From Peter Case, “Who’s Gonna Go Your Crooked Mile?”

**with thanks to Andy Whitman for loaning me the CD.

Who’s gonna go your crooked mile?
Who’s gonna haul your load?
Who’s gonna come out in the dark
& find you on that road?

Now who’s gonna hold your lily white hand
Who’s gonna drive you south?
Who’s gonna be your mornin’ dove
& kiss you on the mouth?
Who’s gonna go your crooked mile?…

& when my run was over
I fell down on my knees
I felt the touch of the Holy Ghost
When I said “Jesus please”
Who’s gonna go your crooked mile?

Now my way still runs crooked
The highways up above
& the only thing I’ve found that counts
In this world is love.

Who’s gonna go your crooked mile?…

No way, no how can merely typing the lyrics replicate this bluesy acoustic ballad. But I still believe the question is perhaps one of the most fundamental: who is gonna go your crooked mile?

Certainly, the miles of some appear more crooked than others. I listen to John McCollum talk about the orphans Asia’s Hope serves in Cambodia, and his passion makes me believe I am there. I can almost feel a child’s warm hand in mine, see her gap-toothed smile, and hear her little voice babbling a language I don’t understand. The kids in these orphanages have been on roads — both literally and figuratively — that most of us cannot imagine. They have lost parents to corruption and illness and perhaps they have been victimized in the rampant sex trade. They have hungered and thirsted and have been treated as if they are annoying pieces of lint. But John and others like him have decided to go the orphans’ crooked miles, in fact to change the whole course of their future miles. And it’s not just these orphans — it’s the country of Cambodia, a country with so many miles gone crooked in its past, that John longs for God to change.

Not coincidentally, I’m sure, I’m reading and teaching on 1 Corinthians 12, which provides descriptions of individual gifts within the church and a lengthy metaphor about the church functioning as Christ’s body. In short, we need one another — so interdependent are we to be within the church, that we cannot function properly without one another. That means that John’s wife, Kori, who stays home while he travels and cares so expertly for their three children and home, is just as necessary to straightening the crooked miles of the orphans in Cambodia as he is. That also means that God calls every one of us to come alongside our fellow followers of Jesus and go their crooked miles too. It means we keep praying for people with cancer and their families, that we accept into our lives those people we find challenging, that we keep on trying to understand and tangibly love one another.

It’s easy to think that maybe our own particular path isn’t all that screwed up. But you know? It really is. We’re all so terribly weak and broken, and at times weary and sad and fearful. Every person has their share of crooked miles. Get to know anyone at any depth whatsoever and this is hardly a revelation. But as followers of Jesus, we really are never ever alone on our roads. We really do have people who come out of the dark and help us haul our loads. We have God Himself of course, but we have something different, something very very real in the here and now in our relationships with others. And once I’ve gone a crooked mile or two for someone else — wow, we experience a whole new level of love and friendship. It’s such a circular blessing of give and take.

My own mile feels pretty damned crooked today. An accumulation of stress has hit me. I find myself with children I feel inadequate to parent, a husband with whom it’s hard to find time to have a real conversation, a church teaching that needs to be done, a mother whose cancer seems to be stealing her away, a book that wants to be written but can’t be with the available emotional and physical energy…and Cookies of course…and lots and lots of other litter along the side of my path. These things sound so ordinary as I look at them, but sometimes — at least for me — ordinary life can be pretty difficult. Getting one more load of laundry done or facing one more negative child or driving one more place — any of these can be the weight that throws me off the path I thought that I had so carefully set for myself. But man, I’m so blessed. I know so many people who have gone crooked miles with me before, who go with me now. And I think they know that I will go with them on theirs.

Who’s gonna go your crooked mile? How about we go each other’s…

McCollum Melee

February 26, 2007

After consulting with their attorney, the Koruna family wishes to issue the following statement:

We wish to make clear that the state of our son Dan’s (hereafter to be known as Toothless One or TO) mouth, which resembles that of a professional hockey player, appears at this point to be the result of two unfortunate accidents involving and related to the McCollum family. While the Korunas acknowledge that the McCollums appear to have stronger than usual knees and legs, they find no malfeasance on the part of either Chien McCollum (hereafter to be known as Knee Number One or KNO) or John McCollum (hereafter to be known as Knee or Leg Number Two or KLNT). The Korunas reserve the right to readdress this matter at the discovery of any evidence (for example a written plan detailing possible acts of violence that could lead to potential Koruna downfall) of collusion or general tomfoolery between KNO and KLNT (or any other member of the McCollum family, for example Xiu Dan McCollum, hereafter to be known as Sweet Cheeks or SC) that led to the de-toothing of TO. The Korunas do not wish to seek punitive damages (for example but not limited to a two dollar tooth fairy surcharge) at this time, but reserve the right to do so if the adult teeth of TO do not come in before the end of year 2009 and/or if TO continueth into hith adolesthent yearth with thith very apparent lithp.

Sunday Night

February 26, 2007

So tired tonight I can barely capitalize the essentials, much less have the Girl Scout prowess to capitalize non-essential words…it’s a bad sign when one is this tired at the end of the weekend.

We’re finally done with parties in the Koruna family. Really surprised Tim with a 40th birthday celebration, thereby proving that I can be a frighteningly good liar when necessary. Much thanks to those who made that special for my husband, especially John McCollum who graciously offered his lovely abode.

Cookies…heavens, Cookies (by now, it’s reflex to capitalize it)…so so many Cookies. Cookies in the living room, cookies in the dining room, Cookies in the van. Note to self: you need more than 2 people to unload 132 cases of Cookies. Counting cases, sorting boxes, re-sorting boxes, coming up short, counting boxes again, coming up long (?), discovering a hidden case under the dining room table. Yes, there is some practical use for the multiplication tables. 12 Cookies per case, 4 cases = 36, no, no 48 boxes of Samoas. And so on and so on and so on.

I will say this in all seriousness (or as much as I can ever muster): being Cookie Mom has forever changed my view of volunteers. Those people who volunteer for the tasks in life that no one else will do deserve my respect, my affection and perhaps my firstborn. I will ALWAYS turn in money and items on time, I will ALWAYS show up, I will ALWAYS appreciate these people.

I actually have deep and real thoughts somewhere in my being, but I need time to process and sleep. So many people need so much prayer. Please pray for Nancy from CV and her daughter, Anya and son-in-law, Mike whose cancer has taken a turn for the worse. Pray for the McCollums as John heads off to Cambodia later this week. Pray for my mom who still feels like total crap on this new medication…more later on all this.

On a lighter note, Dan lost both his front teeth today — one on Chien McCollum’s knee, one on John McCollum’s leg. He keeps saying to me, “Mom, I can’t thay my thees.” This? Worth the price of admission.

I’ve received the ALL CAPS e-mail. Council sent me back the white (and only the white, buddy) copy of my T-2 form with the appointed time for Cookie pick-up. Yes, Council knows where I live.

It’s time to Do-si-Do All About the town. Wanna Tagalong and pick up 132 cases of Cookies tomorrow. That’s 1,546 boxes of Cookies to you and me.

The Great Debate: Apparently girls from counties other than Franklin received their Cookies earlier in this week and began distributing them to their buyers. And this has caused parental Consternation and Grumbling as to why our little troop doesn’t have Cookies yet. Ah, but you see, Council makes these Decisions. And one does not question Council.

Apparently it will go Something like This: I will drive the mini-van (seats folded down, free of trash and children — the Troop Cookie Guide actually says that) to the Cookie Loading Area. I am not to Load Cookies myself — as the Troop Cookie Guide says, people are there to serve me. I MAY get out of my vehicle to count the Cases of Cookies being placed in the back of my van, though they would prefer I have a Passenger to do that, while I sit at the wheel and listen to my I-pod. But no matter. I am to have a placard (ideally the Outside Back cover of my Troop Cookie Guide — and these caps I’m not making up) with my TROOP Number on the driver’s side, and I am to have with me my pink copy of the Volunteer Responsibility Form, which of course indicates that though I am a lowly volunteer, I am Very Responsible. Responsible enough for over $4,500 worth of Cookies. Pray that I do not subsequently get Car-Jacked. I am also to have my Circle Sheet which contains a color-coded chart of how many Cases of each Cookie type we should receive. After the Cookies are Loaded Up, I am to sign the green copy of the T-2 and I’m on my way.

Then I cautiously proceed Home where somehow 132 Cases must be unloaded into my living room. We were told not to leave Cookies in the garage because of risk (however Infinitesimal) of petroleum poisoning. Then I will Sort Cookies and place them in Piles designated for each girl. Then people who complained that Cookies had not yet arrived will take Several Days to pick up their Cookies from me.

In another post — I am going to share Verbatum what the Troop Cookie Guide has to say about Cookie Complaints. It’s something for you all to Look Forward to. Sadly, it is better than anything I could ever come up with on my funniest day.

Oh, and because of the various Executive Decisions I’ve made over the last two days, I am now calling myself the Cookie Czar.

Shooting Baskets in the Snow ...    

I just love this picture.

It’s cold. It’s snowing. The driveway is full of slush and ice. Mom and Dad demand the use of a coat, gloves, and boots, and a hat. There’s snow sticking to the basketball. There is, in fact, some ice stuck to the net from the ice storm earlier in the week. If you look closely you’ll see snow on the back of the rim, right up next to the backboard. Inside the house, there await Nintendo, books, board games, a brother and sister to play with, a box full of cookies in easy reach on the table, and hot cocoa. The wind is stiff enough to redden his cheeks and ears within moments of stepping outside. The basket is eight feet up in the air, and he’s only about 4 feet tall.

Despite all those reasons he’s outside in un-playground-like weather, working on his shooting. He’s on a team right now in a local church league, see, and he wants to score more baskets.

To help his team.

He wants to shoot like coach showed him, so he has his knees bent, the way he learned during practice three weeks ago. He’s using his left hand to steady the ball while shooting with his right hand, just like coach showed him two weeks ago. He’s getting better every day: in a game this weekend, he tried a little pump fake and got a defender to jump too early. He liked this move so much he used it for the remainder of the game. He used that move against some phantom defender during his practice today. He wants to get better, and no pile of lame excuses is going to prevent him from putting on his boots and mittens and heavy coat to go shoot baskets, wind chill be damned. He spent about 30 minutes doing this today. I know. I watched it.

Me? I’m his dad. I find it hard to get myself out of bed in time for exercise in the morning. I don’t make the time I should to do the things I should to get better over time: I don’t exercise enough, I don’t pray or read the Bible enough, I don’t devote enough time to research and professional reading, I don’t practice my music enough, I don’t do any number of things that I could to get better, stronger, more capable at things that I claim are important to me. I don’t do things that I know, as a matter of empirical fact, would make me improve in any number of dimensions as a father, a professional, a Christian, a husband, as a friend. There is always some excuse. Not enough time, too many other obligations, don’t have the right X to handle the Y, can’t do Z because of yet another damned excuse.

Meanwhile, a kindergartener somewhere is shooting baskets in the snow.

Maybe it’s just middle-aged melancholy, but I find this picture captivating. It affirms things I profess to believe, but don’t always act on. It shows that, despite the hypocrisy of parents everywhere (despite my hypocrisy here, at least), sometimes our kids learn the things they need to. Sometimes they seem to know these things instinctively, without being told. Games are won and lost during practice. Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Just do it. Things that are worthwhile are hard. Learning any complicated thing takes time, and some of that time is kind of boring. Be tough in the face of adversity. Don’t say “I can’t”, or it will be a self fulfilling prophecy. Do it for your team, sacrifice for your team. It’s not all about you. Be tenacious. Be tough. Be dedicated. Don’t quit.

We (well, I) believe these things when we coach little league, but don’t act on them in our day-to-day lives. We utter them, thinking them platitudes, until one day some 6-year-old takes us at our word.

He gets his basketball, and straps on his boots, and finds his gloves, and puts on his hat and coat, and slips out on to the icy driveway to shoot baskets despite the wind chill, so he can get better.

What’s keeping me from doing the same thing? I could list a page full of reasons why it’s more complicated, more difficult, why adulthood is full of myriad reasons why I, as a grown-up, cannot possibly do X right now because, well, because I can’t. Well, not “can’t”, really, when you get down to it, but “won’t” because I have other pressing reasons for not doing X at this minute. Or even once this week, come to think of it.

Meanwhile, somewhere, some little kid is shooting more baskets in the snow. Dribbling in the slush, too, if you must know, because he was told that he needs to dribble left handed and right handed. Mostly, though, just trying to do the things his coach told him, because he believes what coach told him, and he wants to get better to help out his team.

Do I believe what my coaches have told me? Do I want to get better for my team?

How I love this picture. My essay can’t do it justice. My son said everything that needs to be said on this topic during 30 minutes in our driveway this afternoon, shooting baskets in the snow.

Reading kjames at livejournal — I’ve seen this meme several places, and like her, it got me thinking — heck, what don’t people know about me? And frankly, is any of it remotely interesting? But then I realized — WHO CARES? It’s my blog. So as I said in an earlier post, it’s all about me.

  1. Tim proposed to me in Germany in front of the Koln Cathedral on Christmas Eve, 1989. He got down on one knee and asked me, to which my response was, “Of course. Now get up. You’re embarrassing me.” That’s the official engagement story, but I really knew we were going to get married when we were having dinner one night a few days before that. Our eyes met at one point and he said, “So when are we going to get the ring?” Something about his expression, something in that moment — I knew it was the real deal.
  2. In high school, I went through a most embarrassing phase of loving the group Culture Club (wasn’t Boy George most recently seen picking up trash somewhere in London to fulfill a community service requirement for his most recent drug arrest?). I even went to a concert at the now defunct Ohio Center. But more incredible, more unbelievable than that — my best friend, Liz, and I were asked by the marching band director to dress up like Boy George for a halftime show and dance around to the song, Karma Chameleon. They rolled us out in a trunk and we jumped out and did it. We were so well disguised in our Boy George get-ups that no one ever knew it was us. (Let the mocking of me begin.)
  3. Tim and I used lotsa fertility drugs before getting pregnant with Abby. We finally ended up using some injectible stuff — and honestly, I had been such a hormonal…um…challenge for such a long time, that I think Tim sort of enjoyed sticking me in the…um…
  4. The first guy I kissed ended up (a bit later in his life — and no, I’m not talking about Tim) becoming a gay cheerleader. Not that the two go together, I realize (and I mean no offense) — but they did in his case.
  5. My two favorite movies of all time are Valley Girl and When Harry Met Sally. What can I say — the ’80s were very very good to me? Also, on a fundamental level — I’m awfully shallow.
  6. I have an absolute phobia of snakes and I sometimes still half (okay, three-quarters) believe that there might be a snake or two under my bed on any given night. By now Tim knows that when I hunker up next to him and whisper, “snake” he needs to give me an extra cuddle and say, “Go away, snakes.” He actually indulges me in this, and as he says, he clearly must have some power over the situation because we’ve never had a snake in our bedroom! Reasons Beth has never gone camping.

I’ll tag anyone else who wants to do this.

Sleepover Eve

February 16, 2007

The snacks and candy have been bought. The beads for the necklaces placed in separate little Gladware cups. The movie chosen. The Pictionary game stands at the ready. The exorbitantly expensive name bracelets (each letter bought separately — and believe me — no one is named “Sue”) sit at the bottom of cellophane bags that are tied with pink and purple ribbons, ready for the girls to assemble. Inexplicably, I also have cotton balls and ping pong balls (for two different games) as well. Soon, the house will be clean and the playroom where the girls will sleep will be vacuumed within an inch of its life. The cherry chip cake will be made later tonight. And yes, of course the cake is from a box — who do you think I am? Martha Stewart?

My daughter’s first sleepover party. I think everyone we invited (6 girls) is actually coming! Slumber parties were such a mixed bag for me. Man, some of the meanest and cruelest crap used to go on. I usually avoided being the victim because I could always stay awake the longest, and I had a (perhaps alarming) tendency to align myself with the right people at the right time. In other words, I manipulated people into thinking that I stood with them in whatever torture — bra in the freezer, hiding someone’s clothes — they chose to inflict. I’m not proud of this.

I look back on these parties and wonder where in the heck the parents were? Drinking martinis in their bedrooms with headphones on? Weird spiritual stuff — Ouija boards and “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” and seances — happened all the time. But the worst, worst, worst thing that ever happened…it’s so sharp in my memory and yet so unbelievable to me now as an adult. I hesitate to even post about it. But one slumber party — I remember it was at Debbie’s house in about 6th grade…I don’t know whose idea this was, except I know it wasn’t mine. But someone, obviously one of the major power brokers of the class, decided that each girl would strip naked and stand in front of the other girls for 10 seconds. Of course, we were all developing at very different points and there was great interest in who was further along than who. I don’t remember anyone saying anything to anyone. I don’t remember giggling. I just remember the utter and hideous humiliation of the moment. Why did some of us not mutiny and say, “No damn way I’m doing that.” But we didn’t. In turn, each girl stood before the others. And then we went back to school on Monday and never spoke of it again.

Again, I ask — where were the parents?

Maybe it’s why I’ve put so much planning into Abby’s party. I’ve heard people say that girls have slumber parties too early these days, and maybe this is true, but from another viewpoint, I think their younger age may prevent some of the suffering and idiocy I experienced. Part of me can laugh about my experience at that party, but another — I confess, stronger — part of me remembers too clearly the fear and shame.

So truly, I pray for these girls coming over that they have a wonderful time and great memories of the experience. I pray that the party aides my socially introverted daughter to make connections and have fun. I pray that I’m strong enough to sustain a high level of energy for the evening and night. I pray that no one has fear or homesickness, and that everyone (including me!) gets decent sleep. I pray all the girls get along and treat each other kindly.

Think of us Saturday night. I’m thinking that the girls will have a ball.

A Moment

February 14, 2007

After much pestering their mother and complaining of boredom, the Koruna children rejoice as their mean mean Mommy allows them to go outside for a brief time in the sub-zero windchill. Mean Mom glances out the window at her charming offspring. She heads to the door and opens it.

Mean Mom: Dan, what are you doing outside with your COAT off?

Dan: (looking perplexedly at his mother) Having a snowball fight!

Home and Hearth

February 14, 2007

Don’t get me wrong — I love me a good snow day. And these past few days have been gorgeously snowy and wonderful for hunkering down under a blanket, watching movies and reading books. Even Tim is home today. The whole family. Together. IN ONE SMALL HOUSE. AGAIN.

You can see where I’m going here, right?

Yeah, we’re all just a teensy bit on one another’s nerves today. Arguments have erupted over Game Cube (the root of all evil, I’m pretty sure). Tensions have escalated over what to have for breakfast. I’m running out of tricks from my Mommy Bag; today I even raided Abby’s slumber party supplies for new markers and crayons. I’m contemplating the whole afternoon stretching ahead of us, followed by the entire evening and wondering if we can put the kids to bed at 5:00…

The kids have actually been fine — they’ve been KIDS, but fine…they claim to be glad to be out of school again, and I’m sure that on one level they are glad, but at the same time, I see them craving normal routine. And I’m glad to have them home because (Game Cube aside), I enjoy them. But I feel a need for more routine too.

I think it’s all been a bit MUCH lately — in the last three weeks, my kids have been home 6 days (yes, that means we have a make up day at the end of the year, which will be SUCH an educationally sound day as days in June tend to be — all thanks to a cocaine-riddled bus driver — whaaaa???? My kids don’t even attend Columbus schools, but their school uses Columbus buses, so we fell under THAT unfortunate banner. As I said to Tim, he’s lucky that I drive the kids, as my only coke habits are Diet and in a can, but anyway…). That’s a lotta days of togetherness. Family. I don’t know — maybe other families like each other better than we do. Maybe we’re somehow deficient in our family togetherness quotient.

But I suspect that the truth that we all have a touch of cabin fever is closer to the truth. I think that I would have entirely different kids if we could have one warm spring day for them to run around the park.

But today? Today we will stay home and try mightily not to cause bodily harm to one another.

On another note, today marks ONE WEEK without smoking. Suffice to say that it hasn’t been easy. On Saturday, the only reason that I didn’t light one up (aside from not actually having any) was that I figured that I had already put four awful days in, and I didn’t want to waste those crappy days and have to re-live them when I had to quit again. Tim actually contemplated whether it would be better to encourage me to smoke or to allow me to be the foul-mouthed, unpleasant person I became on Saturday. He fell down on the side of living with a snarky bi___ instead of wanting me to start smoking again. Points for Tim who had to survive me this weekend. It’s getting a little easier.

So now…off to spend some time with my lovely and fabulous family. Goody!!

Birthday Melancholy

February 11, 2007

Abby’s ninth (!!) birthday is a week from today. In the way of all things God-related, her birthday marks another special day: my late grandmother’s birthday. I remember my mom’s joy when we realized that my daughter would share a birthday with the Bemomma (my brother’s childhood name for my grandma, which stuck) Abby would know only through stories passed down to her. Luckily my mom is a great storyteller and has, I think, made her mother a very real figure to her granddaughter.

We are celebrating Abby’s family birthday this evening, because next Saturday night Abby is having her first slumber party with classmates and friends. And my mom will not be here tonight. She feels too crummy, and her doctor has warned her against both crowds and children because her immunities are so low. So it’s the right decision for her to stay home, much as she would like to be here. Abby understands about her Noma’s (another childhood name that stuck) cancer — she’s old enough to grasp that we need to do what’s best for my mom’s health. Sometimes I think that she grasps more than I know.

But I feel…sad…and anxious. I’m just a terrible limbo-person (and no, I don’t do very well at the limbo dance either). I hate not knowing whether or when she will “adjust” to this new medicine. I hate not knowing whether the medicine will properly work on the encroaching cancer. I hate that my mom’s quality of life is beholden to this damn medicine, which is also the very medicine that could preserve her life.

Mostly, selfishly perhaps, I hate that she won’t be here tonight. I can know it’s the right thing and still hate it, can’t I? I can’t help but worry, “But what if this is the last…” and it’s a line of thought, that though inevitable, is ultimately unproductive. Because for all I scour websites about multiple myeloma and struggle through research papers from the American Society of Hematology, the simple fact is this: I don’t know the future.

I just know that tonight is my daughter’s birthday party.

How I always wanted a daughter! I was a daughter close to her mother who had been a daughter close to her mother and so on back for generations. I knew that I had a unique history to give to a daughter. I had been given the precious gift of a wonderful example of motherhood that I could only try to match in mothering my daughter. I had a rich trove of stories from women in the family and examples of women strong against adversity and pain. I had funny stories too. All of this I could give to a daughter.

And then God blessed me with my dear Abby. And in Abigail Diane (her middle name, my mom’s first name), I see continuation, continuity, constancy. She is, sometimes metaphorically and sometime literally, what I clutch on a day like today. Not that I don’t love my sons more than life, but there is something in a daughter — in this daughter, born on that day in 1998 — with my mom’s brown eyes and her quirky sense of humor — that makes me see God’s fingerprint in a particular way.

I could say something schmaltzy and Hallmark-cardish like, “We live on through the generations past us.” or “You always carry the life of someone you love in your heart.” I may believe those things to a degree. But what I believe more, what I know, is that every act of love we imprint on the soul of another person is eternal. One such act brings about change, good change, God-change. The love of a parent for a child is perhaps the most sacred of all because this is the primary love relationship in the Godhead — it provides a means for us to most mimic the Creator. And God doesn’t keep track of all those generations in the Bible for His own amusement (I don’t think?). I think He’s telling us that it’s pretty darned important what we give to our children, what we receive from our parents.

And, God, I am so very blessed by both measures. I just wish my mom could come tonight.