone I know (which is exactly what the back cover said I'll want to do). Greatly and unjustly simplified, it is an account of a Christian man's struggle to understand the purpose of evil in this world. While I find myself a skeptic whenever an experience is related to me that I cannot reconcile with the tangible world, I know there are times when things occur that cannot be explained with anything tangible. Whether or not you believe that the events of this novel took place as written the concepts of God, judgment, evil, and perception are still as intriguging and thought-provoking. I could declare Mack's account as hogwash and still spend days or weeks in theological debate over some of the ideas presented.

Before leaving you with a direct invitation to follow Mack's journey for yourself, I want to assure you that I cannot fathom any way that the implications of this novel would be offensive to anyone's faith in God. By 'thought-provoking' and 'intriguing', I only mean that in the most positive ways, my understanding of God and love and faith has been broadened by this novel.

I would already be re-reading this novel if only I hadn't felt so compelled to share it that Iimmediately placed it in the mail to a friend of mine whom I know will greatly enjoy it - and will respond with incredible thoughts and questions. Go get a copy for yourself - while you're there, pick up an extra, I guarantee you'll think of so many people to share it with before you're done.

As always, thank you, Stacy.

Fall On Your Knees - MacDonald

I think this was a library book sale choice, another book I picked up knowing very little at all about the plot. I even violated my own rule of never buying a book with "Oprahs' Book Club" stamped on the front. But who's to be picky when it's $1?

Fall On Your Knees is an epic tale. Spanning generations, this novel takes the reader in and around characters within one family, mainly four sisters, like a rollercoaster ride with many twists and turns, plunges and steep climbs. But instead of leaving my heart racing and my hands gripping the wheel while I screamed for more, I found this novel difficult to get in to initially, and unappealing in many places. While I was curious in the end to see the explanations and choices that led up to some of the events that had taken place earlier in the pages, I could have just as easily set the book down and never picked it up again. The setting, the characters, the challenges, the choices, the behaviors were all so foreign - things I could not begin to relate to nor understand - that I struggled to find personal meaning in the book at all.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Edwards

I don't know when I first heard of this book, but it has been in the back of my mind for a few months now. I picked it up over Christmas with a gift certificate and again, did not so much as read the back cover before I started reading. I finished this bok a few weeks ago, but just haven't sat down to write a review until now.

The critical decision upon which the entire plot is based happens within the first few pages of the book. The reader is immediately caught up in the moral choice of a father to sequester away a daughter born with Down Syndrome, telling his wife that this twin did not survive birth.

I had a difficult time swallowing the events that followed. Of believing that it could be so simple for the daughter to end up in another's hands, eventually skirted away to a distant city to be raised. My heart ached for the mother; completely unaware of her daughter's life, processing her grief and heartache while hr knowing husband keeps silent.

The novel takes us through two decades of time. We witness the effects of the lie, the walls constructed to protect the liar, the lie, and the truth from being set free. It is no surprise the difficulties that arise in the marriage.

What was surprising to me, however, was how the characters reacted to the truth. How the author tried to demonstrate to the reader that the father never let go of the idea of his daughter despite never retracting his lie- never giving his family the right to know. I was angered by his selfishness; angered by his success; angered at what he perceived love to be about; angered that the worst that came to him was living with the lie.

I can clearly see how the plot has attracted a readership with its uniqueness. I can see how some are drawn in to play witness to the idea of redemtive love. For me, however, it was too easy, it didn't come at a high enough price, the regret wasn't deep enough to feel tangible. It is the wife, in the end, who is left to demonstrate forgiveness, love, and innocent regret. It was never a question to me that the wife was capable of these things from the start. She was just never given the chance to be by the one who supposedly loved her most.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Today's Highs and Lows

He was a little too eager for H.A.L.T. tonight. Said he already knew what his highs and lows were going to be. He worked on S.A.T. practice while I got dinner together and then after grace was said I jumped right into H.A.L.T. eager to hear his answers.

But LM wouldn't rush the moment. He insisted I go first.

"Fine. My low today is that I ran out of quarters before I ran out of laundry. Now you."

"My low is that my arm hurt today."

"That's your low? We waited all night for that?"

"No, you're waiting for my high."

"Oh, fine, what's your high?"

"No, you go first," he insisted.

"Fine. Kill me with the suspense. My high is that while I didn't sub today, I am booked for 9 of the next 11 days."

"Wow, Mom, that's awesome!"

"Now, what's this high that you've had tucked in your mind for so long today?"

"Tyisha asked me to the Valentine's Day dance today - just as friends."

I'm not sure what was the more significant indicator that my Little Man is growing up - that he's off to his first dance next month or that being asked by a girl fell under his high of the day.

Either way, I think my "thanks" for the day will be that he waited until I didn't have food in my mouth when he told me. I certainly would have choked. And then I would have to revise my low.

Friday, January 25, 2008

We're Not in PA Anymore

I was standing by the front entrance of the school, waiting for my students to come out of gym class when he walked in. It was the two helmets he carried that made me suspicious. "I'm certain with the amount of snow we have on the ground out there that you didn't ride a motorcycle here," I said to him. He laughed. "Nope, brought the snowmobile."

"You are here to pick up a student from school on a snowmobile?" I said in astonishment.

"Yeah, my little sister. It's a great day to be in the snow!"

"Do you live very far from here?" I asked.

"Not very, just down the street around the curve. You can see our house set way back there."

We never had so much snow, or had snow for so long, or had such a rural area where we lived in PA that I would EVER have seen someone come to pick up their student from school on a snowmobile.

But now that we're here, I have to admit, doesn't that sound so cool?! I mean, if I were 10 years old, I would LOVE that! Now I'm just wondering how long it will take me to save up for the remote car starter...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Practice

"Live! From the Eliza Jane household, we're here on the scene as LM takes his first practice SAT test. Ms. Jane told us earlier that this practice session has been planned now for several days."

"When we found out about the SAT requirement last Tuesday, we immediately put together a plan for evaluation, study and practice. We just want to make sure that LM is as prepared as possible to do his best on the test."

"Ms. Jane, are you at all nervous about the outcome of his scores?"

"I'm only nervous that he won't really try his best. If LM does the best he can do then his scores are the best he can get. If he doesn't meet the requirements for the Gifted Program, we'll know that it's because he's not academically at that level, not because he just wasn't prepared."

"For this practice session, what are you most concerned about?"


"I really wanted to get this one under our belt so that LM knows exactly what the test is like. As we go forward and work on specific examples, he'll have a better idea of how these problems directly relate to those on the exam. My main concern this evening is that LM will buckle under the strain of four hours of testing."

"Did you ever consider dividing it up into shorter segments? This is, after all, only a practice test."

"Since one of my main concerns about the actual testing is LM's ability to focus and concentrate for the duration, I want to give him several opportunities over the next few weeks to test under similar conditions. His endurance is as much part of what's being tested as his mathematical and verbal acumen. We need to practice that as well."

"How are things going so far?"


"Not as well as I had hoped, to be honest. We've completed the first section, there are ten altogether, and he was finished with several minutes left to go. It was the essay section and he didn't spend the time going back over his work, proofreading, adding details or reworking the organization at all. I don't see any indentations demarking paragraphs and I don't see any signs of revision, meaning he just wrote in a stream of consciousness. We have our work cut out for us in this area."


"Ms. Jane, we appreciate your candor. We'll check back in as the evening progresses to see how LM is holding up under the strain."

As the fourth section winds to a close...

"Ms. Jane, how is LM progressing? Do you see any initial signs of strain?"

"No, LM appears to be holding up well. He has to be reminded, however, that he can't talk, can't whisper, can't hum, can't stand, can't tap his pencil, can't throw his pencil in disgust, can't yell at the cat..."

"How do you think he'll hold up under the extreme real-life testing conditions when he sits for the duration flanked by high school students?"

"I'm not sure. I worry that he'll come out beat to a pulp for being a distraction during their testing. We're going to have to work on it."

"Other than that, how does LM seem to be doing?"

"As we approach the dinner break, I'd say he's doing fairly well. I'll have a quick discussion with him over dinner and I'll have a better impression for you after that."

"Excellent. Again, we thank you, Ms. Jane for this inside-look at the pre-testing affects on an eleven year old as he prepares to take the SAT in two months. We'll check back in after dinner. Back to you, Roarke."

Following the Dinner Break:

"Ms. Jane! Ms. Jane! How was he? Does he show signs of fatigue? Is he visibly changed from the pressure? How is he holding up?"

"We just finished the dinner break. I asked LM how he thought it was going. He said there was some terminology in the Reading and the Mathematical sections that he was unfamiliar with."

"That's it? He didn't cry? Did he eat or did the stress affect his appetite?"

"LM ate as usual. A crab cake, small piece of chicken, a few devilled eggs and some fruit. He wasn't visibly upset, although, he did seem rather concerned when he found out the testing would take place on a Saturday morning. That news he didn't like hearing at all."

"Ms. Jane, tell us, do you think your Mother-of-the-Year status is in jeopardy?"

"I'm certain that without a significant rally on my part during the latter part of the year, my reign as MOTY will be short-lived. However, LM's birthday is in May, following the testing dates, and there might be opportunities over the summer for me to try to make up for lost points. The best tactic I could take would be to make his summer so memorable that he forgets about this testing altogether."

"What happens if he gets the scores needed but then absolutely loathes the program and curriculum in the fall?"

"Well, then you'd certainly see my MOTY award go up in smoke! We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Right now, I need to get back to the test and make sure we're plugging along with the last five sections of the test."

"There you have it, straight from the mother herself. We'll check in at the end, one last time, to see how LM is holding up. We're going to try for an interview with the student, but his mom has told us the interview is dependent upon his physical and mental condition at the completion of the practice test. Oh, and also on how far it is past his bedtime. We'll keep you updated and we'll cut in with any breaking news. Roarke, back to you in the studio."

Breaking News...

"We have just learned that LM has completed the practice test. We're trying to get a statement from Ms. Jane....LeRoy, see if you can get the camera over by that door - Ms Jane! Ms. Jane! Channel 10 News! Ms. Jane!"

"Yes?"

"How is LM? Did he survive the practice test?"

"LM is fine. His breathing is normal, his heartrate seems to be normal. There is no indication that he has suffered any major physical ailments from the stress. He seems, well, normal."

"Are you saying he came through his first SAT practice session completely unscathed?"

"Well, I do think he's tired. And he was asking for a snack, but otherwise, yes, I think he's really just fine."

"Did he say anything about the test itself? Any comments at all on the content, the difficulty level, the length, anything?"

"He said that it felt long, especially right towards the end of the four hours. He said sections 7, 8 and 9 seemed especially difficult but that overall, he thought the test was actually easier than he had anticpated."

"Easier?! Are you sure you heard him correctly, Ms. Jane?"

"Well, I assure you, we won't be assuming that the test really was easy for LM until we have scored the test and see how well he performed."

"Do you know what scored you are aiming for, Ms. Jane?"

"Yes, the Gifted Program did share with us the general guidelines for admission. We're aware of what numbers we need to hit for acceptance. We'll just have to see if he's reasonably close to any of them. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get LM a snack and then get him off to bed. He's had a long night."

"Ms. Jane, one last question. What's the next step in the process?"

"We'll score the test and see if there are any specific areas that stand out as trouble areas. We'll spend time each evening going over information and example problems. It will just take some time to get LM comfortable with the logical process to answering many of these questions. We have 5 weeks to prepare. I think we have plenty of time."

"Ms. Jane we thank you again for your candor. We wish you and LM the best during this SAT prep time. We'll check back in and see how he scores on the practice exam as well as the actual SAT on March 1st. For everyone here at Channel 10, this has been Brian O'Donnell with a special SAT report. Goodnight."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

18-0

Arizona, here we come!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Money Well Spent

The boy? The one that's so mad at me he's in the kitchen and hasn't spoken to me for the last two hours?

Just said, "How do you spell 'animal'?"

This, only three days after he spent Christmas money buying himself a new dictionary and thesaurus at the bookstore.


I.Kid.You.Not.

T.G.I.F?

It feels like it's been a long week somehow. Certainly feels like forever ago that I had a day full of so many celebrations. I arrived home tonight exhausted, with a bag full of groceries to make a quick but yummy dinner.

Unfortunately, it was one of those days around here. Days when chores were only half done. Days when items were left on the kitchen table again despite multiple conversations about picking them up. A day like many others when my child would rather play with the laptop (old but refurbished) that his dad gave him for Christmas than do a thorough job of anything else around the house.

And so I got mad. And I revoked. And I talked sternly. And I consequenced. And I took away his privilege to be on said computer. And his right to breathe, and I said I would next take away his very right to blood in his veins. Or something like that. All that parenting jargon kinda gets thrown right into the heat of the battle.

And so we ate the delicious turkey dinner in silence.

And we've been in separate rooms ever since.

And while he knows I've said my peace and I'm not going to talk sternly any longer, he's still keeping his distance. And so am I.


This hereby officially marks the first time since the move that I wish it were a "Daddy Weekend".

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In His Time

I didn't move to Michigan ever thinking for a moment that I would teach again. Never crossed my mind. I only started subbing because temping was so slow and there were bills to be paid. But one foot back in the classroom and I knew this is where I was meant to be. I had known it all those years ago, too, but somewhere in the being a mom and being out east, it got lost and I forgot.

But then I fell in love with teaching again, but I worried. I worried that Michigan would take one look at my expired Illinois license and proclaim me remarkably delinquent and would require years or at least semesters of coursework to be re-certified. But then I had a glimmer that maybe, just maybe they wouldn't. Maybe, just maybe it was going to work out okay.

And then I had to mail in 3 days worth of subbing money by check to the state along with official transcripts and a letter from the YMCA stating I had in fact taken First Aid and CPR. (If I ever wonder why on earth I was employed by the Y for two months, I understand it now. I needed those two classes.) And then the state told me to wait.

And so I've waited. I promised Jacob I'd take him out to dinner if and when the state ever acknowledged my Illinois certificate and said I could teach in Michigan.

And I waited some more. For eight weeks.

And every day I've waited for the mail, just hoping, just hoping.

Tonight we came home and I carried in the mail without having a chance to look at it. And I started dinner and while it was cooking I stopped and flipped through the envelopes. And there it was, the big one from the Department of Education. I stood for a moment thinking it was awfully big and awfully heavy. It will probably say I need the following four classes and here's where I can them and here's the thousands it will cost me in tuition dollars.

But it didn't.

It said I can teach.

Right now today, I can teach.

And within the year I need to take two teaching tests, similar to ones I took all those years ago in Illinois. And if I want to, I could take one more test and that would certify me to teach Middle School Language Arts if ever I so dreamed.

But I could teach. Right now today.

And if that wasn't awesome enough, we snarfed dinner, jumped in the car, grabbed an ice cream cake and showed up on my sister's doorstep to celebrate. Good news is certainly multiplied when shared!

Let the job hunt officially begin!

And the Award Goes To...

In addition to the Worst Mother of the Year Award already being handed out, today I am officially giving out the 2008 Brother-in-Law of the Year Award. I know, again, it's only January, but still.

Over the last couple months, I have been fighting with my windshield washer fluid. I thought I was just out, but no, even when I refilled, it had trouble spraying. I worked on it one day in my sister's driveway and it would work and then a few days later it wouldn't. When we drove to Illinois a couple weeks ago, I had to keep stopping to clean off the windshield. At the hotel, Bear took it all apart and blew through the tubes and tested it and did his best to fix it. He actually made it worse, at that point, but I gave him huge points for just attempting to solve the issue.

Today, I was on my way to pick up LM when Bear called. Puzzled as to why he was calling me, I answered quizzically. "Two things. One: I ordered new parts for your windshield washer fluid. They cost $6 apiece and should be in by the end of the week. I'll install them for you. Two: I'm having a poker night at my house in a couple weeks, you're welcome to come play cards with us if you'd like."

I was speechless. I'm certain I said something like, "Um, uh, whu? Ussa, what'sit?"

I was just stunned. I haven't had any one else take care of something on my car in years!! I was dreading the call to the mechanic and then sitting there while they fix it, and then it costing $234 because it was $50 to diagnose the problem, $50 for parts and $134 for installation.

Sometimes it's just the little things that can make such a huge difference. I cannot explain how grateful I was to Bear for thinking about this problem and finding an easy solution for me. It really means the world.

Oh and the invite to the poker game? Just icing on the cake.

Thanks, Bear.

Testing Testing

I attended LM's "Academically Talented" conferences today. He is pulled out one day a week from school to participate in accelerated curriculum. Today I met with his AT teachers for the first time. I signed in, listing my child's name, my name, the school LM attends and the time of my arrival. Suffice it to say, old habits die hard as when they came out and asked for Mrs. Man (LM's last name, my married name) I immediately jumped up and responded, never once correcting them and saying that I actually go by my maiden name of Miss Jane. D'oh.

The conference was interesting. (LM is doing just fine, don't worry. They aren't kicking him out - yet.) Despite the fact that we were in a building that used to be the high school, we seemed limited on the number of rooms available for conferences. Therefore three teachers were holding conferences in the same room. And LM's teacher? Spoke soooo loudly I was glad she had positive things to say about my child. "He's a moron!" would have reverberated for hours with her voice.

The most interesting part was when I asked about next year's program. We had only found out about this program (Avant Garde) when we spoke with someone in the Administrative building before moving. We only knew the basics. If LM was gifted, this is where he needed to be. And so he is. But I didn't know what happened for next year and the Avant Garde program only goes up to 6th grade. That's when she said, "Well, LM is taking the SAT's this month, right?"

The SAT's? You mean the PSAT's? The tests that are the pre-pre-pre SAT's?

Nope, the SAT's. The real ones. The ones you take in high school.

Um, no, actually, we hadn't scheduled that on our list of things to do in sixth grade.

Yeah, well, we should have gotten a letter and he'll need to register and take the SAT's before the end of the year, preferably in March, so they can place him in next year's Academically Talented Youth Program that actually meets one afternoon every week at the local university.

Um, yeah, so he needs to take the SAT's now?

Yep.

Uh huh. But he'll be with other 11 and 12 year olds when he takes the test?

Oh, no. He'll be with high schoolers mainly.

Oh my.

So, we stopped by Barnes and Noble on the way home and bought ourselves the Barrow's 23rd edition of the SAT prep book (with sample tests!) and we're adding that to the list of things I'm homeschooling LM in after school each day. Goodness me.

I'm glad I never took the SAT (I took the ACT). I'd be really embarrassed if LM scored higher than me 5 years younger.

It's Only January 15th...

...but you can already breathe easier, moms.

The Worst Mother of the Year Award is already been handed out. (Not to me, you sillies!!)

Yesterday, while taking attendance in a third grade classroom, I remarked that Kate appeared to be absent. A couple classmates chimed in that Kate is always a few minutes late on Mondays. I replied with a casual, "yeah, Mondays are rough ones, aren't they?" only to be met with the unbelievable explanation. The classmates seemed to be under the impression that Kate was actually at.....PIANO LESSONS.

When Kate did arrive (and she wasn't but more than two minutes late at the most) I inquired. "Kate? Did you just come from piano lessons?" She nodded. "Before school?" She nodded. "On a MONDAY?" She just chuckled and nodded again. "I've been doing that for nearly two years now," she remarked.

Now that is one mean mother.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008

When It Bites You In the Rear

I've explained before my neurosis about books. I don't want to read the back cover or the inside flap - it gives too much of the plot away. I might was well skip to page 223 once I've read the back cover; no need for laying any ground work, it's all been covered by the synopsis on the back.

Sometimes this gets me into trouble.

I recently went to Heaven on Earth (aka Barnes and Noble) with a gift card I received for Christmas. I found one book I had been wanting to read (Memory Keeper's Daughter - up next) but actually had trouble finding a second. It's unheard of, believe me. Clerks, managers and patrons alike all stopped breathlessly waiting for the world to start turning again. No one could believe that Amy could walk into a book store with money in hand and NOT find 10 times that amount in books to purchase. I nearly left the store with money still on the gift card (an absolutely absurd thought in my book - no pun intended) but saw this book on a table in the middle of all the aisles and picked it up. I've heard the title numerous times. I'm certain someone I know has read it and talked about it but now, when I'd like to remember what they said and punch them in the gut if it was good things, I can't recall who said anything at all about it.

"Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris, is not, as I had imagined, about someone who had a learning disability as a child who has since overcome it and gone on to do remarkable, noteworthy, novel-worthy things with their life. Oh no. What it is about I couldn't concisely say. Except to say it's crap.

Now looking at the back cover with quotes like "Wildly entertaining", "If wit were measured in people, David Sedaris would be China: his talent is that huge", "one of the wittiest writers around", "most sidesplitting work to date". I could go on, these imbicile critics certainly do.

I'm quick to realize that we all have different tastes. I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with me about the books I like. But I cannot for the life of me find ONE SINGLE THING funny about this book. In all 272 pages I did not laugh once. Not once. I cringed no less than 20 times. I nearly choked on my lunch several times while reading this but not because something so funny shot milk up my nose, no, more for a gag -reflex effect.

This book is crude. It's offensive. It's disrespectful. It's crap. I find no better way to express it than that.

I absolutely hated this book.

More significantly, I am horrified at the nation that I live in to realize that we, the people, made this book a #1 National Bestseller. And I, in my ignorance contributed to his wealth and success.

Beyond all the questions swirling in my mind over who read this book and enjoyed it (and please Lord, don't make me be related to or eventually marry them) I have but one compelling question left on my mind - what do I do now with this copy I have? I can't return it. I wouldn't pass this along to anyone willingly. I wouldn't want to donate it to a library and in any way spread this text as some sort of comical view on life. I have never in my life thrown away a book but I just might start with this one. The only better idea I have is to burn it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Chasing Fireflies - Martin

I fell in love with Martin's writing when I stumbled upon "Wrapped in Rain" a couple years ago. Like Nicholas Sparks, Charles Martin writes novels that are wholesome without being predictable or bland. Realistically human characters with lives as simple and yet complex as our own travel along through part of their life's journey while we, and our hearts, come along for the ride.

I had stumbled across Martin's book a few months ago in the library card catalog, but the book was still being reviewed by the librarians (what a job!) and not available for checkout. Remembering how much I loved Rain, I decided to splurge and buy myself (and a friend) the book for Christmas. I have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to read it and finally sat down yesterday and devoured it all in one big gulp. (I love days like that, and I was so grateful that the novel didn't disappoint.)

Chasing Fireflies is a story about families. Families created by blood and families created by love. It was a reminder that sometimes, blood is the one tie that binds us to another. It was a reminder in many ways of my desire to be a foster parent. It is a story about truth, about redemption and about how far we will go to protect those that we love most. In the end, we are reminded, it's love that matters most.

For a great, easy, heartwarming read, I highly recommend Martin and especially Chasing Fireflies.

(A word of caution, don't look at the author's picture when you read this novel. He looks to be about 21. With a wife and three kids. And SEVERAL novels to date. It might be Christian Fiction, but I'm green with envy!)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Meet Joe Black

I love this movie, mainly for this quote:

"Love is passion, obsession, someone you can't live without. If you don't start with that, what are you going to end up with? Fall head over heels. I say find someone you can love like crazy and who'll love you the same way back. And how do you find him? Forget your head and listen to your heart. I'm not hearing any heart. Run the risk, if you get hurt, you'll come back. Because, the truth is there is no sense living your life without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love - well, you haven't lived a life at all. You have to try. Because if you haven't tried, you haven't lived. All I'm saying is, be open. Who knows? Maybe lightning will strike."



All this and Brad Pitt's smile....and to think I was going to bed early tonight.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Legacy

There is a picture, somewhere in all our collections, of my mother with her arm around my grandmother's shoulder, hugging her in the driveway at the farm. I can picture it so vividly in my mind. My mom had on her wig that was short and straight, and her glasses that tinted in the sunlight. My grandma was in a skirt, as she always was, and there was a car behind them I believe, although the details of whose it might be escapes me. It's the smiles on their faces that I can picture the best. We lived five hours from both sets of grandparents and going home to her parents on the farm had to be my mother's favorite place on earth to visit.

I fully expect this scene, this embrace, these joyous smiles were shared once again, between a mother and a daughter who have been separated for 14 1/2 years when they were once again reunited in heaven on New Year's morning when my grandma passed away around 5 am.

My grandmother meant as much to me as my own mother, perhaps because, in my mother's absence, it was my grandmother's voice, her stories, her love, her laughter that could capture that same place in my heart that my mom did. Gram has always been the strong one. She was 88 but still living on her own with a caregiver dropping by occasionally to check on her. She still visited my grandfather every day in the nursing home (unless the snow got too deep - she walked across the yard from her apartment to his room at the nursing home). She still cooked meals and helped keep house for my only surviving uncle as well.

In her lifetime, she buried three children. One only two days old, just a couple months after she was married. The second, my mother at 46, and a few years after that, my uncle, from a sudden heart attack. She was a farmer's wife, married for nearly 68 years. She took care of my grandfather, her children, her grandchildren, neighbor's children and both her mother and her mother-in-law. She cared for the farm animals, mainly cattle, pigs and chickens, as well as hundreds of cats, many dogs and any bird that would eat from her feeder or sing in her trees.

She had the most beautiful laugh and an infectious smile. She loved easily and without judgment. After my mom passed away, she took in my second mom as a daughter without question.

We had reason to worry about Grandma only after G stopped by on an unexpected visit just before Christmas. He didn't find her at home, but instead, she was at the nursing home, in a room of her own. She was disoriented and while she spoke with him, she wasn't able to sustain a conversation or to remember at the end who he was exactly. After making inquiries, we learned she had been in the hospital for an infection and a serious fall, but a full recovery was expected. My sister spoke with Grandma briefly and thought she sounded as if perhaps she had suffered a minor stroke.

Over the next few days we continued to check in by phone, making sure there was improvement, but it was on Christmas Eve that we learned that she had been put back in the hospital after a confirmed stroke of some nature. She was incoherent and still fighting the infection. We debated about when to go, what to do, how to help. We waited for good news and each day marked her progress by the decreases, minor, but seemingly steady, in her white blood cell count.

A week later the doctor informed us in her now daily call that Grandma had remarkably declined during the night and the prognosis was not good at all. We all spent our New Year's Eves with heavy hearts knowing she probably would not last the night.

And while I know it is truly a blessing from God and that there is nothing Grandma wanted more than to go home to Heaven, it was with incredible sorrow that we laid her to rest today. My dad spoke at her service with beautiful words reminding us of the legacy that she left behind. Just like my mother, there were no riches or fame, there were no high degrees earned or widespread notariety. Grandma was a simple farm wife from small town Illinois, living her life quietly and lovingly for Christ.

I know there is no sorrow in Heaven. I know that both my mom and my grandma are free from pain, free from cancer, free from infection, free from age and weary bones. I know that joy has been multiplied for all of them together. Children reunited with their loving mother and their loving Savior.

A couple years ago (has it really been that long) I wrote about the greatest gift I will ever receive; the letters that my grandma saved from my mom for all those years. Over the past few days, sorting through some of her things in an effort to help my uncle, we found boxes and boxes and boxes of pictures and letters amongst her things. Letters dated 1893 in some cases. Photos of great-great-great-grandparents. It will take months for me to sort through it all and to sift through and organize all the family history that she recorded, all the letters she has saved and all the pictures.

Many people came to her visitation and her services. Cousins I have not seen in more than 15 years. Relatives that have not spoken in their lifetimes. Neighbors who have cared about each other for generations. As difficult as it was for many of us to be there under such circumstances, I know how pleased Grandma was to have all of these people together again.

In Memoriam, many people made donations to the American Legion Auxilary where my grandma was a past President and member for many years. Some donated to the United Methodist Church where she attended for most of her life until they sold the farm and moved to town. Some donated to the hospital or the nursing home. Many, of course, sent flowers and plants.

For me, I know what Grandma would want me to do most. Write a letter. To her, there was no greater gift than to receive a letter in the mail from someone she cared about. Tell someone in written words that they can reflect on for a lifetime what they mean to me. Treasure the people we love and make sure they know how much we love them. Make sure that everyone can see Christ clearly through our example, through our love and through our lives. I encourage all of you, to take the time today, tomorrow, this week, to write someone. Put it down on paper. It doesn't need to be eloquent. It doesn't need to be fancy. Grandma didn't just save the letters that said something profound, or were scripted just so. She loved the little nuggets of every day life. And reading them now, that's what I treasure about them, too. I love that my mom talked about the silly things we did as kids. The big accomplishments I remember clear enough on my own, but the funny way I pronounced a word or the fight I had with her on some Wednesday when I was 10, I would never have recalled.

You never know just how that one letter might just become the greatest gift and a profound legacy that will last for generations upon generations. And while I will forever treasure and cherish these boxes of letters and all the stories and memories they contain, I'm really going to miss the letters from Grandma in my mailbox.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Single

I can do single. I can do single on my birthday. I can do single for parenting. I can do single for paying the bills and taking care of the car and even taking out the trash. I can do single 24/7 and not bat an eye.

I can do single so well can agree with enthusiasm to come to a New Year's Eve party at church with all the people from my Sunday School class - all married people. I can agree to go even though I really only know two of the women at all and that's not even well. I can psych myself up for it in the hours before I go reminding myself it's a family night thing, and it won't feel uncomfortable and it'll be sooo good to meet more people...

And I can handle being single when I walk in alone. I can handle being single putting my food offering in the kitchen. I can handle being single and walking into the game room not recognizing a single face. I can do it.

And I can handle it when games get rolling and someone asks if I play Euchre and I excitedly say yes I play and yes I'd love to and then realize they thought I came with a partner. They thought I was two not one. And I can handle it and find a wife whose husband doesn't want to play and we can be great partners and have a fantastic time.

Until we start talking about card games we know and a wife says to her husband, "honey, do I play gin?"

And that's when it hit me tonight. That's when I just about lost it. That's when I wanted to leave and go home and just not be anywhere near all the couples anymore.

No one knows if I play gin. No one knows that I'd love a diet Coke if you're going to the kitchen, but not with caffeine or I'll be up all night. No one knows that I hate veggie dip with my carrots, I like dill dip. No one knows that I'm trying to play cards and have fun tonight but I'm really worried about my grandma. No one knows the inside joke about goldfish, or the thing I meant to say when I said veneer. There was no one there to hold hands with when we prayed in the New Year and no one there to give a knowing squeeze when the little boy prayed for God to help him not fight so much with his sister this year. There was no one to kiss at midnight and no one to hold my arm when I walked out to the car in the snow. There was no one to scrape off the car or to help me see behind me when I pulled out of the parking lot and no one there to help me back it into the carport back home. There was no one there at all when I turned the key and there will be no one there when I crawl into bed.

Tonight, I do not do single well at all, I am afraid.