Friday, January 15, 2016

Shifting Focus.. Or Maybe Just Starting Over

I have started blogging over here:

welfareofmycity.blogspot.com

I loved this blog for several years and will always be grateful for the space it gave me to chronicle so many of our family's photos and the crazy parade that was (and continues to be) our life. But my babes are older now, and I feel like making their lives public on a Mommy blog wasn't what I wanted.

I am writing about other things. Still our family, but in a different vein and with a broader brush. If you want to follow along, feel free to check it out!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Escape

I recently read an article in the Economist titled Farewell to Escapism. The tagline was "Technology will track us down anywhere we go in 2015. And we will no longer care."

The article talked about how we used to long for breaks and vacations... getting away from work and laundry and neighbors and school and cooking dinner was something we bragged about doing. We looked forward to sitting on the beach with a book. A cabin in the middle of nowhere. Campsites with fires and playing cards and hot dogs. Even a luxurious cruise where your options are sleeping on deck chairs or bellying up to the buffet. Getting away wasn't about roughing it or minimalizing or even simplicity. Often vacations were about splurges and indulgences or fulfilling dreams.

The appeal was about what we were doing without. Leaving behind. The daily responsibilities. No phone ringing. No correspondence to answer. The newspaper piling up on the porch. When we came back from vacation we had to catch up on what was going on in the world because we were AWAY. On the week of vacation we missed neighbor's birthdays, didn't know the exact second babies were born, blissfully forgot about gas prices and street sweeping and the grass in the backyard.

This is why we came back from vacation rested. We worried about food for the day, sleep for the night, clothes for the weather, activity for the afternoon... moment by moment decisions that are easy to make. We almost go back to the lowest level of Maslow's pyramid. Our basic needs. Low expectations means we can handle things, often with happiness and calm.

And we joked that on the plane flight home, the drive back, the hike to base camp, that we could feel the impending doom of "real life" waiting for us on Monday. Vacation was over. Our break was coming to a close and we were about to be found again. Our quiet was going to be filled with voicemails and emails and piles of mail. But we didn't know about it while we were AWAY. All the mail waited for us, and somehow we survived and kept our relationships and our jobs and our schoolwork intact. The people in our life let us escape without demanding we be available.

The suggestion of this article is that not only do these escapes no longer exist, but even if they did, we wouldn't want them.

We no longer want to go days without knowing things. We don't even want to go minutes.

We feel guilty if we step away from our inbox for a week. We don't think others can handle our job.

We feel our friendships depend on daily contact. We worry people will think we don't care if we don't respond.

Or maybe, even more personally intimate, we don't want the people in our life to go a week without us.

I hung the Economist article on our refrigerator because even just seeing the title Farewell to Escape makes me pause. I resonate with this description from Wroe's article:

"The early 19th century escapist was a poet, packing his bags and setting out for the sublimities of the Alps in which he would find, in solitude, his soul; leaving behind a pile of debt and bastards, and hoping no one would pursue him. As the century ended he was a gypsy, squatting by his roadside fire, or a tramp, in rags and broken down hat: anything counter to the nine to five routine and the neat suburban house." A century ago, escapism was about physical proximity to other humans and the weight of growing civilization. The poets and gypsies wanted to be unencumbered by the responsibility of culture that was demanding they build and accumulate. These escapists knew the less you had, the less you had to move when your restless feet wanted new adventures. But they were becoming few and far between as modern industrial culture grew.

Wroe makes the correlation between the trails of modern life (house, bills, desk job) and the trails of digital life. The interwebs tracks everything for us...the news feeds we prefer, the websites we purchase at, the cities we want to know the weather in, even our search history of what we have recently been interested in. And the alerts of our voicemail and texts and emails tether us as long as we keep our device at hand. We have become so used to being followed that we don't look over our shoulder any more. "We are all public property...If we are now permanently on call, observed, collated and connected, so be it; that is modern life. Much faster than we rebuff the trackers, we embrace them; and like Ulysses strapped to the mast as the Sirens wove their songs around him, it is clear that we no longer wish to escape at all."

Is this true?? Do we not want to escape any more? Can I keep the margins I love while inviting in the people I love too? What if I didn't respond to an email for a week. What if I didn't answer a text message for a day or two. What if I didn't check IG until the babes were in bed. Would I relax into the quiet escape? Or would I feel the nervous twitch of having too much space between myself and my digital trail?

Am I Ulysses strapped to the mast desperately trying to escape my chains or could I be Jason playing another song so beautiful that I wouldn't even hear the Siren's call?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Shenanigans: A Pictography

 We try for Christmas pictures

Maybe...

 American Gothic

 Bingo
(Thanks Caleb Sawyer!)
 
Passive Observer
Bad Luck Charm
Malpractice
Henry and Lyd



Trimming the Tree


The First of  Many Attempts...




Even a little blurry, she is still one of my favorites

Cookie Decorating
What you are looking at, Martsolf?


Evalina

Beautiful. Debatable Edible.

Preschool Buddies

These two are too much 

Purslane and Milan




Preschool Christmas Performance (Rudolph)

Comedy and Tragedy

These two found each other the second week of preschool...

The Girls. Pursy, Addi, Ellie, Evalina and Brooke

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bill is Homeless

Standing next to the front door of the gas station down the street from our house is a homeless guy named Bill. Bill has a squeegee in his hand and a raggedy white/grey beard. For the past three years, every time I pull up to the gas pump, he lumbers over to my car and says very politely "Good morning ma'am. Can I wash your windows to get a little something to eat?".

When we first moved back into the city after five years in the Happiest Valley in the world (Penn State) I remembered that there are poor people who sit on curbs and next to expressway exits with signs asking for money. We got used to the regulars in our neighborhoods in Denver, New Orleans, and Washington DC but there aren't many panhandlers in State College. In the city, I always made Grant uncomfortable by never just handing over money, but always shaking their hand and asking their name. I heard a sermon once about erring on the side of trusting those who supported themselves on the compassion of others, and thinking I never wanted to be wrong and let a fellow man go hungry while I had dollars in my pocket.

And let's say they actually took my money and spent it on a handle of booze... what a small comfort in a life lived outside and on the mercy of others.

But Bill. I remember one time being in a hurry and telling him that I would just buy him something to eat instead of waiting two minutes while he washed my windows. I will never forget the look of offense on his face and his polite refusal to take money without doing work. He didn't want a handout, he wanted a wage. Washing windows was his livelihood, and he is good at it. We wipes off drips and moves windshield wipers and takes great pride in surveying my car when he is done, head nodding at a job well done.

As we were driving away the last time Bill worked on our car, Pursy asked why Mr Bill (which is what we call him) washed our windows. I explained to her that Mr Bill didn't have a house to live in and he worked washing windows to buy food. She said "when I get bigger, I want to wash windows just like Mr Bill". Which gave me a beautiful segue into talking about working hard and being the best ____ you can be. If you want to wash windows, be the best window washer, just like Mr Bill.

A homeless squeegee wielding man named Bill helped me teach my children a valuable lesson about taking pride in your work, faithful presence and taking care of others. But every time we pull up to the gas station and I see his beard walking towards us and he introduces himself like he has never seen me before, I think that it isn't my dollars taking care of him. His kind words and his quality work are caring for us. I see it clearly through my spotless window.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Best One

There is a reason love stories capture our attention. The narrative of two people meeting, discovering each other, chance encounters. The looks, the unending conversation, the delight, the attraction, the thrill, the lightning bolts- we love all of it. The thought that two human beings could connect in any meaningful way and decide to keep doing it. All love stories are epic but I look a little longer at the interesting ones... the ones that overcome, defy logic, come back around, rise above, don't make sense.

When I am in my dark place I wonder how Grant and I got to be the armchair lovers that I remember singing about while listening to this one album I discovered in college. I don't remember the band or the song title or any other lyrics other then one about being a "comfortable armchair lover". The idea obviously being that love that endures will evolve into something that brings more then just lightning down your spine, it will be a safe place to fall apart, sink in to, and will be so familiar that you long for it when you aren't there. I remember loving that idea for other people, other lovers, other love stories.

But certainly not for me.

I wanted the moment before our hands touched to be for always. The thrilling uncertainty and the confident assurance that we were waiting on each other for a move that was sure to come. Of course you want to kiss me. You could hope to be so lucky that I would kiss you back. And you won't back away because you want me. You have been watching me from across the room for hours. You already thought about how to talk to me, how to get my attention, how to try and make me forget anyone else was around.

Then the hand on the small of my back. Comfortably guiding me through a crowd of people as if we were already together. Listening to me ordering a drink so you can figure out what I like. What it says about me that I like my whiskey straight up. That I like my steak medium well and my coffee dark with sugar. When we go to a show I don't like to sit down. I don't like to stand in the front either, just somewhere in the middle where I can move without being the center of attention. I like that you open my car door for me but let me pay if I pull out my wallet first. I probably won't tell you when I decide to leave the room. I like what I like and will answer your questions about my personal tastes but don't take offence if we don't agree. This is the beautiful mystery of getting to know another human.

 I don't expect many things in life to last forever and there are so many people in the world that nothing surprised me more then meeting you and falling down the rabbit hole of our love story. I wasn't ready for you to get to know me. To get familiar with how you kiss or the sound of your feet coming down the hall. I wanted more time to be free and responsible for no one, not even myself. I wanted more eyes on me across a room and more hands on my back and more questions about how I take my bourbon.

I wasn't ready to fall in love with you. But like it does in the movies, I couldn't deny it was happening. Our love story. And it was the best one. We had our electricity and our hikes in Moab and our candlelight baths and our epic fights and our mind numbing sadness and our Mardi Gras parades and our bathroom floor mushrooms and gay German landlords and lonely barstool beers. We had it all. The passion and the fury.

No one has had a better love story then us. I would live it a thousand more times. The comfortable armchair that is now our Tuesday evenings doesn't come from apathy or disinterest. It comes from years of kisses that left me weak in the knees and hours of fights that ripped out my heart. I earned the right to relax in to you. Because I love you with everything I have. And we will tell Knox and Pursy about the love that made them and why we believe they shouldn't settle for anything other then the most epic love story they could ever dream of writing. Because the best one gets told over and over again. And every time we tell the story of how we met and fell in love, I remember that we had it all. We have the best one.

Photo credit: Caryn Azure Carson

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Year of Renewed Passions

In February of 2014 I remembered that I like to read.

I started a book club with some of the colorful women in my life and we have spent the past 10 months meeting regularly to discuss, drink wine and coffee, and get to know one another through our love of books. It is one of my favorite evenings of the month. Having accountability to finish at least one book a month has also encouraged me to finish some of the half read books on my nightstand. It has also inspired me to buy a notebook to scribble book titles while driving...cheers to NPR. A sleeping giant has been awakened... my inner book worm.

I have read more books this year then I have in the four and a half years since birthing my darling Purslane. Here is the list of fabulous books I have devoured in 2014.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Midnight's Children (a valiant attempt- not finished) by Salman Rushdie
Mr Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Hannah's Child by Stanley Hauerwas
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
Real Food by Nina Planck
Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
Euphoria by Lily King

And Mo Willems, Eric Carle, Richard Scarry, H. A. Rey, and other authors who have given Purslane, Knox and I hours upon hours of happy reading.


The Now but Not Yet

2014 is coming to an end mind blowingly fast. Where did it go??? I feel like the family with young babes has a particular understanding of living in the "now but not yet", which is what we as Christians refer to this season before Jesus returns for the second time. We are to be living every day to the fullest extent, but mystically with the reality that we will not be living this particular life forever. There is an eternity after this life, and as Christians this should impact every decision we make.

Intense. Humans have been trying to summarize this tension for hundreds of years...eventually coming up with phrases that we can block paint on pieces of wood and hang on our wall to remind us of our place in the universe. "Just passing through" was a popular one when I was growing up- the idea that we are strangers on this earth and our real home is in Heaven. This watered down theology has its dangers though. We aren't just passing through- we are living in a time of great movement and if Christians aren't putting down roots and engaging every part of this world we fail to live out our call to be "a royal priesthood and a holy nation. a people belonging to God". (I Peter) We aren't supposed to be just be surviving this life until the next one. We are to be planting our apple trees and building our tents. (credit: Martin Luther and Saint Paul). This world is beautiful and it matters. But it isn't forever.

This season of parenting does feel like it needs some phrases block painted on the wall to remind us that we should be living every day to its extent, but every day is the "not yet". The virtues we try to model and teach our children will not be often reflected in the daily reactions of our 3 and 4 year old darlings. That does not mean we shouldn't teach them, in fact there is an imperative that we raise our children with Christian virtues deeply rooted in their neighborhood, their school, their family, because the daily "now" is what teaches us to long for the future.

What we do daily is what turns our hearts towards what is important to us. "How we spend our moments is, of course, how we spend our lives". (Annie Dillard) Who we are, what we value, what we love- all these are lived out in the daily habits of our lives. The simple and the profound. Children are fabulous at teaching us this, if we slow down enough to watch and listen. Part of what made 2014 feel like it was on a record player set at the faster speed, was the fact that I wasn't just paying attention to my daily rhythms but the rhythms of two other people who are devouring the wonders of the universe one magic unicorn at a time. My Purslane and Knox are fabulous additions to my own habits and daily intentional decisions. But every parent has come to the end of some day or another and realized they didn't do one thing for themselves. Everything was about their children. Which is necessary for a season but as they grow more independent, there is new space for things other then parenting.

So I am working on finding the margins for my own daily life that help me to remember that I am living in the "now but not yet". To nourish my own soul. To figure out how to slow down the moments of the rest of 2014 and get ready for the crazy parade that 2015 is sure to be. To parent my children and love my husband and care for my patients and cherish my friends and serve my church and anticipate the reality of Christ coming again.

Sounds simple enough...