Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Season's Tidings

It’s a season of hooplah and parties, trays overflowing with festive savories and sweets. We run around, dinner half-eaten, making each engagement, and meeting responsibilities. Is it any wonder we are all nursing colds? I’m tired. It’s late and I’m sleepy. The weather keeps waffling back and forth between a mild fifty degrees and bracing twenties. Still no snow. Not here anyway.

Sometimes in the city traffic I feel like we are all playing the children’s game “Red Light, Green Light.” Idle, poised on the starting line, the light changes, the cars lurch forward. Race, race, as fast as you can—RED LIGHT! Stop. Wait… Wait for it, and GO!!! And on and on it goes- only I don’t know who wins.


Sunday, as we sang carols of hope and joy at church, I was feeling the heaviness… the heaviness of the news, the heaviness of sin and how the people I love the most, I end up treating the worst. The heaviness of illness and cancer and how they bring down some of the most lovely people. I had to ask God to restore my hope and my joy. Sometimes I just see the weight of others’ sin, the weight of my own sin, the weight of catastrophe and I have a hard time seeing any further. But then the light comes through the clouds, for a brief moment, I see the “why” and small glimpses of the bigger “how.”

For a moment, purpose is restored. Today, at my work, I felt like Queen Esther. Who knows if I have been sent to work here for such a time as this… as I saw one particular client and how her life hangs in the balance right now… I saw that like Queen Esther, I must be smart in how I present things to the powers that be, to help this woman speak for herself. I saw that I must wait on the delicate timing of God. I prayed for Satan to be bound in the situation, that he would not destroy this woman.


I don’t know how we do it. We go back and forth between spiritual battle, and rebuilding human lives, to holiday parties, and cleaning up after kids. We do laundry and we battle traffic to buy a little something to show someone we care. And we share a meaningful glance across a crowded room, and we offer a silent prayer or a gentle squeeze, and somehow, the love of God binds us together, and reminds us that through all the trials, there is hope and there is joy.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Evening, Morning

When Day Is Done

If the day is done,
if birds sing no more,
if the wind has flagged tired,
then draw the veil of darkness thick upon me,
even as thou has wrapt the earth with the coverlet of sleep
and tenderly closed the petals of the drooping lotus at dusk.

From the traveler,
Whose sack of provisions is empty before the voyage is ended,
whose garment is torn and dust-laden,
whose strength is exhausted,
remove shame and poverty,
and renew his life like a flower under the cover of thy kindly night.

A Passing Breeze

Yes, I know, this is nothing but thy love,
O beloved of my heart---this golden light that dances upon the leaves,
these idle clouds sailing across the sky,
this passing breeze leaving its coolness upon my forehead.

The morning light has flooded my eyes---this is thy message to my heart.
Thy face is bent from above, thy eyes look down on my eyes,
and my heart has touched thy feet.


-Rabinadrath Tagore

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Swine Flu Movie Review

This week I felt a bit like Rip Van Winkle. Monday I went to sleep and then Tuesday through now were a hazy blur of coughing, watching movies, and vegging out, H1N1-style. Yep, Tuesday morning I awoke with a strange sore throat and cough. Each day I truly intended to recover to full health but didn’t. It was a lost week. Today I’m feeling more myself, and am washing sheets, dishes, airing the place out.

Though the week took me away from my responsibilities, it left me in a medicine-hush, glued to the small screen to catch up on movies lent to me by kind friends. These aren’t necessarily new or great. They are just what I watched this week. My week, in movies:

Charlie Bartlett
Charlie Bartlett is a wealthy prep-school boy with too much inventive energy for his own good. After being kicked out of yet another prep-school, Charlie has to try his hand at public high school. He is beaten up by bullies, but turns the situation around, becoming business partners with the bullies and selling prescription medications (like ritilin and anti-anxiety meds) to the other kids at school. In the process, he becomes a bit of a shrink and guru to much of the student body, because he chooses to listen to the other students in their struggles. The movie looks at themes of needing to be liked (by teens and adults who are acting like teens in their need to be liked), kids having to parent their parents and coming into adulthood. In my swine-flu state, I liked lots about the movie, but the last 15 minutes didn’t do much for me. The movie seemed to look in the eyes of all the problems in its character’s lives, and like the overly-permissive, buddy parents portrayed, leave us with nothing more than a warbling, “Do what you feel.”

The Devil Wears Prada
This “Cinderella at work” tale, of a normal girl working in a high powered fashion magazine office (with an evil and controlling boss), was actually lots of fun to watch. I thought Anne Hathaway did a great job at showing her struggles with the demands of her work, then buying into it, and selling out. The movie toys with questions of materialism, inner and outer beauty but never becomes heavy-handed. The question we are all asking Anne Hathaway’s character by the end, is “How far are you willing to go? How much you are willing to take?” Well done, a light movie that doesn’t leave you feeling empty!

Zoolander
Funny, funny, I never get tired of seeing Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson together. This is just a silly movie about a ridiculous male model, being turned into an assassin by the evil Mugutu. I rewatched this one, but fell asleep somewhere in the middle. “Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?”

Lars and the Real Girl

I don’t know if it was the illness or the movie, but I found myself crying through this tale of one man’s “mental illness” and grief, and his community’s care for him. It was definitely worth seeing; with themes of loving others, loneliness, family, and loss. Lars is isolated and anxious, and mostly responds to others with blank stares and by retreating. He finds an imaginary friend who can help bridge his way back into community. Bianca, his “friend” (who happens to be a life-sized doll), is fake, so she will never die, and will stay with him forever. Having someone by his side seems to ease Lars’ anxiety about coming back into connection with people. This movie is gentle and loving- really well done!

Girl With A Pearl Earring
This is a beautifully filmed movie about a girl who becomes a maid in the house of Vermeer, the painter. I must confess, that though it appeared interesting, and each camera shot was like a beautiful painting, I fell asleep (watching the paint dry). Maybe I’ll pick it up some other time! Or maybe not? I don't know.

Once

This one I watched with friends before, so now I’ve seen it twice. It’s a goody if you like Ireland, movies about musicians trying to make it big, romantic angst, or un-hollywood endings. I like at least three of those, so I like this movie!

***

The good news is my swine flu appears to be in remission. The bad(?) news is I probably won’t be watching any movies for awhile. (Well, I’m planning to see “Where the Wild Things Are” soon.) What can a movie based on an eleven-sentence children’s book be like? That remains to be seen!

In the meantime “I SURVIVED THE SWINE FLU OF 2009!”

Monday, September 14, 2009

Saying Goodbye


It was a strange and sad weekend, but ultimately for the good of all. This weekend, my pesky, little cat moved to a kindly couple’s farm in rural Illinois. It was not a decision made lightly. Though I was very fond of his companionship, his ability to play fetch, and his warm, furry self in the wintertime, Larry was also mean to all guests who came through, and made weekend visitors very uncomfortable. He wouldn’t be afraid of people and run hide; he would be afraid of people, and rush to attack and intimidate. It’s actually a wonder I kept him as long as I did, but I usually would just lock him in a bedroom until my visitors left.

Now he will be able to run and play outside to his hearts content, and his new owner has a good heart and understanding of cat behavior. God’s provision of a safe home for a mean little cat like Larry is certainly encouraging to me. Maybe there is a place for everyone. (I think of kids I’ve known in worse circumstances, and say a little prayer).

Today I’m doing a deep clean- getting all the little piles of cat hair that used to collect despite my best intentions. I keep noticing all the ways I adapted myself to this cat when I instinctively pull the door to the basement shut behind me so he doesn’t follow, or when I open a crinkly wrapper, I find myself looking up for him to come running. It’s a bittersweet moment. I will miss him and his many cute habits. I won’t miss other things at all.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Summer Evening Walk

A friend and I were walking and talking last evening. It’s been a cool summer, but the night air was heavy and warm. We were reflecting on things… I thought about people I’ve known for a long time, people whose eyes have lost their sparkle, people who have been hurt or are sad. I thought about people I work with, and their deep struggles.

Our hearts hurt for one another, and when one falls, we aren’t ok. I thought about God as the shepherd, seeking out the lost and just how many there are… so many lambs. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the problems and the broken hearts I see around me, just by the sheer volume of pain and sad stories. Sometimes in my work, I feel submerged, like maybe I could be drowned by all the heartache around me.

Somehow in the summer air, in the light of the near-full moon, my mind shifted. The fabric of pain and suffering and sorrow was transformed, if only for that moment. I felt the treasure in knowing one another so deeply. Part of our sadness is in knowing the secret sufferings of one other. We know each other’s disappointments and losses, struggles and places of questioning.


We are incredibly rich to be known.

As a stranger in town, I could look around and say “Yeah, these people seem cool.” I could superficially pick traits about each that I like (and there are so many) but over time, in context, I also see the teardrops wear the faces down, weathering the smiles and optimism. I’m thankful not to be alone as I walk through this thing called life.


My friend and I were quiet, and looked at the moon. We shared memories of dancing here in the moonlight. We walked to the edge of a fountain. It was a clear basin, the water smelled faintly chlorinated. It didn’t look so deep. We gave one another a knowing look, and took our shoes off and stepped in. We walked around the ankle deep wading pool a bit. It felt amazing- the freshest thing we had ever felt. We grew bolder, and climbed down a waterfall of stone steps. We came to the pool at the base and she jumped in. We both submerged and then played in the waterfalls, feeling the power of the water heavy on our backs, rippling over us like laughter.


There are good moments and memories we share, too. This also is our treasure.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

It's a sleepy kind of day. For lunch, I helped host some students from Northern Ireland and a couple kids from Alabama who had come to St. Louis for a work project with my church. I was in that mood where I could go either way, either avoid people entirely and curl up for a Sunday nap, or stretch myself a bit with hospitality. Today I chose the latter, and I was glad.

Now I'm sitting on a couch with a cup of coffee at hand, a cocker spaniel on my lap, and some friends around, noses buried in books and laptops. It's a peaceful moment.

Peaceful no more! People keep coming in the door. All friendly faces. It's spontaneously turning into a social gathering. The cocker spaniel runs to the door to greet the newcomers. Tea or coffee for everyone.

In the city, they are prepping for the All Star game. Apparently something was rained out, so the friends came from an event at the stadium. I'm going to go find a book. It's a stormy, grey day and it just sounds like the perfect thing: conversation, a good book, a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Snippets

The reason I like reading better than watching video is time.... I'm a time junkie. I love choosing how I use my time. So when I'm reading a news article I can skim the boring parts and focus on the points of interest, or take a glance and decide whether or not it's worth reading. When websites and others post their news in videocasts, I get bored at the thought of wading through whatever unnecessaries are added. And often annoying little commercials get thrown in as well!

Well, we got the kayaking trip in.... that was a big "yay!" Weather and circumstances cooperated for a wonderful weekend away. Now my friend and I are imagining buying used kayaks.... maybe someday! Probably not for a long while.

The state is considering cutting funding for lots of stuff in their budget mess, of most concern to me, a great deal of cuts for human services across the board. We'll see where that leaves me and the people I serve. No immediate danger for my job, but it's an ugly scene in the world of charities, mental health services, foster care, abused children or women, senior citizens, welfare to work programs, ok, it's an ugly scene for all the people who are in the greatest need. Nice work, politicians!

Here's a mix-tape contest my friend's blog is having. For the record, I think it's an awesome idea!

And I'm very excited for a trip home, coming soon!!! The weather is supposed to be perfect, my little brother is being shipped in from the southwest, and I'm ready for family, old friends, and vacation.

That's it for this evening.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Let's Try That Again

Well, once again, my friend and I are attempting to have a kayaking adventure this weekend. This is our third and final attempt (our connection to the kayaks is moving). Her bike accident and stormy weather have gotten in the way in the past. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I’ve been headachey and nauseous all week. Today I called in to work when my morning coffee made me feel sick to my stomach. Last night I stocked up on applesauce, sprite, bananas and bread. Gentle food to soothe the tummy.

Maybe, just maybe if I rest up, I’ll be ok by tomorrow. And the weather looked to be all storms this weekend as well, but now is supposed to be dry and cool, with little fluffy clouds.

I hope it all comes together.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Social Networking and a Small World After All

The little girl who lived across the street from me, whose pool I used to swim in, who moved away when I was in 3rd grade, to whom I have not spoken in 20 years, found me on Facebook!

I love that!

In my mind, she was forever frozen in 80s hairstyles and little girl braids and barrettes, and here she is, a beautiful, grown woman.

I love it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Only Time

Those years don't last forever,
but then again, neither do these.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Storms of Spring and Summer

I sit on the balcony. The air is warm and hangs limp. Clouds are banking, reflecting amber city light, so the night is not so dark. The first cold draft of air blows in from the southwest. The potted flowers are all nestled away, secured so the winds won’t blow them from their perch. A neighbor’s strange, little lawn-ornament, a man in a canoe, rows wildly. The leaves on the trees do a rain-dance: half-waltz, half madman’s lunge.

I sit head in hands, watchfully. Cigarette smoke wafts from somewhere downstairs, so I know I’m not the only one sitting out here on a night like this. Lightning flickers in the clouds and the thunder responds. “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” fourth grade.

Today I sat with a fifth grader, who was weeping about friend problems. I remember those days. I gathered all my compassion of remembering about me and let her know that I believed her in all her misery. “Fifth grade is hard,” she said. On the inside I smiled as I saw this beautiful, dazzling child in front of me, who will be out of school in two weeks and who is well-loved by family and is filled to the brim with strength and resilience. But I remember the devastation of being singled out by a former friend in grade school. Don’t we all? So I sat with her in her tears. She’ll find a way.

It’s much easier to see from this end of things. The rain is coming down now, loud and steady. It’s making quite a racket on the window panes and air conditioner. In the morning, the grass will need mowed again, and dandelions will have sprouted, and life will have happened, despite (or because of?) the storms.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Free Time, Me Time

Chicken and dumplings simmer on the stove. It’s one last “cool-weather meal” to warm heart and body on these rainy days of spring. The trees have responded with bursts of green applause.

Today’s one of those “I prayed and you answered” sort of days. It was just a simple request, uttered about lunchtime and answered not long thereafter. Not an important request, but a reminder that God is very kind, and cares about our hearts.

This weekend I took days off, and I had so many ambitious plans for my time! At some point, ambition petered out and I was just sad. My little motivational engine just couldn’t. I need people. A phone call, and hour of coffee and conversation later, all was well. I paid some visits to folks, I did some other things I needed to do… got together with people. Then Sunday was a little structured with lots of interaction and was great! Monday, off work, and again, by about 4 pm I was done being solitary and motivated, and was just bummed, downright depressed. I can’t do it! I can’t stay all day alone in my apartment getting odd jobs done! Must leave and see the world! Must walk/run/drive/interact with some other life form during the day besides my cat! I should have remembered that from earlier days of living alone in grad school. Always, always, always leave your apartment at some time of day, for some errand, no matter how banal. Very important for sanity. It’s so funny how when living with others, they always seem to be getting in the way of “getting things done”- so distracting! But the truth is, we need those distractions and will create them regardless.

Reminds me of Dostoevsky. He often has characters who forget how to interact with people and slowly go crazy, do things like murder someone. Important to remember if you live alone.

Naw, I’m having a little fun at this point. But it made me appreciate “back to work.” For some reason, when I have unlimited freedom, I find it so de-motivating. A deadline is so much more compelling than all the time in the world, and I’m not quite sure why. In the same way, having many hours of my week taken up by non-negotiable tasks makes the free hours sooo sweet, and I use them well. When that’s not the case, it’s hard to be my own taskmaster. I fritter away and then fret about my wastefulness, but I still have a hard time allowing myself to just relax, do something like read a novel or watch a movie. I always look around at everything that needs doing, or things that seem more meaningful.

But that’s that. The dumplings are done. It’s time for rest.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter

On this Easter's eve,
Thank you, Jesus
for all the good gifts we have,
but most of all for your death,
so that we can have life.

As long as we are still living,
may we lay down everything
for the sake of bringing honor
to the name of Jesus.

Amen

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Task-Task-Task Oriented Today

This week I'm feeling crafty. Not in the mischief sense (that was last week, April Fools) but in the artistic, nesting sense. My creative energies are running in these directions right now:
  • hand beading some earrings in anticipation of when I'm "allowed" to wear the dangly type. (I forgot that I could get my ears pierced till this winter when suddenly I remembered I'm not locked into a bad experience I had as an 8-yr-old.)
  • new paint for the living room
  • new artwork/decorations for contrast with new paint in living room
  • on a wave of cooking Thai food... first a basil noodle dish, and then a red pepper chicken stir fry. With the International Grocery so close at hand.... mmmm mmm, tasty dishes are just a few steps away!
For some reason I really want taupe-colored walls, white trim, with contrasting artwork of corals and alizarin red. We'll see how it all turns out, but in my minds eye, I already see it, and I'm feeling restless to make it happen. I think it will make the white, wooly rug just "pop!" And my pale-celadon green couch. All the people who can't see my mind's eye are cautioning me against my paint color. Too late! Already purchased! So part of me wants to paint it to test it out. If it's a disaster, it's just a rental!

I keep getting distracted by other things though, like the springtime, friends, work and sleep, facebook, what can I say? Pathetic! :) Ah well.

Today for work, we went into a school and led 4 classroom sessions to educate students on some relationship stuff. It was actually fun. (7th grade boys and girls, can you believe it?! Fun?) But so exhausting! My feet were so tired from standing 4 hours straight, walking around, my brain so tired! I could never be a teacher! But God bless those who can and do!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Taste of Spring

Spring is here at last, in full force. It's been a really busy time for me, but the blossoms were at their peak and the gardens are free on Wednesday morning, so before work, I met up with a few folks for coffee and the gardens. (About the photos: I'm having issues with the program I use to adjust photos and it isn't letting me do ANYTHING! let alone rotate them, so the only pics I've posted are the horizontal variety that needed no adjusting. I'll figure it out on a different day.)

This Friday is a beautiful, sunny day in the 60s, forcast to be cloudy and rainy in the 50s so that's a nice change-up. I'm off work and finally catching up on EVERYTHING that had fallen behind. It's good to have a normal, quiet weekend at last.








Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just the Weather and a Weekend Update

It’s a quiet rainy evening here. This morning I awoke to a beautiful blossom-covered tree in my front window. Like magic- yesterday it was little twigs, this morning it was frothy white and pretty. I enjoyed my coffee on the patio…

I thought Zyrtec was supposed to be non-drowsy!? My mistake. Barely made it through my appointments today. Well, learned my lesson. No more Zyrtec for me. I’ll stick with Claratin, or my personal favorite Singulair. Yep, I’m talking allergy medicine here. I guess “Juniper” is at full throttle as allergens go? The things you learn watching the local weather.

Well, it’s going to be an interesting weekend- I agreed to accompany my Junior High girls to a conference and a sleepover... Hopefully it will be a good thing for everyone involved. At the church I've signed on as a Junior High Girls' Small Group leader. I've been at it since last fall, and the group has really progressed from "awkward, forced conversation" to a pretty committed bunch of regulars who are showing care for each other. It's fun to see the personalities come out and bloom. Only one of the regulars is going to the conference, but there might be a couple other girls who want to get plugged in.

And that’s it for our news this evening.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Little Change of Scenery

Well, my brother-in-law thought I was lonely and sad by the tone of this blog. Not really true... but maybe my creative writing mood also overlaps with a melancholy mood. Most of the time when I'm not posting it's because I'm busy with people or stuff. That means friends and fun a good portion of the time. (And I think having a rich community in our times and culture is quite a blessing).

Here it is, almost St. Pat's Day and the weather here is doing it's typical rollercoaster- 70 degrees one day and 20 the next. This year, it doesn't bother me for some reason. Normally I'm so antsy for spring I feel like a caged animal, but this year I feel calm and accepting of all the quirks- maybe it helps that I've rounded out my running gear to be more cold-weather adaptive. I've also figured out to dress for the actual temperature, not what I think the temperature "ought" to be. And those teaser 80 degree days have whetted my appetite and I'm not ready yet to feel that heat and humidity of Mid-May.

This weekend calls for a road trip. Details to come. :) Happy Spring, World!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Golden Touch

Well, it's been an interesting few weeks, starting off with a virus that knocked my computer out cold (fixed by a kindly, computer friend), a dead battery that knocked my car out cold (jumped by a neighbor and replaced by a store - $), a new license from the state that somehow ended up being two through a weird little mix-up (I could explain but what's the point? In the end it was just money in the pockets of the state- $$).

All of these little things have been mediated by kindness of friends, kindness of strangers, provision of God, and the good things of life, for which I sometimes forget to express thankfulness. (How we take them for granted when they are ours: love, community, kindness, grace, needs met.)

A little tune for the evening, and then sleep.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

All I Can Write Are My Meanderings

I drive away from your house; it is late and I am tired. Good to see you. I look down at the fuel empty light and keep driving. There is a gas station that’s four cents a gallon cheaper further down the road. I am distracted by a phone call and wind up driving out of my way, into my old neighborhood. Just for kicks, I turn down my old road. It’s bumpy and gravelly, still torn up from construction on the highway. “My” apartment looks lived in.

I wind my way onto a different highway after filling up. The city lights are pretty and sparkling, and from this high point I can view the Arch.

I focus on my surroundings because in my heart are the sounds of some bleating refrain. I will not listen. “Whatever,” I say, “I don’t even care.” I’m so obviously miffed. I so obviously care. It wasn’t even what you did. It was what I feared it meant.

I put on some old music. Old music, old surroundings; what are you looking for, heart? What are you trying to reclaim? Is it something you lost, or was it something you were merely seeking? Nostalgia bends my memories like a prism; captures vague feelings and expands them into washes of color.

The night air is safe.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Midwinter in St. Louis

The sun shines milky and bright in St. Louis wintertime. On the daily commute, I look over the hues of the highway, as city falls away into woodland fields and small town. The sky is vividly blue and the fields and trees are shades of straw and taupe.

The roads are etched in white salt from the last big freeze. On the highway, chunks of ice, left by traveling semis, tell of colder climates to the north where snow and winter have a stronger hold. Here it has been cold, but only a few flakes have come to rest.

There is a chill, but in the sunshine the air is “roll down the windows” pleasant. Even so, the trees and ground lie dormant, just as I do, waiting for something to come and awaken brighter colors, more verdant growth.

Dormant. I finish small tasks around the home: laundry, dishes, run in the brisk sunshine, put away some odds and ends; take a look at the growing pile for recycling and put it on the weekend list. Dormant, I sit on a couch, reading magazines with brightly colored pages, daydreaming about new paint for the living room, a recipe for pumpkin soup, a garden of spring lettuces that I could grow on my balcony and pluck for lunch.

In the evening, laughter and friends break into the quiet and winter is cozy and warm. The next morning, I drink my morning coffee and look out the window, daydreaming about April breezes, skirts and bare legs, walking outside without a sweater, laying in the sunshine.

A glance at the clock reminds me it's time to leave for work.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

This is Sad, Is this True?

Why Bananas are a Parable For Our Times

"Below the headlines about rocketing food prices and rocking governments, there lays a largely unnoticed fact: bananas are dying. The foodstuff, more heavily consumed even than rice or potatoes, has its own form of cancer. It is a fungus called Panama Disease, and it turns bananas brick-red and inedible.


There is no cure. They all die as it spreads, and it spreads quickly. Soon - in five, 10 or 30 years - the yellow creamy fruit as we know it will not exist. The story of how the banana rose and fell can be seen a strange parable about the corporations that increasingly dominate the world - and where they are leading us"...
(Click here for the full story).


This is an article I came across online! I'm not sure if things are being presented in a sensational light, but if it's true as stated, boo hoo!