Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The MFA Administrator Responds to Email at the Residency

The MFA Administrator Responds to Email at the Residency

- A Found Poem

The washer
and dryer require
but they aren’t
coin operated.

You’ll need
to swipe a gift card
you can buy
from the bookstore.

If it is broken,
we will need
to submit
a work ticket
to fix it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

I woke up with yesterday's frustrations heavy on my chest and lodged in my gut, a physical ache I'd like to attribute only to a glass of wine before bed and not enough water.  I padded down the hall and wondered whether I could convince Henry to go back to sleep after he ate so I could sneak back into bed too, but quarter til six is pushing it.  Daylight crept through the blinds and spread itself indiscriminately on the rocking chair, crib, and dresser.  Henry flailed around like a turtle while I changed him, my brain flailing about as well, grasping at bullet points on my list of things to do.

There are a lot of days left in this week.  It's only Monday. 

Lodged in my head was a little verse repeating - they are new every morning, new every morning, great is thy faithfulness, O Lord, great is thy faithfulness.  It's hard to believe those words after a long stretch of nothing-going-right, but the song kept looping.  I preferred a new song, maybe something about going home and loading my shot gun and lighting a cigarette, something raw and country and kind of angry-like.  While feeding Henry, I read some verses for the day, a few psalms, a little of David's story, a little anger at Galatians and a little of Jesus's story.  Henry seemed satisfied, and I tried to get him to go back to sleep, but it didn't look like it was going to happen.  The sun was up, after all, and that must mean it's time to be awake. 

After a few minutes he slipped back to sleep but by that time, going back to bed seemed silly.  Instead, I went for a jog around the block, the humidity heavy but at least cooler than the last few days.  I felt the tightening of my leg muscles, exhaled and inhaled to the rhythm of my run, the swish of my ponytail, arms pumping, all in time to a mental metronome. Except for the pad and thump of my tennis shoes, the occasional twitter of birds, and the hum of an early commuter's car, it was quiet.  Sweat trickled down my back and chest and nose.  I encouraged my legs to make it to the next stop sign, and with each puff of air, I felt some of the world right itself.

Afterward, I listened to some musicians sing praise to God while I showered, and I joined in, eventually.  I turned on the iron, checked the label of my skirt, and adjusted the temperature to high.  It was going to take a lot of hot air and steam to iron out the wrinkles.  I put on makeup and dried my hair.  While my tea pot heated up I went out to survey the garden, lifting the damp and prickly leaves of the zucchini plant to see whether any new veggies sprouted overnight, but the only thing that had grown was some crabgrass.  I pulled a few weeds.  The tea pot whistled. 

The morning burned away the dew.  My skirt is wrinkle-free.  The garden is weeded.  The water is hot and ready to steep the tea leaves.  I am breathing, and smiling, and sipping my tea.

Morning by morning new mercies I see...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Day in Two Parts

Tonight I want to be ten pounds lighter. I want to have written more pages of an essay that sounds brilliant instead of boring even to me. I want to have weeded my back patio more thoroughly. I want my day lilies to still be blooming in two and a half weeks but I know they'll be spent out already.  I wanted to deliver a dessert to a new neighbor and they weren't home so now I have a casserole dish of peach cobbler and no one to eat it except me, which will be great going down and then I'll find out that I need to lose fifteen pounds instead of ten.  I wanted to run a mile but mapmyrun said I only ran three-quarters, and it was in the rain and now my shoes are wet and smelly.  The crunches aren't working fast enough.  My zucchini and cucumbers are going to be ready during the busiest two weeks of the year and I won't be around to pick/eat them.  Henry had to have shots today.  My husband is playing poker at a friend's house.  I feel frumpy and old and tired.  I can't get the dirt out from underneath my nails.  One of my kids put a cup and a sticker in the upstairs toilet and I had to fish it out.  Someone else drew pictures on the wall above her bed, and we're blaming a kid that doesn't live here.  And the nightlight cover was jammed into the vent.  I am discouraged and tired and lonely and depressed and impatient and disappointed and sad and discontent.  Alexander has nothing on me and my terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.

But I baked a mighty fine-smelling peach cobbler.  The kids and husband and I took a walk around the block with its pleasant aroma wafting up through the potholders.  And now it is waiting for me in the oven.  Henry smiled at me.  Several times.  Lydia chased me down the driveway at lunch encouraging me to have a good day at work and see you after rest time and I love you!  I made eggs for everyone at breakfast and didn't break anybody's yolks.  My toast was still hot when I buttered it so the butter melted.  My tea was just the right kind of sweet.  Sometime in the last 48 hours my husband told me I'm a good wife and mom and he loves me too.  Elvis snuggled up next to me on the couch and I could smell summer in his hair.  My boss thought I had a good idea during our meeting.  Lydia thanked God for God at dinner.  Everyone ate their food, and everyone got ice cream.  The run in the rain was refreshing and funny and I didn't even dodge the puddles.  I ran faster than I have since the fall.  The number on the scale keeps going down.  We read two picture books before bed, one kid on each side of me.  Elvis chose Mickey Mouse to sleep with tonight.  They went to sleep without getting out of bed again.  The air-conditioning is working.  George Strait is singing "Carrying Your Love With Me". 

I am running on empty, sure, but I have everything I'll ever need, I'm carrying your love with me.

I have these days sometimes, when the pessimist in me shrieks and squalls until I pay enough attention to him.  He bleeds out into all the crevices of my consciousness so that I only see his ugly face and all of the negative ways he appeared today, in the sweat and the grime and the dirt.  He blots out the satisfaction of living, that deep breath, that gratification, that swelling of joy at a job well done, that quiet peace at the end of a day thoroughly spent.  It's hard to shake him once he's fixed his eyes with mine, but this staring contest has to end.  It takes more than just looking for the positives in the day, I must rely on God who makes all things new, whose faithfulness is great, who redeems and renews and brings us to completion even in the face of grumpiness.  He's conquered sin and death, I think he can conquer crankiness, too.  It sounds trite and easy, sure-- turn to God, problem solved.  But the promises he has made and the salvation he bought has the power to wipe away all of these weeds and replace them with the fruit of the spirit.  And let me tell you, I much prefer love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to the laundry list of feelings above.  That fruit is waiting for me.  I have to choose into it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Freshmaker

It's official - maternity leave is over.  The transition back hasn't been too painful so far.  I'm fortunate to live so close to home, and that my baby is just about the best and easiest little guy ever.  Not only has he slept as many as eight hours overnight, he's waking up to eat just when I need him to, and sleeping at the best times of the day to have a sleepy baby.  He's been awake, for the most part, from 5 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., so I've gotten a good hunk of baby Hank lovin' the last two nights.

After the other two kiddos went to sleep last night, I took Henry out for a walk.  It was a really beautiful night after some storms blew through, a cool breeze and sailor's sunset.  Henry has grown to like the Baby Bjorn, and I prefer it to packing him up in the stroller... mostly because I can play with his feet and chubby thighs and kiss his cute little head.  We walked around Ashland for about an hour, running into a few friends while we were out.  It's one reason I love living here-- wherever you go, you are bound to run into a friendly face. 

I'm glad to admit that I'm excited to be back at work, especially with the residency just ten days away.  There's a lot that needs to be done before then, and after the residency, I have some ideas for recruitment and promotion along with program development that I'm looking forward to exploring.  I can't ask for a much better situation with my job and family life.  By the time Henry goes to sleep, I'm definitely tired, but the energy spent after work is even more valuable than the energy spent at work.  It reminds me of a verse in Ecclesiastes -- "Sow your seeds in the morning and at night let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which one will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well."

I try to live this way, even though sometimes the lines blur and I find myself checking and responding to email after hours.  Okay, so that happens all of the time.  More often than the reverse, morning work intrudes on evening work.  Someone somewhere (real specific, right?) said not to forget to live while you are earning a living.  Maybe Dave Ramsey.  Anyway, the last couple of days have been full, no doubt, but they have been full in a great way -- work has been fulfilling, walks and dinner and books with my kids, satisfying the needs of my newborn, watching the All-Star game with my husband, even getting some writing done -- this is the way I'd like to live all of the time.  Don't you feel like you are in the middle of a Mentos commercial right now?  But really, if I could maintain this kind of balance all of the time, I could testify regularly to the statement, "godliness with contentment is great gain."

I'm going to take Solomon's advice now, and eat my food (strawberry shortcake) with gladness, and drink my wine (merlot) with a joyful heart... and then sleep.  Tomorrow's a full day.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011



In the morning when I rise give me
a hot cup of tea. Burn away the bitter
with a couple dabs of melted butter
on a bisquit dripped with honey,
or a steamy bowlful of old-fashioned
oatmeal, strawberries and brown sugar.
If only every day began with all this sweetness.

Monday, July 4, 2011

For Freedom

"I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts." Psalm 119:45
"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment." James 2:12-13

"In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." Ephesians 3:12

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Corinthians 3:17

"Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor." 1 Peter 2:16-17

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galations 5:1

"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." Galatians 5:13

Isn't freedom beautiful?

These verses remind me that freedom in and of itself is to be valued, but possessing this freedom comes with responsibility.  Yes, we're free to do whatever we want, but that doesn't mean we should do whatever we want.  Today, I am celebrating the freedom in Christ from guilt and shame, the freedom to work toward the best version of myself through Christ, and the freedom to do so in a nation that does not persecute me for proclaiming the name of Christ.  I am celebrating the freedom to choose good over evil, to serve humbly in love.  I am thankful to those who serve to preserve freedom.  Today, I am celebrating with family, and friends, and BBQ, and watermelon, and wine, and fireworks.  Enjoy your Independence!