Monday, April 14, 2014

The Swings

I've loved amusement parks all my life. I've written before about my mysterious, childhood fairy-tale-park experience and am leaning toward the idea that it took place in California. We lived in Pennsylvania until I was eleven, but my dad worked briefly in Fresno, and the rest of us spent a summer with him.

My dad's company (Grove, a crane manufacturer) sent its families to Hershey Park every year for free or at a discount, and some of my best childhood memories are from there. After we moved to East Tennessee, our family visited Dollywood and Opryland (in Nashville). I've visited many other amusement parks as an adult.

An amusement park amuses the parents of little ones in an entirely different way than it amuses freewheeling adults. Jim and I have tended to visit fairy-tale or Santa parks because, for far less money, they offer just as much (if not more) for little children. And let's get real: it's difficult (if not downright impossible) for parents to enjoy roller coasters and shows with little kids; the poor parents just end up walking their hineys off (past all the coasters and shows) to get to the kiddie parts.

Having said all that, we bought passes (through the end of summer) to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, this year. Cade started it by asking for a pass for Christmas; both his junior-high band and his eighth-grade class are visiting Busch Gardens in May. Besides, the families of his best friends have passes, so I think he was hoping to hitch some rides. As it turns out, the little kids are all free (the girls through the preschool-pass program), so Jim and I thought: why not? We've visited twice, already.

Saturday, we avoided the Sesame Street Forest of Fun (where we spent almost our entire, first visit) and at one point, found ourselves walking past Der Wirbelwind: the swings.

I love the swings.

Is Clementine tall enough to ride the swings? I wondered. And as it turns out, she is, and so is my three-year-old. I was delighted. A perk, I thought, to Charleigh's being in the 80th percentile for height. So the three of us got in line. I was so excited.

We got a good little ways in before Clementine started actually watching the swings. "Mom," she said, tugging on my shirt, "I do not want to ride those."

"Too bad," I said, "we're already in line."

She crossed her arms in front of her chest and parked it right there on the concrete. "I'm not going to ride those," she said matter-of-factly. "I'm scared of heights."

"Fine," I huffed, and taking both girls by the hand, I made my way past all the people behind us and back through the entrance of the line. Jim saw us coming and grinned.

"I knew they wouldn't do it," he said. "I know my girls."

"It's Clementine," I growled (and I may or may not have said something highly dramatic and inappropriate, for Jim's ears only, about her ruining my life).

Meanwhile, Charleigh was saying: "Mama, I'll ride with you. I'll ride the big swings with you." I stood there waffling, looking at Jim: did I really want to enter the line again?

"Go ahead," he said. "I'm not in any hurry. You should go."

Charleigh and I waited in line (again). We buckled into our seats and held hands, and just before we rose from the ground, the operator flipped on the lights. Everyone cheered.

As we were swinging, I said to Charleigh: "I love the swings. I feel like I'm a bird, like I'm flying."

"I feel that way, too, Mama," she smiled, and she squeezed my hand.

And it's hard, sometimes, to be a mommy. I have a strong personality. I was very much myself before I had four children. There are times that I feel missing from myself. There's a "what about me" voice inside.

I love my children. I live for them. I wouldn't give them away or back, and I would lie down and die for any one of them in an instant. Still, I fight to appreciate this (fleeting, I know!) season. I have to work at it.

It's hard. You don't know even if you do, and what I mean by that is simply this: you're not me, and your situation isn't mine. I'm confessing that I struggle, that it's not always as happy as it looks in pictures.

But also, this: every once in a great while, there's a moment that I'm fully and authentically myself, and one of my children is right beside me, taking it in with joy, and that's the very best. There is nothing better. Being fully and authentically myself, by myself, doesn't compare. I'm always chasing those moments. I'm always chasing myself with my children in tow.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Egg

Odilon Redon's The Egg, 1885

"I couldn't take it one more minute,
all that walking around on eggshells,"
she said, and it's a thing I didn't get
until the crunch of eggshells filled
my very own ears. If you think it's
unpleasant to walk barefoot over a
dirty kitchen floor, imagine: crunch,
crunch, crunch, and not just through
part of your house, but everywhere
you go, through all your life: crunch.
I hope it's a thing you never get,
never wake up wondering: whatever
happened to the egg, anyway? And
how can I ever hope to fix that egg
when all the king's horses and men,
collectively, didn't stand a chance?

**writing in community, for the first time, with Imaginary Garden with Real Toads

Thursday, April 10, 2014

True Spring

On April 2nd, I woke to Chip's little hand rubbing my naked back in the right-left-right-left arc of a windshield wiper. I opened my eyes to a thin ribbon of sunshine between the curtains and knew: true spring, and that knowledge was sprinkled with surprise. I realized that, in some small way, I'd doubted the return of spring. I'd doubted.

It had to do with spring's (and even summer's?) being dangled--over and over again--in front of me and then snatched back. In delight, I'd sprung into "spring" several times only to experience the retreat of warm light. I know you know, and I wonder: is it out of wisdom that old men sit and talk about the weather? A fail-proof topic of conversation, the weather.

In writing about the weather, I've written something we all understand. But also? I've written analogy and even parable.

After enough "just kiddings," the hope slides right out of me, and perhaps without my even realizing it. Hope doesn't often spill from us like the gush of soda from a knocked-over glass, after all, but like the trickle of sand through a pin-pricked sack. Job understood this and writes the water-wear of rocks in the same sentence as the destruction of hope (14:19). It takes time to destroy hope.

Over time and after many disappointments, I come to doubt the return of a thing like spring...or the healing of a long-suffering loved one...or (like Charlie Brown) the integrity of a person like Lucy van Pelt. I'll wager you're just the same.

An unknown person wrote: "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end," and Cicero (echoing the author of Ecclesiastes 9:4) wrote: "While there's life, there's hope." I'm writing, just now, as someone awakening to many wonders I'd doubted. I'm a person of faith; I am. I want to be, also, a person of hope: a person who recognizes and stops the trickle of any and all good things from my being.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Unblogged Happiness: March Edition

What's that old saying about March? In like a lion, out like a lamb? Well, in the Greater Richmond Area,  March 2014 was more like Lion!...Lamb!...Lion chasing lamb!...Lamb!...Just kidding: lion! It was crazy-making. We had days in the 70's followed by snow and ice storms. Scary enough, my mood somewhat mirrored the weather. It didn't help that we had bouts with what I think were two different stomach bugs.

I wish I could write out, in this space, everything I'm thinking and feeling, but fact is: I don't feel like it's appropriate to do so. I'm learning that--as grumpy as it makes me--there are seasons in which the stories that affect me most aren't really mine to tell.

I missed some amazing shots in March. I'd just dropped Cade off at school, one morning, when I drove up on some deer in the woods in front of our house. They didn't even startle: just stood there in the freshly-fallen snow, looking at me. I'm also particularly sorry that I failed to capture Charleigh, clad in red feeted jamas and pink cowboy boots and running down an aisle in Food Lion. I left my camera behind on several other occasions, besides, but here are some photos I did manage to take.

03/08 - The little kids and I visited the Children's Museum of Richmond so they could meet Daniel Tiger. If you're not familiar with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood on PBS Kids, it's a cartoon based upon The Neighborhood of Make-Believe from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. We're fans.

Dr. MeMe. Great shot of the haircut she gave herself.

03/09 - The little kids and I attended a party for our friend Maeve's 5th birthday.

03/09 - A couple more from the "Glinda Shoot."

 03/10 - Birthday, ballet outfit from Auntie Jill the tutu maker. Visit her Etsy shop by clicking here.

03/11 - Day at the Metro Richmond Zoo. I took very few photos; it was so stinkin' hot that the animals hardly moved. We bought annual passes, though, so there will be plenty of zoo photos before it's all said and done.

Not a particularly happy moment, but entertaining in its own way. We never did figure out what his problem was,  despite his going on and on about it. Out of character for my Chip of a yumster.

03/15 - Chuck E. Cheese's. Back in February, when I was blogging about Clementine's circus birthday party, I left out the harrowing part about her manifesting, mid-party!, the very first signs of pink eye. We'd promised a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's the day after her party but ended up postponing until March.

It was crowded, and we lost Chip for a few minutes, but Samwise found him: said Chip was encroaching on someone's game by pounding a giant button (hee hee).

Sam and Clementine. I have a photo just like this of Cade's first time in the car with Chuck E.

I quite like the Chuck E. Cheese's art. At $1 for the frame and roughly $.40 for the art, you can't beat it! 

03/19 - Cade and I survived the science fair again, this year. Both he and Maddie (the babysitter for our small group) earned second-place ribbons.

09/22 - Jim had never been to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, and I hadn't been for many years (7? 8?). We know we're not going to be able to vacation like we did, last year, so we bought summer passes. Cade was with us, too, but he and his friend Phillip were off doing their own thing.

The Mom I Want to Be

The Wife I Am ;)

Chip's New (to him) Kicks

Charleigh's face!

A close-up: LOVE it!

 03/27 - Fun in the back yard.

I'm thrilled that Chip can walk around the back yard, this year.

03/29 - Rachel's baby shower. So excited about our miracle of a "lake baby," due in June.

Friday, March 28, 2014

One Last One, for Jason

How about a ride on Monday? I asked.
How about Wednesday? he countered.
I'm flying out to Dallas on Wednesday,
I said. How about Monday? Monday's
my birthday, he said. I know that, I said,
but let's get real. What better thing could
you do on your birthday than take a ride?
He nodded. We'll ride Monday, he said.

And it was that simple, my dream: a little
exchange like a million others; he was
never the person to whom I turned for
deep conversation. He was, however, a
person I expected to be there at my whim
and just the same, thank you, as he'd been
last time, even if years had passed. And he
indulged me (I see that now) out of love.

I didn't expect that losing him would hurt
so much, and I know he didn't expect it,
either, before he died; whatever I said
or did to indicate my affection didn't touch
the depth of it. But I'll tell you what I believe:
I believe he sees and knows, over yonder,
and recognized an opportunity to visit me.
(I was close, having just come off a fast.)

I believe he came through in accordance
to how I perceived him before his passing,
but I see, today: he was deeper and wiser
and just more than I gave him credit for being.
He saw me for what I was (shallow in my
self-importance) and coddled me like a child,
never guessing he'd leave this place so soon
or that, in his absence, I'd know him at last.

**writing with the communities of Poetry Jam and dVerse

Monday, March 24, 2014

An Exciting Something

Charleigh on Her 3rd Birthday. Mark Cline's Hippo, Natural Bridge Zoo.

I got an e-mail, the other day, from Mark Cline."Want to help fund this before I die?" he asked, and he included a link for a Kickstarter project: a documentary about Cline called Blue Ridge Barnum. According to filmmaker Emma Mankey Hidem, filming's 95% complete, and the team's beginning post-production. They're trying to raise the necessary funds to finish and release the film.

Jim and I became backers within moments of receiving the e-mail. We've viewed so much of Mark Cline's work free of charge that we count it a privilege to give a little something back. (To read my post about meeting Mark Cline, click here.) I'm thinking the team will have no problem raising the necessary funds if they can get the word out. I'm determined to do my part and hope you'll come alongside.

Why should you care about this? For so many reasons.
  • Because you care about art and artistic expression.
  • Because you care about a person who dares to follow his dreams.
  • Because you care about a person who lives to bring others joy (and very often for free).
  • Because you care about a person who makes childhood (and adulthood) magical for so many.
  • Because you care about a person who helped bring Bethlehem to life
  • Because you care about a person so called/driven that not even TWO suspicious fires have been able to stop him.

Trust me, to meet Mark Cline is to love him. Please click here to watch the clip from Blue Ridge Barnum and consider how you might help. Do you have a dollar or three to help fund the project? Can you help spread the word on social media and/or in the blogosphere?

The world should have the opportunity to be inspired by Mark Cline and his work. It really should. This is important.

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Entering and Breaking a Fast

I confess I've been overwhelmed, lately, in my spirit: so overwhelmed that I haven't known how to separate--in my mind or heart or writing--the wheat from the chaff. Truth is, a person can write in a line or a circle, but there should be a vision. I like my writing tight. I believe every word matters, and if I can't write in a way that makes sense, to me, of me, I'll wait. I'm more patient than you think, too, especially with myself.

Also, I know: in the end, this business of separating wheat from chaff is the Lord's. He's not the author of confusion. When I'm not hearing Him well--when His voice is just one of so many others in my head, when all the words (His, other people's, mine) whirl around in my nog like debris in a dust cloud--I need to let something(s) go: to simplify in order to discern.

I quit facebook almost two months ago. My thinking improved but not enough, so I entered a Daniel Fast on the 3rd. In case you're not familiar, this is a twenty-one-day, partial fast based out of scripture (see Daniel 1 and 10). It's like a vegan diet with extra limitations.

I feel stronger when I'm fasting. I don't mean to downplay the spiritual implications of this statement but know: for me, the increase in strength is tied to my avoiding sugar in all its forms (including carbs). Sugar makes me sick, but it calls to me from the cupboard, and I'm weak.

Jim spent just over a week of my fast with his mom, and I put my extra strength to good use: taking care of the children, yes, but also shampooing the living-room carpet, getting the minivan inspected, helping Cade with his science-fair project, taking two children for well visits, taking two children for haircuts, putting away the piles of clean clothes in my bedroom (which almost never happens), hosting small group. I felt empowered, and loved ones came alongside.

I prayed while fasting. A lot. I asked the Lord to enter four different situations, and I know He entered all of them. I experienced most profoundly His entering my marriage; I'm sure I'll write more about that, later. God showed up, too, in smaller, quieter ways; one Sunday morning, I stepped into the choir room and a warm-up of the same hymn I'd sung over my crying baby the night before.

I vomited four times in the wee hours of the eighteenth day. A virus. (Clementine had done the same twenty-four hours before.) When I got up to take Cade to the bus, I felt released from the fast.


"I don't need your sacrifices," He says. 

"I know," I tell Him. "I needed my sacrifices."

He nods. "Yes," He says, and pushes the cup of flat ginger ale in my direction.