Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Thanksgiving has become a sort of secondary holiday for us, despite that many families are more likely to travel now than in December for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. (Come to think of it, we don't travel much for Christmas either!) Years ago, the first or second Thanksgiving of our married life I believe, Matt and I returned to New York to his parents' rural country home. It's restful to be there, and after indulging in hikes on their property, long afternoons of reading by a sun-filled window (This was pre-kids; we were still able to read!), and over-consumption of every sort, we delayed our departure to the last possible moment. We headed for home on Sunday afternoon, expecting a few traffic bumps but nothing of significance. To our great surprise and dismay, our trip took twice as long as usual, and we were crawling out of our skin by the time we returned to Massachusetts. We called to declare we would never return for Thanksgiving and put ourselves through that again, and I believe we've only gone back on this "heat of the moment" promise once.....for Matt's parents' 50th anniversary celebration, and on that trip, we left on Saturday and drove through the night rather than make the same mistake twice. Typically we've declared ourselves the Thanksgiving hosts, nestling into our Massachusetts and Connecticut homes for a day of rich smells and tastes, and too many dishes to speak of. (Early menus were color-coded and included tasks for the week ahead of the holiday--I was a bit of a control freak, no?) I don't know the last time I spent Thanksgiving with my father, though I suspect it was at least a decade ago, and the day often feels like more of a much-deserved day off from work than a family holiday.
Whether the traditional crowd around the table, or something more informal like our own celebration, it is always a gift to give and to say thanks. While we're quite good at the giving thanks aspect, I'd like for us to increase the giving part of the day. This is something we'll be more able to do in a couple of years when the kids are more independent and participative. So in the meantime, we give money and food, and the gift of our prayers for all those alone, longing, and in need. There is so, so much need, and I'm reminded even as I type that many in the world live in settings of war, violence and threat--threats far more serious than my suggestion that my kids will have to miss the rest of the parade.
Peace, Lord, we long for peace. May it begin here in this home, at this moment, with gratitude, thanks, and giving.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
We're anxiously, eagerly watching the election results roll in, excited by the news to this hour, but always holding our breath after that infamous all-night (and weeks long) wait in 2000. When the original states were called, with Kentucky's eight electoral votes for McCain and Vermont's three electoral votes for Obama, Kyra was immediately despondent--"Awwwww, he's losing?" she cried out. It was a nice opportunity to say, "No matter how things turn out, we'll thank God that we were able to have our say, and we'll be grateful that courageous people are willing to lead the country." It's certainly not a job I would want....
We were planning to spend the evening with friends, pouring the champagne as this historic decision rolls in. The kids were beyond too tired, though, and I had to set aside my selfish want to celebrate with friends and "be the parent," as we say many times a day. Now Matt and I are snuggling up on the couch here at home, I'm avoiding the seminary reading I desperately need to do, and I'm thinking about what it would be like if my grandparents were alive to watch all this underway. If I knew my grandmother as I think I did, I can imagine she would have a harsh word or two for Sarah Palin--I don't think she would have been a fan after that first speech (it seemed to go so quickly downhill from there....). As for my grandfather, he was one for history being made--and it looks like it will be made in grand fashion tonight. I'm sure he and my dad would have been on the phone every five minutes, clocking the results with the speed of the finest CNN pollster. They would have loved every minute of it.
So, in their memory, we'll love every minute of it, too--and pray that somehow Obama's spirit of uniting the country will prevail in practice as it prevailed in his prose.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Today we had quite a different set of animals on the loose! These might look familiar! Thanks to our fabulous church for this afternoon of great fun.
Did someone call for a dalmatian? Perhaps this one strayed from the firehouse up the street.
All fun must end, as we know. Here's a teary Lucas at bedtime, facing (quite literally) that the tiger could not go to bed with him. Over and over he cried, "But I'm never going to remember him. I'm going to forget him!" And come to think of it, I probably sound just like him as I achingly face the end of my fabulous weekends at home! May we all carry the memories with us into this new week--and may these friendly, familiar animals frequent our homes more often than the truly wild visitors!
Monday, September 01, 2008
Perhaps the biggest story of the summer is the arrival of Ty, our lab-something or other mix dog. He is my walking pal each morning, sparring partner (and love object) of the kids all afternoon, and Matt's competition on the bike path each evening. We can't get enough of this dog, barky personality and all!
This year's garden was nearly a total bust--too little sun, too much rain, blight covering most everything. It has been a sore disappointment. But in a "hope in the midst of despair" sort of way, this one honeydew melow is plugging along, even after we've given up on most everything. I'm praying that it ripens into something marvelously sweet and juicy!
Summer is concluding today--at least the no-school, days at the pool sort of summer--and I wanted to at least capture a few words and images of this banquet of life. And yes, I want to update my long-neglected record of what I've been reading!
First, the books.... Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott, Kyra by Carol Gilligan, Morning Sun on a White Piano: Simple Pleasures and the Sacramental Life by Robin Meyers, The Faith Club (I'm mere pages from the end!).... There are more; I know there are. But perhaps I'll just have to call it water under the bridge and move on to memories of summer.
What I will always remember.... Kyra discovering suddenly that she can swim underwater without plugging her nose, and just days later, jumping into the 12 foot diving pool for the first time! I'll remember Ty tugging me toward the front/side yard after an evening walk on the bike path; when I looked up, there was one of our friendly, wandering black bears! Eek--what a sight! I'll remember how long Lucas looked each day--how he has grown into his own body and skin and become fully a boy, no longer a baby. I'll remember an afternoon of canoeing with Matt, our lunch in Litchfield, and many an evening watching Weeds or the latest Netflix delivery. Most of all, I'll treasure the memories of dinner out on our screened-in porch--hour after hour of family togetherness listening to the rustle of wind in the trees, the whine of Ty through the door, and the happy sounds of a neighborhood come to life each evening!
A toast to the bliss of summer!
Friday, July 11, 2008
I had a new assistant starting at work this week, so my original intention to be off for the whole week didn't pan out. I did take off Thursday and Friday (today), though, and it's been pure bliss. Yesterday we drove to western CT and enjoyed the hill country--the drive was spectacular, we treated ourselves to a decadent anniversary lunch at an outdoor cafe, and the weather could not have been more perfect. Even a couple of hours of lawn mowing and garden weeding didn't dampen our enthusiasm! Today has had additional pleasures in store. We took the canoe out on the river for the first time this summer--and we took Ty for what we believe was his very first canoe trip. Matt clearly had the more difficult role--steering from behind, constant urging of the dog to sit, and a solo paddle of 10 minutes upstream at one point as I talked with the kids on the cell phone. Ah, technology.... But it was four of the finest hours I can remember. We stopped at a sandy beach along our route and gave Ty yet another swimming lesson. (He doesn't yet trust his instincts; we're working on him!) The cool of the river water gently drifting downstream was just what the warm day needed, and creation was in its glory in the presence of a blue heron, a hawk, and turtles galore appearing at multiple points along our journey.
Other pleasures from the summer banquet thus far? Kyra and I went to Camp Wightman for the first time. I intended to blog as soon as we returned, to share the absolute joy I felt in seeing my child come alive to camping as I did when I was young--but alas, I think that blog remained in my mind. I'm trying to decide if we'll go back this summer. From the lake to the root-laden trails to the boisterous voices in the camp dining hall, the experience was the perfect blend of newness and nostalgia. The summer has included a couple of trips to the pool we joined--showing off the kids' increasing swimming confidence, and of course countless walks with the dog, morning and night, every single day.
At moments I feel it all slipping away too, too quickly, but then I open my palm, stop trying to clutch and hold it all still, and enjoy how summer and time, like the river, wash right on over me.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
*Fragile--we all are, aren't we? We had a strange weekend, with Kyra suddenly fainting in the bathroom this past Sunday morning. Though all turned out well in the end, we did call 911, take a visit from the friendly paramedics and police officers of our fine town (our tax dollars at work!), and have those fleeting moments where we thought, "What on earth is happening to our baby?" It was terrifying and quickly over and a reminder that we are all very, very fragile. We are holding the kids closer, loving them with words and gestures and prayers, and trying to be the parents we so want to be. News of the death of Steven Curtis Chapman's daughter only reinforced this need to slow down, to notice one another, and to be in the moment with each other. My gosh--these little ones are so incredibly precious.
*"What will the neighbors think?" I drove home today to catch a brief earful of a neighbor arguing with her teenage son. Matt was vacuuming when I came in, and I suggested he continue doing so lest we teach the kids some new vocabulary words! Later I was talking with another neighbor and she said, in essence, "Reminds me that we're all human!" We were joking about how living in a close-knit neighborhood can keep one's shouting impulses in check from time to time, and how we're probably better parents because of that, "What will the neighbors think?" pause. As I replayed the conversation later, though, I thought how disturbing and sad it is that we tend to care more about those external impressions than we do about the very children we are loving and raising. "What will my children think and feel?" I'd rather ask.
*Books, class, and the life of the mind--I was scheduled to take a week-long intensive course at seminary in June. When I saw the pre-reading list, I immediately began to question my plans--how could I ever devote that amount of evening/weekend time when I am coming up on a major board meeting, trying to enjoy the kids, anticipating summer, etc.? I lost a bit of sleep, tossed and turned, thought about it, and finally decided to drop the course. (Having one free course a term is incentive to stick with it as often as I can!) I emailed the registrar late one evening, and the next morning she wrote back to say, "Oh good--we decided yesterday evening that we need to cancel the course due to low enrollment." What a happy chance that we all came to the same conclusion. Now I'm looking forward to a week of vacation, and all the joyous evenings leading up to it.
I've been behind in summarizing, reviewing the books I'm reading....far behind, in fact! I'm going to write a quick list, as I brought home a pile of five more this afternoon. Let's see if I can remember what I've been reading! Did I write about Three Cups of Tea? Brilliant book--an example of the power of being available to life rather than seeking out one's purpose. Sometimes purpose finds us, as certainly was the case in the life of this mountain climber turned international education/peace activist. Then there was Leading from the Soul. While the allegory style of the book wasn't my favorite, and some of it felt over-wrought, I could certainly relate to the sense of crisis for the protagonist--some days you wake up and realize that much of what you are doing doesn't express the deepest impulses of who you are. Climbing back to that sense of self is a powerful journey. (And I've now picked up Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak once again to remind me of the journey....) Lastly I read Sex and the Soul, a qualitative study of college students and their integration (or not) of sexuality and spirituality. Having attended a college that would classify itself as evangelical, I found her reflections on this setting to be very true to my experience, and I found myself proud to have made the choice to attend such a school. Am I more liberal than my college? Absolutely. Are there things I would change, and ways that a sometimes pious place undermines its own values? Yes. But I still have a great deal of fondness for my experience. Working now on a very secular college campus, I have to believe that her remarks about this setting through the words and anecdotes of students are similarly apt. Very powerful stuff....
And now I'm on to a new set!
Breathe in, enjoy the moment, celebrate what we have....
Saturday, April 26, 2008
What are the other treasured moments from our vacation?
*Matt and I went to see "The Visitor" while Auntie indulged the kids in some time alone with her at her apartment. Now that they've had regular visits without us, we're seen as spoiling their party to actually come with them and stay! It was a reminder of life both past and future to walk the streets of Boston as we waited for the movie to begin, and conversation with one another that doesn't revolve around work, laundry, or the latest parenting challenge is always a gift. Thank you, Auntie!
*The kids and I were able to partake in our annual tradition, cheering on runners of the Boston Marathon. I've written before about how this event moves me--the pure love of parent and child in the Hoyt father-son pair; the colorful display of our varied skins, flags, and shirts bearing every allegiance under the sun. So many people put their feet to the pavement to raise funds for non-profits, to pay tribute to someone they love, or to memorialize someone they've lost. This year I saw a runner who had pinned a small sign to his back reading, "This one is for you, Mom. We'll miss you. 4/18/2008." His mother had died only three days before, and he was running. I may never run a marathon (though never say never!), but I can relate to the experience of putting the whole of my physical self into an act of personal triumph and tribute to another. Watching the marathon always takes me back to these moments.
*We celebrated Matt's birthday with an excursion to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. Though the three and six year olds were less interested in inductees and the factoids one can learn along the way, they were enthralled with some of the interactive displays and activities, and we all enjoyed ourselves. A thrill? When "Daddy" sunk the very first foul shot in a competition!
*It was a week of picnics! We've been eating meals on the porch (where the chill continues!), ventured out for a barbecue at our pastor's house, and also indulged in a gourmet picnic-bench meal with new friends at a favorite local playground. We met these friends for the first time at the playground, and our four kids took immediately to one another, traipsing from end to end without a backward glance. The youngest in the crowd was 2 1/2 years old, and with a whole extra year under his belt, Lucas was the designated watcher and helper to young Ian. At one point Ian ventured out a gate that would typically have been closed, moving without hesitation into the parking lot. Lucas stayed at the gate, called urgently to the parents, and demonstrated that he has the ability to save the life of a friend. I've never been more proud of him.
*Swimming last night at the "parenting through swimming" program we attend brought break-throughs for both kids. Lucas swam from side to side on his own, bravely letting go of the "parent crutch" we've both been nurturing for too long! And Kyra, at the urging of "Mr. Bob" took off her swim float for the first time, holding herself only with milk jugs in her hands. She's getting ready to take off!
Other pleasures abound--visits with neighbors, breakfast this morning at a favorite local cafe, a tour of the recently renovated library (indeed, our community has an embarrassment of riches!), appearances by new flowers and birds, and the purchase of seeds for the garden. It's been a wonderful week. Thank you God for vacation!
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
When I returned home from work tonight (not too, too late, though it is easy to work late when the house is empty--and the next two nights will be work events!), I could still smell the lingering soap/steam scent from Matt's shower, and the kids' sleep smell seemed to hang in their room. I'll snuggle their blankets to me tonight, a nice reminder of them sleeping soundly a state away.
I miss them, all of them. And the gift of this time is how their absence shines a light on how I sometimes miss them when they're all right here. Don't get my wrong...the silence is a gift. But what I learn from it is part of that gift as well. They are such treasures.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I read for class, I touch every page of "The Christian Century," and still I long for more time! What a wonderful life!
Monday, March 17, 2008
Thursday, March 06, 2008
This year, it feels different. The sun is shining, I was able to walk my smiling daughter to school, and though the news is full of the devastating reality that March 6th is becoming "the worst day in life" for many, many people around the world, it no longer seems to be mine....at least not this year. It has become a day for noticing--the frozen tracks of footprints in the mud on the wooded path to school, the fall leaves left unraked, visible once again in their clumps of matted brown. There are buds on the trees, too, and though snow is certainly going to fall once again, spring is clearly in the air. Blessings abound--I'm even trying to feel fortune in coming to work! Miracles appear at every turn, and even as I remember this day when earthly, bodily healing was denied my mother, I know I can look at the healing beyond, within, and all-around. There were miracles, even then, and I'm grateful to see them now.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Kyra's playing basketball this winter, a great accomplishment for our six year old! She's played two nights thus far, and the change between night one and night two was astonishing. Anxiety was running high on night one--for the parents, at least! They had cancelled the K-1 girls' league, offering us the opportunity to play in a K-1 co-ed program. Snows were falling heavily that first night, and over half her team didn't show--she was the only girl. Feminist mama that I am, I was crestfallen. If the evening destroyed her hopes and interest, I was going to be furious! She soldiered on, though, demonstrating that being a great listener and learner is key for any organized sport at this age.
Shot after shot went "swoosh" through the net as they spent the first half hour on fundamentals. She put every suggestion into play, shifting from simply thrusting the ball toward the basket to a clear dominant hand shot, using her left hand as a guide. She paused, she concentrated, she listened, she focused, and she was rewarded. The ball was hitting her mark! But the half hour ended, and it was time to "scrimmage" with the other team--a not-so-descriptive word for the minor chaos that is young kids' basketball.
Given that there were no substitutes, Kyra was up and playing for the entire "game." The rules are simple and good: no stealing the ball, pass three times before taking a shot, give the other team time to clear down to the other end of the court, and so on. The coaches are zooming up and down with them, calling out suggestions, pausing the play to encourage them to spread out, share the ball, take the shot, etc. (I LOVE these coaches--they are accomplishing the impossible, in my mind.) Never before have I realized how much there is to remember: note where the ball is at all times, follow your "buddy" to get your guard arms in the air, dribble if the ball is in your hands, keep moving in the direction of your basket, on and on and on. She was exhausted, she was sweating, and she had run her little heart out, nervously picking at or biting her nails for much of the game. While she said she had had fun, she was clearly beat.
School vacation gave a week's reprieve, and this Tuesday we returned, this time through sleet and rain, to another night's basketball. More of her team had arrived--and she felt the designated expert because of the first night's experience. She was still excelling on the fundamentals, but now, when "game time" came around, her hands were high in the air--ALL THE TIME. It was lovely, and priceless. She would have run down the court with her hands in the air were it natural or comfortable. She was ready!
Given that more of the team was in attendance, they were able to use subs. She got a rest or two. She was included by her teammates in plans to set up plays. (Yes, even at 5 and 6 there are superstar players, already trying to set the pick and make their move!) And at the end, as she guzzled water at the drinking fountain, she looked up at me and said, "I LOVE IT IN THERE!"
We do, too, dear child! We do, too.
Monday, January 28, 2008
*My reading continues, though much more slowly with our return to real life. I grabbed "The Pot Luck Club" off the shelf at our church library, looking for something a little more entertaining and a little less thought-provoking than other books on my "must read" list. It was what I expected--a bit cheesy, a bit Christian novelish (not my usual genre, but there can be something comforting about fictional characters who pray!), and thoroughly engrossing by the time I came to the close. Whether or not I'll seek out the sequel remains to be seen, but I was amused, and there's an increasingly larger space in my life for amusement.
*I had a striking, wonderful dream a week or so ago. Of course the details have all faded between then and now, but the essence remains--Matt and I were given that chance I sometimes long for....to return to our earlier selves with all we know now and see if our decision to be together still holds. In this particular dream, it did--and vividly. We knew all that we know now. We stood holding in our hands all the questions, all the longings, all the wishes for both the life we have together and the unknown lives beyond, and we still chose one another. Sometimes dreams can be a beautiful gift to our wide awake selves. This one certainly was.
*Since our return from Florida, my skin is dry and itchy, itchy, itchy. Though I tried to quickly react with lotions, bath oils, more water, and so on, it was too little, too late. There is just no getting rid of this persistent, nagging itch from my head to my toes. It's in my way--not only am I distracted, but I want to be outside, I want to feel the fresh air, and I know a few walks out in the cold is part of my problem, so I primarily stay inside. Yet again I'm vowing to be more watchful next year--to not save lotion for when my skin feels dry, but instead to simply make it part of my routine. Does this sound like my prayer life? But of course! I wait for the "need," and then I wonder why God seems silent. Perhaps if prayer was part of my routine.... Well, you can fill in the rest.
So much to say, but a little boy is seeking a story or two, and given that I stayed out sick after a sleepless night (both kids were up and wandering about--argh!), I can finally respond and attend to him. Happy day....I know I plan to have one!
Saturday, January 12, 2008
BUT, I'm not going to write about all of that (or have I already???). I want to begin writing about the books I'm reading....not reviews, not critiques; in fact, I plan to create little more than a list. What the list represents is important, though. I am notorious for saying, "I wish I had more time to read." I imagine myself with a life pre-work, pre-kids, pre-commitment in which I lounge by the pool all day with a book in hand, as though this was a life I once knew or one I'll ever have. Contained in the comment is a little bit of resentment about my life's commitments (which include demanding work, kids, classes, church, Sunday School teaching and board service, etc.), and a whole lot of inaccuracy about the reading I do or don't do. In fact, I read quite a bit. True, some of this is for courses I take. But I'm also known to squeeze in a pleasure book while writing that last paper, or grab a weekend to be reading near the kids as they are creating yet another city with their lego, block, and Little People friends. In fact, I am someone who does have time to read. And this year I'm determined to prove it!
Here's what has been part of this new year so far:
Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer: While Krakauer's book is the story of one individual's quest to escape civilization and challenge his skills and strength against and with nature, my reading put me in touch with a broader essence of masculinity. In telling the story of Chris McCandless, Krakauer describes his own youthful ventures to take on the odds, and I could see elements of Matt and many of the men I know. That the story of Chris McCandless ends in death does not diminish the universality of the quest to understand his own significance (or insignificance) in the midst of a natural environment that still contains many mysteries.
Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding Myself, Frances Kuffel: This is a book that grabbed me from the library shelves as I was wandering on one of those "time to write the paper--but let's see what I can have as a reward when I'm done" afternoons. For anyone who has lost weight, only to discover that the inside of herself has not necessarily caught up with the outside (or vice versa), this book will speak. To learn since from Frances Kuffel's blog that she continues to struggle with weight, size, food and self is to find empathy. There is a lifetime of learning that goes into reshaping one's sense of self, and her journey is a reminder that there is no single destination, but many points of temporary arrival.
Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son: A Memoir of Growing Up, Coming Out, and Changing America's Schools, Kevin Jennings: It doesn't take long to discover my favorite genre is memoir. I would read one a day if I could. (See, there I go again bemoaning the absence of time--perhaps I should strive for one a week!) Jennings' story is one of overcoming great odds (poverty, participation in racism, heterosexism and homophobia) to become a renowned, if unlikely, activist. I was moved to tears by the horrors he experienced (vowing yet again to protect my children with outrageous means, if necessary), by his willingness to participate personally and publicly in change, and by the story of his mother's unique and parallel transformation. When my teacher sister shared yet another story of children taunting another child on the playground with "You're gay!" without the slightest clue what it meant, I had this title in hand--what a gift.
Here If You Need Me: A True Story, Kate Braestrup: Yet again, a memoir! This is the story of a mother of four who tragically receives the news that her much loved spouse has been killed in a car accident while on duty as a state police officer. Her grief takes her through personally washing and dressing his body, being present to hers and her children's emotions, and weaving a new life that includes the pursuit of what had been her husband's call--to be ordained as a Unitarian Universalist pastor. The call becomes intimately her own, and the book is filled with the stories, images and insights that have come from her years as chaplain to the state game wardens of Maine. It is a lovely book, even tinged with the many inevitable tragedies that shape her life and her work. I savored each word. A few years ago Matt discovered (via NPR, I believe) the author Mike Perry, and quickly felt a kinship through Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time. I loved this book as well, and appreciated that Here If You Need Me took me on a similar journey, but with explicitly stated spiritual questions and discoveries.
So what are you reading this year, and how can we celebrate the time we do have to read? Enjoy!