A Day in the Life: Really a Microcosm

Alarm and two snoozes:

Got the paper, visited the bathroom

Started making school lunches–interrupted so I could make breakfasts

{NobleWife gets the kids up and dressed}

Continue making lunches.

Child #1 out the door to the bus.

Make my own breakfast and lunch.

Eat breakfast, get child #2 out the door.  Wait for bus.  … Wave goodbye

Take a shower…get dressed

Say goodbye as #3 gets driven to preschool by NobleWife

Head out the door preparing to meet a contractor to look at changes in church.

Get to church, to find out plans have been changed.

Walk to visitation at someone’s house.

Visit with the person for an hour.

Walk back to church.  (on the way back, I saw a beautiful sight: a tree root, which formed a small pool, in which there lay a little yellow maple leaf.  🙂   )

Back to church in time to prepare for a lunch meeting. Except return a call to General Presbyter (GP) asking me to take on a fairly large responsibility with the Presbytery {“NP,” says she by way of introduction, “the presbytery needs you to step up your service.”…..}

Attend meeting to disucss possible strategys for presbytery regarding its urban churches…

Afterward, discuss said opportunity from GP with the person who just retired from said position.  Hmmmm…sounds like an even bigger responsibility than I first thought…..

Meet up with a newly arrived colleague and go out for tea and a catch up about our life and work…

Depart for church to attend weekly Bible Study with folks…

Arrive at the same moment as one of the BibStud participants…which is fine, but little time for transition….

Check email (first time that day, and it’s 3:50) fortunately not a lot needed in response, but at least one bit of correspondence about an upcoming trip that will have to wait.

Bible Study

Direct transition into Preschool Support Team mtg

Commute

Home…dinner…

…kids rushing around…another having to go to soccer practice…

dog who has entered her last phase of life who isn’t sounding very good and needs some love and attention….

this journal entry….

…a quick computer game….

….bed time for kiddos (maybe pickup soccer kid first?)

maybe a conversation with NobleWife?

maybe 15 minutes of junk tv (if I’m lucky, sports)

crash and prepare for another day, not quite so hectic (maybe)……

A New Look for a New Year

Yes folks, my number 1 resolution for 2008 is to blog much more consistently than I did last year. Well, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Maybe I’ll take baby steps: like trying to write three a month rather than one. For starters, I’ll go with a fresh look. What do you think?

I’ll write something a little more interesting soon.

Karma?

Yesterday, while driving to work, jammin’ to Beyonce’s Irreplaceable, I was stuck at a light waiting to turn right.  Looking “to the left, to the left” I watched the last car clear and began to pull into the intersection.  That’s when I saw that two bicyclists had entered the crosswalk, in single file.  The first was coming on too fast to do anything but crank on his brakes.  I froze, and so remained in his way.  He broke (correct tense for “applied his brakes firmly”?) enough to only run into my rear passenger side.  Note, he didn’t SLAM into it, just made impact.  Needless-to-say, he wasn’t very happy that I was in his way, but he did pick up his bike and keep going on to the sidewalk on the other side of the street and his friend also rode on behind him.   I will also add to the story that the two young men were Black–I, if you don’t know me, am quite White…but very sensitive to issues of race.  I’d like to believe that I would have behaved the same way no matter who almost flattened himself against the side of my car, but I wanted to make doubly sure that a) he was alright, and b) that he knew I was sorry.

After floundering at finding the appropriate window trigger (activiating all the windows in the car BUT the driver’s side) I finally was able to splurt out: “Are you okay, man??”

By this point he was a good 15-20 yards beyond me regrouping himself, as his friend caught up to him.  I shouted out again and this time he got off his bike and started looking at me–I’m not sure if he ever heard what I said, but I was getting afraid that maybe it was sounding like “What the f*#^’s the matter with you, do you want to pick a fight?”  instead of the simple, caring four words I kept repeating.

It was then that I realized that I was partway into a very busy intersection, making no headway into a shouting–although seeking to be civil–conversation.  So I moved on.   I thought I’d pull the car over and try to cross–on foot–the same intersection where I’d almost smushed him, and started to pull over and then almost hit a van that appeared out of nowhere.  {BTW, adrenaline does weird things to your brain!!!}

After realizing that doing anything other than driving straight would be hazardous to myself and the other drivers around me, I drove on to meet with my spiritual director; which is where I was rushing to in the first place.  Something strangely ironic about that!?!?

This post was going to be about the lesson I learned from that encounter about slowing down and being more mindful about what’s around you.  And that is still a lesson I want you to take from my vehicular mishap, dear reader.

But then a strange thing happened this morning.  {This being the day after the event above mind you.}  I was in the kitchen fixing school lunches when my daughter came in to tell me a car had stopped in front of the house.  “Interesting,” I said.  Sure enough, she was right, but didn’t do much about it because lunches needed to be completed and I was still in my PJs.  While my little voyeurs were giving me the blow-by-blow about the car, it came to pass that it was a man and a boy of about 7.  Hiding behind a curtain, I watched to see what they were going to do.  They set off down the street towards nothing but more houses.  After going past about 4 houses they turned around walking back towards their car.

I decided to make a dash to my room, change clothes, and see what was up.  By the time I got to the window they were heading up our yard to the door.  By then I could see that they were Latino.  I got my cell phone and went out on the front porch to see if they needed to make a call.  The man told me that he had run out of gas.  Fortunately, we had some gas in the garage and I took it out to him.  He had put the boy back in the car and while he was filling the gas tank the boy smiled and waved at me–you know, with the easiness only children can handle!!  Finally the guy asked for directions and went along his way.

I don’t know if I believe in karma or not, but it sure was nice to have a chance to reach out to someone in need after inadvertently (and semi-violently) getting in someone’s way the day before.  Karma?  Holy Spirit?  I don’t know.  But I say thanks to the universe for whatever it was.  Pay it forward sisters and brothers, and build those ARKs–Acts of Random Kindness.

Peace.

Once-a-Month Blogger

Disciplines are critical to a balanced life.  Regular exercise, plenty of sleep, being careful what you eat, and, in my line of vocation, some form of structured prayer and meditation.

Where does blogging fit in?

As I’ve been at this for four months, it would seem a pattern is emerging for my discipline as a blogger: Purge and wait.  Wait and purge.   Life away from the computer has enough of a hold on me that taking the time to sit down at the keyboard and share my life with you does not come easily.

I am interested in knowing how you–my vast and loyal  readership–discipline yourself to blog.  Is the desire to do so come from within you?  Is there accountability from the community in which you live and move?  Is it something you know you have to do to be relevant in today’s world?  Is it directly related to one’s personality type and style?  A little some and some?

Until I find some increased regularity in my life as a blogger, I appreciate your patience and willingness to check in every now and then and see what’s up in my world, and share a bit of what’s going on in yours.

Peace.

By the way, if anyone can help me figure out how to get my avatar to show up next to my title; that would be cool.  I’m using WordPress, if that helps?!?

On Her Own Terms: An Ode to Life and Determination

We recently accompanied our cat Anni through the end of her life.Anni

Even at age 16, we were surprised to find out that she had a tumor in her jaw, which was likely to spread quickly. After two weeks of eating nothing, we watched for her to show signs of weakened energy.

Anni was heavy–not grossly overweight–but she did carry a fat pouch that swayed under her when she walked. I’d love to know what she carried in that pouch, because as the days went by, the pouch diminished, but her energy stayed level. Not only did she maintain her energy, but whatever was being released by the pouch made her more affectionate: once a recluse, she was now hanging out with the rest of us, even willing to be pet by our three kids. The latter behavior usually elicited a spitty hiss, followed by flight to safer territory. The hiss changed to purring and flight gave way to contentment.

Anni was determined to live what was left of her life on her own terms, and we were glad recipients of her terms of agreement. Whenever we walked into the room where she was, she greeted us with meows of recognition. As the cancer spread through her mouth and throat, the meows turned to squeaks…still utterances of affection, calling for loving attention.

What normally would have been regarded as a yin-yang type of relationship, she became one with the dogs; sleeping on Yin Eb, Yang Annitheir beds, yearning to follow them into the yard. In her final days, smelling the grass, basking in the sun, and feeling the air with her whiskers, became her pursuits. She even spent a whole afternoon in our fenced in backyard, once she no longer had the energy to seek broader horizons.

Day by day, we were left wondering if tomorrow would be the day to take her to the vet for the shot of mercy. But Anni wasn’t gonna go out like that–she determined for us, that the bed she faithfully shared with us for 16 years, would be the bed where she drew her final breaths.

The Spirit of Anni left before her body worked through the process of shutting down. We remain renewed and inspired by her desire to live life the way it should be lived: basking in the sun, sniffing the breeze, and giving/receiving care and devotion to those whom she loved. We’re glad she now rests in peace next to her sister Kitty…we move forward into our own lives grateful for such companions along the way.

A Punch in the Stomach

A couple days ago, we celebrated the 3rd birthday of the son of one of our favorite couples. One of the boy’s passions is Thomas the Tank Engine. While there wasn’t thomas.jpg necessarily a heavy thematic element to the party, it was clear that things having to do with trains would be the focus. The cake was a homemade, brightly-colored succession of train cars. Wooden train tracks were dumped on the floor for children (and a few adults) to build and play.

One of the guests even dressed the part: in overalls and an engineer’s cap. At one point in our conversation, the engineer-dressed friend, who grew up in Germany, informed us that the translation for train engineer in German is: Lokomotive Führer. “Führer, huh?” I asked casually. “Yes,” she responded, “it means ‘leader’.” Reflexively, I half-heartedly raised my hand and said, “Heil.”

Before I even had a chance to chuckle at my wit, or lower my hand, my friend gave me a purposeful punch in the gut. All I could manage was an “Oooo” as I realized what she’d done. Nothing more was said, just a look at one another, we were square. It didn’t take long to settle into my consciousness just what I had done trying to be funny.

This was yet another reminder of how you can go through this life thinking you are becoming enlightened, and sensitive to cultures other than your own. And in one moment you wind up with not only your foot in your mouth, but an appropriately placed fist in the stomach.

Ten Year Old and IMing, Part II

So, we decided to go ahead and allow our son to IM.

It’s amazing how much some of his peers already know about the world of textspeak. You know: lol, r u there, lots of goofy shorthand stuff. And they are quick to help Adrian catch up to it.

They are all using AIM which comes with lots of bells and whistles if you know how to navigate through the menus. So, many of them have football team wallpaper or have configured the sound it makes whenever a message is posted to make a particular noise (so far, just a quarterback’s “hut one”).

However, one of the functions that is making us leery is the ability to link to anything on the web and particularly to Youtube. The most common links right now are hybrid music videos: like this one which puts together images from Star Wars to the song “I Like to Move It” from the kids film Madagascar:

Innocent enough, right? Using technology to splice together film clips and set them to music. Kind of fun. Obviously, though, alot of what’s silly or fun for adults is not appropriate for children.

Part of the deal we made with our son is that his IM account is open to our viewing at any time. And while Mrs. Nopas was looking through some of his buddies’ profiles she found a few links to videos that crossed the line. She also found some other kids’ posts making derogatory comments.

Are we prudes? Are we overprotecting our first-born? Will we be more lax with children 2 and 3, when their time comes? (Only time will tell on this one.) Are we setting important boundaries?

We’re not going to shelter our kids. But we are going to let them know what’s appropriate and what’s not, and teach them an ethical framework by which to measure what comes their way.

So, we’ll start by going through some of the links and messages on our son’s IM account with him and talk through it.

Surely he’ll go to school the next day and brag to his friends just how cool his parents are. Right?!?

Praying Companions and An Interruption

Imagine a child on her knees preparing for bed: hands folded, eyes closed; you know the “now I lay me down to sleep” scene.

Now imagine her companion, a chocolate lab, waiting patiently to go to sleep–on the floor? on the bed? No, the dog is not at the child’s feet. The dog is next to her, paws on the bed, eyes closed, in the same position of the child.

I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t a picture of it myself! Apparently it was a first time occurrence and unposed. I asked my friend who showed it to me if I could have a copy of the photo to post here. She said the child’s parents didn’t want the picture publicized.

So, for now it will have to be in held in your imagination.

Little did I know, that’s how my day would be spent, side by side with companions in prayer.labyrinth

Part 1 of the day was predictable. I had gone to my friend’s church to walk a labyrinth with a group of spiritual friends. This discipline never fails to calm and center me, and to push away the clutter for just a little while.

Part 2 was less predictable. A merchant in the neighborhood of the church had called to schedule an appointment with me. I went to his business at the time we had set. He proceeded to confide in me about some issues with which he was dealing and to see if I had some ideas for possible solutions to work through his troubles. Even before I had the chance to offer it, he said, “And you’ll pray with me before you leave, right?” The Holy Spirit is good: all the time.

Not five minutes after arriving back at the church, I received a phone call from one of the church members who needed to have an important, but difficult, conversation with a friend, hoping it would bring them closer together and not push them apart. “And I really need for you to pray for me over the weekend when I’ll most likely be having this conversation,” he said.

A half hour later, I opened up an email from one of a network of revered pastor friends, who got specific on us: Just lift up my name on Tuesday, March 6 at 10:30 a.m. CST.

Prayerus interruptus
Then came the huge, unexpected surprise of the day: someone had been using the laptop in my office to get his porn on. After 2 days of suspicion that things weren’t quite as I’d left them with my computer, I checked the web browser history. I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled down sites I didn’t even want to know existed. “Great :(….” I shouted aloud. After getting over the shock that my computer had been violated, I finally did what I needed to make sure the Hacker Whacker was going to have to find a new place to play.

The day ended with a meeting of the Leadership Development Team of our presbytery. We had a terrific conversation about emergent churches and a new church in that mode that is forming in our presbyarea. Our conversation included alot more, but it ended with the normal question: who’s going to pray us away from here? {insert chirping crickets}….

…it was a praying kind of day for me so I stepped up. Except I threw ’em a curve ball. “How about I start and the rest of you add a word our phrase that sums up how you are feeling as we prepare to leave…” My companions hit my curve ball out of the park:

energized…appreciative of true fellowship…hopeful…like we have lots to offer…thankful.

Now I lay me down to sleep, grateful for the two-legged, four-legged, and wholly spirited companions who keep company with me and make my life the more richer and prayer-full.