Friday, December 24, 2010

Keeping Christ in Christmas

There's a lot of chatter every year about keeping Christ in Christmas, getting back to the real meaning of Christmas, etc., which is all well and good if that means peace on Earth, good will towards men. But sometimes that call, to keep Christ in Christmas, sounds like Scrooge and the Grinch to me.

Every year we debate about how much we're going to spend, what type of gift exchange we're going to do, what each family is expecting, and how we're going to make it happen. There's griping about cleaning and wrapping and cooking and shopping and traveling. We fuss and fume about the ribbons and tags, packages, boxes, and bags. Grinchiness doesn't translate well into any kind of wish for joy to the world.

In one of Peter's letters, he encourages believers to, "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms."

Rather than talk about keeping Christ in Christmas, when I start slipping into complaining mode, I need to remind myself to keep Christ in me. The most important commandments laid out by Jesus were to love God and love one another. There are several ways we can carry out the command to love one another-- there's gift giving, spending quality time together, hugs and kisses, saying nice things to each other, and doing nice things for each other. Keeping Christ in Christmas means whatever we do, whether eating or drinking, gift giving, donating, serving food at a shelter, hosting a party, etc., that we do it as if it were God himself we were serving.

Sometimes family are the easiest group of people to get all up in a fuss about, mostly because they are stuck with us. It'd be great if we could learn to treat our loved ones as if they are really loved ones. Maybe we can extend the same grace and peace to the people who are stuck with us as we try to extend to those who don't know us any better.

I'm starting to get preachy ;) so before I go, I have one more verse that's been rattling around in my head the last few days. Ever wonder what Jesus has to say about gift-giving?

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:7-11)

May you be filled with the Holy Spirit, who makes it possible to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mama and Papa Bear vs. Parents of Three-Year-Olds

I've heard other women talk many times about when their kid has been slighted, or insulted, or teased, or ignored and their reactions to it, but I've never really related. Until now.

Out of the blue the other night during dinner, Elvis said, "My friends say I'm not growing." It's true that Elvis is the smallest and youngest in his preschool class. He's always been on the smaller side-- he's just about the cutest little man ever-- and it's likely that he'll always be on the smaller side. But HOW DARE THEY?! What provokes a group of three-year-old boys to tease another boy?

Back when I was dreaming about making babies all of the time, I couldn't wait to pick out cute outfits, sing and rock the baby to sleep, make googly faces at it, carry it around, give it a bottle, and keep it baby-sized forever (kind of sounds like my four-year-old daughter's version of mothering). This part of parenting never occurred to me. Not once did it cross my mind that I'd have to come up with a response to a sad little boy whose just been teased about something that is completely out of his control (aside from not eating his vegetables). It immediately made me think of the things that had been said or done to me as a child, the insults or teasing that shaped my personality. Remembering how that made me feel sent a mad mother bear fury into the pit of my stomach. And he's just three. We've got another few decades' worth of being almost completely defenseless when it comes to what happens to him at school in his peer groups.

To be affected so quickly and emotionally by the plight of my son at preschool makes me realize how much restraint God the Father had to have on his Son's behalf. I'm ready to track down the parents of my son's friends and give them a good talkin' to about manners and what they say at home and where did your son learn to talk like that, etc., etc., and there's Jesus, beaten, bullied, taunted by people while hanging on a cross. "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

But in light of Jesus' example, what do you tell your kid? Go on the defense? Teach him some retorts ("Well, I might be small but I'm smarter than you! And cuter!")? Tell him to go straight to the teacher? Tell him to punch them in the face (mmm, probably not.)? Ignore it? How do you teach your kid to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute you?

I guess we have to show them how to do that. I guess we need to avoid teasing and making fun of people in our own homes, pray for people who have done us wrong or who don't understand us, and hope that God will work on our hearts as much as theirs. We can't control how other kids are going to be raised and how that upbringing will affect us, just like we can't control other people's actions. We can control our reactions.

May God give us the strength and courage to not punch our enemies in the noses or hunt down their parents with some mama and papa bear fury.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Blogging. About Blogging.

I follow this guy, Jon Acuff, blogger at Stuff Christians Like, on Twitter and via RSS feed (Which I love, by the way. Who came up with this stuff? Sending someone's journal entries straight to my Outlook mailbox so that I know when they've been updated? Awesomeness.), and this guy is just great. I laugh, I cry, I nod, I smile. Mostly, though, I am amazed at the sheer quantity of material he is putting out there, in both blog and book form.

Since my last post way back on November 17, I've been saying to myself, Sarah, you should blog about this. Or this. Or this. And here we are, three weeks later, writing a short blog entry about how I haven't been blogging but this guy Jon has been and man, he's great.

And now it is December, Christmas is a mere 17 days away, and the list of things to do, places to be, and sleep to be had just keeps growing. I miss blogging. I miss writing poetry. (Last time I wrote a poem? Mmmm September.) Is there hope? January, maybe? We'll see.

In the meantime, check out Jon Acuff. He's pretty neat-o.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Evening Routine

A few weeks ago, I realized my quality time with my kids has been looking something like this:
  • "Go play in the basement while I make dinner."
  • "Eat your dinner!" "Eat it!" "Eat the rest!"
  • "You guys want to watch a show?"
  • "Okay, bedtime. Quick, pick a short story. Now sleep."

It would be easy to blame first trimester symptoms of exhaustion, but sadly, I think the habit started before I started to feel so worn out, when the temperatures started to drop and the sun started to set earlier.

I had been wondering why Lydia was so whiny lately. I think the breakthrough came for me one Friday (the day that I have off each week to spend time with the kids) when, at 5 p.m., Lydia asked me to play a game with her, and I said that I had to start dinner. She erupted into tears, saying, "You haven't done anything with me all day long!" It was true: I had spent the day telling her and Elvis to go find something else to do while I put away clothes, cooked food, changed loads of laundry, folded clothes, etc. Way back when I had decided to take Fridays off, I thought, "Yes! A whole extra day to spend with my kids," and here I was trying to get all of these chores checked off my list while they tried to entertain themselves. And you know how well that works-- best friends one second, mortal enemies the next.

Of course I need to do laundry, and clean the floors, and put away dishes, and make beds. These things have to happen. But guess who's really, really eager to do anything I ask as long as we're doing it together? My kids. So I've been trying to engage them when I need to get some things done on the weekends.

When it comes to the evenings, I've set a new rule: no shows. The TV is staying off when I'm home. There's a window of two and a half hours in which I have to invest in my munchkins, and we really don't need to spend it with mouths gaping and eyes glazed over staring at a movie. My love language is quality time, and nothing says love to me like playing Candy Land, bingo, or dominoes, putting together a puzzle, coloring, or reading books together. There's time for zoning out on the couch after they go to bed. Unless we're sick, and then, okay, movie. Or weekend night. There's going to be exceptions, obviously. The point is, these are my KIDS. I want them to know that they are important, that they are a priority in my life, and that they are loved.

The payoff is huge.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Twelve Apples and a Blog

Twelve shiny, locally grown apples are sitting on my kitchen counter ten feet away next to the cutting board, apple corer, slow cooker and paring knife. Fortunately, they are all inanimate objects who can only beckon with their glaring presence. But I have a hot cup of apple cider, James Taylor Pandora Radio, and a blog I haven't updated in over a month because I have been TIRED, BUSY, and PREGNANT.

There, I said it. Come on people, if you know me AT ALL you know how hard it is for me to keep anything a secret. In spite of our miscarriage history, I've always announced pregnancies within a week of finding out myself. I just can't keep it in! How women can go without knowing they are pregnant for months is a mystery to me... I feel like every pore of me seeps out pregnancy hormones for any human being to sniff in the air the minute I find out. I have a radioactive glow that shifts to a pale-ish green around 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and then again around 8 p.m. It's so friggin' obvious that I'm pregnant, I don't even need to say anything.

Of course, the people that I did tell early on knew it long before I said anything. And you want to know why? TWO people in different circles said they kind of figured, since I didn't want a glass of wine that one night a few weeks ago. This says something about me that I won't point out because we're not talking about wine tonight.

This is my seventh pregnancy and probably my last. BW and I figured this time, maybe we would spare ourselves and everyone else the uncomfortable, "We're pregnant!/We're not pregnant anymore" fun, so we tried to keep it to ourselves. It was really hard the first few days, for all of the reasons I mentioned above (the radioactive glowing, etc.), but then I got excited about having a secret that only my husband and God knew about. That rarely happens - I'm just not a very private person.

My landmark requirement was hearing a heartbeat on the Doppler stethoscope (no, I didn't remember the name of that device all on my own), because we've never gotten that far and lost a baby. Every night for a week leading up to the appointment, I had vivid dreams about losing the baby - miscarrying here, there, and everywhere. It needed to stop. I'm grateful for the prayers of a couple people that I'm convinced helped the dreams end-- the night before my appointment, I dreamt of an ultrasound showing that it was a girl, and that all was healthy and fine. I needed that.

This past Monday, I heard that fast-paced swishswish. My doctor, who has been through each of my pregnancies with me too, might have been as relieved as me. I'll be 11 weeks tomorrow :)


Hearing that heartbeat seemed to give BW and me permission to breathe again. In the past seven weeks, we didn't talk a whole lot about being pregnant, I think in a self-preservation effort. While I began developing all of the first-trimester symptoms of pregnancy, we carried on with our lives as normal. Now we have enough to cling to in order to give in to hope. And we're ready to share that hope for new life with others, able to rejoice, if not cautiously and prayerfully, together.

So that's why I haven't gotten around to making my homemade applesauce.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm Going Pro-Joy

Almost everyone I know has a cause of some kind -- Save the Planet, Pro-Choice, Rally for Democracy, Evangelize America, Tax the Wealthy, Go All-Organic, Buy American, Conceal and Carry, Grow Your Own ______, Weight Lift, Save Your Money -- you get the drift.

What has been bothering me, though, is that most of the time the passionate cause-people come off totally pissed that you aren't for their cause, or angry that the rest of the world can't see whole grain truth. When pro-lifers start protesting and shouting outside Planned Parenthood clinics, it makes me cringe and wish I didn't have to associate myself with pro-lifers. But I am pro-life. I just don't like to scream.

So what I propose is that people adopt joy as their number one cause. It's impossible to have joy and be pissed about how your neighbor won't give up eating a cow. Because joy radiates out from love, joy doesn't need to get all red in the face every time a sports star humiliates his hometown. I'd like to see some people who are certain about what they believe, who can give a reason for the hope they have, to simply believe those things, talk about their beliefs with humility and compassion, and embrace their passion in joy, rather than frustration.

I have never been swayed by someone screaming in my face. But in a casual conversation, a good friend and colleague of mine mentioned that his wife was the only person he knew who was both pro-life and anti-death penalty. It was said with admiration for his wife, who embodies this joy-passion formula, not with angst that the rest of the world hasn't embraced this same belief. And it made me think about the connection between these two causes, something I'd never given much thought to before.

The fact of the matter is the whole world is never going to be on the same page with me, and the whole world is never going to agree with you whole-heartedly about everything you believe. I have some really firm beliefs about humanity and faith, but I am learning more about myself, humanity, nature, faith, relationships, etc., to know that these beliefs need to be malleable. I need to be able to have an open ear and an open heart, to be able to speak AND listen, to be humble, consider, test, and evaluate what is going on in the world around me. And respond appropriately.

It isn't good to lock my beliefs in a box. Especially without any breathing holes or access to water and food. My philosophy of life should be permitted to grow and develop, and I should be allowed to retract a few of those beliefs I stood so firmly on several years ago.

But if we do not have "ears to hear," we might as well slip away into our causes so we can stand around nodding and agreeing with our like-minded peers all day long, content to remain just as we are-- ticked off that the rest of the world doesn't get it. Whatever "it" is.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lifestyle Changes

This fall, I am doing this crazy thing: I am taking off every Friday. That's right people, four-day work week until 2011. There are two huge payoffs to this schedule. First, the work week is packed, and I mean PACKED, with stuff to do. I'm not really one to sit around waiting for someone to tell me what to do anyway, but knowing that I have one less day a week to get everything done that typically needs to be done is a fabulous motivator to get in gear. Second, my weekends are almost as long as my work weeks. Obviously, right? But think about the difference between 5/2 and 4/3. It's significant. The amount of reading/family/resting/traveling/visiting/occasionally cleaning time I have just increased by 33%.

The original motivation for this schedule was financial. In the fall, my husband travels for work every weekend, and rather than have the kids in daycare every Friday while he flies or drives away, we figured we could save several thousand dimes by taking Fridays off. But I think if I have my way, I'll keep this up every fall, regardless of what my husband's schedule is.

The other new thing happening this fall is DATE NIGHT. Do you know the magic of these two words? I'd like to post a banner across every doorway in every home with DATE NIGHT on it. Since BW is gone from Thursday through Sunday most weeks and I work Monday through Thursday, the chance the two of us would be alert and engaged together at any point during the week was slim. So one weekday night each week, we have our faithful babysitter over, kiss the kids goodnight and wish them happy mac and cheese meals, and dash out the door for any destination other than our house.

So far, we've enjoyed golfing, going to an Indians game, a movie, and dinner together. Next Tuesday the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra is coming to Ashland, so we're going to go to that. DATE NIGHT was the best idea anyone ever gave to us, I think. I might be overly enthusiastic about this whole thing, but this is one more new change that, if I have my way, will never disappear from our budget. We might have to be more frugal in our DATE NIGHT selections, but I do not want to lose this time with my husband. It's like we're married and not just the parents of our joint children!

I just finished the book, Outliers: The Story of Success, which was quite good and quite interesting. As I was talking to someone about it, he asked me whether it changed my definition of success. Not really, I said, it just shed some light on one kind of success. He asked whether a plumber can be considered to have led a successful life. Of course! That wasn't the kind of success Outliers studied - Outliers looks at the people we deem as extremely talented stars, geniuses, millionaires, etc., and how they got to be where they are. The success that Michael was talking about was what I think is better tagged "fulfillment." Can the plumber lead a fulfilling life? Absolutely. Fulfillment has less to do with monetary success and fame than it has to do with attitude.

I feel like my life is more fulfilling with these new changes - extra time with my kids, and extra time with my husband - because these are the relationships that make my life fulfilling. I would rather sacrifice 8% of my salary and $50 a week to spend this time with my family. It is a worthy investment whose return is priceless.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2010 MFA Reading

I bet you've been sitting on the edge of your seat for ages waiting for a new video of me reading my poetry. Well, you can kick back and relax now, because here it is. You might have to crank up your speakers. I don't think any of the poems I read have been posted on this site, so it's all new material for y'all.

2010 Reading by Sarah M. Wells at the Ashland University summer residency

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map

Someone is coming to look at our house tomorrow (during naptime, while BW is out of town, of course), so the kids and I have been tidying up tonight, and now we are watching Dora. Does anyone else question the value of shows like Dora?

"Do you see the volcano?" Pause. Pause.


Click! "That's right!"

Or... "Where are we going?" "Grampa's house!" "Where are we going?" "Grampa's house?" "Where are we going!" "Grampa's house?!" "Where are we going!!!" ".... Grampa's house!"

Gee, I wonder why my kids ask the same question a thousand times in a row and wait fifteen seconds before replying to my questions.

I don't believe in the value of the formulaic plot of this show. I guess I see how life is like a Dora episode: We have a destination, there are several obstacles, the goal is in sight, we need some supplies to get there, and all of our necessary supplies are tucked away in our singing backpack. Obviously.

And my kids love it! I don't get it. Maybe it's just that they are hypnotized by the colors on the screen. Maybe any multi-pixelated combination of bright colors would draw their attention.

I much prefer listening to the creation of their own fantasyland in which they pretend to be Grandma Rose and Pop-Pop, or Granny and Pop, or the Mother and the Son, or the Dog and the Cat, or some other role-playing scenario that catches their imaginations. Of course, I'm the one who turned the TV on so that I could quickly finish cleaning and write this blog. And after they go to bed, I'll turn on the computer and stare at Facebook for several hours.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Work in Progress

Here's something new I've been toying with. I think maybe the title is too heavy for the poem, but the previous title was "In the Woods," and that wasn't enough. I hate titles. Can I be Emily Dickinson and rely on the first line of each poem as the title? When I am dead and suddenly famous, y'all can chronologically order my poetry in a collected works and give them numbers. No more titles.

Knowledge of Good and Evil

I show my children the Mayapple,
lift its waxen umbrella for their eyes
to see its single flower. My mother’s
faraway warning steers us away
from three-leafed vines with a red dot
in the center. I use her firm grip
to turn my curious pair from their itch
to explore the woods beyond the path.
She told me, too, which berries
could be eaten on the border
of the forest where we scavenge
between the pin oaks, lift branches
heavy with the ripest fruit.

Maybe someday we will walk
through the shadows in the lane
of pines and my son will stop,
stoop down to lift an unknown
to me, give me a new world.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

True Confessions

It has been several weeks now since I've written any poems anywhere. I'm pretending that they are stored away in my brain just waiting for a moment to spill out onto the computer screen (because, let's face it, there's no such thing as putting pen to paper anymore). Surely there's some poem floating out there for me to write. Surely.

West Chester's Poetry Conference was good for me - I wrote three poems while I was there and edited a bunch, rearranged the manuscript that promises to never be finished, and devoured the advice and good counsel of other poets who served on panels and participated in the workshop with me. It was a jolly good time. And now. Now, I am all business and no time for writing or reading.

I'd like to take this opportunity to blame the sun. It is clearly the sun's fault that I haven't written anything. Also, the weeds in my flower garden. The caramel-colored paint on the walls in the dining room that insisted on being covered up by "Timeless Taupe," which was delighted to be stirred and rolled across the plaster (I heard it giggle while I worked). The eight games of Lexulous I inadvertently started and will perpetuate as long as my opponents accept. It is also clear that the spray park at the Kroc Center is forcing me to play with my kids in sprinklers all afternoon, thus purposefully distracting me from all poetic pursuits.

I will not be held responsible for the lack of poetry being generated today. Nope.

This obvious attempt by everything in the universe to divert my attentions away from rhyming couplets and iambs will continue throughout the weekend and at least another week. And then, the summer residency begins, and I will be surrounded by a legion of writers armed with laptops and collections of poetry to battle against the outside world. Writer's boot camp will at least inspire me to write something. Or drink. One of the two.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Baby Spoons and the Crust

A lot of thought-provokers happened today during my 30-minute lunch break, and I can't help but take a few minutes to reflect on them here before settling in with transcripts and info sheets and all of the other important tasks I have to do.

Are kids you know picky about sandwich crusts? Lydia is. Unless she's starving and there's a good deal of peanut butter smeared to the very end of the bread slice, she isn't interested in crusts. Today she polished off her PBH and left the crusts on her plate, asking if she could eat something else. We suggested the remaining pieces of her sandwich, but she wasn't THAT hungry. Meanwhile, Elvis sat staring at his plate with a PBJ cut in half, no bites taken and that face that says, "I really, really don't want to eat this, but if I make any move like I don't, I'll get sent to time out, again, so I guess I'll just sit here and stare at it." So Lydia asked if she could eat Elvis's sandwich, unaware that Brandon had used the ends of the bread to make his sandwich - only one side visible. We handed her the sandwich and she wolfed it down. All we could say to one another was, "Hilarious." And then, of course, the fact that Lydia had half of Elvis's sandwich was enough to send him into fits and sobs, even though (as previously stated) someone was about as anti-sandwich as vegans are anti-pork chop. We gave him back half of the sandwich and he went at it with the same enthusiasm Lyd had demonstrated over her quite crusty PBJ.

We don't really know what we want. Crusts or no crusts. Sandwich or no sandwich. A little bit of both. We're clueless, envious, subjective creatures.

After the PBJ episode, the kids were back to behaving like normal human beings. And then they began a conversation about heaven. We talk about heaven often--their day care place talks about heaven occasionally, and we've told them that Great Pop and Tex and the baby that was in mommy's belly (see previous post) are in heaven, so it comes up. Today's conversation started with Elvis saying, "Baby in heaven," and Lydia followed up by saying, "When the baby comes back from heaven and it grows up a little, it'll need baby spoons." Then they discussed between the two of them whether they wanted a baby boy or a baby girl.

I've often wondered whether children who do not make it to term have another go-around. It's all speculation what goes on, anyway, and why, and how, and when. Do I have four children hanging out with Jesus in heaven, waiting to meet me? Who knows? Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see, and probably this area of life--death and loss--requires the greatest amount of faith. And I believe - not in my own fantasies and musings about happy little people clinging to the robes of Christ, but in a loving, compassionate, patient, merciful, just, mysterious, and powerful God of the universe. I stand in awe of him. And because I believe these things and hope for what I cannot see, I can trust that whatever the circumstances, he is the great redeemer.

This past weekend was the first time Brandon and I talked about "the future" and "our plans" (God knows the plans he has for us... plans to prosper us and not harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future... and he chuckles at "our plans" all the time, I'm sure) since the miscarriage two weeks ago. I'm not ready to give up on more children, and he's not ready to say let's keep trying for more children, which leaves us contentedly undecided for the long term. This is our fourth miscarriage, and he's tired of this. I certainly don't enjoy going through this, either, but I guess I'm just less prepared to say enough. I can't retire my vision of our family as more-than-the-four-of-us. It is kind of nice to return to my own self - I like being able to exercise and feeling physically fit, and I like being able to have a drink now and again, and I like not being tired or anxious about whether everything's okay. But I'm happy to sacrifice the comforts of possessing my own body for nine+ months in order to have another little person in our family.

I had no response to Lydia and Elvis's dialogue, so we both just smiled and watched the two of them, and we hovered there in our land of indecision and longing. There's no real way to answer the question, "Why do you want to have more kids?" Is it because I'm wired to want to be fruitful and multiply? I don't know. I don't know why I want more children. I've heard it said, "You have a boy and a girl - that's perfect! You can be done!" as if that's the only reason people keep trying to have more kids - in order to have one of each gender. I could list off reasons why I want to have more and also the advantages to only having two. But would it really provide a solution or give additional clarity, like weighing the pros and cons? I don't know if it would. I think if I were told, you really shouldn't/can't have any more kids, I would be able to let it go, but no one has said this, except for the occasional insensitive person.

Like many forms of loss and grief, a miscarriage dominates your thoughts for an indeterminable period of time. For days, weeks, and sometimes months, the mom-to-be is focused on being a mom-to-be -- eating right, exercising right, sleeping well... and then, just like that, all of the energy put into thinking about being a mom is channeled elsewhere, and the first place it goes is into loss and grief. And that turns into questions and hypothetical situations, which turns into hunting for answers as to why this happened and sometimes evolves into blame - self, God, others, etc. And then we struggle and flounder about, gradually find other areas to channel thoughts, wrestle with God and what we believe about him and his involvement in our personal affairs, whether we believe him to be a good God or a cruel one, and what does that mean for the rest of my life? Sometimes we find rest and resolve and healing. I wonder how many of us just pack that grief into our hearts and hope that the wound will scab over if we bury it deep enough.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Explanation

The Explanation

The baby that used to be
in mommy's belly
is in heaven now
with Tex and Great Pop.
Heaven is far away,
beyond the clouds and sky,
even farther than the moon
and sun and stars. God
is in heaven, too, and Jesus,
who loves the little babies.
He lets them snuggle
in his arms the way I do
with you at night,
when we read our stories,
sing a song and talk to God
about being thankful,
even when it is difficult,
and we ask Him to bless us,
thank Him for blessings,
opportunities, and even
sufferings. I miss Tex
and wish the baby
was still in my belly, too,
but we'll see them again
someday. Someday.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Elasticity is Heaven

This weekend, I swapped out my winter clothes and the majority of my pants for the bin of maternity clothes. Hello, elastic waistbands! I am twelve weeks along now. It was nice to read on that many women, especially women who have been pregnant before, are likely to be wearing maternity clothes already. I'm in that wonderful phase of pregnancy where you look and feel fat rather than pregnant. The fat is indistinguishable from the pregnant. People don't ask women at this phase of pregnancy whether they are pregnant because we might just be binge eating or off of our exercise routine, which we are, but not just for the food and lazing about -- there's something else going on, too.

The good news is that I think I've turned the nausea corner and graduated into heartburn. I had never experienced heartburn until I was pregnant with Lydia. It was so bad I thought I was having a heart attack. Or something like it. I even went to urgent care. After everything tested just fine, the doc recommended I get some Pepcid AC. Who knew Pepcid cured chest pains? AMAZING. And now it is back, though not as bad as my first episode. It probably didn't help that I thought everything that happened during my pregnancy with Lydia was going to cause me to lose her. Anxiety does wonders for your physical health!

Speaking of Lydia, today is her fourth birthday. Fourth. I can't believe she is so old already! I can see that kindergarten is going to be a real shocker. We had a family party this weekend for her. She was thrilled to have her grandparents down for the day, as was Elvis. They have this obsession with showing people their rooms. Elvis won't stop asking "come see my room!" until everyone has gone up to see it. Lydia follows suit. I'm very glad that we live close enough to our parents that they can come visit for the day.

I have two poetry readings this weekend, one in Marion and one in Columbus. I haven't read in quite a while, it seems, so I'm feeling a little nervous about what to read. I have a difficult time selecting poems to read at these things. I am also having a difficult time finding a sitter for Friday night. So, if you know anyone...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mark Jarman Interview in Rattle Summer 2006

I've had a copy of the 25th issue of Rattle, a poetry literary journal, hanging out in my house for several months and finally picked it up to leaf through. This particular issue has a tribute to the best of Rattle as well as an interview with a poet I recently heard read at AWP in Denver. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I continue to wonder why I haven't read certain poets before. Mark Jarman is one of those poets. In the interviewregarding style and subject, Jarman says:

I might, at this point, be said to have a subject. I think of it as the intersection of, say, the word of God with the Godless world--what happens when you see and experience in your own life this moment when God seems to be at work. That's what I usually write about.

When I read things like this from other poets, my heart does this little flutter of excitement. It is a thrill to me to know that there are other poets writing out of this same ambition. I feel as if there is indeed a community of believers (or community of seekers, even) who find this intersection fascinating and critical, who do not believe that we are "past the age of myths", beyond a belief in God.

I purchased Unholy Sonnets in AWP this year and read the whole thing on the plane ride home. It's a lovely collection, one I couldn't put down. I think this is because I couldn't wait to hear what he would say next. The subject-matter thrills me. I hope to be able to meet or work with Jarman sometime in the future--perhaps at the West Chester Poetry Conference :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Size Six...

Buying size six pants for the first time since college is a sure sign that, this month, you are sure to become pregnant. It is inevitable--that kind of purchase and that kind of regimented diet and exercise are just the sort of thing easily laughed at in the face of pregnancy.

So rather than succumb to the forces of nature that dominate the first trimester and give up my size six dress pants, last week, while everyone else in my building was on spring break, I wore those dress pants every single day. Who knows when the next time size six will be a reality. Perhaps never!

It is early yet, six weeks in, and every day I wonder whether everything is okay (you know the routine), but we're just plain excited. My first doctor's appointment is next Wednesday. Due date is anticipated to be November 11, 2010 -- 11/11/10. My kids' birthdays are all like that - Lyd is 05/03/06, E is 08/09/07.

It's a good season.

I watched the last of the Beth Moore video series on the fruit of the spirit this week, and it addressed the verse that says, "Don't you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?" She addresses the physical fitness ramifications that surface through this verse, the fact that our physical bodies are the residence for the Spirit, and it made me think about the care and consideration I have for my body when I am pregnant vs. when I am not. I am extremely aware of every meal, the amount of water I drink, the amount of sleep and exercise I get, all when I am pregnant. When I am not? Eh, I eat. I drink. I merry. I need to remember that even when a physical person isn't dwelling inside me (weird), a spiritual being is, and he'd like the house to be in tip-top shape, too.

Off to find a remedy for my mild nausea that will satisfy my little lentil bean of a baby ;)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Season of Productivity

This weekend, the family and I went up to spend time with BW's parents in Akron. It had been a while since we were all up there together, and the kids hadn't seen Rhonda for several weeks (an unusually long stretch of time). I had a very productive writing weekend because of it-- when we're in Akron, it's almost a mini-vacation for me. We lounge about, the kids have two extra sets of eyes on them almost constantly, and all of the normal distractions are absent. It's a real delight!

Adding to the mini-vacation is my attempt to fast from Facebook for lent. I've never made a serious effort to sacrifice something during the season of lent in an effort to turn my heart and mind to the things of God. When I began to think about the value of this exercise, Facebook came to mind immediately. Beyond the lexulous playing and photo uploads, I am a loiterer. I hang out on Facebook. When I feel the slightest twinge of boredom or distraction coming on, I indulge, and of all things, it was the highest on the list of personal indulgences or addictions. Like many shakings-free of addictive substances, it is a painful, difficult divorce, but also a fruitful one. Prune, prune, prune, and watch the new growth. Already I'm seeing some of the value of my abstaining from Facebook and focusing on God and other quality endeavors. Take out the space filler and fill it with something worthy of occupancy!

All of that to say, I'll probably return to Facebook at the end of this season, hopefully with a firm grasp on self-control and resistance. :)

I've read several good books lately and finished up two this weekend (no Facebook...). Over on Finding Gemstones, I blogged about The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Great story. Our book discussion group at church met to talk about it last night, and I thought the conversation was excellent. I just finished Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, too, and found it to be a very refreshing, easy read. While it wasn't earth-shattering for me, I could see how some folks would find it revolutionary. Probably because I've read a lot of books like it, I'm not as blown away, but nevertheless it was a good read, and I'm glad I picked it up (for free on Kindle).

Ever since Key West, I don't think I've read much in the way of published poetry, so at the urging of my pal Michael, I went to the library on Friday and took out the collected poems of Theodore Roethke and The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck: a Pulitzer prize-winning collection. I read Gluck this weekend, and wow, I am sorry I haven't read her earlier. She was fantastic. Lyrical and haunting and inspirational and inquisitive and accusatory (is that a word?)... all fantastic. I read it all the way through once and now look forward to sampling poems here and there, really absorbing her work.

Besides some real good reading, I got a lot of real good writing time in as well. Besides doing some revisioning, I wrote a couple new pieces and pulled together another manuscript for a chapbook competition. We'll see what comes of it-- maybe nothing, right? But at least it is going out. I revised the full-length manuscript too, adding in some of my newer poems and doing a little reordering. It is a good, and healthy, feeling to not be in a terrible rush to publish a book. I am not too impatient (though always a little) for results.

I continue to roll over the ideas from a few months ago about the purpose of writing and the "why I write" question, and I think I've settled somewhere in the middle. I write for my own personal exploration of truth and circumstances (not quite pomp and circumstance), and after that, if the external world wants to read what I've written, I want to put it out there. So along those lines of thinking, I am wondering if there are those who would want to receive poems I've written or am working on, and if so, drop me an email or leave a comment with your email address, and I'll start a little list for those who like my work and want to read my work in progress. I can't promise brilliance. Because I don't have it. But maybe something I write will move you in some way. Or at least leave you with a feeling. Or a thought. Or a frown. Or confusion. Hopefully not confusion.

On that happy note, I'll conclude the night. Time to sleep!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti and Home from Key West

Back from Key West, but it's hard to relay how wonderful a trip it was in light of the tragedy in Haiti. Brandon and I can hardly turn off the TV. We feel so helpless this far away, as I'm sure many people feel. Even before the earthquake, there were 1.6 million orphans in Haiti... now? So heartbreaking. Our prayers are fervent for the nation and people of Haiti.

The vast need, patience and hope of these people is amazing.

I did have a fantastic experience in Key West. I am grateful for the opportunity that was provided for me, both by family and the seminar itself. My workshop with Billy Collins was excellent, my roommate and I had great conversation, the panels and readings were once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and Richard Wilbur was phenomenal. Did I use enough inflated words for you? But really, what an experience. I met a lot of wonderful poets and made several new friendships I hope to continue nurturing in the future. I also savored every minute of solitude and reflection - there were few distractions all week, and while I did miss my family, of course, this retreat was much-needed spiritually and intellectually. I wrote seven poems this week, even!

Now to bring the energy and inspiration back into the "real world," writing when able. When I came home, I was welcomed by a lovely dinner cooked by my husband. Besides dinner, Brandon really took care of things while I was gone - laundry was done, house was clean, all was in order... I am so fortunate to have such a supportive husband. Really. And my kids - they were so excited to see me - I'm so glad I took the day off following my trip to fill them back up with attention and love. We must've put together half a dozen puzzles, played five rounds of Candy Land, and imagined Barbie's daily ongoings for several hours.

It's hard to concentrate on this blog right now - we're watching the footage on CNN of the earthquakes - so I'm going to go ahead and sign off. Sleep well, and pray for Haiti!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Key West Bound and Lydia-isms

Happy new year, bloggers! I knew it would be a while before I wrote again, and I don't even have time to do the Christmas roundup, but I just had to blog about Lydia tonight. I told the kids that I would be going out of town for a week - on my way to Key West for the Key West Literary Seminar - and perhaps that means something to Lydia now. After we prayed and sang before bed, Lydia accused me of forgetting more words to Jingle Bells. I don't know the third verse, I admit it, but neither does she. I told her I thought there were more words but I didn't remember them, and she said, "I think God knows the rest of the words!" I said he certainly does, which brought visions of God singing anything -- maybe, "Tonight's gonna be a good night" by Black Eyed Peas, or "I am a man of constant sorrow." I wonder if more than just choirs of angels sing in heaven - maybe God joins in. Maybe he sings his own praise. Why not? If we get so much joy out of singing, couldn't God too?

Anyway, the second Lydia-moment that was just awesome: "I love you SO MUCH. I love you even when you spank me." To which I responded, "I love you SO MUCH too! Even when I have to spank you, I love you." What a moment. I am very blessed to have such amazing kids. Even when I have to spank them.

I have to get up REALLY early, so it is time to sign off, finish packing, make sure the kids are asleep and then go to sleep myself. 2 a.m. is going to come very quickly.