Friday, February 27, 2009

A Woman is Life

Women are born with 1 to 2 million eggs.

At puberty, when we become biologically able to conceive a child, we have an average of 400,000 eggs ready and waiting to develop, and by age thirty-six, the number has declined to about 36,000- still tens of thousands more than a woman will ever need, no matter how many children she wants to have!

I read this weeks ago, and I cannot get it out of my mind.

Two million eggs!

When they were born, my daughters carried within them the possibility of two million children.  Together, they had the potential of giving me grandchildren equal to the population of Moldova. 

I am 31. I have given birth to two babies . . . but I didn't give birth to 399,998! There is still time. I still have about 40,000 left.

Now, before you think I'm going all Nadya Suleman on you here . . . this struck me in terms of possibility.

The older I get, the more aware I am of the creative, life-giving potential in every woman.

This abundance of eggs, to me, does a lot to explain that incurable longing in every woman, the restless spirit, that question we eternally grapple with . . . 

Who am I?  

We never really know for sure. 
Because all of our living is pregnant with living.  

We work, but we long to nurture.  
We nurture, but we wish for vocation.  
We give and give and give ourselves, but are not depleted.  
We create, and there is no end to our creating . . . there is always the next thing, and the next.
We conceive and our bodies miraculously knit babies . . . we give birth to child, and give birth to her mother.
We make magical milk and give life to an infant . . . and when breastfeeding is over we both are stronger. There is nothing lost.
We plant ourselves in our children and watch them grow and change, and find ourselves still growing and changing as well. 
We take on a house and somehow it becomes home.
We love deep and raise lovers, 
  we teach and raise teachers,
      we heal and raise healers,
         we instill beauty and raise beauty-makers.
And at the end of the day, the year, the season . . . there is so much left to do . . . no, not laundry . . . possibilities.
Energy yet to give.
Life yet to live.
Creation waiting to be born.

Who am I?

We don't know because there is more life in us than we can possibly know what to do with.

We were born pregnant, we are always pregnant, always procreating, continually giving life.

We are many things.   

Monday, February 23, 2009

"she came to believe in God by giving Him thanks."

"And then my friend said, "I want you to develop your relationship with this higher power."

I said: "I don't believe there is one. What kind of God wants you to get down on your knees?"
And she said: "You don't do it for God. It's not about God. You're doing it for yourself."
How did you respond to that?
I told her, "This doesn't make any... sense." And she said: "You are not the right size in the world. You don't understand your position in the world."
. . . read about Mary Karr's conversion through giving thanks here

This post reminded me of the Maytrees, by Annie Dillard.  A lovely book.  

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I See the Moon

So I have this guilty secret.  I tried not to think about it.  I didn't mention it to anyone.  Never planned to act on it.  Until this weekend.  

This weekend, everything began to fall into place.  Without even trying, the temptation I had been avoiding, this little voice I had been ignoring, seemed about to present itself.  And I gave in.

My secret wish that nearly came true?  

To be left alone.

Just.  Me.

Two. Whole. Days.

Alone.

I charted my course.  Plotted and planned.  Made lists and goals and schedules and timelines . . . 
First books, then art, then projects, then blog.
No . . . Art after coffee, projects when I'm sleepy, books and blogs all night. . . . 

I envisioned silence . . .
seamless hours to work;
time to pray and sort-out the fragments of thoughts that have had nowhere to go;
an ambitious stack of books from the library;
a generous stash of coffee.
I cleaned the house so I wouldn't be tempted;
told no one so not to be distracted;
tried not to appear too eager as I began to pack up two little girls and their dad for the weekend.

But then . . .
One a.m. she's coughing.
Two a.m. I'm driving under an icy sliver moon.
Three a.m. doctor's listening, nurses measuring fever and pulse. 
Four a.m. I'm rocking her to sleep with the radio, 
listening to quiet steps in the dark hall and the slow hum of machines, 
her hair matted and curly all over.
Pink lips, pink cheeks, frightening blue circles under sleeping eyes.
She's gonna be fine . . .
And I'm singing to her about the moon,
and thinking about my evaporated projects and plans interrupted
the painting that I may never finish
the stack of books
and the wee baby moon all alone in the sky . . . 
aware of how satisfied I am
this moment,
holding moon-shaped baby girl
under pulsing red monitor
and soft hospital lamp . . .
small below glowing Emergency Room Sign
on dark silent hill
under frozen stars
and 
lonely baby moon . . .
I never really liked that particular moon song, 
the moon all alone who didn't care.
I'd rather sing about the moon who sees me, 
and the somebody I'd like to see.
The smiling moon 
and God bless the moon, and me, and the somebody
the moon looking down, 
connecting us all together
making sure we are not alone.

(Annie was kept for observation and released the next morning.  Thankfully, it was only a severe but treatable and (we hope) quickly passing case of croup).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'm Not. But It Sure Feels Like I Am.

I am not pregnant.

I am, however, reliving the nightmare that is about week six.  Just the beginning.  The week that feels like you're tied to the tracks, and that train is sounding pretty darn close.  So close that you can almost feel it, but still quite aware that you ain't felt nothin' yet.

It's just a sinus infection but it feels so much like week six that I have had to do some serious calculating to be sure.  I'm not.

In the month that some spend pouring over seed catalogues and planting onions in the basement, February is the month that we begin growing babies.  

Which is another reason why this feels all-too familiar.  The grey skies.  The bone-chilling cold.  The same rotation of yoga pants and hoodies.  The body aches and semi-nausea and loss of appetite.

But it's just a sinus infection.

A bad enough sinus infection to bring back vivid memories of two yucky Februaries, two awful Marches, two hellish Aprils, two just blech Mays . . . and two times five more months of bearably bad but definitely not good.  

(crowned with two late-Autumn babies so worth it I would surely do it all a thousand times over for them.  Just hope I don't have to).

  

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Are Knees Necessary?

She has knees.

We thought she wouldn't.

Well, I mean yes her legs did bend and all. But as a baby her legs were cute in a chubby baby sort of way. Perfect for six months. But we worried about sixteen.

In fact, if I remember correctly "she has my knees," is one of the very first things I heard her dad say about her when she was born, as we finally got to look at her. Jim has fine knees. For a football player. And a man. But I wasn't so sure how Sami would feel about her football player man knees. And so "she has my knees" began, on her very first day of life, to repeat itself in my mind and cause me to scrutinize her chubby knee-less legs, again and again and again.

I thought I wasn't going to be one of those mothers.

It didn't matter how she looked, I would raise her to love herself. Her inside true self. I would teach her that who she is matters the most and how she appears is irrelevant. Before a daughter ever began to bud inside me I planned, if ever I became a mother, I would grow strong daughters.

That was before the knees issue and me attempting to answer how I would help her be okay with fullback knees.

Because, for a long time, I wasn't okay.

My knees were fine but it was the rest of me that I was uncomfortable with. And I wore my discomfort all over me.

I was in my mid-twenties before I began to lose my baby fat. (I don't mean pregnancy baby fat). I was the awkward teenager whose insecurity made me vulnerable and overly sensitive, who ran the other way when boys were around, who spent most of her teenage years in tears and most of college too shy.

But really, it wasn't about my babyfat.
And it's not going to be about her knees (though I am thankful as she's grown she's gotten them).

The problem wasn't friends not choosing me or boys not liking me. The problem was me not liking me. The path to finally liking me was long.

I can look back and be thankful for my painful growing up experiences. My brokenness drew me to God. I learned humility, compassion . . . and I wonder sometimes whether it wasn't necessary to go through utter loss of self before I could ever learn true confidence; to experience self-loathing before I could fully accept myself and find true acceptance in the Beloved. To be lonely before I could become okay with being alone.

In this sense I cannot regret, though there are regrets.

I do not know how accurately to prepare my daughters for the inevitable struggle to accept themselves. Some friends and I were discussing this the other day. Is it the father's job to instill self-worth? The mother who teaches confidence by her own example? A stable home? Enough affirmation? Freedom to express herself and be understood?

Yes, all of these seem vital to a healthy development.

But I wonder how far parents really can go to give their daughters confidence. I will do anything I can to protect my girls from low self-esteem, to build them up, to give them space and freedom to develop. But I cannot protect them from every slight or rejection, from every broken heart. Maybe these are even necessary, all a part of God drawing them to Himself, making who they will become.

In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know.
And what you own is what you do not own.
And where you are is where you are not.
T. S. Eliot

Any advice? How do you raise strong daughters?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dare to love

I don't trust people.

Opening an email from a friend and my mind suddenly flooded with questions and doubts and what-did-she-mean-by-that . . . and I'm stopped mid-thought: I don't trust people.

It makes sense now.

Why the creative block.
Why the dissatisfaction.
Why the anxiety.
Why the urge to prove myself.
Why so negative.
Why so hard to forgive.
Why such distracted prayer.
Why smiling lately feels so strange on my face.

I didn't use to be this way.
I trusted everyone.

And I remembered a time when my prayer was to see people the way that God saw them,
and it was magical.
People unveiled are gorgeous.
For as long as I prayed this, I was given a glimpse of their potential.
The great battle each person was fighting,
and their heroic qualities.
The depths of compassion God has for our struggling.
The way He delights in our trying, and still keeps believing in us
over and over again.
For a time, I saw people as powerful,
childlike,
unique and beautiful.
Infinitely significant
and eternal.
Their God-likeness.

But prayer like this is disappointing and painful,
So I stopped.

And soon I saw people as people again.
There is none righteous. No, not one.
I see their evil motives and raw determination.
Their pride and lust and seeping wounds.
Their selfishness.
Their me-likeness.

This hurts in a duller way
but more manageable
and expected.

And I'm left wondering how to reconcile the two
and realizing you do not.
He didn't.
Knowing what was in man's heart
He so loved the world anyway.

The Great Lover
who teaches us to love
with impossible love
broken
poured-out love
wounded
and never really healed love.
Not yet.
The Great Commandment
(the great secret to joy)
hurt but not hard love
cheated and yet believing love
disappointed but hoping love
rejected but enduring love
weeping, but always rejoicing love.

To see with Christ's eyes
perfectly, but blindly.
And take the risk (the doomed from the start risk)
of loving wildly
Even as we are wildly loved.



"We must dare to love in a world that does not know how to love."
-Madeleine L'Engle

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In the midst of a dark, cold season, there has been a lot to celebrate lately.

Beginning with my true, life-long friend Jenny's completion of her PhD. of Philosophy in Biological Sciences. She's that smart. And she still hangs out with me. I don't get it either.

The celebration of new life; first the birth of my sweet friend Katy's baby girl, and then my brother and sister-in-law Holly's new baby boy.

And interspersed between all of these, have been simple cozy days marked by miracles so quiet we could almost miss them . . . .

AnnaJoy, repeating our words and tones, learning to sing, unveiling new colors of her personality.

Sami, opening new doors and creeping into the corridors of her imagination, quietly absorbed with the joy she finds there.

Books that leave me breathless.

Finding myself with brush in hand and fresh paint on a canvas.

Our small home filled with friends, warm with good food and even better conversation.

Quiet hours on chilly grey days, collaborating on a pot of soup or loaves of bread.

A sleepy hug from dreaming child.

A peak of sun. A warmer day.

Sunday dinner with joyful, growing family.

Art in a salad spinner.

Sending warm and glittery bits of pink over cold zip codes and mucky roads, in dirty trucks, just to say I LOVE YOU.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Welcome home, Blog!

Anyone attempting to go to my blog in the past three days would have found a notice that the blog had been removed. You can imagine my surprise Sunday morning when I woke to find this information myself! After mildly freaking out, I sent a bunch of help reports, and fortunately this morning my blog was finally returned to me! Ahhhhh...

This made me realize that I need to back-up my posts! I have written them directly on blogger, assuming that is a safe place. It is not.

Apparently this is a rather common problem. Robo-cops routinely search blogs for possible spam, and can mistakenly remove nice, obedient, human blogs like mine! If this happens to you, follow the links to the Help reports, and send a polite request to the Blog gods to have your blog back. Then do it again. And again. I found that the message I sent saying "please" and "thank-you" was the first to get any attention. You're apparently at the mercy of Whoever-May-Care, so maybe politeness can get you farther than freaking out. You never know.

Anyway, I am quite happy and relieved to have my little Blog back and sincerely hope that anyone who tried to stop and found it removed will realize that I would NEVER do such a thing, and will come back soon! And, I have had lots of time to think of posts to write which, kids cooperating, will be coming soon!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

8 Random Things

My friend Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary tagged me to write 8 random things about myself . . .  I loved reading my friend's 25 random things on facebook!  I think that people are fascinating.  Especially in the little ways, quirky things that people sheepishly reveal just for fun.  Reading lists from old college roommates and lifelong friends was like reliving some of those endearing, wonderful traits that I'd forgotten but that were so much a part of who they are.  I think that every person has a story and that there is something to admire or learn from or have compassion on in everybody.  I guess that is why I love blogs.  And books.  And looking in people's windows at night (just kidding!  just kidding!).

1.  I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was in the third grade.  There is still much that I don't know, and the longer I walk with Him the more I realize how High are His Thoughts above mine.  But I do know that ever since that day I have experience His presence and love in my life, that He is faithful and true, that I only find real peace or joy or meaning to life in Him.  And the more I learn the more sure I am that His way is really the best way to live.

2.  I am never in style.  Unfortunately I usually don't realize that I am out of style, and generally don't care enough to worry too much about it.  I wear a grey hoodie almost every day.  And I don't know what to do with my hair.  I probably should cut it now that I'm past 30.  I really should be straightening it but I don't.  It's almost always in a ponytail.

3.  There is never enough time for all of the things I wish I could do.  

4.  I don't make decisions well.  I feel guilty a lot.  I am distracted easily.  I like to be organized but I rebel against structure and routine.

5.  I really want to live a meaningful life.  I think about this constantly. 

6.  According to my husband, logic is optional for me.  My Myers-Briggs confirms this.

7.  I don't consider myself very smart but I am attracted to smart people . . . or should I say wise.  There's a difference.  I love to have conversations with people who challenge me and make me think.  I also love creative people who inspire me, and I am fortunate to have had some very wise and creative people in my life. 

8.  I love a good conversation.  I hate to talk on the phone.

8.  Mean people and religious people scare me.  Why are they so often the same?

9.  I think that beans are the perfect food.  Inexpensive, nutritious, adaptable . . . I lived in Haiti where I ate rice and beans every day, and am sure that I could happily live on rice and beans . . . and they are the source of the next two perfect foods:  coffee and chocolate!

10.  Precision and details frustrate me.  I took a knitting class once and I had to purl 36 and I was like, 36?  You mean exactly 36?  I never learned to knit.

11.  I love to read books that challenge me.  Someone said once that if a book doesn't stretch you, if there isn't something in it that you disagree with or have to wrestle with, then it isn't a book that you should read and I totally agree with this.  I never want to read another _______ (certain Women's Christian Book author) as long as I live.

12.  My dishwasher is still broken.

Well there you go, I guess that's twelve.  But I see that I have two eights.  Oops.  I will now tag the following people:

1.  Charette from Divergent Pathways
2.  Becky from Mama Drama
3.  Tim from The Bridge
4.  My brother Joe who already wrote 17 entirely random things that you really should check out.
5.  Mallory from Make a Funny Face

Another Book

I Feel Bad About My Neck, by Nora Ephron
This was a selection for my Book Club last month.  I wasn't familiar with Nora Ephron until I read this book.  She is best known for her screenplays When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, which gives you an idea of the style and wit of her writing.  What's up with the title of her book is related to her thoughts on aging, which she dances around as she tells about her life in New York City.  It's "light" reading to say the least, and at first I wasn't too impressed but the more I read I became rather intrigued . . . she's an artist who made it.  She's in that exclusive artsy/intellectual/wealthy NYC culture . . . she can afford to get her hair done every week at such-and-such salon, and to eat here and with this person and live there, and spend her days with artist friends talking about art . . . and she cooks so some of it is food writing which is interesting to me . . . but the poignant part of the book is that, inevitably, her life is coming to an end.  She can't stop it, doesn't like it.  Friends are dying.  She's not as beautiful as she was (hence the title) . . . it was really profound to me that here, a woman whose life was a huge success, who had managed to climb her way to the top in every way, was trying to come to grips with death that to her is, at best, unknown, but probably just the end.  How sad.  Where did I just hear someone preaching say that Death is the great equalizer, it doesn't matter who you are, death comes for everyone.  How awful to have lived such a happy life that you desperately want to cling to it, to stay forever young, with no hope for the afterlife.  I read this quote by Yancey today on the blog Holy Experience:

“View death not as the disease that permanently spoils life, but rather as the only cure to the disease of life.  For sin has permanently stained all life, and only through death --- Christ’s death and our own – can we realize a cured, sinless state."  -Yancey

Monday, February 2, 2009

What I've Been Reading . . .

The 7 Stages of Motherhood, Making the Most of Your Life As A Mom, by Ann Pleshette Murphy
I read a lot of parenting books, but I tend to skim most of them.  This was no exception.  She is a "parenting expert" on Good Morning America, and editor-in-chief of Parenting magazine, so the book felt to me like a compilation of parenting advice magazines.  She wrote about trying to balance being a mom with her career, and she gave a lot of the same advice about not being too hard on yourself, making time for yourself and your friends, and how to be successful at your career and a good mom and not feel guilty all the time . . . it seems to be something a lot of people write about but I still can't figure out how they manage to do it.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
This book was fascinating!  An autobiography by MSNBC contributor Jeannette Walls, about her wild childhood growing up with unbelievably eccentric and unstable parents.  Often homeless, always hungry, moving across the country with her three siblings, living in unlivable conditions . . . and her triumph over the chaos of her upbringing to who she is today, a successful journalist in New York City . . . it is a wonderful story, told by an excellent storyteller.  I couldn't put it down, much of it is just too crazy to believe.  (And it is a great parenting book because suddenly you don't think you're doing such a bad job).  
 
Wolf Kahn's America
I'm working on a painting and leafing through this book of gorgeous prints by artist Wolf Kahn.  Love his work; simple, soft landscapes and brilliant environments.
You and Me, by Martine Kindermans
This is such a sweet book.  We have a stack of Valentine's Day Books from the library and this love story from a mother to her child is one of my favorites.  "All we need is you and me to be as happy as can be. . . . For we are dear and trusted friends, and I will help you home again."  
Jesus Wants to Save Christians, by Rob Bell
I admit that I have had this one on my nightstand for a long time.  I don't know why but I have a hard time reading Rob Bell.  I love to listen to his podcasts, but I think I would rather listen to him than read his books.  His message is challenging, as always.  I was especially moved by some of these statistics he cited in the book:
America controls nearly 20 percent of the world's wealth.  There are around six billion people in the world, and there are roughly three hundred million people in the US.  That makes America less than 5 percent of the world's population.  And this 5 percent owns a fifth of the world's wealth.

One billion people in the world do not have access to clean water, while the average American uses four hundred to six hundred liters of water a day.

Every seven seconds, somewhere in the world a child under age five dies of hunger, while Americans throw away 14 percent of the food we purchase.

Forty percent of people in the world lack basic sanitation, while forty-nine million diapers are used and thrown away in America EVERY DAY.

Nearly one billion people in the world cannot read or sign their name.

Nearly one hundred million children are denied basic education.

By far, most of the people in the world do not own a car.

One-third of American families own three cars.

One in seven children worldwide has to go to work every day just to survive.

Americans spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half of the world does on all goods.

(He goes on to say . . . Guilt is not helpful.  Honesty is helpful.  Awareness is helpful.  Knowledge is helpful.  Guilt isn't.  Human history has never witnessed the abundance that we consider normal.  America is the wealthiest nation in the history of humanity.  We have more resources than any group of people anywhere at any time has ever had.  Ever.  

God bless America?

God has.

And we should be very, very, grateful.
The Truth About You, by Marcus Buckingham
This career book comes with a journal and DVD (ours was scratched and we only could see the first half).  It is designed to help you discover your ideal career by identifying the activities you most enjoy and most dislike.  (The book jacket claims, "With insightful exercises and tried-and-true life wisdom no one else will tell you, the book takes you to the location of your most powerful and unchanging talents).  I still don't know what I want to do with my life.  And my talents still don't seem very powerful or unchanging.  But, that probably has more to do with me and less to do with the book.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

February

February

First we forgot where wed planted those bulbs last year, 
Then we forgot that wed planted at all, 
Then we forgot what plants are altogether, 
and I blamed you for my freezing and forgetting and 
The nights were long and cold and scary, 
Can we live through February? 

You know I think Christmas was a long red glare, 
Shot up like a warning, we gave presents without cards, 
And then the snow, 
then the snow came, we were always out shoveling, 
And wed drop to sleep exhausted, 
Then wed wake up, and its snowing. 

And February was so long that it lasted into March 
And found us walking a path alone together. 
You stopped and pointed and you said, "That's a crocus," 
And I said, "What's a crocus?" and you said, "Its a flower," 
I tried to remember, but I said, "What's a flower?" 
You said, "I still love you." 

-Dar Williams
(not the entire song)