Monday, November 10, 2008

Tornado position

When I was in the first grade a tornado came dangerously close to our elementary school. I remember our teacher yelling in his "mad dad" voice about the need to stay covered, to hide our faces, to protect our heads. I remember the way the doors rattled, propped up with wooden doorstops which were valiantly trying to do their job. I remember the dust and scattered paper, the discarded practice spelling lists and milk carton straws skittering down the orange carpeted hallway. I crouched in that hallway, my hands pressed to the back of my neck, my nose buried in the smell of the fabric softener embedded deep into the fibers of my clothes as I crouched, knees to nose. And I was too stunned to even cry; too overwhelmed to even react. The community tornado siren was wailing, the wind was blowing, and I was a scared six-year-old.

Ever since then, I have been plagued by tornado dreams. Before college graduation, when I had no idea what my future held, I would wake my roommate up with eerie moans because the tornado was coming, and I couldn't make my way to a place of safety. In seminary, when I was completing a student pastorate with a supervisor who questioned my motivations and "gifts for ministry" I would often dream of that tornado on Saturday nights before driving to Indianapolis on Sunday mornings. And in one of my most telling dreams, right before leaving the congregation I had pastored with my whole being, and facing a ministry commission who questioned my commitments, I dreamt that a tornado was coming and R. and I were sheltering the Misses T. and B., seeking safe haven in the church as the sky grew darker. And the church leaders locked its doors and said we'd have to go elsewhere.

Tornado dreams have nested in my psyche; and whenever I am at my most fragile, Morpheus summons that familiar symbol to sprout in my dreams; to remind me that there are things which need to be tended to, upheavals which are on the horizon.

My work is hard now. In addition to the constant companion of burn-out which I have come well acquainted with in the past year, our small not-for-profit hospice is, like many not-for-profits in this economy, struggling some. In our own black Friday last week five people had positions eliminated ("right-sizing" they called it...apparently "down-sizing" is a little too much of a bummer). Thankfully, my job was spared, but tasks were "reassigned" and change is imminent. Our office is somber. There are whispered exchanges. There are tears. There are some recriminations.

There is a little nook between my colleague's desk and mine. We store boxes there, keep trash cans for medical shredding there, stow extra CD players there. All day today I found myself wanting to crawl into this hideaway, to huddle in tornado drill fashion, protecting my head and waiting for the wind to pass. My thirty-six-year-old self reverting back to her six-year-old safety mechanism.

It's windy right now friends, and the sky has sort of a greenish tint. I'm vigilant. And I'm edgy. And my burned-out, desperate soul doesn't know right now where to seek shelter.

Or, perhaps more importantly as a chaplain, how to offer that shelter to the ones I am called by God to serve. And this frightens me the most.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A New Look

Whaddya think? Yes? No?

Change sort of freaks me out.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Belated Halloween Post


Grammy made Grayson an amazing costume. We think he kind of likes her for that (see Exhibit A).

Our little organ-grinder's monkey. Still a little unclear on the whole "trick or treat" concept (do I ring the doorbell and run away? Do I make the people beg for more? Do I prefer that they look at my tail rather than my face? See Exhibit B). Ultimately, it's just easier to pause and take a break to play the songs that make the whole world sing.

And yes, in time, he will curse his mother for picking out that costume that sort of accentuated and verified the fact that his head circumference is upwards of the 95th percentile.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Uncle Vayden

I've posted about my brother-in-law before. He is a mensch. A hospice medical director. A jazz enthusiast. A progressive liberal. A kind and gentle man. And he knows his scotch. These simple qualifiers alone make him "good people" in my book.

I love my brother-in-law (almost as much as I love my sister-in-law, feminist extraordinaire who inspires me with her intelligence, and keen insight and savvy. And, let me freely admit that I also believe that behind every good and sensitive man there is an equally good and sensitive woman).

But I'm not sure I love Vayden as much as Grayson does.

I'm constantly amazed at Grayson's memory. We were in Texas in August to see R.'s family and it was only minutes before Grayson had figured out who everyone was, and what they offered. Mamaw Amy had amazing steps which he could climb down. Aunt Lois would clap when he did something impressive (like climb down those steps) and marvel at how sweet he was. And Uncle Vayden, well, Uncle Vayden could talk like Donald Duck.

The day we left Texas in August, Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden stood on their porch in the early morning and signed the word "more" as taught to them by their crawling nephew. They wanted more time with us; almost as much as we wanted more time with them. We, the occupants of the jam-packed Mercury Sable pulled out of their driveway, and lamented that we only got to see our Texas kin once a year. And were sad that our time away, once again, felt so ephemeral.

The misses T. and B. know and love their aunt and uncle. They understand that they are loved by family far away. They know the faces and names and characteristics of their Texas kin. But, the prince of the home, Grayson, only got to know them for the second time in this past summer's visit, and it is hard to know whether he can comprehend the importance of family, as much as we'd like him to.

However, as we've lately learned, apparently this summer's visit made an impression.

Multiple times a day now Grayson makes a trip to the refrigerator. He's not searching for juice, or for yogurt, but for the magnets which are plastered on the outside of the bottom of the ecru-tinted Amana within easy toddler reach. The boy sorts through the magnets carefully rejecting the Mickey Mouse, the Winnie the Pooh, the Obama/Biden, the Monet reproduction of water lilies. Instead, he carefully pulls off the magnetic photo of Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden and cradles it near his chest. He carries it throughout the house, showing it to those who ask (or those who don't, yesterday he tried to show it to the cat, who had no interest), and occasionally leaving it behind when some other passion beckons. I've come upon the photo in random places that Grayson haunts--by the backdoor as he gazes at his swingset, next to the bathtub where he had to leave it behind so it wouldn't get wet, next to his highchair when he was told he couldn't "play" and eat at the same time.

And if you ask him, "Who is in that picture?" He has no answer.

But if you ask him, "What does Uncle Vayden say?" He begins to quack and speak his own brand of Donald Duck jibberish. He remembers Uncle Vayden's play-talk.

I think that perhaps, Grayson believes Uncle Vayden is the authentic Donald Duck; a mystical force which surrounds him with sound but which he doesn't understand. Uncle Vayden's voice has simply become the mouthpiece for some sense of goodness in the world in a toddler's mind, and he cradles his picture as if it were a medieval icon.

Grayson will know the love of Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden as he grows; as he understands time and distance and extended family. But for now, he carries his magnetic photo of Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden near his heart and labels it with the voice of a cartoon character and recognizes that family come in all shapes and sounds and that they love him wherever they reside.