Thursday, May 31, 2007

Attraction to Liturgical Services

I posted this as a comment to my husband's blog recently. The entry itself was observing the fact that traditionally white-collar class people tend toward a more liturgical service where blue-collar classes gravitate toward the freer pentecostal type service, although that line has been blurring as more and more doctors and lawyers "try to clap along" with pentecostal-style worship. But it also mentioned the author feeling a pull toward the more liturgical service, regardless of the "class" of either one. He has been feeling disillusioned with the "fluffiness" of seeker-friendly services and I must say I partially agree with him.

I'd like to write a few of my own reasons for the attraction to a liturgical service. These are mostly just thoughts, not a concrete preference for one or the other.

First of all, I was raised Pentecostal. I have always been exposed to a more rowdy musical worship service, often accompanied by banners. At various times there have been orchestras or choirs. At the same time, I have visited liturgical churches at semi-regular times since my grandpa is Episcopalian. I have performed music in a Methodist church on and off for 15 years as well. So you could say I've seen 'em all. Growing up, I was encouraged to appreciate the mystical aspect of worship. Phrases like "entering into His presence" were common. I must say that I have always truly enjoyed this phenomenon. We serve a living God. It is possible to actually enter His presence as if walking into a room where a dear friend is sitting waiting to have a chat.

In the past five years, some things have happened at church involving the music leader. I participated in the music in a small way and hungrily desired to be more involved. Pursuing this course, however, proved to be impossible as the music leader asked me not to be involved at all. At first I was afraid that it was a lack of musicality, but since have come to the conclusion that it is rather a difference of style. Now I have become somewhat resigned to this fact, although still quite hurt by the whole episode, but it has opened my eyes to see that the Pentecostal movement has acquired a certain "liturgy" of its own. It is actually fairly rigid in style and form, just like the printed liturgy of the higher churches, although not as overtly codified. Since discovering this, I have found myself completely inhibited from entering God's presence in a mystical way because of the distraction of the awareness of this rigidity. I find myself analyzing the quality of the performance and the use of the liturgical elements in the service such as song choice, flow and so on rather than losing myself in worshiping God as I used to.

This has created a vacuum in my spirit and a longing for the mystical connection with God that I used to experience. Through my husband's influence, I have read some books by Catholic and Anglican authors and I have attended a few Masses with some Catholic friends. For the first time I have come to realize that the printed liturgy can be just as meaningful as the words to the worship hymns and choruses with which I am much more familiar. And I find that they do not usually have the distraction of music accompanying the sentiment. I have also found the observation of the liturgical calendar to be interesting and meaningful.

The problem I encounter tends back to the same thoughts I had when I was young and would visit my grandpa's Episcopal church. The liturgy, although very meaningful, seemed to be remote from God. it seemed academic rather than intimate. It was as if I was reciting a letter written to a distant friend rather than chatting with someone in the same room. I like that it has a lot of sentiments worthy of remembrance, but I missed the immediacy of the mystical encounter with God. My husband made a clever comparison: it reminds him of how the Brits relate to Queen Elizabeth. Of course they do not worship her, but it is similar in a loving, distant relationship. She loves her people and they love her but there is no first-hand closeness between the two. God is not that way. He longs to dwell with His people in one-on-one intimacy.

The obvious conclusion to these thoughts would be a solution. I want a service with the mysticism intact: believers in unison extolling a present God and enjoying welcoming Him into their midst. At the same time, the depth and beauty of the formal liturgy along with the style that leaves bad-quality rock music at the door sounds wonderful. There is no such solution. The higher-church worshipers shy away from anything that smacks of weird spiritual mysticism, while the Pentecostals generally seem to be moving more and more toward the seeker-friendly lightheartedness of canned rock-CD worship. I suppose I say this will a slight tinge of bitterness as I would be ok with rock-style worship if I was not excluded from participating. As a musician myself for years, it frustrates me to be given no part in it for so long and to be told it was "God's will" (the audacity!) when in reality the honest truth is that I don't sound like Michael W. Smith or Darlene Zesch, so I, like many other excellent classical musicians, am given no music ministry in our church. Honesty would have been much less painful because it would have at least shown respect rather than condescension. But I digress. Every church I have been to (and we visited at least ten while living in the Valley) had its own opinions on worship, from the Reformed church who eschews instrumental music altogether in favor of psalm-singing in parts, to the loud drum-driven rock of the most Charismatic services.

Because of all this, I have learned to look to God himself to satisfy my soul. I seek to encounter the Holy Spirit no matter what the venue and style. I believe that His Spirit is perfectly able to transcend our feeble human efforts and touch our souls no matter which church we happen to be attending. I also firmly believe that He is pleased with our adoration whether chanted together in a liturgical for or sung accompanied by guitars and drums. That after all is the point of worshiping Him. I know I don't have to be on stage for that to happen, but the tug in my soul is still very strong to minister in music. Someday maybe God will open that door to a group of people who really need skills like mine, but until then I'll have to be patient. It will be interesting to see if my husband and I are led to begin attending a more liturgical service or not. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Learning to Crawl

My baby is just about to take off crawling but the process has been extremely traumatic and frustrating for him. I don't remember Natta being so grumpy about it, but she might have been and the sands of time have erased it from my memory.

Seth sits on the floor with some toys. So far, so good. He takes each toy, covers it well with a protective coating of drool and then pushes it across the floor as far from himself as possible. Then he looks across the great expanse of floor to said toy and immediately wants it. He covets it; he needs it. His life is suddenly sour to him, as Mark Twain said of Tom Sawyer. So Seth leans out towards the toy. Farther, farther, he stretches and leans. He will get it. His determination knows no bounds. Then...disaster!

He topples over. With a big round melon-head, he exists in a constant state of top-heaviness and with all the stretching he simply cannot sustain upright postures. So over he goes on his nose. Oh what a horrible experience! For the whole world to suddenly tip and roll and for him to find himself unhappily on his tummy is devastating. He collapses into wails. But just as suddenly he discovers that his drool-anointed toy is back within his reach. He forgets to cry as he reaches out and reclaims his treasure in small, fat hands. He resumes the drool coverage. With deep joy, he rolls over onto his back and holds the toy triumphantly in the air with all the aplomb of an Olympic gold medalist. He waves it back and forth. He turns it this way and that, admiring the way the light plays on the shiny wet surface. Then he throws it. It sails through the air and lands far, far away from himself. All at once he wants it again.

He stretches, he strains, he kicks his feet. He expresses his disgust with it in loud, vocal tones. He hollers at it. No use, it will not come any closer. His cries mellow into a petulant "uhmmm, uhmmm" as he resigns himself to life without it.

For a few more days, I'll enjoy having him stay where I put him. But at the same time, watching him actually take off crawling will be such a magical moment and I know he'll be so delighted with himself that I almost can't wait for him to do it. All of those toys that slip just out of reach will soon be retrievable and he'll be able to scoot across the floor and torment his sister. Life is just about to become a lot more fun in his little world.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Guest Entry: "He's trying to take my toy!"

I figured how to bring a little excitement into Mommy's day. All I do is go over where my baby brother is sitting and show him my toy. When he tries to touch it, I yell, "He's trying to take my toy!" It's so fun to watch Mommy turn purple and explode when I do this several times in a row.

I might be a redneck if...

EEK! I'm turning into a redneck! Seriously! While my parents were up here for dinner last night, we got talking about our house and how much we like it. The only drawback is that Seth has no bedroom. Right now their sleeping schedules are so different there is no way they can share so Seth's crib is in our room. That is ok except when we go to bed. No bedtime reading aloud, no talking or snuggling. GRRRRR! Seth needs a bedroom.

My dad got poking around in our back yard and decided he could build us a bedroom off the back of the house. It would not be too hard and would cost about $800. Well, it is all good except for the fact that he couldn't get to it until next fall. I decided I am too impatient and the best way to go would be to find a genie in a magic lamp that would magically build me a bedroom tomorrow.

Realistically, though, Matt got looking at the houses of our neighbors and discovered that we are not the only people with this problem. The most common solution is to buy an old camp trailer and park it right next to the house, then connect the two. When he told me this, I jumped at the idea. I love it!!! It would be cheap and quick and would make an instant extra bedroom. I really started laughing at myself though because it would look terrible!

Right now we are undecided. Dad is pushing to have his building skills (yes, that is where I get mine) utilized and build a nice little addition. Matt wants a cheap travel trailer. Seth, who is sitting on the floor right now, wants to eat sweeten taters. I think I want a genie.

*EDITED* We decided not to spend the $800 at all. We might revisit the issue in 6 months.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sweet Nectar from Heaven

The rain is raining all around, it falls on field and tree. It rains on the umbrellas here and on the ships at sea. ~R. L. Stevenson

Thick, gray curtains of cloud cover the sky and misty pieces get caught on the tree-covered hill behind our house, tearing off in ragged chunks of fog. Soft, relentless spring rain falls on us, soaking the house, yard, car and dog when she's out in it.

I re-discovered one of the things I love about living in a trailer is that I can hear the sound of rain on the roof. To me, it is a soft, soothing noise, the pattering of thousands of tiny raindrops on a metal roof over my head. Just as I noticed when the window was open the other day, the outdoors seems so much more intimate when you live in a trailer. The wind is louder, the rain isn't a distant concept, but a close friend. Rather than feeling annoyed by this, as I used to, I now find that I like it. I have always loved the outdoors, from camping as a kid to working with the horses out in the desert heat south of Lewiston. I love being outside surrounded by fresh air and wind and the smells of the earth and the huge vast feeling of the sky.

I remember distinctly one snowy day while I was still in college, walking from the admin building to the music building and stopping on that sidewalk as the snow fell all around me. It was one of the days when I felt like I could not see very well and I shut my eyes to end the struggle and pain and just listened to the fall of snow. The feeling of wonder is the same now as I listen to the rain fall on the roof of my home.

Rain is something I can rarely see and I can't usually even tell if it's raining by looking out of the window. So rain has always been a sound, a smell, a feeling to me. Sometimes the power of rain has frightened me, like the time we were in Texas at the OneDay03 rally and camping in fragile tents. Unexpectedly a Texas Rainstorm (yes, they deserve to be capitalized) came upon us. I must say that my friendly drizzly rain showers that I love here in Idaho can hardly be related to the monster that descended on us that night where 30,000 college kids were staying in tents. Rain came down in sheets and I had no problem seeing it there. In fact, we could see little else. Instant rivers flooded our tents so Shannon and I ended up sleeping in the U-haul trailer to stay dry. I don't think that is quite what I have in mind as I write that I love rain. But up here in the Northwest, I do love rain, especially when it only rains a small percentage of the year. I'm sure the amount of rain that the Seattle and Portland areas get would quickly get depressing. Around here it is only a welcome break from the sunshine and it soaks the fields with life-giving moisture.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Voices

Someone anonymously posted a comment on my blog a few days ago that said "You've been at LFF too long if decorating in a modest way in your house has become a spiritual battle. Not everything in life is evil just because it makes you happy..."

This comment made me sad because the tone in it is so bitter and I can tell that the person is hurting. I have a guess as to who it is, but I know this person is not alone in having a lot of wounds from years at LFF in the past. I replied to the comment in rather an offhand way, but as I thought about it, I wanted to go into a little more depth on what I was thinking about the issue.

There are thousands of voices out there that yell in our ears all day long. They try to tell us what to think, how to dress, how to vote and what toothpaste to buy. They tell us that we are prettier if we wear Brand A mascara or more spiritual if we do thus-and-so and go to crew every Saturday morning. The thing about all of these voices is that they are just voices. Even God Himself is a voice. The approval of our parents is a voice. To this day, I struggle with hearing my father's voice in my head, telling me I am stupid or incompetent. I remember Pastor K at LFF once telling me that my hair would look prettier if done in a more fashionable style. But they are still just voices. I am the one who chooses my destiny. I choose which voice to allow to influence me.

The issue about the Zen Garden was me choosing to listen to God's voice. It had nothing to do with which church I happened to be attending at the time He spoke to me. I have been listening to His voice since I was four years old, long before I even heard of LFF. In the past month I have attended a Methodist church (to perform music), a Catholic Mass (with friends who wanted to go there) and LFF (because I wanted to go there). God was present in all of those services, just as He was present in the woods while I was camping.

I have never felt that LFF was trying to control my life or been angry at them for that, any more than I am angry at the television for telling me what toothpaste to buy. It is my choice to switch the channel. I have chosen to attend LFF for many years and have enjoyed the fellowship and teaching there. Sure they pressure members to behave in certain ways. Some of those things are good, some neutral, some turned out to be bad. But I chose to do the things I chose to do and not them. They did not ever control my life. I had people tell me quite a few times that I ought to wear makeup more often. Well I don't like wearing makeup and I don't think God cared whether I did so I simply did not bother. Now hubby tells me he likes how I look without makeup much better than with so I continue with the "au natural" look.

Now when voices say something that I feel in my spirit is from God, I plan to listen. In the case of the Zen Garden, it was God Himself speaking to my conscience, not the people from church, who don't know my decorating habits and would probably not care if they did. I am not exactly the most sought-after person in the church for my day-to-day lifestyle commentary. Nor do I care to be. Still, I enjoy attending services there.

I think of all those people who have deep, deep wounds concerning the raising of their children during the heyday of the LFF years. I sympathize with them and yet at the same time, it was their choice to put the approval of their peers and pastors ahead of the time their children needed from them. I can learn from their mistakes. A church building is never more important than my children. But do I blame LFF? No. It is simply an institution, run by imperfect people. Like everything else in life, it is full of voices. I still appreciate that they had the courage to speak loudly because not everything they said all those years was bad. There were a lot of wonderful things that happened there during those years. At the very least, I know all of you who now live all over the country and read my Livejournal.

If you have been hurt, I am in sympathy with your pain. But I am not going to participate in LFF-bashing or bitterness. We can all do better at choosing the voices that we listen to and life goes on. Also, LFF never was God and still isn't. His is the voice of truth.

Now to address the second part of that comment. I agree. Just because something makes me happy does not mean it is evil. But the Bible says to guard my heart and I want to stay attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Whether something makes me happy is not the issue but whether something pleases God. It makes me happy to please Him. Of course other things make me happy too. My husband makes me happy, my children, decorating, making music, writing, looking at beautiful things, eating a wonderful meal... all of these thing make me happy. They're not in themselves evil. But I know myself too well. Things that make me happy can so swiftly take the place of True Joy in my heart. Then they show themselves for what they are: cheap imitations for the satisfaction of knowing God and pleasing Him by dedicating every second of my life to His glory. It is for that I was created. That concept has nothing to do with the church I attend. It has to do with the attitude of my heart. And it is a lesson I learned long before I began attending LFF.

Cabin Trip #1 of the Summer

We just got back from a trip to the cabin. Had a great trip and it went about as smoothly as I expected with two babies. Some friends of Hubby went with us. I much prefer going up there with friends to going by ourselves. It adds such an interesting element to the trip. This morning we went for a walk in the rain. I'm a little surprised Hubby came along as he likes being cold and wet about as much as he likes having painful dental work done. But he came and was a really good sport.

A little sanity-saving tip: We set up the laptop to play DVDs in the car for Natta. It works wonders at making a 2 1/2 hour trip tolerable instead of miserable. She is NOT a good car kid.

Some other highlights included roasting hot dogs in the new outdoor fire pit, hiking in the Ancient Grove of Cedars, cooking gourmet food and drawing with sidewalk chalk on the deck and the fireplace. Good times. :)

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I love my son :)

He is laying on the floor on his tummy chewing on my shoelaces. What a cutie!

Here he is on the hike with hubby. He had a great time in the Snugli.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

I Told You So!

Quite some time ago, my mom and I went to the cheap theater to see "Over the Hedge". At the time, I invited Hubby to see it and he declined. Having seen a preview and read some reviews he decided it looked really dumb and he had absolutely no interest in seeing it. So Mom and I went, partook in popcorn (my weakness) and Mike & Ikes (Mom's weakness) and laughed our heads off at it. There are few movies that truly make me laugh out loud, but that is one of them. The part where Hammy squirts the Easy Cheese out of his nose still makes me chuckle whenever I think about it.

When I got home, Hubby asked me how I liked the show. His judgment of my good taste probably dropped when I told him it was really funny. And that is where we stayed for months.

Until Mom bought the DVD. She lent it to us for Natta to watch and one evening I put it in the DVD player for her. She was excited to watch "My Ober da Hedge Show" and settled down to enjoy it. I watched Hubby closely for his reaction. Since he gets glued to the TV automatically whenever it is on, I knew he'd end up watching it. Sure enough, within ten minutes he was absorbed in the story. I smiled to myself.

As it went along and the one-liners began cropping up, he started to chuckle. By the time Hammy used the shaving cream on the girl scouts, he was laughing. I laughed along with him. During "Rockin' the Suburbs" on the credit roll, I could not help asking, "Well, was it as dumb as you thought?"

He freely admitted it wasn't. In fact he has done a complete 180 and now he loves it. He walks around the house quoting, "I found my NUTS!!", which always sends Natta into gales of laughter. They always follow it up with "I filled the log..."

Since one of Hubby's current rants includes a sharp contempt for Suburbia, particularly that which is cropping up on our side of Moscow, the show seems particularly relevant to him as it pokes fun at suburban living. I completely agree with him. Living in an ugly brown or gray "ticky-tacky" house is the last place I would want to end up. The housing developers in Moscow are building the houses on lots so small that the lawns between the houses could not possibly be wider than about three feet. The irony of this is that we live in an area surrounded by space. If we lived in New York where space is at a premium it would make sense to build houses crammed in to lots like that, but out here where there is nothing but space, it is just silly. It looks like the developers were so greedy that they had to cram just a few more houses on the land that they bought for the development.

So we watch "Over the Hedge" and laugh at the show instead of those people who buy real estate in the cardboard boxes of suburbia. And I laugh at hubby because I love him.

Zen Garden pt . 2

As requested, I'm posting pictures of my decorating endeavors. :)

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Zen Garden

As a backlash to being sick the previous day, I got myself into a decorating frenzy yesterday. The whole thing started with a series of HGTV shows I watched during one of Natta's naps in Portland. Since we don't get cable TV here, we're limited to Idaho Public Television and a VERY fuzzy (if you stand on your head in the south end of the house with the antenna sitting on your left foot positioned at North by North-West and tilted at an exact angle of 14.3 degrees) CBS Channel 3. So HGTV was a treat, combined with the fact that hubby wasn't there to remind me that for him HGTV is a cross between snail-racing and watching paint dry in excitement levels. I spent a happy afternoon watching professionals re-do other people's rooms in various kinds of "trendy" (in the sense of dollars in multiple thousands), "chic" (in the sense of dollars in thousands) and "retro" (in the sense of dollars in hundreds). The inevitable effect of this type of television viewing on me is that my creative appetite gets going and I turn on my own home like a rabid dog. One problem is that my budget looks more like "groceries" than anything else, but that in no way curbs my desire to decorate my home.

Ideas swirled around in my head through the rest of the trip, the plane ride home, the unpacking and the settling back down. My hands were feeding children, changing children, combing and dressing children and playing with children, but my head was creating. I immediately decided that the family portraits must be moved. They looked all right in their own way, but I was after sophistication and "trendiness", albeit on a dime. The dime turned out to be $56.47 at Wal-Mart. I found these cute little bamboo trays, some nice paper in the scrapbook section and a green candle. These I brought home and set them on the dryer while I thought some more.

I had a couple of days in which to think as I was laid up with some kind of vile stomach flu and stayed miserably in bed. When I was finally up again, I set the kids in front of Sesame Street and set to work. The photographs all got hung in the bedrooms and the living room was back to blank walls. At nap-time I got out my supplies and went to work, determined to create "art", or at least "decor". When I emerged a couple of hours later, I had a watercolor painting of a dogwood flower (I've never tried watercolor before, but watched numerous PBS shows on the techniques as a result of never having any other channels on our TV), a collage of "natural" colors and the little bamboo trays on which I glued some interesting stones. All the while the words "organic" and "tranquility" floated happily around in my head. When hubby got home, he was surprised to find, not a recuperating invalid but a decorating maniac. He politely complimented my watercolor, which I thought was generous of him, seeing as it was my first attempt and offered a suggestion on hanging the bamboo artsy frames. I told him I wanted to create the peaceful feeling of a Zen Garden.

In the balmy evening after dinner, we drove to church, stopping by Michael's on the way where I happily discovered a sale on silks. I bought some bamboo, a palm tree and some moss for my little table fountain.

*EDITED* I made the last part of this entry private as is was some personal sharing that I wrote for myself and a friend of mine was messed up by it. I should have reserved it for my personal journal, I guess. :)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Heartache

News Story Here

We came home from Portland to a town full of grief. One man, one of our own community members who lived not five miles from me on the Troy Highway went on a shooting spree ending in his own suicide on Saturday night. The community is reeling from the impact of the actions of this one man.

I sometimes forget that the actions of every person impacts the world around them in much deeper ways than they even realize. Can a good action change my world around me as much as this one night of violence changed our town? Perhaps in the Kingdom it impacts lives even more.

I have been reading The Seven Storey Mountain, an autobiography of Thomas Merton. Just this weekend I read about his conversion and baptism into the Catholic Church. As he became aware of the enormity of his sins, he realized that his own sin impacted the world around him in much deeper ways than he ever realized. Writing at the outbreak of World War 2, he wrote that the possibility existed that his own sin was the cause of the war, not Hitler's actions. While this seems at first glance to seem more like arrogance than sound doctrine, it actually deserves a second glance. Our actions reverberate through eternity, touching lives in ways we don't even see. Our sin certainly caused Christ to be nailed to the cross. Who knows but that our own sins of selfishness and greed also cause humanity's woes in the form of war and terror?

In the same way, cannot a positive action have just as much impact? I think often of the stories of Charles Wesley's mother who influenced him toward Christ and thus changed the lives of millions around the world through his teaching and ministry. Can the single person that I prayed for change the world? Can a simple act of kindness turn a heart away from destruction and into the path of eternal life? Of course it can.

As I feel the heartache of the community around me, I feel my heart swelling with God's love for them. All of them. From the stuffy churchgoers in their starched collars to the workmen who commute from Deary to man the labor crews that keep the campus cleaned and repaired, as well as the long-haired, hemp-wearing protesters hanging around in Friendship Square; He loves them all. He died for even the ones practicing Yoga and palm-reading in the shops downtown or the society-climbing students who are focused on getting through their semester finals. Just as one mentally-ill shooter touched the lives of all these different people, so also one Man died on a cross thousand of years ago so He could live today in me and love each one of them.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"I'm on the MAX, Dude."

Portland is a wonderful place to people-watch if you're into that sort of thing. I am. I love to observe people, especially if I don't have to talk to them. I find them fascinating. Riding the public transit in the city shows the most diverse cross-section of society that is possible. People from all walks of life ride the light-rail, from the troop of girl scouts to the homeless guy who begged a ticket from me after I got off. A favorite activity seemed to be talking on cell-phones. People didn't seem to mind the fact that everyone within ten seats were listening in on their conversations. They chattered away to their friends, their moms or their girlfriends about any old subject that came to mind. One particular couple were talking on their phones as they rode approaching trains. They disembarked, still on their phones to each other and embraced on the platform, laughing as they did so. One guy borrowed a phone from the person on the seat beside him. I assume they were friends, but who knows?

Waiting for the train to come allows for a different experience entirely. Because I have two extremely outgoing and, in my humble opinion, cute kids, people came up to talk to me a lot. One young man asked me for change three times. I am not sure if he forgot he asked me of if he thought I might change my mind. I politely said no, but I wish I had been a little braver because I would have said, "Listen buddy, that leather jacket and gold chain you're wearing costs more than my whole house back in Idaho, so I should be the one asking you for seventy-five cents." Oh how I would have loved to say that. Another young woman I talked to had a little boy about 18 months with her, so naturally we struck up a conversation, if it could be called that since she spoke about 100 words in English and I spoke about 15 words in Spanish. But we tried. We established the ages of our children and the fact that I was travelling to Lloyd Center. But when I tried a more complicated subject such as the fact that I was hungry and wanted to find a restaurant close by, I failed utterly. I ended up going back to my hotel room and eating leftover pizza. Oh well.

I don't think I will ever get used to being in the city and being constantly surrounded by people. Even if I lived there and rode the MAX daily I would not get used to that. People ride the train with a kind of detached boredom that says they have been doing it for years and will continue doing it indefinitely into the future. They don't usually talk to each other. An exception came when a very gaudy young woman decided to play with my daughter on the way to the zoo. The ride to the zoo was about 40 minutes so we had lots of time and Natta was bored. This gal entered the train and stood on the other side of the glass partition behind my daughter's seat. At first she just tapped the glass and made faces to get Natta to laugh at her, but soon they were playing games trying to catch each other's hand and doing the eensy-weensy spider up and down the glass. Now if you have never seen a young city woman with too much make-up and a flashy flowered cap, vinyl pants and lots of body piercing doing the eensy-weensy spider, you have missed an essential part of the human experience. In a million years I would not have expected it of her, yet here she was, not two feet away from me, entertaing my two-year-old almost all the way to the zoo.

Each of those people that I rubbed shoulders with on the train has a life. They all have schedules and friends and a circle of activities that I will never touch again. I am so curious about them. For instance, the woman with the eye-patch who was toting a bicycle and large saddle-bags. Where was she riding on her bicyle? Did she find it difficult to ride it with an eye-patch on? How about the elderly gentleman with the golf cap? Or the young man who wore a hearing-aid and avoided my gaze? I wish I could know them. Some of them are nice, some are not. Some of those people I saw know Jesus and some are lost. I wish I could tell them. Tell them that Jesus loves them. Instead I sit mutely and watch them. They stepped politely around my stroller, which was parked in the aisle, since the handicapped section was filled by a very large man in a motorized wheelchair. They smiled at my babies. They stared blankly out of the window, thinking about their lives and friends and circle of activites which will never again touch mine. They chatted on their cell-phones. And together we all rode the MAX.


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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Guest Entry: Natalie at the Zoo

I got to go to the zoo today! Mommy and Baby Seth and I rode the train after my nap. It felt like a long ways before we got off in a dark tunnel and rode an elevator up to the street. Then we walked into a big place that Mommy said was a zoo. I felt tired of walking so Mommy put Baby Seth in the backpack and let me ride in the stroller. We saw bears and a big eagle. We also walked over a bridge and saw a water-table. I got a little bit wet then I was cold and that was not so fun. I hate being cold. It was later than we wanted so we were hungry and had to go before we saw any of the elephants or tigers. Mommy felt bummed but we got back on the train. I liked the zoo.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Closure

Today was a wonderful day. Today we officially sold our house. The papers are all signed. We will get money deposited in our account Monday or Tuesday and will pay off the credit card that we used to fix up the trailer. We will just about break even on all of that. And the best part: peace. Freedom!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Headed to Portland

We're riding on a jet-plane (ok a prop plane) today. Hubby has a business conference for four days in the City of Roses and we're tagging along. Hope it is a fun trip!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How to Dress a Baby

Little girls practice being mothers from the time someone gives them their first baby doll. One of the best parts about a baby doll is putting its clothes on. I remember my little Cabbage-Patch doll that went everywhere with me. Mom sewed us matching outfits and I dressed my baby every day. Dressing a doll is easy, especially a soft cloth doll.

When I was 11, my little sister was born. Suddenly I had a real, live baby doll to dress. Now I have two kiddos of my own and they need clothing changes several times every day. So I have a few comments on the dressing of babies, particularly baby boys. Seth is so much harder to dress than Natta was/is. So here is a play-by-play of me dressing Seth.

Mommy rummages in the clothes bin for a clean outfit. This is the point when I discover that the clothes bin is entirely full of clothing in the previous size. Next I head to the clothes dryer. At last I select an outfit that fit him last week, although that is no guarantee that it will fit him today. After more digging, I find two socks that are at least the same color, even if they don't match. I lay the clothing out on the bed and spread out the changing pad.

Next I retrieve the baby. As soon as I place his little round self on the changing pad, it is like chasing a jingle-ball around. His legs fold up and his little grabby hands find his toes. He smiles and coos and sticks his toes in his mouth. Now my doll never did that! I pry his fingers loose and work on unzipping jammies. Like springs, his feet rebound and into the mouth they go! Fingers grabbing, drool flowing. I backtrack and repeat the pry-loose operation. Eventually I get the sleeper unzipped. As I loose his feet from the flannel booties of the sleeper, they spring skyward joyfully. Freeing his arms requires more prying. At last the sleeper is completely disengaged from my son and he happily rolls back and forth in naked bliss. The round tummy is too cute to resist so I give him raspberries and kisses, making him giggle with glee.

Now comes the diaper change. Of course I have forgotten to grab a clean diaper so I scoop up a naked baby to go retrieve necessary items from their basket. Back on the changing pad, I grab a pink foot to stretch out his body until I can reach the tabs. He chooses this time to switch from toe-chewing to soccer practice. He kicks both feet with a vehemence that would probably win him a spot on the Brazilian Footy Team. With a twinkle in his eye, he watches me chase his squirming body across the bed. I get the diaper unhooked and removed just as he decided that Old Faithful needs to spout. Every mother of a male child has had this experience, I am sure. I have gotten smart about this though. I have the new diaper ready and I slap it on before the Bellagio fountain begins. Mothers develop six hands, I think, just for one baby. Simultaneously I hold down the kicking feet, the clutching hands, and the rolling body while I snugly hook the clean diaper.

Wiping the sweat out of my eyes, I tackle the shirt. As I wrestle a neckline the diameter of a quarter over a head the size of a cantaloupe, Seth collapses into ticklish giggles. His infectious giggle transfers to me and I almost cannot finish the task I am laughing so hard. His head emerges and I attempt to stuff his arms in the sleeves. The arms which up till now had been permanently lodged in his mouth suddenly stiffen in to airplane wings. Unlocking those elbows looks like an impossibility so I take a break and do socks. At last I get socks on, shirt on and slide the pants over kicking feet onto a very round bottom. More giggles and tickles signal the end of the process. I sit him up on the floor while I remove the dirty jammies to the washing machine and the soiled diaper to the pail in the bathroom. While he sits waiting for my return, he cheerfully spits up a quantity of sour milk all over his front and creates a natural disaster in the once-clean diaper.

I return to the clothes-bin.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Fixing my Picture

I'm in recovery from this weekend. My muscles are sooooo sore and I have a little bit of a headache. So today's project was an easy one. I have a painting that my grandma did of Winnie the Pooh when I was a baby. The frame had fallen apart so today I fixed it. I bought brackets at the hardware store and screwed them onto the back. It's odd, since the project took about half an hour, that it has taken me a year to do this!

Then the hard decision was, where to hang it? I love the picture because of the sentimental value, but it is huge. The hallway came to mind but I had already decided it was too narrow to hang pictures there. We'd just knock them off. So I decided, in a bold decorating move, to hang it right in the living room. It's above Natta's play kitchen so it adds a touch of whimsy. That's my story and I'm sticking to it...




Natta and Seth were "helping" me out in the yard the other day. I got my garden over halfway done and hubby has been helping me. I get a little done at a time.





Natalie got her guitar out the other day to be like Daddy.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Vent, Vent, Vent

*WARNING* This post is 100% venting, complaining and totally negative. Read at your own risk.

Whew, I'm tired! I went down to L-town to work on fixing the "peeling paint" on our house that the appraiser objected to. A small project, I thought. It turned into an all-day project punctuated by a long run up to Pullman for a baby shower in the middle. And we still did not get done!!!! I scraped blue paint off of almost every window molding on the house. Plus replacing the glazing that holds the glass in. And the windows are ancient so they looked as bad when we got done as they did before. GAAH! Not only that but the house closing date got pushed back which means the bank took another house payment out after they said they wouldn't and overdrew our checking account. AND the buyers said they were going to put their shed in (the thing we're waiting on so we can close) on Friday. Today is Saturday. No shed. Now they want to close the day we'll be in Portland. I am so irritated with everyone right now....grrrrr.... I'm mad at the buyers for asking so many favors of us. The shed, the closing date, the VA loan... I'm grumpy at hubby for agreeing to all the favors and bending over backwards to accommodate them. I am tired and stressed and I feel like I have been working my buns off to fix up old dumpy houses and trailers for MONTHS! (Oh wait! i have!) Our finances are in a huge (like $7,000 huge) mess while we wait for the house to close. I hate that. Niki, I am so with ya, girl, although I'm thankful we're a bit farther in the process. Selling houses is the pits. I keep thinking we're almost done with ours and something else comes up. I think I am just exhausted from working all day. And there is still more to do. Sigh. Of course this comes the very week we go to Portland for Hubby's business trip. So not only do I have to get the kids ready for that, but now hubby's going to be ditching us to drive to Lewiston all the time this week to finish the house. If these buyers want to push the closing date back yet again because THEY did not get their stupid shed installed that WE are doing them a favor letting them stick it on their loan anyway.... I think I will blow a gasket. The Realtor better be prepared for an earful!!! I hope I have more patience in the morning.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Having a Mini-Me

Sobs ripped me from deep sleep and rendered my afternoon nap useless. With a fuzzy feeling in my brain, I slipped from my bed next to my slumbering son (who had taken an hour to soothe into sleep) and padded down the hall to my daughter's room. Despair filled her voice as she quavered her cries. Concerned, I asked, "What's wrong honey?"

"I don't have my Spiderman cup."

AAAHHHHHHHH! She woke me up for this??? I scolded her, telling her that wasn't something to cry about and to go back to sleep. As I lay down again, I railed in my head, "Why is everything such a huge deal?" Then it hit me again. Mini-me.

I remember Jilann Carlson scolding me for that very thing in college. I fit into the Carlson's Home Care Group like a square peg in a round hole for the entire four years I was in it. Poor Jilann who just wanted peace and quiet and a little fun, thank you very much, did not know what to do with me at all. Dave and I were just alike, a volatile combination. We were both prideful, self-absorbed and unsure of ourselves. So of course they taught me more social skills than anyone ever had before in my life and I am grateful to this day for them.

My mother was convinced that I was the brightest, cutest child on the planet when I was little and though she was strict in other areas, she did not try to mold my strong personality into any useful channels at all. I think she admired me. I was everything she was not. Where she was timid, I was bossy. So she allowed my intensity free reign and I paid dearly for my ignorance. I lost friends the way gamblers lose money. I had a very lonely childhood. And I never could figure out why until Dave and Jilann came along and bluntly told me everything that was wrong with my approach. Of course it hurt! Who likes to be told in so many words all that is wrong with them? But I am sure glad they did. I was able to refine my social skills in a way I had never thought to do before and begin making some friends. I am currently able to stay married without steamrolling over my husband, most of the time. And now I have a daughter who is just like me. How could I have gone all those years and not realized what a disagreeable little person I was? Of course sometimes she is delightful. At 2 1/2 she already has a quick wit and the budding of a quirky sense of humor. She is smart and curly and cute. But she is also stubborn and bossy and so intense that sometimes I wonder that she doesn't develop ulcers even at her tender age.

How in the world can I teach her how to be nice to others when the lesson came so hard to me? I pray for the grace to parent her well, to see the positive things in her when all I seem to see is the things I don't like about myself. The last thing I want to do is make her feel like her mommy doesn't like her. Because I do. But on days like today, when I am already about three hours behind on sleep due to a very fussy small baby boy, her intensity needs more patience than I actually have in my possession. I hope, as time goes on, that if I don't expect her to be the perfect child, she also will learn not to expect a perfect parent.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Leave the Window Open

I love having my windows open. Today is a gorgeous May day and all of my windows are wide open. Fresh air wafts in, blowing my lacy curtains. I think I would like living in a place where the weather is nice all year around just so I could open my windows. The fresh air, the breeze, the smell of flowers outside, the tinkle of my neighbor's many wind chimes...

As a little kid, I loved it when mom would open the window. It wasn't very often, but I remember delighting in it. My dad likes to drive with the windows open. As long as my hairstyle doesn't matter, I love it too. I secretly sympathize with dogs, hanging their heads out of moving cars, tongues lolling to feel the giddy rush of air past their faces.

Somehow trailers seem a little more connected to the outside than houses do. In a house, I probably would turn on the house fan rather than open all the windows. But I am so glad to have my windows open and let the cool breeze blow through my house. It feels delightful. I guess in a small sense I am living dangerously too. One of them has no screen, so leaving it open invites trouble in the form of a cat jumping inside. I certainly won't leave that one open when I go to the store later! But for now, it is wide open and the sunshine and soft wind on the curtain look absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Musicians

Here's Hubby playing a Bach prelude. This was just a spur-of the moment video for fun so of course he's not happy with it but I love this piece, even in its rougher form!



And a couple of weeks ago I got to solo with the Bell Choir playing a beautiful arrangement of "On Eagle's Wings". I had a ball. I wish we would have gotten a video of the performance as it was much better than the rehearsal, but this at least gives an idea of the piece and how it sounded.

Also, the lady in the yellow shirt is my mom. :)











Rehearsal for "On Eage's Wings"
"Rehearsal for "On Eage's Wings"" on Google Video
Dress rehearsal for "On Eagle's Wings" with Flute and Bell Choir. Performed Sunday, April 29, 2007.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Things I love about living in Moscow

1. Hubby likes it here best
2. LOTS of coffee shops
3. Coffee shops stay open late and play live music
4. Renaissance Fair
5. Farmer's Market
6. Tree Slide
7. Lots of places to just "hang out"
8. A lot of friends live up here
9. We live on a dead-end street
10. Once our house closes, our finances should look a LOT better
11. The air is fresh
12. Camping in the forest is closer
13. Hubby's work is only 9 minutes away
14. Better shopping
15. Church is closer
16. Summer is not so hot
17. We live in Idaho again
18. WinCo
19. Interesting granola people (instead of uninteresting welfare people)
20. Music resources on campus
21. Mom comes to visit me more
22. Octobers
23. No basement stairs
24. Living next to Robinson Park
25. Good restaurants

Moscow has everything I like about the city. The culture, the food... but none of the traffic, very little crime (a little on campus). It almost always has something going on, whether a community activity or on campus, there are always things happening. But Moscow has everything I like about living in the country too. It's a small-town feel. We live out in a quiet place with a beautiful drive to get there and are only a couple of minutes from a state park. A perfect blend, I'd say. Oh, and I love the weather.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Tired

I've been working so hard you just wouldn't believe.
And I'm tired!
There's so little time, and so much to achieve.
And I'm tired!
I've been lying here holding the grass in its place,
Pressing a leaf with the side of my face,
Tasting the apples to see if they're sweet,
Counting the toes on a centipede's feet,
I've been memorizing the shape of that cloud,
Warning the robins to not chirp so loud,
Shooing the butterflies off the tomatoes,
Keeping an eye out for floods and tornadoes,
I've been supervising the work of the ants,
Thinking pruning the cantaloupe plants,
Timing the sun to see what time it sets,
Calling the fish to swim into my nets,
And I've taken twelve thousand and forty one breaths,
And I'm TIRED!

by: Shel Silverstein

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Natalie Does the Renaissance Faire

She did not know what was coming. Her only thought when she climbed down from her car seat was to play on the playground. But she quickly discovered that her beloved park had been transformed into party-time! People in colorful costumes wandered everywhere. Mommy took her to see the Irish step-dancers. Not only did Natta dance too, but she recognized the sound of the violin and picked up two sticks to imitate a violin. From there, things only got better. She discovered Elephant Ears. Whoa! Little fingers clutching cinnamon-sticky sweetness. Mommy and Daddy took her to get her face painted. After holding very still, magically a rainbow appeared on her cheek. She also got to do a craft project involving a Pringles can. A very tired and sticky little girl came home with us for a late nap.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wonderful

Hubby and I had a date tonight. Mom watched the kids, which surprised and really blessed me. We went to an extremely nice restaurant and had a gorgeous dinner. It is times like these that makes me realize there is life outside of "Barney and Friends". It's like a breath of fresh air. Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Mr. Mom Effect

It has been years since I watched the 80's flick Mr. Mom with Michael Keaton but it must have had some kind of profound psychological impact on me because I find myself thinking about it quite a bit lately. Since it was a parody on being a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM) it of course made some very true statements, as well as being hysterically funny. Now that I am a SAHM, I see how true it really was. And the main thing I notice is the different phases he went through. I find myself going through these very same phases, as described below:

Phase 1: Adjustment

This is the phase where Michael Keaton cooks the grilled cheese sandwich with the clothes iron. Now I wasn't that bad, but I certainly did go through an adjustment phase. You think to yourself, "All right! I am not working, I'll have tons of time to myself, to get all those little projects done. I'll cook gourmet meals and keep the house spotless." So you do for a few weeks. Then reality hits. If you have to cook one more meal or wash one more dish, you're going to turn into a raving lunatic and run streaking through the streets. There HAS to be life beyond housework. Which leads us to...

Phase 2: Soap Operas

In Phase 1, you started out as a normal human being. By the time you hit phase 2, being a SAHM has turned you into a complete zombie. The combination of boredom, loneliness, only having small children for company, having nothing to do but housework and feeling like the future is stretching before you like a long blank road is enough to fry every brain cell and turn you into a character in Night of the Living Dead. During this Phase, Michael Keaton quits shaving, thus producing a scruffy beard. He sits around all day in flannel shirts and watches soap operas. He finds himself discussing the plots with other victims of SAHM-hood while at the grocery store. Instead of soap operas, I tend to surf the internet, but the effects are the same. I sit around the house in my underwear (because I can) and surf the internet. The highlight of my week is watching Survivor and I excitedly discuss the plots of the show with friends on the internet. This phase has lasted quite a long time with me and I wondered if I was permanently stuck in it. But as my health has improved, I see a new phase happening...

Phase 3: Home Improvement

Michael Keaton, wearing eye protection and wielding a cordless drill begins about 34 home improvement projects at once. All of the energy he was saving up while watching soap operas (with the exception of the energy it took to grow the beard) is now be focused like a laser on his house. Plastic hangs everywhere, walls are torn up where he's rewiring, his clothes are daubed with paint. I can totally relate with this sentiment. When you spend years looking at the same four walls you begin noticing all the things wrong with your house. One day you explode and turn into this raving fix-it-person from Mars. You spend every evening at the hardware store or in the home dec section of Wal-Mart. For us it has combined the process of fixing up this trailer with moving, but the feeling is the same. I feel like "I cannot live here one more second with [fill in the blank] wrong with this place!" In the movie, he progresses nicely on to...

Phase 4: Sanity

I have yet to reach this phase. I look at other SAHMs and they appear to be sane. I am not sure whether this is simply an illusion such as the picture I project when people come to visit me and I actually put on clothing, but I really think some SAHMs reach this phase. It's like the stages of grief and mourning where you finally reach acceptance instead of throwing glass bottles routinely against the wall. I really think there are some SAHMs out there who get up in the morning, use good personal hygiene and get dressed and then plan some activity for their day. They live a normal life. Instead of this strange other-worldly existence in which you drag yourself out of bed in the morning and realize that nobody actually is around to care if you put on clothes or not and that the only activity you have planned for the entire week is to clean out the toilet bowl.

Mr. Mom has yet another phase which I really am looking forward to: back to work. At the end of the movie he decides that he simply does not have the intestinal fortitude to be a SAHM and he gives up and goes back to work. That sounds lovely. I am already making plans for my children going to school and while they are there I will leave the confines of my house and re-enter the adult working world. I cannot wait. Maybe I can enter my six-month-old in kindergarten soon? OK, I am kidding, but I really am looking forward to having something productive to do again that involves other adults and social interaction of some kind.

A few of the jokes in the movie really hit home too, such as the comment in the supermarket parking lot where the neighbor is commiserating with him and says, "Motherhood, it's the hardest job in the world. It makes your [something, something, I forget] and your boobs droop." And of course the audience laughs uproariously when Michael Keaton looks down at his own masculine chest with a quizzical look. But I am here to attest that motherhood really does make your boobs droop! It sucks! And all the jokes about him going around singing kids' songs...yep, that's me.

In conclusion (every good high school essay has these words at the last paragraph), I would have to say that being a SAHM is not for the faint of heart. All of you poor, deluded people out there who think that staying home is the same as being on some kind of ongoing holiday, I'd have to say that it is more like living in a place where there is no holiday and you're begging for a day off so you can go to work. So the best you can do is keep some sweatpants handy for the unexpected visitors who catch you in your underoos and enjoy every minute of the internet surfing. Oh, and rent Mr. Mom from time to time.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Center of God's Will

I want to live my life with no regrets. One of the worst things I can imagine is to get to the end of my life and look back thinking, "I wish I would have done more of the things that are really important." As I look back so far, the times I have felt the most content with my choices is when I follow the Lord's will. They have often been the most difficult times, but when I look back they are the times when I know He is pleased with me.

This stage of my life seems to be just such a time. To my flesh, it's not easy. I rarely get to do anything for myself. But I was laying in bed thinking about it while I fed the baby this morning and I could feel the Lord's pleasure. I know He is pleased with me. A huge surge of deep joy flowed through my soul. In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddel says, "When I run, I feel His pleasure." I felt the same way this morning. I have obeyed God in each thing He has asked of me, sacrificing for my family and I feel His pleasure.

It is odd, because God's pleasure is not man's approval. I have struggled with craving the approval of man. My parents aren't necessarily pleased. People at church probably look at my life and only see the reduced involvement in church activities. It doesn't matter. I am busy raising my children and ministering to my husband. And I feel God's pleasure. What a peaceful feeling to be exactly in the center of God's will.