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will rise up and call you blessed

Bloged in family, life by rod Thursday May 17, 2007

As the semester ends and grades are completed and I try to find it in myself to relax, I’ve had many thoughts born of the elusive mental quiet. Truth is, there is no place where the responsibility actually ends. I’ve been wanting to take a bit of a trip on the windhorse. But even away, alone, I’ve still the responsibility to get back again.
pawpawContemplating Mother as Mother’s Day approached, and dealing with homesickness that tends to escalate at annual times such as these, new thoughts occurred to me. When I go “home” I experience a state of relaxation that I rarely feel. A few times stand out in my memory. I felt it at cousin Cheryl’s wedding reception - wonderful party in a field with hamburgers and hotdogs and mountain music, green grass, trees, and misty dusk. It is an evening I’ll never forget. I felt it on my Grandmother’s patio. Just the two of us sitting there catching up, remembering, telling stories – and then we just got quiet for a while and watched the sun play in the leaves and cast shadows on the grass. I felt it last summer for an hour on Jodi’s new patio. The night descending and stars appearing in the dark, country sky, the invisible trees waving their invisible limbs overhead exhumed memories years buried and allowed a relaxation that only a child can feel.
There is a commonality to all these scenarios. My parents. Of course, the ability to go home and just relax into their care is the obvious ingredient, but I’ve realized that there is something bigger.
I promise that I would never feel that my kids are stress inducers. Honest. (probably). But the responsibility that goes with them is definitely a source of stress. The sharing of those responsibilities with Allison is only partly helpful, because when either of us is stressed, so is the other. Also, stresses that can be shared and traded are only everyday busyness. There are more encompassing responsibilities that span the entire childhood. Raising children is an extremely important work. Who will this kid be, and what role will I have played, good or bad?
It occurs to me that when I go home with my kids, I very much entrust my parents with their care. This may annoy my parents, I don’t know, and I don’t think I’ve ever realized I do it. But who better to receive my weary emotions than them? They have always done it without a word of complaint, and I always know that only good can come from my parents’ interaction with my kids. My children adore my parents. They become giddy with joy at thought of being with them. I know better than anyone what my parents have to offer to children, and I go home begging for it as their child, and for my children as a parent.

So anyway, I’ll stop rambling, but not before I say thanks to Mom and Dad for being a source of ever-growing comfort for 43 years. I’m watching and feeling and studying you trying to learn how to do it myself.

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day of mothers

Bloged in family, life, parenting by rod Sunday May 13, 2007

Back in October, on the plane home from Dallas, I began thinking. Actually, I’d already been thinking, and don’t remember precisely what stream of consciousness led me to the particular thought to which I’m about to refer, but something did, and I wrote about it then.
Despite all the years I lived with my parents, it was not until I’d moved away and had children of my own that I ever felt like I gave anything to them. I’ll not ramble on about that, because if you like, you can hit the link and go back and read it.
from whence I've comeThat’s where my mind has been lately as Mother’s Day has approached. Everyone is thinking of gifts of appreciation for their mothers, and deep inside we know that nothing even approaches an expression of what we realize we’ve been given. But I feel that the closest I, personally, could ever come is follow in the path that brought me here and bring another generation into the world.
None of this is to say that children who’ve not born children haven’t given to their parents. It’s just that it is the closest I’ve ever come to having felt like I’d given them anything of worth.
While I was thinking all this through this week, I thought of a wonderful poem by Billy Collins that illustrates these thoughts so wonderfully. So I think I’ll shut up here, wish Mom a happy Mother’s Day, and link you to the Collins poem.
So here it is, please go read it.

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coming of age

Bloged in family, parenting, prayers by rod Wednesday February 21, 2007

Last week, I read an article called, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids.” The article was about research that has shown that kids who are praised for being smart perform at a much lower level than kids who are praised for how hard they worked at something. Basically, the statement, “great job! You must have worked very hard at that!!” produces many more great jobs, while, “great job! You’re really smart!” results in stagnation, and even fear of trying something that the child doesn’t think they are already good at.

Though I have always believed that to be true, and generally do a good job of pointing out the cause of success and accomplishment as the result of hard work, you’ll notice from my last post that I sometimes fall. Fortunately, usually my direct praise usually speaks to character and personality. Sometimes my amazement simply is manifest by a dropped jaw, followed by, “you are so awesome.” I have to work really hard to realize that Will’s knowledge and abilities were not simply bestowed upon him, but that his Petabyte Plus gray matter is being filled by his relentless gathering of information fueled by his intense interest in so many things. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said, “HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?” I could retire and fund his research to reverse global warming, and create alternative fuels and even alleviate the need for fuel. So I try to remember to praise his interest and relentless info gathering. Assimilation is natural for him, and like me, every bit he acquires seems directly related to all the other bits. This explains why he can pick up a camera, and being shown where the shutter button is, frame and capture beautiful images that express what he was seeing, observing and feeling, and why he took the shot. His ears do the same thing musically, and his hands do the same thing artistically whether he’s drawing, painting, or writing. His heart beats on his cuff, and his poetry fuels every expressive vehicle.

Today at 4:30pm, he became a teenager. When I picked him up from band and Jack and I told him “happy birthday,” he said, “Now I can be all hormonal and pubescent and be terribly mean to the people I love.” WHAT? That sounds really funny coming from a 13 year-old birthday boy, but that is something he’s worried about for a couple years. “Dad, I don’t want to get all hormonal and out of control and treat people badly.”
Truth is, of any kid I have ever known, I can’t imagine him being mean. Will gives himself to others so completely that everyone believes he is the only friend Will has. Every hug, every smile is a life-long commitment. When Will wraps his arms around you and presses his head into your chest, his cells and being meld with yours and for a moment, he teaches you something you didn’t know before.

I love him for being, and above all else, I’m proud of him for his willingness to love. This is something that he doesn’t have to work out. It is who he is. But it takes a very strong man to be so vulnerable. He will constantly have to work at the strength to remain this way, pure and giving. As his brother observed at a VERY young age, “sometimes when you be nice to someone, they be mean back to you.” Yes, that is the way of the fallen world. People take advantage, exploit, misinterpret, and hurt you. Every time this happens, a potential brick is mortared into a fortress around who you are.

I pray constantly for the strength and courage Will will require to be who he is. These next years will be like a power lifter’s workout for him as he studies how Jesus’ love is misunderstood and rejected, and like Jesus, grows in wisdom and stature, and favor with those who matter.

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birthday blessing

Bloged in family, parenting by rod Sunday February 18, 2007

So will each year in retrospect reveal such dramatic growth since the same time last year? Probably not. I guess a guy can only go so far so fast. But this year. Man.

I think for youngins, birthdays mark an arrival, a milestone, a click of the odometer. “Look at what I’ve accomplished, where I’ve come.” It’s a step toward the future. A day of dreams partially realized and hope secured.

For parents, a child’s birthday seems to be more of a day of reflection, a look back to where you’ve come from. Another reminder that time waits for no man. A confusing day of pride and knowledge of passed past. Grief for who you were, and pride and joy for who you are. That’s why when you turned 3, we watched the video of your birth and the following weeks. Mom said, “look what a tiny helpless baby. Seems like only yesterday.” And you replied, “And now I’m eating a hamboiger.” Mom and I were looking back, and you were celebrating an accomplishment.
I wonder if parents can learn to do better in celebrating milemarkers that inevitably mark greater and greater distances from us. Perhaps reflect on the quality of fuel we’ve put in your tank and up the octane when needed. But eventually, we should be able to rejoice that you’ve learned to pump your own gas, that you’re in proper alignment and don’t pull to the right or left, and that you’re on a rail toward that elusive destination. We can only pray it doesn’t take you too far away. We pray that you’ll sing our songs and when you look back at spec house and plywood, it won’t touch your memory.

I pray that our happy songs will be full of meaning and that our sad songs will be pretty melodies. May our blossoms line your paths and our wounds be healed in you.
I bless this step.

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Bloged in family, love and marriage by rod Thursday February 1, 2007

So blogging is one of those end of the day activities that help to rid the restless mind of all the accumulation of the day, and allows focus, calm and relaxed processing of all that has preoccupied during the day. There are exceptions, but most often, jotting down my thoughts is the last thing that happens in my day. The kids are all settled and dreaming and Allison is usually sacked out and snoring. On the occasions when she is not depleted before the children, she and I have some quiet time together after they’ve drifted off. This time of being together rids the mind of clutter much more effectively than any amount of jotting and typing, and that is fortunate because it also uses the jotting and typing time.

Rejoice with me when my blog stands unchanged.

belated but pre-dated

Bloged in family, life by rod Sunday January 21, 2007

Well, Mom’s done it again. She’s gone and gotten yet another year younger. The math doesn’t add up, or, I should say, subtract up. If you subtract the year she was born from 2007, the number you come up with is not her actual age. I don’t know how it works. I asked Molly, who is well practiced in subtraction right now, and she couldn’t figure it out either. So I asked Will if there was some kind of Algebraic phenomenon going on. He worked it out, 1944 + y = 2007, but it still turned out to be the wrong answer. Jack chimed in with a story problem. 20 year old has boy child. When the boy child is 43 years old, how old will the mother be?
Nope, still didn’t work out correctly.
So, we’re all baffled yet again.

So, why am I writing such goofy nonsense on this, another January 21? And why am I doing it a day late, but dating it as if it weren’t late at all? Because I’ve racked my brains for two days trying to come up with some clever, sweet, thoughtful, sentimental something that I may not have already written on any of the previous three January 21s. I mentioned last year that I’d created a terribly stressful situation for my self, but somehow eeked by with a mediocre attempt. This year though, I’m afraid I’m all out of mediocrity.
Perhaps it’s my own advancing chronology that has rendered my creative, clever self-image waning. At any rate, a simple “happy birthday” will have to do.
Happy Birthday Bonmomma
May your logarithmic age regression continue.

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Bloged in apprenticeship, community, family, life, parenting by rod Friday December 29, 2006

For some reason, Molly and I both woke this morning with the same blog in our heads. I typed mine up to a quasi-near-post-ready form, and came out to the kitchen. Molly said, “hey Dad, did you read my blog?” “You blogged?”, I said. “Yep, made Mom cry.” So I read it. Doggone it, it’s the same thoughts I was having. So now, I’ll never convince anyone that mine were original. Oh well, evidently great minds think alike.
I’ll post mine later this evening, but first you need to read this.

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it’s beginning to look a lot like ?

Bloged in family, life, seasons by rod Tuesday December 19, 2006

evening ashleyThe fam and I spent the day on Edisto island visiting with Uncle Joe and Aunt Brenda and just moving very slowly. After a wonderful lunch of lasagna and green beans and garlic bread and salad, we spent the rest of the sunny, 76 degree day on the beach and beside the Ashley river watching a dolphin roll away the hours in the shallow water by the shore.
It was a gloriously wonderful day. I’ve uploaded a BUNCH of pics.

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moldy leftovers

Bloged in advent, family by rod Sunday December 17, 2006

When left-overs get left in the fridge for too long, eventually they get a bit nasty, one begins to avoid opening the fridge door in lieu of actually cleaning it out. In the same vein, often when a blogger allows mold to grow on his cascading style sheets, and his content goes stale, folks stop opening the door to see what there is to nibble. Problem is that once people have stopped opening the door, they will not know when the contents have been re-stocked.
Such has been the case in a lot of blogs of late. But you might be interested to know that Jack has recently updated his blog with a timely Advent lesson.
Go on. Click the link.
Now if we could just get some others to clean the fridge.

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advent bugs

Bloged in advent, family, life by rod Saturday December 16, 2006

60% (I’m knocking on the kitchen table as I type) of our family has been afflicted with some nasty illness this week. Molly started feeling tough on Tuesday night and didn’t sleep much. She stayed home from school on Wednesday and Allison got called in to work. So I worked from home most of the day until I had to go in to administer a final exam. Molly stayed home by herself until the boys got home.
While at work that same day, Allison began to feel the affects of the same, and came home with a fever and crashed. She and Molly spent the next 36 hours together in the living room floor under piles of blankets.
Jack, who never manages to get sick on a school day, came home with a fever on Friday evening and thus missed his basketball game this morning and will miss his fiddle recital tomorrow afternoon. His fever was 103 today.
Molly managed to muster just enough energy to dance her two performances of the Nutcracker this afternoon and this evening, and Allison sucked it up and helped in the dressing room before going to work tonight. Both are weak and exhausted from such exertion.
Will and I enjoyed Molly’s performance tonight and brought an exhausted bon bon home afterward. Allison with a messed up stomach and absolutely no energy, is up all night caring for sick wee ones at the hospital.

This is the stuff of which Christmas is made. Hurry, bustle, practice, perform, work, run, attend, get dressed, bake, speed, sing, play, shop, worry, read, recite, smile, stress.
Sometimes it seems the waiting in advent is waiting for it to all be over. The hope is that it will not find us depleted. The mystery is that we’re still alive on New Year’s eve.
Pray for quiet. Pray for health. Pray for intimate family time. Pray for contemplative, prayerful solitude. Pray for salvation. It has come – have we noticed?

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