Sunday, December 28, 2003

We went to Tim's funeral today. In short, it was a noble farewell to a cherished young man. Boy Scouts everywhere. I know I will have more to say about him when I am not so overwhelmed. But not today.

It seemed only yesterday we were at the graveside of another scout, Tony Ferris. I realized today that I've never really gotten over that tragedy. 5 years have passed like nothing, Cub Scouts are now Boy Scouts -- tall and handsome. For growing boys, time barrels on. My son doesn't remember the details of the first tragedy, nor does he remember really the boy who once was. But for adults, time stood still that day. We who lived in the land of perfectly safe children were shocked into the reality of how little control we had over the well being of our youngsters. Tony was 8 when a concrete park bench toppled over in a park full of children and crushed him in front of a crowd of bewildered children and young YMCA counselors. We suddenly knew that despite our over priced homes and 4 star schools, our over-protected and over- privileged children were just as unsafe and vulnerable as the rest of the world's kids. How could this be? We covered them with prayer in the mornings and at night. We brought them to church and were careful of what they watched on TV. We taught them first aid and all aspects of safety precautions. They were well decorated Cub Scouts. They were prepared. But nothing could have prepared us for that park bench.

That event, Tony's death, cemented us together. Pack 773, Den 6. Tim's dad was our Cubmaster. He carried us through that dark, dark time. Our little boys seemed so very big as they stood together in a solemn scout salute while the oh so tiny casket was carried to its place. They wore their uniforms proudly, and they looked to their Cubmaster to lead them. He gave them all black bands to wear on their arms and treated them like men as they said goodbye to their fallen comrade. Tim's dad wrote a letter to them all that I have linked to here: . We all cried together (our Cubmaster included) and agreed that we would need to be carried away if it was our child in that box. We prayed fervently for Tracy (Tony's mom). We shook our heads and prayed for God's protection over our children. We knew then as we do now that they all belong to God. But we asked what all parents ask: that our children will grow to be adults. That we will know our grandchildren. That they will gather to bury us. As hard as that will be.

But today (in fact all week), we've been together again. Preparing to burying another child. Our Cubmaster's own son. Tim.

I remember Tony's funeral -- a graveside service in a children's cemetery. I remember realizing that the hundreds of markers in rows represented hundreds of children gone early to heaven. Hundreds of broken hearted families. Hundreds. Some were there that day -- picnicking at the graveside of a child long gone. I see them like a surreal vision in my memory, lawn chairs unfolded, picnic blankets spread out. They'd look at us for a moment, then return to their own sorrow.

That event, that accident, that loss was covered by every channel news. Tony's face was seen in every news paper. Parents everywhere shuddered at the thought that parks could be unsafe. Blame the city! Blame the bench maker! Make them pay! That graveside event was front page news -- our boys immortalized in their little Cub Scout uniforms and sad little faces. Standing tall with their Cubmaster to hold them up. They were so brave.

Today, there was no grave. No media. Tim had been reduced to a box of ashes and a small article in the local section of the paper amid obituaries and holiday sales. "Local Teen killed by car. Driver not charged." That small box was a heart renching sight -- His parents had signed over his broken body from the coroner to the mortuary on Christmas Eve. Today, we crowded into a small Episcopal church, overflowing. Our boys were older now. They understood more. They were once again so brave. The Reverend spoke of the Feast of the Holy Innocents -- celebrated in formal churches today. A day to remember the hundreds of baby boys slaughtered by King Herod in his effort to kill Jesus. He told us that there was no justification for these sufferings, no way to understand. No words to make it better. "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." Matt 2:18.

This is the human condition. Children die. Not everyone grows old. Those who perish already know the truth. "they're in heaven now. They wouldn't come back if they could.." (billy graham at the national 9/11 service)

The hope of heaven is for us -- the ones that are left behind.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

December 22, 2003. My friends' son left this earth tonight after being hit by a car. They did everything they could to revive him, they say. It was quick, they say. Merciful.

My friend left for work this morning without waking the boys. They were sleeping in. He is trying to remember his last words to his son. He and his wife are sitting in their living room surrounded by Christmas gifts and tidings of hope. They don't want to go to sleep tonight. If they go to sleep, they may wake to find out that they aren't dreaming.

His wife called me to pray. I hadn't spoken to her in a long while. "I have bad news," she whispered, "we lost Tim tonight." Lost him? I thought. Well go find him! What do you mean? Did he run away? Did you lose him hiking? Find him quickly, I thought, Christmas is coming. "He was hit by a car. We just got home from the hospital. We had to leave him there -- with the Coroner." the Coroner, I thought, Jesus this can't be happening. How can this be happening? Where are you Jesus? Why can't I find you? I'm beginning to get it suddenly -- and I can't accept it. "Did they exhaust every option?" I ask. Are you sure? "I don't believe you, " I say. "Me either," she whispers back.

I think of him on a coroner's table and I can't function. He'll never come home again. Never argue with his little brother, never forget to feed the cat or let the dog out, never kiss his parents good night -- never open the presents so carefully selected for him on Christmas morning. Never, never, never.

Somehow I got to their house and sat in the center of the livingroom floor. Crying. Not believing. How can this be so? Heartbroken and terrified of our vulnerability. Forever is around the corner I hear whispered somewhere inside me. The good stuff comes later. It's not so long to wait. So what does that mean? I ask. We should just expect this to suck? Until then it should just suck? We should wander around with a target on our heads and be okay with that? It's not fair. Nothing about this is remotely okay.

Help me Lord, I've fallen and I can't get up.

I'm going to light the Hanukkah candles. Pray for me, a sinner.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

I've had a really hard time getting into the spirit of things this season. This is very odd for me -- I love Christmas! Yet, even so, I am so burnt out in so many areas of my life that I'm even jaded on Christmas. No home church, extended family in Iowa and NY, working full time, mild California weather -- I'm sort of 'mourning in lowly exile'. My halls have been decked for quite some time, but I have been relatively uninspired (especially compared to years gone by). Plus, I'm very emotional. Depressed even. Christmas songs are making me cry this year (!!) White Christmas -- a tear jerker. Silent Night -- pass the tissues. O holy Night -- forget about it!! What is going on!?

My daughter is all over the Christmas thing. She has her very own tree in her room (and her own collection of decorations...) It has been up since Thanksgiving. She sings Christmas songs out loud wherever she may roam. She has a collection of Santa hats that she wears to school and to her basketball practice. She has been the manic shopper and is diligently wrapping and bow tying -- we cannot keep up with her. She skips everywhere she goes. She bakes. (whose kid is this?) We can't help but be a little excited about Christmas with her around.

But mean teachers, school pressures, expensive groceries, too many work related deadlines -- you get the picture -- robbing the joy. The grinch is stealing my Christmas.

"where are you christmas? why can't i find you?
why have you gone away?
where is the laughter you used to bring me?
why can't I hear music play?
my world is changing - i'm rearranging
does that mean christmas changes, too?

"where are you christmas?
Do you remember the one you used to know?
I'm not the same one - see what the time's done
is that why you've let me go?

(faith hill)(from the Grinch soundtrack)

Shopping for Maria G finally pushed me into the spirit of giving. This actually came as a relief. The last day of school finally arrived (yesterday) so the kids are home for 2 weeks. (Whew!) My daughter's band recital was yesterday (more tears -- even Feliz Navidad did it to me, Pah-leez!) I volunteer in the class one day per week, and have become attached to certain kids. One gave me a little love note (called a "sparkle") and one gave me an ornament that he made -- more tears and the infusion of more Christmas spirit. (It's there -- it's just hiding...)

Now tonight, we lit 2 Hanukkah candles. We have a menorah that my dearest college friend gave us from her collection. Until her first child was born (3 years ago), she would spend part of Christmas with us. She would set up the menorah and say the prayers as my kids took turns lighting the candles. (Baruch ata adonai eloheinu...) Oddly, this is one of our most treasured Christmas traditions. It hit me today how appropriate our celebration of Hanukkah is -- a celebration of God's faithfulness. He kept the light burning even though there wasn't enough oil to make it possible. A miracle. When all hope was gone. This year that light is symbolic of my waning spirit. God is faithful to keep the fire burning, even though my well is dry.

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light: on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned." Isa 9:2. A kindled flame. A light to keep the fire burning.

With earnest, I pray to you Lord: "o come, o come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel ; who mourns in lowly exile here -- until the son of God appear"

Of course the next line of this song is telling: "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel -- shall come to thee, o Israel"

So there it is, isn't it? The why of it all. Why we light the Hanukkah candles, why we put up the tree and sing the ancient songs and celebrate -- it's to rekindle. reconnect. remember.

Thank you Lord, that age to age you're still the same. Stand at the door in view of my enemies, that I would remember I'm armed and secured by your love. Rekindle my happy hopeful spirit. Help me to have Christmas all year long. Like I used to.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Maria G.

That's all the tag said.

We took it off the tree at my office and later discovered that our tag represented an 11 year old girl who wanted a list of things for Christmas that would be virtually impossible for her to get if not for the Concept 7 program and my company's annual tradition of covering a huge Christmas tree in the lobby with tags, each representing a child who has been removed from their home of origin and is currently in foster care.

We took our role seriously, carefully fulfilling our share of her wishes. Today we left her presents under the tree with her name carefully attached to the packages. Maria G. Size 8.

I wonder where her parents will be this Christmas? I wonder if she misses them? And suddenly I am overcome with emotion for this child. "Oh Maria G, I pray that these gifts would be only a fraction of the surprises God has in store for you. I pray that you would know the God who has carved you into the palm of His hand. The God who really sees. " and I am thankful for you Maria G. So thankful. You don't know it, but you have given Christmas to me this season.

If I dare, I can take in the scope of the big giant Christmas tree in the lobby and the many, many names on it. One tree in one office in one city in one county and so on and so on. So very many children separated from their parents, in most cases for their own good. It overwhelms me. The thought of all those needy children likens itself in my mind to the traffic that is extra heavy this time of year, the crowds in the malls and parking lots, the noisy noise every where I turn -- I can't grasp them. I can't even think of them -- there are too many.

But I can think of you, Maria. And even though my eyes will never know you, my heart sees you.

Merry Christmas, Maria G. May all your dreams come true.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

There is something really cool I want to share with you about the episode we've had with my daughter. The drama hasn't gone away entirely, but it has subsided for the moment. For me, there was a letter written to the faculty, many tears shed, many anguished prayers said, time spent agonizing what to do next -- for those of you who know me, this is a fairly predictable pattern for me if I get pushed over the edge. (I wish I could see "the edge" coming and be a little more proactive...Still working on it.) My husband on the other hand sort of shrugs it off. The drama of it all is not for him. He sort of watches me flapping around. I think it actually amuses him. It's not like he's in denial and doesn't do anything. It's what he did do that made all the difference.

He handled the "pickups" at school for the last couple of days. He came for her, came right to the door of her class, and waited. He did this for two days. He didn't have to speak. He didn't have to "do" anything really. He's a really big guy -- not very tall (6ft - a lot taller than the kids and most of the teachers) but he has a really big intimidating presence. He's big from the inside out. He is an ex-marine (they say they never really leave the marines...), a football coach, a plumbing contractor -- He has MAN written all over him. He's not what you'd call a "bubbly" sort of personality, to say the least. With him, eye contact could be construed as an act of aggression. He could stare down a lion. And he did this; Just stood there, big arms folded across his big chest, legs apart, big neck and flat top head, watching and waiting. When that bell rang, every kid had to maneuver around him until she came out. His little girl.

His mere presence made her safe. No one could hurt her. (No one would dare.) No matter how insecure the events of the last couple of weeks might have made her feel, his presence outside of her door gave her everything she needed. He didn't have to speak to anyone. Her bodyguard.

And as long as he was there, she had nothing to fear. Everything would be okay. In fact, just his being there reminded her that he was always in her court, even when she didn't see him outside that door.

This speaks volumes to me of God the Father. This is the Lion of Judah. He stands like a sentinel in view of our enemies. He is our brick wall of safety, provision, protection, unending love. Our hero. Our bodyguard. We are armed and secured in the love of Jesus.
(Isa 40:10-13) "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you."

And if all that wasn't enough, my husband took my daughter to see the Mighty Ducks. They sat against the glass behind the net. Father and daughter at the hockey game.

Kudos, hubby. You're tops in my book.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Which Pirates of the Caribbean character are you?

Just checking to see if I can actually do this...

I love these silly little games, so here is one for you. Something completely different...

Monday, December 08, 2003

I hover over my youngest child. I am embarrassed to admit this. I don't like that I do this. But it is what it is. She senses me doing this and it makes her feel inferior. Incapable. This is certainly not my intention. It is a catch 22.

I want to protect her. Defend her. My baby. But I really never know where I should stop and she should begin. It is a gray zone. I relate to Marlin in Finding Nemo. (Except for the loosing my entire family to the big ugly predator fish and all...). My youngest child is my Nemo. The one with the "lucky fin". (My perception).

The bizarre thing of it is that she is so capable of handling it all herself. She is a tough cookie in many ways. She has confronted every schoolyard bully. She has protected every underdog. She is fearless.

At least on the outside.

But I see.

And God sees even more. ("people look on the outside of the person but the Lord looks at the heart" -- yet again that favorite verse...)

It seems my girl baby's path is far more treacherous than my man child's. There are many hidden dangers, sharp edges and steep drops in the path of the woman. The worst seems to come from woman's inhumanities to women. Girls can really suck. And now she is at that place where the boys she has befriended are beginning to notice that she is a girl. The final betrayal. Every so often I see something happen that hurts her again. Gets through the armor. And the armor gets thicker, stronger. I'm watching it close up around her like on Stargate. What's a parent to do? A part of me wants her to have that armor so she can make it out there in the real world -- but a bigger part of me wants to protect that fragile heart so its beauty can be seen.

Last week she was sick with the flu. She dreamed every morning of predators coming after her to devour or kill her (sharks, dinosaurs and murderers with knives). In every dream, we (her family) didn't realize the danger. They killed us all first -- in every dream -- leaving her alone for fight or flight. Scary stuff for a 10 year old.

She cried for 2 hours on Sunday night, knowing she had to go back to school on Monday. She is an elected student officer , and has been battling with a student council advisor (teacher) who is pregnant, impatient and just plain mean. We had a conference during which I used the terms "cover your ass" and " raving bitch from hell" -- (It didn't go so well ...) Within 30 minutes of my leaving the campus, the mean pregnant lady took out our conference on my 10 year old. Again.

Later she'd tell me, "don't worry Mom. I didn't cry in front of her. I cried later."

So did I.

I don't know what will come of this -- but I know my daughter is stronger than most people I know. I think you have to be to be a female in any culture.

Message in a bottle again: please pray for her (and the mean pregnant teacher). I'm working on forgiveness right now, then I'm moving on to wisdom. I really don't know what to do about the teacher. I can tell you I'm not thinking many happy festive Christmas thoughts about her at this moment. It's probably not the best place from which to make a plan.

Right now I want to make it easier for my daughter, and I just can't. It's not in my control. I might win the battle with this teacher, but she will always exist---The mean pregnant lady who hated my kid. She's not the first and she won't be the last. Was it this hard for Mary watching Jesus grow up? Part of me says (and really believes) that no, Jesus was a boy.

I wonder if it's so painful to see my daughter's struggles because they remind me of my own. I wonder if all mothers experience this with their girls. Maybe in her I sometimes get a glimpse of my long lost inner child. Maybe I don't want her to lose hers.

Finally, as left field as this last statement is about to sound, I see this topic connecting to Mollie Bean's recent body image blogs. (connect via Beth's Blog link on right -- Genesis will help me get my blogging act together, now that she has her Master's degree and all...) Mollie's female image is caught up in body shape issues, but I think it manifests itself in many ways. We wear lots of types of armor. "Lord, help us take it off."

More later -- thanks for the prayers.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Great quote:

"But we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." -- Helen Keller

So nice in conjunction with the football end of season note. Thanks Lord.

Frantically unpacking Christmas decorations -- my obsession with football has allowed the Christmas season to sneak up on me. Somehow, every year, I pack away Christmas with a system that at the time I think will be easy to decipher when unpacking. And equally, every year, I unpack the decorations without a clue of what I was thinking last year. Hello. It is now ingrained into my family history as a part of the tradition. The plan. Mom will be clueless. And so it is.

I have this desire to bring the Christmas decor into a clean and organized house. This has never yet happened. Ever.

I am currently pleased with our progress despite football, the flu and "The Schedule". I do, however, have about 6 large cases in my living room at this precise moment -- completely in the way of any "living" we could attempt. It is quite late (about 1 am). I just finished working (long story -- I have a home office) and I thought in my caffeinated state that now would be a good time to complete the decorating process. (Psycho...) Everyone is asleep. Letterman is on TV (someone else now -- looks like Jack Black on the Craig-something show...) I try to quietly attach my garland to windows -- BANG! -- I smash my foot into a dust pan (full of dust which I intended to discard) Loud Noise invokes snoring Santa (somehow triggered by clapping sounds...) Santa noise freaks out the parakeet (Joey from Australia) who starts a loud banter calling to the dog (Cole -- who would at any time like to eat Joey). Cole arrives in the messy living room, sometimes whining, sometimes barking. He is very excited to be invoked by the yummy looking bird. (is anyone still sleeping? I seriously doubt it...) Merry Merry Ho Ho Ho.....

After shushing the dog, I give up the decorating to write you all this quickie note.

Despite the chaos, Christmas is and will always be my Favorite Time of Year. No matter what. (and please make a note of this -- I might forget...)

And back, for a moment, on to the quote trail...
"Our way is not soft grass, it's a mountain path with lots of rocks. But it goes upwards, forward, toward the sun." (Dr. Ruth Westheimer -- (no laughing please).)

"All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don't sit looking at it----walk." (Ayn Rand)

"put one foot in front of the other. And soon you are walking out the door...." (can't remember -- was it Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? somewhere on the way to the island of misfit toys?)

and finally, "shut up and walk already". Me.

Merry Christmas, part one. May all your decorating go smoothly.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Well, as you may have read in the Shout Outs, we lost the game. Not by much, I must add, and although it was disappointing, the boys had an incredible experience that not many 13 year olds will share. It was a truly awesome way to close the door on 7 years of Pee Wee football -- for all of us.

And just to let you know, we were the underdog team this year. We had a horrible start for a thousand reasons: injuries, illnesses -- we took on new players and said goodbye to others we counted on in the past. Although we had "been a contender" in years gone by, this year our future looked grim from the very start. We went into the playoffs ranked #4 in our league (I think the lowest we had ever sunk). And that's when the unexpected began to unfold. We eliminated the #1 team in the first round of playoffs. We went on to beat the #2 team to become the AFL champions. And we went to the Superbowl. Against all odds. We were in fact the first #4 team to ever make it all the way to the Superbowl. Wow.

And I have to say that our football experience has been amazing in many ways. What a great way for our little boys to become young men--their battles on the football field so like life in many ways. No guarantees. Show up and play your best game. Play hard until your time runs out. Enjoy life's victories, and face defeat with grace. Stand together -- no one makes it into the end zone unless everyone does his job. Everyone, no matter how small, is imperative to the group. If you get knocked over, get up and get back in the game. They may beat you this quarter, but you'll get 'em next time. Perservere. Dig in. Push Through. Never Surrender. And most importantly: Anything is possible. Anything.

But now it's over. Really over. No more Pee Wee football for us. The end of an era. I can't begin to describe my grief. It is actually surprising me -- the football time commitment is overwhelming, especially for my husband. We are notoriously overextended during football season and breathe a sigh of relief when it ends just in time for Christmas. (Well at least I do) But not this year. Because this year there isn't a "we'll get 'em next year" or a "see you in a couple of months". There's a goodbye this time. A big one. Heavy is that door that closes on the past. We can look through the window, but we may never pass through it again.

My fellow football mom captured our hearts when she wrote a note to all of us that I am printing here with her permission:

It's early Saturday morning before the big game. Everyone is still asleep in my house, while I'm sitting here writing to you with tears rolling down my face & my heart breaking.

I can't help but think everything I do today, is "One last time". Whether it be checking for Patriot e-mail, OCJAAF updates, washing practice pants, jerseys, under armor & girdles, etc., making sure the player contract book is updated & ready....dress Jenna in red, white, & blue, load up the megaphones & cowbell. One last time.

Sure, there is high school, but we all know, it will never be the same again. The end of our SOC Patriots era is over after tonight. I can't stop the tears. Only in youth football, do Mom's sit along the sidelines to watch their babies grunt, sweat, & hear the shoulder pads make that loud crack when they come in contact with another player. And the boys like it! Could you imagine, us doing it in high school? The boys would cringe. The tears of joy & sorrow we have shared on the sidelines. Watching our sons grow up to be awesome young men. No, after tonight, it will never be the same. We will go on to new experiences, new friendships, but it will never be the same as Patriot football.

I know I will be fine & move on after all the dust settles. But today, my dear Patriot sisters, although my heart is breaking I will forever hold all of your dear & close to my heart.

I love you.

Wouldn't you know it -- all the places I looked for God, and he was right there on the sidelines with us all along. Thanks for your note, Ruby. We love you, too. "blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." I am so going to miss you all.

I'm closing with a piece of a Radio Disney tune that actually made me cry today (once again proving I am a big dork...)

"...come tomorrow it'll be

so yesterday, so yesterday

I'm just a bird who's already flown away..."