2.10.2014

Red Stripes

I was the youngest with 3 older brothers, the only girl.  Barely in Kindergarten, I got taken along on my mother's jaunts while my 3 older brothers were in school.   My mom seemed always to be in a hurry, clipped steps, sharp words.  I felt like an unwanted appendage.  She'd grip my wrist so tight all I remember is that pain while being dragged around.  I hated that.  Surely she didn't love me, or why else would she hurt me?  She left red marks on my little wrist.
 
When I was living in Korea in the early 1960s, it was a poor, third-world country.  I look at  pictures and remember...the dirt streets, children playing in the alleys, wearing only scraps, stray dogs wandering around.
Slums in the 1960s.  Photo from jellyfish1616.
As a mom, now I know it's the mama bear steel-claw death grip of protection.  Now I know that she was afraid of what every mom fears in the depth of her gut: to lose your child.  I held onto my son's hand and wrist, too.  It wasn't good enough to have him hold me - what use was that?  I held onto him and knew I wouldn't let go.

Lost children. Photo from jellyfish1616
How heart-wrenching even now, with the internet, the priority and resources of looking for lost children.  Back then, before people had phones, a phone book?  Was there a priority to find lost children? especially if they were poor? or did they accept it as part of life?  Did they even have the energy?  Back then, it was so real just to lose a child in the bustle of the open market.  And today, we have adult adoptees in their 40s, 50s, 60s, who were lost in the market.  Or left.  Because of the devastating poverty.

I think now with gratefulness the red stripes my mom left on my wrist every time she ran errands. She held me, the way my Heavenly Father holds me.  I will never be lost.

2.08.2014

I Am Not an Environmentalist

Some of you know me as someone who avoids chemicals in my food and body care.  That means I deliberately travel miles out of my way to buy pastured, organic meats and vegetables.  I also hunt and gather household products with minimal petroleum-based ingredients.  You will have to search to find artificial fragrances or preservatives in our home.  It is time-consuming and expensive.

Yesterday, I tuned out of my public radio station's fundraiser (not without some guilt) to the local Christian station.  They had on a Christian scientist discussing the Biblical view of the earth and the environment.  Full disclosure:  I did not listen very long because frankly, it made me impatient.  But it also made me think more clearly on why I choose to live the way I do.

The program made three very important points in the Christian, Biblical world view:
A.  The earth was not created to last forever.
B.  Human beings are distinct from all other living creatures.
C.  We will not find eternal life in preserving the earth.

And I ascribe to those points.  The Bible tells of the "end times," that God created man and woman distinctly from the rest of Creation, and that it is through faith in the Messiah alone that will bring us back to a full, eternal fellowship with God.  I will not become holy by the things I eat or not eat.  Those are orthodox Christian beliefs.

Orthodox Environmentalists want to save our planet because it is our only home, that all creatures are equally valuable, and that we will endure only if we have an earth to call Home.  These views are distinctly different, aren't they?

But in addition, I believe these Biblical views:
1.  We are to be thankful for what God gives us and be wise stewards of our resources.
2.  We are to take care of our bodies and ourselves, not only as the temple of the Holy Spirit, but also as a way to increase our gifts (talents.)
3.  We should not act carelessly, expecting God to show His grace.

I do not find A, B and C to contradict 1, 2 and 3. 

However distasteful it may be to think of raising animals only for their fur, I have no intention of throwing red paint on anyone.  I suppose it may be distasteful to some that I condone the raising of certain animals only so I can enjoy eating its meat.  The Bible says all things are approved for us to eat.  Whether I choose to do that or not, is a different issue.  That I would save a human being over any animal any day, may not be palatable to some.  I refuse to call fish "sea kittens" to promote PETA's world view. However, I believe that saving bats and bees is taking care of the earth that God made for us, which sustains humankind.

I am not an Environmentalist, or a Feminist, or a Democrat or anything else - I am a Christian.   I choose to live my life caring for the things and Creation that God gave to me.  I choose to feed and care for my family with the safest and healthiest out there so they can be strong and productive for Him.  I married a man who respects all people as the image of God, and that each of us have a useful role to play.  I teach my child the same thing, to be grateful for the garbage collector. to be kind to everyone.  I believe in caring for the poor, that they are not any more lazy or cursed than the rich; that the poor will always be with us.

I do and believe all these things because I am a Christian.

1.25.2014

January 25, 2003

Eleven years ago today, we took a deep breath, and got ourselves to the Holt offices in Seoul.  This was the day we would get our child.  Our son.  He'd have one last check-up with the doctor, then handed to us.

I know I should SHOUT with CAPS and !!! that 11 years ago today(!) we became a family(!) when we brought our little guy home(!) and it was the HAPPIEST day of our LIVES(!!)

But honestly?  I was exhausted and confused and stunned. (Maybe a little like after you birthed your child?)  I look at those pictures of myself, and I don't really remember a whole lot.  I do remember hearing the foster mothers in the Lobby saying to our son's foster mother that he looked like her.  They didn't know I understood them.  And that I resented that.  Because you see, he was my son.  Mine.  I filled out all the paperwork and paid thousands of dollars and The Law said that he was mine.  I wasn't thinking so much about the foster family.  Or the mom who bore him for 9-months, then really didn't have a choice but to give him away.

I certainly wasn't thinking about this child, that he might be just as exhausted and confused and stunned as I was.   And he was.  This little 7-month old, cried and cried and cried.  And cried.  And later, so did I.  Sometimes, even, on the kitchen floor.  From exhaustion, disappointment,  regret, failure.

If you've read this blog, you might know a little of our adoption journey; the tough road that this little guy went through.  But it's been eleven years.  We've talked and held and therapied and cried and not talked and not hugged and rebelled and disassociated and and and stimmed.  But I believe we are on the other side of the tunnel.  Not without some scars.  Or slime.  You know the wet stuff that slithers down the side of dark, scary tunnels.

The other day, we were sitting together in his room.  He, with his Legos.  Me, sorting through laundry.  He said, "If you had known I was going to have such a hard time, would you still have adopted me?"  I was too quick to reply, "No.  I wouldn't have wanted you to suffer so much."  This time, I was thinking only of him.  Had I known he'd be so traumatized, how could I, or any human being, want that?  If anyone had told me he wouldn't sleep well for 6 years, panic at anything new, wouldn't know how to hug and wouldn't allow hugs, but at the same time hyperventilate if you left the room...who would wish that?

Later that night, in bed, he reminded me of that conversation and said, "When you said 'no,' it made me sad."

So we talked.   That I had been thinking about what I had said, that it was a complicated feeling of both/and: loving him and being happy that he was my son but also sad that he suffered so.  I think he got it.

It's been months since we've laid in bed together to read a bedtime story.  But that night, he wanted me to stay awhile and hold him.  Just hold him.  I walked away and realized that because he shared with me that he was sad,  that we had actually made it to the other side of the tunnel.

What's a few drops of slime, anyway?

3.17.2013

Mozart and Haydn


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Mozart lived 35 years.  Haydn lived 77.

Mozart produced 600 pieces across all genres, in half the lifetime of others.  He came from a sort of musical royalty, his father being a well-respected musician who had inroads to the courts throughout Europe.  He started at age 3, started composing at 5, touring at 7, worked night and day and lived a lavish and undisciplined life. 

Haydn, is much less tragic of a figure and would unlikely be the subject of a movie (like Amadeus.)  His beginnings are humbler, with a mother and father who were laborers.  Compared to Mozart, he was a late bloomer, already being 6 when he was apprenticed to be a musician.  He had a steady job all his life and lived within his means.

If Mozart is Jimmy Swaggert, then Haydn is Joel Osteen.  Mozart's Dennis Rodman to Haydn's Michael Jordan; John McEnroe to Michael Chang.


van Gogh without his ear
I've used the two as symbols of the unwritten but understood imagery of the pathos and angst of the creative and artistic.  Why is it that we think of artists as tortured souls like Mozart, Beethovan, van Gogh?  What about the steady, hard-working, successful Haydn, Cezanne?

My limited knowledge of Mozart can't tell me whether his parents raised him well, or not, or if he had a spirit that led him down a slippery path.  I know he was lead around by his father performing for various nobility and royalty.  But then as an adult, he lived a miserable life and died young.  Haydn, not having the ticket to the courts, actually had to work hard to stay fed.  His cook mother nor his wheel maker father could get him the posh positions that Mozart got.  Is it that Haydn had to work for his art while Mozart was coddled?  Is this the classic saga of the silver-spoon vs the boot strap?  Maybe Wolfgang was just a finicky, high-strung baby while Franz Joseph sat docile with fewer fluctuations in pulse rate.

As I transfer my mind wanderings from the abstract to the reality of my little musician, I wonder how I will get him to be a Haydn, not a Mozart.  No worldly success, even for the sake of Art and Creativity, is worth the misery of a pathetic testimony of a life as Mozart.  Must Creativity be miserable? or as we are coming to understand through research, does Creativity come with plain ol' steady work?  "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration*," and all that.

The Genius of Greek Poetry
In the days of Greeks and Romans, Genius and Creativity were creatures that lived outside of ourselves and visited mere humans to inspire them to artistry.  It was something outside of the human experience.  Then the Renaissance came, and that gods, the sprites who lived in walls and tapped our shoulders with golden dust, were now inside of us.  Suddenly, we humans were Genius and Creativity.  We had made ourselves gods.

It seems to me, that we sunk ourselves by putting so much pressure on our frail, little human selves.  Might it be better to think of Creativity, well, maybe not as a god like the Greeks did, but from something, somewhere outside of ourselves that we get to express?  Can we separate ourselves from our creativity and see ourselves as valuable outside of our art?

Might I remember to praise my son for his hard work and long practice instead of just his talent?  Might I encourage him that he is more than his talent?  That it is a gift that can be used (or not) for the benefit of himself as well as others?  Then one day, if he breaks his hands or develops a disease, that he'd still be valuable? precious?  talented? hard-working?

Hence, I pray to the God of Creation.

* Thomas Edison

2.06.2013

The Music Man

I don't know if it's because he has a disability, or if I'm justifying my pride.

The other week, my son - who you know as Boo - started taking piano lessons.  Well, actually, he started last July, but this beautiful person wasn't actually a trained piano teacher, and it became evident to all of us that Boo needed to move on.  So Boo is in the studio with Mr. Bonafide Piano Teacher.  And I know enough about music, having played for over 10 years, that these were real lessons.

As I heard Mr. Bonafide teach and explain, I knew Boo understood, and I could hear him respond musically.  I could hear his playing change subtly with the instruction.  After 7 months of lessons.

My heart swelled.  It swelled like the former high school ball player who watches his own son on the field.  Like the former beauty queen as her daughter is crowned Homecoming Queen.

I had never felt this way before.  Oh, maybe once when he was in 2nd grade and he told his teacher that he "could do all things through Christ" who strengthens him.  I've been proud of him before, but really for just being NORMAL.  For just getting along with another child, for getting a good grade, for being able to sit still.

I just wanted him to be able to get by in this world.  To have a friend or two.  To get through high school without being arrested for inappropriate behavior.  Maybe.  Maybe, even go to college.  But Lord, that he might be able to get and keep a job.

Do I think too little of him?  No.  At least, I hope not.  I knew he had many talents and so much to give.  But would the world see that?  Would he keep annoying everyone by singing, anywhere?  anytime?  Would he be seen as freaky because he always had a smile on his face?  Would someone punch him in the face when he laughs at an inappropriate time?

Am I just proud and want to shout it from the mountaintop because I'm being prideful?  Or am I so damn glad that he might have some measurable skill?

Measurable.

New Year's Eve, our little family went to a little party.  We met a man there, a little ragged looking, in t-shirt and faded jeans.  Someone you might see at the neighborhood bar.  In fact, the host knew this John from the bar around the corner.  Boo sat munching on a plate of food and drawing, like he always does, everywhere he goes.  I hear Boo and John chit chat.  Boo telling 10-year old boy type jokes, John laughing and really enjoying him.

This ragged, t-shirted John, as it turned out, is a very gifted musician, who accompanies dance troupes with his improvisational  piano, and plays background for art videos with his own compositions.  He has synesthesia - where different senses relate to each other - like people who see certain colors when they hear certain sounds.  He will tell you he is not a dancer, but he associates certain movements with certain sounds.  We started talking about random things and he talks about Einstein, whose IQ is purported to be 160-180.  You know, that's high, but not as high as you'd think for a man like him.  John's point being that some intelligences are not measurable.

Measurable.

This boy.  This boy, who is like iPod shuffle of imagery and sounds.  He remembers so many things from so many places, from so long ago and they come out in combinations at unusual times.  He sounds out portions of The Messiah on the piano, adds accompaniment, then segues into some nursery rhyme song.

Might this turn into something that will pay him a salary?  healthcare?

Please Lord, let him be my Music Man.

1.03.2013

Youth

I don't like to think of myself as nostalgic.  I think of the New Year as having only slightly more significance than its being 1 minute after midnight of any given December 31st.  A human created, artificial constructe.  Why not Summer Solstice or Winter Solstice as the New Year?

But here it is.  This construct.  We're all wishing each other a good new year.  Recalling the past year.  And I can't help but think back, not just to the previous year, but way back.  I receive New Year's wishes from not just new, but old, way old.  Friends from my youth...

So this song isn't great poetry, but maybe because it isn't, because of its simplicity...its naivete, it reminds me of my youth. Every time I hear it, a soft enveloping pain gathers in my chest, like a misty cloud of regrets.

ABBA or Colin Firth, take your pick.





I can still recall
Our last summer
I still see it all
Walks along the Seine
Laughing in the rain
Our last summer
Memories that remain

We made our way along the river
And we sat down in the grass by the Eiffel tower
I was so happy we had met
It was the age of no regret
Oh, yes

Those crazy years
That was the time of the flower-power
But underneath
We had a fear of flying
Of growing old
A fear of slowly dying
We took our chance
Like we were dancing our last dance

I can still recall
Our last summer
I still see it all
In the tourist jam
Round the Notre Dame
Our last summer
Walking hand in hand

Paris restaurants
Our last summer
Morning croissants
Living for the day
Worries far away
Our last summer
We could laugh and play

And now you're working in a bank
A family man, a football fan
And your name is Harry
How dull it seems
Are the hero of my dreams ?

Walks along the Seine
Laughing in the rain
Our last summer
Memories that remain

I can still recall
Our last summer
I still see it all
Walks along the Seine
Laughing in the rain
Our last summer
Memories that remain

We made our way along the river
And we sat down in the grass by the Eiffel tower
I was so happy we had met
It was the age of no regret
Oh, yes

Those crazy years
That was the time of the flower-power
But underneath
We had a fear of flying
Of growing old
A fear of slowly dying
We took our chance
Like we were dancing our last dance

I can still recall
Our last summer
I still see it all
In the tourist jam
Round the Notre Dame
Our last summer
Walking hand in hand

Paris restaurants
Our last summer
Morning croissants
Living for the day
Worries far away
Our last summer
We could laugh and play

And now you're working in a bank
A family man, a football fan
And your name is Harry
How dull it seems
Are the hero of my dreams ?

Walks along the Seine
Laughing in the rain
Our last summer
Memories that remain

Happy New Year.  Artificial construct and all.

1.01.2013

2012 Photo Review

Even photos can't adequately describe how full and blessed our life has been...is.  And it would take more space than I have, and more patience than you have, to tell you all that we've lived this year.  It has had it's struggles, of course.  I'm not one for reviewing things by the year, per se, but I can look back and see how God has made hard things, even bad things, Good for us.  On this earth, we should not be asking "why is there suffering?" but rather, "why is there so much beauty, joy, hope, love?"  I can only say that it is my faith in a God that causes Ultimate Good for His kingdom, which allows me to believe that only a loving God can overcome all the selfishness, violence & hatred that reeks all of our hearts.

I have had many thoughts swirling in my head, but almost too much to put into readable bits on this blog.  I don't make New Years' resolutions, nor resolutions at all.  But I do hope that I can keep working on my writing and share again, some of my thoughts with you.

So, here's our 2012 in photos.  It's a small way to share my life with you.


JANUARY

The boy is showing a musical inclination and starts teaching himself on his 3/4 size Yamaha, not just "air guitar" on a toy, like when he was little. 
 

The boy loves snow. At the first forecast, he's ready and waiting. Even if it's 7 in the morning
 

FEBRUARY

Not sure how this happened, but it was my birthday, but he got a new bike!

More treasured time with our host student from Korea, who counts oboe as one of her many talents.  Here, at District Orchestra.  In the 4 years, she's become our daughter and Boo's big sister. 

MARCH

 ... the returning hope of Spring


Chess club continues into Spring, and he ranks 2nd.

APRIL

Grandma comes to visit!


April flowers...
 



MAY

Science Fair project on Penguins!  Can you guess which is the real penguin?

...and an epic milestone college reunion! 

And we even went on a date!

 JUNE

Showing his Hopper-ish work (top.)  And the end (for now) of his 5-years at this Christian school.
 

...and the boy turns 10:


JULY

A month of camps!

Bible Camp with friends:
 

Hideaway Day Camp - the awesomest outdoor day camp around!
 


Environment Camp!
 
And a great story about his counselors, C&M:
C&M's grandparents were good friends with J's grandparents while at Penn State and were in the same field.  Then C&M's dad, and J's dad meet at a conference in their common field, and go on to become great friends.  C&M have known J since he was a baby, just arrived from Korea.  So in 2012, C&M were J's counselors!  They don't seem destined to enter the same field - C&M being interested in politics and J interested in architecture.  But maybe J could design them a house?
 

In between, an unusual but welcomed visit from Uncle Paul & fam from Lanna, Jo-jah!



Our beautiful gardens courtesy of HH, and Boo!






AUGUST


Many hours at the pool!  This year, with the encouragement of a friend, he tested to be allowed in the deep end, which meant hours and hours jumping off the diving board!

SEPTEMBER

Lots of excitement!
What has become our tradition - time on Cape Cod - this year during Labor Day week.

Through the years at Mashpee Commons:
 

Stand-up Paddle Boarding ("Supping")

 
(yes, that is my leg - just to prove I was there, too!)

AND the biggest changes of all:  HOME SCHOOLING!

PE at our home school co-op:

OCTOBER

 October may be the beginning of Autumn to you, but to Boo, it only means one thing: 
Fire Prevention Month!


NOVEMBER

For even Boo, November still means Thanksgiving:
but the best part isn't turkey, but being with grandma:




DECEMBER



2013

Hoping for elaborate, generous, abundant grace & peace.

11.19.2012

A Little Bit

When scientists, the government, companies, advertisers say something - anything - is "safe," they follow the industry standards.  As a scientist, especially, they must follow good research techniques.  I clearly understand that.  In my lay terms, this, though, is what they mean:

The amount of ingredient "x" used (as directed,) would not cause you permanent damage, or at least not for a long time.  Because there's only a little bit in the toxic item, which deems it "safe."  Really.  That's the scientific definition of something being considered safe or at least doesn't cause cancer.  You know, like TV & video game violence don't cause crimes.  And some things, there's such a little bit of it, and everybody puts that little bit in, that the government doesn't make them disclose it on the ingredients list.  Like lead in your red lipstick.  Or softening chemical in your ice cream.

Here's the thing with me, though.

There's only a little bit of surfactants in soaps and shampoos, fragrances, stain-resistant and water-shedding coatings, parabens (preservatives in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals,) fluoride, lead (in your red lipstick,) pesticides on your fruits and vegetables, hormones, bleach, bisphenal-A so that they won't harm you.  But what about the manufacturing process?  The workers?  The remnants?

Did anyone test what happens to us and our kids who are in aggregate ingesting
a little bit of hormone in our beef, pork, chicken, eggs and milk,
a little bit of mercury in the approximately 14 vaccines that our babies get,
a little bit of lead in your red lipstick,
a little bit of preservative in our soaps, lotions, cosmetics (which they find lodged in breast tissue,)
a little bit of the petroleum-based estrogenic fragrances in our air fresheners, soaps, candles, shampoos, make up, fragranced markers,
a little bit of bleach on our cut carrots and diapers and tampons,
a little bit of plastic off-gassing from our new car seats, carpet, coats, shoes, pajamas, nail polish
a little bit of plastic leeching out of the pellets they put in farming soil,
a little bit of plastic leeching from our canned goods, paper plate coating, toys.

But don't worry; it's SAFE.

11.18.2012

I Saw You Standing There

I saw you standing there, putting on your helmet.  A silver BMW. 650 cc.  I approached you.  I was bold like that, even then.  I asked if it was yours, the motorcycle.  You blushed.  Why, yes! Yes it is.  The blush was not for me, the bold young woman, but for your lie.

The bike was your dad's, a man who lied easily, without even the blush.  The one who lied to your mother business trip after trip, denying the significance of late night dinners with young women.  You didn't lie as easily.  Your pale skin flushed each time, punctuating your blue eyes, dimples, while your blond hair swept over your forehead.

The blush, I thought, was your True Inner Self, that you were really Good, but corrupted by Nurture.  I would reveal this True Inner Self.  Because I would really understand him.  And rescue him.  He was truly a kind man.  He had a sweet nature.  It was unfortunate that he was divorced from a wife.  They married too young.  They were so different.  She had their two children and was with her parents.  Bad things happen to good people.

He was sweet. And kind.  And patient.  And I wasn't going to marry him, after all.  It didn't matter that he didn't have the same foundational beliefs about life and death as I did.

So I prayed for him, that he would become a Christian.  Doesn't that seem like the right thing for a Christian girl to do?  No, you see, I prayed so that my desire would be justified in His sight.  Because deep down inside, I knew it was not a good place to be.  Should we do something that we know isn't right and then ask for forgiveness?  That's manipulative, isn't it? Abusing someone's love?  Whether your earthly father or your Heavenly one, should you deliberately get into a bad situation knowing you can get him to fix it?  "Look, I want this (him,) and I want you to make it right."  God the Vending Machine.

The first time I went to his duplex, which he shared with a roommate, I saw a woman's things about.  At my questioning stare, he blushed.  Yes, they're her things.  Well, we're not divorced yet.  Well, we're living apart.  Well, I haven't called a lawyer yet.  No, we're not technically separated.  But she knows, she knows.  That blush.

"It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light."

In the dark of night, my fingers coiled around the phone, I paused.  I asked, "Are you alone??" This time, I could almost hear him blush.  I saw more than heard the rustle of sheets.


Of course, his wife didn't know.  This woman didn't, either.

But I did know.  As the dawn approached, exhausted from crying, I stumbled into The Other Woman: me.  Me, the unblushing liar.  I could see myself  standing there, having been a part of all the lies.  But most painful of all, the denial of everything I Believed, and lying to myself.