Wednesday, May 28, 2008

so long status quo

Once upon a time, I wanted to work from home. I got lucky and found medical transcription. A good friend started her own company and trained me on the job. I've been doing it for nine years now, and women I meet at the ball field are often jealous. They don't realize that I don't currently have the flexible hours everyone assumes with medical transcription. I have a set shift and punch a cyber time card. They also don't realize I do it eight hours a day. ( I used to do it less. I never got the Sunday night blues when I typed only four or five hours a day. It fit nicely in between playtime and nap times with my children). And they don't realize I have to work on Sunday. But all those things they didn't realize, didn't matter really. Because working from home was my original goal, and I still had that.

But tomorrow is my very last day as a medical transcriptionist. I'd tell you my new title for my new job, but I don't really know what it is. The main idea, though, is that I'll be writing. I'll have to be inventive, and I'll use completely different skills. I'm nervous. I can't say I feel exactly sad to leave transcription. But I still have the sinking feeling that comes with letting go.

The best part, of course, is that I still get to work from home. I like it here. I like the little boys who live here, even the two older ones who dare to summer vacation all around me even now while I'm so distracted over starting a new job. Even the youngest one who as I write this is leaning against his bedroom door over and over so I will realize he is out of the toddler bed and wants returned to it.

I'm terribly afraid I'm going to fail. But I like the feeling that maybe this is brave. The real kind of brave - the kind that leads to happy. A place I'll be able to look back from and thank God that I let go.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Maria Chapman

Today I'm thankful I'm a Christian. I wouldn't normally say it that way. As if I had picked from the various religions like I choose a drink at a restaurant. But that's kind of how I feel. There are several out there after all, and today I'm glad for mine. I heard yesterday the tragic news that Stephen Curtis Chapman's youngest daughter was killed in an accident in his very own driveway with family members watching. I almost couldn't bear the news and couldn't imagine how they were bearing it. I went online immediately to snatch at any news of it and hopefully to see how the Chapmans were doing. I knew they would be broken and horrified and clinging to each other. But I wanted to see or hear from them in any small way. I needed to see that faint but resolute glimpse of hope that Christians often reveal in times of crisis. It seems so obvious to despair, to lose faith, to curse it even, when something so unspeakable happens. I wanted to see the proof that they had not chosen the obvious.

Well, I found it of course. There was already a fund set up in their daughter's name to help orphans around the world. There was a blog written by their manager and assuring everyone that the family still believed. The simple fact that they had created a place for me to grieve and to relieve at least a little my sense of helplessness - it was the glimpse I needed to see.

Felicity wrote a beautiful post about the tragedy. She said our faith does not always provide answers but that it always gives comfort. The hope of eternity. I don't know of any religion that has a prettier version than ours. Not only do we believe that we go on, but that we get to meet and be with our God, our loved ones, and all people of faith who have ever and will ever live. Not only do we go on, but we do it in a place with no more tears or sadness, nor more sickness or pain. Perhaps there are better versions out there, but I don't know of them.

I wrote several posts ago about a minister and author who believes in God but not eternity. She said she did not want to live forever, because she was tired of herself. I get that. I'm tired of myself too. I bet sometimes Stephen Curtis Chapman is tired of himself - all the quirks and sins and struggles none of us see. But I know today he is glad that he believes.

Because I know he was not tired of her.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I miss them already

It's graduation season.  Prepare for a ridiculous amount of sentiment on serenity now, because I saw my children at senior graduation from the moment I dropped them at the door to kindergarten that first day.  You can tell me again that it goes all too quickly if you'd like, but you're talking to a girl who knows.

Mom tells me that every season of life is enjoyable.  But last night I heard something that made me question everything she has ever told me.  I had to wonder - in a shocked and conspiratorial sort of whisper - Maybe Mom is LYING.

It happened while I was otherwise ignoring a sitcom on t.v.  I don't even know if it was a graduation episode, although I'm thinking so.  Because I suddenly heard the mother give a tearful, melodramatic speech about children growing up.  It was one of the moments when I remember that behind every show - comedic, dramatic, action - there lies at least one true writer - the kind of person trying to capture the whole wide world with their words.  The mother listed off the things we teach our children - I only remember one, and I'll make up the rest for you here:  We teach them to use a fork, she said.  And to spell their own name and to look both ways before they cross the street.


"And then we realize," (and this is the part that made me sit straight up and choke from the truth of it), "All along, we were really just teaching them to leave."

Monday, May 19, 2008

a bit of earth

Gardening for me has always been a theory. Something I knew would be a beautiful part of life if I ever actually tried it - kind of like I used to feel about having children. That's right, you wouldn't know it by the sheer volume of mom-related posts on this blog, but at one time having children someday was something I knew I should and would do but not something I understood to be the best thing that would happen to me ever. Parenthood and gardening are similar in that way. You can't really convince someone how it will feel until they try it for themselves.

Tonight I got a taste of it. I raked the leaves from around the beautiful azaleas in front of the house.  Yes, raked the leaves, as in, Don't most people do that before it snows?  And I gotta say, it was nice.  It really is as satisfying as everyone always says.  I was going to post a picture, but I'm too tired to load them onto the computer right now.  Plus, I will then be like the mother who puts the child on the phone and won't let you go until the child speaks.  It's just not the same unless it's your own flower bed.  Still though, I wanted to share it with the universe that I'm converted.  Gardening - it's good for the soul.

Friday, May 16, 2008

learning curve

I downloaded a free software program that is completely over my head, and I have been trying to design some new headers for the blog. It might change a million times in the next few days, so don't worry that your computer has a mind of its own. I'll write a new post soon and get back to the part of web-life that I'm actually good at.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I dream big but I enjoy the Band-Aids

Funny true story about me - when I was in high school, my hope chest slammed shut on my head.  My head, and it busted my lip.  I've wondered if that would make a good book title - you know, for a teen angst kind of memoir.  My hope chest is this huge gorgeous handmade chest that Grandpa gave me when I turned 16.  Back then I mostly kept memories in it instead of hope.  Scrapbooks, old journals, stuff like that.  It's weird how long it took me to actually look ahead.  The sequel to that imaginary teen memoir, which will also be literal, is There's a Spiderman Band-Aid Stuck to My Hopechest.  It's about the days when I looked around at the little boys and the chaos, thinking, "Is this what I was hoping for all that time?"  

A friend once gave me a beautiful song by Carolyn Arends about how we're always reaching for the future and the past and, "No matter what we have, we reach for more/We are desperate to discover what is just beyond our grasp/Maybe that's what heaven is for."  I love the song.  It's so true.  

I've written here before about how much I love to look forward to things, to have a long term to-do list, a short term wish list.  I don't feel I'm really living unless I'm looking ahead at least a little.  And I think it's lovely to imagine that was put in us as part of our understanding that we're only passing through here.  But the other thing I get from the song is the reminder that the longing won't ever truly be reached.  The message of that to me is that all day, while thinking about my writing career and jobs and such, the thing that mattered most was still just the Spiderman Band-Aids.  The bare feet in my header and the boys that belong to them.  You know . . . the life I've found.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

your mother's day and mine

Dear Mom, 

I liked the way you smelled after a long trip with Dad when you would come through the very door in this picture and pick us up at Grandma's where we had been staying.  Your skin was always so fresh and cool, either from the snowy outdoors in winter or the crisp air conditioning in summer.  You smelled like some place wonderful mingled with your perfume - the combination that resulted from time away with dad and thus your happy glow.


If I was with you today, I'd make you a necklace from construction paper hearts and an old shoe string that you can't help but picture in the mud and which you are grateful doesn't smell like dog poop - because that's what my children did for me.  I would pick all of your favorite flowers - the only ones that bloomed, and which you so love to see growing outside - and put them in mugs and glasses all over your house.  I would still string my toys all over the floor, but I don't think you would mind picking them up - what with the necklace and all - and did I mention the rings that say MOM and the poem that you rock like a mock ?  If I was 2, I might even dump baby powder all over the bathroom floor and myself and the tractor trailer I like to drive around the house.   But don't worry, Dad'll clean it up.


If I were with you today, I'd kiss your face and thank God that I learned from the very best woman in the world just how special old shoelaces can be.  You rock, Mom.  Like a mock.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

average photography, excellent life

I'm off to organize pictures soon.  The word organize implies that I'm really on top of our family history through photography, but not so much.  I'm way behind in ordering pictures online and will currently be placing September and October o4 in the albums.  Yikes.  I think that I adore pictures.  I consider photography one of the dreams I just missed actually wanting to pursue.  If I had inherited a great professional camera at some point in my life instead of having journaled my little heart out like it was going to save the world, you'd be looking at a photo gallery right now.  So, anyway, I think I adore them and that I take a lot of them.  But it's true what they say - for every 100 pictures, I only get a few real gems.  I have them faithfully stored on my computer and in cyberspace, but I fail to order them very often except for gifts or cards.  I've also noticed another problem - so often I would rather live the moment than take a picture of it.

As mentioned, I just read Celebrity Detox by Rosie O'Donnell.  She scrapbooks a lot.  And paints and does crafts and makes videos with family pictures.  And at one point in the book she said that she thinks sometimes she overdoes this because it is easier to be with pictures than with people.  Being with people takes more work.  She didn't give that as a suggestion but as self deprecation.  And I think she's right.  It's harder to glorify the mundane while we're living it than it is to put a colorful border around it and glue it to a scrapbook as IF to glorify it.  I am going to go organize those pictures - Cornfest 05 with 12 million pictures of the boys and their cousins riding ponies in a circle the size of a sedan - this won't document itself, People!  But I'll never take a picture or put it in a photo album again without thinking of Rosie's words and hoping to God that I strike the proper balance.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

faith talk

My agent sent me a book the other day. It is also a memoir, entitled Here if You Need Me. It came in a package with the return address of my literary agency with my name handwritten by my agent. Michael says I've become a diva now. I think it's because I say "my agent" all the time and don't like to cook supper. But I simply point out to him- by an eye roll only - that I never liked to cook supper, so I have no idea what he is getting at.

Here if You Need Me is lovely. It is about a chaplain to game wardens in Maine. The book is full of stories from her job, which often involves search and rescue. She doesn't actually do the searching. She sits with the familes and with the search teams as they rotate from the woods to the relief trailers where volunteers make soup for them. Throughout the book she describes these scenes and explains that the show of love in tragic times is God himself. People from all walks of life coming together for the search of someone previously to them a stranger, sitting side by side with other strangers, putting their own comfort aside for the salvation of other humans - this is love, and it's God.

I find this completely beautiful and almost completely true. My book is practically about the very same thing - the love of humanity and how it holds us up when we can barely stand ourselves. But in my most difficult trial, I noticed something else. There was a point at which humanity had done all that it possibly could, and I still needed more. The author of Here believes that when we die, our soul dies with us. We simply cease to exist. If that is true, and I do not believe that it is, there is still that moment right before we die when we are leaving this earth and all we have ever known and all of those people who have been Love for us and strength for us. It is somewhere in that moment that people are not quite enough. They can give us no actual assurance that dying will not be painful, that there will or will not be a light, that once we leave them we will not be sad or afraid that we have. They simply don't know those things. But God does. When I was diagnosed with cancer and immediately, whether warranted or not, felt that I was facing death, people were wonderful. They were dear and faithful and kind and strong for me. But just beyond that, came God.

This I believe is the God of the lost person in the woods. Because if He is only seen in the love of humanity, how else will she have any idea of Him when she can't see or hear the people searching for her? I believe it's because the very best of humanity is not actually Him, it's part of Him. And just beyond that, He's still there.

Friday, May 2, 2008

another favorite part of my day

You may have noticed, I handle childhood milestones with a smorgas -board of emotions.  They are equally thrilling and traumatizing for me, less so the latter now that I have faced the idea of missing out on them altogether - that would, after all, be much worse.  But I had not learned that lesson yet when John started kindergarten, and I viewed the entrance to his school building with simultaneous fear, gratitude, suspicion, and adventure.   But consider this beautiful woman:  She is my dad's sister, and for all three of John's first years of school, she has been the guardian of that entrance.  She asks for the job.  Standing at the door to greet every single child who enters it every morning of their lives.

She is like the mailman of Childhood:  Neither rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow.  I've seen her stand in the rain with the giant colored umbrella she is holding in this picture.  She wears mittens in the winter I can only hope are made from synthetic polar bear.  (Missouri winters - blechk).  She is the first kindness to touch their little souls as they enter the uncertain day before them, and it does wonders in easing my angst.  There are many kindnesses on the inside too - the calling of teacher is undoubtedly the highest in our civilization - all the more so because it is the least financially compensated for its level of difficulty.  But as I watch all of the other children, not related by blood, who stream past her each day, greeted by her high-five that in my mind translates through them as a benediction, I wonder if they can possibly know the gift of it.  She loves them.  And I love her for it.