Wha-huh?

So, how does a delinquent blogger make up for six weeks of silence? Mostly nothing much has happened, but a few big things have happened… so how about a pictoral retrospective of the past six weeks with a promise to fill in the gaps eventually?

We celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary.

Which made us feel pretty much like this.

Scoff if you wish, but I totally saw zombies hitching a ride on a trailer on the way home from work one Friday afternoon. Behold, zombie legs:

Despite the fact that it rained a lot, the sun and clouds played quite nicely together for a few days.

We had a nice, low-key Easter Sunday.

We found a new home for Tula. Long story. Details later.

Which brings us up to Mother’s Day. Grandma Wanda is the coolest. Don’t let her age fool you one bit.

I’ll try not to be gone so long this time.

Advertisements

The proposal.

There is no doubt about the beauty and romance of seeing two people meet at a designated place and time, to make a promise to love, honor, and cherish each other until death parts them. Weddings are romantic. They are beautiful. They are a precious time. Our wedding was something I will always remember, and I can say without a doubt that our guests will remember it, too. For lots of reasons. Fortunately. I guess. But November 9, 1996, is when John and I, privately, made the conscious choice: yes, let’s DO this. Together.

That was thirteen years ago. If you need a visual reference for how long ago that was, let me show you.

IMG_2318

Notice how dark John’s moustache was. And notice how young my eyes and skin look. We had no idea then what twists and turns life was going to hand us. But for me, there was this: absolute, complete certainty that this man–whom I was madly in love with, who was my very best friend in the world, whom I trusted with everything–he was the only person I wanted to stand beside forever.

Sure we’ve had some unexpected twists and turns, but when I look at him sitting across the room from me with one of our daughters curled into his side, I realize that I have about a million more reasons to be madly in love with him; that after a day or a night spent apart, I yearn for him just as much as when our lives required miles of distance between us; that the depth of his love is one thing, but it is often his devotion to our friendship that keeps the spark alive; that I have trusted him with everything, and he has never let me down.

What can I say to that? Other than thank you, my dear, sweet, precious man. But specifically, on this day, thank you for asking.

Heart’s desire.

Today we had another meeting with LMG’s teacher, principal, and other educators at her school. This was the first meeting of the year. Just as last year, she is struggling to make the adjustment, is clearly behind in a few subject areas, and clearly advanced in at least one. On the one hand, these meetings are very, very good. On the other hand, the need for them is not. I guess I had hoped that with some hard work, and a few strategies, it would get easier for her. Lord, I just want it to be eaiser for her.

Today they recommended a full case study and assessment to see if she has a learning disability. As an educator, I know that it is good to get this assessment early. I know that if she has an LD, it does not determine who she is or what her abilities are. To a certain extent, it basically identifies areas where she will struggle, so that we can prepare ahead of time. It’s just difficult to sit where I am sitting, and see this long road stretched out before us, and… well, I just want it to be easier for her.

I don’t want her entire educational experience, both on paper and in her own experience and memory and heart, to be defined by what she can not do or by what she has difficulty doing. My heart’s desire is for her to be able to follow her heart’s desire without any sense of hinderances because of what has been difficult in the past. But, well… that is so very difficult to do… to be confident in our own abilities when our past failures loom so large. I’m not even sure if I know how to do that. And now I need to teach it to my daughter.

Firstborn.

You are growing wiser yet seem to need me more

these days. You are growing shyer–which puzzles me.

Is there something I am missing?

Sometimes I just want to say enough:

Enough with the questions and repetitions of

the same questions, enough with the need for constant–

constant reassurances, enough with the questioning,

enough with the relentless talking, enough with the

need to know it all rightnowthisveryminute.

“Just go with the flow.”

You measure my every reaction–

right down to my facial expressions.

But it is my inactions that disgust you.

Sometimes I think you are nothing like me.

Sometimes I think that you are so much like me that I cringe.

Your perception and intuition are keen and strong–

you notice everything.

Your sensitivity is deep–you feel every single

edge that you hear in my voice, even when

you are not the reason my voice is sharp. My

edges are so pointy, and, Lord help me,

I don’t always know how to soften myself.

I don’t always notice when you are hurting.

I don’t always have the right words within me,

or the right thoughts in my head.

I don’t always know.

I think I owe you an apology because for so long

I have regarded you more as my child instead of

just your beautiful, brilliant self.

I am getting better at that, but it is hard

because you reflect me back to myself and

sometimes I can’t help but react to that

reflection instead of just responding to you.

You who are creative and independent in thought

but insecure in word and deed.

You who are in one moment somber

but in the next singing.

You who are both somehow fickle

yet easy to please.

You who are both a puzzle and mystery

yet so very familiar to me.

I am watching, I am learning, I am growing with you.

IMG_0492

On rivers. And tents. And ministers who drink beer.

Well, at this hour eleven years ago I was standing at an alter with the love of my life next to me. Everything looked beautiful. All of our nearest and dearest were there to celebrate the joining of our lives. But, boy oh boy, did they ever get a show. All I wanted to do was promise to love, honor, and cherish him until death parted us. Well, I would just have to wait… and wait… and wait… while these lovely observations were offered:

John and Dennis are like two rivers flowing together.

So tonight, I ask John and Dennis to pray for five mangey minutes.

There is a river… in Florissant…

God, you came down to Earth and pitched a tent.

These things were uttered by the minister during the ceremony.  I was horrified. Seriously, how do you ask the minister in the middle of your own wedding ceremony to please just shut up and allow you to recite your vows?  It’s like being a deer in the headlights. You see the truck barreling down at you, but you are completely helpless to stop it. I could physically hear the confusion of our guests behind me. All I could think was, Oh my god, they are going to think that we wanted it to be this way! As joyful as I was to become John’s wife, all I could think of as I stood at that alter was What? and Huh? and Why is he saying that??? My maid of honor, Betsy, kept looking at me like, Where did you get this guy? (The answer to that is a long story, too.)

I still have not watched the wedding video. When the minister asked me at our reception if I thought anybody would be offended if he had a beer to drink, I told him to help himself. I, for one, had no problem with it whatsoever as I suspected him of being a little tipsy before the wedding even began. (I’m joking). Oh, and he brought a date. Who was about two feet taller than him. And they got their groove thang on on the dance floor. I kid you not.

Now, when the topic of my wedding day comes up (which isn’t often…anymore…thank goodness), our friends assure me that our wedding was fine, it was nice, but mostly it was entertaining. This is not exactly what every bride hopes for when she plans a wedding, but she does want something memorable, and indeed, our wedding was most certainly memorable. And here’s the thing–despite all my careful planning, and all the confusion of that long, l-o-n-g, ceremony, and my freaking out that it was not going as planned… I think that our wedding ceremony was perfect for us. I am fully aware that John and I are both a little quirky. I think that’s what attracts us to each other. John has lots of quirks, but that’s a post for another day. And our ceremony reflects that. Perfectly nice, all the right sentiments, but just a little–quirky.

Nevertheless, it was perfect for us because nothing says, “we’re in this together” quite like turning to each other after being pronounced husband and wife and reading What just happened? on each others’ face. Actually, no, when John leaned in to kiss me all I saw was love and happiness. That’s what makes John so great. He just rolls with it, whatever it happens to be. Which, on that day, was comforting because in that moment all I could think was: the hell? Which, again, has reflected our lives together up to this point. Things have gone pretty much as planned, but occasionally bizzarro things happen.

Here is the other reason why I think our wedding was perfect for us: it has to do with our friends. Everybody likes to attend a nice romantic wedding and a fun reception. But I think in our culture we kind of leave it up to the couples to figure out how to be married. I don’t mean to say that we don’t care about other couple’s marital happiness, but we don’t want to meddle. Our friends have such good memories of our wedding, that I have often felt that it has just carried over toward us as a couple. Of course our wedding connected John and I to each other, but I also feel that it added a deeper connection between us and our friends who were there to experience (enjoy?) it with us. People have such nice memories of our day, and they are always so happy to talk about it, and that makes me very, very happy. I’ve just always felt like John and I are blessed with a lot of good friends who really care about us, and for that I am extremely thankful.

Now, I realize that it may be weird to write an anniversary post in praise of one’s friends and not one’s spouse. I have already explained, I am quirky, people.

Besides, what can I say about the man who… whooo umm… who would gladly wed a woman named “Dennis” and be happy about it? One Quirky Guy. And I’m One lucky girl.

This is how I know that it’s going to last.

The other day John brought home the hugest bag of Tooti Fruitis I have ever seen.

God, I love that man.

That we need a ginormous bag of Tooti Fruities has nothing to do with the fact that we try to hide it from the girls, wait for them to go to bed, and when they’re asleep we pour ourselves  helpings so large that we might as well be eating them out of troughs.

No, it does not.

Don’t judge me.

“Sea of Love”

So I finally got to watch Juno during vacation, but this isn’t a movie review. I have a point, I promise.  There are numerous reasons why I like this flick.  The first time I watched it, I happily munched on my microwave kettle-corn as I soaked in the deliciously smart mouthed, intelligent protagonist. The script is well written; the characters are flawed and likable; it isn’t heavy-handed preachy, nor does it give the finger to traditional “family values.” It also revived an old pubescent crush of mine–Jason Bateman.* I’m so very glad to have had at least one junior-high celebrity that actually turned out to be talented. I’m sure River Phoenix would have also fit this category, but sadly, we will never know to what extent.

Anyway, so it was a nice little movie that I could enjoy… until the end at which point it went to a whole new level that packed such an emotional whallop for me that I’m still thinking about it. And the second time I watched it, it was just as powerful.

***SEMI-SPOILER ALERT*** Stop now if you don’t want to know how it ends.

Juno has just given birth to a boy. Adoption has been her plan from very early on. (In fact, the adoptive couple is the B-plot of the movie.) For the first time we witness Juno in a state of quiet and stillness, lying in her hospital bed. Her father gently strokes her hair and tells her that someday she will be back–meaning she will someday have a another child. A child that she will be able to raise and nurture. Her boyfriend Pauly enters the room still wearing his track uniform. “Nice legs,” she says, and dad leaves them alone.

Juno is not having second thoughts about giving up the child, but she is suffering. Without any words, Pauly understands this and quietly climbs into the hospital bed, holding Juno as she weeps into her pillow. Now, I’ll admit to being a sucker for a well-chosen, well-timed musical cue. This one was a deconstructed, simple cover of “Sea of Love” with delicate vocals.** What exquisite cinematography. The shot was from the vantage point of where Juno’s father was just sitting. The long close-up lets us really see Juno’s pain. The tenderness between Juno and Pauly is palpable. And the lovely Ellen Page freaking nails it without saying a word. A sixteen year old woman-child who is both experiencing the brunt of a difficult decision, but also sheltering in the love of her family and the father of the baby.

Perhaps this is so moving because Juno professed all along that she would give up this child. She seemed to understand well that her job was to take care of the baby to the best of her ability, and then to give the child to a couple who deserved a chance at parenthood. She seemed happy to do it. Not in a “Thank you, Adoptive Parents, for bailing me out of this huge mess I created so I can keep on being a kid” kind of happy. But in her words, an “I’m sixteen. I’m not well equipped” kind of way. This she knew all along, and she planned accordingly to give it to a couple who had been praying for a child.

What Juno didn’t know, what she never could have anticipated, what no mother (or father)-to-be can ever imagine, is how much she was going to love this child. It seems she was taken completely unawares of the power of this kind of love. Indeed, she was drifting in a sea of love with no boat, no oars, no buoys to mark the way to safe waters or back to shore. And this was when I did something I rarely do when I watch movies… I stopped analysing the plot, characters, and aesthetic. I just allowed myself to emotionally connect to that moment that resonated with me as a mother. Juno’s pain was not just the pain of giving her child away.

I remember feeling that way, and I’ve never given up a child. I don’t remember much about the hours, days, and first few weeks of my first-born daughter’s life. What I do remember is being completely bowled over by the sheer force of emotion this little creature inspired in me. I’ve never been one to really hold back or cut myself off from my own emotions. At least I didn’t think I was. But the magnitude of the love I felt for her caught me completely off guard. And I’m not a good swimmer.

I had no idea how overwhelming it would be. It actually frightened me because for the first time in my life, I felt as if my life depended on someone else. I honestly felt that if something were to happen to her, I didn’t know if I could stand it. If I were to wake up one morning, and she was not there, I didn’t think I could live through it. I felt helpless to her, this helpless baby that was mine to protect and to nurture.  If she was helpless without me, and I was helpless to her, then who was in control? Not me. Not me. And I’m not ashamed to say it completely freaked me out. I was overcome and drowning in a sea of love (and of sore body parts, poopy diapers, and sleepless nights, but that’s a blog for another day).

And the ebb and flow of this love was not predictable like the tides. Just when I thought I had a handle on it, just when I thought I could tread water, again another wave of love–the realization that no matter what I did, it wasn’t going to be as good as she deserved–would crash over me. Every mistake felt like failure. I remember chastizing myself for days because it hadn’t occurred to me that I could actually talk to her until my mom came over one day and starting chatting to her like it was the most normal thing in the world. I remember hating myself because she would be hungry, and I would hesitate for a nano-second because nursing hurt. The hours I spent nourishing her didn’t measure up to the fraction-of-a-second hesitation I harbored in my mind. I would have dreams of me and the baby in dangerous situations, and I had to choose between taking a guaranteed safe route but handing my baby over to a stranger, or holding onto my child and accepting a course with no guarantee of safety. My favorite dream was when I was trapped on a crumbling stair case and Bobby Knight (the hot-tempered basketball coach) stood at the top of the staircase with a long pole stretched out toward me, pleading with me to hook my baby to the end of the pole and he would pull her to safety. Yes, I really did dream that.

When my husband was chronically ill during my pregnancy and in LMG’s early months of life, I would catch myself imagining us (he and I) floating in the dark ocean, with no land in sight. We were bobbing in the water, and I had in each hand a long rope. At the end of one rope was a rowboat. At the end of the other rope was him. I couldn’t get him to hear me, to understand that I had a boat. He was adrift, focusing only on the pitch black night in front of him, and not the little bit of safety I could offer. This is not a metaphor for how my love for him could save him. We were both awash in a sea of love. Overcome by what we did not know, could not see, unsure of how much we could take, or how far we could go–together and alone. Alone was never an option. Yet, part of what made it so scary was because we loved each other so intensely. We were only thinking of, and trying to watch out for, the other. He could only think of the darkness that enveloped us and the threat it posed to me and our child. I could only think of not letting go of the rope that connected him to us.

Truth to tell, there are so many metaphors for that overwhelming, heart-filling, heart-breaking, bring you to your knees in joy, bring you to your knees in humility kind of love. Maybe it’s just me, but when that love hit me for the first time it was scary. It was emotionally painful. I felt raw, and exposed, and truly vulnerable for the very first time. Feeling love that strong will first make you aware of all the things you’re not, before you discover what it can help you to become. Sometimes I think we should talk about that more.

Yet, I would plunge into that ocean again and again and again. Sometimes I’m still not a very good swimmer. Sometimes that tide rolls me over, and I’m in way over my head. Sometimes I feel spat up on the shore, unlovable, and unfit to even tread love’s waters. I’ve learned not to fear those ebb and flows. To take them as they come. If I get tossed by a few big waves, I’m okay with that. They are still scary. I still don’t know how I’d live if something would ever happen to John or either of the girls. But the alternative would be to live life in the concrete, chlorinated pool, Sure, the water may be pretty, and I may be able to see the bottom, but nothing lives there. There would be a limit to the love that I could share. And I’d rather be helpless to the depths than be safe in the shallows.

————————————————-

*I also liked him in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which did not get great reviews, nor is it the best kid movie ever made, but one could subject their children to worse movies–Thomas and the Magic Railroad. Have you ever seen it? Don’t.

** According to Itunes the artist is Cat Power. I highly recommend it, but it can’t be purchased as a single. Boo!

Golden.

See these nice people?

Uncle Ned and Aunt Jackie celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday. Count ’em. FIFTY! We went to a reception that was hosted by their four children. It was so lovely to see them surrounded by the love family and friends. Uncle Ned is my great uncle, so we sat at a table with my mom, two of her brothers and their families. We had a great time. Often times the laughter from my family’s table rang out loudest in the room. Not that it is good to be the rowdy table in the back, but the peacefulness and comfort around that table it special. It has not always been that way. My mom’s family has been through a lot over the years. Saturday night was good to see, and good to be a part of. Of course, I forgot my camera and so none of those special moments were digitally captured.

I also got to talk to quite a few people from the church where I grew up. Every time I walk into that FBCB, a little part of me will always feel like the six year-old I was when I walked into Pastor West’s office and asked to be baptised. A part of me will always feel ten, running off to GAs to learn about missionaries. Another part of me will always feel fifteen, ready to do any crazy thing Ron had thought up for kid-kidnap (it wasn’t as bad as it sounds) or JPL. Then, a part of me always feels a bit like the prodigal daughter when I go back.  All those wonderful people who have known me since I was Little Miss G’s age… who have invested so much time, prayer, and love into me… did I make good on their investment? I have to think not. But somehow, the minute I see one of them and I look into their faces, it seems that none of that matters. All that is there is the love they’ve always given me. It’s such a humbling yet uplifting experience. I simply don’t have the words to say how deeply grateful I am to them and to God for placing them in my life. It makes me realize how much I have benefited from having those roots, both in family and in faith.

And as if that wasn’t enough to make Saturday an extremely good day, another special couple, Chris and Laura, were married. I used to occasionally babysit Chris, and his dad Ron is the youth paster I mentioned before. I don’t know Chris well, but I adore his parents and admire their family. (They’re wondeful people. And good bloggers!) And so, my thoughts, prayers, and good wishes were with them on Saturday as well.