January 30, 2006

Surrendering the Stage

I think it could be said of most artists, whatever their medium, that seeing another artist's work gives them the desire to try to express the thought or emotion themselves.

I hear someone sing and want to sing myself, to see if the lyrics I heard fit my life and my voice any better than what I heard. I listen to piano music and want to play the piece myself, to highlight some notes I think could say more. I read writing and want to write myself; could I write it better? paint the word picture better?

Every great once in a while, I hear or see someone's artistic expression and want to X myself. X-ing has to do with the Echthroi and soul annihilation, but I'm talking about a slightly lesser version of X-ing than Madeleine L'Engle described in A Wind in the Door. When I want to X myself, I simply want to surrender the stage. There are voices so beautiful, musical expression so perfect, writing so wonderfully put that I know at first contact that I should surrender the stage: their expression says it better than I ever could.

That being the case, I could write for a while about thoughts I've had while (finally) reading Don Miller's book, Blue Like Jazz; I could, but reading this book is one of those times I want to surrender the stage.

How could I say it better than this?

"Andrew says it is not enough to be politically active. He says legislation will never save the world. On Saturday mornings Andrew feeds the homeless. He sets up a makeshift kitchen on a sidewalk and makes breakfast for people who live on the street. He serves coffee and sits with his homeless friends and talk and laughs, and if they want to pray he will pray with them. He's a flaming liberal, really. The things about it is, though, Andrew believes this is what Jesus wants him to do. Andrew does not believe in empty passion.

"All great Christian leaders are simple thinkers. Andrew doesn't cloak his altruism with a trickle-down economic theory that allows him to spend fifty dollars on a round of golf to feed the economy and provide jobs for the poor. He actually believes that when Jesus says to feed the poor, He means you should do this directly.

"Andrew is the one who taught me that what I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.

"I used to say that I believed it was important to tell people about Jesus, but I never did. Andrew very kindly explained that if I do not introduce people to Jesus, then I don't believe Jesus is an important person. It doesn't matter what I say. Andrew said I should not live like a politician, but like a Christian. Like I said, Andrew is a simple thinker."

I've written many of these posts like a politician... If I write about such-and-such or write in this tone, what would this person think? It's not that I've written anything I don't consider true; it's that I'm trying to present myself rather than be myself.

I don't know what that difference looks like, but I think my writing could only have a canned harvest (to go with the canned and packaged presentations) until I quit worrying about how others perceive me and focus on being me.

Bear with me while I try dancing like nobody's looking.

January 28, 2006

Stupid, Stupid...

Toto, we're not in college anymore.

Was up talking until 3 a.m. Got to bed and (inconceivably) wasn't tired enough, so read until 5 a.m.

Nathan woke up at 8 a.m.

Do the math with me: 8... minus 5... equals... three!

Thanks to the presence of caffeine, I've managed to hold coherent conversations today, but I was pathetically grateful for the hour and a half nap I managed in the time between watching Merlin and eating supper.

Must go. There's a cute boy on my parents' all-season porch who's waiting for me.

January 25, 2006

TV Accidents

I think the allure in shows like "American Idol" is akin to slowing down as I drive past a car accident - morbid curiosity coupled with deep relief that I haven't made such an idiot of myself as to crash and burn in public view.

We watched most of last night's "American Idol" show, and I finally put my finger on the combination of annoyance/fascination it has for me.

1. I'm deeply empathetic; I rejoice for the true finds - like the Wyoming cowboy who had only ever sung to his turkeys. Unfortunately, I also feel embarrassed for those who don't have the wisdom to be embarrassed themselves. It's like watching George on "Seinfeld" is for me: cringing as the person says or does something else that socially unacceptable.

2. For all those who will never be superstar singers, I'm irritated that public floggings by the judges and host will stop them from ever singing again. Don't misinterpret me: I don't personally want to hear every one of these people sing, but if that's a way they express joy, why take the wind out of their sails? It's like telling a 5-yr-old kid that he isn't creative. For the rest of his life, he'll suck at creative writing class because he believes he isn't creative.

3. I'm appalled at the depths of unprofessionalism - partly from the judges, but mostly from the contestants. I'm always relieved when someone takes the news of their rejection calmly. There seem to be too many egos who believe their mom's opinion of their voice rather than the judges. It reminds me of my choir director's story of an audition when the people did so poorly that they kicked their music out the door. As he said, "Not that I would have given them rave reviews anyway, but their behavior simply solidified my opinion."

I supposed I can be grateful that TV programs are so ephemeral. Years from now, the chance is very small that some archaeologist will dig up one of these stupid "reality" shows years from now and use it to deduce our culture. I don't like the thought of my life being viewed through the lens of "Skating with the Stars!"


January 24, 2006

Sick of It All...

It's official: we're sick.

Nathan was running a low-grade fever when I took him to the doctor's office yesterday, and he's in the throes of a pretty hefty cold virus. I went to fill the prescription for his drugs before we went home from the clinic. An antibiotic (a lovely staining hot pink color) and an antihistamine in addition to acetaminophen for aches - and I do apologize for the abundance of a's in this sentence... the alliteration was (mostly) accidental. : )

I also have a cold; I wasn't using the "we" term in the annoying parental sense -Are we dirty? Do we want a diaper change? Ick. No. I, too, am sick. Coughing, sniffling, dripping...

Sorry, baby boy. I promise I'll rock you (or feed you) until you fall asleep. Every kid needs a mom who's willing to bend the rules when he's sick.

January 23, 2006

Cough & Bear It

Poor baby...

You've been wrestling with a cold for the last 2-3 weeks. It's now to the point that our morning routine includes tissues and a wet-wipe to remove the dried snot from your hair and face. It wouldn't spread so far if I could just get you to quit wiping your face back and forth on your mattress in frustration.

You simply won't stay on your back - it's like you know that one of the keys to moving is having your arms and legs in contact with terra firma. You're already pulling your knees under you and doing an occasional paralytic combat crawl. Before I know it, you'll be toddling all over the place...

I've tried saline drops, acetaminophen, a humidifier, and putting your mattress at an incline (too often I found you at the bottom of Mattress Hill with your feet elevated). Today I finally called your doctor to ask if there was more I could do... I hurt for you when you cough while nursing - so eager to eat you don't want to surrender your position, but fighting your body's need to cough. You get so frustrated it makes you cry. Well, they asked me to take you in at 4:15 today.

I hope you get better soon, sweet boy. Cradle cap boogers, congestion and coughing aren't fun for anyone.

January 22, 2006

Guilt No More

Today is one of those days when there's so much I could write... It's been a learning weekend.

Part of that was due to the marriage conference Trent & I attended. The conference was good; but most of my learning was where Nathan was concerned, since he was with us. I'll write about Adventures in Family Conferencing some other time.

Late last night Trent & I got into a conversation with my youngest brother's girlfriend's dad. I'll wait a bit while you process that connection.

[Muzak - "A Few of my Favorite Things" for jazz flute]
How sad is it that I've actually heard such a song? Unbelievable...

Anyway, Pete & Leah Humphreys are visiting for a few days, and Trent & I talked with Pete until after 1 a.m. this morning. Humphreys have a retreat for couples in leadership positions who are facing ministry burn-out. Last night turned into an impromptu session of sorts... I asked Pete for his thoughts and insights into some problems I've been wrestling with: a roadblock where dreaming is concerned and an unhealthy preoccupation with guilt.

I've known for a while that I try to use guilt as a motivator to get me to do things I think should be done. It frustrated me to find I couldn't make myself do things, so I figured if I could make myself feel bad enough about not doing them, I'd eventually give up and do them so the bad feelings would stop. This idea (should you consider it for yourself) is only good in theory. Actually doing it results in a life that can feel guilty about anything, anywhere, anytime - someone who often feels horrible, crushed under the weight of all they're not doing.

Pete told us last night that his understanding of the Bible is that, for those who believe and follow Jesus, there isn't guilt. There are moments of conviction, when I realize the difference between how I'm thinking or behaving and how God calls me to think/behave; but there is never a time that God seeks to beat me into a position of seeing how wrong I am and how bad I am. Paul wrote, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are alive in Christ."

I've wrestled with this problem of guilt for decades, literally. Last night it just felt like the last of that old skin dropped away - I could almost hear the chink of chain dropping from my ankles.

To give you some indicator of how deep this has been for me... I keep mental lists of what actions seem to irritate or offend each person so I make sure I don't do them around that person and perhaps upset them. I would wear a jacket to the restroom so that I could tuck a book inside the coat under one of my arms and not have someone notice (I read everywhere, even if it's just for 10-15 seconds at a time). I would use three paper towels whenever I washed my hands in front of someone - two didn't get my hands dry, but more than three might cause someone to think I was being wasteful and not environmentally-friendly.

I'm awed by the capacity of the human brain if only because mine was trying to keep track of so much. This morning I already feel lighter... I know part of that is the relief I have where Nathan is concerned. I feel pretty passionate about the knowledge that Nathan's perception of God will be shaped in a large way by what he sees in and hears from me. Now I won't be reflecting some twisted perception of guilt to Nathan...

It's a good day.

January 19, 2006

Rubbing Salt in Open Nostrils

Note to self: 4-month-olds hate saline drops being dripped in their noses.

If you tilt the kid's head back, the saltwater you paid top dollar for (it has to be kid-friendly, after all; wouldn't want them to die from a toxic mixture of lethal saltwater drops, would we?) will run upwards across small cheekbones to pool around the eyelids. I confess that, despite more than a decade of wearing contacts and using saline solution myself, I had a momentary panicked thought that I might be burning his little eyes in their sockets. Rational thought soon gained the upper hand.

If you tilt child's head up, the drops (and snot) will run down the laugh creases into the small mouth, leaving the kid sputtering and spitting. I think I actually witnessed simultaneous mouth and nose bubbles being blown.

[sarcasm]One final request: could the producers of this marvelous kid-friendly saltwater at least put pretty colors in it? Clear is so... so bland as a complement to the kid's bright red face as he screams as loud as his diaphragm and lungs will allow. I think there should be two options: apple green (for the cooler-toned preference) and sunny buttercup yellow. Surely in our marketing-based society this isn't too much to ask.[/sarcasm]

More Color Musings

As a more knowledgeable friend of mine pointed out in her comment, all additive colors (like light) are made up of three colors - red, green & blue. All subtractive colors of light are also made up of three colors - magenta, yellow & cyan.* (Thanks, Amy. : ) I was in the middle of writing her a slightly sarcastic, witty response (how like me!) when another thought along those lines struck me.

Any color (red, yellow, blue or magenta, yellow & cyan) is made paler by adding white to it. -Remember that white is all of the colors in equal proportions, whether it's light or ink. On the other hand, any color is made dingy and eventually eliminated by adding black (lack of all colors). Add more and more of every color, and you'll wash out any variety; remove more and more of every color and you'll end up with no color.

In terms of tolerance: if you add more and more of every belief and every stance, any position you hold is gradually watered down until there isn't a position. If you remove more and more of other beliefs, you end up with greater and greater darkness.

Complete tolerance and complete intolerance are equally dangerous: no color, no variety at all, is left. Find that knife-edge between black and white that provides the greatest variety of color there is. Don't accept everything, but don't reject everything either.

The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.
- Ecclesiastes 7:18b

*Post altered to accurately reflect Amy's information, as per her comment. I'd hate to misrepresent you, chica... ; )

January 17, 2006

Memory Lane

I don't have long, as the boy above (who's been sick and out-of-sorts the last few days - 'stroef', as the Dutch would say) is squalling for his next meal.

Then he lifted up his voice with a great shout and spake unto them, saying, "FEED ME!!!" - Nathan 3:51 p.m.

I've been traveling down memory lane today, and not all of those memories are mine. In order to do a scrapbook the way I want to, I needed some old pictures. Digging through a box in my mom's sewing room, I found all sorts of family memories. Locations ranged from eastern Colorado in the early 1900s to Paraguay, S.A. in the 1990s. I've never seen some of these pictures of my grandparents' and parents' generations before - among them this one that I just had to share:

My dad, age 12-18 months, trying watermelon on a picnic with his parents.

January 13, 2006

Super-Sized Creativity in a Small Package

I was singing a made-up song to Nathan a few days ago when I realized something: every area of creativity has fairly strict limitations.

Music? The western world has only 12 different tones. Sure, you can go up or down an octave or two, but the pitch is one of those 12 tones. My mind boggles at the thought that all music I listen to - from Evanescence to Sugarland - is within the limit of twelve tones.

Writing? The English language has only 26 letters; Spanish - 30 letters; ancient Greek - 25 characters. Every word ever spoken in these languages, every thought that was formed, every book ever written is from multiple and varied combinations of those characters.

Visual art? Every color is a shade, tint or combination of six hues. Every color from pumpkin orange with cinnamon tints to lemon gelato ice is possible from that original palette of six: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. [White is all of these colors mixed together; black is the absence of all of them; brown is red, yellow and blue mixed together.]

Dance? There are definite restrictions (more for some people than for others!) on what the skeleton and muscles can do. 206 bones - but the motions they allow us to are as individual as we are.

The ultimate example of this creativity for me is DNA: the harshest restrictions (adenosine, guanine, cytosine and tyrosine - the four amino acids) and the greatest variety (no duplications; every person is unique). Even identical twins (identical in genetic make-up) have different personalities.

The lesson for me? When I run into restrictions, don't stress. Some of the greatest creativity in the world happens under restriction. We just don't think of the restrictions when we create. Who on earth sits down to write and is irritated that there are only 26 letters in the alphabet?

Restrictions don't always inhibit; sometimes they free us to be creative. Spiritual restrictions aren't meant to punish me; they're meant to free me to be myself without having to think and worry about how I'm perceived and if I'm doing something wrong.

It's all about perspective.

January 11, 2006

Where are my Keys?

He lost them for the umpteenth time this morning. His rotten attitude upon discovering their absence seemed to indicate the problem should (somehow) be Priority #1 for everyone within shouting distance.

I'm with Roseanne Barr on this: what is it with the Y chromosome that assumes the uterus is some sort of tracking device?

I reached over, plucked the keys from the floor - they were right in front of him the whole time - and put them back in his grasp.

Welcome to the world, Nathan; your first day of losing your keys.

January 10, 2006


I watched you this morning at your 4-month well-baby exam. You cooed, smiled winningly at the nurses, and tried to demonstrate how well you could control your arm and leg motions (even if the individual fingers and toes are still out of control). You smiled bigger as your sleeper and onesie were taken off; I don't know of a single male who would disagree with the statement that "Naked is always better."

You looked at me as I held your legs straight, and I watched your expression change rapidly to one of fear and pain as two nurses gave you your 4-month vaccinations. Your face turned bright red, you quickly squeezed both eyes shut, and you began screaming as hard as your little lungs would allow... tears ran down your small cheeks. I kissed you and made sure I was murmuring comfortingly in your ear, but the wails only got louder when a third needle (for the final shot) was stabbed into your right thigh.

I quickly lifted you into my arms, cuddled against my chest in just your diaper, a blanket swaddled around you. I kissed and cuddled and soothed to my utmost, and you quieted in a matter of moments at the sound of my voice. Throughout it all, you trusted me.

There will come a day when you're old enough to know I actually requested those nurses to approach you with needles. There may come a day when you don't trust me even after the shots are done. Years from now, you may even understand that I asked for that pain so that greater pain - watching you wrack your little chest with heart-rending coughs, fighting a fever that might leave your limbs paralyzed - could be avoided.

Today I was the cause of your pain, but I was also the one protecting you from greater pain - and I was the one who stayed with you the rest of the day, holding you when you needed comfort; giving you pain medication when your cries told me you didn't understand what hurt or why; distracting you with bright colors or playtime...

I put you in your car seat after your doctor's appointment, saw the trust in your bright blue eyes - and I cried. I love you so much, Nathan... You favor me with your smiles. I relish your delight at hearing my voice, quieting when I sing to you or read you a book. Your dad and I will continue trying to make wise decisions until you're old enough to make them yourself.

You may not always trust me. I won't ever take the loss of your trust lightly, but I will not allow my desire for your understanding to take a higher priority than my love for you - love that wants what is best for you, regardless of what it costs me.

Today I looked into the trusting eyes of my son and felt something: I felt just the smallest part of what God must feel for me.

January 08, 2006

Love/Hate Situation

I finally have a male in my life who wants to be with me rather than anyone else. If I leave him, he literally cries. He doesn't like other women singing to him; he smiles at me for less-than-pleasant tasks like having cold wet wipes dragged across his rear end; if I walk away, he'll eventually whimper until I come back; when I hold him closely, he snuggles into my neck. That's the 'love' part of this equation.

On the flip side, I have someone who's pretty much a leech. He refuses to go to someone else; I rarely get time away from him; he'll whine until I pay attention to him; he can't give me anything or do much of anything for me; he pretty much sees me as a food source and takes my time and energy for granted; I'm stuck with less-than-glamorous chores where he's concerned - rear-end wiping, feeding, burping, vomit clean-up, consoling in the midst of ear-piercing screams... That's the 'hate' portion of the equation.

My mood seems to swing from one side to the other on any given day: too much time with him, I start to focus on the negatives. Too much time away from him (which is anything more than a couple hours) and I'm focused on the positives.

He's still cute, and his baby interactions are much more fun at 4 months than they were at 2 weeks. He's big, though. 15-16 pounds and more than 2 feet long. I can't tell you how comforting it is to me that even Trent's arms get sore holding him. I get a good forearm work-out every time I feed him.

January 06, 2006

Mutually Complimentary

"I don't mean to sound all 'golden-thread-y', but you make it possible for me to be me without being self-conscious of how I look or what you must be thinking. I can just be me instead of worrying about how."

"To you, I'm caviar; to the rest of the world, I'm just fish eggs."

"OK, that's awesome. Did you come up with it yourself, or did you hear it somewhere?"

"Nope, I came up with it myself. You can even write about it on your blog if you want."

January 05, 2006


I have become that which I swore to avoid; I swore to avoid this as determinedly as I would avoid a polar bear swim above the Arctic circle.

Nathan's hair has gotten a bit longer in the last couple weeks. It's long enough now on top that (if he sleeps on it just right) he has a hairstyle that's a cross between a kewpie doll and a troll: that one fuzzy tuft that refuses to lie flat.

The other day I actually licked my fingers and slicked down his hair.

Don't hate me; you don't know what you'd do in those circumstances.


As for me? Well, today's our wedding anniversary - 4 years and counting! Trent took the afternoon off work (I told him I just wanted to spend time with him as my anniversary present) and was a VERY astute husband: he walked in the door with 5 roses and a very thoughtful card that he wrote several lines in himself.

No, you can't have him. Find someone else.