Wednesday, April 29, 2009

momma's in the kitchen

I got to do this this morning:  make breakfast, set the table and drink some coffee before any of my children woke up and asked to stir the batter (I know that it is sweet and character building and all, letting your kids help you out with the preparing of family meals, but sometimes, like at 6:45 a.m., it is really nice for me to be able to work alone in my kitchen). 

Ah, Mondays. School. Ballet. Laundry. YMCA (hopefully - I need to, I really need to move my body, to break a sweat) and this week, every afternoon of it, I'll be getting ready for a talk I'll be giving on Saturday the 9th at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago on the topic of "Being Orthodox in a non-Orthodox society." Come by (it starts at 2:00 pm) if you get a chance! 

I've just started twittering. Have you tried it? HERE are Deacon Michael Hyatt's (CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing and host of the Ancient Faith Radio -AFR also twitters, btw- podcast, at the Intersection of East and West)  reasons why you should. 

Uh oh, they're awake and stomping. It sounds like Jurassic Park upstairs. Have a great one, friends. Live like you mean it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

a blistered hand on the handle of a shovel

Ah! My kids are filthy - unplugged and tuned in to the sweetness and unlimited adventurousness of their own imaginations.  As they say in the addictive cyber world of Facebook, I "like this." If you pass our front sidewalk but stop short of crossing the street, you'll find an idyllic  patch of grass and dirt where sits, not an electrical outlet for recharging iPhones in order to receive second-to-second updates on all the banality, lurid gossip and delirium within society at large, but a land of dinosaurs and mud pools and dandelion trees. You'll find the touchable, kissable, flesh and blood components of a smaller existence, one more rhythmic than jolting. 

It isn't a hide under a rock and plug up our ears, blindfold our eyes, brand of being I want for my family (I am so thankful for the sense of connection to far away friends and the opportunity for developing new ones that the internet has provided me), but one of balance. I want our greater reality, the reality that fills our minds, our souls, even, to be made up of school lessons, face-to-face conversations, shared meals and our communal reception of the Eucharist on Sunday mornings. 

There is a time to surf and a time to shut down - to walk away from what is lifeless and distant, from that fiery urge to know everything NOW. There is satisfaction, whole and solid, on the other side of withdrawal from the steady stream of technological stimulation. There are fairies to house and feed, I've been told by my daughter Priscilla, in our yard wet with dew, teeming with tales mysterious and miraculous of re-birth, new growth, unmanufactured beauty. There is much to do today, much worth striving for! Let's get started! 

Television is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.
-T.S. Eliot

Back Porch Mary (and Elijah and Ben and Prissy)

It was National "Hang Out On Your Back Porch" Day (What? You hadn't heard?) and so the kids and I played, schooled, ate, folded laundry and enjoyed the perfect 73 degree weather within the confines of our own humble porch, which was lovingly screened in two summers ago by my husband, Troy, and his handy-dandy father. It was very, very pleasant - so enjoyable, in fact, I went an entire morning and afternoon without once having to ask forgiveness for thinking negative and bitter thoughts about the states in this great country of ours with spring seasons that start in March, even February (and with beaches not infested with biting flies)! My Indiana neighborhood, with all of its newly blooming dogwood trees, looked downright vacation destination worthy, picturesque, like an ear of corn in a pink satin husk - still unpretentious and yet a little bit fancy. I can't help it, despite my intermittent grumbling about the unpredictable weather, the flatter than flat landscape, and the scarcity (at least in our area) of authentic ethnic restaurants (No, I am sorry; Pepe's doesn't count), I truly am a Midwest girl at heart. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

darling, i'll take care of you

What did I do this weekend?

I attended the book club we started three months ago with some of the ladies from our parish and from our neighborhood - women I thought I knew because I saw them, chatted with them on a weekly basis, but it turns out there is quite a bit more to the people in my community than what initially meets the eye. I was moved, profoundly so, by the courage and quiet heartaches beneath their placid and smiling exteriors. I am so thankful for these multi-generational relationships we are forming- relationships I'm certain are salvific because they inspire me to do away with the petty grumbling (Waaahh! My jeans are getting tight!) and to get busy treating this life as a sometimes joyful, sometimes sorrowful, "get off your butt and find genuine satisfaction in the exhausting and rewarding experience of giving something or someone your all" kind of a journey, instead of a banquet thrown in my honor throughout which it is expected that I be catered to and entertained.

I clung to my feverish baby girl because three-year-olds, when they're sick, prefer to be touched and sung to and tickled lightly on their backs. They like you to stay with them until they're sleeping soundly enough to not feel you slowly, ever so cautiously, remove your numb and tingling arm out from under their aching bodies so you can unload at least the top rack of the dishwasher before they weepingly call you back again, before they notice you're gone.

I let Elijah go alone to the library. I let him cross THE street, the one with the two-way traffic because my husband, Troy, who as a kindergartner rode his bike every day to and from his elementary school, assured me he was was old enough, that he was ready. My ten-year-old came home beaming, carrying under his arm books he had picked out and checked out all by himself. It had been terribly hard for me to say "yes" but the look of gratifying confidence on my eldest son's face confirmed his need for some independence.  It is clear to me now that this whole parenting gig is only going to get more complicated over time.

I did laundry. I painted teeny-tiny toe nails. We tried out our new popcorn popper and I had myself a few of those foil covered chocolate easter eggs I had hid in the freezer to save for "later." I lost a lot of sleep. I laughed hard while talking on the phone with a friend. I read several of the minute-to-minute updates on the swine flu and then decidedly stopped reading figuring too much information will lead only to hysteria and speculation. I prayed for wisdom, guidance and peace, and for God's will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. 

My, oh my, what a ride! How abundant are the opportunities for growth, for love, for learning. Pay attention, Molly! You're neck deep in the thick of it. 

To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.
- Flannery O'Connor

Thursday, April 23, 2009

all our worries keep getting in the way

To thick-headed, forgetful, me:

Breath in, breath out, stop and take an objective look around you at the seemingly oppressive situations in which you find yourself: The loneliness, the never large enough paycheck, the son or daughter, spouse or co-worker, neighbor or stranger pushing your every last button. Examine prayerfully the deadlines tapping you threateningly on your shoulder, the should haves, could haves, would haves clouding your view of all that is still good, still genuine, still lovely. Face your fear of being hopeless, being rejected, of losing everything. Admit you’re an idiot sometimes, because we all are sometimes - idiots cold and stubborn and undisciplined.Yep, it's crazy alright -crazy messy, crazy hard; claim your incompetence. Acknowledge it's scary, having not the slightest idea what is in store for you tomorrow.

Ask for the strength, then, not to fix things, not to brazenly change the world, not to be certain but rather to look inward, to be ok with the ambiguity, ok with the unglamorousness of your cross. Ask for the grace, the unquestioning humility to believe in the mystery of Divine order – that all of it, all of this, has been orchestrated for the very specific purpose of chipping away what is dull, what is self-serving and numb in order to uncover the Christ within you. God, it’s tiring, too exhausting, to try and make sense of the unknowable. It takes Faith, a great deal of it, to throw up your hands, to throw in the towel, to fully, completely, willingly surrender.

I want to love, love as Jesus loved. So whatever it takes, I guess - Lord have mercy. I’m not the one directing, here; let’s get that straight.

Won’t You help me, please, just sing along?

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.

- C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

enjoy yourself

For the first six months or so, I worried that our pace was too slow. I feared with all my heart our kid's boredom. And it was definitely an adjustment, alright - going from rush, rush, rushing (Where are your shoes?! Grab your backpack! The bus is coming!) to my lingering over a cup of coffee in the quiet of an early "no one has to be anywhere at a certain time" kind of morning, and then turning around to face Yikes! all of my children, in their pajamas, hungry for breakfast, at home with me. What a relief! How terrifying! What am I doing? This is crazy!

Only recently did we start adding in extra-curricular activities. It was great and all, especially for Elijah who discovered a perfect fit (finally) in drama and for Priscilla who took right to ballet. We ended up finding something for everyone and then another something until our days began to feel hectic again. This week we dropped t-ball for sweet Benjamin who had been if-y about it in the first place and who struggled a bit with the weekly two hour practices. "He's only six-years- old," I forced myself to remember. "He'll grow into his interests, develop concentration skills like Elijah did, when he's older."

Yesterday, we took it slow. Between assignments, my children colored pictures, read library books, squabbled, snacked, rode their bikes up and down the street out in the sun. Yesterday, I helped them with their spelling, their math, their Language Arts. I worked some, I tidied the house some. Yesterday, I did not feel like the walls were closing in on me, like I was short changing my family by not stuffing their lives with stimuli - structured things to do. Yesterday, for a change, I didn't stress over what I couldn't give them. I simply relished in their ability to enjoy the little things.

Every once in a while, I have to stop and re-examine my priorities. I have to ask myself if my decisions about the children reflect my conviction that this life is a preparation for the life to come or if I'm, in all honesty, just trying to keep up with the Joneses. Do I want the smartest kids? The prettiest kids? The most talented kids? Or do I want for them to be resilient, patient, accepting of disappointments, empathetic to the pain of others, satisfied with less rather than hungry for bigger and better, addicted to "more?"

I can't do it "perfect," (What does that even mean?) but I can certainly work on my attitude - exemplify graciousness, perseverance, self-control. I can encourage them to love sacrificially, to think before they act or speak, to look at every day as a day to celebrate and to learn from rather than merely "get through."

It is warm and no one is sick and we are fortunate, very fortunate, to have plenty of food, clothing, a roof over our heads. That is enough, I think, to warrant my gratitude and a renewed determination to put on some blinders and focus on these kids, on my abundant blessings, on one interaction with my loved ones and my neighbors at a time.

my baby sparkle and shine

Ah, to be so optimistic - to greet an ordinary Wednesday in a satiny gown, a pair of cowboy boots and a bejeweled crown. Watching you spin and turn and pursue fanciness for its own sake with the same passion and diligence of grown ups, myself at times included (sigh), chasing doggedly after prosperity, control and respect, makes me irrationally (the best kind of) happy. You make me happy, every morning, by waking up first and coming to find me in your footed jammies all full of sleepy and cuddly affection. I want for you, for me, for our family, to help each other slow down a little and discover the joy in loving people over things, in seizing every opportunity to create beauty and community where before there was emptiness, gaudiness and isolation. Live, sweet Mary! Don't waste your time, your youthful energy, on anxious thoughts about tomorrow! Dance today! Play today! Shine and Sparkle!


Let a joy keep you.
Reach out your hands
And take it when it runs by,
As the Apache dancer
Clutches his woman.
I have seen them
Live long and laugh loud,
Sent on singing, singing,
Smashed to the heart
Under the ribs
With a terrible love.
Joy always,
Joy everywhere -
Let joy kill you!
Keep away from little deaths.

-Carl Sandburg

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rainy Day Stay

I am glad today for the rain. After so much jubilation, so much chocolate, so little sleep, we are spent and in need of rest. I am home, home with my children, home with my memories, home with my solid and savory resoluteness to view all of this through the clarifying lens of Life - life undiluted, life resurrected.

What's changed? What is less vile about the mud on my shoes, the unseasonable coldness? Nothing... but also everything. It is I who was altered by the arduous journey through repentance, an "in your face" type of realization about the stubbornness of my weaknesses, and into relief, sweet relief, rather than my circumstances.

I am glad today for the stillness, the sobering grayness, the chance to reflect for just a moment on the magnitude of this other option, this alternative to running around in circles with my tail between my legs, involving redemption from the chaos of being ruled over by my whims, my emotions, my hyper-active worries, and courage born of blood stained love.

O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb! For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.

To Him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.
- St. John Chyrsostom

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Christ is Risen!

We had a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Pascha! I am stuffed, dog tired, and still basking in the utter joy, the hope, the triumph of our Savior's Resurrection.

My love to all of you!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nightmare on Waverly Street

And thus it begins: our 2009 tour of every park within a ten mile radius of our home. Yesterday, I dropped Priscilla off for her first softball practice at a nearby elementary school and she jumped right in - no clinging, no second thoughts. Next we drove to another town and to another playground to take Benjamin to t-ball. He too was rearing to go and only once (I believe) did he get all caught up in the excitement of the moment and tackle another player going for the same ball he was. Meanwhile, Mary fell on the monkey bars and bumped her lower lip which bled profusely without her knowing it. She touched her bloodied mouth with her fingers and then used that same hand to push the hair from her eyes and, apparently, rub repeatedly her little face before finding me and asking, Mama, can you lift me on to that swing? I suppressed a small scream; she look like something from out of a horror film, a horror film starring Tinker Bell. Note to self: always, always keep a container of wet wipes in the mini-van.

Tomorrow, they both have practice again at two totally different fields and I am kind of wondering now why I was the only mother frantically writing down these dates, locations and times on her arm with a black Bic pen (thanks for the hot tip, Beth) as the coaches explained their hardly consistent practice schedules. I am hoping that with more experience, I, too, will be able to nod my head knowingly and answer, "O.K. Alright. M-m-m, H-m-m," and really mean it.