Saturday, October 20, 2007

Counting mercies

Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies.

-Charles E. Jefferson (1860-1937)

Why do we put the years of birth and death after someone's name when we quote them? I have never understood that. Maybe it's an identifier, like using your birth date in place of your social security number. Maybe it makes the quote that much more impactful to know that it was said by someone who is now dead, or that by calculating the years in their life we may be able to calculate their level of quote worthiness, or perhaps they died young and those little parentheses disclose their great wisdom...beyond their years. Whatever the reason, I am not one to break with tradition. Charles E. Jefferson was born in 1860.....and died in 1937. Amen.

I have been inspired (by a magazine, lest you feel impressed at my depth of character,) to begin compiling a list of things that I am grateful for.

I have said before that gratitude is our first and best defense against the cancer of bitterness and anger. And so now, I open wide and swallow heaping spoonful of my own medicine.

I am pleased to introduce Counting Mercies. A compelling compilation of incredibly ordinary things in my life that make it worth the trip; intentionally starting the week in the right direction, no matter what loops and u-turns await in the days ahead. So, join the parade. Compile your own catalog of gratitude and email the link to me on Sunday or Monday: collectingraindrops at gmail dot com and I will link. Some weeks it will be a great big list, other days a few words or a paragraph. There's almost no rules. I think it will be good for the heart, as "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone." -G. B. Stern (1890-1973)

Our inaugural theme:

Organic Gratitude

Some things I am grateful for:

1. Farmers that grow pumpkins in expansive fields, with the mountains and trees in regal attendance.
2. The Universal Hi Sign of touching noses.
3. The magic in a little red wagon that slows the minutes and helps us one remember the joys of childhood, even when it has lost it's appeal.
4. The first snow of the season, and how it blankets the gritty, indulgent air of summer. I think the fall and winter must be more conservative, the way the earth covers herself up and the way the trees change their attire for a more formal affair.

5. Pumpkins as big as Buicks.

6. White Christmas Chili on a cold evening.

7. Children of friends, whom I love, tell me that I am their favorite. And I believe them...and let them eat cupcakes for dinner.

8. Pansies, shivering in their baskets, still bloom and flaunt their purple faces in the snow.

9. The biting breeze that begs for ladies to festoon their wardrobe with long, bright scarves, so that it looks like we are playing dress up right out in front of the world.

10. Maple leaves and Ash trees in their deepening hues.

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Journey

Today's Hmmm... is to write about The Journey--a trip you've taken and returned from, changed. I wanted to write about the summer days spent on Grandmother and Granddad's farm, the delicious squish between my toes as I walked barefoot through the cow pastures; swimming in the Olympic sized water trough; sneaking bites of Grandmother's Home Made From Scratch Lemon Meringue Pie with Granddad until half of it was gone and then covering the gaping hole in the pie pan with the meringue as if she wouldn't notice... Or maybe about our trip to the doctor's office last week for check ups and flu shots, and how we also got headaches and and new creative ideas on how to inforce militant restrictions for our oldest daughter who locked herself in the bathroom at the dr's office and refused to emerge....even after the office had closed for the day. (Note to said dr's office: Keep keys to ALL locks in the office, lest someone require retrieving if they, say, have a heart attack behind a locked door, or lock themselves in the bathroom and spew loud and slanderous dialog at their parents for inflicting potential flu shot upon their person.)

I wanted to write about those things, until I took a trip last night to our neighborhood school.

I volunteer for a non profit organization that teaches children, parents, school staff and administration, and community members how to be proactive in protecting children from bully assault, sexual assault, and stranger abduction. Yesterday, we were asked to serve my daughters' school, my school, my community.

Unfortunately, my community has been affected by multiple incidents of sexual assault on a child over the last several months and the parents in our neighborhood are reeling...understandably so.

I walked into the room last night and sat on the last row. The school had brought in two different organizations as resources for the families affected and for our community as a whole. The pain and anger in the room were palpable and at times overwhelmed the good intentions of the administration and the charitable organizations there to help.

Families are mad at other families, parents are whispering within earshot of their children, the children know what's going on they're just not sure how to reconcile the information they've been given and they're acting out the chaos they feel on their peers.

It was one of the most agonizing things I have ever sat through. Parents and teachers so sad and wringing their hands at the fate of the children. Were steps taken to ensure their safety? Are we really changing the way these things are handled so that words like "oral sex" and "penetration" and "molestation" do not become part of the third grade vocabulary.

There was yelling and angry, accusatory remarks thrown at the administration and at parents of other children. Parents want to know who is ultimately responsible. Who is getting fired? Who can they hurt as badly their families are hurting right now? Whose head do they get on a platter? Since there are multiple under age offenders, there must be someone who is offending them, and they MUST be at the school. The parents are on a witch hunt. One father said, "I need some closure. I need someone to hand this off to."

There is no "handing it off," Dillweed. Your kid needs you to stand up and shoulder this with him. (disclaimer: Dillweed is not an official term, nor is name calling an official practice of the upstanding non profits associated with this situation.)

The national statistics are these:

  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.
  • 70% of all rapes are commited against children.
  • 90% of childhood sexual abuse is committed by a known and trusted adult or adolescent.

Childhood sexual assault cannot be pinpointed on a map. It is not relegated to seedy sections of society. It cannot be labeled by color, race, ethnicity, social status, or income bracket. It is a putrid canker that thrives on secrecy and shame. Pedophiles need their victims to be silent, scared, and uninformed in order for abuse to be successful.

As parents, it is our responsibility to seek out as much information as we can get our hands on, to be vigilant about who our children are exposed to, and to inform and empower our kids about their rights as individuals. We are their first defense, but it is important that they are a member of the prevention team. We cannot send them out, blindly onto a battlefield of which they are unaware.

We have a long and arduous road ahead of us in my community. I am hopeful that as the wounds begin to scab over, and the emotions are a little less raw, we will be able to come together to form a healthy barricade for our children.

Please seek out information on Assault Prevention. Here are some good places to start:

Blue Sky Bridge

Child Assault Prevention

Monday, October 15, 2007

Proliferating Metaphors

The lovely Emily at Wheels on the Bus has sent me a bundle of light and airy interview questions. And I thank you, Emily, for keeping them light and airy. Emily is a wonderful writer. I encourage you to go check out her blog after you finish here. (And hurry. She deletes her archives quite regularly.)

1) If your dog could type, what is one thing he would tell us about your household that you would probably be unlikely to reveal?
I hate mopping and it shows. I vacuum daily (or intend to vacuum daily,) in order to keep the population of Nate-hair-tumbleweeds down, but beware the suspicious, sticky, dark spot on the linoleum.

2) What is one thing you take way too seriously?
Indignant Eye rolling. When one of my girls (or God forbid, my husband,) get irritated at my endless "nagging" at them to pick up their shoes, dishes, socks, books, toys, back packs, etc, etc, etc... they *sigh* which is annoying in and of itself, and then, if they are feeling especially daring, they roll their eyeballs around in their sockets. I've been known to come unhinged and hand out ridiculous punishments: No TV for a month; No talking to friends-not even at school; No breathing for the next 1/2 hour... It must be hard to take me seriously.

3) If you were writing a book about your life thus far, what would be the penultimate (second to last) paragraph?

This is a hard question for me, since I feel like I am mid spin on a rickety carnival ride called "The Holy Shit Tilt A Whirl"...

Pete Seeger and Ecclesiastes boast, “There is a season for every purpose under Heaven…” For better or worse, I am trudging through the bitter siege of winter and if I close my eyes very tightly, I can smell the breath of spring. It is the promise that spurs me forward. And though I am not alone on my journey, I know the mountains are mine to climb. Equipped with the proper shoes--appropriate footwear is the only way one will make it through,-- I am fairly confident that the first quiet moments will find me worn, but not broken. I am ever so eager to trade my Tattered, Trudging Boots for Dancing Shoes.

4) Tell us about one person in your extended family who has gone through something difficult and is now relatively happy with his/her life.
My Grandmother (on the other side of the family from my pedophile grandfather) was married to my Granddad for over forty years. They had four sons, my Dad being the eldest. They struggled financially, circumnavigated the globe following Granddad's job(s), put all four boys through college.
Grandmother cut off contact with her sister and brother more than 30 years ago and those fences have never mended. She clung to Granddad and he held her up. They were a commensurate compliment to one another; strength where the other was weak, reasonable when the other was rash, in love when the other was ready to throw in the towel. I've heard it said, the key to a successful marriage is "to never fall out of love at the same time." I think they subscribed to this school of thought.
Granddad had a stroke while repairing the roof of an elderly neighbor. He died three days later. Grandmother was left a Pillar with no Foundation.
She moved from her small Texas town to live close to her sons. She had her hip replaced at the age of 73 and decided it was time for her to give up snow skiing.
She still travels all over the US to visit friends from all those years ago when she and Granddad were chasing down jobs and raising their boys. In fact, she is, at the moment, in Italy with one of those friends.
She misses Granddad everyday. She talks about him every time I see her. She openly clings to the promise of being reunited with him, one day. And until that day, she's having a Hell of a time!

5) Do you sing well and what do you like to sing? (Alternate question: how does music impact your life?)

If music is water, then I am in a perpetual rainy season. I dream in music. I pray in song. My thoughts are accompanied by a constant soundtrack.

I love to sing. People around me don’t always love to hear me sing, but if they happen to be in the shower with me, or in my car, or within 20 feet of my car when I have the sunroof open, TOO BAD.

My 10 year old told me, the other day, that I should audition for American Idol, but that I couldn't embarrass her on national television by wearing any ridiculous clothes or hairstyles or saying anything stupid, and on second thought, maybe I shouldn't audition.

Thanks, again, Emily, for the thoughtful questions. If any one of you would like some questions from me, just let me know in the comments on this post.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina…The Truth is, I’m Really Wimpy

Oh my…
I do hate sighing. It causes one’s shoulders to droop in such a way that communicates, “I’ve nearly collapsed under the superficial weight of my petty troubles, but not quite. I’m simulating braveness and carrying on despite my ridiculous worries. And I am proclaiming my pre-martyrdom with exhalation.” Cue worried looks and artificial admiration, and some applause from the back, if you please.


Last week, I took an unintentional “Bloggy Break”, as Christine called it.

I didn’t get to sit down and write ONCE. Can you believe it? And crabby? Honey! I was tetchy, like MY writing time was being stolen from me by laundry and doctors appointments and children who needed nourishment and encouraging. *sigh*

But I persevered through the Unjust Jungle of Errands and Odd Jobs. I return haggard, in serious need of a haircut and eyebrow wax, and pathetically self piteous.

In truth, it was my fault. Poor time management. Please don’t tell my 10 year old, as Time Management is one of the sermons in syndication around this house. And I, being the Empress of Efficiency—as far as she’s concerned, am the Principal Pulpiter.

So, thank you for your patience. Check back this week as I’ll be regaling you with tales of Flu-Shot-Showdowns and my realization that the delicate flower that is my sister is wrought from iron and still dizzyingly beautiful-the beginning of a difficult and necessary story.
Here’s to Literary Liberties and Blogging Bliss.