29 April 2006


Well, I've tried FlyLady. I'm still getting her e-mail reminders and the inspirational e-mails and I visit her website and I'm trying. But the house is still in CHAOS - stands for Can't Have Anyone Over ... but we still do. We just do combat cleaning and know that our friends extend lots and lots of grace to us. I have great intentions and I know that routines are the best solution for me and for us, but the road there is going to be slow and circuitous. I'm not giving up, I'm just not going to be such a perfectionist about it anymore.

My garden is in the same shape ... CHAOS. Today was the perfect day to start doing something about it. Last summer the weeds gained control of my little piece of heaven. They moved in, took over and laughed in my face. And mocked me with an evil grin every time I walked through my front door, "We're here to stay ... there's more of us than there are of you. Don't even try." I believed them for a while as my poor garden struggled on ... the lily of the valley and nandina to the left, the hydrangea and yarrow, the tulips sprang alive and trumpeted their red song. One of my lilac's stood straight and tall and gave me my first three blooms this year, as if to cry, "Please don't give in to those evil weeds. We've stood against them all this time ... won't you help?"

So, today, I went out ... armed with a little hand shovel and some gardening shears ... and engaged in battle with the weeds. I have one lilac bush that my father gave me four years ago in a half-pint milk carton. This year it put out shooters of its own and stands about 24" tall. I think I might get some blooms next year. He brought it to me on Mother's Day of 2002 from one of his lilacs in Vermont. Slowly but surely it's thriving down here. The other lilac came from a friend who lives nearby. That's the one that bloomed this year. I love lilacs.

I pulled some weeds for about a half an hour. I saw some worms. I was finally able to identify which were my peony plants and which were weeds. I had some plants that have been growing in my garden for several years near my peonies that look very similar to the peonies, but are not. This year I have enough buds on my peonies to see which plants were the weeds ... and I struck them down.

I need to trim the butterfly bush ... it's getting way out of hand. But I can never remember the best time of year to do that. And I need to throw away the azaleas I never planted last year. They are going to be replaced by hydrangeas in any case.

I remembered, this afternoon, that I love digging around in the dirt. Inspecting the pebbles and worms. Listening to the hum of the bugs and the birdsong. Praying for the hurt or ill person that needed the ambulance that raced by. Wondering, is that a weed? But those dead blooms look as though I might have planted those. Hmmmm, I think I'll leave that. On the other hand, those over there are definitely weeds.

I didn't kill myself to do the whole thing today. I will do some more tomorrow and the next day and the next. Because ... I like digging around in the dirt. If I do it all in one day, what will I do for all the other days?

28 April 2006

Are You Owned?

12.5 %

My weblog owns 12.5 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?

I was afraid to do this ... but now I'm kinda glad I did.

ht to bobbie at emerging sideways

26 April 2006

Letting Go

My BrickFriend wrote a list yesterday of some albums (CDs now) that he recently purchased. I've been making my way through the list and listening to the music. He and I have a friendly debate about music, but mostly it has to do with U2. He doesn't like them and I do ... which is probably stating it mildly in both of our cases. There are a lot of other bands that we both like.

I was knocked over yesterday when I saw Dire Straits mentioned in his list. On one hand, I used to love Dire Straits. On the other, I had forgotten about them. I have a lot of memories tied up in Dire Straits ... my first views of Washington DC have Sultans of Swing playing in the background from a class trip when I was in highschool. They were cutting edge rockers in the '80's without being punk (which I also enjoyed). They rank up there with Talking Heads. Cheap Trick tried but never came close. R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, Indigo Girls, Annie Lennox, the Pretenders ... moving toward punk we listened to The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite (but neither of those bands have stood the test of time).

For some strange reason I have always gravitated towards music that is interesting. The lyrics have meaning and many layers. The music itself has depth, artistry, grain. In short, there is something interesting to listen to. I can't always describe it and I never know the names of band members (which is why it's so amazing that I know so much about U2) and can't talk knowledgeably about it, but I know good music when I hear it. This is astonishing to me because when I was growing up the only music in our house was on the AM radio, a couple of albums by the Kingston Trio, and one by Johnny Cash. Then I went through my pre-pubescent crush stage and fell in love with Donny Osmond so I had several of his albums. But ... that doesn't count.

Then in 1990 LightHusband and I joined an evangelical church and gradually discovered that all of the music we listened to was going to lead us down the path to perdition. That, really, if we wanted to be safe we needed to stop listening to that evil music and only listen to CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). Both being oldest, compliant children and wanting to be good new Christians, we did this. But we're also musicians. CCM is boring. It's not quite as boring or limited now as it was in the early 90's when it was dominated by the likes of Amy Grant. But the lyrics are so monotonous and obvious. Why not just slap the listener in the face with a dead fish and get it over with? The lyrics also tend to be emotionally manipulative. The more the musician can make the listener cry, the better the song must be ... right? Wrong! (An aside here ... I think this is why I love U2 so much. They sing about God in the most oblique manner. Their lyrics are so layered, and have such depth and texture that you can listen and hear many things each time you listen to a song. This is something that most musicians in the CCM industry have yet to learn.)

I realized last night as I remembered all my long lost bands that the church had stolen something from me. I'm angry about that. It was unnecessary. A song is a song. A book is a book. These things are, relatively speaking, morally inert and cannot hurt anyone. I'm not suggesting that things like pornography are morally inert (I wouldn't go that far). But an average song, or average book (like Harry Potter) is. It's what the listener or reader chooses to do with the information in the song or book that makes the morality come alive. For the most part the church is filled with adults (some of whom have children). It seems to me that adults could be firm enough in their faith that they can read or listen to anything and be discerning, not fearful.

In many ways I think I ought to be grateful that now I have a faith that will carry me through many things. I love God. But today I'm angry with the church that stole 12 years from me, and took a lot of my self away. Took things that God never intended to take. This is all still bubbling up. Some days I think I've forgiven it all. Other days ... I wonder how long must I sing this song?

25 April 2006

Dinner Conversation

Tonight's conversation over dinner randomly covered many topics as it usually does. Here is a slice from the middle of it.

LightGirl: "Why do Army people all have to look alike?"

LightHusband: "Well, the Army needs to encourage uniformity so that people can work together."

Me, "Because it makes it easier for people to kill one another when they all look alike."

LightHusband gave me a dirty look when I said that, reflecting his indoctrination in the U.S. Army some 20 odd years ago.

LightGirl, said "What? I understand why people need to work together, but what does it have to do with killing each other?"

Me, "When people all look alike they aren't really people anymore, they're just part of the unit, the opposing army and it's easier to kill them."

LightBoy interjected, "Just like when they made the Clone Army in Attack of the Clones in Star Wars II."

She still had a quizzical look on her face and I realized that I would have to remove a significant part of her innocence if I wanted to go any deeper, so I just said, "You'll understand it better as you grow older."

She said, "I don't think I'll like it, but I guess I'll understand it."

I don't like it either ... but it's the way we've been fighting wars ever since we started sharpening stones and throwing them at one another to protect our turf.

Then we moved on to a fascinating rendition of how they made garlic bread at Subway.

24 April 2006

Questions ... and more questions

Among the many blogs I follow (and there are too many) is one by by a Canadian who calls himself Brother Maynard (after a character in Monty Python’s Holy Grail). He has quite a story and has come out of the charismatic tradition. Sometimes I feel quite a kinship with his thoughts and can see him at his spot on the road. He posted a couple of posts recently about calling that have led me to wrestle through some thoughts of my own. I didn’t want to clog up his comments section with everything that’s wandered through my brain on the subject. I thought it more polite to keep it on my own blog. He was talking about whether or not one’s calling can ever be rescinded (you can read his posts here and here ... they're very good); if God reveals a calling to you but then never or rarely uses it. How does that affect a person? Does the hope dry up? If it makes us bitter, are we less faithful? Indeed how are we to handle those unused callings?

Here's something that I'm only beginning to wrestle with. This is the first time I've put words around it and that means this is going to be clumsy. But here in the North American church I think we've gotten the idea in the last 100 or so years that God is going to make our paths easy. That all the things that come from Him are going to be wonderful and good and pleasant. Comfy couches, soft breezes, easy streets. If He gives us a calling, then all the doors are going to magically open for that to happen and others will shut. That tired and overused expression, "When God closes a door, He'll open a window," comes to mind. But when I look at the church around the world (particularly in the developing world) and the early church, that's quite a load of hooey. I’m really not sure that’s how God works. In fact, just reading the Gospels tells us that God doesn't give his disciples easy street. Jesus tells us right up front ... this is going to be hard; harder than anything else. He tells us, "Don't follow Me unless you really, really, really love Me, because in large part it's going to suck. I'm going to ask you to die for Me, leave your parents, etc. etc."

We've all gotten sucked in by this "Good News" ... and for the North American church it's all Good. Well ... yes, the Gospel is indeed Good News. We do have eternal life. But life here on this earth isn't going to be easy street. And that's the part I think we've gotten mixed up somewhere along the way. We live between the tension of a world made in the image of God and a world that is broken. A world which was made to function perfectly and yet doesn't. People born imprinted with the image of the Divine and yet grow into adults who will do the worst and best to one another. That's the tension that we live with and have to acknowledge. Just having Jesus doesn't make that all go away like a magic spell.

I think too of how butterflies come to be. That if they do not struggle and strain to get out of the chrysalis their wings are not formed properly and they cannot fly. That sometimes it is the obstacles and impediments that give us our wings and if we do not walk through those times, we will not be able to be who we need to be. What we need to hang on to is that in those times, God is good and He will be with us. Those are the real promises He’s made.

I struggle with this balance between seeing the image of God in all of creation and yet knowing the Fall has created a brokenness that means evil will cause obstacles and problems for me. I struggle with the balance between being/meditating/sitting in God's presence and doing. There is that tension between Mary and Martha ... John and Peter. Jesus never picked one over the other, both were important. We also have to somehow find a way to live in the space of the tension between both.

As I said, I'm just starting to wrestle this through and it makes me sort of scared to even say it in my "out loud" voice. Because I wonder what trials I have waiting for me? What does saying this bring down upon my head? And in a certain sense those questions make me very superstitious. But I think that some of the "tricksies" that we have come up with in a feeble attempt to read the mind of God, are just that ... tricks and somehow they have worked their way into warp and weft of the Christian culture as if they are also part of the Gospels. Saying "what you meant for evil, God uses for good." is just too easy, imho. I don't think we can know the ultimate outcome. It makes the speaker feel good to say those words (and they are usually spoken with humility and with a good heart to be sure), but who are we to say what is good and what is evil? How do we know that? When I read the Gospel accounts Jesus constantly turned the current cultural definitions on their ears. I think He'd do the same today.

On the flip side of the coin ... or something. I think we have to redefine “good” and “evil.” Or, we have to understand that it is arrogant of us to think that we can can even begin to comprehend God’s definitions of those terms. Those spots in the Bible where we are told that He will reward good and punish evil are clearly not born out in this world. So something isn’t adding up. I really think we don’t understand the terms, and perhaps it’s arrogant to think we ever could.

I should probably write something very erudite and conclusive here. But I have no conclusion. Just more questions.

21 April 2006

Oh ... Brother!

My youngest brother is visiting. Sort of. He's staying with us at night and involved in a business project during the day. He's not sure how long he'll stay here, but it may be the better part of two weeks. We had about 22 hours notice that he'd be coming. That was actually a long notice from him. I'm enjoying this. I get to see him in the morning and in the evening and catch up in little pieces on his life.

He and his wife own a tent rental and party goods business in western Massachusetts. For a long time he and his wife have struggled to maintain good employees because their employment needs are fairly seasonal. Last summer they hired some laborers from Guatemala. He loved those men! They arrived at work on time and worked all day. His worst fear with them was running out of tasks for them. He tried to give them a weekend off and take them to our family house on the lake in Vermont for some relaxation and respite. A small reward for for such excellent service, but someone in their community had a house that needed to be painted. So they worked instead. But when they went back to Guatemala my brother and his wife sent them back with suitcases full of things for their families: toys, gifts for their wives, things for their homes, clothes.

My brother and his wife are rehiring the men plus two more this summer. He was on the phone with them in my kitchen the other morning. It was amusing to hear his pidgin Spanish and imagine the pidgin English on the other end of the phone. I fed him some Spanish words to help and by the end of his conversations he was doing better.

Here's the thing ... for my whole time in the evangelical church I was told that people who are not "saved", who do have "the love of Christ," cannot do loving things. That we can only love because He first loved us. But I look around me all the time and see evidence which refutes this. My very parents give lie to that statement. Ben hires his men from Guatemala, in part because they do a good job, but also because they send a portion of their salaries back home to their families. He does it because it's one small way he can help a few people in a developing country.

I wonder sometimes how the evangelicals can continue to believe these narrow definitions. That God is only speaking to and through them. Because clearly there are others out there who hear His call to care for their neighbors, even while they might not define it in quite that manner. And I wonder how each will be treated in the hereafter ... those who have kept perfect theology, but walled themselves off from those less fortunate and those who have not "asked Jesus into their hearts" but who care for the "least of the these" yet follow God with an intuition that is uncanny.

17 April 2006


My BrickFriend has found the funniest comic I've seen in long, long time. Altho, if you're not into the "emerging" church, you might not get it. I practically had tears rolling down my cheeks when I saw it ... that's how hard I laughed.

An Open Letter to My Family

Dear Family (my earthly family, that is),

Back in the day, we used to see one another often. At least twice a year. The aunts and uncles and cousins and little cousins all gathered together at Christmas time (not the actual day mind you, just time) and early August on Cape Cod for a Clam Bake. You were there for many of my major milestones ... I was there for many of yours; graduations, marriages, babies birthdays. We did them together. I looked up to my cousins and your children looked up to me, and my aunts and uncles and parents got to sit and talk and laugh indulgently at all of us. We all grew and learned from one another, leaned on one another in some odd familial sort of way. When I was with you, the connection was deeper than any I'll have with anyone else.

Then came the Clambake in 1999. That year your mother (my father's sister) turned 80. It was to be a family celebration as the Clambake often is. But there was (on the side) a dispute between your brother and my brother over a business issue. When my brother who had always been a welcome member of our great, large wonderful family before, arrived, to extend good wishes to his aunt, he was turned away.

In many ways that was the blackest day of my life. And so, it would seem, I've led a charmed life if that's the worst thing that's ever happened. But I thought our family had more grace and tolerance than that. I know our grandfather did and so did our grandmother. I was not asked to leave, but neither could I stay. I was put in the worst of all middle positions. I couldn't stay ... I couldn't go. So I left, because it was easier to mollify my mother than live with the tension. Although I've born the tension and the terrible wounds of that day ever since. And our great, warm wonderful family has never been the same again.

I wonder sometimes if anyone else bears these wounds. Is there a hole at the family gatherings? No one ever speaks of that day. I am the bearer of emotions for my immediate family, must I also bear them for the greater family too. So now ... 7 years later I find I'm carrying this burden for everyone else. This is not mine. The dispute was not mine. The Clambake/birthday was not mine. None of this is mine. I need to put it down now.

Lady of Light ....

16 April 2006

He is Alive!!

Update: My BrickFriend has far more integrity than I do ... or maybe it's that he took more time and was more thoughtful about posting his piece. Nah ... he has more integrity. But I read his piece about Peter and realized that I need to update myself.

First ... for about half of Christendom, yesterday was Palm Sunday and this is now Holy Week and Easter will be next Sunday. It's sad, that within about 400 years of Jesus' death, his followers were already so divided that they just stopped worshipping together on the date of his death and resurrection. Almost immediately (in terms of eternity), they stopped following that mandatum novum do vobis (the new commandment to love one another). Note here ... I'm not indicating which group is correct. I'm just saying that the split occurred and it is sad.

Second ... the two readings that follow were written extra-Biblically. The first, about Mary Magdalene, was written by a friend of mine. She used some Biblical texts and some other information that is actually, factually known about Mary to construct this piece. However, no one knows what emotions Mary M. might have experienced as she followed Jesus and then witnessed the resurrection. She couldn't write and didn't leave us a journal. The piece on the Centurion was written by me. All I had were 3 sentences in the 3 synoptic gospel accounts of the crucifixion to go on. The rest is complete fiction, based on what I know to be true of the Roman army and about Judea at the time. So ... if you want to call that heresy, please do so in the quiet and peace of your own mind. They were written with the best of intentions to help our church family experience Jesus' resurrection during the Western traditional Easter Sunday.

Today I got to "be" Mary Magadalene ... in church.

My name is Miriam, though you know me better as Mary Magdalene. You wanted to know how my life was changed through my relationship with Jesus, the Christ. Freedom was His first gift to me. Self-respect, love, life. Those were His other gifts. How, you ask?
I lived in the fishing village of Magdala when I was taken over by evil. It doesn’t matter what I was doing or how it happened, but it did. Demons ARE real, and they were in me. I was imprisoned in my own body. They used my voice to speak their lies. They used my hands to commit their foul deeds.

And then one day Jesus came to town. I had heard rumors about this man who healed the sick, made the lame to walk, even cast out spirits. I wanted to see Him, hear Him, be touched by Him and healed. But those within me were afraid. They knew Jesus, and believed in Him and wanted to get away. I fought to get close enough to hear Jesus speaking to the crowds and to watch Him cure others of their afflictions. And then His eyes met mine, and the demons inside me shuddered. Suddenly, He cast them forth from me, and I was free. Free of their filth and lies. FREE!

I was so thankful. I felt I owed Him everything, because He had given my life back to me. So, I followed Him. I left the village behind and joined with the others who supported Him. We traveled together, learned from Him, were loved by Him, thought we understood this kingdom He proclaimed. What a journey it was—received with joy in one town, almost stoned in the next, and always Jesus’ great love and compassion reaching out to those in need.

He taught us a new way. He taught us not to worry about our next meal, new clothes, a place to sleep. He showed us love. He taught us to approach God for ourselves through prayer. He showed us forgiveness.

Then came the cross. The men fled in fear for their lives and hid. But no one paid attention to the women. Jesus had treated us as equals, but no one else did. So we stayed with Him and watched while He was crucified. We watched as Joseph gathered his courage and asked for His body. We followed to see the tomb where He was laid. We gathered spices and prepared them to anoint His body after the Sabbath. We waited and mourned the loss of our friend and king.

Near dawn the morning after the Sabbath, I went to the tomb with the other women to anoint Jesus’ body and change the burial linens. The tomb was open! Jesus’ body was gone! Confused, nearly mad with grief, we fell to the ground in terror when angels appeared and spoke to us. And we remembered. We remembered His words predicting His suffering and death, words that we had forgotten because we couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand them. We wanted a conquering hero. We thought He was bringing an earthly kingdom.

The men didn’t believe us when we told them He was gone. They had to race to the tomb to see for themselves. They saw the open tomb and empty graveclothes, then turned and left us. I sat there weeping, not understanding why He was gone. The gardener came, and asked who I was looking for. I told him Jesus’ body was gone, and asked if the gardener knew where He had been taken.

Then came the voice I knew so well, calling my name. “Miriam!” I gasped, in joy and awe, hope and fear. Jesus was alive! How could this be? I turned to reach for Him, and He said “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” I thought my heart would burst. Jesus was alive! I ran to tell the others. He is risen! Jesus is alive!

Yes, I was there. Me. Miriam from Magdala, a woman from a little village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. A nobody special from nowhere special. But a man named Jesus walked into my village one day, and rescued me from a living hell, and nothing was ever the same again…………….

LightHusband got to "be" the centurion who guarded Jesus on the cross and declared him the Son of God after he died ....

I am a Roman Centurion. I’ve given my life to the Empire. It’s been a good life and I’ve been proud to serve. But imagine my dismay when I was sent to this backwater desert land. Sent to guard these stubborn uneducated Hebrews. They are dirty and unkept. They refuse to acknowledge the Emperor as God. Stupid stupid stupid people.

I’ve wondered for these past three years what my crime was that I deserved this post. Jersusalem is a crowded dirty city with more Hebrews than ever. And during their feast times, it becomes unbearable. They refuse to acknowledge perfectly good Roman feast days; my favorite is for Dionysus. But for theirs, they flock to the city and live in their own filth for days on end. They refuse to build any of our improvements here ... baths, running water ... nothing.

I stand most days, bored, at my duty station. I’ve wanted nothing to do with this backwards people. I’ve dreamt of being back in Rome, Gaul, anywhere but this hot dirty back water. Lately, tho, I’ve been overhearing whispers about a new king. These tiny little fools. A king from here who can over throw the Emperor?! And it appears that he has a following of uneducated fishermen. They must be his advisors. Ha Ha Ha.

Last Sunday he arrived in town with all the glory these people can give a king. He rode on their most stately beast ... a donkey. Well, that fits. They were all gathered in the city for one of their feasts. I don’t remember which one. But after proclaiming this man king, then they screamed for his execution. I wonder why. My Lord Pilate could care less, like me, he just wants to get back to Rome and keep these people quiet. So he mollified them by granting their request. And sent the man to the cross. I was sent to guard him.

Til this point all went as it should. I had never come into contact with this man they called king. He did not look like any king I’d ever seen and certainly he was not going to over throw the Emperor, nor even My Lord Pilate. In any case, by the time we got to Golgotha he was almost dead. My subordinates nailed him and two thieves on their crosses. As usual, we threw lots to see who would get their robes. But .... I was beginning to be unsettled in my spirit. This man who would be king, was not like any man I had ever seen before.

I listened as one thief mocked him, but the other called him the Son of God. What was that? And then, in the middle of the day, just after he cried out to God as his Father, the sky became as black as night, but with no stars or moon for light. And then he called out, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” called his own death to him, and the light returned.

I tell you now ... He is the Son of God. I must find those followers and learn about what he taught. What have I missed?! I need to know this God, and His Son. I find my loyalties torn now. Who am I to follow? The Emperor/god or the true God? Can I do both? How do I do that? Should I give up this life I’ve known forever. Shall the hunter become the hunted? Join these people in this backwater? Whatever comes next I will be following God and I will walk in His footsteps.

14 April 2006

Good (?) Friday

Having celebrated (?) Maundy Thursday last night for the first time, I feel grim today. Today is a day of waiting. Grim, dark waiting. Of sub-conciously walking the streets to Golgotha. Who am I in the drama? There is only One who is good. Others are evil or worse, neutral. Am I one of the Jews who feel betrayed by this king who is no King and will save neither himself nor me? Am I hiding and denying my relationship to him in order to save myself? How do I live this out today?

Tomorrow will also be waiting. But I think my mood will be lighter and more hopeful.

13 April 2006

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday .... the night Jesus had his Last Supper with the disciples.

It ‘s a funny name. I’ve always wondered why it was called that. So I looked it up ... on the internet (where all the information is true). I double, triple and quadruple-checked my information, because I wanted to be sure. Maundy is an Old English word that comes from the Latin “mandatum.” The whole phrase was mandatum novum do vobis, “a new command I give to you, love one another as I have loved you.” So the day has been named for our new commandment. I like that.

It came to pass that we had a gathering from our church here at our house for Maundy Thursday this evening. So there needed to be something, you know, church-y and Jesus-y, since it's that sort of day. So I looked that up too to see what sorts of things are done on Maundy Thursday. (The LightChildren say you can find anything on the internet ... except love.) Foot washing is popular on Maundy Thursday and so is communion ... both symbolically re-enacting the last (easier) acts of Jesus. It would be snide to comment here that we don't have too many symbolic crucifixions. Well ... we do have the Stations of the cross. But not too many people are anxious to symbolically re-enact the night in Gethsemane, either ... I count myself among them. Sweating blood (even symbolically) is not high on my wish list. And when we're forced at the end of our ropes into doing those things, we're usually alone in a night of despair. Hmmm ...

In any case, we love foot washings and communion. So we had those for our Maundy Thursday service. Symbolically exposing our sin and grubby feet to each other and having it washed away. Wee fun. But in the long run, I prefer the more modern versions of foot washing. Giving people rides to church. Doing their laundry. Being patient with them long past my point of no return. Cleaning bathrooms. Extending grace in all the ways I can of and then asking God to give me creativity to think of other ways too. Because symbolism is great ... but really Jesus told us to love one another. Not symbolically, but in real life. And I think I like that better. I think I like Maundy Thursday after all.

11 April 2006

Baby Names

With our AwakeFriends soon to have their children, the conversation comes up more and more often about how to name children. Everyone has their own special process. I find the process fascinating. I love hearing the stories of how people name their children and why they pick the names they did. What intrigues me is this ... no matter what process is used, almost always the name fits the child. Every once in a while the parent misses. But most times, it's dead on. Which leads me to wonder ... do children grow into their names, or do parents just have some kind of supernatural connection with their children, even those they adopt?

I have good reason to wonder because LightBoy's name was chosen for him almost 10 years before he was born. We picked it out when we were engaged. LightGirl's name was picked long before I got pregnant with her. I had other name picked out for other children too. They both have family names; first and middle. So they are connected and rooted in their families. I wonder sometimes why that was so important to us. But still, their names suit them.

Another Memory

I must be getting old. Seriously old ... or something. Here's another memory. This one isn't nearly as long or as involved. I haven't thought about this in the longest time.

When I was a little girl I wanted a horse. Not in the general sense, like most little girls, I mean like every cell in my body cried out for a horse. It was my every waking desire. I read every book I could get my hands on about horses and then I read them again. I read about training, grooming, caring for them. I read about horses saving girls lives and girls saving horses lives. I read about blood lines of major breeds. I read about cowboys. I went on to read about Indians. I was literally dying to have a horse of my own. So that I could do all those things that I read about.

So my parents got me a donkey.

Doesn't that seem reasonable to you? Your daughter wants a horse. Get a donkey. They're sort of a like. Kinda.



But that didn't stop me. Oh ... no. I was going to ride this donkey. His name (by the way) was Jonah. The fact that he was not bridle broken did not stop me in the least. That meant that he wouldn't wear a bridle. The fact that my mother didn't have time to break him didn't stop me either. The fact that I wasn't big enough to put the saddle on him by myself didn't even begin to slow me down. I think I was about 9 at the time. LightBoy's age as it were.

He was kind of a plump little donkey. I would go out to the pasture (his domain-my first mistake), with two lead ropes. I would attach the two lead ropes to the proper place on his halter, thinking that this would give me some modicum of control over him (my second and fatal mistake). Then I would attempt to clamber up on his back. Usually he would just keep sidestepping until I got frustrated and bored (which wasn't too long). And then I would take the lead ropes and go do something else (like find roly-poly bugs for my little brother). But once in a while, I would actually make it up onto his back. Then his ears would twitch and he would begin to hop up and down stiff-legged. It usually only took about two or three hops and I would be back on the ground.

Remember tho, I'd been reading cowboy books and Indian books ... so I knew how to squeeze with my knees. He was plump, but I kept squeezing. I was determined I was going to break this donkey with a halter rope and write a book about it. It would be a real tear jerker. There were tears alright. It all came to a bitter end the day Jonah bucked me off (and it took a good number of hops by this time) and I landed face first in a pile of dry manure. I was done after that.

08 April 2006

More Fife and Drum Memories

I don't know why I've been going down this particular rabbit trail this weekend. But I have. LightHusband and I have been engaged in a project that has allowed for some brain mush. I call it conquering Mt. Washmore. He is sad that we're removing a perfectly good carpet protection device in our bedroom. I'll leave you to guess what we've been doing. In any case, it's allowed me some time to wander down rabbit trails in my mind.

I was remembering the first muster my old fife and drum corps ever went to. I hardly remember anything about it. Except that it was in Connecticut, because they all were at the time, and I was scared, because we all were at the time. Heck, we only knew about 5 songs and they were all the easy songs. We knew they were easy songs. We knew that everyone else knew that they were easy and that they knew that we knew. We were afraid of looking like chumps. We ranged in age from 14 to 16 or so. We knew Battle Hymn of the Republic, Yankee Doodle, Seven Stars, World Turned Upside Down (the song played when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown) and Old Saybrook ... these are the easiest songs on any fifer or drummers play list. If you don't know these you should just stay home.

We set up camp (tents). And then we all stood there and looked at one another. There was a jam session going on. We could see it. We could hear it. We all had our fifes. But if we went down to it, it was that much sooner that everyone would know ... we were chumps. We were NEW ... brand spanking NEW. Nobody likes to be new like that. Especially not when you're in highschool. Half the problem was that we were all from highschool bands. We thought (up til that weekend) that the only way one could learn to play music was with a score and a teacher. We didn't know you could learn by listening and watching someone else. Finally our director, who had learned that way, kicked us down to the jam session and brought his drum along too.

We stood there on the edges for the longest time. Waiting for just the right moment. For the five songs that we knew. And then sometime that night a magical moment happened. We heard a song that we hadn't known before, but we'd heard it enough times and we started to notice that if we listened and stood behind someone else who did know it, we could copy that person and learn the song. And so we did. And we started to learn new music in a very old traditional method. The way fife and drum music has been passed down for generation upon generation, without benefit of learning or writing, but benefit of passion and talent.

It's always been this way. Fifers and drummers sitting around a camp fire at the end of hard march, during the day providing communication and in the evening providing the entertainment. When two or more units meet up, the musicians trade music not on paper, but in actual song. "Have ya heard this 'un before?" and "How'd 'at go agin?" And they'd play for each other til one had it right or the other. After the Civil War some of the music was written down in a landmark book (for the time) referred to as the Bruce & Emmet Guide and it is still the published in the fife & drum community. There are now several other books out there as well and much other music has been added in the years since the Bicentennial especially.

I did a lot with this fife and drum corps when I was in high school. I remember that at my second muster, which was also in Connecticut, I exploded out of the car. And the corps "Mom" just laughed indulgently and shook her head much the way people do when LightBoy is around now. I remember the parade we marched in for the Maple Sugar Bowl, when it rained so hard that water dripped out of my tricorn hat and into my fife and I just spat water everytime I tried to play. We played at the Big E - The Eastern States Exposition. But most of all we just knocked around like the bunch of high school kids that we were, learning something about history and having a great time.

My big dream was to be able to get a job playing my fife at Fort Ticonderoga. But at the time they only hired boys to play in their fife and drum corps under the theory that only men fought in the Revolutionary War. So I did a bunch of research to prove them wrong; that women had in fact disguised themselves as men and fought in the war. Molly Pitcher being the most famous of them. I sent a paper to the Fort and a job application and by the time I was finished with college, they were hiring women. But by that time I wasn't interested anymore.

07 April 2006

A Memory

When I was in high school a memorable event happened. We (that is, the national we) celebrated the nation's 200th birthday. The Bicentennial. There was a huge ruckus leading up to T.H.E. B.I.C.E.N.T.E.N.N.I.A.L. and it carried on for a couple of years afterwards. There were regenerations in many "primitive" or colonial art forms that have carried on til today. One that I'm still involved with is quilting. But I'm not writing about that here. I'm going to write about fife and drum corps. Especially about fifing. Because that's when I got involved.

The fifes and drums and then bugles had been used for centuries to call commands on the field of battle during war. Or as we're fond of saying (because it's used for a really cheesy Army promotional event called Spirit of America) "...in the smoke - of - BATTLE!!" Pause for dramatic effect between each word and you'll see what I mean. It's cheesy, but fun. The 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) puts this extravaganza on each year. I've been to at least 30 shows since LightHusband used to be in it. I used to be able to recite the whole show ... something like a Monty Python movie, only much more boring.

Some time around the turn of the century between the 19th and 20th centuries the fifers and drummers no longer had any work to do because they had been replaced by electronics. The electronics were in their infancy to be sure, but were still easier and could carry further than a fifer or drummer and didn't die when they were shot. But ... the fifers and drummers still liked to play and more importantly they liked to drink beer and even more importantly they liked to do both at the same time. So they gathered into groups called fife and drum corps and began to offer themselves out for parades and such. They banked on their historic, patriotic heritage to get them into parades and ... it worked. People loved them.

Then in the 1950's and 1960's attendance started dropping off. And interest in these fife and drum corps started drying up. It was sad. But then a miracle happened. It was history in the making ... it was ... THE BICENTENNIAL. Just made for fife & drum corps. New corps sprouted up all around New England ... two in Vermont alone. One for me, one for LightHusband.

Here's the thing about fife and drum corps. You do parades and stand and play gigs all year long to earn money so that you can go to musters. Musters are the big kahuna. Musters are where you want to be. Your corps can probably only afford to go to 2 or 3 a year. So you have to choose wisely. Which is going to be the most fun. What is a muster? I'm glad you asked.

The term has it's roots in the idea that the colonial militia "mustered" it's troops on the town green before marching out to meet the British army. A modern day "muster" is a gathering of fife and drum corps with a parade and then a show. First the parade, which usually steps off at noon (sometimes 11). Then there's a stand where every corps performs a stand piece, often with some drill accompanying it. Some years lots of drill is in fashion, other years it's not.

You always camp at a muster. And in the evenings (Friday and Saturday) the jam session goes all night. It starts about 6 or 7 and goes til your lips or hands give out. Everyone ... 100's of fifers and drummers all playing together ... plays. Anyone can call out a song. But be careful of calling something out too often. And the beer flows. When I was a teenager I won't tell you that I went to musters and drank too much beer, because that would be wrong of me. And neither did any of my friends. We were all fine upstanding young people who would never have made any wrong choices like that.

Sometimes, depending on the location, an F-troop will start up. This is an impromptu parade. One time we marched through a Dunkin Donuts and into and around a pizza parlor. I think we marched 6 across during that F-Troop. We marched across a 4 lane road and up and down the sidewalks for a while and around a parking lot. We created a bit of a stir that night. One time our muster was held in conjunction with an ethnic festival and so we marched our F-troop through the ethnic festival. That was also fun. I sold a muster button to the governor that day. Most of the time when we did F-troop, I marched in my bare feet. It's kind of lucky I didn't get any cuts.

I didn't do fife and drum when I was in college. In fact, I thought I'd put my fife away for good. But then shortly after college, when I met LightHusband (and he was just a buddy) he talked me into getting into a civilian corps that he was involved with. And I went to a muster again. Only this time I was legal. And I remembered all the songs, like riding a bicycle. Only now I was better at it than I had been before. I was hooked. I kept playing. I started organizing music. I started writing drill. I became the music master. Which meant I was responsible for all of our music for several years. I designed our uniforms and based them on uniforms worn by Virginia militiamen. In short .... I had fun! and I played and I played and I played. I learned a whole bunch of Celtic music. There were a bunch of people in our corps better than I ... like Truculent Duck. He'd been playing a long, long time. And now ... neither one of us has picked up our fifes in ages and ages. I don't think I've played since LightGirl was born. They've gotten dusty. But we keep promising ourselves we will. Maybe I still could get some decent notes out of the old fife ... maybe ...

P.S. To those you from my church who read this and think, "Aha ... she's a musician. We didn't know that. Maybe she can play in church." The answer is NO. I cannot. I'm not being stubborn, just realistic. First, remember, the fife was developed to relay battle calls, therefore, it's not necessarily a particularly melodic instrument. Second, it's pitched in B-flat which means it can't be played with any other orchestral instrument except perhaps a banjo or a fiddle. I did once play Dueling Banjos with a fiddler and that sort of worked ... sort of. I used to play flute a long, long time ago ... but that's another story.

Field Trip

Wednesday we went on a field trip to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). It's probably one of my favorite museums in the Smithsonian collection. We went because LightHusband has a cousin in town for the week and we met her and her two daughters there for the day. One daughter is LightGirl's age (they are 3 days apart), the other is a year older than LightBoy. We saw a movie, toured some exhibits, and then did a little course on basket weaving ... so the cousin and I had to make a lot of jokes that we were now finally taking that basket weaving course we'd always promised ourselves in college. We all made these little baskets using plastic cups for a base, and a technique perfected by Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest coastline. It's called twining. It was a fun day and our second visit to the museum. I'll go back again next January or so after the summer/fall tourist crowds die down again.

One of the nice things about this museum is their cafeteria. You select foods that are based upon foods that the Native Americans might have eated from each of the geographical locations ... there's the Northeast, Northwest, Plains, South America, Central America, etc. It's really good ... but really expensive. Lunch for the 4 of us cost $65.00 ... more than we usually spend on dinner and we didn't get anything extravagant, nor did we get dessert!!

I think one of the reasons I love this museum so much is that in the planning and execution of the displays (both interactive and static) the spirituality of the people groups is allowed to shine through. The very building itself was designed to be a spiritual building in the nature of Native American spirituality. And you can sense that as you walk through the doors. It is sacred space. Sacred space in which their stories might unfold in a way of their choosing. And they do.

Lately my bedtime reading has been Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality
by J. Philip Newell. It's a shortish history of the Celtic/Irish church from about 400 AD and it's my fourth or so book on the subject. Since it's bedtime reading, I get in about 2 pages a night before falling asleep ... it's slow going. But on Wednesday I was struck by some of the gross similarities between the Native Americans and the Celtic/Irish Church. And it got me thinking.

When I first started out in college and was asked to declare a major, I was going to be an anthropologist. So I've done some (I say loosely) studying of indigenous cultures. It was a long time ago, but it's an interest that has stuck with me.

But here's my thought that's sticking in my head ... about most indigenous cultures. Those people who live close to the land, also live close to their god. They do not separate their god from the rest of their lives. Even the Celts, once they had taken on Christianity, absorbed it into their daily lives. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit became one with them and you see this in their prayers. They (the people) invited God to be part of milking the cows, making the bed, plowing the fields, sowing the seed, churning the butter, whatever the chore, the joy, the sadness, the great, the small ... God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit were invited in and were there. And that was the same sense I got at NMAI on Wednesday ... different gods to be sure. But they had not compartmentalized their spiritual life into one place in their lives and their other activities into other places. Their lives were lived in a much more holistic manner. Neither had the Celtic Christians ... they were a holistic people, for whom God was in all parts of their life, not just church on Sunday, or Bible Study on Tuesday. They found His image in the face of all they met, and His words on the tongue of all who they spoke to, and attempted to have His words on their tongues at all times.

I find that very appealing and think there might be much we could learn from living in that way. What do you think?

05 April 2006

An Excellent Read

There are a number of blogs I follow outside of our "circle." Many of them are women who talk about the church. This lady writes sporadically, but when she does I always look forward to hearing what she has to say. Today I wanted to share her post with all of you. It's well worth your time. So, click on this link and here's a small taste:

I want you to trust my community of friends. I don't want Pastor Bob in Iowa or Becky in Massachusetts passing judgment on my life, nor do I think it is a particularly good idea for me to pass judgment on theirs. They don't know my story, and I do not know theirs. I am fortunate enough and have chosen to have a small circle of friends who know me, my life, and my story. I know theirs, and in that context of people who truly love me, I ask questions and tell my story and figure out what to do next. They do the same. We are all messy and in process, but if I get too crazy, I'm pretty sure someone will tell me.

I want to know that the first truth about me is that I am created in the image of God and infinitely loved, NOT that I'm a "sinner". The last thing I need to know is that there is something wrong with me. I know that one all the way down to my bones. I want someone to call out the good in me, not root out all the perceived badness.

Make sure you go and read the rest of the post ... it's really, really worth the time.

04 April 2006

An Odd Ramble

So this post isn't going to make any sense ... even to me. You might just want to pass it on by. Unless you like meaningless nonsense.

We got new furniture in our familyroom this afternoon. This means that I'm sitting in a different position as I type on my laptop. It also means I have a different perspective on the room. I'm looking at the fish tank more now.

Last year when LightBoy turned 8 we gave him a fish tank for his birthday. It's what is known as a "community tank." This means that all the little fishies get along with one another. Although, the dainyos keep suspiciously disappearing. The snails must be awfully friendly, because they keep multiplying. We have a plecostomus (I'm sure I've misspelled that) ... an algae-eater, and an African Knife (this is a cool fish with one long undulating dorsal? fin). We have a rainbow shark which is really pale orange and likes to stand on his head and wiggle a lot. We seriously debated one day whether or not it would do any good do engage in psycho-therapy for a creature with a brain the size of a pin head, because we think the rainbow shark may need it.

We have several other kinds of fish, but I don't know their names. The African Knife hid under a rock for the first several months after we got him. Until he outgrew the hole. We have a gouramie, who is supposedly a schooling fish. This means that he needs at least 4 others in the tank. But when we get other gouramies, he gets paranoid and suspicious. We think he takes them down back alleys and kills them. We considered therapy for him too.

But the creature who causes me the greatest concern is this tiny frog. I forget his official name. But in my head, frogs are supposed to be amphibious creatures, who need to come up for air occasionally. This one really is aquatic and has gills, so he doesn't. But when I see him swimming up the tank from the bottom, to me it appears as if he's drowning and trying one last time to get up for air. I know this is not true, but I freeze and watch and pull for him to make it to the top to get his breath. But then he nonchalantly turns and goes somewhere else ... because ... well ... he doesn't need any air. After months of watching him I still catch myself pulling for this non-underdog to get his breath of air. What a dope I can be.

After Lunch Conversation

LightGirl: "Mom, Look what I found. I found the book of Greek myths. I'm reading them all again and memorizing them. I really, really like them.

Me: "I remember I really liked them when I was your age, too."

LightGirl: "You know what's cool? They have a flood myth and it's just like the Noah story. And they have a story that's just like Jonah. I wonder why that is?"

LightBoy (very serious): "That's because VeggieTales made the movies and they became so popular."

01 April 2006

Bragging Rights

That's my girl! She's done it again ... she brought home another blue ribbon and made it look easy.

Last night was 4-H Presentation Night here in our county. LightGirl wrote a pretty stellar presentation on her favorite of all topics and delivered it with a smash into the boards (as it were). She even did it under some difficult circumstances. All the other kids in the room knew one another and were from the same club. Some (we later discovered) were even best buddies. She didn't know anyone else but us. And she had to go first. She was the only person speaking on her topic, while everyone else spoke about horses, horses, horses. But she still (in my completely unbiased opinion) carried herself with dignity and aplomb.

She worked hard on her presentation. She memorized it and made sure that everyone could hear her. She brought out the right points at the right time. She had a good introduction that caught everyone's attention and then some good questions to keep the audience's attention at various points in the presentation. And the best part is ... she did it all by herself.

Yeah! That's my girl! And I'm damn proud of her!!