Bringing Sucky Back

April 28, 2007

Okay, first off, I must confess that at first I had trouble understanding the meaning of the title of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back.” (Remember: being Cookie Mom positively siphoned off IQ points.) I kept wondering, “What makes his back so sexy anyway?”

But now I have discovered a new talent in life: to make many many things suck for my children. Even though they’re not allowed to use the word. Yes, I’m a hypocrite, so mark another box in the Sucky column for me.

As examples:

  • I failed to get the message off my phone about a birthday party for the boys. They missed it completely.
  • I nearly forgot the day of a birthday party that Abby is attending. I lost the invitation. And then? Five minutes before Tim was to take her to the party, I remember, “Oh, presents are something of a tradition at parties, aren’t they?” Luckily, I overbuy for Christmas and birthdays and actually had (pretty cool, I think) presents stashed in the storage closet in the basement. So maybe this counts as only half-sucky.
  • Rob’s click clack shirt WASN’T DRY WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WOMAN before Thursday’s ultimately rained-out soccer game. Hey, it got wet anyway, right?
  • I have forgotten to order dance pictures of my children, and if I’m ever going to hope to blackmail my sons with pictures of them in sparkly gold bow ties, suspenders and tap shoes (for “Singing in the Rain” I kid you not), this is a golden (pun intended, of course) opportunity. MUST.NOT.LET.THIS.SLIP.THROUGH.MY.FINGERS…
  • In preparing a lesson for children’s church, my daughter interrupts me and I shout, “WhatdoyawantNOW? Can’t you leave me in peace? I’m studying the BIBLE.” Yes, my heart for the little ones always shines through.
  • I almost never remember to practice my son’s speech sheets with him from speech therapy. Consequently, the poor child will be trundled to speech therapy well into his twenties.
  • I made Dan go to a play with his grandparents (the horror, the horror) instead of watching all 4,345,854 hours of the NFL draft.
  • I forgot to give my aforementioned son a bath after a very muddy soccer game before going to said play with his grandparents.
  • I am persistent in maintaining that my children must wear shoes to school. And other places too.
  • I sometimes serve food and like them to come to the table to partake (call Children’s Services NOW).
  • I am always the parent sans camera at all the monumental events in my children’s lives. When they grow up, they will have no memory of all the hugely time-consuming and expensive things we did for them.

And oh, the list could go on. Who am I kidding? Sucky was here all along.

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After the cancer returns

She is exquisite.
Her cheekbones more prominent
than before,
soft hair grown back
and curling at her neck’s nape,
her eyes clear and blue
as any April sky.

Before we knew, before
even she knew,
her steps seemed ordinary.

But now she floats
a few inches above the sidewalk,
held up by strands
of gossamer thread,
as if she resides already
behind sheer draperies,
a little gauzy and apart.

A warrior’s ferocity
will map across her face
as she fights against and for
a day, an hour, a minute.
There can be no losing
this time she will say,
no day to be wasted

without the feel
of freshly cut grass,
damp between her toes,
or brownies warm and gooey,
or her son’s dirty hand
flung carelessly across her chest
on late Saturday morning.

Prayer Request

April 24, 2007

And it was already being such a Monday…

Tim has been doing contract work with a local company, and found out today that the company is releasing a bunch of the contractors — in other words, he’s out of a job in two weeks. He’s still employed with the contracting company (though they don’t pay him for what they call “bench time”) and they will be marketing him to Columbus businesses — as well, he may have to consider travel for a time if nothing in Columbus pops up. Those of you who knew us throughout the hideous years of travel (and those of you with any brain at all!) will know that while a job on the road is certainly better than no job, it’s not a lifestyle to which we want to return…I have every confidence in my wonderful husband and in his skills…but I confess to having something of a crisis of faith with God here. Is it ok if I just don’t want all this to be so hard? Might it be God’s will for Tim to slide seamlessly into another company and not to leave us on pins and needles for a long time? I know, I know, God sustains us (and has already) through much worse. But I would appreciate prayers that this situation could fall into the “less worse” category — that the right job would turn up before the end of the two weeks. Thanks.

Juxtapositions

April 20, 2007

It’s been a long week. No, I certainly can’t claim it’s been a bad week, personally speaking, but a week where I feel keenly aware of the public and personal tragedies inherent in being human. As well as some of the joys.

On the public front: I’ve mentally crafted and erased hundreds of sentences about the whole Virginia Tech situation. I’ve listened to and read news stories, and have been especially sympathetic to professors who had the gunman in their classes, suspected something was horribly awry with him, and were unable to prevent the horror from unfolding. It brings back memories of a student I had in Beginning Composition when I was a graduate student at Ohio State. For no reason I ever understood, he despised me (which actually was pretty unusual among my students), and set out to destroy my class and intimidate me. His class journal was filled with epithets directed against race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. He used to come to my office hours, get really up-close into my personal space and rant about his grades in my class. It got to the point where a couple of office mates refused to leave me by myself in the office. I (sort of) jokingly kept telling people, “If I’m found murdered in a ditch, for the love of God, look at my class roster, because HE did it.” I had trouble sleeping and I dreaded with the sickest stomach teaching my class — and I’ll be honest, I hated him for that, because I really enjoy teaching. Toward the end of the quarter, I had the most vivid dream that I told him off, used the F word and everything…and the hell of the whole situation was that as a graduate student, I had very little power to kick him out of my class or to force him to have any kind of mental evaluation…but he always seemed one moment away from perpetrating some sort of violence.

In my wildest imaginings at that time, though, I never could have pictured something as horrible as the massacres at Columbine or Virginia Tech. I have read some that say this gunman’s acts are a reflection of our culture of violence, and to an extent I think that’s true — perhaps this gunman wouldn’t have snapped if he hadn’t seen the precedent of the killers at Columbine. Or perhaps he would have. But I think it’s a false correlation to say that America’s (or even Bush’s) stance on geopolitical issues perpetuates a violence that encourages such a massacre. I think it’s anyone’s right to oppose — vigorously oppose — the government’s (both present and past) position on say, the war in Iraq– but to say or even imply that the intensely insane acts of one individual are somehow a result of America’s position in Iraq — well, that seems quite a stretch to me. If that correlation were to hang together, then how does one explain Columbine (or other school shootings or other violent acts, period) that occurred well before 9/11? Heaven knows, I’m no apologist for Bush, but really? I think that this gunman was criminally insane, and his violent acts were his responsibility alone. There may be a lot one can pin on Bush, but this one doesn’t make sense.

Juxtaposed with the public tragedies of this week is the very private tragedy of (yet another — God, why?) a family I know struggling against cancer. Despite what I wrote and truly believe about God’s mercy and judgement, I have been simply heartsick. Again. I must not fully understand God’s redemption because right now, I fail to see how this family’s experience will ever be redeemed, will ever be righted. The cruel randomness of suffering in this world…the lovely kind person who gets terminal cancer…I have no words right now.

And in another juxtaposition, we got a kitten this week (I’m going to post pictures later — Tim has to help me download them from the cell phone. Yes, I am the geek who will post pictures of my cat. What have I become??). Gracie has such energy, such joy, such life. And that’s been good for all of us. Okay, yes this morning she woke me up at 6:00 because she wanted to play (which involved jumping on my head, but anyway…), which was not the time I really wanted to experience all that life. But to watch my kids fawn over her and kiss her sweet face? To have Dan say, “Even if Ohio State could have beat Florida, if it meant I had to give up Gracie — it wouldn’t be worth it. Gracie IS my national championship.” This? Worth being awakened an hour early any old day.

Children’s Ministry

April 16, 2007

I started a post and wordpress ATE it. I practically saw wordpress licking its chops after devouring two reasonably well thought out paragraphs. Sigh. The battle with wordpress continues.

So, to begin again…

I taught the school age children at church today. I think that maybe…it’s possible…that God is calling me to make a longer term commitment to these kids (more than the 3 week rotation), and I’m a bit flummoxed. I’ve never envisioned myself in children’s ministry — never believed myself to be all that great with kids, never felt remotely like a “kid person,” though there are many children in my life that I love. And I was way more nervous about this morning’s teaching than I’ve ever felt about a teaching for adults. I tried to incorporate some large motor activities into the teaching because it’s mainly a group of VERY ENERGETIC boys. And I think the teaching about temptation went pretty well. I’m trusting God that the kids actually heard the Word of God amid my directives of “Sit DOWN. No, on you BOTTOM.” And I’m trusting that God’s Word never returns empty without accomplishing God’s purposes.

Maybe I’m catching some of God’s vision, but these kids have weighed heavily on my heart this week, and I even felt like God especially wanted me to address the temptation to use unkind words (something I, myself, never struggle with. Just ask Tim.). The games went pretty well, I think. The craft? So-so. But anyone who knows me would be amazed that I even thought of a craft, much less tried to execute it with children. No mortal injuries, so I call that a victory.

But this feeling. This tug. I’m so impressed at how people in this church have done so much with the children’s ministry in such a short time — all the bins that need to be hauled, all the babies that need to be held, all the Bible verses shared — all done without benefit of a permanent building, and all done in response to a whole lot of kids getting born and getting grown. My heart longs for these school age kids to feel like church is not just a place where they’re shuffled off to a room where someone keeps telling them to sit down. Man, I want them to meet God at church, week in and week out. I want them to become a cohesive community of kids who learn how to serve one another with their many gifts.

I feel an obligation to this ministry because I have kids this age, and I have no right to critique ANYTHING if I’m not willing to get involved. And I really believe that these kids would benefit from the consistency of having the same person there for a while — so that it felt less like being babysat and more like being taught. But I’m hesitant, and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’m being called by God or by concern — not that the latter is wrong exactly…but I’m not sure I even want to be the person who makes this commitment. I am praying that if this is where the Lord would have me that He would give me His vision, His desire, His ability.

The responsibility we have to these kids — the first generation of adults who will come of this church — staggers me. I firmly believe that we must pass on vision to them. Yes, they will make their own impact on this world in their own ways and individual styles, but this church is their launching pad. It sobers me. And it excites me too.

So…for now I pray and ask anyone willing to pray with me. God’s pretty good at making Himself clear. I suspect He already is.

More catching up

April 12, 2007

Well, we’re surviving the freezing spring break.

I probably shouldn’t say this aloud or in print, but my kids are getting along really really well. For the most part they have been pleasant and enjoyable and have been treating each other with kindness. Who ARE these children? Not that I want the old ones back, mind you…

Thankfully the bad weather is making it easier for Dan to keep physical activity to a minimum. We saw the ENT today and he cannot tell yet whether or not the graft has taken — he doesn’t expect to know for a couple of weeks because apparently all the gel/glue-ish stuff in his ear will clear out by then…and I confessed that Dan had blown up a balloon. He patted me on the shoulder and assured me that it would probably make no difference. Then he grinned and said, “Besides, if something’s wrong, then we can blame you and not me.” A doctor with a sense of humor…wow. He told me to stop worrying about it and beating myself up. Me? Beat myself up?

Soccer has been cancelled tonight due to crummy weather which means that Dan will only miss one game instead of two. So yay bad weather!

I picture a lovely family evening tonight — we’ve been busy all week — maybe a movie and some popcorn. It can be hard to find a movie that the boys and Abby all like…any suggestions?

On the cancer front: Tim’s mom has been given the all clear. The doctors found no metastasized cancer anywhere and believe they got all the cancer from the surgery. My mom’s myeloma count is down, which is very good, but there is some concern about her kidney function (unfortunately any medicine strong enough to destroy cancer cells can also negatively affect other organs), as well as her hemoglobin. But the doctor seemed overall optimistic in terms of treating this terminal cancer. The metaphoric tightness in my chest has loosened a bit with all the various challenges of last week coming to some resolution.

Cutest thing Rob said to me this week: “Mom, what room number will I have in heaven?”

“What? What do you mean?”

And with all the authority of a child he says, “You KNOW that heaven’s like a gigantic hotel and we all have a place there. I just wondered what my room number would be.” Then he pauses for a second. “And you know, you don’t have to stay in your room. You can go out and play with everyone else.”

It’s as good of a description as I can muster.

Catching Up

April 10, 2007

Dan had surgery to repair a hole in his eardrum last Tuesday. I handled the whole thing beautifully (yeah, right) up until Dr. Phil came on the TV. Before I continue, I must ask, why did the surgery center have CBS on when it’s very clear that ABC and NBC have better early morning shows? But anyway, Dr. Phil…so they took Dan back for his surgery at 8:17 (see how I wasn’t compulsive, how well I handled the stress?) and Tim and I went to the waiting room where the aforementioned CBS blared in the background. I mostly read a book, but occasionally glanced up at the morning show (see, I don’t even know what CBS calls their morning show. Actually I think it’s just “The Morning Show.” Could it be any lamer?) And then we were subjected to a hellish hour of Regis and Kelly — a rerun, no less, since Regis is apparently recovering from heart surgery. Godspeed, Regis and all, but reruns of a show that is supposed to be live? Not very satisfying, and it’s not like Regis and Kelly have ever been on my top ten list of favorite celebrities. Let’s just admit it now — Kelly Ripa? Way too thin. Looks way too good in a bikini (I saw her on a magazine cover at the grocery) after having three kids. And how does she even get out of the house that early with three kids? Nannies, I tell you. Lotsa lotsa nannies.

But back to Dr. Phil. The surgeon had said that it would take about an hour and forty five minutes. So, I gave Dr. Phil until 10:03 and then I started to freak out. Quietly. Subtly. Tim’s all like, “Why are you shaking your foot so hard?” and I’m all, “Because obviously they’ve had a terrible problem and Dan’s probably DEAD and they’re trying to work out how to tell me what went horribly wrong.” Again, me — handling it with aplomb. But Dr. Phil keeps talking. And he’s got Tori Spelling’s brother and Rod Stewart’s son and some other hanger-onner who is apparently their friend and they’re all whiny about how hard it is to grow up with Rich and Famous Parents (nothing my kids have to worry about, luckily). And I’m thinking, “My poor dead son,” and picturing the operating room awash in ear blood, though I don’t actually think ears bleed that much.

And then there’s a commercial. A commercial! That meant we were 12 minutes over what the doctor had said! I began to meditate on the tenderness I have for Dan, conveniently forgetting his behavior during Buckeye games. In those 12 minutes, Dan became a paragon of perfection in my mind.

Then, finally, after ANOTHER FIVE MINUTES, the nurse came out and told us that everything had gone well and the doctor would be with us in a few minutes. Turns out that Dan had some extra skin growth around the hole in his eardrum that needed to be “excavated” and that took some extra time. Eeeeww.

So Dan has been supposed to be lying low, not running around and getting out of breath — because the pressure in his sinuses from breathing hard can build pressure in his eardrum which can cause the graft to rip. So I in a moment that can only be attributed to double digit IQ, I let him blow up a balloon on Friday…yeah, that helped.

And then this morning while I was in the shower (sorry to give anyone that unfortunate visual), Rob and Abby came running into the bathroom. Now really, is it just my kids who seem to need all sorts of stuff in those few brief moments while I’m in the shower? But they’re yelling, so I open the door and peer out through the steam. “What? Can’t this wait a few minutes!”

And together they say, “Dan’s dancing naked in the family room!” Now I had given Dan instructions to get dressed so we could go out to a playdate after my shower. Good to know he listens so well.

But instead of addressing the issues here (and yes, they’re legion. Maybe we need a psychologist more than a nanny), I tell Rob and Abby, “Well, for God’s sake tell him not to breathe too hard when he dances!”

**And on the good news front, my mom felt good enough (after two transfusions last week for extremely low hemoglobin) to go to the library today. It’s the first time she’s been out in months.

It’s possible…

April 9, 2007

I should stop blogging because I’ll be darned if I have anything of interest to say.

But no, that hasn’t stopped me in the past.

These few weeks of April are among my favorite because so many trees and plants have their brief period of flowering before turning a uniform green. Spring makes it nearly impossible not to think of new life as buds emerge and the air turns refreshingly warm.

Yet this spring I see so much suffering, frankly so much death. Nancy’s son-in-law, a mere 25 years old, is dying at the James Cancer Center, and will leave behind a lovely young wife. Tim’s mom and my mom fight their cancers and this week we get news as to the exact states of those scourges…I find it ironic in this season, in this Easter week, to confront so much pain and potential death. Yet as I’ve been thinking about it and as I prayed at church this morning, it occured to me that the threat of death is never far from any of us in this life. No new news to me or anyone I’m sure. But what I also remembered, what God brought to my mind, is that the whole life of Jesus is emeshed in the very death we all fear. I have known for many years that God brought judgement to bear upon His precious son Jesus at that cross, that Jesus’ died to give the rest of us life, to spare us the frightening judgement of God.

I tend to shy away from thinking about God’s judgement. I feel acutely aware that I deserve that judgement, that I am selfish and self-centered, that I mess up the same things over and over, not unlike a toddler trying to get her way by lying on the kitchen tile and screaming and kicking. But the older I get and the more suffering I observe and experience, the more confident I am that a God of judgement is imminently necessary and important. Too often we try to de-claw God in a sense, to tame Him, but as C.S. Lewis says of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, “He is good but He is not tame.” And thank God for that because too much goes unanswered for in this life. Too much suffering, too much death simply happens because of the evil of this world. Twenty five year old men should not die of cancer, leaving a widow in the wake of a such grisely, drawn out suffering. We know this. Intuitively, we know that there’s something horribly horribly wrong with that picture. We think of the Holocaust and the Killing Fields and we know because we know because we know that such injustice — injustice against those most innocent and unable to fight back — should be answered for.

And it will. Because God, who is the very definition of mercy and love, is also righteous and just. I am realizing that God doesn’t simply judge individuals for their actions, but judges death itself. He did not create us to die. We were not created to get sick and sicker and eventually die. But death holds dominion over each of us right now — and that is the key — right now. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and ower. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Cancer: you will answer for Mike. For my mom. For so many others. God will destroy you, even as He in His great mercy saves his beloved.

John McCollum talks sometimes of the Killing Fields in Cambodia, an atrocity to which I confess general ignorance before I knew him. Children — children like Rob, Dan and Abby — were murdered in hideous ways, beaten against trees, simply for being. Please, oh God, pass judgement on the suffering your dear ones endured.

Too often I think that I want a sort of mamby-pamby God who loves everyone and forgives everything without also embracing the very aspect of God that allows Him to love and forgive: his judgement. Jesus died for every one of us and on judgement day we can choose to be viewed through the lens of His perfection or through the lens of our own evil. Evil isn’t out there, it’s right in here. In me. In you. Just because I didn’t stand beside a murderer in Cambodia many years ago doesn’t exempt me from judgement. Jesus has exempted me.

So Easter will be here next week and we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the foundation of the Christian faith. But I will also celebrate a God who loves each of us enough to judge death.

Again, 1 Corinthians 15: 54-56: When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

Where O death, is your victory? Where O death is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is the only answer that makes any sense. Thanks be to Him indeed.