Friday, April 20, 2012

Anne + Cleveland

This week I saw Anne Lamott!  She was the fifth author of six for the Writers Center Stage series which Jim gave me for my birthday, one of my favorite gifts ever.  Check-out their lineup for next year. 

Of all of the authors, I was most looking forward to hearing Anne Lamott. Like so many, Anne's books on faith were significant in shaping my faith.  She helped me understand grace- Jesus- out of the chapters and verses and into the messiness and warmth and grit of humanity.  And she has the most wonderful and self-deprecating sense of humor which seems to be an element tragically missing in the Church- and everywhere.

She spoke mostly on writing, and a little on faith.  Here are a couple of my favorites from my notes:

On Writing:

 [Creativity] needs structure and discipline.  "I don't ever feel like writing."  The only way to begin anything is to start where you are.  It doesn't happen "when . .. (I have more time, the kids are older, I retire . ..etc.)  There is only today.  Don't be a person of regret.

No one cares if you write.  You have to feel that it is a sacred task.  YOU have to care that it gets done. Everybody needs you to help them.  It is better for everybody if you don't write (or-____); if you don't find your creative side.

Let yourself do it badly.  It's ok.  You can write your terrible paragraph.  Just get it down.

Write what you would love to come upon.

On Faith:

Grace is the moments of self-forgetfulness.
Grace is something bigger and trip-ier than I-Self-Me. (Get out of ME)!
Grace is WD40 when you're stuck.
Grace is fresh air, buoyancy, the crack in the wall through which light shines.

Anne Lamott talks just the way she writes; funny, honest, endearing.  I wish she were a blogger.  Or my next door neighbor.

Also this week I finally got to visit Cleveland favorites Great Lakes Brewing and West Side Market.    I love this city!

I finished Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler this week.  It was ok.  She reminds me of a female John Updike: I don't love her writing or even really enjoy it, but I respect it.

Tonight is Pizza Night (I'm trying this).  Happy Friday!

Monday, April 16, 2012

the pull of the moon

The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg
Amazon Book Description:  In the middle of her life, Nan decides to leave her husband at home and begin an impromptu trek across the country, carrying with her a turquoise leather journal she intends to fill. The Pull of the Moon is a novel about a woman coming to terms with issues of importance to all women. In her journal, Nan addresses the thorniness—and the allure—of marriage, the sweet ties to children, and the gifts and lessons that come from random encounters with strangers, including a handsome man appearing out of the woods and a lonely housewife sitting on her front porch steps. Most of all, Nan writes about the need for the self to stay alive. In this luminous and exquisitely written novel, Elizabeth Berg shows how sometimes you have to leave your life behind in order to find it.
I read this book in two days, in two sittings, and I had two completely different reactions:

I began the book at the end of the day, when I was overly tired and overly emotional, and I wept for Nan and for every woman who in taking care of everyone else must lay herself down, discovering one day that she has lost herself.

The next day I finished the book, and I thought, Really?  How many women have the luxury of crossing the country, staying in hotels and charming B&B's in order to "find herself"?  Why are women so snively, so whiney, always wanting something we don't have?  (Myself among them).

I sat on my grandmother's couch the other day and asked her, Why is everybody so miserable?  So many marriages ending, so much unhappiness. Was it always this way?  And she said Well, we couldn't afford to think about leaving.  There was no money, divorce wasn't even a thought.  We had to work things out.

And once again I have two different reactions:

I am glad that women today can leave their husbands if they need to.  No doubt there were women in my grandmother's generation who suffered abuse in ways that no one ever knew.  Today, women are not forced to be silent victims.  Along with so many other freedoms, the freedom to divorce is good and necessary.

But of course freedom hasn't solved our problem, has it?  Women are still unhappy, still searching for something out of reach.

I read this article a few weeks ago about a trend of women wishing their husbands would have an affair
 because they do not want to be married anymore.
The common factor amongst all of these women is that they say that their husbands are really solid, good, nice men. They are not victims of physical or emotional abuse. They are not married to felons. They are not married to alcoholics or drug addicts. Their husbands are not having affairs. In fact, they tell me, there really isn't anything "wrong" with their husbands ... they just don't want to be married to them anymore because they have fallen out of love. It's actually a depressing conversation. When did we all become so unfulfilled with life?
I found this article irritating.  When did we all become so unfulfilled?  And why do women blame everyone else for our unhappiness?

This struggle for identity must be the curse in women . . . our identity and happiness can only be found in Christ.

Practical Theology for Women this week has a Scholarly Analysis of Gen.3:16 (...Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you).  The entire post is really great, and I agree with her conclusion, that a woman's "desire for" her husband is not to dominate him, but to desire him to be what Christ alone can fill.

(The interpretation that our desire is to dominate never sat well with me; I have experience far more of the curse in my desire to be loved than in wanting to control my husband)
No, feminism isn't the ultimate problem. The problem didn't start as women wanting control over the men in their lives. Women set up men as idols and looked to them to provide emotionally, spiritually, physically what only God can provide. Apart from Christ, men oppressed them in return, hence the modern coping mechanisms of independence, self-sufficiency, and control (often ineffective) for dealing with that oppression. The curse read at face value reflects the real issue, and the gospel is the clear answer. The gospel gives the woman sufficiency in Him that allows her to stay engaged as a helper after God's own example. And when a man oppresses her to the point of abusing her or her children, that same gospel equips her to stand strong and remove herself and her children, for she is no longer so needy of the man that she has to subject her children to his sin. No, God, not her husband, is her Savior.
Neither phony happiness or guilt for being unhappy are what women need.  Perhaps there is a season for every woman when it is good to run away, in whatever form that takes, to find time and space to figure out who she is or to grieve what she has left behind, to keep herself alive.

But I think it is also necessary that we look for and find our life in Christ who offers living water.  Interesting that he offers this water to a woman, alone, who has had five husbands, and still thirsts.

Two related links:

"A Dog Could Take Care of Your Child" or Why I Quit Grad School to Stay at Home With My Kids"
at Carrots for Michaelmas- I loved this!

 The Good Old Days at Home Sweet Home at Writer's Almanac

Tuesday my mother ironed my
father's underwear. Wednesday
she mended, darned socks on
a wooden egg. Shined shoes.
Thursday she scrubbed floors.
Put down newspapers to keep

them clean. Friday she
vacuumed, dusted, polished,
scraped, waxed, pummeled.
How did you become a feminist
interviewers always ask,
as if to say, when did this

rare virus attack your brain?
It could have been Sunday
when she washed the windows,
Thursday when she burned
the trash, bought groceries
hauling the heavy bags home.  (read the rest here)

If you only read one of link, choose this one: Ruth's poem, Yellow Dress, describes some of this sense of a woman looking back and questioning who she could have been, but in such a delightful way!

Maybe we all need to take ourselves a lot less seriously?

related, the only marriage advice I would ever give

*I should add that Berg's writing in this book is gorgeous.  Even though I am being critical, I do recommend reading it!

spring break and art to hang {with kids} {on the cheap}

This morning Jo at Mylestones published her list of what she's just not into right now (reading blogs and writing online among them), and I could totally relate; hence the two-week silence on this blog.  I am so random with blogging, feast or famine . . . which is actually just so me and honestly, this is what I love about blogging.  There are no rules.

nap (whatthewhat!!??)
I truly believe that my four year old may actually at this moment be napping, at the same time that her sister is napping . .. it has been quiet for nearly five minutes.  WOW.  I think I should go pour myself a glass of wine to celebrate.  (updated: her toys fell off the bed and woke her.  Oh, well, this way she'll sleep tonight).

spring break {on the cheap}

This minor miracle can only be due to the past ten days of spring break, in which we wore the pants off of the little people . . . My goal for break was to just be fully present, to put everything aside and enjoy my kids, having as much fun as possible but spending nearly no money at all.  I felt like we had a really good Stay-cation, and our total cost: under $30.00!  (thanks to visiting Nana and Papa, Pinterest, our public library, and the city of Cleveland).

learning to finger-knit

Jim took vacation two days this week and we decided to split duty with the toddler, and each take a day with the older kids.  This worked out well as Josie generally demands so much attention and we could enjoy a day with just the big girls.  I took the girls to the Cleveland Museum of Art (always free) and out for lunch, Jim took them to the Botanical Gardens (where we are members, so it is free).

(I bought the girls Easter dresses in the middle of winter a year or two ago on Clearance.  It is fun to pull out new clothes we'd forgotten, and this is the only way I shop for clothes.  Some day my girls may hate me for this, for now they are delighted)

decorating {on the cheap}

So yes, I have a degree in Fine Arts but you would never know this by looking at our house.  The walls are still white, and although I would love to hang art everywhere I have little time to make art myself, and our inclination for decorating is about Zero; our decorating budget is less than that.

I believe your home should reflect your season of life, and the thing I do have time and enthusiasm for, and with the art supplies I already have requires nearly no money, is painting with my kids.

After our sober season of Lent in which I had removed most of the decorations from our home, I was ready for some COLOR on these walls.  This was our collaborative art project:

There are tons of flowering trees like this in our neighborhood, so I thought this would be a good springtime project.

First I had each child (even 2 y.o. Josie with help from me) paint a canvas with any and as many shades of blue as they'd like.

After they dried I stapled them together underneath, and painted a big tree and branches.

Then I had the girls paint blossoms by stamping with the tops of paint bottles.  I filled in later.
And here is our springtime painting:

We are currently working on another project for the mantle, coming soon!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lent, Poetry, Being a SAHM, and why I don't exercise

This week's miscellany . . .

This was a low-key week.  My mom came to visit for a couple days, which we all love, and this weekend I took the kids home to my parents'- the land of no cell service, and 1998-speed internet- which once in a while is a good thing.  

Baby #3
Today I stopped in the drug store that I ran to nearly three years ago to pick up a pregnancy test.  It brought back how scared I was that day, and then how shocked to discover that I really was pregnant.  Not that we didn't possibly want another child someday, it just felt impossible at the time.  Jim had recently changed professions and wasn't yet getting full-time hours, we were living in a tiny apartment, I knew that I was in for another round of hyperemesis and was not mentally or practically prepared . . . and there were so many other overwhelming factors that at the time were all I could see . . . not the amazing gift of a third child at the end of the nine months, something that deep down I wanted more than anything.

In the drug store today I was wishing that I could go back and do it over, accept the bend in the road as God's beautiful surprise, anticipate the miracle with joy rather than fear.  

I hope that the next time life happens in a way I do not expect . . . in the next turn of events that feel impossible or unpleasant, I will look at Josie and cling to the truth of God's goodness, to believe that every surprise is working together for good.

Something about Josie turning two has me a little anxious about what's next . . . as though I suddenly need to make a decision- which I don't . . . yet I know that we could breathe a little easier if I were contributing something financially . . . there are several job possibilities I've been thinking about, along with a million other considerations.

 Janet's post about being a Stay At Home Mom was encouraging.  I liked the comments on this post as well.
To me it’s that availability that defines motherhood. When all is said and done, this time when they are at home is a fairly brief period. They will graduate from high school in the blink of an eye, and I don’t want to have any regrets. As long as God provides, we’ll keep on as a single-income family. One key element in all of this is that “provision” is not necessarily “abundance”; we live on less, and there are plenty of things we cannot afford. But the operative assumption is that presence is worth more than stuff, and so far nothing has happened to convince us otherwise. 
I didn't write about it, but my Lenten "fast" this year was actually a work:  to commit to writing (my novel) every day.  I didn't always succeed, but this commitment allowed me to think of writing as a spiritual discipline rather than just a hobby.  I hope to continue with this daily offering.

Related,  this piece by Anne Lamott on Finding Time is so, so good (I believe I have posted this before):
 there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.
Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.
This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity—cell phone, email, text, Twitter—steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement. That multitasking can argue a wasted life. That a close friendship is worth more than material success.

National Poetry Month
Today begins National Poetry Month.  I really liked Ruth's post, especially this:
"April is the cruelest month, mixing memory and desire," wrote T.S. Eliot. Maybe that's why April was chosen as National Poetry Month, since one of the best ways I know of to deal with memory and desire, and the havoc they can wreak on me, is by reading poetry. Why else do you think a whole section of the Bible - including the longest book - is dedicated to poetry?

Gilead by Marilynn Robinson
This book took me quite a long time to get through, but it was magical.  Only fiction can contemplate God and life so luminously.
As I have told you, I myself was the good son, so to speak, the one who never left his father's house . . . I am one of those righteous for whom the rejoicing in heaven will be comparatively restrained.  And that's all right.  There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality.  It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal.  So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?
I remembered this week why I do not exercise.

i am a little church by E.E.Cummings
In honor of National Poetry Month, here is a delightful little poem sent to me from a friend:

i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april
my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness
around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection;
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains
i am a little church (far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing
winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever;
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

Wishing you a meaningful and blessed Holy Week!