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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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bows and arrows

Bloged in apprenticeship, parenting by rod Thursday March 29, 2007

Tuesday, one of my students stopped in to read to me from Khalil Gibran’s, “The Prophet.” He read to me three chapters, “clothing,” “laws,” and “freedom.” He was stunned by the wisdom, and the beauty with which it was expressed. I was too. I’ve heard people talk about The Prophet, but only in reference. I really am quite embarrassed that I don’t have this work memorized. I read most of the book Tuesday evening. Last night I read some to Allison, and told her that it was strange, like listening to music, that before I could go on to the next chapter, I would have to go back and read the current one again. Maybe again.
It is like staring at a beautiful painting.

Recently, my brother and sister-in-law, on whom we’ve been wishing parenthood, though there has never been any indication they wished it for themselves, called to announce the expected ETA of their firstborn. There may have been an article in the London Times. I didn’t actually see it my self.
The announcement that you’re expecting your first child is an outrageously big event. A couple ponders when and how to tell whom. For the life of me, I can’t remember telling my parents when we found out that Jack was on the way. This seems very odd to me, because it is typical that we remember every burp and diaper change for the first, and don’t even have any pictures of their younger siblings. Allison mentioned to Molly that she was disappointed that we had so few pics and video of her as a baby, yet had so many of Jack. Molly said, “oh that’s understandable. When you have your first baby, you don’t know if you’ll ever have any more so you take millions of pictures.” Simple wisdom from the underphotographed bald beauty. We’ve made up for it though. There are more pics of her from the past month than of both boys’ lifetimes combined.
So why would I not remember how I announced Jack’s birth? I do remember Will’s though. I sent a simple email to Mom and Dad with the statement, “children are a reward from the Lord. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.”
I’ve found out that three arrows pretty much make for a full quiver. But I wouldn’t trade any of them. I used that passage to announce the impending family enlargement because it made me think about how Dad used to tell us he was going to sell us back to the Indians. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.

I began to think more deeply about the metaphors here when I was reading Tuesday night. Gibran describes me as the bow that shoots that quiver full of arrows:

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I think I could ponder and ramble all day on the thoughts that this brings to mind. I’ve always said that I operate best as a soldier. I march when I’m told where to go. I was a very teachable guitar student, a very coachable ballplayer. I don’t operate as well when I’ve got decide where to go. Being in charge is a terribly scary prospect, no matter how confident I am in my ideas and convictions. I desire to be an instrument of the dreamer of dreams, rather than the dreamer of dreams.
Of course, being a Father must be the ultimate in being in charge. The responsibility is enormous, the influence further reaching than we can imagine. What an enormous relief it is to be reminded that I’m not the archer, only the bow. I don’t have to aim, only to bend. I am used to create potential energy to thrust the arrow. I provide a place for the arrow to rest as it is aimed. But I don’t aim it. In fact, no matter how many arrows are in the quiver, I’m fairly worthless without the archer.

I also am amazed and humbled to find that the more I am willing to be bent and used as an instrument, how many arrows are found lying along the path. Arrows that have been dropped from their own quivers. Perhaps fired from an unstable bow, or a bow that tried to bend itself and missed the mark. In fact, I know bows that have no quivers of their own, but are used constantly to fire previously misguided, cast aside, or unwanted arrows.
I guess the responsibility of fatherhood is not reserved only for fathers. Yes, apparently there is a special blessing for those whose quivers are full, but it must be much more important to be a stable, bendable bow.

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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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my ridiculously talented son

Bloged in art, parenting by rod Tuesday February 20, 2007

Monday was a kid holiday, but not a parent holiday. Molly had spent the night with a friend and was still there. Jack was headed to Bellacino’s and then bowling. Allison was asleep. I needed to go to work for awhile so Will came with me and we dropped off Jack and headed over. It was a beautiful sunshiny day, and Will had been asking for awhile to spend some time at “the secret pond.” So I handed him my camera and said, “knock yourself out.”
Will said, “dad, nature is always so beautiful until you try to take pictures of it and then all the beauty disappears.” Assuming that he was voicing frustration that you can never capture what you see, I told him to allow the camera to capture a different perspective, something less that suggested something more. I actually gave him a pointer, and took a pic to show him what I meant.
Now I feel stupid thinking that I could give him a pointer in any artistic pursuit whatever. You would think I could make musical theoretical offerings to him, but Sunday on the way to church I asked him what he was scribbling, and he told me he was transposing a chart that was in the wrong key for worship that morning. Sheesh. If he doesn’t need my help in music, he certainly doesn’t need my photography help.
So the result of his afternoon with my camera made me intensely jealous. I take about a thousand pics and get one that I like a little. Will comes back with 76 pictures, all of which are very good. I know that he’d never be interested in maintaining a flickr page, so I decided to give him a showing on mine. This takes some pride swallowing on my part to put his brilliant photos among my mediocre ones. But a dad’s gotta do what a dad’s gotta do.
So check out the Will pictures. I think you’ll like them.

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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 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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cup o’ joe

Bloged in family, parenting, random by rod Wednesday November 15, 2006

Last week, for Molly’s birthday, she gave me a coffee roaster, and a pound each of green, fair trade, Ethiopian Harrar, and Sumatran beans. Daddy’s favorites. I immediately set about my first batch of Rod-roasted joe, but alas, the moment I turned the roaster on, it smoked and fizzled and never got warm. Allison called the company and they promptly sent out a replacement and right now, I’m savoring my first cup of Rod-roasted Sumatran. This is yummy stuff. Thank you Molly!
The weather is nasty tonight. There are tornado watches and warnings all around and it is raining huge drops very hard. The lights are flickering on and off, the fam is all snuggled into bed, and I’m safe inside with a candle burning and an extremely fresh cup of coffee.
Creamy, sweet, with a touch of butterscotch, spice and grassiness.
Care for a cup?

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sonnet xi

Bloged in family, life, parenting, poems by rod Monday November 6, 2006

An autumn babe is born as southern leaves
splash color in the groves of evergreen.
A neo-natal palette we receive,
with eyes a hue no leaf has ever been.
A moment savored, pondered as you grew,
how once I rocked you ‘neath the waxing moon.
From infant lips, a song I never knew,
you sang to me your perfect silent tune.
And deep inside your heart your silent song
came bursting forth when first it had the chance.
I sang it too, and it would not be long
till you had shown my full heart how to dance.
November princess, waste no time for fun,
Time dances past us, now you’re tendy one.

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what are the chances of that?

Bloged in life, music, nostalgia, parenting by rod Sunday October 15, 2006

Friday night, in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, after I’d cruised a bit and walked off the kinks in my knees and back accumulated between Albuquerque and Dallas, I sat down at the gate beside Dave, and checked my email. At the top of the page was a message reminding me that Randy Stonehill was going to be doing a concert Saturday night at the Pavilion Coffee Shop. I remembered this and was planning on going and asking Molly to go with me. I mentioned it to Dave, over the din of the bustling airport, “HEY, DAVE, RANDY STONEHILL IS PLAYING IN COLUMBIA TOMORROW NIGHT.” To which Dave replied, “Cool, is he still 30?”.
What I didn’t realize is that Randy Stonehill was within earshot of me. In fact, I didn’t see him until we got to baggage claim in Columbia. I thought it was pretty cool that we were in the airport at the same time, but it didn’t occur to me until he told me that we’d actually flown together from Dallas. I asked him if he’d heard me talking about him in Dallas and he said no, but his ears were itching.
I’ve had lots of brushes with greatness over the years, in elevators, on stage, the golf course, Waffle House. I’ve played in the band with musical greats, opened for others, had a hero of mine accompany me on piano, but this was a the first for catching the same connecting flight from two separate cities and then waiting for our bags together.
Molly and I made it to the concert. She already thinks I’m famous, so she wasn’t at all surprised that Randy Stonehill knew my name when we first talked to him Saturday night. “Dad, it’s really cool that all these people know who you are.” I told her that he only knew me because I met him last night, but that didn’t seem to matter to her.
We both really enjoyed the concert, Molly even texted Allison in the middle: “This guy is GREAT!!!” Her favorite tunes were “Who will save the Children?” and “Rachel Delevoryas”. Mine too, I think.
A great time was had by all.

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they’re watching you

Bloged in family, love and marriage, parenting by rod Wednesday June 28, 2006

This morning as Allison was rushing to get ready for work, she asked me if I’d iron her clothes so she wouldn’t be late. So I turned on the iron and got to work. Molly was talking to me while I ironed, and said, “dad, do you remember when Pastor Don said on Sunday, that “you take out the trash for your spouse not because you have to, but because you love them? Well, I turned to Nikki and joked, ‘I guess I won’t love my spouse because I don’t want to take out the trash.’ Anyway, I was thinking about that while I was watching you iron mom’s clothes.”

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