Friday, June 29, 2007

Boo on the big day

See my beautiful girl! What you can't see is the bling around her neck, dangling from her ears, and in her hair. She was sparkly inside and out!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Two books

Two books I've read this month and really enjoyed:

The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog is the most interesting and readable book I have ever run across in mental health (with the exception of Mary Pipher's books, I guess). In this book, Bruce Perry, child psychiatrist, focuses on how trauma changes the functioning of the brain and disrupts normal development in dramatic ways. His case studies include the Branch Davidian children who left the Waco compound before the fire as well as other children who have been traumatized in ways that are, sadly, "normal." I was especially touched, though, by his passionate belief that trauma is best healed in loving, appropriately nurturing relationships, ie., "in community." Although this book's focus is on children, it helped me think in new and creative ways about the role of trauma in adult dysfunction and family dynamics.

I bought Take This Bread by Sara Miles because a reviewer said the author reminded her of Anne Lamott (so, of course, I bought the book the next day!) I'm such a sucker! Actually, though, I can see the comparison--Miles does a beautiful job of telling stories and then gleaning the wisdom out of them. Here's the plot-line: Miles is a left-wing revolutionary journalist who is also a chef, an atheist and a lesbian. Her spiritual quest eventually takes her into an Episcopalian church that is dedicated to offering the eucharist to all. She has a mystical experience with Jesus through the bread and the wine, then begins a food pantry to feed the hungry in the neighborhood surrounding the church. Her stories reflect on the importance of sharing food in spiritual community, the sometimes painful intersection of social ministry and established church, the difficulties of relationships across socioeconomic and cultural lines, and what it means that the gospel is for everyone. Here is one paragraph she writes about community and the food pantry:

" . . . It meant mistakes, sure, but also the opening up of genuine
participation to all kinds of people. We had homeless guys and women with
missing teeth and a couple who only spoke Tagalog come join us; a transsexual
with a thick Bronx accent, some teenagers, an ancient Greek woman from across
the street, and a dapper man from St. Gregory's choir who came and played the
accordion during the pantry. They were all people who, like me, had come
to get fed but had stayed to help out. Who, like me, took that bread and
got changed. We were all converting: turning into new people as we
rubbed up against one another."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Small miracles

Saturday night, I sat in a candlelit banquet room and watched small miracles emerge like stars popping out of a late evening sky:
  • My little sister, radiant and beautiful, and her tall and handsome groom, still glowing from the outdoor wedding just minutes before
  • My Baptist deacon father and my prefers-the-background mother dancing the first dance with the happy couple, significant because both learned to dance for the occasion, for no other reason than love for their daughter
  • Boo, making her debut as a glamour-girl, dressed in a still-on-sale-after-prom dress that she chose herself--royal blue--and lots of bling and even some mascara and lip gloss--having a wonderful time being a girl
  • My brother, whose life was not-too-long-ago sad and unstable, dancing to SuperFreak with his teenaged daughter (whose own life has gained stability since going to live with her dad--there's a miracle right there)--both of them looking happy and content
  • My other brother announcing that he has a new job as superintendent of the construction of a large apartment complex--go figure!
  • My uncle and his two college-aged daughters, their relationship recently ravaged by a wrenching divorce, dancing with abandon, enjoying every minute. My fifty-something uncle even break-danced for their benefit (I guess you never outgrow embarrassing your kids!)
  • My other uncle, having lost a teenaged son and his vivacious wife of almost 30 years, also on the dance floor in the arms of his new wife beaming up at him, both of them obviously happy despite multiple recent (and serious) health problems

Those of you who have prayed for my funny family (and some of you have for years)--thank you. The miracles of new beginnings, redemption, celebration, and love . . .

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Our end-of-week ritual is to watch Studio 60 together and, during the commercials, talk about what a funny, smart show it is, how much we like the characters, etc. Until we learned that it is being cancelled. Now we watch it together every week but during the commercials, we kvetch about what a stupid country this is, full of stupid people, who can't keep a funny, smart show like Studio 60 on the air for even one season.

To add insult to injury, at every commercial break, they advertise its replacement: a reality show called "Age of Love" in which a 30something hottie dates women in their 20s and their 40s and makes observations about the differences between younger and "older" women. At the end of the season, he will choose one of them to be his "lady"--and we all know that he'll narrow down the field to one young woman and one "mature" woman (who doesn't look like any of us look at her age)--and then he'll pick the young chick and talk about how hard it was to decide between them.

Meanwhile, Studio 60 isn't coming back and we are very, very, very sad.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Good news, everyone--No philosophical musings in this post; just an update on things on this end. We took possession of the house on Saturday, a day early. We walked through it that afternoon and let Mowgli and Boo pick out their rooms. They are so ready to have their own rooms again and doors they can close, they can hardly stand it!

Sunday, I went to evening services and C came over to sit by me. I leaned over and said, "How was deacon's meeting?" and he said, "Really, really great." That felt like a small miracle!

This week, I'm focusing on painting, cleaning, buying all the miscellaneous stuff you have to buy for a new house (ie., our kitchen trash can doesn't fit under the sink here), even buying some really fun stuff (like a new TV!)

Saturday is moving day and I think almost all of the church will be on hand for the move, either bringing food or helping to move or driving the trucks or just coming out of curiosity. It's wonderful to have so much help.

So . . . that's the latest here. What's new with you?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wednesday night I was standing in the hallway at church, waiting for Boo to get out of the youth group. I noticed another woman also waiting. She was shabbily dressed and disheveled and her front teeth were missing. I started to make small talk, asking if she was also waiting for a teenager.

She said no, that she was waiting for the teacher, who is also the deacon in charge of benevolence. Then she started sharing a hard-luck story that matched her appearance--jobs lost, government benefits delayed, health problems, and so on. You know, I immediately recognized the feelings that bubble up when I find myself in that situation--sympathetic but also from an uncomfortable emotional distance.

I had been asking God lately to enlarge my heart, to expand my capacity for love, and so I began to quietly pray and sure enough, my anxiety subsided and I listened to her story with more empathy, making all the right sympathetic noises and offering the occasional helpful response. Her story was not even a creative variation on the sad stories we hear over and over, but she was very nice, engaged, interesting. We chatted for about twenty minutes until the youth meeting let out.

That night, as I was going to sleep, I thanked the Lord for helping me to respond more lovingly to her, when a deep spiritual awareness brought me up short: love, or at least the beginnings of love, would have asked her about her family or what she enjoyed doing or how long she had been a church member or whatever questions I ask other people--less pitiful people--when I'm trying to make a connection or begin a friendship. Why didn't I do that with this woman? I was so disappointed when I realized that even though I am intentionally creating friendships right now, I never even for one moment thought of this woman as a potential friend or peer. That made me really sad.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Beautiful people

I'm sitting in the shade at the apartment complex pool. I'm trying to be completely invisible (as required for the parents of teenaged girls) while still keeping an eye on Boo and her 4 new friends from church who have come over to swim. I've looked up from my book (Take This Bread by Sara Miles, if you were wondering) to find that real life is more interesting.

In addition to Boo and her friends, young twentysomethings are gathering around the pool, koozies and bags of charcoal in hand. At first, it's the guys--all shirtless, all goodlooking in an athletic way (if you like that sort of thing), all mind-numbingly young. It's funny--they gulp their beers and then burp loud and long, but you can still tell that they know that they are the beautiful people. Then the girls start to arrive--all lovely in their see-through coverups and their long hair and long legs and they are tan, tan, tan. I know for a fact that when we were that young, we were not that beautiful.

As they play volleyball and ready the grill and greet each other, "hug-hug" with cigarette held at arm's length, I'm only mildly envious of their good looks, their youth, their casual coolness. Because it's also very evident to my middle-aged, experienced eye that they are painfully self-conscious, completely aware that their very emotional survival depends on how beautiful they are and how cool they appear. I vaguely remember when the stakes were that high and don't miss it at all.

Then, another middle aged mom comes into view with two tiny girls holding her hands, carrying floaties, one blond with creamy skin and the other with eyes, hair and skin the color of cinnamon. My first thought is, "There's a story there . . . " and my second thought follows it immediately: This is one brave lady. Because the mom (or maybe grandma) probably weighs more than 350 lbs and is wearing a swimsuit, ready to get in the water with her girls. To get to the pool, she has to walk past the grill and the volleyball area and all the recliners full of beautiful girls getting beautiful tans. And she does. Today, she's my hero.

Homeowners again

We are homeowners again! Although we closed on the house yesterday, the sellers won't move out until Saturday sometime, so we're still in the apartment, but still . . . we have a house! I'll have a week to paint, clean, obsess, etc. until June 16, when we will actually move. Then, serious "nesting" will begin! I'll try to post photos when I learn how to do that.

I have to admit--the comment about obsessing isn't a joke. I'm completely overtaken by thoughts about the house and anytime I'm not thinking about something else, that's what I'm thinking about. As KC has observed, "place" seems to be very important to me.

But even while I'm obsessed with "nesting," other stirrings seem to be returning. I had lunch yesterday with two of our staff at MBC and they were talking about mental health issues and the need for good therapists and the impact of such people on their own lives and I could feel the old enthusiasm bubbling up, feeling ready to get back in the game, even if it is a new game in a new city. I didn't expect to feel that so soon, so there was reassurance there.

In the meantime, though, I'm more interested in paint colors and furniture placement!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Changes to the blog

I realized that some of you could not comment on this blog because you are not members of blogger. I've changed the settings so that anyone can now comment. I hope you will--makes it more interactive and therefore more fun.