Friday, February 27, 2009

A Friday evening at home

Jonathan is in the basement practicing his trumpet. He is playing "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" with a harmony trumpet mute. If you know that song and you know what a harmony mute sounds like, then you know it is quite the juxtaposition.

Shannon is in bed with a fever. This is her fourth day of fever. Tuesday was the first, and she went to school, not realizing that she had a fever. Wednesday she went to school knowing that she had the fever, and yesterday and today she gave in and stayed home the way she should have from the first.

I had Lu and Jonno to the doctor today for scheduled physicals. The doctor told me that the flu is coming with a five day fever this year, so I guess Shanny has one really bad day left.

Laura fainted in the doctor's office today. It had been quite a few minutes after her shot, and the doctor and I had been discussing Shannon's situation, so when Laura and I went to leave the examining room, I never thought to watch for adverse signs. "Boom!" I heard the noise behind me and turned back to see poor Lu sprawled on the floor. I said, "Oh, Lulu!" thinking she had tripped. She made no response. By the time I realized what had happened, a number of health care professionals were on her, bringing her around, so thanks be to God I didn't panic and freak out. I was so grateful to know that at least she was in good hands with people who knew what they were doing.

She hit her head really hard, and also strained her neck. They told me I have to wake her up in the middle of the night to be sure she is OK. I am a little nervous about this. She is sore, and also her arm is sore from the shot, poor kid.

I'm making steak for Shawn, a late birthday dinner. We were supposed to go out with friends, but he feels like he might be coming down with the flu, too, now.

So... that's my Friday. Timer's dinging for the steak...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another weird memory

I'm trying to get memories down. Why? I don't know. You just never know when something is going to pop into your head ever again, so sometimes it is good to write things down on the spot, or as close to it as possible.

When I was pregnant with Shannon I was awfully sick. I didn't know a person could have an upset stomach for that long and not die. At the time, I was working for a department store, writing their ads. However, they ran one ad a week in the Sunday paper, so there really wasn't much to do over a forty hour week. Maybe that's why they went out of business. When the store closed, one of the vice presidents very kindly approached me and said, "And I want to be sure that you know I don't hold you responsible for the fact that we have gone under." Given that I was a 23 year old who had just graduated from college and was working outside my major, and that I had been employed by them for all of six months, the thought that I was responsible for their failure had never crossed my mind, honestly, but I guess it was nice of him to try to put me at ease.

But near the end of my employment with them, I was pregnant and sick. I spent days at home in my bed, watching the room spin in a haze of green nausea. One day I finally thought I might be able to drag myself to work, so I got up, showered, dressed, and Shawn did my hair because holding my hands over my head was beyond my abilities just then.

In those days we had but one car, the maroon Chevy Cavalier. Shawn dropped me off at the bus stop and continued on to work. He was in a master's degree program through his office, and he had class that day. As I rode the bus into downtown Syracuse, I got woozier and woozier. Suddenly I realized that I was not going to make it, so I pulled the cord, ran to the front of the bus and jumped off as soon as the driver screeched to a halt.

I had no idea where I was, but there was a hardware store in front of me, and it appeared to be open. I ducked in and gasped, "Do you have a bathroom?" The man quickly escorted me to a small bathroom where I closed the door and promptly lost the grapefruit I had somehow managed to choke down for breakfast.

I came out weaving and looking for a place to sit down. Somebody pulled up a large bucket of joint compound and offered it to me for a chair. "My daughter always gets motion sickness when she rides them buses," said a man, trying to put me at ease. I explained that, actually, I was expecting, and asked to borrow a phone (this was before cell phones) to call my husband.

Shawn left class, and somehow he found the place. To this day I do not know where I was. He drove me home and put me back to bed. I'm glad I have not been pregnant for a long time. I feel for people who are pregnant and sick... some of us are not at our best while we gestate.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Choosing to love

"My point in mentioning this is only to say that people who feel any sort of regret where you are concerned will suppose you are angry, and they will see anger in what you do, even if you're just quietly going about a life of your own choosing. They make you doubt yourself, which, depending on cases, can be a severe distraction and a waste of time. This is a thing I wish I had realized much earlier than I did." from Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, page 7.

I need to go back through and read both Gilead and Home again, and write down every significant quote, because there are a lot.

I think what the narrator is saying in the quote above is that whenever a person feels guilty about something in regard to another person, he tends to begin to hate the other person. Slowly at first, and then with increasing vengeance. This is why relationships get so ugly. We understand why victims hate their perpetrators, but this explains why perpetrators also hate their victims.

If you have ever been the victim of someone's sin, you will know that it is true that the person, especially one who will not admit to doing anything wrong, hates you seemingly without cause. He hates you because the thought of you makes him feel guilty and bad, and the natural instinct of man is to believe the best of himself and to justify and rationalize his actions despite all evidence and facts.

This is a complicated thing, but I believe that it is true. If you are the guilty party (or if I am), and if we are harboring hate towards someone we have hurt, merely because we have acted hurtfully, selfishly, and don't like to face our own ugliness, then we need to ask the Lord to point the truth out to us and help us conquer the crippling hump of pride, confess and repent.

I have been studying the life of Peter (Jesus' disciple), and this week I have been reading about how he denied Jesus just before the crucifixion. Peter had massive regrets where Jesus was concerned, yet I have been incredibly impressed with how he handled himself in the aftermath. I never thought about it or saw it this way before.

Peter did not justify himself. He did not try to weasel out of what he had done (and I can see ways he could have approached it... after all, he was almost the only disciple who did not flee and hide; instead, he had bravely followed Jesus into enemy territory because of his love for Him; he could have appealed to these facts to try to rationalize what he had done).

Peter did not blame Jesus. Could he not have said, "You set me up for this... you even told me it was going to happen. I had no choice in the matter. It was predetermined. How can you blame me for this?"

But the most amazing thing of all (to me) is that Peter did not try to avoid Jesus when He started appearing to the twelve. The night they all went fishing (John 21), when Jesus appeared on the shore in the morning, as soon as Peter recognized who Jesus was, he jumped out of the boat into the water and hurried to shore as fast as he could go. Natural man would have been ashamed and embarrassed, perhaps even angry about what had happened. At the very least, natural man would have hidden himself behind the others and peeked out to moniter Jesus' expressions. Peter, apparently through the spirit of God, simply had a craving to be as close to his Lord as he could be. Full of love and trust, he ran right back to Jesus and gratefully ate the bread and fish Jesus had cooked for him.

To be a Christian, forgiven, cleansed and filled with the Holy Spirit of God, means to be able to break out of the natural pattern of bitterness, grudge bearing, guilt and regrets. It means we have total trust in the Father. We believe and know that He will accept us, love us, cleanse us and make us into new creatures capable of living lives that reflect His glory. Because of that, we don't have to worry about other people, building shields of protection, caution and hate. Our worth is in the One we worship, and those who may hate us because of their own sinful conduct are only to be pitied for the joy they are missing and the miserable bondage that drags them down day after day.

Jesus said, "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:44-45a) I think it is because Peter heard Him teach these words that he had confidence to know that Jesus would accept him back in love. We need to model our actions after Jesus' actions and thus create an increased atmosphere of love and safety in the world.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Weird connections

I never watch the news, and I avoid reading it as much as possible.

It depresses me.

There is nothing much I can do. I pray for God to take care of us. All the time I pray this. I see little point in watching the news and fretting over the state of the world. My letters and calls to my senators are worthless. My great-New-York-state senators do not share my viewpoints. My prayers are to the almighty God who created the universe and sustains it. I'm banking on Him.

However, the other day I turned on the TV in the morning. It was last week, Friday morning. We are in February break this week, which is a wonderful, beautiful, marvelous thing. Last Thursday night, it snowed some, so on Friday morning I turned on the TV in my bedroom to check and see if, by any chance, there was a snow day and thus an early start to the school break.

In the rolling banner on the bottom of the screen, instead of school closings, there was a story about an airplane that had crashed in Buffalo, actually in Clarence, a suburb of Buffalo. It was coming from Newark (NYC/New Jersey), and it crashed into a house in Clarence at 10:30 p.m. Thursday night, killing one person on the ground and all 48 people on the plane.

This bothered me because we have actually been to Clarence, to hear our children play with their school's Symphonic Band at a joint concert with the Clarence band. Also, it bothered me because Shawn often flies on little commuter flights between the small central New York cities (Buffalo, Albany, Rochester, Syracuse) and hubs in NYC. I felt kind of sick.

But it gets worse.

DJ recently auditioned with professor Chris Vadala for a spot in the jazz studies program at the University of Maryland, College Park. He and Chris have a great relationship, and he was accepted into this very competitive program.

Well, Chris used to play with the Chuck Mangione Band; he was their reed man. He also did arranging for them. Recently, when they played a concert in town, Chris was here, too. DJ got to go to the concert, and Chris took him backstage and introduced him to the band. DJ shook hands with the guitar player, Coleman Mellett, whom he said was, "Awesome."

Well, the Chuck Mangione band was scheduled to appear with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra this past weekend, on Friday the 13th. Coleman Mellett and Gerry Niewood (the sax player) were on their way there for the concert on Thursday night when their plane crashed.

They were on the plane that crashed. That I actually saw the news story about, early in the morning on Friday. Friday the 13th. I am not superstitious or anything. Really. God is in control, not a date on the calendar. Anyway, they died on the 12th.

But this is just so weird. So weird. What are the chances? That a plane would go down? That it would have people on it that my son has met in the jazz world? That I would see the story on TV when I never watch the news? What are the chances??

The chances are so slight, I have to believe that God is communicating something. But I just don't know what.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


DJ eats raw eggs. Or rather, he used to. He would pour up a glass of skim milk (from cows that received no artificial growth hormones), crack two eggs into it, stir it with a fork and gag it down for breakfast.

Salmonella risk or no, this was too much for me to handle in the early morning hours. Laura, who generally has a very weak stomach, would stand in front of him and laugh as he choked and gagged on the slimy concoction. But I would gag right along with him, and my eyes would water... so I started cooking him eggs in the morning. Today I boiled some homemade chicken broth and whisked in two eggs for a fortifying and healing egg-drop soup that he could eat out of a large cup on his way to school. He still has a bronchial infection going on, and having suffered with it for about two weeks now, he is getting cross, which is good motivation for me to find him a cure.

Speaking of things like chicken broth and healing concoctions... a week ago Shawn was sicker than a dog with a stomach thing. He was up all night and then actually worked from home the next day. It didn't linger, and nobody else got it, so we finally decided that it came from the Burger King Whopper that he ate for lunch on the previous day.

People get all upset when they hear that DJ eats raw eggs. "Won't he get food poisoning?" they ask in horror (except the ones who hum the Rocky theme song; they just smile). DJ has done a lot of research. Well, yes, it's just internet research, but... he says your risk of getting food poisoning from eating at a fast food restaurant is exponentially higher than that of getting salmonella from raw eggs. Our experience suggests that he is right.

Something to think about. Consider your risks the nixt time you pull up to a drive through. You have better odds with raw eggs.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An odd memory

I never liked milk.

I like it now, but only whole milk, and only if I am eating something like chocolate cake or freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

As a child I despised milk. Loathed it. Gagged on it.

When they first tried to wean me to a bottle, I rejected milk. I am not claiming to actually remember this. What I do remember is the solution that turned into a tradition.

They gave me warm orange juice in a bottle every night before bed. It calmed me down. I remember taking my bottle to the green sofa in the livingroom and lying on my back on the end pillow, drinking my warm orange juice. I remember the feel of the upholstery and the texture of the rubber nipple, and how I was fussy about how big the hole was.

They had to strain out the pulp before they put the juice in the bottle. After warming the juice in a pan on the stove, they poured it through a little tea strainer into my bottle. Then, since my parents were loathe to waste anything, the pulp was scraped out of the strainer with a spoon, and I was fed a spoonful of pulp before I was given my bottle of juice.

I think I did this until I was quite a bit past my third birthday. It was my bedtime routine: bathtime, bottle, brush teeth, prayers and hymns, tucking in.

One evening my father's parents were in the house and Grandma Rainbow saw me head into the livingroom, to the sofa, with my bottle.

I was a little bit of a precocious three year old. I could carry on quite a conversation. I was not, however, invited to join the conversation that ensued that evening. Grandma Rainbow did not know why a big, smart, precocious three-year-old should still be taking a bottle before bed every night.

Grandma Rainbow was proper and loving and kind. She was about a perfect Grandmother. My mom was tired. She gave me a bottle because it settled me down and mellowed me out, and she did not have to fight as hard to get me to bed. But Grandma Rainbow, in a very uncharacteristic burst of unsolicited advice, was blowing away both my nice, ordered world and my mother's.

There was a hushed but passionate conversation behind the sliding door between the kitchen and the diningroom.

The next evening when I went into the kitchen for my bottle of warm orange juice, there was my dad with the blender. "I'm going to make you a malt!" he said. He blended up a milkshake with ice-cream, milk and Nestle's Quik and poured it into a tall, insulated glass. With a flourish and a straw, he presented it to me at the kitchen table.

Happily, I drank it. Then I said, "Can I have my warm bottle of orange juice now?"

"You don't need a bottle of orange juice. You just had a nice malt."

My heart sank. I think I argued a bit, but I totally lost. I left the kitchen, full of cold milkshake and wishing for warm juice in my belly. But, I slept just fine.

After that, I had a milkshake every single night of my life, before bed. It was called my bedtime snack.

When my mom visited us, when our children were little, she questioned our failure to provide our children with a bedtime snack. I told her that since Shawn works until 7 or 7:30 p.m. and we eat at 8 or 8:30, and don't get supper cleared away until 9:00 p.m., we just don't have time for a bedtime snack.

I did like those milkshakes, though.