Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We're Ready for Christmas!

When I was growing up, we always bought our tree a few days before Christmas. The choice was slim, the trees were forlorn, and they exemplified the Charlie Brown experience. Later on, my dad became more "environmentally conscious" and we no longer purchased cut trees. Instead, we bought live trees that we planted in the backyard after Christmas was over.
We went to Home Depot after Anna's physical therapy appointment because of her fractured ankle in September and the Baby Blue Colorado Spruce begged to come home.
The guys who helped us load it into my Cube were surprised they could fit it inside. Then we went to Ace Hardware where all Christmas decorations were 50% off.

Our tree is truly beautiful. Drew said he heard a little boy walking on our sidewalk, "Wow, look at that!"
I guess we did good.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy Mother's Day Was Early

On the drive home today, Anna mentioned that one of the 4th graders looked "just like Taylor Swift, but without the curly hair." I remarked idly that I wished I were pretty, but I had to settle for brains instead.

Drew spoke up from the back seat. "You're pretty, Mom."

I said, "Thank you, Drew."

"There's no 'thank you' about it," he stated. "You're pretty, Mom."


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Becoming a Boy Scout and the First Hike (Without Mom or Dad)

Another milestone has passed: Drew transitioned from Webelo to full-fledged Boy Scout at the Blue and Gold Banquet on Sunday, 20 March. He is intent on becoming an Eagle Scout---he really looks up to the older boys in the troop. It is wonderful to see the difference in his behavior between the "puppy dog" antics of the Cub Scouts and the more serious and attentive actions within the Boy Scout troop. Don't get me wrong; he still acts like a goofball, but I can see the person he is becoming.

That ceremony marked the change in activities as well. Drew went on his first overnight hike without Mom or Dad present. Being a smaller person myself, I was very concerned about the weight of his pack and finding gear that would fit him. Everyone in the family now owns hiking boots (and if you're interested in bargains, I recommend becoming a member of REI and taking advantage of the end-of-season specials in their online outlet store). Our next project is getting our bikes tuned up.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Learning To Want The Life I Have

For those who know me, you are aware of my struggles with despair and purpose following my deployment to Kuwait. Typically, Sundays have been difficult for me, and today has been no different.

Today's lectionary readings included Psalm 121, which spoke directly to me:
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

The gospel reading was from John 18: 1-11 and I was struck by Pastor Carillo's explanation of Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, took on the sins of the world to save us all. But, he did not do this without asking God, as a child petitions his father, to beg for release:
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

My study Bible comments that "Jesus did not die serenely, as many martyrs have. He was the Lamb of God bearing the penalty of the sins of the entire human race." I cannot imagine the weight of that sacrifice and I am humbled. But I have not surrendered as Jesus has. Like that stubborn two-year old, I am still telling God, "I can carry this."

Fortunately, he has surrounded me with angels. But it is still a struggle as my short-term plans involve getting through the next five minutes and my long-term plan is stringing together a bunch of short-term plans.

I did enjoy the radio selections on the way home. We listened to U2's "Mysterious Ways," then Katy Perry's "Firework." Yes, even though I still feel very much alone, God has not left me bereft.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Not "Not Home"

The transition has started from the desert to home. I am a different person rejoining my life back home, already in progress.

I slept for a few hours and got up and ran in the mist. I ate breakfast with some of my colleagues and snagged a newspaper to read in my room. I pressed out all the travel wrinkles in my uniform and have been very disappointed with daytime television. The view from the balcony in my room is beautiful and so colorful. I don't know what I'm going to do for lunch. We have to catch the bus to Port Hueneme at 1230.

In the meantime, I have a few more hours of solitude left to me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Up There On The Stage, Completely OK

In the past, one of the things I wanted to become was more spontaneous (because I equated "spontaneous" with being light-hearted, less serious, more exuberant---none of which I really see myself as) so I attended Improvisation for Creative Pedagogy at Second City in Chicago. One of the techniques I learned was "Yes, and..."

The next time you have an opportunity to view an improvisation troupe in action, watch how they keep the energy going. They do this by accepting whatever it is the person before them has thrown out, no matter how ridiculous, inappropriate, or bad. So the acknowledgement of "Yes!" then the addition of "and" allows the next person to continue and build on what the previous person has started. You can see how this mutual journey to spark tons of creativity and discovery. It's the opposite of "Yes, but..."

In "Yes, but," you're not really saying "yes." You're saying no. You're shutting down the action, the energy, the opportunity to go where no man has gone before...You're negating all the good things you said up to that point.

In this post, William Zinsser writes about bad headlines that spur us to wonder why we should bother reading further.

Dan Goldstein gives insight into “Yes, and” as well as several other tools in his essay on improvisation.

Here Charles “Chic” Thompson and Lael Lyons teach readers how to respond to the Top 40 Killer Phrases, like “Yes, but…” designed to squelch new ideas.

Somehow my mind has linked improv with walking the high wire without a net. Improv is up on the stage---something that doesn’t happen in real life, something I watch from the audience. But Shakespeare had it most fitting when he said, “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances…” (from “As You Like It”).

Mick Napier said, “Support your partner.” He continues, “Do something now. Two people making strong choices is nothing but supportive.” Finally, "Improvisation is the art of being completely OK with not knowing what the fuck you're doing."

That's me, by the way. Up there on the stage, doing improv. And I'm completely OK.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Enjoy some Tokay for me

Back in Guam, we lived next door to the chaplain for the USS Frank Cable (it's the one that had the steam rupture in DEC 2006 requiring medevac of seven patients to Brook Army Hospital for burns. Seaman Valentine died of inhalation injuries. The CO lost his job).

Chaps was quite the character. A poker-playing, Communist-hating, God-loving man, he was from Hungary and grew up under the Communists (hence the passionate distaste---and don't get him started on Muslims, either). He started a Bible study at his home on Wednesday evenings and, when we returned from Thailand, I talked to him about Buddhism. Buddhism, as a philosophy, held a distinct lure for me---peacefulness, serenity, calmness---all emotions alien to this high-strung, fiery dynamo (yes, I think that accurately describes me).

I asked him if Buddhism was compatible with Christianity and he surprised me by saying, "Yes, and there is such a thing as a Buddhist Jesuit."

I think the attraction comes from what one practitioner has said:

"Christianity is long on content but short on method and technique. So I think Buddhism is providing Christians with practices, with techniques, by which they can enter more experientially into the content of what they believe."

Chaps knew I wasn't much of a drinker and asked me what I liked. "Sweet wines," I said.

"I have the perfect wine for you," he said, and he pulled out this tiny bottle from his cabinet and poured a small bit of golden liquid into a glass. "I think you'll like this." And every time I went over to his house after that, he would pour me a glass of Tokay.

Tokay is incredibly sweet. It's like drinking warm liquid raisins, for lack of a better description. I don't think I could drink enough to get drunk before I would get sick, but it was enough to "warm" me up, to shake my rigidness and inflexibility loose, to allow me to feel fellowship with others.

What I wouldn't give to have a glass of Tokay in Guam---and a mulligan.