Monday, November 19, 2012

The Golden Silence

 Behold, children are a gift of the Lord.
Psalm 127:3

I understand children are a gift from God, but that doesn't stop me from suffering moments when I'd like a refund. Or an exchange. Maybe one child for two cats and a gerbil. Or a rabbit. Rabbits would be good. They're quiet. They don't eat much and they let you hold them on your lap without squirming away.

And they don't walk like elephants. Only elephants—and my children—walk like elephants. There is a law of physics that applies here: the smaller the child, the louder the footsteps. A sixty-pound nine-year-old running through the living room has the ability to make our best china rattle like a 7.1 earthquake with aftershocks inevitable. Inversely, a 120-pound teen of sixteen can move from the front door to their bedroom so silently I'll raise my head like a doe in the forest, sure something has just passed close but unsure of its intent.

My children are destined for the theatre. "Please pass the mashed potatoes" is delivered in a voice heard by the back row of any auditorium. The discussion that follows regarding whose turn it is to clear the dishes is worthy of a Laurel and Hardy skit (and we even have our own Laurel).

I love our three kids dearly. Yet sometimes I yearn for "a time to be silent".

One weekend, I got my wish—though I had to get sick to do it.

We were scheduled to drive to our hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska to go to a Cornhusker football game. But when I woke up Saturday morning the glands in my neck made me resemble a chipmunk stocking up for the winter. Not wanting to ruin everyone's fun I sent my family on their way, checked with a doctor, got a prescription and settled into our empty house.

Our silent empty house.

No elephant footfalls. No "But Mom . . ." No slammed doors, Scooby Doo, or the tortuous beat of loud music.

Just the ticking of the clock in the entry. The hmmm of the refrigerator. And the whoosh of the furnace making me feel cozy warm as I snuggled beneath an afghan on the couch.

"This is the life," I told the air. "I can do what I want, when I want to do it. I can eat foods that have no nutritional value. I can watch old movies with no one moaning about the lack of special effects. I can read. I can take a nap or a bath with no interruptions."

And self-serving hedonist that I am, I did all of those things, wallowing in the solitude with as much ecstasy as Scrooge McDuck swimming in his vault of gold coins.

But after my dinner of mint-chip ice cream and Diet Coke, after watching "An Affair to Remember", after crying over Father Ralph de Bricassart's death in The Thorn Birds, and after a bath where I emerged a prune, I took another listen to the silence I'd wrapped around myself and found it wanting.

I missed Emily’s humming as she made a batch of cookies along with a mess in the kitchen. I missed the rumble as Carson hurtled down the stairs. I missed the sound of Laurel reading aloud to her invisible class as she played school. And our king-sized bed seemed empty without its king.

With the noises of night closing in around me, I imagined a life without the sounds of my children. Their gentle snores assuring me they’re safe and sound in bed, the harmony of their voices saying grace before a meal. I imagined never hearing the title "Mom" whether it was tagged on a request for a ride to school or onto the thank you after giving the ride.

As I tried to get to sleep I found the silence heavy—the silence that could have been if we hadn’t been blessed with three children. I turned on the television for company and fell asleep to the canned sounds of TV people going through the process of living.

The next day when my family burst in with thudding feet, overlapping voices, and gusts of fall air, I was ready for them. Renewed. Patient again—at least for a little while.

In the stillness of my weekend I found that silence is indeed golden. For it reminded me of something very important.

My children are more precious than gold.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The American Dream: We're Not the Bad Guys

Mark and I in 1982
with two of our kids
My husband and I started a business in 1982 (paid 18% interest to get the start up money from a second mortgage!) Over the next 25 years we worked our behinds off through good years and lean. My husband sometimes worked 60 hour weeks. We took risks, We suffered and succeeded. We finally made enough income so that I could stop working in the business and follow my dream and write. We created jobs for dozens of people who became our friends. That's the way with small businesses. The employees often become family. We dance together at weddings, celebrate births, and support each other when we go through hard times like cancer or loss.
We sold the business to two of those employees in 2007 but my husband still works there part time (it's hard for him to cut the ties to those people he cares about--one guy has worked for us 25 years.) 
But you should have heard the despair in that office after the election. Desperate talk of who they were going to have to let go because of health care changes and the anti-business philosophy that is being coddled in a desire to find a scapegoat, a philosophy that punishes success and growth. Of individuals and couples. Of fellow citizens that are doing nothing wrong but following the American Dream.
Mark and I in 2011
Businesses and their owners are not the bad guys. They should not be punished for working hard and creating jobs and stability for their employees. It's like the president of Olive Garden said before the election: if things get worse for business with more taxes and high-cost health care, he was going to have to cut his workforce dramatically. He is not alone.
I fear we're going to see the predicted (but obviously ignored) inevitable become reality. Businesses will have to tighten their belts and lost jobs will be rampant. And then those who want to punish entrepreneurs will call out, "But wait! This isn't what we wanted."
But it's what you were told you would get. You just refused to listen.
I'm praying hard for our nation. And for all those who still dare to pursue their own American dream.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two--Very Different--Little Darlings

Lillian and Evelyn 5 months old
 We have two granddaughters --born three weeks apart. They both live in the same town as us (what a blessing) and see each other often. They have many of the same genes, similar upbringings, similar living experiences, and share me as their grandmother extraordinaire.

Then why are they so different?
This is a rhetorical question.  After having three kids of my own--who were very different from one another--I know they're different just because they are.  They're supposed to be.  God created them to be two unique individuals.  But seeing them side by side . . .

They're both five now, but even when they were just months old we said, "Lily's going to go outside to play and say, 'Look Grandma!  A bug!' and Evelyn's going to go outside to play and say, 'Eew!  Grandma!  A bug!"

Now it's not that distinct, but pretty close. The fact we could sense this differentiation before they could even run outside or say "bug" astounds me.
We used to get them similar toys for Christmas.  It sure made things easier.  But now . . . Evelyn wants a "Toddler Ariel" doll while Lily wants a horse (a live horse would be best, but she'll take the toy-kind.)  Evelyn circled all the dolls in the American Girl catalogue.  Lily circled all the animals--and the VW car.

Evelyn likes cupcakes and sweets.  Lily likes salsa and mustard and says, "No, thank you" to cookies.  And ice cream--making me wonder what happened to her Moser sugar-gene. They both like Ranch dressing, though Lily likes it a bit too much.  On everything. In a restaurant she asks the waiter for her own side of ranch. (she's not shy)

When we kid-sit the girls, one at a time, Evelyn is content to play by herself with the Fisher Price Little People sets. Lily nudges me to do an "art project."  They both like to pick up "sticky balls" (hedge apples) with Grandpa.

Lily listens to every conversation (some, she shouldn't) and asks, "What happened to that man in the crash?" or "What's a president?" While Evelyn is having her own conversation with her fork and peas.  Something to do with princesses, I think (it's always about princesses.)

Lily loves to comment on the hair style and color of store clerks.  The best exchange was when she said, "You have pink hair."  The clerk shot back, "You have brown hair."  And that was that.  Evelyn is more interested in pushing the cart back to its stall.

In regards to fashion, Evelyn always has a matching headband or hairbow--though it's often askew.  Lily came over the other day with one anklet and one footie sock. Odd thing is, it took me 30 minutes to notice.

I haven't seen much competition between them.  Yet.  A few Big Wheel races down our driveway perhaps.  I see it in small moments, like when they stay overnight and say prayers, Evelyn sings a little song she knows.  Not to be outdone, Lily makes one up on the fly.  And they like coloring contests where I declare a winner (ack! Don't make me choose!)  But I do choose.  I honestly assess the best one.  I don't think it's wise to tell kids they're doing a good job when they didn't try very hard to stay in the lines (but that's another subject.)

I love being a grandma to the girls, and to our two grandsons, Jackson (age 3) and Jamison (just turned 1.)  They boys are different because two years separate them. But as the importance of their age difference fades, I look forward to see their differences. And I'll embrace each and every them.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What We Do To Ourselves vs. What We Should Do

Being a multi-tasker can make us crazy.  We wear a dozen hats and try to give our all to every role we embrace.  My roles are: wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend, writer, singer, speaker, child of God--and wannabe cook.
    I spend a lot of time feeling guilty about not doing anything great. I dip and dabble and feel like I'm only gaining a level of mediocrity in most areas of my life. Yet how can I give more? Do more?  There are only 24 hours in each day, and pardon me, but I like my sleep!  So how can I do better and be better? More whole. More exceptional. More purposeful.
    To try to figure this out, I did a little soul-searching. What lies below are my musings about one area of my life, my career--writing books.  Yet I'm betting a lot of the basic emotions and angst I felt are universal.  Replace the writing and book terms with terms that pertain to your work and life, and you might just find your own aha! moment.
    Anyway, that's the plan.  So here goes my revelation, for what it's worth....
     The other day I was thinking about possible book contracts, I felt guilty for being greedy and wanting more than just one, panicked at the thought of all those books to write if anyone did say yes, then doubtful that any of them would be bought, cynical in thinking that none of them would sell many copies anyway, scared that I might have all these ideas, but it just might be God's will to never let them be sold and thus, take away my identity as an author.  Guilt, greed, panic, doubt, cynicism and fear. Wow. That’s quite a burden I put on myself!  God hasn't done that to me!  He doesn't want me to feel this way.  Then why do I?
     What I should be feeling is pride and joy at having a lot of ideas to offer, excitement at the chance to turn my ideas into books, confidence that the right ones will be bought, hope that they will sell more than the last and reach the people God wants them to reach, and assurance that God didn’t give me these ideas for nothing. Pride, joy, excitement, confidence, hope, and assurance.  He gave me the gift of writing to be used, and nothing can take away my identity as an author--or as His precious child! 
     Lord, help us look into the details of our own busy lives, the gifts You've given us, and the challenges that stand before us.  Help us think positively about our quest to discover and live out our unique purpose!  Help us find JOY!