Monday, June 22, 2009


Sometimes the way we move about each other feels choreographed, we've been practicing it so long. It is a good kind of dance, where your partner seems to have mastered the steps and knows right when to lead, when to dip, when to spin, how to maneuver you just right so you feel as if this dance is really effortless.

It probably doesn't happen enough - most of the time, we fight to take the lead, would rather grapevine when our partner wants to cha-cha, and just when one person is warming up to the dance, the other just wants to take a seat and have a drink. But there are days when everything clicks into place and we're primarily interested in the welfare of each other rather than our own interests. This makes all of the difference.

Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to Love God and to Love one another, but most of the time, we are wrapped up in numero uno - what can I get, who's serving me, how am I being left out here, what wrong has been done to me, me me me. As Toby Keith (that fountain of wisdom) has said, "I wanna talk about me, I wanna talk about I wanna talk about #1 oh my, me, my what I think what I like what I know what I want what I see..." That is where I reside most of the time, unfortunately, and also most unfortunately, this is where we are most unhappy.

But when we start getting down to the basics of loving God and loving one another, when we start turning our eyes outward to our fellow human beings as opposed to focusing on our own inner wants and needs, suddenly all of those wants and needs are minimalized and we can see the world much clearer. I think we tend to slip into a cross-eyed vision - not only can we only see the end of our noses, even that ends up distorted.

So back to this dance thing. It is necessary to practice the steps every day. Somedays, we'll be full of grace, our relationships will seem effortless yet meaningful, and we'll end the day content and relaxed. Other days, the dance is all work and no fun at all - your partner is difficult and so are you, but you have to suck it up, pour them a cup of tea too, determine to be happy that they switched the load of laundry and folded the whites even though the shirts aren't creased the way you'd like and the socks are all in balls rather than tucked neatly together. Because the basics Jesus taught, love God and love one another, aren't about feelings. It is about choice. Obedience. Commandment. These are conscious decisions, not flutters of heartstrings.

The next time you watch "So You Think You Can Dance," remember, those steps that look so effortless, the way the partners seem to glide across the floor as if they are one, that took hours of grueling effort, sweat, and patience. Let's invest that kind of energy into our relationships, so we can move as if we are one.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pancake Saturdays

This isn’t your everyday Bisquick pancake;
we follow the supreme recipe.
My daughter begs to stir and measure
milk and mix. Crack an egg,
warm the griddle, summer whispering
through the open window –
slow rise, tea pot whistle, cooking oil sizzle –
the rest of the day impatient
to begin, percolating our morning –
Is it ready yet? No, we need more
time to spoon the sweetness in.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Potty Training Adventures

I have never been so proud of bowel movements.

We began potty training our son, Elvis, a few weeks ago. We eased him into the process with the convenient yet pointless Pull-Ups and their sneaky tricks to entice you into buying boxes and boxes of them under the guise of "potty training" when really, they are just absorbent underwear, diapers without velcro tabs. Annoying.

So after messing around with the Pull-Ups for a while, we decided to go all out. It was time to buy the underwear. Naturally, we made a big deal out of the "big boy" undies and their manly navy blue with baseballs and basketballs all over them, snagging a box of Disney Pixar Cars underwear for after he goes in the potty -- "Now you get to wear the REALLY COOL underwear!!!!" And thus, the pants-wetting began.

It was slow going at first - lots of walking around in wet pants as if nothing at all happened down there between his legs. We escorted him off to the bathroom every 30 minutes, kept him in his underwear and a t-shirt all day (no sense wearing pants during this process, people), and did our best to stay patient and calm... after all, this is a big deal, this potty business.

Some people have begun potty training their kids as soon as they can sit up, and I have to admit I'm amazed and envious. How?! The child can't even feed himself but we're pooping in the potty? Amazing. Absolutely amazing. We have not been so motivated - infancy was a time reserved for bewilderment and frustration ("Why is he/she crying now?!"), and adding in random and unpredictable trips to the bathroom to prop my head-bobbing child on a potty seat just wasn't going to happen. I am certain I would have let them tumble into the toilet. I know these things about myself.

Our goal has been to potty train the kids before two hits - that momentous occasion when children decide that everything their parents have ever wanted them to do was the most ridiculous idea they've ever heard, a phase that lasts approximately until the children have children. Elvis will be two in August, and we have many a vacation and road trip and wedding to attend in the next few months, so it was now or never.

There have been many marshmallows promised in exchange for pee. Bribery is not a tactic of which I am proud, but sometimes you have no choice - half a marshmallow for pee, a whole marshmallow for poop. The kid will have diabetes by the time he is three. The first time our son finally peed on the potty, it took him ten minutes of sitting there, resisting sitting there, and then being somewhat pinned to the potty seat by mean old Mom, but once E succumbed, crying, to having to pee on the seat, there was much rejoicing. I think I screamed. Hooray, Elvis! Great job little man! Elvis peed on the potty! Weeee! Lots of this sort of thing.

The first go-around is the hardest - breaking down the fear and confusion, dissolving the idea that pee and poop in the pants is the way we've always done it, what's wrong with it, what's the big deal - these are the barriers that must be overcome. Much like any bad habit or sin, the first phase is denial - there's nothing wrong with what I'm doing. And then we move into grief - mourning the fact that I have to give up the ability to go whenever I want, however I want... even though it stinks, literally. Later, there's repentance - okay, okay, I get it, it would be better for you and me if I did things your way. And finally, reward - we begin to see the benefits and advantages of doing things God's way... or the big boy way, in Elvis's case.

And it appears as if we have arrived. Tonight, Elvis pooped in the potty for the first time, ever. A momentous occasion - one wildly celebrated by everyone in the house. Marshmallows for everyone!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Readings and Reading

This weekend, I had the great joy of reading at the Columbus Arts Festival. You never know with poetry readings - there could be dozens of people, or there could be one: your husband. Fortunately for me, the Columbus Arts Festival drew thousands of people, and a few of those folks stopped to linger around the poetry tent as I read at 3:20 on Saturday. It was a great experience, and a beautiful day. The festival was huge! I hope to be able to read there again next year.

The rest of the weekend was spent with friends and family - the best way to spend the weekend. Friday, we went to my parents' campsite and enjoyed brats and good conversation around a campfire. We drove up to Akron on Sunday for a graduation party and to spend some time with Brandon's family. I love being close enough to both sets of grandparents - the kids adore their grandparents. We are so fortunate to have great relationships with all of them. I know most families do not have that support system built in.

I'm on significant revision #3 of Sustenance, the working title of my first full-length collection of poems, and it is on its way to three generous readers. I still feel a bit ridiculous referring to myself as a "poet" - I just don't take myself seriously enough - but that feeling is beginning to fade a bit.

My library books are due this Thursday, so it's time to report on a collection of poems I have been reading, In the Middle Distance by Linda Gregg.

Anyhow, the more I've read from In the Middle Distance, the more I've enjoyed Linda Gregg's work. This is a poet I should be reading - I can connect with lines like, "I fell in love. I believed people. And even now I love the yellow light shining down on the dirty brick wall." (from Staying After), and from "Marfa," "I keep thinking that if I go alone into the size of this silence, we can straighten things out. To know what to question, and what to believe. How to let my heart split open. To print in clear light the changing register of this grand world." Gregg is poking around in my territory - that land where the natural meets the spiritual and the human meets the divine - and finding joy, complexity, sorrow. There is also a lot of reflection and looking back on the past here, finding peace and love enough to reconcile all of the waiting and hurt. This is most evident in "Arriving Again and Again without Noticing". She ends with "I finally fell in love with all of it: dirt, night, rock and far views. It's strange that my heart is as full now as my desire was then." Really beautiful work.

I'm looking forward to tracking down more of her books.