Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Fine Day

A few weeks ago I decided to be more respectable in my free-time reading choices, so picked up Middlemarch. But as I got further along, I started losing steam on it, until a couple days ago when Monk assigned me new reading.

Monk had read Eragon, the first book in a trilogy--a fantasy boy-and-his-dragon story. As soon as he finished reading it, he immediately passed it on to me: "Mom, you have GOT to read this." I figured there may not be too many more years when he wants me to read the same books he's reading, you know? So I'm making my way through the first book (much more slowly than he did) while he cruises through the second one. My boy.

Today has been astoundingly beautiful here. A wonderful coolness, even crispness in the air. It's simply Autumn, through and through. Honestly, I don't remember it ever feeling so fall-like here. And it makes me wonder if I've finally just gotten used to the subtlety of seasons here. Maybe. There's something wonderful about that. And something a little sad, too.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Miracles Happen

SFD done and sent to my adviser!


Out of Myself into God

Well, I guess the good news is, we didn't need any retrofitting to survive this morning's little temblor. :)

Yesterday, I had a very heavy heart. And though I had (and still have) a pressing amount of work to do, I found it was nearly impossible to get the focus I needed to get anything accomplished.

I came home in the afternoon to spend some time with my family before having to head out again for class in the evening. There was a peaceful moment of watching Monk hit baseballs - enjoying the way he is clearly living out great scenarios of world series success with every hit. He throws his arms in the air and begins his trot around the imaginary bases.

Things got a little worse for me when a tooth in the back of my mouth came apart. Or maybe it was the filling that fell out. It's hard to tell because it was one of those composite, tooth-colored fillings. I only had it filled in August, but I don't think it was ever done correctly. It had never stopped hurting since then. Turns out the dentist can't fit me in until Wednesday of next week. A week with a hunk of tooth missing? How is it I never had any teeth trouble until I started to go to the dentist?

So between my heavy heart and my teeth woes, I really had to drag myself off to class in the evening. We had invited a guest speaker, a young Pentecostal pastor, who was there to talk about his theology of and approach to preaching. He did a fantastic job. It was thrilling to hear him. And this was the great thing: midway through the class I realized I hadn't thought about myself since things had started. I had been able to get caught up in the content, engaged with the speaker and the students, and focused again on things that bring me joy.

After the evening was over, I was deeply thankful for the opportunity that I find myself living into: to live out my call in teaching, to participate in something larger than me, that draws me out of myself and into a sense of God's mystery and wonder.

The big task before me today is to finish my first rough draft of my dissertation proposal and send it off to my adviser. What an accomplishment that will be. All the while I'm keeping Anne Lamott's wonderfully liberating writing advice in mind, summed up in three letters: sfd (s#!%&y first draft). Hopefully I can do that much.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Conversations You Wish You Hadn't Overheard

Our landlord, standing below our living room window, talking with a contractor about retrofitting* our building. I heard two snippets clearly:

Contractor: "If the pressure is on this part then the whole building..."

and a few minutes later,

Landlord: "Well, I think the least expensive option would..."

I didn't hear the completion of either sentence. It's left up to my imagination and yours. If you lived here, how would you complete the sentences?

*Retrofitting, for those of you who live on solid ground, means to make a building more stable in the event of an earthquake.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Seeing Ghosts

A couple years ago I was hanging out with some girlfriends for Happy Hour when out of the blue it occurred to me what I could say at Thanksgiving when we had to go around the table and announce what we're thankful for: I am thankful that, other than a couple dear friends, I have never, ever run into anyone from my high school since I graduated.

It was such a brilliant absence in my life! I was delighted that I could be aware of it and celebrate it.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I started to receive invitations to my (gulp) 20th High School Reunion and found (gulp again) that I really wanted to go! Wha?!

The notes have been coming in by email for maybe two weeks now. And with them, names of people who used to be a part of my life--but who I'd nearly completely forgotten about--have been floating back into view for me. It was a little like confronting ghosts. A bunch of these kids I went to school with from kindergarten all the way through graduation. And nearly all of them I'd known since the fifth grade.

I think I had the impression that I could float free of that group of people, as if it were only circumstance that tied us together. But I can't float free, untethered to such a large part of my past.

At the end of the list of names being sent around is a smaller list, though not nearly small enough, of the classmates who have died since graduation. (Actually one of them died our senior year from alcohol poisoning.) I felt awash in grief as I read through those names - and again a day or two later when one more name from the "unknown whereabouts" was moved to the list of deceased. After all these years, I can still see their faces plain as day.

I don't know that I'll actually be able to attend the reunion: it's the Friday after Thanksgiving on the opposite coast from me. But I haven't yet ruled out the possibility.

In the meantime, it prompted me to get in touch with my best friend from high school (and Maid of Honor in my wedding almost fifteen years ago now). So parts of my soul are feeling restored.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Little Boy Growing Up

Last night it happened for the first time ever. Monk brushed his teeth, put on his pj's and came out to the living room to kiss me goodnight. "You want me to tuck you in?" I asked.

"No. I'm good," he responded.

He didn't see, but he made his Mama cry with that one. I knew the day would come. My little boy is growing up.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Things that Give Me Hope

This picture and its accompanying story simply brings tears to my eyes.

I came across it via Bible Versus when the picture was displayed on Blogger Play, which I discovered via my big brother's blog, Thoughts of Cyen.

Okay, so now you know how I spend my Friday evenings...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Growing Pains

My Mom says that when she was little, she knew she would finally be grown-up when she no longer had scabs on her knees. I think she used to tell me this because I always had scabs on my knees as a kid. But I've been surprised, over these past nine years, that Monk has not had the same experience. In fact, he had one really bad fall when he was about three-years-old that he still talked about for years afterward. He was at daycare, standing on a bench, and he tried to grab a rope and swing on it. But he missed and fell--pretty much breaking his fall with his face, leaving a large abrasion. For a while we thought it would leave a scar. And for a while after it was clear it hadn't, Monk was convinced it had. :) He sort of clung to that injury as a badge of honor of some kind. Or, in his more dramatic moments, as evidence of his tragedy-filled existence.

But in recent months, he's finally started to get the abrasions and scabs I remember as being a daily part of growing up. Maybe two weeks of hockey camp had something to do with that. :) But I also think it has to do with a little more boldness on his part--a willingness to throw himself into things (literally?) with abandon. I think it's wonderful. And I can't help but beam at him when he comes home with the latest scrape. "Aw man, I'm proud of you!" I hear myself declaring.

Yesterday he went with a friend and his family to the beach for the day. Because Monk is an only child, I know there are ways we overprotect him more than other families. (Uh, hence the lack of scrapes...) So this trip was a big deal for us, well, especially me. DRD, who has always seen when Monk is ready to do things before I seem to see it, didn't worry nearly as much as I did. I always hope I keep my worrying out of sight of the boy, but judging by my Mom's lack of success in that area when I was a kid, I probably don't hide it near as well as I think I do.

Anyway, Monk came home with bruised and scraped up shins. Apparently he was running through the water with the other boys and slammed into a rock covered in barnacles. ("Covered in barnacles" seemed to be an essential part of the story whenever he told it.) I glowed at him when he showed me his scrapes. They match his currently scabbed elbow quite well. We're finally starting to go through Band-Aids around here!

This morning, he came out of the shower complaining that his foot hurt. Turns out he also managed to get a splinter yesterday. We dug at it for a little bit with the tweezers, but it wouldn't budge. "I wish I had Deshler's Salve!" I said.

My Mom had an ancient jar of Deshler's Salve that she would always take out when one of us got a splinter. It would draw the splinter out after a day or so, requiring no digging with pins or tweezers. It was a goopy, sticky, brownish salve with an oily smell to it. I had the feeling it had come from my grandmother's medicine cabinet.

After excavating in Monk's foot unsuccessfully for a while, I turned to Wiki-How. They suggested that you make a paste of baking soda and water, put it on the splinter, cover it with a Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. After that, the splinter ought to be drawn out enough to grab easily with tweezers. So we're giving that a try today.

In the meantime, I looked up Deshler's Salve and discovered that it hailed from Germantown / Mt Airy in Philadelphia--our old stomping grounds! Mrs. Deshler (who was related to the Wisters, in case any of you locals are reading this) purchased the salve from her butcher. (It was called butcher's salve for awhile.) But over the years, it came to be known as Deshler's Salve. Looks like its ingredients are quite odd. According to the website HerbData New Zealand, here's the recipe for Deshler's: Resin 23, yellow wax 22, prepared suet 30, turpentine oleoresin 12, linseed oil 13. Melt together the resin, wax, and suet, and add the turpentine oleoresin and linseed oil ; continue the heat, if necessary, until the mixture is liquefied, strain and stir until it congeals.

Turpentine?! Suet?! Linseed oil?!

And here's where I discovered the history of the salve: Excerpt from the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography.