Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Sisterhood

It surprises me that I have written so little about the sisterhood. So little of the women who support me and sustain me and soothe me. The women who have provided me with the skin and bones of the Divine Feminine for lo these past thirteen years since the summer after I graduated from Manchester College, a tiny hamlet in Northern Indiana.

We came together by chance one summer. One of us, the only one married at the time, was in the midst of a painful separation from her faux feminist new age husband. Some of the rest of us were hanging around town that summer getting ready for "meaningful work" which scared the hell out of us. We started a random "women's group," talking about issues like money, spirituality, body image, books. It was what you did when you were navel-gazing early twenty-somethings to pass the time.

The group solidified in the next several months as we sluffed off some of the not so active summer group members and continued to add new friends into our circle. We got together often--sometimes weekly--for discussion, and the ritual drinking of Boone's Farm Wine (the drink of choice for poor college students). And at the end of the day, or in the wee hours of the morning, we rocked one another to sleep if someone was bereft, or laughed so hard we choked milk out of our noses while we had breakfast if someone retold a remarkably funny moment, or nursed one another in illness if someone was sick (or hung-over), or sat silently holding the phone as someone wept long held-back tears.

The group added a member and grew.

We led different lives. We moved different directions at various times--Alaska, Colorado, Michigan, Maryland, Kentucky, California, Kansas, Texas, Washington D.C., Indiana. Some of us married, and some divorced. Some of us remarried. Some of us had children. Some of us had miscarriages. We've struggled with the illness of family, and the death of others who we've loved, and the painful closure of relationships which have left us reeling. But throughout the journey, we've held bonds to one another strong and deep and fierce and unending.

We've struggled together when we were angry with one another, or when we misunderstood one another, or when we felt alienated from one another. But we have not been afraid to name those realities, or if we were afraid we named them anyway.

I wear a gold wedding band on my right hand, right underneath my engagement ring. It is a ring which symbolizes my commitment to my sisters, to the women who will live across or down the hall from me at Timbercrest Retirement Home when we get to be about 86. In the summer of 2002 we had a blessing service for these rings, symbols to remind us of the women who will never abandon or forsake us, women who promise to be our sisters even on the other side of the veil.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Literary Baby Food

Grayson has a baby book that he got from his Grammy and Papa for Easter. It's a Golden Book about barnyard animals which was copyrighted in 1953 and has all sorts of deep comments like, "Baby Cow is called a calf. She says, 'Mooooo! It is time for lunch.'"

I love this book for several reasons, the first of which is it's 1950s optimism. On the farm all the animals are smiling. They are almost giddy with delight as they all sit in one happy meadow with big, sappy donkey and billy goat and guinea pig smiles on their happy animal faces. But, more importantly, I remember this as a Golden Book from my childhood, and simplistic as it is, I love that Grayson is learning the sweetness of the animals, the different things animals do (i.e. "Baby cats are called night the farmer gives them cow's milk, and they curl up together in the big red barn..." or "Baby chickens are called chicks. They cannot swim. Mother says we must look for worms and stay out of the water,' they reply."). How much sweeter can life get? It's like one big animal commune (without the illicit drugs and sex).

There is no talk of what will ultimately happen to some of the aforementioned farm animals. There is no worry about hormone levels in meat, or mad cow disease. Instead, goats frolic and puppies chew harmless old generic shoes and no one ever says "Bad Dog!" It was a kinder, simpler time. 1953. Our boys were home from war. Our Rosie the Riveters had made their way back into their kitchens. Dick and Jane were happily playing on their bikes while Sally pedaled her tricycle. Safety and security were paramount in the nation's mind.

Of course we know differently now. The world still had it's anguish. All across the country there was rampant homophobia, sexism, racism. The myth of the 1950s works for those who had an upper-middle-class white background and that myth of the 1950s can in some ways still haunt us today as we realize all that was glossed over to paint a perfect picture of a decade.

But, I still confess to loving the illustrations by Garth Williams in Golden Books. There's something simple and comforting to me about this Golden Book mentality for a baby. It's like spoon-feeding them rice cereal. All is mild. All is mellow. All is simple. All is one-grained. All promises the familiar. It is as if we say to our infants, "This is all the pap you can take for now, and for now, it's all I want you to have."

The day will come soon enough when we talk with our boy about war and death and loss and evil. The day will come when we talk about the responsiblities Grayson has for changing the world and making it a more open and tolerant place for the next generation. The day will come when the mantle falls upon his shoulders. I know this. And I will preach this. And I will commit myself to being a parent who instills in her son the importance of public service and of being a disciple of the one who taught us radical love.

But for today, just for today, the main concern in his world is that the baby guinea pigs who live in the hutch have suspicions that the white rabbit has been up to mischief. And the only mischief that Grayson knows is that the white rabbit stole some carrots from the farmer's garden.

"And this is enough evil for today," I say, as I spoon another serving of Gerber's rice cereal into his baby-bird-like open mouth.

And he smiles fearlessly, trusting that I will give him only what he is ready to taste.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Random Factoids from Sitemeter

Remember how I mentioned that I was sort of waiting for the writing fairy to come and give me some words? Well, despite the fact that I check every morning under my pillow, there are no words gathered there hoarded away under my goose-feathered nest. I've checked multiple times. I did, however, find a handkerchief and one long-missing earplug, so it wasn't a total loss, this not being creative.

However, I wouldn't want to fail you, interneties. And so, I thought I'd share with you what your internet cohorts are doing...what your fellow readers are looking for when they read me. You see, I have this wonderful tool at my hands (a tool you probably have too, if you click the sitemeter button at the bottom of this website, yes?). This tool, allows you to figure out how people got to your site.

Now, most of you come willingly. You come because you know me and like to take pity on a blogger. Or, you come because I'm linked to another website you like and you want to know what the fuss is, or isn't. Or, you come because I updated on blogger at just the right time and the "next blog" button was too enticing to not hit. Or you come because you remembered me from Ms. Longtine's English class at Paul Harding High School and you want to see if I still have bangs which I blow-dry into billowy, cloudy, puffs (I don't). Or you are a Brethren lurker who wonders about those sheep who have strayed from the denominational fold (it's actually nice out here in the fresh air...and we have wine at our parties...).

But, some of you come to this site not out of willingness, but out of necessity. You come because there are things you are desperate to know, and you hit the google search engine folks up for answers and somehow they direct you to me. You are the folks who want to know more about Ernest Ainsley. And I can tell you nothing, apart from the fact that I truly thought this was his name because I saw his home somewhere in Akron, Ohio once but, alas despite having seen his home and making fun of his lack of a neck and pronunciation of the word "Jeeezzus" I, obviously don't know near enough to be a google expert, as I cannot even spell his name properly.

You may come because you're searching for the answer to your query "Christian How to Handle Stalking." And for some reason my site flipped across your radar (and I know this because it's exactly what was typed into Google according to sitemeter and am still puzzling at how my site was one of the first to appear for this query). In response to this stalking question, though, I must weight in. I can simply say a few sentences, friend who asked, and the most important one is this: Jesus doesn't like stalking. He thinks it is very, very bad. Please stop doing it. When we ask WWJD? The answer is plain: Jesus doesn't stalk his friends. Does Jesus drink with his friends? Perhaps, given the water to wine story. Does Jesus go on road trips with his friends? Definitely, given his many sojourns with the funky fab twelve. But does Jesus stalk? Absolutely not. No evidence. The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. Stop doing it. You're making Jesus sad. You're making him cry. Really.

For the one who found me after googling, "pregnant hungry don't know what I want," I can only say, "Bless you my sister, may you find the perfect food in your moment of need...and if this is difficult, may I remind you that you cannot go wrong with strawberry poptarts." And if you are the partner of aforementioned pregnant woman may I say even more heartily, "God bless you, my brother or sister, for caring enough to google this ever elusive issue. And again, I remember that strawberry poptarts could scratch the appetite itch in the first trimester far better than any healthy option ever could. Now, go with God. And don't forget that footrubs will place stars in your crown before you make your way to St. Peter's gate."

I'm still waiting on that 'ole Word Fairy, pesky creature that she is.

And I'll let you know the moment she deposits erudite thoughts on this weary servant's head.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Four Months

Dear Sweet Boy of Mine,

On July 28, 2007 you turned 4-months-old and I continue to marvel at the wonder that is you.

Your "aaahs" and "ooohs" have turned into "mmmsss" and "bbbbssss" and "ddddssss." Your mouth continues to fascinate you endlessly and the fact that you can stuff objects into it (your hands, my hand, your spit-up rags, your blanket edges, your duck toy) causes you to pause in astonishment as if you had recently invented waffle irons or some such kitchen marvel.

While you're still not rolling over, you are a champ of what the pediatric experts refer to as a "stabilized neck." Your father and I think you're simply so serene, such a Buddha baby that you have no need to roll over for pleasure. Why contort your body, really, when there is so much amazing stuff that just comes naturally whilst you like on your back in your play gym? Monkeys dangle. Elephants jiggle. Birds perch over you. Giraffes stare at you with big googly eyes. What need is there to change the natural order of Grayson at the center of it all by twisting over? I mean really?

Of course, as your mother, I did lament this slight delay on your part; after all the rules-bound baby manuals say that you should and if you should than who I am, a lowly chaplain, to judge? But, your pediatrician reminded me this week that you're doing great, he said that rolling over was no big deal yet, and that I should, well, I should perhaps relax a little bit.

Grayson, we need to have a heart-to-heart here and now. Of the two parents you have, I am perhaps the, um, less relaxed. You might want to make a mental note of that. Your dad is pretty laid back. He takes things at face value, accepts things for what they are, watches things with a detached (and I mean that in the most mentally healthy way) perspective before jumping to scary conclusions. He's probably the first person to talk to after you have that first sip of beer when you're at a high school party, or the one who you run to when you crash your bicycle and think that there may be a chance you've fractured a wrist. He's your go-to man when it comes to creepy-crawly insects in your room, and the one who will be the most help if we ever had an alien abduction situation in our home (and not just because he's the calm one, but because he's watched so many damn documentaries about UFOs and the like before falling asleep at night). 'Cause your mom, well, she's sort of an obsessive sort, and she may, well, panic.

I'll give you an early example...when your dad and I play with your play gym with you we like to jiggle it with our foot or hand and make the dangling characters move, which makes you laugh. When your dad does this he laughs along with you and says, "Grayson, look, they're dancing!" Such a happy idea. But, um, when I do it, I realize that I shake them and say, "Uh-Oh! Earthquake!" or "Look! An Avalanche!" And I realize my face is already set in a grimace. Shit. I'm already hitting the panic button for you. Your poor jungle animals have already endured endless natural disasters thanks to your worry-wart of a mother. Again, just remember to go to Daddy with that first fender bender, and I'll work on that fear issue in my next therapy session.

This month you have mastered the art of rice cereal. Now, I never knew that there was such an incredible "art" to rice cereal until, in hindsight, I compared your first encounter with it on July 3rd to your present gifted skills. While you used to mouth it, pout, spit it out and cry (all the while inhaling the cereal only to exhale it out your nose in a post-cereal fit), you now open your mouth expectantly and snarf down the whole damn bowl as soon as it is offered. A Peter Rabbit bowl has never been scraped as cleanly as your dishes are. Your dad and I have big plans with you soon...big plans which involve oatmeal cereal and strained green beans. It doesn't take much to excite us.

You spent your first complete night away from us two nights ago. It was a sudden decision, as I was sick, sick with a nasty flu virus and Daddy was busy with hauling your sisters all over for ballet rehersals and had been caring for you nonstop for days. Grammy and Papaw agreed to host you for an overnight and you were a wonderful guest...sleeping through the night and snuggling with Grammy before bed and giving her one of your stellar Dick Cheney/Munchkin smiles right before drifting off.

You also got to meet the aunties this month. The aunties are the women who sustain your mommy, who have been part of your mommy's life for over 13 years and who remind her that she has a network of women who will always love her and nurture her, and you. You have two godmothers, both part of the women's group, and you have taken to them like white on rice (the picture is of you with your godmommy/auntie Cheri). I hope some day you'll understand the power of the village which raised you.

I love you, my sweet. I love you more than you know, and I keep watching and wondering as you unfold and unfurl who you will become.


Top Ten Reasons I Haven't Posted Lately

10. Grayson has begun gurgling incessantly and that "mamamamamama" sound has melted me into a zombified mush of mommylove unable to do much more than stare lovingly at those bow lips as they repeat those consonants.

9. I've been madly looking for a new home for Cooper the Wondercat who is not weathering the transition to big brother very well. This requires super sleuthing skills and a fair amount of begging and wheedling. All, so far, to no avail. Anyone want a beautiful 21 lb. ball of furry love?

8. One word: Influenza.

7. Delighting last weekend in the love of my sisters as they all descended on the greater metropolitan area of Fort Wayne for our annual retreat. Drinking phenomenal wines. Eating sinfully delicious foods (in addition to cheetos, which are sinfully delicious in their own orange way). Laughing deep belly laughs. Remembering how much grounding they give me.

6. Practicing the proper way to say the word "grocery."

5. Washing, drying, folding, and putting away 4,392 lbs. of baby spit rags. Only to begin again after the next feeding.

4. Listening to my patients. And then listening some more. And then coming home so very tired from hard listening that I worry I'm not listening well to my family.

3. Obsessing over childcare options now that R. will be returning to work in the end of August.

2. Walking each evening (before encountering aforementioned deadly number 8) for an hour and a half while counting the number of wild rabbits I see (top number: 18).

And the Top Ten Reason I Haven't Posted Lately...

Writer's block. A big and bad case of it. Let's hope the writing fairy appears soon and grants me some words.